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Wolf Pack notebook 10/19/2010

By Bruce Berlet

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Cameron Talbot’s 41-save shutout in his first pro start Sunday proved even more remarkable than it originally appeared. Turns out Talbot tweaked his groin in the second period while chasing a puck that had been shot into the Hartford Wolf Pack zone around the boards. But Talbot didn’t tell anyone about his problem until after a 3-0 victory over the Providence Bruins, the first time a Wolf Pack goalie notched a shutout in his first pro start.

“I heard a little pop, but I didn’t want to come out because I had the shutout going,” Talbot said Tuesday during a break in rehabilitation, which began with riding a stationary bike and doing some stretching. “(The groin) was OK while I was standing there, but it hurt a little when I tried to go side-to-side.

“But I had a groin problem in juniors, and this wasn’t as bad as that. I’m hoping to be back by the weekend, but I have to make sure I’m ready. A groin injury isn’t something to mess with, especially for a goalie.”

That’s why Wolf Pack coach Ken Gernander had mixed feelings about Talbot staying silent during the game.

“You applaud his courage or whatever, that’s a gamer,” Gernander said. “But you don’t want to put the guy at risk of losing him for an extended period of time just because you were ill-informed.”

Talbot’s return will depend on how quickly he heals, and in the meantime, Dov Grumet-Morris got a call-up from the ECHL’s Greenville Road Warriors, who open their season Thursday night. Grumet-Morris tried out with the Wolf Pack in training camp but already had a place to land. He had signed with the Road Warriors, whose new coach, Dean Stork, had been a teammate with the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones.

Grumet-Morris played the last two seasons for Graz and Jesenice in the Austrian Elite League and spent most of the time away from his wife, Rachel, who is training to be a surgeon in Milwaukee, where he played for the AHL Admirals in 2007-08 before heading to Europe.

“I had four offers to play in Europe, but I decided I wanted to come back to North America and try to play full-time in the AHL again and be closer to my wife,” Grumet-Morris said after his first workout with the Wolf Pack. “There were a lot of possibilities here, so I didn’t really know what was going to happen. But I knew if I didn’t catch on with an AHL team than I would go play for Dean.”

Grumet-Morris got the jobs in Europe thanks to Bill Gilligan, the former UMass coach and Los Angeles Kings scout who was coaching in Austria.

“I loved it,” said Grumet-Morris, who graduated from Harvard before turning pro in 2005. “They needed an import goalie, so it worked out great. It was definitely a different change of pace, but I very much enjoyed the experience both culturally and athletically. It was a very enjoyable and enriching experience. My wife and I were fortunate to have some time to go to cities like Venice and Vienna.”

Nightingale, DiDiomete Rejoin Wolf Pack.

Defenseman Jared Nightingale and left wing Devin DiDiomete resumed contact drills Tuesday.

Nightingale has been sidelined since playing in a 4-2 victory over Charlotte on opening night because of an infected right foot. He skated on his own for 40 minutes Monday and was paired with Lee Baldwin in practice Tuesday.

“I surprisingly felt a lot better today than yesterday,” said Nightingale, who did some post-practice skating drills with DiDiomete as Gernander watched. “I’m still on some antibiotics to kill off the infection and make sure it doesn’t come back, but the pain is gone, so I’m ready to play whenever the coaches feel they want me. I’m not exactly where I want to be (condition-wise), but I felt a lot better than I thought I’d feel today.”

Gernander is taking a wait-and-see attitude with his rugged defenseman.

“He has been off for a week, but I don’t think he fell too far behind,” Gernander said. “We’ll evaluate day-by-day.”

While Nightingale was sidelined a little more than week, DiDiomete hadn’t had contact work since February, when he was with the ECHL’s Charlotte Checkers, who are now one of the AHL’s two new teams. He had three different operations during six hours of surgery on May 7 and didn’t even start skating in practice until last week.

“It was fun to hit people, and to be able to get hit wasn’t bad either,” said DiDiomete, who always enjoys the physical side of the game. “My legs are fine, but when you don’t play for seven or eight months, your timing takes a while to get back. I’m sure (Gernander) wants me to get in a few hard practices before I play.

“From my standpoint, I feel great. If they needed me to play tomorrow (against Norfolk), I’m sure I could, but I think they want to be careful with it and make sure that nothing goes wrong in the next couple of days. Give it a few days of body contact and then go from there. When you put in seven months of hard work (on rehabilitation), you don’t want to ruin it by coming back one game too early. I think we’re just going to make sure it’s fine for a couple days, then if it’s good to go, maybe I get in this weekend or hopefully at the very latest next Wednesday.”

Regardless, DiDiomete said “it’s a huge relief” to finally be able to play pain-free.

“Now I don’t have to worry about when my lower back is going to blow out or when I’m going to start to get pain in my groin or hip,” said DiDiomete, who rotated in on a line with Justin Soryal, Ryan Garlock and Chris McKelvie in practice. “The surgeon did an awesome job. He must have done some serious work on me. It was like a triple bypass. I got a three-for-one deal.”

DiDiomete enjoyed his time as a radio analyst with play-by-play man Bob Crawford but hopes those days are done for years to come.

“Let him commentate about me hitting guys,” DiDiomete said with a smile.

Meanwhile, right wing Dale Weise, who needs surgery on a broken left hand, visited a specialist in New York on Tuesday after visiting one in Hartford on Monday. He hopes to have surgery this week and could be sidelined 6-to-8 weeks depending on what procedure he has done.

A New Visitor in the Locker Room.

The Wolf Pack had a new visitor in the locker room Tuesday, 8-year-old Jacob Newbury, son of center Kris Newbury. Newbury’s wife, Amanda, Jacob and 5-year-old Jaidyn arrived in town from Brampton, Ontario, Canada, on Sunday, when dad had three assists to take over the team scoring lead with seven points, all assists.

The Newburys are staying in a hotel until Sunday, when their belongings will arrive and they’ll move into a house in West Hartford.

Meanwhile, Jacob got his first “workout” with the Wolf Pack, dribbling pucks with a stick, catching pucks with goalie Chad Johnson’s glove and running on a treadmill. He has some free time because he doesn’t start school until next week.

“He loves it,” proud papa Kris said of Jacob’s mingling with the players. “He plays forward on his hockey team, and I usually bring him on the ice after practice, but his skates haven’t arrived yet.”

The highlight of the day was Jacob wrestling on the dressing room floor with 5-foot-9, 170-pound wing Mats Zuccarello, which brought the expected catcalls and plenty of encouragement for the youngster.

“Finally found someone in your weight class,” defenseman Nigel Williams said.

“Get him. Get him,” several players yelled Jacob’s way.

After the fun extracurricular activities, the Newburys and Wolf Pack coaches, players and their wives or girlfriends went to a lunch hosted by Howard Baldwin and wife Karen at Hot Tomato’s in Hartford. Baldwin is chairman of Whalers Sports and Entertainment, which now runs the business operations of the Wolf Pack, who will be re-branded as the Connecticut Whale on Nov. 27 against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

During the get-together, the former owner and managing general partner of the New England and Hartford Whalers gave the team a brief history of the franchise, and Bob Crawford the announcer and former Whalers right wing Bob Crawford, now the vice president of hockey operations for WSAE, spoke. After the lunch, several players visited WSAE’s office on the 21st floor at 280 Trumbull Street in Hartford.

The lunch came four days after Baldwin paid for the players’ post-game meals for the bus ride home from Albany after a 3-2 shootout loss.

“The boys are liking our new owner,” left wing Brodie Dupont said with a smile.

AEG, CT Lottery Renew Presenting Sponsorship:

AEG has renewed its partnership with the CT Lottery as the presenting sponsor of the Wolf Pack/Connecticut Whale. The relationship, which began last year, features a year-round presence for the CT Lottery in the XL Center. It will continue to include the CT Lottery being promoted across all of the Wolf Pack/Whale’s team presentation, promotional correspondence and collateral material.

The CT Lottery also has in-ice signage at the XL Center and continues to be featured prominently in Wolf Pack/Whale game broadcasts. The two parties also will maintain last year’s regular collaboration on in-arena and game-night promotions. A co-branded version of the new Connecticut Whale logo has been designed, mirroring the Wolf Pack/CT Lottery co-branded logo that was used throughout the first year of the partnership.

“We are thrilled to have the CT Lottery as a partner for this exciting new era of Connecticut hockey,” Baldwin said in a statement. “As a result of this agreement, the CT Lottery will be synonymous with the Connecticut Whale and the revitalization of professional hockey in both Hartford and the entire state.”

All-Wolf Pack Team Voting Starts Wednesday.

Fans can start voting Wednesday for the All-Time Wolf Pack Team, which will be announced at the Nov. 13 game against the Springfield Falcons, the last at the XL Center for the Wolf Pack before they become the Connecticut Whale two weeks later. Fans can vote at CTWhale.com and at various retailers courtesy of Hartford Distributors and Bud Light.

Fans can choose one goaltender, two defensemen and three forwards. Candidates for the team are goaltenders Jason LaBarbera, J.F. Labbe and Steve Valiquette, defensemen Dan Girardi, Mike Mottau, Thomas Pock, Corey Potter, Dale Purinton and Terry Virtue and forwards Derek Armstrong, Dane Byers, Nigel Dawes, Ken Gernander, Alex Giroux, Todd Hall, Greg Moore, P.A. Parenteau, Richard Scott, Brad Smyth, P.J. Stock and Craig Weller.

The deadline for voting is Nov. 7.

Undefeated Norfolk Starts Wolf Pack’s Long Homestand:

Norfolk, the top affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning, missed the playoffs by two points last season but are one of the AHL’s two unbeaten teams (3-0-0-0) under new coach Jon Cooper. The Admirals swept the Worcester Sharks 4-0 and 7-2 at home on Friday and Saturday nights, amassing a 56-36 shot advantage in the second win, including 44-22 in the second and third periods.

The Admirals, who have already scored 18 goals, are led offensively by centers Marc-Antoine Pouliot (one goal, six assists), the Edmonton Oilers’ first-round pick in 2003 who spent all but four games in the NHL the past two seasons; James Wright (1, 4), who played 48 games with the Lightning last season; and Paul Szczechura (3, 1). Goalies Cedrick Desjardins (1-0-0-0, 0.00 goals-against average, 1.000 save percentage) and Dustin Tokarski (2-0-0-0, 3.00, .917) have combined to stop 105 of 111 shots. The 25-year-old Desjardins had a 29-save shutout Friday in his debut with the Admirals, who practiced at the XL Center on Tuesday and start a four-game road trip Wednesday night. Desjardins was 29-9-4 with an AHL-best 2.00 GAA, .919 save percentage and six shutouts for the Hamilton Bulldogs last season on the way to a berth on the AHL’s second all-star team. … After the Admirals make their first of two visits this season (they’re in Hartford for the regular-season finale April 10), the Wolf Pack hosts the Binghamton Senators (2-3-0-0) on Friday at 7 p.m. The top affiliate of the Ottawa Senators is led by center Corey Locke (one goal, five assists), who wasn’t re-signed by the Rangers after leading the Wolf Pack in assists (54) and points (85) last season and being named to the second all-star team with Desjardins. Former Wolf Pack tough guy Francis Lessard is also with the Senators. Former Lowell Devils coach Kurt Kleinendorst has replaced former Whalers center Don Nachbaur behind the Senators bench. Fans can meet World Wrestling Entertainment superstar MVP before the game in the XL Center atrium, starting at 6 p.m. … Stratford native Jaime Sifers notched his first winning goal in 283 AHL career games on Friday night when he scored in overtime to give the Chicago Wolves a 3-2 victory at Milwaukee. … New Hamilton coach Randy Cunneyworth, a former Whalers left wing whose eight-year tenure as Rochester coach included seven playoff appearances, returned to the Blue Cross Arena on Friday night, and the Bulldogs won 5-2 over the Amerks.

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