Catching Up With River Rats Coach Jeff Daniels

River Rats coach Jeff Daniels, left, talks with Hurricanes European scout Robert Kron during this summer's prospect conditioning camp. Photo by LTD

When I originally attempted to contact Albany River Rats general manager/head coach Jeff Daniels, I mainly wanted to discuss acquisition of Jiri Tlusty, who arrived — after some immigration issues — in Albany courtesy a trade between Toronto and Carolina Dec. 3. Five days later, there was plenty more to talk about: coaches, trades and recalls.

Tlusty had an uneventful debut in the Rats' 4-1 win Dec. 6 against Wilkes-Barre, registering two shots on the night. The aforementioned immigration troubles contributed to that.

"For a first game he was fine," Daniels said. "He had gone four days without skating and admitted he didn't have his legs. But he was real good in practice [Tuesday], and showed us what he's capable of." 

Despite coaching in the AHL the past two seasons —where Tlusty has spent most of his time — Daniels had limited knowledge of the 21-year-old forward because Albany and the Toronto Marlies are in different conferences and do not play in the regular season. But Daniels echoed Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford on the reason for the trade.

"[Tlusty's] further along in his development than Paradis," Daniels said. 

* * * * *

Daniels also weighed in on Peter Laviolette and Kevin McCarthy reuniting on the Flyers bench.

"I was excited for both of them," said Daniels, who coached along side both during the Hurricanes' run to the Stanley Cup in 2006 and also played under McCarthy as a player. "It's a chance for [McCarthy] to get back behind the bench." (McCarthy has coached from the pressbox during games since Paul Maurice replaced Laviolette last season and Ron Francis joined the coaching staff.)

* * * * *

The Hurricanes have had to use several of Albany's defensemen this year, and with the recent long-term injury to Joe Corvo, Daniels was consulted by Rutherford as to who could best fill in. Bryan Rodney was initially recalled, the reassigned in favor of Jay Harrison. Brett Carson then got the call when Niclas Wallin went down with an injury.

 

"It's about filling a role," Daniels said. "They asked who was playing well, and with Corvo going down I told them Rodney was our best power play guy. But with them heading on the road, I think they wanted more defense [and went with Harrison and Carson]."

One defenseman who hasn't suited back up yet is hard-luck Casey Borer. Borer broke one of the vertebra in his neck in the Feb. 19 River Rats bus crash, a horrifying incident that Daniels said everyone involved has tried to move on from. 

Borer underwent surgery on his neck Sept. 22, and Daniels said the resulting scar is a reminder about what happened on the Massachusetts Turnpike. 

"He's still a ways away," Daniels said of Borer. "He can't do any contact right now. But he's skating and happy to be back out there with the team. Taking the first hit — that'll be his next hurdle."

* * * * *

The River Rats — who have won four straight and are 5-0-1 in their past six — return to action Friday at home against Hershey, the first of three games in three nights. They then host providence Saturday before wrapping up their busy weekend at Hartford.

Jerome Samson leads the team in scoring (11-12-23 in 27 games), followed by captain Patrick Dwyer (11-7-18 in 22 games). Justin Peters (9-5-2, 2.23 goals-against average, .923 save percentage) and Mike Murphy (5-6-0, 2.74, .919) continue to share the load in net. 

For more on the team, visit their Web site or check out The Infestation, a great blog dedicated to the team.

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