SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … News and notes from the week ending Nov. 18, 2012:
BRUST ON THE BRINK
After two more whitewashes last week, Abbotsford Heat goaltender Barry Brust is less than a period away from writing his name in the American Hockey League record book.
Sharing crease time with Leland Irving and Danny Taylor, Brust has made just four starts this season. But since allowing a goal to Chicago’s Zack Kassian 8:19 into his Heat debut on Oct. 20, the Swan River, Man., native has been perfect. He shut out Toronto on Nov. 1, then blanked Lake Erie on Tuesday and Wednesday last week to run his shutout streak to 231 minutes, 41 seconds. For the season, Brust has stopped 105 of 106 shots (4-0-0, 0.25, .991), part of the reason the Heat rank second in the league allowing 1.80 goals per game.
The longest shutout streak by a goaltender in AHL history belongs to Hockey Hall of Famer Johnny Bower, who kept Cleveland Barons opponents off the board for 249:51 spanning five games during the 1957-58 season. Bower, a three-time Calder Cup champion and three-time league MVP, has more career wins (359) and shutouts (45) than any AHL goalie ever.
Abbotsford is back in action Friday night when it kicks off a three-game weekend swing through Texas by visiting the Stars in Cedar Park.
Barry Brust wasn’t the only goaltender posting back-to-back shutouts last week. Texas’s Cristopher Nilstorp blanked San Antonio on Thursday night before coming out on the winning end of a 1-0 shootout decision vs. Charlotte on Saturday.
Nilstorp, a former league champion in the Swedish Elitserien in his first season of pro hockey in North America, showed a 3.45 goals-against average and .855 save percentage after his first six appearances for the Stars (1-4-0) but has won his last three starts, turning aside 71 of 73 shots. His current shutout streak of 153:09 is less than 10 minutes away from Brent Krahn’s franchise record (162:56).
At 7-0-0-1, the Syracuse Crunch remain the only team in the AHL without a regulation loss on the road in 2012-13, reeling off seven straight wins away from the Onondaga County War Memorial following a shootout loss in Rochester on opening night.
Last season, when Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate was based in Norfolk, Crunch head coach Jon Cooper and his charges won their final 13 road games during the regular season and went 8-1 on enemy ice in the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs.
Since Feb. 10, the Lightning’s top prospects have won 53 of 60 games overall (regular season and playoffs), including a 28-1-0-1 mark on the road. Second-year pro Tyler Johnson has recorded 69 points (32 goals, 37 assists) and a plus-41 rating in 56 games played during that span, while Dustin Tokarski is 32-3-1 with a 1.64 GAA and a .935 save percentage in net.
After hosting Binghamton on Friday night, the Crunch will hit the road for five consecutive games and eight of their next 10.
Born and raised in Michigan and a product of nearby Ferris State University, defenseman Chad Billins has added a spark to the Grand Rapids Griffins’ offense just a month into his professional career.
Billins is still looking for his first pro goal but he leads the entire AHL with 14 assists in 14 games, putting him second in team scoring behind Gustav Nyquist (8-9-17). Eight of his 14 assists have come on the power play, where the Griffins rank fourth in the AHL at 22.7 percent efficiency. Billins is tied for second among AHL rookies in scoring, and tied for third among all league defensemen.
The 23-year-old rookie signed as a free agent with the Griffins after four seasons at Ferris State, where he was a co-captain as a senior in 2011-12 and helped the Bulldogs reach the NCAA championship game in their first-ever trip to the Frozen Four.
FIVE TO WATCH
Match-ups to look forward to in the week ahead:
• Hamilton at St. John’s, Tuesday and Wednesday (6 ET) – Without a road win since opening the season with a 4-3 shootout victory in Grand Rapids, Hamilton heads to St. John’s for a pair of games with the IceCaps, who have won the opener and lost the rematch in each of their first four home series this year. The Bulldogs are playing 11 of 13 games away from home from Nov. 17 to Dec. 18.
• Charlotte at Norfolk, Wednesday (7:15 ET) – Charlotte, 8-2-0-2 on the road this season, travels to Norfolk to take on the Admirals for the first time this season. Norfolk has lost seven of its last 10 after starting the season with four straight wins.
• Toronto at Binghamton, Thursday (6 ET) – In a holiday tradition that dates back to 1973, Thanksgiving night means professional hockey at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena as the Senators host the Marlies. Binghamton has won three in a row; Toronto has taken six of its last seven while averaging nearly five goals per contest.
• Connecticut at Bridgeport, Friday (7 ET) – Bridgeport hosts Connecticut in the third of 10 meetings between the in-state rivals this season. The Sound Tigers have twice erased two-goal deficits at the first intermission to beat the Whale, 6-4 on Oct. 12 and 4-3 on Nov. 11.
• Chicago at Grand Rapids, Friday (7 ET) – Entering the week as the top two teams in the Midwest Division, first-place Grand Rapids hosts second-place Chicago on Friday night. The Wolves are 5-1-1-0 in their last seven visits to Van Andel Arena.
ON THE AIR
Here is this week’s broadcast schedule for national and regional TV and radio. All games are also streamed at AHL Live (ahllive.com).
Sportsnet (all regions)
Saturday – Milwaukee at Chicago, 8 ET
Sunday – Lake Erie at Hamilton, 4 ET
Tuesday – Milwaukee at Chicago, 01:00 GMT (Wed.)
SiriusXM NHL Network Radio (Sirius 207, XM 92)
Tuesday – Manchester at Portland, 7 ET
Wednesday – Charlotte at Norfolk, 7:15 ET
Thursday – Toronto at Binghamton, 6 ET
Friday – Chicago at Grand Rapids, 7 ET
Saturday – Syracuse at Albany, 5 ET
Saturday – Abbotsford at San Antonio, 8 ET
Sunday – Providence at St. John’s, 4:30 ET
Sunday – Abbotsford at Houston, joined in progress
Bridgeport forward Nino Niederreiter enters the week with an eight-game scoring streak (5-6-11)… After tallying just 1-0-1 in seven games in October, Rochester rookie Brian Flynn has points in all seven games played so far in November (4-6-10)… Scratched from Toronto’s lineup on Nov. 9 at Texas, Nazem Kadri has 2-9-11 in five games since… The Marlies’ Keith Aucoin picked up two goals and an assist vs. Hamilton on Saturday to move into 12th place on the AHL’s all-time scoring list with 791 career points; next on the chart is Aucoin’s former coach in Washington, Bruce Boudreau (799)… T.J. Hensick has 3-9-12 in his last six games for Peoria, and has scored or assisted on 17 of the Rivermen’s 33 goals this season… Chad Johnson, who won 62 games over his first three pro seasons in Hartford, stopped 29 of 30 shots in Portland’s 2-1 win at Connecticut on Friday night; after surrendering 18 goals in his first three starts of the season, Johnson is 5-1-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and a .967 save percentage since Oct. 24… Brayden Schenn has totaled 7-7-14 in Adirondack’s six wins this season, and 1-2-3 in their eight losses… Hershey defensemen have contributed 37 points (8g, 29a) to the Bears’ offense in 15 games this season, with blueliner Garrett Stafford (1-13-14) leading the team in scoring… Thanks to a 7-for-15 showing in their last four games, Oklahoma City’s power play has climbed to second in the AHL at 25.0 percent for the season, including a league-best 35.9 percent on home ice (14-for-39)… With a 6-2-1-0 mark in their last nine games, the Worcester Sharks have moved into first place in the Atlantic Division… The Albany Devils will be facing the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in Atlantic City, N.J., on Sunday afternoon, the first of four Devils home games at historic Boardwalk Hall this season.