Transaction Wire Burning

The Wolf Pack remain unbeaten in regulation in six games, and the Rangers are struggling at 2-5-0 through their first seven outings, so it’s no surprise that the winds of change have started to overhaul the Pack’s roster.

What a difference a week makes, as two weeks ago there wasn’t a single move to report for the span of a full week, and now in the time between last Monday and today there have been no fewer than 18 separate transactions.  Wow.

It pretty much all began with the change in direction in the backup goaltending role that saw Martin Biron waived, and then assigned to the Wolf Pack on Tuesday.  Then Ryan Callahan broke a thumb in Wednesday’s Ranger win in Washington, and things began really to heat up yesterday, after the big club lost 4-0 at New Jersey on Saturday.

Martin Biron (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Martin Biron (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Biron officially announced his retirement Sunday after five days of limbo, ending speculation about whether he would elect to continue playing with the Pack or call it a career, and the Rangers also made the decision to recall both Chris Kreider and Brandon Mashinter, while returning Darroll Powe to Hartford.  The Wolf Pack, in turn, now suddenly somewhat short of forwards, recalled Andrew Rowe from Greenville and had Michael St. Croix reassigned to them by the Rangers from Greenville, while loaning blueliner Brendon Nash to the Road Warriors.

Got all that?

Biron’s exit means that, at least for now, Cam Talbot will act as understudy to Henrik Lundqvist and Jason Missiaen and Jeff Malcolm will be the Wolf Pack’s tandem.  Nice for Malcolm, the ex-Yale Eli, to get a chance to log some solid AHL time so close to where he had his great college championship triumph last year, and Missiaen gets the opportunity, like Talbot did last season, to show whether he can be a legit number-one man at this level.

Kreider, according to media reports, jumped right on to the Rangers’ top line, alongside Brad Richards and Derek Stepan, in practice this morning.  Ranger head coach Alain Vigneault said of Kreider, “Even though his training camp might have been more on the average side, that’s behind us. He went to Hartford and he worked really well, real hard and he played some good minutes for them and hopefully he can come in and do the same thing for us. Most of training camp he had Richards and (Rick) Nash. His training camp was more on the average side, but I think his time in Hartford, he looked real sharp, hopefully he’ll be able to do that.”

Brandon Mashinter

Brandon Mashinter

Mashinter, in my view, was very deserving of a chance, having been very effective for the Pack as a second-line winger, with five assists and a +3 in six games.  Swapping him for Powe, though, puts the Wolf Pack on the wrong side of the AHL’s veteran restriction.  Of the six players who have played more than 260 NHL, AHL or European Elite League games that AHL teams are allowed to dress, at least one must be between 260 and 320 games-played, a “young veteran” of sorts.  Mashinter was the only one of the Wolf Pack’s vets who fell into that category–Powe, Micheal Haley, Danny Syvret, Arron Asham and Brodie Dupont are all over the 320-game mark.  That means that, if nothing more changes roster-wise, the Pack will have to sit one of the vets.  Dupont may be the guy who ends up the odd man out, through no fault of his own, as he is on a tryout, the only one of the veterans who does not have a contract.

That situation, plus a nagging injury to Michael Kantor, prompted the call for St. Croix and Rowe, who were both off to good starts with Greenville.  Rowe, a fourth-year pro, and the rookie St. Croix were tied for the Road Warrior team points lead, with four apiece in two games, and Rowe got all four of his with a hat trick and an assist in Greenville’s season opener, a 5-3 win at Gwinnett on Friday.  Brendon Nash, meanwhile, had only been able to get into one game in the Wolf Pack’s first six, due to the Pack’s excellent defensive depth.

Six games, six one-goal decisions for the Wolf Pack, and happily, all but one of them have gone the right way.

Hard to believe for a 5-0-0-1 team , but the Pack have trailed at least once in every one of their games, and before Saturday’s 3-2 win over Portland in Lewiston, had been tied or behind going into the third period of every game.

Not something you can keep up for 76 games, but so far the Pack have done an amazing job of weathering adversity during games, and of saving their best work for the most important parts of games.

I truly thought the jig was up on the club Friday night, when they allowed a Manchester team that is also off to an excellent start to carry a 3-1 lead into the latter stages of the second period.  It definitely looked as though the Wolf Pack had gone to the well of falling behind once too often.

The game turned on a dime, though, with two Wolf Pack goals in a span of 24 seconds fairly late in the second, a four-on-four tally by Marek Hrivik and a shorthander, the Pack’s first of the year, by the captain Johnson.  Talbot then came up with some great work, including a stop of Linden Vey, the Monarchs’ leading scorer last year, on a penalty shot with 24 seconds left in overtime.  That was the first penalty shot Talbot had faced in his pro career and the first ever against the Wolf Pack in overtime.  Talbot then went 4/5 in the shootout, which, combined with goals by Hrivik and Mashinter, was good enough to get the Pack two points.

Cam Talbot

Cam Talbot

Talbot had 30 saves in regulation and OT in that game, and then was even busier Saturday night in Lewiston, facing 41 Pirate tries.  Again, closely following the script, the Wolf Pack fell behind 1-0 and 2-1, but second-period goals by Haley and Danny Kristo wiped out the deficit and made it a perfect weekend for Ken Gernander’s bunch.

It seems as though every time the Wolf Pack have really needed a goal in the first six games, they’ve gotten one, starting with the season opener, the only game thus far they haven’t won, when they pulled out a standings point by tying the score with 0.4 seconds on the clock.  It will be interesting to see now if that trend can continue this week, with the roster having undergone so much turnover.

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