AMERKS ENTER DECEMBER LOOKING FOR TOP SPOT IN NORTH DIVISIONNews | 11/29/2011 3:07:09 PM | ROCHESTER AMERICANS
WEEKLY NOTES: With the final month of the 2011 calendar year just around the corner, the Rochester Americans enter December still in close pursuit of the top spot in the American Hockey League’s North Division. After bringing a very successful November to a close as the league enters it third month of play for the 2011-12 season, the month of December brings with it a very busy schedule for the Amerks, one that features back-to-back trips to the Midwest and three consecutive stretches of three games in three nights straight through Christmas. A total of 13 games are on tap for Rochester in the next four weeks, with just four being played on home ice, where the Amerks finished November 6-1-0-0 in their seven games within the comforts of The Blue Cross Arena. Coming off another perfect weekend, and with points in six of its last eight games, Rochester looks to carry its momentum into December as the Amerks kickoff off the holiday season with its first three-in-three of the month this weekend. This week, Rochester hosts interconference rival Houston before visiting Hamilton and Albany in a rematch of last week’s meetings.
Saturday, Nov. 26 vs. Hamilton – W, 5-3… Whitmore saved his best performance of the weekend for Saturday night, scoring a career-best four goals (two in the first, two in the third), including two in the first 1:53 of the contest, to power the Amerks to a 5-3 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs. The game also featured Whitmore’s first career hat trick as he single-handedly outscored the Bulldogs on his way to becoming the first Amerks player to net four goals since Jason Pominville’s five-goal outing against Cleveland on Oct. 21, 2005. The win also gave Rochester its first win of the season against its division rival and improved the Amerks to 6-1-0-0 in their seven home games through the month of November. Maxime Legault also scored his first goal as an Amerk while rookie defenseman Corey Fienhage suited up for his first game in the red, white and blue.
SABRES RETURN PAIR TO ROCHESTER: Re-joining the Amerks this week is defenseman T.J. Brennan and forward Corey Tropp, who were reassigned back to Rochester following Buffalo’s 5-1 win over the Washington Capitals Saturday night at the First Niagara Center. Brennan returns after a three-game stint with the big club that saw the third-year blueliner become the first Buffalo Sabres defenseman to score his first career NHL goal in his NHL debut since Buffalo Head Coach Lindy Ruff did so back on Oct. 11, 1979. Brennan has appeared in 17 games with the Amerks this season and ranks second in scoring among team defensemen with seven points (3+4). Tropp, who’s been with Buffalo the longest among the barrage of recent Rochester call-ups, has recorded two points (1+1) in 10 games over two NHL promotions. After making his NHL debut against Calgary on November 4, Tropp notched his first NHL goal two games later against the Winnipeg Jets, helping the Sabres to a 6-5 overtime win.
AMERKS MAKING IMMEDIATE IMPACT WITH SABRES: With nine regulars sidelined with various injuries, the Sabres turned to the Amerks to reinforce their depleted lineup. After Tropp earned Rochester’s first recall of the season back on November 3, five others have since joined him in Buffalo and all have made significant contributions to the Sabres’ recent success. This past week saw three Amerks make their NHL debuts in as many games, starting with Brennan’s first big-league appearance in Buffalo’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins last Wednesday night. Zack Kassian graced the lineup in Friday’s 5-1 setback to Columbus, but despite the loss, his NHL debut saw the rookie forward register his first NHL point as he assisted on Jordan Leopold’s lone goal of the contest. Saturday’s game against Washington featured all five of Rochester’s reinforcements, highlighted by the NHL debut of defenseman Brayden McNabb, Kassian’s first NHL goal and Paul Szczechura’s first NHL game in over two years that included a pair of assists. Goaltender Drew MacIntyre, called up to replace the injured Ryan Miller, has also appeared in two games for the Sabres, allowing just one goal in 43 minutes of service, marking his first NHL appearance since the 2007-08 season.
THIS WEEK’S OPPONENTS: The Amerks take aim at their third straight win on Friday, December 2 as the defending Western Conference champion Houston Aeros make their first visit to The Blue Cross Arena in nearly three years. The 7:35 p.m. contest will be the first of two meetings between the two teams this season and will be broadcast live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk. The game marks the first time the teams have met since the 2008-09 season, when Rochester claimed both get-togethers and outscored Houston 5-3 through the season series. The Amerks are 5-8-3 all-time against the Minnesota Wild’s affiliate.
The Amerks play their third game in as many nights on Sunday, December 4 as they visit the state’s Capital District for a rematch with the Albany Devils at 4:00 p.m. at the Times Union Center. Rochester skated to a 4-2 win over Albany in the previous matchup with its intrastate rival this past Friday night at The Blue Cross Arena, marking its first-ever home win against the Devils. Fans can tune in for the live broadcast on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk.
The Amerks’ Toy Drive continues this weekend with the second of four nights fans can participate in to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester this holiday season. Fans that donate a new, unwrapped toy at a participating AT&T company-owned location in Monroe County between now and December 21 will receive a coupon to purchase a $12.00 ticket in the best available seating location for one of the next three upcoming Amerks home games (Friday, Dec. 2, Friday, Dec. 9 or Wednesday, Dec. 21). Fans may also donate a toy at The Blue Cross Arena Box Office on any of the dates listed above and be able to purchase a “best available” $12.00 ticket to that night’s game. The Amerks will also donate $2.00 of each toy drive ticket sold to The Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester. Any fan that donates a toy will also be eligible to enter a raffle to win an Amerks autographed item.
AMERKS NOTES: Rochester (10-7-2-1, 23 points) enters the week in the midst of a two-game winning streak after capping the weekend off with a pair of wins to bring a very successful November to a close. The Amerks have now collected points in six of their last eight games and boast a 7-3-0-0 record through their last 10 games, seven of which have been played within the friendly confines of The Blue Cross Arena. The Amerks come into the final month of 2011 with a firm grip on their second-place standing in the American Hockey League’s North Division, where they remain four points behind the division-leading Toronto Marlies. Friday night’s game against Houston will end a stretch that has Rochester playing eight of nine on home ice before it enters its busiest month of the season where December has the Amerks home just four times over the course of the next 13 games.
WHITMORE NAMED REEBOK/AHL PLAYER OF THE WEEK: The American Hockey League announced today that Rochester Americans left wing Derek Whitmore has been named the Reebok/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending Nov. 27, 2011. Whitmore scored five goals and compiled a plus-3 rating in two games for the Amerks. Whitmore recorded a big insurance goal late in the third period of Friday’s 4-2 win over Albany, but saved his biggest performance for Saturday’s contest against Hamilton. Whitmore scored twice in the first 1:53 of the game, and then twice more in the third period to break a 3-3 tie as Rochester grabbed a 5-3 decision over the Bulldogs. A native of the Rochester suburb of Greece, N.Y., Whitmore leads the Amerks with 10 goals and 16 points and is tied for the team lead among forwards with a plus-8 rating in 20 games this season. The fourth-year pro signed as a free agent with the Buffalo Sabres on Mar. 26, 2008, and has registered 67 goals and 53 assists for 120 points in 263 career AHL games with Rochester and Portland.
FINLEY SIGNS MULTI-YEAR DEAL WITH SABRES: Buffalo Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier announced Monday that the team has signed defenseman Joe Finley to a multi-year contract. Finley (6’8”, 260 lbs., 6/29/87) has two points (1+1) in 18 games with the Amerks and leads the team with 57 penalty minutes. Finley is in his third professional season after spending parts of the 2008-09 and 2010-11 seasons with the Hershey Bears. In 26 career AHL games, Finley has three points (1+2) and 79 penalty minutes, posting a plus/minus rating of plus-16. The Edina, Minn. native was originally selected by the Washington Capitals in the first round (27th overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He was signed to an AHL contract by the Rochester Americans on Oct. 4, 2011.
BY THE NUMBERS: The Amerks are 5-3-2-1 (13 points) this season against North Division rivals, but show a 5-4-0-0 (10 points) mark versus non-divisional foes. The third period has been the Amerks’ strong suit thus far as the club has accounted for 20 goals while allowing 12. The Amerks have scored the first goal in just eight of the first 20 games of the campaign and show a 5-2-1-0 record when doing so, including a 4-1-0-0 mark at home. Rochester is also 5-0-1-0 when leading after two periods, a streak that also shows an unblemished 3-0-0-0 mark at home.
TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: Five of the last eight games for the Amerks have been decided by one goal, including two of the last four. Of Rochester’s 20 games thus far this season, 10 of them have been determined by a one-goal difference, a mark of 5-2-2-1 in favor of the Amerks.
WHO’S HOT: Fresh off his career-best four-goal night on Saturday, Whitmore has scored five goals in his last two games, which includes his insurance tally in Rochester’s 4-2 win over Albany the night before. Brennan has three points (2+1) over the last two games with the Amerks, including goals in back-to-back appearances, while Stuart continues his current point-per-game pace with eight points (4+4) in as many outings. MacKenzie broke an 11-game scoreless drought with a pair of assists Friday night against Albany and Morrisonn has three points (1+2) in his last two games after recording just two through the first 15 games of the season.
SPECIAL TEAMS BREAKDOWN: After some recent struggles on the power-play, the Amerks have gone 6-for-37 on the man-advantage over their last seven games. On the penalty kill, Rochester has successfully killed off 71-of-88 (80.7%) shorthanded situations, including 49 of 55 at home for an 89.1% efficiency rate, good enough for the league’s third-best rating in that category. As a team, Rochester has allowed a league-most four shorthanded goals against, three coming at home and the other on the road.