The Adirondack Phantoms are in town tonight to face the St. John's IceCaps in the first of a pair of games slated this weekend. Today marks the home opener for the 'Caps, part of a six game stand that will also include visits from the Portland Pirates and Norfolk Admirals. But right now, all eyes are on the Phantoms and the star powered roster -- at least by AHL standards.
Harry Zolniercyk, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Zac Rinaldo, Eric Wellwood and Erik Gustafsson are just a few key players who will take the ice for Adirondack tonight and all have gritted their teeth with the Philadelphia Flyers over the past season. Many of those aforementioned are still young prospects --- Rinaldo and Wellwood especially, both of whom were born in 1990.
Gustafsson and Bourdon are both defensemen and share 75 games of NHL experience split between the two of them. Gustafsson has a deft ability at chipping in offensively, as his last full season in the AHL in 2010-2011, he racked up 49 points in 75 games. Look out for him this weekend.
Rinaldo is an interesting story of his own. Seen as a pest by most fans, he believe's his game is misunderstood and that he has more to offer than just a fight and a mention on the games' penalty sheet.
Thus far, Rinaldo has been skating on the top line with Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier this week, so the IceCaps' defensive corps should have their hands full with that line.
Which brings us to those guys; the big tickets. Schenn and Couturier are both true NHLers and will likely play the rest of their careers at that level. They're two of Philadelphia's brightest young prospects and can be counted on defensively as much as they are offensively. Schenn was the fifth overall pick in 2009 by the Los Angeles Kings, while Couturier went eight overall two years later. Suffice to say, these guys are head-and-shoulders above most AHL talent and should dominate the league this year, much the way Mike Richards and Jeff Carter did during the 2005-06 lockout. Through the Phantoms' opening two games, Schenn has potted 2 goals and an assist, while Couturier has added one of each.
For the IceCaps, they're expected to get some help from returning captain Jason Jaffray and top blue-liner Paul Postma in their upcoming games. Though Jaffray will likely be placed in the press-box for one more weekend, Postma's status for the weekend is still unknown. Keep an eye on the IceCaps' official Twitter account for updates on that front.
Hunter Tremblay and Spencer Machacek enter the weekend with three points apiece through the first two games, leading the team in scoring. Alexander Burmistrov -- arguably the teams most skilled player -- has notched 2 assists of his own. Fans will be looking for Burmistrov to dazzle in his home debut and hopefully he will mark his first goal of the year on The Rock.
Edward Pasquale and Mark Dekanich will likely split starts between the pipes again. I'm expecting Pasquale for the opener tonight, which will have the fans at Mile One in full throat with "Eddie" chants.
Game time is at 7:30PM in Newfoundland, or 6:00PM EST. As usual, Brian Rogers has the call at www.thisisnewfoundlandlabrador.ca.
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