The Marlies are likely to trim down their roster on Tuesday after sweeping their two-game exhibition set against Hamilton. Head coach Dallas Eakins indicated the possibility of keeping up to fifteen forwards with eight defencemen and three goaltenders firmly on the squad to start the regular season. With no roster limits in the American Hockey League, the Marlies could theoretically keep as many players as they'd like, but rightfully see no reason to hold over a long list of young players who won't actually play. "We might keep two or three guys on fifth line to start and the other guys might go play [elsewhere]," said Eakins, "but that doesn't mean you've made the team, it means you're going to start with the team. You're going to have to play well when you get in or we'll be changing things around."
Paul Ranger, Mike Kostka and Dylan Yeo join a group of five holdovers on the blueline, none of whom are going anywhere. "We've got eight guys who can all firmly play in the league, on any team," said Eakins. "We'll do things a little differently there; we'll rest guys, we'll try not to play guys three in three nights, we'll try and keep them healthy and fresh that way."
Eakins added of those players on last year's Calder Cup final roster, "unless a guy just absolutely bombed in training camp...they've earned their spots; they laid a lot on the line for us last year. All those guys have come in and played well; we haven't had any real fall-off from those guys."
Locks (F): Keith Aucoin, Nazem Kadri, Greg Scott, Nicolas Deschamps, Mike Zigomanis, Ryan Hamilton, Carter Ashton, Joe Colborne, Leo Komarov, Will Acton, Jerry D'Amigo, Greg McKegg
Bubble (F): Spencer Abbott, Tyler Brenner, Kenny Ryan, Brad Ross, Jamie Devane, Andrew Crescenzi, Sam Carrick
Locks (D): Korbinian Holzer, Mark Fraser, Jake Gardiner, Mike Kostka, Jesse Blacker, Simon Gysbers, Dylan Yeo, Paul Ranger
Locks (G): Ben Scrivens, Mark Owuya, Jussi Rynnas
Greg McKegg was an early standout at training camp and did nothing to take away from those strong reviews with two exhibition game performances. "He kept the gap there," said Eakins, noting his strength and aggressiveness around the puck. "I just feel like he's getting a little moxie going there. It's good to get your swagger, especially when you're a young guy and I feel like he's kind of getting there. We'll have to go over our opening night lineup, but I would be guessing that he would be in." "It's nice to hear that," said the 20-year-old McKegg, when informed of Eakins' comments. "You come into a short camp like this with a lot of older guys. You definitely have to work your way onto the lineup and I feel good right now."
Scrivens Ready To Go
The temptation for Ben Scrivens this fall was to compare his game now in training camp to where it was when he last left off, a dominant postseason en route to an appearance in the Calder Cup final. But after a conversation with new goalie coach Rick St. Croix, Scrivens came to the realization that it was better to contrast the merits of his game today not to the end of last season, but to the start of last year's regular season. The 26-year-old offered the astute analogy of a golfer's game at the beginning of the playing season to that of his regular performance by the time winter hits.
One of the pleasant early surprises for the Marlies thus far has been the obvious chemistry between Nazem Kadri and Keith Aucoin. The 33-year-old Aucoin finished last season with the Washington Capitals, totaling 27 regular season games before evolving into an energy fourth liner in 14 playoff games. Aucoin also remained an AHL standout offensively, posting 70 points in 43 games. He and Kadri have clicked alongside Greg Scott, who posted his first 20-goal campaign last season. "We're both skilled guys, both like to pass, we both see the ice really well and we know how to get open for each other," said Aucoin of himself and Kadri. "When you have two players like that you're going to have good chemistry."
Ranger Inching Forward
Rust was evident for Paul Ranger on Saturday in Cobourg when the 28-year-old played his first game in three years. Ranger admitted to feeling some anxiousness on the bus ride over in what concluded as a 3-1 Marlies victory over Hamilton. Progress was apparent two days later in Brantford when he and the Marlies wrapped their exhibition set against the Bulldogs with a 2-0 victory. "I thought he showed a couple little signs of rust in the first game," said Eakins of Ranger, who was paired with Jesse Blacker in the preseason. "I didn't see any of it [on Monday night]. If he would've just came in middle of the road fitness-wise, shape-wise I'd be a little more worried about him, but I'm not worried about him at all." A long-standing member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ranger hasn't played pro hockey since the fall of 2009, leaving the game for personal reasons. The Whitby native arrived at Marlies camp in terrific shape, finishing as the top performer in fitness testing.