When they first met in 2001, Dave Gove came to know Todd Richards as “Moose.”
That was Richards’ nickname. Gove was a rookie forward on the Orlando Solar Bears of the IHL, and Richards was a veteran defenseman. Orlando won the IHL’s Turner Cup that season.
“I sat next to him in the locker room. He was always talking to me. I remember him being a key guy in the locker room,” said Gove, who was fresh out of Western Michigan University at the time.
Richards still is, and now might be arguably the most key guy in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton room. These days, Gove knows him as simply “Coach.” As in, the bench boss of the Penguins.
And Gove is hoping their chemistry, although somewhat altered now, has the same type of payoff. The Penguins have marched their way to the Calder Cup finals against Chicago, in large part because Gove has once again found Richards’ leadership conducive to winning. After joining the Penguins in a mid-season trade from Albany, Gove produced 15 goals and seven assists in 36 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and has three goals and six assists in 17 playoff games.
“I felt comfortable coming in with him as a coach. That made my adjustment period easier,” Gove said. “It’s pretty funny, full circle, how things work out.”
Gove is appreciative of the chance to chuckle about anything given the way his last two seasons unfolded in Albany. He came up with eight goals and 13 assists in 49 games for the Rats last season and eight goals and 15 assists in 45 games before his trade this year.
“I got lucky. It was the best thing that ever happened for my career, getting traded here,” Gove said. “I needed a change of scenery. It’s funny how sometimes a fresh start, certain players need.”
Gove brought the Penguins valuable experience as a third-line center in a pressure-tested shell. Besides winning the Turner Cup in Orlando, he also saw up close how the big boys did it by joining the Hurricanes as a practice player for the team’s Stanley Cup run in 2005-06. Gove got a ring and invaluable perspective from that journey.
In Game 7 of a wild Eastern Conference finals series vs. Portland on May 24, Gove didn’t flinch, coming up big with a goal and an assist.
“There are so many factors that go into (playoff success),” said Gove, 30. “It’s how you deal with the momentum of going up and down, how you rebound. Guys want to play for each other. You don’t want to let the guy next to you down.”
Gove said he hasn’t had much time or cause to reminisce with Richards about their days as player peers, what with so much else going on now. Besides, one more series win this year would give them a much better bookend perspective on their accomplishments.
“It’s a thing you think about,” Gove said about topping off his collection with Calder Cup jewelry. “I’m sure he’s thinking the same thing. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks we can take a picture with a couple of rings.”
Lindsay Kramer, the AHL correspondent for NHL.com, profiles an up-and-coming player each Monday and his AHL notebook appears each Thursday on NHL.com.