Phantoms ready for game action
Couturier, Schenn, Manning, Gustafsson highlight lineup in Phantoms first preseason game
Following three days of on-ice sessions since the start of training camp for the Phantoms, including back-to-back "two-a-days" with morning and afternoon sessions, the players are ready to get into game action.
"Its exciting being back with the guys and going into a game situation, it's been a while," said defenseman Brandon Manning. "It's a bit of a new group with some of the guys coming down [to the AHL] and a new coaching staff so it'll be nice to get things going."
Manning will be one of 20 members of the training camp roster suiting up in Adirondack's first preseason tilt on Tuesday as they take on the visiting Albany Devils, the New Jersey Devils AHL affiliate, in a matinee at the Virtua Center Flyers Skatezone.
The 2 p.m. puck drop is free and open to the public for all Flyers fans, who will get a first-hand look at the heightened talent that the Phantoms will dress, including the likes of forwards Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn as well as Erik Gustafsson and Manning back on the blue line.
With names like that, you can count on this not being your typical AHL preseason tilt.
"The competition will be high in the game tomorrow," said Phantoms head coach Terry Murray, who returns to the AHL bench for the first time since the 1989-90 season with the Baltimore Skipjacks.
"Clearly you have everybody in the organization watching them and the kids want to come out and play their best and impress because they're battling for jobs and want to make sure they're leaving a good impression with management."
Not only will the talent level be increased, so too will be the urgency. The AHL's regular season kicks off in less than two weeks and with only a small amount of preseason games for players on the bubble to solidify their spot on the club.
"It's going to be high intensity," added Manning. "We have a pretty good roster even with the guys that aren't playing. There's so many spots that are uncertain this year. Nothing is guaranteed and I think it's going to be an intense game in a smaller rink and it's going to be exciting for the fans."
One face Flyers fans will be able to see is Couturier, who will be making his AHL debut after appearing in 77 games last season as a rookie with the Flyers.
Other high profile names include Schenn, who began the 2011-12 season with Adirondack and recorded 12 points (6G-6A) in seven games, and Gustafsson, who ranked second on the farm team two seasons ago with 44 assists and 49 points on the blue line and 17 points (16 of them assists) in 28 games last year with Adirondack.
The Phantoms aren't the only talent-laden team to take the ice. Fans coming out for this one might also get a glimpse of players they are familiar with from last spring at the Wells Fargo Center.
Forward Adam Henrique and defenseman Adam Larsson are among the notable names that the Devils assigned to Albany last month and could make an appearance.
Those types of players will certainly be a draw for the crowd at the Skatezone, but what Flyers fans will get a taste of are the players who are looking to quickly climb the ranks of the team's depth chart.
Jason Akeson (pronounced: ACK-uh-Sun) is entering his second season as a pro after making a splash in his rookie campaign. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound center from Orleans, Ontario led the entire Phantoms squad in scoring with 55 points (14G-41A) appearing in all 76 games.
Putting up numbers isn't his motive however.
"The numbers are great and it was a pretty exciting year for me," said Akeson. "It was a great experience for me to be playing professional hockey, but we didn't make the playoffs so it was a little crappy on that end so that's what we're shooting for this year."
Although it's a long way away from Spring hockey, it's that mentality that has the bench boss' full attention.
"You want to win games. You've put in four days of good hard work and players have been very attentive and executing hard in the practices. They want to go out and do their thing, and we want to win games," added Murray. "It's important to not only get your personal confidence to a higher level, but also your team confidence.
"You want to build on the structure that you're trying to get in place. As you come out of camp at the end of the day, you're hoping to hit the ground running at 100 percent."