Goal for Utica Comets: Claim points vs. rivals Syracuse, Rochester
Every point counts.
With 11 regular-season games remaining against North Division opponents, the Utica Comets need all the points they can accumulate while jockeying for position in the seven-team division. Because the teams are close in the standings, the battle could likely go into the final days of the regular-season in mid-April.
Entering this weekend’s three-game set with two matchups against rival Syracuse and against Rochester, Utica has 68 points as does Syracuse, which has played one fewer game. Fourth-place Rochester is five points back.
Utica has 7 p.m. home games Friday against Syracuse and Saturday against Rochester. The Comets and Crunch meet at 5 p.m. Sunday in Syracuse. Utica also plays both teams again next weekend.
Because Utica and Syracuse occupy the North’s second and third spots — no team is really in a position to catch division-leading Toronto (84 points) — the meetings could be a preview for the playoffs.
“We play in a good league. There’s good teams. We expect to have our hands full night-in and night-out,” Comets coach Kevin Dineen said. “I also reach back to what you do during the offseason and how you go into training camp to prepare. This is the enjoyable part for me. This is where it is at. You get into these hard, tight very important games. That’s what the game is all about.”
While the Comets’ Magic Number is 14 points to clinch one of the five North Division playoff spots, a suboptimal weekend could muddy postseason prospects. Fifth-place Belleville (61) is two points back of Rochester. Laval (60) and Cleveland (59) are lurking in spoiler roles. The top five teams make the postseason.
While the Comets navigate some recent injuries and call-ups, parent New Jersey’s postseason hopes could also be a factor with some Utica players being held out of the lineup.
Syracuse Crunch vs. Utica Comets
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Sunday.
WHERE: Friday, Adirondack Bank Center; Sunday, Upstate Medical University Arena, Syracuse.
BROADCAST: KROCK 94.9FM or krock.com (free); AHLTV, watchtheahl.com (subscription video); Sunday’s game is the AHLTV’s Free Game of the Week (AHLTV account required).
SEASON SERIES: Syracuse leads the 14-game series 6-2-1-0 after Utica’s 6-4 home win March 5.
RECORDS (Entering Friday): Utica 30-23-6-2, 68 points, 3rd in North Division; Syracuse 30-22-5-3, 68 points, 2nd in North.
WHAT TO KNOW: Syracuse has won back-to-back games following a 3-2 shootout win Tuesday at Rochester. The team is 6-3-1-0 in the last 10 games ... Syracuse is 5-5-0-0 in the last 10 road games. The team is 15-13-0-2 overall on the road this season. ... Alex Barre-Boulet has 69 points in 57 games. His points rank third-most in the AHL. He has four goals and 10 assists for a team-best 14 points in nine games against Utica this season. ... Utica has a three-game point-streak (2-0-1-0) at home following a 4-3 overtime win over Belleville on March 10. Utica is 14-9-3-2 overall at home this season. ... Utica went 0-for-7 on the power play in the last meeting against Syracuse and is 3-for-38 (7.9%) this season vs. the Crunch. The team is 3-for-38 (7.9%) on the PP in nine March games. The team is ranked 30th in the AHL on the PP at 15.8%. ... Utica is 18-of-24 on the penalty kill this month. The team was 3-for-4 on the penalty kill in the last meeting against Syracuse. Utica is 26th on the PK in the AHL at 77.7% ... Reilly Walsh has a goal and two assists during a three-game point streak. Walsh has 75 career points, which is two from tying Jordan Subban for most points by a Comets defenseman.
Clarke: 21 goals-27 assists-48 points
Daws (28 appearances): 2.83 GAA/.901 SV%/14-12-2 record
Poulter (10 appearances): 3.36 GAA/.889/5-2-3
x-Schmid (20 appearances) 2.53/.908/10-6-3
x-Theut (2 appearance) 3.63/.904/0-2-0
x-not active on Comets roster
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