AHL Morning Skate: Moose, Griffins in Game 1 tonight

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 1 (HOU leads series, 1-0)

1. Houston rookie goaltender Anton Khudobin made 27 saves on 28 shots as the Aeros took a 2-1 win in the West Division Finals opener.

2. Krys Kolanos netted the game-winning goal late in the second period for Houston.

3. Milwaukee goaltender Drew MacIntyre stopped 22 shots but took his first loss of the 2009 postseason.

Game 1 – Grand Rapids at Manitoba, 8:30

CC09rd2_160x600.jpg2009 CALDER CUP PLAYOFFS:
Atlantic Division Finals – Series “I” (best-of-7)
A2-Providence Bruins vs. A4-Worcester Sharks
|| Preview
Game 1 – Tue., Apr. 28 – PROVIDENCE 3, Worcester 2 (OT)
Game 2 – Wed., May 6 – Providence at Worcester, 7:05
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
|| Preview
Game 1 – Sat., May 2 – W-B/Scranton at Hershey, 7:00
Game 2 – Sun., May 3 – W-B/Scranton at Hershey, 5:00
Game 3 – Wed., May 6 – Hershey at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
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
|| Preview
Game 1 – Fri., May 1 – Grand Rapids at Manitoba, 8:30
Game 2 – Sat., May 2 – Grand Rapids at Manitoba, 8:30
Game 3 – Mon., May 4 – Manitoba at Grand Rapids, 7:00
Game 4 – Wed., May 6 – Manitoba at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 5 – Fri., May 8 – Manitoba at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 6 – Sun., May 10 – Grand Rapids at Manitoba, 8:30
*Game 7 – Tue., May 12 – Grand Rapids at Manitoba, 8:30

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 – Houston at Milwaukee, 8:00
Game 3 – Tue., May 5 – Milwaukee at Houston, 8:05
Game 4 – Thu., May 7 – Milwaukee at Houston, 8:05
*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 1 – Grand Rapids at Manitoba, 8:30
Regular-season AHL champion Manitoba hosts Grand Rapids tonight at the MTS Centre in Game 1 of the North Division Finals… Both teams are coming off six-game victories in the division semifinal round; the Moose overcame 1-0 and 2-1 series deficits to oust Toronto, and the Griffins went 3-0 on the road en route to a victory over second-place Hamilton… This marks the teams’ third postseason meeting in the last four years, and both prior clashes went the full seven games: Grand Rapids captured a division finals win in 2006, and Manitoba responded with a division semifinal triumph in 2007… Ville Leino, who had a point in all six opening-round games for the Griffins, leads the AHL with 10 assists and 13 points this postseason while Darren Haydar is tied for second with 10 points… Justin Abdelkader is tops in the league with six playoff goals, and he registered seven of his eight first-round points during the third period… The Griffins allowed just 22.8 shots per game to Hamilton in round one, and Jimmy Howard stopped 36 of 38 total in winning Games 5 and 6… The Moose outscored Toronto by a 14-5 margin in winning the final three games of their series… Last year’s Calder Cup Playoff MVP Jason Krog leads the Moose with eight points thus far, tying him for fifth place on the league’s all-time postseason scoring list with 92 points in 71 career playoff games… Guillaume Desbiens, also a Calder Cup champion with Chicago in 2008, shows seven points this postseason (3-4-7), while Jason Jaffray has a team-high five goals (5-1-6) and is just two short of 20 tallies for his AHL playoff career (18-13-31 in 36 games)… Baz Bastien Award winner Cory Schneider (4-2, 1.98, .925) is coming off his first series win for Manitoba… The Moose, who have lost their last three Game 1’s, were 4-0 in the first round when they scored the game’s first goal.


Ken Wiebe, Winnipeg Sun
At this time last spring, Jason Krog and Darren Haydar set one another up on a frequent basis as the Chicago Wolves were on their way to capturing to the Calder Cup. But when the North Division semifinal gets underway tonight at the MTS Centre, Krog and Haydar will be on opposite sides as the Manitoba Moose and Grand Rapids Griffins attempt to advance to the Western Conference final. Neither player is interested in going home after two rounds either. “It’s going to be a lot of fun and we’re probably going to be jawing at each other,” Haydar said in a telephone interview from Michigan earlier this week. “We’re with new teams and looking to continue where we left off last season.”

Tim Campbell, Winnipeg Free Press
The focus of Manitoba’s first-round triumph over Toronto was, for a long time, on physical play, but the next round against the Grand Rapids Griffins, which starts tonight at the MTS Centre, may well be a case of who makes the better plays. The teams split their four regular-season games down the middle, 1-1 in each other’s building. “We’re pretty evenly matched teams,” said Moose center and leading scorer Jason Krog, whose Griffins counterpart is former teammate Darren Haydar. “I think both are pretty quick. As far as team speed, I think they’re probably one of the fastest teams we’ve played all year. They have mobile defensemen and are similar to Detroit, in that they have five guys up and down the ice together and their D are jumping.”

Phil Stacey, Salem News
There are any number of accomplishments you can point to when talk comes around to Cory Schneider’s best performance this season. The 23-year-old from Marblehead earned a cornucopia of accolades on the ice, highlighted by his winning the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the outstanding goaltender in the American Hockey League. Schneider led the league in goals-against average (2.04) and save percentage (.928), setting new team records in both. The First Team AHL All-Star also set a new Moose record for consecutive wins (10), earned another team record in total wins (28), had five shutouts and guided Manitoba to 50 wins and 107 points, tops in the circuit. Then there’s his work on the guitar.

Michael Zuidema, Grand Rapids Press
The Grand Rapids Griffins are starting to grow accustomed to their underdog status in this year’s playoffs. The Manitoba Moose will be considered the favorites in their North Division finals matchup with the Griffins that starts tonight. Then again, Grand Rapids also was considered an underdog in its first round against the Hamilton Bulldogs, but the Griffins won that series in six games. Still, the Griffins know the Moose will pose a stiff challenge after finishing with the best record in the American Hockey League this season.

Dave Boehler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The game, and series, couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start for the Milwaukee Admirals. Just 89 seconds into Game 1 of the American Hockey League’s best-of-seven West Division finals, Milwaukee allowed Houston to go on a 5-on-3 power-play. Eighty-nine seconds later, the Aeros scored and then held on to beat the Admirals, 2-1, at the Bradley Center. “We talked about the fact that we’ve been sitting around a long time waiting, so we had to control our emotion and I thought we did a poor job of that right off the bat to put ourselves in a hole,” Milwaukee coach Lane Lambert said. “It certainly was a mistake and we can’t afford to do that.”

Jonathan Bombulie, Citizens’ Voice
During the regular season, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins beat the Hershey Bears seven times in 10 meetings. One school of thought says that means absolutely nothing once the playoffs start. Their 7-2-0-1 regular-season record and 75 cents will get the Penguins a pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups when the East Division finals begin Saturday night at the Giant Center. Captain Connor James leans in that direction. “I don’t think we’ve really thought about it,” he said. “Every year, we play them in the playoffs. Every year, it’s tough.”


Tom Venesky, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
Heading into their second-round matchup against the Hershey Bears, the Penguins lead the AHL with an astounding 43 percent power-play success rate, converting on nine of 21 chances. On the flip side, Hershey currently leads the AHL by killing off all 22 chances it faced during a sweep of Philadelphia. So when the East Division Finals open tomorrow at Giant Center in Hershey, the series will feature the AHL’s top power play versus the league’s top penalty kill. Something has to give.

Kevin Freeman, Lancaster Intelligencer Journal
The idea came from an unlikely source. Or, maybe it wasn’t that unusual after all. Although the Hershey Bears completed the regular season with one of the best records in the American Hockey League, they did have their warts, the biggest one being their penalty-kill. When the season ended, there were the Bears, dead last in penalty-kill percentage in the league. Strange thing happened in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs. Hershey completely shut down the Philadelphia Phantoms’ power play, negating each of the Phantoms’ 22 chances over the course of the four games. The source of the turnaround? Graham Mink.

Joseph White, Associated Press
Simeon Varlamov figures if people are saying his name more often, they might as well get it right. “I will change the spelling,” the Washington Capitals goaltender, speaking through an interpreter, said Thursday after practice. “And I also want to tell you guys to accent it properly. It’s not ‘SIM-e-un.’ It’s ‘Sim-YOHN.’“ Therefore, at his request, the hottest rookie netminder in the NHL playoffs will list as Simyon Varlamov on the roster in next season’s Capitals media guide. No change in the last name, even though people have been getting that wrong, too. Varlamov, who turned 21 Monday, spent most of the season with the Capitals’ AHL team in Hershey, Pa. His mask has “Hershey Bears” emblazoned on one side and a Capitals logo on the other.

Chris Bradford, Beaver County Times
A Stanley Cup playoff matchup between Sidney Crosby and the Penguins and Alex Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals is one the hockey world has waited for with bated breath for four years. The coaching matchup, however, is one that few could have imagined just three months ago. Chances are, up until last spring most had never heard the name Bruce Boudreau. Nor had anyone known of Dan Bylsma. But, here the two coaches stand on the precipice of the most anticipated series of the NHL postseason. For these two men, 14 years apart in age, who cut their coaching teeth in the American Hockey League, it’s not just a dream matchup between the two biggest stars in the hockey universe – it’s a dream come true.

Jeremy Rutherford, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
In a conclusion that was as much professional as it was unpredictable, Manny Legace wrapped up his season Monday night. After Legace took the team that was seven points out of a playoff spot at the time of his arrival to the West Division semifinals, the Peoria Rivermen fell 5-2 to Houston in Game 7 of the series Monday. “You could tell he had given everything he had and was fully aware that it could hurt if it didn’t happen. He was hurt by the feeling that comes with putting in so much and not being rewarded,” Peoria coach Davis Payne said. “I had a blast,” Legace said. “The guys knew my situation, how hard it was, and these guys made it fun to play hockey every single day. The long travel and the long bus rides that I totally forgot about – these guys made it fun for me. I tried to put everything I had into it.”

Patrick Williams, Slam Sports
The Philadelphia Phantoms passed away quietly last Friday night in a 1-0 road loss to the Hershey Bears, ending the AHL’s 13-year run in Philadelphia. Hershey, a Calder Cup favorite this spring, closed out the Philadelphia Flyers’ AHL affiliate with a four-game sweep. “It’s a sad ending to something that was very special to all of us,” said goaltending coach Neil Little, a mainstay in Philadelphia’s net for years. Now the Phantoms will head to Glens Falls, N.Y., and take their Flyers affiliation with them after the AHL approved the move on Tuesday. The team’s Philadelphia home, the Spectrum, will be demolished at an unknown future date to make room for a retail complex.

Mason Raymond, who played 13 AHL playoff games for Manitoba in 2007, assisted on game-winning goal for his first career NHL playoff point as Vancouver beat Chicago, 5-3, in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal… Ryan Kesler tallied his first career NHL playoff goal for the Canucks, and David Bolland recorded his first Stanley Cup Playoff marker for the Blackhawks.

Dmitri Kalinin, who reached the Calder Cup Finals as a rookie with Rochester in 2000, netted a pair of goals, including the overtime game-winner, to pace Russia to a 6-5 win over Sweden yesterday at the IIHF World Championships in Switzerland… 1999 AHL All-Star Martin St. Louis tallied a goal and an assist to help Canada past the Czech Republic, 5-1… Mikhail Grabovski posted a goal and a helper in Belarus’ 3-2 win over Norway.

3 – Most consecutive road wins by a team during the 2008 Calder Cup Playoffs, accomplished by Syracuse, Toronto, Philadelphia and Rockford… Grand Rapids looks to better that mark with its fourth straight road victory when it visits Manitoba for Game 1 of the North Division Finals tonight.

May 1, 2007Jason Jaffray records a hat trick and Yannick Tremblay scores the tiebreaking goal with 5:51 left in regulation as Manitoba defeats Grand Rapids, 4-1, in Game 7 of their North Division semifinal.

May 1, 2005 – Ilya Bryzgalov makes 23 saves and Mark Popovic scores with 13 seconds left in regulation as Cincinnati stuns defending champion Milwaukee, 4-3, in Game 7 of their first-round series at the Bradley Center, capping a comeback from a 3-1 series deficit.

May 1, 2004Jason Pominville has a goal and an assist and Norm Milley nets the game-winner 17:53 into overtime as Rochester defeats Syracuse, 4-3, in Game 7 of their North Division semifinal.

May 1, 1999Chris Ferraro scores at 17:55 of the second overtime period, giving Hamilton a 3-2 win over Albany in the winner-take-all Game 5 of their conference quarterfinal series.

May 1, 1971 – The Springfield Kings wrap up a Calder Cup championship with a 5-3 win over the Providence Reds.

May 1, 1963 – In the first AHL game ever played in the month of May, the Buffalo Bisons defeat Hershey, 6-2, in Game 7 of the Calder Cup Finals at the Aud.

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.