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October 26. 2011 12:13AM

Ian Clark's On Hockey: Home cooking for Monarchs


Martin Jones, shown in action last season, is expected to get the call in net tonight for the Monarchs. (UNION LEADER FILE)

The Manchester Monarchs are hoping a return home will also mean a return to the win column.

The Monarchs (3-5-0) host Springfield (3-5-0) tonight at 7 o'clock at Verizon Wireless Arena. Manchester concluded a six-game road trip with a 4-2 loss at Worcester Saturday and has lost four straight games.

“We're hopeful that the return to Verizon Wireless Arena is going to change our fortunes,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. “I thought that our last game was much improved from the three previous games and yet we don't have much to show for it.”

Saturday's game was tight throughout, with the Sharks scoring the go-ahead goal in the third and then an empty-net goal late to put it away. Morris liked his team's effort even if the outcome was not the one they wanted.

“The energy, effort and compete level was all there. But the result wasn't,” Morris said. “We're hoping to change our fortunes by battling through this. Every team goes through these periods, but you don't want it to snowball.”

Working through tough losses like Saturday's is all a part of the process.

“I think it was good for us because it could have gone either way,” said Monarchs defenseman Thomas Hickey. “It was a tight game right down to the middle of the third period when they went ahead. It could easily have been us and we had our chances. Over the course of a long season there are going to be times when you don't get the win when you feel like you deserved it.”

Getting back home and also having a little breathing room is welcomed. The Monarchs played six away games over just nine days.

“Not only being on the road, but playing a lot of games in a short amount of days is tough,” Hickey said. “We're happy to get a couple days of practice under our belt and have a little homestand.”

The focus for Manchester in practice this week has been simple, as in simple hockey with a back-to-basics approach.

“The thing that we talked about is our pace, our intensity and our execution,” Morris said. “We got back to some of the drills that we did throughout training camp. Some things as basic as catching and receiving pucks and really focusing on the execution.”

Morris said that some players might be getting caught up in trying to make the pretty play instead of the safe one.

“Our guys sometimes think that they've got to put an exclamation point on a play by trying to feather or pass or create a pretty play. The fact of the matter is, the skill is in the execution of what you're trying to perform out there and sometimes it's as simple as a pass from point A to point B,” Morris said.

“We've had too many fumbled pucks and I think some of the issues are what I deem ‘friendly fire.' We've caused our own problems. It's not that we're not capable of making those plays. We are. And yet you don't want to be sloppy.”

Morris said Martin Jones is the likely starter in goal tonight. Jeff Zatkoff took the loss on Saturday but played well.

“I liked Zatkoff's effort. Both guys are capable of leading us to victory,” Morris said. “Goaltending was not the issue in the last four outings.”

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NEWCOMER Stefan Legein is fitting in nicely with the Monarchs. Legein was acquired by the Los Angeles Kings in a trade with Philadelphia on Oct. 12 and has one assist in five games.

“It's been good. It's always good when you get traded to a team and get a chance to play,” Legein said. “I was in a tough situation where I was and wasn't playing so it's nice to get out and get a chance with another organization.”

Legein is a 22-year-old right wing from Oakville, Ontario, Canada. He made his pro debut with Syracuse in the AHL playoffs back in 2008 and has played in 144 AHL games with the Crunch and Adirondack.

Legein likes the system played by the Kings (and thus the Monarchs).

“They play a real quick, fast game, which suits the way I play,” he said. “The systems are different from what they run in Philly but after a couple games you get it in your brain and don't have to think about it.”

Legein is looking forward to showing the home fans what his game is all about.

“I just work hard and try not make mistakes, play hard with the puck and in the defensive zone. Play with a lot of energy,” he said. “Hopefully I can get my first goal and make the trade worth something.”

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THE MONARCHS have moved the start time for the Wednesday, Nov. 9 “Education Day” game at Verizon Wireless Arena from 11 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Manchester plays the Portland Pirates that day. Also, the Monarchs-Pirates 11 a.m. game in Portland on Tuesday, March 6 has been moved to Wednesday, March 28 at 6:30 p.m.

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JORDAN CARON has returned to the Boston Bruins after a quick trip down to Providence in the AHL. Caron has been a spare part, 13th forward with the Bruins thus far, playing in four games with no points.

By sending Caron to the baby Bruins it allowed him to see some game action. Caron played with Providence Sunday and notched an assist, picking up value ice time to keep him fresh. He's not likely to crack the Bruins' lineup soon. The B's play a home-and-home series with Montreal on Thursday (in Boston) and Saturday (in Montreal).

Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His e-mail address is iclark@unionleader.com.


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