EVERETT — Every time the Everett Silvertips kill off a penalty at Comcast Arena, public address announcer Greg Piland belts out: “The Everett Silvertips are back at fuuuuuulllll strength!”
But technically speaking, that hasn’t been the case for the Tips so far during the 2008-09 season. At least not until now.
With star winger Kyle Beach scheduled back in town today and expected to be in the lineup Friday against Seattle, Everett coach John Becanic will have his full deck to choose from for the first time this season.
“I’m anxious to see where we’re at, what holes we need to fill,” Becanic said. “I’d like to see how much closer we are to those upper-echelon teams with Beach in the lineup.”
Beach was Everett’s disappearing card over the first three weeks of the season. He was gone nearly a month while attending training camp with the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, who used the 11th-overall pick in this year’s NHL draft to acquire the 18-year-old Beach. As a result, the Tips played their first six games minus their top offensive threat.
But with Beach available, the Tips get their first glimpse this weekend of the team they’re supposed to be this season.
“I think it’s important to have Kyle back to see what we have,” Everett general manager Doug Soetaert said. “Once everybody’s in their right position and getting the right amount of ice time, then you can really analyze where your team is. I think we’ve had some players playing out of position because of people who weren’t here. But now people are in the right slots, the right positions and it becomes more of a balanced hockey club.”
A youthful Everett team went 2-3-1-0 without Beach. Both victories came against struggling teams. Two of the losses were by one goal, the other two were lost by a combined score of 9-0 against top-tier opponents.
Being back at full strength gives Everett the opportunity to alter that equation, although the Tips will need time for chemistry to develop between players.
“Beach has never even met (trade acquisitions Daniel) Bartek or (Shayne) Brown before,” Becanic said. “So I’m looking forward to seeing how guys play together in certain combinations. All we’ve been able to do is write it down on paper as a wish list type of thing. Now that the guys are here and relatively healthy, it’ll be nice seeing certain combinations we had in our big picture when we made those trades.”
Having a full roster to choose from also gives Becanic an extra motivational tool.
“You always want a little bit of leverage,” Becanic explained. “When guys have off games or aren’t competing hard, you’d like to be able to pull them out of the lineup, or at least have the threat of pulling them out of the lineup. With our forwards, we really haven’t had that since training camp.”
Of course, when it comes to Beach, it’s open to interpretation just which card in Everett’s deck had been missing: an ace or the joker. Beach has the ability to carry the team on his shoulders, as he did at times early last season. He also specializes in the type of antics that leave him watching from the penalty box on a regular basis.
Because of Beach’s dual nature, the Tips aren’t certain just how much better they’ll be with him back in the lineup.
“I guess it depends on which Kyle Beach shows up,” Becanic said. “I think that if Kyle comes back focused and ready to compete and stay out of the penalty box, we can be very good. He is one of the premier players in major junior hockey when he wants to be.”
And the Tips are expecting Beach to be a needed difference maker.
“We expect Kyle Beach to dominate at this level,” Soetaert said. “We expect him to be a leader on the ice and off the ice. We expect him to score goals, we expect him to play physical, we expect him to play smart this year.”
With Beach back in the fold, Everett has 26 players on its roster — 15 forwards, nine defensemen and two goaltenders. That leaves six players in the stands each game, more than teams generally like, and teams are required to set their rosters at 25 by the Jan. 10 trade deadline.
“We have one extra player and we’ll do something here very shortly,” Soetaert said.
Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog: http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog