A busy Friday night ensues, with 26 of the 30 teams in action. Let’s get started.
Note: All games in Eastern Standard
Albany looks to start off the 2nd season on a high note, looking to pull off the upset on Hershey, who is coming into the game with a 6 game winning streak. This game will be played in Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, so Albany’s struggles at home do not apply here, while Hershey is 13-6-2 on the road. The real question for Hershey is the health of their goalies, as Dany Sauborin will have knee surgery, and Braden Holtby’s knee is still bothering him. Hershey has called up Jared DeMichiel from South Carolina to help.
Grand Rapids looks to stay in the playoff hunt as they face Hamilton, the top team in the North. Hamilton lost the last 2 games before the break, and Grand Rapids won 2 of the last 3. The Griffins come only 3 points away from 4th in the division. The loss of David Desharnais to the Canadiens, who was called up due to some injuries back in the beginning of January, seems to have had a minimal impact on Hamilton. Desharnais is still ranked 9th in ponts in the AHL despite playing in only 35 games.
Both teams look to come off disappointing streaks at the end of the break, with Bridgeport losing its last 4 games and only winning 1 game in the last 10, while Connecticut lost its last 3 games, only winning 3 of its last 10. Connecticut comes in leading the AHL in PIM by 51 minutes! Devin Didiomete leads the league with 187 PIM, while Justin Soryal is 7th with 158. Bridgeport, despite being last in the Atlantic division, still has a shot at the playoffs, coming in 7 points behind Connecticut who holds the 4 spot.
In another Atlantic Division matchup, these teams look to make a strong start and head towards the Whale for the 4th spot. Both of these teams have 48 points, only 3 points behind Connecticut. Providence had a strong finish before the break, going 7-3. Springfield is 4-6, but won their last 2. One interesting statistic is that Providence has been outscored by 28 goals, yet have a winning record.
Manitoba looks to take on the best team in the AHL as they travel to face Wilkes-Barre Scranton. WB/S came into the break at 6-4, while Manitoba was 6-2-2. The Pens play extremely well at home, with a record of 20-6, though they are without Dustin Jeffrey, who was recalled to Pittsburgh due to an injury. Jeffrey is 6th in the league in points.
Coming off rough 1st halves, each team looks forward to a better second half. Both teams have trouble scoring, as Syracuse and Adirondack is next to last and last in total goals, respectively. Adirondack also has trouble keeping opponents out of the net, letting up 171 goals in 49 games. Phantoms goalie Michael Leighton has started to get adjusted after having surgery in the latter half of 2010, allowing more than 3 goals only once in 6 games, and having a January avg of 2.66 per game and a save percentage of .916. Expect Leighton to continue to get better as he becomes adjusted.
San Antonio looks to stay near the top or on top of the West Division as they face the Lake Erie Monsters, who is 3rd in the north. Lake Erie finished the 1st half winning the last 3 and going 8-2 in the last 10. San Antonio also finished strong, going 4-0-1. Lake Erie is lead by a great goalie in John Grahme, whose GAA is 2.13 with a .92 save percentage. San Antonio also has a very good goalie in Matt Climie, who allows 2.45 per game and has a .922 save percentage. His record is 17-11.
Coming off a tough OT loss to Charlotte last night, Norfolk looks to rebound against Binghamton, who wants to stay in touch in the playoff race in the East. The Senators are led by AHL point leader Corey Locke, who has 44 assists to his name so far along with 16 goals. Norfolk scored 6 goals last night, the most important coming from Marc-Antoine Pouliot who scored to tie the game late in the 3rd period. It was not enough, but it was worth 1 point to stay tied with Charlotte and gain a point on Binghamton.
Manchester looks to stay ahead in the Atlantic Division facing Worcester, who is thrid. Both teams played well heading into the break, with Manchester going 3-0-1 the last 4 and Worcester going 2-0-1 the last 3. Manchester goalie Martin Jones looks to continue his form, giving up 2.17 goals a game and having an outstanding record of 17-5. Worcester goalie Alex Stalock has played in 40 of 48 games, allowing 2.61 games and having a record of 19-17-4.
Rockford looks towards the .500 mark as they face Milwaukee, who is tied for 2nd in the West. Rockford had a tough end before the break, coming up winless in their last 5. Milwaukee had a good end, winning 2 of the last 3 and going 6-2-2 the last 10. Milwaukee is lead by goalie Mark Dekanich, who is allowing just under 2 goals a game on average, and who has a save percentage of .931. His record is 18-7-4.
In a rematch of last night’s game, Peoria looks to pull off a mini sweep of the Barons. Peoria jumped to the top of the West Division after winning 4-1, leaving OKC down in the 5th spot. The Blues recalled Ben Bishop who had an outstanding game for Peoria, so the goalie should be Jake Allen. Expect another close one.
Abborsford looks to stop a high scoring Chicago team and tie for 4th in the North Division. Chicago looks to keep in touch with the West, whose top 7 teams are divided by 6 points. Chicago has 4 of the top 20 point scorers in the AHL, but they do give up goals, giving up the most total goals in the league. Abbotsford is lead by goalie Leland Irving, who has played in 40 of 49 games and has a record of 19-15-2, giving up 2.42 per game and having a SAV% of .907.
In the battle of Texas, Houston and Texas face off in another crucial West Division battle. After going to the AHL finals last year, Texas is having another strong year, and won 3 of the last 4 going into the break. However, Houston was red hot, winning 8 of their last 10. Stars goalie Richard Bachman has done well in his first year, having a 17-10-3 record, stopping .925 of shots and having a GAA of 2.21. Houston has a pick of 2 goalies, Matt Hackett and Anton Khudobin. Houston leads the season series at 6-1. This is the first of five meetings in the second half.