Healthy Petan pumped for Moose playoffs

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As a high-scoring star with the Western Hockey League's Portland Winterhawks, forward Nic Petan was accustomed to deep post-season runs — playing 88 playoff games over a span of five seasons.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/04/2018 (1688 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As a high-scoring star with the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks, forward Nic Petan was accustomed to deep post-season runs — playing 88 playoff games over a span of five seasons.

Since turning pro with the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets and AHL’s Manitoba Moose in 2015-16, however, the post-season has become a distant memory.

“I’m so excited for playoffs,” Petan said as the Moose enjoyed a day off the ice Tuesday prior to four days of preparation for Saturday’s Game 1 of their first-round playoff series with the Grand Rapids Griffins. “I haven’t played in the playoffs for three years so, like everyone else, it’s an exciting time… even the meetings are so exciting.”

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Nic Petan

Petan has good reason to be enthused.

In a March 30 game against the Toronto Marlies, he suffered the first concussion of his career in a freak collision, but now, after missing five regular-season games, he’s healthy again.

“It was not fun at the beginning, but it’s just something you’ve gotta deal with,” he said. “Obviously, a lot of guys get concussions and it was just kind of a weird collision and a weird play. I don’t blame myself for it, it’s just a weird play. I recovered perfectly.”

Petan is coming off his best regular season as a pro, where he played 52 games in the AHL with 15 goals and 52 points while also dressing for 15 games with the parent club, scoring twice in limited duty. He returned to the lineup for Manitoba’s final regular-season game in Chicago.

“It felt great,” he said. “It felt back to normal and just wanted to get the hands ready and get my skating legs back. It went better than I thought. I thought I’d be a bit more tired during the game but they got me bag-skating before, so it was good.”

Petan’s return was welcome news for captain Patrice Cormer, who centres the club’s top line between Petan and AHL rookie of the year Mason Appleton.

“It was good to have the full team back the last game; everybody seems healthy and I think that was the goal,” said Cormier. “Just play the whole team and get ready for the start of the playoffs.”

Cormier has had his own injury issues to work through. He missed six games with a concussion of his own, returning to the ice for the final road trip of the season.

“I went through the motions a little bit my first game in Cleveland,” he said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect. And as the game progressed, I felt better and kind of started playing my game a little more. Got in a little tussle there and in the Chicago game I felt really good. It was kind of a relief to get back…. It was almost perfect timing.”

Moose head coach Pascal Vincent is relieved to have both in his lineup to open the series Saturday.

“At this level, one or two guys can have a huge impact on the team because everybody is at their right position in the lineup,” said Vincent. “They are where they should be in the rotation, they are where they should be on special teams. It makes sense and the matchup are, not easier, but make more sense.

“Having those two guys back, healthy, is huge for us.”

THE LONG ROAD BACK

Veteran Moose forward JC Lipon is happy to be back in the playoffs for the first time since he was a rookie pro helping the St. John’s IceCaps to the AHL final in 2013-14. He doesn’t take it for granted.

“The first year in the league, you come in and soak everything in and you don’t realize — we went to the Calder Cup (final),” said Lipon. “Now that I’m older, I realize you might never make it back to the playoffs again. I’m glad after three years of not making it we’re in a position to chase the Cup.”

Lipon was asked what made that team special.

“Hutch was good, the goalie was good, the team was good,” said Lipon, recalling goaltender Michael Hutchinson’s breakout performance that spring. “The locker room was good. It’s all about the group of guys you have. You’ve gotta feel confident going into battle every night.”

AHL ROAD WARRIORS

If you think the Moose are bummed out about missing out on home-ice advantage in the first round, think again.

“No, I don’t think we think of it like that,” said Cormier. “First, our away record is a lot better than home. It’s been kind of a weird year with the away thing…. people ask why, and I have no idea why that happened.”

In fact, Manitoba’s road record during the regular season was 25-9-2-2, third-best in the entire AHL. Its 17-17-2-2 home mark is the worst of any playoff team.

ADJUST YOUR TACTICS

Manitoba winger Buddy Robinson is coming off his finest offensive season as a pro — 25 goals and 53 points in 74 games — but he knows he will have to raise his game in the playoffs.

“It’s a whole new season, it’s different hockey,” said Robinson, currently playing on a line with Michael Sgarbossa and Chase De Leo. “Everything’s gotta be a little tighter, everything’s gotta be a little sharper in all zones. There’s way less scoring and way less chances. So when you do get an opportunity, it is important to bear down and make sure it goes in. And playing with a lead is very important.”

MOOSE ADD KASPICK

The St. Louis Blues have assigned centre Tanner Kaspick to the Moose for the balance of the AHL playoffs.

A fourth-round (119th overall) pick in 2016, Kaspick’s WHL season ended recently with the Victoria Royals. Last fall, the 20-year-old Brandon product signed a three-year entry level deal with St. Louis, which doesn’t have an exclusive AHL team this season. The Blues have a five-year affiliation deal with San Antonio beginning next fall.

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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