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Colorado's Loss is Albany's Gain

By Phil Janack

Schenectady Daily Gazette, October 4, 2006

ALBANY - All of the faces to pull on Albany River Rats sweaters will be new this season, except one.

Troy native and former Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute star forward Matt Murley was assigned to the Rats on Tuesday by the Colorado Avalanche.

Murley, a left wing, and defenseman Jeff Finger were the last two cuts from Colorado 's training camp. Both players were traveling Tuesday, and are expected to join the Rats for practice today in Albany.

The Avs open the regular season at home tonight against the Dallas Stars.

"I'm excited for us, as a team, that he's coming," Rats coach-GM Tom Rowe said Tuesday following the club's annual media day. "For him, it'll be a lot of fun playing in front of family and friends, and I think he'll get some enjoyment out of that."

"I'm sure it'll all work out. He'll provide a ton of leadership. I've never heard a bad thing about him from anybody."

Murley, who turns 27 Dec. 17, signed with Colorado this summer after four seasons in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, which drafted him 51st overall in 1999.

As an unrestricted free agent, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Murley was courted by several teams this summer, including the Carolina Hurricanes, Albany's new AHL affiliate. The Avs are Carolina's developmental partner.

"We tried to sign him, too," Rowe said. "He's a player that both organizations like a lot. I love the fact that he's a good, solid, two-way guy, a grinding forward, but very patient with the puck."

"He's not a guy that's going to panic, and not a guy that's going to make the first play that he sees. He's got a lot of poise with the puck. He'll be a real good shut-down for- ward for us, and also pick up his share of points."

Murley played in four of Colorado's six preseason games, going scoreless and plus-1 with 11 shots and no penalty minutes. The Avs finished their exhibition schedule with a 5-1 record.

Earning a spot with Colorado up front were highly regarded rookie forwards Paul Stasny and Wojtek Wolski and veteran left wing Mark Rycroft.

"He just seems like a real solid winger, up and down. He doesn't look too flashy or fancy, but he has some good speed," Rats assistant coach Joe Sacco said. Sacco is the Avs' representative in Albany, and attended the early part of training camp.

"He plays a good north-south game, and he's very good along the walls. I thought he did a good job as far as getting pucks in and out of the zones," Sacco said. "He's played in the NHL for a bit, and you can tell that's rubbed off on him."

Murley played 41 games in mostly a checking role for Pittsburgh last season, scoring a goal and five assists. He injured his left shoulder in a fight with Philadelphia's Ben Eager in late December, and both his effectiveness and ice time suffered.

In February, Murley had surgery to repair a torn labrum, ending his season.

Murley played 59 NHL games for Pittsburgh, with two goals and six assists. He played full AHL seasons with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2002-03 and 2004-05, the latter during the NHL lockout.

In the AHL, Murley is 48-87-135 in 216 games. He reached the Calder Cup finals in 2004, and represented the Penguins at the 2004 all-star game in Grand Rapids, Mich.

From 1998-2002, Murley played Division I hockey for his hometown team at RPI, finishing his career ranked 11 th in school history with 175 points (74-101) in 137 games.

"Him being a local guy, that's going to be kind of nice for him," Sacco said. "I'm sure he's probably not too excited about being sent down, but having said that, getting sent down to where he's from may make him somewhat happy, and that should, hopefully, reflect in his play."

"At least it's a situation where he can come down, get some good ice time and, hopefully, get a chance to get back up to Colorado. We're excited to have him. He's a great kid."

NOTEBOOK

Finger, who played for Rowe last season in Lowell, led Colorado with 25 penalty minutes in three preseason games, adding one goal on two shots. ...

Carolina also made its last cut of camp, sending left wing Ryan Bayda to Albany. Bayda played in three of the Hurricanes' five preseason games, with one goal and two assists. ...

Rowe said he expects to name a captain and alternates either today or Thursday. ...

Albany opens its 14th AHL season at Rochester Friday night.