It’s Friday and if you’re an AHL fan, that means its hockey time! If you’re a Bears fan, you’ve been waiting 4 months for this weekend to come, the weekend of the home opener. Fear not, for you have only 1 more day to wait!
On the schedule this weekend:
Friday – Hershey Bears @ Binghamton Senators (Ottawa Senator’s AHL affiliate)
Saturday – Rochester Americans (Florida Panthers AHL affiliate) @ Hershey Bears
Friday: First thing first. Hershey head coach Mark French told Tim Leone earlier this week that it was possible that three-time NHL All-star defenseman Sheldon Souray (right) could make his debut in Binghamton tonight. Since he joined the organization after training camp and wasn’t up to speed, this could be a big night for the Bears’ defense, who already have a different look after the graduations of Karl Alzner and John Carlson as well as the departures of Bryan Helmer and Greg Amadio. No matter how long Souray is with the team, I’m excited to see what sort of impact he’ll have on the young blue-liners in Chocolatetown.
Speaking of new arrivals, the B-Sens are going into their third game of the season tonight under their new head coach, Kurt Kleinendorst. According to the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin, coach Kleinendorst has been stressing to his team that to beat Hershey, they just have to play “honest for 60 minutes” and that there’s “absolutely nothing major” that the B-Sens need to be aware of in going up against a team that has beat them 14 out of their last 16 meetings.
While it looks like Braden Holtby will get the nod in net for the Bears, the starter at the other end is not so clear. Binghamton starting goalie Mike Brodeur still hasn’t returned after suffering a concussion last weekend, and while all signs point to 19 year old rookie goaltender Robin Lehner – he may not be in Bingo by puck drop. With Ottawa’s Pascal Leclaire leaving the Canes v. Sens game early last night with a lower body injury, Lehner may be recalled to Ottawa. If he is indeed recalled, goalie Barry Brust would get the nod.
Saturday: If you’re going to the game, be in your seats earlier (the organization is suggesting 6:15) than usual, as the Banner unveiling/Ring Ceremony will preface the Bears’ home opener. Tomorrow night, the 11th Calder Cup Championship Banner will drop from the rafters at Giant Center, and that’s something you don’t want to miss. The Bears will face the Rochester Americans for the 2nd time this season, and both teams will be wearing the special edition throwbacks to pay homage to the AHL’s 75th anniversary.
The goalie situation in Hershey on Saturday is not as clear cut as Friday. While the coaching staff has no qualms about playing Holtby on back to back nights, with only 2 games this weekend, it could be a good break for him and a good opportunity for the Bears to put Todd Ford (left) in net. However, with Dany Sabourin on waivers – if he clears today [Ed. Note: Sabourin cleared at 12:30], Ford would likely be reassigned to South Carolina, which could mean Sabourin may start on Saturday.
In keeping with the goalie-centered theme of the weekend, 20 year old rookie goalie Jacob Markstrom could be a possible starter for Rochester on Saturday. He made some pretty big saves last weekend against the Bears to keep his Amerks in the game, and all signs point to him being called upon to do so again. The Panthers are pretty excited about thier young Swedish prospect, and I have a feeling that we may see him facing the Caps in a few years if he continues to progess. Rochester has already turned out one pretty successful goalie with patience and AHL experience, and they’re looking to do the same with Markstrom. Oh, who’s that other guy? You may have heard of him. His Sabres jersey has “Miller” and the number 30 on the back.