Competition for first place in the Pacific Division has turned into a three-team race in the past month thanks to runs by the San Diego Gulls and San Jose Barracuda.
San Jose (28-11-1-3) is in first after a 4-1 home win against the Tucson Roadrunners on Tuesday. The Barracuda's ninth consecutive win set a new record for a San Jose Sharks AHL affiliate since the 2004-05 season. The Barracuda have also won six straight home games.
In pursuit of the Barracuda are the second-place Gulls (27-13-2-2), who also won their sixth consecutive home game with a 5-1 victory against the Iowa Wild on Tuesday. It is the second time this season that San Diego has had a six-game home winning streak. San Diego is 16-2-0-1 in its past 19 games; in their past 16 games, the Gulls are 14-1-0-1 and have a plus-36 goal differential (59-23).
Goaltending has fueled each team's rise in challenging the Ontario Reign, who are third in the division. San Diego and San Jose have four games remaining in their season series.
Barracuda goaltender Troy Grosenick has taken the AHL lead in goals-against average (2.01), save percentage (.933) and shutouts (six). His decision Tuesday was his eighth straight win, a personal record.
San Diego had to contend with goaltending injuries before the Anaheim Ducks acquired Jhonas Enroth in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 10. Matt Hackett had shoulder surgery on Dec. 2 and is out for the season. Dustin Tokarski is back in the lineup after a lower-body injury. He played his first game since Dec. 26 on Sunday.
Enroth, a 28-year-old veteran of 153 NHL games, arrived in San Diego needing a fresh start. He was 0-3-1 with a 3.94 GAA and .872 save percentage in six games with the Maple Leafs. He had also spent time in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies, going 2-1-0 with a 3.03 GAA and .904 save percentage.
Since coming to the Gulls, Enroth is 10-1-0 with a 1.18 GAA and .954 save percentage.
"We're a hard team to match up with right now," coach Dallas Eakins told the Gulls website after the win Tuesday. "Our makeup as a team right now is excellent. Everybody is firing on all cylinders, and there is a real selfless commitment in all areas of the ice."
The NHL Trade Deadline on March 1 is approaching and its first effects are being felt in the AHL.
The Los Angeles Kings had an excess of veterans in the AHL, the Washington Capitals-affiliated Hershey Bears have been in need of defensive help, and the two organizations found a match Wednesday.
Los Angeles traded 34-year-old defenseman Tom Gilbert to Washington for a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft on Wednesday. Gilbert will report to the Bears, who have struggled since defenseman Madison Bowey sustained an ankle tendon laceration on Dec. 28 that will keep him out of the lineup for most of rest of the regular season.
Gilbert, who has played 655 NHL regular-season games, had been with Ontario since being assigned by Los Angeles on Feb. 2. He had an assist in five games with the Reign.
Los Angeles forward Devin Setoguchi cleared waivers and was assigned to Ontario this week. Defenseman Rob Scuderi and forward Teddy Purcell are also with Ontario.
Hershey, a Calder Cup finalist last season, is in a battle in the Atlantic Division, which has four of the AHL's top seven teams. The Bears (25-14-8-3) are 10th in the league but fifth in the Atlantic Division and are chasing the fourth-place Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Bridgeport has a one-point lead and two games in hand on Hershey.
Bridgeport defenseman Ryan Pulock won the CCM/AHL Player of the Week award for the period ending last Sunday. He scored three goals and three assists in four games. The New York Islanders selected him with the No. 15 pick of the 2013 draft.
Chicago Wolves forward Kenny Agostino leads the AHL scoring with 60 points (18 goals, 42 assists) but remains on recall with the St. Louis Blues. … Chicago forward Wade Megan is also on recall with St. Louis, but he is tied with Marlies forward Bryon Froese for the AHL lead with 23 goals. Megan is also fourth in AHL scoring with 45 points. … In the Atlantic Division, Bridgeport is 9-1-0-0 in its past 10 games. Goaltender Jaroslav Halak is 11-1-1 with a 2.03 GAA and .929 save percentage since his assignment from the Islanders. … An 8-1-1-0 surge has pushed the Marlies into third place in the North Division. … Iowa had a team-record nine-game road winning streak end in the loss at San Diego on Tuesday. Iowa also had a team-record 11-game point streak (7-0-3-1). The Wild have points in 15 of their past 17 games with the two regulation losses against the Gulls. … The Stockton Heat and Tucson Roadrunners are each 1-8-1-0 in their past 10 games.
ON THE MOVE
San Antonio Rampage goaltender Jeremy Smith made his NHL debut at age 27 for the Colorado Avalanche against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. He has played 265 AHL games and divided the 2015-16 season between Iowa and Providence before signing with Colorado on July 1, 2016. … Utica Comets forward Brendan Gaunce was recalled by the Vancouver Canucks after he scored two goals and an assist in a four-game AHL assignment. … Goaltender Andrew Hammond is with Binghamton on loan from the Ottawa Senators. … Providence released veteran defenseman Matt Bartkowski. … Iowa received Minnesota Wild forward Tyler Graovac after he cleared waivers. Forwards Zack Mitchell and Alex Tuch are with Minnesota. … Along with Smith, Providence forward Petr Cehlarik also made his NHL debut last week. Through Tuesday, 77 AHL players have played their first NHL game this season.