For the first time in almost five years, the Rochester Americans will face the Rockford IceHogs in an AHL matchup, as the teams take the ice tonight at the Blue Cross Arena for the first of two meetings this season.
Rochester and Rockford haven’t met since February 14, 2009. The Rochester Americans weren’t even the farm club of the Sabres at that point. These are two teams that have, for the most part, never played against each other, so tonight’s game should be an interesting one.
What will make tonight’s game the most interesting, however, may be the AHL standings.
As we speak, the Rochester Americans and Rockford IceHogs are tied for seventh place in the Western Conference. Both teams have accured 46 points on the season, but Rochester has the edge with five games in hand.
A win tonight could put the Amerks just one point out of sixth place, depending on the results of the Milwaukee/Iowa game. Of course – it could do the same for the IceHogs.
The Amerks are looking to extend a five-game winning streak with another victory tonight. They haven’t lost since January 15 and will look to put together a win tonight before visiting the Penguins tomorrow night.
The IceHogs, meanwhile, are on a two-game winning streak heading into tonight’s game. The team hasn’t played since Sunday and has faced Milwaukee in all of their last three games. They most recently defeated the Admirals 2-1 on Saturday and 4-3 (in overtime) on Sunday.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
I’ll throw out five players to watch tonight for the IceHogs.
Defenseman Adam Clendening leads the team in assists (27) and points (33) and will definitely be an asset the Amerks will need to contain tonight. Left winger Terry Broadhurt has 25 points in 43 games this season, including 17 assists. Then there’s a trio of players – Joakim Nordstrom, Jeremy Morin and Klas Dahlbeck – with 24 points each. Nordstrom, a rookie, is tied with Brad Winchester for the team lead in goals (13).
Clendening has 10 points in 11 games in the month of January, so he’ll look to close out this month on a high note with some extra points in tonight’s game.
Four players to watch tonight for Rochester are four Amerks who are all on individual point streaks.
Johan Larsson and Jamie Tardif are both on five-game point streaks; Larsson has nine points (2-7), while Tardif has seven (4-3). Kevin Porter and Brayden McNabb, meanwhile, are each on three-game point streaks, each notching four points in the last trio of games. Porter has three goals and one assist, while McNabb has a goal and three assists.
Still missing tonight for the Rochester Americans will be leading scorer Phil Varone, who is still up in the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres.
Mike Zigomanis, who hasn’t played since December 20, is also still out due to injury. Zigomanis has practiced with the team, but is still in no-contact mode, so he won’t be in tonight.
Joel Armia may return to the Amerks lineup this weekend, but it’s uncertain if that will be tonight or tomorrow. He’s recovering from a hand injury and has practiced (with contact) with the team earlier this week.
Also missing are defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, who is up with the Sabres, and forward Brandon MacLean, who was released from his professional tryout.
Tonight’s game between the Rochester Americans and the Rockford IceHogs begins at 7:05 p.m. As always on Friday nights, there’s a Happy Hour from 6 p.m. until 7 p.m. in the Upper Atrium Bar prior to tonight’s game.
It’s Men’s Health Night, so the Amerks will be wearing special edition jerseys during the game. A silent auction will be held, with the jerseys being given off the players’ backs to the highest bidders at the end of the night. Free blood tests to screen for prostate cancer will be offered to men in attendance on the Green Party Deck.