As the ECHL affiliate of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres and the AHL's Rochester Americans, the Jackals are tasked with developing prospects throughout the organization. The Road to the Show provides details on how those prospects are progressing.
Buffalo Sabres (NHL) – On the heels of one of the most promising weeks in recent memory, the Sabres suffered through one of the more disappointing weeks of the season. Buffalo lost all three games this week, and all of them were in regulation. However, there were still some reasons for optimism regarding the Sabres. Wednesday saw the return of Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn to Denver, as the Sabres paid their lone visit of the season to the Pepsi Center to face the Avalanche. Evander Kane scored his tenth goal of the season, late in the second period, to give Buffalo a 1-0 lead. However, Colorado would tally twice in the third period, including a game winner with 32 seconds remaining, which deflected off a Buffalo defenseman and past Robin Lehner, who made 33 saves in the loss. Lehner played his best game of the season for the Sabres this year, but unfortunately for Lehner and the Sabres, a deflection cost them at least one point.
On Friday night, the Sabres welcomed the Red Wings to the First Niagara Center. Robin Lehner outdid his performance against the Avs two nights before, by making a season high, 42 saves. However, Buffalo could muster little offence throughout the game, and when talented rookie, Dylan Larkin scored with under eight minutes remaining in the third period, the Sabres could not mount an effective counterattack. The Wings added two more, including an empty netter. Despite a record of 0-3-0, Robin Lehner has continued to improve with each performance since returning from the injury, which cost him half of the 2015-16 season. Lehner has a 2.34 goals-against-average and .934 save percentage. If he is able to keep playing that well, it is only a matter of time until he wins his first game as a Sabre.
The Sabres wrapped up a trying week by visiting Madison Square Garden last night. There, they were defeated by the Rangers by the score of 6-3. Despite the final score, the Sabres played the Rangers relatively even for the first 46 minutes of the contest. Brian Gionta scored for the Sabres in the first period and Zemgus Girgensons scored twice in a 73 second span in the third period to tie the score at 3-3. Both of Girgensons’ goals were set up by phenomenal passes by Jack Eichel. However, Buffalo could not ride the momentum to a victory. The Rangers scored three more goals in the third to secure the victory. Derrick Brassard had a five-point night for New York. It was the first multi-goal game of the season for Girgensons, who was making his return to the lineup after a ten day absence. Eichel’s two assists move him into second on the team with 32 points. He continues to show glimpses into what appears to be a very bright future for both himself and the Sabres. Eichel is tied for third among NHL rookies with 32 points and 18 assists, while he is in sole possession of third place among NHL rookies with 14 goals. He is surely putting together a Calder Trophy campaign to be reckoned with. Following a tough week, the Sabres have fallen back into eighth place in the Atlantic Division with 42 points, and a 19-26-4 record.
Rochester Americans (AHL) – The Amerks had a successful two-game road trip to Grand Rapids, as Rochester won two straight against the Griffins. On Friday night, Jerry D’Amigo scored two goals, his first multi-goal game of the season. He now has 12 points in 27 contests for the Americans this season. Matt Donovan, Evan Rodrigues, and Jean Dupuy also scored for Rochester, while Linus Ullmark made 41 saves to earn his first AHL victory since October, following a successful three month stint with the Sabres. Justin Bailey registered two assists for Rochester, while also leading the team with eight shots on goal.
As offensively minded as the game on Friday was, the rematch on Saturday was a phenomenal display of goaltending, and Nathan Lieuwen emerged as the star of the game. Lieuwen stopped all 42 shots he faced to earn his first shutout of the season. After a rough October, Lieuwen has been fantastic for the Americans in goal the rest of the year. He has a record of 11-7-1 on the season with a 2.66 goals-against-average, and .919 save percentage. As good as those numbers are, Lieuwen has been even better of late. In January, Lieuwen is 3-1-1 with a 1.61 GAA and .952 SV %. Dan Catenacci scored his seventh goal of the season in the first period, and Lieuwen made it stand up. In the third period, Allan McPherson scored his first goal of the season for Rochester. McPherson became the first player who played for the Jackals this season to score a goal in the AHL this year.
Other Jackals alums also played in one or two games this past weekend in the AHL. Justin Kea played in both games for the Americans this weekend, bringing his total to 12 on the year. He is still looking for his first AHL point of the season, but he has now played in six straight games since his most recent call-up. Fellow Jackals’ alum, Spiro Goulakos played in Saturday’s game for Rochester, bringing his season total to four AHL games. While he did not register a point, Goulakos was a plus-1 on the night.
Finally, elsewhere in the AHL, Niklas Lundstrom earned his first AHL win, and made his first career start for the Chicago Wolves. On Friday night in Charlotte, Lundstrom earned his first AHL victory in a relief appearance. He entered the game toward the end of the second period, with the Wolves down 3-0. Lundstrom stopped all six shots he faced in the third period, while Chicago rallied for three unanswered goals. Lundstrom then went on to stop five shots in overtime and three more in the shootout as the Wolves won 4-3 in thrilling fashion. The following night, Lundstrom was rewarded with his first AHL start, a 6-5 loss at the hands of the Charlotte Checkers. Lundstrom posted an 8-3-0-0 record for the Jackals in 13 games this season, with a 2.92 GAA and .929 SV %. Rochester is still in sixth place in the North Division of the Eastern Conference with a points percentage of 0.512, 40 points, and a 20-19-2-1 record, but they trail Syracuse by only three points for the final playoff spot.