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Monday, February 4, 2008


Writers Note: The AHL Report normally appears Sundays, but because of Super Bowl XVII, today's article falls on a Monday. My apologies to all the hardcore puckheads out there!

With a myriad of long-term injuries hitting teams across the National Hockey League, an increasing number of players in the AHL are finding regular ice time with their affiliate teams. Here is a look at some of said players:

- Tomas Plihal, San Jose Sharks. Plihal was recalled from Worcester a few weeks back when veteran forward Curtis Brown was placed on injured reserve and has done a pretty decent job in spot duty. The 24-year-old Czech center only has one goal in five games but may continue to get ice time as his skating ability and offensive skill make him a good utility forward for the Sharks.

- Derek Meech, Detroit Red Wings. The defenceman from the River City (Winnipeg, Manitoba for you non-Winnipeggers) has done a commendable job in 13 games with the Wings. He may not show up on the scoresheet this season but he is getting valuable big league experience. Meech has limited offensive potential but is a good skater and will continue to be the teams No.6 defenseman as Niklas Kronvall is still injured.

- Vladimir Sobotka, Boston Bruins. The 20-year-old Czech center has played 23 games for Boston this season, registering no goals and two assists. A long-term injury to Patrice Bergeron has led to a lengthy role on the team's 4th line for Sobotka as Phil Kessel and Glen Metropolit have filled Bergeron's role. Sobotka has lots of experience in the Czech league but is slowly developing his offensive skills on the North American ice surface.

- Joshua Hennessy, Ottawa Senators- With regulars Daniel Alfredsson and Patrick Eaves out of the starting line-up, Hennessy played on Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Brockton, Massachusetts native has played four games for the Sens this season, with no points to report so far, but may stay with the club for more than one week, due to his versatility and attitude. The 2003 San Jose Sharks 2nd Rounder has loads of talent and may earn a permanent third line role next year if he continues his improved play.

- Robbie Earl, Toronto Maple Leafs- Injuries to veterans Chad Kilger and Nikolai Antropov allowed 22-year old Robbie Earl to make his season debut against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night. Earl is a former University of Wisconsin Badger who has decent size and excellent two-way hockey skills. The Leafs see Earl as being a future role-player for the team, killing penalties and checking opposing forwards.

- Ben Ondrus, Toronto Maple Leafs- The Alberta bruiser appeared in his second NHL game of the season on Saturday night and will likely get sent down later this week but always provides a spark when wearing the Maple Leafs logo. The 25-year-old scored 30 goals twice in the Western Hockey League so there's no reason to believe he can't find a place on the Leafs 4th line if he's willing to do the right things.

- Brian Boyle, Los Angeles Kings. Boyle, recalled from the Manchester Monarchs earlier in the week, scored his first NHL goal and later added an assist on Saturday in a 6-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils. The 2003 1st rounder has likely found a home with the bottom-dwelling Kings as they are desperate for offense and Boyle has oodles of it. Boyle had 105 points in his final two years with Boston College and gives Los Angeles a future power play asset who can man the point with aplomb.

- Jeff Giuliano, Los Angeles Kings. Quick, what do Brian Boyle and Giuilano have in common? Well, Giuliano also played at Boston College and he also registered an assist againt the Devils on Saturday night. Giuiliano has two assists in 25 games and has served as a decent replacement for the injured Scott Thornton. The 28-year-old New Hampshire native is a utility grinder no doubt, and may not figure into L.A's plans next year.

- Brett Sterling, Atlanta Thrashers. Sterling may be the only person who wants uber-star Ilya Kovalchuks to stay on the sidelines. The 2003 5th rounder has three points in 13 games with the Thrasher this year, but was starting to really find his groove in the two games after Kovalchuk went down with an injury. Sterling has played remarkly for the Chicago Wolves this year (36 points in 41 games), building on his remarkable 97 point campaign from 2006'07.

Honourable Mentions: Colin Stuart, Atlanta Thrashers, Nathan Smith, Pittsburgh Penguins, Rich Peverley, Nashville Predators, Cody McLeod, Colorado Avalanche, Dustin Boyd, Calgary Flames.

For Illegal Curve, I'm Ezra Ginsburg.

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