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Denis Hamel returns to lead young Phantoms

Denis Hamel has six goals and seven points through 12 games with Adirondack this season. (Photo courtesy the Adirondack Phantoms)

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Denis Hamel has six goals and seven points through 12 games with Adirondack this season. (Photo courtesy the Adirondack Phantoms)

At age 33, Denis Hamel's prospect days are well behind him, but the Adirondack Phantoms acquisition still has a role to play in prospect development.

The Phantoms, once a premier American League operation during their days in Philadelphia, rank amongst the more abysmal clubs in recent AHL history. The Philadelphia Flyers affiliate is on an eight-game losing streak, sits last in the league in goals for and against and ranks in the bottom one-third in power play and penalty kill percentage.

Having earned just three wins in their opening 23 outings, the Phantoms have already experienced a coaching change (AHL coaching legend John Paddock replacing Greg Gilbert) and there was speculation of dressing room issues during Gilbert's tenure. A one-time leading scorer (Patrick Maroon) was sent home and then traded with David Laliberte to Anaheim for center Rob Bordson and defenseman Danny Syvret, who had just left the Phantoms organization during the summer.
 
And last Saturday, during a weekend in which the Phantoms were outscored 13-3, workhorse goaltender Johan Backlund left a loss at Hershey with an injury. Backlund’s return remains unclear.

During the trying opening two months of the season, management in Philadelphia has given the Adirondack roster a considerable makeover, bringing in Bordson, Syvret, AHL veteran Michael Ryan and Hamel to help provide some level of stability to the club's nightly lineup.

Hamel, one of the AHL's best snipers over the past decade, could not find an AHL contract in the summer after a 22-goal 2009-10 season with Binghamton and opened this season back home in Quebec playing for Saguenay in the Ligue Nord-Américaine de Hockey.

"(The LNAH) gave me a chance to keep in shape,” Hamel said. “I came here in really good shape. (Philadelphia) gave me another chance to play the game. I really appreciate that they gave me another chance."

After signing a tryout contract Nov. 1, Hamel repaid the Flyers by exploding for six goals in his first five games. Even with his subsequent seven-game scoring drought, he still leads the club in goals with just 12 games under his belt this season.

A 14-year veteran of the pro game, Hamel sees a young club (the Phantoms have 10 rookies) with a lot of work ahead.

"We just have to keep working,” he said. “It's a young team, but we work hard. Right now it's tough because it's a snowball (situation) and every mistake we make, they capitalize on it. We almost have to play a perfect game.”

If Hamel sticks with the Phantoms, he will have two jobs: providing a young team with leadership and a legitimate sniper. He may no longer be the player who rang up 56 goals during the 2005-06 season, but he still has a scoring touch.

And if he finishes with Adirondack, it would also mean he survived to log another season in a league that emphasizes younger players.

"It was tough, I didn't expect to retire,” Hamel said. “Sometimes you have to move on and this is my 14th year…but I didn't want to quit. But sometimes they push you out of the league. Right now I am happy I am here and hopefully I can stay here. I know I'm just on (tryout). I'm just going day-to-day and seeing what happens."

THIS & THAT

• Norfolk's Johan Harju won player of the week honors for a six-goal performance. Max Pacioretty of Hamilton earned player of the month honors after a 10-goal November. Peoria's Jake Allen went 6-1-0 with a 1.35 goals-against average to win goaltending honors for the month. Binghamton's Bobby Butler won rookie honors for November for his nine-goal month.

• San Antonio's Tim Stapleton signed a deal with the Atlanta Thrashers after notching eight goals and 15 points in his first 20 games with the Rampage.

• Chicago and Grand Rapids racked up 18 goals last Saturday in a 10-8 Griffins win. Grand Rapids came into the game with just seven goals in its previous eight contests. The 18 goals were the most scored in an AHL game since March of 1996 when the Baltimore Bandits took a 10-8 decision from Binghamton Rangers. Tomas Tatar of Grand Rapids became the first AHLer since 2006 to put up seven points in a game, posting two goals, five assists and a plus-7 rating.

• Lake Erie rookie defenseman Colby Cohen was traded to the Boston Bruins in the Matt Hunwick deal and is now with Providence.

 

From THN.com American League correspondent Patrick Williams, Around The AHL keeps tabs on the world's second best circuit, details all the news and notes and profiles prospects destined for the next level. It appears every Thursday only on TheHockeyNews.com.

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