The Amerks had a light skate this morning for the players not expected to play tonight against Belleville and one player who is playing. Lawrence Pilut was assigned back to Rochester on Friday afternoon and this morning he was all smiles preparing to play.
Pilut started the season with the Amerks playing in 16 games and tallied 22 points (3G+19A) and also had plus-19. Out of the 16 games he only had three without a point. His last game was November 24th.
Update: The Sabres announced this afternoon that CJ Smith was also assigned back to Rochester. We’ll find out during warm ups if he’ll be available to play.
“I just want to get into work, that’s what I’m thinking right now,” Lawrence Pilut said after the morning skate. “I’m excited for the game tonight and going to do my best to help the team win.”
“He was great the first part of the year when he was with us,” Amerks assistant coach Gord Dineen said this morning. “About as dominating as a defenseman can be both offensively and defensively.”
Phil Housley mentioned that they wanted to get Pilut back to Rochester to play more meaningful minutes and see where it goes from there.
There’s no doubt that he’ll be immediately paired up with another leading defenseman, Zach Redmond. The two of them were dominating at the start of the season paired up at both five on five and the power play.
Pilut lit up when I asked about Redmond and the pace he’s been on, “He’s an amazing player. It’s fun to see him put up goals after goals and points after points. It’s amazing to see. One of the best I’ve ever seen.”
Obviously the goal is to get back to the NHL but for now Pilut is happy to see all of the players, coaches, and staff again. He had a smile on his face the moment he walked out of the locker room towards the ice, while on the ice, and doing a quick interview after the game.
Rochester has played 35 games without Pilut with a record of 21-11-1-2 in those games. In the 16 games with Pilut the team had a record of 11-4-1-0. The team is better with him and there’s no doubt he’ll have an immediate impact on the game.
The Belleville Senators have been one of the hottest teams since the middle of January. They are currently on a 14 game point streak that includes 10 wins and four shootout losses. They’ve scored 56 goals during that time as well. The Senators will be without Drake Batherson and Logan Brown, two players that combined for 40 points in 13 of those 14 games. Batherson had 10G+14A and Brown had 5G+11A. Both players were called up to Ottawa on Friday.
Gord Dineen is aware of the Senators scoring and said, “We’re going to have to be ready to face that. We have to make sure we’re taking care of our defensive zone.”
Rochester has improved it’s power play as the season has gone on and is currently 5th overall in the league. Belleville has the leagues worst penalty kill.
Talking about the power play Dineen said, “Hopefully it carries over from last night. Our power play was the difference in the game last night. Won us the game in the overtime and we had a couple in regulation too. If we’re skating and doing our job on the five on five part maybe drawing penalties will get us some opportunities on the power play.”
On Friday night the Amerks won 4-3 in overtime after going over going down 3-0 in the first half of the second period. Victor Olofsson scored a power play goal, Wayne Simpson scoring on a breakaway, and Remi Elie tied the game with another power play goal. Zach Redmond won the game on the power play with his league leading ninth game winning goal.
With Pilut back in the lineup one defenseman has to come out and that’ll be Jack Dougherty. Adam Wilcox will get the start tonight. Those are the only lineup changes compared to Friday.
Game recap along with scoring highlights:
A few other player notes:
One other note is that Kyle Criscuolo has been skating on his own working on returning from injury.
Alex Nylander returned from injury on Friday night and finished the game a minus-2. He started the game with Olofsson and Asplund. Was benched halfway through the second and played again in the third on a line with Dalton Smith and Yannick Veilleux. Read more about that in the recap above.
Sean Malone also returned after missing 16 games. As they say he kept the game simple and by halfway point had his legs back under him.
Tonight is one of only four home games on a Saturday. Puck drops at 7:05pm for Hometown Heroes night. [ Details available here ]