Darcy Regier walked into the locker room with a grin on his face. It became a full smile when he got to Adam Pardy, who was talking with three reporters. Without interrupting, Reiger shook Pardy's hand, told him “good game” and walked out.
First, that never happens – at least in front of the media. Second, Regier's face said it all: He found a gem in Adam Pardy.
It was more or less a usual day for Pardy. He spent 24 hours worrying about whether he'd be claimed off waivers, then at noon found out he had cleared waivers. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound defenseman then traveled to Rochester where he met his new teammates, got fitted for new gear – including that annoying visor that AHL players must wear – then at 5 p.m. jumped on the ice with 20 guys he'd never skated with before.
And then he dominated.
“You see it, his physical presence out there, he's a man,” goaltender David Leggio said.
Leggio was the game's first star in the Amerks' 4-1 win over Syracuse on Friday night – though Pardy earned the belt that the team awards to the night's MVP.
“I think the boys felt bad for me,” Pardy said of being awarded the belt. “It's nice. The boys have been great all day and they made this easier than it should have been.”
It wasn't just today. The last week-and-a-half has been a whirlwind for Pardy, who was acquired by the Sabres this summer in a trade that sent Derek Roy to Dallas and brought he and Steve Ott to Buffalo. The 28-year-old was locked out until Sunday, when he finally stepped on the ice at First Niagara Center for the first time. He then had just four days of training camp.
Four days is barely enough for coach Lindy Ruff or Regier to know his name, much less to change their minds. The deck was stacked against him from the start with seven NHL defenseman and prospect T.J. Brennan already on the roster.
“It was the first time I've been on waivers,” Pardy said. “When you get that call, it kind of shocks you a little bit and a lot of emotions start going through your head. All these things like, 'what's going to happen, what's going to happen,' and you never know.”
Friday night, he put it aside and made one heck of a first impression.
“He is exactly what we needed,” coach Ron Rolston said.
The Amerks did need him. They lost their strong stay-at-home defenseman Joe Finley earlier in the week, then promptly lost 5-1 to Binghamton on Wednesday. Even with Finley, the Amerks had been lacking stability on defense all season.
“This might have been the best game in our end in two years,” Rolston said.
In large part, of course, because of Pardy. The former Star and Calgary Flame was physical, quick with his decisions and passes and carried the puck like an older brother playing keep away.
In addition to his dominance on the ice, he greeted the post-game interview like it was any old Friday, not like the exhausting, emotional 24 hours he'd just endured. He politely shook hands with the new people that would be firing questions his way and didn't send a hint of “I'm too good for this league” like some players have post-send-down.
“I have to work my way back to the NHL,” Pardy said. “Whether it's going to be here or in Buffalo or wherever else. Nobody knows what's going to happen so I just have to keep working. It was tough coming in here tonight but it was good to get the win.”
Not only a win, but a win over the AHL's second best team.
Now what? You would expect Pardy to be the first call up if there is an injury in Buffalo. He also makes several players in the final year of their contract such as Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold a little more likely to be moved if the right deal comes across Regier's desk.
It's all in the back of Pardy's mind as you could imagine, but at the end of Friday he probably felt relieved to be playing after months and months of waiting on the lockout.
“It's been a long time since I've played,” he said. “Last year was a tough year only playing 36 games and the year before I had shoulder surgery so I was limited to 30 games. Over the last few seasons it's been pretty slow...so it was nice to just get in there.”
Kevin Porter wouldn't admit that he was out to prove anything to anyone on Friday. After the game, he said it was just another game, he loves his job, he wants to win in Rochester, he wants to lead and be the best player he can be. That's just Porter being a quiet leader.
But since he wouldn't say it, I will: He was playing on Friday night like a man that wanted to send a message. Porter finished the night with only one assist, but he created multiple odd-man rushes, played physical on both ends of the ice and simply ran the Crunch out of the building.
As somewhat of a surprise, Porter passed through waivers and was re-assigned to Rochester, where he's played all season.
“I'm down here and I want to focus on this team,” the Amerks' captain said. “We have to win and this team wants to make the playoffs and I want to be a part of that.”
They'll have a lot better chance at making the playoffs now that Porter cleared waivers and returned to Rochester.
David Leggio may have made the save of the year on Friday night. After an odd-man rush, Brayden McNabb lost track of one of the Crunch's forwards, who snuck behind him and was standing wide open in front of the net. Leggio was on the right side of the net, but had to make a full-on dive to his left across to stop the one-timer.
Leggio's been a rock – much as he was last season when he was awarded team MVP. He's now 19-12-1 with a .913 save percentage and has started 32 of the team's 38 games.
The Amerks' goalie talked at length about how the NHL lockout affected the AHL and about going forward now with the NHL underway.
“We lost some big pieces, but it was an opportunity for everyone around the league to show that they can play. The first-year guys, I think it was a good learning experience. The league was obviously better and there was more competition. There was more pressure to perform, not only just wins and losses but just to get playing time. Obviously our lineup has changed, but I think we have it here and have confidence in us.”
He won't say it, but his strong performances versus some of the young NHL talent during the lockout certainly said something about his skill level.
Luke Adam – made a beautiful play splitting two defenseman to set up a Brian Flynn tap-in goal. Adam is much, much, much more comfortable now that he's back at center.
Phil Varone - scored two points. He started slow last year. Maybe now that he's back to the top lines and power play time, his scoring will take off
Brayden McNabb – Didn't play a perfect game, but was performing closer to last season's level.
Jerome Gauthier-Leduc – Was a healthy scratch. Growing pains is all, it seems.
Drew Schiestel – Deserves a ton of credit for his performance Friday. He played a solid all-around game despite seeing very little ice time on defense this year. He's had a tough go this year, but has a chance to turn it around in the second half. He certainly is deserving of that chance.
Evan Rankin – Scored an Evan Rankin-type goal. He went hard to the net, knocked in a dirty goal and got knocked down. The Amerks will need him to step up down the stretch. Expect it. He's an all-in effort player.
Alex Biega – Deserves the most underrated award for the first half of the season. Has been solid all year but goes under the radar.
Mark Mancari – Continued to score. He knocked in his 11th goal of the year and has 31 points in 39 games. Exactly what the Amerks expected.
Brian Flynn – His right-place-right-time act is starting to look like more than a coincidence. He goes to the net and has finished well. He has 13 goals and 27 points so far this season.