Ian Clark's On Hockey: Nolan returns to lineup
Nolan returned to the Manchester Monarchs lineup Friday night after missing every game since opening night. Nolan injured his pinky finger in a fight in that game. Manchester will host Portland today at 3 p.m. at Verizon Wireless Arena.
"I felt all right. I felt comfortable being back out there," Nolan said of his return. "It's going to take a little while to work back to 100 percent."
Nolan scored a goal in Friday's 4-3 overtime loss to Worcester and provided a noticeable spark. He skated well and looked sharp playing on a line with captain Marc-Andre Cliche and leading scorer Brandon Kozun.
With the injury being what it was, Nolan was able to skate and keep himself in good condition, but there is no way to replicate actual game-speed without playing.
"He's worked hard off the ice. It's just going to take a little while for him to establish himself again," said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris of Nolan getting back into game shape.
Nolan wasn't aware that the injury occurred during the fight with Bruin Bobby Robins. It wasn't until he got to the bench that he took a look at the mangled digit.
"At first, it was a little scary," Nolan said. "I could tell it was in bad shape."
Nolan said the injury was a bit frustrating because he could do everything but grip a hockey stick.
Nolan's return comes at a good time for Manchester (8-6-2), which played at Springfield last night. The Monarchs have been hit hard by injuries and are still without Andrei Loktionov, Robbie Czarnik and Dwight King up front while defensemen Andrew Campbell and David Kolomatis are out as well.
The Monarchs have four Stanley Cup winners on the team in Nolan, Loktionov, King and Slava Voynov but have not been able to get all four into the lineup in the same game due to injuries.
Additionally, rookie Tyler Toffoli, who recorded a hat trick against Portland last week, missed Friday's game to attend the funeral service for his grandmother. Toffoli was expected to join the team Saturday night.
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Today's game with the Portland will have the Pirates looking for revenge after a 5-1 Monarchs win in Maine last week. The Pirates (7-7-2) entered Saturday's game at Worcester just two points behind Manchester in the jam-packed Atlantic Division race.
The game is the third in the VIP Cup series between rivals Manchester and Portland this season. Manchester is 2-0 in the series thus far.
Backup goaltender Peter Mannino was slated to start in Springfield last night, with starter Martin Jones the expected netminder for today's game. Mannino should get more playing time going forward as the three-games-in-three-days weekends start to pick up.
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If you're a SiriusXM Radio subscriber and you're missing all the NHL action you would usually be able to hear at this time of year, the AHL will continue to fill in the gaps.
The league announced that more AHL games would be made available on SiriusXM. Manchester's game with Portland on Dec. 2 will be one of the available games.
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Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.