Column: Line on the schneid

Robin
Robin Short
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IceCaps’ O’Dell, Klingberg, Mouillierat trio needs to improve playoff point production

NORFOLK, VA. — The first two games of the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference semifinal between the St. John’s IceCaps and Norfolk Admirals have been low-scoring, tight-checking affairs, and there’s nothing to suggest that’s going to change anytime soon.
Which is why it’s in the IceCaps’ best interests that the team starts getting some production from their forwards, specifically the line of Eric O’Dell, Carl Klingberg and Kael Mouillierat, who have a combined two goals in the playoffs (one each by O’Dell and Mouillierat).

Of the 12 times St. John’s has scored in this Calder Cup post-season, four goals have come from front-line winger Andrew Gordon, and four from the defence (a pair from Brenden Kichton and one each from rookie Josh Morrissey and Ben Chiarot).

Klingberg isn’t the only IceCaps forward to have yet to find the back of the net. Put Jerome Samson, who netted 27 goals this year, in the same category.

Thing is about Klingberg and his linemates, however, is they’re not playing that badly, even if the scoresheet suggests otherwise — goaltender Michael Hutchinson, with two assists, has more points than Klingberg.

You hear sometimes a player is playing well, despite posting zeroes on the scoresheet. Klingberg, in all fairness, has been effective even if the numbers do not support that theory.

“Klinger has really been using his speed, forcing turnovers with that speed,” said St. John’s coach Keith McCambridge. “He’s been really good for us in this series.”

The big Swedish right-winger has been doing all the things that produced 22 goals and 40 points this year, many of them in the second half which led to a promotion to the Winnipeg Jets.

He’s using his exceptional speed to drive to the net, keeping the Admirals’ defence on its heels.

“I don’t think I’ve been doing anything differently than I did the whole season, and it worked then,” he said. “Why wouldn’t it work in the playoffs?

“I think our line has played well. Mully’s passing the puck, Odee’s dangling like he should. I’m skating. We’re playing good. We just have to get on the scoresheet.

“It looks bad in the paper, but if you look at the games, we’re playing good.”

The Admirals won Game 1 of the series back at Mile One Centre Tuesday night by a 3-1 count, one of those goals into an empty net. St. John’s took the second game 2-1 Wednesday.

Norfolk allowed only 192 goals this season, fifth fewest in the 30-team AHL.

Of course, a big reason for that impressive stat has been the play of goalie John Gibson, who has been particularly outstanding in the post season. Gibson, however, has been recalled to the parent Anaheim Ducks (see accompanying story).

“Norfolk doesn’t give you anything,” McCambridge said. “The odd chance you have to create a scoring chance — and they’re few and far between — those are ones you have to finish.”

It was a big year for the O’Dell-Klingberg-Mouillierat trio. O’Dell established himself as an NHL player, appearing in 30 games for the Jets where he picked up seven points. Mouillierat had 20 goals and 53 points in 60 games, leading the IceCaps in scoring for much of the season until he was felled by injury, at first believed to be season-ending. And Klingberg finished off strong, picking up three goals and three assists in his last five games of the regular season, a spurt interrupted by a three-game stint in Winnipeg when he scored his first NHL goal.

“Right now, we’re playing good… creating chances,” Klingberg said. “It’s there. It’s just a matter of putting the last piece of the puzzle in place, and that means scoring goals. Ultimately, that’s what you see at the end of the day.

“At the same time, as long as we’re playing well and winning games, you can’t really complain about that.”

The IceCaps spent a good portion of Friday’s practice working on the power play. Until Wednesday, it was a bone of contention, managing only a pair of man advantage goals in 24 chances.

That changed, however, as the IceCaps got power play goals from Morrissey and Jason Jaffray in Wednesday’s win.

The two primary power play units McCambridge drilled Friday were nothing new to what we’ve seen of late — the forward lines of Gordon, Jaffray and Samson, and O’Dell, Mouillierat and Klingberg.

Defence pairings on the power play were Kichton and Zach Redmond, and Morrissey and O’Neill.

In the meantime, defencemen Kris Fredheim and Julian Melchiori both wore non-contact jerseys in practice, and remain listed as day-to-day. Don’t expect them to play tonight, which means McCambridge will go with the same lineup as Wednesday, 11 forwards and seven defencemen.

Game time tonight is 9:30 p.m. NL time, on 930AM.

Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email rshort@thetelegram.com Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort

Organizations: IceCaps, NHL, Jets

Geographic location: Norfolk, Winnipeg

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