By Dan Hickling
He was talking about his Springfield Falcons mates, but veteran defenseman Brett Lebda could well have been speaking of himself, following a recent overtime loss to the Worcester Sharks.
“We've got a good group of guys here,” said Lebda, sporting a large ice bag on his left foot, the prize and price for stepping into a power-play slapper. “They want to win (and) they want to play well. It's coming together. We've got to figure out how to go our way. It's just going to take hard work and determination.”
What's true for the Falcons also holds for their most experienced blueliner.
The is that, while young Columbus Blue Jackets hopefuls such as Nick Holden, Theo Ruth and Cody Goloubef are trying to get their first taste of the NHL, Lebda is straining to get back for another.
He finds himself back in the AHL after six seasons in the big
leagues, including five with the Detroit, where he collected a
Stanley Cup ring.
Lebda toiled last season for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and then was dished off to Nashville during the summer, where he was bought out then kicked to the curb.
Still young at 29, the Chicago native finally hooked on with Springfield, adding his 367-game big-league resume to a Falcons dressing room that features a whopping 1,541 NHL games played. (By contrast, the Manchester Monarchs can point to just 48 NHL contests.)
“The situation I was in was a little different,” Lebda said. “I knew I had to start from the beginning again. This is kind of a fresh start for me. Coming down here. I missed all of training camp, so I'm still getting my legs under me. But it's kind of rebuilding for me, getting back to basics. Hopefully when the time comes, I'll be able to get another shot and help a team out. I'm just kind of worrying about helping this team, right now.”
Thus far, Lebda has provided help aplenty, chipping in six points (1-5-6) and a plus-five ranking.
The example set by his shot blocking and all-around competitiveness provides a value less measurable, but one just as important.
“We talk about blocking shots,” Lebda said. “And that's one thing we need to do a little bit better. It's something that helps out (on special teams) and it helps our goalies out, too.”
As we said, what's true for all is the same for one.
Around the AHL
Seeking to add a little more toughness, the Portland Pirates brought aboard heavyweight Mike Hoffman(Scituate, Mass./UConn), for his second tour with the Bucs. Hoffman previously spent parts of two seasons in Portland from 2006-08. Earlier in the week, Portland received center Patrick O'Sullivanfrom the parent Phoenix Coyotes. O'Sullivan once scored 47 goals in the AHL for the Houston Aeros (winning Rookie of the Year honors in 2006) and has also seen time with the Manchester Monarchs. … Heading into this weekend, the AHL's scoring list finds New Englanders (and Hershey Bears linemates)Keith Aucoin (Chelmsford, Mass.) and Chris Bourque (Boxford, Mass.) at the top of the list. Third in scoring for the Bears is former UNH standout Jacob Micflikier, with former UVM star Graham Mink(Stowe, Vt.) right behind him.
Dan Hickling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.