SOUND TIGERS Fritz returns to Sound Tigers off NHL stint
BRIDGEPORT — After playing the second half of last season in the NHL, Tanner Fritz said he changed a few things about his approach to summer.
“I took a little bit more time off. Other summers, I went right back at it,” Fritz said. “I lifted a little heavier than previous summers. I worked at it, focused most on training. ... I skated a little earlier.”
The New York Islanders kept him out of training camp, too, to begin this year. But with Andrew Ladd seeming close to a return from injury as they head on the road, they sent Fritz down to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Thursday.
It looked as if he’d be at center on Saturday afternoon when Bridgeport plays its home opener against Rochester at Webster Bank Arena.
“It’s the same (Bridgeport) coaching staff that gave me a great opportunity and the reason why I made my NHL debut last year,” Fritz said. “There are a lot of familiar faces. We get along great here. I wouldn’t change it for the world, the organization I’m in. They gave me an opportunity.
“I’m not happy to be down here, but I am,” he added. “I know the staff. I know the organization.”
Fritz has worked his way up the ladder, a tough path. He started with Bridgeport’s then-ECHL affiliate in Kansas City in 2015, earned a tryout with Bridgeport later that season and an AHL deal for 2016-17 at the end of the year, then an NHL contract for 2017-18. He got the call up to the Islanders at midseason.
“(Fritz is) a high-energy guy who can skate well, has that scoring threat anytime he’s on the ice, a utility guy that can play in defensive situations,” Brent Thompson said; Bridgeport’s coach has used the “utility” label often on Fritz, who can play center or wing, penalty kill or power play, in defensive or offensive roles.
“We’re obviously here to make him better, and he makes our team a better, stronger team.”
Fritz was the Sound Tigers’ top-line centerman for most of his time here last year and scored 38 points in 35 AHL games. He played another 34 with the Islanders and the first two of this season, and he said he took a lot out of that time in the Show.
“I think it’s learning day-to-day what it’s like to be a pro,” Fritz said, “how to take care of your body and do all the little things to make sure you’re prepared.
“It’s a long season. You’ll go through highs and lows. The big thing is to stay on an even keel throughout the year.”
Thompson said he thought Fritz played a reliable game through training camp.
“He has to continue to work on his strength. NHL strength is such a huge difference between American League strength. Guys are bigger, heavier, really faster,” Thompson said.
“He looked good in camp. It’s not for me to dictate. I’m excited about having him here. That’s my focus, have him be the best he can possibly be.”
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