Fata, Perry demoted as teams can't afford to wait

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

This is the time -- just past the quarter post of the season -- when the bad teams start to worry and panic about missing the NHL playoffs.

Anaheim and Pittsburgh, both expected to perform better in this new NHL than their current records indicate, shipped a busload of guys to their respective American Hockey League affiliates this week, including Mighty Ducks rookie Corey Perry and Penguins forward Rico Fata, both former London Knights.

Perry, who just returned to the lineup from a concussion, and Fata, who survived a bout of testicular cancer this spring, are playing for organizations that can't afford to wait for them to get back into a groove.

Contrast that with Philadelphia, which already knows it will still be around in the spring when it's time to compete for the Stanley Cup. The Flyers didn't leap off a cliff when Londoner Jeff Carter posted just two points in his first nine NHL games and didn't play much. They waited patiently and he responded with 10 points in his next 11 games, earning more confidence and extra ice time.

In fact, Carter's November surge leaves him with more goals (seven) than mate and buddy Mike Richards (four).

Perry's demotion can be looked upon as a reconditioning assignment because of the injury. The Ducks also sent fellow Canadian world junior teammate Ryan Getzlaf, who's battling a bad shoulder, to the AHL Portland Pirates.

"They're going to come in here and play exactly like they did in rookie camp and the beginning of the season where they had a lot of jump in their step and they get a chance to play a lot more hockey here," Portland head coach Kevin Dineen said.

The quick-skating Fata, who has no points for the Pens this season, saw his role in Steeltown change when Sidney Crosby came on board.

Fata had a career-high 16 goals and 34 points while averaging nearly 18 minutes ice time two years ago. He was out often with Mario Lemieux and logged power-play time, but Sid the Kid draws those plum assignments now.

Sending Fata to the minors doesn't save the Penguins any money: he's due to make $725,000 U.S. this year whether he's in the big leagues or not.

While Perry will obviously get more chances to return to the big leagues, Fata is clearly running out of chances.

Coleman's cup of coffee

Ex-Knight goalie Gerald Coleman wore No. 50 in his NHL debut for Tampa Bay recently against Atlanta and stopped three out of four shots in his one period. He was returned to the AHL's Springfield Falcons for development and enjoyed the experience with the Bolts.

"It was unbelievable," Coleman told the St. Pete Times. "I was like a kid in a candy store being with all these guys. All I can do is try to prove myself."

Stratford native and former Knight Tim Taylor is Tampa Bay's player representative.

More callups

Goalies have been going up and down with the regularity of Empire State Building elevators lately.

With Buffalo goalie Mika Noronen injured, Petrolia native Michael Leighton was called up to the Sabres from the Rochester Americans.

With Stratford native Chris Taylor, Tim's brother, on the shelf, the Amerks recently brought up former Knight Drew Larman, who had three assists in four games for Rochester heading into last night's game with Binghamton. Larman had no points in his first six pro games with the ECHL Florida Everblades.

In the sticks

As of yesterday, Londoner and Calgary Flames prospect Brandon Prust led the AHL's Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights in penalty minutes with 77. He also has a goal and four points in 19 games. What the heck are the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben, which is "Nebraska" spelled backwards? Well, in 1895, Omaha businessmen were scolded by the Nebraska State Fair Board for failing to cater to families: "Provide entertainment other than saloons, gambling houses and honkeytonks or lose it (the state fair) to a competitively alert Lincoln." The Knights were formed and began a quest to improve the community, which included the addition of a pro hockey team. So who needs to go to the local saloon to watch a brawl break out when you can head to the rink and see Prust chuck the knuckles?


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