BRUCE BERLET REPORTS – CARL “ROAD RUNNER” HAGELIN

Bruce Berlet 7BY: Bruce Berlet

Speed can be lethal, especially in hockey.

Carl Hagelin possesses some of the best speed at any level of the game, but the Connecticut Whale’s rookie left wing is quickly learning that slower can be better.

Hagelin had his breakout game as a pro Saturday night with three points, including two third-period goals, the second a shorthanded beauty that gave the Whale a second lead before they dropped a 5-4 shootout decision to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in their 15th home opener.

Hagelin, who played five playoff games with the Whale in April after co-captaining the University of Michigan to the NCAA title game, credited a chat with Whale coach Ken Gernander with kick-starting his noteworthy performance and then getting plenty of help from linemates Andre Deveaux and Kris Newbury, who was called up by the parent New York Rangers after the game.

“(Gernander) wanted me to come a bit from behind, and I think I did that a bit more,” said Hagelin, 23, a sixth-round pick in 2007 from Sodertalje, Sweden. “We went up the right side a bit, so I came behind Devo (Deveaux), and then you make plays, either chip it in or through the defense. So I think being a bit more patient is important, and what (Gernander) and I were talking about. He’s right and part of a lot of good input that I need to learn.

“This is still a learning process to try to get better every day. He talked about hitting the holes and using my speed in the right way more, like coming from behind and don’t rush the play. It’s almost more like ‘slow down a bit.’ ”

Gernander said not resembling a taxi driver in New York should prove beneficial to Hagelin.

“He likes to floor the gas pedal right up to the red light, stop, then floor it to the next red light when sometimes you can kind of time the light and hit the intersection with a little speed,” Gernander said. “But because he’s a fast player, he wants to get out in front, but it doesn’t happen at this level. The coverage is better and the athletes are better, so now instead of coming into areas with speed and accelerating into plays, he’s out in front of the play and has to slow down and wait for things.

“It’s just like any sport. If you’re cutting to the basketball hoop and you’re too early, you’re just standing under the basket covered as opposed to being able to get the pass and make your play. In football, you have a route, but there’s a certain area where you want to get the ball, and if you get there before the quarterback makes his drop, you’re just standing there covered.

“There are lots of reads, so if he’s first on the forecheck, by all means use that speed to get there first to the puck or get there before the defenseman can move it. But if your center has the puck and is looking to make a play, you’re better to come with speed, almost slingshot into that place, so when he moves it, you’re accelerating into it rather than being at the blueline forcing him to move the puck, otherwise you’ll be offside or have to stop and now you’re isolated one against two.”

Hagelin said his biggest adjustments from college have been more stops and starts, stronger players and having to control the puck because mistakes often lead to an opponent’s goal.

“I’m starting to get used to the league more and more, so I’m getting into a rhythm,” said Hagelin, who had three goals in the last two games. “I felt this is how I should feel every game, but my legs have been a bit sluggish other games, but the jump was there and it’s always easy when you play with Devo and Newbury. They make good plays and are strong on the puck, so they just want me to stay on the wing and try to create chances from there.”

It’s another part of the learning process in the pro game.

“Teams might be a bit more defensive here,” Hagelin said. “In college, guys are just running around, so maybe it was easier there to find a seam. Here you have to be more patient because the defensemen are probably going to go D to D a bit more than in college.”

But few players anywhere have the wheels that Hagelin possess. While killing a penalty midway through the third period Saturday night, Hagelin poked the puck away from two Sound Tigers players in the neutral zone and then outraced both while being hooking several times by defenseman Matt Donovan and firing a shot that beat goalie Kevin Poulin low to the stick side.

“I was on the left side and saw them make a play to the left so I cut across and saw the guy make kind of a blind pass and was able to intercept it and just tip it forward,” Hagelin said. “The defenseman probably slashed me five times, so I just tried to get the shot off. It was a great feeling when it went in, but it was tough with the loss.

“I think we’re playing really strong in the first period almost every game and get the first goal and get rolling. But then all of a sudden we take a few penalties, and then they get into the game. We have to regroup now and realize we have to play strong defensively once we’re up.”

Hagelin is one of the Whale’s better defenders, as shown by a plus-5 rating, best on the team and tied for sixth in the league. He also drew a hooking penalty on Tyler McNeely with 37 seconds left in overtime Saturday night, but the Whale couldn’t get a shot on Poulin, setting up a third straight shootout that ended with the Whale on the short end for the second night in a row.

The Whale also has to cut down on often needless penalties.

“This has gone on in the past, and I’m not going to tolerate it anymore,” Gernander said.

Hagelin demonstrated his captaincy/leadership skills when he said, “All the guys have to think about it and go to themselves and decide before every game, ‘Hey, I’m not going to be the guy taking stupid penalties. I’m going to do everything possible for the team. If a penalty is necessary, I’ll do it, but otherwise, just get out of there.’ ”

Hagelin more than held his own in his initial stint with the Whale at the most trying time of the season, the playoffs. He immediately played a regular shift, had a goal and an assist in six games and even helped kill penalties, as he did at the start of this season, usually with Newbury, who scored or assisted on the Whale’s first eight goals.

But Hagelin now has to make a few more alterations, with Newbury having been called up. But Gernander is confident that Hagelin will make the necessary adjustments as quickly as he races down the ice.

“I don’t think it’s so much chemistry,” Gernander said, “but he has to work to read plays to get himself in those spots offensively and work his timing a little bit.”

Regardless of whom Hagelin plays alongside, he’s a leading Rangers prospect and often at his best in the biggest games. He had two power-play goals and an assist as Michigan beat Michigan State 5-0 last Dec. 10 in “The Big Chill” outdoor game before a world record hockey crowd of 113,411 at Michigan Stadium, “The Big House.” Matt Rust, who had a tryout with the Whale and was Hagelin’s linemate for four years, had three assists and was named the game’s third star. HaHagelin was No. 2, and one better Saturday night despite being on the short end of the score.

“It was his strongest game to date,” Gernander said. “He used his speed effectively and was drawing penalties, not just on the goal. It was a good night for him.”

With many more expected in the future, starting Friday night at home against the Manchester Monarchs (3-2-0-0), who had a three-game winning streak ended Sunday in a 5-3 loss to the Springfield Falcons that equaled the number of goals they allowed in their first four games. Fans can take advantage of a “buy one, get one free” ticket offer for upper-level seats that are available only at the Public Power Ticket Office at the XL Center.

After facing the Monarchs, the Whale will play a home-and-home set with the Falcons (3-2-0-0), who host the Whale on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the MassMutual Center in Springfield before visiting the XL Center in Hartford on Sunday at 3 p.m. The Sunday game is another “buy one, get one free” ticket offer in the upper level, available only at the Public Power Ticket Office. Tickets for Whale home games are on sale at the Public Power Ticket Office, on-line at www.ctwhale.com and through TicketMaster Charge-by-phone at 1-800-745-3000.

Before the game Sunday, Whale and Falcons fans will face off at noon in the first game of their inaugural seven-game series through mid-March. For information on how to join the teams and tickets to the seven games, visit www.whalefalconsfangame@gmail.com.

GERNANDER: NEWBURY DESERVED ANOTHER CALL-UP

Gernander said Newbury deserved another call-up on Saturday, and perhaps it was appropriate that it was his line that was on the ice at the end of the Rangers’ 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night thanks to the brilliant, 40-save performance of All-Star Henrik Lundqvist, who was making his 30th consecutive regular-season start (35th overall) dating to Feb. 11 in Atlanta.

And Gernander said Newbury deserved the promotion for more than just leading the Whale in goals (four), assists (four) and points (eight), which tied him for third in AHL scoring despite playing in only four games, one of which was a 1-0 shootout victory over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. It started with his second AHL hat trick in a 6-3 loss at Adirondack in the season opener Oct. 8 and ended with a goal and two assists in a 5-4 shootout loss to Bridgeport on Saturday night.

“Center is an important position, and he played a lot of minutes in a lot of different situations like penalty killing and face-offs and things of that nature,” Gernander said. “Everybody has their warts, but if they’re working to overcome them in other areas … He was still obviously a pretty important part of our club. But that’s the way it’s supposed to work. If a guy is playing well, he’s the guy who should get rewarded.”

Rangers coach John Tortorella lauded Newbury during five call-ups last season when he was scoreless in 11 games but brought lots of grit, energy and determination from Hartford. But Tortorella didn’t like one aspect of Newbury.

“He was out of shape,” Tortorella said. “He was fat.”

Newbury didn’t disagree with Tortorella’s assessment.

“The summer before I didn’t exactly do what I needed to do to get myself in the best shape,” Newbury told Jim Cerny of BlueshirtUnited.com. “I don’t think my work ethic changed – I think it’s always been hard – but I just think I wasn’t in the best shape possible.”

But after an extensive workout program in the summer with former Whale strength and conditioning coach Jeremy Goodman, Newbury returned to training camp this year in what Tortorella called “in tip-top” shape. Newbury had a solid camp and was among the final cuts.

“I think the staff up here knew I stayed in the Hartford area and worked hard with the trainer there this summer,” Newbury said. “And down in (Connecticut) I took it upon myself to lead by example down there and try and keep working hard and remain positive. The first couple of games the puck seemed to follow me around. I just went into every game with the mindset that I wanted to be the best player on the ice, to give myself the best possible chance to be in the best position should they ever need a call up here.”

Tortorella said he also liked Newbury’s “jam” before he played on the fourth line with Erik Christensen and Mike Rupp on Tuesday night in the start of the Rangers’ four-game Western trip through Canada.

“I like the way Newbs handles himself,” Tortorella said. “I think he’s a little bit old-time as a player. He thinks it that way. He has got jam and plays hard for his team. He certainly turned my head this summer in how his body had changed coming into camp, so he deserves the opportunity. He has played very well down there.”

When asked for his definition of “jam” before the game, Newbury said, “I think it’s just playing on the edge a little bit. Be physical and get my mouth going a little bit to their team, and as long as I don’t cross that edge, I think I’ll be happy with my game. So I’m going to do those things and hopefully get them a little agitated.”

Newbury’s line was often matched against a Canucks’ trio that included former Wolf Pack and Rangers right wing Dale Weise, claimed off waivers on Oct. 5. Weise was part of “Rangers West” as four of the Canucks 12 forwards had played on Broadway. Besides Weise, there were former Yale center Chris Higgins, Mikael Samuelsson and Manny Malhotra, the Rangers’ first-round pick (sixth overall) in 1998 who played part of two seasons with the Wolf Pack, including in 1999-2000 when they won their only Calder Cup title.

Newbury was partially screening Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo when Mike Rupp scored the game’s first goal of the rebound of a shot by former Whale defenseman Michael Del Zotto at 2:22 of the third period. About 71/2 minutes later, defenseman Ryan McDonagh scored his second goal in 44 NHL games off assists from fellow former Wolf Pack players Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov for a 2-0 lead, despite the Canucks having a whopping 37-14 shot advantage thanks in part to seven power plays.

The Rangers scored on another counterattack when Ruslan Fedotenko’s brilliant saucer pass found Brian Boyle breaking in off left wing on a 3-on-2 with 8:30 left to make them 3-for-15 against Luongo. Weise then had two good scoring chances, but the omnipresent Henrik Lundqvist stopped the first and the other was blocked. Minutes later, McDonagh made a brilliant move around Cody Hodgson to set up Marian Gaborik’s tap-in for a 4-0 lead on 19 shots with 2:21 to go. Newbury’s line finished the game as Lundqvist completed his 36th career shutout and earned the No. 1 star after making 40 saves in a 4-0 victory, the Rangers’ first in their fourth of seven road games to start the season. It also was the Rangers’ first win in Vancouver since Oct. 11, 1997, when Wayne Gretzky’s hat trick sparked a 6-3 victory.

Newbury had two hits and the Rangers (1-1-2) were 8-for-8 on the penalty kill and outhit the Canucks 31-22, but the story of the game was Lundqvist, with a strong dash of McDonagh, who had his first multi-point game in the NHL, was plus-3, had three hits and recorded three of the Rangers’ 23 blocked shots in 24:30 of ice time, which actually brought down his average to 25:08, which ranks 13th in the NHL and second on the team to Girardi’s 29:21, tops in the league.

Appropriately, Lundqvist was wearing an old back fedora after the game, awarded to the player of the game after each win.

“The hat sort of found its way back with us from Europe,” said Rangers newcomer Brad Richards, who came up with the idea and awarded “The Broadway Hat” to The King. “We’re going to use it as a little reminder of how we came together over there. It’s another way for us to bond.”

“I guess this game (Richards) thought I deserved (the hat), so I’m wearing it with a lot of pride,” said Lundqvist, who will present it to the player of the game after the next win. Lundqvist then smiled and added, “It also looks pretty good.”

Lundqvist bound the Rangers together through two scoreless periods in which they were outshot 28-9 and out-attempted 59-23, including a staggering 39-10 in the second period. Then Rupp slammed in Del Zotto’s rebound, and it became a team effort for the Rangers, as Lundqvist lowered his goals-against average to 1.69 and increased his save percentage to .947 in his third shutout of at least 40 shots.

“Henrik gave us an opportunity, and we found a way,” Tortorella said.

“That was a performance for a lifetime,” McDonagh said. “He held in there with all the penalties that we had, was always talking and being positive even though he was being shelled with shots.”

Lundqvist was a sight to behold as he virtually stole two points for the Rangers.

“It was intense, but I had a couple of good days of practice where I really focused,” said the Golden Swede, who has allowed only four goals in regulation. “It’s really been tough (not winning).”

Still, Tortorella is likely to have his players continue to do 10 pushups each on the ice after a penalty is committed in practice, as he did Monday. The Rangers have been shorthanded 27 times in four games, allowing three goals, and Tortorella benched left wing Brandon Prust midway through the second period for a holding the stick penalty behind the Canucks net. He returned 1:20 into the third and responded with two assists, including the headman pass to Del Zotto that led to Rupp’s winning goal.

“We know how it works, how you can be outplayed for 50 minutes, but that one shot can change it,” Lundqvist said.

“We have a lot to work on, but winning at this point is more important than how we did it,” Tortorella said. “I hope that his gives us some confidence and just that we’ve been lacking.”

The Rangers continue their season-opening, worldwide tour Thursday night in Calgary, followed by games in Edmonton on Saturday night and Winnipeg on Monday night before they finally have their home opener Oct. 27 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s the first of six straight games at Madison Square Garden, which is undergoing a $1 billion renovation that will take three years to complete.

QUICK GETS SHUTOUT; TOUGH NIGHT FOR LABARBERA

Hamden native Jonathan Quick was nearly as brilliant as Lundqvist, making 27 saves in the Los Angeles Kings’ 5-0 romp over the visiting St. Louis Blues. It was the former Hamden High/Avon Old Farms/UMass standout’s 99th career NHL win and 15th shutout in 184 games, as he improved to 3-0-1 with a 1.20 goals-against average and .960 save percentage this season.

Simon Gagne had two goals and an assist, and Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Jarrett Stoll each had a goal and an assist for the Kings, who opened the season with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Rangers in Stockholm, Sweden. It was the official home opener for the Kings after an 18-day sojourn that took them from Denver to Anaheim, Las Vegas, Hamburg, Stockholm, Berlin, New Jersey and Philadelphia, leaving them among the last teams in the NHL to play a game in their own arena. They were the designated “home” team in both of their Compuware NHL Premiere games in Europe.

After being called up from the Monarchs on Monday, Kings defenseman Slava Voynov made his NHL debut as a replacement for injured Drew Doughty. The AHL All-Star with the Monarchs last season was plus-2 and played on the first power-play unit.

“For a kid who played his first game, he was pretty collected, pretty poised, and I thought he made some very good decisions with the puck,” Kings coach Terry Murray said.

Not as fortunate as Lundqvist and Quick was former Wolf Pack and Rangers goalie Jason LaBarbera, who allowed five goals in the Phoenix Coyotes’ 5-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, coached by former Hartford Whalers defenseman Joel Quenneville. LaBarbera had been 4-0-0 with a 2.01 GAA against the Blackhawks but was under consistent pressure as the Coyotes were outshot 35-16. It was his first loss wearing a mask honoring Pat Tillman, the former Arizona State and Arizona Cardinals standout who enlisted after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and died in Afghanistan from friendly fire.

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