Hockey Hall of Famer Adam Oates will return to the American Hockey League on Tuesday.
Out of work because of the 59-day NHL lockout, the Washington Capitals rookie head coach has been busy with their AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears. To help him get to know the talent the Capitals have on the farm, Oates has helped out Bears head coach Mark French and his assistant coach Troy Mann behind the bench this season.
It has been awhile since Oates spent time in the AHL. Twenty-six years, in fact. In his rookie season with the Detroit Red Wings, Oates got off to a slow start and was demoted to Adirondack in beautiful Glens Falls, N.Y., in late November.
Detroit recalled him three months later and he finished strongly playing between Gerard Gallant and Petr Klima. But after the Red Wings season ended, Oates returned to Adirondack for the playoffs and helped to win the 1985-86 Calder Cup championship.
In 17 AHL playoff games, Oates had seven goals and 21 points after checking in with a solid 18 goals and 46 points in 34 regular-season games.
After beating Fredericton and Moncton in the first two rounds, Adirondack needed to six games to beat Hershey in the final.
And here he is, 26 years later, back in Hershey. Oates will get a chance to return to the old Glens Falls Civic Center a week from Saturday, when the Bears visit the Adirondack Phantoms.
Blake Geoffrion recovering
Danny Geoffrion provided details to several media outlets, including CBC, on Monday of his son Blake's harrowing head injury that he suffered during an AHL game last Friday evening.
Danny and his wife, Kelly, were among the crowd of 18,852 fans at the Bell Centre when their son, who plays for the Hamilton Bulldogs, was upended along the boards with a hip check from Syracuse Crunch defenceman Jean-Philippe Cote. The younger Geoffrion's head was struck behind the left ear by Cote's skate when he landed on the ice.
Geoffrion was bleeding, but he went off the ice to the dressing room under his own power. Several minutes later, Danny received a call on his mobile and was told that Blake was okay, but that he was going to the hospital as a precaution.
Thirty minutes later at the hospital, after the young Geoffrion underwent some tests, he began convulsing. A CT-scan reveled that he had suffered a depressed skull fracture in that a small piece of his skull -- about the size of a silver dollar -- had pushed into his brain.
Successful emergency surgery was performed. Geoffrion was moved out of intensive care on Sunday and continues to recover in hospital.
It was a clean hit from Cote. The two have yet to talk, but Cote has been kept abreast of Geoffrion's condition through a Bulldogs trainer. The 30-year-old Cote used to play for Hamilton.
In a strange twist to the story, Danny, whose father was Bernie (Boom Boom) Geoffrion and whose grandfather was Howie Morenz, was a teammate of Cote's father, Alain Cote, on the 1978-79 WHA Quebec Nordiques.
Curtis McElhinney shines
Add Curtis McElhinney of the Springfield Falcons to the list of NHLers who have benefited from time spent in the AHL this season. The 29-year-old Columbus Blue Jackets netminder was hindered with an abdominal injury last year.
It's safe to report that he has fully recovered. He leads the AHL in wins (eight) and is second in both goals against (1.29) and save percentage (.955) among goalies who have made five-or-more appearances this fall.
McElhinney, who hails from Calgary, was taken by the hometown Flames in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, but has played in only 69 NHL games with Calgary, Anaheim, Ottawa and Phoenix since he turned pro in 2005. The Blue Jackets acquired McElhinney at the trade deadline last year from the Coyotes in the Antoine Vermette deal.
In the last NHL lockout of 2004-05, he was finishing up his collegiate career with Colorado College and led the Tigers all the way to the Frozen Four. But McElhinney and the Tigers were knocked out in the semifinals by the eventual champions from Denver University.
McElhinney was an AHL second team all-star two years later in Omaha and here he is again playing as well as anyone in the league. His four shutouts already has him one shy of the Falcons club record of five set by Manny Legace in 1995-96. McElhinney also has not surrendered a goal in his last 137 minutes 46 seconds.
Justin Schultz hoopla
It's hard not to get excited about the pro start of 22-year-old Oklahoma City Barons defenceman Justin Schultz. The Edmonton Oilers prospect leads the AHL scoring race through the first month and 12 games of the season with seven goals, including two game-winners, and 16 points.
If Schultz, from Kelowna, B.C., can continue his early-season pace, he would become the first defenceman to win the AHL scoring race. There also have been only four rookie-scoring titleholders, but all forwards.
* Speck and Drouin would not qualify as rookies under today's standards because of their previous minor pro experience.
Other rookie records Schultz is chasing: most points by a rookie defenceman (66, John Slaney in 1992-93); assists (47, Mike Gaul, 1997-98); and goals (20, Slaney).
AHL attendance report
A visit to Abbotsford, B.C., from Schultz, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and the rest of the Barons last weekend resulted in two sellout crowds for the Heat. Hershey has the largest average crowds at 8,684 fans per game and Worcester the smallest at 3,109. Here are the averages for the seven affiliates of Canadian NHL teams and where they rank:
* Includes 18,852-plus crowd at Bell Centre in Montreal last Friday.
The average crowd so far for the AHL has been 5,291 through 175 games, which is below last year's regular season average of 5,638. AHL crowds, however, are expected to increase as the football season winds down and winter arrives.
Do you have improvements to suggest for this page?