FROM THE CREASE with Bruce Berlet

By Bruce Berlet

CROMWELL, Conn. – The blood between the Hartford Wolf Pack/Connecticut Whale and Worcester Sharks has been worse than the Hatfields and McCoys, and it only got worse on Monday.

Whale wing Mats Zuccarello, second on the team in goals (13) and third in points (24) in his first North American season, was suspended by the American Hockey League for one game because of a check on the Sharks’ Jonathan Cheechoo that knocked the former 56-goal scorer with the San Jose Sharks off-balance and into the boards 34 seconds into the second period of the Whale’s 3-2 overtime victory Friday night.

Rod Pasma, AHL executive vice president of hockey operations, suspended Zuccarello under the provisions of AHL Rule 28.1 (supplementary discipline). Pasma could not be reached for comment.

Zuccarello won’t play in the Whale’s final pre-Christmas game Tuesday night against the Atlantic Division-leading Manchester Monarchs (20-11-1-1), who swept three games over the weekend, including two against second-place Portland, to open a five-point lead on the Pirates.

Cheechoo, 30, the Sharks’ leading scorer with 11 goals and 20 assists in 29 games this season, didn’t return Friday night, and Worcester coach Roy Sommer sent a game tape to the league office, as promised. After the game, Sommer said, “Their guy pushed (Cheechoo) from behind. You can bet we’re gonna send that (tape) in. He shoved him right into the wall. That’s awful.”

Then after the Sharks lost their third consecutive game, 2-1 at Manchester on Sunday, Sommer said, “Cheechoo’s not good. He’ll be out for awhile. We sent in the tape, and we’ll what the other guy (Zuccarello) gets. You can see on the tape that he cross-checks (Cheechoo) when he is in a vulnerable position. He’s lucky he didn’t break his neck.”

After losing his balance and sliding backwards into the boards, Cheechoo lay on the ice for about a minute as Sharks trainer Matt White attended to him. Cheechoo left the ice hunched over and didn’t return after sustaining a bruised kidney that led to blood in his urine. Zuccarello received a boarding penalty.

“My whole left side,” Cheechoo said when asked by longtime Sharks beat writer Bill Ballou of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette what hurt the most. “I don’t know how long it’ll keep me out. We’ll see how it feels (Saturday).”

Cheechoo obviously didn’t feel well all weekend as he missed the Sharks’ last two games. Meanwhile, Zuccarello, one of hockey’s quickest but smallest players at 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, said he had no intention of injuring the 6-foot, 200-pound Cheechoo.

“I’m a little surprised,” Zuccarello said when asked about the Sharks sending in the game tape. “I just felt (Cheechoo) lost his balance, and the outcome was a lot worse than the hit. It wasn’t on purpose. I just didn’t want him to score a goal. I didn’t try to do anything, and I hope they’ll see it that way.”

Pasma obviously didn’t, and now the Whale (14-12-2-4) will be without one of their top players as they try to rebound from their worst loss of the season, 5-0 at Syracuse on Sunday, against a team that hasn’t beaten them three times in four starts.

When asked before Pasma’s decision was announced what he would say if he was suspended, Zuccarallo said, “There’s nothing I can say about that. It’s their call, and I hope they can see it my way. I’m not that kind of player. I was just trying to give him a little push so he can’t shoot the puck, and he went flying, lost his balance or something. I heard what happened to him, but it wasn’t my intention. But if they feel I should be suspended, there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Ironically, Gernander decided against sending a game tape of the Whale’s 4-3 shootout victory over the Sharks on Dec. 4, when Worcester wing Andrew Desjardins slammed Whale wing Brodie Dupont head-first into the ice during a fight after Dupont had lost his helmet. Dupont lay on the ice for several minutes, had to be helped off and didn’t return, while teammates Jared Nightingale, Justin Soryal and Devin DiDiomete received game misconducts after coming to Dupont’s aid. Kevin Henderson was the only Sharks player ejected, so the Whale had to play three men short the final 27:37, but they rallied from a third one-goal deficit and won the shootout for their most inspiring victory of the season. Zuccarello had one goal and one assist in regulation before he and Jeremy Williams scored in the shootout for the just result.

When asked if he wishes he had sent in that game tape in light of what the Sharks did this weekend, Gernander kind of shrugged his shoulders. But he agreed with Zuccarello that the wing’s check on Cheechoo didn’t warrant a suspension.

“It was two skilled players going after a loose puck,” he said.

Cheechoo, 30, has 11 goals and 20 assists in 29 games this season and 170 goals and 135 assists in 501 NHL games with San Jose and the Ottawa Senators, including 56 goals with the Sharks in 2005-06.

Cheechoo’s spot on the roster was taken by former Quinnipiac University standout David Marshall, who signed a pro tryout. Marshall, 25, had 73 goals and 54 assists in 155 games at the Hamden school before turning pro with the Cleveland Barons at the end of the 2008-09 season. He has seven goals and four assists in 34 AHL games, including a goal Sunday, and played for Wheeling of the ECHL and Rochester of the AHL earlier this season.

While the Sharks lost Friday night, they ended up with a double dose of delight: Zuccarella got suspended and they got a gift point when referee Geno Binda ruled Matt Irwin’s 30-foot shot on a power play as the first period ended was a goal even though the green light, signaling the end of the period, came on before the red light, signaling a goal. Despite a lengthy talk with goal judge Bill Sweeney, who said he thought the horn had sounded before the goal went in, Binda didn’t change his decision.

As it turned out, Brandon Mashinter tipped Irwin’s shot, and the Sharks contacted the league office about changing the scoring. But they didn’t ask to have the goal disallowed and standings point rescinded even though their replay showed the puck crossed the goal line about two-tenths of a second after the period ended.

“Worcester caught a break,” Ballou wrote.

Zuccarello didn’t catch a break Monday.

BACK TO BASICS AFTER WORST LOSS OF THE SEASON

It was back to the drawing board Monday for the Whale.

After one of the best runs in the franchise’s 14-year history died with the worst loss of the season, Gernander, assistants J.J. Daignault and Pat Boller and New York Rangers goaltenders coach Benoit Allaire spent a 45-minute practice at Champions Skating Center trying to right the physical and mental wrongs of the previous day.

“It wasn’t very good,” Gernander said of Sunday’s game. “We didn’t have much of anything, and there was no one that was blameless. Despite Syracuse’s record (10-15-1-3 before the game), we warned them they beat (league-leading) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton the night before (3-1), so there’s a good team there. We gave the Crunch opportunities and didn’t do the things we needed to go.

“But it was one game. We had been playing good hockey, so we addressed some things that weren’t necessarily tactical on ice. It was just attitude, an in-house matter.”

The Whale saw their longest winning streak (five games) in nearly two years, a 10-game point streak (8-0-0-2) and an 8-0-0-1 run since being rebranded from the Wolf Pack on Nov. 27 come to a screeching halt. The Whale had moved within three victories of their longest unbeaten streak after the franchise’s worst losing streak (0-7-0-2), but they suffered their first regulation loss since a 4-3 setback at Hershey on Nov. 21.

The Whale meltdown wasn’t as bad as that of the NFL’s New York Giants a few hours away in East Rutherford, N.J., where they blew a 21-point lead with less than eight minutes left and lost 38-31 on DeJean Jackson’s 65-yard punt return for a touchdown on the final play of regulation.

“It was just one of those games,” Whale goalie Chad Johnson said of the team’s only visit to Syracuse. “(Unlike the Giants) we never had a lead because we never got into any rhythm and were never really in the game. It seemed like they knew everything that we were going to do. … As a goalie, I never like giving up five goals, but losing 5-0 can be better than all the one-goal losses we had earlier in the season. Now the key is how we respond tomorrow night. I like playing against good teams, and we need to have a good game.”

Crunch right wing Dan Sexton and defenseman Brett Festerling (plus-4) each had two goals and Jean-Philippe Levasseur made 32 saves for his second shutout of the season. It enabled the Crunch (11-15-1-3) to complete a two-game season sweep of the Wolf Pack/Whale with their most lopsided victory of the season.

Sexton’s first goal was the first shorthanded goal the Whale allowed this season after he took the puck from Dale Weise, back from a noteworthy NHL debut in the Rangers’ 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. The five goals that Johnson allowed tied the most that he or the Whale yielded this season as his three-game winning streak and eight-game point streak (6-0-0-2) ended. And the shutout snapped center Kris Newbury’s team-high, eight-game point streak (three goals, 15 assists) as he fell into a tie for second in the league in assists with 28, one behind David Desharinis of the Hamilton Bulldogs.

“It was a tough game,” Weise said. “Sexton couldn’t make the shot he made on his second goal again (from the left boards into the top corner). It was an unbelievable shot. He couldn’t make that again if he takes another 100 shots. Then I fumbled the puck on one (goal) and the guy goes on a breakaway and scores.

“It was one of those nights where we didn’t have much jump and things weren’t going and everything seemed to be rolling for them. We didn’t expect to win 50 in a row, and I honestly think you can take a lot more from it than a one-goal loss. In my opinion, you can just kind of forget about it. It was an off-night, and we have to go right back at it again tomorrow night against a team that we’re trying to catch. So at the end of the day, it’s a loss, but we’re in a position where we just need our team to get back to playing every day.”

Though the Whale is the most penalized team in the league, they received at least one plaudit – from Crunch coach Mark Holick. He has never been a big fan of players – his own or the opposition – trying to stir up thing to send a message at the end of blowouts.

“To me, if you’re getting beat like that, why fight?” Holick said. “If you want to have seven or eight fights, have them to start the game. It’s a credit to them (the Whale) not to run it into a gong show.”

Now the Whale needs to rebound quickly against the Monarchs, who have 42 points. The Whale is fourth with 34 points, two behind Worcester but only one ahead of the fifth-place Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

“We capped off a three-in-three in style,” Monarchs coach Mark Morris said after a 2-1 victory over the Sharks on Sunday. “It was a gutsy effort by our group. Worcester made it interesting, but our guys did an admirable job fending them off.”

Right wing Brandon Kozun’s deflection with 5:57 left proved the winner, as James Marcou’s deflection of Jay Leach’s shot with 3:15 to go to ruin the shutout bid of Martin Jones (29 saves).

The Monarchs are led in scoring by center Andrei Loktinov (five goals, team-leading 18 assists and plus-11 rating) and left wing Bud Holloway (nine goals, 14 assists), who had his first AHL hat trick in a 4-3 victory over Portland on Friday night. Holloway’s hat trick was the first for a Monarchs player since Loktinov scored three goals in a 6-3 victory over the former Albany River Rats on Oct. 3, 2009.

Viatcheslav Voynov (five goals, 17 assists) leads Monarchs defensemen in points, and former Yale forward David Meckler’s nine goals are tied for second on the team with Loktimov and Corey Elkin, one behind Justin Azevedo. Jeff Zatkoff (10-9-1, 3.10 goals-against average, .897 average in 20 games) has played more in the Monarchs goal, but Jones (9-2-0, 1.60 GAA, .950 saves percentage in 14 games) has the better numbers. Jones’ GAA and save percentage are second in the league.

After a four-day Christmas break, the Whale visits the Sound Tigers on Sunday at 3 p.m. and then hosts the Pirates, coached by former Whalers captain Kevin Dineen, on Wednesday night at 7. Former Wolf Pack assistant coach Nick Fotiu, one of the biggest fan favorites in the history of the Rangers and New England and Hartford Whalers, will sign autographs in the XL Center atrium from 6-7 p.m.

ONLY REFEREE AND NHL OFFICIALS DIDN’T THINK WEISE SCORED

Referee Don VanMassenhoven and review officials in the NHL office in Toronto are apparently about the only people who didn’t think Weise scored Saturday. Weise, 22, who nearly scored on a partial breakaway late in the second period, appeared to put the Rangers on the board off a pass from Sean Avery at 5:35 of the third. But the goal was waved off by VanMassenhoven because he claimed Weise used his left skate to kick the puck in the net. After a longer-than-usual, four-minute review in Toronto, NHL vice presidents Colin Campbell and Mike Murphy, the league’s video review deciders, decided the puck went in because of “a distinct kicking motion.”

When asked about the call, Rangers coach John Tortorella answered the question with a question.

“What is the definition of distinct?” he asked. “I don’t know what it is. When you see Weise’s foot up in the air after the fact, I don’t think it’s a kicking motion. I think it’s a motion. I mean, what is distinct? That’s something you’d have to ask Colie and the boys.”

The Sports News’ Bob McKenzie sided with Weise.

“There was a distinct kicking motion on that Weise non-goal,” McKenzie said, “but I thought it was AFTER puck deflected off his skate.”

The always outspoken former Boston Bruins coach Don Cherry didn’t mince words – as usual – during his Coach’s Corner segment on the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s Hockey Night in Canada.

“That was a goal,” Cherry said. “If it had been (Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney) Crosby, it would have been a goal.”

And what is Weise’s take?

“I honestly think that was a goal,” he said. “I’d tell you if I kicked it in, but the puck came at me so fast that there was no way I could have deliberately kicked that. My hand-eye (coordination) is not THAT good. (Avery) just blasted that one, and from one (camera) angle it clearly looked like I didn’t move (my skate) and from one angle it looked like I did.

“But the ref waved it off on the ice, so it has to be 100 percent clear that I didn’t kick it for them to overturn the call.”

Weise replaced Todd White in the lineup and skated on a line with Avery and captain/center and Trumbull native Chris Drury, playing his third game after returning from missing 31 of the first 32 with a twice broken left wrist. Despite finishing with one shot, two near goals and five penalty minutes after beating up Flyers pest Daniel Carcillo during a team-low 6:43 in ice time, all at even strength, Weise was reassigned to the Whale after the game.

But Weise earned plaudits from Tortorella and Madison Square Garden announcers Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti.

“I liked him. I liked him,” Tortorella said. “Carcillo has opportunities to fight some other people out there. He decided to pick on Weise, and I thought (Weise) did a really good job in his fight. A really good job. Other than this first shift, where he kind of got handcuffed … I liked what he did. Even some plays behind the net, he kept some patience.”

Larry Brooks, the longtime Rangers beat writer for the New York Post, wrote, “It would be a surprise if Weise, who had a strong camp and then sustained a broken hand in Hartford before then suffering a broken finger upon his return, is not back on the roster within the next few weeks.”

Weise was called up after former Hartford Wolf Pack right wing Ryan Callahan was sidelined 6-to-8 weeks with a broken left hand sustained when he blocked a shot in a 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night. Weise missed 18 of the Whale’s first 30 games because of the injuries but still had six goals and five assists, including the winners in victories over the Adirondack Phantoms on Dec. 12 and 15.

Ironically, Weise got his first call-up at the end of last season because of an injury to Callahan but was a healthy scratch for four games while the Wolf Pack were missing the playoffs for the first time by three points. This time he played but not before flying from Hartford to Philadelphia Friday afternoon, playing Saturday afternoon, answering questions on his debut and having his goal disallowed and then driving to a nearby airport for a flight to Syracuse and the game against the Crunch the next afternoon.

“It was really hectic,” Weise said after practice Monday. “I had some good chances and thought the second was going in. I almost had my arms raised, but it must have hit a pile of (ice) snow and just trickled by (the post). But it was a good experience, and I was pretty happy to finally get the call-up. To play in Philly against the best team in the NHL is obviously a good way to start.”

Weise also “enjoyed” the bout with Carcillo.

“He’s a tough guy,” Weise said. “I kind of asked him earlier in the game when it was 2-0 if he wanted to fight. I expect him to fight, but I thought I’d ask him. I chased him around a little bit, but he didn’t want to go. Then I took a pretty good run at (Darroll) Powe at 4-1, and with four minutes left, (Carcillo) came from center and asked if I wanted to go, and I just dropped my mitts. That’s hockey, and a good way to make an impression.”

The NHL roster freeze went into effect at midnight Sunday and lasts through midnight on Dec. 27. Anyone on the roster as of midnight Sunday must remain in place through the freeze, though teams are permitted to make recalls during that time period.

LAWSON LOSES NHL DEBUT TO LABARBERA

Sound Tigers goalie Nathan Lawson was called up by the parent New York Islanders on Saturday and made 32 saves in regulation in his NHL debut but failed to stop any of the three shootout shots, enabling the Phoenix Coyotes to escape with a 4-3 victory over the NHL’s worst team Thursday night.

The winning goalie was former Wolf Pack and Rangers goalie Jason LaBarbera, who kept the Coyotes in the game through two periods with 29 of his 41 saves and then stopped one of the two shots he faced in the shootout. It was the second consecutive shootout for the Coyotes and LaBarbera. Erik Christensen scored the only goal in the skills competition.

LaBarbera deserved the win after the Islanders had at least 40 shots for the first time this season and then the Coyotes’ Radim Vrbata hit each post during a 4-on-3 power play in overtime. Vrbata scored the Coyotes’ first goal, then he, captain Shane Doane and Kyle Turris scored in the shootout. Former Sound Tigers wing Jesse Joensuu and Michael Grabner each had a goal and an assist for the Islanders (6-18-6).

PRONGER REMAINS OPTIMISTIC

Flyers standout defenseman Chris Pronger doesn’t expect any letdowns for the Atlantic Division leaders despite the fact the backbone of their defensive corps since he arrived in a trade in the summer of 2009 will miss 4-to-6 weeks with a broken bone in his right foot.

“I think this is one of the exact reasons and instances why we made the moves we did in the offseason – to have more through our defense corps,” Pronger said in a conference call Saturday morning. “When Homer (general manager Paul Holmgren) made these moves, he talked about our top four defensemen missed a total of two or four games, something silly that most teams don’t go through.

“It was just a matter of time one of us was going to get hurt at some point. It’s a long stretch on last year and a lot of minutes and luck … we got lucky last year. We got guys that were a little banged up, but they were able to play through. At some point you’re going to get injuries where you’re not going to be able to play through them and this is one of those cases. I think you’ve seen now, with the depth on our back end, we’re rolling three sets of (defense). I might be the high guy with like 22 or 23 minutes and the low guy might be at 17 or 18 minutes, but we’re getting a pretty good roll of the bench and that only helps you when you get guys into situations and keeps them sharp.”

In 31 games this season, Pronger has four goals and 11 assists while playing an average of 22:20, second on the team. The Hartford Whalers’ first-round pick (second overall) in 1993 had surgery Friday to repair a broken first metatarsal in his right foot. The injury occurred when he blocked a shot in the second period of a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.

PADDOCK BACK TO FLYERS; PATERSON TAKES OVER IN ADIRONDACK

Former Wolf Pack coach John Paddock’s term of interim coach of the Adirondack Phantoms ended Monday when he handed the reins over to former Beast of New Haven assistant Joe Paterson, who become one of his assistants when Paterson joined the team on Nov. 8, the day Paddock arrived from Philadelphia.

Paddock, who coached the Wolf Pack to their only Calder Cup in 2000, will return to being the Flyers assistant general manager to former Whalers assistant GM Paul Holmgren. After taking over as the Phantoms’ interim coach after Scott Gordon was fired, Adirondack was 2-10-1-0 and is now 6-23-2-0.

Before joining the Phantoms, Paterson, 50, was a scout for the Atlanta Thrashers.

“When John was named interim head coach on November 8, we did not want it to be for the remainder of the season and we believe this is the right time for Joe to take over the head coaching reins,” Holmgren said. “Joe’s wealth of experience in the American Hockey League and his strength as a teacher of young hockey players will be very beneficial to the continued development of our prospects in Glens Falls.”

“I’m honored to be the head coach of the Adirondack Phantoms,” Paterson said. “It’s a place where I first came to play in the AHL as a player, and it’s also the place where I got my first coaching job as an assistant. We still have some things to do to improve upon as a team, but the building blocks are in place and we’re going to continue to build.”

This is Paterson’s second head coaching job in the AHL. He was head coach of the Louisville Panthers, at the time the primary affiliate of the Florida Panthers, for two seasons in 1999-2001. He had a record of 63-85-12 and led the team to a 42-win season and the playoffs in 1999-2000.

Paterson was head coach of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League from 1995-97 and was an AHL assistant for 11 years. His most recent position was with the Toronto Marlies, the AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he was an assistant coach for four seasons from 2005-2009.

Before that, Paterson was an AHL assistant in the Edmonton Oilers organization for three seasons from 2002-05. He also served as an assistant for the Beast of New Haven (Carolina Hurricanes) from 1997-99, coaching under Flyers assistant Kevin McCarthy. He made his coaching debut as an assistant with the Adirondack Red Wings in 1992, where he spent three seasons (1992-95).

Paterson was the Detroit Red Wings’ fifth round in 1979, and his 13-year pro career included four seasons in Glens Falls with the Adirondack Red Wings (1980-84). His best season with the Red Wings was in 1981-82 when he had 22 goals and 28 assists in 72 games. In his other three seasons with Adirondack, he split his time with several call-ups to Detroit.

Paterson also played parts of two seasons in the Flyers organization, mostly with the Hershey Bears (1984-85), and also skated in the AHL in New Haven (1988-89) and Binghamton (1990-92). In parts of nine NHL seasons with the Flyers, Detroit, Los Angeles and Rangers, Paterson had 19 goals and 37 assists in 291 games.

Paterson will make his debut as Phantoms coach on Sunday, when they visit Binghamton.

FORMER WOLF PACK WING REACHES 600 POINTS

Former Wolf Pack wing Alexandre Giroux of the Oklahoma Barons added another impressive milestone to an accomplished AHL career Saturday night when he became the 44th player in history to join the 600-point club.

Giroux attained the milestone with a second-period assist in the Barons’ 4-2 loss to the visiting San Antonio Rampage. The Quebec City native now has 318 goals and 282 assists in 667 regular-season games with Grand Rapids, Binghamton, Hartford, Chicago, Hershey and Oklahoma City. His 600th point came one day shy of the first anniversary of his 500th point, which was recorded on Dec. 19, 2009.

Giroux, 29, won the AHL’s goal-scoring title and the Calder Cup each of the past two seasons with Hershey, combining for 110 regular-season goals and 200 points in that span, including a career-best 103-point effort (50-53-103) in 2009-10. A three-time AHL All-Star and the league’s MVP in 2008-09, Giroux has topped the 30-goal plateau in each of the last six seasons and ranks sixth on the AHL’s all-time postseason scoring list with 100 points (50-50-100) in 112 Calder Cup playoff games.

Giroux will make his fourth AHL All-Star Classic appearance Jan. 30-31 in Hershey, where he will serve as captain of the Western Conference All-Stars.

Former Wolf Pack and Rangers wings Ryan Hollweg and Petr Prucha scored for the West Division-leading Rampage, who improved to 3-0 at the Cox Convention Center. It was Prucha’s sixth goal in 10 games with the Rampage after being sent down by the parent Phoenix Coyotes to try to revive his game. Brett MacLean had two assists for the Rampage to become the franchise’s all-time scoring leader with 134 points. Wethersfield native Colin McDonald, son of former Hartford Whalers defenseman Gerald McDonald, scored for the Barons. … A day after scoring his 300th AHL goal, Denis Hamel had a goal and an assist as the Adirondack Phantoms beat Abbotsford 2-1 for their first back-to-back victories since March 13-14. … Former Wolf Pack wing Nigel Dawes had two goals and an assist as the Chicago Wolves beat the Milwaukee Admirals 5-2 for their third victory in four starts.… Jared Staal, the youngest of the four Staal brothers playing professionally, scored his first AHL goal in the Charlotte Checkers’ 4-2 victory over the Binghamton Senators for their seventh consecutive road victory. But that streak ended Sunday, as reigning AHL MVP Keith Aucoin, playing his third game after a six-week injury absence, scored twice and added an assist in the Hershey Bears’ 6-3 victory over the Checkers. Aucoin beat Mike Murphy with 22 seconds left in the second period for his 200th career goal and scored again in the third, when former Wolf Pack left wing Boyd Kane also scored. Former Wolf Pack defenseman Brian Fahey also had three points (one goal, two assists), as the Bears ended a season-high, three-game losing streak in which they had scored a total of five goals. Despite the loss, the Checkers are 15-4-0-3 in their last 22 games. … Levasseur was named Reebok/AHL Player of the Week for stopping 96 of 100 shots in three appearance and going 2-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against and .960 save percentage. He started the week on the bench but came in to stop 22 of 25 shots on Friday night in Binghamton. He then had stopped 74 of 75 shots in the wins over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and the Whale. A 23-year-old native of Victoriaville, Que., Levasseur improved to 5-6-2 with a 2.81 GAA and .918 save percentage with two shutouts in 17 games. The Whale nominated Newbury, who had two goals and two assists in three games. Other nominees included Jones (Monarchs), Michael Haley (Sound Tigers) and former Wolf Pack wing Nigel Dawes (Chicago Wolves).

BALDWIN TO SPEAK TO EAST HARTFORD CHAMBER

Whalers Sports and Entertainment chairman and CEO Howard Baldwin will be the guest speaker at the East Hartford Chamber of Commerce breakfast series sponsored by AT&T Connecticut on Jan. 11 at 8 a.m. at the Sheraton Hartford Hotel on East River Drive in East Hartford. Baldwin will be speaking about his efforts to bring the NHL back to Hartford, the Whalers Hockey Fest 2011 on Feb. 11-23 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford and other economic development opportunities.

“I am very excited to have a man of Howard Baldwin’s experience, energy and commitment to Connecticut and the Hartford area speaking at our Chamber event,” Chamber president Ron Pugliese said. “I invite anyone who has the desire to see the Hartford area grow and prosper economically to join us on January 11.” … Howard Baldwin Jr., the new president and chief operating officer of WS&E, has a new Twitter account that is accessible to Whale fans at howardbaldwinjr. … Fans can give the gift of Whale hockey during the holiday season. The Whale Hockey Pack of six dark green undated flex tickets and one Heritage Connecticut Whale hat is $122, a savings of $38. Six yellow undated flex tickets and one hat are $74, a savings of $14. Holiday packages are available through Jan. 3 at the Fan Center behind Section 101 in the XL Center or by calling 860-728-3366 or visiting www.ctwhale.com. … The Whale has moved the starting time of their Jan. 1 game against the Providence Bruins from 7 p.m. to 5 p.m. so it doesn’t conflict with the University of Connecticut football team playing Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, which starts at 8:30.

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