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December 31, 2009

Former Admirals to be Prominent in NHL’s Winter Classic

NORFOLK, Va. – A look at the record books will show goaltender Michael Leighton and forward Shawn Thornton have played prominently in the history of the Norfolk Admirals hockey team. The National Hockey League’s Bridgestone Winter Classic outdoor hockey game at Boston’s historic Fenway Park tomorrow will also prominently feature both Leighton and Thornton.

Michael Leighton, the Admirals’ all-time leading goaltender in nearly every statistical category, will suit up for the Philadelphia Flyers and will likely get the starting assignment in the Winter Classic tomorrow. His former teammate Shawn Thornton, the Admirals’ all-time leader in penalty minutes and among the leaders in games played, will likely be shooting on Leighton as a member of the Boston Bruins.

Michael Leighton. Photo by Yvonne Paxson.Leighton recorded a 75-52-17 record in 147 games with the Admirals from 2001 – 2005. His 75 wins, 18 shutouts, 2.16 goals-against average and .919 save percentage are all AHL Admirals career records.

Leighton is coming off a shutout performance last night as he blanked the New York Rangers with 22 saves in a 6-0 Philadelphia victory at Madison Square Garden. The Flyers claimed Leighton off waivers from the Carolina Hurricanes on December 15. In 12 games this season between Philadelphia and Carolina, Leighton is 5-4-0 with a 3.13 goals-against average, .892 save percentage and one shutout.

Leighton, 28, is a 6-foot-3, 186-pound goaltender from Petrolia, Ontario, Canada in his ninth professional season. In his 81-game NHL career, he is 22-35-10 with four shutouts, a 3.01 goals-against average and .899 save percentage between the Flyers, Hurricanes, Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks. In 266 career American Hockey League games between the Admirals, Albany River Rats, Philadelphia Phantoms, Portland Pirates and Rochester Americans, Leighton was 128-105-25 with 29 shutouts, a 2.30 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage. He is a two-time AHL All-Star (Norfolk in 2002 and Albany in 2008).

Shawn Thornton. Photo by Yvonne Paxson.Thornton recorded 40 goals, 98 points and 1,198 penalty minutes in 314 games with the Admirals from 2001 – 2006. He is the AHL Admirals all-time penalty minutes leader and ranks fourth in games played and in the top 15 of goals, assists and points. His 795 career shots are also the most in AHL Admirals history.

Thornton has points in three of his last five games for the Bruins. He has one goal, seven points and 61 penalty minutes in 37 games for Boston this season. He ranks 27th in the NHL in penalty minutes.

Thornton, 32, is a 6-foot-2, 217-pound forward from Oshawa, Ontario, Canada in his 13th professional season. In 253 career NHL games between the Bruins, Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks, he has 15 goals and 37 points with 416 penalty minutes. Thornton appeared in his 250th career NHL game last Sunday at Florida. He won the 2007 Stanley Cup with Anaheim.

Thornton appeared in 605 career AHL games between the Admirals, Portland Pirates and St. John’s Maple Leafs, recording 61 goals, 161 points and 2,468 penalty minutes. Thornton ranks fourth all-time in penalty minutes in the 74-season history of the American Hockey League.

The Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will take place tomorrow (Friday, January 1) at 1:00 p.m. from Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The game will be broadcast nationally in the United States on NBC.

This is the third consecutive season the NHL has held its Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. The first was played on January 1, 2008, between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, New York. An NHL-record crowd of 71,217 saw the game. Last season’s Winter Classic pitted the Chicago Blackhawks against the Detroit Red Wings at historic Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.

The first outdoor regular season game in NHL history was the Heritage Classic between the Montréal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on November 22, 2003.

The Admirals will drop the puck on a three-game road trip this evening with a New Year’s Eve tilt against the Binghamton Senators. The puck drops at 6:05 p.m. The next home action for the Admirals will be a pair of games against the Syracuse Crunch on Friday and Saturday, January 8-9.


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