WINNIPEG – Kevin Clark seems to be shaking off some of the rust from a long layoff.
Clark had a goal and two assists as the Manitoba Moose downed the Toronto Marlies 4-1 in American Hockey League action Tuesday night.
Clark returned Jan. 3 after missing 14 games with a shoulder injury. He had only one assist in six games since his return before breaking out of his slump.
Clark credited linemates Marco Rosa and Bill Sweatt with helping him get back on track.
“I was struggling when I got back from injury,” Clark said.“It’s pretty easy playing with the two guys I play with and tonight we got some bounces that went our way.”
The game in front of 6,264 fans at the MTS Centre marked the halfway point of the American Hockey League season for the Moose (23-12-5, 51 points), who have won seven of their last 10 games.
The Marlies (20-17-7, 47 points) have just three victories in their last 10 outings.
Manitoba is two points behind the North Division-leading Hamilton Bulldogs, who defeated Rochester 7-0 on Tuesday night. Toronto is third.
It was the first of eight meetings this season between Manitoba and Toronto, which play again Wednesday night.
“It’s tight, but it doesn’t matter where you’re at in the division, you prepare your team to go win every game,” Marlies coach Dallas Eakins said.
Mario Bliznak, Sweatt and Shawn Weller also scored for Manitoba.
Defenceman Josh Engel replied for Toronto.
“I didn’t think we played horribly, but I didn’t think we played our greatest game either,” Eakins said. “We had a couple bad bounces in front of the net that cost us, and then we couldn’t capitalize on a couple bounces the other way.”
The Moose opened the scoring on the power play before 6,264 fans at MTS Centre. With Engel off for high-sticking, Bliznak swatted the puck a couple times before it squeaked through James Reimer’s pads at 13:03 of the first.
Manitoba made it 2-0 with just under two minutes left in the first when Sweatt took a pass across the net from Clark and recorded his ninth goal of the season.
Clark, who also assisted on Bliznak’s goal, got one himself at 1:36 of the second to make it 3-0. It was his sixth goal and 11th point of the season.
Engel scored his eighth goal of the season at 7:12 of the third with a high shot that broke Tyler Weiman’s shutout bid.
Weller scored into the empty net with just under four minutes remaining to make it 4-1.
Manitoba head coach Claude Noel said Weiman (9-4-2) will start Wednesday instead of Swedish rookie Eddie Lack (14-9-2), who was the AHL goaltender of the month for December.
“We’re going to give him the start again tomorrow and allow him to get some rhythm and get him going,” Noel said. “He deserves it. He’s played well, he’s kept a good attitude and it’s a luxury to have two goalies that play well like this.”
Notes:Manitoba was without leading scorer Sergei Shirokov (33 points), who was called up by the Vancouver Canucks this week. Shirokov was on a club-record 12-game points streak. He scored his first NHL goal in Vancouver’s 4-3 loss to Colorado later Tuesday.