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February 05. 2013 9:00PM

Ian Clark's On Hockey: Monarchs lose captain Cliche to surgery


CLICHE 
MANCHESTER -- WHEN IT RAINS, it seems to pour for the Manchester Monarchs.

Mired in a four-game losing streak, the Monarchs lost captain Marc-Andre Cliche for an undetermined amount of time. Cliche had been playing through pain but had surgery to repair a sports hernia on Monday. His return date is not known, but it's likely in the neighborhood of two months.

"He's always been a battler so I would expect that he'll be back as soon as he's able," Monarchs head coach Mark Morris said. "Marc-Andre Cliche, he embodies the warrior mentality."

That leaves Manchester (21-21-4, 46 points), which hosts Providence Saturday at 7 p.m. at Verizon Wireless Arena, with a major hole to fill. Cliche not only brings leadership but is a skilled penalty killer who logs a lot of ice time.

The bad news comes just weeks after the Monarchs lost Rich Clune and Thomas Hickey to waiver claims and had many players called up to Los Angeles.

"The personnel that we've lost through waivers and injury have left an immense void in our roster," Morris said. "(Cliche) has been through a lot of the playoff series we've had over time. He's relied upon in many facets of the game. He takes great pride in his defensive game and his muscle and grit oftentimes goes unappreciated. To find a guy to replace him is a big task."

Cliche also leads by example, something of great value on a team with a young roster like Manchester's.

"He stabilizes our team in a lot of ways," Morris said. "His consistent compete level is something that is valued by our staff. Younger players look up to those guys that are able to bring it with consistency."

The Monarchs will be looking to right the ship with a home-and-home series with the Bruins this weekend. After winning four straight, Manchester has dropped four in a row, scoring just one goal in each of those games.

But panicking and making changes isn't the way to fix things, according to Morris.

"We'll just continue to preach becoming better defenders and to pay attention to the execution and details of our systems," he said. "It's imperative that guys improve in our defensive end to give us the best opportunity to win."

Offensively, the Monarchs will look to the young line of Linden Vey, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson. That line comprises three of the top four scorers on the team (Brandon Kozun is the other), but they have just three goals in the last four games.

"Our job for our line is to create offense and contribute offensively. These last four games we've been struggling in that area," Vey said. "I think teams go through that and we've got to keep doing what we've been doing all year and keep it simple and we'll hopefully get it going this weekend."

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THERE ARE still some tickets available for Saturday's "Pink in the Rink" breast cancer awareness night at the Verizon. The annual game features the Monarchs wearing special pink jerseys and playing on ice that has been dyed pink.

The game is expected to sell out and the lower section seats are already gone. Check out manchestermonarchs.com and ticketmaster.com to get your tickets.

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THE BOSTON BRUINS and age-old rival Montreal will meet tonight for the first time this season. With playoff-level intensity already on display in many games this season, it will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

The Bruins will be without Shawn Thornton (concussion) and Daniel Paille (eye injury), who did not make the trip to Montreal. Forward Brad Marchand (shoulder) will be a game-time decision. The Bruins called Ryan Spooner up from Providence to add some bodies to the roster.

The Bruins (6-1-1, 13 points) and Canadiens (6-2-0, 12) are one-two in the Northeast Division standings so tonight's tilt should be an old-fashioned donnybrook.
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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