Rochester Americans Game Preview: Wednesday, February 26, 2020 vs. Utica Comets
TONIGHT'S GAME OVERVIEW
- The Rochester Americans (30-17-4-4) play their fifth game of a season-long six-game homestand tonight as they welcome the North Division rival Utica Comets (29-20-3-2) back to The Blue Cross Arena. Tonight's 7:05 p.m. contest will be the second meeting in 10 days between the intrastate rivals after the Amerks earned a 3-2 win back on Feb. 16. All of tonight's action will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
LAST TIME OUT
- The Amerks needed overtime for the third consecutive game this past Saturday, but it was the Cleveland Monsters picking up the extra point, scoring just 1:35 into the extra frame to steal a 3-2 win.
- Taylor Leier scored his eighth goal of the slate - and third in six games - while Brett Murray added his ninth goal for the Amerks. Lawrence Pilut earned his 100th AHL career assist a night after appearing in his 300th pro game while Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made his fifth start in the last six games but suffered the overtime loss.
AMERKS AT A GLANCE
- Despite Saturday's overtime loss, the Amerks have points in five straight games and remain just seven points back of the Belleville Senators for the North Division lead with a game in hand. Rochester also has a five-point on third-place Utica coming into tonight.
ROAD AHEAD FOR ROCHESTER
- Rochester's homestand concludes on Friday, Feb. 28 when they host the North Division rival Laval Rocket at The Blue Cross Arena. Game time 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.
TAYLOR JOINS ELITE COMPANY
- By way of last Friday's 3-2 overtime win over Lehigh Valley, the Amerks reached the 30-win mark for the fourth consecutive season and third straight under head coach Chris Taylor. Taylor became the first Amerks head coach since Randy Cunneyworth, the all-time winningest coach in franchise history, to lead his team to 30 or more wins in each of his first three seasons behind the bench.
MITTELSTADT QUICKLY MAKING HIS MARK
- After producing just one point through his first five games with the Amerks following a midseason reassignment from the Buffalo 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 19 points (7+12) in 29 games for Rochester, including 17 points (7+10) since the turn of the New Year. Mittelstadt has eight points (1+7) in his first 11 games of February and comes into the week showing five assists over his last seven appearances.
TEAM AND LEAGUE LEADERS
- Jean-Sebastien Dea, who remains the only Amerk forward this season to reach the 30-point plateau, continues to pace the team in goals (15) and points (36) through 50 games. Coming into week, Dea, who is also second among all Amerks forwards with 99 shots on goal, has 15 points (5+10) in his last 20 games since the turn of the New Year, including four points (1+3) over his last four games.
SHARING THE CREASE
- Anchored by the goaltending tandem of veteran Andrew Hammond and third-year pro Jonas Johansson, who is currently on recall with the parent Buffalo Sabres, the Amerks own one of the top defenses in AHL having allowed only 151 goals through the 55 games of the season, the eighth-fewest in the AHL coming into the week. The duo has also combined for six shutouts and rank among the AHL's leaders with 14 and 13 wins this season, respectively.
- Hammond, who is 14-11-2 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 29 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 earned his first NHL win in just his third career start this past Sunday in Buffalo's 2-1 victory over Winnipeg, owns a career-best 13-3-3 record with two shutouts this season. Despite being on recall, he's tied for the fifth-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 tied for 14th in scoring amongst all defensemen with 30 points and is also tied for 10th with a team-high 25 assists, 10 of which have come on the power-play.
- Pilut, whose earned four different recalls to the Sabres this season, has 17 points (5+12) over his last 27 AHL games dating back to Nov. 15, including goals in two of his last eight 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 tied for ninth among all blueliners with a team-best plus-19 on-ice rating through 44 games this season.
- Jacob Bryson is sixth among all first-year defensemen with a plus-11 on-ice rating. Bryson, who scored his first pro goal on Wednesday and had the overtime game-winner Saturday night, is also tied for ninth among all rookie blueliners with 21 points (2+19) in 54 games while his 19 assists are eighth-most.
- Rochester has collected at least one point in 18 of the last 24 games against Utica dating back to the start of the 2017-18 campaign, going 13-6-2-3 over that span.
- Utica owns two of the AHL's top seven point-getters in forwards Reid Boucher and Nikolay Goldobin. Boucher has averaged more than a point-per-game for the better part of the season and currently ranks fourth in the league in scoring with 57 points (28+29) in 47 games this season. He's also third in the AHL in goals and tied for 14th in assists.
- Former Amerk Justin Bailey remains at a close second behind Boucher with a career-high 26 goals in 46 games for the Comets. Bailey, who recently returned from a two-game stint with Vancouver, has five points in his last three games, including four goals. He's been one of Utica's most dominant goal-scorers since the turn of the New Year, scoring 14 goals in his last 12 games. The Buffalo native also scored three hat tricks in a four-game span in that stretch, including in back-to-back games against Hartford. He's now reached the 20-goal mark three times in his pro career having previously reached the mark in consecutive seasons with Rochester in 2015-16 and 2016-17.
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