After arriving in Anchorage about 1 a.m. Thursday after flights from Orlando and Phoenix, Alexandre Imbeault was treated to a truly soft landing at the Alaska Aces' practice nine hours later.
His new linemates are NHLers Brandon Dubinsky and Nate Thompson.
"At first you're like, really?'' Imbeault said with a laugh. "I have to make sure I play my game. Obviously, it's a little intimidating playing with two NHLers.
"They've been good to me, told me to just play my game.''
Imbeault, the once and current Ace acquired in a trade with the Orlando Solar Bears, was one of two new Aces skating in the ECHL team's practice before opening a three-game home series with the San Francisco Bulls.
Also on the ice was defenseman Alain Goulet, who Aces coach Rob Murray signed to bolster his injury-riddled blue line. Goulet, who split last season between ECHL Bakersfield and Cincinnati, and who like Imbeault previously played for Murray with Providence of the American Hockey League, arrived on the same flight as Imbeault.
Goulet's itinerary was a bit more taxing -- Sudbury, Ontario, to Toronto to Newark to Phoenix to Anchorage, and all that starting with a flight at 5:45 a.m. ADT. He's just happy to have a hockey home after being released by ECHL Utah in training camp, and happy to play for a coach he knows.
"It makes it a lot easier,'' Goulet said. "I know what I'm getting into.''
Imbeault knows some faces besides Murray. He last played for the Aces in 2009-10, when current Aces center Nick Mazzolini was a rookie. In Providence, he played with Thompson and current Aces defenseman Sean Curry. Also, Aces assistant coach Scott Burt was captain when Imbeault was last an Ace, current assistant coach Louis Mass was in that post and equipment manager Mike Burkhead was in his job.
Imbeault said when he left a Slovenian team in the Austrian league early this season, his choices for a new team came down to the Aces and Orlando, which included two of his best friends, former Aces blueliner Derick Martin and forward Thomas Beauregard. Beauregard, ironically, was traded to San Francisco, the Aces' opponent this week.
After playing just four games for Orlando, though, Imbeault is an Ace again.
"I made a little detour,'' he said.
With Imbeault and Goulet in the fold, Murray said he feels better about his roster, which features five injured defensemen, an injured forward and an injured goalie.
"I'm comfortable,'' Murray said. "When your depleted in one area, you just have to forge ahead.
"I think we've upgraded from where we were on Sunday, with (defensemen Steve) Ward, (Kane) Lafranchise and (Corey) Syvret out.''
With Thompson centering Dubinsky on the left wing and Imbeault on the right, the Aces on Thursday practiced with a second line of Mazzolini centering veteran left wing Matt Robinson and NHL right wing Joey Crabb. Bobby Hughes centered the third line between Tommy Mele and Garry Nunn.
That means either Jordan Kremyr or Zach Harrison is likely to be the 10th forward Friday night.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Woody on Hockey
By DOYLE WOODY