The Amerks Look To Build On Early Success, Nylander Update, and What’s Up With Gionta
The Amerks have started the season off on the right foot. They won their first preseason game against the Toronto Marlies 3-2 in overtime, pulled out a 3-2 win against the Marlies in their second preseason game, beat the Syracuse Crunch 3-1 in their season opener, and pulled out a 3-2 overtime win against the Crunch in their second regular season game. Tonight they face the Utica Comets, where they’ll look to extend their winning streak.
In the first preseason game we saw the Amerks register a whopping 40 shots on goal. Though sloppy at times, they executed the new system quite effectively—applying lots of offensive pressure with the help of a more involved defense. In the three games that followed the Amerks have had less offensive success, averaging just 20 shots on goal. So far this hasn’t had serious consequences but they’ll need to apply more pressure and take more shots to ensure this doesn’t turn into an area of concern.
The Amerks have had some trouble breaking out of their zone. Even when effectively covering the points, the Amerks have found themselves outmuscled. This was especially evident with Nick Baptiste during the first regular season game. Baptiste elected to play the body on at least three occasions during one shift and was unable to push his man off the puck. After successfully holding the Amerks in their own zone, the Crunch went on to score, breaking Ullmark’s shutout. In response, coaches focused on breakouts during practices this week.
We’re seeing some new acquisitions make an impact on offense. C.J. Smith has 1 goal and 2 assists, Kyle Criscuolo has 1 goal and 1 assist, Zach Redmond has 2 assists, and Kevin Porter has 1 goal and 1 assist.
Some returning players have one more shot at NHL success. Bailey made a statement in the season opener by scoring twice and picking up an assist, but found himself off the score sheet the following night. Bailey needs to put up some big numbers if he wants to earn a spot in the NHL and he knows it. Baptiste is trying to prove he can play a more physical game. While he’s certainly making more of an effort to throw his weight around, it hasn’t been effective. His focus on the physical aspect of the game has kept him off the score sheet.
Goaltending has been a bright spot. We’re seeing far more composure in net than we’ve seen in previous seasons. Ullmark has managed to correct some of the mobility issues that plagued him last season and his positioning has been spot-on. He also seems to be better at keeping his head in the game. Both Ullmark and Wilcox have looked sharp.
Alexander Nylander has not been skating. According to Chris Taylor he’s still considered week to week and is still listed as having a (vague) lower body injury. Since Nylander is not skating but is considered week to week, I’m guessing he’s dealing with a sprain of some sort. Considering the amount of time he’s been off the ice I don’t think we’ll see him in a game for at least a couple of weeks.
Gionta started practicing with the Amerks this week. Don’t get your hopes up for an appearance by the ex-NHL’er. Gionta’s simply keeping his legs fresh before heading overseas for some international play, after which he’ll focus on making it to the Olympics. It appears this is the organization’s way of making up for not signing him this season. Aside from the additional press coverage during his first day of practice, he has not been a distraction. He even sat out today’s game-day practice to avoid getting in the way of game preparation.
The Amerks play the Utica Comets tonight at 7:05pm at the Blue Cross Arena.