TEXAS STARS (26-22-3-3) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (30-17-5-1)
SO CLOSE TO HISTORY
Today’s contest serves as the second of four games between the Chicago Wolves and the Texas Stars in a 10-day stretch. If that sounds like a lot of battles between the same teams in an abnormally short period of time, you’re not wrong.
In the Wolves’ 25-year history, this marks just the fourth time they’ve faced the same team four times in 10 days or less during regular-season play. In 2002, the Wolves and Utah Grizzlies met four times from March 22-30. All four games were played in Salt Lake City and the teams split the games. A bonus wrinkle: Between the first two games and the last two games, the Wolves flew home to host Hartford on March 27 and won.
Chicago repeated the four-games-in-nine-days trick in 2016 against the Milwaukee Admirals. From Feb. 26 to March 6, the Wolves went 1-2-1-0 against their Central Division foe. In 2002, the Wolves and Admirals met four times in 10 days from March 7-16 and Chicago earned two wins, one loss and one tie.
SO WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Usually in hockey, the more often teams face each other, the animosity between the teams grows as the series wears on. What might that mean for the Wolves and Stars over the next week? In Thursday’s 3-1 win, which the Wolves didn’t clinch until Daniel Carr’s empty-net goal with 1:33 to play, each team only had one power play as they generally behaved themselves.
“They’re a really good team,” Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson said after Thursday’s game. “They have experience in their lineup. They almost won the Calder Cup last year — they fell just short. Good special teams on both sides. It’s always good games when we’ve played them. They’ve handed us our butts a few times. They have that ability (that) when you make a mistake, they make you pay for it. We’ve now had success in a couple of games, too. It’s been wars, I think, every time.”
MAX the magnificent
Since rejoining the Wolves on Feb. 8 after spending most of the previous month with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, goaltender Max Lagace has been on the top of his game. In five appearances — including wins in each of the first three games of this homestand — Lagace has fashioned a 4-1-0 record with a 1.79 goals-against average and .944 save percentage. That has pushed his numbers to their spiffiest of the season as Lagace owns a 13-7-3 record with a 2.58 GAA and .910 save percentage. He has moved into 12th place on the AHL’s goals-against average list and shares 15th in save percentage with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Tristan Jarry.
BY THE NUMBERS
2: That’s the number of percentage points separating the first-place Grand Rapids Griffins from the third-place Wolves in the Central Division standings. The Griffins own a winning percentage of .625 (31-17-4-4), but the Wolves improved to .623 (30-17-5-1) with Saturday night’s 3-2 home win over the Griffins. Grand Rapids has 70 points overall while Iowa boasts 67 and Chicago owns 66. The Wolves have played three fewer games than the Griffins, though.
3: The Wolves’ prowess during even-strength play shows up in the league’s plus/minus ratings as Chicago owns the top three spots and four of the top five. Daniel Carr continues to lead the AHL with his +33 rating while linemate Gage Quinney and rookie defensemen Zach Whitecloud share second at +31. Nic Hague owns fifth at +25.
9: Daniel Carr’s nine-game point streak is the longest active stretch in the AHL, if you don’t count Brandon Pirri’s 10-game streak that he left behind when he joined the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights for good. Teammate Curtis McKenzie shares the third-longest active streak with Grand Rapids’ Filip Zadina and Bakersfield’s Cooper Marody as the former Texas Stars captain boasts a season-high seven-game point streak that features four goals and five assists.
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 All-Star defenseman Erik Brännström’s game-winning goal 3:35 into overtime.
32: The Wolves are outscoring their opponents by 32 goals this season (182-150), which is the third-highest differential in the AHL. Most of that advantage has been piled up during the first period, when Chicago has outscored its foes 64-39. Nobody in the AHL is close to that +25 margin. The Wolves have outshot their foes by 100 in the first period, but they’ve been outshot by 64 after the first period.
98: AHL All-Star left wing Daniel Carr enters tonight’s action with 13 points (7G, 6A) in eight 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 23 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
All games are streamed on AHLTV.