The Milwaukee Admirals didn’t get off to the fast start that they had in the past two seasons. But the Admirals are steadily improving under Head Coach Claude Noel and are tied for third place in the West Division with a 21-15-3-4 record, but have won six of their last ten games.
The team’s defense is missing some of its former key components, such as Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, who are now regulars in Nashville. Forward Alexander Radulov, who was strong for the Admirals early in the season, was quickly called up to Nashville after scoring 18 points in 10 games and is unlikely to return to Milwaukee.
Milwaukee’s new faces include five Predators prospects who are making significant contributions to the squad.
During the early stretch of the season, the Admirals missed their best goaltender from last season in Pekka Rinne. In July, three strangers in his hometown of Oulu, Finland mugged Rinne, dislocating his shoulder, thus delaying progress in his career.
Rinne had surgery in Nashville in early October and had a long, mentally tough rehab process. He just returned to the ice on Jan. 19 and has played in one game.
The young goaltender was 10-4 in the playoffs last season with the Admirals, helping lead the team to the championship game and finished the year 30-18, including a solid 2.86 goals-against average, including blocking .905 of the shots that he faced.
In replacement of Rinne, 28-year-old Karl Goehring who signed with the Predators this summer as a free agent, has been a fixture. In 32 games, Goehring has a save percentage of .910, goals-against average of 2.64 while compiling a record of 17-10-4. Scott Reid, 30, who was Goehring’s backup for most of the season and played in 12 games allowing 27 goals while sporting a 3-6-0 record was returned to New Mexico (CHL) earlier this week.
Centerman Rich Peverley received a two-year NHL contract with the Predators on Tuesday. The 24-year-old leads the Admirals with 18 goals and 29 assists in 43 games. It is his second year with the team.
Rookie Cal O’Reilly has played in 41 games and is fourth on the team with 28 points including seven goals (two of which were power-play goals) and 21 assists. O’Reilly’s transition from the Windsor Spitfires (OHL) to the professional ranks hasn’t been that difficult. Nashville’s fifth round selection in 2005, he is tied for 15th in the league in points among AHL rookies.
Another rookie that has started out solidly is left winger John Vigilante, who signed with Nashville as a free agent in December 2005. The 21-year-old has scored six goals while adding 15 assists for a total of 21 points in 41 games. He has only picked up four penalty minutes all year.
Right winger Brandon Segal, Nashville’s second round choice in 2002, has scored 13 goals and five assists for 18 points in 41 games and is on pace to tie or break his career high of 33 points in 79 games set last season with the Admirals.
Free agent signee Kelsey Wilson has seven goals and six assists in 39 games. The 20-year-old has a team-leading 124 penalty minutes.
Center Daniel Widing only got a brief taste of the AHL before being reassigned to Brynas (SEL) on November 20th. Widing played in three games picking up four penalty minutes and a -1 plus/minus rating. The 24-year-old right winger, who was a 36th overall selection in 2000, saw limited time with Milwaukee and opted to go back home to play.
Kevin Klein, a third-round selection in 2003, is in his second year on defense for the Admirals. He has four goals and eight assists for a total of 12 points in 40 games and a -1 plus/minus rating. Klein has been in the box for 43 minutes so far, passing his total of 31 from last season. Klein scored at a .55 points per game pace last season, but is only scoring at a .30 points per game pace this year.
Ville Koistonen was a 24-year-old free agent signee this summer, having led the defensemen in the Finnish Elite League in scoring in 2005-06. He has an impressive five goals and 12 assists in 26 games with the Admirals. He was selected to play in the AHL All-Star Classic Jan. 28-29 in Toronto. Veteran defenseman Sheldon Brookbank will also attend.
Rockford IceHogs (UHL)
Twenty-four-year-old left winger Betts has accumulated a total of 23 points (13 goals, 10 assists), which is fifth best on the team and has a plus/minus rating of +3.
Paul Brown, a third-round selection in 2003 who missed several games last season due to injury, has been able to stay moderately healthy this season. Brown was reassigned to Rockford on January 4th. During his AHL stint of 25 games, Brown had a –4 and 39 penalty minutes while scoring two goals and four assists. Thus far with Rockford, Brown has scored two goals and one assists in three games and has a plus/minus rating of one.
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