**This Week’s Storylines**
VIEW FROM ABOVE
- A win over Belleville on Friday and a loss in Toronto 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 to begin the week.
- Despite the loss in Toronto, the Amerks are sporting a 16-6-1-1 record over their last 24 games dating back to Nov. 1, earning points in 18 games over that span. Additionally, Rochester has picked up points in 23 of the last 31 contests overall, going 19-8-2-2, while also earning 46 out of a possible 68 points through its first 34 contests of the season.
- Rochester’s nine regulation losses are the second-fewest in the Eastern Conference and are tied for fifth-fewest in the league. With back-to-back losses to close out 2019, it was first time all season the Amerks were defeated in regulation in consecutive games.
SMITH RETURNS FROM FIRST STINT WITH SABRES
- The Buffalo Sabres reassigned forward Dalton Smith to the Amerks earlier today after signing the ninth-year pro to a two-way contract for the remainder of the 2019-20 campaign last Monday.
- Smith, 27, made his NHL debut Tuesday when the Sabres hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning on Dec. 31 and was had a plus-1 on-ice rating in 1:26 of ice time.
- The former second-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets (34th overall) in the 2010 NHL Draft, has four points (1+3) in 21 games in his third season with Rochester and has totaled 14 points (4+10) over 114 games for the Amerks since joining the organization in 2017-18. In all, Smith has appeared in 340 career AHL games with Rochester, Lehigh Valley, Providence, Syracuse and Springfield. The Oshawa, Ontario, native made his NHL debut Tuesday when the Buffalo Sabres hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning.
- 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.
HOW SWEDE IT IS
- Defenseman Lawrence Pilut and goaltender Jonas Johansson have been named to the North Division All-Star roster for the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Ontario International Airport. The annual event will take place Jan. 26-27 at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif., home of the Ontario Reign.
- The Swedish duo will also be joined by Amerks head coach, Chris Taylor, who clinched the honor of coaching the North Division squad earlier last week.
DYNAMIC DUO IN THE CREASE
- Anchored by the elite goaltending tandem of veteran Andrew Hammond and third-year pro Jonas Johansson, the Amerks own the top defense in AHL, having allowed only 82 goals through the first 32 games of the season, the second-fewest in the AHL coming into the first week of 2020. The duo has also combined for six shutouts and are tied for 13th and eighth among all AHL goaltenders with 10 wins and 11 wins on the season, respectively.
- Hammond (10-7-2) ranks 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 13 games, Hammond boasts a 7-5-1 record with four shutouts, a 1.74 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage. With four shutouts through just 19 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 nine straight appearances, Johansson shows an AHL career-best 11-2-2 record this season. Coming into the first week, he has the third-best goal-against average in the league (2.07) and is tied for fourth among all netminders with a .930 save percentage in 16 games. Dating back to Nov. 13, the third-year netminder boasts a perfect 9-0-0 record with two shutouts, a 1.88 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage while allowing just two goals or less in six consecutive starts over that span.
- Jean-Sebastien Dea leads the team in both goals (11) and points (34) in 32 games this season. Dea has seven points (2+5) in his last nine games heading into the first full week of 2020.
- Rookie forward Brett Murray comes into the matchup with two goals, seven assists and a pair of multi-point efforts over his last 19 games. He’s currently tied for 18th in scoring among all AHL rookies with 16 points (4+12) in 29 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 31 games of the season. Redmond is currently ninth in scoring among all defensemen with 22 points and ranks 10th with a team-high 17 assists. He’s also tied for 11th in the AHL for goals by a defenseman with five.
- With 16 points (4+12) over his last 21 games dating back to Nov. 15, Pilut enters the week having set a new AHL career-high in goals in one fewer game from last season. The former SHL Defenseman of the Year is also on pace to set a new career-high in points. His 16 assists are one shy of Redmond for the most on the team.
- Nelson shows a team-best plus-15 on-ice rating through 32 games, tied for fifth among all active blueliners and 10th overall in the AHL.
- Rookie defenseman Jacob Bryson is second in the AHL for all AHL first-year players with a plus-13 on-ice rating while being the only Amerk this season to appear in all 34 games.