TORONTO – Kyle Calder is on a hot streak with the Toronto Marlies, and that means he might not be around much longer.
Calder scored twice, including the winner on the power play early in the third, as the Toronto Marlies downed the Hershey Bears 3-2 in American Hockey League action Thursday night.
“I’m just staying with it and working hard,” said Calder, who has six goals and ten points in his last night games. “Things are going well right now.”
Calder – property of the Anaheim Ducks, but playing with the Marlies – now has eight goals and 18 points in 24 games this season, a pace that would have him nearing the 50-point mark if he’d played all of Toronto’s 61 games.
“He’s doing everything for us right now,” said Marlies coach Dallas Eakins, who doesn’t expect Calder to be with his club past the NHL’s March 3 trade deadline.
“If a team like Anaheim doesn’t have any use for him, then I don’t know how another NHL team doesn’t pick him up,” said Eakins. “He’s a smart player, he’s getting points for us, he’s killing penalties, he’s a good leader in the room.”
The 31-year-old Calder is a veteran of 590 NHL games with Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Los Angeles and Anaheim.
“I’d love to have him for the rest of the season,” added Eakins. “But I truly hope he gets another (NHL) shot soon.”
Juraj Mikus had the other goal for Toronto (24-27-10), while Christian Hanson and Josh Engel each chipped in with two assists before a crowd of 2,725 at Ricoh Coliseum.
Andrew Joudrey and Steve Pinizzotto replied for Hershey (44-12-2), which, despite the loss, still has the best record in AHL.
Toronto goalie Joey MacDonald was solid against the potent Bears attack, stopping 28 of 30 shots for the victory.
“We had to play a good hockey game,” MacDonald said. “I thought we played pretty well. Got pucks deep, scored some goals and blocked a few shots. That’s what you have to do to win games.”
Eakins’ game plan was to pressure the explosive Hershey forwards, something he figured they haven’t seen much of this season.
“We took the approach that instead of backing up and play a little scared that we’d go the other way,” said Eakins. “We were really physical on their ‘D’ and Hershey’s forwards weren’t getting the puck like they’re used to. They were getting it rough, wobbly and it helped shut them down.”
With Toronto leading 2-1 heading to the third, Hershey took three penalties in the first 5:23, leading to back-to-back 5-on-3 advantages for the Marlies. Calder scored his second of the night off a scramble in front at 5:41 on the Marlies’ second two-man advantage.
Hershey rookie netminder Braden Holtby, who finished with 24 saves, was victimized by Calder on game-winner.
“I had a little bit of time and was able to open up his legs and slide it through,” Calder said.
Pinizzotto’s goal off another scramble at 16:27 made for a tense final few minutes, but the Marlies held on to improve their record when leading after two period this season to 16-0-4.
Joudrey opened the scoring for Hershey at 1:04 of the first period when MacDonald’s stab at the puck went right to the Bears centre in the slot.
Calder tied the game 1-1 at 9:39 when he fired in a rebound off Engel’s point shot.
A generally lacklustre first period continued into the second until a Toronto power play. The Marlies’ Viktor Stalberg found Mikus in the high slot and the defenceman snapped home his fourth of the season at 9:46 to make it 2-1.
Toronto finished the night 2-for-5 on the power play, while Hershey was 0-for-3 with the man advantage.
It was the second game in two days for the Marlies, who travel to Hamilton on Sunday. Hershey’s next game is Saturday at home versus the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Notes: The Marlies game on March 21 against the Abbotsford Heat will be broadcast nationally on CBC and in the U.S. on the NHL Network. Don Cherry will drop the puck and 3,000 Cherry bobblehead dolls will be given away. … Calder has six goals and 10 points in his last nine games. … Hershey linemates Keith Aucoin and Alexandre Giroux are vying to become the first teammates in AHL history to finish 1-2 in scoring in two consecutive seasons. … Hershey has a chance to set AHL records for wins and points in a season, and led the league in power play and penalty killing efficiency entering play Thursday.