Houston Aeros game notes
Six things you need to know
Since getting outscored 9-1 in the third period over a four-game stretch 10/25-10/30, the Aeros have been much better in their last three games, outscoring their opponents in the third in each of the contests. Houston has still allowed a league-high 22 third-period goals in only 15 games. That's five more than any other team. The Aeros have kept their opponent off the scoreboard in the third period five times in 15 games, and it's no surprise that they are 4-0-1-0 in such situations. One of the reasons Houston has had trouble defensively in the third period is the shot total. The Aeros have been outshot 182-126 in the third period. The saving grace for the Aeros has been the fact that they've scored 15 third-period goals - five off Grand Rapids' league-best total.
Aeros captain and RW Kirby Law is set to play in his 96th consecutive game with the team tonight. That's just one off the team record of 97, set by Mark Freer in the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons. Law should tie Freer's mark on Friday and eclipse it Saturday, should all go according to plan. And why shouldn't it? Dating back to 2003-04 with Philadelphia, Law has played in 116 consecutive AHL games since a recall to the NHL. D Curtis Murphy, meanwhile, has played in 154 straight regular-season games counting Russia, and in 373 of his team's last 374 games since 2001-02. In Murphy's three seasons as an Aero, he has played all 212 regular-season and playoff games. C Erik Westrum rides a 95-game consecutive AHL game streak into tonight.
RW Kirby Law isn't just playing every game, he's playing every game well. He rides a three-game goal streak into tonight's game, tied for the team season-high with C Erik Westrum. Law collected his ninth goal in his 15th game Sunday. In 2004-05, it took him 35 games to garner his ninth goal, on January 14, also against Manitoba. He actually scored goals nine and 10 that game.
Omaha is at the .500 mark (5-5-0-3), which has generally meant good news for Houston. The Aeros are 7-2-1-1 against teams with a .500 record or better. But Houston is only 2-2-0-0 against teams with losing records. Both losses have come versus division foes - Chicago and San Antonio.
C Erik Westrum ranks second in the AHL in scoring with 23 points (7-16=23) and first in assists with 16...Westrum has already bettered his 2004-05 assist total with Utah in only 15 games. He had 33 points (18-15=33) last season for the Grizzlies. RW Kirby Law is sixth in the AHL in scoring with 18 points (9-9=18). D Kurtis Foster is tied for 11th in points with 14 (4-10=14), a total that has him tied for first in the AHL among defensemen. LW Roman Voloshenko is tied for 16th in the AHL in scoring with 13 points (9-4=13). Voloshenko is second in the league in points among rookies, and he and Law are tied for fourth overall in goals with nine. D Curtis Murphy is tied for third among AHL defensemen in points with 11 (1-10=11).
Both Houston and Omaha are among the league leaders in one-goal games. The teams also went to a pair of shootouts - both won by Houston - last month in Omaha. Houston is 6-1-1-1 in one-goal games, tied with Hartford for the AHL lead for one-goal victories. In 2004-05, the Aeros were 16-9-6-6 in one-goal contests. Meanwhile, seven of Omaha's 13 games have been decided by one goal (3-1-0-3), and 11 of the 13 by two goals or less (5-3-0-3). Hartford has played a league-high 10 one-goal games, with Houston next with nine.
Knights at Aeros (Aeros are 2-0-0-0 overall, First meeting at Houston) The Aeros and Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights, the AHL affiliate of the Calgary Flames, meet for the third time ever after 6-5 and 4-3 shootout wins by Houston in Omaha last month. In Houston's 6-5 win, the Aeros rallied from a 2-0 deficit to take a 5-2 lead, only to see Omaha score three times in the third to force overtime. In the 4-3 game, Houston led 2-0 midway through the game, but the Knights took a 3-2 lead into the waning minutes, when Kurtis Foster forced the extra session.
Scouting the Aeros
The Aeros are off to an 9-4-1-1 start, just the third time in history they've won nine of their first 15 games...Houston is in first place in the West Division with 20 points, although Peoria (18 points) has three games in hand...C Erik Westrum has 23 points (7-16=23) to rank second in the AHL lead in scoring...Westrum has a team-best eight multiple-point games...RW Kirby Law is sixth in the league with 18 points (9-9=18)...Rookie LW Roman Voloshenko is tied for fourth in the AHL with nine goals - all coming in three games...D Kurtis Foster has 14 points (4-10=14), while counterpart D Curtis Murphy has 11 (1-10=11)...The duo ranks tied for first and tied for third, respectively, among AHL defensemen...G Josh Harding is 6-3-0 with a 3.03 gaa despite missing 12 days due to injury...G Miroslav Kopriva is 1-1-0 with a 4.33 gaa...G Seamus Kotyk is 2-1-1, with a 3.36 gaa.
Scouting the Ak-Sar-Ben Knights
Omaha, AHL affiliate of the Calgary Flames, tries for its second set of back-to-back wins this season, having also accomplished that feat 10/25-10/28...The Ak-Sar-Ben Knights have only two regulation losses in their last six games (3-2-0-1)...Omaha is coming off a 3-2 win at high-powered Peoria on Saturday, a night after dropping a 2-0 road decision to the Rivermen...Omaha has scored only seven goals in six road games...RW Carsen Germyn, who played in Norfolk last season, leads the Knights in scoring with 10 points (6-4=10)...Rookie LW Tomi Maki is next with nine (4-5=9)...D Mark Giordano (2-6=8) and D Richie Regehr (1-6=7) pace the blueline...G Brent Krahn, a first-round pick in 2000, is 3-3-2 with a 3.02 gaa, while rookie G Curtis McElhinny is 2-2-1 and ranks fifth in the AHL in gaa at 1.97...The Knights have been without their captain, C Craig MacDonald, since a 10/23 recall to Calgary.
2005-06 meetings (3rd of 10 meetings, Aeros are 2-0-0-0 overall, First meeting at Houston)
October 18 Houston 6 at Omaha 5 (SO)
October 20 Houston 4 at Omaha 3 (SO)
Tonight Omaha at Houston
Wednesday Omaha at Houston
December 23 Omaha at Houston
March 12 Houston at Omaha
March 23 Houston at Omaha
March 31 Houston at Omaha
April 11 Omaha at Houston
April 14 Omaha at Houston
The Aeros are a perfect 9-0-0-0 when scoring three goals or more, but winless at 0-4-1-1 when scoring two or fewer. Houston is tied with San Antonio for most SHG allowed with four. The Aeros have led after one period only twice in seven home games. The Aeros (9-4-1-1) enter the week in first place in the AHL's West Division with 20 points. Peoria is second with 18, but the Rivermen have three games in hand on the Aeros. Houston's .667 points percentage is seventh best in the AHL. Omaha's 113 power play opportunities lead the AHL, as do the Aeros' 126 shorthanded chances. The Knights went on 19 power plays in two games versus Houston in October.
A shoutout for the shootout
Houston fell in a shootout for the first time Friday versus Manitoba. The Aeros failed to score in any of the five rounds to drop to 3-1 in shootouts this season. Each of the Aeros' shootout wins has come on the road, after they went 4-3 in such situations in 2004-05. C Patrick O'Sullivan is 3-for-4 in shootouts, with two deciding tallies. C Erik Westrum is 3-for-5, as he shot twice in one shootout.
A lot from a little
The Aeros have goals from 12 players this season, after rookie D Clayton Stoner scored Thursday, veteran D Curtis Murphy got on the board and LW Josh Olson tallied Sunday. The trio of Roman Voloshenko, Kirby Law and Erik Westrum has accounted for 25 of the Aeros' 50 goals (50.0 percent).
Power play update
Houston ranks seventh in the league on the power play at 19.8 percent. The Aeros are just 7-for-55 (12.7 percent) with the man advantage in the last eight games, dating back to a four PPG performance vs. Grand Rapids 10/21. The Aeros are 5-for-35 (14.3 percent) on the power play in their last five games at Toyota Center. Omaha is 15th in the AHL on the penalty kill at 83.5 percent. The Knights have killed off 24-of-26 shorthanded chances (92.3 percent) over the last three games, since allowing six goals on only 21 chances over a two-game span (71.4 percent kill rate).
Penalty kill update
Houston is 18th in the AHL on the penalty kill at 82.5 percent. The Aeros yielded at least one man advantage goal in each of their first 13 games this season, but they are 9-for-9 on the PK the last two games. Opponents are 8-for-40 (20.0 percent) with the man advantage in the last six contests. Houston has gone shorthanded 126 times in 15 games, 21 more than any other AHL team. The Aeros have an AHL-high 138 minor penalties - 19 more than any other team. The Aeros are minus-15 in the PP for/PP against differential. Omaha is 23rd in the AHL on the power play at 12.4 percent. The Knights are an improved 7-for-44 (15.9 percent) with the man advantage in the last five games.
Murphy climbing charts
Aeros D Curtis Murphy is in sole possession of eighth place on the team's all-time list with 76 assists. Mark Cullen, Murphy's teammate on the 2002-03 Calder Cup winning team, is seventh with 77. Murphy has moved into sole possession of 16th place on the Aeros' all-time points list with 112. He's one behind Kyle Wanvig for 15th.
Last Game (Sunday)
Erik Westrum tallied a goal and an assist, Kirby Law and Josh Olson also scored and Roman Voloshenko chipped in two assists, as the Houston Aeros defeated the Manitoba Moose 3-2 at Toyota Center. Josh Harding made 20 saves in his first action in 12 days due to injury. The Aeros avenged a 3-2 shootout loss to the Moose on Friday. Jozef Balej scored two goals and Wade Flaherty made 36 saves for Manitoba, which had won five in a row and nine of 10. Manitoba had also won six straight on the road, and six straight overall versus Houston.
Knights defenseman Steve Bancroft played for the Aeros for part of the 1999-2000 season. He and Houston's Joel Ward each hail from Toronto, Ont. Aeros goalie Josh Harding and Omaha's Darren Lynch each call Regina, Sask., home. Lynch is currently with ECHL Las Vegas.
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