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River Rats Fill Last Two Holes


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River Rats fill last two holes

By MATT GRAVES, Staff writer

First published: Thursday, October 10, 2002

DELMAR -- The final two pieces of the puzzle for the 2002-03 Albany River Rats were put in place Wednesday when defenseman Tommy Albelin and forward Christian Berglund joined the club at B.I.G. Arena.

Albelin becomes the senior member of the Rats at age 38, while the 22-year-old Berglund brings back the youthful enthusiasm he displayed as a rookie last season when his play earned him a job in New Jersey.

Albelin gives the already experienced defensive corps of the new River Rats its most seasoned blueliner as the Rats prepare for their AHL season opener on Friday at Rochester.

Albelin has played in 834 regular-season games in the NHL, more than half of them with the Devils. The Swedish native has appeared in 59 playoff games.

"Of course you're disappointed," said Albelin, who became the odd man out in New Jersey when new coach Pat Burns decided to go with seven defensemen and 14 forwards. "You always want to be in the NHL, but if that's not the case, you have to make the best of the situation and hope to get back up there. I don't think it does any good to pout and not be happy to come down here."

Albelin joins veterans Ken Sutton, Mike Matteucci and Ray Giroux to give the Rats one of their best defensive corps in several years. Defense is an area of attention since the Rats gave up 271 goals last year, more than any AHL team except Wilkes-Barre. The Rats were 26th of 27 in penalty-killing and last in the AHL in shots against.

"I'm gonna play as good as I can and help the people around me get better," Albelin said. "I think this is going to be a pretty good team."

Berglund was in a three-way battle for the final forward spot in Jersey with Steve Guolla, last year's top scorer in Albany, and Mike Danton (also known as Jefferson), who sat out last season after a promising rookie campaign.

"Of course, I thought I was going to have a spot with the Devils," said Berglund, also a native of Sweden, who adds instant offense to the Albany attack. "I'll do my best every day to get back. I have to show them that I'm not gonna let them down because of this."

Rats coach Dennis Gendron says he couldn't be happier to get the Swedish duo, adding to the air of optimism already pervading the locker room.

"It's very good for us," he said. "Christian is a fine young hockey player and a great human being. Tommy Albelin I've known for 10 years, and he's a consummate professional, a gentleman in the truest sense of the word -- and most importantly a terrific hockey player. We're really excited to have these guys here."

Berglund, who scored 47 points in 60 games last year as a rookie, practiced on a line with Mike Rupp and rookie Eric Johansson. Gendron said he's not certain what players Berglund will play with Friday when the team plays its first game, but he's just happy to have him.

"He's an energy kind of play," Gendron said. "He's the kind of guy that just wants to be better all the time. You don't have to push Christian Berglund. He's his own best coach, which is the way it ought to be."

The Rats have 25 players on the roster after Wednesday's transactions.

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