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AHL schedule 2012: Syracuse and San Antonio open seasons this weekend

The Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning's AHL affiliates the Syracuse Crunch and the San Antonio Rampage open their season this weekend. Who are some prospects to watch?

The new AHL affiliate for the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Syracuse Crunch, open the 2012-13 AHL season on Friday night, playing on the road against the Rochester Americans, the affiliate of the Buffalo Sabers. After that game the Crunch play their home opener on Saturday against the Hershey Bears, the affiliate of the Washington Capitals.

Some players to watch on the Crunch for the Lightning include center Vladislav Namestnikov and left wing Ondrej Palat. Namestnikov is coming off a season where he scored 71 points in 63 games for the OHL's London Knights. Palat is coming off his rookie season in the AHL helping lead the Norfolk Admirals to the AHL's Calder Cup, averaging 0.5 points per game.

The Florida Panthers' AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, will play their first two games at home this season starting on Saturday against the Texas Stars, the affiliate of the Dallas Stars. On Sunday, the Rampage will play the Houston Aeros, the affiliate of the Minnesota Wild.

Top prospects to look at for the Panthers include goaltender Jacob Markstrom. Markstrom is a 6'6 goaltender that has the quickness from his butterfly style of goaltending to play in the NHL. Defenseman Alex Petrovic, last year's WHL defenseman of the year, combines physical play with a rocket shot from the point and helped elevate the Rampage's special teams play during their playoff run last season.

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.