The beloved Rampage take the show on the road for their second California trip of the season. Good news, they're 10-4-4 on the road, bad news they've lost 4 in a row and are 3-6-1 in their last 10. Good news, they should get a few key players back from injury and the WJC, bad news the Avs seem to be in a state of unrest and some organizational player movement appears to be likely in the coming days.
Gabe Beaupre and Alex Belzile headed back to Ft Wayne on Monday, leading to speculation that some folks are well enough to come off the injured list
Dan Weiss has your weekly Rampage Report with special guest star Max Noreau
Cheryl had a great Between Shifts interview this week with Duncan Siemens, longer than usual and I highly recommend it
Komets Beat Reporter Blake Sebring has teamed up with WANE-TV to bring us a video podcast and update how our brother Komets are doing right now.
Topher from RWtH has the latest season-to-date stats on the Rampage as well as the summary from Sunday's game
Also from RWtH, Nate and JP bring you this week's RWtH Live and touch on the important question of whether the Rampage are actually fixable at this point. They were nice enough to have me on for a guest spot, so many thanks for that.
Max Noreau has been out with a hand injury but the word is that he's good to go this weekend
M-A Cliche has been out with a concussion but passed the protocol and has been getting back into game shape. Also a good chance he's good to go this weekend
Mat Clark has been out with LBI since the break, no update on his status.
Andrew Agozzino has been out with what we think is a broken foot but he was spotted at the last game in a walking boot. No update from the team but there's speculation out there that he's progressing faster than we thought
Reto Berra had a bit of a setback in Colorado so Picks return to the team is still in the distance. I still think Yogi might take a conditioning assignment in SA before returning to duty in CO.
Mikko Rantanen will be joining the team in San Jose, probably on Saturday
The AHL All-Star Game Rosters were announced today and the Rampage's lone representative will be Mikko of course. He wins an all expenses paid trip to Syracuse.
Mikko Rantanen at World Junior Chamionships
Mikko ended the WJC with 2G/3A in 7 games and the gold medal. Oh, he was also named player of the game for the Gold Medal match. It was great to hear his teammates laud his leadership throughout the tournament, we got a good one here.
Brandon Gormley was waived by the Avalanche yesterday, we'll know at noon whether he's on his way to San Antonio or another NHL club. I'd say there's a realistic chance he will be claimed by another team but if not he would be a strong addition to the Rampage blueline.
There's so many ways to look at this move, you can pretty much take any view and run with it. My take is that the Avs made their decision on whether they would offer him a contract for next year (nope) and were fine with letting him go for nothing. For the youngsters in San Antonio this probably means that the Avs like what they see and think that they will be contributors at the NHL level next year.
Recap: San Diego
On Friday, once again the Rampage played a good game overall but didn’t get the desired result. Former Lake Erie Monsters Mike Sgarbossa and Chris Mueller combined for 14 SOG, 2 goals and an assist to help the Gulls win 3-1. San Antonio had plenty of scoring chances but couldn’t seal the deal against a goalie with 99 NHL starts. As disappointing as this loss was, the process is solid and only a few costly mistakes per game are making the difference.
Despite a wide shot margin in the 1st in San Diego’s favor the 1st was fairly even and featured tight physical play with no scoring. The game opened up in the 2nd but again it was fairly even with the Gulls moving out to a 2-1 lead on some early scoring. The 3rd got nasty at times and ultimately the Rampage couldn’t unclog the middle and get enough time to solve Khudobin. Some poor d-zone play very late in the game by Rendulic and Labrie resulted in a dumb penalty that handcuffed any chance at a late flurry.
Sunday's game was a catastrophe, everything you hate to see a hockey team do was done. Sitting back with a lead, coaches overplaying the wrong players to the point of ridiculousness, poor decision-making in all facets of the game and so much more. Coming off their 9th straight loss at home the Rampage had a wonderful 1st period. Six minutes in Nikita Zadorov stole a puck in the d-zone, carried it to the circles where he fed Borna Rendulic for an easy back door goal. 10 minutes later Michael Schumacher tipped a Hubert Labrie slapper from the point for a 2-0 lead. They ended the 1st with a 2-0 lead and a dominant 13-8 shot performance.
Then everything changed. The Gulls came out motivated for the 2nd and despite a highlight reel goal from Chris Bigras they took over the game and the Rampage were just passengers ’til the end. Four unanswered goals later, they had their 10th straight loss at home. Even though shot attempts remained fairly close, they were outshot 24-10 in the 2nd & 3rd periods.
The player usage was somewhat baffling. Colin Smith has fallen off the map lately but there’s no reason he should have been benched. Sam Henley seemed to be a victim of Schumacher moving up to the top-6 and Bordy getting benched, but playing Borna instead in defensive situations is counterintuitive.
The defensive use was where the really bad stuff appeared. The Rampage have given up 19 goals (in all situations) since the break. Chris Bigras has been on for 12 of them, Hubert Labrie for 10. Bigras is talented at both ends of the ice but he’s not ready to anchor the top pairing, especially not with an empty suit like Labrie for a partner. They had a 38% CF% in the game with 50% o-zone starts. With Noreau and Clark out there’s not a lot of options but overusing that pair has dragged the team down. Zadorov and Siemens, who are getting 2nd pair time, have only been on the ice for 6 and 4 goals against respectively. Duncan’s been quite good at shot suppression all year, he had a Corsi For% of 68% while getting only 11% o-zone starts. Zadorov was at 47% with only 33% offensive starts. Shifting some starts their way could help a lot defensively and keep Bigras fresher late in the game.
Preview: Bakersfield/San Jose
This is the first time we've seen either of these teams. Last year they were the OKC Barons, who the Monsters usually struggled with, and the Worcester Sharks, who they haven't played in recent memory. Three wins and we pass both of them in the standings, so that's the plan.
Lines/Pairs from Sunday's game:
Obviously there will be major changes by the time the weekend's over with Noreau back on D and Mikko back in the USA. We could have Cliche and Gormley too for that matter. I pray that Labrie is the first one to get a break but that's apparently not how things work this year. Regardless adding that kind of experience and firepower will take a load off of everyone that's had to play a notch or two over their comfort level for the past couple of weeks.
Friday night at Bakersfield 10:00pm ET
Saturday night at San Jose 11:30pm ET
Sunday afternoon at San Jose 6:00pm ET
All games on Ticket 760, Saturday night's game will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest
At Stockton on Wednesday then off to Milwaukee for the weekend
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Both Friday and Sunday's games conflict with the Avs and Saturday's is so late there's no way I'm going to watch it live. Such is life, they'll probably win them all too...