**This Week’s Storylines**
VIEW FROM ABOVE
- A win over Belleville on Friday and a loss in Binghamton on Saturday this past weekend has the Amerks two points ahead of the Utica Comets for first place in the AHL’s North Division standings going into Tuesday’s New Year’s Eve matchup between the two teams. Rochester comes into the week having earned points in 17 of its last 21 contests dating back to Nov. 1, showing a 15-4-1-1 record over that span.
- With Rochester’s 4-3 last-second victory over Belleville on Friday, the Amerks became just the fourth AHL team and first from the North Division to reach the 20-win mark this season.
- Saturday’s 2-0 shutout loss in Binghamton was the first time all season Rochester failed to find the back of the net.
- The Amerks have picked up points in 22 of the last 28 contests overall, going 18-6-2-2, while also earning 44 out of a possible 62 points through its first 31 contests of the season.
- Rochester’s seven regulation losses are fewest in the Eastern Conference and are tied for third-fewest in the league. The Amerks have yet to lose back-to-back games all season.
SMITH EARNS NHL CONTRACT WITH SABRES
- Earlier today, the Buffalo Sabres announced that the team signed forward Dalton Smith to a one-year, two-way contract for the remainder of the 2019-20 campaign.
- Smith, 27, has played each of past three seasons with the Amerks, recording 14 points (4+10) and 240 penalty minutes in 114 games, including four points in 21 appearances with the Amerks this season.
- In his AHL career, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound forward has totaled 54 points (26+28) in 340 career contests between Rochester, Providence, Lehigh Valley, Syracuse and Springfield while also racking up 646 penalty minutes.
- WATCH: DALTON SMITH AFTER HIS PRACTICE WITH THE SABRES
TAYLOR TO LEAD NORTH DIVISION ALL-STAR TEAM
- Amerks head coach Chris Taylor has clinched the honor of serving as coach of the North Division All-Star team for the upcoming 2020 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Ontario International Airport, to be held Jan. 26-27 at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif. He becomes Rochester’s first All-Star coach since John Tortorella in 1997.
- Currently in his third season as Amerks head coach, Taylor earns his first AHL All-Star coaching selection after guiding Rochester to a 20-7-2-2 record and 44 points in 31 games this season. The Amerks lead the North Division and rank third overall in the American Hockey League with a .710 points percentage and are one of just four teams to reach the 20-win mark.
- Taylor, who spent the first two months of the 2019-20 season assisting the Buffalo Sabres coaching staff, boasts a 91-66-8 record as Rochester’s bench boss while also leading the Amerks to back-to-back playoff appearances.
20 AND COUNTING
- It only took 30 games for Rochester to post 20 wins, reaching the mark by way of a thrilling, last-second 4-3 victory over the Belleville Senators on Friday night. Having not gone more than one game without a win all season, it marks the fewest number of games to reach 20 wins since the 2006-07 Amerks needed 27 games.
DYNAMIC DUO IN THE CREASE
- Anchored by the elite goaltending tandem of veteran Andrew Hammond and third-year proJonas Johansson, the Amerks own the top defense in the league, having allowed only 71 goals through the first 31 games of the season, the fewest in the AHL coming into the final week of December. The duo has also combined for six shutouts and are tied for 10th among all AHL goaltenders with 10 wins each on the season.
- Hammond (10-5-2) comes into the matchup second among all netminders after notching his fourth shutout of the season on Dec. 14 in a 5-0 win over Laval, a new career-high. In his last 12 games, Hammond boasts a 7-4-1 record with four shutouts, a 1.67 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage. With four shutouts through just 18 games this season, he’s on pace to match the franchise record for most shutouts in a season (8) set by Ryan Miller during the 2004-05 campaign.
- Having won eight straight appearances, Johansson shows an AHL career-best 10-2-2 record this season. Entering the week, he has the second-best goal-against average in the league (2.00) and is tied for third among all netminders with a .933 save percentage in 15 games. Dating back to Nov. 13, the third-year netminder boasts a perfect 8-0-0 record with two shutouts, a 1.74 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage while allowing just two goals or less in six consecutive starts over that span.
- Jean-Sebastien Dea leads the team with 21 points and is tied for the team lead with 10 goals in 29 games this season. Dea is coming off a three-game assist streak and has four points (1+3) in his last six games heading into Rochester’s final game of the calendar year.
- After an injury-riddled rookie season limited him to just 28 games, Andrew Oglevie has certainly made up for lost time this season. In just a little over two months’ time, Oglevie has already surpassed his goal (5), assist (5) and point (10) total from last season and currently shares the team lead in goals (10). Oglevie, who prior to missing the last three contests was one of two Rochester skaters to appear in every game this season, has 14 points (8+5) over his last 14 games, a stretch which included a career-long seven-game point streak.
- Rookie forward Brett Murray comes into the matchup with two goals, seven assists and a pair of multi-point efforts over his last 16 games. He’s currently tied for 15th in scoring among all AHL rookies with 16 points (4+12) in 26 games.
THE BEST OFFENSE IS A GOOD DEFENSE
- Rochester owns 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 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 28 games of the season. The reigning Eddie Shore Award winner and two-time AHL All-Star is currently tied for 11th in scoring among all defensemen with 20 points and 13th with high 15 assists. He’s also tied for sixth in the AHL for a goals by a defenseman with five.
- Coming off his third three-point outing of the season on Friday, Pilut has 14 points (3+11) over his last 18 games dating back to Nov. 15 since returning from the Buffalo Sabres. The former SHL Defenseman of the Year has already matched his goal total from last season in four fewer games and is on pace to set a new career-high in points. His 15 assists are tied with Redmond for the most on the team.
- Nelson shows a team-best plus-16 on-ice rating through 29 games, good for third among all active blueliners and fourth overall in the AHL.
- Rookie defenseman Jacob Bryson is second in the AHL for all AHL first-year players with a plus-15 on-ice rating while being the only Amerk this season to appear in all 31 games.