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Marlies To Face Second Place Americans in Rochester

The battle for a playoff positions already well underway in North division.

by Clayton Hansler
January 13, 2012

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TORONTO MARLIES (20-14-3-2) -AT- ROCHESTER AMERICANS (16-13-4-3)


Having shut the door on the season's first half and now counting down the games remaining, the North division's first place Toronto Marlies are in Rochester on Friday to face the second seeded Americans.

And although the calendar states only a short while longer until the post season, the standings seem equally as close as the campaign's first month.

With a six points advantage on Rochester, the Marlies have sole position of the division's top spot, at present offering the Toronto team home ice advantage come the playoffs. The Marlies however also lead the league in games played with 39.

With three games in hand on Toronto, the Americans could close the six point gap and too sit in the first seeded position.

If two teams occupying one place was not crowded enough, the Hamilton Bulldogs and Grand Rapids Griffins - both presently at 37 points, eight back of the Marlies - hold four games in hand on the top Toronto team, and too could come into a tie for first.

When most playoff pushes begin in March, the North division's commenced in January. And while the post-season grind often brings tight checks and low scores, the Americans have continued to trend upward in their offensive output. Rochester has eight straight games registering three or more goals and averaging nearly four along the way.

Lifting the club along the way has been rookie Phil Varone, who has collected 11 of his 20 points over the last ten games, including four goals over the past five. Varone, although will not be competing against any of his former teammates, knows some of the Leafs top prospects well. The Vaughan, Ontario, native spent parts of four seasons playing alongside Nazem Kadri followed by the majority of his fifth with Greg McKegg.

Toronto, on the other hand, is continuing to search for their scoring touch that lead the club through October and parts of November. With having registered 11 goals over the past five games, the team will be hard pressed to get past the Americans with limited offence.

Although looking for balanced scoring through the lineup, the efforts of Mike Zigomanis and Ryan Hamilton have not gone without notice. The veteran tandem have produced much of the Marlies offence as of late, each having collected 11 points over the past ten games. While Zigomanis leads the Marlies in points (34), Hamilton has contributed a team best 17 goals and is well on pace to greatly surpass previous career best stats.

Parked in the blue paint, the Marlies will look to Ben Scrivens to limit the opposition. Friday marks the third netminder in as many games to start for the blue-and-white, with the Toronto team not having stayed with one goaler for consecutive games since Jussi Rynnas registered back-to-back shutouts.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30pm at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, New York, with all the action broadcast online through AHL Live. Follow the Toronto Marlies on twitter for updates on all the action, and join the game long conversation on the Marlies Facebook page.

Having a problem putting a name to a number? Check out the full Marlies' roster here.


STARTING IN GOAL: #30 Ben Scrivens


EXPECTED MARLIES LINEUP …to be announced


Notes: The Marlies' Rynnas remains out of action after leaving Tuesday's game following a shot striking the tender in the mask … Colton Orr has not returned to duty after an undisclosed lower body injury … Jeff Finger will not dress for Toronto due to an undisclosed injury … Rochester has registered multiple powerplay goals in four of their past seven games … Player to Watch: Philippe Dupuis. The recently assigned forward created many offensive opportunities for Toronto in their last game, and his season's first AHL goal should come in short order.

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