MANITOBA MOOSE (15-7-1-0)
AT CHICAGO WOLVES (17-4-1-1)
No. 1 vs. no. 2*
There’s nothing better than a showdown between first- and second-place teams during a School-Day Game with thousands of local children screaming their heads off.
Well, this one could be a little better — if both teams had all of their best players ready and raring to go. The Central Division-leading Wolves, who are riding a nine-game winning streak, lost the services of reigning AHL Player of the Week Andrew Poturalski when he was recalled from loan Tuesday by the Carolina Hurricanes.
Poturalski, the team captain, was scheduled to make his first NHL appearance since April 6, 2017, Tuesday night, but the Canes’ game at Minnesota was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. Poturalski returned to Chicago for Wednesday’s practice, but he could leave again today because Carolina hosts Detroit. That means the Wolves might get to figure out what life looks like without the AHL’s leader in virtually every scoring category — as Poturalski tops the charts with his 34 points and 22 assists and 6 power-play goals. His 12 goals stand one behind Abbotsford’s Sheldon Dries.
Meanwhile, Manitoba will be without Cole Perfetti, its No. 2 scorer, for the next three weeks as the Winnipeg Jets’ 2020 first-round draft pick has been loaned to Team Canada to prepare for the 2022 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships that will be contested Dec. 26 through Jan. 5 in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta. Perfetti, who turns 20 on New Year’s Day, owns 6 goals and 9 assists in 17 games for the Moose. He made his NHL debut with the Jets on Oct. 13.
Not only are Chicago and Manitoba 1-2 in the Central Division, they’re 1-2 in shots (with the Wolves leading the way) and 1-2 in shots allowed (with the Moose leading the way) among all AHL teams.
this is nothing new
When the Carolina Hurricanes recalled Andrew Poturalski this week while he sat atop the AHL’s points leaderboard, the Chicago Wolves braintrust probably said, “Here we go again” because this is the third time in six years the team has lost the AHL’s scoring leader to the NHL in December.
In 2016, defenseman Brad Hunt paced the AHL with 29 points (9G, 20A) in 23 games when the St. Louis Blues called on Dec. 8 — and Hunt hasn’t played in the AHL since. But did the Wolves fall apart after losing the No. 1 scorer? Not exactly. While Craig Berube’s team posted an 11-9-2-1 record with Hunt, but went 33-10-6-4 afterward and climbed to claim the Central Division title.
In 2018, center Brandon Pirri paced the AHL with 41 points (17G, 24A) in 28 games when the Vegas Golden Knights recalled him on Dec. 18. He came back for just one game before embarking on a ridiculous scoring spree for Vegas. Did the Wolves fall apart after losing their No. 1 scorer? Not exactly. While Rocky Thompson’s team went 17-9-2-1 with Pirri on the roster, it delivered a 27-13-4-3 mark without him and went all the way to the Calder Cup Finals.
we are the wolves
Today marks the Wolves’ first School-Day Game at home since Feb. 20, 2020, when Grand Rapids visited Chicago and earned a 3-2 victory in front of 14,664 fans at Allstate Arena.
The Wolves have been excellent in morning games over the last several years, including this year’s first such game. On Nov. 17, Chicago defeated Grand Rapids 2-1 in a matinee as Andrew Poturalski slalomed through the defense for the game-winner 31 seconds into overtime.
Since the start of the 2017-18 season, the Wolves own a 10-3-0-1 record in morning games. In many of the victories, one Wolves player has scored multiple goals — including Daniel Carr’s franchise-record-tying four-goal effort Nov. 7, 2018, at Milwaukee.
LAST TWO GAMES
- After giving up the opening goal in the opening minute, the Wolves responded with the next five tallies to sweep the three-game set in Texas and push their winning streak to nine games.
- Forwards Stefan Noesen and Jack Drury posted two goals and one assist apiece while defenseman Josh Jacobs and forwards Andrew Poturalski and Spencer Smallman also scored.
- Goaltender Eetu Makiniemi posted 26 saves to earn his fifth straight win.
- After the Wolves and Stars took turns scoring one goal each period during regulation, Andrew Poturalski set up Stefan Noesen 3:20 into overtime for Chicago’s eighth straight win.
- Noesen posted two goals, Poturalski produced four points (G, 3A), C.J. Smith scored one goal and defenseman Jesper Sellgren handed out two assists.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon rejected 27 shots to win his fourth game in a row.
By the numbers
2: Goaltender Alex Lyon, who’s scheduled to make the start today, just wrapped up the second-longest scoreless streak in Wolves history with his 175-minute, 57-second run that concluded during Saturday’s 4-3 overtime win at Texas. Lyon’s streak began at the 5:11 mark of the second period on Nov. 27 vs. Rockford, picked up steam with shutouts of Iowa (on Dec. 2 and 5) and ended 16:08 into Saturday’s game. Only Elmhurst native Garret Sparks, who strung together a 191-minute, 14-second run in 2019-20, ranks ahead of Lyon. For the year, Lyon ranks No. 2 among AHL goaltenders in goals-against average (1.63) and No. 3 in save percentage (.930).
5: Five players have taken the ice for all 23 games to date — and all are forwards: Jack Drury, Maxim Letunov, Stefan Noesen, captain Andrew Poturalski and C.J. Smith. This five-man crew has combined for 45 of the Wolves’ 80 non-shootout goals — including 14 of the team’s 19 tallies during last week’s three-game sweep in Texas — and 65 of the team’s 140 assists. Smith, Poturalski and Noesen have served as the team’s top line for all but two games — and they hold three of the top eight spots on the AHL’s points list.
8: Rookie center Jack Drury has reeled off five goals in his last five games to push his season total to 7. The Winnetka native’s spree that started Dec. 4 makes him the eighth Wolves rookie in the last 15 seasons to put together such a fine streak — and it’s a pretty good group that has accomplished the feat. Teammate David Cotton scored 5 in his final four games last year while Seth Jarvis scored five from Feb. 6-20. Defenseman Nic Hague (2018-19), forward Sammy Blais (2016-17), forward Ty Rattie (2013-14), forward Tim Miller (2010-11) and defenseman Paul Postma (2009-10) also are part of the Wolves’ 5-in-5 Club since 2007-08.
9: The Wolves boast the AHL’s longest active winning streak with their nine-game run that began Nov. 26 at Grand Rapids. It marks just the fifth streak of nine-plus games in franchise history. If the Wolves win tonight, then they’ll move alone into second place on the all-time history. The only crew ahead of them? John Anderson’s 1999-2000 squad that captured the Calder Cup championship. They won 12 in a row from Feb. 25 to March 17 while allowing 1.92 goals per game.
16: In addition to running their winning streak to nine games Sunday afternoon, the Wolves extended their franchise record by outshooting their opponent for the 16th consecutive game. The previous mark of 14 games was set by the 1998-99 squad. During this 16-game streak, the Wolves have stacked up a 572-403 shot advantage that works out to a 35.8 to 25.2 margin per game. They’ve been outshot just twice this season: Oct. 22 at Milwaukee and Nov. 6 vs. Manitoba.
34.83: The Chicago Wolves’ single-season record for shots per game was set by the 1998-99 squad with 34.65 per outing. That led the 16-team International Hockey League that season — and marks the only time in the Wolves’ first 27 years they’ve led their league in shots per game. This year’s squad has a chance to break the team record AND become the second in franchise annals to lead the league. The Wolves average 34.83 shots per game, which owns first place in the 31-team AHL just ahead of Manitoba (34.43).
415: Since the Wolves played their first game on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 710 players have suited up for Chicago. Defenseman Eric Williams became No. 710 Saturday night. When forward Ben Jones made his debut with the Vegas Golden Knights on Nov. 20, he became the 415th Wolves alum to compete in the greatest league in the world. Put another way, 58.5 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL.
NEXT FIVE GAMES
|Friday, Dec. 17||at Milwaukee||7 p.m.||Panther Arena||AHLTV|
|Saturday, Dec. 18||vs. Milwaukee||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Wednesday, Dec. 22||at Cleveland||6 p.m.||Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse||AHLTV|
|Thursday, Dec. 23||at Cleveland||6 p.m.||Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse||AHLTV|
|Friday, Dec. 31||at Rockford||6 p.m.||MetroCentre||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.