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Gameday: Comets at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton

March 22, 2014 - American Hockey League (AHL) - Utica Comets News Release

UTICA COMETS (27-28-3-4) @ Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (35-20-3-5)

Tonight's Game: The Comets travel to Pennsylvania tonight for the final time this season, to take on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Utica comes into tonight's action in desperate search of a victory, eight points behind Rockford for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

When They Last Met: The Comets pulled a little bit of magic out of their hats in a 2-1 shootout win over the Penguins on March 7 at The AUD. Brandon DeFazio scored with just 7.7 seconds left to force overtime, before Cal O'Reilly won the game in the fifth round of the shootout. Joacim Eriksson stole the show with 32 saves on 33 shots, including a perfect five of five during the shootout for the victory.

Comets Outlook: The Utica Comets lost a disappointing 4-3 tilt last evening against the Adirondack Phantoms at The AUD. Utica got goals from Brandon DeFazio, Colin Stuart and Kent Huskins, but were defeated by an Adirondack team led by three points from Jason Akeson (2-1-3). Joacim Eriksson made 21 saves in defeat while Yann Danis turned aside 35 of 38 Utica shots for the victory.

Penguins Outlook: A 16 save shutout from Peter Mannino led the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to a 2-0 victory over the Syracuse Crunch last evening at the War Memorial. Forwards Spencer Machacek and Adam Payerl scored for the Penguins, who won their fifth consecutive game. Sochi hero Kristers Gudlevskis made 26 saves on 28 shots in defeat for Syracuse.

Here Come The Comets: Since Jan. 18, the Comets have been the AHL's third highest producing team with 34 points, courtesy of a 16-9-2 record. Utica, which trails just St. John's and Chicago in points during that span, is currently tied for eleventh place in the Western Conference with 61 points on the season, eight behind Rockford for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Brand Theft Auto: With a goal last evening against Adirondack, Comets winger Brandon DeFazio has now scored a goal in four of his past five games. The Oakville, ON native now has a career high 13 goals this season and has tied his AHL best from 2012-13 with 25 points. DeFazio also has a career high 152 shots and currently sits at a +4 rating, which would also be a career best.

Time Well Kent: Defenseman Kent Huskins was named the game's second star last evening with a multi-point performance (1-1-2). The goal was just the third of the season for Huskins, who also collected his first two-point game at any level since Feb. 18, 2011 when he played for the St. Louis Blues of the NHL. His last two-point effort in the AHL came on Feb. 23, 2007, when Huskins was a member of the Portland Pirates. Huskins also hit the 200-assist milestone for his career with the helper on teammate Brandon DeFazio's goal.

More Milestones To Come: If they are both in the lineup, defenseman Henrik Tommernes and winger Brandon DeFazio are both in line for a milestone in tonight's game. For Tommernes, tonight will be his 250th professional game played, while DeFazio is in line for his 200th game played in the AHL.

Scouting The Penguins: AHL veteran winger Tom Kostopoulos leads all Wilkes-Barre/Scranton skaters with 21 goals and 44 points. Center Nick Drazenovic is tops on the roster amongst forwards with 26 assists over 46 games, while Brandon Mikkelson leads all Penguin skaters with 27.

Mikkelson's total also ranks 12th best amongst AHL blueliners. Teammate Philip Samuelsson leads all Penguins with a +18 rating, which is also tied for twelfth in the entire AHL.

Goaltender Jeff Deslauriers has taken the bulk of the work with 39 appearances this season, with Peter Mannino, the other goaltender on the roster, has nine. Mannino has posted solid numbers since he re-joined the team in late February. The Farmingham Hills, MI native has posted a 4-0-1 record since he returned to the Penguins in late February, with a .955 save percentage. Deslauriers has struggled this season, despite the bulk of work, ranking just 45th of 47 qualified AHL goaltenders with a .895 save percentage.

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