**This Week’s Storylines**
VIEW FROM ABOVE
Rochester comes into the week riding a season-long eight-game point streak (7-0-0-1), the longest active streak in the Eastern Conference, and have won eight of its last 10 games, with seven wins coming against North Division opponents. Coming off Saturday’s come-from-behind win at Binghamton, the Amerks have earned points in 13 of their last 15 contests, going 10-2-1-2 over that span, putting them two points behind the Toronto Marlies for the top spot in the AHL’s North Division going into Friday’s showdown.
WELCOME BACK, CHRIS TAYLOR
Chris Taylor resumed head coaching duties of the Amerks this morning, making his return to Rochester after spending the previous two months with the Buffalo Sabres coaching staff. Taylor filled in for Sabres assistant coach Don Granato, who was forced to take an extended medical leave while he recovered from pneumonia-related complications. Amerks assistant coach Gord Dineen took over in the interim, leading the Amerks to a 12-3-1-2 record, including the team’s recent five-game win streak.
One of the biggest factors attributed to Rochester’s early season success is the fact that the Amerks have outshot their opponents in all but three games so far this season, including a season-high 50 shots in Springfield back on Oct. 27. The Amerks come into the week ranked sixth in the AHL in total shots (613) and are averaging 33.61 shots per game, the most behind only the Iowa Wild. Going into the contest on Nov. 15, the Amerks were the only team in the league to have outshoot their opponent through the first 14 games of the 2019-20 campaign.
LENDING A HAND
The Amerks saw the departure of one of their top forwards to Buffalo earlier today as Jean-Sebastien Dea joined Curtis Lazar, Rasmus Asplund and Tage Thompson, all whom have already earned recalls to the Sabres. Lazar made an immediate impact in his debut for Buffalo, scoring his first goal as a Sabre on against Carolina Nov. 14. Asplund then made his NHL debut two nights later in Buffalo’s 4-2 win over Ottawa, becoming the seventh different Sabre this season to make his debut, and Thompson joined the Sabres in Chicago for their Nov. 17 matchup against the Blackhawks. It was Thompson’s first game back with the Sabres since appearing in 65 games with the big club last season prior to joining the Amerks in March. Dea can potentially make his season debut tonight for Buffalo against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
TEAM AND LEAGUE LEADERS
With Dea and Thompson both on recall with the Sabres, the Amerks come into the week without the services of their top two point-getters. Thompson has totaled 23 points (14+9) over his last 27 games with the Amerks dating back to last season, including the two goals he scored in the first round of the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs against the Toronto Marlies. More impressively, Thompson has scored 12 goals in just 24 career regular-season games with Rochester, easily surpassing the total he set over a 30-game stint with San Antonio during his rookie season in 2017-18. His 67 shots are third in the AHL. With six points (3+3) over his last six games, Dealeads the Amerks in goals (7) through and is tied for 12thin points through the first 18 games of the season. With six assists in the last five games, first-year forward Brett Murray is tied for 10th in scoring among all AHL rookies with 11 points (2+9) in 13 games. Goaltender Andrew Hammond (7-1-1) is tied for fifth among all netminders with seven wins on the season. In his last five starts, he has posted a four straight wins, two shutouts, a 1.25 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage. His counterpart, Jonas Johansson, also boasts a three-game win streak and recently set a new AHL career-high with his fifth win of the season Saturday in Binghamton.
THE BEST OFFENSE IS A GOOD DEFENSE
The Amerks come into the week owning three of the AHL’s top point-producing defensemen in Zach Redmond, Casey Nelson and Lawrence Pilut, all of whom have been mainstays on Rochester’s blueline this season. The start of the 2019-20 season is just a different chapter in the same story for the 31-year-old Redmond, who’s averaged nearly a point-per-game through his first 13 games of the season. The reigning Eddie Shore Award winner and two-time AHL All-Star is currently tied for 10th in scoring among all defensemen with 12 points and ranks seventh in assists (10). Nelson’s three goals this season are tied for 11th-most by a defenseman while his team-best plus-12 on-ice rating is third in the league among all active blueliners. After being reassigned by the Sabres this past Saturday, defenseman John Gilmour made an immediate impact on the scoresheet in his Amerks debut as he earned the secondary assist on Eric Cornel’s game-winning goal during the second period. With the addition of Gilmour, who last season led the Harford Wolf Pack with a career-high 34 assists and 54 points in 70 games, the Amerks now have two of the AHL’s top three point-producing defensemen from last season on the same blueline. Gilmour’s 54 points were four better than Redmond’s while Redmond led all AHL blueliners with a franchise-record 21 goals.
Rochester’s 3-2 overtime win last Friday over Cleveland was the seventh game so far this season that went beyond regulation for the Amerks, the most behind only Hartford. The Amerks, who tied an AHL record during the 2017-18 season with 29 overtime games, are 3-1 in the bonus period this season and show a 1-2 record in the shootout.
MALONE MOVING UP
Third-year forward Sean Malone saw his career-long seven-game point streak come to a halt last Friday night, which was the third-longest in the AHL this season. After being held without a point in his first four games of the 2019-20 campaign, the West Seneca native has responded by recording four goals and five assists dating back to Oct. 19, a span of 11 games. Malone has already equaled last season’s four-goal output in less than half the games and is on pace to match his career-high 22 points he set during his rookie season in 2017-18.