Had the NHL lockout not been in force, the First Niagara Center would have been in preparations for the Buffalo Sabres to take on the New Jersey Devils tomorrow. However, with little good news as the owners and the players continue to bicker, Sabres fans have a great opportunity to take a closer look at some current Sabres and some prospects who will very soon be donning the blue and gold on a regular basis. The AHL's Rochester Americans will take on the Montreal Canadiens' farm club from Hamilton, the Bulldogs, tonight at 7:30pm.
The Amerks have had an up-and-down start to their season, with three wins and two losses in their five games played so far. Their opponents tonight have only played three games so far, with two wins and a loss. On a positive note however, there are three Sabres/Amerks in the top ten scoring charts. Marcus Foligno is joint-top of the league in goals with 5, and a total of eight points, good enough to put him in second place overall. Dman TJ Brennan has been impressive too, with 3 goals and 4 assists to put him in fifth, and highest among defensemen. Center Cody Hodgson hasn't had a goal yet, but his seven assists lead the league as well.
Offense has been clicking very well for the Amerks, and they have scored 20 goals in their five games. The powerplay unit has done well too, 4th in the league having scored 9 goals in 29 attempts. However, the defending has been slack as has been David Leggio's goaltending, with 21 goals given up in those games. Leggio's stats do not make impressive reading, with a 3.97 GAA and just 0.887 SV%. The Amerks have been outshot in all five games, and have given up a league high of 178 shots on goal.
The highest rated prospects among the d-men have been far from convincing when backing up, continuing right in the mold of the offensive dmen we have up with the Sabres. While Brennan has been stellar on offense, he is just a -5 with 10 PIM already. First round pick Mark Pysyk has 1G and 2A, but is -2 and has 2 PIM. Brayden McNabb has 3A and is +1 while Alex Biega seems to have regressed again, with just one assist and a -2. ECHL call-up Matt MacKenzie has been a livewire for the Amerks this year. In his first full season up from Gwinnett, the defenseman is +3 and has already racked up 19 PIM. And to add to it all, the penalty kill has been quite miserable too, giving up a league-high nine power play goals and just a 70.0% PK.
After the Bulldogs won seven out of the ten games against the Amerks last year, this is a good chance for the Rochester side to get off to a good start against Hamilton, with twelve tilts between the two team scheduled this year. The Bulldogs starting goaltender Robert Mayer has been better than Leggio so far, with 3.11 GAA, 0.894 SV%. The dangerman for the Hamilton team is rightwinger Aaron Palushaj. They have had quite a bit of turnover from the previous year with only two of their top six scorers from last season having moved on.
Ticket information - tickets are still available for the game tonight, at the First Niagara Center Box Office, online at www.tickets.com or by phone at 1-888-223-6000. Seats in the 100 Level Preferred locations and the 200 Club Level will be available for $25. Tickets in the 100 Level corners and ends will be available for $20, and tickets in the 300 Level can be purchased for $15.