Photo: Melissa Kania

Amerks Need Strong Finish for Playoff Hopes

Injuries and call-ups have been detrimental to the playoff hopes of the Rochester Americans, who have now lost nine consecutive games and face a tough road ahead before the playoffs begin in mid-April. With nine games remaining in the regular season, every point is crucial.

The Amerks have been struggling, and for good reason. First, a glance at some of the things they’ve had to deal with over the last month:

  • March 7 – Nicolas Deslauriers called up by the Sabres
  • March 8 – Chad Ruhwedel called up by the Sabres
  • March 11 – Drew Bagnall reported to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery
  • March 14 – Mark Pysyk injured (upper body) – remains out as of March 31
  • March 16 – Nathan Lieuwen called up by the Sabres
  • March 17 – Matthew Hackett called up by the Sabres
  • March 25 – Matt Mackenzie injured (lower body); Rasmus Ristolainen out with virus
  • March 26 – Jamie Tardif injured (shoulder); expected to be out 1-3 weeks according to coach Chadd Cassidy
  • March 27 – Johan Larsson & Rasmus Ristolainen called up by the Sabres

Presently, the Amerks are five points out of a playoff spot. They sit 10th in the Western Conference, with a record of 30-27-6-4 and 70 points. Directly ahead of them (9th): Oklahoma City, with a record of 30-27-2-9 and 71 points. Then there’s Rockford and Charlotte, with 75 points each, in 7th and 8th.

It’s not going to be easy, considering the number of injuries and call-ups the Amerks continue to face. For the time being, they’re still missing both of their regular goaltenders, forced to rely on the services of Andrey Makarov and Connor Knapp. Their captain is out (Bagnall), with his temporary replacement (Tardif) also out. Several defensemen called up to the Sabres, plus a few others injured.

The Amerks may get the services of forward Mike Zigomanis back this week, with Mark Pysyk and Matt Mackenzie also returning to practice recently.

The addition of Mikhail Grigorenko could help the Amerks in the coming stretch, but let’s not put too much pressure on the kid. After all, he’s only appeared in two AHL games in his lifetime. Some Sabres call-ups will return after the NHL regular season closes — but that could be too little, too late by that point, if the Amerks aren’t able to pick things up before that time comes.

The Amerks have nine games remaining in the regular season. That includes six intraconference games, iwith three of those being played against the Toronto Marlies, a team the Amerks have struggled against. Aside from the Marlies, the Amerks also face the Utica Comets, Lake Erie Monsters and Hamilton Bulldogs. Their interconference games are against Binghamton and Syracuse (2).

The rest of the season includes several back-to-backs, including a 3-in-3 next weekend that will see the Amerks host the Marlies before visiting Hamilton and Lake Erie. It’ll be tough even without call-ups and injuries, so these things will likely only add to the struggles the team will face.

The Sabres wrap up their season on April 13; the Amerks, six days – and three games – later. So any players who would be returning to the Amerks wouldn’t do so until their last three games, which could be helpful…. but it could also be too late by that point. Only time can tell.

For now, the Amerks need to focus on one game at a time. The present task at hand: a home game against the Syracuse Crunch on Wednesday.

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Tags: AHL Rochester Americans

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