The River Rats will open the Calder Cup playoffs at home (that's in Albany, folks) on Wednesday, April 16. Though their opponent has yet to be determined, the best-of-seven opening round series is expected to be in a 1-2-2-1-1 format. The league requires that the first round be completed by Monday, April 28.
Albany's likely first-round foe, the Philadelphia Phantoms announced today that their first two home playoff games will be Friday and Sunday, April 18 and 20, at the Wachovia Center, home of the parent Flyers.
The Rats only potential conflict in the first round time frame is Saturday, April 26, when the former Knickerbocker Arena is booked with af2 football. If they reach the second round, unavailable dates are Saturday, May 3 (af2) and May 8-11 for the Ringling Bros. Circus, which also costs the building a day of setup and cleanup, a total six-day block.
Now, to the game. As expected, defenseman Tim Conboy and forward Jeff Hamilton both cleared waivers at noon today and were assigned to Albany. Conboy is in the lineup tonight; Hamilton will be here for Friday's home finale vs. Wilkes-Barre.
Scoring streaks: C Kiel McLeod, 2 games (0-2-2), C Nicolas Blanchard, 3 games (3-1-4, including goals in all three), D Steve Ward, 2 games (0-2-2).
Cut from today's game advance:
Injured RW Pat Dwyer skated Tuesday with a yellow non-contact sweater and isn't expected back until the playoffs open next week. He was 3-6-9 and plus-9 in eight games before being hurt ....
LW Marc Cavosie, a Cohoes native, was hurt in last week's shootout win at Wilkes-Barre and is out indefinitely. He is 4-8-12 and plus-6 in 16 games since signing a pro tryout Feb. 26 ....
C Jamie Johnson, the only Rat to skate in all 77 games, will wear the captain's 'C' tonight, followed by enforcer Trevor Gillies for the final two regular-season games, including Sunday's finale at Philadelphia.
Line combinations from warmups: Ben Cottreau-Johnson (C)-Jerome Samson; Joe Jensen-Brent Sutter-Jakub Petruzalek; Blanchard-Mike Angelidis (A)-McLeod; Ryan Weston-Chris Terry-Joel Rechlicz.
Defense pairings: Joey Mormina (A)-Brett Carson; Ward-Conboy; Bryan Rodney-Brett Bellemore.
Healthy scratches: Gillies, D Chris Murray, D Josh Engel, Hamilton, Rechlicz.
Injured: D Noah Babin, Cavosie, LW Brandon Nolan, Dwyer, D Mark Flood, D Casey Borer.
Kudos to Angelidis, who is wearing the second 'A' as an alternate captain for the first time this season. An unsung hero, to be sure.
Second-year pro Justin Peters is getting the start in goal for Albany in place of workhorse Mike Leighton, who was named the AHL's top goaltender yesterday. Marc Denis is in the net for Norfolk.
Tonight is the home debut for Carolina first-round pick Brandon Sutter, who is 1-1-2 and minus-1 in his first three pro games.
Forward Chris Terry is making his pro debut. He has not played since signing an amateur tryout March 31 out of the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers.