After shocking the Michigan hockey team by leaving Ann Arbor for the Los Angeles Kings, forward Jeff Tambellini was assigned to the Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, on Wednesday.

Yesterday, Tambellini – who spent the past month at the Kings’ training camp in El Segundo, Calif. – returned to Michigan to practice with his old teammates before joining the Monarchs on Monday.

“It’s good to be back in Ann Arbor,” Tambellini said. “I get back four days of my senior year. I get to enjoy it for a few days, and then I’ll get ready to play.”

Tambellini skated with the team during yesterday’s captains’ scrimmage, giving him the opportunity to check out the team’s 11 freshmen. Even though he was impressed with the play of the group, it was tough for him to single anyone out with so many new faces around.

“I walked in the dressing room and didn’t know half the room,” Tambellini said. “It was kind of a weird feeling for the first time in three years. I’m still trying to figure out who’s who with the helmets on, but they look like a good, solid group.”

The freshmen will have to find their game fast if the Maize and Blue hope to replace Tambellini’s 57 points from last year. The learning curve will be similarly steep for Tambellini in Manchester on Monday. Even though he won’t start the year in Los Angeles, Tambellini hopes to have a chance to join the Kings at some point.

“Hopefully I’ll get a call-up and make an impact,” Tambellini said. “I just have to play as well as I can, and that’s as much as I can control. Sometimes guys get injured, or they make moves, but all I can do is keep playing hard, earn a chance to go up and take advantage of it.”

While at the Kings’ camp, Tambellini found that the biggest difference was the speed of the game. He said that finding his comfort zone amidst the fast-paced play will be the key to earning a shot in the NHL.

“Everything is so much faster at that level,” Tambellini said. “Nobody misses passes. The practices are a lot shorter, but they are harder and more intense. The guys are stronger and work every single time they touch the puck.”

Tambellini was one of three Michigan players to depart early for NHL camps this summer. Goaltender Al Montoya joined the New York Rangers, and forward Mike Brown signed with the Vancouver Canucks. Both Brown and Montoya have remained in their respective training camps thus far.

Tambellini spoke to Montoya recently and said that he is settling in well.

“I talk to (Montoya) a lot,” Tambellini said. “He’s doing well, still with New York. I don’t think he’s played in a game yet, but when he gets a chance, I know he’ll do well.”

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