Weekend Preview: IceCaps vs. Sharks
Following the AHL’s all-star break, the St. John’s IceCaps look to reverse a trend when the Worcester Sharks visit Mile One Centre this weekend.
In five games between the Atlantic Division rivals this season, the road team has come out on top each time. Most recently, the IceCaps defeated the Sharks 3-2 in a shootout Jan. 22 at the DCU Center. Playing with heavy hearts after learning of the passing of captain Jason Jaffray’s mother, the IceCaps fought hard to pick up the two points. Garth Murray scored in regulation and added the winner in the shootout while David Aebischer made 22 saves and stopped all five Worcester shooters to preserve the win.
Despite an Eastern-Conference-best 60 points, the IceCaps have struggled on home ice. The club’s record is a pedestrian 10-9-3-0 at Mile One with a minus-five goal differential. St. John’s has swept a two-game series just twice, versus the Connecticut Whale in early November and the Manchester Monarchs at the beginning of January.
The IceCaps will be without their leading scorer, Spencer Machacek, who was recalled by the Winnipeg Jets Monday. Machacek is one of only two players (Travis Ramsey the other) to have played in all 44 games this season, and has recorded 11 goals and 23 assists for 34 points with a plus-four rating and 40 minutes in penalties. Also lost to recall Monday was centre Aaron Gagnon, who was summoned for the second time in less than a week.
Despite the personnel losses, the IceCaps will receive a boost on the blueline with the addition of John Negrin, who was obtained Tuesday in a trade with the Calgary Flames. The strong-skating defenceman has played in 26 games with the Abbotsford Heat (AHL) this season, recording one assist and 26 penalty minutes. The Vancouver native is a former third round pick (70th overall) of the Flames in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
The Sharks are losers of three straight and have dropped to third in the Atlantic Division. Their most recent defeat came last Saturday at the hands of the Manchester Monarchs, who escaped with a 3-2 win in overtime despite blowing a two-goal lead in the third period.
Worcester will be without all-star goaltender Tyson Sexsmith, who was recalled by the San Jose Sharks Thursday after number one goaltender Antti Niemi went down with a lower-body injury in practice. In his place will be veteran Antero Niittymaki, who was placed on waivers by the Sharks and cleared Thursday as well.
Both games Friday and Saturday are scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. puck drop. Catch all the action with play-by-play announcer Brian Rogers at www.stjohnsicecaps.com or on 930AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador. Pregame show begins at 7:00 (all times Newfoundland).