Mallards Anzalone
Mallards coach Frank Anzalone likes what he sees so far despite his team's 1-3 record early in the season. Larry Fisher

Frank Anzalone said he still doesn't know how competitive his Quad-City Mallards can be in the seven-team International Hockey League.

One thing is coming clear, though: The Mallards seem to know each other well enough.

"Jay Holladay said to me today he was surprised by how well we meshed in the first game against Flint," Anzalone said, relating a conversation with a veteran Q-C defenseman. "He was pleasantly surprised, and I'm sure a lot of the guys were.

"We looked like a team that had been together a while in terms of our camaraderie and how we worked with each other," the coach said of a 3-1 season-opening victory over Flint. "I'm not saying our passing was razor sharp every time. It just looked as though we felt good about each other."

The Mallards will feel a whole lot better about everything if they can put on as good a show in Saturday's home opener vs. two-time defending IHL champion Fort Wayne. That crew returns 12 players from last year's Turner Cup-winning roster.

"We're looking forward to Fort Wayne," Anzalone said. "This team needs to measure itself and Fort Wayne for years has been the team you measure yourself against in this league."

Anzalone did learn a little about his youthful expansion crew in Flint. They cruised behind goals from Juris Stals, Terry Harrison and Patrick Levesque, while center Jean Desrochers dished a pair of assists.

They also outshot Flint 40-23, and Anzalone termed 15 of those shots-on-net "Grade A" chances."

Most importantly, goaltender Sebastien Laplante came within less-than-a-minute of matching the shutout he pitched in their exhibition opener.

Anzalone said the goalie's early stop on a penalty shot by NHL-tested General Chris Tuzzolino gave the Mallards a needed dose of confidence.

All of that said, Anzalone will continue to reserve judgment about his team.

"I don't really have an answer to that," he said when asked to assess his team's talent level. "We've got an exciting group of guys that love to play. We have some talent and when everyone is in the lineup, we can maybe be a formidable team at the ECHL level even. But it's going to take some time to really understand that."

Anzalone can say his team possesses speed and enthusiasm, and said that intangible business of togetherness can make them a force as well.

"We're just going to continue to improve the team as best we can and get a group together that likes playing with each other," he said. "Sometimes teams like that can outdo teams that have a little more talent. And hopefully that will be our identity."

Mallards make moves

Frank Anzalone continues to tinker at the edges of his Quad-City Mallards roster as Saturday's home opener looms.

Wednesday, he sent rookie forward Mike Maier and second-year defenseman Kyrill Katrich to the Class-A Chicago Blaze.

Anzalone expects to add a veteran forward or defenseman sometime Friday.