By Brian Weidler, "Game Time" Prospect Department
NEW ARRIVALS HAVE AN IMMEDIATE IMPACT ON RIVERMEN:
Loaners O'Sullivan, Stalock lead Rivs to two wins in the last week.
Those three letters may immediately bring to mind a somewhat negative connotation, but since the former second-round pick (56th overall in 2003) of the Minnesota Wild joined the Rivermen on loan last week, "POS" has stood for "plenty of scoring."
In three games with the Rivermen since being swapped for Brett Sterling, O'Sullivan has chipped in three goals and four assists, including the OT game-winner against Oklahoma City last Wednesday, and has at least a point in every game he's played so far in a Peoria uniform.
On the defensive end of the ice, the Rivermen recently lost All-Star MVP goaltender Ben Bishop when the Blues traded him to Ottawa, and the club spent a few days casting about for a quality replacement to support second-year man Jake Allen in the Peoria goal. They found their man when San Jose offered prospect Alex Stalock on loan in order to break up a three-man logjam in the Worcester Sharks' net.
Stalock, recovering from a severed nerve in one leg, has been out of action for about a year, but showed no ill effects from that injury when he came on in relief of Allen in the Oklahoma City game with the Rivermen down 3-0 in the second period. Stalock shut out the conference-leading Barons the rest of the way and sparked the Rivs' four-goal comeback for the win.
O'Sullivan and Stalock are young veterans with solid records of success in the AHL -- and O'Sullivan scored 22 goals in the NHL as recently as 2007-08 -- so their presence should be of enormous benefit to the Rivermen as they wind up the 2011-12 regular season.
WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET... PROBABLY:
Aside from O'Sullivan and Stalock, the Rivermen will probably not be getting any additional players from the Blues' organization any time soon.
The Blues still have Rivs' scoring leader T.J. Hensick on callup to the big club, but Hensick is feasting on press box cuisine during this callup, and has not played a minute for the Blues since being recalled on Feb. 21. Hensick was placed on the Rivs' Clear Day roster last week, and will almost certainly be reassigned to Peoria shortly in order to bolster the club's playoff hopes.
Three of the Blues' four collegiate prospects -- goaltender Paul Karpowich (Clarkson) and forwards Jaden Schwartz (Colorado College) and Trevor Nill (Michigan State) -- saw their schools eliminated from postseason play in the last week, but Stalock's arrival leaves no room at the inn for Karpowich on an ATO. Nill is still a possibility, and both he and fellow senior Karpowich will almost certainly be turning pro and competing for roster spots with Peoria in training camp this September.
Schwartz is still an unknown; some observers project that, if he signs with the Blues right away, he would be kept on the NHL roster and worked into big-league games in situations designed to maximize his chances to succeed. Others, like your GTPD, feel that Schwartz and the Blues would all be best served by Schwartz first signing an ATO contract with Peoria (and, hopefully, bringing older brother Rylan along with him) and making his pro debut as a key piece of the puzzle in Peoria's pursuit of the highest possible playoff positioning.
There will be little, if any, help on the way from major junior any time soon, either. All of the Blues' prospects in major junior are currently playing for clubs that are pretty solidly in playoff position in the three major junior leagues; indeed, all but 19-year-old goalie Jordan Binnington are on clubs that are either number one or number two seeds in their respective conferences at the moment. Binnington's club, the Owen Sound Attack (OHL) is currently a number five seed in the OHL Western Conference, and is just two points away from clinching a playoff berth with four games left in their regular-season schedule.
PEORIA PLAYOFF PRIMER:
The American Hockey League is posting a comprehensive Playoff Primer, updating daily with the current positions and upcoming schedule for all 30 AHL clubs.
The Rivermen are firmly on the Western Conference bubble at the moment. Peoria currently holds the number eight seed in the West with 69 points in 62 games played. Rochester, the seventh seed, also has 69 points, but has played just 61 games, and the Americans have just three games coming up in the next ten days, against the two last-place clubs (Syracuse and Binghamton) in the Eastern Conference.
Houston is just one point behind the Rivermen right now with 68 points, and the Aeros have three games in hand on Peoria. That number will be reduced to two in the next ten days, as the Rivs play four times in that span while the Aeros have five games scheduled.
THE WEEK IN REVIEW:
Peoria 4 vs Oklahoma City 3 (OT), Wednesday, Mar. 7, 2012.
Peoria 4 at Abbotsford 1, Friday, Mar. 9, 2012.
THE WEEK AHEAD:
Sunday, March 11, 2012 ... Game Time 3:00 PM CDT at Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre, Abbotsford, BC. NHL Affiliate: Calgary Flames.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012 ... Game Time 7:00 PM CDT at Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL. NHL Affiliate: Vancouver Canucks.
RIVERMEN NEWS LINKS:
03/07/12 -- Rivermen rally from 3 down, stun Barons in OT (Peoria Journal Star).
03/09/12 -- Rivermen get 2 from O'Sullivan, beat Heat, 4-1 ( Peoria Journal-Star).