12/19 Recap: Byron stays hot; Butler solid in debut

Chris Butler scored his first NHL point and was +2 as Buffalo shutout Los Angeles, 5-0. The DU product logged 12:16 of time in first appearance in the bigs, playing solid on the man, and making conservative plays with the puck. Lindy Ruff managed the rookie well, keeping shifts short while allowing him to ease his way into the speed and level of things. The assist came when his low wrister from the point escaped through Jason LaBarbara's legs, and was punched home by Adam Mair to make it 2-0. Prior to the game, "Buts" tasted a few mics in the Sabres locker room. In a WJC tune-up in Toronto, Tyler Ennis skated on the top line with John Tavares and Dana Tyrell in Canada's 4-2 win over Sweden. The unit generated chances throughout, with Ennis leaving room to develop more chemistry with his new mates. Tyrell injured his leg after an attempted hit on Viktor Hedman, so we'll have to wait and see what this does to the Canadian lines moving forward. Tyler Myers had a solid outing while paired with 6'6 Keith Aulie on the towering shutdown combo. In the QMJHL, Paul Byron (+3) had a four assist night as Gatineau defeated Montreal, 5-3. With the effort, the blazing Ottawa native owns the longest current point streak in the QMJHL with 10 goals and 25 assists over his past 18 games. He is now ranked 8th in QMJHL scoring after a slow start that saw him compile three goals and ten assists in his first 14 games. Luke Adam scored his 15th of the year for the Juniors, while T.J. Brennan had a pair of assists. Jordon Southorn scored a goal and two assists as PEI was handled by Drummondville, 11-7. The Rocket, who at one point had a 4-0 lead in the first period, dropped their fifth game in a row, while the Volts forged their 17th straight victory. J.S. Allard was +1 as Quebec whipped Rimouski, 7-1. The Remparts broke the game open in the second period with three goals in :18, while Allard has just one assist in his last seven games and hasn't scored a goal since his November 23rd game-winner. Chicoutimi's Jacob Lagacé (+2) scored an empty netter as the Sags ended their four-game skid with a 4-1 win over Baie-Comeau. The goal was the 15th of the year for Lagacé. Drew Schiestel posted an assist in Niagara's 4-3 loss to Sudbury. The Dogs fell victim to a Jared Staal goal in the final minute for their sixth consecutive loss. Nick Crawford (shoulder) did not dress for Saginaw in their 4-2 loss to Windsor. The tail end of the home-and-home featured six fights, including a goalie tilt at center ice. In exhibition play, Brad Eidsness made 10 saves in split duty as North Dakota defeated the U.S. NTDP U-18, 5-2. Eidsness played the first half of the contest, getting beaten on a nice play for the first goal against, while not being to squeeze a puck in his glove for the second U18 tally. Corey Fienhage dressed for the Sioux, finishing -1 with his requisite roughing minor. In the DEL, Philip Gogulla was -1 as Cologne lost a tight one to Augsburger, 1-0. Portland's AHL game with Worcester was canceled due to inclement weather in New England.
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Anonymous
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Sunday, December 21, 2008 ×

How do you feel about the physical edge of our prospects as far as the guys that might step up or see some callups next year? Who might add some toughness?

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Anonymous
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Sunday, December 21, 2008 ×

And how do you feel about the speed we currently have and will have in Portland?

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Kris Baker
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Sunday, December 21, 2008 ×

There's plenty of speed to go around at both ends, with the junior guys being loaded.

In Portland, Schutz is deceptively quick, as is Kennedy. They don't have Gerbe-like feet, but they move well enough with the puck and on the forecheck.

As far as incoming next season, Ennis, Byron, and Schiestel have superior (spectacular) wheels, while Brennan is no slouch.

Let's not forget how well Tyler Myers gets around. Mobility + monster reach.

Two-years from now, Alex Biega can be put into the discussion as another fine skater from the back end. Undersized perhaps, but another player that can do well in the AHL with prosper seasoning.

It's a different story in the toughness department. For the time being, Mike Weber is going to lead the way up from Portland. I think you'll see Andrew Orpik signed for the AHL to provide checking depth. He's not a goon-to-be, but he's both big and strong enough to keep guys honest.

Aside from Weber, the nastiest prospect is Corey Fienhage. At 18, his 6'3, 214-pound frame is already bigger than Weber's, and time spent as a safety on his HS football team transfers to the ice. He hits hard, and likes to play a rugged style. He's played nine games as a freshman at NoDak, and already has racked up 28 PIM's. Check out the penalty breakdown:

Roughing: 5
10-minute misconduct (fighting): 1
Hitting from behind: 1
cross-checking: 1
high sticking: 1

Plus, he had a roughing minor in an exhibition game with the U.S. U-18 Team.

Fienhage skates well, but needs to continue adjusting to the speed of the NCAA. He would have benefited from a dev year in the USHL, but will be more than ready for a look when his four years are done.

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Kris Baker
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Sunday, December 21, 2008 ×

Other than the thoughts above, the need is present to draft more toughness.

A few other quick thoughts:
- Tyler Myers has spread his physical wings more this season, but he's not mean and nasty, and doesn't need to be spending minutes in the box.
- Luke Adam is tough as nails as a hockey player, but he's not going to enforce. His toughness is a work ethic thing.
- Defenseman Drew MacKenzie is another edgy guy, but as a frosh as UVM, is four years away from the chatter.
- Corey Tropp enjoys the physical game, and could probably use it more to spark his team.
- Mike Funk was providing a slight element of physical play, but he and Mike Card are both suffering from multiple concussions.

The Pirates had to get tougher when they were signing AHL vets, but the system is thin.

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