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February 02. 2012 11:47PM

Monarchs have payback on their minds

The Manchester Monarchs return to action tonight when they host the defending Calder Cup champion Binghamton Senators at 7 o’clock at Verizon Wireless Arena.

Manchester plays at Bridgeport on Saturday night and then will host Portland Tuesday.

The Monarchs have been off since Saturday for the AHL All-Star break. Players were given four days off, returning to practice Thursday afternoon.

Despite their claim as the AHL champions from last season, Binghamton has had a tough go this year and sits in last place in the AHL with just 42 points at 20-24-2.

Manchester (25-20-2) led the Senators 3-1 in the first round of the playoffs last season before falling in a tight seven-game series.

Prior to the playoffs, Binghamton got six players back from parent club Ottawa and those players were a key to that Calder Cup run.

Those players are back in the NHL now, leaving a struggling Binghamton club behind.

“When you turn on the TV and watch the Ottawa Senators, you’re looking at a good portion of the (Binghamton) team we played in the playoffs last year,” said Monarchs coach Mark Morris. “That we played them so closely in the playoffs bodes well for our organization.”

Morris said he expects those memories will be in the players’ thoughts tonight.

“Our returning players feel short-changed. To have the opportunity (to beat them) slip through our fingers was a little humiliating,” Morris said. “There’s no question they’ll keep that in mind.”

The Monarchs are expected to fill the roster slot vacated by J. D. Watt (who was sent down to Ontario earlier this week) with rookie Alex Hudson.

Playing with Bakersfield (where was signed last month) in the ECHL, Hudson has a goal and three assists in 10 games.

A center, Hudson has good size at 6-feet, 210 pounds. He played at Nebraska-Omaha and is a California native.

Meanwhile, rookie Robbie Czarnik continues to recover from post-concussion issues but will not be back this weekend.

The goalie rotation would have Martin Jones in net tonight, but with all-star Jeff Zatkoff playing at a high level, he might get the nod.

Morris was not forthcoming with a decision, but hinted that Zatkoff would get the edge in starts now.

“It’s important we take a look at it and give the lion’s share to whichever goalie has the hot hand,” Morris said. “Not to give up on anybody, because this is a developmental league.”

Goalie coach Kim Dillabough will be in town to help both goaltenders hone their games.


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