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Forward Adam Hobson was a key member of the last Toledo Walleye team that made the playoffs, and he believes the talent is there this year to make another run.
Hobson averaged more than a point per game for Toledo in 2009-10 when the Walleye qualified for the playoffs in their inaugural season.
After spending the last two seasons playing in Europe, the native of Mission, British Columbia, returned to the Walleye.
Hobson, 26, scored a goal in Toledo's 4-1 win against Evansville on Sunday, which gave the Walleye their fourth win in the last five games.
“The team has come together,” said Hobson, who has five goals and six assists in 17 games. “We know it's a hunt and we're in the race. We keep a close eye on the standings. We have to start to break away from the pack.”
Toledo (23-17-4) is in second place in the ECHL North Division, seven points behind Cincinnati. The Walleye are fifth overall in the Eastern Conference with 28 games to play. The top eight of the 14 teams qualify for the postseason.
“It's getting to crunch time,” Hobson said.
The sixth-year pro has been part of a steady whirlwind of roster moves that has left the team's lineup in question on a daily basis. Hobson was called up to Rockford of the American Hockey League last Wednesday.
He played two games in the AHL before rejoining the team just prior to Sunday's game. He could be called back up after the AHL All-Star break.
“It's definitely day by day,” Hobson said. “But I've been around the game for a while and it's something I'm used to. We are professionals. I'm not too worried about it. I will come and play hard and do my thing.”
Hobson had a career year the last time he wore a Walleye uniform, tallying 44 points (18 goals, 26 assists) in 39 games. He finished fifth on the team in scoring despite playing nearly half of the season up in the AHL.
“He competes and battles,” Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. “He's good defensively and offensively. And he quietly goes out and is all about business.”
Hobson started the season on the injured reserve list. He hurt his knee while working out at a gym in the offseason.
“It was kind of a freak injury,” he said. “I was working on my hockey stride on the slide boards. It just sort of hurt. It wasn't a sudden pain. It slowly got worse and worse. I tore a meniscus in my knee. So I went though doing rehab and I'm letting that heal up.”
Hobson finally enter the lineup in December and said he is not quite 100 percent.
Vitucci said he believes Hobson “is caught up now.”
“He is looking good,” Vitucci said. “He's everything we expected.”
The coach and director of player personnel said he has always wanted to bring Hobson, a former seventh-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, back.
Hobson spent the last two seasons playing in Sweden. Hobson's mother, Ulla, is Swedish. His father, Steven, is Canadian. He was born in Sweden and moved to Canada when he was 3.
“I have a lot of family over there and some teams had some interest in me,” Hobson said. “I always wanted to go back.”
He said it was a bit of a culture shock.
“We were eating pretty funky food and you'd see some people dressed in crazy clothes,” he said.
Hobson had 15 points in 35 games the first season and 20 points in 49 games last season. He said the playing surface is larger in Europe and there is more puck possession with less physicality.
“I missed that. I wanted to come back and get more physical,” he said.
He told Vitucci if he came back to North American that he would like to play again for the Walleye.
“The organization is very well run and the arena is unbelievable,” Hobson said. “The city itself and the fans are great. It's a nice place to be.”
The Walleye play at division leader Cincinnati on Thursday before returning home for games on Friday and Saturday night against Elmira and Reading, respectively.
FISH TALES: The organization has traded D Olivier Dame-Malka to the Florida Everblades for future considerations. Malka appeared in seven games with Toledo since being acquired in a trade for F Max Campbell from Bakersfield. The 22-year-old had a goal and an assist. ... F Byron Froese was reassigned to Toledo from Rockford of the AHL on Tuesday. The native of Winkler, Manitoba, has collected 17 points (5 goals, 12 assists) in 20 games this season with the Walleye.
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.