Admirals/Whale Gameday Notebook
Friday, May 4
When the Norfolk Admirals dropped a 3-2 overtime decision in Game 1 of their second-round series on Wednesday, it was the first time in months that Norfolk had an unfavorable bounce go against it.
After all, the Admirals had won 31 of their last 32 games prior to Wednesday, when Connecticut's Andreas Thuresson took a long-distance shot early in overtime that hit Norfolk goalie Dustin Tokarski, bounced up in the air and landed in the net.
Now, despite Wednesday's defeat being just one loss in a best-of-seven series, the Admirals face a crucial Game 2 on Friday night in Norfolk, given that the series will shift to play three straight games in Connecticut after tonight.
"We've talked about a lot of things over the last couple days," said Admirals assistant coach Mike Flanagan. "We're not really focusing as much on what the Whale do. We're adjusting our own system a little bit and looking to address our own breakdowns. The main thing for us is just tightening up our own system."
Although it won't be a system adjustment, an area where the Admirals will have a different look in Game 2 is with their line combinations.
2012 AHL All-Rookie center Tyler Johnson was back skating with his usual linemates, Richard Panik and Ondrej Palat, during Wednesday's morning skate. Johnson spent most of Game 1 on Norfolk's fourth line, given that he was playing his first game in nearly two weeks after leaving Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals with an upper-body injury.
"I thought I was pretty rusty the last game," said Johnson. "Things started feeling better for me in the second period and I thought I got better as the game went along. That other team over there competes hard, too. So we're all going to have to find a way to outwork them tonight."
Although the team's lines during its morning skate were changed from Wednesday, there don't appear to be any personnel changes for the Admirals from Game 1, with it looking like Dustin Tokarski will get his fourth straight start in goal.
Meanwhile, for the Whale, the player with the most unique take on the series is defenseman Mike Vernace.
Twice traded this season, Vernace started this season as Lightning property and played for the Admirals until early Dec. After getting traded by Tampa Bay to the Florida Panthers organization, Vernace became a member in the Whale in Feb., when Florida traded Vernace to Connecticut's parent club, the New York Rangers.
"Norfolk is a strong team in front of the net," said Vernace. "Both in front of the offensive and defensive nets. They also have a good transition game and like to attack in waves. We need to be hungry for the loose pucks and continue to get contributions from everybody. Obviously, our goalie has been awesome, too."
The Whale's goalie, Cam Talbot, stopped all 22 shots he faced after the first period in Game 1. Starting every one of Connecticut's playoff games, Talbot has a perfect 4-0 playoff record to go along with league-bests in goals-against average (1.16), save percentage (.969) and shutouts (2).
Admirals Forward Line Combinations
Cory Conacher-Trevor Smith-Brandon Segal
Ondrej Palat-Tyler Johnson-Richard Panik
Pierre-Cedric Labrie-Alexandre Picard-Alex Killorn
Michel Ouellet-Mike Angelidis
Extras: Philip-Michael Devos, Jon Kalinski, Alex Hutchings
Injured: Eric Neilson
Admirals Defensive Pairs
Scott Jackson-Radko Gudas
Evan Oberg-Mark Barberio
Jean-Philippe Cote-Mike Kostka
Extras: Jeff Dimmen
Injured: Richard Petiot