At this time last week, the Albany River Rats were looking at a three-game weekend without their top defensive pairing.
A week later, things have gotten worse.
The Rats left for Manchester Thursday afternoon missing their top four defensemen, after Bryan Rodney was summoned by the Carolina Hurricanes following Albany’s late-morning skate at RPI’s Houston Field House.
Rodney joins Brett Carson, recalled on Sunday, as well as Tim Conboy and Casey Borer, who were promoted Dec. 5. They all dressed for Carolina’s game Thursday night at Philadelphia.
The latest move leaves Albany (8-11-3-2) with just five healthy defensemen, including Ryan McGinnis, recalled from ECHL Florida on Thursday. McGinnis will join the Rats in Manchester.
“We started the year with nine [defensemen],” Rats first-year head coach-GM Jeff Daniels said. “All of a sudden, we’ve got four up in Carolina and two are hurt, so we’re scrambling for defensemen.
“It’s the way this game goes. Every team goes through it. Right now, it’s our turn to scramble for guys. We’re fortunate enough to have some guys in Florida that can come up and play.”
Albany has lost two straight after earning at least one standings point in seven consecutive games (5-0-1-1) to move out of last place in the East Division. After tonight, the Rats host division rival Binghamton, featuring the return of Cohoes native Marc Cavosie, Saturday at 7, and Portland Sunday at 5 at the Times Union Center.
Mark Flood and Noah Babin, frequently the Rats’ third pairing, are left to anchor the defense along with NHL veteran Josef Melichar, who was assigned to Albany last weekend.
They are joined by McGinnis and Jonathan Paiement, recalled from ECHL Florida on Nov. 10. Neither of injured rookies Benn Olson and Brett Bellemore are expected back until January.
“It’s tough, for sure, but it’s a great opportunity to play for us,” Babin said. “For guys who don’t really get that much ice time, it’s a great chance to prove yourself. Every day, you’re looking to kind of move up the ladder and show you’re stuff. It’s a little added pressure, but that’s good. That’s what you play for.”
A healthy scratch for three games from Nov. 21-27, Flood is tied with Carson for the team lead with 10 assists. His 127 AHL games are the most among current Rats defensemen; Melichar skated in 126 before playing 325 in the NHL.
“I think it’s kind of good for
everybody,” Flood said. “It’s good for the guys who have gotten a chance to go up to Carolina, and it’s good for the guys down here because we’re all getting a chance to play a lot and log some minutes.
“Maybe some guys are playing in some situations that they don’t regularly play in. I think it’s great for everybody. The more we can push each other, when guys do come back we’re all going to be competing for ice time.”
Daniels was unsure if or when Albany would get any reinforcements from Carolina. The Canes have two defensemen, Anton Babchuk and Frantisek Kaberle, on injured reserve. Dennis Seidenberg suffered a setback in his comeback and was unable to play Thursday, necessitating Rodney’s recall.
“We’re kind of here for each other,” Flood said. “We’ve got to back each other up and stick together out there.”
Manchester (10-9-0-4) is 6-0-0-1 on Fridays this year. . . . Monarchs assistant coach Scott Pellerin was on the original 1993-94 Rats team, is aformer team captain and member of the 1995 Calder Cup champion club. . . .
Both NHL veteran Dan LaCouture and rookie Ryan Weston are ready to return to the lineup, giving Albany 13 healthy forwards. Both players missed the past four games. . . . First-year center Stefan Chaput will not play this weekend. Chaput was hurt in an 8-1 win over Norfolk last week and missed the last two games. Injuries have cost him six of the last nine games and nine games overall. . . .
Sunday’s game will be available without cost on the Internet at www.ahllive.com, part of AHL Live’s Free Preview Weekend.