Game Notes: The Rochester Americans take aim at their third straight win tonight 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.
AMERKS FAN GUIDE
Amerks-Aeros Downloadable Rosters
AUDIO: Ron Rolston speaks to Don Stevens after the morning skate
RCH Stats HOU Stats BUF Stats
Friday's Weather Forecast
Head-to-Head: 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.
Finley To Make NHL Debut Tonight: Just two days after signing a multi-year NHL deal with the Buffalo Sabres, defenseman Joe Finley earned his first career NHL recall earlier this week and is expected to be in the Sabres lineup tonight when Buffalo plays host to the Detroit Red Wings at First Niagara Center. A native of Edina, Minnesota, Finley has recorded two points (1+1) in 18 games played with the Amerks and leads the team with 57 penalty minutes. He is currently 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 6-foot-8, 260-pound blueliner was a first-round selection (27th overall) of the Washington Capitals in 2005.
MacIntyre Returns to Rochester: Returning to the Amerks for this weekend’s slate of games is goaltender Drew MacIntyre, who spent the last 17 days on recall with the Sabres. After being promoted to the big club on November 13, the veteran netminder would appear in two games with Buffalo, starting with an eight-save effort of relief work in his Sabres debut against New Jersey on November 16. He returns to Rochester after posting a 1.38 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage in his first NHL stint since the 2007-08 season as a member of the Vancouver Canucks. In eight games this season with the Amerks, MacIntyre shows a 3-4-1 record with a 2.74 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.
Amerks Notes: Rochester (10-7-2-1, 23 points) enters the contest in the midst of a two-game winning streak after capping last 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 five points behind the division-leading Toronto Marlies. Tonight’s game against Houston ends a stretch that has Rochester playing eight of nine on home ice as it enters the busiest month of the season where December has the Amerks home just four times over the course of the next 13 games. The month also features back-to-back trips to the Midwest and three consecutive stretches of three games in three nights straight through Christmas.
Home, Sweet Home: Home-ice advantage has certainly been a factor in Rochester’s recent success as of late as the Amerks are 6-1-0-0 in their last seven games at home. Rochester’s season-long five-game homestand last month was highlighted by a four-game winning streak that saw Rochester outscore its opponents 15-11. After beginning the season with just two home wins, the Amerks show an 8-3-0-1 record (19 points) this season when playing in their downtown barn.
Team and League Leaders: Coming off his four-goal game against Hamilton on Saturday, reigning AHL Player of the Week Derek Whitmore currently paces the Amerks with 10 goals and 16 points, while leading the team with 74 shots on goal. Despite currently being on NHL recall, Zack Kassian presently ranks third on the team with 14 points (7+7) and 12th in scoring among AHL rookies. Rookie defenseman Brayden McNabb, also on NHL recall, continues to lead all Rochester blueliners with 10 points (1+9), including a team-best nine assists. Amerks goaltender David Leggio, who’s started the last five games for Rochester, boasts a 7-5-0 record with a 2.89 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage in 12 games. His seven wins tie him for 10th among AHL netminders, while he ranks among the league’s top 20 goaltenders with 321 saves.
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. T.J. Brennan, back from his recent NHL call-up, has three points (2+1) over the last two games with the Amerks, including goals in back-to-back appearances, while team captain Colin Stuart continues his current point-per-game pace with eight points (4+4) in as many outings. Rookie defenseman Matt MacKenzie broke an 11-game scoreless drought with a pair of assists last Friday against Albany and Shaone Morrisonn has three points (1+2) in his last two games after recording just two through the first 15 games of the season.
Milestone Watch: Back for a second stint with the Amerks, veteran forward Michael Ryan is just two games away from his 400th professional game, 214 of which have been played in Rochester. Stuart recorded his 200th pro point last Friday against Albany with his seventh goal of the season and needs just one more goal to reach the century mark in his pro career. He’s also three games shy of 500 pro appearances, a feat the eight-year pro will capture this Sunday in Albany. Paul Szczechura, who’s fresh off a pair of recalls from Buffalo, collected his 100th pro assist with the first of two helpers in his Sabres debut last Saturday against Washington. Mark Voakes needs just four more points to reach the 100-point plateau.
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.
Houston Notes: Houston (12-3-2-4, 30 points), currently in the middle of its five-game road swing, comes into the matchup as one of the AHL’s hottest teams as of late after earning a 2-1 win over the Lake Erie Monsters Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena. Cody Almond and Chad Rau each potted single goals and Matt Hackett made 22 saves to earn his ninth win of the season as the Aeros have now won two straight and have collected points in seven straight outings. Houston, the top affiliate of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, trail Oklahoma City by just one point for the top spot in both the AHL’s West Division and Western Conference. The Aeros have the second-highest winning percentage in the AHL (.714), in addition to owning the fewest number of regulation losses among any other AHL team with three.
Road Warriors: The Aeros bring their AHL-best six-game road winning streak into tonight’s game after their 2-1 victory over the Monsters Wednesday. After skating to a 4-2 win over intrastate rival San Antonio on October 28, Houston has yet to lose since, having outscored its opponents 24-11 through the last six road contests. Overall, the Aeros are 8-1-0-1 (17 points) on the road this season and show an unblemished 6-0-0-0 mark when leading after two periods away from the Toyota Center.
Team and League Leaders: With Casey Wellman currently on NHL recall with the Minnesota Wild, team captain and seven-year pro Jon DiSalvatore leads the Aeros in all offensive categories in goals (8), assists (12) and points (20) , while being one of just four Houston skaters to appear in all 21 games thus far. Playing at just under a point-per-game pace, DiSalvatore, Houston’s all-time leading goal scorer, currently ranks ninth among league leaders in overall scoring and third among Aeros forwards with a plus-four on-ice rating. Forward Warren Peters, currently in his second season in Houston, has a team-high 36 penalty minutes. Between the pipes for Houston is goaltender Matt Hackett, who comes into the matchup among the elite at his position despite being just a second-year pro. A third-round selection (77th overall) by Minnesota in 2009, Hackett, who’s started three straight and eight of the last 10 games for Houston, shows a 9-3-3 record with 421 saves and one shutout in 16 games this season. His 2.11 goals-against average and .927 save percentage presently rank him fifth and eighth among league netminders, respectively, while placing third in minutes played (937), fourth in saves (421) and tied for fifth in wins (9).
Welcome Back: Jeff Taffe returns to Rochester tonight for Houston, marking his first appearance within the confines of The Blue Cross Arena since being a member of the Amerks in the 2009-10 season. In his one-year stint in Rochester, the veteran forward registered 56 points (28+28) in 61 games, helping the club to earn a spot in the AHL playoffs. Taffe, who’s with his fourth AHL team in as many years, is third on the team with 16 points (5+11) and ranks tied for third in the AHL with nine power-play assists.
Next Game: Rochester heads north of border on Saturday, December 3 as they take on the Hamilton Bulldogs for the second time in as many weeks at Copps Coliseum. Faceoff between the North Division rivals is slated for a 7:00 p.m. start and can be heard live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk. The Amerks are coming off their first win of the season against the Bulldogs last Saturday after Hamilton bested Rochester through the first three get-togethers of the season.
“Ditch The Dorms”: Tonight’s contest falls on the next installment of the “Ditch the Dorms” night. Beginning this season, the Amerks are encouraging all college students to “Ditch the Dorms” on Friday nights and bring the party downtown for Amerks College Nights. Current students who show a valid school ID can get best available seating anywhere in the arena for as low as $10.00. In conjunction with Savor Catering at The Blue Cross Arena, fans can take part of “Amerks Happy Hour” from 6:30-7:30 in the Upper Atrium Bar with $2.00 drafts, courtesy of Molson and Coors Light.
Amerks Toy Drive: The Amerks’ Toy Drive continues tonight 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.
TONIGHT'S WARM-UP MUSIC PLAYLIST
Rick Derringer - I Am A Real American
Chris Brown - Beautiful People
Bad Meets Evil - Fast Lane
Cold Play - Fix You
Volbeat - Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac Blood
Young The Giant - My Body
Kayne West and Jay Z - Paris
Nadia Ali, Starkillers and Alex Kenji - Pressure (Alesso Remix)