© — Photo by Jeff Parsons/St. John’s IceCaps
St. John’s IceCaps defenceman Brenden Kichton (8) sets up in front of goalie Michael Hutchinson and keeps an eye on the Hartford Wolfpack’s Justin Soryal during the teams’ American Hockey League game at Mile One Centre earlier this month. Hutchinson will almost certainly get the start in Game 1 of the IceCaps opening-round playoff series against the Albany Devils this Friday.
McCambridge had to make some tough ones as he set lineup for Game 1 vs. Albany Devils
St. John’s IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge says he has made lineup decisions for Game 1 of the IceCaps’ opening-round playoff series against the Albany Devils, but says his first comment on the specific choices won’t come until he fills out the lineup card for Game 1 at the Times Union Centre in Albany, N.Y.
“You’ll know what our lineup is on Friday,” stated McCambridge. “I’ve made up my mind with all that stuff, but I’m not revealing it now.”
The St. John’s bench boss does agree there were hard choices to be made, what with an IceCaps’ roster that was bolstered by assignments from the parent Winnipeg Jets at the conclusion of the NHL season.
“It’s part of the job making tough decisions like that, but I know this much — in the playoffs you need everybody,” he said.
“Every player, every piece of our team gave us the ability to get our foot in the door here, to make the playoffs and if you want to get anywhere in the playoffs, you have to be able to use all of your players.”
McCambridge did say his lineup will be determined in part by the opposition, in this case the Albany Devils.
“I take into consideration the team we are playing, the aspects of our opposition,” he said.
“Albany’s a team with a lot of speed up front, a lot of size on defence. Those are factors I consider when looking at our lineup.”
While McCambridge isn’t revealing his lineup for Game 1 of the best-of-five Eastern Conference quarter-final, it’s easy to see some of the critical decisions to be made.
In goal, Michael Hutchinson will almost certainly get the start, but on defence and the forward lines, things aren’t nearly as clear.
As it looks, McCambridge could send out four solid lines: John Albert centering Jason Jaffray and Andrew Gordon; Eric O’Dell between Kael Mouillierat and Carl Klingberg; Patrice Cormier with Blair Riley and Kyle MacKinnon; and rookies Adam Lowry and JC Lipon joining 27-goal-scorer Jerome Samson. That would leave Josh Lunden, who had three goals in the IceCaps’ last two games out of the mix, and also doesn’t allow for the possibility of St. John’s using a lineup of 11 forwards and seven defencemen, which happened often over the last half of the regular season.
On the blueline, seven players — Ben Chiarot, Julian Melchiori, Zach Redmond, Brenden Kichton, Will O’Neil, Kris Fredheim and Jordan Hill — could be classified as regulars, although call-ups and injuries meant they spent varying amounts of time in the lineup in the regular season.
And then there is 19-year-old Josh Morrissey, Winnipeg’s first-round pick from 2013, a smooth skater who, in a short time with the IceCaps, has demonstrated game maturity beyond his years. If McCambridge is looking to counter the Devils’ up-front speed, Morrissey’s skating ability certainly could be utilized. And you can’t dismiss the fact that one reason the Jets sent the youngster to the IceCaps was to experience pro playoff hockey.
Whether that experience is gathered from the press box on the ice for Game 1 remains to be seen. When asked if Morrissey was in the mix, McCambridge only reiterated that “you’ll know on Friday.”
Whatever the case with the teen blueliner, the decisions on defence might be the most difficult. If six defenceman dress Friday, that means two of the above won’t play, while there still will be one not-so-easy call if seven rearguards are used.
McCambridge says he has made up his mind about the numbers split between the forward lines and defence, but again isn’t making that decision public, although he did reveal his thought process when choosing whether to go with six or seven defencemen in the past
“When we’ve run 11 (forwards) and seven D, it could have depended on who we have with the parent club, which obviously isn’t a factor now,” said McCambridge,
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“It could depend on the number of injuries we have and exactly who is hurt.
“Maybe I want to rotate a particular player through more often up front and make it more difficult for the opposition to get match ups. Maybe I want to have an extra guy for penalty killing or the power play on the back end.
“And often its two or more of those factors at play when deciding whether we go 11 and seven or 12 and six.”
Of course, another factor are injuries. For example, Melchiori was sidelined for the last three games of the regular season with an injury McCambridge has described as day to day. And then there are the ailments that strike IceCaps fans as well as IceCaps players: Lowry didn’t play in St. John’s final two games because of the flu.
Notes: The IceCaps, who didn’t return to St. John’s at the end of the regular season, but remained on the road, have been practising in Providence, R.I., the last couple of days, They travel to Albany today … Games 1 and 2 are in Albany Friday and Saturday with 8:30 p.m. NT start times. The IceCaps have home-ice advantage in the series and will utilize with Games 3, 4 and 5 — the latter two if necessary — at Mile One Centre in St. John’s on Wednesday, April 30; Friday, May 2 and Saturday, May 3. Games at Mile One will begin at 7:30 p.m. NT. … The final-regular-season stats had already revealed them, but on Tuesday, the IceCaps officially announced their remaining end of the year player awards: Jaffray was the team’s top scorer with an IceCaps’ record 59 points; Chiarot was the plus-minus leader at plus-29, another team record; Albert was the winner of the Molson Cup based on three-star selections; and Kyle MacKinnon was the overall winner of the Mary Browns Hardest-Working player award …