Newcomers Ready To Help Nailers

WHEELING – For Chris Higgins, this represents a chance to play closer to home. Andrew Hotham feels like he is home.

The two newest members of the Wheeling Nailers, acquired in separate trades Friday with Utah and Cincinnati, respectively, were on the WesBanco Arena ice for the first time at Monday’s practice. Both will be in the lineup when the club plays Friday night at home against the Florida Everblades.

”Utah is all the way across the country. I’m from Boston so it would have been tough for my family to come out and see me play,” said Higgins, who won a national championship in college with Boston University.

”Now it’s only like an hour and a half flight. And when we go up to Reading and Trenton, too, it will be easy for my family to come watch me play.

”That will be exciting.”

Higgins spent two games this season with the Grizzlies, so he didn’t have time to get comfortable. Including playoffs, Higgins has spent 73 games in the ECHL and has 64 points (24g, 30a) during stints with Utah, South Carolina, Las Vegas and Gwinnett.

”I really knew in my heart that I wanted to stay back east and play,” Higgins, 26, said. ”I went out to Utah for a couple games and then finally Wheeling was able to get a deal done and I am excited to get a fresh start here and to hopefully get going.

”I like to say I’m a pretty offensive guy, but I like to play in all (zones). I try to use my vision and creativity to make plays and to try to set up my teammates for some goals.”

After the 2011 season with Wheeling in which he earned All-Rookie and second team All-ECHL honors, Hotham, who is also 26, signed with Cincinnati in the offseason. But things weren’t going according to plan and Hotham was a healthy scratch more often than not, despite a resume that included 44 points (8g, 36a) in 52 games.

”Things just don’t work out all the time. I had a good time there and I enjoyed it, but I am also glad to be back,” Hotham said. ”It came down to a couple teams and I knew Wheeling was one of them. When I found out I was pretty excited.

”I know the guys, know the city. We had a pretty successful year and I thought I could come in and help out.”

The hardest part, according to both players, is having to get belongings and personal items in order and moving to a different city on such short notice.

”It’s not easy. I don’t like to move ever, so re-packing my car is not fun,” Hotham said.

Nailers coach Clark Donatelli is happy to be able to add what he feels are a couple of major pieces to a team that has won three of its last four games and seems to have found its way after a slow start.

”They’re both going to go right in and they’re both offensive guys,” the coach said. ”They will be on the power play and I think they will help us there.”

Higgins was familiar with the way things work in Wheeling after conversations with former teammates and ex-Nailers Bryan ‘Boomer’ Ewing and Billy Ryan.

”They have played here in the past and had good things to say,” Higgins said. ”The coaching staff here, I have heard is pretty good.

”I know a few of the guys and I know that it’s a good organization all together.”