With reigning Kelly Cup MVP Scott Howes back in the fold, Alaska Aces coach Rob Murray needed to figure out where to slot the left winger in the lineup for tonight's ECHL Western Conference finals opener in Las Vegas.
Turns out the first line from the Aces' Cup-winning run of last spring will be the first line tonight -- Howes moves into his familiar spot on a line with center Brian Swanson and right wing Wes Goldie, according to Aces spokesman Josh Bogorad.
The Nick Mazzolini-Ryan Cruthers-Garry Nunn line stays as is -- that was the club's top line in its five-game defeat of Stockton in the previous round.
Meanwhile, Dan Kissel, who led the Aces in scoring in the regular season while manning left wing on the Swanson line, moves to Chris Langkow's line, which also includes rookie winger Jordan Kremyr. Frankly, that gives the Aces three lines capable of scoring, which is good because that's exactly what the Wranglers have.
Zach Harrison will be the 10th forward.
(Thanks to reader "sniff'' for the question about rookie winger Chris Bruton -- my bad for not mentioning he is out with a lower-body injury that caused him to miss Game 5 of the Stockton series too.)
Defensive pairings remain the same as they were in the final game of the Stockton series: Tyson Marsh and Chad Anderson, Kane Lafranchise and Bryan Miller, and Steve Ward and David Shields.
The scratches are rookie defenseman Brock Shelgren, who has rejoined the club (believe he made a quick trip back to Michigan State to take care of some tests at school) and rookie winger Tim Hall.
Naturally, Gerald Coleman gets the start in goal.
Oh, and one more piece of "news'': Assistant coaches Louis Mass and Scott Burt, The Blog is told, won the 2-on-2 game with the scratches (Shelgren and Hall) at the end of the morning skate. We believe, if Louis, the former Aces defenseman, is to be believed, that ups his all-time mark in that competition to something on the order of, say, 1,241-3. Suppose for shorthand we can just start referring to Mass and Burt, the former Aces captain, as The Lords of the Boards.