GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS (25-22-3-4) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (25-22-3-2)
TWO OF A KIND ON 02/20/2020
The Chicago Wolves wrap up their four-game homestand in front of a sellout crowd this morning — and the 16,000-plus inside Allstate Arena will be amazed to discover how similar the Wolves’ and the Grand Rapids Griffins’ resumes happen to be.
One of the teams owns 21 regulation wins, two overtime wins, two shootout wins, 22 regulation losses, three overtime losses and a minus-13 goal differential. The other team owns 21 regulation wins, two overtime wins, two shootout wins, 22 regulation losses, three overtime losses and a minus-13 goal differential.
The only difference between the Wolves and the Griffins, at least as it pertains to the race for Central Division playoff spots? Grand Rapids has played two more games — both of which it lost in a shootout.
Thanks to those two extra points in those two extra games, Grand Rapids holds a two-point lead over Chicago for third place in the Central Division. However, if you view the standings from a points-percentage perspective, the Wolves own a .529 to .528 edge over the Griffins.
The Wolves and Griffins even have been a nearly perfect match during their five meetings to date this season. Grand Rapids owns a pair of three-goal victories, but so does Chicago. The only difference? Oscar Dansk made 20 saves to backstop the Wolves to a 2-0 victory at Grand Rapids a few hours before the calendar flipped to 2020.
The Chicago Wolves roster has been in flux all year, but things have changed particularly frequently in recent weeks. On Tuesday afternoon, for example, the Wolves boasted a 27-man roster that featured 16 players with NHL experience — including 10 who have competed for the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights this season.
Less than 24 hours later, the Wolves were down to a 24-man roster as the Golden Knights recalled center Nicolas Roy and defensemen Jimmy Schuldt and Zach Whitecloud on Wednesday afternoon while announcing their acquisition of defenseman Alec Martinez from the Los Angeles Kings.
For Roy, it has become normal for him to head to O’Hare Airport instead of his hotel room. Today’s move marked the sixth time this month and 26th time since Oct. 1 Roy has been on the shuttle between Chicago and Vegas.
Whitecloud, meanwhile, had been reassigned to Chicago less than 24 hours before. He has appeared in seven games for Vegas this month and produced a +3 plus/minus rating. The Golden Knights have posted a 4-2-1 record in his games. Schuldt joins Vegas for the first time since the opener on Oct. 2.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
Goaltender Oscar Dansk owns 58 wins in a Wolves uniform, which ranks fifth on the organization’s all-time list. Moving into the top five is no small accomplishment as Dansk now belongs in a pantheon with Wolves general manager Wendell Young (169 wins), Matt Climie (70), Kari Lehtonen (61) and Jordan Binnington (59).
Young won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Climie didn’t retire until he was 36 years old as he played all over the world — including earning two wins with the Dallas Stars in 2008-09. Lehtonen spent 14 years in the NHL and produced 310 wins with 38 shutouts.
And Binnington? He accomplished something amazing last year when he took over the crease at midseason and led the St. Louis Blues to the Stanley Cup.
LAST TWO GAMES
- After trailing 2-0 in the second period, the Wolves rallied to claim a 3-2 victory when defenseman Dylan Coghlan scored 4:30 into overtime.
- Forward Curtis McKenzie started the rally late in the second period before Coghlan knotted the score with 9:00 left in regulation.
- Goaltender Garret Sparks earned the win with 29 saves.
- Veteran forwards Matthew Ford and Givani Smith scored two goals apiece as Grand Rapids erased an early 1-0 Wolves lead to claim the win at Allstate Arena.
- Center Jake Leschyshyn and defenseman Jake Bischoff scored for the Wolves, who were outshot 28-19.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk posted 23 saves.
BY THE NUMBERS
2: Second-year defenseman Dylan Coghlan turned 22 Wednesday — just three days after registering two goals in the Wolves’ 3-2 overtime win over the Cleveland Monsters at Allstate Arena. Coghlan tied the game with 9:00 remaining in regulation, then delivered the game-winner 4:30 into overtime when he skated past his man down the slot, accepted a pass from Brandon Pirri and flipped it over goaltender Veini Vehvilainen. It marked the second two-goal game of Coghlan’s professional career — the first coming Nov. 13, 2019, against Milwaukee.
3: Forward Lucas Elvenes ranks third among all AHL rookies with 43 points. Elvenes earned his 43rd point Sunday afternoon when he picked up the secondary assist on Dylan Coghlan’s game-winning overtime goal. Elvenes owns 11 goals and 32 assists to lead the Wolves in scoring and share 12th place overall in the AHL. The 20-year-old Sweden native ranks second among rookies and shares sixth among all players in assists.
5: Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson has been able to write five players into the lineup for all 52 games this season: Forwards Patrick Brown, Lucas Elvenes, Jake Leschyshyn, Tye McGinn and Curtis McKenzie. Last year, the Wolves had just three players make it through the first 52 games unscathed: Keegan Kolesar, Brooks Macek and McKenzie. On the blue line, Dylan Coghlan, Jaycob Megna and Jimmy Schuldt have played 51 games apiece.
7: The Wolves have won their last seven School-Day Games dating back to Dec. 21, 2017. During this spree — which includes this year’s home wins over Texas (3-2 on Oct. 23) and San Antonio (4-1 on Dec. 17) — the Wolves have outscored their opponents 31-14. Nicolas Roy accounted for all four points against San Antonio with a hat trick and an assist, but he won’t get a chance to expand on that effort because he was recalled Wednesday afternoon. If you need a School-Day pick to click, center Gage Quinney could be the man. He scored a pair of goals against Texas on Oct. 23 and notched a hat trick on Oct. 24, 2018, against Cleveland.
17: The Wolves limited the Milwaukee Admirals to 17 shots Thursday night — the fewest by a Chicago foe this season. The Wolves have allowed 20 shots or fewer in six of their last 21 games — including a 20-save shutout at Grand Rapids on Dec. 31 — but only have a 3-3-0-0 record to show for it.
27.4: The Wolves rank last among all 31 AHL teams with 27.40 shots attempted per game, which is on pace to break the single-season franchise record for fewest shots per game. Last year’s Calder Cup finalists set the mark with 27.71 shots per game. Curiously, the Wolves enjoy a slighter better points percentage when they go under their shots per game average. The squad is 15-13-1-0 (.534) when attempting 27 shots or fewer, but 10-9-2-2 (.522) when trying 28 shots or more.
372: When forward Keegan Kolesar made his NHL debut with the Vegas Golden Knights on Jan. 11, he became the 372nd player in Wolves history to put NHL experience on his resume. Forward Cam Maclise’s Wolves debut on Jan. 19 vs. Rockford made him the 646th player to don the Wolves uniform since the franchise was founded in 1994, which means 57.6 percent of all Wolves have appeared in the NHL. That percentage is even higher among goaltenders as 40 of the team’s 57 goaltenders over the years (70.2 percent) can say they’ve played in the NHL.
|Friday, Feb. 21||at Milwaukee||Panther Arena||7 p.m.||My50|
|Sunday, Feb. 23||vs. Rockford||Allstate Arena||3 p.m.||Tickets|
|Tuesday, Feb. 25||at Iowa||Wells Fargo Arena||7 p.m.||AHLTV|