Even though the San Antonio Rampage currently sit at the bottom of the AHL’s Western Conference, West Division; the call ups from San Antonio have been meeting expectations on the ice. With injuries to Scottie Upshall (IR, lower body), Jack Skille (day-to-day lower body), and Mickael Samuelsson (also lower body); those who have stepped in are doing the right things. Two players meeting expectations are; Evgeny Dadonov and Tim Kennedy.
Evgeny Dadonov spent 36 games with the Panthers last season (8 G, 9 A), and he made the team out of training camp this year, before being sent down. Competition in the system is a major reason why he is back up and preforming at his best. Last night against the Dallas Stars, he was using his body well, and capped off a strong performance (a couple turnovers excused) with his second goal of the season in his second game of the season. A goal that was reviewed because the puck was redirected by Dadonov’s skate, but confirmed a good goal; as no evidence of a “kicking motion” was found. However, Dadonov did intend to direct the puck with his skate. This was ingenious, allowed by the current interpretation of the rule, and he should feel very deserving of the awards he has earned for the work he has put in these past two games. The best part of his role so far this year- he has had around 10 minutes of total ice time, during each game he has played this season, yet he has made such an impact. He has taken 2 shots, and has 2 goals. This means, technically, his shot percentage is better than anyone in the NHL at 100%. My hope however, is that it falls drastically; as he is given more time on the ice to pepper the opposing goaltenders.
On a side note, a big reason the Panthers are having such success on the road, has to do with the rolling of all four lines. This balanced threat, forces opponents on their toes. The result being freedom of coaching discretion. If you saw the game last night, you saw this in action; when head coach Kevin Dineen and his staff had Jason Garrison added as a third defenseman on the power play. Another instance was when one of the Dallas players broke his stick during a Panthers power play. Tomas Fleischmann went to the bench, and Dmitry Kulikov joined the assault. When the Panthers play at home, they have the last change; which in this case appears to be a curse as well as a blessing.
Tim Kennedy, in the featured photo of this post, is shown scoring a goal during last month’s home game against the New York Islanders. He has more NHL experience than most of the call ups available from San Antonio. Kennedy played 78 games for the Buffalo Sabres in the 2009-2010 campaign, scoring 10 goals and 16 assists. The Panthers acquirede him from the New York Rangers in exchange for Bryan McCabe on Feb. 26th, 2011. Kennedy played 6 games in 2011 for the Panthers, getting an assist and taking two shots. This year he has one goal through 7 games, and that goal was the game winner against the Islanders. He has also taken three times as many shots, with six. What he brings to the table, in particular is speed. There are many fast skaters (Flash, just to name one) on the Panthers, so it is not like he is the only one with this quality, but he has used it effectively trying to make something happen out there. To bring things into perspective, he gets around the same 10 minutes of ice time as Dadonov. To put this all in perspective, Brian Campbell averages three times this amount of ice time per game, but Campbell‘s role is very different.
Bracken Kearns leads the Rampage with 5 goals so far through 12 games. His story is intriguing, because he is 30 years old, and played 429 games in the minors before the Panthers called him up to make his NHL debut at home against the Buffalo Sabres. Shawn Matthias had come down with a stomach virus. Kearns played around 6 and a half minutes, or roughly 10 shifts, during the 3-0 loss to the Sabres. Kearns ended up playing a second game with the Panthers against the Islanders, but also had low ice time. He had no shots, but kept a +/- of 0.
There are many other players in San Antonio, including Michal Repik who leads the team in scoring with 9 points (7 assists). Repik has been given many chances with the Panthers, but has never been able to secure himself a regular role. Bill Thomas could be a good fit with the Panthers if the needed when the time arises. He performed well (24 GP, 4 G, 3A) in a limited role for the Panthers in 2010-2011. While he’s not a prolific goal scorer, he’s defensively responsible and will work hard for the ice time he get.
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