AHL Today: A look at the PPL Center, Utica goes for five

AHL Today is a roundup of the night that was, the day ahead, and anything you may have missed. Your quick look at what’s going on around the league.

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To Watch:

  • LAKE ERIE at UTICA: As Lake Erie heads into Utica, this isn’t just a battle of some basement dwellers, it’s a battle of teams heading in very different directions. Winless in their last eight games, Lake Erie has dropped seven games in regulation as the Comets have snapped their most recent skid, rattling off four straight wins. Joacim Erikkson, fresh off being named Player of the Week, will likely get the call for the Comets. Lake Erie will get goaltender Sami Aittokallio back from his recall with the Colorado Avalanche. Only nine points out of a playoff spot, it’s a bit too early to really write off the Comets, but they’re going to need to extend this win streak and have many more like it to get back in the race.
  • CHARLOTTE at NORFOLK: The Admirals have points in six straight heading into their game with the visiting Checkers. Charlotte has won the last three meetings between the two clubs, but needed overtime and shootout to do so. On a four game winning streak themselves, the Checkers are going to be without leading scorer Aaron Palsuhaj, who just earned himself a call to the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes. The Ads’ best bet is to keep the Checkers off the powerplay, as the team is moving along at nearly a 25% clip.

Moves:

Sami Aittokallio (G) From: Colorado Avalanche To: Lake Erie Monsters
Aaron Palushaj (F)
 From: Charlotte Checkers To: Carolina Hurricanes
Petr Mrázek (G) From: Detroit Red Wings To: Grand Rapids Griffins
Cody Beach (F) From: Kalamazoo Wings To: Chicago Wolves
Colton Sissons (F) From: Milwaukee Admirals To: Nashville Predators
Danny Hobbs (F) From: Elmira Jackals To: Binghamton Senators
Thomas Heemskerk (G) From: Worcester Sharks To: Quad City Mallards
Jordan Szwarz (F) From: Phoenix Coyotes To: Portland Pirates
Connor Murphy (D) From: Portland Pirates To: Phoenix Coyotes
Olivier Roy (G) From: Alaska Aces To: Abbotsford Heat
Drew MacKenzie (D) From: Alaska Aces To: Abbotsford Heat
Zach McKelvie (D) From: Abbotsford Heat To: Alaska Aces
Jordan Kremyr (F) From: Abbotsford Heat To: Alaska Aces
Jordan Schroeder (F) From: Utica Comets To: Vancouver Canucks
Nicholas Rioux (D) From: Iowa Wild To: Quad City Mallards
Brandon Pirri (F) From: Rockford IceHogs To: Chicago Blackhawks
Anders Nilsson (G) From: New York Islanders To: Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Matt Donovan (D) From: New York Islanders To: Bridgeport Sound Tigers

News & Notes:

  • Really nice work by 100DegreeHockey’s Stephen Meserve on the Texas Stars league leading powerplay. [100DegreeHockey]
  • The AHL Power Rankings for Week 17 have gone live on Chirps From Center Ice. Jason has been doing a great job with these, so go take a look. [ChirpsFromCenterIce]
  • After nearly a month on the road, the Rochester Americans are back on home ice. [WHEC]
  • The Milwaukee Admirals are hosting a, get this, Jamaican Vortex Night. Three fans will get a trip to Jamaica, and there will be a Bob Marley tribute band. You think you’d see this in the NHL? C’mon. [Milwaukee Admirals]
  • The brand new PPL Center is on its way to completion. (s/t @breakground, @Ike_Richman)
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    (Click to enlarge)

Three straight wins get Eriksson Player of the Week nod

The Utica Comets haven’t looked basement dwellers this past week.

Vancouver’s top affiliate put together four straight wins, getting back some of the ground they lost after dropping six straight before the current win streak.

In the streak, goaltender Joacim Erikkson had had a shutout and overtime victory, and things are looking up for the Comets.

Eriksson is in his first season in North America after signing with the Canucks in the summer. In 24 games for the Comets this year, Eriksson has posted an 11-11-1 record with three shutouts, a .911 SV%, and 2.63 GAA.

The 23-year-old Eriksson, a Gavle, Sweden native, got the call in one NHL game this season when he suited up on Jan. 15 against the Anaheim Ducks. In 36 minutes of work, Eriksson stopped 25 shots and allowed six goals.

Eriksson should get the call again on Tuesday as the Comets look to extend their win streak to five when they host the Lake Erie Monsters.

Canucks ink vet Prospal to PTO, Utica bound

The Vancouver Canucks have inked 16-year NHL veteran Vinny Prospal to a pro tryout contract.

Dan Murphy broke the story late last night, saying the 38-year-old Prospal had been practicing with the Utica Comets earlier in the day. Prospal, who hasn’t suited up in an AHL contest since the 1996-97 season when he was a member of the Philadelphia Phantoms, had gone unsigned to this point.

Last season, as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Prospal appeared in 48 games and helped bolster the offensive attack with 30 points (12-18). At 38, any speed Prospal may have once had is all but gone, but the wily veteran should still be a contributor while getting back into game shape with the Comets.

Cancuks GM Mike Gillis commented on the possibility of Prospal making the move to the Canucks lineup after a brief stint in Utica, saying that, “with the injuries (the Canucks have), there may be an opportunity for him.” Gillis added that Prospal will likely need eight to ten games to get up to speed before the Canucks consider bringing him in.

An AHL first-team all-star back when he was a member of the Phantoms, Prospal has appeared in over 1100 games in the NHL, and is chasing down 800 career points, just 35 shy of the mark. If things work out for Prospal in Vancouver, and he parlays the shot with the Canucks to a deal in Vancouver or elsewhere at season’s end, he could have a shot at reaching the milestone before his career comes to a close.

The Comets currently sit at last in the Western Conference, just two points away from the league’s basement with a 13-20-2-3 record in 38 games this season. Utica will head to Abbotsford this weekend to take on the Heat.

Stuart back in North America with Canucks

After spending a season with the DEL’s Iserlohn Roosters, Colin Stuart has signed a one-year deal with the Vancouver Canucks.

Stuart, 31, has plenty of AHL experience and he will bring that to the Utica Comets when he suits up for them next season. Since being drafted in the fifth round of the 2001 draft by the Atlanta Thrashers, Stuart has spent nearly his entire pro career in the ‘A’, suiting up with the Chicago Wolves, Abbotsford Heat, Portland Pirates, and Rochester Americans.

In his nine AHL seasons, Stuart has played in 531 games, tallying 105 goals and 119 assists. The 6-foot-2, Rochester, Minn. native came to the AHL after spending four seasons at the NCAA’s Colorado College, where he put up 38 goals and 39 assists.

A member of the 2007-08 Chicago Wolves, Stuart contributed six points (3-3) on that run.

His contract with the Canucks is a one-year, two-way deal.

Sauve, Canucks reach extension

Yann Sauve has come to terms with the Vancouver Canucks, and will suit up for the AHL’s newest franchise next season.

Sauve, 23, spent last season split between the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings and AHL’s Chicago Wolves — the Canucks affiliate during the 2012-13 campaign. A second round pick of the Canucks in 2008, Sauve came to the organization after a stellar junior career with the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs. While with the Sea Dogs, Sauve suited up in 290 games, and tallied 26 goals and 96 assists.

At 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds, the young defenceman has NHL size, but has yet to be able to make an impact in the big leagues. In his first professional season, Sauve was given a cup of coffee with the Canucks, but failed to turn it into anything consistent, failing to register a point in five games with the club. Since 2010-11, Sauve has spent the bulk of his time in the AHL, suiting up in 102 AHL games, and tallying three goals and 10 assists.

The Canucks seemingly have interest in watching how Sauve develops, but so far the second rounder doesn’t look like he’s lived up to the expectations the organization had.

Negrin signs with Comets

The Utica Comets have announced they’ve come to terms with defenceman John Negrin on a one-year AHL deal.

Negrin, 24, was a third round draft pick of the Calgary Flames in 2007, and appeared in three games with the Flames in 2008-09. Following a four year stint in the WHL with both the Kootenay Ice and Swift Current Broncos — Negrin posted 16 goals, 111 assists, and 252 PIM in 265 games in the ‘Dub — Negrin spent the majority of the next three seasons with the Flames top affiliate in Abbotsford.

While a member of the Heat, Negrin appeared in 95 games, scored five goals, and added 17 assists, but was traded near the end of his third season to the Winnipeg Jets. Negrin would suit up for the remainder of the 2011-12 season with the IceCaps, and registered three assists in 14 games.

When his NHL entry-level deal ran out, Negrin was inked to an AHL deal with the Chicago Wolves, but struggled to stay with the club and spent 44 games in the ECHL with Kalamazoo in 2012-13. However, after a trade sent him to Lake Erie, Negrin played the remainder of the season as a member of the Monsters.

His AHL deal with the Comets is for one season, as Negrin will look to get back to being an everyday AHL player.

Utica Comets sign goaltender Corbeil

It’s not a major signing, but it will lend some help in goal for the Utica Comets.

The team announced today via Twitter that they have come to terms with goaltender Mathieu Corbeil. A 2010 fourth round draft pick, selected 102 overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets, Corbeil comes to the Comets after spending last season on a loan from the Chicago Wolves — whose affiliate at the time, Vancouver, now runs the Comets — to the Missouri Mavericks of the Central Hockey League.

A 2011-12 QMJHL Champion as a member of the Saint John Sea Dogs, Corbeil suited up for 48 games with the Sea Dogs that season, posting a 2.38 GAA and .911 SV%. At the completion of his season, the Columbus Blue Jackets chose not to sign him, and he moved to free agency. His next professional contract was with the Wolves, but he will now get a chance at challenging, at the very least, for an AHL job.

Corbeil’s likely role with the team is as a recall. Last season in Missouri, Corbeil had a 2.69 GAA and .915 SV% in 21 regular season games.

Comets reach deal with Guimond

Sacha Guimond is going to get his chance to play in the AHL.

Guimond, who has spent his first professional season in the ECHL with the Gwinnett Gladiators and San Francisco Bulls, signed a one-year deal with the Utica Comets today.

After playing his junior in both the OHL with London and QMJHL with Baie-Comeau, Guimond entered the professional ranks by way of free agency. At 6’2″ and 174 lbs., Guimond had decent size for a defenceman, but could do with adding to his frame. Primarily an offensive defenceman, Guimond had a great season in the ECHL last year, being named to the All-Rookie Team, All-Star Team, and winning the ECHL Defenceman of the Year award.

Guimond, 22, suited up in six AHL games last season — four with Norfolk and two with the Worcester Sharks — but failed to get on the score sheet. According to an article on the Abitibi Express website, Guimond was also entertaining offers from Phoenix, Winnipeg, Los Angeles, and the Islanders before settling on signing a deal with the Canucks organization.

Ferriero finds home in Vancouver

After being shipped to Minnesota from New York, Benn Ferriero was told he wouldn’t be tendered a qualifying offer. Now he’s found himself a place to play.

At 26, Ferriero has spent the bulk of his career in the San Jose Sharks organization, but is now onto his fourth team in two years.

The forward, who can play both up the middle and on the wing, was signed to a one-year, two-way deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2012, but didn’t play a single NHL game with the team last season. Instead, Ferriero was dealt to the Rangers in exchange for Chad Kolarik, and suited up in four games with the Rangers.

Ferriero played the majority of last season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, suiting up in 34 games with the WBS Penguins and tallying 18 points (4-14). When he was dealt to the Rangers, he suited up in another 23 AHL contests with the Connecticut Whale, adding another four goals and eight assists. There’s a strong possibility that Ferriero will end up playing a large chunk of time in Utica next season, bringing his stellar .75 point per AHL game pace to the Comets.

A former member of the ECAC All-Rookie team, Ferriero will look to stick with the Canucks, or he could be looking for his fifth home in just three years.

 

Green appointed Comets head coach

Almost a month to the day after unveiling the team in Utica, the AHL’s Comets have found their bench boss.

Travis Green, a former NHL centre, has been named the head coach of the AHL’s newest franchise.

Green, who spent last season at the helm of the WHL’s Portland Winter Hawks, joins the Comets after coaching the team to an Ed Chynoweth Cup as league champions. After Winter Hawks head coach and GM Mike Johnston was suspended due to sanctions against the team for undisclosed player benefits, Green took the reins.

Though the team lost in the Memorial Cup Final to 2013 first-overall pick Nathan MacKinnon and partner in crime Jonathan Drouin, Green’s ability to take the team from turmoil to league champions is a testament to his ability to lead a young hockey club.

Selected 23rd overall in the 1989 NHL entry draft, Green played 1,206 NHL games, racking up 203 goals and 273 assists.