by Andrew J. Ferraro
HOUSTON - Last week, the Aeros (5-3-1-1) lost a game they should have won, won a game they should have lost and hit the post three times in a shootout loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins to close out the weekend.
They say the stats and breaks will even out over the course of a year, and certainly that looked to be the case as the Aeros played their second set of three games in three nights against the Oklahoma City Barons and Griffins.
The news of the weekend was the injuries to Mikael Granlund (lateral ankle sprain, out 2-4 weeks) and Jonas Brodin (clavicle, surgery, out 8-12 weeks). Those two join a growing list of other players that are injured, leaving the Aeros - just like last year - very shorthanded at a ky time during the year.
Sure it is early, but reports swirling that the NHL lockout *could* end soon, the Aeros could have used their NHL guys to put a few more points up on the board. Marco Scandella is also hurt, Kris Fredheim is out, Jarod Palmer is injured and so are a few others.
We talked to John Torchetti after Sunday's shootout loss, and I specifically asked him if playing virtually all of last year shorthanded will help the team get through this rash of early-year setbacks. He agreed.
"It's kind of ironic that we start off the year with 24 guys and we are already down to 19 or 18; Maybe it is me, I don't know," he quipped. "But these players now understand what it takes to get through this. And yeah, we are going to have to tighten the screws a little bit more."
So the Aeros are going to have to change things up a little bit for the next few weeks and rely a little more on their goaltending.
"We are not going to be as open as we could be," Torchetti added. "And the guys know that to play in the NHL you have to be a solid defensive, two-way player."
More on that later.
Hackett rebounds rather nicely
Darcy Kuemper had the early edge in the "Whose playing better keeper" game early on. But that streak ended Friday when Kuemper gave up four goals in a 4-3 loss at OKC. Torchetti went to Matt Hackett on Saturday and after the Aeros gave up three goals early, the Aeros roared back in the final period. They tied the game in the third, and Hackett stopped Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Magnus Paajarvi in the penalty shot tie- breaker to earn the win.
On Sunday, Hackett was the difference as the Aeros needed a third period goal by Chad Rau just to get a point in the standings. Landon Ferraro, Ray Ferraro's kid, beat Hackett in the second period, thanks to a screen by former Wild prospect Jeff Hoggan.
The Aeros hit three posts in the shootout, and the Griffins scored twice to seal the deal.
Torchetti said he was pleased with the how the Aeros played Sunday.
"Tonight we played one of our better three in threes," he said. "We came out fast in the first, we were all over them, but we did not get any traffic in front, and their kid (Goalie Petr Mrazek) played a really good game for them.
"We'll take the point, but we're hot happy."
Comeback kids again?
There is no official stat, but the Aeros are the best miracle workers in the AHL since the Kevin Constantine era. On four seperate occasions, they have erased three or four-goal deficits in the last 10 minutes of games more than any other team in the league. And a few of those times they did it in the last five minutes of the game.
This weekend they completed that trick on Saturday, and Torchetti believes it's because of a great work ethic and just a group of players that are already learning the value of stcking to the system and trusting each other.
"This is just a great group of guys, they are a lot of fun," said Torchetti. "I am enjoying it, and they are playing the system. The organization wants those guys to play a certain way, and it is my job to get them ready. They can't worry about points, and they have to put their selfishness aside, and play the system that is going to get them to the NHL."
Bulmer off a bit, but improving
I think if you took a quick poll of those that cover the Aeros, you'd learn that Brett Bulmer has been the most disappointing of all the true Wild prospects thus far. He's minus-5 through 10 games ands has zeros points and nine PIMs.
But, according to Torchetti, he's improving, and check out this video to hear more on how the Wild think he's coming along. Please excuse lighting and quality issues.