Some familiar Philadelphia Flyers will be seen wearing Adirondack Phantoms' gear this year because of the National Hockey League lockout.
Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Zac Rinaldo, Harry Zolnierczyk, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Erik Gustafsson, Brandon Manning and a few other players need to use whatever amount time they will spend in the American Hockey League this season preparing for their return to the NHL.
Time to get started
The Phantoms' first exhibition game was played today at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey. The Albany Devils, who are the New Jersey Devils AHL affiliate, defeated the Phantoms 5-3.
Interestingly, Couturier was at the point on the power play. That's not a responsibility that Flyers' head coach Peter Laviolette asked 'Coots' to handle last season, but one that new Phantoms' head coach Terry Murray apparently expects him to embrace this year.
I think this particular forward is one of the best young (he'll turn 20 in December) two-way players that I've seen in many Philadelphia seasons. Couturier's instincts for the game and his ice vision are exceptional. With good health, I fully expect him to be a top tier Flyer for many years to come.
Zac Rinaldo will be working on the penalty kill during his Phantoms' days. This other young man (22), who is just under six feet tall and only weighs 169 pounds, served as an effective enforcer for the Flyers last season. He was able to do that because his heart is as strong as any 'Bullie'.
Gaining experience in this specialized role should help him to develop his overall game. Considering the tower of penalty minutes (232) that he posted last season, Rinaldo might return to Philadelphia in a position to help kill off those man-disadvantages this time around.
A phantom season?
Fans of every team across the National Hockey League are hoping that 2012-13 doesn't become a phantom season. Most people have no illusions about current labor issues, but do hope that some semblance of an NHL season will eventually be played.
Clearly attendance at American Hockey League preseason and regular season games should be bolstered during this intermediary period. That will be one positive outcome of the lockout, as all local economies need help during these shaky financial times.
As for the players, every Flyer who will be playing in Phantoms' clothes just wants to go with the AHL flow for as long as he has to. In the meantime, they'll all be waiting for the high sign from their colleagues so that they can return to the NHL.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He was a freelance sports writer for five years in the 1990s and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo Contributor Network! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
More from this author and the Yahoo Contributor Network:
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- Philadelphia Flyers
- American Hockey League
- Adirondack Phantoms
- Sean Couturier
- Zac Rinaldo