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.
WEDNESDAY’S THREE STARS:
1. Bates Battaglia’s second career AHL playoff overtime goal lifted Toronto to a 3-2 win in Manitoba last night.
2. Jhonas Enroth turned in a 28-save shutout in his AHL playoff debut to lead Portland to a 3-0 road win over Providence.
3. Yan Stastny picked up two goals and an assist as Peoria earned its first-ever Calder Cup Playoff victory, 6-4 over Houston.
THURSDAY’S SCHEDULE (all times ET):
Game 1 – Worcester at Hartford, 7:00
Game 1 – Hershey at Philadelphia, 7:05
Game 1 – Rockford at Milwaukee, 8:00
2009 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 – Worcester at Hartford, 7:00
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 18 – Worcester at Hartford, 7:00
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 – Portland at Providence, 7:05
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 || Preview
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 16 – Hershey at Philadelphia, 7:05
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 18 – Hershey at Philadelphia, 7:05
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 || Preview
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 17 – W-B/Scranton vs. Bridgeport, 7:30 (at Uniondale, N.Y.)
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 18 – W-B/Scranton vs. Bridgeport, 7:00 (at Uniondale, N.Y.)
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 || Preview
Game 1 – Wed., Apr. 15 – Toronto 3, MANITOBA 2 (OT)
Game 2 – Fri., Apr. 17 – Toronto at Manitoba, 8:30
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 || Preview
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 17 – Grand Rapids at Hamilton, 7:30
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 18 – Grand Rapids at Hamilton, 7:00
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 || Preview
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 16 – Rockford at Milwaukee, 8:00
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 18 – Rockford at Milwaukee, 8:30
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 || Preview
Game 1 – Wed., Apr. 15 – PEORIA 6, Houston 4
Game 2 – Fri., Apr. 17 – Houston at Peoria, 8:00
Game 3 – Sat., Apr. 18 – Peoria at Houston, 8:35
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 1 – Worcester at Hartford, 7:00
Hartford hosts Worcester tonight in the opener of their Atlantic Division semifinal series… Hartford is making its 12th consecutive postseason appearance – and has opened at home for all 12 – but has been eliminated in the first round three of the past four years… The Wolf Pack went 19-4-1-1 in their last 25 games to claim their first division crown since 2004… Second-year pro Artem Anisimov ranked fourth in the AHL in goals (37) and fifth in points (81) while playing all 80 regular-season games for Hartford… P.A. Parenteau added 78 points (29-49-78) in 74 games and posted a team-high 12 points (4-8-12) in eight clashes with Worcester… The Sharks, back in the playoffs after a one-year absence, closed the regular year by winning eight of their last 10 games (8-2-0-0)… Thomas Greiss played every minute of each of Worcester’s last 16 games (10-6-0, 1.88, .931, 1 SO)… Ryan Vesce paced the Sharks with 71 points (24-47-71) in 67 games and ranked second in the league with nine game-winning goals… The Sharks and Wolf Pack each captured four wins in their regular-season series; both sides went 2-2-0-0 in Hartford.
Game 1 – Hershey at Philadelphia, 7:05
Arch-rivals Hershey and Philadelphia, which met 12 times during the regular season, kick off their East Division semifinal tonight at the Wachovia Spectrum… The East Division champion Bears will play the first two games on the road before potentially hosting four of the final five… The series marks the teams’ first postseason meeting since the Bears claimed an opening-round win in 2000… Philadelphia went 11-3-0-3 down the stretch this year to nab the East’s final playoff entry… Patrick Maroon finished sixth among AHL rookies with 54 points (23-31-54) and played all 80 games for the Phantoms… Jared Ross posted a team-high 69 points (29-40-69) and tied Jonathan Matsumoto (29-34-63) for the club lead in goals… Current Phantom Boyd Kane captained both Philadelphia (2005) and Hershey (2006) to Calder Cup championships… The Bears boast the AHL’s top two regular-season scorers in league MVP Alexandre Giroux (60-37-97) and four-time AHL All-Star Keith Aucoin (25-71-96)… Hershey had the AHL’s fifth-best power play (19.4 percent) but its 29th-ranked penalty kill (78.6 percent).
Game 1 – Rockford at Milwaukee, 8:00
Runaway West Division champion Milwaukee begins the postseason tonight against Rockford, which did not secure a playoff spot until the last Friday… The Admirals, who have suffered two straight first-round losses, are seeking their first playoff series win since reaching the 2006 Calder Cup Finals… Mike Santorelli paced Milwaukee with 27 goals and 70 points in 70 games, while Cal O’Reilly (13-56-69 in 67 GP) ranked among the AHL’s top three in assists for the second consecutive year… O’Reilly (5-5-10) and second-year defenseman Cody Franson (4-6-10) each had 10 points in the season series vs. Rockford… Admirals goaltender Drew MacIntyre led the AHL with 34 wins (34-15-4) and ranked fifth with a 2.30 GAA in 55 games… The new-look IceHogs are without the top five playoff scorers from the team that advanced to Game 7 of the division finals last spring… Captain Tim Brent, who reached the 2008 Calder Cup Finals with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, led Rockford with 62 points (20-42-62) in 64 games this year… Pascal Pelletier put up a team-high 29 goals (29-26-55) and six game-winners.
ANISIMOV ON FAST TRACK TO NHL
Paul Doyle, Hartford Courant
With gifts in hand, Alex and Svetlana Anisimov stood outside the locker room at the XL Center after the Wolf Pack’s final regular season game Saturday night. The parents of Artem Anisimov, the Pack’s leading scorer, handed out Russian nesting dolls to the coaching staff and wished them luck in the playoffs. They came to Hartford from Russia in February to see their 20-year-old son and seemed pleased with what they saw. “They left us in charge of their young son,” Wolf Pack coach Ken Gernander said. But the truth is, looking after Anisimov wasn’t all that challenging for Gernander and his assistants. Anisimov, one of the youngest players in the AHL, has thrived on and off the ice.
SHARKS HOPE GREISS WORTH PACK OF WINS
Bill Ballou, Worcester Telegram & Gazette
There is no such thing as an underdog in the unpredictable Calder Cup playoffs, and that is particularly true in the Atlantic Division, where six teams went into the final two weeks of the regular season with a chance to qualify for the postseason. The standard formula contains three ingredients – goaltending, goaltending and goaltending. Or so tradition has it. So, which team looks like it has the better goaltending? Hartford’s Matt Zaba went 25-10-0 with a 2.33 goals-against average and .929 saves percentage, better numbers than Miika Wiikman. Worcester’s Thomas Greiss was 30-24-2, 2.47 and .907. Sharks coach Roy Sommer, however, thinks Greiss was the league’s best goalie down the stretch, and Greiss’ numbers make a strong argument for that.
SOME PREDATORS GET A TASTE OF PLAYOFFS
John Glennon, The Tennessean
When it comes to their top prospects, the Nashville Predators are hoping a healthy dose of postseason success on the AHL level will lead to better players on the NHL level next season. The Predators want to see the continued development of forwards Ryan Jones, Patric Hornqvist, Cal O’Reilly and Mike Santorelli – each saw at least two separate stints in Nashville this season. “The biggest thing is to really step up their game and be important difference-makers down there,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “I think one of the parts of developing is playing under pressure and in the playoffs. You’re going to see the best that people have to offer. If they’re dominant players, that gives them a little confidence and foundation to carry that forward.”
HERSHEY’S WINNING FORMULA
Kevin Freeman, Lancaster Intelligencer Journal
The Hershey Bears’ teaming of Alexandre Giroux and Keith Aucoin wreaked havoc on opposing goalies for most of the regular season. Now, let’s see if the two can continue that goal-producing chemistry in the Calder Cup Playoffs. Giroux, named the AHL MVP last week, finished the regular season with 60 goals, the fifth player in the 73-year history of the league to hit that mark. “I knew the type of player ‘G’ was from playing against him,” said Aucoin, who finished with 96 points, one behind Giroux’s league-high 97. “I didn’t think we’d have the year that we had together but everything just worked out perfectly.”
BEARS RESPECT PADDOCK, PHANTOMS
Tim Leone, Harrisburg Patriot-News
Alex Giroux played for John Paddock with the Binghamton Senators from 2002-04. The left winger knows that Paddock, the only head coach in AHL history to lead three different clubs to the Calder Cup, will have his Philadelphia Phantoms ready for the Hershey Bears in their first-round playoff series. “I think he knows exactly what we’re going to do,” Giroux said. “I think he’s really good on the video to know what we’re going to do. He watches everything, every detail. He’s a winner. So we’re going to have to be really ready to compete against that team.” The East Division champion Bears and fourth-place Phantoms begin their best-of-seven series tonight at the Wachovia Spectrum.
PHANTOMS PA ANNOUNCER IS OFF THE DISABLED LIST
Dick Jerardi, Philadelphia Daily News
Keith Jones has been the Phantoms’ public-address announcer for all of their 13 years. On March 11, midway through the third period of a game at the Wachovia Spectrum against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Jones was minding his own business, just off center ice at ice level. With no warning, a puck came flying over the glass, hit Jones in the mouth, knocked two teeth out, broke his jaw and cut his lip so badly that he needed 58 stitches to put it back together. Jones was pretty sure he had worked his last Phantoms game, but the team made the playoffs. Yesterday, the wire to repair Jones’ jaw was removed. Tonight, Jones will be at the mike when the Phantoms play the Hershey Bears in the playoffs.
REGULAR-SEASON CHAMPS TAKE IT ON THE CHIN
Gary Lawless, Winnipeg Free Press
So much for six straight losses to the Toronto Marlies. Make it seven. The visiting Marlies took a 1-0 series lead in the best-of-seven AHL North Division semifinal with a 3-2 overtime win over the Manitoba Moose on Wednesday night. Toronto’s Bates Battaglia scored at 5:28 of the first overtime period as Andre Deveaux took the puck off Manitoba defenseman Mark Fistric and swept in before zipping a pass to the veteran Battaglia who made no mistake, slipping the puck past Moose goalie Cory Schneider. The Marlies ran off six straight wins against the Moose in the regular season and have now straddled into the playoffs with that streak.
MARLIES EDGE MOOSE
Ken Wiebe, Winnipeg Sun
You can’t blame the Manitoba Moose for feeling an eerie sense of deja vu. Following [last night’s] contest, the Moose were putting on a brave face. “We played a heck of a hockey game,” said Moose head coach Scott Arniel. “We probably tripled them in chances but their goaltender (Justin Pogge) made some stops. Some he saw and some he didn’t see. We have to find a way to get more goals than what we’re getting. We created an awful lot of opportunities. There’s frustration too because we played so well and we didn’t get rewarded. But we’ll emphasize the good things and continue to build on our positives. This game means nothing. You have to move onto the next one. That’s the only one you focus on.”
PIRATES STRIKE QUICKLY
Paul Betit, Portland Press-Herald
The Portland Pirates came to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center knowing they would have to win at least once here to advance in their best-of-seven AHL playoff series with the Providence Bruins. The third-seeded Pirates got that win out of the way early. Portland beat the No. 2 Bruins 3-0 Wednesday night in the opener of their Atlantic Division semifinals. “We needed to win one, and we accomplished that, but at the end of the day you need to win four,” Portland coach Kevin Dineen said. “We accomplished one of our original goals, so that is a good start for us, but it’s a long, long way from the end of this series.”
GIANT LEAP FOR PEORIA
Dave Eminian, Peoria Journal-Star
It was one small step for the Peoria Rivermen playoff run, and one giant leap for the franchise in its AHL era Wednesday. The Rivermen launched first and third-period scoring blitzes to win a playoff game for the first time in Peoria’s AHL era, a 6-4 decision over the Houston Aeros in Game 1 of the West Division semifinals. Peoria winger Yan Stastny was a two-goal, one-assist force, while goaltender Manny Legace held off a furious Houston rally. Peoria captain Trent Whitfield and center Cam Paddock matched up defensively throughout the night against Houston top guns Krys Kolanos and Corey Locke. “That was a big step for the franchise tonight, and a first step for this team’s goals in the postseason,” Whitfield said.
PENGUINS FEEL THEY HAVE EDGE IN GOAL FOR PLAYOFF RUN
Jonathan Bombulie, The Citizen’s Voice
John Curry’s had a pretty darn good season. Played his first NHL game. Recorded his first NHL win. Set a franchise record with 11 consecutive victories in February. Finished the year with a team-record 33 wins. Yet he knows full well that if he doesn’t perform when the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins open the playoffs Friday against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, all those accomplishments will lose their luster in a hurry. A goalie, Curry knows, makes his bones in the playoffs. “It’s everything. It’s when it matters,” Curry said after practice at the Ice Box. “You can’t rely on the regular season to be satisfied and move on to the next season. You have to perform. You have to do it for the team, the coaches, the fans. That’s what everybody remembers.”
FROM CALDER TO STANLEY:
Brandon Dubinsky, who posted 14 points in 18 career Calder Cup Playoff games for Hartford, scored the game-winning goal in the third period to give the N.Y. Rangers a 4-3 win at Washington in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal last night… Brad Boyes, who registered 16 points in 18 AHL playoff games in 2004 and 2005, scored in his NHL playoff debut, but St. Louis dropped a 2-1 decision at Vancouver… Tyler Kennedy netted his first career NHL postseason goal as Pittsburgh beat Philadelphia, 4-1, to kick off their first-round series.
BY THE NUMBERS:
24 – Consecutive home playoff games played by the Philadelphia Phantoms at the Wachovia Center, a streak that ends tonight… The fabled Wachovia Spectrum hosts its first postseason game since Apr. 11, 2002, when the Phantoms entertain Hershey in Game 1 of their series this evening.
ON THIS DATE:
April 16, 2004 – Michael Leighton’s second consecutive shutout gives Norfolk a clean two-game sweep of Binghamton in the teams’ East Division qualifying series… After recording three points in Game 1, Alexander Semin posts three goals and an assist in Portland’s series-clinching 6-2 win at Providence.
April 16, 2002 – Raffi Torres tallies a goal and an assist and Trent Hunter registers three assists in Bridgeport’s 4-1 win over Manitoba in Game 2 of their conference quarterfinal series.
April 16, 1998 – Current Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Martin Biron makes 29 saves in Rochester’s 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Phantoms at the Wachovia Center.
April 16, 1993 – Jim Dowd scores in overtime and Martin Brodeur makes 42 saves for his first pro playoff win as the Utica Devils take a 3-2 decision from Rochester.
April 16, 1975 – After losing Games 5 and 6 in overtime, the Hershey Bears escape their division semifinal series with a 4-3 win at Richmond in Game 7.
April 16, 1953 – In the only Calder Cup Finals Game 7 ever to go to overtime, Bob Chrystal’s goal gives the Cleveland Barons a 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Hornets and their sixth AHL championship.
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.