It’s a hockey night in Buffalo - but it won’t be the Sabres hitting the ice at KeyBank Center this evening. The AHL’s Rochester Americans are in town, hosting the Syracuse Crunch for a 7:05 p.m. faceoff.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Amerks have accrued 66 points on the season (26-13-8-6) and are on a six-game point streak. The Crunch are just one point behind with a record of 30-18-2-3. Syracuse has also been good lately, going 5-4-0-1 in their last ten games.
Rochester is coming off a busy three-in-three weekend. They put up a commanding 12 goals in Friday’s win over Wilkes-Barre Scranton, then dropped a pair of games to Binghamton (1-0 OT, 2-1 SO).
Syracuse is coming off a split weekend with Charlotte. The Checkers won 2-0 Saturday, but the Crunch rallied back for a 3-1 win Sunday.
Tonight’s game is the fifth meeting of the season between Rochester and Syracuse. The Amerks won the first two meetings - their first two games of the season - but the Crunch have won the last three, including a 4-0 victory on January 13.
Each team will be missing a player tonight due to suspensions. Syracuse’s Alex Gallant was suspended two games after he picked up his fourth game misconduct of the season in a game on February 18.
The Amerks will be missing Colin Blackwell, who was suspended for supplementary discipline after a game on February 16. Tonight’s game is the second of his two-game suspension.
After tonight’s game, the two teams will meet four more times before the regular season ends in mid-April.
Players to Watch: Rochester
Defenseman Zach Redmond is another one to watch on the Amerks. Redmond has skated in 45 games for Rochester this season and has produced offensively, putting up 32 points (10-22). Check out Matt’s piece for more about the Amerks & their offensive defense.
Linus Ullmark has been the main man in net for the Amerks this season and has gone 18-9-4-2 with a 2.43 GAA and .924 save percentage. He’s also one of the more familiar names on the team for Sabres fans, alongside guys like Alexander Nylander and Brendan Guhle.
Players to Watch: Syracuse
Anthony Cirelli has been one of Syracuse’s best players this season. The rookie center has put up 34 points (11-23) in 47 games and is tied for the team lead in points. Right winger Mathieu Joseph also has 34 points (9-25) in 50 games.
Carter Verhaeghe is having himself a decent season, too. The center has put up 29 points (10-19) in 36 games, including three power-play goals and three game-winning goals. He scored the game-winner in the team’s most recent win over Charlotte.
Rochester is fourth-best in the AHL on the penalty kill (85.8%) and ninth on the man advantage (19.4%). The Crunch have scored 10 shorthanded goals this season, most in the league.
The Crunch’s top four scorers who are still on the team - Cirelli, Joseph, Mitchell Stephens and Alexander Volkov - are all rookies.
Peter Budaj could play soon for Syracuse after joining the team for some rehab work. Per Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, Budaj is “weeks” away from returning to the NHL squad. But he was on the ice at their practice facility several days ago, and rotated into Crunch practice Tuesday - however, he has not officially been listed on their roster yet.
Expect a closely-matched game tonight between the Amerks and Crunch; six of their last nine meetings dating back to last season have been decided by one goal.
Fans can watch the game on AHL Live ($$) or make their way down to KeyBank Center. Tickets are still available for tonight’s game, starting as low as $10.