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Lindsay Kramer | correspondent
Feb 1, 2007, 12:00 PM EST

Norfolk coach Mike Haviland had two observations upon welcoming right wing Carl Corazzini to the team last season.

Corazzini was wearing his baseball cap backwards. We don’t do that here, Haviland said. Oh, and one other thing. Haviland told Corazzini, primarily a checking-line type, that the Admirals needed him to become a second-line scorer.

Sure thing, Corazzini responded, before turning around his cap and then doing the same to his career.

The breakthrough season that Corazzini, 27, is enjoying this year continues one of the best AHL comeback stories of the past two seasons. He contemplated playing with the UHL’s Danbury Trashers early last season, and now dominates as one of the finishers (19-20) on the hottest team in the AHL.

“Definitely, I feel younger the last two years. In the past … I’ve been inconsistent with the way I’ve prepared for games. My practice habits were pretty poor,’’ he said. “You lose focus. I definitely attribute getting the chance to play more as the reason I’m excited to come to the rink.’’

A reluctance to pull himself away from that lifestyle last year was one reason why he almost wound up in Danbury. After splitting the 2004-05 lockout season between Hershey and Providence, Corazzini wanted to give the game one more full year before, in his mind, retiring.

Mo<“I was definitely prepared to spend the year there (in Danbury). Not happily,’’ Corazzini said. “I didn’t want to come off the lockout and not play one more year.’’
Early in 2005-06, Norfolk was looking for a little scoring depth. A former player put Admirals General Manager Al MacIsaac in touch with Corazzini. Haviland was on board, too, since he had coached him in the ECHL.

“We were pretty confident in that he was going to fit what we were looking for,’’ MacIsaac said.

“It had been so long since I was asked to be a scorer,’’ Corazzini said. “I was nervous and excited at the same time.’’

The speedy Corazzini should have been way more of the latter. His 55 points were more than double his previous pro high, and the effort earned him an NHL/AHL deal this season.

As an added perk, he’s gotten to play the sometimes-overlooked caddy to the team’s top line of Brandon Bochenski, Troy Brouwer and Martin St. Pierre.

“Those guys are so hot,’’ Corazzini said. “You definitely sneak in there. As much fun as it is watching them, it definitely helps me out as well.’’

Trading places -- A pair of struggling teams were forced to take a roll of the dice in an unusual AHL trade last week.

The Crunch sent forwards Joe Motzko and Mark Hartigan to Portland in exchange for forwards Zenon Konopka and Curtis Glencross. Hartigan and Konopka initially reported to parent clubs Anaheim and Columbus, respectively.

The swap was rare for a couple of reasons. First, all four players were major contributors to their teams. Konopka led the Pirates in scoring at the time of the trade, while Motzko and Hartigan were 1-2 with the Crunch. All the players were established in their respective communities.

Secondly, Motzko, with Columbus, and Glencross, with Anaheim, had recently come off successful stretches with their parent clubs, each scoring his first NHL marker.

And Hartigan had just rewritten Crunch history, taking over as the franchise’s all-time goals leader, at 107. Hartigan was third on the franchise’s all-time scoring list with 212 points, eight ahead of Motzko in fourth.

So what gives?

Well, from the Crunch’s perspective, Glencross and Konopka bring some much-needed grit to a finesse team. Both are under contract for next season, while Hartigan and Motzko could have become free agents.

The Pirates, meanwhile, were plugging along with one of the worst offenses in the AHL. If Hartigan eventually joins Motzko in the lineup, Portland will have added a pair of gamebreakers.

“All the guys in the trade … are certainly NHL prospects,’’ said Portland coach Kevin Dineen. “Guys see a fit in other organizations. That makes sense. Sometimes a change of scenery is what precipitates (improvement). It’s definitely four high-quality players who are being switched around.’’

Monsters coming to the AHL -- Cleveland’s new AHL franchise, which will debut next season, has quickly leapt to the front of the line of the league’s coolest logos.

The franchise announced last week that it will be called the Lake Erie Monsters. The logo features a menacing creature’s head rising out of the water, with a piercing yellow glare. Primary team colors will be wine, blue, yellow and black. The rest of the monster is not shown, cannily leaving it to fans’ imaginations.

“We wanted to look at something from a regional perspective,’’ said Monsters COO Randy Domain. “We are very proud of the city of Cleveland. But we wanted to create something for the region.’’

The Monsters tie-in plays off the legend of a snakelike creature of Lake Erie, also known as "South Bay Bessie." The team will be the affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche.

Norfolk up for grabs -- The Chicago Blackhawks have announced themselves as a potential lame duck affiliate in Norfolk.

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