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AHL Morning Skate: One more last gasp for Tigers

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.


FRIDAY’S SCORES:


FRIDAY’S THREE STARS:
1. Dave Gove tallied two goals and an assist against his former teammates as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton edged Albany, 4-3

2. Trevor Smith registered his first pro hat trick as Bridgeport kept its playoff hopes alive with a 6-1 win over Lowell.

3. Antti Pihlstrom posted a goal and an assist to help Milwaukee drop Houston, 3-2.


SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE (all times ET):

Rochester at Toronto, 4:00

Manitoba at Grand Rapids, 7:00

Bridgeport at Hartford, 7:00

Philadelphia at Hershey, 7:00

Portland at Springfield, 7:00

Providence at Manchester, 7:05

Norfolk at W-B/Scranton, 7:05

Lowell at Worcester, 7:05

Hamilton at Lake Erie, 7:30

Binghamton at Syracuse, 7:30

Rockford at Chicago, 8:00

Iowa at Peoria, 8:00

Quad City at San Antonio, 8:00

Milwaukee at Houston, 8:35


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. W-B/Scranton clinches the division title with (a) a win vs. Norfolk; or (b) a Philadelphia loss (regulation/OT/SO) at Hershey

2. Hershey clinches a playoff berth (a) a point vs. Philadelphia; or (b) a Bridgeport loss (regulation/OT/SO) at Hartford
3. 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 vs. Binghamton

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

2. Rockford clinches second place with (a) a win at Chicago and a Houston win vs. Milwaukee; or (b) an OT/SO loss at Chicago and a Milwaukee regulation loss at Houston and a San Antonio regulation loss vs. Quad City


GAME NOTES (all times ET):
Rochester at Toronto, 4:00
Toronto continues its late push for first place overall in the Western Conference when it hosts Rochester this afternoon in the teams’ eighth and final meeting of the season… The Marlies are 6-1-0-0 against the Amerks on the campaign and enter today’s action 11-2-0-1 in their last 14 contests overall… Toronto and Chicago, both of whom have clinched their divisions, are tied atop the conference with 107 points apiece… Rookie Jiri Tlusty has three goals and six points in two games since returning from the parent Maple Leafs… The Americans are coming off a 4-0 loss to Syracuse and will look to snap a five-game losing skid.

Manitoba at Grand Rapids, 7:00
Manitoba and Grand Rapids wrap up their two-game set at Van Andel Arena tonight after the Griffins took a 6-3 win on Friday… Rookie Darren Helm netted a pair of goals in that victory… Grand Rapids is now 4-3-0-0 against the Moose this season, with one of the victories coming in overtime… Evan McGrath shows four points (2-2-4) over his last two games, including a goal and two assists in last night’s win… The Moose are tied with Syracuse for second place in the North Division at 96 points apiece… Colby Genoway has registered eight points (2-6-8) in his last four outings, and Mike Brown has a point in three straight (2-1-3)… Rookie goaltender Cory Schneider ranks fifth in the league with a 2.24 GAA (20-11-2).

Bridgeport at Hartford, 7:00
Bridgeport needs a win and a Hershey regulation loss to keep its playoff hopes alive as it begins a home-and-home with Hartford at the XL Center tonight… The Sound Tigers are 5-2-0-1 against the Wolf Pack this season, including a pair of 2-1 shootout wins in Connecticut’s capital… Rookie Trevor Smith, coming off a hat trick last night against Lowell, has a team-high four goals in six games played against Hartford… Blake Comeau has multiple points in all four games (1-8-9) since returning from the N.Y. Islanders… Former first-round draft pick Alex Bourret scored in Hartford’s 4-1 win at Springfield on Friday, his first game back after missing the previous 14 tilts.

Philadelphia at Hershey, 7:00
Hershey can clinch their third consecutive playoff appearance with a point against Philadelphia, which is trying to stay alive in the race for the East Division title… The Bears rallied for a 4-2 win over the Phantoms on Friday in the City of Brotherly Love… Chris Bourque scored twice in that victory and now has multiple points in six straight games (8-6-14)… Bourque leads the Bears with 10 points (4-6-10) in 10 games played against the Phantoms… Ryan Potulny has a goal in three of his last four games (3-0-3) for the Phantoms, and Denis Gauthier has an assist in three straight (0-5-5).

Portland at Springfield, 7:00
Springfield hosts Portland tonight at the MassMutual Center to wrap up the home portion of its schedule… The Falcons, who will miss the playoffs for the fifth year in a row, are led in scoring by 2008 AHL All-Star Rob Schremp (22-52-74), while Grant Potulny shows a team-high 28 goals (28-18-46)… Potulny had a four-game scoring streak (3-2-5) snapped on Friday… Portland leading scorer Andrew Ebbett has tallied a team-high nine points (3-6-9) in seven games against Springfield this season… Ebbett (1-3-4) and Stephen Dixon (1-2-3) both bring three-game scoring streaks into tonight’s action.

Providence at Manchester, 7:05
A night after taking a 2-0 win in Providence, Manchester hosts the Bruins at the Verizon Wireless Arena tonight to conclude the teams’ eight-game regular-season series… The P-Bruins are 5-2-0-0 against the Monarchs this season and will square off with them in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs next week… Manchester goaltender Jonathan Quick made 26 saves for his third shutout of the campaign in last night’s victory and is 2-2-0 with a 2.41 GAA in four games against Providence for the season… The Monarchs boast the league’s best power play both at home (25.1 percent) and overall (24.0 percent)… The loss snapped Providence’s six-game winning streak and marked the first time it had been blanked since Jan. 26 at Hartford.

Norfolk at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 7:05
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton can clinch its second East Division title in the last three years with a win tonight as it welcomes Norfolk to the Wachovia Arena… The Penguins are 5-3-0-1 against the Admirals this season and have won 18 of their last 19 regular-season home games vs. Norfolk… Dave Gove has notched a goal in three straight games (4-1-5) for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after his three-point (2g, 1a) effort last night in Albany… AHL All-Rookie defenseman Alex Goligoski sports a seven-game scoring streak (2-7-9)… The Penguins are on a 15-2-2-1 roll since Mar. 2… Norfolk, which will miss the playoffs for the first time in its eight-year history, plays its season finale tonight… Kyle Wanvig scored twice in last night’s 3-2 Admirals win at Binghamton.

Lowell at Worcester, 7:05
Lowell visits Worcester tonight to wrap up the teams’ 10-game season series… The Devils have won five of the first nine (5-4-0-0), but the Sharks (4-2-2-1) have an 11-10 edge in points… Lowell has won three straight trips to the DCU Center since dropping its first visit of the season by a 2-1 score on Oct. 20… 2008 AHL All-Star Petr Vrana has tallied a team-high nine points (3-6-9) in nine games against the Sharks… Worcester’s Steven Zalewski is coming off a memorable night on Friday in Portland: the Clarkson University product scored his first pro goal in the third period to tie the game and his second with 21 seconds left in overtime to give the Sharks a 3-2 win.

Hamilton at Lake Erie, 7:30
Hamilton visits Lake Erie tonight in the teams’ eighth and final meeting of the season… The Bulldogs, who had a five-game points streak (4-0-0-1) snapped last night in a 3-2 loss to Toronto, are 6-0-0-1 against the Monsters this season… The lone setback came at Quicken Loans Arena on Apr. 4, a 5-4 shootout loss… 2008 AHL All-Star Corey Locke leads Hamilton in goals (28), assists (40) and points (68) in 76 games, and he has a team-high five goals and 11 points in seven tilts against Lake Erie this year… The Monsters, who are playing their home finale, are led by Eric Healey’s 53 points (21-32-53).

Binghamton at Syracuse, 7:30
Syracuse looks to extend its 13-game winning streak and 21-game points streak (18-0-0-3) as it welcomes Binghamton to the Onondaga County War Memorial, where the Crunch are 13-0-0-2 in their last 15 contests and 24-9-1-4 for the season… Rookie forward Derick Brassard boasts a season-high nine-game scoring streak for Syracuse, racking up 20 points over that span (7-13-20)… Crunch captain Zenon Konopka has a team-high six goals and seven points in just four games against the Senators this year… The B-Sens have scored a league-high 21 shorthanded goals, and Syracuse ranks second with 19.

Rockford at Chicago, 8:00
Rockford and Chicago clash at the Allstate Arena tonight in the back end of a home-and-home… Troy Brouwer’s power-play goal with 3:19 remaining lifted the IceHogs to a 3-2 win at the MetroCentre on Friday… Rockford sits two points up on Milwaukee and Houston for second place in the West Division and home-ice advantage in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs… Petri Kontiola is currently riding a nine-game scoring streak (4-11-15) and has a point in 15 of his last 16 contests for Rockford (5-18-23)… The Wolves are just 5-8-0-1 in their last 14 tilts… AHL MVP Jason Krog leads the league with 69 assists and 105 points in 78 games… Jesse Schultz and Joey Crabb scored for Chicago in last night’s loss.

Iowa at Peoria, 8:00
Iowa continues a stretch of three straight road games to close the season tonight when it visits Peoria, which is playing its last home tilt of the campaign… The Stars have taken six of the teams’ first nine meetings this season (6-3-0-0), including three of four in Peoria (3-1-0-0)… Marty Sertich is coming off back-to-back two-goal games, and he scored the overtime winner on Friday in Iowa’s 5-4 win at Quad City… Tyler Shelast netted his first professional goal in that triumph… Peoria has lost four of five overall and three in a row at Carver Arena… Jean-Guy Trudel leads the Rivermen with eight goals and 12 points in nine games vs. Iowa this season… Peoria defenseman Tyson Strachan scored his first career AHL goal in last night’s 5-2 loss to San Antonio.

Quad City at San Antonio, 8:00
Fresh off a come-from-behind 5-2 win at Peoria last night, San Antonio returns home to open a two-game set against Quad City to close out the regular season… The Rampage enter tonight’s action tied with Milwaukee for third place in the West Division, two points out of second place in just two ahead of fifth-place Houston… Rampage leading scorer Matt Murley has a point in four of his last five contests (2-3-5)… San Antonio has scored 97 third-period goals and a combined 125 in the other two stanzas… Quad City’s Kris Chucko tallied his second two-goal game of the campaign on Friday in the Flames’ 5-4 overtime loss to Iowa.

Milwaukee at Houston, 8:35
Milwaukee and Houston square off tonight at the Toyota Center for their second meeting of three on the weekend and their fourth clash since Mar. 30… The Aeros sit two points back of both Milwaukee and San Antonio for third place in the West… Admirals defenseman Janne Niskala, who netted the eventual game-winner in Milwaukee’s 3-1 win over Houston last night, leads all AHL blueliners with 19 goals on the season (19-24-43)… Matt Ellison has a point in nine of his last 10 outings (6-6-12) for the Admirals… Ryan Hamilton, Joel Ward and Adrian Foster are all tied atop the Aeros’ scoring leaderboard with 38 points apiece… Houston boasts the league’s top-ranked penalty kill at 87.4 percent.


MORNING HEADLINES:

TEAM BENEFITS FROM NEW DUO’S STEADY INFLUENCE

John Whisler, San Antonio Express-News

Matt Murley and Jon DiSalvatore have been productive players throughout their hockey careers. But goals and assists are only part of the reason the Phoenix Coyotes signed them to free-agent contracts last summer. The rest has to do with leadership and a history of winning, qualities that made them a perfect fit for the Rampage. The pair have been among the team’s most consistent players and are a big reason the Rampage not only set a franchise record for victories this season but also qualified for the AHL playoffs for only the second time in their history… Link

 

ALBANY’S MVP? HERE’S ONE VOTE

Mark McGuire, Albany Times-Union

Albany River Rats goalie Michael Leighton lost out Friday in the race for the AHL MVP award. Not a shock, not really. A goalie has a better chance of scoring a goal than winning a league MVP. "I’d like to score a goal," Leighton said wistfully. Ah, goalies and their dreams. No disrespect to Chicago Wolves center Jason Krog (68 assists and 104 points), a deserving Les Cunningham Award winner, but it’s hard to fathom a player more valuable to his team than Leighton… Link

 

UNSUNG HEROES STEP UP FOR HABS

Tim Wharnsby, Globe and Mail

The Montreal Canadiens failed to entice big-name free agents last summer and instead settled for bringing in Roman Hamrlik, Bryan Smolinski and Tom Kostopoulos. All three chipped in mightily in the 4-1 win series-opening win on Thursday, but while Hamrlik patrolled the blueline for the 56th time in the Stanley Cup playoffs and Smolinski was participating in his 112th career NHL postseason game, the under-the-radar Kostopoulos made his playoff debut. "It was incredible," Kostopoulos said, describing his first foray into the Stanley Cup playoffs. "It was everything I thought it would be, with the atmosphere, the fans and the energy on the bench."… Link

 

GILLIES GETS TASTE OF LIFE AS A PRO

Nick Greenizan, Peace Arch News
He’s been the captain of a Western Hockey League team; he’s won gold with Canada’s national junior squad; and he’s walked off the stage at the National Hockey League Entry Draft as a first-round pick. And now Colton Gillies, a South Surrey native, is getting his first taste of professional hockey, with the American Hockey League’s Houston Aeros. His WHL season with the Saskatoon Blades over, Gillies, 19, was assigned to the Aeros on an amateur tryout basis, after signing a three-year contract – rumored to be in the neighborhood of $2.6 million – with the Minnesota Wild in late March… Link