A closer look at the Amerks

Phil Varone leads the Amerks with 27 points (6 goals, 21 assists) in 30 games this season.

The Sabres have had a rough season to this point, but if you look in the AHL, you’d see that some Amerks’ players are finding success.

The Americans are in the hunt for a playoff spot with as they sit in 10th place with 32 points. They are only a point out of 8th, though, and they could grab a spot by the end of the season if they continue to improve and play well.

Perhaps the Amerks’ biggest problem this year has been the difference at home and on the road. With a 10-3-3 home record, Rochester is one of the best teams in the league at home. However, they are just 3-8-3 on the road. Those three road wins tie them for fewest in the league.

The Amerks can’t seem to find the same success on the road that they have at home. If they can figure it out, a playoff berth could be that much easier to obtain.

Still, Rochester isn’t far behind, and they’ve had a few surprises this year in terms of offensive production. Center Phil Varone has to be one of them this season, with 27 points (6 goals, 21 assists) in 30 games.

He put up 52 points during the 2011-2012 season, but you can’t ignore the numbers he has accumulated already. He hasn’t had a shot with the Sabres yet, but with the way he keeps earning points, it may not be long before his NHL debut.

Another pleasant surprise for Rochester this year has been their goal scoring leader, Luke Adam. Many Sabres fans have been frustrated with Adam’s performance at the NHL level, but the forward has been reshaping his game in Rochester, and it is paying off.

Adam has scored 14 goals and six assists in 18 games this season. His highest total was 29 back in 2010-11 with the Portland Pirates. His recent success with the Amerks shouldn’t be overlooked.

The play from Mike Zigomanis and Jamie Tardif has helped as well this season. While the goal scoring is there, the goaltending isn’t doing as well as expected.

Matt Hackett has been the No. 1 goaltender for the Amerks this year, but his numbers are lower than usual. His 2.91 goals against average is the highest it’s ever been. His .903 save percentage is a career-worst to this point. Hackett has been struggling this season, and it’s not what the organization envisioned when they acquired him.

Hackett had consistent numbers in every season before he came to the Amerks, but now he is having a tough time. It could be just an off year or adjusting to the new team, but the Amerks need him to turn things around.

Nathan Lieuwen has stepped up a bit, which is nice to see from the backup goaltender. Lieuwen a 2.78 GAA and a .913 save percentage in 13 games this season. They are not the greatest numbers, but Lieuwen has done a fair job of helping pick up the slack for Hackett.

If Rochester can figure out its’ goaltending and road issues, they should have no problem earning a playoff spot. Until they do that, they will keep hovering around 8-10th place all season. With 30 games in the books, hopefully the Amerks will kick things up a notch.

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I founded Buffalo Hockey Central in 2008 and have poured hours and hours into this site. Luckily, we have a great team of writers and designers who have helped keep this up and running despite a ton of out-of-pocket costs. We do this because we enjoy it, and we're desperate to see the Sabres win the Cup someday, but they have to make the playoffs first.