**This Week’s Storylines**
A LOOK AT THE WEEK AHEAD
- Rochester continues its season-long six-game homestand this week beginning on Wednesday, Feb. 26 with the intrastate rival Utica Comets visiting The Blue Cross Arena at 7:05 p.m. Following Wednesday’s matchup, the Amerks host the Laval Rocket on Friday, Feb. 28 before closing out the month of February by facing the Syracuse Crunch at Upstate Medical University Arena on Saturday, Feb. 29.
- Rochester has collected at least one point in 18 of the last 24 games against Utica dating back to the start of the 2017-18 campaign, going 13-6-2-3 over that span.
- The Amerks hold an all-time record of 12-3-0 against Laval and are unbeaten in the three games this season while outscoring the Rocket 13-4.
- After going 4-5-1-0 against the Crunch in 2017-18, the Amerks boast a 12-6-1-1 in their last 20 matchups against Syracuse.
- The Amerks, who have earned a point in five straight games come into the week, remain just seven points back of the Belleville Senators for the top spot in the AHL’s North Division standings with a game in hand on the Senators. Rochester also has a five-point lead on the third-place Utica Comets.
TAYLOR JOINS ELITE COMPANY
- By way of Friday’s 3-2 overtime win over Lehigh Valley, the Amerks reached the 30-win mark for the fourth consecutive season and third straight under head coach Chris Taylor. Taylor became the first Amerks head coach since Randy Cunneyworth, the all-time winningest coach in franchise history, to lead his team to 30 or more wins in each of his first three seasons behind the bench.
CLOSING OUT A BUSY FEBRUARY
- As the month of February comes to a close this week, it served as the busiest for the Amerks, who will have played a total of 14 games over a 29-day stretch. Currently, the Amerks are in the midst of a season-long six-game homestand, which concludes on Friday, Feb. 28 against Laval. Rochester’s next 10 games will be played solely against North Division opponents, which includes a pair of contests against the first-place Belleville Senators and two versus both the Syracuse Crunch and Utica Comets. Overall, the club has five road games and five inside the Flower City over a 21-day stretch. AHEAD
MITTELSTADT QUICKLY MAKING HIS MARK
- After producing just one point through his first five games with the Amerks following his midseason reassignment from the Sabres back in December, Casey Mittelstadt has quickly evolved into one of Rochester’s most consistent point-getters. The second-year pro has piled up 19 points (7+12) in 29 games for Rochester, including 17 points (7+10) since the turn of the New Year. The former first-round pick has eight points (1+7) in his first 11 games of February and comes into the week showing five assists over his last seven appearances. He hasn’t gone more than two games without a point since opening the 2020 calendar year on a season-long four-game point streak (3+1).
SHARING THE CREASE
- Anchored by the goaltending tandem of veteran Andrew Hammond and third-year pro Jonas Johansson, who is currently on recall with the parent Buffalo Sabres, the Amerks own one of the top defenses in AHL having allowed only 151 goals through the 55 games of the season, the eighth-fewest in the AHL coming into the week. The duo has also combined for six shutouts and rank among the AHL’s leaders as they have 14 and 13 wins on the season, respectively.
- Hammond, who is 14-11-2 on the season, is tied for third among all netminders in shutouts after notching his fourth of the year back on Dec. 14 in a 5-0 win over Laval, a new career-high. With four shutouts through 29 games this season, he remains on pace to tie the franchise record for most shutouts in a season (8) set by Ryan Miller during the 2004-05 campaign.
- Johansson, who earned his first NHL win Sunday in Buffalo’s 2-1 victory over Winnipeg, owns a career-best 13-3-3 record with two shutouts this season. Despite being on recall, he’s tied for the fifth-best goal-against average in the league (2.19) and ranks fourth among all netminders with a .925 save percentage in 20 games. Dating back to Nov. 13, the 2020 AHL All-Star boasts an impressive 11-1-1 record with two shutouts, a 2.11 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage while allowing just two goals or less in eight starts over that span.
- Jean-Sebastien Dea, who remains the only Amerk forward this season to reach the 30-point plateau, continues to pace the team in goals (15) and points (36) through 50 games. Coming into week, Dea, who is also second among all Amerks forwards with 99 shots on goal, has 15 points (5+10) in his last 20 games since the turn of the New Year, including four points (1+3) over his last four 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 hasn’t gone more than five games without a point all season. The two-time AHL All-Star and reigning Eddie Shore Award winner is presently tied for 14th in scoring amongst all defensemen with 30 points and is also tied for 10th with a team-high 25 assists, 10 of which have come on the power-play.
- Back from his fourth recall of the season, Pilut has 17 points (5+12) over his last 27 AHL games dating back to Nov. 15, including goals in two of his last eight outings. Having already established a new AHL career-high in goals (6), the former SHL Defenseman of the Year is also on pace to set a new mark in points.
- Nelson is tied for ninth among all blueliners with a team-best plus-19 on-ice rating through 44 games this season.
- Jacob Bryson is sixth among all first-year defensemen with a plus-10 rating. Bryson, who scored his first pro goal on Wednesday and had the overtime game-winner Saturday night, is also tied for ninth among all rookie blueliners with 21 points (2+19) in 54 games while his 19 assists are eighth-most.