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March 14. 2013 8:09PM

McDonough says playoffs well within reach for Monarchs

The Director of Hockey Operations for the Manchester Monarchs said he's confident the team will gain an American Hockey League playoff berth this season.

"i believe we have a good chance of getting in," said Manchester native Hubie McDonough, now in his 11th season with the club. "We're getting some people back soon off the injury list."

McDonough said left winger Tanner Pearson (13 goals, 22 assists in 52 games) and forward Brian O'Neill are expected to return this weekend. Left winger Marc-Andre Cliche is projected back in about 10 days and goaltender Peter Mannino is scheduled to return in two weeks.

The Monarchs (28-24-3-4, 63 points) have 17 games remaining on their schedule and are one point behind Connecticut and Hershey for seventh and eighth place in the Eastern Conference. The top eight teams make the playoffs.

Manchester will entertain Bridgeport (25-24-5-4, 59 points) tonight at 7 at the Verizon Wireless. On Saturday, the Monarchs travel to Hartford for a 7 p.m. clash against the Whale (28-25-5-3, 64 points) at the XL Center and conclude the weekend on Sunday against Atlantic-Division leading Providence (35-19-0-5, 75 points) at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in a 3:05 p.m. start.

The Monarchs have stayed close to a playoff spot despite constant lineup changes because of either injuries or call-ups to the NHL. McDonough lauded head coach Mark Morris and assistant coach Freddie Meyer for that.

"One of the most impressive things Mark and Freddie have done is working with and blending in the young kids we're getting from the ECHL," said McDonough. "I mean (Colton) Yellow Horn, (Chris) Huxley and (Vincent) LoVerde are no longer considered (short termed) products from the ECHL because they've been around longer than just a few weeks. They've become a fabric of the team and have given our team an infusion of life."

McDonough also said the recent acquisitions of Londonderry's Ian O'Connor and Hunter Bishop, who has stood out as a steady penalty killer, have also contributed to the team.

"Mark brings them in, gives them a rundown of what he wants them to do and keeps it simple," said McDonough.

Mannino coming back would mean the load goalie Martin Jones has been carrying will lessen soon. "He's been playing every game since Peter went down with his injury," said McDonough of Jones, who owns an 18-19-4-4 record with a 2.57 GAA.

"Martin would be the first to tell you he's had an up-and-down year, but he's gotten into a rhythm of late," said McDonough. "Until our last game, we had a stretch of getting at least one point in seven or eight straight games. So Jones is playing better and so are the guys in front of him. That translates into a team gaining and playing with confidence."



Clune, Rheault updates



Two former Monarchs are making some noise on the NHL level. Richard Clune, who started the season with the Monarchs and now is with the Nashville Predators, has three goals and two assists with 48 penalty minutes in 25 games this season.

On Tuesday during Nashville's 4-0 road victory against Dallas at the American Airlines Center, Clune scored on a penalty shot. In the second period, he was hooked from behind on a breakaway by Dallas defenseman Jordie Benn at 10:51. Clune beat Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen with a five-hole shot from nine feet out.

Jonathan Rheault, who played in parts of two seasons with the Monarchs (2008-10), was called up by the Florida Panthers from the AHL's San Antonio Rampage Wednesday in time for Thursday night's game in Boston against the Bruins. It marks the second time this month Rheault has been called up. On March 5, he made his NHL debut in the team's 4-1 home win against Winnipeg, playing nearly 15 minutes.

The 26-year-old Rheault, of Deering, who played for Providence College, played in three games for Florida (plus-two rating) before he was sent back to San Antonio, where he's played 51 games this season. He has 17 goals and 20 assists for the Rampage. He was selected by Philadelphia in the fifth round (145th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.


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