Saturday's Morning Skate 2/20

Saturday, February 20, 2016
Only eight weeks left in the 2015-16 AHL regular season. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
After this weekend's games, there will be only eight weeks remaining in the 2015-16 American Hockey League's regular season. Teams toward the bottom of the standings are starting to feel the heat, while others are chasing the division leaders and hoping to solidify their playoff position down the stretch.

All but two of the 30 AHL teams will be in action tonight, and the intensity is already at a near playoff game level as February winds down and the NHL trade deadline approaches. This time of year gives players a chance to leave one more impression with hopes of earning a larger role down the stretch and perhaps even another contract for next season.

Last night saw the top two teams in the Eastern Conference battle while the two teams in the bottom of the Atlantic Division standings faced off as well. Recaps of both games after the jump as well as a look around the Atlantic, Friday's AHL action and a look ahead to Saturday's games.

Atlantic Division Standings (through 2/19's games)

1. W-B/Scranton: 51 games played, 32-15-3-1 = 68 points (.667 PCT)
2. Hershey: 52 games played, 28-14-3-7 = 66 points (.635 PCT)
3. Portland: 50 games played, 29-19-2-0 = 60 points (.600 PCT)
4. Providence: 50 games played, 24-16-8-2 = 58 points (.580 PCT)
5. Bridgeport: 51 games played, 27-19-3-2 = 59 points (.578 PCT)
6. Hartford: 51 games played, 26-23-2-0 = 54 points (.529 PCT)
7. Lehigh Valley: 52 games played, 24-25-2-1 = 51 points (.490 PCT)
8. Springfield: 50 games played, 19-24-3-4 = 42 points (.450 PCT)

Around The Atlantic

Springfield - 1 at Lehigh Valley - 2 

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms entered the weekend needing wins and points in the standings. Despite going down 1-0 halfway through the first period, the Phantoms tallied two unanswered goals in the middle frame and held on in the third behind 37 saves from Anthony Stolarz in route to a big 2-1 win over the Springfield Falcons Friday night.

Cole Bardreau got things started in the second period for Lehigh Valley, stuffing home a loose puck in the crease 2:19 into the middle frame to even the score. Aaron Palushaj finished off his breakaway set up by Petr Straka with 2:46 left before the second intermission to put the Phantoms in front heading into the third - a lead that Stolarz and the Phantoms would hold onto for the 2-1 win.

The Phantoms' win sets up a big Saturday night match up against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, who lead Lehigh Valley by eight points for fifth place in the Atlantic Division. Springfield returns home to host Hartford on Saturday before a rematch against the Phantoms in Springfield on Sunday.

W-B/Scranton - 2 at Toronto - 4

After a scoreless first period, the Penguins scored two goals 47 seconds apart in the opening minutes of the middle frame to jump out to a 2-0 lead. Unfortunately for the Pens, the Marlies answered in the third period with four straight tallies to take the 4-2 win in regulation.

Anton Zlobin and Kael Mouillierat scored in the middle frame for the Penguins, with Zlobin tallying his fifth point in six games since joining the team from ECHL Wheeling. Matt Murray was peppered with 40 shots (36 saves) in the loss for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Toronto just proved to be too much in the third, with T.J. Brennan, Connor Brown, Brendan Leipsic and Brett Findlay each tallying in the final frame to complete the comeback. Zach Hyman was a big part of the Marlies surge in the third, tallying the primary assist on three of his team's four goals.

The Penguins are one of just two teams not in action on Saturday, heading to Rochester for a Sunday evening tilt against the Rochester Americans. Toronto hosts Portland at the Air Canada Center Saturday afternoon.

Portland - 1 at Rochester - 2 (OT)

The Pirates came up short in overtime to Rochester Friday night at the Blue Cross Arena with former Phantoms forward Jason Akeson tallying the game winner for the Americans.

Dan Catenacci gave the Amerks a 1-0 lead early in the second period, but Corban Knight responded for Portland with 3:06 left before the second intermission to even the game at 1-1.

Linus Ullmark (43 saves - 44 shots) won the goaltenders duel with Sam Brittain (36 saves - 38 shots) to give the Amerks the two points. Rochester heads to Syracuse for a Saturday night rivalry match up with the Crunch, while Portland heads to the Air Canada Center for a meeting with the Toronto Marlies in the Maple Leafs' home arena.

Other Eastern Conference Scores

Utica - 4 at Syracuse - 5
St. John's - 1 at Binghamton - 2

Saturday's Eastern Conference Schedule

Portland at Toronto - 1:30 p.m. ET
Providence at Hershey - 7:00 p.m. ET
Hartford at Springfield - 7:00 p.m. ET
Rochester at Syracuse - 7:00 p.m. ET
Albany at Utica - 7:00 p.m. ET
St. John's at Binghamton - 7:05 p.m. ET
Bridgeport at Lehigh Valley - 7:05 p.m. ET


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