Utah Grizzlies coach Butch Goring can't figure out why Danton Cole isn't playing in the National Hockey League.
Of course, after watching Cole begin another IHL scoring spree in Utah's 5-2 win against the Peoria Rivermen Thursday night, you won't hear Goring complain about having the sensational center don a Grizz uniform anytime soon."He's a scorer, isn't he? He picked up right where he left off," Goring said of Cole, who scored two power-play goals and added two assists in his first game back from the New York Islanders. He leads the Grizz with 43 points in 34 games.
Cole, who played sparingly for a month in New York, was put on waivers by the Islanders on Wednesday. None of the NHL teams picked him up, however, so he was reassigned to Utah.
"I'm not sure why he didn't get picked up," Goring added.
It's not like Cole is lacking in experience - the 29-year-old has played 316 games and scored 118 points in the NHL. He finished last season with the New Jersey Devils.
Cole's a bit puzzled by being passed over on waivers, but he's not going to mope about spending some more time in the IHL.
"I was kind of hoping that someone would pick me up - you always want to play in the NHL," he said. "I'll just make the best of the situation."
The Rivermen probably wish somebody in the NHL would snag Cole. He's scored four goals and dished out three assists in two games against Peoria this season. The Grizzlies won the first encounter, 4-2, in their home opener.
Cole wasn't the only former Grizz to return and make an immediate impact against the Rivermen. Goalkeeper Tommy Salo was also sent down from New York and made 27-of-29 saves for the win.
He and the Grizz defense especially sparkled in the first period when they survived a two-man disadvantage for nearly two minutes without allowing a goal. Minutes later, Mike MacWilliam knocked in the only score of the first period on a rebound of a slapshot by Jason Herter.
The Grizz upped their lead to 3-0 in the second period on a slapshot by Cole and a backhanded flip by rookie Brett Lievers.
Peoria (21-22-4) didn't flop dead, though, as many Grizz opponents have done in the latter periods. The Rivermen answered with two straight goals to trim the lead to 3-2 midway through the final stanza.
The clincher for the Grizz came with under five minutes remaining. Cole punched in his second goal of the game after Bob Beers' shot was deflected off of a Peoria defender. Herter pounded in a blue-line slapshot just 32 seconds later to seal the win.
Utah (34-12-3, 71 points) travels to Las Vegas for an 8 p.m. matchup tonight against the first-place Thunder.