PHILADELPHIA -- As miserable as this season has been for the Rochester Americans, the Rochester-Buffalo pipeline continues to churn.
Head coach Randy Cunneyworth and the Amerks are probably victims of the success that they have enjoyed in recent seasons, as a slew of
players from the 2004-05 Amerks roster are now with the Sabres, one
of the NHL's most pleasant success stories this season.
The Amerks, meanwhile, entered Saturday night's home meeting with
the Manitoba Moose immersed in a miserable 2-7-1 funk over their
past 10 games. One of the AHL's bright spots back in the fall,
Rochester now sits 10 points out of the playoffs and trying to catch
the Toronto Marlies, who improved at the NHL trade deadline by
picking up sniper Aleksander Suglobov from Albany.
Six members of the Buffalo roster for Saturday afternoon's 6-5 win
over the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wachovia Center wore Rochester
colours last season under head coach Randy Cunneyworth, and Buffalo
head coach Lindy Ruff is familiar with the Rochester infusion.
The Flyers rocked goaltender Ryan Miller for five goals on just 20
shots and chased the 25-year-old after 40 minutes for Martin Biron.
But Miller has put together an excellent first full season in the
There is Jason Pominville, who has a robust 15 goals in just 39
games since heading west on the New York Thruway earlier in the
season. Centreman Derek Roy burned Tampa Bay for a hat trick in
Thursday night's run-and-gun 8-5 win at HSBC Arena, Roy's second hat
trick in under a week. Tomas Vanek's 21 goals place him second on
the Buffalo roster in that category.
And big 24-year-old Paul Gaustad, a 6-foot-5 banger from North
Dakota, finds himself on a line with Chris Drury and Mike Grier.
"It fits like a glove," Ruff said of the transition that his
Rochester graduates have made. "I spent most of (2004-05) down there
(in Rochester). I went on road trips with them. I was on the ice
probably once a week, twice a week."
"We really tried hard to incorporate what we want to do here. We've
been trying to do that for a couple of years now. There's a really
cohesive unit there now where we have a lot of players who have
played together and believe that this style is advantageous for
The Sabres and Amerks largely have utilized the same systems,
allowing only for minor tweaks.
"They helped us out quite a bit, Lindy, (Buffalo general manager)
Darcy (Regier) and those guys," said Gaustad after Saturday's
win. "It made the transition a lot easier. It's a pretty smooth
A young, hungry group that plays up-tempo hockey, the Rochester core
is home-grown talent that has been brought along over the past two
or three seasons with an eye on NHL duty.
"We came up through the system together," explained Gaustad "and we
put in our time in Rochester. If one guy would have been up, we
would have been happy for him. That all of us are up here at the
same time, it's been fun, and every guy deserves to be up here."
AHL chatter over the years has hinted at a possible breakup of a
Buffalo-Rochester marriage that dates back to 1979, but such talk
seems ridiculous in spite of the Amerks' troubles this season.
Ruff and Gaustad are in agreement on the value of the Sabres-Amerks
pairing and the organizational strength that it breeds. The easy
drive between the two cities allows Buffalo personnel to keep a
close eye on its AHL talent.
"They've done a tremendous job," Ruff said of the Cunneyworth,
assistant coach Doug Houda and the rest of the crew in
Rochester. "It's a lot like here. Some of it is proximity. Rochester
is right next door to us, and it really makes for a great working
Concurred Gaustad: "It helps being close. I think it's a great
example of what the NHL and AHL should be."