CHICAGO WOLVES (25-23-3-2) AT MILWAUKEE ADMIRALS (35-12-4-3)
SPINNING ROSTER WHEEL
When the NHL trade deadline is nigh, everyone in the professional hockey world feels the effects — and the Chicago Wolves are no exception.
As the AHL partner of the Vegas Golden Knights — a franchise that likes to wheel and deal but also finds itself uncomfortably close to the NHL’s salary cap — the Wolves have needed to adjust their roster and their plans virtually every day this month.
Between the Wolves’ 3-2 win over Cleveland on Feb. 16 and their 3-2 loss to Grand Rapids on Feb. 20, five roster moves occurred between Vegas and Chicago. Two more moves happened during Thursday’s home loss to the Griffins, then another move was scheduled not long after the game ended.
Throw in the fact center Cody Glass re-injured his right knee during Thursday’s game — and the Wolves keep finding obstacles in their way as they try to stay in the top four in the Central Division.
“It’s the American Hockey League,” forward Curtis McKenzie said after Thursday’s game. “You’ve got to expect that. It happens all the time. I think it’s something you get used to…guys should be ready to go at this level every night. I don’t think that should have anything to do with it.”
Entering tonight’s game, Milwaukee continues to own the AHL’s best points percentage (.713) while the Iowa Wild have pushed their way into the No. 3 spot (.667) by going 11-1-0-1 in their last 13 games. Grand Rapids (59 points) has moved four points ahead of the Wolves (55 points) for third place — though the Wolves hold two games in hand — while Rockford (53 points) stands fifth.
THE MOVES WE’VE MADE
The Wolves played Thursday’s game with just one healthy scratch. Things figure to be the same for tonight’s game against Milwaukee, though three players had a change of scenery in the last 24 hours.
The Vegas Golden Knights returned defensemen Jimmy Schuldt and Zach Whitecloud to the Wolves Thursday afternoon — essentially 24 hours after recalling them to Las Vegas. Whitecloud also was reassigned to the Wolves on Tuesday, so he made three moves in as many days.
Prior to this flurry, however, Whitecloud appeared in seven games for Vegas this month and produced a +3 plus/minus rating as the team went 4-2-1 during the games in which he played. The 23-year-old Brandon, Manitoba, native had not appeared in an NHL game since making his professional debut with the Golden Knights on April 5, 2018.
Their return gave the Wolves eight healthy defensemen, so rookie Brayden Pachal was reassigned to Fort Wayne (ECHL) by Vegas after Thursday’s game. He owns one goal and six assists in 41 games.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
During tonight’s first intermission, the Milwaukee Admirals will honor legendary forward Darren Haydar by retiring his jersey. Haydar, who was inducted into the American Hockey League’s Hall of Fame last month, started his professional career with Milwaukee and spent four seasons with the Admirals that included a Calder Cup title in 2004.
Haydar then joined the Wolves and played five of his final seven AHL seasons in Chicago, where he captained the 2008 Calder Cup championship team. He holds the AHL postseason records for goals (63), assists (80) and points (143) and will join Billy Gardner for a live interview during tonight’s second intermission on My50 Chicago.
LAST TWO GAMES
- The Wolves carried a 1-0 lead into the third period, but the Griffins rallied for three goals in a six-minute span to win the third-place showdown before a School-Day Game crowd of 14,664.
- Forward Brandon Pirri scored 1:10 into the game and forward Valentin Zykov pulled the Wolves within one with 2:05 to play.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk stopped 22 shots.
- 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.
BY THE NUMBERS
2-2: The Wolves and the Admirals have met 10 times this year — and four of their games have stood at 2-2 after 60 minutes. What are the odds of that? Actually, it’s not that crazy based on their history. Last year, one of their 12 meetings wound up 2-2 through regulation. It happened three times during 2017-18, once in 2016-17 and 2015-16, four times during 2014-15 and three times in 2013-14. Milwaukee has gone on to win 10 of those 17 games.
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 53 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 53 games unscathed: Keegan Kolesar, Brooks Macek and McKenzie. On the blue line, Dylan Coghlan and Jaycob Megna have missed just one game each.
17: The Wolves limited the Milwaukee Admirals to 17 shots in their last meeting on Feb. 13 — the fewest by a Chicago foe this season and tied for the fewest by the Admirals this year. The Wolves have allowed 20 shots or fewer in six of their last 22 games, but only have a 3-3-0-0 record to show for it.
22: During the Wolves’ first seven games in February, the penalty-kill units have more than held their own. Chicago has killed off 22 of 24 power plays — a .917 clip — to vault from 22nd to 15th place in the AHL’s penalty kill ratings. The Wolves have erased 82.0 percent of opponents’ power plays this season, which nearly matches the rate by last year’s Calder Cup finalists. The 2018-19 squad killed 82.2 percent of power plays. Milwaukee’s power play has solved the Wolves better than anyone else in the league: The Admirals converted 11 of 30 opportunities in the teams’ first 10 meetings this season. If you removed Milwaukee from Chicago’s PK equation, the team would be sitting at 85.8 percent — fourth-best in the league.
27.45: The Wolves rank last among all 31 AHL teams with 27.45 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 10-10-2-2 (.500) 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.
|Sunday, Feb. 23||vs. Rockford||Allstate Arena||3 p.m.||Tickets|
|Tuesday, Feb. 25||at Iowa||Wells Fargo Arena||7 p.m.||AHLTV|
|Saturday, Feb. 29||at Manitoba||Bell MTS Place||2 p.m.||AHLTV|