Weekend watch list: Dec. 22-26

Patrick Williams, TheAHL.com Features Writer

The AHL’s version of the Battle of Ontario resumes tonight as the Belleville Senators and Toronto Marlies open a home-and-home series.

CAA Arena will host the front end of the rivalry match-up. After the holiday break, the teams will reconvene on Tuesday afternoon at Scotiabank Arena, the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It’s the beginning of a stretch of five meetings in 24 days between the rivals. The Marlies took a win and a point from a shootout loss in a two-game trip to Belleville at the end of October, the teams’ only other get-togethers before tonight.

Toronto will go into Belleville as the hottest team in the AHL with a five-game winning streak. They handled the visiting Providence Bruins on Wednesday, using five third-period goals to take a 7-3 win. In all, they have scored 27 goals during their five consecutive wins.

Forward Alex Steeves had an assist on Wednesday to push his point streak to 16 games (11 goals, 11 assists), the AHL’s longest this season and a Marlies franchise record. Kieffer Bellows picked up two more goals, giving him four in his last three outings, and Dennis Hildeby made 31 saves to improve to 7-3-2; Hildeby ranks second in the AHL in both goals-against average (1.92) and save percentage (.927).

The B-Sens had top prospect Tyler Boucher in their lineup last night, a 5-1 home loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. For the 20-year-old Boucher, it was his pro debut after several injury setbacks, including surgery on his right shoulder last season. The son of former NHL and AHL goaltender Brian Boucher went to the parent Ottawa Senators as the 10th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.

Turnover in net has not slowed down the Henderson Silver Knights at all lately.

The parent Vegas Golden Knights have goaltenders Adin Hill and Logan Thompson both out with injuries, prompting the recalls of Jiri Patera and Isaiah Saville from Henderson this week.

Jordan Papirny and Michael Bullion are up from Savannah of the ECHL as the Silver Knights prepare for a two-game home set with San Jose tonight and Saturday.

Despite the upheaval, Henderson has won four straight games, surrendering a total of just five goals. The 26-year-old Bullion, a second-year pro who played in the Western Hockey League and at Ontario Tech University, made 31 saves in his AHL debut Wednesday, a 5-1 win over Coachella Valley at the Dollar Loan Center.

Brendan Brisson has led the Henderson offense with a goal and four assists over the last four games. Brisson, a first-round choice by Vegas in the 2020 NHL Draft, has 21 points in 27 games on the season following his 37-point rookie season in 2022-23.

A pair of Connecticut rivals in the Bridgeport Islanders and Hartford Pack meet in the AHLTV Free Game of the Week tonight (7 ET/6 CT).

The host Wolf Pack will be trying to curtail an 0-1-2-0 slide as the Islanders make their first visit of the season to the XL Center. Hartford has lost four of its last five outings (1-1-3-0), but also has points in 10 of 11 (7-1-3-0) and hold second place in the Atlantic Division. Six of the Wolf Pack’s last eight games have required overtime.

Bridgeport put an end to a five-game losing streak with a third-period comeback last Saturday night at Charlotte. Down 3-1 going into the third, Kyle MacLean and William Dufour scored before Robin Salo’s overtime winner gave the Islanders a 4-3 decision. They will be looking to string together back-to-back wins for the first time this season, and end a stretch of six straight losses to the Wolf Pack.

An AHLTV account is required to watch the AHLTV Free Game of the Week, but no subscription is needed. Visit AHLTV.com for details.