With the AHL set to hit the halfway point in games following the games on Friday, we thought it would be a good time to check in and let you know how things are going. First up is the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference.
Manchester Monarchs (LA Kings)
The Monarchs started off the season strong and have stayed strong throughout, despite battling call-ups and injuries. Top goaltending prospect Martin Jones got the call to LA when Jonathan Quick was injured. While he was gone, JF Berube really rose to the occasion starting 25 straight games including 5 weekends where he started games on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. With Jones back, Berube will likely get less playing time but has proven he has what it takes.
Forwards Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson, and Linden Vey came into the season looking like they would clearly be a line to reckoned with in Manchester. All have spent time with the Kings. Despite that, other players have stepped up and helped Manchester to stay atop the division.
The Monarchs are currently 25-10-2-4 with 56 points through their first 41 games. They have not lost more than two games in a row yet this season. Although the Monarchs have only 4 wins in their last 10 games, with the recent return of Martin Jones and the announcement that Tyler Toffoli has been sent down, they are likely to turn around.
Last season, the Monarchs made a last minute push to make the playoffs. At the beginning of April, they seemed like a long shot but managed to move all the way into the 7th spot. This season, they seem to want to be more sure of that spot.
Providence Bruins (Boston Bruins)
Providence got off to a little bit of a shaky start, winning only four of their first ten games. For the most part, they did not seem to have a whole lot of trouble scoring. However, the goalie tandem of Niklas Svedberg and rookie Malcolm Subban really seemed to fall into step. Svedberg even got into his first NHL game, recording a win against Nashville in overtime. Unfortunately, Subban recently got hurt but had been impressing prior to that.
The Bruins have faced their fair share of call-ups as well. Matt Fraser, Nick Johnson, and Ryan Spooner seemed to be an unstoppable line. So far this season, the three of them have combined for 35 goals. All three have spent time in Boston, but Spooner is the only player still currently there. In total, 9 players have spent time with the Boston and Providence Bruins this season.
Providence is 20-13-1-6 for 46 points through 39 games. They might have lost their last two, but prior to that, they had won 6 of the previous 8 games. The Bruins have recorded the second most goals in the conference and most in the division with 125 so far.
Last season saw Providence top the league in terms of points before being disappointed in the second round by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. They turned it on in the second half of the season last year, could this year bring the same fate?
St. John’s IceCaps (Winnipeg Jets)
The IceCaps have been a team skating down the middle for the first half of the season. They have not been bad, but not been a standout team either. They have had some impressive wins against better teams like Manchester but struggled against a struggling team like Worcester.
So far this season, a few key contributors seem to have been on the shuffle from St. John’s to Winnipeg. Defensemen Julian Melchiori and Zach Redmond along with forwards John Albert and Eric O’Dell have all gotten multiple calls. Winnipeg seems to have struggled with injuries and are relying on their AHL affiliate to fill the gaps. The IceCaps have relied on returning veteran and captain, Jason Jaffray, along with Andrew Gordon, a veteran who spent most of last season with the Chicago Wolves, to fill in for the gaps in offense. Kael Mouillierat and rookie Brenden Kichton are tied for the points lead, each with 30.
Through 37 games, the IceCaps 19-15-1-2 for 41 points. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games but look to close out their current home stand strong with a three game series coming up against Manchester.
Last season the IceCaps missed the playoffs after dominating their division the season before. This year, the IceCaps hope to avoid missing the playoffs for the second straight season.
Worcester Sharks (San Jose Sharks)
The Sharks have been inconsistent through their first 35 games. So far, Worcester has struggled to put goals up. It was not until their 18th game that they recorded more than 3 goals in any single game, when they blew out the Portland Pirates 8-2. They still only average about 2.5 goals per game. Worcester has scored the least goals in the division with 85 and scored the second least in the conference.
Coming into last weekend, things looked to be a serious struggle. The Sharks swept their three-in-three home weekend for the first time in nearly 6 years. This came after added two players from the ECHL, sending two players down to the ECHL, and dealing with some call-ups to San Jose. The San Jose Sharks have dealt with some incredibly unexpected injury troubles. Although only 6 players have skated for both teams, Matt Nieto has spent the majority of the season in San Jose when most assumed it would be the other way around. He only played two games in Worcester, scoring 2 goals and adding 3 assists in one.
Through those 35 games, the Sharks are 17-15-2-1 for 37 points. They are tied for the least games played in the league with a number of other teams, but for awhile they were there all alone. Worcester has won 3 straight to improve them to 5-4-1-0 in their last 10 and it will be interesting to see what the next week holds.
The Sharks finished towards the bottom of the conference and missed the playoffs for the third straight season. The team likely hopes they can keep up their play lately to turn things around.
Portland Pirates (Phoenix Coyotes)
The Pirates sit at the bottom of the division through about the halfway point but only by a point. They have been trading back and forth with Worcester and lost the edge when they lost their game against the Sharks in regulation on Sunday afternoon.
In addition to their struggle, the Pirates have also had to deal with playing 45 minutes north of Portland in Lewiston, ME after a problem with contract negotiations on the rink in Portland. Andy Miele has easily led the scoring charge for the Pirates this season. He also had his first professional hat trick earlier in the season against the Sharks.
So far, the Pirates have skated through 35 games and are 15-14-1-5 for 36 points. They are 5-4-0-1 in their last 10 games. They will also look to gain ground on Worcester once again this weekend before the teams have a rematch in Lewiston next Tuesday.
The Pirates managed to hang onto the sixth spot in the conference where they had to face the Syracuse Crunch in the first round. The prospects playing in Syracuse had been in Norfolk the season before and had won the Calder Cup.