The top four positions of the North Division are composed of the same teams as last season, just in a different order right now. Rochester remains in first place with Utica, Syracuse, and Toronto in the next three. All three teams have been on the heels of the Amerks all season. There’s two big games this weekend starting tonight at home versus Utica and then a road game in Syracuse on Saturday night.
Kevin Porter is one of many players with flights out of town planned for the All-Star break and he said, “Everyone will have a much better break if we get four points the next couple of games.”
Utica Comets arrive in town today riding a 7-2-1-0 stretch over there last 10 games. Three wins vs Syracuse, two vs Cleveland, one vs Binghamton, and one vs Rochester. They’re currently in second place, three points behind Rochester, but the Amerks have four games in hand. Amerks are 3-2 in five games against the Comets this season.
Rochester travels to Syracuse on Saturday against a Crunch team that has had some struggles as of late. They’ve only won four of their last 10 but anyone who follows the North Division closely knows that they’re a team capable of pulling off a long winning streak at any time. Amerks are 3-0 in three games against the Crunch this season.
Playing at home this season hasn’t always been the best place to play. The overall home record is 13-9 compared to a road record of 12-4-2-1.
“We’ve tried to figure it out and we’re trying to do different things,” Chris Taylor said after practice on Thursday when asked about playing at home. “We’re not status quo on how we’re doing things. We have to change things and we have to change things on how we get prepared for games at home. I thought we did a good job Wednesday night, obviously we didn’t maintain it where we wanted to. We got it out and we got the win. That’s the most important thing, we got the results.”
The biggest difference this weekend and going forward is that the team will be without leading scorer and top defenseman in Zach Redmond. He’s out week to week with a lower body injury from late in the game on Wednesday. More on the injury here:
It’s a new opportunity for players like Will Borgen and Jack Dougherty to get some increased playing time along with time on the power play. Brendan Guhle has played on the power play all season and will likely step into that top spot that Redmond controlled.
Gord Dineen gave a little nod after the morning skate to Will Borgen as a potential for some added offense time. He said, “He’s a guy we’ve kind of penned in as a defensive defenseman but the way he’s been handling the puck and seeing the ice he’ll be an option too.”
CJ Smith was asked if they feel a little more pressure to take that extra step to get back or cover for Redmond being out he said, “I think we trust everybody on our team. It’s kind of next man up mentality. I think we feel like anyone can come in and do a job. We might lose out on some scoring with Reds but it’s not going to change the way we play or change our mindset at all. We’re just going to trust whoever is in the lineup in his spot that they’re going to do his job.”
Victor Olofsson said, “I think we have a lot of good guys on this team and I think we all have to step up a little bit, take more responsibility, and we’ll be fine.”
On Wednesday night the Amerks allowed three goals in a span of 1:55 at a time they had a 4-1 lead. After the game Kevin Porter had said there were a lot of things they had to take from the game and get better at. When asked what those things are he said, “I think its little mistakes here and there. Turnovers are a big thing for us and shot selection.”
The shot selection he’s referring to is shots directly at a goalie with no one else driving the net looking for rebounds. They need to be better at how they’re shooting it. And avoid turning the puck over.
Brandon Hickey will be the sixth defenseman in with Redmond out of the lineup. Yannick Veilleux will replace Tyler Randell in the lineup. Dalton Smith and Nathan Paetsch are the other two scratches. Sean Malone and Andrew Oglevie are still out injured.
Taylor Leier scored his first goal in his second game with the Amerks, his 11th overall of the season. After practice on Thursday he was asked about his first impressions of the team and he said, “The depth i would say. There’s a really deep group especially at forward. Just as a forward i noticed they’re very deep and a lot of guys that can make plays. There’s 4 lines that can score, not a lot of teams have that.”
They’ll have to better with those offensive choices, defensive shortfalls without Redmond, and also playing with a goalie who’ll be playing in only his fourth American League game this season. Scott Wedgewood has been sidelined with a lower body week to week injury which meant that Jonas Johansson was called up from Cincinnati.
One of the three games for Johansson was a 5-2 win over Utica on December 5. The goalie at the other end of the ice was Thatcher Demko.
AHL All-Star Game
Brendan Guhle was announced as the Amerks player to be going to the All-Star game in Springfield on Sunday and Monday. Guhle is ninth on the team in scoring with 19 points (4G+15A) in 37 games.
Zach Redmond and Lawrence Pilut were the original choices but they will not be available. Pilut is with the Buffalo Sabres and wasn’t sent back to be eligible to play. Zach Redmond is out with a week to week injury.
Details from the AHL along with other details on the All-Star game: http://bit.ly/2G0d84O
Other articles this week in case you missed them..