The Rochester Americans kick off their AHL preseason tonight, hosting the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at Bill Gray’s Iceplex on the campus of Monroe Community College. Game time is set for 7:05 p.m.
Although the Rochester Americans roster for the coming season is not completely set – with several players still to be sent down from the Buffalo Sabres and others currently with the Amerks only on a tryout basis, tonight’s game will give all of the players a chance to hit the ice as a team and show everyone what they’ve got.
Tonight’s game is the first of two preseason games for the Rochester Americans, both of which will be played against the Penguins. The final game of the preseason is on Friday in Wilkes-Barre and will wrap things up until the Americans open their regular season schedule on October 4, hosting the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Newly joining the Amerks is Colton Gillies, who attended Buffalo Sabres training camp but was released. He proceeded to sign an AHL contract with the Americans, which was announced just this morning. Matt Ellis also joined the team this morning after clearing waivers after being sent down from the Sabres. Ellis was captain of the Americans last season and is expected to resume that role this year.
Tonight’s game marks the first time that Chadd Cassidy’s new regime as head coach will kick in. Newcomer Eric Locke, who spent last season with the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit and later attended the Traverse City Tournament as a Buffalo Sabres prospect, joins the Amerks tonight for his first AHL preseason game. The Toronto native had 44 goals and 53 assists for 97 points in 68 games last season with Saginaw.
The Amerks have a number of goaltenders in their roster and it’s unknown at this point just who will be playing in tonight’s game. Lines and defense pairings are also uncertain at this point.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have been receiving reinforcements over the past few days from the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. Tom Kuhnhackl and Harrison Ruopp were both assigned on Tuesday to the AHL squad. Kuhnhackl appeared in one preseason game with the Pittsburgh Penguins, notching two assists in a game against Columbus on September 15.
The Penguins also have a number of goaltenders to choose from for the preseason games. At this point, the team currently has four goaltenders in tow. Peter Mannino hasn’t practiced yet due to injury, but the team also has rookie Eric Hartzell and former Penguins goaltenders Andy Chiodo and Jeff Deslauriers. Jeff Zatkoff would have been with the AHL squad, but is currently up with the NHL team due to Tomas Vokoun‘s recent blood clot situation.
The Americans and the Penguins met twice last season during the regular season, with each team taking away one win. The Penguins won the first meeting 5-4 in overtime at home, while Rochester came out on top in the second meeting of the season, 4-2. Both meetings were in Wilkes-Barre, so this marks the first time that the Penguins come to town since last year’s preseason game against the team.
Tickets for tonight’s game are just $5 and will be available at the door. Players will also be signing autographs in the lobby of the Iceplex prior to the game, and youth hockey players can attend the game for free if they wear a jersey from their team. A note: tonight’s game is being held at the same place as last year’s preseason game against the Penguins; the arena on the MCC campus has changed its name.