CHICAGO WOLVES (42-20-5-3) AT MILWAUKEE ADMIRALS (32-24-13-2)
FORMULA TO CLINCH THE CENTRAL
The Chicago Wolves are not standing by to see how the Calder Cup playoff standings shake out, despite already clinching the franchise’s 20th playoff berth in 25 years and securing home ice advantage for the first round.
The Wolves, who are 9-2-0-1 in their last 12 games, are just four points away from their third Central Division title in as many years and have the chance to clinch the title tonight with a win over Milwaukee and a Grand Rapids regulation loss in San Jose. The Wolves have 92 points, six better than the second-place Griffins and 11 more than the third-place Iowa Wild, all while holding a game in hand.
The chase for the third and fourth Calder Cup playoff spots from the Central Division has become a sprint as several teams keep winning. Milwaukee shares fourth at 79 points with Manitoba while Texas (77 points) and Rockford (76 points) are still in the hunt with five games remaining.
Tonight marks the final regular-season clash between the Wolves and Admirals with the Wolves leading the series 7-4 — the third straight year Chicago has claimed the season series — but Milwaukee has been doing everything it can to extend the season past April 14. The Admirals have gone 7-1-1-1 over their last 10 games, earning points in each of the last nine.
REINFORCEMENTS HAVE ARRIVED
On Monday, center Cody Glass was reassigned by Vegas after his season with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks came to an end. Glass, who spent his 20th birthday on a flight to Chicago, joined the Wolves for the playoffs last season but did not appear in the lineup. The Winnipeg native, who was the No. 6 pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, posted 15 goals and 54 assists in 38 regular-season games for Portland this season — captaining the team to the playoffs despite missing significant time with injury.
Vegas announced on Tuesday that goaltender Max Lagace was returned to the Wolves after spending the last two weeks with the Golden Knights on emergency recall to back up Malcolm Subban. The 26-year-old Quebec native has played one NHL game this season while posting a 16-8-4 record with a 2.33 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 29 games for the Central Division-leading Wolves. He ranks fifth in the AHL in goals-against average.
On Thursday, center Jake Leschyshyn was assigned to the Wolves following a WHL season split between the Regina Pats and the Lethbridge Hurricanes. A second-round pick for the Knights in 2017, Leschyshyn notched 32 points in 24 games (16G, 16A) while captaining the Pats before tallying 49 points (24G, 25A) in 45 games with Lethbridge. He was one of 11 players in the WHL to score 40-plus goals on the season, tying for 4th in the league with 10 game-winning goals, and led the league in faceoff attempts (1,799) and wins (1,024).
BY THE NUMBERS
2.57: The Wolves are allowing the third-fewest goals per game in the AHL, giving up an average of 2.57 goals each contest. That means this year’s squad is within striking distance of the franchise record of 2.51 GAA set by the 2013-14 Midwest Division champs. Goaltender Oscar Dansk has gone 6-0-1 with just 10 goals allowed in his last seven games.
3: The Wolves’ prowess during even-strength play shows up in the league’s plus/minus ratings as Chicago owns the top three spots. Center Gage Quinney holds the lead at +37 while veteran forward Daniel Carr and rookie defenseman Zach Whitecloud share second at +35. Arturs Kulda (+47) holds the franchise record, but this year’s group ranks favorably with the next two on the Wolves’ single-season franchise list. Brian Sipotz posted a +34 in 2006-07 and Chris Chelios did the same in 2009-10 while paired with Kulda.
27: Left wing Curtis McKenzie has been one of the most productive and most consistent Wolves since the All-Star Break. In the team’s last 24 games, McKenzie has stacked up 13 goals — including three two-goal efforts — and 14 assists as the Wolves have fashioned a 17-5-0-2 record. McKenzie’s first goal last Friday against Grand Rapids was his 100th career AHL goal and extended his point streak to six games. He also produced a career-high eight-game point streak during his spree.
45: The Wolves lead the American Hockey League in first goals as they’ve scored the opening marker in 45 of their 70 games this season. When the Wolves have scored first, they’ve gone on to produce a 31-10-3-1 record, which breaks out to a .733 points percentage. When Chicago doesn’t score first — such as Saturday night’s game against Milwaukee — its record stands at 11-10-2-2 (.520).
55: The Wolves are outscoring their opponents by 55 goals this season (235-180), which trails only Syracuse, Bakersfield and Charlotte for the best goal differential in the AHL. Most of that advantage has been piled up during the first period, when Chicago has outscored its foes 79-46. Nobody in the AHL is close to that +33 margin.
65: Wolves center T.J. Tynan has catapulted himself up into the league’s top scorers, now ranking fifth among all AHL skaters with his career-best 65 points (12G, 53A). In the last 12 games for Chicago, Tynan has handed out 18 assists and added a pair of goals, including back-to-back nights with three assists in wins against San Antonio and Grand Rapids.
358: 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 defenseman Jake Chelios made his NHL debut March 29 for the Detroit Red Wings, he became the 358th player (out of 621 Wolves all-time) who have competed for the Wolves and in the NHL. That 57.6 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 April 6-7 games will be broadcast on CW50.