TEXAS STARS (26-21-3-2) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (28-17-5-1)
HAVEN’T SEEN STARS IN A WHILE
The Wolves have not lined up against Texas since Dec. 18, which coincidentally was also the last School-Day Game at Allstate Arena. The Wolves passed that test with flying colors in the form of a 6-1 victory over the Stars on Dec. 18, but both teams have ventured in a similar direction since. The Wolves have gone 12-8-3-0 and outscored their opponents 65-58 since playing Texas two months ago while the Stars have a record of 12-11-1-1 and have been outscored 65-61. Texas hit a rough stretch from Jan. 26 to Feb. 10, losing nine of 11 games.
One key difference for the Wolves will be not having Brandon Pirri on the ice — Pirri posted a goal and two assists in the Dec. 18 win and leads the Wolves in scoring against the Stars with three goals and four assists. Pirri, who was leading the AHL with 41 points at the time, was recalled by the Vegas Golden Knights shortly after he stepped off the ice as the second star of the game. He returned for just one more Wolves game (on Jan. 5) before joining the Knights full time.
The Wolves aren’t without offensive firepower, though, still boasting the league’s leading scorer in veteran forward Daniel Carr. Carr’s 63 points are five better than the next skater, Syracuse’s Carter Verhaeghe, and his 27 goals are tied for first among AHL skaters with Texas center Joel L’Esperance — who was recalled by Dallas (NHL) on Friday and made his NHL debut on Saturday.
Carr has points in each of the last seven games, the longest current point streak among players currently in the AHL, and averages 1.40 points per game. The Wolves have 10 other 20-point-plus active point scorers on the roster, so goals could come from any given line. Forward Brooks Macek is in the league’s top 10 with 49 points (21G, 28A) and has points in six of the last seven contests, while Curtis McKenzie boasts six points (2G, 4A) in his last five games. He’s riding his longest point streak of the season. All four rookie defensemen — Erik Brännström, Dylan Coghlan, Nic Hague and Zach Whitecloud — also have at least 20 points apiece.
bischoff is back
On Wednesday afternoon, the Vegas Golden Knights announced they have returned defenseman Jake Bischoff on loan to the Wolves after the rearguard spent the first 20 days of February in Las Vegas. Bischoff was on the opening day roster for Vegas and was assigned to Chicago on Oct. 12. He has produced two goals and nine assists in 39 games for the Wolves this season. He did not appear in any games for the Knights since being recalled on Jan. 30.
BY THE NUMBERS
2: Defenseman Erik Brännström scored Sunday’s overtime game-winner 3:35 into the extra session, the second time this season the rookie has won a game in overtime for the Wolves. Brannstrom tallied the winner in the season opener in Colorado, scoring his second goal of the game just 48 seconds into overtime to win his North American professional debut, 3-2.
4: The Wolves’ prowess during even-strength play shows up in the league’s plus/minus ratings as Chicago owns four of the top five spots. Veteran forward Daniel Carr continues to lead the AHL with his +31 rating while linemate Gage Quinney is in second with a +29 and rookie defenseman Zach Whitecloud is third at +27. Defenseman Nic Hague ranks fifth with his +23.
7: Daniel Carr’s seven-game point streak is the longest current stretch in the AHL. The streak included a six-game goal streak that ranks among the longest in franchise history. The last time a Wolves player earned a six-game goal streak was in 2016-17 when Ivan Barbashev tallied each game from Dec. 30 to Jan. 8. Joe Motzko posted the Wolves’ last seven-game streak (Dec. 19, 2008 to Jan. 2, 2009) and Brett Sterling owns the franchise record with a nine-game run from Dec. 12-29, 2006. Sterling piled up 13 goals during that stretch.
13: The Wolves fired just 13 shots during Sunday’s 2-1 overtime win over Iowa, which tied the franchise record for fewest shots in a game that was set on Oct. 20, 2010, during a 3-0 loss to the Abbotsford Heat at Allstate Arena. Chicago managed just 11 shots during regulation, but the team reached 13 with a pair of attempts in extra time — capped by Erik Brännström’s game-winning goal 3:35 into overtime.
29: The Wolves are outscoring their opponents by 29 goals this season (176-147), which shares the third-highest differential in the AHL. Almost all of that advantage has been piled up during the first period, when Chicago has outscored its foes 63-37. Nobody in the AHL is close to that +26 margin. The Wolves have outshot their foes by 102 in the first period, but they’ve been outshot by 47 after the first period.
98: AHL All-Star left wing Daniel Carr enters tonight’s action with 10 points (6G, 4A) in seven games since the All-Star break. For the season, he’s averaging 1.40 points per game. If he maintains this pace over the team’s final 25 games, he’ll finish with 98 points this season. He would become the AHL’s biggest point producer since 2009-10, when Hershey’s Keith Aucoin scored 106 points and teammate Alexandre Giroux added 103.
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).
THE NEXT THREE GAMES
The Feb. 23 game will be broadcast on CW50 while the Feb. 24 game will be on The U Too and NHL Network.