(Photo: Melissa Kania)

Pre-Game Primer: Rochester Americans vs. WBS Penguins

The Rochester Americans will complete their preseason schedule tonight as they visit the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a 7:05 p.m. matchup at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.

Tonight’s game is the second half of a home-and-home series with the Penguins. The Rochester Americans defeated Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday at home, taking a 3-2 overtime victory.

Under six minutes into the first period, Amerks center Phil Varone opened the preseason scoring to put Rochester ahead, 1-0 on the power play. The Amerks weren’t ahead for long, however, as Wilkes-Barre’s Denver Manderson tied the game at 1 under a minute later.

Halfway through the first period, new-to-Rochester defenseman Chad Ruhwedel scored on the power play to give Rochster the lead once again. The Penguins would eventually tie the game in the middle frame on a goal by Paul Thompson.

After regulation proved to solve nothing, an overtime period was required and eventually, the Rochester Americans came out on top. Rookie forward Eric Locke scored the game-winning goal 2:56 into overtime, giving the Amerks the win.

Nathan Lieuwen and Connor Knapp split goaltending duties for the Amerks in the win, while Andy Chiodo and Eric Hartzell split time for Wilkes-Barre.

Tonight’s game should largely see a similar lineup on both sides, with perhaps goaltending a little different due to the fact that both teams have at least three goaltenders on hand at the present time.

Phil Varone, who scored in Wednesday’s win, took a stick to the face during a faceoff but later returned to the game after presumably getting stitched up and should be fine for tonight’s game.

This year marks the second straight year that the Rochester Americans and the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins have a home-and-home preseason series.

Tonight’s game is another chance for some of the competing players to show the team what they’ve got to offer – and certainly the injuries of Corey Tropp and Joel Armia leave some things left wide open. These are two forwards who could have been sent down to Rochester, but since they won’t be, it could open a spot for someone like Eric Locke to remain in the AHL for the regular season, rather than be returned back to his OHL squad.

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.

Tonight’s game is the final preseason game for the Rochester Americans before the team kicks off its regular season action in exactly one week, hosting the Grand Rapids Griffins at home on October 4.

Here’s some questions going into tonight’s game, to give you just a little food for thought:

  • Could Andrey Makarov play in tonight’s game? Connor Knapp and Nathan Lieuwen, who both played in parts in Rochester last season, split the goaltending duties on Wednesday, but Makarov could easily see some ice time tonight.
  • What will we do with Eric Locke? Locke is technically not signed to an AHL deal yet, so the team will have to eventually decide whether to sign him or release him back to his OHL team, the Saginaw Spirit, who opened their season last Friday with a loss to the Kitchener Rangers.
  • Who’s still coming down? The Buffalo Sabres still have a few extra players on their roster, so it’s possible that there might be some players still coming down to Rochester. While Tropp and Armia won’t, Zemgus Girgensons is one such player who could still join the Amerks this season. There’s also defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who has been impressive in the NHL preseason and could actually make a name for himself in the Sabres lineup this year, but could also wind up in Rochester.

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