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AHL Weekly Release

February 28, 2012
Photo: John Wright

WEEKLY RELEASE #21

AHL Standings || Scores and Schedules || League Leaders

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. ... News and notes from around the American Hockey League, where teams are reaching the three-quarters mark of their 2011-12 schedules:

SURGE REPORTED ON VIRGINIA COAST ... A franchise-record winning streak has propelled the Norfolk Admirals to the top of the American Hockey League standings with seven weeks remaining in the regular season.

Norfolk has won nine in a row – the longest streak in the league this year and the team’s longest run since joining the AHL for the 2000-01 season – and the Admirals enter the new week with 75 points, tied with Oklahoma City for first place overall. In the East Division, Norfolk holds a four-point lead over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and an eight-point cushion on Hershey as they look to end a six-year run of either the Penguins or Bears winning the division.

Rookies Cory Conacher (4-7-11) and Tyler Johnson (3-8-11) have been Norfolk’s leading scorers over the last nine games, during which time the Admirals have outscored their opponents by a 36-17 margin. Norfolk leads the AHL in offense averaging 3.54 goals per game, including a plus-30 differential in the third period that is the best of any AHL team in any period this season.

Dustin Tokarski (25-11-0, 2.39, .906) has posted a 1.83 GAA, a .928 save percentage and two shutouts while going 6-0-0 during the winning streak, and his 25 victories for the season are now tops in the league.

FALCONS FLYING ... Behind the goaltending of Paul Dainton, who was named Reebok/AHL Player of the Week after stopping 82 of 85 shots in three games, Springfield earned a sweep of its weekend schedule against Bridgeport, Connecticut and Portland and pulled to within two points of eighth place in the Eastern Conference as a result. Dainton, a rookie out of the nearby University of Massachusetts, became the first Falcons goaltender to win three games in three days since Scott Langkow, Mar. 13-15, 1998.

Playing in his 800th regular-season game as a professional on Feb. 26, Alexandre Giroux scored twice in Springfield’s 6-2 win in Portland to secure his ninth consecutive 20-goal season and move into a tie with Jim Bartlett for eighth place on the AHL’s all-time goals list (360). Giroux, who has 20-23-43 in 46 games this season, is the first AHL player with as many as nine straight 20-goal campaigns since Jody Gage reached the plateau in 12 consecutive years from 1981-93. (Houston’s Jon DiSalvatore, with 19 goals at week’s end, is also closing in on his ninth straight 20-goal showing.)

The Falcons have won three in a row for the fifth time this season, but will hit the ice in Norfolk on Friday looking for their first four-game winning streak in more than five years (Dec. 23-30, 2006). Springfield finishes the regular season by playing 13 of its final 20 games on the road, and has eight contests remaining against current division leaders Norfolk (two), Bridgeport (three) and St. John’s (three).

STARS ON THE MOVE ... Less than a month after earning MVP honors at the 2012 AHL All-Star Game, and behind two of the top goaltenders in the NHL in Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott on St. Louis’s depth chart, Ben Bishop was acquired by Ottawa on Feb. 25 and signed a one-year, one-way contract extension with the Senators.

In 38 appearances with Peoria this season, the fourth-year pro was 24-14-0 and led the AHL in shutouts (six) and save percentage (.928). Bishop was assigned to Binghamton and is eligible to help the B-Sens on their push to qualify for the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs.

Zack Kassian, a teammate of Bishop’s on the Western Conference all-star squad last month, also found himself on the move just before Monday’s trade deadline. Kassian, who has 15 goals and 11 assists in 30 games with Rochester this season, was dealt by Buffalo to Vancouver in exchange for Cody Hodgson. Marc-Andre Gragnani, the Eddie Shore Award winner as the AHL’s outstanding defenseman last season, was also acquired by the Canucks from Buffalo.

Other former AHL All-Stars sought after on deadline day included Andrew Gordon (Anaheim to Vancouver), Mike Mottau (N.Y. Islanders to Boston), Brian Lee (Ottawa to Tampa Bay), Keith Aulie (Toronto to Tampa Bay) and Andrei Kostitsyn (Montreal to Nashville).

LONG SHOTS ... Rochester and Lake Erie battled for 15 shootout rounds before the Americans came away with a victory on Feb. 25 in the second-longest shootout in AHL history.

Eric Hunter scored for the Monsters in the third round, Phil Varone answered for the Amerks in the fourth round, and Justin Mercier and Marcus Foligno traded goals in the 10th round to keep the game tied. Igor Gongalsky, on his second career shootout attempt, won it for Rochester as the 30th overall shooter.

The longest shootout in AHL history was a 16-rounder between Cleveland and Utah on Dec. 3, 2004. Patrick Rissmiller, who missed his attempt for Lake Erie in Rochester, participated in that one as well.

QUICK HITS ... Brad Thiessen, the winner of the Baz Bastien Award as the top goaltender in the AHL last season, made his NHL debut with Pittsburgh on Feb. 26 and stopped 22 shots as the Penguins defeated Columbus, 4-2... With a 35-save effort in a 2-1 win at Peoria on Feb. 24, San Antonio’s Dov Grumet-Morris improved to 5-0-0 with a 0.60 GAA and .980 save percentage for his career vs. the Rivermen, including 3-0-0 (0.34, .990) at Carver Arena... Nicolas Deschamps tied a league season high with five points (2g, 3a) in Toronto’s 6-1 win over Hamilton on Feb. 26... Chris Minard’s hat trick in Grand Rapids’ 6-1 win over Lake Erie on Feb. 24 was his second in a five-game span; Minard has 12-5-17 in 17 games after missing the first three months of the season due to injury... Ty Conklin joined the Griffins last week for his first AHL stint since 2007-08 and turned aside 63 of 67 shots in victories over Hamilton, Lake Erie and Toronto... Four of Albany’s last five wins have been capped by a Vladimir Zharkov empty-net goal... Worcester welcomed a franchise-record 10,170 fans to the DCU Center for a game vs. Providence on Feb. 24, with New England Patriots all-pro tight end Rob Gronkowski participating in a pre-game “puck spike”... Rockford has killed off 35 of 36 shorthanded situations over its last seven games... Charlotte finished 25-for-25 on the penalty kill in its eight-game season series with Oklahoma City... After hosting San Antonio on Feb. 29, the Chicago Wolves will have spent the entire month of February in Illinois, with nine home contests and three road games in Rockford... In Manchester’s 7-6 shootout loss at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Feb. 23, the Monarchs led 2-0 and then trailed 4-2 and 6-3 before scoring three times in the final 9:07 of regulation... Bridgeport, winless in 10 straight road games (0-8-1-1) from Nov. 18 to Dec. 31, has gone 8-0-0-1 away from home since.