BRIDGEPORT -- While the NHL lockout pushed more big-name players into the AHL, it meant more competition for the same number of spots.
And some days it wasn't even competition, just waiting for a turn. Mike Halmo saw it earlier in the Bridgeport Sound Tigers' season.
"It was really difficult," coach Scott Pellerin said. "We had conversations: There were times he wasn't playing, and he did nothing wrong; it was just a numbers situation."
Halmo drew back into the lineup on Jan. 13, the day after the New York Islanders called up three forwards, after sitting for five games.
He hasn't been out since, and he's spent the three games since the all-star break on a line with Brock Nelson and Nino Niederreiter, Bridgeport's top two scorers.
"They're good guys," said Halmo, a 21-year-old rookie.
"They're positive. They're always looking for opportunities. I've got to make the most of it."
Halmo picked up an assist Saturday, his seventh point in 26 games, when Niederreiter deflected in his shot in a win over Norfolk. Halmo had worked hard to get the puck to a good position and got a good shot off after his pass attempt was blocked.
"He's strong on the puck. He's been physical the last couple of games," Pellerin said.
Both Pellerin and Halmo see a player more adjusted to the pro speed and the pro style, a more confident player now than earlier in the season, when he was in and out of the lineup.
"It's frustrating at times," Halmo said, "but you've got to stay positive, work hard, stay after and work harder."
That, Pellerin said, Halmo did.
"It's very difficult talking to a young player and telling him `be patient,'" Pellerin said.
Bridgeport's new line combinations stayed mostly constant last weekend and into this week.
Brandon DeFazio's one-game suspension temporarily breaks up a line with Scott Campbell and Blair Riley that has been together for about three weeks. Greenwich's Sean Backman filled DeFazio's spot Thursday at practice at the Wonderland of Ice.
Each line was fairly effective in a 2-0-0-1 weekend.
"Every day, you've got to be prepared," Pellerin said. "You could be on that line today and off tomorrow."
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