Columbus Blue Jackets blue-chip prospect Ryan Murray may miss next month's world junior championship for Canada because of a dislocated shoulder he suffered last Friday.
The full extent of the injury will be determined either on Monday or Tuesday with an MRI examination. While disheartening news for the Blue Jackets' new president of hockey operations John Davidson and general manager Scott Howson, the organization has been buoyed by the play of its AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons, this fall.
The Falcons played nine of their first 11 games at home and took advantage of the situation with an outstanding 8-1-2 start. They continued their fine play with two wins in three road games last week to share top spot in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch. Both teams have a .786 win percentage.
The Falcons have received strong goaltending from Curtis McElhinney and offensive balance from Jonathan Audy-Marchessault (five goals, 20 points), Cam Atkinson (6-14), Nick Drazenovic (6-12), Ryan Johansen (5-11), Matt Calvert (4-10) and defenceman Tim Erixon (4-10).
All the players mentioned above previously have spent time in the NHL with the exception of the 21-year-old undrafted Audy-Marchessault, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound left wing.
Columbus signed him as a free agent last summer after watching him play for the New York Rangers' farm team, the Connecticut Whale, when they were scouting the Whale in preparation for the Rick Nash trade. Audy-Marchessault scored an impressive 24 goals and 64 points in his rookie pro season last year.
Audy-Marchessault increased his production in each of his four seasons of junior for his hometown Quebec Remparts. After being named the QMJHL's defensive player of the year in 2009-10, he became a first-team all-star with a 40-goal, 95-point final season of junior in 2010-11 as an overager.
Barry Brust vs. Johnny Bower
Because he has to share the Abbotsford Heat net with 26-year-old Danny Taylor and 24-year-old Leland Irving, goalie Barry Brust will have to wait until this weekend to see if he can break Johnny Bower's 55-year-old shutout streak record.
Brust has gone 231 minutes and 41 seconds without allowing a goal. The Swan River, Man,. netminder is only 18:11 from passing Bower.
But the 29-year-old Brust has played in only four games this season. He allowed a Zack Kassian goal 8:19 in the first period at home of his first game against the Chicago Wolves on Oct. 20 and hasn't surrendered a goal since in shutouts against the Toronto Marlies on Nov. 1 and the Lake Erie Monsters on Nov. 13 and 14. He has stopped 105 of 106 shots.
Iriving also has played four games this season, while Taylor has made seven appearances. But all three could play this weekend with three road games in three days against Texas, San Antonio and Houston.
Brust, a former Spokane Chiefs goalie, played in Germany last season. A third-round pick of the Minnesota Wild in 2002, he hasn't pulled on an NHL sweater since he played in 11 games for the Los Angeles Kings in 2006-07.
Aucoin also chasing history
It will be interesting to see when (or if) the NHL lockout reaches a conclusion whether 34-year-old Keith Aucoin will win a roster spot with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Signed by the Maple Leafs as a free agent last July, the 5-foot-9, 175-pound forward from Waltham, Mass., is one of the most decorated players in AHL history. He has won two Calder Cups, an AHL scoring title and was named the Les Cunningham Award winner as league MVP in 2009-10.
The undrafted Aucoin has 102 games of NHL experience with the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals and also has a Stanley Cup ring from his time spent with the 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes. He played only seven regular-season games with Carolina that season, but spent the entire playoffs as one of the Hurricanes' black aces.
Aucoin moved into 12th on the all-time AHL scoring list over the weekend. He has 791 points in 688 career AHL games. He is tied for the club lead with the Marlies this season with 14 points in 15 games and is only 14 points away from slipping past Bill Sweeney (804 points) and into the top 10 all-time.
DiSalvatore nears milestone
Hershey Bears left wing Jon DiSalvatore was held pointless in three games over the weekend, but his next goal or assist will be his 500th career AHL point. Only 81 players have reached the milestone in AHL history.
The 31-year-old DiSalvatore, who played at Providence College and was a fourth-round pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2000, has dressed for only six NHL games -- five with the 2005-06 St. Louis Blues and one for the Minnesota Wild last year.
In his 10th AHL season, DiSalvatore has made stops in Hershey, Houston, Lowell, San Antonio, Peoria, Worcester and Cleveland.
When an NHL team has to play a matinee affair, players often are asked about the difference and change of routine compared to an evening contest. In the AHL, there has been a growing tradition of playing late-morning games for school children.
Last week, there were four such games and the crowds were strong for each one. Interestingly, the road team won each game, too.
Nov. 13 - Houston 7-5 at San Antonio: 10,793 attendance
Nov. 13 - Toronto 6-5 (OT) at Oklahoma City: 4,826
Nov. 14 - Rochester 4-1 at Hamilton: 10,649
Nov. 14 - Adirondack 4-1 at Manchester: 4,989
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