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West Notes: Playoff races grow tighter

Also see… East Notes

 
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Ales Kotalik was recalled by parent-club Calgary earlier this week after racking up 19 points (4-15-19) during an 18-game AHL stint with Abbotsford… The Heat split a two-game home set with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last weekend and finished 1-2-1-0 against the league-leading Penguins this season… Abbotsford will play six of its final 13 games against division-rival Hamilton, including four at the Entertainment & Sports Centre… The Heat host the Bulldogs twice this weekend before embarking on a four-game road trip that includes a pair of tilts at Copps Coliseum.
 
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Despite a 9-2-1-1 run in its last 13 games, Chicago is still just one point up on San Antonio and two ahead of Oklahoma City for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot and has played more games than either club… The Wolves are, however, only two points out of third place in the West Division… Rookie forward Tim Miller has a point in four of his last six contests (5-2-7) and shows 9-7-16 and a plus-10 rating in 22 games with Chicago overall… Jason Krog also has a point in four of his last five games (2-5-7), while Darren Haydar has one in seven of his last eight (5-6-11)… The Wolves host Oklahoma City twice this weekend.
 
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Grand Rapids is the AHL’s hottest team of late, posting a 9-1-1-0 mark in its last 11 games to pull into a tie for fourth place in the North Division, two points out of a guaranteed playoff spot… Rookie goaltender Jordan Pearce has made every start during that span, and his season stats have improved to 17-7-5 (2.73, .912) as a result… Francis Pare has erupted for seven goals (7-2-9) in his last six games after totaling two in his previous 10 outings… Leading scorer Ilari Filppula (20-37-57) shows a point in three straight (1-4-5) and 11 of his last 12 contests (2-15-17)… Grand Rapids hosts Lake Erie, Rochester, and Rockford this weekend.
 
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Hamilton’s top five scorers this season – Nigel Dawes, David Desharnais, Aaron Palushaj, Ben Maxwell, and Max Pacioretty – are all currently on NHL recall to Montreal… Dawes (33-21-54) and Palushaj (17-27-44) were summoned on Wednesday, but the Bulldogs still scratched out a 2-0 road win over Rochester that night… Drew MacIntyre made 18 saves for his first shutout in a ‘Dogs uniform and Hamilton’s first whitewash overall since Curtis Sanford blanked Manitoba on Jan. 26… Andrew Conboy has netted a goal in three straight games after failing to score in any of his previous 14… The Bulldogs finally make their first trip of the season to division-rival Abbotsford this weekend.
 
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Houston rebounded from a three-game winless skid (0-2-0-1) with back-to-back triumphs over division leaders Manitoba and Milwaukee on Sunday and Tuesday… Robbie Earl notched the game-winning goal in both victories and now leads the Aeros with five game-winners for the season… Goaltender Matt Hackett (17-13-4) ranks second among AHL rookies and sixth overall with a 2.24 goals-against average in 36 appearances… Patrick O’Sullivan has now recorded a point in 21 of 26 games (16-19-35) since joining the Aeros, lifting him to fourth on the club in scoring… Houston enjoys a day off on Friday before starting a home-and-home with in-state rival San Antonio.
 
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Lake Erie, which at one time had played the most games of any of its North Division counterparts, will have suited up for just four games in the first 17 days of March prior to Friday’s tilt in Grand Rapids… The Monsters are 13-4-0-1 in their last 18 outings and sit two points back of a playoff spot in the North, which would be their first postseason berth in four years in the AHL… Greg Mauldin has a point in three straight (2-1-3) and eight of nine (5-4-9) for the Monsters, and Ben Walter has found the scoresheet in 10 of his last 11 contests (2-12-14)… Lake Erie is 20-9-0-2 against North opponents but just 10-16-3-3 against the West… The Monsters visit Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, and Peoria this weekend.
 
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Manitoba has been outscored 12-4 during its current three-game losing skid, including a 6-1 margin in back-to-back setbacks to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on home ice this week… The three-game slide comes on the heels of three straight victories, and the Moose enter the weekend with a slim one-point on Hamilton and two-point edge on Toronto for the North Division’s top spot… Overall, Manitoba ranks 16th in the AHL in offense (2.78 goals per game) but third in defense (2.54 allowed per game)… Goaltender Eddie Lack is tied for fourth in the AHL in victories (24-18-3) while ranking fourth in save percentage (.927) and fifth in goals-against average (2.13)… The Moose host Texas for a pair of games this weekend.
 
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West Division-leading Milwaukee has hit a bit of a rough patch, having collected just three victories in its last 10 games but earning at least a point in seven of those 10 (3-3-3-1)… The Admirals are one point up on Houston for the top spot and hold three games in hand on the Aeros… Absent three of their top five scorers – Linus Klasen (22-23-45), Blake Geoffrion (11-26-37), and Jonathon Blum (7-27-34) – for at least some stretch of time, Milwaukee has managed just five goals in its last four games… Rookie forward Gabriel Bourque has three of those five goals and now ranks third on the team with 15 markers for the season (15-14-29)… The Admirals visit San Antonio on Friday and host Lake Erie on Saturday.
 
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Oklahoma City suffered two straight 2-1 shootout losses to begin its nine-game road trip, falling in Peoria on Tuesday and Grand Rapids on Wednesday… The Barons, who are two points out of a playoff spot, will play 10 of their last 12 games on the road, including a Friday night game in Rockford followed by a pair in Chicago to close the weekend… Alexandre Giroux has picked up an assist in both games since returning from parent-club Edmonton and ranks second in the AHL with 67 points (29-38-67) in 63 contests overall… The Barons are just 5-7 in shootouts this season but 6-2 in games decided in the five-minute overtime period, ranking them second in the AHL in overtime victories.
 
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Peoria has extended beyond regulation time in six of its last eight games, collecting four wins and a pair of shootout losses in those six contests… The Rivermen sit third in the jumbled West Division with 81 points, four points out of first but three points from falling entirely out of the playoffs… Peoria is now without leading scorer T.J. Hensick (18-43-61) and top defenseman Nathan Oystrick (13-28-41), both on NHL recall to St. Louis… Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Milwaukee marked the second time this season in which Peoria played an entire game without receiving a power play (also occurred on Jan. 1 in Grand Rapids)… The Rivermen visit Rockford on Saturday and host Lake Erie on Sunday this weekend.
 
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Rochester went on an 8-1-0-1 run from Feb. 12-27 but has lost five of six (1-5-0-0) since to put its playoff hopes in significant trouble… The lone win in that stretch was a 6-5 victory in Hamilton on Sunday, but the Amerks followed that up with a 2-0 home-ice loss to the Bulldogs on Wednesday… That loss marked the end of defenseman Mike Kostka’s three-game scoring streak (3-4-7)… Patrick Rissmiller recorded a point in his first five games as an Amerk (2-5-7) before earning a call-up to parent-club Florida… The Americans visit Grand Rapids on Saturday in their lone game of the upcoming weekend.
 
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Rockford’s 5-1 loss to Chicago on Sunday marked just its second regulation loss in the last 10 games (6-2-1-1)… Goaltender Hannu Toivonen has appeared in a season-high nine straight games for the IceHogs and picked up his 20th professional shutout with 28 saves in Friday’s 2-0 win at Milwaukee… Rookie forward Ben Smith has netted a goal in five of his last six games, totaling six goals in that span (6-0-6) after recording nine tallies in his first 48 games of the season… The IceHogs host Oklahoma and Peoria on Friday and Saturday, respectively, before closing the weekend with a Sunday visit to Grand Rapids.
 
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San Antonio suffered its first shootout loss of the season by dropping a 5-4 decision to Grand Rapids on Sunday but bounced back to earn a 2-1 shootout victory over Milwaukee on Wednesday… The Rampage are now 7-1 in shootouts this season and were the last AHL team to come up short in one… San Antonio is now just one point back of Chicago for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot and holds three games in hand on the Wolves… Former first-round draft pick Viktor Tikhonov is riding a four-game scoring streak (1-3-4) and has a point in five of six (2-5-7)… The Rampage, who have the AHL’s best power play (23.0 percent), host Milwaukee again on Friday and then play a home-and-home set with Houston.
 
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Texas is 1-1-0-1 thus far on its five-game road trip, which concludes this weekend with a pair of match-ups against Manitoba in Winnipeg… Following that, the Stars will play five of their next six contests at the Cedar Park Center… Travis Morin has netted three goals in his last two games for the Stars, while leading scorer Greg Rallo (21-22-43) shows a point in seven of his last eight outings (4-3-7)… Morin also owns a team-best plus-12 rating for the season… Texas enters the weekend ranked 23rd in the AHL in offense (2.69 goals per game) but 10th in defense (2.71 allowed per game).
 
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Toronto has earned a point in six of its last seven games (4-1-1-1) and sits two points back of Manitoba for first place in the North Division but just two points from falling out of the playoff structure altogether… The Marlies’ 10 games remaining are the fewest among all competitors for the division’s three guaranteed berths… Rookie Nazem Kadri – the Marlies second-leading scorer (17-24-41) – was recalled by the parent Maple Leafs after netting a goal in three straight AHL games (3-2-5)… Mike Zigomanis’s own three-game goal-scoring run (3-1-4) ended on Sunday vs. Texas, but he still leads the club with 47 points (14-33-47) in 62 games overall… Toronto battles non-conference foes Syracuse and Adirondack this weekend.