Between a three-in-three weekend and a game Wednesday night, the Phantoms returned to the ice with a brief practice Tuesday morning.
This week will tell us much about where the Phantoms are at this point of the season. The three games, all at home, are against playoff teams from a year ago that have picked up where they left off. Norfolk, Connecticut and Hershey come in at a combined 13-4-1-3.
Norfolk, Wednesday's opponent, has the league's leading two scorers in Carter Ashton (6G, 4A) and Cory Conacher (4G, 5A). The Admirals are first in the league in goals per game (4.43) and Hershey, Saturday's opponent, is a close second at 4.29.
The good news is the Phantoms have won nine in a row at home. They last lost at the Civic Center on March 12, an overtime loss to Hershey.
The players know this will be a measuring-stick week and my story in Wednesday's paper focuses on that. A few other updates:
-- The players all applauded and tapped their sticks as Jon Kalinski skated on the ice for some post practice work. Kalinski hadn't practiced for a couple of weeks after suffering a setback while recovering from an upper-body injury. He had been near a return at one point. Joe Paterson said Kalinski is cleared to play, but needs to work back into game shape.
-- Paterson said that goalie Johan Backlund was "days" away from a return from his lower-body injury that sent him to Philadelphia twice for tests. Seems to be good news as it appeared the injury, suffered around the season opener, could have kept him out longer.
-- Garrett Klotz is still skating with a full face cage. Paterson said he's still "a week or so" away from returning.
Got a chance to talk to Paterson for the first time since Sunday's 3-1 win over Rochester, which saw the Phantoms get outshot 34-16 and kill eight Amerks' power plays. Here's a bit of what the coach had to say:
On overall effort:
"I thought our penalty killing was great. Bacashihua was really good in goal; he was solid. We allowed him to see the puck. Some shots were from the outside. We try to go by scoring chances, but they had a lot of power plays (8), so they got a lot of pucks to our net."
On killing eight Rochester power plays:
‘Our offense, we tried to get it going, but we were killing. I've got to take the real positives out of that game. Our penalty kill was what won us that game, the 5-on-3, Holmstrom and Gus and Jancevski did a great job blocking shots. We were really good there. ... We're trying to get more shots, but in that situation, where it's 3-in-3, I don't know if we just -- some (penalties) were high-sticking, some were maybe chase from behind, you hook a guy. But I'm happy with the win."
On Zac Rinaldo's first weekend with team (1 goal, no penalties):
"He's been very good, very disciplined. Should have had a goal in the Albany game as well, probably, on the power play (disallowed for incidental contact with goalie). He killed some penalties in the Rochester game for us too in the second period. He killed penalties for us. So it was good to see. I know that we looked at the gamesheet after two games and we didn't see any penalties and that was probably a good thing. So he's played well and he's used his speed very well. He's able to drive the puck wide on defensemen and come back in similar to the goal he scored in the Toronto game (preseason in NHL), where he can bring the puck wide and come back in again. He's hanging on to the puck a lot more and it makes it tough for teams to play against him."