A Whale Of A Diversion

First off, here is hoping that everyone reading this came through Hurricane Sandy without any major health or property issues, and that your loved ones and friends and co-workers are equally as fortunate.

And for those of you who asked via Twitter and other outlets, Thank You, me and my family are doing fine---no power, likely out for several more days so it's getting a little cold at home, but fortunately no damage to speak of.

While it's times like these that put sports into true perspective, we also can use them as a welcome diversion. So to that end here are a few notes and quotes from the Rangers AHL affiliate, Connecticut Whale, which has won three straight after taking back-to-back games last Friday and Saturday.

Newbury Benching Sends Right Message: Head coach Ken Gernander benched his leading scorer (10 points in seven games) last Wednesday in Albany after only one shift---one in which Kris Newbury was assessed three penalties totaling 14 minutes, including a miscounduct for mouthing off at the officials. A well-respected veteran, Newbury nonetheless was glued to the bench by Gernander the remainder of the game because the coach had been preaching better discipline to his team after a slew of bad penalties had marred the start to the Whale's season. Newbury could have reacted one of two ways, but the path he chose says quite a bit about the team leader: he shut his mouth and bounced back with strong performances over the weekend, including a three-point outing against Providence on Saturday. 

"That's how a pro is supposed to react," Ken Gernander on Kris Newbury's inspired play after being benched in Albany last Wednesday.

The message Gernander sent was not only received by Newbury---"I deserved what I got"---but by the rest of the team, as well. An early-season wake-up call for this largely young and inexperienced team can go a long way to setting the right tone for the 2012-13 season.

"We had been struggling the first three or four games and (Ken Gernander) had emphasized staying out of the box, and Newbs is the most compteitive guy you'll meet, but he knows he went over the top, and he accepted (the benching) better than most players I know would have," said forward Tommy Grant. "If you have a guy like Newbs who is going to understand where the coach is coming from and accept it and move on and then comes back to have two great games, it sends a great message to the rest of us."

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The Walking Wounded Are Back: The Whale started the regular season minus its top goaltender and two of its key forwards, but in the past two weeks Marek Hrivik, Ryan Bourque, and Cam Talbot have all returned from injury, so perhaps it should not be so surprising that Connecticut is now riding a three-game winning streak. Bourque has scored twice in the three games he has played, providing tremendous energy as well as skilled two-way play. Hrivik is still finding his way after missing most of training camp, but has still chipped in with three assists and a +3 plaus/minus rating over five games. And Talbot reclaimed his starting role after recovering from a broken foot by winning back-to-back games this past weekend, stopping 63 of 67 shots along the way.

"We need all of our parts, and with Bourque and Hrivik being out during training camp and to start the season, it was hard on us, so having them back has us firing more on all cylinders," explained defenseman Mike Vernace. "And with Cam back there in net, it's a familiar face and one that provides calm leadership from the back end."

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Unsung Heroes: While Newbury has stepped to the forefront offensively as expected, some of the young Whale guns have not come out on fire as many had hoped. First rounders Chris Kreider and JT Miller each have one goal, and second rounder Christian Thomas also has scored just once, while another first rounder, Dylan McIlrath, has remained sidelined following knee surgery. Instead of languishing, though, the Whale has prospered thanks to a group of unheralded players that have stepped up in a big way. Rookie free agent Kyle Jean is second on the team with nine points (4-5-9) and has notched at least one point in each game so far. Undrafted second-year pro Tommy Grant has scored goals in three straight games, and his three tallies are one shy of the team lead. Diminutive defenseman Logan Pyett has six points (1-5-6) in seven games, tops among Whale d-men. And veteran Brandon Segal has augmented his expected and sought-after leadership and experience with four goals and six points through seven games.

"You know, I'm putting up numbers I usually don't, but that's a good thing," said Pyett. "I was just talking with (Matt Gilroy) the other day that some of my points have just been chips off the glass and kind of ugly points, but everyone needs to contribute here and I'm still looking to improve. It's all about contributing to team success."

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Jim Cerny

October 31, 2012 (Happy Halloween!!)

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For complete coverage of the team follow @nyrangers and @jimcerny on Twitter.