A few years ago, the Toronto Marlies ran an ad campaign with the tagline "Every game is an audition." I know this because I have a zamboni-shaped bank with the Marlies logo and that line on it. I don't know what the Marlies' tag line is this season, and I don't much care, but with the trade deadline on the horizon, I can't think of anything other than that sentence.
"I'm moving on, to where I belong." (Nickle Creek, "Destination")
If every game is an audition, I am sure that eyes were on Rochester Friday night. They usually are, I'm sure, but let's face the music: Buffalo can't continue with spare parts. That makes anyone with an ounce of talent (or possibly less than that) fair game. Not just for trade bait, but for callups. And there have been callups galore this season, with the multitude of injuries in Buffalo. It's been better ... or at least, slower ... than previous seasons, but it's there. The Amerks roster is littered with holes and the Sabres roster is ripe with familiar names from the red, white, and blue.
You sure couldn't tell from Rochester's game play Friday night, however. The Amerks faced those very same Toronto Marlies, with the game ending in overtime favor of the Maple Leafs' farm club. Although starting goaltender Matt Hackett struggled with some softer goals in the second, it was a clear reflection of the entire team's struggle to survive the second period. This, after Jake McCabe, Brayden Irwin, and Allan McPherson scored three gorgeous goals in the first, was a bit of a tough pill to swallow. But sometimes, that's the way that the cookie crumbles.
One of the biggest potential pieces of trade making, Mikhail Grigorenko, returned Friday night from knee injury. To say he had some rust will be an understatement. At the risk of sounding harsh, it was one of the worst games I've ever seen from Grigorenko ... and every game is an audition. Also back on the Rochester ice was Mark Pysyk, who had been on callup in Buffalo. It has to be gut-wrenching to hear "You're going back to Rochester" and Sabres Head Coach Ted Nolan say "He's ready for primetime" in the same day. But every game is an audition, and Pysyk has more than shown someone that he's ready. He no longer belongs in the AHL but, as Amerks Head Coach Chadd Cassidy has said before, you have to play where you're at. But it still, I would imagine, must be frustrating.
All we can do, as fans of the game and fans of the team, is sit and wait. Monday is coming, and I don't doubt that TMGM has plans up his sleeve. The Amerks, whatever that may consist of, will face the Utica Comets (who are Jacob Markstrom-less, currently) on March 4. As always, I'll have your Amerks news as soon as I know it, and DBTB will have full trade deadline coverage on Monday.