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AHL Morning Skate: Final playoff tune-ups begin tonight

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AHL Quick Hits is now the Morning Skate… Every morning, take a spin around the AHL ice with recaps and previews, news and notes, facts and figures, and the top headlines from around the American Hockey League.

 


WEDNESDAY’S SCORES:


WEDNESDAY’S THREE STARS:
1. Corey Locke set a Bulldogs franchise record with six points (3g, 3a) in Hamilton’s 8-4 win over Rochester.

2. Jiri Tlusty tallied two goals and two assists in his AHL return to lead Toronto past Chicago, 8-3.

3. Martins Karsums recorded two goals and an assist as Providence secured the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy with a 6-1 win at Worcester.


FRIDAY’S SCHEDULE (all times ET):

W-B/Scranton at Albany, 7:00

Manitoba at Grand Rapids, 7:00

Norfolk at Binghamton, 7:05

Hershey at Philadelphia, 7:05

Worcester at Portland, 7:05

Manchester at Providence, 7:05

Lowell at Bridgeport, 7:30

Toronto at Hamilton, 7:30

Hartford at Springfield, 7:30

Syracuse at Rochester, 7:35

Houston at Milwaukee, 8:00

San Antonio at Peoria, 8:00

Iowa at Quad City, 8:05

Chicago at Rockford, 8:30


CALDER CUP PLAYOFF RACES:
Click here for up-to-date AHL standings

ATLANTIC DIVISION
1. Providence has clinched first place, and will play Manchester in the first round beginning Wednesday
2. Hartford has clinched second place, and will play Portland in the first round beginning Wednesday

3. Portland has clinched third place, and will play Hartford in the first round beginning Wednesday

4. Manchester has clinched fourth place, and will play Providence in the first round beginning Wednesday

EAST DIVISION
1. Hershey clinches a playoff berth (a) a win at Philadelphia and a Bridgeport loss (regulation/OT/SO) vs. Lowell; or (b) an OT/SO loss at Philadelphia and a Bridgeport regulation loss vs. Lowell
2. Albany has clinched third place

NORTH DIVISION
1. Toronto has clinched first place
2. Manitoba clinches second place with a win at Grand Rapids and a Syracuse regulation loss at Rochester

WEST DIVISION
1. Chicago has clinched first place, and clinches the regular-season conference title with a win at Rockford and a Toronto regulation loss at Hamilton

2. Rockford, Milwaukee, Houston and San Antonio have all clinched playoff berths


GAME NOTES (all times ET):
W-B/Scranton at Albany, 7:00
The Penguins and River Rats meet tonight at the Times Union Center for the eighth and final time this regular season… Albany has taken four of the seven previous meetings, with one of the victories coming in a shootout… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton enters the season’s final weekend with a one-point lead on Philadelphia for the East Division lead, while the River Rats are locked into third place in the division… AHL All-Rookie defenseman Alex Goligoski boasts a six-game scoring streak (2-5-7) for the Pens… Bastien Award winner Michael Leighton of Albany leads the league in save percentage (.932) and shutouts (7) and ranks second in GAA (2.07) and minutes played (3,392).

Manitoba at Grand Rapids, 7:00
Manitoba, winners of three straight games and 13 of its last 16 (13-2-0-1), visits Grand Rapids for the first of a two-game set… Each team has won three games in the season series thus far, and the clubs split a pair of tilts at Van Andel Arena in late February… The Moose are two points up on Syracuse in the race for home-ice advantage in their upcoming North Division semifinal series… Brad Moran leads Manitoba with 75 points (21-54-75), and rookie Michael Grabner boasts a team-high 22 goals (22-22-44)… The Griffins will miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2004-05 campaign.

Norfolk at Binghamton, 7:05
Binghamton needs a win to keep its playoff hopes alive as it hosts Norfolk at the Broome County Arena tonight… The B-Sens are five points back of Hershey with three games to play, and the Bears hold the first tiebreaker (wins)… The Senators are 4-2-0-1 against the Admirals this season… Rookie Ilya Zubov (3-4-7) and First Team AHL All-Star Lawrence Nycholat (1-6-7) each have seven points in the season series… Binghamton has scored an AHL-high 21 shorthanded goals this season while Norfolk has allowed 18, second-most in the league… Admirals leading scorer Kyle Wanvig has 12 points (4-8-12) in seven games against the B-Sens.

Hershey at Philadelphia, 7:05
Hershey visits Philadelphia tonight in the first game of a home-and-home this weekend between the intra-state rivals… The two-time defending Eastern Conference champion Bears can clinch a playoff spot on Friday with a win combined with a Bridgeport loss of any kind… Chris Bourque has notched multiple points in five straight games (6-6-12) for the Bears, and Kyle Wilson has a point in four of his last five contests (3-4-7)… The Phantoms, who will return to the playoffs for the first time since winning the Calder Cup in 2005, are one point back of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the East Division lead and are looking for their first three-game winning streak since mid-February… Rookie Kyle Greentree sports a goal in three straight games.

Worcester at Portland, 7:05
Portland and Worcester conclude their 10-game season series on Friday at the Cumberland County Civic Center… The Pirates, who will return to the Calder Cup Playoffs after a one-year absence, are 6-1-2-0 against the Sharks this season… Second Team AHL All-Star Brian Salcido ranks second among AHL defensemen with 53 points (11-42-53) and has 12 points (1-11-12) in nine games against Worcester… Geoff Platt leads the Pirates with 32 goals in 73 games but has gone 10 straight games without lighting the lamp… 2008 AHL All-Star Mike Iggulden has tallied a goal in four consecutive games for the Sharks, and sits two shy of the 30-goal plateau.

Manchester at Providence, 7:05
A first-round playoff preview pits Manchester against Providence at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center tonight… The Bruins are 5-1-0-0 against the Monarchs this season and took a 3-2 shootout win when the teams clashed last Sunday… Providence has won a season-high six straight games overall and has clinched home-ice advantage throughout the Calder Cup Playoffs… AHL rookie of the year Teddy Purcell has a point in 10 of his last 11 games (7-10-17) for the Monarchs and ranks third overall in the league with 83 points on the campaign (25-58-83)… Zach Hamill, the eighth overall pick in the 2007 NHL draft, recorded three assists in Providence’s 6-1 win over Worcester on Wednesday.

Lowell at Bridgeport, 7:30
Bridgeport is four points out of a playoff spot with three games to play as it welcomes Lowell to the Arena at Harbor Yard tonight… The Sound Tigers are 3-2-0-0 in the season series and have captured both home tilts against the Devils this season… Two-time AHL All-Star Jeff Tambellini has 36 goals – one off the league lead – and 72 points in just 54 games for Bridgeport… Blake Comeau has six points (1-5-6) in three games since returning from the parent N.Y. Islanders… The Devils enter the weekend winless in their last four games (0-3-0-1).

Toronto at Hamilton, 7:30
Provincial rivals Toronto and Hamilton square off for the 12th and final time this season tonight at Copps Coliseum… The North Division champion Marlies have taken eight of the first 11 meetings (8-3-0-0), including each of the last three… Toronto enters the weekend two points back of Chicago for the overall Western Conference lead… Rookie Jiri Tlusty, the Maple Leafs’ first-round draft pick in 2006, is coming off a season-high four-point effort (2-2-4) in the Marlies’ 8-3 win over Chicago on Wednesday… Jay Harrison had three points (1-2-3) in that victory… Corey Locke became the third player in the league this season and the second Bulldog ever to tally a six-point night (3-3-6) in Hamilton’s 8-4 win over Rochester on Wednesday.

Hartford at Springfield, 7:30
Hartford, which will finish second in the Atlantic Division for the fourth year in a row, travels up Interstate 91 to square off with Springfield… The Wolf Pack are 8-1-0-0 against the Falcons this season and a combined 22-2-0-1 against the AHL’s three Massachusetts-based teams, all of whom will miss the playoffs… Former first-round draft pick Hugh Jessiman has a point in eight of his last 10 contests for Hartford (5-7-12)… 2008 AHL All-Star Rob Schremp shows team highs in assists (52) and points (74) for the Falcons, who can guarantee their first .500 season since 1998-99 with a victory.

Syracuse at Rochester, 7:35
Syracuse brings its 12-game winning streak and 20-game points streak (17-0-0-3), both AHL season highs and franchise records, to a battle with arch-rival Rochester on Friday… The Crunch haven’t lost in regulation since Feb. 18 and are 9-2-0-0 against the Americans this season… Syracuse rookie Derick Brassard, the sixth overall pick by Columbus in the 2006 draft, brings an eight-game scoring streak (7-14-21) into tonight’s action… Nate DiCasmirro has a point in three straight (2-3-5) and six of his last seven (2-7-9)… 2008 AHL All-Star Mark Mancari is riding a five-game scoring streak (3-3-6) for the Americans.

Houston at Milwaukee, 8:00
Playoff positioning in the tightly packed West Division is on the line when Houston visits Milwaukee for the first of three meetings between the teams this weekend… The Aeros and Admirals are part of a three-way tie with San Antonio for third place in the division, two points back of second-place Rockford… The Admirals are 12-3-1-0 since Mar. 1, while the Aeros boast a 12-6-0-1 mark over that same span… Milwaukee’s Matt Ellison has a point in eight of his last nine games (6-5-11) and a team-high 26 goals for the campaign… Houston goaltender Nolan Schaefer has a league-best 2.04 GAA in 32 games this season (18-12-0).

San Antonio at Peoria, 8:00
San Antonio looks to improve its playoff position on Friday when it visits Peoria, which will miss the playoffs for the second straight year… The Rampage are 5-2-0-0 in their last seven games overall and 5-1-0-1 against the Rivermen this season… San Antonio’s Matt Murley has a team-high 58 points (19-39-58) this season, including two goals and nine assists in seven meetings with Peoria… David Spina sports a point in six of his last seven contests (6-5-11)… Peoria’s Julian Talbot is tied for fifth on the AHL’s rookie scoring list with 49 points (24-25-49) in 75 games.

Iowa at Quad City, 8:05
Division rivals Iowa and Quad City tangle for the 12th and final time this season tonight at the I Wireless Center in Moline… The Flames are 8-3-0-0 against the Stars, including a 4-1-0-0 mark on home ice… Grant Stevenson leads Quad City with career highs in goals (30), assists (42) and points (72) in 77 games… David Van der Gulik has six goals and nine points in the season series… Quad City is 9-for-45 (20.0%) on the power play against Iowa this year… Stars rookie James Neal shows a point in five of his last six contests (4-3-7)… Marty Sertich scored twice in Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to San Antonio.

Chicago at Rockford, 8:30
West Division champion Chicago travels to Rockford for the first tilt of a home-and-home with the IceHogs this weekend… The Wolves are 5-2-0-1 thus far in the season series but just 1-2-0-1 at the MetroCentre… Chicago can clinch home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs with a win combined with a Toronto regulation loss… First Team AHL All-Star Jason Krog leads the AHL in assists (68) and points (104), and he boasts a team-high 15 points (5-10-15) in eight games against Rockford… The IceHogs’ Martin St. Pierre ranks second behind Krog with 84 points (20-64-84) but is scoreless in back-to-back games for just the third time this season.


MORNING HEADLINES:

OUT OF NOWHERE: BOUDREAU, STEVENS IN NHL PLAYOFFS

Joseph White, Associated Press
With his balding head, pleasant chubby smile, off-the-cuff humor and a wardrobe that won’t exactly land him in Vogue, Bruce Boudreau looks more like the neighborhood butcher than a hockey coach. On the other hand, check out John Stevens. Nice suit. Nice hair. Measured words, at least in public. A good bet to win a foot race between the two. “I’m not going out and getting a toupee,” Boudreau said Wednesday with a laugh and a shrug. “And the weight’s not coming off quite the way I like it to. That’s who I am.” Looks can be deceiving. Although they will never pass for identical twins, the coaches commanding the benches in Friday’s Game 1 between the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers actually have quite a bit in common… Link


REGULAR SEASON’S END BITTERSWEET FOR BONVIE

Jonathan Bombulie, Citizen’s Voice

As an optional practice wound down around noon on Thursday, Dennis Bonvie and 13 other Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins players lingered on the ice at the Wachovia Arena. Led by Chris Minard and Kurtis McLean, seasoned veterans in this group, the other 13 players had a combined 784 AHL career games on their AHL resumes. That’s still more than a full season short of Bonvie’s 870 games of AHL experience. What was the 35-year-old Bonvie doing on the ice with a group of fresh-faced teammates? After all, veterans don’t usually take part in such practices, especially this late in the year… Link

 

OPERATION TRANSFORMATION

Lindsay Kramer, Syracuse Post-Standard

Obscured by the most improbable and electric turnaround in the 14-year history of the Syracuse Crunch is the forgotten nugget that this year’s edition was never all that terrible to begin with. The team at times was mediocre, inconsistent and, more than anything else, just plain blah. It was never worse than six games under .500, but never close to anything that could be described as Calder Cup contender. That all seems like another era, which is