Interconference play is the name of the game tonight, as the top team in the AHL Eastern Conference hosts the sixth place team in the Western Conference when Toronto visits Syracuse for a 7 p.m. matchup.
The Crunch sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 30-14-2-4 record and 66 points, second in the league only to the Texas Stars. The Marlies, meanwhile, are sixth in the Western Conference with a 26-17-2-3 record and 57 points. They’re tied with the Rochester Americans, who sit at seventh and host Texas tonight.
Center Tyler Johnson leads the Crunch this season with 26 goals, 22 assists and 48 points in 49 games played. Not far behind him is right winger Brett Connolly, who has 22 goals and 23 assists in 49 games. Johnson and Connolly combined have 16 power-play goals on the season.
One player who won’t be in the lineup for Syracuse is left winger Cory Conacher, who had 28 points in 36 games before making it on the roster of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.
Another notable player who won’t be in the lineup for Syracuse is goaltender Dustin Tokarski, who was traded to Hamilton in exchange for Cedrick Desjardins. Desjardins had a 2.94 GAA and .905 save percentage in 22 games with the Bulldogs prior to the trade.
Riku Helenius, who has appeared in 20 games with the Crunch this season, has a 2.78 GAA and .891 save percentage, stopping 409 of 459 shots faced.
Toronto’s goaltending situation is also an interesting one.
Ben Scrivens had been the Marlies’ main netminder – but he’s now playing with the Maple Leafs of the NHL. Jussi Rynnas, who had been Scrivens’ back-up? Yep, he’s also up with the Leafs.
So… who’s left, you may ask? Rookie netminder Mark Owuya has appeared in seven games for the Marlies this season; he’s 3-4 in that stretch, allowing 23 goals on 176 shots faced, giving him a 3.29 GAA and .869 save percentage. The Marlies also recently added Drew MacIntyre, who has since appeared in a pair of games for the team.
Three of the Marlies’ top four points scorers are no longer on the team; Keith Aucoin had 37 points in 34 games with Toronto before being claimed off waivers by the NY Islanders. Defenseman Mike Kostka is up with the Maple Leafs, as is center Nazem Kadri. Kostka had 34 points in as many games, while Kadri had 26 points in 27 games before the move.
Marlies captain Ryan Hamilton is the top points-getter remaining; the left winger has 20 goals and 10 assists for 30 points in 44 games; a quarter of his goals have come on the power play.
Beyond that is center Joe Colborne, who has 26 points (7-19), and defenseman Jake Gardiner, who has 22 points (9-13) on the season. Of players still on the Marlies roster, right winger Carter Ashton leads the team with 56 penalty minutes.
Tonight’s game is the first of three at home for Syracuse, and the last road game for the Marlies before they play the next ten games at home. This is the first meeting between the teams this season; they’ll meet once more in one of those ten home games for the Marlies, an 11 a.m. game on March 6.