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December 28, 2011

Admirals vs. Sound Tigers Series Preview

Series Preview - Norfolk Admirals (18-11-0-1) vs. Bridgeport Sound Tigers (11-14-3-1)
Dates: December 28, 2011 & December 30, 2011
Venue: Norfolk Scope Arena, Norfolk, Virginia
Norfolk statistics | Bridgeport statistics

by Nathan Skytta

Admirals and Sound Tigers Square off at Scope
This week’s matchup between the Admirals and the Sound Tigers features two teams going in opposite directions. The Admirals, who have won two straight and eight of their previous eleven games, entered the winter break in a three-way tie for first place in the AHL’s East Division. Bridgeport, the AHL-affiliate of the New York Islanders, invades Scope having lost six of its last seven and finds itself in last place in the Northeast Division.

Prior to the break, Norfolk upended a pair of East Division rivals on the road. On Saturday, Dec. 17th, the Admirals defeated the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 5-2 at Mohegan Sun Arena. In their last game before the break, Norfolk notched five goals in the third period to erase a two-goal third period deficit and defeated the Hershey Bears 6-3, at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa.

The Sound Tigers invade Scope after defeating the Connecticut Whale, 3-2, at home on Monday night. Prior to their victory on Monday night, the Sound Tigers, who have been decimated by injuries and call-ups to New York, had lost six straight, including five in a row on the road.

This week’s meetings are the only two meetings between the Admirals and Sound Tigers at Scope this season. Norfolk fell to the Sound Tigers, 3-2, on November 5th in the only meeting between the teams this season. Norfolk and Bridgeport will conclude their season series on Sunday, March 11th, in Bridgeport.

Former Players Facing Their Former Teams
In this week’s matchup, Trevor Smith, Norfolk’s current point leader, and Bridgeport’s blue-liner Ty Wishart will face off against their former teams when the Admirals and Sound Tigers square off on Wednesday and Friday nights at Scope.

Smith, who currently leads the Admirals in assists and points, originally signed with the New York Islanders on April 2, 2007. He made his professional debut with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at the end of the 2006-07 campaign. In parts of four seasons with the Sound Tigers, Smith went on to appear in 214 games, registering 72 goals and 77 assists for 149 points. Smith had a breakout year for the Sound Tigers in 2008-09. In 76 games, Smith led the Sound Tigers with a career high in goals (30) and ranked second in points (62). In 2009-10, Smith ranked second in goals (21), third in scoring (47) and tied for third in assists with 26 for the Sound Tigers.

After splitting the 2010-11 season between Syracuse and Springfield, Smith signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Lightning on July 5, 2011. In 30 games as an Admiral, Smith has collected 15 goals to go along with 22 assists for 37 points.

Wishart, who spent parts of three seasons in Norfolk, is in his second season as part of the Islanders organization. Originally selected with the 16th overall pick by the San Jose Sharks in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Wishart joined the Lightning before the 2008-09 season. Along with defenseman Matt Carle and two draft picks, Wishart was acquired by the Lightning on July 4, 2008, in exchange for Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich.

In his three seasons in Norfolk, Wishart compiled 14 goals and 43 assists for 57 points in 168 games. On January 1st, 2011, the Lightning traded Wishart to the Islanders in exchange for netminder Dwayne Roloson.

Wishart appeared in 20 games for the Islanders in 2010-11, notching one goal, including his first NHL goal on February 13, and four assists. The 2007-08 WHL East second-team all-star also collected nine assists in 20 games for the Sound Tigers after the trade.

In 29 games with the Sound Tigers this season, Wishart has tallied one goal to go along with eight assists for nine points.

Admirals Rookies Settling into Roles
Rookies Cory Conacher, Carter Ashton, and Tyler Johnson are becoming accustomed to scoring in just their first year in the AHL.

Conacher, who turned pro last season after graduating college, entered the holiday break leading all AHL rookies in scoring. In his first 29 games as an Admiral, Conacher has collected 18 goals and 17 assists for 35 points. The rookie also is tied for fifth in the AHL with seven power play goals.

Even though is scoring has slowed down since the beginning of the season, Ashton remains ranked in the top of the scoring charts in the AHL. Ashton’s 14 goals and 10 assists leaves him ranked tied for fourth in AHL in rookie scoring. After making his Admirals debut at the end of the 2009-10 season, Ashton spent last season at the junior ranks, where he notched 23 goals in 62 games for Regina and Tri-City. Ashton appeared in a pair of Calder Cup Playoff games for Norfolk.

In his first season at the professional level, Tyler Johnson has notched 12 goals and eight assists for 20 points, leaving him tied for eighth among rookies. Johnson, who scored 53 goals for Spokane of the WHL last season, opened the season with three goals in three games and has tallied at least one point in six of eight games in the month of December, including three game-winning goals.

The trio, who spent the beginning of the season on the same line, have been part of the reason why Norfolk leads the AHL in goals with 112 through just 30 team games.

Admirals Notes
- The Admirals have won two straight and eight of their last eleven games entering the contests with the Sound Tigers
- The Admirals are 18-9-0-0 against the Sound Tigers at Norfolk Scope Arena all-time.
- The Admirals are 11-2-0-0 when scoring first. Norfolk's 0.846 winning percentage when scoring the first goal of the game is tied for third in the AHL.
- Norfolk has won five of 15 games this season when they were trailing entering the third period.
- Former Sound Tiger Trevor Smith leads the Admirals in assists with 22 and points with 37 through 30 games this season.

Sound Tigers Notes
- The Sound Tigers are 2-7-1-1 in their last eleven games overall and are winless in their last seven away from Webster Bank Arena.
- Prior to the Holiday Break, the Sound Tigers suffered back-to-back shutouts, first to Hershey, 5-0, and then to Providence, 2-0.
- Jeremy Colliton leads the Sound Tigers in scoring with 7 goals and 10 assists for 17 points.

The Sound Tigers have lost five straight road games and are winless in their last seven road games (0-5-0-2) … The Admirals lead the AHL with 44 goals in the third period. Norfolk has out-scored its opponents, 44-24, in the third period this season … The Admirals are 11-2-0-0 when scoring first. Norfolk's 0.846 winning percentage when scoring the first goal of the game ranks third in the AHL … A rookie has scored a goal in 28 of Norfolk's first 30 games this season – including each of the last 19 games … Rookie Philip-Michael Devos recorded his first career AHL goal and added two assists for first star honors on December 18 in Hershey. His goal tied the game at 3-3 after the Admirals entered the third period trailing, 3-1 … Norfolk has won five of 15 games this season when they were trailing entering the third period … Mark Barberio is tied for first in the AHL in defense scoring, leads all defensemen in points on the power play and is second overall in AHL plus/minus (+19). Barberio has recorded three goals and 26 points in 28 games this season … Barberio (T-19th) joins Trevor Smith (37 points, T-3rd) and Cory Conacher (35 points, 6th) in the top 20 of AHL scoring … Conacher now leads the entire AHL in goals (18) and remains the AHL's leading rookie scorer … Smith's goal on December 18 in Hershey was his fourth game-winning goal of the season, which is tied for second in the AHL… The goal also extended Smith's point streak to six-games (4G, 8A) … Tyler Johnson has posted three game-winning goals in December (12/03 vs. Adirondack, 12/10 at Binghamton, 12/17 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) … J.T. Wyman made his Lightning debut on December 23 at Colorado, recording two shots and 6:01 of ice time in Tampa Bay's 2-1 overtime loss to the Avalanche.

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