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AHL alignment for '14-15 conjures Atlantic Hockey mess

By Mike Harrington

Making a schedule and aligning a league has challenges but things are getting ridiculous the last couple of days. You wonder if the bright lights who run Atlantic Hockey and decided Canisius and Niagara would not meet downtown in HarborCenter's inaugural season are the same ones who announced the 2014-15 American Hockey League alignment today.

What gives with this? 

---Rochester and Syracuse aren't in the same conference, let alone the same division.

---Same for Albany and Adirondack (Glens Falls), which are about 30 minutes apart on I-87.

---Why in the world doesn't the AHL have an all-New York State division of Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, Utica, Albany and Adirondack? How difficult would that be? Jeez. I realize Syracuse and Rochester have not been in the same division for several years, but that doesn't mean it's not goofy and shouldn't be addressed.  

Some of the shifting around is because of the Calgary franchise moving from Abbotsford, B.C., to Glens Falls, replacing the Flyers franchise that left Glens Falls for Allentown, Pa. The Rochester Amerks will stay in the North Division of the Western Conference with Adirondack (Calgary), Hamilton (Montreal), Toronto (Toronto) and Utica (Vancouver). Lake Erie (Colorado) moves out of the division into the Midwest.

So for the record, here are the AHL alignments:

Western Conference
North Division: Rochester Americans (Buffalo), Adirondack Flames (Calgary), Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal), Toronto Marlies (Toronto), Utica Comets (Vancouver) 
Midwest Division: Chicago Wolves (St. Louis), Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit), Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado), Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville), Rockford IceHogs (Chicago) 
West Division: Charlotte Checkers (Carolina), Iowa Wild (Minnesota), Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton), San Antonio Rampage (Florida), Texas Stars (Dallas) 

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division: Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles), Portland Pirates (Arizona), Providence Bruins (Boston), St. John’s IceCaps (Winnipeg), Worcester Sharks (San Jose) 
Northeast Division: Albany Devils (New Jersey), Bridgeport Sound Tigers (N.Y. Islanders), Hartford Wolf Pack (N.Y. Rangers), Springfield Falcons (Columbus), Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay).
East Division: Binghamton Senators (Ottawa), Hershey Bears (Washington), Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philadelphia), Norfolk Admirals (Anaheim), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh).

The playoff system remains unchanged, with eight teams in each conference qualifying (three division winners and five wild-cards). Fair enough. But the AHL should be looking at a total realignment of its divisions. Sooner rather than later.

A look at the Amerks' playoff series with Chicago

By John Vogl

ROCHESTER -- The Rochester Americans, including three of the Sabres' top defense prospects, begin their playoff series tonight at home against Chicago. The seventh-seeded Amerks have been bolstered by players who were in Buffalo, but they'll still have a lot of work to do to beat the second-seeded Wolves.

The AHL put together a look at the series, and here it is.


Roster moves to help Amerks' playoff push

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres are going nowhere of course, playing out the string of their last-place season with their final three games (Thursday at New York, Saturday at Boston and here Sunday against the Islanders). The Rochester Amerks, meanwhile, have six games left in their desperate playoff push in the AHL and the parent club is going to be giving them some help for this weekend's key three-games-in-three-days-stretch.

The Amerks have a one-point lead and a game in hand on Rockford for the final spot in the AHL's Western Conference. They have a one-point lead and two games in hand on Charlotte. They host Toronto Friday, play Saturday at Hamilton and Sunday at Lake Erie. 

Here's the roster rundown on both ends of the Thruway in the wake of Thursday's practice in First Niagara Center:

1). Drew Stafford will play for the Sabres tomorrow night after missing the last four games with an undisclosed injury. Defenseman Henrik Tallinder (lower body) is a game-time decision after missing four straight and could also play. Sabres coach Ted Nolan has ruled Tyler Myers out for the final three games.

2). Forwards Johan Larsson and Nicolas Deslauriers were returned to Rochester today. Nolan said a defenseman should be heading to Rochester for the weekend as well, and that would likely be Mark Pysyk.

3). Nolan said Matt Hackett will start all three Buffalo games in goal and current Sabres backup Andrey Makarov will head to the AHL after backing up Hackett in New York. Amerks coach Chadd Cassidy told reporters in Rochester today "absolutely" when asked if Makarov could start all three weekend games.

4). Rasmus Ristolainen and Hackett both told me they expect to return to Rochester for the at least the final three games. Ristolainen told me he's just going day by day and isn't thinking past tomorrow in New York until he's told otherwise.

5). Nolan said the Sabres will have to get another backup for the final two games. He didn't know if the team would go outside the organization or flip current Amerks backup Connor Knapp to Buffalo.

Here's Nolan's audio from today with plenty of thoughts on the Amerks, Hackett, Jake McCabe and others.

Ted Nolan

Huge third-period comeback in Toronto puts Amerks in front in AHL playoff race

By Mike Harrington

PHILADELPHIA -- Sabres GM Tim Murray has said repeatedly he wants to see the depleted Rochester Amerks sneak into the AHL playoffs so his prospects can get the experience of postseason play. Murray helped put together a Binghamton team that won the Calder Cup in 2011, so he knows the value of getting prospects playing into June.

It was looking bleak for the Amerks, however, as an 0-7-2 slide dropped them into 10th place in the AHL's Western Conference. But they've bounced back to win three straight and move into seventh, and Saturday's stunning 4-3 win at Toronto could be the game that ultimately proves the difference in their chase.

The Amerks trailed their perennial nemesis,  3-0, after two periods before outshooting them, 19-3, and pulling out a wild victory. Tim Schaller collected a natural hat trick to tie the game,  with the third goal coming with 58 seconds left. Just 15 seconds later, Phil Varone got the winner on a slapshot. Mikhail Grigorenko, who is looking good so far in the AHL, had two assists in the game, 

The Amerks have 76 points with six games left. Oklahoma City has 75 points with six left and is currently in the No. 8 slot. Rockford (six left) and Charlotte (five left) also have 75. Rochester is off until hosting Toronto Friday night to open a crucial set of three games in three nights that will take it to Hamilton on Saturday and Lake Erie on Sunday.

Here are the highlights of the Amerks' win. The Rochester goals begin at the 2:35 mark of the video.

Amerks get boost from Makarov; coach fondly recalls McCabe's time with USA Hockey

By John Vogl

ROCHESTER -- There has been a lot of shoulder slumping lately on Buffalo's minor-league team. A long-awaited victory -- and big saves from Andrey Makarov -- has guys feeling better.

The Amerks ended a nine-game winless streak Wednesday with a 5-2 win over Syracuse. While the offensive breakout certainly helped, coach Chadd Cassidy says the goaltending of Makarov had a big effect.

"More than he’s played well, he’s been the guy that’s given our team a shot in the arm here when things weren’t going well," Cassidy said today after practice in Blue Cross Arena. "Our team played well in front of him, and our team felt he gave us a really good chance of winning hockey games. He was making a lot of big saves.

"All of a sudden a guy gives you a couple big saves and it’s, ‘All right, we’re in this thing.’ You only need that one break to get you going, and I think he did a good job of providing that."

Makarov is getting the chance with Connor Knapp out and Nathan Lieuwen and Matt Hackett playing for Buffalo.

"It’s all about opportunity," Cassidy said. "He’s really taken advantage of that."

Cassidy, who was a longtime coach in the U.S. National Team Development Program, will keep an eye on the NHL debut of Jake McCabe tonight when the Sabres visit St. Louis. Cassidy coached McCabe for two seasons with USA Hockey.

"I really like Jacob a lot," Cassidy said. "I thought he was a great pick. He’s a guy that’s got a little bit of offense. He’s very similar to Brayden McNabb. He’s got some offense there, but he also likes the physical game. He likes to get involved and plays the body really well. He’s not quite as big as Brayden, but he plays that similar type of game.

"He’ll be nervous. That’s a tough jump," said Cassidy, while noting Chad Ruhwedel jumped from college to the NHL at the end of last season. "Rudy did a really good job with it last year when he came from Lowell, but it’ll be interesting, especially in St. Louis on the road against one of the best teams in the league. Tough test."

Grigorenko headed to Rochester

By Mike Harrington

The Rochester Amerks are in a Maple Leafs-like collapse out of the AHL playoffs, going 0-7-2 in their last nine games. With all the injuries in Buffalo, they're not getting many reinforcements from the parent club anytime soon but they got at least one interesting body added today.

Center Mikhail Grigorenko has been transferred to Rochester now that his junior season with the Quebec Remparts is complete. After being sent back to junior by the Sabres following his stellar play for Russia in the World Junior Championships, Grigorenko had 39 points in 23 games for Quebec (15 goals, 24 assists). He also had nine points in five playoff games against Rouyn-Noranda. (1g, 8a).

The 19-year-old has established he can dominate junior players but now it's time to see what he can do in the AHL, the level he's probably most suited for at this stage of his career. He played two Calder Cup games for the Amerks last season, once the junior campaign had ended.

Grigorenko played 18 games with the Sabres this year, with two goals and three points. He did not impress new coach Ted Nolan or then-hockey operations president Pat LaFontaine and agreed to return to junior in mid-January after initially declining the assignment.

Nolan said Saturday the Sabres would likely send Grigorenko to the AHL because of the Amerks' dire roster situation. Rochester is off until hosting Syracuse Wednesday in Blue Cross Arena. The Amerks have nine games left and entered Sunday's play three points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Lines are shuffled, goalies shuffled as Hackett will start vs. Oilers

By Mike Harrington

SHERWOOD PARK, Alberta -- The Sabres worked out for an hour today in the suburban practice facility that doubles as the Edmonton Oilers' part-time home and there were two main areas of news that come out of it:

Goaltending: Matt Hackett will make his Buffalo debut as the starter Thursday night in Rexall Place after Nathan Lieuwen played well in Calgary. Michal Neuvirth practiced fully and is on track to return Sunday in Vancouver. Hackett has 13 games of NHL experience with Minnesota.

Forward lines: Coach Ted Nolan juggled them and Marcus Foligno will replace Cory Conacher on the wing with red-hot Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis. That trio hopes to reprise their scoring surge that was the talk of the NHL during Buffalo's 2012 playoff push that fell short. 

The playoffs are a pipe dream for this edition of the Sabres, who have lost seven straight and have just six goals in those games.

"Hopefully we have luck like that again and put up some points here," Foligno said.

"They've both got their game going," Nolan said of Stafford and Ennis. "You can't ask for much more from those two so it would be unfair for us to break them up. With Conacher, he had a couple empty-net tap in goals and he missed them. Maybe it will be good for Marcus to get in that position where his confidence could rise a little bit."

The other key move up front is returning Cody Hodgson to center from the wing. He was between Conacher and Torey Mitchell. Brian Flynn was centering Matt D'Agostini and Nicolas Deslauriers while Ville Leino was dropped to the fourth line with Matt Ellis. John Scott and Zenon Konopka were splitting the time on the other wing.

As for the goaltending, Nolan said the Sabres simply want a look at Hackett. When Neuvirth returns one of the newcomers in net will return to Rochester so this could be a quick look for Hackett. 

Hackett is just 13-17-2 for the Amerks with a 3.07 GAA and .898 save percentage. Not what you'd expect from a guy with the big prospect label acquired from Minnesota in the Jason Pominville trade. Hackett was refreshingly frank about his season today.

"I don't think I was working hard enough at the start of the year," said Hackett, who credited Amerks goalie coach and former Canisius netminder Bob Janosz for staying with him. "My work ethic had to improve and get better. As a goalie you're alwys battling with your partner. It's a healthy competition. I'm just trying to get my game back and work hard."

Click below to hear the complete conversations with the media from Nolan and Hackett.

Ted Nolan

Matt Hackett

Frozen Frontier hero Ellis to rejoin big club today

By Mike Harrington

The Rochester Amerks love having Matt Ellis as their captain. When he entered the dressing room after a television interview following his shootout-winning goal Friday night in Frontier Field, his teammates erupted in cheers that entertained the media waiting outside the room. Goalie Matt Hackett and center Johan Larsson, both acquired from Minnesota in April, spoke at length about Ellis' impact on the Sabres' young prospects.

As it turns out, the Amerks will be without Ellis tonight in Syracuse but you know they feel good for him too. That's because the 32-year-old has gotten the call to come back and rejoin the Sabres for this afternoon's game against the Calgary Flames in First Niagara Center.

The team has just confirmed Ellis' recall but has yet to announce a corresponding move. One may not need to be made as Ellis could simply take the spot of Mikhail Grigorenko, on loan to Russia for the World Junior Championships. There is no morning skate today and we'll hear from Ted Nolan around noon to see if Ellis will play today in place of Cody Hodgson, who did not dress Thursday in Ottawa.

Ellis has five goals and five assists in 25 games for Rochester this year. He has played parts of the last five seasons for the Sabres, including 72 games in their 2009-2010 Northeast Division championship season and a seven-goal output in 2008-09.

Martin Biron latest addition to Amerks' outdoor alumni game

By John Vogl

Martin Biron is the latest player to agree to take his game outside.

The former goaltender for Buffalo and Rochester will take part in Sunday's outdoor alumni game between the Sabres and Amerks. The teams will meet in Rochester's baseball stadium two days after the Amerks play a regular-season game.

The list of alumni includes: Tom Askey, Matthew Barnaby, Kevin Bolibruck, Paul Brydges, David Cullen, Randy Cunneyworth, Daryl Drader, Richie Dunn, Dan Frawley, Jody Gage, Danny Gare, Mike Hurlbut, Jim Jackson, Yuri Khmylev, Steve Langdon, Grant Ledyard, Steve Ludzik, Ray Maluta, Brad May, Scott McCrory, Jay McKee, Brian McKinnon, Scott Metcalfe, Craig Muni, Scott Nichol, Chris Palmer, Andrew Peters, Geoff Peters, Rob Ray, Kenton Rein, Craig Rivet, Ric Seiling, Darryl Shannon, Richard Smehlik, Derek Smith, Chris Taylor and Jim Wiemer.

Tickets for the 5 p.m. game range from $10 to $25 and are available at

Amerks' outdoor game to have wide TV coverage

By Mike Harrington

The American Hockey League has announced a big television package for Friday night's "Frozen Frontier" outdoor game between the Rochester Amerks and Lake Erie Monsters at Frontier Field.

The game will air live on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel in Western New York and on SportsTime Ohio in the Cleveland area. STO is available nationally on DirecTV, Dish and AT&T U-Verse.

The game will air live in Canada on all four regions of Sportsnet and will be replayed in the United States on NHL Network at noon on Saturday.

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported today that defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, the Sabres' No. 1 draft choice in June, will miss games this week -- including the outdoor game -- with what's believed to be a concussion suffered from a sucker punch against Lake Erie when the teams met Dec. 2 in Blue Cross Arena.

Ristolainen out after sucker-punch

by Amy Moritz

There is more injury news out of Rochester today as Rasmus Ristolainen will miss the next three games for the Americans.

Disclosed only as an "upper body injury," it is likely that Ristolainen suffered a concussion after he was punched in the head Friday night.

According to media reports from Rochester, it was a sucker-punch from Lake Erie Monsters center Mitchell Heard in the final seconds of the Amerks' 5-3 win.

"I just talked to him and he said something and then I got punched," Ristolainen said in the Democrat and Chronicle. "I wasn't really looking."

The injury might impact Ristolainen's ability to play in the World Junior Championships. The 19-year old told the Sabres that he wanted to play for his native Finland in the tournament, which runs form Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Sweden.

Pregame chatter: Kaleta done for the season (ACL), was slated to return to NHL next week

By Mike Harrington

NEWARK, N.J. -- Patrick Kaleta's season is over, ending Friday night in Rochester when he suffered a torn ACL to his right knee during the Amerks' win over Lake Erie. That's the word from a Buffalo News source and coach Ted Nolan pretty much confirmed that prior to tonight's game against the New Jersey Devils while adding this bombshell:

Kaleta was rejoining the Sabres for practice on Monday and was likely going to be in the lineup for their next game, Thursday in First Niagara Center against the New York Rangers.

Obviously, that won't happen now.

"It doesn't look good and that's usually the case right there," Nolan said when asked if he could confirm the injury was season-ending. "We're hoping it's not but it possibly could be."

As we posted earlier today, Kaleta was injured when he somersaulted over Lake Erie goalie Calvin Pickard while cutting in on the goal and his knee struck the crossbar. The injury came late in Rochester's 5-3 win and Kaleta had to be helped off the ice, putting no weight on his leg.

Continue reading "Pregame chatter: Kaleta done for the season (ACL), was slated to return to NHL next week" »

Tough news out of Rochester: Kaleta may have serious leg injury

Patrick Kaleta (middle) celebrates his goal Nov. 11 with the Amerks along with Matt Ellis (left) and Chad Ruhwedel. (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle)

By Mike Harrington

NEWARK, N.J. -- Only two weeks before the Rochester Amerks play their just-about-sold-out outdoor game Dec. 13 at Frontier Field against the Lake Erie Monsters, Angola native Patrick Kaleta has almost certainly been knocked out of the unique affair after suffering what appears to be a severe leg injury in last night's 5-3 win over the Monsters.

And it sounds like the calls for him to return to Buffalo are going to have to stop too.

Veteran Rochester Democrat & Chronicle beat reporter Kevin Oklobzija tweeted late this morning that there's still no official word from the team on Kaleta's status but it certainly doesn't sound good.

Oklobzija reported late last night that Kaleta barreled over Lake Erie goalie Calvin Pickard and the back of his right leg slammed into the crossbar as he somersaulted over Pickard. 

Amerks coach Chadd Cassidy would only said "it didn't look good" and "it's going to be a while" when asked about Kaleta.

Kaleta had one goal and three assists in seven games for the Amerks and had been playing a clean game with only two penalty minutes. He's back in the AHL, of course, after clearing waivers when former Buffalo GM Darcy Regier opted not to put Kaleta back on the roster following his 10-game suspension for a head shot against Columbus' Jack Johnson.

New Sabres president of hockey operations Pat LaFontaine and interim coach Ted Nolan both pushed off questions about Kaleta recently, emphasizing he had to make major changes to his game to avoid suspensions before he would be a candidate for a recall.

Roster shuffle continues: Adam, McNabb called up while Grigorenko returns after NHL nixes conditioning assignment

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres made four roster moves yesterday and have just announced three more this morning prior to practice in First Niagara Center, although one is essentially a reversal of one of Tuesday's decisions.

Forward Luke Adam and defenseman Brayden McNabb have joined the club from Rochester while center Mikhail Grigorenko has returned to the club after his conditioning assignment to the Amerks was rejected by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

Grigorenko consented to the 14-day assignment, as is required by Article 13.8 of the CBA. But he is otherwise ineligible for the AHL because he is a 19-year-old with junior eligibility remaining and Bettman apparently enforced a clause of the article that says:

"If the Commissioner has reason to believe or determines that the Club has used the Conditioning Loan to evade Waivers, or otherwise circumvent any provision of this Agreement, he may take such disciplinary action against the Club, as he deems appropriate."

Continue reading "Roster shuffle continues: Adam, McNabb called up while Grigorenko returns after NHL nixes conditioning assignment" »

First big wave of cuts gets roster down to 41

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres trimmed training camp down to two groups Friday afternoon and started to set up a core of players for the Rochester Americans.

Sent down to the AHL club were forwards Colin Jacobs, Eric Locke, Johnny McGuire, Jonathan Parker, Frederick Roy, Kevin Sundher and Shawn Szydlowski; defensemen Alex Lepkowski and Matt MacKenzie; and goalies Connor Knapp and Nathan Lieuwen. Defenseman Nick Crawford was also sent down, but must first clear waivers.

Defenseman Brady Austin was returned to Belleville of the OHL and forward Peter Trainor was sent back to Rimouski in the Quebec League.

The Sabres are now down to 41 players (25 forwards, 13 defensemen and 3 goalies). Practice in Rochester will start Monday at 10 a.m. in Blue Cross Arena and is open to the public.

Amerks, Niagara University, Sabres alumni all slated to play in Rochester outdoor hockey fest

By Mike Harrington

Officials in Rochester unveiled plans Tuesday afternoon for a 10-day outdoor hockey festival at Frontier Field, home of the Red Wings. It's being dubbed "Frozen Frontier" and a rink will be laid out roughly from third base to first base in the 12,000-seat baseball stadium.

The showcase event will be Dec. 13 at 7 p.m., when the Rochester Amerks meet the Lake Erie Monsters -- the Colorado affiliate once coached by new Sabres assistant Joe Sacco -- in an AHL game.  The next night, the Niagara University men's team meets archrival RIT in another 7 p.m. game.

Here's the complete schedule of events.

• Friday, December 13 (7:00 p.m.): Amerks vs. Lake Erie Monsters
• Saturday, December 14 (Noon): Women -- RIT Tigers vs. Clarkson Golden Knights
• Saturday, December 14 (7:00 p.m.): Men -- RIT Tigers  vs. Niagara Purple Eagles
• Sunday, December 15 (1:00 p.m.): Sabres/Amerks Alumni Game
• Saturday, December 21: Section V Rivalry Day - matchups TBA
• Sunday, December 22: Section V Rivalry Day - matchups TBA

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle has the skinny on ticket information. All-access passes for the entire 10-day festival are $110, $80 and $60 and went on sale Tuesday. The Amerks game is included in their season ticket package. Single-game Amerks seats go on sale Sept. 21 and $35 for 200-level seats, $25 for 100 ends, and and $15 for limited-view 100 level seats.

Amerks slate preseason game; Sabres sign Tardif for Rochester

By Mike Harrington

The Rochester Amerks announced today they will stage a home-and-home preseason series against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Sept. 25 & 27. 

The first game will be played at Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex (formerly The Sports Centre at MCC) on the campus of Monroe Community College in Brighton. Ticket information for the 7:05 game will be announced at a later date. The Sept. 27 game is in Wilkes-Barre.

Meanwhile, Canadian network RDS is reporting the Sabres have signed veteran forward Jamie Tardif to a one-year, two-way contract for $550,000. Tardif, 28, is a 6-foot, 205-pound right winger who instantly gives a boost to the Amerks' offense. He is a native of nearby Welland, Ont. 

(4 p.m. update: The Sabres confirmed the Tardif signing)

Tardif scored a career-high 30 goals in 62 games last year for the Providence Bruins and added seven goals in 12 playoff games. He also had a 27-goal season in 2010-11 for Grand Rapids, the Detroit farm club.

Tardif, who has spent most of the last seven years in the AHL, made his NHL debut last year with two scoreless games for Boston. 

In new AHL alignment, Utica joins Amerks' division

By Mike Harrington

While the NHL dawdles over announcing the names of its new four divisions for next year (anytime now, boys), the AHL has released its new configuration in the wake of some franchise shifts and there's a new built-in rival for the Rochester Amerks.

While holding their annual meeting in Hilton Head, S.C. the AHL Board of Governors have announced that the new Utica Comets, the Vancouver farm team, will play in the North Division of the Western Conference with the Amerks, Toronto Marlies (Toronto), Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal) and Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado). The Utica franchise was transferred after last season from Peoria, Ill.

The Abbotsbord Heat, the Calgary franchise located in British Columbia, will no longer be in the absurd geographic location of being in a division with Eastern teams so the Amerks won't have to trek West anymore. The full alignment looks like this:

Eastern Conference 
Atlantic Division: Manchester Monarchs (LA); Portland Pirates (PHX); Providence Bruins (BOS); St. John’s IceCaps (WPG); Worcester Sharks (SJ) 

Northeast Division: Adirondack Phantoms (PHI); Albany Devils (NJ); Bridgeport Sound Tigers (NYI); Hartford Wolf Pack (NYR); Springfield Falcons (CBJ) 

East Division: Binghamton Senators (OTT); Hershey Bears (WSH); Norfolk Admirals (ANA); Syracuse Crunch (TB); Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (PIT) 

Western Conference 
North Division: Rochester Americans (BUF); Hamilton Bulldogs (MTL); Lake Erie Monsters (COL); Toronto Marlies (TOR); Utica Comets (VAN).

Midwest Division: Chicago Wolves (STL); Grand Rapids Griffins (DET); Iowa Wild (MIN); Milwaukee Admirals (NSH); Rockford IceHogs (CHI).

West Division: Abbotsford Heat (CGY); Charlotte Checkers (CAR); Oklahoma City Barons (EDM); San Antonio Rampage (FLA); Texas Stars (DAL).

The regular season schedule will be announced in August. The playoff format remains unchanged, with the three division winners in each conference earning the top three seeds and the next five best teams in order of regular-season points seeded Nos. 4-8. 

In other news, the league honored one club from each conference for top revenue growth in four areas and the Amerks were the Western Conference winner for group-ticket sales.

Amerks bringing a game back to Buffalo next season

By John Vogl

The Rochester Americans are coming back to Buffalo next season.

The Amerks announced six home dates today, including an appearance Oct. 30 in First Niagara Center. Rochester's home opener will be Oct. 4. The Amerks will play outdoors in Rochester's baseball stadium Dec. 13.

Ticket information and the full schedule will be released at a later date.

Sabres' prospects scheduled to defend title in Red Wings' tournament in Traverse City

By John Vogl

The Sabres' prospects are already set to play in Switzerland next season. It appears they're heading back to Michigan, too.

The Detroit Red Wings have announced the resumption of their prospect tournament in Traverse City, Mich., and Buffalo is scheduled to defend its 2011 title. The tournament, in its 15th year, was canceled last season because of the lockout.

The Red Wings said the participating teams will be Detroit, Buffalo, Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota, the New York Rangers and St. Louis -- the same eight organizations that were scheduled to play in 2012.

The Rochester Americans will take a break from their American Hockey League schedule in December to play in the Spengler Cup in Switzerland.

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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl |

About Sabres Edge

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington |

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz |