The Toronto Marlies finally return to Ricoh Coliseum this weekend for their first home games in the month of November.
The Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon encounters will be the sixth and seventh of eleven straight match-ups against divisional rivals.
Rochester at Toronto — Saturday, Nov. 21, 5:00 pm EST
The Rochester Americans are the first visitors in what will be the third meeting between these two sides already.
Toronto have won both games across the border. The first was an 8-2 spanking while the second, played the Wednesday that just past, saw the Marlies prevail with a 1-0 overtime win in a game they dominated for long stretches.
The Amerks problems stem from a lack of offense that has seen them fail to score more than twice in eleven of their 16 games so far this season.
It’s been even more of a struggle of late, with just five goals in regulation during the last five games.
They did, however, overcome Bridgeport 3-2 in overtime Friday evening, recovering from blowing a two-goal lead. The Sound Tigers wasted eight power plays and were only able to fire 25 shots on Andrey Makarov, who is the hot hand for the Amerks right now.
Rochester rely heavily on Phil Varone, who, with six goals and ten points, is the only member of the team to have achieved double figures so far. Compare that to a Marlies team with five players in double figures, including Nylander with 20 points.
Rochester has struggled on the road, currently 2-7 on their travels while allowing over four goals against per game.
The key for Toronto is to get ahead early in the game. If they do, Rochester will have to eventually break away from the defensive-minded “Plan A” and leave themselves more vulnerable to the Marlies superior offensive talent and speed. The longer this encounter stays close, the more the Amerks will believe they can take something from it like the previous meeting.
Binghamton at Toronto — Sunday, Nov. 22, 3:00pm EST
The Binghamton Senators will bring their uncompromising brand of hockey to Ricoh on Sunday.
They are exactly what it says on the tin. Currently leading the AHL in penalty minutes (318 at an average of 22 per game), their intention is to intimidate opposition teams.
They did just that to Toronto back on October 24 on the way to manhandling the Marlies by a 5-1 scoreline.
Revenge was sweet on November 7, as Toronto won 6-1, although the game still wasn’t without physical incident. Justin Johnson dropped the gloves and handed a beating to Guillaume Lepine after the latter had sent Josh Leivo to the ice via an elbow to the head.
Zack Stortini requires no introduction, along with Mark Fraser and the aforementioned Lepine, so don’t be surprised if Johnson draws back into the line-up.
Binghamton are yet to string two wins together this season and are currently rooted to the foot of the North Division with a 5-9-1 record.
They did, however, defeat Wilkes/Barre Scranton Penguins by a score of 3-1 on Friday night, thus ending an eleven-game winning streak for the Pittsburgh affiliate. Clinging onto a two-goal first period lead, goaltender Chris Driedger made 39 saves for the win and an empty-net goal sealed the deal.
Unlike Rochester, Binghamton have no trouble scoring, averaging three goals a game. It’s at the other end of the ice where the problems lie. They score by committee, but Cole Schneider, David Dziurzynski and Eric O’Dell are the names to watch out for, especially O’Dell, who scored five times against Toronto last season including a hat-trick at Ricoh.
The key to this encounter for Toronto is sticking to their game plan, remaining disciplined and refusing to be drawn into the sort of tactics Binghamton will employ. The B-Sens will give you powerplay opportunities; with their penalty killing ranked second worst in the league, that’s one avenue that the Marlies can exploit.