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2005 AHL All-Stars making major league impact

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The 2006 AHL All-Stars will have a lot to live up to after the splash several of the 2005 All-Stars have made at the NHL level this season.

As the American Hockey League moves closer to the 2006 Rbk Hockey AHL All-Star Classic in Winnipeg, Manitoba, we take a look back at how the All-Stars of 2005 are faring in the world of hockey. Thirty-six players from the 2005 All-Star teams have seen action in the National Hockey League this season, many of whom have quickly made their mark as solid every day contributors to their teams. Eric Staal, Jason LaBarbera, Ryan Miller, Patrice Bergeron, Mathieu Garon, and Jason Spezza lead a list of impressive names that is making the most of their NHL opportunities.

Carolina’s Eric Staal is having the most impressive season of any of the 2005 All-Stars, highlighted by his first career NHL hat trick on October 28th against the Philadelphia Flyers. Staal currently finds himself tied for fourth in the league in goal scoring with 26, and tenth in points with 52. His 52 points put him on pace to crack the triple digit mark by season’s end.

The Ottawa Senators have benefited from a trifecta of AHL All-Stars, led by Jason Spezza. The 2005 Les Cunningham Award winner (AHL MVP) is third on the Senators in scoring with 48 points (13g, 25a). Anton Volchenkov has been solid for Ottawa on defense with a plus-11 rating, and Brandon Bochenski has six goals and seven assists in 18 games.

2005 Rbk Hockey Top Goaltender during the AHL All-Star Skills Competition and current Buffalo Sabre Ryan Miller ranks fifth in the NHL in save percentage (.920) and sixth in GAA (2.33). On December 26th Miller was named the NHL’s defensive player of the week after compiling a 0.96 GAA and .966 save percentage during the week ending December 25th. Miller’s record currently stands at 11-6-0, helping Buffalo compete with the Ottawa Senators for the lead in the Northeast division.

Antero Niittymaki was on the receiving end of Staal’s hat trick in October, but that night was one blemish on what has otherwise been a stellar season for the member of the PlanetUSA squad. So far this season his record stands at 16-4 with a 2.62 GAA. Meanwhile, Jason LaBarbera and Mathieu Garon have joined forces in Los Angeles to lead the Kings to 27 wins and a share of first place in the Pacific division.

In addition to the quality goaltending by LaBarbera and Garon, the Kings have also received strong offensive play from Mike Cammalleri and Dustin Brown, who were on opposite benches during the 2005 All-Star game. Cammalleri has 15 goals and 16 assists for 31 points while Brown has tallied seven goals and nine assists for 16 points.

Canadian All-Star Patrice Bergeron has filled an important hole for the Bruins since the trade of Joe Thornton. Bergeron leads the Bruins in scoring with nine goals and 24 assists for 33 points, averaging more than a point a game since the Thornton trade.

Defenseman Dan Hamhuis has seen plenty of action with the Predators. Hamhuis leads the Preds’ in average ice time (22:46). He has been especially hot as of late, scoring eight assists in his last 11 games.

The 2005 Dodge All-Star game MVP Tomas Plekanec had been contributing solidly with the Montreal Canadiens (4g, 8a for 12 pts.), but has been slowed by a knee injury.

The new crop of All-Stars will be announced this week. On Wednesday the PlanetUSA roster will be announced, followed by the Canadian roster on Thursday.

The 2006 Rbk Hockey AHL All-Star Classic will take place at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on January 31 – February 1. It will be broadcast to millions of households nationally across Canada and regionally in the United States.

Tukonen earns bronze … Manchester forward Lauri Tukonen earned a bronze medal with the Finnish team at the 2006 World Junior Championships in British Columbia. Tukonen played in all seven games for Finland and recorded three goals and seven assists. His performance was also good enough to be named a tournament all-star.

Sound Tigers on the prowl … After a slow start to the season, the Sound Tigers find themselves right back in the mix with a current 8 game unbeaten streak (7-0-0-1). The recent surge has gotten Bridgeport back to the .500 mark for the first time since November 19.

Four Digit Milestones … Falcons captain Brad Tiley played in his 1,000th professional game and 700th AHL game when the Falcons took on the Albany River Rats this past Wednesday. The former AHL All-Star Captain’s career has spanned 15 seasons and 12 teams in the AHL, NHL, and IHL.

The Albany River Rats are approaching that same milestone as a franchise. On Saturday night the Rats will play in the 1,000th game in franchise history, becoming only the 15th team in AHL history to reach that mark.

ETC. … Hartford fired a season-high 56 shots on Sunday, but still came up short as Dieter Kochan made 53 saves to give Portland a 5-3 victory… Cleveland’s current five game winning streak matches a franchise record that was set in November of this season … Syracuse defenseman Andy Delmore extended his point streak to 13 games on Saturday, making him one short of tying the Crunch’s all-time record … Binghamton’s 4-0 win against Hershey on Saturday night is their third of the season, surpassing their shutout total for all of last season … Lowell’s nine goals against Norfolk on Friday established a new franchise record for goals in a single game; the Lock Monsters have now scored seven or more goals on three separate occasions this season … Marlies Forward Luke Fulghum is the first Marlie in team history to score a hat trick, scoring three times and adding an assist in Monday’s 6-1 win over Cleveland at the Air Canada Centre … Houston had a streak of 27 straight wins when scoring at least five goals in a game snapped with a 6-5 loss to Grand Rapids on Friday … A week after breaking the all-time record for points in a season, the Phantom’s John Slaney reached the 300 assist plateau with a second period assist on Sunday afternoon… Wilkes-Barre has 15 road wins this season, one shy of the team record for road wins in a season done by both the 2000-01 and 2004-05 Penguins.