2007-08 News

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Damon coming back to Blades; Goalie Peters sent down from Albany

Naples Daily News

Florida Everblades forward Derek Damon, a rookie in 2006-07, will return to the team this year, he confirmed on Thursday by phone from Bridgeport, Conn. Meanwhile, Justin Peters, from the Carolina Hurricanes organization, was sent down to the Blades on Wednesday by the Albany (N.Y.) River Rats.

Damon, 26, will re-sign with the Blades after a long battle for a roster spot in the NHL or AHL. He first excelled at the New York Islanders NHL training camp, scoring two goals and three assists. Then, he was sent down to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL affiliate to the Islanders) camp, where he had hoped to earn an AHL spot.

It came down to the final cuts, but ultimately Damon was told the team didn't have a spot for him. The Blades had given Damon a qualifying offer to sign back in July, meaning the team had retained his rights and guaranteeing that he'd be a Blade if he did not sign in the AHL.

The 6-foot, 195-pound forward was clearly disappointed not to make the AHL roster after playing what he called some of his best hockey at the training camps.

Damon said that Bridgeport coach Jack Capuano and general manager Garth Snow told him that if he was not the first call-up to the Tigers this season, he'd be the second.

"Hopefully I'll get a chance to go back up there and earn a spot," Damon said. "Right now, my focus is to do whatever I can to help the Blades win a Kelly Cup. Florida is my team now."

Damon was written up on several Islander blogs as having made a positive impact at camp there, and he said Islanders coach Ted Nolan told him that by the last day of camp, Damon was one of the best, if not the best, player on the ice.

"That was with NHL guys out there, too," Damon said.

For the Blades last year, Damon had 20 goals and 28 assists in 56 regular season games, adding five goals and two assists in 16 Kelly Cup playoff games. Prior to his pro career, Damon played four years at the University of Maine, where he scored 35 points in 40 games as a senior, helping lead Maine to college hockey's Frozen Four. The Bangor, Me., native followed that up with three games on the AHL's Lowell Lock Monsters.

Despite being denied a roster spot in the AHL this season, Damon remains determined to someday reach the NHL.

"I am going to do whatever I can to meet that goal," he said. "It's tough to hear (you're being cut) when you feel you belong (in the AHL), but things like this happen I guess. It's how you respond in these type of situations that matters, and I plan to go to Florida and make an impact. I love Florida; I love the weather, the fans ... I just can't wait to get back on the ice."

NEW GOALIE IN TOWN: The Florida Everblades' goalie question has a partial answer: Justin Peters, from the Carolina Hurricanes organization, was sent down to the Blades on Wednesday by the Albany (N.Y.) River Rats (AHL). Former Blade Kevin Nastiuk will be the backup goalkeeper in Albany.

Peters is on a two-way contract with the Hurricanes, meaning he can play for the Canes, the River Rats or the Blades.

Peters just turned 21 at the end of August, and he was a second-round pick by the Canes in the 2004 NHL Draft. He played 34 games in Albany last season, going 10-18 with a .886 saves percentage.

In one game with the Blades last season, Peters struggled. He allowed six goals with a .786 saves percentage. But on Wednesday after deciding to send Peters down, Albany coach Tom Rowe had positive things to say about the 6-foot-1, 213-pound netminder.

"As disappointed as Justin was at being sent to Florida," Rowe told the Albany (N.Y.) Times-Union, "we felt for his development we didn't want him sitting on the bench again and not getting a whole lot of playing time. The point of him going down was making sure he played and played a lot so we could get him developed."

"He's probably the most athletic guy we have -- and that's counting (NHL goalies) Cam Ward and John Grahame -- in the organization. He's a physical specimen. He's young."

Peters, an Ontario native, played for the Plymouth Whalers for a year (2005-06) after being drafted. Blades general manager Craig Brush, along with Canes owner Peter Karmanos and Bonita Springs resident Thomas Thewes, owns the Whalers.

Peters was 19-15 with a .921 saves percentage for the Whalers. He was 19 at the time.

The Blades are still expecting to get another goalie from their other NHL affiliate, the Florida Panthers. This weekend, the Panthers' AHL affiliate (the Rochester Americans) are expected to decide whether to send down former Blade David Shantz or 20-year-old rookie Tyler Plante.

McDONALD NOT OFFICIALLY RETIRED: Former Blade Brent McDonald and the team wanted to clarify that he is not necessarily retired, just that he's definitely taking this year off because of the birth of his child and his new business. McDonald made the announcement last week.

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