AHL Morning Skate: Four games on tap this afternoon

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.

HARTFORD 5, Worcester 3 (HFD leads series, 2-0)
Hershey 6, PHILADELPHIA 2 (HER leads series, 2-0)
W-B/Scranton 5, BRIDGEPORT 4 (OT) (WBS leads series, 2-0)
Grand Rapids 3, HAMILTON 1 (GR leads series, 2-0)
MILWAUKEE 3, Rockford 1 (MIL leads series, 2-0)
HOUSTON 2, Peoria 1 (HOU leads series, 2-1)

1. Justin Abdelkader tallied two goals and an assist in the third period as Grand Rapids rallied past Hamilton for a 3-1 win and a 2-0 lead in their North Division semifinal.

2. Corey Locke potted both Houston goals to give the Aeros a 2-1 win over Peoria and a 2-1 series lead in the West Division.

3. Rookie Matt Zaba made 44 saves in his second straight strong performance as Hartford grabbed a 2-0 series lead over Worcester with a 5-3 triumph.

Game 3 – Manitoba at Toronto, 4:00 (Series tied, 1-1)
Game 3 – Providence at Portland, 4:00 (Series tied, 1-1)
Game 3 – Bridgeport at W-B/Scranton, 5:05 (WBS leads series, 2-0)
Game 3 – Milwaukee at Rockford, 6:05 (MIL leads series, 2-0)

CC09ad_300x250.jpg2009 CALDER CUP PLAYOFFS:
Atlantic Division Semifinal – Series “A” (best-of-7)
A1-Hartford Wolf Pack vs. A4-Worcester Sharks || Preview
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 16 – HARTFORD 2, Worcester 0
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 18 – HARTFORD 5, Worcester 3
Game 3 – Mon., Apr. 20 – Hartford at Worcester, 6:35
Game 4 – Wed., Apr. 22 – Hartford at Worcester, 6:35
*Game 5 – Thu., Apr. 23 – Worcester at Hartford, 7:00
*Game 6 – Sat., Apr. 25 – Hartford at Worcester, 7:05
*Game 7 – Mon., Apr. 27 – Worcester at Hartford, 7:00

Atlantic Division Semifinal – Series “B” (best-of-7)
A2-Providence Bruins vs. A3-Portland Pirates || Preview
Game 1 – Wed., Apr. 15 – Portland 3, PROVIDENCE 0
Game 2 – Fri., Apr. 17 – PROVIDENCE 2, Portland 1
Game 3 – Sun., Apr. 19 – Providence at Portland, 4:00
Game 4 – Thu., Apr. 23 – Providence at Portland, 7:00
Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 24 – Portland at Providence, 7:05
*Game 6 – Sun., Apr. 26 – Providence at Portland, 4:00
*Game 7 – Tue., Apr. 28 – Portland at Providence, 7:05

East Division Semifinal – Series “C” (best-of-7)
E1-Hershey Bears vs. E4-Philadelphia Phantoms ||
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 16 – Hershey 4, PHILADELPHIA 2
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 18 – Hershey 6, PHILADELPHIA 2
Game 3 – Wed., Apr. 22 – Philadelphia at Hershey, 7:00
Game 4 – Fri., Apr. 24 – Philadelphia at Hershey, 7:00
*Game 5 – Sat., Apr. 25 – Philadelphia at Hershey, 7:00
*Game 6 – Sun., Apr. 26 – Hershey at Philadelphia, 5:05
*Game 7 – Tue., Apr. 28 – Philadelphia at Hershey, 7:00

East Division Semifinal – Series “D” (best-of-7)
E2-Bridgeport Sound Tigers vs. E3-W-B/Scranton Penguins ||
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 17 – W-B/Scranton 3, BRIDGEPORT 2
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 18 – W-B/Scranton 5, BRIDGEPORT 4 (OT)
Game 3 – Sun., Apr. 19 – Bridgeport at W-B/Scranton, 5:05
Game 4 – Wed., Apr. 22 – W-B/Scranton at Bridgeport, 7:00
*Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 24 – Bridgeport at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
*Game 6 – Sat., Apr. 25 – Bridgeport at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
*Game 7 – Sun., Apr. 26 – W-B/Scranton at Bridgeport, 4:00

North Division Semifinal – Series “E” (best-of-7)
N1-Manitoba Moose vs. N4-Toronto Marlies ||
Game 1 – Wed., Apr. 15 – Toronto 3, MANITOBA 2 (OT)
Game 2 – Fri., Apr. 17 – MANITOBA 4, Toronto 2
Game 3 – Sun., Apr. 19 – Manitoba at Toronto, 4:00
Game 4 – Tue., Apr. 21 – Manitoba at Toronto, 7:00
Game 5 – Thu., Apr. 23 – Manitoba at Toronto, 7:00
*Game 6 – Sat., Apr. 25 – Toronto at Manitoba, 8:30
*Game 7 – Tue., Apr. 28 – Toronto at Manitoba, 8:30

North Division Semifinal – Series “F” (best-of-7)
N2-Hamilton Bulldogs vs. N3-Grand Rapids Griffins ||
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 17 – Grand Rapids 4, HAMILTON 3
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 18 – Grand Rapids 3, HAMILTON 1
Game 3 – Mon., Apr. 20 – Hamilton at Grand Rapids, 7:00
Game 4 – Wed., Apr. 22 – Hamilton at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 24 – Hamilton at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 6 – Sun., Apr. 26 – Grand Rapids at Hamilton, 6:00
*Game 7 – Mon., Apr. 27 – Grand Rapids at Hamilton, 7:30

West Division Semifinal – Series “G” (best-of-7)
W1-Milwaukee Admirals vs. W4-Rockford IceHogs ||
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 16 – MILWAUKEE 3, Rockford 1
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 18 – MILWAUKEE 3, Rockford 1
Game 3 – Sun., Apr. 19 – Milwaukee at Rockford, 6:05
Game 4 – Tue., Apr. 21 – Milwaukee at Rockford, 8:05
*Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 24 – Rockford at Milwaukee, 8:00
*Game 6 – Sun., Apr. 26 – Milwaukee at Rockford, 6:05
*Game 7 – Mon., Apr. 27 – Rockford at Milwaukee, 8:00

West Division Semifinal – Series “H” (best-of-7)
W2-Peoria Rivermen vs. W3-Houston Aeros ||
Game 1 – Wed., Apr. 15 – PEORIA 6, Houston 4
Game 2 – Fri., Apr. 17 – Houston 2, PEORIA 0
Game 3 – Sat., Apr. 18 – HOUSTON 2, Peoria 1
Game 4 – Mon., Apr. 20 – Peoria at Houston, 8:05
Game 5 – Wed., Apr. 22 – Peoria at Houston, 8:05
*Game 6 – Sat., Apr. 25 – Houston at Peoria, 8:00
*Game 7 – Mon., Apr. 27 – Houston at Peoria, 8:00

*if necessary… All times Eastern

GAME NOTES (all times ET):
Game 3 – Manitoba at Toronto, 4:00 (Rogers Cable)
After earning a split in Winnipeg, Toronto returns to Ricoh Coliseum this afternoon to host regular-season champion Manitoba in Game 3 of their North Division semifinal… The Marlies took Game 1 but dropped Game 2 by a 4-2 count on Friday, snapping a seven-game winning streak against Manitoba that dated back to mid-November… Jason Jaffray scored twice for the Moose in Game 2, Michael Grabner posted a goal and an assist, Maxime Fortunus also scored, and Jason Krog added two assists to move alone into ninth place among career AHL playoff scorers (29-58-87 in 67 GP)… Manitoba goaltender Cory Schneider made 27 saves in the victory… The Moose have netted at least one power play goal in both games of the series thus far (3-for-11; 27.3%)… Jiri Tlusty and Darryl Boyce paced Toronto with a goal apiece in the Game 2 loss… The Marlies went an even 5-5 at home during their run to the 2008 Western Conference Finals.

Game 3 – Providence at Portland, 4:00
Providence and Portland shift their Atlantic Division semifinal to the Cumberland County Civic Center for Game 3 this afternoon… The teams split the first two contests in Rhode Island, most recently a 2-1 Bruins victory in Game 2 on Friday… B’s captain Jeremy Reich broke a 1-1 tie midway through the third period to provide the winning margin in that tilt… Vladimir Sobotka netted his first career Calder Cup Playoff goal for Providence, and goaltender Tuukka Rask made 27 saves to snap a five-game postseason losing streak… Captain Tyler Bouck tallied Portland’s lone goal shorthanded… Pirates goaltender Jhonas Enroth has stopped 66 of 68 shots (.971) through the first two games of the series, including a 28-save shutout in the opener… The teams have combined to go scoreless on 15 power-play chances in the first two contests (Portland 0-for-7; Providence 0-for-8)… Last year’s Pirates posted a 7-1 record at home in the postseason… Portland is a perfect 6-0 in Game 3’s under head coach Kevin Dineen.

Game 3 – Bridgeport at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 5:05
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton goes for a commanding 3-0 series lead in its East Division quarterfinal against Bridgeport when the teams shift to the Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza for their third game in as many days… It marks the first “three-in-three” in the Calder Cup Playoffs since the 2007 North Division Finals between Manitoba and Hamilton; no team has swept such a stretch in postseason play since Rochester Americans took three straight from the New Haven Nighthawks on Apr. 8-10, 1977… Chris Minard scored 4:54 into overtime to give the Penguins the win in Game 2 last night… Nine of the teams’ 16 lifetime playoff meetings have extended to overtime; Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is 6-3 in those contests… Penguins rookie Dustin Jeffrey shows three goals and four points through the first two contests this year… Mike Iggulden is pacing the Sound Tigers with three points (1-2-3) in the series… Rookie Jesse Joensuu posted a goal and an assist for his first career playoff points in the Game 2 loss.

Game 3 – Milwaukee at Rockford, 6:05

After holding serve with a pair of 3-1 victories at home, division-champion Milwaukee heads south for Game 3 of its West Division semifinal vs. Rockford this afternoon at the MetroCentre… Admirals forward Patric Hornqvist had a goal and an assist in Game 2 last night, and Hugh Jessiman scored his first career AHL playoff goal (16th game) to snap a 1-1 tie late in the second period… Milwaukee goaltender Drew MacIntyre has stopped 55 of 57 shots (.965) through the first two games… Evan Brophey tallied Rockford’s lone goal in the Game 2 loss… The IceHogs are down 2-0 for their second consecutive playoff series; they rebounded to win the next three in the 2008 West Division Finals vs. Chicago, including Games 3 and 4 at home… Milwaukee won four of five visits to the MetroCentre during the regular season and went 23-13-2-2 on the road overall… The Admirals have gone on to sweep each of the last three playoff series in which they took a 2-0 lead.


Tim Campbell, Winnipeg Free Press
What’s been learned from Manitoba’s first two games of the AHL playoffs? That first overall against a divisional fourth seed that made it to the post-season on the last weekend of the regular season isn’t the mismatch it sounds like. The Moose and Toronto Marlies each struck a blow in Winnipeg, now the best-of-seven North Division semifinal series is down to five games. The next three, beginning this afternoon, are in Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum. It figures to be a tall assignment because of how the Marlies are playing – hard-nosed and intense – and not for the upcoming games’ locations. That’s because the Moose were the regular-season’s best road team, with 25 wins and 55 of their 107 points.

Ken Wiebe, Winnipeg Sun
Jason Jaffray finally had another reason to smile. He was grinning from ear-to-ear after the Manitoba Moose came up with a 4-2 victory over the Toronto Marlies in Game 2 on Friday night. The team always comes first for Jaffray, but he shoulders a lot of responsibility as one of the top scorers. After six shots on goal and two points in the opener, Jaffray was disappointed with Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime loss. He put on a happy face and talked about how important it was to create chances and play well. But there was no need to search for a silver lining on Friday. Jaffray’s inspired play was one of the biggest reasons the Moose tied the series.

Paul Betit, Maine Sunday Telegram
If the first two games are an indication, the American Hockey League’s Atlantic Division semifinals between the Providence Bruins and Portland Pirates will be tight and low scoring with lots of drama. After splitting the first two games of the best-of-seven series at Providence, the Pirates will try to retain their newly-won home-ice advantage over the second-seeded Bruins by winning Game 3 today. But it won’t be easy. “The teams are evenly matched,” said Portland captain Tyler Bouck, who scored for the Pirates in a 2-1 loss Friday night at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. “They’ve got a lot of high-end skill in their forwards, just as we do, and we both have very capable goalies.”

Jonathan Bombulie, The Citizens’ Voice
On the first goal he scored this series, in the first period of Game 1, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins winger Chris Minard accidentally hit goalie Nathan Lawson in the head with his follow through. His second goal of the series hurt Lawson even more. Minard scored on the rebound of a Ben Lovejoy point shot off the end boards 4:54 into overtime to give the Penguins a 5-4 win over the Sound Tigers on Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum. The Penguins lead the series two games to none and host Game 3 this evening at the Wachovia Arena. It was Minard’s third overtime winner in the playoffs in two years with the Penguins. “If I had to bet on a guy to score a big goal for us to win a game in overtime, he’d be the guy,” Lovejoy said. “He came through again.”

Michael Fornabaio, Connecticut Post
Nathan Lawson was the last Bridgeport Sound Tiger still in his hockey pants Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum, upset but still believing. The goalie allowed goals to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defensemen Andy Wozniewski and Ben Lovejoy in the third period, then gave up a goal to Chris Minard 4:54 into overtime for a 5-4 Penguins win and a 2-0 Penguins lead in the East Division semifinals. “We’ve got to keep playing our game, and it’ll come for us,” Lawson said. “I didn’t play my part (Saturday). I kind of let the team down. I’ve got to come back with my best effort.”

Dave Boehler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Cal O’Reilly was celebrating, so Hugh Jessiman joined him. Jessiman wasn’t sure if he had scored what turned out to be the winning goal, but once he saw O’Reilly’s reaction, it was good enough for him. “I don’t think anybody would have known it was in if it wasn’t for Cal,” Jessiman said. “I didn’t even know it was in.” The winning goal started with Jessiman delivering two checks, including one on Rockford’s Pete MacArthur along the board in the IceHogs’ zone.

Reed Schreck, Rockford Register Star
Somewhere, somehow, from somebody, the Rockford IceHogs need to find some offense. After two games in the Bradley Center, Rockford found out to no one’s surprise that one goal per outing won’t cut it against the West Division champion Milwaukee Admirals. After falling 3-1 in Games 1 and 2, Rockford hopes to find the magic touch tonight in the MetroCentre. “What they’ve done is held serve. They’ve won their two games,” Rockford coach Bill Peters said. “Now we’ve got to do the same thing. We’ve got to hold serve, find a way to win two games and make this a best-of-3.”

Andrew J. Ferraro, Houston Chronicle
Most of the time, the Aeros don’t play well on travel days. But Saturday, on arguably the worst travel day of the season, the Aeros played one of their best games and took a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven AHL playoff series against the Peoria Rivermen. Corey Locke scored both goals, Krys Kolanos added two assists and second-year goalie Anton Khudobin turned in his second straight strong start as the Aeros took the upper hand against the Rivermen. The Aeros’ tribulations started a little more than 12 hours after taking a 2-0 win in Game 2 at Carver Arena in Peoria on Friday night. What is normally a four- or five-hour trip from Peoria turned into a nightmare because of bad weather in Southeast Texas.

Bill Ballou, Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Two games into their postseason, and possibly two games away from the end of it, the numbers are not adding up for the Sharks. They lost Game 2 of their first-round playoff series with Hartford, 5-3, last night even though they outshot the Wolf Pack, 47-19, and had an amazing 13 power plays to 7 for Hartford. This loss was even more disappointing than Thursday night’s 2-0 defeat because of the way Worcester rebounded from early adversity to tie it. The Sharks trailed, 3-0, with the second period half over. By the time there were five minutes to go in the period, it was 3-3. “We didn’t play a bad hockey game,” Roy Sommer said. “We battled, and now we’re going back to our building. This series isn’t over yet.”

Michael Zuidema, Grand Rapids Press
The Grand Rapids Griffins won’t be suffering from a shortage of confidence as their first-round playoff series shifts to Van Andel Arena. The Griffins scored three times in the third period to beat the Hamilton Bulldogs 3-1 on Saturday night at Copps Coliseum and take a 2-0 series lead. It’s Grand Rapids first 2-0 lead in a playoff series since the 2003 Western Conference semifinals against Chicago. The Griffins also have beaten the Bulldogs on back-to-back nights after losing their previous three matchups. “I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I thought we were going to come in here and get a couple wins,” Griffins coach Curt Fraser said. “But I would be telling the truth if I thought we were prepared and ready to play hard."

Tim Leone, Harrisburg Patriot-News
There’s no guarantee the Philadelphia Phantoms won’t force a Game 6, but the final game in the history of the Wachovia Spectrum may have been played Saturday night. Rallying from an early two-goal deficit, the Hershey Bears beat Philadelphia 6-2 in Game 2 to take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven playoff series. Given the series format – the next three games are scheduled for Giant Center – it’s a daunting deficit for Philly. The Phantoms, in their final season, must win two of three at Hershey to bring the series back home. “I see so many times guys come back,” Bears winger Alex Giroux said. “It doesn’t mean that we go home that [they’re done].”

In yesterday’s Stanley Cup Playoff action, 2006-07 AHL All-Rookie forward Ryan Callahan netted the game’s lone goal as the N.Y. Rangers grabbed a 2-0 series lead with a 1-0 victory at Washington… Simeon Varlamov (19-7-1 with Hershey this season) stopped 23 of 24 shots in his playoff debut for the Capitals… 1998 AHL All-Star Marc Savard racked up four points (2-2-4) to pace Boston past Montreal, 5-1, for a 2-0 edge in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal… 2005 Calder Cup champion Patrick Sharp recorded a goal and an assist as Chicago rallied past Calgary by a 3-2 count to take a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference quarterfinal.

3 – AHL record for career sudden-death playoff goals by a single player… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Chris Minard matched that mark with his game-winner last night, joining Don Biggs, Alexandre Giroux, Todd Hlushko, Chris Joseph and Mike McHugh.

April 19, 2008Ryan Jones’s first professional goal comes 6:57 into the second overtime and gives Houston the win over Rockford in the longest 1-0 game in AHL history.

April 19, 2007Carey Price pitches a shutout in his pro playoff debut, stopping 34 shots in Hamilton’s 2-0 Game 1 win at Rochester.

April 19, 1996 – Craig Conroy and Darcy Tucker score two goals apiece as Fredericton defeats P.E.I., 7-4, in the opener of th