Saturday, Feb. 18 | 7:00 p.m. | HEB Center
Reverse this Curse
Following Friday night’s 4-3 overtime setback against the Texas Stars, the Chicago Wolves are still in search of their first victory at HEB Center in three seasons. Their winless streak stretched to seven games with Friday’s loss, and they’ve been outscored 26-14 in those contests. The Wolves’ push for a sweep against Pacific Division competitors also was dashed; Chicago comes into tonight’s game with a 5-0-1-0 record with two games to play.
The Chicago Wolves have had a bevy of roster moves, dating back to Jan. 26 when the St. Louis Blues first recalled 22-year-old Ivan Barbashev. Barbashev made a quick return to the American Hockey League — skating in one game on Jan. 28 with the club — before heading back to the National Hockey League. On Super Bowl Sunday, Kenny Agostino — the AHL’s leading scorer — and Magnus Paajarvi were recalled from loan by the Blues. The Wolves lost another weapon on Valentine’s Day when center Wade Megan was recalled from loan. Following the Wolves game on Feb. 7, rookie forward Conner Bleackley was sidelined due to injury. In the wake of those transactions, Chicago welcomed ECHLers Josh Brittain, Ty Loney and Steven McParland, as well as veteran NHL defenseman James Wisniewski. Wisniewski has not seen NHL action since October 2015 when he skated in the season’s opening game with the Carolina Hurricanes. Wisniewski incurred a season-ending knee injury and Carolina bought out his contract in June 2016. But, wait, there’s more. Rookie forward Mackenzie MacEachern also missed Friday night’s game due to injury. Forward Emerson Clark fell ill prior to Friday’s game, so veteran ECHL forward Greger Hanson made the three-hour drive from Allen to Cedar Park to skate as the Wolves’ 20th man in the lineup. Megan was also returned on loan to the Wolves prior to Friday’s contest, but could not get to Texas in time for the game. Bleackley also returned to the lineup.
Between injuries and recalls, the Chicago Wolves have been doing the best they can with their available players. That has required a number of defenders to jump up to the wing position. The latest members of the blue-line wingers club are Petteri Lindbohm, Jared Nightingale and James Wisniewski. For some, playing an offensive positions isn’t all that new; Wisniewski did not skate as a full-time defenseman until he was 14. The club president is Scooter Vaughan, who began the season as a defenseman and jumped into the bottom-six offensive core from time to time. Now, Vaughan has earned himself a full-time forward position. Vaughan also has spent the majority of his career switching between defensive and offensive positions.
BY THE NUMBERS
- 4: Greger Hanson, the latest addition to the Wolves roster, lost three teeth on Friday night when he was cross-checked in the face by Matt Mangene, who received a match penalty for the incident. Hanson did return to the bench and finished his Wolves debut with one shot on net. Hanson came to Chicago from the Allen Americans of the ECHL, where he leads the team in goals (29) and ranks second in team scoring (62). The 29-year-old also skated at the American Hockey League level earlier this season with the San Diego Gulls for five games. Over the course of the Sweden native’s five-year North American professional career, Hanson has skated for nine teams across three leagues, including the defunct Central Hockey League. Hanson is a two-time Kelly Cup champion (2015, 2016) with the Americans, and he was selected as the 2015 Kelly Cup Playoffs MVP. Prior to Allen’s transition to the ECHL, Hanson was with the club when they capped their CHL tenure with the league’s top prize, the Ray Miron President’s Cup in 2014. Hanson does get to skate with a familiar face as his Allen teammate Josh Brittain signed a PTO with the Wolves on Feb. 16.
- 7: Forward Andrew Agozzino — who dons the No. 9 sweater — rejoins the Chicago Wolves lineup tonight after serving a one-game suspension he incurred for an illegal check to the head on Feb. 12 against the San Antonio Rampage at Allstate Arena. With two of the Wolves’ top scorers skating in the National Hockey League, Chicago will welcome the return of its fourth-leading scorer. Through 48 games with the Wolves, the 26-year-old has 11 goals and 21 assists for 32 points.
- 17: Rookie left wing Samuel Blais netted his 17th tally of the season Friday night. Coupled with an assist on Ty Loney’s third-period game-tying goal, Blais is tied with defenseman Vince Dunn for the team lead in rookie scoring with 27 points. The 20-year-old Blais — four months Dunn’s elder — holds the tie-breaker as he leads the nine-man first-year class in goal scoring with his 17 markers. Blais and Dunn both rank sixth in overall team scoring while Blais is fourth in goal-scoring among Chicago skaters. With the absence of two of the Wolves’ top three scorers — Kenny Agostino and Ivan Barbashev — Blais has been playing left wing on the top line with fellow Quebec native Jordan Caron and either Andrew Agozzino or Wade Megan at center. Both Agozzino and Megan are slated for the Wolves lineup tonight.
- 25: Goaltender Jordan Binnington made 25 saves in Friday night’s 4-3 overtime setback against the Texas Stars at HEB Center. The 23-year- old turned aside four shots in the overtime before the Stars’ Nick Ebert capitalized on the power play with 26 seconds left. The contest marked Binnington’s third start in 10 games. However, it was his first loss in his last three starts. Until recently, Binnington has been serving as the Wolves’ third netminder while Pheonix Copley and Ville Husso rotated starts. On Feb. 10 against the San Antonio Rampage, rookie Husso played just over five minutes before leaving the game due to injury. Binnington has stepped back into the top tandem with Husso sidelined.
- 216: The Chicago Wolves penalty killers worked overtime last night. During the five-minute extra session, the Wolves’ short-handed special- teams units killed off 3:36 — or 216 seconds — of a double-minor high- sticking penalty to rookie Steve McParland. The Wolves gave up just one goal while skating a man short, but the Stars’ 30th-ranked penalty kill was better as it stopped all three Chicago man-advantages. With its performance, the Texas penalty kill moved from 30th to 29th, leapfrogging the Manitoba Moose. Conversely, the Wolves’ power play dipped below 20 percent for the first time in 16 games.
RECENT GAME REWIND
- The Wolves fell to the Stars for the seventh consecutive game at HEB Center.
- Chicago thrice rallied from one-goal deficits with tallies from Samuel Blais, Morgan Ellis and Ty Loney.
- Goaltender Jordan Binnington made 25 saves — four in overtime – in the loss.
- Chicago beat San Antonio for its first season-series sweep versus the Rampage.
- Defenseman James Wisniewski netted the game- winner late in the third period.
Defenseman Petteri Lindbohm (G, A) and center Wade Megan (2A) each put up two points in the victory. Goaltender Jordan Binnington made 32 saves in his first start since Jan. 22.
Saturday night’s game begins at 7:00 p.m. with CW50’s “Saturday Night with the Wolves,” presented by the Illinois Office of Tourism.