GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS (31-16-4-4) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (29-17-5-1)
TIME TO MAKE A MOVE
Last season on this same weekend, the Chicago Wolves found themselves in Manitoba with a direct chance to dig into the Moose’s Central Division lead. Chicago entered the weekend trailing Manitoba by 11 points, but earned a split that built some confidence and triggered a mad dash to the finish that ended with the Wolves capturing the Central Division crown.
This weekend, the Wolves aren’t as far away from the top of the Central — but Rocky Thompson’s crew finds itself with another direct opportunity to get closer to division-leading Grand Rapids. The Griffins picked up a shootout win over Texas on Friday night to take a 3-point lead over Iowa and a 6-point lead over the Wolves. Chicago, however, has played three fewer games than the Griffins and the Wild.
The Wolves already own a pair of wins to start their five-game homestand, so they’re looking for their third straight win overall and third straight win over Grand Rapids.
The Griffins lead the Central Division with 70 points, but the Wolves (64 points) and second-place Iowa Wild (67 points) have been closing in with some key wins. Rockford has won eight of its last 10, jumping into fourth with 60 points, while Texas (58 points) and Milwaukee (57 points) are in fifth and sixth, respectively. San Antonio and Manitoba share last with 55 points as the Central continues to be the AHL’s tightest division from top to bottom. It’s the only division where every team is above .500.
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This season, the Griffins have scored just two power-play goals on the Wolves — and they have not been able to capitalize on the man-advantage since October 20. The Grand Rapids power play ranks last in the league as the Griffins convert at just 14.6 percent, but that drops to 8.7 percent on the road as the Griffins have scored nine power-play goals on 104 chances in opposing rinks. The Wolves kill penalties at an 82.5 percent average, good for 10th in the league, and scored a short-handed goal on Thursday against the Texas power-play unit that ranks third in the AHL. The Wolves’ power play ranks ninth in the league at 20.3 percent and is slightly better at home at 21.0 percent, while the Griffins are killing penalties at a 79.9 percent rate.
Forward Daniel Carr, the league leader in points (64) and goals (28), also ranks near the top when it comes to scoring on the power play. Carr leads the Wolves with 10 power-play goals and has added 13 assists on the man-advantage. Rookie defenseman Erik Brännström’s 12 power-play assists are tied for fourth among all league rookies while fellow defenseman Dylan Coghlan’s six power-play goals are tied for fourth among AHL defenders.
BY THE NUMBERS
2: Center Gage Quinney scored the game-winning goal in Thursday’s 3-1 victory over Texas while the Wolves killed off Keegan Kolesar’s second-period hooking penalty — the second time this season that Quinney has put away a short-handed goal. Quinney also scored on the penalty kill in a 3-2 loss in San Antonio on Oct. 28.
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 +32 rating while linemate Gage Quinney is in second at +31. Rookie defensemen Zach Whitecloud (+30) and Nic Hague (+26) rank third and fourth, respectively.
8: Daniel Carr’s eight-game point streak is the longest current stretch in the AHL (not including Brandon Pirri’s 10-game streak he left behind when he departed for the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights). The streak included a six-game goal streak that ranks among the longest in franchise history. 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.
31: The Wolves are outscoring their opponents by 31 goals this season (179-148), which is 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 63-38. Nobody in the AHL is close to that +25 margin. The Wolves have outshot their foes by 102 in the first period, but they’ve been outshot by 63 after the first period.
97: AHL All-Star left wing Daniel Carr enters tonight’s action with 11 points (7G, 4A) in seven games since the All-Star break. For the season, he’s averaging 1.39 points per game. If he maintains this pace over the team’s final 24 games, he’ll finish with 97 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
All games are streamed on AHLTV.
The Feb. 24 game will be on The U Too and NHL Network.