Last year Graham Mink played a critical role in helping the Bears to their 10th Calder Cup trophy. He scored 32 goals during the season and another 7 in the playoffs. He skated on the top line with Giroux and Aucoin and played his role perfectly. And then in the offseason he left the organization with the hopes of playing in the NHL.
Unfortunately that has yet to happen and he has spent the entire season with Rochester in the North division. But that hasn't been the worst as he is again playing for a division leading team and is the leading goal scorer for the team as well.
It is always good to see former Bears get a shot in the NHL. Dean Arsene got his shot earlier this year with Edmonton and hopefully Minker will get his shot this season with Florida. I think everyone in Hershey will give Mink a warm welcome tonight and we are all rooting for him to get to the top level.
But we still want to see the Bears win and for that to happen they need to show up. Rochester is a good team. Like I mentioned above they are leading the North division by 3 points and have a +22 goal differential. Rookie goaltender Alexander Salak is playing great this season with a 2.03 goals against average and a 15-2 record in 18 games. He is 4th in the league in save percentage with a .933 and is the league leader in wins with those 15.
Like the Bears this team is offensively balanced. 21 players have scored a goal this season and 14 of them have scored 3 or more with Mink's 10 goals leading the way. There doesn't appear to be a go to tandem that controls the offensive strings but they seem to get it done. They don't have a top line like Hershey's where they can just count on them to produce with regularity. No one on the team is producing at a point per game or better while Hershey has 4 such players.
But that doesn't make them any less dangerous. The Bears need to know how to beat this team though as their next 3 games are against them. Tonight and then next Friday in Rochester and next Saturday back in Hershey.
This is a great chance to make an impression against a good Western Conference team. Although of late the Amerks are struggling a bit having lost 2 of their last 3 road games and 3 of their last 4 overall.
Something has to give in these games tough...Rochester possesses the leagues #1 power play while Hershey boasts the leagues #1 penalty kill....which unit is truly the best? We start the discovery tonight.
record ~ 17-8-0-2 36 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 3-0 Loss @ Albany, 12/11
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
home record ~ 8-3-0-2
goals for ~ 97
goals against ~62
power play ~ 16.3% (12th)
penalty kill ~ 93.0% (1st)
record ~ 19-6-1-0 39 points
standings ~ 1st in North Division
most recent game ~ 2-1 Loss vs Abbotsford, 12/11
last 5 games ~ 2-3-0-0
home record ~ 9-5-0-0
goals for ~ 86
goals against ~ 64
power play ~ 22.7% (1st)
penalty kill ~ 86.0% (9th)
last time teams met - First of 4 meetings this season.
Players to watch:
LW Chris Bourque (17)- After spending the first couple months of the season in Pittsburgh with the Penguins he returned to Hershey last Saturday night and scored 3 goals and 2 assists in his two games last weekend.
LW Alexander Giroux (12) - No one played that well last night but Giroux had his chances but he couldn't get shots off. He needs to do better tonight.
G Braden Holtby (1) - Gets his 5th start of the season in Hershey and his first since November 21 as Michal Neuvirth is in Washington. Solid numbers to this point...1.23 goals against and a .953 save percentage...I would say those are pretty good numbers.
RW Graham Mink (21) - Leads the team with 10 goals and is tied for second with 20 points. He has 3 goals and an assist so far in 5 December games.
C Chris Taylor (12) - Leads the team in assists (16) and points (22) he hasn't produced in 2 straight games but does have a goal and 5 assists in the 4 games prior to that.
RW Michael Repik (26) - Tied for second on the team in goals with 9 and has 3 goals and 2 assists in his last 6 games.
LET'S GO BEARS!!!