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Murley, Late Avs' Cut, Happy to Be Home

By Phil Janack

Schenectady Daily Gazette, October 6, 2006

ALBANY - Given the choice, Matt Murley would rather be in the National Hockey League.

Being at home is a nice consolation.

The Troy native arrived in town late Tuesday night, several hours after being assigned with defenseman Jeff Finger to the Albany River Rats by the Colorado Avalanche.

Though he didn't skate in Wednesday's 9 a.m. practice, Murley was at Pepsi Arena to drop off his gear and meet his new coaches and teammates.

He and Finger will be on the ice for today's 11 a.m. workout. The Rats will leave this afternoon for Rochester, where they open their 14th American Hockey League season Friday night.

"It's fun to be back here," Murley said. "Just driving around and being familiar with everything and be able to go to lunch with my brother or my dad or my mom, it's kind of cool."

Murley met briefly with Albany coach-GM Tom Rowe, who flew to Carolina Wednesday afternoon to receive his Stanley Cup ring as part of the festivities surrounding the Hurricanes' regular-season opener.

Assistant coach Joe Sacco, who is employed by Colorado, took the opportunity to speak with the Rats' newest players.

"Matt seems to be in pretty good spirits," Sacco said. "Obviously, he's excited to be coming back here and get the opportunity to play in front of his home crowd. Hopefully, that makes his transition a little smoother from being sent down.

"There's a period when you get sent down where you get discouraged, but they both seemed great this morning, which is a reflection of their character. Tom and I and the team are excited to have them here. They're going to be a big part of our club."

Courted by several teams as an unrestricted free agent, Murley signed a one-year deal with the Avs early this summer after four years in the Pittsburgh organization. He played 41 games for the Penguins last year, but had season-ending shoulder surgery in February.

"I went out there with a positive attitude, hoping to play well enough to make the team," Murley said, "but I knew realisically coming off the surgery that it would take a little time to get the rust off and get my timing back. I feel like I've done that now, and I'm ready to go."

A veteran of 59 NHL games, Murley was the last forward cut from the Avalanche camp.

"I've got to be happy that I made it that far," he said. "I'm coming here excited, to work on a few things and get better and get back up there.

"There were a lot of great players there, and I knew going in that it was going to be tough to make it right out of camp. I felt I got better as each day went on, and as the weeks went on, I felt I improved. I'm ready to get going, and have a good start to the season."

Murley has played 216 AHL games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, with 48 goals and 135 points. He starred for four years at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, netting 175 points in 137 games from 1998-2002.

"Obviously, everybody wants to be in the NHL, but if I have to be in the AHL, I'd rather be here than pretty much anywhere else. I love this area. I love being close to home. I think it's going to be pretty neat playing for a team that I grew up watching."

NOTEBOOK

The Hurricanes assigned goaltenders Craig Kowalski and Kevin Nastiuk to Florida ofthe ECHL, leaving rookie Justin Peters as the Hurricanes' half of Albany's net group. ...

Joining them is free-agent defenseman Chris Lee, who was invited to Rats camp on a tryout. Lee played the last two seasons with the Fort Myers-based Everblades after four years at Potsdam State. ...

Sacco said Boychuk is en route to Albany, and it remains unclear whether he'll be available for Friday's opener in Rochester. ...

The Rats' roster now stands at 27 players: two goalies, eight defensemen and 17 forwards.