NHL.com: Reich’s hat trick a reward

by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com

Lindsay Kramer, the AHL correspondent for NHL.com, profiles an up-and-coming player each Monday during the season, and his AHL notebook appears each Thursday on NHL.com.

reich2_200.jpgProvidence forward Jeremy Reich‘s hat trick at San Antonio on Nov. 1 was the first of a pro career that began in 2000.

Naturally, his teammates had something to say about it.

"A couple of guys harassed me, it took me so long to get one," Reich said.

Those buddies, no doubt good-natured, are missing the point. The fact that Reich potted his first hat trick at age 29 underscores a pro longevity that few people beside him ever envisioned he’d enjoy.

When Boston sent the grinder to the American Hockey League at the start of the season, it marked something of a third chapter in a career that at one point seemed stuck on the first few pages. He toiled from 2000-06 as an AHL regular with Syracuse, Houston and Providence, save for nine games with the Blue Jackets.

Reich was one of the best pluggers in the AHL for the Crunch, energetic and a very good third-line banger. But it seemed like he would never quite raise his game enough to fit into an NHL team’s lineup.

"There’s 30 teams out there," Reich said. "You just have to do what you do and hope someone notices. When you’re done playing, you don’t want to look back and say you left something on the table."

Boston finally gave him an extended chance to gun his motor in the NHL the past two seasons, with 32 games in 2006-07 and 58 last season. But this season the Bruins slotted him in Providence, where he was named captain and fits in nicely as a dirty-work player on a team of flyers that’s producing one of the best offenses in the AHL. In 15 games, he has four goals, an assist and 35 penalty minutes.

The demotion would have been a little discouraging under most circumstances. In Reich’s case, though, it merely returned him to familiar territory. It took him seven years to prove he was an NHL player in the first place.

Don’t be surprised if he’s got at least that much fight left in him now.

"I’m holding up pretty good," he said. "I have to spend more time in the gym than I used to. I don’t know if guys change their styles when they get older. I’m not going to change the way I play. I feel as good as I did five or six years ago. If anything, I’m probably a little smarter, training-wise, for what I need to do. I just have to get noticed, make someone give me a chance."