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AHL Update

AHL Notebook: Pirates change coaches, continue roll

Tuesday, 01.26.2016 / 3:00 AM / AHL Update

Patrick Williams - NHL.com Correspondent

Goaltender Mike McKenna and the American Hockey League's Portland Pirates had just won for the ninth time in their past 10 games when a coaching change, of all things, came their way Jan. 1.

The parent Florida Panthers plucked coach Tom Rowe from the Portland bench and promoted him to a new role as an NHL associate general manager. In came Pirates assistant coach Scott Allen to take over Rowe's duties in Portland.

"It was interesting," said McKenna, a veteran of parts of 11 AHL seasons. "I don't think any of us saw it coming. Sometimes things like that happen, and they're kind of an open secret. [We] had no idea."

Life for the Pirates has mirrored their NHL big brother for the past six weeks in their ascent up the standings. The Panthers assembled an 18-3-1 record that has them second in the Eastern Conference.

Sommer to set AHL record with 636th coaching win

Friday, 01.22.2016 / 3:00 AM / AHL Update

Eric Gilmore - NHL.com Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- Roy Sommer had finished a 27-point championship season with the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the International Hockey League in 1987, and the left-shooting center was expecting to play an 11th season somewhere.

His junior and professional playing career had taken him all over North America, playing for 12 teams in seven leagues, including a stop with the Edmonton Oilers in 1981, where he played three games with a kid named Wayne Gretzky. Sommer even scored a goal and got into a fight during his one-and-only stint in the National Hockey League.

But when Rick Ley, his coach at Muskegon, offered him the job of assistant coach after the 1986-87 season, Sommer's life took another turn, one that has him on the verge of hockey history 29 years later.

AHL Notebook: Marlies' Brennan is first-half MVP

Tuesday, 01.19.2016 / 3:00 AM / AHL Update

Patrick Williams - NHL.com Correspondent

The American Hockey League schedule has reached the halfway point.

Here is a look at some potential award-winners as the AHL season moves into the second half:

Les Cunningham Award (most valuable player)

The Toronto Marlies sit atop the AHL standings with 64 points in 41 games, seven points ahead of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Toronto leads the AHL in goals per game (3.85) and are fifth in goals-against per game (2.44). Defenseman TJ Brennan, a puck-mover who can anchor the power play, has played a major role. Brennan has stood out on Toronto's blue line, which also features captain Andrew Campbell and prospect Stuart Percy. Brennan is tied for the AHL scoring lead with 38 points (15 goals, 23 assists) in 41 games.

AHL Notebook: Maple Leafs affiliate continues to roll

Tuesday, 01.12.2016 / 3:00 AM / AHL Update

Patrick Williams - NHL.com Correspondent

Can anything stop the Toronto Marlies' rampage across the American Hockey League?

The loss of their two top goaltenders, leading scorer and a number of top forwards making the quick cab ride to Air Canada Centre for duty with the parent Toronto Maple Leafs has not slowed the AHL-leading Marlies.

Goaltenders Antoine Bibeau and Garret Sparks have been with the Maple Leafs at various points; Bibeau was returned to the Marlies on Monday, but the loss of the Bibeau-Sparks tandem has forced the Marlies to go with ECHL recall Rob Madore and NHL veteran Ray Emery, who they signed to a tryout deal in December.

AHL Notebook: Torchetti guides Iowa in tough times

Tuesday, 01.05.2016 / 3:00 AM / AHL Update

Patrick Williams - NHL.com Correspondent

A debate surrounding player development in the American Hockey League long has centered on the role that winning plays in preparing young players for an NHL future.

Different organizations have applied various approaches, with some opting to rely heavily on a young roster even if it means the win-loss column may suffer. Putting top prospects in key roles to learn through trial and error is at the heart of that philosophy. Other organizations believe a strong core of AHL veterans can produce a winning environment and the chance to experience a deep run through the Calder Cup playoffs that is optimal for up-and-coming talent.

Losing also can play a role. It can build up or break down young players, and how the prospects inside the Iowa Wild dressing room handle this season will go a long way toward determining their NHL futures.

Iowa has experienced nearly non-stop frustration through 36 games. Last in the AHL with 21 points, the 8-23-2-3 Wild have endured a 13-game losing streak lasting close to five weeks, a 12-game home losing streak that stretched nearly two months and 16 one-goal losses. They play in the Central Division, perhaps the toughest in the AHL, and have had to deal with a stream of recalls to the parent Minnesota Wild.

AHL Notebook: Intriguing storylines for stretch run

Tuesday, 12.29.2015 / 3:00 AM / AHL Update

Patrick Williams - NHL.com Correspondent

The American Hockey League schedule traditionally takes a long holiday break that allows its teams to reset before the games pile up in the second half of the season.

Here is a look at some of the AHL's more intriguing storylines heading into 2016 that could continue to shape the playoff picture:

The Texas Stars endured a tumultuous post-holiday return to play. Rookie forward Devin Shore had shoulder surgery and will miss the rest of the season, according to wrongsideoftheredline.com. Shore ranks second in the AHL with 15 goals and has 26 points in 26 games. The Stars also have a change in net. Prospect Jack Campbell, the 11th pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, was assigned to Idaho of the ECHL. Maxime Lagace was recalled from Idaho to replace him. Campbell, 23, has played parts of five AHL seasons, but he has a 4.27 goals-against average and .868 save percentage in 12 AHL games this season. He went 3-6-3 with Texas and allowed five or more goals in each of his past five starts. The Stars' 3.53 goals-against per game ranks them 29th in the AHL, though they place second in goals per game at 3.78.

AHL Notebook: Predators affiliate full of talent

Tuesday, 12.22.2015 / 3:00 AM / AHL Update

Patrick Williams - NHL.com Correspondent

One could be excused for mistaking the list of Milwaukee Admirals alumni with an NHL All-Star team.

The likes of Shea Weber and Roman Josi now occupy spots on the Nashville Predators' defense after learning the pro game in the American Hockey League with Milwaukee. Goaltender Pekka Rinne carried the Admirals to a Calder Cup final in 2006.

The Nashville roster also includes Milwaukee graduates Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm on its blue line, plus forwards Filip Forsberg and Colin Wilson. Defensemen Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Klein and forward Scottie Upshall are among the Admirals that have moved on to long NHL careers with other organizations.

Now there is another crop of Predators prospects for the next infusion of talent through the Milwaukee-to-Nashville pipeline. At 19-9-0-1, the Admirals are a point behind the Western Conference-leading Rockford IceHogs after a 6-2 win at Rockford on Monday.

AHL Notebook: Four teams in need of better fortunes

Tuesday, 12.15.2015 / 3:00 AM / AHL Update

Patrick Williams - NHL.com Correspondent

Last week NHL.com provided a look at some of the more intriguing teams in the American Hockey League.

The bad news this week for some teams is they've put themselves through some real challenges through the first 25 games of the season. The good news for them is wild swings in play are not unusual in the AHL, and two-thirds of the season remain.

Here are four more teams that have ranged from baffling to bad:

AHL Notebook: Six teams with compelling storylines

Tuesday, 12.08.2015 / 3:00 AM / AHL Update

Patrick Williams - NHL.com Correspondent

American Hockey League teams are nearly a third of the way through the regular season. As usual, preseason predictions have withered away in a league where lineups change daily, breakthrough seasons are the norm for still-developing prospects and the fortunes of NHL parent teams filter down to the AHL level.

Here are six teams with intriguing storylines that have emerged:

Albany Devils: The surprising Devils have used a six-game winning streak and an 8-1-1-0 record in their past 10 games to ascend to a second-place tie in the AHL with 33 points. The New Jersey Devils' AHL affiliate has reached the Calder Cup Playoffs twice since 2000, with each visit ending in a first-round loss. However, this Albany team could be the strongest edition of a New Jersey affiliate since the 1990s, when Albany helped to fuel three Stanley Cup championships for New Jersey.

AHL Notebook: Penguins affiliate finding ways to win

Tuesday, 12.01.2015 / 3:00 AM / AHL Update

Patrick Williams - NHL.com Correspondent

Even a 16-2-0-0 start does not mean avoiding some dicey moments along the way for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, American Hockey League affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Cruising to a 3-0 second-period lead against the rival Hershey Bears at home last Saturday, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton controlled the game against an opponent it had defeated 7-0 on the same ice surface two weeks earlier.

A Hershey goal with 14 seconds left in the second period made it 3-1. Then Penguins rookie goaltender Tristan Jarry allowed a soft goal 5:39 into the third. Suddenly the Bears had the home team in a bind.

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