MacLean not a bad guy for Tigers to have on ice
By MICHAEL FORNABAIO
Jeff Hamilton was set to make his NHL debut Tuesday night for the New
York Islanders, and Mattias Weinhandl was to make his season debut.
Their departures give some Bridgeport Sound Tigers a chance to claim
those players' minutes and make up for lost production.
Cail MacLean has a head start at that after the past weekend.
Thrust into the lineup Thanksgiving night when Blaine Down fell ill,
MacLean scored the game-winning goal at Binghamton, earning more
playing time in victories Friday and Saturday and notching an assist
Saturday at Lowell.
Before Binghamton, MacLean had been a healthy scratch for five out of
"I went a long time without playing a game, and this is a really good
lineup," the 27-year-old right winger said. "It was a matter of
getting my foot in the door."
Since the Sound Tigers had gone over a month without a loss, that door
wasn't open often.
"When you get sitting out, your confidence level drops. You make it
harder on yourself than you should be," MacLean said. "Now, my
confidence is starting to build."
Sound Tigers coach Greg Cronin got MacLean into a Nov. 14 game at
Lowell to keep him fresh but didn't want to disrupt the lineup further.
"He was in an awkward predicament," Cronin said. "He understands the
mechanics of the game, that when a team is on a roll, it's hard to
make changes, but it didn't defeat him. It didn't discourage him."
In Binghamton, Cronin put MacLean in Down's spot on the left side of
Kevin Colley and Rob Collins, and MacLean joined in that line's
energetic work. The next night, the coach swapped MacLean and Martin
Kariya, leaving MacLean on the right side of Derek Bekar and Ryan Kraft.
"He's such a smart player, he reads things so smoothly, he allowed
Bekar and Krafty to just go," Cronin said.
Noted as a hard worker everywhere in his well-traveled career, MacLean
is plus-5 in his 15 games for Bridgeport.
"His knowledge of the game is outstanding," Cronin said. "He's the
kind of player, you don't appreciate how intelligent he is till you
watch the videotape. He makes the little decisions that eliminate the
odd-man rush against or the scoring chance against."
Until this weekend, MacLean didn't have a goal for the Sound Tigers.
He had 16 in 74 games last year in Hershey, and in 1998-99, he had 42
goals between stints in the ECHL and IHL.
"I've been pretty uptight about my offensive production," MacLean
said. "The goal (Thursday) was a big bonus for me."
"I'm guessing, and I hope I'm right, he's going to start scoring some
goals. He's got a hard, accurate shot," Cronin said. "It's ironic he
scores on a flutterball the other night."