The Amerks have been better at home than away this season going 9-5-1 at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester and 5-6-2 away from their house. The franchise has never in its history had more fans cheering on their side than they will on Friday night. At last check, the team sold near 18,00 tickets. By game time, that might be a sellout. Amerks fans in Rochester are known as an engaged and loud bunch. If the atmosphere travels down I-90 with them to First Niagara Center, it might just make fans in attendance forget about the lockout for awhile. And it might give a little extra boost to the Amerks players, especially ones who have never been in The Show.
2) Defense...or lack thereof
In their last four games, the Amerks have given up...wait for it...23 GOALS. Their young defense has made a bundle of mistakes which have led to odd-man rushes, giving their goaltenders David Leggio and Connor Knapp little chance. Rookies Mark Pysyk and Jerome Gauthier-Leduc, who are both known as offensive defenseman, are still learning the ropes. The Amerks' system asks their defenseman to make smart, but aggressive decisions in the offensive zone. The slightest error and their opponent is headed the other direction. The Amerks have given up the third most goals in the AHL this year and are the 19th ranked penalty kill.
3) Brennan-Hodgson and the Power Plays
While the defense has been rough, the Amerks' ridiculously talented power play has bailed them out time after time. The presence of NHL-caliber center Cody Hodgson has made life unfair for opponents this season. The Amerks have the third best power play in the NHL, mostly because of the combination of Hodgson and super shooter T.J. Brennan. The two have combined for 23 power play points in 28 games. Hodgson missed 14 games and is still amongst the best AHL assisters on the man-advantage.
4) They call him 'Z'
The Sabres drafted Zemgus Girgensons in the first round. Fans will get a look at the 18-year-old forward whose ceiling is a top-six forward with both scoring ability and a physical presence. So far, Girgensons has only six points in 23 games, but not because of a lack of effort. He has been mostly used in a defensive role on the third and fourth line and rarely on the power play. However, he was used several times with Marcus Foligno and Cody Hodgson, where he seemed to fit right in with their offensive skill. Fans will enjoy watching him hit on nearly every shift. Maybe they'll get a chance to see him handle the puck and create on the offensive end, too.
5) Marcus and McNabb
The 2011-12 Buffalo Sabres season will be remembered in part as the year that Marcus Foligno and Brayden McNabb caught the eye of both fans at the Sabres' organization. Foligno has been as impressive as you would expect. He leads the team in scoring and 5-on-5 scoring and has continued his physical game. Last time the Amerks played in Buffalo, Foligno played an outstanding game. Fans will be expecting the same on Friday night.
As for McNabb, his numbers have been consistent and he has been strong on the offensive end, but fans in Rochester have been disappointed in his lack of physical play so far this season. He hasn't been the same lock-down D-man as we saw in his short time in Buffalo and in Rochester this year. However, he's still a major part of this team's future plans. It will be interesting to watch if he gets up for this game.
G David Leggio lived out a dream by winning a game in his home-town arena the last time the Amerks played in Rochester. He's been in net for three of the last four in which the Amerks have struggled. He's a super competitor, though, so expect him to step up at FnC.
C Phil Varone and D Mark Pysyk did not play on Wednesday night. At game time, we'll find out if they are back in the lineup.
Frederick Roy is the son of Patrick Roy. He's one tough little trouble maker and a fun player to watch.
Luke Adam has scored a point in eight of nine December games.
Brian Flynn had a nine-game point streak in November, but only has two points in December