The Utica Comets will welcome a familiar face back when they face Providence at the Adirondack Bank Center on Tuesday night.
After about five weeks of roster turmoil for the Utica Comets, the band is getting back together again. Alexander Holtz returned to the team first after missing time for the World Junior Championships and the New Jersey Devils Taxi Squad. Shortly after Holtz came back to Utica, the Devils also reassigned Kevin Bahl, Akira Schmid, Nolan Foote, and Nico Daws returned from injury as well – although a complete reunion may have to wait a bit as on Tuesday morning the Devils recalled Schmid after placing Mackenzie Blackwood on injured reserve with a recurring left heel issue.
Another key piece of the Utica Comets roster that has been one of the best teams in the American Hockey League this season will be making his return to the Adirondack Bank Center on Tuesday night, as AJ Greer has been removed from the New Jersey Devils injured reserve list and assigned to the Comets. Before being called up to New Jersey on January 6th, the rugged winger played twenty-two games for Utica, scoring four goals and eleven assists while posting fifty-two PIM’s.
In the absence of the aforementioned players, the Comets hit a rough patch in the month of January, losing five of their first seven games in the month. A two-game sweep of the Syracuse Crunch last weekend has the team returning to its winning ways and as a result, they once again have the best winning percentage of the AHL. Tuesday night’s opponent, the Providence Bruins, enter the contest in first place in the Atlantic Division with a 17-10-3-1 record and a .613 winning percentage. The two teams have played only once this season, which was a 2-1 overtime victory for the Comets on October 22nd in Utica. For a recap of that game, click on the link Utica Comets defeat the Providence Bruins in overtime.
The Comets are currently tied for fifth overall in the AHL with the Springfield Thunderbirds in goals scored with 117. Chase DeLeo has been the straw that stirs the offensive drink for Utica – he leads the team in points with thirty-one (seven goals and twenty-four assists) in only twenty-two games played which puts him at number fifteen on the AHL scoring list. Fabian Zetterlund and Nate Schnarr lead the team in goals scored with twelve, but Alexander Holtz is right behind them with eleven. Holtz has been an absolute tear as of late, scoring four goals in his past three games.
The Bruins have scored ninety-nine goals as a team, which puts them at sixteenth in the league. With Steven Fogarty on the Boston Bruins Taxi Squad, Jesper Froden leads the team in points with twenty-one points (eight goals and thirteen assists). Zach Senyshyn is the team’s leading goal scorer with eleven.
The calling card for both the Comets and Bruins has been solid defense, as both teams have allowed only eighty-one goals each – which is the best in the American Hockey League. Even with Schmid going back to New Jersey, the Comets still have Nico Daws in goal – and he has been outstanding this season. Even with missing a month due to a lower-body injury, he has 9-2-1-0 overall record with a 2.51 GAA and .916 save percentage. His GAA ranks tenth in the AHL, while his save percentage comes in at ninth. Daws will be backed up by Brandon Kasel for the foreseeable future.
The Bruins goaltending has been equally up to the task. Troy Grosenick is having an outstanding season in his own right, posting an 8-2-1 record. His 2.28 GAA is fifth in the league and his .917 save percentage is seventh. Grosenick shares the Providence goaltending duties with Kyle Keyser and Jeremy Swayman, who was recently reassigned to the team by Boston.
The Comets and Bruins are in the top half of the AHL in powerplay efficiency. Utica is third at 23.9% (22 for 92), and Providence is twelfth at 19.5% (25 for 128). The Bruins own the second-best penalty-killing units in the league with at 87.4% (15 goals allowed on 119 times shorthanded), while the Comets have slipped to seventeenth at 81.1% (20 goals allowed on 106 times shorthanded).
The game starts at 7:00pm EST. Radio coverage begins with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL), and the television broadcast starts at 7:00 on WPNY and AHLTV.