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Home Opener Tonight

Six things you need to know
- Seventeen of the 25 players on the Aeros' Opening Night roster spent at least part of the 2005-06 regular season or playoffs with the Aeros. Included in that list are three-time AHL First-Team D Curtis Murphy, and G Josh Harding, who was named to the 2005-06 AHL All-Star Classic roster but didn't participate due to injury. Harding's 50 wins trail only Frederic Chabot's 126 for the franchise record, and Harding ranks second on the team's ledgers in career gaa (2.33) and first in save pct. (.926).
- Since dropping their first home opener at Toyota Center, 5-2 against Cleveland in 2003-04, the Aeros have won two in a row. Houston defeated San Antonio 6-5 last season behind a hat trick from rookie LW Roman Voloshenko. The Aeros played Grand Rapids in their 1998-99 home opener, defeating the Griffins 4-3 in a shootout.
- The Aeros are 5-5-2 all-time in home openers. Houston is 5-4-3 in season openers, but has won four of its last five season lidlifters. This marks the second straight season the Aeros have opened the slate at Toyota Center, having knocked off San Antonio 6-5 one year ago today.
- As they open their 13th season tonight and bring back the beloved "Bomber" logo, the Aeros honor four members of their inaugural 1994-95 team - Mark Freer, Al Conroy, Graeme Townshend and Steve Jaques. Freer is the team's career leader in virtually all offensive categories. The festivities continue tomorrow, as the Aeros welcome Mr. Hockey (R) Gordie Howe, who starred for the Aeros of the Western Hockey Association in the 1970's after his famous career with the Detroit Red Wings. Howe's No. 9 will go up in the Toyota Center rafters.
- Aeros D Curtis Murphy is one goal away from becoming just the 13th player in team history to score 50 goals. His 49 tie him with Stephane Veilleux for 13th on the team's all-time list. Murphy is the Aeros' all-time leader among defenseman in goals (49), assists (119) and points (168).
- Houston D Erik Reitz is the Aeros' all-time leader in PIM's with 490 since the team moved to the American Hockey League. Only three Aeros have reached the 500-PIM mark in team history - Trent Cull (724), Steve Jaques (634) and Mike Yeo (511).

Griffins at Aeros (Aeros are 27-24-7-2 all-time, Aeros are 15-9-5-2 at Houston)
- Tonight is the 61st all-time meeting between the teams - 32nd for Houston at home.
- Houston took three of the four regular season meetings in 2005-06, but the teams split two games at Toyota Center.
- Nine of the last 12 meetings in the last two seasons have been decided by one goal.
- Grand Rapids beat Houston 6-5 in its last trip to Toyota Center 1/6/06, snapping the Aeros' four-game winning streak in the series. The Griffins scored five goals - all on the power play - in the final period to rally from a 4-1 deficit.
- The winning team has scored six or more goals in each of the last three meetings. This follows a stretch of 12 straight encounters where the winning team didn't score more than three goals in regulation.
- Houston is 5-1-0-2 in the last eight home meetings with the Griffins.
- Aeros LW Roman Voloshenko scored six goals in three games against Grand Rapids last season, including four goals at Toyota Center 10/21.

Scouting the Aeros The Aeros embark on their sixth American Hockey League season and 13th overall...D Curtis Murphy is the team's leading returning scorer with 67 points (14-53=67)...LW Roman Voloshenko had a great rookie campaign with 60 points (33-27=60) in 69 games, and he tied a team record with 20 PPG...RW Matt Foy was sixth on the roster last season with 40 points (15-25=40)...Many of the 18 returnees were just with the Aeros briefly at the end of the season, including Minnesota's first-round pick in 2005, LW Benoit Pouliot, and RW Danny Irmen...G Josh Harding returns to begin his third season, and was 29-8-0 with a 2.68 gaa last season...His .922 save pct. tied for first in the AHL...G Miroslav Kopriva went 6-4-1 with a 3.52 gaa and a .890 save pct...The Aeros also have veteran G Steve Shields, who missed most of last season due to injuries, and rookie G Tony Quesada, who starred at Holy Cross for four seasons.

Scouting the Griffins Grand Rapids (0-0-0-1) opened the 2006-07 campaign with a 5-4 overtime loss in San Antonio last night...While the Aeros retained 17 players for this season, Grand Rapids returns just eight...The Griffins' top six scorers are all gone, and their leading returning scorer is RW Darryl Bootland, who posted 56 points (27-29=56) while accumulating a whopping 390 PIM's...D Kyle Quincey notched 33 points (7-26=33) last season and is the leading returnee on the blueline, a year after placing second among Griffins rookies in scoring...AHL All-Rookie G Jimmy Howard does return after racking up a 27-6-2 mark and a 2.58 gaa in 2005-06...He'll share time with G Stefan Liv, Detroit's fourth-round pick in 2000 who who has played most of the last seven seasons in the Swedish Elite League.

2006-07 meetings (1st of 4 meetings) Tonight Grand Rapids at Houston October 20 Houston at Grand Rapids October 21 Houston at Grand Rapids November 26 Grand Rapids at Houston

Quick Hits
- Houston enters tonight's game having scored 2,998 regular season goals in 973 games in franchise history. The Aeros have accumulated a 505-343-104-21 mark in 12 seasons.
- The Aeros went 1-1-0-0 in two pre-season games against San Antonio. RW Matt Foy tallied two goals and an assist in a 5-4 shootout win at Sugar Land Ice & Sports Center, while C Alex Leavitt notched his second goal in as many nights in the second game, a 4-2 loss in San Antonio.

It's "Hards" to get anything by him
- Aeros G Josh Harding is expected to get his third straight Opening Night start tonight, after getting assigned earlier this week by the Minnesota Wild.
- Harding is 1-1-0 in season openers.
- The third-year pro is 35-8-2 in his last 45 regular season decisions and 15-2-0 in his last 17.
- Harding excels at Toyota Center, where he has a 29-8-2 career mark with a 2.31 gaa (90 gaa, 2341 minutes).

From here to there
- The Aeros have eight representatives on the Minnesota Wild's 22-man Opening Night roster, including RW Pierre-Marc Bouchard, C Mikko Koivu and D Kurtis Foster.
- Other notable Aeros alumni in the NHL this season are Colorado C Brett McLean, Dallas G Mike Smith and Phoenix D Zbynek Michalek.

October struggles at home
- October is historically the Aeros' worst month at home. They are 23-22-7 for a .510 points percentage in October.
- Since moving to Toyota Center in 2003, Houston is 5-5-2-0 at home in October.

Draft Notes
- The Aeros feature 16 draft picks on their 25-man roster, including three first-rounders, a pair of second-rounders and three third-rounders.
- Houston's first-round picks are LW Benoit Pouliot (No. 4 overall by Minnesota in 2005), D Peter Ratchuk (No. 25 overall by Colorado in 1996) and D Shawn Belle (No. 30 overall by Dallas in 2003).

Not short on experience
- The Aeros have 10 players who have a combined 549 games of NHL experience.
- Those with NHL time range from G Steve Shields, with 246 games, to D Curtis Murphy, with one.
- Four of Houston's 10 with NHL experience have played with the Wild - G Josh Harding, D Curtis Murphy, D Erik Reitz and RW Matt Foy.

Power play update
- Houston finished the 2005-06 season with a 20.0 percent power play percentage, tied for second in the AHL.
- Grand Rapids ranked 12th in the AHL on the penalty kill last season at 83.1 percent.

Penalty kill update
- Houston ranked tied for eighth in the league last season on the penalty kill at 83.4 percent.
- Grand Rapids finished the 2005-06 season first in the AHL on the power play at 21.8 percent.

Aeros/Griffins connections
- Griffins D Jason Beckett played the 2003-04 season with the Aeros, totaling 11 points (4-7=11) and 168 PIM's in 72 games. Beckett also played with Aeros C Bryan Lundbohm (2001-03) and C Wyatt Smith (2002-03) in AHL Milwaukee.
- Grand Rapids LW Brock Radunske and D Kyle Quincey, and Aeros assistant coach Cam Stewart each hail from Kitchener, Ont.
- Aeros C Alex Leavitt and Griffins C Matt Hussey were teammates the University of Wisconsin in 2001-02.
- Houston RW Matt Foy and Grand Rapids C Evan McGrath are both from Oakville, Ont.
- Houston D Ryan Stokes played 13 games for OHL Barrie in 2002-03. The Colts' leading scorer that season was Grand Rapids C Eric Himelfarb. Stokes also played the 2003-04 OHL season alongside Griffins D Kyle Quincey, in Mississauga.
- Grand Rapids C Himelfarb and Houston RW Joel Ward each hail from Toronto, Ont.
- Griffins RW Brendan Brooks teamed with Aeros assistant coach Matt Shaw, then Quad Cities' head coach, to win the UHL's regular-season title with the Mallards in the 1999-2000 season.
- Aeros D Curtis Murphy and Griffins D Nick Naumenko were teammates at the University of North Dakota from 1994-96.
- Grand Rapids assistant coach Jim Paek had two stints with the Aeros, in 1995-96 and 1998-99, totaling 10 points (2-8=10) in 36 games.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Admirals squander lead, lose opener in OT

The Norfolk Admirals saw their American Hockey League season opener spoiled by a big Philadelphia comeback Friday night. The host Phantoms rallied for a 5-4 overtime victory.

Carl Corazzini scored two short-handed goals and Craig MacDonald had three assists to give the Admirals a 4-1 lead midway through the second period. But Philadelphia came back behind Stefan Ruzicka, who netted the final three goals -- the last two in dramatic fashion.

With the Admirals poised to win in regulation, Ruzicka got behind the defense and beat goalie Sebastien Caron to square the game at 4 with 15 seconds remaining. Then, just 15 seconds into overtime, Ruzicka took a pass from Marty Murray and scored the winner.

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Marlies blank Crunch

New Toronto coach Greg Gilbert must have liked what he saw in his first game behind the bench: a Marlies squad that outworked their opponents all game long.

The Marlies opened their American Hockey League season Friday by beating the Syracuse Crunch 6-0 at Ricoh Coliseum.

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Falcons sign center Jared Aulin to PTO

Springfield, MA - The Springfield Falcons, proud members of the American Hockey League, announced today they have signed center Jared Aulin to a Professional Tryout Agreement. Per club policy, terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

Aulin spent the 2005-06 season with the Calder Cup Champion Hershey Bears collecting 11 goals and 28 assists for 39 points in 61 games played. The 6-foot, 192-pound native of Calgary, Alberta spent the 2004-05 campaign with the Portland Pirates also registering 11 goals and 28 assists for 39 points in 65 games played.

Aulin was originally drafted by the Colorado Avalanche (second round, 47th overall) in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. After five seasons with the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League in which he collected 256 career points in 230 games, Aulin made his pro debut with the Manchester Monarchs and Los Angeles Kings during the 2002-03 season.

The Falcons open their 2006-07 season on Saturday, October 7 when they travel to Hartford to take on the Wolf Pack at 7:00 PM. Fans can listen to "The Voice" of the Falcons, John Michael, on The Zone Sports Radio 640 AM or watch through the B-2 Network all season long. The Falcons are currently accepting deposits on full, half, and 10-game season ticket packages for the 2006-07 season, in addition to 40 and 10-Flex Packs. For more information regarding season ticket information, contact the Falcons office at 413-739-3344.
 

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P-Bruins Begin Regular Season Tonight

Providence, RI - The Providence Bruins, member of the American Hockey League, will begin their 2006-07 regular season schedule tonight as they travel to the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine to take on the Portland Pirates at 7:05 p.m.

Every Providence Bruins game this season can be heard on the P-Bruins broadcast network with their new flagship station WLKW AM-1450 or their affiliates WNBH AM-1340, WQRI FM-88.3, WNRI AM-1380 or WBLQ FM-96.9. Games can also be watched and heard on the web courtesy of B2 Networks. Go to providencebruins.com to watch or listen. The pre-game show begins at 6:50 p.m.

The Providence Bruins' home opener for the 2006-07 season is October 13 versus the Worcester Sharks at 7:05 p.m. at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. Information on the home opener and Providence Bruins season ticket packages for the upcoming 2006-07 regular season can be obtained by calling the team ticket office at (401) 273-5000 or by logging onto providencebruins.com.
 

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Senators look to avoid repeat of last season's dreadful start Season opens tonight

Last season opened with a crushing thud.

The Binghamton Senators gave up a tying goal at Philadelphia with 2.2 seconds left in regulation, then lost in overtime, kickstarting a 1-7-1-1 tailspin to open the regular season.

A year later, they're looking to start off on a decidedly better note, and in the process, ruin a couple of homecomings.

"After we missed playoffs by seven points there last year, we kind of realized that bad start really killed us," said Binghamton goalie Kelly Guard, who will start tonight. "So a good start's really important. (It'll) give us some good breathing room if we ever need it."

The B-Sens will open their fifth American Hockey League season tonight when they host Syracuse at 7:05 p.m. at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.

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Wolves looking to get back on playoff track

After an unprecedented absence, the Wolves are back on the prowl for the playoffs. And the American Hockey League team is pinning its hopes on a collection of veteran forwards to reach that goal.

"We will have some of the best scorers in this league," said Wolves goaltender Michael Garnett, who was 15-12 with a 3.36 goals-against average last season. "And I believe we will be improved defensively, too. I certainly plan to play better."

Derek MacKenzie, Darren Haydar, Cory Larose, Kyle Wanvig and Steve Martins give head coach John Anderson plenty of offensive firepower at his disposal. Anderson said he also saw better goaltending during the Wolves' 4-1 preseason.

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He's getting noticed

Some might say Patrick Coulombe had an unfair advantage when it came to attending Vancouver Canucks training camp.

Being on the ice and training with one of the great young players in the National Hockey League for a couple weeks is a sure-fire way to help you feel comfortable.

And the fact you spent two seasons playing on the same power play with Sidney Crosby on the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League tells you all you need to know about Coulombe's skill level.

"When you play with the exceptional guy, you just want to elevate your level," said Coulombe, who was among the final cuts at Canucks camp, despite being on an American Hockey League contract with the Manitoba Moose. "This summer I practiced with Sidney in Rimouski for two weeks and that helped a little bit."

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Lack of discipline bags Moose

This ship is far from sinking, but an ailing power play is far from the only concern.

BULLDOGS 5 MOOSE 3

An inability to hold the lead and a lack of discipline during the second period proved costly as the Manitoba Moose dropped a 5-3 decision to the Hamilton Bulldogs before a crowd of 4,463 at Copps Coliseum in American Hockey League action last night.

"It's like they say about the hole on the ship there -- you plug one thing up and another (comes up)," said Moose head coach Scott Arniel, noting his penalty killing unit, along with his power play, needs work. "We came out in the second period and took all those (six) consecutive penalties. Our D got worn down and our penalty killers got worn down. We want to stay ahead of the curve on penalties and tonight, we didn't do a very good job of that."

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Abid, Haydar set to play for former foe

Any connection between Ramzi Abid and Darren Haydar is purely coincidental but, like it or not, their names are likely to be mentioned in the same sentence quite often in the months ahead.

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Tlusty makes Syracuse pay for early Crunch

Jiri Tlusty's professional career almost ended before it started.

Sent flying in the first period after a dangerous open-ice hip-on-knee check, the Maple Leafs' top draft choice this summer evened the score in the second period with a nifty power-play goal to help the Marlies cruise to a 6-0 victory in their American Hockey League season opener against the Syracuse Crunch.

Tlusty raced into the open ice at the Crunch blue line and received a perfect pass from defenceman Dominic D'Amour. His quick snap shot easily beat Tomas Popperle low to the stick side to give the Marlies a 3-0 lead at the 5:14 mark.

"That's Jiri, if he gets the puck inside the box he's golden," Marlies head coach Greg Gilbert said of Tlusty. "He's got that great ability to find that hole and finish plays off. He's gifted offensively."

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B-Sens Scouting Report

* Matchup: Syracuse Crunch vs. Binghamton Senators, 7:05 tonight, Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.

* Tickets: $16 sides/$15 ends. Opening-weekend packages ($28 sides/$27 ends) also available. Call 722-7367.

* Affiliations: Syracuse is the American Hockey League affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Binghamton has been affiliated with the Ottawa Senators since 2002.

* Season series: First meeting.

* Goalies: Syracuse: Tomas Popperle and Ty Conklin will start the season as the goaltending tandem. Popperle posted a 2.18 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in 31 games last season in Germany. Conklin spent 18 games with the NHL's Edmonton Oilers last season, posting a 2.80 GAA. He also played three games for the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs and five for the Hartford Wolf Pack. Binghamton: Kelly Guard (25-19-1, 3.08 GAA, .908 save percentage for B-Sens last season) will start tonight.

* Crunch slap shots: Syracuse has 15 players returning, including right wing Joe Motzko, who had 27 goals last season. Left wing Mark Hartigan, who led Syracuse with 34 goals and 75 points last season, started this season in Columbus. Defenseman Andy Delmore, who ranked second on the team in points last season with 72, is now with the AHL's Springfield Falcons.

* Senators slap shots: Center Serge Payer (knee) left practice early Friday after crashing into the boards. He said afterward he expects to play tonight. ... Binghamton will open the season with a 21-man roster, including nine players back from last season. ... Syracuse won last season's series, going 5-2-1-0 against the B-Sens.

* Etc.: Tonight's game will be aired on a new radio station, COOL 100 (WCDW-FM 100.5, 95.1 and 104.5). ... There will be an opening night block party from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. today at the Arena, with food, games, face painting, hair coloring and live music from Odd Man Out.

* Up next: Binghamton hosts Bridgeport at 5:05 p.m. Sunday.
 

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Sound Tigers will rely on defense

When Wade Dubielewicz looks up-ice this year, he probably won't have many worries about the defensemen in front of him. The Bridgeport Sound Tigers were known for strong defense corps in their first few seasons, and that tradition appears to return this year. "It's going to be different, especially after the last few years, when we had a lot of young guys," Dubielewicz said. "We're going back to my first year, when we had a lot of vets."

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San Antonio ends Griffins' streak in road openers

A Grand Rapids comeback from a three-goal deficit wasn't enough to produce a victory in the Griffins' season opener.

San Antonio's Daniel Winnik scored an unassisted goal 3:18 into overtime Friday night to give the Rampage a 5-4 victory over Grand Rapids at the AT&T Center.

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Bulldogs take down Moose

It's only one win but Hamilton Bulldogs fans haven't had much of a chance to be excited about their team this early in the season in a while.

The Dogs beat the Manitoba Moose 5-3 last night in their season opener at Copps Coliseum.

The victory snapped a three-game losing streak in American Hockey League season-openers for the Dogs.

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Wolf Pack Have A Fresh Look

The motto sounds simple: 10 Years, One Mission.

But when the Wolf Pack open their 10th season tonight against the Springfield Falcons, they'll face a daunting challenge.

The Pack have won the most games in the AHL (368) and are the only franchise to make the playoffs every year since replacing the Whalers as the Civic Center's hockey tenant.

They have been a team whose players' abilities were known, from longtime captain-turned-assistant coach Ken Gernander to league and playoff MVPs Derek Armstrong and Jason LaBarbera to high-scoring Brad Smyth to Marc Savard, now with the Boston Bruins.

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Nycholat takes over as Hershey's captain

Lawrence Nycholat knows he has a big initial to fill as the successor to Boyd Kane as captain of the Hershey Bears.

Kane, now playing for the Philadelphia Flyers, captained Hershey to the Calder Cup last season and the Phantoms to the AHL title in 2004-05.

"I'm pretty excited about it, and I hope I do a good job," Nycholat said yesterday after Bears head coach Bruce Boudreau announced the defenseman had gotten the captain's nod. "We had a great captain here last year. I'm just going to try keeping it going."

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Aeros have holes to fill

In his final season with the Western Hockey League's Lethbridge Hurricanes in 1994, Rob Daum's team produced only 22 victories and a .319 winning percentage.

Not a banner year to say the least.

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First test for new Monarchs regime

The presentation will be familiar tonight at Verizon Wireless Arena when the Manchester Monarchs open the season against the Worcester Sharks. It might even be a little bit flashier.

The product on the ice will still be good. Maybe the players are a little bit younger, but they are certainly supposed to have plenty of talent.

That means nothing really will be different for most fans when the most popular team in the American Hockey League opens the curtain on its sixth season. The names may change, but the fun and games remains the same.

It’s way behind the scenes that is no longer the same for the Monarchs. Changes made at the top, all the way out in Los Angeles with the team’s parent NHL club, have had a trickle-down effect that may not be fully felt here for a while.

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