BY RYAN ABER
Bonk sharing line with Reddox, Hartikainen
Dave Bonk, just up from the Central Hockey League’s Allen Americans, will play tonight on a line with Liam Reddox and Teemu Hartikainen.
That’s a pretty nice role for a new addition to stop right into.
“Those are two really good players,” Bonk said. “Hopefully I get an opportunity to play quite a bit.”
Bonk played one game for the Barons earlier this season, skating for the team in an overtime loss to Houston on Oct. 15.
Bonk said his approach will change a bit this time around, though.
“The first game before, maybe I played a little tentative and didn’t want to make any mistakes,” he said. “I know I’m not up here to try and light it up but at the same time, I feel I do have some skill and playing with those guys, it makes the game easier. Hopefully I can play well and stay with those guys.”
Bonk has six goals and 15 assists in 16 games with the Americans this year. In his last three games in the CHL, Bonk has seven points (two goals, five assists).
“It’s going really good,” Bonk said. “I think I’ve been contributing a lot. I haven’t been scoring much but we’ve got lots of guys that can score down there. If I’m getting assists, that’s fine too.”
Nelson said Bonk was a natural fit to get the first chance at taking over at center when the Oilers called up Ryan O’Marra.
“We got a natural centerman taken away from us from Edmonton and we wanted a natural centerman to come up,” Nelson said. “He did a good job for us before and he’s having a pretty good year so we felt comfortable with him.”
Other lines holding pat
With the departures earlier this week of O’Marra and winger Linus Omark, it would’ve been easy for Nelson to shuffle around more than just a couple of lines.
Instead, Nelson chose to insert Bonk into the middle and move Hartikainen up.
Why not move Chris VandeVelde to center on that line?
“We thought the VandeVelde-(Ben) Ondrus-(Gregory) Stewart line has been pretty effective for us, so we didn’t want to break that up and (Milan) Kytnar does a pretty good job on the other line with the young guys. We wanted to keep things pretty much intact,” Nelson said.
Nelson expects good things from the Reddox-Bonk-Hartikainen line.
“Throwing Hartikainen up there, he can create some offense for us,” Nelson said. “Reddox, he’s been great for us all year so that’s not going to change. At least Bonk can distribute the puck to them and create some scoring chances.”
Reddox is also looking forward to the change.
“I’m for sure excited about it,” he said. “It’s going to be a different kind of game out there, especially with the way Teemu plays. He’s a bull out there. He likes to take the puck down low and work it below the hashmarks. As long as we have a high guy there, I think we can generate a lot by supporting each other down low and having that high guy in the soft area to maybe try to find him in the slot for shots.”
The pairing will be different than he experienced with Omark and O’Marra.
“With Linus, you’re just kind of… He’s a rover out there. He’s flying around there and you’re just trying to find open ice wherever it is. With Teemu and Bonkers, I think we’re going to have to maybe simplify our game a little bit more and just make the plays down low, keep it simple and I think we’ll be successful.”
Shootouts vex Reddox
With Liam Reddox’s continued success in the breakaway, it would seem it would be a natural that Reddox would be a regular in the Barons’ shootout lineup.
But in Tuesday’s shootout loss to Houston, Reddox was missing from the shootout for the third consecutive time.
But Reddox was 0 for 2 in the team’s first two shootouts.
After that, he came to Nelson.
“He made the comment to me, ‘Don’t you know I can’t score in shootouts?’” Nelson said.
“Well, you score on breakaways, what’s the difference?” Nelson asked Reddox.
Reddox said he wasn’t thinking on the breakaways.
“Sometimes it’s like that,” Nelson said. “Ilya Kovalchuk, it’s the same thing. Maybe we should have somebody chase him on shootouts.
“We try to have the guys that have had success.”
Nelson said it’s likely Reddox will be back in the rotation the next time a shootout is needed, though.
“He’s a guy that we’ll probably throw back in the mix,” he said.
Giroux named captain for AHL All-Star Game
Barons forward Alexandre Giroux might not be putting up the same gaudy offensive numbers that he’s shown the last two seasons in Hershey, but Giroux won’t have to worry about his place on the American Hockey League All-Star team.
Online voting for the game, to be played Jan. 31 in Hershey, began earlier this week but league president David Andrews named Giroux as the playing captain for the Western Conference on Friday.
Giroux was picked in recognition of his outstanding service and leadership in the AHL.
Giroux is 14th all-time in AHL goal-scoring history. He will be making his fourth AHL All-Star appearance.
Mark Wotton of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers will captain the East.
Like Giroux, Wotton is a former Hershey Bear. Wotton played for Hershey in 2005-06.