Game Notes: The Rochester Americans kickoff their busy weekend of three games in as many nights tonight as they host the North Division rival Lake Erie Monsters in the first leg of a home-and-home series at The Blue Cross Arena. Game time is slated for a 7:35 p.m. start and will be broadcast live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester Sports Talk.
AMERKS FAN GUIDE
Audio: Don Stevens with Jay McKee
2011-12 AHL Standings
ROC Stats LE Stats
BUF Stats COL Stats
Friday's Weather Forecast
Head-to-Head: Tonight’s game marks the third of six scheduled meetings this season between two teams, who meet again Saturday night in Cleveland for the second of back-to-back tilts. Rochester shows a perfect 2-0-0-0 record in the season series with Lake Erie and has outscored the Monsters 7-2 through both get-togethers, including a 4-1 victory in the previous encounter with its foe back on December 21 in Rochester. Evan Rankin, Marcus Foligno and Travis Turnbull each recorded two points to lead the way offensively, while goaltender Drew MacIntyre turned aside 33 of 34 shots to earn first star honors. Despite having the upper hand in the season series thus far, the Amerks are 12-15-2 all-time against the Colorado Avalanche’s affiliate.
Amerks Notes: Rochester (22-19-6-3, 53 points), entering the contest after suffering a 4-1 loss to the San Antonio Rampage last Saturday on home ice, is still in hot pursuit of the first-place Toronto Marlies, who have taken a nine-point lead ahead of the Amerks for the top spot in the American Hockey League’s North Division heading into the weekend. The Amerks are also presently 11th in the Western Conference’s overall standings, trailing a mere two points behind the Peoria Rivermen for the eighth and final playoff spot. Despite just taking two out of a possible six points this past weekend, Rochester comes into the weekend having claimed seven out of a possible 12 points since the 2011-12 season resumed after the All-Star break. The Amerks have also won four of their last seven games and have collected 17 points over their last 18 outings. In the midst of one of the most demanding stretches of the season, one that has Rochester playing six games in the next nine nights, this weekend’s slate of games sees the Amerks going up against two North Division rivals where a pivotal six points can provide distance in the standings among other teams with their sights set on postseason contention.
Who’s Hot: Saturday’s setback to San Antonio saw the end of several point streaks for a few Amerks, including Foligno’s season-high six-game point streak of eight assists. The rookie forward has amassed 18 points (3+15) over his last 21 games, a stretch that includes five multi-point appearances, as he surpassed Derek Whitmore for the team lead in points and became the first player this season to eclipse the 30-point plateau. Turnbull, too, had his five-game point string of four goals and three assists cut short, one that was highlighted by a three-point, +5 performance last Friday against Texas. With an assist on Saturday, Paul Szczechura, last week’s Reebok/AHL Player of the Week, has recorded 11 points (6+5) in his last 12 games and has already moved into fourth on the team in scoring with 26 points (10+16) in just 31 games this season. Phil Varone, meanwhile, shows 22 points in his last 27 games for a total of 28 points (7+21) on the season. Despite currently being on NHL recall, Zack Kassian is in the midst of a three-game goal scoring streak and has back-to-back games with multiple goals, giving him 12 points (8+4) in his last 12 games with the Amerks. Fellow rookie Brayden McNabb has recorded eight assists over his last six games since his return from the Sabres, including three consecutive appearances with multiple points from February 4-10. Corey Tropp, with three helpers last Friday against Texas, has four points in his first three games back in the lineup following a 10-game injury absence, while Maxime Legault has also posted four points (2+2) in his last five outings. T.J. Brennan, who carried a career-best seven-game point streak (3+5) into 2012, shows 11 points (4+7) in his last 12 games and has only been held scoreless three times during that stretch.
Team and League Leaders: With impressive numbers through their last six games, Foligno and Varone have quickly found themselves to be Rochester’s top two point-getters with 30 and 28 points, respectively, placing them both among the league’s top 20 rookies in overall scoring. Foligno, who currently ranks tied for 12th in the AHL with a +14 on-ice rating, is also one of nine league rookies to currently pace his team in scoring. In addition, Foligno also sits tied for 12th in the league with four game-winning goals this season, which are the second-most among first-year skaters. Whitmore, who snapped a four-game scoring drought a week ago against Texas, shows a team-best 18 goals, including five on the power-play, and is on pace to become the first Amerk this season to net 20 goals. His 18 goals rank him tied for 17th among the AHL’s top goal scorers, while he also ranks 10th in the AHL with 155 shots on goal. With 11 helpers through his last 19 games, Varone has taken over the team lead with 21 assists and is one of just two Amerks players to appear in all 50 games thus far along with Mark Voakes. Defenseman Joe Finley leads Rochester with 85 penalty minutes. McNabb (1+17) and Brennan (8+10) continue to lead all Rochester blueliners with 18 points apiece with the Amerks this season.
David Leggio, who has started six of the last eight games for the Amerks, boasts a 14-14-1 record with a 2.79 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage in 29 games. Coming off his first shutout of the season in a 33-save effort against Abbotsford on February 2, he presently ranks eighth among AHL netminders in saves (837) and tied for 16th in wins. He’s also 12th in minutes played (1,720) and 17th in save percentage.
Rookies Stepping It Up: The transition to the professional ranks for the Amerks’ freshmen this season has undoubtedly been a successful one for the young Buffalo Sabres prospects. Entering this week, three of Rochester’s top four scorers are currently in their first pro season, two of which are separated by just two points for the team lead in scoring. The Amerks have scored 143 goals through the first 50 games this season, but more impressively, 39 have been netted by a rookie, which equates to more than 25% of this year’s total offense. On a team that features eight different first-year players, four have made their NHL debuts with Buffalo and even spent significant time with the big club.
By The Numbers: The Amerks are 9-8-3-1 (22 points) this season against North Division rivals, but show a 13-11-3-2 (31 points) mark versus non-divisional foes. Rochester has outscored its opponents 75-64 at The Blue Cross Arena this season. The third period has been the Amerks’ strong suit thus far as the club has accounted for 49 goals while allowing 36. The Amerks have scored the first goal in 25 of the first 50 games of the campaign and show a 16-7-1-1 record when doing so, including a 9-3-0-0 mark at home. Rochester is also 12-0-1-0 when leading after two periods, a streak that also comes with an unblemished 8-0-0-0 mark at home.
Too Close For Comfort: Twelve of the last 20 games for the Amerks have been decided by one goal, including four of the last seven. Of Rochester’s 50 games thus far this season, 27 of them have been determined by a one-goal difference, 15 of which were settled either in overtime or via the shootout, for an 11-7-6-3 mark in favor of the Amerks.
Home, Sweet Home: Home-ice advantage has certainly been a factor in Rochester’s recent success as the Amerks are 9-6-2-0 in their last 17 games at home, including 3-1-1-0 in the last five. After beginning the season with just two home wins in the first five outings, the Amerks show a 13-8-2-1 record (29 points) this season when playing in their downtown barn. Conversely, Rochester is 9-11-4-2 (24 points) away from the friendly confines of The Blue Cross Arena.
Special Teams Breakdown: The Amerks have gone 25-for-162 (15.4%) on the power-play over their last 37 games, which includes going 2-for-4 last Friday against Texas. On the penalty kill, Rochester has successfully killed off 167-of-210 (79.5%) shorthanded situations, including 87 of 105 at home for an 82.9% efficiency rate, good enough for the league’s 13th-best rating in that category. As a team, Rochester has allowed eight shorthanded goals against, four coming at home and four on the road.
Milestone Watch: Back from a four-month injury absence that sidelined him for 44 games, veteran forward Michael Ryan reached a benchmark in his nine-year professional career last Saturday against San Antonio by playing in his 400th professional game, 216 of which have been played in Rochester. MacIntyre’s next win will represent the 50th of his AHL career while Rankin is four points shy of 200 professional points and six assists away from 100 assists. Recently reassigned to Rochester from the Buffalo Sabres, team captain Colin Stuart is on the verge of yet another personal milestone, needing just 11 more points for 200 in his AHL career. Tropp needs just six more games to reach the century mark for his AHL career.
Lake Erie Notes: Lake Erie (25-22-2-2, 54 points) comes into the matchup as one of the league’s hottest teams of late. The Monsters come to Rochester riding a four-game winning streak and have picked up points in their last seven outings, going 6-0-0-1 over that span dating back to a 3-1 win over Hamilton on January 28. Most recently, Lake Erie defeated the Texas Stars by a 4-3 score on Wednesday afternoon at Quicken Loans Arena. After seeing their 3-0 advantage erased in the second period, former Amerk Patrick Rissmiller netted the game-winning goal in the first minute of the final frame, lifting the Monsters to their seventh win in their last nine games. Greg Mauldin (1+1) and Evan Brophey (0+2) chipped in two points apiece in the victory, while goaltender Gerald Coleman finished with 30 saves to help Lake Erie move into second place in the North Division, just one point ahead of Rochester.
Team and League Leaders: Lake Erie’s offensive attack is spearheaded by the 25-year-old Brophey, who leads the Monsters with a team-high 13 goals and 30 points through 47 games this season. Brophey. who shows seven points (1+6) in his last seven games, also leads Lake Erie with a team-best six power-play goals and is the only player on his team thus far to top 30 points, a feat he’s accomplished three out of his last four seasons. Ryan Stoa (10+14) and Luke Walker (8+16) are the next closest point-scorers among Lake Erie’s forwards on the active roster with 24 apiece, while Greg Mauldin (10+13) has tallied 23. Rissmiller also currently ranks tied for 10th in the AHL with four game-winning goals.
Making his return to the Monsters tonight following a 12-day NHL stint with the parent Colorado Avalanche, rookie defenseman Tyson Barrie sits in a tie for 16th amongst first-year AHL skaters with 29 points (5+24) in 46 games. Despite not suiting up since February 3, the Victoria, British Columbia, native continues to pace the Monsters’ back-end on the offensive side of the puck and ranks tied for seventh among league rearguards in overall scoring. Barrie is also tied for sixth in the AHL with 17 power-play helpers. Fellow blueliner Cameron Gaunce leads the Lake Erie squad with a team-best +14 on-ice rating while David Liffiton’s 104 penalty minutes are the most among Monsters skaters in that category.
With netminder Cedrick Desjardins currently on NHL recall with Colorado and Trevor Cann sidelined with an injury, the Monsters have turned over the goaltending duties to the tandem of Gerald Coleman and James Reid. Coleman, a sixth-year AHL veteran from Romeoville, Illinois, has started nine straight and 11 of the last 13 games for Lake Erie since being signed to a PTO on January 11. The 26-year-old boasts a record of 8-2-1 to go along with a 2.59 goals-against average and a save percentage of .926 in just 11 games. Reid, a first-year pro, has seen 138 minutes of service in four contests, making 54 saves on 63 total shots against. Desjardins leaves Lake Erie as one of the AHL’s elite goaltenders, boasting a league-best 1.85 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage in just 14 games in what has turned out to be an injury-riddled season.
Ditch The Dorms: Tonight’s game falls on the next installment of the Amerks “Ditch the Dorms” promotion. 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 present a valid college ID at the Box Office 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, Amerks fans ages 21 and over can enjoy “Amerks Happy Hour” from 6:30-7:30 in the Upper Atrium Bar with $2.00 drafts courtesy of Molson and Coors Light.
“The Crow” Returns to Rochester: The game is another Seneca Casinos Legends Night, featuring former Amerks player, coach and general manager Joe Crozier, who was recently inducted into the American Hockey League Hall of Fame. The Seneca Casinos Legends Series is now in its third year and will feature appearances by different hockey greats at two more Amerks games this season, including Friday, Mar. 9 and Friday, Mar. 30. The featured guests for these Legends Nights will be announced at a later date.
Next Game: The Amerks and Monsters meet again for the second time in as many nights on Saturday, February 18 as the home-and-home series shifts between the North Division rivals shifts to Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland. The 7:30 p.m. matchup can be heard live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester Sports Talk.
FRIDAY'S WARM-UP MUSIC PLAYLIST
Rick Derringer - I Am A Real American
Bad Meets Evil - Fast Lane
Volbeat - Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac Blood
Young The Giant - My Body
Steve Aoki - Turbulence
Nadia Ali, Starkillers and Alex Kenji - Pressure (Alesso Remix)