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Leighton wins AHL’s Aldege “Baz” Bastien Award

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that Michael Leighton of the Albany River Rats has been named the winner of the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding goaltender for the 2007-08 season, as voted by coaches, players and members of the media in each of the league’s 29 cities.

A 2007-08 First Team AHL All-Star, Leighton ranks second in the league in goals-against average (2.07), first in save percentage (.932) and first in shutouts (seven) while facing more shots (1,723) than any other goaltender in the AHL this year. He is also second in minutes played (3,392) and third in wins while posting a 28-24-4 record in his first season with the River Rats. Leighton, who was voted a starter for the Canadian team at the 2008 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Reebok, has backstopped Albany to its most productive regular season since 1998-99, and has also made three NHL appearances with the Carolina Hurricanes on the year.

A 26-year-old native of Petrolia, Ont., Leighton was originally drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1999 and has compiled a record of 128-104-25 in 265 AHL games over seven professional seasons, and ranks sixth all-time with 29 career AHL shutouts. Leighton, who was named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team in 2001-02, has also appeared in 51 career NHL contests with Carolina, Philadelphia, Nashville and Chicago.

The Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award, which was first presented in 1984, honors former Pittsburgh Penguins general manager “Baz” Bastien, who played four seasons in goal with the AHL’s Pittsburgh Hornets (1945-49) before suffering a career-ending eye injury. Bastien would go on to serve as head coach and general manager of the Hornets, leading them to the 1967 Calder Cup championship. Previous winners of the award include Sam St. Laurent (1986), Mark Laforest (1987, 1991), Felix Potvin (1992), Manny Legace (1996), Jean-Francois Labbe (1997), Martin Biron (1999), Dwayne Roloson (2001), Jason LaBarbera (2004, 2007), Ryan Miller (2005) and Dany Sabourin (2006).

Currently in its 72nd season of play, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 83 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and more than 6 million fans have attended AHL games across North America in each of the past six seasons. Sixteen clubs will continue to vie for the league’s coveted championship trophy when the 2008 Calder Cup Playoffs get underway next week.