Eric Boulton said it’s been fun the past couple of months practicing with the Sound Tigers, working out with them. Tonight, he finally gets to play with them.
“It’s been a long time,” Boulton said. “Hopefully I can get my legs.”
Boulton said he’s been used to being in and out of the lineup, but it felt like the longest he’d gone practicing without playing. “It’s being mentally ready,” Boulton said. “Physically, I’m not in game shape, I’m in practice shape. The coaches have definitely helped me prepare.”
Brent Thompson said he seems to be ready. “His conditioning is kind of up where it should be,” Thompson said. “He’s another voice in the locker room that has that leadership. That’s good for Josh (Ho-Sang, also returning tonight) and the young guys to have that voice on the bench. The leaders are going to be the ones to pull us out of this.”
It’ll be Boulton’s first game since April 10. He’ll be playing at 40 years, 133 days; Mike Sillinger was 37 years, 5 months old when he played his last Bridgeport rehab game on Nov. 29, 2008, at Worcester. (Mark Wotton played his last game less than a month younger than that, at least if his NHL.com birthdate is correct; it’s listed differently, and would actually make him older than Sillinger, in some places.) You can go on and on with Boulton fun facts: Alan pointed out this morning that Michael Dal Colle was an infant when Boulton debuted in 1996. If Alexei Kovalev hasn’t activated himself again in Switzerland, pretty sure Boulton’s the last active Binghamton Ranger. His teammates there, the year before the team moved to Hartford, included Hamden legend Todd Hall, Eric Cairns, Ken Gernander, Cap’n Eddie Campbell and the Ferraro twins. He spent the lockout year in the Coast with Johnny Longo, the former Fairfield Prep standout. He played junior hockey with the likes of Brendan Yarema, David Nemirovsky, Alan Letang, Marc Savard.
Why tonight? “We’d planned to do it after the Christmas break,” Thompson said. “No particular reason.” Does it have anything to do with having a deterrent around on a night when you wonder if Springfield wants a piece of Connor Jones, after he knocked out a top T-Birds’ prospect when the teams last met? “No particular reason,” Thompson said again. I think there was a smile with it.
Ho-Sang and Carter Verhaeghe are also back in tonight; Andrew Rowe (who was on for warmup), Colin Markison and Ross Johnston are out. The defense, after some light switching-up yesterday, returned to Monday’s pairs, with Kyle Burroughs expected back from his family matter Friday. Stephon Williams starts, and we think we mean it this time.
Reto Berra is sick for the Thunderbirds — Williams the other night, Henrik Lundqvist, Magnus Hellberg: It’s epidemic! — so Sam Brittain backs up Mike McKenna. They got Mackenzie Weegar back for the first time in a month last night; Brent Regner returns tonight after missing the same number of games Weegar did. Former Sound Tigers Anthony Greco and Joey Diamond both in the lineup for Springfield.
F: Verhaeghe-Kearns (A)-Bernier
Dal Colle-St. Denis-Fritz
K.Jones – C.Jones – Ho-Sang
D: Cullity-Mayfield (A)
Horvat (A)-McCann -Greco
D: Downing-Regner (C)
R: South. L: Nagy, E.Ernst.
Bridgeport scratches (believed healthy unless noted): Gibson (lower body), Burroughs (personal), Graham, Leduc, Johnston, Markison, apparently Rowe, Winquist (lower body).