Criscuolo Returning, Defensive Moves, and Building the Gap

There’s three games remaining before Christmas break for the Rochester Americans and they’re on pace with their goal to build a gap in the standings and have a short time off on a winning streak.

Sitting in first place with 38 points (18-7-2-0) the Amerks have a six point lead over Syracuse (who has three games in hand), a seven point lead over Utica (who has played three more games), an eight point lead over Cleveland (tied in games played), and a nine point lead over Toronto (tied in games played). The power play and penalty kill are in the bottom half of the league but the Amerks continue to win and stay on top of the North Division.

Chris Taylor said after practice, “We know how important the last three games as home is for our team. We didn’t have a great outing last Wednesday so we want to make sure we’re coming out strong.”

“The only way you’re going to win games is how you practice,” Taylor said. “You’re not going to make each other better if you’re just going through the motions letting guys score. We have to play hard in practice, it’s one of those things that we desperately make sure we’re better at.”

During some corner drills no one was holding back with intensity. One example was Will Borgen was laying it on to Justin Bailey against the wall. The coaches have stressed practicing like you play, we’ll see if it pays off on Wednesday.

The team was happy with the way that everyone played over the weekend in back to back wins over Cleveland. From goaltending to defense to the offense. When they play as a team they win games, it’s not just about one player – although it helps when your goalie is fantastic which Wedgewood and Wilcox were.

Roster updates:

Brendan Guhle was called up to the Sabres on Sunday.

Matt Tennyson was assigned back to the Amerks on Monday.

Devante Stephens was called up from Cincinnati as they’re in need of a body. They’re getting him some practice time and will see how he fits in. Zach Redmond, Matt Tennyson, Andrew MacWilliam, Will Borgen, and Jack Dougherty seem to be set for spots on the blue line. The last spot will likely come down to either Stephens or Hickey. Nathan Paetsch seems like a long shot. Will have additional updates on Wednesday.

Kyle Criscuolo returned to team practice for the first time since November 14. He was injured in a game on October 26 in what was just called lower body. He has been cleared but is going to play on Wednesday but is hopeful for the weekend. He had been skating in his words quite a bit leading up to this.

Alex Nylander was out of practice today with what Chris Taylor described as monitoring something lower body. They’ll see how he is on Wednesday.

Kevin Porter is still out and on the week to week list.

Forward lines were shifted a bit with Nylander out. CJ Smith was back on the wing after a short stint at center over the weekend.

19, 14, 10
12, 26, 65
37, 20, 95
67, 18, 64
51 as an extra

Coming up on Wednesday: More on Devante Stephens and Dalton Smith.

Amerks have three home games this week before the Christmas break – Wednesday vs Belleville, Friday vs Hartford, Saturday vs Hartford. The game on Saturday starts at 5:05pm.