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Meltzer's Musings: Phantoms Camp Day 2, Game Days, Read Signs with SSK

September 30, 2012, 7:58 AM ET [28 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Flyers forward Matt Read has signed with Allsvenskan club Södertälje SK, per a press release on the team's official site. He will arrive in Sweden this coming week.

In the press release, SSK general manager Per Nygårds said of Read, "Read is a skilled and versatile forward. He's an intense competitor and he has a nose for scoring goals in the Canadian way of deflections and rebounds and he also has a good, fast shot."

Read is good friends with one of the SSK players, Emil Billberg. The two forwards were teammates at Bemidji State and buddies off the ice. Nygårds indicated that Billberg's presence on the team had a lot to do with Read's decision.

Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossmann got his start with Södertälje SK when it was an Elitserien club (it has since been relegated to Allsvenskan, Sweden's highest minor league). Grossmann's name has been linked to Södertälje SK several times during the lockout. The player indicated the other day that he's now strongly considering going back to Sweden this week -- once his insurance policy in place and other paperwork gets done -- to play for a club at home.

With limited opportunities in Elitserien -- thus far, Modo is the only club to break the embargo on temporary contracts for NHL players during the lockout -- Grossmann could also wind up back with SSK. Nothing has been officially decided yet, however.

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Day two of the Phantoms training camp in Voorhees is early bird day at the SkateZone. The first practice session runs from 8 AM to 11 AM on the Phantoms rink, with Group A and Group B each training for 90 minutes. The second practice will be conducted on the Flyers ice from 3 PM to 4:30 PM, with each group out for 45 minutes.

There is not all that much that can be garnered from a single day of training camp. The line combinations usually change on the second day, and no one on the roster bubble has won or lost a spot yet. What's more, the nature of the drills being practiced on day one are always more about conditioning and the beginnings of implementing structure than about the sorts of elements that immediately jump out to the naked eye.

From a sideline observer standpoint, it should also be noted that none of the Phantoms practice jerseys are numbered, let alone have names on the back. You have to go by the number on the back of the helmet. It's no problem to spot the instantly recognizable players on the ice (the Flyers players who've been assigned to the AHL, long-haired Shane Harper, towering Oliver Lauridsen, Tye McGinn practicing some deflections while parked right in front of the net, etc) but it's pretty tough to immediately tell who is who among the lesser know guys, even with the color-coded jerseys.

That said, it's worth mentioning several things that happened on Day 1 to see if they continue or are revisited in successive days:

* Brayden Schenn lined up more on left wing than at center, but did some of both in day one. He took most of his Day 1 reps with Jason Akeson and Garrett Roe as his linemates.

* It does not take very long at all to see that Sean Couturier is a tailor-made player for Terry Murray's system. For instance, other players required some corrective instruction on a breakout drill (three forwards and two defense pairs on the ice, going back and forth) about exactly where the coaches wanted them to be. Couturier was in the right spot at all times. He took most of his reps yesterday with McGinn and Matt Ford.

* Marc-Andre Bourdon indicated in the locker room after the first session that the coaches told the players they would work with a lot of different teammates over the first few days. However, I suspect that the Day One defense pairing tandem of Erik Gustafsson and Bourdon will open the season together when all is said and done.

* Niko Hovinen reported that his surgically repaired hip is 100 percent and he felt fine during Day 1. When Hovinen holds his ground on shooters, there is almost nothing to shoot at against the 6-foot-7 Finn. The way to beat him is to get him moving laterally or to get him to commit early. His movements aren't always the most graceful but the work he's done over the last two years on his economy of motion are why he's now third on an NHL team's depth chart. He's also a much more confident goalie than he was in his rough early days with Jokerit and when the Minnesota Wild elected not to sign him after drafting him.

* The Phantoms coaches have told Zac Rinaldo that they want him to be a member of the penalty killing unit this season. He seems very eager to do it, as well as trying to show he has some more skill than he's been able to show in a fourth line role. Over the long haul, Rinaldo's ability to stay in the NHL will depend on him doing more than just throwing hits and agitating -- although those will always be his main calling cards. Yesterday, Rinaldo lined up with Eric Wellwood and Ben Holmstrom. I would not be surprised if that is an opening night line combination (3rd line) for Murray's club.

* Wellwood is an extremely bright and personable young man, who has a very good grasp of what Murray and his staff want to accomplish. He is also very honest and analytical in his self-assessments. Asked what he wanted to work on this season, he did not hesitate in saying that he wanted to get a little physically stronger because he had some problems in the corners during the playoff series against New Jersey last year.

* Some other line combinations from Day 1: Tyler Brown worked with Andrew Johnston and Shane Harper in Group 1. Harry Zolnierczyk was out with Rob Bordson and Matt Mangene in Group 2. Marcel Noebels and Mike Testwuide flanked Ian Slater in the Group 2 sessions. Danny Syvret worked together on the blueline with Brandon Manning.

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Terry Murray has always been one of my favorite hockey coaches. He's demanding of his players but never in a condescending sort of a way. He wants to teach, and is very good with young players in particular. He wants his players to succeed, and he never takes any of the credit.

He may preach "discipline, discipline, discipline" and defense-first hockey to the point where some get sick of it. Murray's system is not necessarily a crowd-pleasing style. But many of his players realize later on that they learned a lot from Murph about playing winning hockey, and the sheer number of players he's worked with who've gone on to achieve longevity at the NHL level is a testament to his coaching ability.

It will be very interesting this season to see Murray work at the American Hockey League level. There are dual goals when coaching at that level. Winning, of course, is very important. But so is player development, and preparing players to fit right in to the NHL team's system if and when they get called up.

Terry Murray's defense-first system is quite different than Peter Laviolette's up-tempo, attack-the-puck style of hockey. There are some similar areas in terms of expecting a high level of conditioning to execute the system effectively. Even so, the two coaches tactically approach the game rather differently (although I suspect that Laviolette would strongly disagree with that statement, since the goal is the same --score more and yield less than the opposition -- and all systems are built off the same fundamentals).

Murray said after the morning practice yesterday that his long-established system of coaching will not change much, but that he and Laviolette have compared notes and communicated about ways to reach the same goal that both men crave: establishing a winning Phantoms team that continues to produce young players who can step onto the big club and succeed.

When specifically asked about adjusting his system to align it with Laviolette's and about his own reputation as a good teaching coach, Murray gave some thoughtful responses that pretty much explain what he's learned in his quarter century of coaching at the professional level as both a head coach and an assistant.


"Every coach has got their own philosophy and their own ideas in how to get something done, but the end result is you're trying to reach the same goal. You're trying to win. You're trying to develop players who are good players, players who become winners, players who become champions when they play in the National Hockey League. The main goal is the same. It doesn't matter what coach it is.

"Peter and I have talked. There are some things that organizationally you want to keep in place. That's been the same for anyone I've ever worked for. You want to have some consistently throughout the organization so the players are ready to get going with the big club, so when they jump on the ice there isn't any hesitancy with their game. They're instinctive and they play.

"(Teaching is) your job as a coach. I think when you look back at the days when I was playing, a coach was more about managing your ice time and position. Today, there's a lot of young players in the game and some of them are very close.

"It's going to take a hands-on approach of getting them some structure and discipline and information on how to approach their job on a daily basis. Learn how to embrace the hard work, learn how to come to the rink every day prepared to get on the ice. You take a lot of pride in that, but that's the job description that we have."


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Ilya Bryzgalov did not play for CSKA Moscow yesterday. He was the third (scratched) goaltender in the team's 3-0 win over Avtomobilist. Rastislav Stana, who also recorded a shutout in his previous start before Bryzgalov's CSKA debut, earned the 22-save shutout. CSKA is idle today.

Jakub Voracek was held off the scoresheet for the second straight game, and HC Lev Prague went down, 5-2, to Traktor Chelyabinsk. Voracek appeared to be a bit frustrated at times, taking a pair of penalties, including a roughing penalty with 2 seconds left in the game. He skated 16:58 and recorded two shots on goal. HC Lev is idle today.

Ruslan Fedotenko's HC Donbass Donetsk club is back in action today, playing Spartak Moscow. The game starts at 10 AM eastern U.S./Canada time and a free webcast is available.

Wayne Simmonds will play his second game for Eispiraten Crimmitschau today when the team has a road game against the Landshut Cannibals.

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