CHICAGO WOLVES (26-15-5-1) AT GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS (28-15-3-4)
During a normal American Hockey League regular season, the teams required to play 76 games average nearly three games per week. But the Chicago Wolves just went through a stage — from Jan. 6 to Feb. 8 — where they played just nine games in a 34-day stretch.
That means Rocky Thompson’s Wolves have to pick up the pace during another part of their schedule — and that part has just began. When the Wolves earned a 3-2 overtime victory on Saturday at Milwaukee, that triggered a stretch when they’ll play 15 games in 30 days — otherwise known as every other day.
All 15 games are against Central Division foes as the Wolves will battle all seven teams in their division. The good news is that the Wolves ran a similar gantlet last year at this time and fared just fine. From Feb. 18 to March 22, 2018 — a stretch of 33 days — the Wolves posted an 11-3-1-0 record to continue climbing the Central Division ladder on their way to the title. Goaltender Oscar Dansk handled nine of those games and produced a 7-1-1 mark while allowing just 20 goals.
CROWDED NEAR THE TOP
The Wolves’ win on Saturday afternoon pushed their point total to 58 (good for third in the Central Division) and their points percentage to .617 (good for second in the division). Chicago also boasts the division’s best goals differential at +28.
The Wolves hoped to make up ground on their rivals Saturday night, but Grand Rapids posted a 4-1 home win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Iowa needed overtime to defeat San Antonio 3-2 in Des Moines. The Griffins own a 5-point lead over the Wolves while the Wild are 3 points ahead. Today’s game marks the final time this season the Wolves get to confront the division-leading Griffins directly.
DRIVen to lead the league
It sounds weird, but left wing Daniel Carr didn’t keep up his usual production when he contributed “only” one point during Saturday’s win. Carr crashed the net to swat home a loose puck in the third period, which pushed his league-leading point total to 58. He also paces the AHL in assists with 34 and shares second in goals (24) with Grand Rapids’ Chris Terry.
Perhaps some more numbers are required to explain Carr’s worth to the Wolves. In the six games he missed while playing for Vegas (NHL), the Wolves went 1-4-1-0 (.250). In the Wolves’ 25 wins in which he has played, Carr owns 19 goals and 23 assists — or 1.68 points per game. He’s solid in the team’s losses as well with 5 goals and 11 assists in 16 defeats.
BY THE NUMBERS
.674: The Wolves boast a 15-7-1-0 record in road games, a .674 winning percentage that ranks third in the league. That percentage also ranks third in team history. The record is held by the 2006-07 Wolves, who finished the season with a road mark of 27-8-2-3, good for a .738 percentage in away games.
3: The Wolves boast three players who have appeared in all 47 games this season: Forwards Keegan Kolesar, Brooks Macek and Curtis McKenzie. That’s well above average among Central Division teams. Milwaukee shares the lead with three players who have played in all 51 of the Admirals’ contests. Texas also has three. Grand Rapids and Rockford have two, Iowa and San Antonio one and Manitoba hasn’t had anybody play in all 47 of its games.
4: The Wolves’ prowess during even-strength play shows up in the league’s plus/minus ratings as Chicago owns the top four spots. Veteran forward Daniel Carr continues to lead the AHL with his +28 rating while linemate Gage Quinney owns second place at +26. Rookie defenseman Zach Whitecloud ranks third with a +25 while fellow rookie rearguard Nic Hague holds down fourth place at +22.
18: First-line center T.J. Tynan — No. 18 on the Wolves roster but No. 1 in your heart — returned to the lineup Saturday after missing four games due to injury. Tynan made his presence known during the second period when he knocked home a rebound to deliver his ninth goal of the year. The Orland Park native owns 24 goals and 75 assists in 113 regular-season games for the Wolves, so his next point will be No. 100 in a Chicago uniform.
28: The Wolves have scored 166 goals this season, the fifth-best mark in the league. Chicago is outscoring its opponents by a 28-goal margin (166-138), good for the fourth-best margin in the AHL. The Wolves are particularly impressive during the first period (+25) and on the road (+23). The Charlotte Checkers are the only team with a superior goal differential on the road (+28).
99: AHL All-Star left wing Daniel Carr enters today’s action with a three-game goal streak and with 18 points (7G, 11A) in the Wolves’ last 11 games. If he maintains his 1.41 points-per-game pace the rest of the year, he’ll finish with 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).