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AHL Notebook: Teams shuffle rosters for playoff runs

NHL teams don't forget top affiliates at trade deadline

by Patrick Williams / NHL.com Correspondent

The Washington Capitals' work this week did not stop with their NHL roster.

Washington expects to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring. Those same high hopes extend to the Calder Cup playoffs and their American Hockey League affiliate, the Hershey Bears.

As part of the trade that brought defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from the St. Louis Blues on Monday, the Capitals also acquired AHL goaltender Pheonix Copley. The trade cost forwards Brad Malone and Zach Sanford, but it provides the No. 1 goaltender Hershey has needed all season. Copley takes over for Joe Cannata, who was traded to the Colorado Avalanche for defenseman Cody Corbett on Wednesday. Goaltending prospect Vitek Vanecek needed help in Hershey, and Washington acted.

Copley, 25, was 15-6-3 for the Chicago Wolves with a 2.31 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. He broke into the AHL in 2014-15 with Hershey before Washington sent him to St. Louis on July 2, 2015, as part of the T.J. Oshie trade.

Hershey, a Calder Cup finalist last season, flirted with first place in the AHL for part of the first half of the season. But playing in the powerful Atlantic Division, Hershey has since found itself outside of a playoff spot after a 1-7-2-0 stretch in January. At 28-17-8-3, Hershey trails fourth-place Bridgeport by three points and has played two more games. The top four teams in each of the four divisions qualify for the postseason.

Washington had already taken steps to improve Hershey defensively. On Feb. 15, the Capitals acquired defenseman Tom Gilbert, a veteran of 655 NHL games, in a trade from the Los Angeles Kings and sent him to Hershey.

Hershey has not been the only active team in the AHL.

Tucson has gotten a roster makeover as it tries to revive a season slowed by a 2-12-2-0 slump that has the Roadrunners outside the top four in the Pacific Division.

Bakersfield is fourth in the Pacific Division but lost forward Taylor Beck on Wednesday in a trade between the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers. Beck had 50 points (13 goals, 37 assists) in 40 games. Hartford forward Justin Fontaine was acquired by the Oilers.

Forward Jeremy Morin joined Tucson from Syracuse in a trade for forward Stefan Fournier. Morin, 25, has 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists) in 44 games, but he scored 24 goals as a Chicago Blackhawks prospect with Rockford in 2013-14. Tucson also acquired veteran forward Joe Whitney from San Antonio for forward Brendan Ranford. Whitney has 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) in 55 games but he's had 20 or more goals in a season three times.

Grayson Downing is another new Tucson forward after being added from Iowa in the Martin Hanzal trade between the Arizona Coyotes and Minnesota Wild. Iowa also lost forward Teemu Pulkkinen, who had 18 goals in the AHL, to Arizona in a separate trade.

Trades involving division rivals are another AHL wrinkle. Cleveland, the defending Calder Cup champion, added forward Zac Dalpe from Iowa, a team it's chasing in the Central Division. The parent Columbus Blue Jackets brought in Dalpe via waivers Monday; he has battled injury problems during his career but has scored 16 or more goals in an AHL season four times.

Syracuse also strengthened itself while weakening the Toronto Marlies, who are four points behind Syracuse for the North Division lead. Syracuse added center Byron Froese from Toronto as part of the trade that sent center Brian Boyle from the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Froese is second in the AHL with 24 goals.

Tampa Bay was not done with Syracuse. The Lightning brought in veteran goaltender Mike McKenna from Springfield in a trade with the Florida Panthers cost goaltender Adam Wilcox, who had been with Syracuse.

Morin is not the only former Blackhawks prospect who has a new home this week. Forward Mark McNeill, a first-round pick (No. 18) by the Blackhawks in the 2011 NHL Draft, is now with Texas as a result of the Blackhawks' trade with the Dallas Stars for defenseman Johnny Oduya. McNeill, 25, had 28 points (six goals, 22 assists) in 58 games for Rockford; however, he had 25 goals for Rockford last season.

Another first-round selection playing in the AHL is on the move. San Jose Barracuda forward Nikolay Goldobin was sent to the Vancouver Canucks in the trade that brought forward Jannik Hansen to the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks chose Goldobin in the first round (No. 27) of the 2014 NHL Draft; he had 41 points (15 goals, 26 assists) in 46 games for the Barracuda.

 

WITH HONORS

Bakersfield forward Anton Lander earned the CCM/AHL Player of the Week award for the period ending last Sunday. He had two goals and three assists in two games.

 

STAT PACK

Chicago forward Kenny Agostino leads the AHL in scoring with 63 points (18 goals, 45 assists). … Tied with an AHL-leading 25 goals are forwards Wade Megan of Chicago and Greg Carey of Lehigh Valley.

 

ON THE MOVE    

Hartford captain Mat Bodie is now with Rochester after being traded for forward Daniel Catenacci. Hartford also received forward Pavel Buchnevich from the New York Rangers. … Springfield defenseman Dylan McIlrath was moved by Florida to the Detroit Red Wings in the Thomas Vanek trade. … A pair of veteran NHL defensemen signed one-year, two-way contracts. Iowa captain Mike Weber signed with Minnesota. Columbus signed Marc-Andre Bergeron, who is with Cleveland. … Defenseman Evan McEneny (Utica) and forwards Riley Barber (Hershey) and Nic Kerdiles (San Diego) each made his NHL debut this past week. Through Tuesday, 82 AHL players have played their first NHL game this season.

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