By Brian Weidler, "Game Time" Prospect Department
BISHOP, RIVERMEN COME BACK STRONG FROM AHL ALL-STAR BREAK:
All three AHL ASG participants have solid weeks as Rivs win a pair of division games.
Ben Bishop began his week by taking the Top Goaltender and MVP awards at the 2012 AHL All-Star Game, and finished it off with a pair of outstanding performances against division rivals to keep the Peoria Rivermen solidly in the hunt for an AHL playoff berth.
On Friday, Feb. 3, Bishop turned aside 24 of 26 shots by the Milwaukee Admirals to help lead Peoria to a 4-2 win, and the following night, against their arch-rival Chicago, Bishop and the Rivermen ended the Wolves' four-game win streak with a 4-1 win.
But it wasn't just Bishop who followed up a solid All-Star performance with a good week as the Rivermen returned to regular-season play and the AHL playoff chase. Veteran forward TJ Hensick, who scored a late goal in the third period of the All-Star Game and a shootout goal that sealed the West's 8-7 comeback win, chipped in three assists in Peoria's pair of wins over the weekend to remain among the league scoring leaders.
And rookie defenseman Cade Fairchild continued his memorable rookie pro year. After being honored with a starting assignment in the All-Star Game, where he chipped in an assist, Fairchild contributed another assist during the Rivs' two wins this weekend. Fairchild also was a plus-3 for the weekend, adding to his league-leading plus-24 total.
Veterans up front helped power the Rivs to their two wins on Friday and Saturday. Derek Nesbitt scored twice this week, including the game winner on Saturday against Chicago. Brett Sterling chipped in a goal and an assist, while Adam Cracknell scored twice and added a helper, and former NHL 50-goal man Jonathan Cheechoo had a four-point week with three goals (two vs. Milwaukee, including the game winner) and an assist.
Cheechoo and Cracknell were both plus-5 for the week, while Fairchild and Ian Cole led the defensemen with plus-3 marks.
BLUES MAY BE SHOPPING BISHOP, BUT THEY WON'T SELL HIM CHEAP:
The Blues aren't saying what their plans are with Ben Bishop, per Doug Armstrong in this article in the Peoria Journal Star by Rivs' beat writer Dave Eminian... but if the Blues do intend to trade Bishop, the potential return gets better and better with every passing day.
Bishop's All-Star performance earned him the Top Goaltender award in the Skills Competition and MVP of the All-Star Game, and his performance this week will only raise his stock as the Blues explore their options with the pending free agent.
Bishop's two wins this week give him an AHL-leading 20 wins for the season, and his six shutouts also lead the league. His current goals-against average of 2.30 is seventh in the league (and he has played at least 200 more minutes than anyone ahead of him in that category), and his save percentage of 92.8% is tied for second in the league with Dov Grumet-Moris of the San Antonio Rampage, who has faced just over half as many shots (583) as Bishop has seen (1008) so far this year.
THE WEEK IN REVIEW:
Peoria 4 at Milwaukee 2, Friday, Feb. 3, 2012.
Peoria 4 at Chicago 1, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012.
THE WEEK AHEAD:
Friday, February 10, 2012 ... Game Time 7:00 PM CST at Carver Arena, Peoria, IL. NHL Affiliate: Colorado Avalanche.
Saturday, February 11, 2012 ... Game Time 7:00 PM CST at Carver Arena, Peoria IL. NHL Affiliate: Carolina Hurricanes.
RIVERMEN NEWS LINKS:
02/03/12 -- Cheechoo nets pair as Rivermen rally past Admirals, 4-2 (Peoria Journal Star).
02/04/12 -- Rivermen beat back the Wolves (Peoria Journal-Star).