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This article is copyright 2007 by the Naples Daily News and is used for informational purposes only.

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Blades set to open up training camp on Monday morning

By ANGELA BUSCH
Naples Daily News

Florida Everblades training camp starts Monday at Germain Arena, and it's the first chance for fans to get a look at the 2007-08 version of the Blades, who will play exhibition games this Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 at Germain Arena against the Central Hockey League's Mississippi RiverKings.

The Blades are coming off an American Conference Finals appearance last season, where they fell just short of their third Kelly Cup Finals in four years, losing to the Dayton (Ohio) Bombers in Game 7 at Germain Arena on May 17. The Blades have made the playoffs in each of their past nine seasons, but they'll have to do it this year with a much younger and slightly less experienced team.

Veteran stalwarts Reggie Berg and Brent McDonald announced this past summer that they wouldn't be coming back, and last year's captain Ryan Brindley is expected to announce Monday whether he'll return for another season. The Blades also lost top goal scorers Vince Bellissimo and Dustin Johner to European teams.

Florida returns just eight players from last season. Coach Gerry Fleming, in his seventh season with the Blades, will miss Berg and McDonald, but he's confident the Blades' success will continue.

"We are going to be less experienced than in years past," Fleming said. "But you always need a blend of skill and grit, and I think we did a good job of getting that this year."

Among those bringing the grit will be newcomer Brad Herauf, who has collected 556 penalty minutes in just two ECHL seasons, both with the Utah Grizzles. The 24-year-old forward added 11 assists and 14 goals last season in 50 games. He struggled with a painful herniated disc in his back during the end of last season but expects to be at 100 percent this year after rehabbing over the summer.

Blades general manager Craig Brush is among those looking forward to seeing Herauf's impact on the ice.

"Brad is tough -- he'll fight when he has to, but he can play the game as well," Brush said. "He brings an element we didn't necessarily have before, and he'll play his game, and everybody else will play their games."

As for skill, one of the Blades most exciting acquisitions just officially joined the team this past weekend. Mathieu Melanson, 22, played half a season with the ECHL's Stockton Thunder last year, and the Blades were among several teams vying to trade for him. Eventually, the Blades made the deal last week, in exchange for financial and future considerations that have yet to be announced.

Melanson, the son of former NHL goalie Rollie Melanson, was nearly unstoppable for the Stockton Thunder last season, scoring 14 goals and adding 12 assists in just 17 regular-season games.

EVERBLADES TRAINING CAMP INFOBOX

WHAT: The Florida Everblades of the ECHL begin their 10th anniversary season this week
WHEN: All this week from 10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
WHERE: Germain Arena
ADMISSION: Free and open to the public

CAMP ROSTER

(Bold=returnee; Italics=rookie; *=veteran)

2 D Brandon Roach
4 D Steve Czech
7 F J.B. Bittner
9 D/F Ernie Hartlieb *
12 F Brad Zancanaro
16 F Grant Goeckner-Zoeller
17 F Brad Herauf
18 F Derek Damon
19 C Kyle McAllister
21 F Mathieu Melanson
22 D Martin Tuma
23 F Jonathan Lehun
24 D Brett Peterson
26 D Steve Ward
27 D Bret Nasby
37 C Jarret Lukin
60 G Justin Peters

Note: A goalie and possibly another player will be sent down this week from the Blades' NHL affiliates -- the Florida Panthers or the Carolina Hurricanes. The goalie will come from the Panthers' AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans, and could possibly be David Shantz, the Blades' backup goalie in '06-07. The Blades have also invited two players to try-out this week at training camp, but those names have not yet been released.

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