0

Thrashers head to Traverse City tourney
Training camp to follow on Sept. 20

Myles Stoesz is returning to the scene of the accident.

Stoesz is one of 22 Atlanta Thrashers' prospects playing in this week's Traverse City tournament - the same place he got his teeth knocked out 12 months ago.

Stoesz spent last year with the Thrashers' ECHL affiliate in Gwinnett and went through his rookie season minus three and a half bottom teeth because of a high stick at the annual NHL prospect development tournament.

"I was backchecking and I went to lift up the forward's stick," Stoesz said. "My defenseman went to do the same thing. He missed and smoked me."

Stoesz said he doesn't even remember which defenseman was the culprit.

"It didn't hurt at the time, but once the adrenaline or whatever wore off, it was the worst pain I've ever felt," Stoesz said.

That coming from a guy who racked up nearly 300 penalty minutes last season - a great deal of them fighting.

Stoesz still hasn't gotten the teeth fixed. He was supposed to when he was here in July for the Thrashers' prospect camp, but said the dentist couldn't get the new ones ready in time. He's hoping to have them done when Atlanta's main training camp starts on Sept. 20. The upside is another errant stick in Traverse City isn't a huge worry now.

Stoesz drove from his home in Steinbach, Manitoba, to Chicago on Wednesday. He did the 13-hour trip all at once and was scheduled to fly to Detroit on Thursday night with a couple of other players, including defenseman Chad Denny.

"I like it because it gets you in game shape," Stoesz said of the tournament - his fourth as an Atlanta draftee. "It's tough when it's just practices because where I showcase my type of skill is in games. In practice, when it's one-on-ones, that's not my strong point.

"It's fun and with eight teams, you get to see all the top draft picks."

Atlanta begins play today at 3 p.m. against Tampa Bay. The tournament runs through Wednesday with the championship game at 6 p.m.

Each team is allowed a maximum of four players with one year of professional experience. Stoesz, Denny, Tomas Pospisil and Grant Lewis are the Thrashers' four. All but Lewis spent at least part of the 2007-08 season in Gwinnett.

The roster also features 2008 top pick defenseman Zach Bogosian - the No. 3 overall selection - and Pittsburgh's first-rounder Angelo Esposito, who was acquired in a trade.

Newly appointed Chicago Wolves head coach Don Granato and Gwinnett Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle will be behind the Thrashers' bench.

Like many other players on the roster, this is the first interaction between Stoesz and Granato.

"This year, I think for me, it's going to be a good tune-up," Stoesz said. "But my goals are not necessarily to go and fight 10 times. I want to show I can play the game and I'm smart. I want to show the coaches I can play and play at a higher level.

"It's a tryout in a way for Chicago, too, because it's the first time those coaches will see me."

At the end of the tournament, players will be selected for Atlanta's training camp, which begins on-ice workouts Sept. 20 at the Ice Forum in Duluth.

Stoesz said players are still getting their feet under them for the first couple of games and then things really heat up.

"Everybody's fighting for a spot," Stoesz said. "They get pretty intense."

Hopefully, though, not to the tune of severe dental damage this time.

SideBar: Hockey

Thrashers' Traverse City tournament game schedule:

Saturday: vs. Tampa Bay, 3 p.m.

Sunday: vs. NY Rangers, 2:30 p.m.

Tuesday: vs. Detroit, 7 p.m.

Wednesday:

· Seventh-place game, 2 p.m.

· Fifth-place game, 2:30 p.m.

· Third-place game, 6 p.m.

· Championship game, 6:30 p.m.