The Rochester Americans suffered their first defeat of the young season last Friday night, dropping a 2-0 decision to the Utica Comets in their lone game of week two. The Amerks currently sit fourth in the North Division with six points and are tied for ninth in the AHL.
Power-Play Struggles vs. Penalty Kill Success
Through the first three games of the 2017-18 campaign, the Amerks power-play unit has two goals in 16 chances (12.5%), which is tied for 20th in the league.
“We have to keep the power-play simple,” said forward Nick Baptiste. “We need to get shots to the net and take away the goaltender’s vision by having a guy in front of him. If we do those things and not force things, I believe the success will come.
The Amerks were unable to capitalize in four chances in last Friday’s game against the Comets but feel special teams are big opportunities for more victories over the course of the season.
“Special teams can be a big part of the game,” Amerks captain Kevin Porter said. “In the two games we have won, we have not been too successful. In order to have success this season, we must be able to score power-play goals.”
While Rochester has struggled, the shorthanded squad has successfully killed all 16 infractions while being the lone AHL club this season to not allow a power-play goal.
“The penalty-kill unit has been a strong point for us this season,” said Baptiste. “We take a lot of pride on that team while limiting the opposition. When the other team has the puck, applying pressure and being in the right areas are key. So far this year, we have been doing things to be successful.”
Openings In the Amerks Lineup
Last weekend, third-year forward Justin Bailey earned the first recall of the season to the Buffalo Sabres. Meanwhile, assistant captain and defenseman Nathan Paetsch suffered a lower-body injury and will be out week-to-week according to Amerks head coach Chris Taylor. With the two vacancies in the Amerks lineup, it allows for a pair of opportunities for players to crack the Rochester roster in this weekend’s two games.
Forwards Sean Malone, Eric Cornel, Adam Krause all could fill in for Bailey while Conor Allen could make his Amerks debut after the defenseman has been scratched the first three games of the slate.
“Anytime there’s a change to the roster, whether it be call-ups, injuries or whatever the situation may be, that creates opportunities for others to step in,” said Amerks head coach Chris Taylor.
Focusing On Us
On Friday night, the Amerks will take the ice against the Charlotte Checkers for the first time in the 62-year history of the franchise. Over the summer, the AHL announced that the Checkers would be realigned into the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference after spending the previous six seasons in the Western Conference.
While the Amerks are hosting the Checkers following a week-long lay off since last Friday’s contest, Rochester is looking to improve on last week’s game rather than focusing on its opponents in the early part of the week.
“We know Charlotte is a good team with a lot offensive firepower, but we’re not overly concerned with them” said Amerks defenseman Barry Goers. “Right now we’re focusing on what we need to do to be better as a team. We obviously can’t overlook the two games this weekend, but we also need to make sure we’re doing everything we can here to get better every single day.”
Looking Ahead to the Weekend
The Amerks conclude their three-game homestand this week on back-to-back nights at The Blue Cross Arena, beginning with the first of four meetings against the first-place Charlotte Checkers on Friday, Oct. 20. Following the matchup with the Checkers, the Amerks welcome back the Utica Comets on Saturday night. Both games begin at 7:05 p.m. and will be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.