I wanted to ask you about last night’s 6-4 win over Gwinnett, as well as James Reimer’s first start in net for the Rays.
To be honest, I didn’t think we played great, especially out of the gates. I thought we had a slow start, and just weren’t too sharp defensively. For James, he comes in having traveled all day, and I was hoping we were going to play better in front of him, especially defensively. We did a little bit of standing around, so they’re power play looked really good. He was tested early on – they had three goals in the first period – but then I felt he settled in and got better as the game went on. I felt that we picked up our game in front of him, and he made some good saves, especially in the third period. We had a couple breakdowns, and he had some big saves to keep us close to the lead. I was pretty happy with what I saw yesterday.
You only made one move on the ECHL’s trade deadline, picking up Reimer from Reading. How did that move come about?
Reading was in a position where they weren’t making the playoffs, and Toronto expressed interest in having him go someplace that he might get a chance to play and get some playoff experience. We were lucky to get him. Toronto – we’ve worked with them before, and with (Jonathan) Boutin just signing in San Jose that didn’t hurt.
We’ve talked over the last couple of weeks about Boutin signing with the Sharks, but this won’t affect his status with the Stingrays, right?
I’ve talked with San Jose, and they said that unless they need him...he’s not going up to back up. They signed him as a just-in-case-type-thing, since San Jose’s planning on going a long way in the playoffs. Worcester’s fighting to get in too, and they wanted to know that if something happens they had someone else besides the young kids that they had...it’s just for the remainder of this year. I’m not worried about losing him, per se, but I certainly wanted to make sure we had a solid goalie going into the playoffs.
You’ve got upwards of five players up in the AHL right now. Do you expect any of them back before the end of the ECHL regular season?
That depends on how their teams are doing up there. All those teams are fighting for playoff spots, and if at any time they don’t make the playoffs then I’m quite sure we’ll get our guys. If they don’t get eliminated and it goes down to the wire then we might not get them in the first round. It’s hard to say. Hopefully, we can get a couple guys back from injury and then some of those guys down, and then we can put together a lineup with a little more depth than we have now.
Do you see any help possibly coming from the junior ranks?
I don’t know about junior; I’m chasing college guys. The thing with junior is, those guys are Canadian and you have to do immigration. We just filed immigration to get Nikita Kashirsky and another defenseman out of college, so I don’t think we’ll be filing immigration again. We’re now looking for American-born players. We tried to jump the gun and get Kashirsky because we really needed the help. And we put another guy on that same petition, but at that time we only had two guys committed.
Speaking of Kashirsky, what are your thoughts on him and another one of the newest Stingrays, Patrick Wellar?
Well, Patrick Wellar has really impressed me. He was a guy we were trying to get; in fact, I tried to recruit him all summer and then he ended up signing in Reading. I knew he was a good player last year in Columbia, but I think he’s really matured this season up in Hershey and in Reading. He’s been a rock back there for us since he’s been here. The funny thing is, once we got him we lost (Brad) Farynuk. So looking back on that deal, it really was a no-brainer for us. I don’t know if we would’ve survived if we wouldn’t have got him and lost Farynuk. Without him it’d be a different story. Nikita Kashirsky...I think he’s got a lot of talent and a lot of potential. He comes in the first night and he scores a big shootout goal for us, and then he scored in Mississippi. He scored again last night and had an assist. I thought last night was his best night yet. He’s shown me a lot. He’s got some areas of his games he’s going to have to improve on, but he’s a guy that has a lot of offensive ability, that’s for sure.
What’s the status on the injured players: Nate Kiser, Michael Dubuc and Sasha Pokulok?
None of them are getting close just yet. We’ve got to play a little more without them. It’s hard to say. I’m not expecting anyone back this week, and I don’t think next weekend, either.
Lastly, talk about tomorrow’s game in Charlotte. A lot of Stingrays fans will be making the trip and seeing a Checkers team that looks a little different than the club we saw last week.
Yeah, they’ve made some changes. They traded three guys to get a defenseman, (Steve) Ward, but he’s not there yet. But they did add (Matt) Schepke out of Michigan State, and I imagine we’ll get our first look at [former Stingray] Marty Guerin this year. They’ve given us a different look a few times here this year, but they’re a good hockey team. There’s as close as any team in our league to kind of having their roster together for the playoffs. I think it’s going to be a tough game, there’s no question about it. If we go in there and win tomorrow they’re going to have a hard time catching us, it’s that simple. A win tomorrow and second place should be ours, and they know that. They’re going to play hard and we’re going to have to be ready for that and play hard as well. I’m excited about this stretch run coming at the end. I’m a little worried that we won’t get our guys, but I feel that at the end of the day we’re the team that has the most potential going into the playoffs. We have nine really good guys on our board right now that can’t play with us, either because they’re in the American League or they’re injured. With a couple of call-ups we might have upwards of ten or eleven guys to choose from yet to put our playoff roster together. So I’m excited about that.