AHL Morning Skate: Aeros on the verge of upset

Every game day from now until the end of the Calder Cup Playoffs, the AHL Morning Skate takes 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.


Worcester 5, PROVIDENCE 3 (PRO leads series, 2-1)
W-B/SCRANTON 6, Hershey 3 (Series tied, 2-2)

1. Janne Pesonen returned from injury and posted a game-high four points (1-3-4) as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton evened the East Division Finals with a 6-3 win over Hershey in Game 4.

2. Penguins forward Mark Letestu registered three points (1-2-3) and a plus-3 rating in the victory.

3. T.J. Fox tallied a goal to help Worcester to a 5-3 win at Providence in Game 3 of the Atlantic Division Finals.

Game 4 – Providence at Worcester, 7:05 (PRO leads series, 2-1)
Game 5 – Hershey at W-B/Scranton, 7:05 (Series tied, 2-2)
Game 5 – Milwaukee at Houston, 8:35 (HOU leads series, 3-1)

CC09rd2_160x600.jpg2009 CALDER CUP PLAYOFFS:
Atlantic Division Finals – Series “I” (best-of-7)
A2-Providence Bruins vs. A4-Worcester Sharks
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Game 1 – Tue., Apr. 28 – PROVIDENCE 3, Worcester 2 (OT)
Game 2 – Wed., May 6 – Providence 4, WORCESTER 2
Game 3 – Fri., May 8 – Worcester 5, PROVIDENCE 3
Game 4 – Sat., May 9 – Providence at Worcester, 7:05
Game 5 – Mon., May 11 – Worcester at Providence, 7:05
*Game 6 – Wed., May 13 – Providence at Worcester, 7:05
*Game 7 – Thu., May 14 – Worcester at Providence, 7:05

East Division Finals – Series “J” (best-of-7)
E1-Hershey Bears vs. E3-W-B/Scranton Penguins
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Game 1 – Sat., May 2 – HERSHEY 5, W-B/Scranton 3
Game 2 – Sun., May 3 – HERSHEY 3, W-B/Scranton 1
Game 3 – Wed., May 6 – W-B/SCRANTON 3, Hershey 2 (OT)
Game 4 – Fri., May 8 – W-B/SCRANTON 6, Hershey 3
Game 5 – Sat., May 9 – Hershey at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
Game 6 – Sun., May 10 – W-B/Scranton at Hershey, 5:00
*Game 7 – Tue., May 12 – W-B/Scranton at Hershey, 7:00

North Division Finals – Series “K” (best-of-7)
N1-Manitoba Moose vs. N3-Grand Rapids Griffins
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Game 1 – Fri., May 1 – MANITOBA 2, Grand Rapids 1
Game 2 – Sat., May 2 – MANITOBA 2, Grand Rapids 1
Game 3 – Mon., May 4 – Manitoba 3, GRAND RAPIDS 1
Game 4 – Wed., May 6 – Manitoba 3, GRAND RAPIDS 2

West Division Finals – Series
“L” (best-of-7)
W1-Milwaukee Admirals vs. W3-Houston Aeros || Preview
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 30 – Houston 2, MILWAUKEE 1
Game 2 – Sat., May 2 – MILWAUKEE 4, Houston 1
Game 3 – Tue., May 5 – HOUSTON 3, Milwaukee 1
Game 4 – Thu., May 7 – HOUSTON 2, Milwaukee 0
Game 5 – Sat., May 9 – Milwaukee at Houston, 8:35
*Game 6 – Mon., May 11 – Houston at Milwaukee, 8:00
*Game 7 – Wed., May 13 – Houston at Milwaukee, 8:00

*if necessary… All times Eastern

GAME NOTES (all times ET):
Game 5 – Hershey at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 7:05 (Series tied, 2-2)
Hershey and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton return to the Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza tonight for the pivotal Game 5 of the East Division Finals… The home team has won each of the first four contests, most recently a 6-3 triumph by the Penguins last night courtesy of six different goal-scorers… Janne Pesonen, who led the Pens with 82 points in the regular season but had been out due to injury since their playoff opener, returned to the lineup and put up a game-high four points (1-3-4) in the Game 4 victory… Mark Letestu and Nick Johnson each registered a goal and two assists for the Penguins… Letestu is on a three-game scoring streak (2-3-5), and Johnson leads Wilkes-Barre with three goals and six points in the series… Jean-Michel Daoust and rookies Dustin Jeffrey and Luca Caputi rounded out the Penguins’ Game 4 scoring… The Pens scored on both of their power plays last night, improving to 8-for-16 (50.0%) at home and 14-for-41 (34.1%) overall to lead the AHL in both categories… Adam Berkhoel made 23 saves to earn his second straight win in net… Grant McNeill and Keith Aucoin both scored their first playoff goals for the Bears, and Steve Pinizzotto also lit the lamp… Chris Bourque posted an assist and now has a team-high 10 points (1-9-10) this postseason, including at least one in all eight contests… The Bears have now dropped six straight playoff visits to Wachovia Arena, and the Penguins are 14-4 in their last 18 home postseason contests… In AHL history, 85 of the 107 teams (79.4 percent) who have won Game 5 of a tied best-of-seven series have gone on to win the series, including all four in the first round this postseason.

Game 4 – Providence at Worcester, 7:05 (PRO leads series, 2-1)
After climbing back into the Atlantic Division Finals with a 5-3 road win last night, Worcester looks to pull even as it welcomes Providence to the DCU Center for Game 4 tonight… The Sharks had not held a lead at any point in the first two games of the series, but were ahead of the Bruins for all but the first 14:10 of action in Game 3… Five different Sharks found the back of the net – defenseman Patrick Traverse and forwards T.J. Fox, Andrew Desjardins, Jamie McGinn and Riley Armstrong… McGinn, whose tally turned out to be the game-winner, shows a team-high three goals in this series and nine goals in 11 games against Providence including the regular season… Fox has scored in each of his last three games played, and Armstrong is pacing the Sharks with 10 points in nine postseason contests (2-8-10)… Thomas Greiss, who has made 25 straight starts in net for Worcester, stopped 25 of 28 shots to pick up the win on Friday… Rookie Brad Marchand and defenseman Jeff Penner each posted a goal and an assist for the Bruins, whose six-game winning streak came to an end… Providence rookie Mikko Lehtonen added his first career playoff goal… Marchand (2-3-5) and Martin St. Pierre (2-3-5) are leading the Bruins with five points apiece in the series and each show at least one in all three contests thus far… Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (8-2) surrendered more than two goals in a game for the first time all postseason but still leads the AHL in save percentage (.941) and ranks third in goals-against average (1.73)… Providence’s penalty-killing unit ranks third in the AHL at 89.7 percent in the playoffs, including a perfect 9-for-9 showing on the road thus far.

Game 5 – Milwaukee at Houston, 8:35 (HOU leads series, 3-1)
Houston looks to finish off an upset of Milwaukee tonight as the Aeros host Game 5 of the West Division Finals holding a 3-1 series lead… Houston, which finished 20 points behind the first-place Admirals in the regular season, has posted a 4-1 mark on home ice in the playoffs and is gunning for its first conference finals berth since winning the Calder Cup in 2003… Milwaukee has outshot the Aeros by a 118-73 margin in the series but have only put six pucks behind Anton Khudobin, who has stopped 81 of 83 shots (.976) during Houston’s three victories… Khudobin posted a 27-save shutout on Thursday to help the Aeros to a 2-0 Game 4 win… Houston forward Benoit Pouliot scored his first career playoff goal late in the opening period of Game 4, and Krys Kolanos added an empty-netter in the closing seconds… Kolanos shows a goal in three of four games against Milwaukee (3-0-3) and in four of his last five games overall (4-0-4)… Corey Locke was held off the scoresheet on Thursday, but the Aeros forward is still tied for the lead among active AHL players with 11 points (5-6-11) in 11 postseason contests… Houston has scored at least one power-play goal in all five playoff home games (8-for-29; 27.6%)… The Admirals have led for just 32:16 of hockey in this series, all as part of their 4-1 victory in Game 2… Ryan Jones paces Milwaukee with three goals (3-0-3) in the series, and all three of Mike Santorelli’s points (1-2-3) came in Game 2… Milwaukee is just 1-for-16 (6.3%) on the power play against the Aeros and 3-for-28 (10.7%) overall in the playoffs… The Admirals are 3-5 in the AHL when facing elimination, while Houston is 8-4 with a chance to close out an opponent… Milwaukee lost three straight road games only once in the regular season, from Oct. 13-22.


Tom Venesky, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
If the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are trying to emulate their parent club in Pittsburgh, they picked a good time to start. On Wednesday, the NHL Penguins beat Washington 3-2 in overtime cut the Capitals’ series lead to 2-1. On the same night, the AHL Penguins did the same thing – beating the Washington’s AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, 3-2 in overtime to narrow their series lead to 2-1. And on Friday, as Pittsburgh beat Washington 5-3 to even that series, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton downed Hershey 6-3 to do the same in Game 4 of the East Division Finals.

Jonathan Bombulie, Citizens’ Voice
Dustin Jeffrey is a finely tuned professional athlete, but if he went three weeks without playing before being dropped back into a hotly contested playoff series, he knows how it would go. “There would be a lot of short shifts. Maybe be an oxygen tank on the bench,” he said with a laugh. “It would be a struggle; that’s for sure.” It wasn’t a struggle for Janne Pesonen on Friday night. Out with an upper-body injury since April 17, Pesonen had a four-point night in his return to the lineup, leading the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to a 6-3 win over the Hershey Bears in Game 4 of the East Division finals.

Tim Leone, Harrisburg Patriot-News
Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau used a tennis analogy after his club won the first two home games of their Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. They’d merely held serve. Well, the same analogy certainly applies to the East Division finals between the Hershey Bears and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, respective AHL affiliates of the Caps and Penguins. The best-of-seven series is tied 2-2, with both clubs holding serve in their first two home games. The Baby Pens matched the Bears by following their Game 3 home victory with a 6-3 Game 4 victory Friday night at Wachovia Arena.

Dan Sernoffsky, York Daily Record
What started as a best-of-seven series is suddenly a best-of-three. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins jumped out to a four-goal lead through the first half of the game, then held off a determined comeback effort by the Hershey Bears in the second half to pull out a 6-3 victory Friday at Wachovia Arena. “They came out strong,” said Hershey’s Graham Mink. “They were ready to go right from the drop of the puck, they got into it, they got emotional, and we’re down 3-0 after one, and that’s hard to come back from.”

Bill Ballou, Worcester Telegram & Gazette
This chapter must have been left out of the Rocket Richard “How to Win a Cup” encyclopedia. The Worcester Sharks got themselves back into a playoff series the hard way again last night, beating the Providence Bruins, 5-3, after dropping the first two games. The victory snapped the Bruins’ six-game playoff winning streak, and it snapped Providence goalie Tuukka Rask’s personal eight-game winning streak vs. the Sharks going back to the regular season. “I think we put a chink in his armor,” Roy Sommer said.

Andrew J. Ferraro, Houston Chronicle
The Aeros have done a little bit of everything to get themselves within a win of their first Western Conference finals since winning the Calder Cup championship in 2003. The Milwaukee Admirals have had more shots, more scoring chances and better looks at the goal throughout the series the Aeros lead 3-1 entering tonight’s Game 5 at Toyota Center. Win tonight, and the Aeros earn a trip to Canada where they will take on the Manitoba Moose starting Friday in Winnipeg. Lose, and it’s back to Milwaukee for another game against the Admirals.

Ansar Khan, MLive.com
Forward Justin Abdelkader will make his Stanley Cup playoff debut Sunday for the Detroit Red Wings in Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal playoff series against Anaheim at Joe Louis Arena. Abdelkader (Michigan State, Muskegon) will replace Tomas Kopecky, who is out indefinitely with facial injuries sustained in a fight with Francois Beauchemin during the third period of Game 4 Thursday.

2005 AHL All-Star Eric Staal continued his sparkling postseason with a pair of goals last night as Carolina beat Boston, 4-1, to take a 3-1 series lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal… Ruslan Fedotenko and Bill Guerin each posted a goal and an assist to help Pittsburgh past Washington, 5-3, evening the other Eastern semifinal at two games apiece.

Kyle Okposo and 2005 AHL All-Star Dustin Brown netted goals, but the United States dropped a 3-2 decision to Russia on Friday in the semifinals of the IIHF World Championships in Switzerland… In the other semifinal, Derek Roy scored twice to pace Canada to a 3-1 victory over Sweden; Loui Eriksson, a 31-goal scorer as an AHL rookie in 2005-06, tallied the lone goal for the Swedes.

– In the last two postseasons, goals per game allowed by Hershey at the Wachovia Arena in Wilkes-Barre… The Bears are 0-5 in those five trips to Wilkes-Barre.

1.75 – In the last two postseasons, goals per game allowed by Hershey outside of Wilkes-Barre… The Bears are 7-1 in those eight games.

May 9, 2008Andrew Ebbett records three assists as Portland defeats Providence, 5-4, to win the Atlantic Division finals in six games.

May 9, 2006Jiri Hudler and Valtteri Filppula record a goal and an assist each in Grand Rapids’ 5-4 overtime win over Manitoba in Game 3 of the North Division finals.

May 9, 2001 – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton plays its fifth consecutive overtime game and wins its fourth straight, both AHL records, defeating Hershey by a score of 5-4… Michal Rozsival caps a four-point night with the game-winner in OT for the Penguins.

May 9, 1980 – Future Calder Cup winning head coach Claude Noel scores the winning goal in Hershey’s 5-3 win over New Brunswick in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals.

Don’t miss a step on the road to the 2009 Calder Cup championship. AHL Live continues to bring AHL action to your computer all postseason long with live video webcasts and highlights of every AHL game, as well as behind-the-scenes features and interviews in the Video On Demand section… Visit theahl.com or ahllive.com for details.