AHL Morning Skate: East begins, West rolls on

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.

MANITOBA 2, Houston 1 (MTB leads series, 1-0)

1. Cory Schneider stopped 31 of 32 shots for his eighth straight win as Manitoba took a 2-1 victory over Houston to open the Western Conference Finals.

2. Corey Locke posted an assist on Houston’s lone goal for his league-leading 16th point of the playoffs.

3. First-round draft pick Cody Hodgson registered an assist in his professional debut for the Moose.

Game 1 – Providence at Hershey, 7:00
Game 2 – Houston at Manitoba, 8:30 (MTB leads series, 1-0)

CC09rd3_160x600.jpg2009 CALDER CUP PLAYOFFS:
Complete Results || Scoring Leaders || Goaltending Leaders

Eastern Conference Finals – Series “M” (best-of-7)
E1-Hershey Bears vs. A2-Providence Bruins ||
Game 1 – Sat., May 16 – Providence at Hershey, 7:00
Game 2 – Sun., May 17 – Providence at Hershey, 5:00
Game 3 – Fri., May 22 – Hershey at Providence, 7:05
Game 4 – Sun., May 24 – Hershey at Providence, 7:05
*Game 5 – Mon., May 25 – Hershey at Providence, 4:05
*Game 6 – Wed., May 27 – Providence at Hershey, 7:00
*Game 7 – Thu., May 28 – Providence at Hershey, 7:00

Western Conference Finals – Series “N” (best-of-7)
N1-Manitoba Moose vs. W3-Houston Aeros ||
Game 1 – Fri., May 15 – MANITOBA 2, Houston 1
Game 2 – Sat., May 16 – Houston at Manitoba, 8:30
Game 3 – Mon., May 18 – Manitoba at Houston, 8:05
Game 4 – Wed., May 20 – Manitoba at Houston, 8:05
*Game 5 – Fri., May 22 – Manitoba at Houston, 8:35
*Game 6 – Mon., May 25 – Houston at Manitoba, 8:30
*Game 7 – Wed., May 27 – Houston at Manitoba, 8:30

*if necessary… All times Eastern

GAME NOTES (all times ET):
Game 1 – Providence at Hershey, 7:00
Providence and Hershey launch the Eastern Conference Finals tonight with Game 1 at Giant Center… The Bruins are trying for their first Calder Cup Finals appearance since winning the championship in 1999, while the Bears look to get back to the Finals for the third time in the last four springs… The teams split a pair of regular-season meetings in 2008-09, most recently a 6-4 Bears home win on Mar. 1… Hershey, which is a perfect 6-0 at home this postseason, is coming off a seven-game victory over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the division finals, including back-to-back shutouts by rookie goaltender Michal Neuvirth in Games 6 and 7 at Giant Center… Neuvirth (8-3, 1.91, .936) leads the AHL with three playoff shutouts overall and has not surrendered a goal in his last 143:35 of action for the Bears… League MVP Alexandre Giroux paces the Bears with five goals this postseason (5-7-12) and is tied for the club scoring lead with Chris Bourque (2-10-12), who has found the scoresheet in 10 of 11 playoff contests thus far and 23 of his last 27 games dating back to the regular season… Giroux and Bourque each racked up two goals and an assist in the Bears’ win over Providence on Mar. 1… Keith Aucoin is averaging a point per game (2-9-11 in 11 GP) for Hershey through the first two postseason rounds… The Bruins, in the conference finals for the first time since 2005, ousted Worcester in a six-game division final… Providence has been led offensively by three-time AHL All-Star Martin St. Pierre (5-8-13), rookie Brad Marchand (5-6-11), and second-year North American pro Vladimir Sobotka (2-8-10)… Bruins captain Jeremy Reich shows seven points (3-4-7) and a team-best plus-6 rating, and two of his three goals have been game-winners… Providence has outscored opponents 18-4 in the second period this postseason and been outscored 17-11 in the first and third stanzas combined… The Bruins are a perfect 15-for-15 on the penalty kill in postseason road games, and Hershey is 26-for-28 (92.9 percent) at home.

Game 2 – Houston at Manitoba, 8:30 (MTB leads series, 1-0)
Fresh off a 2-1 victory last night, Manitoba welcomes Houston back to the MTS Centre tonight for Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals… The Moose have won eight straight games since dropping a 2-1 decision to Toronto in the first round on Apr. 19 and are one victory away from matching their nine-game regular-season winning streak from Oct. 17 to Nov. 7… Dusty Collins and Mario Bliznak each scored their first career Calder Cup Playoff goals in the Moose’s Game 1 win… Bliznak, who tallied the game-winner with 8:02 to play in regulation, has four goals in five games against Houston this season and four goals in 69 games against the rest of the league… Cody Hodgson, making his professional debut after being drafted 10th overall by Vancouver in 2008, assisted on Collins’ first-period goal… Moose captain Mike Keane has a point in three straight games (0-3-3) and six of his last seven (1-5-6)… Manitoba goaltender Cory Schneider (9-2) leads the AHL in goals-against average (1.63) and ranks second in save percentage (.940) through 11 playoff contests… The Baz Bastien Award winner has allowed two or fewer goals in 10 straight outings since surrendering three in Manitoba’s playoff opener… Aeros rookie Matt Beaudoin tallied his club’s lone Game 1 goal on the power play midway through the third period, and he’s now tied for the league rookie scoring lead with 11 points (5-6-11) in 11 games… Corey Locke picked up an assist and leads the AHL with 16 points (9-7-16) in 15 postseason tilts… Houston’s power play ranks second in the league at 25.0 percent (18-for-72), and the Aeros have tallied six of their last 10 goals on the man advantage over a five-game span… Houston is 5-1 this postseason following a loss.


Gary Lawless, Winnipeg Free Press
This was hockey as it should be in so many ways, from snow in May in the forgotten outpost of Winnipeg, to the kid getting it started and the old man putting it away. The Manitoba Moose, who drove to the rink late Friday afternoon through light flurries on the first day of a long weekend that generally signals the start of summer in these parts, took a 2-1 win over the Houston Aeros to kick off this best-of-seven Western Conference Final. Rookie Cody Hodgson, in his first game as a pro after wrapping up his junior career just last weekend, set up Manitoba’s first goal and captain Mike Keane made the play of the night deep in the third to give his club the victory.

Ken Wiebe, Winnipeg Sun
No games to play in eight days? No problem whatsoever for the Manitoba Moose. Following an eight-day layoff after dispatching the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Moose showed few signs of rust as they earned a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the Houston Aeros before a crowd of 9,703 at the MTS Centre last night. With the win, the Moose have now captured eight consecutive games during these Calder Cup playoffs and hold a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-7 AHL Western Conference final.

Randy Turner, Winnipeg Free Press
Mike Keane already has three tattoos on his left ankle, buried under those shin pads. One for every Stanley Cup with Keane’s name engraved on it; Montreal in ‘93, Colorado in ‘96 and Dallas in ‘99. But there’s always room for more ink, said the man who’s just two weeks shy of birthday No. 42. At least, if the Moose captain can conjure up another championship a full decade after Keane’s last sip of champagne from Stanley’s silver chalice. “It means just as much,” he reasoned. “Believe it or not, at this stage of the game, it means everything.”

Michael Russo, Minneapolis Star Tribune
The one thing Kevin Constantine, a 50-year-old bench vet, knows is playoffs. It’s why he likely will be at least a candidate to coach the Minnesota Wild once a new general manager is hired. “Our success starts with the coaching staff [Constantine, Troy Ward and Luke Strand],” said fourth-year Aero Danny Irmen. “We have a hard work ethic, and there’s such details in the system, everybody buys in, which is why we’re making a run at the championship.”

Mark Divver, Providence Journal
Bright and early Thursday morning, not even 12 hours after eliminating the Worcester Sharks in the Atlantic Division finals, Rob Murray did what any good coach would do. He called Todd Reirden, the coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, to talk about the Hershey Bears, the Providence Bruins’ next opponent. Reirden’s Penguins lost to Hershey in six games in the East Division finals, which ended Tuesday night. There’s no time for days off when you’re halfway to a Calder Cup.

Tim Leone, Harrisburg Patriot News
The Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins, the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference, won’t be playing each other for a berth in the Stanley Cup finals. But the Hershey Bears and Providence Bruins, their AHL affiliates, will vie for a spot in the Calder Cup finals. “It’s a team we’ve only seen twice,” Bears head coach Bob Woods said. “We know they’re a good team. Had a good record. Played in a tough division.” Hershey suffered one of its most decisive defeats of the regular season when Providence beat it 7-2 on Jan. 2 at Dunkin’ Donuts Center. The Bears responded with a 6-4 victory on March 1 at Giant Center.

Tim Leone, Harrisburg Patriot News
Chris Bourque expects to be in the New England spotlight for the road portion of the Eastern Conference finals against the Providence Bruins, the AHL affiliate of legendary father Ray’s Boston Bruins. Bourque’s skills and Bears jersey will mean plenty of attention from Providence on the ice. The name on the back of that jersey and the fact that he’s playing against the team in black and gold will mean media attention off the ice. Bourque has played against Providence in the regular season. Doing it in the playoffs for a berth in the Calder Cup finals will take it to a new level for the Boston native.

Paul Friesen, Winnipeg Sun
He’s still a rookie. But has there ever been another NHL rookie quite like Darren Helm? The pride of St. Andrews, Man., already has his name on the Stanley Cup, and he’s halfway to getting it stamped onto the famous silver mug again, his Detroit Red Wings back in the Western Conference final. But here’s the funny thing: Helm can’t seem to stick with the Red Wings until it’s playoff time. Then he turns into a clutch goal scorer and high-energy role player.

11 – Goals allowed by Cory Schneider during Manitoba’s current eight-game winning streak, good for a 1.38 GAA and a .949 save percentage in that time.

207:27 – Longest shutout streak by a goaltender in AHL playoff history, set by Marcel Paille with the Springfield Indians in 1962… Hershey’s Michal Neuvirth enters tonight’s Game 1 less than 64 minutes shy of that mark (143:35).

May 16, 2006Valtteri Filppula scores twice and Jiri Hudler records five assists as Grand Rapids erases a three-goal Game 7 deficit and earns a trip to the conference finals with a 5-4 win over Manitoba.

May 16, 1999Richard Park picks up five points (2g, 3a) as the Philadelphia Phantoms rout Evgeni Nabokov and the Kentucky Thoroughblades, 9-3, in Game 7 of the Mid-Atlantic Division final.

May 16, 1998Martin St. Louis scores twice as Saint John downs Hartford, 5-4, in their conference final Game 1.

May 16, 1989 – Brent Fedyk’s hat trick helps the Adirondack Red Wings win their third Calder Cup of the 1980’s with a 10-7 victory over New Haven.

May 16, 1984 – The Maine Mariners defeat Rochester, 5-2, to capture their third Calder Cup title in seven years.

May 16, 1980 – Darryl Sutter nets the winning goal as New Brunswick staves off elimination with a 4-2 win over Hershey in Game 5 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.

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