AHL schedule 2012: Packed Sunday, 8 Games Scheduled

Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

The AHL is as close as anyone is going to get to NHL hockey. The NHL clubs blue-chip prospects hit the ice on Sunday in eight different games.

Who needs NHL hockey when there are eight games on the AHL schedule for Sunday! Thanks to the NHL Lockout, the American Hockey League is quickly becoming the center of the hockey universe, showcasing some of the best young talent.

Eight teams drop the puck at 3 p.m. ET to begin Sunday's AHL contest, Starting with Rockford Ice Hogs against the Charlotte Checkers. The Ice Hogs, affiliates of the Chicago Blackhawks currently sit in eighth place in the Western Conference with an 11-9-0-1 for a total of 23 points. The Carolina Hurricanes affiliate, Charlotte, lead by veteran NHL goaltender Dan Ellis, are in second in the West with 26 points, a 12-6-0-2 record.

Portland Pirates center, Alexandre Bolduc, leads the team in goals (12) and points (20), and will be taking on the Los Angeles Kings affiliate, Manchester Monarchs. The Monarchs are in third place in the Eastern conference with a 10-7-2-1 record for 23 points. The Pirates, affiliate of the soon-to-be newly minted Arizona Coyotes, are in 10th in the East and have a 9-9-1-1 record, good for 20 points.

One of the coolest names in all of hockey, the Lake Erie Monsters, head up slightly north to drop in on the Toronto Marlies. The Marlies, defending Western conference champions and Maple Leafs affiliate, have an 11-8-0-1 record and sit in seventh place in the west with 23 points. Leading the Marlies by only one point in the standings, the Colorado Avalanche affilate Monsters, have played one more game than the Marlies, resulting in a nearly identical record of 11-8-1-1.

The 'baby' Sharks from Worcester travel to Providence to visit the 'baby' Bruins. The No. 11 Bruins have no scorers on the team with more than seven goals and are one game over .500 at 9-8-0-1. At seventh, Worcester carries a 10-8-1-1 record and are lead in points by center Tim Kennedy with 22.

The last four games on Sunday start at 5:05 p.m. ET, lead by the Norfolk Admirals at the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Norfolk, the Anaheim Ducks affilate, snapped a six game losing streak on Saturday night. After starting off 4-0-0-0, the Admirals took a dive in the standings to 14th in the east with the an 8-11-0-0 record. The New York Islanders farm team of Bridgeport is currently 10-8-0-1 and are sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Nino Niederreiter was up with the Islanders last season and currently leads his team with 10 goals and 10 assists for 20 points.

The Springfield Falcons, affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets, had been in first place a majority of the season, but have now dropped to second with am 11-4-1-3 record. The Falcons are lead by veteran goaltender, Curtis McElhinney. The journeyman has a record of 10-2-0-2 and a 1.98 goals against. New York Rangers affiliate, the Connecticut Whale, are currently tied in points with Portland at 20 (9-8-2-0), but have a game in hand on the Pirates, good for ninth place in the east.

Sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference are Tampa Bay Lightning affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. In their last 10 games, the Crunch have are 7-3 and are two points ahead of Springfield in the standings with 28 points and a 13-4-1-1 record. Only four points behind Syracuse are the Binghamton 'baby' Senators. No one of the Sens have more than 11 points on the season. The lack of offense in made up in goaltending. Goalie Robin Lehner is the second best goalie in the league with an 8-2-0-1 record, a save percentage of 0.950 and 1.63 goals against.

The final game to close out Saturday is the Texas Stars against the Peoria Rivermen. The Stars are 9-8-1-1 and in 12th place in the West. The Rivermen, affiliates of the St. Louis Blues, are second to last in the west with a 6-11-0-3 record.

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