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January 30. 2014 11:41PM

Leading teams take AHL stage in Manchester


Division leaders go head-to-head on Elm Street tonight.

The Atlantic Division-leading Manchester Monarchs (28-12-7) host East Division-leader Binghamton (27-13-3) at Verizon Wireless Arena at 7 p.m. The Monarchs will also host St. John's (24-16-3) Saturday at 7 p.m. and close the weekend at Portland (16-16-9) in Lewiston, Maine, Sunday at 1 p.m.

"It's going to be a very challenging weekend for us," Monarchs head coach Mark Morris said. "We're going to have to play our 'A' game and really take advantage of our home ice."

The three-game weekend means Manchester could split time in the net between its rookie goalies J.F. Berube and Mathias Niederberger, who made his first AHL start last weekend in a 4-3 shootout loss at Worcester.

"He played really well. The difference was the shootout and I'm sure that the nerves and everything else associated with your first start had to be a big challenge for him," Morris said of Niederberger. "He's a likable guy and he works hard. That's his first taste of action so hopefully he can build on what he's learned and continue to gain confidence as he sees more time in the net."

Manchester's parent club Los Angeles had some of its developmental coaches and instructors in town earlier this week to help the Monarchs work on the details of their game and keep in line with what the Kings do at the NHL level. "It's just reinforcement of all the skills that we're trying to instill in our players. Skating and positional play, working on stuff like puck protection, stickhandling," Morris said. "The constant follow-up just reinforces all the things we're trying to bring about throughout the organization so there is continuity."

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