SPRINGFIELD, Mass.… Buoyed by some home cooking, the Toronto Marlies are out of the gate quickly in 2007-08 and tied for the best record in the American Hockey League.
Under the direction of their head coach, three-time Stanley Cup champion and former NHL bench boss Greg Gilbert, the Marlies are 6-0-0-1, joining Chicago as the only teams in the AHL still without a regulation loss, and have scored twice as many goals as they have allowed (32-16). Toronto is the highest-scoring team in the league, averaging 4.57 goals per game and netting at least three goals in every outing, and also ranks fifth in defense at 2.29 goals allowed per game. They also rank second in shots for (36.6) and fewest shots allowed (23.7).
The Marlies’ special teams have been outstanding as well, ranking second on the power play at 25.0 percent (11-for-44) and fifth on the penalty kill at 89.7 percent efficiency. Toronto’s penalty killers have allowed just four power-play goals while scoring three shorthanded goals themselves.
David Ling, back in the AHL for the first time since finishing third in the league in scoring during the 2004-05 season, is pacing Toronto with 12 points on the young season, and has recorded at least one assist in all seven games. Ling had three points in the third period of Sunday’s 5-2 win over Syracuse, giving him 400 points in 413 career AHL contests.
Derrick Walser also has a point in all seven Marlies games this season, and the former AHL All-Star and Calder Cup champion leads all league defensemen with 10 points. Walser’s four goals are good for a share of the team lead with John Mitchell, who has three multiple-point efforts in his last four outings. Jeremy Williams has put up seven points in seven games, and both of his goals this season have been game-winners. Rookie Darryl Boyce has three goals on the year, and his plus-6 rating is tops among Toronto forwards. And Jiri Tlusty had three points in five games before being recalled by the parent Maple Leafs, then scored two goals in his NHL debut at Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
The Marlies are 5-0-0-1 at home this season; they needed four months to earn their fifth victory in their 22nd home game in 2006-07. But the Marlies finished last season strong and have put together an impressive run of home-ice dominance, earning points in 13 straight games at Ricoh Coliseum since Mar. 16 (11-0-0-2). Second-year pro goaltender Justin Pogge is 11-4-2 in his last 17 decisions at Ricoh after starting 0-9-0 on home ice as a rookie.
But Toronto will now have to find success on the road as well. Beginning with a visit to Albany on Wednesday, the Marlies play seven straight games in enemy rinks before returning home on Nov. 18.
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THE OFFICE INVADES WBS … Four cast members from the award-winning NBC sitcom The Office visited the Wachovia Arena in Wilkes-Barre on Friday night to take in the Penguins’ game against Albany. Actors Brian Baumgartner (“Kevin”), Kate Flannery (“Meredith”), Angela Kinsey (“Angela”) and Craig Robinson (“Darryl”) were all in town for the first-ever Office Convention.
The winner of the 2006 Emmy Award for outstanding comedy series, The Office is set in Scranton and follows the workaday world of employees of the fictional Dunder Mifflin paper company.
Petri Kontiola, in his first season of pro hockey in North America, leads Rockford with seven assists and shares the top spot in both points (8) and plus/minus rating (+7).
TOPSY-TURVY GRIFFINS … The Grand Rapids Griffins are off one of their best road starts in franchise history, winning their first five games away from home this season. The club’s longest road winning streak came in 2004-05, when they won their first seven contests of the year on foreign ice.
Conversely, Grand Rapids is 0-3-0-0 at Van Andel Arena, losing its first three home games of the season for the first time ever. The Griffins have been outscored 15-4 on home ice.
ETC. … Joakim Lindstrom, who recorded 22 points in his final 14 games last season, has recorded a point in eight straight games for Syracuse (5g, 4a)… He picked up two goals during the 2007 Calder Cup Playoffs, but Hamilton defenseman Ryan O’Byrne scored his first goal in 89 career regular-season games in Sunday’s 5-1 win over Rockford… Rockford’s Wade Flaherty had a personal 12-game winning streak snapped in a 3-2 loss at Manitoba on Friday, his first regular-season defeat since Dec. 30, 2006… Eight of Philadelphia rookie Jonathan Matsumoto’s 11 points this season have come on the power play… After handing Toronto (6-0-0-1) its only blemish of the season with a shootout win on Oct. 21, Hartford defeated Worcester on Oct. 27 for the Sharks’ first regulation loss of the year (4-1-1-0)… Springfield rookie Colin McDonald, a Hartford native and son of former AHL defenseman Gerry McDonald, notched his first professional goal on Friday at the Hartford Civic Center, tying the game with 41.1 seconds left in regulation… Denis Hamel’s hat trick on Saturday was his sixth as a member of the Binghamton Senators and the ninth of his AHL career… Maxime Daigneault, who was 23-6-0 as a member of the Hershey Bears in 2006-07, shut out Quad City, 2-0, in his Milwaukee Admirals debut on Friday night… Milwaukee’s league-leading penalty killing unit (92.3 percent) has scored five shorthanded goals this season while surrendering only four power-play markers… Portland has played four consecutive overtime games, winning three of them (including two in a shootout)… Hershey’s 2-4-0-0 record makes October the Bears’ first sub-.500 month since going 1-6-0-1 in April 2005… Peoria is 22-for-22 on the penalty kill in four road games this season… Chicago posted a pair of wins over San Antonio last week, and has now gone 19 straight meetings without a regulation loss at home to the Rampage (17 wins, 1 tie, 1 OTL).