THIS WEEK'S GAMES
Wednesday, March 25 @ Manitoba (46-20-0-6, 98 points), first place, North Division
Friday, March 27 vs. San Antonio (28-37-2-4, 62 points) eight place, West Division
Saturday, March 28 vs. Lake Erie (31-32-3-5, 70 points), sixth place, North Division
Sunday, March 29 @ Toronto (35-27-3-6, 79 points), fourth place, North Division
LAST WEEK'S RESULT
Friday, March 20 - CRUNCH 5, Rochester 2
Saturday, March 21 - CRUNCH 5, Albany 4
Sunday, March 22 - ROCHESTER 2, Crunch 1
HOME TEAM IN CAPS
PLAYOFF PUSH IN FULL EFFECT: With nine games to go in the Crunch's regular season, the club finds itself just one point out of the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division.
The Crunch, (78 points), currently trails Toronto (79 points). Each team has nine games left to play. Six of the Crunch's final nine games are at home, where Syracuse has posted the seventh best winning percentage (.676) in the AHL this season.
The month of March has traditionally been a good month for the Crunch. Over the past three seasons including this year, Syracuse has posted an incredible 32-6-2-2 record, including a 16-0-0-1 mark last season and a 9-3-1-1 record in 2006-07.
The Crunch have won five of their last six games and are currently still riding a five-game home winning streak and season-high nine-game home points streak.
Because of the AHL playoff structure, there are still other teams in the mix for the final North Division playoff spot. Since there are eight teams in the West Division and only seven teams in the North Division, if the fifth place team in the West ends up with a better record than the fourth place team in the North, the West Division team will cross over into that fourth place spot to play the first place team in the North in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Chicago (74 points) and Iowa (72 points) are two teams with an outside chance to cross over.
PICARD TRICK: Crunch left wing Alexandre Picard has put together a nice stretch of games. Known more as a physical, power forward that contributes some offense, Picard has been scoring at an over point per game pace, with 18 points (14g, 4a), over his last 13 games.
Picard kept the goal judge busy last Friday and Saturday night against Rochester and Albany, as he racked up seven goals in those two games. He notched the game-winning goal and helped the Crunch come from behind in both contests.
For the season, Picard has appeared in 40 games for the Crunch, totaling 16 goals, 10 assists and 98 penalty minutes. A native of Les Saules, Quebec, Picard was drafted by Columbus in the first round, eighth overall, in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
KEVIN HEAVEN: Crunch goaltender Kevin Lalande continues to play outstanding in between the pipes for Syracuse.
Lalande was named the first star in last night's win in Manitoba, stopping 29 of 30 Moose shots en route to his sixth straight win with the Crunch. Since arriving in the Salt City, Lalande has posted a 6-1-0 record with a 1.72 goals against average and .949 save percentage.
Lalande was name the Rbk/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending March 15, 2007, after going 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals against average and .974 save percentage. A native of Kingston, Ontario, Lalande was acquired by the Columbus Blue Jackets from Calgary in exchange for a fourth round draft pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft on March 4, 2009.
IN THE 'NIK' OF TIME: After a whirlwind past few months that saw Nikita Filatov win a bronze medal with Team Russia at the World Junior Championships and score his first NHL hat-trick with Columbus on January 10, the 18-year old phenom has finally had time to settle back in to life in Syracuse.
After missing 11 of 13 games with a bad sinus infection, Filatov returned to the lineup on March 11. At the time, the Crunch were floundering and it seemed as if their playoff hopes were fading fast, having lost three of their previous four games.
Since Filatov's addition, the Crunch have gone 6-1-0 in their past seven games. The Moscow, Russia native has quietly contributed significantly to the Crunch's offensive attack, posting four goals and three assists during that stretch.
THIS WEEK'S OPPONENTS:
MANITOBA MOOSE (VANCOUVER CANUCKS): The Crunch travel to Winnipeg this week for two match-ups with division rival Manitoba. Syracuse posted a 2-1 comeback victory over the Moose last night on the strength of two goals from Maksim Mayorov and 29 saves from Kevin Lalande. Nikita Filatov leads the Crunch and all players in scoring in the season series with five points (2g, 3a). Jason Krog, the AHL’s third leading scorer (25g, 52a), has posted three assists against the Crunch this season. Syracuse leads the season series, with a 2-0-1-0 record against the Moose.
SAN ANTONIO RAMPAGE (PHOENIX COYOTES): The Crunch return home from their trip to Winnipeg on Friday for a rare match-up with the San Antonio Rampage. San Antonio took the only other meeting between these two teams this season, posting a 3-0 win over the Crunch at the AT&T Center back on December 4. Jeff Hoggan and Chad Kolarik each tallied two points (1g, 1a) for the Rampage in that game, while Josh Tordjman recorded the shutout. Former Crunch members Steven Goertzen as well as all-time wins leader Karl Goehring currently play for the Rampage.
LAKE ERIE MONSTERS (COLORADO AVALANCHE): The Crunch welcome in the Lake Erie Monsters to the War Memorial at Oncenter for the eighth and final meeting of the season between these two clubs. The Crunch are 2-4-1-0 against Lake Erie this season. Derek MacKenzie leads the Crunch in scoring against the Monsters this year with three points (2g, 1a), while Kevin Lalande is 2-0-0 with a 1.50 goals against average and .951 save percentage. One-time Crunch member Philippe Dupuis has notched five points (2g, 3a) against his former team in the season series, while Tyler Weiman is 3-0-0 with a 0.67 goals against average and .973 save percentage.
TORONTO MARLIES (TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS): Syracuse travels to Toronto on Sunday for possibly the most important game of the year to date to finish up a brutal eight games in 10 days stretch. The Crunch are 4-3-0 against the Marlies this season. Derek MacKenzie has registered seven points (3g, 4a), while Craig MacDonald (4g, 2a) and Maksim Mayorov (3g, 3a) have notched six points each against Toronto. Jiri Tlusty (7g, 1a) and Tim Stapleton (2g, 6a) pace the Marlies and lead all players in the season series with eight points a piece.
The Crunch have won their twelve games this year when trailing going into the third period, which leads all AHL teams… Maksim Mayorov scored his first goal in five games last night and had his first two-goal game since October 25 vs. Rochester… The Crunch have now won six of their last seven contests… With his assist last night, Nick Holden has six assists in his last six games…Kevin Lalande improved his record with the Crunch to 6-1-0.