Rats add prospect for stretch run
The River Rats will have a new face in the lineup this weekend, courtesy of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Defenseman Jamie McBain signed a three-year, entry-level NHL contract with the Canes today, following the conclusion of his junior year at the University of Wisconsin. He was to arrive in Albany tonight.
“Jamie had an outstanding season at Wisconsin, serving as an alternate captain and leading the team in scoring,” Carolina vice president and assistant GM Jason Karmanos said in a team statement. “The time is right for him take the next step in his development and begin his professional career.”
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, the 21-year-old McBain was named the WCHA Player of the Year and is a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as U.S. college hockey's top player. He led the Badgers in scoring and ranked second among all Division I defensemen with 37 points (7g, 30a).
A native of Edina, Minn. (which produced former Rats forward Ben Hankinson), McBain is rated as the third-best prospect in Carolina's organization, behind junior forwards Zach Boychuk and Drayson Bowman. In the Hockey News' annual Future Watch issue ranking the top 100 NHL prospects, McBain is listed at 66th.
"He's a pretty high prospect that they're excited about," Albany head coach-GM Jeff Daniels said following practice this afternoon at the former Knickerbocker Arena. "He had a good college career. He's coming in with a lot of high hopes and, at the same time, there'll be no pressure. We'll just ease him in and get him adjusted to the pro game and see what he can do."
Drafted in the second round, 63rd overall, ini 2006, McBain will earn an average of $600,000 per season in the NHL, beginning with the 2009-10 season, and $62,500 in the minors. He also received a signing bonus of $255,000.
Last summer, he was one of several prospects to attend Carolina's annual conditioning camp in Raleigh.
"They bring in some draft picks and teach them how to train and be a pro," Daniels said. "The on-ice stuff is not much, so you couldn't get a good judge of him there. He's got good size and from what I hear he skates pretty well and moves the puck, so I'm excited to see him."
The Rats have 10 games left on their regular-season schedule, needing to make up 14 points to get into the Calder Cup playoff picture.
Albany trails fourth-place Binghamton, 84-69, for the East Division's final spot. In between is Philadelphia, with 78 points.
The Rats have two games in hand on the Senators, with two head-to-head matchups left: April 4 and 11, which is Albany's home/regular-season finale. Like the Rats, Philly has 10 games to play, two of them vs. Albany: April 1 and 8.
"We understand we need a lot of breaks to get in," Daniels said. "We're just focusing on competing every night and being consistent. That's the message right now.
"We've beaten all the top teams in the league, and we have when we're working hard for 60 minutes. Based on our lineup, thats' what we have to do, outwork the other team and capitalize on our chances when we do get them. The message is to continue to work and be consistent, and good things will happen."
Any combination of points won by Binghamton or lost by Albany totalling six will eliminate the Rats for the first time in three years as a Canes affiliate.
Albany hosts Hartford on Friday and Springfield on Saturday, teams at opposite ends of the Atlantic Division. The Wolf Pack are first with 40 wins and 86 points, while the Falcons are last (in the division, conference and overall) with 22 wins and 55 points.
"We're not out until they tell us we're officially out," defenseman Bryan Rodney said. "Realistically, something that doesn't happen all the time needs to happen to us. We bascially need to win the last 10 games and need big-time help. We're going to get ready to win these two games this weekend and go from there. There's no quit in our room. There hasn't been all year."
Rodney, an alternate captain, will also be in the lineup this weekend. Albany's top-scoring defenseman when he was hurt, Rodney had missed the past four games with a minor injury.
"It was just a precautionary thing," Rodney said. "It was a bit of a strain on my right side that just needed a week or so off, and that's what I got. I feel great now and ready to make an impact here the last 10 games.
Rodney said he originally hurt himself last month but was playing through it with the team short-handed due to recall and injury, most from the team's Feb. 19 bus crash.
"I played three weeks with it and it wasn't going away. It was getting worse," he said. "We decided to shut it down for a week and I think that's given me the time to relax and let it headl and I should be able to make a good push here. Hopefully, I play well for this team and we win as many games as we can."
Daniels welcomes back his power-play quarterback who is second on the Rats with 29 assists in 50 games, and has scored two of his three goals with the man advantage.
"It's huge. Obviously, he's a guy that can play in all situations," Daniels said. "He's a leader out there. When you've got a Rodney you can put in there, you want to get him in the lineup."
Still on the blue line, Jonathan Paiement is poised to play for the first time since being injured in the team bus crash, missing the past 15 games.
Paiement has shed his yellow non-contact sweater in practice this week, and Daniels expects to have him back on Saturday.
"He went to see a doctor today, so if everything goes well there he'll be back," Daniels said. "We don't want to force him in there. He really hasn't skated a whole lot. I'll give him a good skate in the morning and see how he feels. Hopefully, Saturday night he'll get back in. He's been out for a long period of time, so we'll ease him back in there. It's always good to see guys come back from injury, but especially recovering from a crash like that."
With a sudden surplus of defensemen, Albany returned Dominic D'Amour to ECHL Florida today. D'Amour had one goal -- Sunday's winner over Philadelphia -- in four games for the Rats.
"He had some experience in the AHL playing three years in the Toronto system," Daniels said. "He played well for us."
Add alternate captain Mike Angelidis to the list of season-ending injuries.
Angelidis separated his left shoulder last weekend in Providence. He had played each of Albany's first 67 games before being hurt.
Angelidis, Stefan Chaput, Nicolas Blanchard, Joe Jensen, Casey Borer and Trevor Gillies are all done for the year. Paiement, Rodney, Bobby Hughes, Yannick Tifu, Ryan Weston, and Benn Olson have all missed time with injuries. Tim Conboy, Dwight Helminen and Michael Ryan remain on recall to Carolina. Albany even lost two players, Troy's Matt Murley and Dan LaCouture, to Russian teams.
"What are you gonna do?" Angelidis said. "It's just another jinx on the River Rats this year. It's been a rough year for the boys with everything."
Rookie Nick Dodge is now the only Rat to play in every game this season.
Borer today was named the Rats' Man of the Year for his community contributions.
As such, he is among 29 finalists -- one from each team -- for the Yannick Dupre Memorial Award as the AHL's Man of the Year.
This year, Borer, 23, learned to play sled hockey with handicapped children, and attended several practices with the Junior River Rats. AS Albany's primary speaker for school-wide assemblies on general health, Borer also visited several local schools throughout the year; and he was active in team charitiable and fundraising events.
Borer will be presented with an etched crystal trophy prior to an upcoming Rats home game.
Here is the entire list of indivudal team winners/Dupre finalists:
Casey Borer, Albany; Denis Hamel and Matt Carkner, Binghamton; Pascal Morency, Bridgeport; Jordan LaVallee, Chicago; Jimmy Howard, Grand Rapids; Ben Maxwell, Hamilton; Dale Weise, Hartford; Dean Arsene, Hershey; Brandon Rogers, Houston; Ryan Donally, Iowa; J.D. Corbin, Lake Erie; Mark Fraser, Lowell; Davis Drewiske, Manchester; Nolan Baumgartner, Manitoba; Ryan Maki, Milwaukee; Pete Zingoni, Norfolk; Eric Neilson, Peoria; Jonathan Matsumoto, Philadelphia; Derek Whitmore, Portland; Jeff Penner, Providence; Kyle Greentree, Quad City; Rory Fitzpatrick, Rochester; Sean McMorrow, Rockford; Ryan Lannon, San Antonio; Geoff Paukovich, Springfield; Trevor Frischmon, Syracuse; Darryl Boyce, Toronto; Mark Letestu, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton; Mike Moore, Worcester.
Leading scorer Jakub Petruzalek did not practice today, still battling the flu. He is questionable for Friday's game ..... Petruzalek was replaced in the lineup Wednesday night in Rochester by rookie Ryan Weston, who had missed the previous six games with an upper-body injury ..... Also absent today was defenseman Brett Carson, who Daniels said was given a 'maintenance day' ..... Justin Peters will make his third straight start in goal on Friday. Peters had his shutout streak snapped at 151 minutes, 21 seconds in Wednesday's shootout loss ..... Since winning a season-high five consecutive games Jan. 31 to Feb. 13, Albany has gone 7-9-0-2, including 7-7-0-1 following the bus crash ..... One lucky fan at each game this weekend will have a chance to win a VW Jetta TDI from Nemer Volkswagen. Visit www. albanyriverrats.com for details or register directly at www.nemervw.com/rats.htm ..... Albany will wear special sweaters with a Go Green patch at both games, which will be auctioned off at the end of the regular season ...... In the third annual auction to benefit Ronald McDonald House, the Rats raised $20,060 following Sunday's home game. The top price of $1,600 went for Petruzalek's No. 16.
Once again, my gratitude to everyone out there who expressed their sympathy -- in person, on-line or through the mail, with cards, food and everything else -- following the passing of my father, Ralph, last week. My family and I have been overwhelmed by your generosity and compassion, which has been a great comfort. Saying thanks just doesn't seem enough. In a world with plenty of turmoil, it's wonderful to know there's still plenty of good out there.