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September 28. 2012 10:17PM

Ian Clark's On Hockey: Monarchs happy to be back in town

GOFFSTOWN -- WITH THE NHL lockout canceling Los Angeles Kings training camp, it’s a little bit of a different feeling in Manchester Monarchs camp.

The Monarchs take to the ice for the first time today at St. Anselm. The players hit town over the past few days and Friday was spent at St. Anselm and the University of New Hampshire doing physical testing.

Normally, the players would have been in camp with L.A. for the past month. But regardless of the situation, the players are glad to get back to work.

“It’s a lot different. I spent the whole month of September home and usually I’m in L.A. for at least the last week of August and all of September,” said Monarchs defenseman Andrew Campbell, who begins his fifth season in Manchester. “It was a big difference trying to find ice around home extending your workout plans a little longer than you’d like to. But that’s the way it goes. There’s nothing you can do.”

Campbell was one of five players who had to sign AHL-exclusive deals to be able to play during the lockout. Marc-Andre Cliche, Rich Clune, Stefan Legein and Thomas Hickey were the others.

“I knew if I didn’t come here that I didn’t have anywhere to play,” Cliche said. “Coming back here, being here five years, it’s the same routine. For me, there was no hesitation coming here.”

Familiarity not only with the surroundings, but with the other players is also another reason the Monarchs are happy to be back. Manchester boasts a tight-knit locker room.

“Everyone is familiar with each other. We’re pretty fortunate here. Every year I’ve been here we’ve had a tight group of guys and that’s a testament to the character of the guys they bring in here,” Campbell said. “We all enjoy each other’s company and working hard for each other.”

There were questions marks about other players as well. Jordan Nolan and Russians Andrei Loktionov and Slava Voynov were all assigned to Manchester after winning the Stanley Cup with L.A.

Nolan is in camp, as is Loktionov, who had been rumored to be headed to Russia to play. But Voynov was not in camp yesterday and his status remains a mystery.

Top scorer Justin Azevedo (headed to Europe) and top scoring defenseman Pat Mullen (signed with Vancouver) are gone the two big names missing from the current Monarchs lineup.

But as always, new blood is on the way. Russian import Nikolay Prokhorkin and fellow rookie Tanner Pearson are expected to see plenty of ice time this year.

Pearson especially should be one to watch as he racked up 37 goals and 54 assists in 60 games of junior hockey last season. A broken ankle ended his season early, but Pearson says he’s 100 percent and ready to go.

“I’ve been off for a while since my injury last season so I’m excited to get going,” he said. “It’s been a nice couple days here getting to know the guys but the real work starts now.”

Pearson said fans can expect steady play from him.

“I’m a good two-way forward. Not a flashy guy on the ice but I like to think I get the job done at the end of the day,” Pearson said. “I feel like I’m a reliable forward.”

The Monarchs will have to get into the swing of things quickly. They have a week of practice and then three exhibition games in four days beginning with a game at St. Anselm against Bridgeport Friday (6 p.m.).

“It will be a pretty quick camp. Seven or eight days of practice and that will be important to get our systems down pat,” Campbell said. “Three games in four days, that’s a lot of hockey in a short amount of time so you’ve got to make sure that you’re focusing on the little details to make sure you’re ready for that next week in Providence (when the season opens).”

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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