MANITOBA MOOSE (20-19-3-2) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (24-15-5-1)
THE OPPONENT DOESN’T MATTER
It would seem logical that any professional sports team would have a tougher time dealing with playoff-caliber opponents as opposed to those not on pace to make the postseason.
But in the wake of the Wolves’ 5-2 loss on Friday night at Rockford in Illinois Lottery Cup play, it becomes more apparent that an opponent’s record doesn’t seem to matter. Chicago’s record against teams currently in position to make the Calder Cup playoffs is 11-7-2-1 — a .595 points percentage. Chicago’s record against teams currently out of position to reach the postseason is 13-8-3-0 — a .604 points percentage.
Tonight’s foe is another team currently on the outside looking in, but don’t be deceived by the Manitoba Moose’s overall record. Over their last 11 games, the Moose own a 7-1-1-2 mark that’s the best in the Central Division.
STUPID POLAR VORTEX
Thanks to the record-setting cold front and occasional snow that seized control of the Chicago area from Tuesday night through Thursday night, several Wolves had trouble returning to town from their brief All-Star Break.
A handful of Wolves missed Thursday’s practice — the team’s first get-together since playing at Cleveland last Saturday night — due to travel miseries and the entire group didn’t come together until about an hour before puck drop on Friday night. Wolves general manager Wendell Young waited at O’Hare Airport for second-year forward Keegan Kolesar to land. Kolesar touched down around 5 p.m. Friday and Young obeyed all speed limits and other traffic laws to get him to Rockford in time for warmups.
With defenseman Jake Bischoff recalled from loan by the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday, several players’ travel status in doubt on Thursday and a handful of players still nursing injuries, the Wolves reached out Friday morning and recalled defenseman Kevin Lough from loan to Adirondack (ECHL) and signed forward J.C. Campagna to a PTO.
Campagna, who earned his shot with 21 goals in 34 games for the Fort Wayne Komets (ECHL) this season, donned the No. 25 jersey and made his AHL debut Friday night at Rockford. Campagna launched two shots as he became the 619th player to suit up for the Wolves either in the regular season or postseason during the team’s 25-year history. Alas, Campagna was released from his PTO on Saturday.
BY THE NUMBERS
2: The Wolves had two representatives — forward Daniel Carr and rookie defenseman Erik Brännström — participate in the 2019 AHL All-Star Classic. Both first-time all-star picks, Carr and Brännström helped the Western Conference win the Skills Challenge, 17-14. The following night in the round-robin style All-Star Challenge, Carr scored two goals and an assist while Brännström dished out four assists for the Central Division.
3: The Wolves boast three players who have appeared in all 45 games this season: Forwards Keegan Kolesar, Brooks Macek and Curtis McKenzie. That’s better than average in the Central Division. Milwaukee leads all divisional teams with six players who have played in all 47 of the Admirals’ contests. Texas has 3, Grand Rapids, Iowa and Rockford 2, San Antonio 1 and Manitoba hasn’t had anybody play in all 44 of its games.
4: The Wolves’ prowess during even-strength play shows up in the league’s plus/minus ratings as Chicago owns four of the top nine spots. Veteran forward Daniel Carr continues to lead the AHL with his +25 rating while linemate Gage Quinney jumped into second place at +23. Rookie defenseman Zach Whitecloud is part of a three-way tie for fourth with a +22 and fellow rookie rearguard Nic Hague shares seventh place with two others.
6: When the Wolves and the Moose last met on Nov. 18, Wolves forward Tye McGinn played for the Moose and Moose defenseman Jimmy Oligny was on the Wolves roster. Since McGinn was acquired by Chicago and Oligny was acquired by Manitoba on Jan. 3 — albeit in unrelated deals — each man has played in six games for his new team. McGinn has produced one assist and posted 2 penalty minutes. Oligny has notched two assists and 20 penalty minutes.
21.6: The Wolves’ power play ranks seventh in the league with a 21.6 conversion rate, scoring 41 goals on 190 opportunities. Chicago only ranks 13th in power-play chances, though. Power-play conversion rates are up throughout the league as last year’s top team, San Diego, converted 21.9 percent. That would rank sixth this season.
55: AHL All-Star left wing Daniel Carr continues to own a comfortable lead in the league’s scoring race as he owns 55 points (22G, 33A). He scored two points Friday night to hold a four-point margin over Syracuse’s Carter Verhaeghe. Carr also paces the AHL in assists and plus-minus rating (+25) and shares sixth in power-play goals (9). If he maintains his 1.41 points-per-game pace, he’ll deliver 99 points this season. That would be the most in the AHL since 2009-10, when Hershey’s Keith Aucoin posted 106 points in 72 games.
356: 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 recent Wolves forward Mackenzie MacEachern made his NHL debut on Jan. 10 for the St. Louis Blues, he became the 356th player (out of 619 Wolves all-time) who have competed for the Wolves and in the NHL. That 57.5 percent overall success rate is even higher among goaltenders. Of the 55 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 — 38 boast NHL experience (69.1 percent).