River Rats' injured stars return in time for playoffs
Two weeks after being hurt in the same game, Marc Cavosie and Pat Dwyer will rejoin the Albany River Rats’ lineup at an ideal time.
The two forwards will make their return together Wednesday night at the Times Union Center, as the Rats host Philadelphia in the opener of their best-of-seven first-round Calder Cup playoff series.
Cavosie, a Cohoes native, and Dwyer were two of Albany’s hottest players when they went down in an April 2 shootout win at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, missing the final five regular-season games with what were called “lower-body” injuries.
Both skated in practice Monday; Cavosie on a line with Trevor Gillies and Ryan Weston, and Dwyer with Joe Jensen and Brandon Sutter.
“Cavosie looks like he’s good to go,” head coach-GM Tom Rowe said. “He looked good today in practice, and was snapping the puck around like he usually does. All the guys are feeling good right now where they are. We’ve just got to stay the course.”
While the Rats finished a seven-game road trip that ended with a swing through Norfolk, Cavosie returned home to begin treatment and rehab, which he felt helped accelerate his return.
“The first 48 hours with any injury is the most important,” Cavosie said. “By them allowing me to get home and get on top of it, it really saved us time.
“We really took care of it. I was away from the team for a while, but it was easier to be home and not be on the road and be able to get in a lot of treatments. It’s a little earlier than I thought I might be able to go, but they did a great job.”
Cavosie had rebounded from a six-game scoring drought where he was minus-1 to having points in five of six games (2-5-7) and being plus-5 at the time he was hurt.
He reached the AHL playoffs in each of his first three pro seasons, winning a Calder Cup as a rookie with Houston in 2003.
“I told coach I’d do whatever he wanted me to do,” Cavosie said. “To be able to just be available for him to use me was my goal. I don’t expect to play too much because of conditioning issues, but when I get out there I know I can contribute. This has been a big goal for me. I haven’t been in the playoffs in the AHL for a while. This is huge.”
Prior to practice, Rowe installed Dwyer as team captain for the playoffs. The Rats had rotated the captaincy on a weekly basis among veterans since late February.
“He’s really an extension of [assistant coach] Geordie [Kinnear] and I,” Rowe said. “He’s a good representative to the guys in the room. He was with us all last year and was in the playoffs, so he knows what to expect. He’s very intelligent and usually very composed. He’s got a lot of good ingredients to be captain.”
Already part of the earlier rotation, Dwyer took his new title in stride. Joey Mormina will wear one “A” as his alternate, with Trevor Gillies (home) and Jamie Johnson (road) sharing the other.
“It’s nice, but at the same time there’s a great group of guys in there backing me up and supporting me all the way through it,”
Dwyer said. “It’s great, but I wouldn’t have it without those guys.”
Like Cavosie, Dwyer was on a similar roll, going 7-7-14 and plus-13 over a 17-game stretch at the time of his injury. Prior to that, he was
minus-1 with 11 points in 42 games.
“It was possibly the best hockey I’ve played in my three years in the [AHL],” Dwyer said. “I hope to step right back into that path.”
Rowe, for one, believes he will.
“He’s a guy that can bounce back from an injury and just pick up where he left off,” Rowe said. “The last month and a half, two months, he’s played the best hockey of his career.”
Though he wore a yellow non-contact sweater, Brandon Nolan skated with the main group Monday. He hasn’t played since being knocked out of a Feb. 22 game on a huge hit from Bridgeport’s Scott Ford.
“He’s looking good,” Rowe said. “I think he’s really turned the corner, but I don’t want to speculate too much one way or the other. I want to see where he’s at [today], but we could see him at some point.” . . .
Albany released defenseman Chris Murray (1-3-4, plus-5, 13 games) from his pro tryout, and added center Stefan Chaput, Carolina’s fifth-round pick in 2006, to an amateur tryout. Chaput made his pro debut in Sunday’s loss at Philadelphia. . . .
Rowe said he planned to recall former RPI captain Kirk MacDonald from ECHL Florida, where he has been since Dec. 5, and add another extra defenseman for the playoffs.