Rochester Americans Game Preview: Sunday, February 16, 2020 vs. Utica Comets
TODAY'S GAME OVERVIEW
- It's a battle for second place in the American Hockey League's North Division standings today as the Rochester Americans (28-17-2-4), fresh off a 4-3 shootout win over the Syracuse Crunch last night, open a season-long six-game homestand this afternoon against the Utica Comets (28-19-3-2) at The Blue Cross Arena. The 3:05 p.m. matinee will be the sixth of 10 scheduled meetings between the intrastate rivals this season and will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
LAST TIME OUT
- After tying the Crunch twice during Saturday's contest at Upstate Medical University Arena to force overtime, the Amerks scored a pair of goals in the shootout to end a four-game losing skid and come out on top with a 4-3 shootout win.
- Brett Murray opened the scoring for Rochester, which has tallied a power-play goal in 16 of the last 30 games against Syracuse, while Andrew MacWilliam and C.J. Smith found the back of the net in regulation. Andrew Oglevie scored in the opening round of the shootout while Casey Mittelstadt sealed the win as he added the dagger in the third round. Rookie goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (2-3-1) made 20 saves, including a pair in the skills competition, to earn his second win of the season. Jean-Sebastien Dea appeared in his 400th professional game.
- The victory improved the Amerks to 6-2-0-0 this season against the Crunch while also boosting them to a 12-6-1-1 mark in the last 20 meetings dating back to the 2017-18 campaign. More importantly, Rochester reclaimed second place in the AHL's North Division standings ahead of today's matinee with the Utica Comets.
ROAD AHEAD FOR ROCHESTER
- The Amerks continue their season-long six-game homestand on Wednesday, Feb. 19 when they host the first-place Belleville Senators at The Blue Cross Arena. Puck drop is slated for a 7:05 p.m. start and will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
MITTELSTADT QUICKLY MAKING HIS MARK
- After producing just one point through his first five game with the Amerks following his midseason reassignment from the Sabres back in December, Casey Mittelstadt has quickly evolved into one of Rochester's most consistent point-getters. The second-year pro has piled up 17 points (7+10) in 25 games for Rochester, including 15 points (7+8) since the turn of the New Year. The former first-round pick has six points (1+5) in his first seven games of February and has not gone more than two games without a point since opening the 2020 calendar year on a season-long four-game point streak (3+1).
TEAM AND LEAGUE LEADERS
- Jean-Sebastien Dea, who remains the only Amerk this season to reach the 30-point plateau, continues to pace the team in goals (14) and points (32) through 46 games. Coming into weekend, Dea, who is also second among all Amerks forwards with 92 shots on goal, has 11 points (4+7) in his last 16 games since the turn of the New Year, including goals in two of his last six outings.
SHARING THE CREASE
- Anchored by the goaltending tandem of veteran Andrew Hammond and third-year pro Jonas Johansson, both of whom are currently on recall with the parent Buffalo Sabres, the Amerks own one of the top defenses in AHL having allowed only 141 goals through the 51 games of the season, the eighth-fewest in the AHL coming into today. The duo has also combined for six shutouts and rank among the AHL's leaders as they both have 13 wins on the season.
- Hammond, who is 13-11-2 on the season, is tied for third among all netminders in shutouts after notching his fourth of the year back on Dec. 14 in a 5-0 win over Laval, a new career-high. With four shutouts through 28 games this season, he remains on pace to tie the franchise record for most shutouts in a season (8) set by Ryan Miller during the 2004-05 campaign.
- Johansson, who made his NHL debut with the Sabres on Feb. 4 against Colorado and made his first career start two nights later against Detroit, owns a career-best 13-3-3 record with two shutouts this season. Despite being on recall, he has the sixth-best goal-against average in the league (2.19) and ranks fourth among all netminders with a .925 save percentage in 20 games. Dating back to Nov. 13, the 2020 AHL All-Star boasts an impressive 11-1-1 record with two shutouts, a 2.11 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage while allowing just two goals or less in eight 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 five games without a point all season. The two-time AHL All-Star and reigning Eddie Shore Award winner is presently 16th in scoring amongst all defensemen with 28 points and is tied for 14th with a team-high 23 assists, 10 of which have come on the power-play.
- Back with Buffalo from his fourth recall of the season, Pilut has 17 points (5+12) over his last 23 AHL games dating back to Nov. 15, including goals in four of his last nine outings. Having already established a new AHL career-high in goals (6), the former SHL Defenseman of the Year is also on pace to set a new mark in points.
- Nelson is eighth among all blueliners with a team-best plus-19 on-ice rating through 44 games this season.
- Jacob Bryson is tied for 10th among all first-year defensemen with a plus-9 rating while being tied for 13th among all rookies with 18 assists in 50 games.
- Rochester has collected at least one point in 17 of the last 23 games against Utica dating back to the start of the 2017-18 campaign, going 12-6-2-3 over that span.
- The Amerks have gone 19-for-73 (26.0%) in the last 15 games against Utica while on the power-play. In four of those games, they scored multiple goals with the man-advantage.
- A total of 14 of the last 24 games between the Amerks and Comets have been decided by one goal.
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