And then there were two

Robin
Robin Short
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There's no X adjacent to his name on the American Hockey League's official web site, a designation reserved for players no longer with the team, but we can tell you Peter Mannino has definitely been Xed out of the St. John's IceCaps' current and future plans.

As the IceCaps prepare to ring in the new year in Toronto with games against the Marlies today and tomorrow, Mannino is home in the Detroit suburbs, trying to land a deal that would get him working again in either the American league or ECHL.

The move to push Mannino aside finally ends the uncomfortable three-goaltender situation St. John's coach Keith McCambridge had to contend with since the first drop of puck this season.

So with Mannino drawing the short straw, the IceCaps' goaltending fortunes rest with a veteran, David Aebischer, and a youngster, Eddie Pasquale.

In Pasquale, St. John's is retaining a 21-year-old up-and-comer, a goalie whose 7-3 record is tops on the IceCaps. And while Aebischer looked to be merely ordinary early in the season, the former Stanley Cup winner has regained the form that kept him in the NHL for seven years, going 5-0-1 with a 1.81 goals against average and .936 save percentage since Dec. 2, when he came off a stretch of six games in which he didn't dress.

Which left Mannino, who had been a popular figure within the IceCaps' locker room, on the outside looking in.

"This," said McCambridge, "is not a part of the game that you like to see take place."

The timing of the move, during the holiday season, isn't the greatest, McCambridge acknowledged. But given the decision to jettison Mannino was made prior to Christmas, it would have been unfair to see the player go through the holidays thinking he had a job, only to report to the IceCaps on Boxing Day and learn he was no longer gainfully employed.

But this is pro hockey, so nobody should be surprised. Decisions such as these are made every day, at every level. It comes with the territory, and the players know this when they sign up.

McCambridge, no doubt, is delighted to be back to a two-goaltender rotation, away from the cumbersome three-man pickle that not only saw Aebischer, Pasquale and Mannino share playing time, but practice time as well.

"From a team point of view," McCambridge said, "you had to wonder if you were losing games when a guy was not able to run with the ball when he got his win. It got a point where a decision had to take place.

"And we felt as an organization those two guys (Pasquale and Aebischer) were the guys we wanted to run with. Pasquale has showed some real positive signs this season, and Aebischer, based on his play of late (including a 39-save, first-star effort in a 3-1 win over the Bulldogs in Hamilton Wednesday night), made a real strong case for himself.

"He's a pro, shows up ready to play and practice every day, and maybe he shows a younger guy like Eddie how you need to approach your game.

"The thing is, we feel this is the right fit for what we want as an organization."

The IceCaps take an impressive streak into Ricoh Coliseum tonight, 14 straight road games in which they've picked up at least one point. However, the pair of games against the Marlies offer a little extra special incentive for McCambridge - a trip to Atlantic City and the AHL All-Star Classic might be on the line.

The head coach whose team has the best record in each conference at the end of play on Jan. 1 will lead that conference's team during All-Star weekend Jan. 29-30.

Entering Friday's slate of games, the IceCaps were second in the Eastern Conference, one point behind the Hershey Bears and a point up on the Connecticut Whale and Manchester Monarchs.

For McCambridge, whose coaching resume includes four years as an assistant with the ECHL's Alaska Aces, two years as Alaska's head coach, and another two years as an assistant to Scott Arniel and Claude Noel with the AHL's Manitoba Moose, Atlantic City would be his first introduction to an All-Star game.

Not that he's up all night thinking about it.

"Somebody mentioned that to me the other day," he said. "But I've been focussed on getting guys back into the lineup, and getting points.

"An all-star game is a credit to your assistant coaches, to your team, not just simply the head coach. For me, it's not something that's been thought about very much."

The IceCaps will play a second straight game without Patrice Cormier, recalled to the Winnipeg Jets this week to replace Jim Slater (bruised ribs). Cormier had been on fire with six goals in his last eight AHL games.

Prior to Thursday's game against the Los Angeles Kings, Winnipeg had lost 173 man games to injury, a staggering number given the NHL season is only now just nearing the half-way point.

The Jets' defence had been hit hard, although there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel. Randy Jones (upper body) is back practising, and Derek Meech (knee) is close to getting back on skates. Dustin Byfuglien has missed two games with a knee injury, but it's not expected to be long term.

When those three return, that would leave nine D-men in Winnipeg, with Jones, Meech and Byfuglien joining Zach Bogosian, Mark Stuart, Ron Hainsey, Johnny Oduya, Tobias Enstrom and Mark Flood.

Flood could be reassigned to St. John's, where he started the season, and Meech might be sent to the minors, if only for a rehab assignment.

Robin Short is The Telegram's Sports Editor. He can be reached by email rshort@thetelegram.com

Boxe(s):

ICECAPS LINEUP

Tonight's St. John's IceCaps line combinations for the game against the Toronto Marlies are:

Forwards

Jason Jaffray, Ben Maxwell, Spencer Machacek

Kenndal McArdle, Aaron Gagnon, Jason King

Jason Gregoire, Eric O'Dell, Carl Klingberg

John Albert, Garth Murray, Kevin Clark

Defencemen

Brett Festerling and Paul Postma

Arturs Kulda and Travis Ramsey

Jason DeSantis and Zach Redmond

 

Organizations: IceCaps, American Hockey League, NHL Winnipeg Jets AHL All-Star Classic Hershey Bears Los Angeles Kings Toronto Marlies

Geographic location: St. John's, Toronto, Detroit Atlantic City Winnipeg Alaska

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  • Vikingstad
    January 01, 2012 - 15:04

    Sucks for Mannino. At least he got some playing time in the NHL this year, making 4 saves for the Jets in 20 minutes. By the way, love the great writing on the Ice Caps - coming from a guy in Manitoba. We're rooting for you guys too!