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Wolves Roundup: Dec. 4-10, 2017

Welcome to Wolves Roundup, a weekly report of highlights, notes and transactions from the Chicago Wolves’ previous week of competition during the 2017-18 season.

Central Division Shuffle

The Chicago Wolves are still looking to claw their way up the Central Division standings. This week, the team has a chance to earn meaningful points with four games in six days — all against Central Division rivals.

First on the docket is the Wolves’ in-state nemesis, the Rockford IceHogs. The teams will meet on Tuesday, Dec. 12, for the fourth of 12 Illinois Lottery Cup games this season. Right now, despite the fact both teams have earned four points in their series, Rockford holds a 2-1 lead in the Illinois Lottery Cup standings because it claimed both games that went into overtime.

Though the IceHogs are not invincible, they will be a hearty test for the Wolves — Rockford stands second in the Central Division. The IceHogs also are riding a four-game winning streak with victories against the Grand Rapids Griffins (2), Texas Stars (1) and Wolves (1).

The Wolves kick off a 3-in-3 weekend and wrap up a four-game road trip on Friday, Dec. 15, against the Griffins. Chicago and Grand Rapids already have met three times this year and the Griffins lead the series with a 2-1-0-0 record. However, the Wolves’ lone win came at Van Andel Arena on Nov. 3 and was the team’s first of two shutouts this year. But in the games Wolves didn’t shut out the Griffins, Grand Rapids has netted five goals en route to victory.

The Iowa Wild return to Allstate Arena on Saturday, Dec. 16, and the Wolves will seek revenge for the 6-4 loss they suffered on Nov. 26. The game wasn’t a total wash for Chicago as Wade Megan netted his first two goals of the season and Teemu Pulkkinen snapped a 10-game goal drought.

Chicago finishes the week against the Milwaukee Admirals on Sunday, Dec. 17, in a game that will be simulcast on the NHL Network. The Wolves’ most-frequent opponent early in the season — having played four games from Oct. 28 to Nov. 24 — the clubs haven’t met since.

This year, Milwaukee leads the series with a 3-1-0-0 record. However, the Wolves trailed last year’s series 0-1-1-1 and, after earning their first series win on Dec. 10, 2016, the Wolves went on to take the series 7-3-1-1.

The 2016-17 series was tightly contested with two shutouts, four games needing extra time and five games decided by a single goal.

Top Line

Conner Bleackley

The 21-year-old rejoined the Wolves on Wednesday and skated in all three games last week. While Bleackley was held off the scoreboard, he did earn a +3 plus/minus rating and collect eight shots on goal. A natural center, the Alberta native was a helpful addition in the faceoff circle as he won nearly 62 percent of his draws.

Michael Leighton

The 14-year American Hockey League veteran earned his league-record 50th career shutout on Saturday in the Chicago Wolves’ 3-0 victory over the Cleveland Monsters at Quicken Loans Arena. The win also marked Leighton’s first victory with the Wolves since he arrived on Nov. 21.

Kevin Lough

On Tuesday, the Chicago Wolves signed the 25-year-old defenseman who had one American Hockey League game under his belt. In just his second career game on Wednesday, the Lough earned his first two professional points — a pair of assists — in the Wolves 3-1 victory over the San Diego Gulls. On Friday, the Colgate University gradute earned his third point in two games with another assist against the Cleveland Monsters.

Paul Thompson

The New Hampshire native continues to lead his team by example. On Saturday, the captain collected two points — a goal and assist — en route to a 3-0 victory for the Chicago Wolves. He created the play on his goal by intercepting a Cleveland pass and dishing the puck to Beau Bennett. Bennett then returned the pass as Thompson was rushing up the slot for the tip-in. The 29-year-old ranks third in team scoring (7G, 7A).


Saturday, Dec. 9 Chicago 3, (at) Cleveland 0

  • Chicago bested Cleveland in the second of back-to-back games at Quicken Loans Arena.
  • Goaltender Michael Leighton made 24 saves for his AHL milestone 50th career shutout and his first win in a Wolves sweater.
  • Forward Tobias Lindberg netted his first goal of the season while center Wade Megan and captain Paul Thompson also tallied.

Friday, Dec. 8 (at) Cleveland 3, Chicago 2

  • The Wolves’ rally fell short against the Monsters at Quicken Loans Arena.
  • Defenseman Griffin Reinhart netted his first two goals of the season in the loss.
  • Goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo posted 23 saves.

Wednesday, Dec. 6 (at) Chicago 3, San Diego 1

  • The Wolves netted three consecutive goals for their first victory against San Diego since 1995.
  • Forwards Ivan Barbashev, Beau Bennett and Tyler Wong all scored in the win.
  • Rookie defenseman Kevin Lough earned his first two AHL points in his Wolves debut.
  • Goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo made 15 saves for his fourth victory of the season.

On Deck

Tuesday, Dec. 12 at Rockford BMO Harris Bank Center 7 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 15 at Grand Raipds Van Andel Arena 6 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 16 vs. Iowa Allstate Arena 7 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 17 vs. Milwaukee Allstate Arena 3 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 21 vs. Grand Rapids Allstate Arena 11 a.m.

All times Central. Visit ChicagoWolves.com for a complete broadcast schedule; all games stream on Facebook and AHLLive.com.