By Bill Hoppe
BUFFALO — For about three months last season, David Leggio and Drew MacIntyre split time tending goal for the Rochester Americans, neither one impressing enough to earn regular duty.
Then, two starts the first weekend in January jumpstarted Leggio’s season. First, the Williamsville native stopped 42 shots during a win in Binghamton. He made 49 saves in a shootout loss in Hershey the next night, earning the Amerks’ No. 1 job.
Leggio played 35 more games the rest of the regular season, making 26 straight appearances at one point.
On Friday, the same day the Sabres brought back AHL scoring star Mark Mancari, they re-signed Leggio to a one-year deal. He should begin the season as the Amerks’ top goalie and the organization’s No. 3 netminder.
“The turnaround was the weekend we played Binghamton and Hershey,” Leggio told the Gazette by phone Friday. “I really wasn’t playing much. … From there, I think I just earned some confidence from coach (Ron) Rolston. It snowballed into more quality starts.
“Fortunately for me, I was able to put together some really good games consecutively and gain that confidence of coach Rolston.”
Leggio finished his second full AHL season 28-24-2 with a 2.63 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 54 games.
The 27-year-old St. Joe’s graduate has always seized his opportunities at various level of professional hockey. He dazzled in the ECHL, won a championship in Finland’s top league and kept Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth on the bench during the 2011 postseason in Portland.
If Leggio keeps performing well, he could earn an NHL recall.
“If I get a recall, taking advantage of the opportunity is definitely a goal of mine,” Leggio said. “Not just getting called up and maybe getting a game. But if I get called up, I want show that I can play in the NHL.”
Leggio said he had some interest from other teams. He found out Thursday the Sabres wanted him back.
“I was really hoping to re-sign with Buffalo,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mancari is returning to the Sabres, who drafted him 207th overall in 2004, on a one-year deal. The winger is likely headed to Rochester, where he played his first three professional seasons.
The 26-year-old spent last season with the Vancouver organization, which paid him $525,000 on a one-way contract. He played six scoreless games with the Canucks and had 30 goals and 58 points in 69 games with their AHL affiliate in Chicago.
Despite being an elite AHL scorer – Mancari has 181 goals and 419 points in 487 games since 2005-06 – he’s done little in the NHL, recording only three goals and 13 points in 42 contests.
Mancari played a career-high 20 games with the Sabres in 2010-11, getting regular duty down the stretch. He dominated the AHL that season, scoring 32 goals and 64 points in 58 appearances with Portland.
In other Amerks news, it appears Leggio’s roommate, winger Derek Whitmore, a Rochester native, might be finished with the Buffalo organization after four full years.
Whitmore, who has 73 AHL goals over the last three seasons, including a team-high 28 last year, when he earned a two-game recall to the Sabres, hasn’t received an offer from the club.
“They haven’t really made an overture to sign him,” said Stephen Bartlett, Whitmore’s agent. “At this point, we’re exploring other options.”
Whitmore hasn’t moved up the depth chart much as his goal totals increased each season. He was the fifth forward summoned last season when injuries ravaged the Sabres.