AHL Weekly Release: A developing tradition continues

boudreau-wsh_300.jpgSPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League is not just the top development circuit for the National Hockey League scoring and goaltending stars of the future. NHL coaches are born here too, and Bruce Boudreau became the latest AHL bench boss to graduate to the grand stage when the Washington Capitals came calling last week.
To say that Boudreau had paid his dues would be an understatement. Now in his 33rd season of professional hockey, Boudreau was one of the AHL’s all-time great scorers before he made his way behind the bench. Playing 634 games over 11 AHL seasons, Boudreau ranks 14th all-time in goals (316), 11th in assists (483) and 11th in points (799). He is one of four players ever to author three 100-point seasons, including a 122-point effort in 1982-83 that stood at the time as the second-highest total in league history.

Boudreau retired after helping the Adirondack Red Wings capture the Calder Cup in 1992, and later returned to the AHL as head coach of the Lowell Lock Monsters (1999-2001) and Manchester Monarchs (2001-05) before being hired by the Capitals to lead the venerable Hershey Bears franchise. In his two full seasons in Hershey, Boudreau won 124 regular-season and playoff games, one division crown, one overall league standings title, two Eastern Conference championships and the 2006 Calder Cup. He takes to Washington a career AHL coaching record of 340-254-61 (.566) in 655 regular-season matches.

There are now seven NHL head coaches who have Calder Cup championships on their coaching resumes, including Boudreau and his new Southeast Division foes John Tortorella of Tampa Bay (Rochester, 1996) and Peter Laviolette of Carolina (Providence, 1999). John Paddock of the league-leading Ottawa Senators captured two Calder Cups as a player and three more as a head coach, and Philadelphia’s John Stevens, Nashville’s Barry Trotz and Calgary’s Mike Keenan also have AHL titles to their credit. Pittsburgh’s Michel Therrien and Los Angeles’s Marc Crawford reached Calder Cup Finals as head coaches, and three Calder Cup winners are now assistants in the NHL: Columbus’s Claude Noel (Milwaukee, 2004), Detroit’s Todd McLellan (Houston, 2003) and Calgary’s Jim Playfair (Saint John, 2001).

All told, the NHL’s head coaching ranks feature 23 AHL alumni and 16 former AHL head coaches, including 2007 Jack Adams Award winner Alain Vigneault of the Vancouver Canucks and 2007 Stanley Cup champion Randy Carlyle of the Anaheim Ducks, both formerly of the Manitoba Moose.

Boudreau won his NHL debut on Friday afternoon as Washington defeated Philadelphia in overtime, 4-3. Later that night, Boudreau’s successor Bob Woods earned a debut victory of his own as Hershey defeated the Philadelphia Phantoms, 2-1, coincidentally on the same Wachovia Center ice.

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SHATTER-PROOF GLASS … Binghamton goaltender Jeff Glass is experiencing quite a turnaround during the first two months of his second AHL season. As an AHL rookie in 2006-07, Glass was cracked routinely for 40 shots per night and was saddled with a 9-24-2 record. Among 47 qualifying AHL goaltenders last season, he ranked last in the league with a 4.11 GAA and next-to-last with an .888 save percentage.

Today, the 22-year-old netminder, a third-round draft choice by Ottawa in 2004, leads the American Hockey League in goals-against average (1.87) and save percentage (.938) to go with his 7-4-0 record, helping the Senators’ resurgence in the East Division.

GRIFFINS’ INITIATIVE WINS LOCAL AWARD … The Brain Injury Association of Michigan has presented the Grand Rapids Griffins with its 2007 Prevention Award in recognition of the team’s Put A Lid On It helmet safety program. The program was founded by the Griffins in 2004 to promote helmet safety to area elementary and middle school children with a goal of reducing the occurrence and severity of head injuries sustained during wheeled sports and other outdoor activities.

The Griffins work with local schools, libraries, police departments, pediatricians and other organizations to focus on injury prevention, education and reinforcement.

STEWART BROTHERS SQUARE OFF …. For the first time in their hockey careers, Anthony Stewart and Chris Stewart were on opposite sides of the ice when the Rochester Americans hosted the Lake Erie Monsters on Friday night. Anthony recorded a goal and an assist to help the Amerks to a 3-2 victory.

Anthony, 22, is a third-year pro and was a first-round draft choice by Florida (25th overall) in 2003. He has 15 points in 15 games for Rochester and has also skated in six NHL games with the Panthers this season. Chris, 20, was a first-round selection by Colorado (18th overall) in 2006 and has begun his rookie season with five goals and four assists in 15 games for Lake Erie.

ETC. … After scoring one goal over his first 15 games this season, Manchester defenseman Peter Harrold scored five times in three games over the weekend… Manitoba rookie Mason Raymond tied an AHL season high with five points, including his first professional hat trick, in the Moose’s 5-3 win at Rochester on Wednesday night… San Antonio defenseman Bryan Helmer has played 799 career AHL games, one shy of becoming the 28th player in league history to reach 800… Keith Aucoin hit the 400-point mark for his AHL career with a first-period assist in Albany’s 5-2 win over Bridgeport on Saturday night… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defenseman Ryan Lannon snapped a 128-game drought with a goal in the Penguins’ 6-0 win over Worcester on Nov. 21, his first since Dec. 28, 2005… Geoff Platt has recorded a point in each of his seven games since joining Portland (5g, 8a)… Pirates defenseman Brian Salcido had eight points in four games last week… Kari Lehtonen, a two-time AHL All-Star who led Chicago to the 2005 Calder Cup Finals, has been assigned to the Wolves on a conditioning assignment by the parent Atlanta Thrashers… Grand Rapids snapped an eight-game home winless streak (0-7-0-1) and a 10-game winless streak overall (0-8-0-2) – both franchise records – with a 4-1 win over Iowa on Saturday night… Peoria still has not allowed a power-play goal on the road this season, killing off all 40 shorthanded situations over seven games… In wins over Philadelphia on Wednesday and Springfield on Friday, Norfolk scored nine first-period goals on 20 first-period shots.