TEXAS STARS (27-24-6-5)
AT CHICAGO WOLVES (41-13-5-5)
PANIK AT THE SCHOOL-DAY GAME
The Chicago Wolves and Texas Stars have had two days to rest, regroup and renew after they each played three games in 48 hours over the weekend — capped by the Stars’ 5-3 win over the Wolves Sunday afternoon at Allstate Arena.
Unrelated to the result from Sunday’s game, the Wolves plan to have three forwards make their team debut during today’s School-Day Game rematch against the Stars. One of these players will be a familiar name to those in Chicago hockey circles: Forward Richard Panik, who produced 35 goals and 33 assists in 149 regular-season games for the Blackhawks between Jan. 2016 and Jan. 2018. He’ll suit up for the Wolves for the first time since being acquired at the AHL trade deadline March 28.
Panik hasn’t played since March 19 with the AHL’s Bridgeport Islanders due to an injury, but his resume shows 10 years of proven results at the NHL and AHL levels. With his 521 NHL regular-season games, he becomes the 42nd player with at least 500 NHL appearances to wear the Wolves jersey. The most recent was defenseman Jason Garrison, who helped the Wolves win the 2017-18 Central Division crown.
The 31-year-old Panik earned one Calder Cup championship (with the 2011-12 Norfolk Admirals) before launching his NHL career. Fun fact: He scored the first of his 88 NHL goals for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 23, 2012 — and he did it with Wolves assistant coach Patrick Dwyer (then playing for the Carolina Hurricanes) trying to poke the puck off his stick.
As for the other two newbies in today’s Wolves lineup, right wing Noel Gunler was 11 years old and center Vasily Ponomarev was 10 when Panik scored his first NHL goal. The 6-foot-2, 176-pound Gunler hails from Lulea, Sweden, and boasts 151 games in the Swedish Hockey League along with 35 games of international experience, which includes 4 goals in 5 games for Sweden’s 2021 team in the World Junior Championships.
The 5-10, 180-pound Ponomarev also played in that WJC and contributed 3 goals in 7 games for Russia’s fourth-place squad. He doesn’t have as much professional experience as Gunler, but he’s more familiar with North America. The 20-year-old spent two years with Shawinigan in the QMJHL before joining the KHL this year. He played a total of 68 minutes, 29 seconds spread across 14 games for a veteran-laden Spartak Moscow team that included former Wolves goaltender Oscar Dansk.
BYE THE WAY…
If the Wolves win today or Milwaukee loses versus Manitoba (or if the Wolves and Admirals each get 1 point), the Wolves clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs. Forward Josh Leivo will not be a part of today’s lineup as he was suspended one game for a spearing incident Sunday. Leivo ranks fifth on the squad with 39 points (19G, 20A) in 44 games.
we are the wolves
Elsewhere on this webpage, it was mentioned Richard Panik will become the 42nd player with 500-plus NHL appearances to play for the Wolves. To have so many such players serves as a reminder owner Don Levin has a lengthy history of doing what it takes to add veterans who can help win championships.
Here are the 10 Wolves with the most regular-season NHL games on their resume:
1. Chris Chelios (1,651)
2. Jay Bouwmeester (1,240)
3. Gordie Roberts (1,097)
4. Braydon Coburn (983)
T5. Troy Murray (914)
T5. Doug Crossman (914)
7. Steve Konroyd (895)
8. Kris King (849)
9. Bryan Little (843)
10. Michel Petit (827)
LAST TWO GAMES
- Shortly after the Wolves finished turning a 3-0 deficit into a 3-3 tie, the Stars scored a shorthanded goal and an empty-netter in the final 2:15 to claim their first regulation win over Chicago this year.
- Forward CJ Smith started the comeback with two second-period goals and forward Stefan Noesen scored his league-best 38th goal to knot the game with 3:34 to play.
- Goaltender Jack LaFontaine registered a career-high 34 saves on 38 shots.
- Forward Stefan Noesen scored his league-leading 36th and 37th goals during the opening xx minutes and Jack Drury added a career-high 4 points as the Wolves avenged Friday’s loss at MIL.
- Forwards David Gust, Josh Leivo, Drury and Jamieson Rees added goals while Noesen notched 3 points and Kyle Marino earned First Star honors for his tone-setting fight 2:56 into the night.
- Goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov posted 21 saves for his fifth straight win.
By the numbers
2.55: The Wolves stand atop the American Hockey League at 2.55 goals allowed per game with the Pacific Division-leading Stockton Heat (2.62) their closest pursuers. If the Wolves can maintain their spot at the top of the GAA charts, it would mark the first time in franchise history to lead the league in fewest goals allowed. Prior to this, the closest Chicago came was a third-place finish in 2018-19 with 2.62 goals allowed per game. That’s not to be confused with the team record for fewest goals allowed per game — set in 2013-14 when Goaltender of the Year Jake Allen and backup Matt Climie led the team to a 2.51 per-game mark.
8.57: The Wolves are trying to become the first AHL team since the 2007-08 Providence Bruins to lead the league in Shots For (34.59) and Shots Against (26.02) in the same season, though the Manitoba Moose snuck past them last week to move into first place in fewest shots allowed at 25.81. The Wolves also are in position to break the single-season franchise records for Shots For (34.69) and Shots Against (27.93).
12: The Wolves’ magic number to clinch their fifth Central Division title in the last six years stands as 12. They can clinch as soon as Sunday afternoon. Looking even farther down the road, the team’s magic number to clinch the league’s best regular-season record (and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs) stands at 28 with 12 games left. The Stockton Heat are the only team with a better chance. The Heat’s magic number sits at 17 with 10 games left.
38: Wolves forward Stefan Noesen owns an AHL-leading 38 goals, three ahead of Abbotsford’s Sheldon Dries. Noesen also paces the AHL in game-winning goals (9) and first goals as he earned his eighth Saturday night. With his next GWG, he’ll tie the organization’s single-season record shared by Chris Marinucci (1998-99), Brett Sterling (2007-08), Mark Mancari (2011-12) and Shane Harper (2014-15). With his 38 goals in 59 appearances, the 29-year-old from Plano, Texas, is on pace to score 45 goals. Only three Wolves (Sterling, Steve Maltais and Rob Brown) have scored more than 41 in a season.
48: If veteran Richard Panik and rookies Noel Gunler and Vasily Ponomarev make their Wolves debuts today, then that will set a franchise record with the 46th, 47th and 48th players to suit up for the team this year. The record of 47 was set by the 2010-11 team that played an 80-game schedule. Last year’s squad needed 45 players to get through 33 games.
85: Captain Andrew Poturalski shares the AHL scoring lead with former Wolves center T.J. Tynan. Both own 85 points as Poturalski boasts 24 goals and 61 assists and Tynan has 13 goals and 72 assists. If Poturalski outduels Tynan down the stretch, then he’ll become the first player since Philadelphia’s Peter White in 1997-98 to win back-to-back AHL scoring titles. Poturalski is on pace for 101 points this season as he and Tynan are threatening to become the first AHL players to reach the 100-point mark since Hershey’s Keith Aucoin and Alexandre Giroux scored 106 and 103 points, respectively, during the 2009-10 season.
421: Since the Wolves played their first game on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 724 players have suited up for Chicago. Rookie defensemen Griffin Mendel became No. 724 when he made his professional debut Sunday against Texas. Of those 724, 421 have played in the NHL. Put another way, 58.1 percent of all Wolves have suited up in the greatest league in the world.
NEXT FIVE GAMES
|Saturday, April 9||vs. Manitoba||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Sunday, April 10||vs. Cleveland||3 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Wednesday, April 13||at Texas||7 p.m.||H-E-B Center||AHLTV|
|Friday, April 15||at Texas||7 p.m.||H-E-B Center||AHLTV|
|Saturday, April 16||at Texas||7 p.m.||H-E-B Center||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.