Ian Clark's On Hockey: Some locked-out Kings to return
Brandon Kozun checks Bridgeport’s Steve Olesky in a game at Verizon Wireless Arena last season. Kozun, who scored 20 goals for the Monarchs in 2011-12, returns to Manchester this season. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader File)
Training camp takes on extra importance this season for the Manchester Monarchs.
Monarchs players have been trickling into town this week and will take physical exams today. The team hits the ice at Sullivan Arena at St. Anselm on Saturday for the first practice.
Normally, players would have been in camp with the parent club Los Angeles Kings for several weeks now.
But with the NHL locked out, the players are coming into camp with no ice time under their belts beyond what they’ve done on their own in the offseason.
“Based on the guys I’ve seen so far, they look to be in good shape,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. “But there’s a big difference between off-ice workouts and what it takes to round into game shape.”
Practice time and three exhibition games (Oct. 5 at St. Anselm against Bridgeport, Oct. 7 at Portland and Oct. 8 in Salem against Portland) will be key.
“We hope these exhibitions and practice time can get us ready for the season,” Morris said.
Thanks to the lockout, Manchester is expected to have a few players from Stanley Cup champion L.A. such as forwards Jordan Nolan and Andrei Loktionov and defenseman Slava Voynov.
Aside from that boost, the Monarchs will see the return of most of last season’s team.
Top scorer Justin Azevedo left to play in Europe, but Brandon Kozun (20 goals, 26 assists, 46 points) and Linden Vey (19-24-43) are back.
“We’re very fortunate to have almost our whole team back,” Morris said. “It’s a familiar bunch and they seem to be close in the locker room. We know there’s quite a bit of skill. Guys that have a history of being top scorers in their respective leagues.”
Tanner Pearson is one of the new players to keep an eye on. Pearson scored 37 goals and 54 assists in 60 games at left wing with Barrie in junior hockey last season.
Another new face on the team will be Nikolay Prokhorkin. The Russian forward will make his United States debut with the Monarchs.
Goaltender Martin Jones is back for his third season and the No. 1 job is his with Jeff Zatkoff out of the picture after signing with the Pittsburgh organization. J.F. Berube will backup Jones.
“For two seasons Jones has been solid in net. He’s proved with his size, patience and poise in the net that he has a bright future,” Morris said. “Berube, he’s shown promise. As he sees ice time, he’ll gain confidence.”
The Monarchs open the regular season at Providence Oct. 12. The first home game is against Providence on Oct. 19.
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Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He may be reached at email@example.com.