Rochester Americans Game Preview: Saturday, January 18, 2020 at Lehigh Valley Phantoms
TONIGHT'S GAME OVERVIEW
- The Rochester Americans (21-11-2-4) look to snap out of a five-game winless slide tonight as they hit the road to face the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (17-19-1-4) at the PPL Center. The 7:05 p.m. contest will be only meeting in Pennsylvania between the two Eastern Conference clubs before closing their season-series in Rochester in March. Tonight's matchup will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
LAST TIME OUT
- The Amerks tied Friday's contest against the Cleveland Monsters late in regulation but fell short of the come-from-behind win as the Amerks dropped a 4-3 decision in a shootout at The Blue Cross Arena to open their final three-in-three of the season.
- The matchup was the fourth between the North Division rivals this season with all four games having been one-goal margins and three being decided beyond regulation.
- Despite the shootout loss, the Amerks show a 16-8-1-3 record over their last 18 games dating back to Nov. 1, earning points in 20 games over that span. Rochester reached the halfway point of the 2019-20 campaign with a 21-11-2-4 record, good enough for third in the AHL's North Division standings.
- Defenseman John Gilmour chipped in a pair of points (1+1) for the Amerks, who boast a 28-7-3-4 record in the previous 41 get-togethers with the Monsters dating back to the 2011-12 season. Casey Mittelstadt tallied his fourth goal of the season before C.J. Smith forced the game to go beyond regulation with his seventh of the slate. Goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (0-0-1) made his season debut for Rochester but suffered the loss.
ROAD AHEAD FOR ROCHESTER
- The Amerks close their weekend on Sunday, Jan. 19 in Hershey against the Bears at 5:00 p.m. The game will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
LUUKKONEN JOINS AMERKS AFTER RECALL FROM ECHL
- The Amerks recalled Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen from the Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL) earlier this week. Luukkonen returns to Rochester on his second recall of the season after posting a 12-5-3 record in 20 games with Cincinnati. The 20-year-old rookie netminder ranked third among all ECHL goaltenders with a 2.12 goals-against average and 12th in the league with a .917 save percentage at the time of his recall. He was also tied for second with three shutouts. Luukkonen was named to the upcoming 2020 Warrior/ECHL All-Star Classic, scheduled for later this month, and was also honored as the Warrior Hockey/ECHL Goaltender of the Month for November after posting a 6-2-1 record in nine appearances.
TEAM AND LEAGUE LEADERS
- Jean-Sebastien Dea continues to lead the team in both goals (12) and points (27) in 36 games this season. Coming into tonight, Dea, who is also second among all Amerks forwards with 72 shots on goal, has nine points (2+7) in his last 11 games dating back to Dec. 20.
DYNAMIC DUO IN THE CREASE
- Anchored by the elite goaltending tandem of veteran Andrew Hammond and third-year pro Jonas Johansson, the Amerks own one of the top defenses in AHL, having allowed only 96 goals through the first 37 games of the season, the third-fewest in the AHL coming into the weekend. The duo has also combined for six shutouts and continue to rank among the AHL's goaltending leaders with 10 and 11 wins on the season, respectively.
- Hammond (10-8-2) ranks second among all netminders after notching his fourth shutout of the season back on Dec. 14 in a 5-0 win over Laval, a new career-high. In his last 16 games, Hammond boasts a 7-7-1 record with four shutouts, a 2.23 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage. With four shutouts through just 22 games this season, he's on pace to match the franchise record for most shutouts in a season (8) set by Ryan Miller during the 2004-05 campaign.
- Having won nine of his last 11 appearances, Johansson shows an AHL career-best 11-3-3 record with two shutouts this season. He has the fifth-best goal-against average in the league (2.23) and ranks sixth among all netminders with a .924 save percentage in 18 games. Dating back to Nov. 13, the third-year netminder boasts an impressive 9-1-1 record with two shutouts, a 2.15 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage while allowing just two goals or less in six consecutive starts over that span.
THE BEST OFFENSE IS A GOOD DEFENSE
- Rochester owns three of the AHL's top point-producing defensemen in Zach Redmond, Casey Nelson and Lawrence Pilut, all of whom have been mainstays on Rochester's blueline this season.
- The 2019-20 season is just a different chapter in the same story for the 31-year-old Redmond, who hasn't gone more than four games without a point all season. The two-time AHL All-Star and reigning Eddie Shore Award winner is tied for 10th in scoring among all defensemen with 24 points and ranks 10th with a team-high 19 assists. He's also tied for 18th for goals by a defenseman with five through 35 games this season.
- Leading up to his recall on Jan. 7, Pilut had 16 points (4+12) over his last 21 games dating back to Nov. 15, including goals in three of his last seven outings. Having already established a new AHL career-high in goals, the former SHL Defenseman of the Year is also on pace to set a new career-high in points. His 16 assists are three shy of Redmond.
- After missing two games and returning to the lineup Friday night, Nelson is tied for 10th among all active blueliners and ranks 16th overall with a team-best plus-15 on-ice rating through 34 games.
HOW SWEDE IT IS
- Defenseman Lawrence Pilut and goaltender Jonas Johansson have been named to the North Division All-Star roster for the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Ontario International Airport. The annual event will take place Jan. 26-27 at Toyota Arena in Ontario, Calif., home of the Ontario Reign. The Swedish duo will also be joined by Amerks head coach Chris Taylor, who clinched the honor of coaching the North Division squad.
- Lehigh Valley's roster includes four former Amerks in forwards Kyle Criscuolo, Cal O'Reilly and defensemen T.J. Brennan and Eric Knodel.
- Brennan has recorded 475 points (157+318) in 673 career AHL games with Lehigh Valley, Toronto, Rockford, Rochester and Portland.
- Last season, the Buffalo Sabres acquired Taylor Leier from the Philadelphia Flyers organization. The Saskatchewan native made his Amerks debut against his former team in the first meeting last season after posting 136 points (56+80) in 226 games with the Phantoms to begin his professional career.
- Despite just going 1-3-0-0 during the 2016-17 season against the Phantoms, the Amerks are 6-6-1-1 in the last 14 meetings between the two teams dating back to the 2015-16 campaign.
- Rookie defenseman Jacob Bryson is tied for ninth in the AHL for all first-year players with a plus-9 on-ice rating while being the only Amerk to appear in all 38 games so far this season.
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