It had been a long time since Paul Gardner had taken the ice with his game face on when, the other night, the Portland Pirates found themselves a few bodies short, a common malady in the AHL. Coach Barry Trotz asked his assistant to skate a shift on the power play and, despite being knocked to the ice three times, he was upright long enough to pick up an assist.
Gardner, 40, played a season with the Washington Capitals and was with three other NHL teams. In 447 games in the big time, he was credited with 402 points. He's an all-timer in the AHL, scoring 61 goals in 73 games for Rochester in 1985-86 and logging 130 points the season before.
Gardner said: "I felt like a kid again," and he proved it by retrieving the puck. He was rewarded with the third star of the game, not bad for a guy who skated just one shift.
Carolina drags a winless streak of 10 into its Friday-Sunday series with the Bandits after starting out 3-1. The problem is scoring: Last year, the Monarchs were third in the AHL in production (3.91 goals per game), and now the yield is 2.79. Igor Nikulin, who showed punch with 2-2-4 in four games with the Bandits last season, will be in uniform for the home team.
Bandits in the Bigs: Through mid-week, the Mighty Ducks were dead last in the 26-team NHL with a 3-11-3 record and nine points. Individually, ex-Bandits Jason Marshall and JF Jomphe have played every game for the Ducks, Nicolai Tsulygin has taken a regular shift on defense since he was called up and then there's Jeremy Stevenson. Stevenson suffered what, years ago, was called a "million-dollar wound." (In other words, an injury that's not serious, but enough to get a soldier shipped stateside). He sprained his ankle Oct. 24 and figures to be with the big club while recuperating. Recall, pay's a little better there than here.
Despite his team having six straight losses and being on a 10-game winless streak (0-9-1), Carolina's Dave Nemirovsky (7-6-13 in 13 games) is a plus-5. Ted Sator, a disciple of Mike Keenan and a man who coached more than 300 games in the NHL (Sabres and Rangers), is the assistant to Jack McIlhargey with Syracuse.
No wonder Jaroslav Svejkovsky of Portland was named Rookie of the Month by the AHL for his exploits during October. Washington's first-round pick (17th overall) in the 1996 draft had seven goals and 13 assists in his first 11 games for the Pirates and, earlier, was named Player of the Week.
What a great sight that must have been in Philadelphia the other night, Flyers goalie Ron Hextall and Leafs netminder Felix Potvin meeting at mid-ice at game's end to swap a dozen haymakers. It couldn't have been personal, considering the men never got closer than 180 feet to each other during the contest.
After scoring 58 goals and picking up 116 assists in 150 games with Portland the last two seasons, then going 1-3-4 in six games for Washington during the playoffs, Andrew Brunette appeared to be a lock to make the Caps' roster this season. Alas, no luck. When he was called for a relief stint recently, it turns out it happened on the day the Maine city was hit with a foot of rain. He couldn't get home to pack or to the airport, which prompted the winger to say, "It seems somebody doesn't want me to get to the NHL." Upon his return to the Pirates, Brunette went 4-4-8 in four games to win AHL Player of the Week honors.
While the NHL wisely put an end to the Florida fans' ritual of tossing rubber rats onto the ice after a Panthers goal, the AHL allows the faithful in Saint John, New Brunswick, to litter the ice with rubber lobsters when the Flames score their first goal in games.
The Vancouver Canucks, on their way to play the Rangers in the Big Apple, stopped off for a practice in Syracuse (Vancouver's AHL affiliate), and 2,500 people showed up at a cost of $5 per head, with proceeds going to charity.
(AHL standings, 6D)
Pub Date: 11/13/96