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VETERAN Mackenzie MacEachern’s return provides BOOST TO WOLVES’ OFFENSE
It’s not surprising that one of the Wolves’ strongest stretches of the season coincides with the return of Mackenzie MacEachern to the lineup.
The 28-year-old winger missed three months of the season due to injuries and made his return Feb. 3. Since then, the Wolves have gone 4-2-0-1 as they make a push for the postseason.
“It’s always tough to jump back in there after three months,” MacEachern said. “I took it slow and it took me a couple of games but now I’m feeling good.”
MacEachern had a goal and four assists during that seven-game span and has provided a spark with his physicality, net-front presence and veteran leadership.
“This is a tough time of year to play hockey as everyone kind of shuts down and you have to really work for your goals and wins,” MacEachern said. “I just lead by example. I’ve been there before so I want to bring the young guys with me.”
While the layoff gives MacEachern fresh legs heading into the stretch run of the season, the veteran of 115 NHL games with the St. Louis Blues and 193 AHL contests in two stints with the Wolves and one each with Springfield and San Antonio needed to get into game shape.
“You can only stay in such good shape but you can’t replicate game shape,” he said. “And I had to get the timing, speed and physicality back. When you miss a big chunk of time and come back while everyone is fighting for a playoff spot you missed that buildup of intensity but now it’s good.”
At 6-feet-3-inches and 203 pounds, MacEachern has made his presence felt in front of opposing goaltenders.
“A lot of goals scored in this league and the in NHL are at the net front,” he said. “I have a big body so I just try to stay there and try to clean up the garbage.”
special times for special teams
Almost lost in the Wolves’ recent run of success has been the strong special teams play, most notably the penalty kill.
Guided by assistant coach Pat Dwyer, the penalty kill has nullified 53 of 57 opponent power plays over the last 16 games. Entering Tuesday’s action, the Wolves ranked second in the AHL with an 85.1 percent kill rate.
“Pat’s done an amazing job with the group,” Wolves head coach Brock Sheahan said. “Our guys have bought in. We have good goaltending and our guys are aggressive and on their toes. We’re not sitting back and our guys are really dialed in with their reads and intensity and we’re not giving up much there.”
In addition, the power play that languished near the bottom of the league for much of the season has converted in three of the last five games and now ranks 23rd at 17.7 percent.
“Both units, power play and penalty kill, are getting better and better,” Sheahan said.
The Wolves’ New Addition
The Wolves welcomed a new addition to the team with Thursday’s acquisition of forward Zach Senyshyn from the Utica Comets in exchange for future considerations.
The 25-year-old from Ottawa, Ontario, was a first-round selection (15th overall) by the Boston Bruins in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and has appeared in 16 NHL games with the Bruins and Senators. This season, Senyshyn had six goals and three assists in 37 games with the Comets before joining the Wolves.
“It’s definitely very exciting,” Senyshyn said of the trade. “I’ve heard lots of great things about the Wolves organization. They are the defending Calder Cup champions and it’s exciting to come to a new city and see some fresh faces.”
Goal of the Week
Chicago native and defenseman-turned-forward Alex Green notched his first goal in a Wolves uniform—and it turned out to be the game-winner—during Saturday’s 4-3 victory over the Cleveland Monsters.
Weekly rewind (1-1-0-1)
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 15
Admirals 2, Wolves 1 (SO): Behind goaltender Yaroslav Askarov’s 30 saves in regulation—and another 12 in the shootout—the Admirals prevailed over Pyotr Kochetkov and the Wolves in the battle between Central Division teams. Jamieson Rees scored as the Wolves extended their points streak to four games.
SATURDAY, FEB. 18
Wolves 4, Monsters 3: Vasily Ponomarev had two goals and Mackenzie MacEachern added a goal and an assist to lead the way offensively. Alex Green scored the game-winner in the third period.
SUNDAY, FEB. 19
Monsters 3, Wolves 2: Marcus Stromwall and Jamieson Rees scored but it wasn’t enough as the Monsters rallied for the victory to even the season series between the teams at 4-4-0-0.
First Star of the Week
RYAN SUZUKI, C
The 21-year-old had assists in each of the three games last week to run his points streak to five contests. For the season, Suzuki has eight goals and nine assists in 25 games.
Where we stand
19-23-3-2, seventh in the Central Division.
|Tuesday, Feb. 21||at Iowa||7 p.m.||Wells Fargo Arena||AHLTV|
|Friday, Feb. 24||at Grand Rapids||6 p.m.||Van Andel Arena||AHLTV|
|Saturday, Feb. 25||vs. Tucson||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||AHLTV/My50 Chicago|
|Sunday, Feb. 26||vs. Tucson||3 p.m.||Allstate Arena||AHLTV/My50 Chicago|
|Wednesday, March 1||at Grand Rapids||6 p.m.||Van Andel Arena||AHLTV|
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