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Admirals Stat-urday: Oh Louie, Louie (aka Louis Louis)

Forward Louis LeBlanc put up four points this week, Yann Danis got a shutout, and the Norfolk Admirals strung together two wins for just the second time this season after suffering a brutal 7-1 loss last Saturday.

Louis LeBlanc lines up his first of two goals against the Charlotte Checkers 11/24/2014
Louis LeBlanc lines up his first of two goals against the Charlotte Checkers 11/24/2014
Courtesy John Wright/Norfolk Admirals

1 Yann Danis got his first shutout of the season against the Hartford Wolf Pack (New York Rangers) Friday night.  Danis has now played in six games, going 3-3-0-0 with a 2.66 GAA and a .919 Save Percentage.  Danis leads all goaltending categories for the Admirals and his shutout is the first for the Admirals this season.

2 Max Friberg put up two points against Hartford, assisting on Norfolk's first goal and putting in the insurance goal, his first of the season, in the 2-0 win.  Friberg returned to the Norfolk lineup Wednesday against the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes) after being knocked out of Game 1 on his first shift and missing 16 games with an elbow injury.

3 Louis LeBlanc scored three goals and one assist this week, bringing his season goal total to seven goals and points total to 12 (7G, 5A), taking over the lead from Chris Wagner (8G+3A=12Pts).  LeBlanc scored two on Wednesday against Charlotte in a 4-1 win that broke a three game losing streak, then added another Friday night in a 2-0 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack

4 Wednesday's win over Charlotte marked just the fourth time this season the Admirals reached the four goal mark.  When scoring four or more goals, the Admirals are 3-1. 

5 The Admirals made some headway with their special teams this week, scoring five power play goals in three games and giving up just one on the penalty kill.  For the week, Norfolk's power play and penalty kill performed well above the curve at 36% and 90% respectively.

6 Figuring out that it's better to play with the lead rather than come from behind, the Admirals scored first in consecutive games on Wednesday and Friday and made those leads count.  Norfolk has scored first just six times in 19 games going 4-2-0-0.

7 Norfolk sunk to a new low last Saturday losing 7-1 against the Portland Pirates (Arizona Coyotes), their worst loss of the season.  Yann Danis allowed four goals on 27 shots, Igor Bobkov three on seven shots.  Right wing Matthew Pistilli, currently signed to a PTO contract, scored the lone goal for Norfolk, his first of the season.

8 Chris Wagner continues to find time to score goals for Norfolk between trips to Anaheim.  Wagner scored his eighth of the season Wednesday night, his second game winner, and leads the Admirals in goals and is tied with LeBlanc in game-winning goals.

9 Defenseman Brendan Bell has been the Admirals' best offensive producer from the blue line through the first 19 games.  Bell assisted on two goals Wednesday night against Charlotte and now has nine points in 19 games (1G, 8A).

Nic Kerdiles picked up his tenth point of the season Wednesday night against the Checkers, assisting on Norfolk's second of the game, Chris Wagner's eighth goal of the season, and the eventual game winner, the first of two power play goals for the Admirals in that game.

--Admirals fans looking forward to the post-game skate with the players last Saturday were probably just as emotionally let down as the players they were going to skate with.  The Admirals had just dropped a disgusting 7-1 loss to the Portland Pirates, their second defeat for the weekend, and had no explanation to give the fans.  Coach Skalde was clearly frustrated after the game with talk of "re-evaluation."  I can't help but wonder what was going through his mind--three straight losses, just four wins in the team's last ten, and just 23 goals scored to his opponents' 36, including the seven that night.

Alternate Captain John Kurtz was very clearly frustrated, very angry after the game.  He spoke of players who wouldn't get in to the game, who had no emotion, who refused to recognize the effort and sacrifice of their teammates.  It was clear from talking with Coach Kurtz and David Steckel a few weeks earlier that there was something very wrong in the locker room.  I have to admit, in my years of playing, watching, and covering hockey, I don't think I've ever heard team leadership calling out players for essentially not giving a damn, but that's exactly what they were saying.  I realize that I'm not paid by the team and other than wearing a press pass with the logo on it and buying the occasional hat, I'm not part of the Norfolk Admirals team in any way, but I have to say even I was affected by the feeling of hopelessness emanating  from the ice and the locker room.  And oh yeah, the players had to face the fans, up close and personal, on the very ice they had just gotten their asses handed to them.  Not sure I could have done that.

--Chris Wagner continues to solidify his role as a leader for the Admirals.  Not only is he scoring goals, but he's also taken on the responsibility of momentum shifter.  Saturday night, with the Admirals down by two goals in the second period, Wagner dropped the gloves with Pirates' defenseman Dylan Reese.  Coach Skalde talked about the fight in the post gamer, how as a leader Wagner recognized the team needed some energy, needed a momentum change.  Kurtz would also talk about Wagner, being a guy who's role is to provide offense and not fight.  Kurtz gave Wagner credit, then brought the conversation back down to earth, citing that instance of Wagner fighting for his team, but his team not fighting for him.

--Emerson Etem and William Karlsson were sent to Norfolk in time for Wednesday's game.  Fans were excited to see them, and Coach Skalde was quick to point out the luxury he'd been afforded with the extra depth.  "It's not hard to count the 16 forwards on the ice at practice and to recognize guys are going to have to fight for ice time."  Of course, if I'm Etem, I'm asking my agent why he hasn't arranged to get me traded out of Anaheim.  The message the Ducks are sending Etem is "Yeah kid, we want you to hang out in the AHL, because we just brought in this 33-year-old over-the-hill fringe NHL player that we think will help the team more than you can."

I was initially surprised the Ducks kept Rakell and sent down Karlsson, but then I realized the Ducks wouldn't want to damage their image by sending down a first round draft pick.  Karlsson is the better of the two in my opinion, and Norfolk got the better end of that "controversy." For as long as Etem and Karlsson are able to stay, the Admirals are a better team.  To their credit, they are on the ice and playing hard every shift.

--Yann Danis was finally rewarded for his patience last night with a shut-out.  He's on a PTO yet he's clearly established himself as the Number One.  He's gotten better with every game and the Admirals are lucky to have him.  I'm sure there are other options out there, but there are definitely worse as well (see Igor Bobkov).  There are defining moments in a sports' career, those instances where a player is given an opportunity to prove what he can do, to seize control over his destiny.  Bobkov had that as the de-facto starter and "played" his way right out of that moment.

--Norfolk's wins this week, while certainly helped by Etem and Karlsson, can be attributed to players who have been with the Admirals' all season.  LeBlanc, Wagner, Bell, Kerdiles, and Friberg put up the points that pushed the Admirals' to their wins.  Friberg aside, these players have been the engine behind whatever meager offense Norfolk has been able to muster, and with the assignment of Etem and Karlsson, these same players will see time and space open up and hopefully will continue to be rewarded for their perseverance.

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