Brodzinski excited to be back from limbo

Photo: Calvin Spohn

📝 by Patrick Williams

Jonny Brodzinski found himself caught between his two worlds.

After captaining the Hartford Wolf Pack to the team’s first trip to the Calder Cup Playoffs in eight years, Brodzinski was one of four players called up to the New York Rangers for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While in New York, Brodzinski and the Rangers’ other extras practiced separately from the main roster as the team’s first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series against New Jersey started. He had played 17 games with the Rangers this season, and they needed extra forwards on hand.

Back in Hartford, meanwhile, Brodzinski’s Wolf Pack teammates started the Calder Cup Playoffs by sweeping Springfield in the first round and then winning back-to-back road games in Providence to start their Atlantic Division semifinal series.

That’s just the way it is for a key organizational glue player like Brodzinski: often a first-option NHL recall, while doubling as an essential piece of the AHL roster.

“When you’re up there,” Brodzinski said of his playoff experience in New York, “you’re not attached to that team, because you’re in a different locker room and you’re trying to stay away from all the game players to let them kind of do their thing on game days. You feel detached.

“And then at the same time, being a leader and the captain here, it’s like you’re detached from this team as well. It’s kind of this weird limbo.”

But now Brodzinski is back, returned to Hartford after the Rangers were eliminated in seven games by New Jersey.

“Jonny adds a lot to our team,” Wolf Pack head coach Kris Knoblauch said. “He leads by example.”

He stepped back into the lineup for Game 3 of the Providence series, and picked up an assist in Game 4 as the Wolf Pack eliminated the Bruins, the top team in the Eastern Conference during the regular season. He scored his first goal of the postseason in Game 1 against Hershey last Thursday.

When Brodzinski came back to Hartford, he had gone 19 days without playing a game. He had to jump into action and get up to the pace of playoff play quickly.

“Really the only way that you can get ready for a playoff game is by playing in playoff games,” Brodzinski said. “It’s a different animal.”

Now with the Wolf Pack facing elimination against the Bears, they will need some of Brodzinski’s best work yet. He has shown that he can carry much of the load for this team, and he displayed some of his finest performances as Hartford fought its way into the postseason. On the ice, he piled up 12 goals and 11 assists in his final 15 regular-season games, including four separate two-goal performances against Bridgeport, one of Hartford’s closest competitors for an Atlantic Division playoff spot,

In all, the Wolf Pack went 12-6-1-1 following the NHL trade deadline on March 3.

And off the ice, as team captain, Brodzinski helped welcome several new personalities to the room after a significant reconstruction of the Wolf Pack roster leading up to the trade deadline. Late-season moves are never a guarantee of success, but Brodzinski liked how it came together.

“I think it’s the personalities that we got and also the type of players that we got,” Brodzinski said. “Like, I think Anton Blidh is probably one of the best [moves] we could have had. He fits that third-line role, but he does everything. He’s an antagonizer. He’s a guy that’s extremely hard to play against.

Jake [Leschyshyn] has been my linemate for a good chunk of that last run that we had. Adding a skilled forward like him, it’s great. I just think it just created such depth for our team. Adding a couple of defensemen [in Adam Clendening and Wyatt Kalynuk] as well… I think it’s just the amount of personalities that we have on this team. It makes every day coming to the rink fun, and I think everybody is just enjoying it right now.

“I’m excited to be back and be able to help this team achieve something that we really want.”