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Rats final weekend

By Phil Janack
Thursday, April 9, 2009

The River Rats play at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday night and host Binghamton Saturday in their regular-season finale at the former Knickerbocker Arena.

It has been a trying season for Albany (32-39-3-4), which ended an eight-game losing streak by beating Philadelphia in a shootout Wednesday night.

The Phantoms are still trying to secure a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs, tied with Binghamton for the final berth in the East Division. Both teams have 91 points with two games left; the Phantoms have the tie-breaker with 42 wins to the Senators' 41.

"We talked before the game about having a chance to make Philly sweat a little bit," coach Jeff Daniels said. "They still have some games left, but make them sweat it out to get to the playoffs. That's what we did. They got a point. I'm sure they'd like to have had two, but I'm sure they're happy with one. That's our mindset. We want to upset some teams and at the same time, we want to finish on a positive note."

The Rats rallied from three one-goal deficits to beat Philly, which had won six straight games and seven of nine, including a 6-3 victory in Albany on April 1.

"Every time we got down we battled back and got back in the game," Daniels said. "It was a good win for the guys. We talked about finishing strong these last three games; we've got two more to go."

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Defenseman Jonathan Paiement left this morning to join ECHL Florida for its first-round Kelly Cup playoff series, which begins on Friday. It was one of several notes cut from today's gamer in the print editions.

Paiement returned to Albany's lineup against Philadelphia for the first time since suffering a concussion as well as cuts to his head, hands and face in the team's Feb. 19 bus accident. He is the only player seriously hurt in the crash to return to action this season.

"I felt pretty good," Paiement said. "The first shift, I was like, 'It's going to be a long game.' The 'D' corps really helped me out. I kept short shifts and got used to the pace little by little. It was good."

Down to 11 forwards, the Rats dressed seven defensemen and rotated them through the pairings against Philly. Paiement finished a plus-1 with one questionable minor penalty for tripping.

"For a guy who's missed as much time as he has, he looked great out there," Daniels said.

Paiement also converted on both of his shootout attempts against Phantoms goalie Scott Munroe, making him 4-for-5 on the season. He used the same move both times, skating in and faking a forehand shot, then sliding in a backhander.

Before he went out the second time, Paiement sought some advice from Albany backup goalie Daniel Manzato.

"I ask him if I should do the same move," he said. "He said the goalies don't really remember who's shooting, so I just did the same move and it worked."

Paiement met with Daniels in assistant coach Geordie Kinnear's office after the game, and was told he was being reassigned to the Everblades. He had nine points (3g, 6a) in nine games for them this season before joining Albany in mid-November.

"They don't have a lot of 'D' there," Paiement said. "I want to win a championship,and they have a good chance to win a championship. You don't get a lot of chances like that in your life, so when it comes you have to take it and work hard, and you never know. It's a chance to get in some games and keep working hard. Even though it's in the East Coast (League), it's still a good league."

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Center Michael Kennedy was signed to an amateur tryout on Wednesday and made his pro debut on the fourth line, skating with left wing Bobby Hughes and a rotating right wing.

Kennedy, who turns 23 on April 21, was scoreless with no shots and was a minus-1, on the ice for Philly's third goal midway through the third period that gave the Phantoms a 3-2 lead.

"I didn't give him a whole lot of ice time," Daniels said. "He hadn't skated a lot, plus the way the game was going, it was getting close and I ended up rolling three lines. He'll get two more games this weekend."

Kennedy was brought in to help fill a void left by the departure of Aaron Clarke to ECHL Wheeling for the playoffs, as well as recent injuries to Pat Dwyer and Brad Herauf. The 6-2, 195-pound Kennedy played three seasons at Cornell, scoring 53 points (25g, 28a) in 95 games.

"He's a name that came up and a guy that Carolina had seen a bit this year," Daniels said. "It's kind of a free look for us."

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Justin Peters was outstanding in winning his 18th game of the season and second in a row over Philly. His 2-0 shutout on March 22 was Albany's last victory before dropping eight in a row, seven in regulation and one in a shootout.

"Petey was good. That's how he's been most of the year," Daniels said. "He's been real solid. He's a leader on this team. Despite what his record might show, he's played real well for us."

In his third pro season and second in the AHL but first as the No. 1 guy, Peters has played 3,093 minutes in 54 games, with a 2.87 goals-against average and .909 save percentage, and career-high four shutouts. Of his 29 losses, 2 have come in overtime and four in shootouts.

"I take the same approach every day," Peters said. "Obviously it's a whole season, and it just flew by. But I'm going to come in here and work tomorrow like I did yesterday and right through to the finish line."

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Jerome Samson picked up the secondary assist on Cory Quirk's tying goal in the third period to extend his point streak to six games (2g, 7a) and remain tied for the team scoring lead with 53 points (22g, 31a) in 68 games ..... Jakub Petruzalek (19g, 34a) also has 53 points. He had a goal and assist against Philly, after picking up just three points (1g, 2a) in his previous 13 games ..... Quirk pushed his point streak to four games (4g, 1a) and has goals in three straight -- all since being the subject of a Gazette feature story. Just saying ..... Peters' next game will be his 100th in the AHL .... If and when captain Pat Dwyer returns to the lineup this weekend, he will play his 300th pro game ..... The Rats held an off-ice workout today before leaving at noon for Wilkes-Barre. They had no ice available; the old Knick is set up for the Firebirds af2 home opener tomorrow night, and RPI has removed the ice from Houston Field House.

 
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