Monarchs Back To Business
The Manchester Monarchs roster has taken to a different shape in the last week. Once littered with a number of healthy scratches each game, Manchester now finds themselves with limited to no roster flexibility as a result of the lockout officially ending.
The Los Angeles Kings abbreviated Training Camp started last Sunday and will continue until this Saturday when the Kings raise their Stanley Cup Championship banner in their home opener. The Kings have multiple players in camp that could return to the Monarchs line-up in the next few days.
“It has been a lot different,” said Monarchs rookie center Jordan Weal who has seen an increase in playing time recently. “A couple guys were claimed off waivers and a few guys went to Los Angeles. It really shortened our bench. I think we stepped up and played really good except for a few lapses in the D-zone. It has been good but we have to just keep working and keep getting better. We are a young team with a lot of skill. If we can be smart and keep learning it is going to be really dangerous.”
Initially, only left wing Dwight King, right wing Jordan Nolan and defenseman Slava Voynov got the call to pack their bags and ship off to the west coast but camp also added Monarchs defensemen Andrew Bodnarchuk and Jake Muzzin, along with right wing Tyler Toffoli.
There were more roster transactions this week when Manchester veterans Richard Clune and Thomas Hickey were claimed off waivers by the Nashville Predators and the New York Islanders, respectively. The move surprised most but the lesson became clear that hockey is still a business.
“Both of them are great guys. They really brought the team together,” said Weal. “We will miss them a lot. They are both getting great chances having been claimed by different NHL teams. It is part of the pro game though and we cannot let it get into our minds too much because we have to play the second half of the season and there will be a lot of big points to get. We are going to have to make a push to make the playoffs.”
Despite these key losses, the team continues to focus on their main goal: winning hockey games.
“We are .500 right now and you have to be looking ahead to make hay,” said Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris. “I don’t think anyone can be real thrilled with just being middle of the road right now. I think everyone aspires to be one of the top teams and we will do our darndest to try and hold the fort until we get our line-up in order and getting guys acclimated with additional ice time. You can’t invent players in the middle of the season so it is up to the guys that are here to dig deep and to play a more complete game at both ends of the rink.”
The season rolls on with three big Atlantic Division games this weekend including home games against the Providence Bruins and Portland Pirates on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, respectively.
“Playing a team that just beat the Boston Bruins should add a little bit more incentive for our guys to dig in and perform well,” said Morris about Providence’s victory in an intra-squad scrimmage on Tuesday night. “It is always a close game against Providence and they will be minus some of their key guys too so we will look to maximize our efforts in a great environment.”
Each game is magnified even more now that the second half of the season is underway. The Monarchs know they need to bring their ‘A’ game each and every night.
“I think every game during the season means something,” stated Weal. “It is tough at the beginning of the year when you can say that one was just an off night but at the end of the year it might be big points. The key is to just try and bring it in every one of the 76 games. If you can do that, then you are going to give yourself the best chance to make the playoffs.”
Manchester will be back in business this weekend with a royal presence with some camp participants returning in time for Los Angeles Kings Night this Saturday.