Twice a month during the hockey season, Aeros.com
goes in-depth around the AHL and publishes the Official Aeros.com
Power Poll. Comments are welcomed. Send feedback to email@example.com
1 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (1)
Call-ups to Pittsburgh have mattered none for the Baby Pens, who are a remarkable 18-0-2-0 this season, having not lost in regulation yet. WBS is a perfect 11-0-0-0 on the road, although a grueling three-in-three on the road this weekend wraps up Sunday in Hershey. The Pens have already beaten the Bears three times, but Hershey is 13-4-2-3 and the lone team within shouting distance of WBS in the East Division. The Pens run is especially impressive when you consider four of their top seven scorers are currently in Pittsburgh, which is committed to letting the youngsters play. Not to mention former No. 1 overall pick Marc-Andre Fleury, who was recalled to Pittsburgh and anointed the No. 1 goalie job. But Dany Sabourin is 8-0-0, with Andy Chiodo, who also has NHL experience, waiting in the wings while the Pens decide what to do with Jocelyn Thibaults hefty contract.
2 Manchester (12)
The old saying goes its better to be lucky than good. What if youre both? The Monarchs are unbeaten in their last 11 (9-0-0-2), and they are a whopping 11-1-0-3 in one-goal games to leap 10 spots in the Power Poll Certainly just a bit of luck in winning 10
overtime/shootout games already this season. No other team has played
more than seven such games. Jeff Tambellini, the AHLs Rookie of the Month in November, has been summoned by the Los Angeles Kings. Goalie Yutaka Fukufuji became the first-ever Japanese-born player to appear in the AHL last week.
3 Portland (6)
The Aeros should be lucky that the Ducks prospects are no longer in their division. Portland is 15-5-1-0 and tied for the Atlantic Division lead with Manchester. Impressively, the Pirates are doing it without their top two scorers Dustin Penner and Zenon Konopka both in Anaheim. Unheralded free agent signee Nathan Marsters is 8-2-0 with a 2.47 gaa, while top prospect Mike Wall has gone 4-4-0 with a 3.53. Wall has spent much of November backing up Ilya Bryzgalov in Anaheim, but Jean-Sebastien Giguere is now healthy.
4 Houston (2)
Last edition, it was a Western Conference bias, but this time the Aeros are down to No. 4. While their points percentage (.680) is less than Grand Rapids (.773), the Aeros have beaten the Griffins for three of their six losses/shootout losses. Houston has been dominant on home ice this season, and after next weekends road trip through Rochester, Hamilton and Cleveland, it plays 12 of its next 14 on home ice. Continued strong play at home could have the Aeros rolling with a hefty West Division lead heading into a lot of time on the road in the second half of the season.
5 Grand Rapids (3)
Eventually, the Griffins will stop winning games when they trail early, but until then, the Comeback Kids have no fear. Drew MacIntyre has staked his claim to the top goalie spot with a 7-1-0 mark and a 2.09 gaa, while Jiri Hudler continues to be among the league leaders with 31 points. The stifling Griffins defense has allowed only 15 third-period goals all season, the fourth lowest total in the AHL.
6 Hershey (8)
The Bears are getting it done with special teams, the main reason theyve been able to keep WBS in their sights. Hershey is second in the AHL on the power play at 22.6 percent, having scored a league-best 43 PPG. On the penalty kill, the Bears rank tied for third at 87.8 percent. Frederic Cassivi has picked up where he left off last season in Cincinnati, going 9-5-2 with a 2.27 gaa.
7 Milwaukee (11)
Since an 0-3-0-1 start, the red-hot Admirals are 12-2-0-0 to move into a tie for second in the West Division. Milwaukee has played only 18 games, and its points percentage (.694) is actually better than Houstons. Theres likely not a better goalie tandem in the league than the finally-healthy Brian Finley and Finnish rookie Pekka Rinne. The Ads allow just 1.94 goals per game. The rest of the West lucked out this week when Simon Gamache was claimed on waivers by St. Louis and therefore didnt report to Milwaukee. Imagine how good the Ads would be with Gamache and Randy Robitaille, who Minnesota plucked off waivers when Nashville tried to send him down.
8 Manitoba (4)
As usual, when the weather turns colder in Winnipeg, the Moose heat up. Manitoba hits the weekend with five straight wins, but with a big home series with Rochester on tap. From there, the Moose get a big test heading to Philadelphia, then Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for two games. Veteran netminder Wade Flaherty continues to lead the AHL with three shutouts. Breakout Player of the Year candidate Jesse Schultz has 15 goals in 25 games after totaling only nine in 70 games last season.
9 Peoria (5)
While St. Louis acquiring Gamache hurt Milwaukee, it might equally help Peoria. The Rivermen could get a player back from the Blues, perhaps old friend Jeff Hoggan, whos been a healthy scratch recently. All the back-and-forth player moves with St. Louis may be starting to affect Peoria, which is 2-4-0-1 in its last seven, with the two lone wins coming against San Antonio and Chicago, the bottom two teams in the division.
10 Hartford (7)
Speaking of old friends, boy does Wolf Pack GM Jim Schoenfeld have some decisions to make in the future. With Rangers goalie Kevin Weekes hurt, and Hartfords No. 1 and top prospect Al Montoya also out, who has taken over the top goalie spot with the Pack but Robert Gherson. Gherson was under contract with the Aeros last season, but the dual affiliation kept him out of any role other than backing up Josh Harding or Mike Smith. After he played one game with Manitoba this season, Hartford signed Gherson to a PTO and all hes done is go 2-0-1 with a 1.30 gaa and a .962 save pct. Hes 3-0-1 with a 1.22 gaa overall.
11 Rochester (9)
Theres not a team out there that can complain as much about injuries and call-ups as the Amerks. Top two scorers Jason Pominville (19 goals in 18 games) and Derek Roy (20 points in eight games) are still in Buffalo, Chris Taylor (13 points in eight games) is out until at least February, and Florida-contracted players Greg Campbell and Anthony Stewart are with the Panthers. Rochester has used three goalies in the last four games alone. But, a lot can be forgiven with a 25.0 power play percentage.
12 Omaha (14)
The Ak-Sar-Ben Knights were a struggling team when they were swept at Toyota Center in the middle of November. But Omaha has points in seven straight games (5-0-0-2) to move back into the thick of the second-place race in the West. The Knights still need to figure out this home-ice advantage thing. They have won only six of 14 home games, so perhaps its best theyve played the most home games in the AHL.
13 Springfield (10)
Another team that cant find its way at home, with just five wins in 13 games. But, the Falcons have more than made up for it with a 5-2-1-0 road mark. Rookie Gerard Coleman is 7-3-0 with a 3.30 gaa and has appeared to jump over Brian Eklund (3-5-1, 4.13) as the top goalie prospect for the Lightning. Springfield is definitely living on the edge. The Falcons are 8-3-3-3 in one-goal games, and need those types of contests to continue going their way.
14 Syracuse (25)
The Crunch makes the biggest leap in the history of the Power Poll, up from No. 25 in the last edition. Syracuse is 6-1-1-0 in its last eight, but it plays six of the next seven on the road, including two at Manitoba and one at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Rookie of the Year candidate Geoff Platt is now in Columbus, which continues to suffer from injuries and is trying to find its way.
15 Lowell (13)
The Lock Monsters have played six straight one-goal games, but they need to start allowing fewer goals if they want to stay in the competitive Atlantic race. Lowell has yielded four or more goals in four straight games and 10 of 22 this season.
16 Philadelphia (21)
Much like the then defending-champ Aeros in 2003-04, Philly took awhile to find its way early but started to enjoy success at about the 20-game mark. The Phantoms have won three straight to move into third place in the East. Its going to take a lot for Philadelphia or any other team to catch first-place WBS or second-place Hershey. The Phantoms have the leagues worst power play unit by far at 11.0 percent.
17 Iowa (22)
The Stars have won three straight, and former Aeros goalie Mike Smith has allowed just eight goals in his last six starts. But Iowa needs to find some offense to continue its climb in the West. The Stars have scored two goals or fewer in five of their last six games. Remarkably, theyve won four of their last five.
18 Norfolk (16)
The Admirals sit just under the .500 mark in a season where they havent won nor lost in regulation more than two games in a row. Chicago is getting healthy, which meant former Aero Mark Cullen was returned this week from the Blackhawks. Cully didnt appear out of sorts at all and scored three goals while Chicago started to turn things around after a horrendous start. The Ads are just 5-7-0-1 inside the cozy Norfolk Scope.
19 Providence (24)
the Bruins done with all their spare time, having played only 17 games? Theyve got at least three games in hand on every other team in the Atlantic. Providence is giving its fans their moneys worth, having gone to overtime or a shootout in five of the last six games. With Boston landing three players from San Jose in the Joe Thornton trade, the Baby Bs could get help from above, as wel.
20 Chicago (18)
betting the Wolves wont end up this low on the list for very long. The Wolves are another team with only 17 games played, and its a good thing with the rotating goalie situation. Chicago has used six goalies none for more than four games. The Wolves made headlines last week for signing Hall of Famer Bobby Hull. Hull will skate warm-ups against Milwaukee later in December.
21 Bridgeport (19)
Home ice advantage? The Sound Tigers have won only three times in nine tries at the Arena at Harbor Yard to open up the season. The Sound Tigers are 0-5-1-0 in their last six, and they see last-place Binghamton getting closer to them after a miserable start. Amazingly, the six-game winless slide comes on the heels of acquiring sniper Jeff Hamilton.
22 Binghamton (27)
After a 1-7-2-0 start, the Sens are 5-5-1-0 to inch closer to not being in last place in the East Division. How much does Binghamton miss goalie Ray Emery, he of the NHL-record nine straight wins to begin a career. The Sens are last in the AHL allowing 3.95 goals per game, and theyve been outscored 30-16 in the first period this season.
23 Hamilton (20)
Montreals injury woes cost the Bulldogs a defenseman permanently, as Columbus claimed Ron Hainsey off waivers when the Canadiens tried to call him back up from Hamilton. The Bulldogs are seventh in the AHL on the power play, but last on the penalty kill at only 76.6 percent.
24 Toronto (17)
The Marlies appeared headed in the right direction before a four-game losing streak that has sent them to the bottom of the ultra-competitive North Division. Toronto allows 3.75 goals per game 25th of 27 AHL teams.
25 Cleveland (15)
San Jose may have been happy about landing Joe Thornton, but the Barons couldnt have been. With three players shipped to Boston, Cleveland immediately lost impressive defenseman Doug Murray, with Josh Gorges rumored on the way next in the San Jose newspapers. Vesa Toskala did come down from San Jose on a conditioning assignment and right the ship defensively at least in a 1-0 shootout loss to San Antonio on Thursday. Toskala had to make just 16 saves for the shutout.
26 Albany (23)
Rookie goalie Frank Doyle is making quite the impression, with a 2.53 gaa but just a 4-7-2 mark to show for it. Devils goalie of the future Ari Ahonen is 2-6-0 with a 4.42 gaa. Albanys power play clicks at just 12.1 percent 26th of 27 AHL teams.
27 San Antonio (26)
Rampage has already won as many December games (one) as it did in November, after a 1-0 shootout win over Cleveland on Thursday. San Antonio needs to hope that Brian Boucher, down from Phoenix on a two-week conditioning stint while rehabbing a groin injury, can get San Antonio on some sort of roll. The Rampage lost veteran defenseman Brad Ference in a trade with New Jersey, but it got veteran blueliner Ray Schultz and NHL winger Pascal Rheaume. San Antonio has scored 39 goals eight fewer than any other team and ranks last with a 1.77 goal per game average. Thats more than a half a goal per game less than any other AHL team.