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Stanley Cup Final
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AHL Update

Kings' Weal leading AHL affiliate through playoffs

Friday, 05.22.2015 / 11:02 AM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

From the start the American Hockey League season, the Manchester Monarchs have been a force to be reckoned with.

They had 109 points, the most in the league, and the AHL affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings hasn't slowed down in the playoffs, reaching the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2010. The Monarchs have a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series against the Hartford Wolf Pack, AHL affiliate of the New York Rangers; Game 2 is Saturday.

Jordan Weal, a third-round pick (No. 70) by the Kings in the 2010 NHL Draft, has been an instrumental part of the Monarchs' success. His 69 points were third in the league in the regular season; in the playoffs he has 10 goals and a league-high 15 points.

"These first two series have been really hard battles and kind of two different dynamics," Weal said prior to the start of the conference final. "It was a big rivalry against Portland [in the first round], and then it was more of a systematic series against Wilkes-Barre [in the second round]. Whoever we play, I don't think it’s going to change our game."

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Capitals' patience with goalies paying off in Hershey

Friday, 05.08.2015 / 1:06 PM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

Though his performance contradicts it, Pheonix Copley wasn't supposed to play for the Hershey Bears in the American Hockey League this season.

Originally penciled in for the ECHL, Copley's fortunes started to change when the Bears' No. 2 goaltender, Eddie Pasquale, needed additional hip surgery that sidelined him for the season. Having signed an entry-level contract with the Washington Capitals in March 2014, Copley was first in line to complete the tandem with starter Philipp Grubauer.

"Grubauer's been our MVP. It's his show, so to speak," Hershey Bears coach Troy Mann said. "But it's very refreshing as a coach to know that we have a guy like Copley, that if he needs to go in for whatever reason, he's certainly capable of winning hockey games for us."

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Leipsic's arrival in Toronto 'catalyst' for AHL success

Friday, 05.01.2015 / 12:14 PM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

When Brendan Leipsic got the call, he was headed to brunch with his parents.

Then a member of the Milwaukee Admirals, affiliate of the Nashville Predators, the 20-year-old wing was one of the top-scoring rookies in the American Hockey League. Milwaukee had an afternoon game that day against visiting Lake Erie, but its game the previous Friday would turn out to have been the last appearance of Leipsic in an Admirals jersey.

"In your first pro season, you never expect to be traded," Leipsic said. "You never expect to get a call from your general manager saying that. It was definitely a surprise, but I'm glad the way it turned out. I'm happy to be here."

"Here" is the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, which acquired Leipsic along with Olli Jokinen and a 2015 first-round draft pick in a Feb. 15 trade with Nashville that saw forward Mike Santorelli and defenseman Cody Franson head to the Predators. Leipsic was dropped into a Marlies team in the midst of playoff hockey two months too soon.

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Lightning-Red Wings series familiar to AHL followers

Friday, 04.17.2015 / 1:28 PM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

From behind the lens of the American Hockey League, the Eastern Conference First Round matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings is more than just two divisional rivals going head-to-head: it’s an opportunity to revisit some recent history.

When the Grand Rapids Griffins defeated the Syracuse Crunch to win the AHL's Calder Cup championship in 2013, it also marked a graduation for many players in the series to the NHL. Two years later, their parent clubs are doing battle with many of the same faces hitting the ice in pursuit of another Cup.

Of the players on Detroit's playoff roster, 10 have their names engraved on the Calder Cup as members of the 2013 Grand Rapids Griffins: forwards Joakim Andersson, Landon Ferraro, Luke Glendening, Tomas Jurco, Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Teemu Pulkkinen, and Riley Sheahan, defenseman Danny DeKeyser, and goalie Petr Mrazek.

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Avalanche's Pickard thriving with AHL workload

Friday, 04.10.2015 / 3:25 PM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

Goaltender Calvin Pickard's ability to handle a heavy workload is starting to pay off.

Making his NHL debut, doing so under the watchful eye of one of his childhood idols and earning the top spot in ESPN "SportsCenter’s" Top 10 Plays are all things the 22-year-old can check off his to-do list. Between the Colorado Avalanche and their American Hockey League affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters, Pickard has appeared in 61 games this season. That includes his first appearance and victory in the NHL.

“It seems like both places I've been in, I've been able to play a lot of games,” said Pickard, Colorado's third-round pick (No. 49) in the 2010 NHL Draft. “That’s how you develop, and I've been earning a lot of experience this year, playing at both levels and in different situations. It’s been a big year for me, for sure.”

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Blue Jackets pick Tynan leading charge in Springfield

Friday, 04.03.2015 / 11:32 AM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

Before the season began, Jared Bednar's biggest concern with TJ Tynan was his size.

The rookie is listed at 5-foot-8 -- the smallest on a Springfield Falcons roster made up of mainly players 6-foot-plus -- and plays a defensively demanding, two-way position in center.

But now, after almost a full American Hockey League season, the Falcons coach's concerns have been completely alleviated.

"I think at first when you see a smaller, undersized guy that has some skill, you wonder as a coach, 'How is this guy going to play in traffic against bigger opponents every night for the course of a really long season?'" Bednar said. "The worries I had as a coach have really dissipated over the course of the season. He's proven to me that he has the ability to be a top player every night on both sides of the puck."

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Lightning prospect Koekkoek handling rigors of AHL

Friday, 03.27.2015 / 11:20 AM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

Slater Koekkoek might have one of the best names in hockey, and it's one Tampa Bay Lightning fans should be hearing for a long time.

About to finish up his first professional season as a rookie with the Lightning's American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, Koekkoek is settling in nicely after four junior seasons in the Ontario Hockey League.

"I expected [the AHL] to be a rough and tough league, and that's what it is. The guys are bigger, stronger, faster," he said. "There was a bit of a learning process, but everything has been going well. I'm happy so far."

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Kings prospect Miller continuing breakout season

Friday, 03.20.2015 / 2:12 PM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

Colin Miller hasn't yet finished his second season with the Manchester Monarchs, but he's already written himself into the American Hockey League history book.

During the AHL All-Star event in Utica, N.Y., the 22-year-old defenseman fired a 105.5 mph shot during the AHL All-Star Skills Competition, the hardest shot in the event's 20-year history.

"I had never done anything like that before so I was really kind of going into the whole thing blind and just trying to really not embarrass myself too much," Miller said. "I was happy when I hit the net and had a really good time at the entire event."

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Graovac rewarding Wild with breakout AHL season

Friday, 03.13.2015 / 12:20 PM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Tyler Graovac is hard to miss.

But all 30 NHL teams did just that, bypassing Graovac 190 times until the Minnesota Wild finally selected him at No. 191 with their last pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.

"I knew when it came down to [draft weekend], I wasn't really expected to go high," Graovac said. "Getting picked seventh round by Minnesota was a little bit of a shock because I had had a lot of interviews with teams that year and Minnesota was the only one who didn't interview me. But it's been going great. They've been very patient with me."

That patience has paid dividends, as the 21-year-old center has excelled in his second season with their American Hockey League affiliate, the Iowa Wild. Fifty-eight games into the 2014-15 season, Graovac has nearly doubled his offensive output from last season, leading Iowa in goals (19), points (40), power-play goals (eight), and shots on goal (163). He's had 10 multipoint games.

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Sabres prospect McCabe blossoming in Rochester

Friday, 03.06.2015 / 1:04 PM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

When Chadd Cassidy first met Jake McCabe, the defenseman was 16 years old.

Holding down the blue line for the U.S. National Development Team, McCabe instantly stuck out as a physical player, ready and willing not only to defend the puck, but to go one step further and create offense for his fellow teammates.

As his coach that first season, Cassidy helped start molding the tools McCabe would eventually use to make his way to the highest level of hockey.

Now together again with the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League, McCabe's development continues to thrive under Cassidy's watch.

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Quote of the Day

If you want to prove people wrong, you've just got to go out and do it. Yeah, we blew 3-2 series leads the last two years, but no one is going remember that if we go out there on Saturday night and beat these guys and go play in the Stanley Cup Final. We need to get back to work and we'll start to do that tomorrow.

— Ducks forward Kyle Palmieri following a loss to the Blackhawks in Game 6 on Wednesday