IOWA WILD (10-4-1-0) at CHICAGO WOLVES (8-5-0-1)
OUR FIRST LOOK AT THE WILD
The Iowa Wild barge into Allstate Arena tonight looking like a franchise hungry to earn its first Calder Cup playoff berth since moving from Houston to Des Moines in 2013. The Wild share the Central Division lead in points — Iowa and the Milwaukee Admirals own 21 apiece — but new head coach Tim Army’s team just shut out the Admirals in back-to-back games. The Wild also boast the AHL’s best power play (27.6 percent) and best penalty kill (89.4 percent).
Historically, the Wolves have had their way with the Wild. In the first five years of this rivalry, Chicago has posted a .760 winning percentage against Iowa. That chasm wasn’t apparent last year as the teams split their eight-game series and the Wild actually outscored the Wolves 30-28.
The Chicago Wolves rank fifth in the American Hockey League in scoring with 3.93 goals per game — and one reason for this lofty position is the offense’s consistency. The Wolves are the only team in the Central Division and one of just five in the AHL (Providence, Rochester, Toronto, San Diego) that have scored at least 2 goals every time out.
Only two previous Wolves teams have gone this long scoring at least two goals in every game to start a season. In 2003-04, John Anderson’s crew led by Steve Maltais (31 goals), Eric Healey (31 goals) and recent Florida Panthers captain Derek MacKenzie (19 goals) lasted the first 18 games scoring at least two goals. In 1998-99, Anderson’s team scored at least two goals in each of the first 16 games thanks to Maltais (56 goals), Chris Marinucci (41 goals), Scott Pearson (23 goals) and others.
WHY SO DEPENDABLE?
When you have the league’s top two point-scorers, there aren’t many chances to experience offensive lulls. Right wing Brooks Macek leads the AHL in goals (14), points (21) and shooting percentage (51.9) while linemate Daniel Carr shares second in points (20) and first in power-play goals (6).
There have only been two Wolves games this season when neither Carr nor Macek earned a spot on the scoresheet. The first happened on Opening Night (Oct. 5 at Colorado), when Carr drove over from Las Vegas the day before the game and had little time to build chemistry with linemates Gage Quinney and Tomas Hyka. The Wolves won that game 3-2 in overtime. The second game happened on Oct. 28 at San Antonio when the Wolves endured one of their two two-goal games — a 3-2 loss to the Rampage that also serves as the only Wolves game this season where the team failed to score before second intermission.
BY THE NUMBERS
5: Goaltender Oscar Dansk has started (and completed) the last five games for the Wolves. That marks the team’s longest streak for a goaltender since Kasimir Kaskisuo handled six consecutive games from Jan. 20 to Feb. 3 last season. Kaskisuo posted a 5-0-1 record and allowed 12 goals during that stretch. Dansk has posted a 2-3-0 mark during this stretch. With Max Lagace apparently healthy again — the Wolves sent Zach Fucale back to the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets on Wednesday — Dansk might not have to play every minute this weekend.
12: The Wolves have enjoyed an amazing run against the Iowa Wild since the franchise moved from Houston to Des Moines during the summer of 2013. The Wolves own a .760 winning percentage against the Wild, which includes a 12-game winning streak on Iowa’s home ice from 2014-16 that featured the Wolves outscoring Iowa by a 44-20 margin.
14: Brooks Macek continues to lead the AHL with 14 goals as the 26-year-old from Winnipeg has maintain a goal-per-game pace over the season’s first six weeks. Once he has scored one goal, there’s a really good chance he’s going to score another one before the game ends. He has produced one hat trick, four two-goal efforts and three one-goal games. His 14 goals are not a franchise record for most goals after 14 games: The absurd Steve Maltais produced 22 goals in the Wolves’ first 14 games of 1995-96.
18: The Wolves boast the AHL’s top three performers in plus/minus rating — starting with left wing Daniel Carr at +18. Right wing Brooks Macek is next at +16 while center Gage Quinney checks in at No. 3 with a +15. To get a sense of how impressive it is for a trio of forwards to be leading the league in this category, a defenseman has won the AHL’s plus/minus crown each of the last six seasons.
216: The Wolves enter tonight’s game with 216 penalty minutes on their ledger, which averages out to a Central Division-leading 15.4 minutes per game. Head coach Rocky Thompson has addressed the issue with his players, in part because last year’s team did a superb job of staying out of the penalty box. The Wolves averaged just 11.2 penalty minutes per game — third-best in the Western Conference.
353: If you’ve suited up for the Wolves, chances are better than 50/50 that you’ve also played in the National Hockey League. When Daniel Carr, Curtis McKenzie and Zach Whitecloud made their Wolves debuts on Oct. 5, they became the 351st, 352nd and 353rd players (out of 615 Wolves all-time) who have competed for the Wolves and in the NHL. That 57.4 percent overall success rate is even higher among goaltenders. Of the 54 players who’ve tended the net for the Wolves over the years — starting with original goaltenders Ray LeBlanc and Wendell Young and continuing through current Wolves Max Lagace and Oscar Dansk — 37 boast NHL experience (68.5 percent).
6,532: This is the number of days between Brooks Macek’s five-assist effort on Wednesday at Milwaukee and the previous five-assist game by a Wolves player. Rob Brown, who holds the team’s single-game (6) and single-season (91) assist records, handed out five assists on Dec. 19, 2000, in a 7-5 victory at Kansas City.