AHL Morning Skate: Bears, Bruins looking for third win

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.


HOUSTON 2, Milwaukee 0 (HOU leads series, 3-1)

1. Goaltender Anton Khudobin registered a 27-save shutout on his 23rd birthday as Houston defeated Milwaukee, 2-0, in Game 4 of the West Division Finals.

2. Benoit Pouliot netted the game-winning goal in the first period for the Aeros.

3. Marco Rosa posted an assist on Pouliot’s goal as Houston claimed a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.

Game 3 – Worcester at Providence, 7:05 (PRO leads series, 2-0)
Game 4 – Hershey at W-B/Scranton, 7:05 (HER leads series, 2-1)

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 at Providence, 7:05
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 – Hershey at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
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 3 – Worcester at Providence, 7:05 (PRO leads series, 2-0)
Providence can tie a franchise playoff record with a seventh consecutive win in Game 3 of the Atlantic Division Finals against Worcester tonight at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center… The Bruins, who did not win more than four straight games during the regular season, have not lost since a 3-0 setback to Portland in their postseason opener on Apr. 15… Martin St. Pierre has posted a goal and an assist for Providence in each of the first two games against the Sharks and leads the B’s with nine playoff points overall (3-6-9)… Wacey Rabbit also had a goal and a helper in the Wednesday’s 4-2 Game 2 win, and 2009 Eddie Shore Award winner Johnny Boychuk and Kirk MacDonald added goals… Rookie Brad Marchand ranks second on the Bruins with seven points (3-4-7) while putting up a team-best plus-5 rating in seven playoff contests…. Providence goaltender Tuukka Rask (6-1, 1.41, .952) has allowed two goals or fewer in nine straight starts, including all seven this postseason… Riley Armstrong and Dan DaSilva potted goals in Game 2 for Worcester, which has not led at any point in the first two contests… Armstrong paces Worcester with nine points in the playoffs (1-8-9), and DaSilva ranks second with eight points (3-5-8)… Frazer McLaren, whose only regular-season assist came in his 70th game on Apr. 1, has four assists (plus a goal) and a plus-5 rating in eight postseason matches… Sharks captain Ryan Vesce has been held to one assist and is minus-4 in the first two games of the series… Having won four straight from Hartford in the first round, Worcester is trying to become the first team in AHL history to come back from 0-2 series deficits twice in the same postseason.

Game 4 – Hershey at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 7:05 (HER leads series, 2-1)
Two nights after rallying for 3-2 overtime victory, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton welcomes Hershey back to the Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza tonight looking to even up the East Division Finals… In Game 3, Bill Thomas’s power-play tally – his first goal of the playoffs – tied the score at 2-2 with 3:44 to play in regulation, and Mark Letestu netted his first career playoff goal at 4:48 of overtime… Jeff Taffe also scored in Game 3 for the Penguins, who outshot Hershey by a 43-25 margin en route to their first win of the series… Wilkes-Barre goaltender Adam Berkhoel stopped 23 of 25 shots to pick up the win in his first career AHL playoff start… The Penguins own the AHL’s top-ranked postseason power play at 30.8 percent (12-for-39); the Bears rank second at 26.8 percent (11-for-41), including a 2-for-5 showing in the Game 3 loss on goals from Graham Mink and Alexandre Giroux… Hershey’s six-game winning streak to open the playoffs came to an end on Wednesday… Giroux is pacing Bears with four goals (4-5-9), and his nine playoff points are tied with Chris Bourque (1-8-9) for the team lead… Rookie goaltender Michal Neuvirth made 40 saves in a losing effort on Wednesday and is now 6-1 (1.84, .940) for the postseason… Since Hershey’s 2-0 win in Wilkes-Barre on May 5, 2007, the Bears have lost five straight playoff visits to the Wachovia Arena while the Penguins have won 13 of 17 home playoff games… Nine of the 21 all-time playoff games between these teams have now gone to overtime.


Andrew J. Ferraro, Houston Chronicle
Anton Khudobin, standing at center ice after leading the Aeros to a 2-0 win over the Milwaukee Admirals in Game 4 of the AHL West Division finals, celebrated the happiest birthday of his life Thursday night at Toyota Center. “I told the PA announcer at center ice, this is my best happy birthday ever,” Khudobin said. “It is May 7, and I have never played hockey this late in the year.” If the Aeros can win any of their next three games, they will advance to play the Manitoba Moose, who just finished a sweep of Grand Rapids. Benoit Pouliot, who scored the game-winning goal Thursday, said Khudobin has picked up the Aeros and has the team on the brink of the AHL’s final four.

Jeremy Rakes, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Milwaukee Admirals players and coaches are going to have nightmares about Houston goalie Anton Khudobin. Khudobin, who turned 23 Thursday, stopped 27 shots to lead Houston to a 2-0 victory over the Admirals at the Toyota Center to give the Aeros a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven AHL West Division finals series. The Admirals have lost 15 of 16 series in which they trailed, 2-1, and must win Game 5 Saturday to send the series back to Milwaukee for Game 6 Monday. “I thought our guys played their hearts out tonight,” Admirals coach Lane Lambert said. “We’re being stymied right now from putting the puck in the net. It certainly wasn’t from lack of effort.”

Mark Divver, Providence Journal
Since losing the opener, the Providence Bruins have ripped off six straight playoff wins heading into Game 3 of the Atlantic Division finals Friday night against Worcester. There are many reasons for the streak – timely scoring, solid defense, strong special teams, overall team discipline – but there’s no question the team’s backbone has been 22-year-old top goalie prospect Tuukka Rask. The second-year pro has the best stats in the league for goalies who have started the majority of their teams’ games: a 1.41 GAA, .952 save percentage and a 6-1 record. For the P-Bruins, it’s a welcome change from last spring.

Jonathan Bombulie, Citizens’ Voice
As an optional practice was winding down at one end of the Wachovia Arena ice Thursday morning, coach Todd Reirden was stationed at the far cage, lining pucks up in a semicircle around the crease. Once the pucks were situated, Janne Pesonen stepped in and tried to lift each one into the empty net while Reirden pushed, pulled, cross-checked and otherwise harassed the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins winger. Was it a close approximation of game conditions? Not exactly. Still, it was a sign of an important roster development on the eve on Game 4 of the East Division finals tonight at the Wachovia Arena.

Tom Venesky, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
After missing the net on his first three shots during a one-timer drill in Thursday’s optional practice, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forward Janne Pesonen yelled in frustration. On his next eight attempts, Pesonen buried every puck in the net. It was a sign that the AHL’s fourth-highest regular season scorer is close to returning to the Penguins lineup. Pesonen hasn’t played since he suffered an upper body injury in Game 1 against Bridgeport on April 17. “It’s feeling really good, but we’ll see tomorrow,” Pesonen said. “The pain you can always handle. You just don’t want to make (the injury) worse.”

Dan Sernoffsky, Lebanon Daily News
By most standards, Adam Berkhoel had a pretty good season in 2008-09. He was 15-11-2 with a 2.53 goals-against average. He also had four shutouts. But Berkhoel was the backup goalie for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, spending most of the season watching John Curry, the man who backstopped the Penguins to the Calder Cup finals a year ago, carry the load. All of a sudden, Berkhoel is back in the spotlight, and he’s beginning to give the Hershey Bears some headaches.

Tim Leone, Harrisburg Patriot-News
At a minimum, the Hershey Bears know they’re staying overnight tonight in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. What they aim to avoid is playing three games in three nights. That will only happen if the Penguins, who lost the first two games of the East Division finals, win one of the next two games. Game 4 is tonight at Wachovia Arena and Game 5 is Saturday at the same venue. Game 6, if necessary, is scheduled for Sunday at Giant Center. “It’s going to be tough,” Bears head coach Bob Woods said Thursday. “I think it’s just going to come down to the team that plays more structured and the team that plays simple and doesn’t create a lot of extra work for themselves.”

Ken Wiebe, Winnipeg Sun
Another day, another franchise first and another step closer to the big prize. Wednesday marked the first playoff series sweep in franchise history for the Manitoba Moose, which represents a fairly significant event in itself. As the Moose bounced the Grand Rapids Griffins from the Calder Cup playoffs, they advanced to the conference final for just the second time since joining the American Hockey League. While there is sometimes a belief that too much time off between rounds can be a bad thing and create some rust, anyone who has won a championship before will tell you that rest in the middle of the post-season is nothing but a bonus welcomed with open arms.

Gary Lawless, Winnipeg Free Press
Tom Petty sang, “the waiting is the hardest part,” and while the Manitoba Moose may get to feel that way by the middle of next week, they’re more than happy to cool their heels right now. The Moose, by virtue of their four-game sweep of the Grand Rapids Griffins in the North Division final, will now sit and wait for their opponent in the Western Conference final, which is set to begin next Friday in Winnipeg. “I’m a big believer in getting as much rest as you can,” said Moose captain and playoff expert Mike Keane, who won three Stanley Cups in his NHL days and has participated in five Cup finals.”

Michael Zuidema, Grand Rapids Press
All season long, Grand Rapids Griffins coach Curt Fraser talked about getting his team to where it wanted to go. The Griffins fell short of that goal when they were swept by the Manitoba Moose in the North Division finals, but by no means does that make this past season a failure. One season after setting franchise lows for wins and points, Grand Rapids returned to the playoffs and the buzz returned to Van Andel Arena, as attendance rose to its highest level since the 2000-01 season. The continued development of prospects for the parent club Detroit Red Wings can be seen in the performances of Jonathan Ericsson and Darren Helm. “We had a lot of good things happen for this hockey club this year,” Fraser said. “And it looks like this team will have a real bright future ahead of them.”

Barry Svrluga, Washington Post
Look at them now, and they don’t look the parts they did when they were the ones wearing the skates and the pads. Dan Bylsma is tall, lean and bespectacled, appearing much more like a published author (which he is) than a grinding, role-playing forward (which he was). Bruce Boudreau is, shall we say, stocky in a maybe-he’s-a-plumber sort of way, and it’s hard to imagine the scorer’s touch he once had, all those years ago, in the American Hockey League. Left unsaid and unnoticed will be the fact that theirs is a relationship that dates back more than 15 years, and that they both arrived at this point for one reason.

Luke DeCock, Raleigh News & Observer
Boston Bruins forward Chuck Kobasew is not just a familiar face to Carolina’s front office. During the 2004-05 lockout season, the Flames and Hurricanes shared an American Hockey League affiliate in Lowell, Mass. So for Carolina’s Eric Staal, Cam Ward, Chad LaRose and Ryan Bayda, he’s a former teammate as well. Kobasew was part of the AHL’s best line that season. His center? Staal, who led the team in scoring. Kobasew was second. “I think it was extremely good for me at that point in my career moving forward,” Staal said. “I think it was for him, too.”

Andrew Ladd assisted on the tying goal with 2:44 to go in regulation and netted the game-winner 2:52 into overtime as Chicago evened its Western Conference semifinal at two games apiece with a 2-1 win over Vancouver last night… 2006 AHL All-Star Valtteri Filppula registered a pair of assists to help Detroit double up Anaheim, 6-3, to even the other West semifinal at 2-2.

Matthew Lombardi notched a goal on Thursday as Canada beat Latvia, 4-2, in the quarterfinals of the IIHF World Championships in Switzerland.

31 – Times, in the last 34 years, that a Canadian team has been among the final four in the Calder Cup Playoffs, including Manitoba’s conference final berth this year… Since 1976, the only postseasons without a league semifinalist from Canada were in 2000, 2004 and 2006.

May 8, 2004 Kari Lehtonen stops 54 of 55 shots in Chicago’s 3-1 win over Milwaukee in Game 3 of their West Division final series.

May 8, 1999 – John Spoltore’s second overtime goal of the series gives Providence a 5-4 win over Hartford and a 3-0 lead in their New England Division final.

May 8, 1981 – The Maine Mariners advance to the Finals for the third time in four years as Bruce Crowder scores in overtime of Game 7 for a 4-3 win over New Brunswick.

May 8, 1974 – The Hershey Bears win the Calder Cup with a 4-3 win over the Providence Reds in Game 5 at Hersheypark Arena.

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.