The Amerks are back on home ice tonight at the War Memorial against the Texas Stars for their third of nine home games this month. The last time the two teams met on December 17th the Stars came back from a 2-0 deficit to win 6-2. The Amerks had a great start before giving up five goals in the second period and two short handed goals in the loss.
Rolston said they talked in special teams meetings this morning about the momentum the Stars had in their last game and to be mindful of that. The key to the Amerks is consistency and playing a full 60 minutes. That’s a no brainer but it’s something the team struggles with. The Amerks also need to play disciplined hockey as well and stay out of the box. One of the reasons the Amerks lost against Toronto this past Wednesday was because of penalties. The Amerks gave the Marlies seven power play opportunities, one of which the Marlies scored on. When players spend a good amount of time killing penalties it takes away from the ability to build offense and create plays.
Colin Stuart has been cleared to play by the Buffalo Sabres and sent back to Rochester. He’s returning from a knee injury suffered with the Sabres in mid December. The fact that they cleared him today is a good indication he’ll be back in the lineup tonight. Assuming he plays he’ll add some much needed puck movement skills on offense and special teams. I wrote last week that he was possible for this weekend and it looks like he is. It’s also possible he could be given the night off considering the fact that his wife just gave birth to a baby. We’ll find out in a few hours.
Drew MacIntyre gets the nod in net for the Amerks tonight. Rolston thinks that Drew is ready to go and was pleased with his third period performance against Syracuse last week and looks to continue that consistency. David Leggio has played better in recent games but it seems as though Rolston wants to keep MacIntyre fresh as well and give him some starts. MacIntyre has allowed at least three goals in his last six games, time to put an end to that.
The power play is being run right now by Brayden McNabb and the Amerks are looking for him to continue settling back into his role on this team. McNabb has seemed hesitant at times since his return but that’s to be expected after coming back from an injury and changing roles with a team.
There’s 30 games left on the schedule and every game will be more important than ever from here until April 14th when the season ends. The point difference between 8th and 15th place in the conference is only six points. There isn’t a game left in the lineup that can be looked at as an easy two points either. The Amerks are currently six points behind the division leading Toronto Marlies. The importance of that is that first place in the division is an automatic playoff spot.
** Igor Gongalsky is out with a lower body injury and “shouldn’t be too long.”
** Joe Finley is also out for a “couple of weeks” with another lower body injury.
** Alex Biega will miss his fourth straight game with a wrist injury after a hit on February 2nd.
And if you haven’t read it yet, check out my novel on Marcus Foligno that I wrote earlier today.