As with several of his teammates, Albany River Rats goalie Justin Peters has spent some time this season with the parent club, the Carolina Hurricanes.
Unlike his recalled teammates, Peters spent each of his four games on the bench, backing up Manny Legace.
It was much like last season, when Peters was recalled for four games and saw no ice time, but he said ice time is secondary to using each opportunity however he can.
“One of the things I’ve learned over my short time in the pros is you can’t worry about things you can’t control,” Peters said. “I just keep controlling what I can, and that’s going to practice and being ready. I’m working hard in practice and staying mentally sharp so when I do get in, I’ll be able to take advantage of it.”
The Rats will play three games in three days this weekend, hosting the division-leading Hershey Bears tonight at 7, traveling to Glens Falls Saturday night to play the Adirondack Phantoms at 7 in the fourth game of 12 in the Time Warner Cable Cup (Albany leads, 3-0), then hosting the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Sunday at 5.
The starting goalies have not been announced, but Peters will probably figure into a couple of the weekend’s contests.
During his recall, Peters was joined by Albany teammates Bryan Rodney and captain Patrick Dwyer in Raleigh. Dwyer averaged 10:53 of ice time in six games; Rodney averaged 17:51 in a five-game stint.
Dwyer said he benefited from playing on the same line as Rod Brind’Amour and Stephane Yelle for four games, then Ray Whitney and Brandon Sutter on the third line for two games.
“I think I went up there and played really well,” Dwyer said. “I left a good impression, and I was happy with the way it went for me.”
It is different for goalies, who are often called up as backups.
Still, with Carolina’s first and second goalies out with injuries at the time of Peters’ recall — Cam Ward with a leg laceration and Michael Leighton with a groin injury — the hope in Albany was Peters would get some ice time. Instead, Legace got the starts, and Peters stood by.
“I try not to go in with too much [expectation],” Peters said. “Every day, I want to try to get better and create certainty from the coaches’ standpoint, in the way they look at me. I’m trying to instill confidence in them from my play in practice.”
Dwyer and Peters have now been teammates for parts of four seasons in Albany. Dwyer said he was hopeful Peters would see some ice time in a game.
“You get excited, you pull for them and you hope they get an opportunity to play and you hope they do well,” he said. “Even when you’re not up there when a guy gets called up, you hope the best for them.”
Albany assistant coach Geordie Kinnear, who ran Thursday’s practice as head coach Jeff Daniels was out with an illness, said it’s tough sitting and waiting for a chance to play.
He said Peters, however, has grown disciplined enough to not let the wait get to him.
“The hard part is, you don’t know when your name is going to be called,” Kinnear said. “I think if you talk to any pro hockey player, the toughest part of this game is the mental part. You have to learn to be mentally sharp. Talking about Justin Peters, I think that’s the thing he’s conquered the most.”
He’s grown in other aspects of the game, as well. His goals against average is down to 2.40 from 2.89 last year, 2.70 the season before and 3.26 during the 2006-07 season.
When Peters broke into the AHL, it was with an .886 save percentage. That number has climbed consistently since, to .904, .908 and .916 this season.
While in Raleigh, he said working with director of goalie development Tom Barrasso during practices with Carolina gave him an opportunity to fine tune his game a little more. Barrasso gave him some pointers on how to continue his growth in the net.
“The main things we work on are my positioning, following the puck with my eyes, in-game plays like where to set the puck up for your guys, when to take a whistle, when to play it, communicating with your defensemen and how you carry yourself so your team has confidence in you,” Peters said. “He, obviously, has been through that. He knows. When we talk, he understands and we’re talking on the same page.”
Barrasso’s 18-year NHL career in goal included two Stanley Cup championships with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and ‘92. He also was a member of the 2002 silver medalist United States Olympic team.
Peters said he felt good about his time with Barrasso and he feels the Carolina coaching staff has confidence in his ability to contribute when called upon.
He said, though, he can’t stop to think about when that next recall or when that first NHL start might come.
“Right now, my opportunity is right here, playing hockey and getting better as a goalie,” he said. “I’ll just take care of my business here, take care of my play here, give the team a chance to win, grow as a goalie, become better as a goalie and that type of stuff is going to work itself out. The second I get caught up [thinking about] my next opportunity in the future, I’m going to get away from my game here.”
Casey Borer, who suffered a broken neck in the team’s Feb. 19 bus crash, has been skating in a yellow jersey this week at practice. He has been staying after practice for extra work and conditioning. He has an evaluation scheduled for mid-December . . .
Defenseman Bryan Rodney was once again recalled by Carolina in a move announced Thursday to fill in for the injured Joe Corvo.