Playoff Preview

Over the next few days (and months, we hope) there will be plenty of content on and a large chunk of it will be right here, as “Pilot To Gunner” takes you through the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs. ..

Today out in Sugar Land, the Aeros had a solid practice, their final tune up before tomorrow’s morning skate in anticipation of Game #1 vs. Peoria.  For what it’s worth, the Rivermen will arrive in Houston later today.

The Aeros have so many bodies around right now, with guys like Joel Broda and Pascal Morency back from the ECHL, and fresh-out-of-junior guys like Kris Foucault and Sam Lofquist floating around that they could practically field two teams.  Thus, there are two practices – first, the “black aces” skate and then the guys that figure to contribute early and often in the 2011 postseason go through a normal team practice each day.

I snagged a front row seat for some of the PP work during the “core” practice and boy is there a lot of talent out on the ice – and that’s just with the top PP unit.  Remember, the Aeros have rookie defenseman Jared Spurgeon in the fold again and he and Max Noreau may be paired up along the blue line when the PP is called upon on Wednesday night.

I did a little pre-scout of the Rivermen earlier this week, asking some of my radio colleagues for a little scoop on the Aeros’ first round opponent.  Remember, the Aeros and Rivermen haven’t played each other since mid February, so a lot has changed since then.

Here’s what Milwaukee broadcaster Aaron Sims said the Rivermen used as forward lines for their tilt last weekend (keep in mind that the Rivermen rested a few of their top forwards in Graham Mink and David Spina, although I heard from another “source” that Mink has a lower back injury.

#10 Drazenovic – #7 Hensick – #16 Nesbitt

#14 Barriball – #24 Nigro – #33 Polacek

#18 Della Rovere – #19 Cracknell – #27 Aliu

#15 Cundari – #12 Sonne – #26 Shattock

Saturday was just the 6th pro game for Barriball and the 2nd pro game for Polacek, so I’m not sure how they factor into the Rivermen’s playoff roster.  Plus, Cundari is a defenseman by trade – the Rivermen dressed 7 “D” in their 4-3 loss to Milwaukee, which was their final regular season game.  One thing that without question hurts the Rivermen is the fact that forwards Phil McRae, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves are all ineligible because they weren’t on the team’s “Clear Day” roster.  The reason, you ask – the St. Louis Blues traded away several bodies at the NHL’s trade deadline in exchange for draft picks, thus forcing the three aforementioned players into a larger role with the parent club.

Back to the Aeros for a moment…

Here’s what team captain Jon DiSalvatore had to say on the Frank’s Pizza Post-Game Show on 1070 KNTH following Sunday’s season finale.  Click here.

Also, check out this feature on Matt Kassian.

In the season series, the Aeros finished 2-3-1-0 against the Rivermen, including two shutout losses.  In their two wins, the Aeros scored nine combined goals.  In their four non-wins, they managed just three total goals.  Three players (Robbie Earl, Max Noreau and Jon DiSalvatore) each earned three points in the season series, while Rivermen center T.J. Hensick posted eight points in six games against the Aeros to pace his club.  Keep in mind that these two teams met only twice after January 1, splitting a pair of games.

Also keep in mind that rookie defenseman Kris Fredheim and forward Brandon Buck aren’t on the Aeros’ “Clear Day” roster, so neither are eligible for the playoffs unless there is an injury or suspension to another teammate.

Later on today I’ll be posting a lengthy chat with Aeros’ head coach Mike Yeo and tomorrow, I’ll  share a few thoughts from Rivermen broadcaster Brendan Burke plus have some notes from the morning skate.

– Aero Joe


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