Rats-Sound Tigers pregame
Seven days since they last played, the River Rats return to action tonight here at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn.
It is Albany's first game since the team bus crash of Feb. 19 that sent players Joe Jensen, Nicolas Blanchard, Jonathan Paiement and Casey Borer and radio color analyst John Hennessy to the hospital, Borer with a season-ending neck injury. All have since been released.
Defenseman Brett Carson, banged up in the crash, is filling in for Hennessy, making his color commentary debut alongside Rats play-by-play man Owen Newkirk. A small group of Albany fans greeted the team as they came on the ice with cheers and cowbells.
Albany is 0-2-0-1 following a five-game win streak, and sits 12 points out of an East Division playoff spot. Bridgeport is on a 5-0-0-2 run and third in the East, two points out of second and five out of first.
To the game. The Rats will have a patchwork lineup in their return, partially filled by one player from the NHL (Brandon Sutter) and four from the ECHL (Ryan McGinnis, Aaron Clarke, Ryan Cruthers, Mitch Ganzak).
With nine regulars sitting out, seven of them with injuries from the crash, Albany coach Jeff Daniels needed to do some major juggling in his lines and defense pairings. Justin Peters will get the start in goal.
"You want to keep it somewhat balanced," Daniels said. "I think it's going to be real important to have four lines going, especially the first game back, especially the first period."
Here are the line combinations from warmups: Jakub Petruzalek-Nick Dodge-Ryan Cruthers; Ryan Weston-Dwight Helminen (A)-Jerome Samson; Aaron Clarke-Brandon Sutter-Pat Dwyer (A); Brad Herauf-Mike Angelidis (A)-Harrison Reed.
Defense pairings: Ryan McGinnis-Mark Flood; Mitch Ganzak-Bryan Rodney; Benn Olson-Noah Babin.
Scratches: Brett Carson, Yannick Tifu, Stefan Chaput, Bobby Hughes, Joe Jensen, Nicolas Blanchard, Jonathan Paiement, Casey Borer, Trevor Gillies.
Bridgeport's line combinations: Trevor Smith-Ben Walter-Kurtis McLean; Jesse Joensuu-Jeremy Colliton (A)-Mike Iggulden; Sean Bentivoglio-Tyler Haskins-Micheal Haley; Mitch Fritz (A)-Tomas Marcinko-Pascal Morency.
Defense pairings: Chris Lee-Jon Gleed; Jamie Fraser-Mark Wotton (C); Dustin Kohn-Andrew MacDonald.
Scratches: Jordan Hart, Joel Rechlicz, Jason Pitton, Dennis Packard, Junior Lessard.