Norfolk Admirals Notebook
The Norfolk Admirals had just swept the visiting Lowell Devils recently and were readying for a late-night bus ride to Wilkes-Barre, Pa., when Justin Keller tossed his gear bag onto a growing pile of them outside the home dressing room. In addition to his skates, pads and helmet, Keller's bag held two talismans, and although he wouldn't reveal what they were, he was willing to explain why he felt it necessary to pack good-luck charms for the road.
To that point, Keller had scored all 14 of his goals at home. Perplexed by the imbalance, he examined his Norfolk pregame routine and decided to bring along two items involved in it.
“It's not so much that I'm playing badly on the road but I think I just need to shoot every puck on net and follow it and create some good bounces,” Keller said. “If I could put a finger on why it's happened, it would be fixed right away.”
Norfolk coach Darren Rumble said Keller, who's in the final season of his contract, has played very well the last three months but needs to finish strong in his bid to remain within the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. The wing's entry-level contract expires after the current campaign.
“I think he had a come-to-Jesus meeting with himself when he had to drive down to (ECHL) Augusta back at the start of the season,” Rumble said with a chuckle. “We all love to play hockey, but the game doesn't owe any of us anything. Now, he's skating better, finishing his checks and getting dirty goals around the net.”
Keller snapped his strange streak Wednesday at Albany, scoring at the Times-Union Center in a 5-3 loss to the River Rats.
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Another Admiral enjoying a strong stretch has been rookie goaltender Riku Helenius, who after the Albany game is 7-9 with a 2.45 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. Those numbers are better than those posted by Mike McKenna and Karri Ramo, Norfolk's other regular goaltenders, and the Admirals have been impressed not only by the Finn's shot-stopping abilities but by his poise and constant calm.
“Time after time he's made a huge save for us,” Keller said. “It's a lot easier to play in front of a guy like that because you can take a few more offensive chances. He's a great kid with a bright future.”
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Norfolk swingman Brent Henley has battled fiercely all season just to stick on the Admirals roster, but it turns out the 6-foot-7, 250-pound tough guy endures a tougher fight every day off the ice. Henley, 28, suffers from diabetes and Addison's disease, conditions with which he was diagnosed in his late teens.
Every day, Henley must draw his blood, inject himself with insulin and take corticosteroids to aid his immune system. Diabetes means his body doesn't produce enough insulin, the hormone that converts sugar and other food into energy, and that can lead to fatigue, heart disease and blindness. He must check his glucose levels by pricking his arm and testing his blood at least five times a day. If his glucose level is too high, he has to inject himself with insulin. If it's too low, he has to eat or drink the proper foods. Addison's disease results in his adrenal glands creating insufficient hormones and potentially causes weight loss, weakness and fatigue.
Because of his situation, Henley has to be vigilant about his health and he's been hospitalized a few times when his discipline faltered.
"When I get run-down, I can't just push through it,” Henley told the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Journal-Gazette when he played there in 2007. “I have to make sure I sleep a little bit more. I have to really monitor my blood sugar or I'll start getting sick," Henley said. "I take more vitamins than the normal person would. And it's really just being cognizant of how I feel and realizing, if I stay up that extra hour that night, then that's going to make me feel worse the next day and I'll have that cumulative effect."
Henley, a career defenseman who has also played quite a bit of wing this season, has three assists, a team-high 166 penalty minutes and a plus-one rating in 37 Norfolk games.
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Jay Rosehill had been the Admirals' penalty-minutes leader with 221 in 57 games but he was traded to the AHL's Toronto Marlies this week for future considerations.
Norfolk general manager Mike Butters said Rosehill, who had five goals and seven assists and a plus-5 rating, came to him a couple weeks ago and said he'd like to be sent elsewhere because he was unhappy with his ice time. Butters said the Marlies offered him his pick of half a dozen players but none of them were satisfactory, so he made the deal with an eye to the future. Rosehill, a seventh-round pick by Tampa Bay in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, joins a team in the thick of the North Division's playoff hunt and the Admirals gain increased ice time for players like Juraj Simek, Pete Zingoni and Chris Lawrence.
“The philosophy of our organization is that if a player doesn't want to be here, we will make every effort to accommodate him with a trade that makes sense,” Butters said in a radio interview with Admirals broadcaster Pete Michaud.