AHL Update: IceHogs' Kearns Adds Scoring Punch To Work Ethic
Thursday, 12.31.2009 / 9:37 AM CT / News
That would be pointless. Every team values the grinding effort a player like him brings to the rink, and it's made him a popular guy wherever he's gone. He just figures it's time to show his game can pop out of that mold in a variety of different shapes.
Like that of a scorer, for instance.
Kearns' 23 points (7-16) in 36 games are just three shy of his AHL career high, established with Milwaukee in 2006-07. That sort of ability was always there, he insisted, but it just took a back seat to establishing his nuts-and-bolts value first.
"Offense has always excited me about the sport. You are kind of put into a role. It's hard to break the mold people have of you," he said. "I was looked at as a meat-and-potatoes guy. Here, I'm looked at the same way, with a little offensive potential. I think I have a bit of an offensive upside, and I think I can prove that this year."
The IceHogs were an easy sell. Kearns, 28, spent the past two years as a fan favorite in Norfolk. When he hit the free-agent market last summer, Rockford was at the front of the line with a quick show of interest. The IceHogs backed up their courting words by giving Kearns unprecedented power play time and by dropping him on the middle of a line that includes finishers Jack Skille and Kyle Greentree.
"There's not a ton of pressure on that (checking line) type of guy. I feel there's more pressure on me this year to produce points. That's the kind of pressure you want," he said. "It's nice to play with goal-scorers because when you give them the puck they can do exciting things. As time goes on, you realize I deserve to be with these guys. I tell myself, you got here with hard work. That can't change."
Kearns' emergence as a scorer has created an interesting twist in his relationship with his father, Dennis. Dennis was a defenseman who played 677 games in the NHL, all with Vancouver.
Dennis, now something of a backseat driver, has been known to implore his son to shoot more. That's fine, Bracken says, before pointing out to his dad that his four best offensive seasons (5-46 in 1975-76, 5-55 in 1976-77, 4-43 in 1977-78 and 3-31 in 1978-79) were all predicated on giving up the biscuit to set up his teammates.
"He's a bit of a hypocrite in that sense," Bracken joked. "I know what he's talking about. But I'm a little stubborn, like he is. No matter what he tells me, there's still a good chance I'm going to pass the puck rather than shoot."
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Author: Lindsay Kramer | NHL.com Correspondent