Ian Clark's On Hockey: Special day for Monarchs' Morris
While hockey fans are glad to have the NHL back, the starting date for the big league could have been better for the Manchester Monarchs.
The Monarchs celebrated "Los Angeles Kings Night" Saturday night at Verizon Wireless Arena against Providence. Prior to the NHL lockout ending, there were rumors that the Stanley Cup would be making a return appearance to Manchester for the special night.
Instead, Lord Stanley was in Los Angeles for the Kings to raise their championship banner as they opened the abbreviated NHL season against Chicago.
But seeing the Kings and so many former Monarchs receive their championship rings was still special for Monarchs head coach Mark Morris.
"I got an opportunity to watch it on TV. It's a proud time. It's great to see the fans being able to celebrate everything all over again," Morris said. "Every time they passed the trophy around the rink my wife would nudge me and say 'there's another (former Monarchs), there's another one.' I think we're all proud of the guys we saw here."
The Monarchs entered Saturday night's game off a 3-1 win in Worcester Friday and will close the weekend by hosting Portland today at 3 p.m.
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Friday's game in Worcester had some business that needed to be taken care of. Knowing that the Sharks would be looking for Manchester's Andy Andreoff, Morris put Andreoff out to start the game and heavyweight Jimmy Bonneau dropped the gloves with Andreoff right off the faceoff.
Andreoff was suspended three games for a check to the head of Worcester's Curt Gogol three weeks ago, so the payback was expected.
"He took on the biggest, toughest guy in Worcester and held his own," Morris said. "I think that set the stage for the rest of the game. When challenged by a heavyweight and you're a middleweight, to stand in there like that spoke volumes to his team."
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Manchester rookie forward Tyler Toffoli returned from his stint with the Kings during the brief training camp and scored a goal in Friday's win. Toffoli earned high praise from Kings coach Darryl Sutter.
"Impressive young player," Sutter told lakingsinsider.com. "He's got all the attributes to be really good in the NHL. He's got good instincts and the more you do game situations, you see where he is going to play at some point."
Sutter added that the time spent with L.A. will serve Toffoli well.
"It's awesome," Sutter said. "It's a little bit of a base for him. He's right where he should be, first year pro with 18 goals in the American League. He's a goal-scorer. He goes down there and plays a lot, plays on the power play. It serves no purpose for him not to play here."
Toffoli was happy with his time out west as well.
"It was good, a lot of fun. It was good to be around those guys and work with them with the on-ice stuff," Toffoli said. "That's what I went there to do was to work hard and show them that I can get a chance. I think I did a good job working hard there."
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As the Boston Bruins opened their season on Saturday night against the New York Rangers, there were many unknowns about how the team would come out of the brief training camp.
One area where Boston should not have a problem is team chemistry. The Bruins had very little turnover and most of the Stanley Cup winning team from two seasons ago is still in place.
"The chemistry and team-bonding is already there and that's a good thing. We don't have to work too much on that," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. "You can't take that for granted. Guys are familiar with each other and familiar with the way the coaches want us to play. It's up to us to go out there and perform."
Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His e-mail address is email@example.com.