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WHITE SWEATER WOES
By Todd Rourke
The Greensboro Generals were back home on Tuesday night to face the Greenville Grrrowl in front of a sparse midweek crowd. The Generals play was workmanlike and generally crisp but the results ended up the same ... the Grrrowl skated away with a 4-3 victory. The Generals still remain the only ECHL team without a home win this season.
Greensboro's leading scorer, Chris Brassard, didn't dress for the game. Generals Head Coach Graeme Townshend acknowledged that Brassard was missed, but said it couldn't really be helped. "We missed him tonight, that's for sure. He has a strained abdominal muscle and when he plays three games in three nights, it takes its toll. He would have been totally useless to us tonight because of the injury."
The injury, suffered by Brassard last season, has been nagging him throughout the young 2001-2002 campaign. In a tight contest such as this, Brassard's gritty approach and play-making ability can be pivotal. Townshend, however, felt it was wiser to avoid losing him for a longer stretch of time. "We just felt it was best to rest him. If we play him then he risks getting hurt even worse ... and we've got two games this weekend. I need him for the two games. We figured we could do it tonight without him, but he wouldn't have been able to skate anyway, he couldn't go."
"He usually needs a day and a half to two days to rest it. Come Monday, he can't even skate. We didn't have ice yesterday, so we had treatment on it, and today it was terrible ... he couldn't skate today at all. The best he could have done is maybe play powerplays. Again, that's risking making the injury worse and I fear he's going to rip that abdominal wall, and then he's out for the year. So we're gonna be smart about it."
The white home sweaters are beginning to be burial shrouds for the Generals at the Coliseum. Greensboro has posted a 5-1-1 record over it's last seven road games. Indeed the Generals had beaten the Grrrowl in Greenville by a 5-3 mark just days before. In their own barn, however, the Generals are now 0-5-1.
Vlad Serov did step up with two goals and continued to demonstrate his ability to become a great scoring threat in the league. His second score, on a backhand while fading to the right of the crease, was especially pretty. "He's definitely finding his rhythm," commented Townshend. Chris Bell added the third goal late in the losing effort, jamming the puck between the post and the Greenville net-minder.
"It almost worked," Townshend said about a new pre-game twist, "we had the guys picked up by the bus. We wanted to kinda create a road atmosphere for them. Picked them up at the rink, went to a pre-game meal, then got picked up at home again. We just thought we'd do something to try to get creative to see if we can somehow change our mindsets. We're coming ... we're coming."
If there was a deciding difference in the play between the two clubs, it was the ability of the Grrrowl to get solid second and third chances by controlling the offensive and defensive rebounds. Greenville's set offense usually called for a man to hang out just beyond the crease, waiting for any opportunistic bounces of the puck. Greensboro, on the other hand, usually had all five skaters spread out over the ice. This led to the Generals getting some sweet-looking one-timers while the Grrrowl were netting "dirty work" scores.
"They did definitely clean up on the rebounds," acknowledged Townshend. "Their goalie did a pretty good job of controlling those rebounds that were close ... within a stick length away he was gobbling those up pretty good." Might the Generals begin camping someone by the opposing goaltender in an attempt to generate some more second-chance scores?
"It's just a matter of going to the net. I don't know that we have that kind of hockey team now. Chris Brassard is that type of player, Craig Stahl is that style of player, but I don't think we have a lot guys that are that style. You basically try to have one grinder on every line. We're scoring goals. Three goals to me is enough to win a hockey game. We just gotta keep working at it."