Wolves: Scouting the Enemy

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After starting off with five-straight wins – Marek Mazanec suffered his first loss of the season Wednesday night against the Iowa Wild. How does he respond in net? (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Milwaukee Admirals will look to rebound tonight after taking their first loss of the season on Wednesday night against the Iowa Wild.  The Ads are set for a road-home weekend set with the Chicago Wolves. And there is a chance that the AHL schedule may benefit the Ads tonight and even more so tomorrow.

With yesterday being an off-day for the Admirals – the Chicago Wolves were pushed hard on the road by the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Wolves came out on top 6-5 in OT to end their two-game skid. It’s a trek back from Grand Rapids to Chicago for a game against the Ads, and then a trip up to Milwaukee for another game with the Ads.

I’m expecting there to be a lot of hitting and strong forecheck work on the boards tonight by the Admirals. They have a chance to take an already tired opponent and exhaust them before the puck drops on Sunday afternoon. If they play their hand correctly – this could be a successful weekend for the Ads.

~Recent Run of Form~

Since the Admirals last played the Wolves their Amtrak Rivals have played two games. After the Admirals defeated them 3-2 in overtime, the Wolves followed up with a 4-3 road loss to the Rockford IceHogs and then the OT victory in Grand Rapids mentioned above.

In the last two games for the Wolves – they have allowed four-or-more goals. This comes with both of their goaltenders, Matt Climie and Jordan Binnington, taking part. It was the veteran Climie that picked up the win last night but, in doing so, he allowed five goals from twenty-six shots. In the loss to Rockford, Binnington had allowed four goals from twenty-nine shots on goal.

~Climie’s Arch Nemesis~

Climie’s history against the Milwaukee Admirals has been rather remarkable. The 31-year old netminder has played in 217 career AHL games. Of that total, he has played the Admirals twenty-nine times – including twice in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

2009-10: 3-1-0-0, 1.26 GAA, 0.956 SV%
2010-11: 2-1-0-1, 2.66 GAA, 0.890 SV%
2011-12: 5-2-0-0, 2.59 GAA, 0.927 SV%
2012-13: 0-7-0-1, 3.13 GAA, 0.889 SV%
2013-14: 1-2-0-0, 2.60 GAA, 0.893 SV%
2014-15: 0-0-1-0, 2.71 GAA, 0.857 SV%

His career mark against the Admirals in the regular season is 11-13-1-2 with a 2.49 GAA and a 0.902 SV%. Mind you, it’s those last four seasons with the Wolves to keep an eye on. The last last three seasons especially haven’t favored him at all – eleven defeats and only one win.

~Hunting in Packs~

The Wolves are currently led in scoring by Rob Bordson who has 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists) in seven games. He is followed by a four-way tie for the second most points on the team with 6 points.

It’s a very deep roster that is finding offensive production all across the board in the early goings. Still, if I had one guy that I’d keep an eye out for this weekend it is – and remains Ty Rattie. In the Admirals-Wolves first meeting of the season his play, in combination with the speed of Terry Broadhurst, was outstanding to watch.

Someone else worth watching out for in a less-than-offensive sense is Cody Beach. He currently leads the entire league in penalty minutes with 68. His Fight Card already has three bouts attached to it this season. If Rich Clune makes his Admirals debut – perhaps we’re treated to a tilt between the two.

What are your expectations from this weekend’s games? Can the Admirals get back to winning form tonight? Scoreline predictions for the weekend? Do you see the Admirals rotating goalies at all this weekend?

Be sure to follow Admirals Roundtable on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and see our photos on Instagram.

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Zach Budish Assigned to Cincinnati

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Zach Budish has 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists) in 6 games this season for the Admirals. He’s now set to join the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL – a team that he played 16 games and 24 playoff games with at the end of last season.

The Milwaukee Admirals announced this afternoon that Zach Budish will be assigned to the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL. This roster move comes as a result of the addition of Rich Clune to the Admirals after he cleared waivers and joined the team yesterday.

Budish has 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists) in 6 games this season with the Admirals. He has performed on the team’s fourth line with Joe Pendenza and Frederick Gaudreau. He’ll be joining a Cyclones team that he played 16 games with at the end of last season and scored 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists). Budish also was with the Cyclones for their outstanding playoff run, played in 24 playoff games, scored 11 points (6 goals, 5 assists), and came up just short of winning the Kelly Cup with Cincinnati.

As for Clune, expect him to factor into this weekend’s games against the Chicago Wolves. He has 275 games of AHL experience to his name. His last career AHL game was with the Manchester Monarchs on 1/11/13. He had four shots on goal in that game and, interestingly enough, a two-minute penalty for diving to go along with a play where he was slashed by Tim Sestito.

Thought’s on this roster move? Was Zach Budish the right candidate to be assigned to the ECHL to make room for Rich Clune? What are your expectations of Clune’s time with the Admirals?

Be sure to follow Admirals Roundtable on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and see our photos on Instagram.

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The Chatterbox, Vol. 41

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Viktor Stalberg looked every bit the NHL player that he is last night for the Milwaukee Admirals. The only thing lacking for him was a reward for his efforts. He had no points and four shots on goal in the Ads 4-2 defeat to the Iowa Wild. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Admirals have finally suffered a defeat. 4-2 at the hands of the Iowa Wild while playing on home ice. Going in, I was expecting to see a repeat of what we saw in Iowa two weeks ago. A match-up of the best team in the AHL against the worst team in the AHL by record. That’s the game of hockey for you, though. The Wild played a tough game against the Admirals and deserved that one.

Now comes the fun part that I’ve been waiting for. How does this young Admirals team respond to a little adversity? There is a away-home two-in-two coming up on Saturday and Sunday with the Chicago Wolves – who are in a two game losing skid as we speak.

The recent performances by the Admirals have been touch and go. And things weren’t as crisp as they should have been against the Wild last night. Something will need to give for the Admirals and Wolves. The Amtrak Rivalry games this weekend should prove to pack a punch or two.

After the defeat to Iowa I spoke with Dean Evason, Austin Watson, and Viktor Stalberg. Here is what they had to say following the Admirals first loss of the season.

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Admirals Winning Streak Ends At Six Games; Wild win 4-2

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The Milwaukee Admirals have lost for the first time this season. Dean Evason’s face can provide the rest of this caption. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Admirals lost 4-2 against the Iowa Wild Wednesday night. The defeat is the Admirals first of the year and saw the end of their franchise best six-game winning streak to start the season.

“That team wanted the game more here tonight,” said head coach Dean Evason of the Iowa Wild. “We didn’t figure it out until the end and we were close. But they took it out of us early with their drive and compete. They played hard.”

Iowa managed to get on the board first in this game and did so inside of three minutes. A one-timed shot by Jake Parenteau flew clean through Marek Mazanec like a hot knife through butter. The goal was credited to Michael Keranen for his second tally of the season. Perhaps the slightest of deflections was the reasoning behind Mazanec missing the save completely.

With the Admirals forward lines getting a shake-up tonight because of Viktor Stalberg’s inclusion. There was an opportunity to spread the wealth and link up Viktor Arvidsson with Miikka Salomaki. The rookie Swede’s rush into the zone started a rebound rodeo around Johan Gustafsson. Salomaki would be the man on the spot to deliver a first period equalizer for his first goal of the season.

After Mark Van Guilder was called for a holding penalty in the second period – the Wild went back out in front with a power-play goal. Former-Admiral Jonathon Blum picked out Marc Hagel in front of the net with a shot pass that was redirected past Mazanec for Hagel’s first goal of the season.

The Wild followed up with a second power-play goal in the second period. Tyler Graovac’s run to the net held all of Mazanec’s attention but the 21-year old forward dropped a pass off on the backhand to Zack Mitchell. With the Admirals netminder overcommitted to the left of goal – it was an easy take for Mitchell to score his second goal of the season and make it a 3-1 Wild lead. It was the first time this season that the Admirals trailed by two-goals.

In the third period there was a pair of teammate collisions. First up, the Wild’s captain Stephane Veilleux ran over defenseman Danny Syvret. Then the Admirals has a collision between Swedes. Stalberg bulldozed Pontus Aberg and left him down and out on the ice. The Admirals rookie went back to the locker room and didn’t return to the game.

“I think, at the last second, we thought the other guy was going to go,” said Viktor Stalberg. “It goes quick out there sometimes and we both kind of thought the same thing going below each other. Ended up on a pretty big collision there. Hopefully he’ll be alright here.”

Just at the halfway point in the third period the Admirals found the back of the net. After the Wild missed an opportunity to catch Mazanec out of position, Brendan Leipsic ran back the other way and started an attack that resulted in Austin Watson’s fifth goal of the season.

The Admirals pulled Mazanec and were surging with an extra attacker on. Yet, Wild defenseman Syvret scored the long range empty netter to seal the Ads first defeat of the 2014-15 season.

“They came out hard and had a bit of an edge in their compete level,” said Austin Watson. “It showed in the first two periods and we weren’t able to battle back from that.”

Ramblings: The Admirals roster tonight included the names Viktor Stalberg (#25) and Rich Clune (#36) as the pair were sent to Milwaukee from the Nashville Predators. Stalberg is on a conditioning assignment – meaning he will be with us no longer than fourteen days. Clune, however, cleared waivers from the Predators as he was sent down to make room for the return of Matt Cullen from IR.

Thoughts from tonight’s game? Where did it go wrong tonight? Was this more a case of the Wild winning the game than the Admirals losing it?

Be sure to follow Admirals Roundtable on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and see our photos on Instagram.

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Rich Clune Coming to a Milwaukee Rink Near You

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Rich Clune dressed in 106 games with Nashville, including one this season. Photo via Predators.NHL.com.

Yesterday, my colleague Daniel Lavender speculated on what it would mean to Milwaukee, and notably popular Admirals forward Michael Liambas, if Nashville Predators forward Rich Clune cleared waivers. Today, as expected, Clune cleared waivers and was assigned to Milwaukee. Therefore, tonight against Iowa we will all find out the 25-year-old’s plans and Milwaukee/Nashville’s plans for him, and Liambas, going forward.

Clune took to Twitter soon after the news:

Clune’s spot in Nashville will be taken by forward Matt Cullen, who is returning from the IR. Clune, a Toronto native, and known NHL enforcer (166 PIMs last season with the Predators) becomes the latest light scoring, tough guy to clear through waivers into the American Hockey League. Thanks in part to boon in the use of advanced stats, many NHL teams seem inclined to move away from utilizing a classic low scoring enforcer (see Colton Orr) on their lower lines and instead employ third and fourth line checkers that can also fight if need be (see David Clarkson).

If this in fact Clune’s final go-around with Nashville, the popular winger will have dressed in 106 NHL games with the team, scoring seven goals and 16 points, along with collecting 279 PIMs.

If Clune does dress with the Admirals, this will be his third stint in the AHL after playing for the now extinct Iowa Stars (2007-2008) and formerly more colorful Manchester Monarchs (2008-2013). He also saw 14 games with the Los Angeles Kings in 2009-2010.

So Roundtable . . . Are you excited to see Clune in Milwaukee? Along with a great Twitter handle, what can he bring to the Admirals?

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Wild: Scouting the Enemy

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Yes. Yes we are. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

It is a tad overkill for a fully fledged scouting the enemy today when you consider we did that whole song and dance about two weeks ago on the Iowa Wild. So, let’s do some quick recapping and take a look into our own team in today’s scouting report.

~Be Kind, Rewind~

The Admirals played a so-so game in their first meeting of the season against the Wild. The game finished 4-3 and the Ads nearly coughed up a 4-1 lead. This was followed the next night by a game that wasn’t even remotely close. Marek Mazanec recorded his first career AHL shutout. Viktor Arvidsson scored a natural hat trick. And the Admirals won 4-0.

What has happened since for the Wild? They played two more home games and split them with the Charlotte Checkers. This past Friday the Wild lost 5-1. The next night they were finally able to earn their win of the season, 4-1. They sit at the bottom of the entire AHL with a record of 1-5-0-0 (2 points). In other words, they are the yin to our yang as far as this young season has developed so far. (Don’t take the Admirals hot start and win streak for granted!)

~The Great Gustafsson Mystery~

In his first start of the season, Johan Gustafsson may have allowed three goals but he had an impressive thirty-six saves in a 3-2 road loss against the San Antonio Rampage. Then came the Admirals and back-to-back rough nights in net. He was pulled the first night against the Ads after allowing four goals from eight shots in 21:50 of ice time. The next night he hung around for the distance but, again, conceded four goals.

The spark he, as well as the entire Iowa Wild team needed, was that first win of the season. Gustafsson was the man in net on Saturday night when the Wild took down the Checkers. He made thirty-four saves from thirty-five shots on goal. This includes being the fort in net when the Wild’s penalty kill went six-of-six on the night.

So, which Gustafsson do the Admirals get? The one that was stellar last time out or the one that requires an Iowa Wild team to produce more than four goals to win?

~Admirals Roster Shake-Up~

There’s no telling which line Viktor Stalberg will be injected into but there is no denying his inclusion, on a conditioning assignment, will make this team even better. The Admirals forward lines have stayed pretty consistent during this franchise best start to a season. Unfamiliar? It has looked as such:

Leipsic-Van Guilder-Watson
Salomaki-Sissons-Aberg
Arvidsson-Girard-Grant
Pendenza-Gaudreau-Budish

I’m sure the top two lines listed there are sort of “1-A, 1-B” but that’s where things are about to get complex. There are a number of possibilities as to what Dean Evason could roll out with tonight.

With how well Mark Van Guilder and Austin Watson have been playing together – Stalberg is a similar style player that could fit in there. But, I question if taking Brendan Leipsic off that line is the best thing for how well he has worked in concert with his linemates. It could be that you see Miikka Salomaki or Pontus Aberg rotate down with the eventual choice of Joe Pendenza or Zach Budish getting healthy scratched with Triston Grant pulling fourth line duty. Shame, as well. Because that fourth-line has also been playing well.

All that and we haven’t even thought of what will happen to Mike Liambas, who is healthy and game ready, should Rich Clune clear waivers and reach Milwaukee. While that works itself out I’ll be enjoying the fact that we now have two players named Viktor and reciting “Smoke Signals” quotes.

UPDATE: Rich Clune has cleared waivers and will be assigned to the Milwaukee Admirals.

What do you expect out of tonight’s game? Scoreline prediction? Can the Admirals winning-streak continue? How would you re-work the Admirals forward lines to incorporate Viktor Stalberg?

Be sure to follow Admirals Roundtable on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and see our photos on Instagram.

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Nashville Moves Could See Two Joining the Admirals

(Photo Credit: John Russell)

Viktor Stalberg will be joining the already stacked Milwaukee Admirals on a conditioning assignment. What will his presence add to an already hot team? (Photo Credit: John Russell)

The Nashville Predators have made some roster moves this afternoon. Matt Cullen has been removed from the team’s injured reserved and will be active for the team’s upcoming six-game road trip. To make room for this, the team has placed Rich Clune on waivers in the hopes that he clears and is able to reach the Milwaukee Admirals. In addition, Viktor Stalberg will be coming to the Admirals as part of a conditioning assignment as he recovers from a lower-body injury.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

The Nashville Predators will activate forward Matt Cullen off of injured reserve, making him available for the team’s upcoming road trip that begins Wednesday night in Edmonton.

Cullen skated on a regular forward line at Monday’s practice, setting him up for his first game action since suffering an upper-body injury Sept. 24 during a preseason game against Tampa Bay.

“We’re anxious to get Matt back in the lineup, as he is a veteran who can contribute in a number of situations,” General Manager David Poile said.

To make room for Cullen’s addition to the roster, the club has placed forward Rich Clune on waivers, with the intention of assigning him to Milwaukee of the American Hockey League.

“Rich is a character guy in our locker room,” Poile said. “We are hopeful that Rich will clear waivers and be available for recall in the future.”

The Predators have also assigned forward Viktor Stalberg to Milwaukee on a conditioning assignment. Stalberg suffered a lower-body injury during training camp, missing the entire preseason schedule and first three games of the regular season. He has skated in five games this season.

“Viktor has had some unfortunate injury trouble during his last two training camps,” Poile said. “We want Viktor to have some time in Milwaukee to fine tune his game and we look forward to having him back in Nashville.

“Both Rich and Viktor have seen limited playing time this season at the NHL level and we feel that they will benefit from the additional ice time that they will receive in Milwaukee.”

These moves leave the Predators with 22 skaters – 13 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders – in advance of Wednesday’s game at Edmonton, the first of a season-long, six-game, 12-day road trip. Nashville’s primary developmental affiliate, the AHL’s Admirals, receive a further influx of talent to a team that has already started with a franchise-record six consecutive wins to start the 2014-15 season.

“Having to send Viktor and Rich to Milwaukee exemplifies the depth we now possess in the organization,” Poile said. “We have a great deal of flexibility at the forward position, which should benefit us moving ahead.”

The question will be whether or not Clune clears waivers in the first place to reach Milwaukee. Should he do so, I’m doubting his ability to factor in all that much to the team’s current setup much the same way Mike Liambas didn’t factor into the team’s last two games whilst healthy.

With Stalberg also en route to Milwaukee, it pushes Liambas on the outside again to make it into upcoming games. The way the Admirals have been playing it seems as if the rich will be getting richer with another offensive minded talent, an NHL one at that, joining the team in the midst of a franchise record best start to a season.

So, what would this end up meaning for the likes of Clune and Liambas? Should we end up seeing the Nashville enforcer and Twitter extraordinaire – it could mean that Liambas would end up with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL purely from a “this role is now taken” standpoint.

UPDATE: Rich Clune has cleared waivers and will be assigned to the Milwaukee Admirals.

What do you make of today’s roster moves by the Nashville Predators? What happens to the forward lines with the inclusion of Viktor Stalberg? What becomes of Rich Clune and Mike Liambas? Are we seeing the end of the prototypical enforcer in hockey?

Be sure to follow Admirals Roundtable on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and see our photos on Instagram.

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The Chatterbox, Vol. 40

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Garrett Noonan’s hesitation to shoot from the blue line gave him just the angle he needed to equalize for the Admirals and score his first professional goal on Saturday night against the Lake Erie Monsters. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Coming into Saturday night’s contest against the Lake Erie Monsters – the Milwaukee Admirals had only trailed an opponent for 1:48 of ice time in five games. That was pushed to the point where the Admirals were only seven some odd minutes shy of their first loss of the season – it would have been a regulation loss – and it would have been a shutout against an offense that registered no less than three goals a game.

Up stepped Garrett Noonan who smashed in his first professional goal to equalize for the Admirals. Then the wild and crazy speed game that is the new AHL overtime format. And then Magnus Hellberg, really needing a good result tonight in relation to how superb Marek Mazanec has been, delivered where he has so often – a shootout. Hellberg now has won 6 career AHL shootouts and has stopped 31/37 attempts in the process.

These last two games that have trickled into overtime haven’t been the best performances that the Admirals have laid down this season. Yet they are finding ways to win them. Six games. Six wins. Four road games. Four road wins. Two overtime games. One overtime win. One shootout win.

I think what excites me the most about this year’s Admirals team isn’t this performance that we are seeing now. It’s how it is going to respond to hitting its first big wall of the season. When that happens. If that happens. I believe this team really could be special this year with the talent and amount of young leaders that it possesses.

After the game, I joined the scrum for head coach Dean Evason. I also had the chance to speak to Magnus Hellberg, Triston Grant, and Garrett Noonan. Here is what everyone had to say following the shootout victory.

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Admirals Set A Franchise Record with 2-1 Shootout Win

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Magnus Hellberg made his 2014-15 season debut in typical Hellberg fashion – a shootout victory. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Admirals set a franchise record for wins to start a season with a 2-1 shootout win against the Lake Erie Monsters Saturday night. Magnus Hellberg won in his first start of the season, made 25-saves, and didn’t allow a goal in the shootout. Garrett Noonan’s first professional goal proved to be a streak-saver for the Admirals. He equalized with 7:21 left in regulation to give the Ads the opportunity that saw them win their sixth straight game to start the season.

“We’re going to ride it as long as we can,” said Triston Grant of the Admirals franchise best six-game winning streak to start a season. “We didn’t play up to our standards the last couple games but we have to take those wins because there’s going to be games that we play really well and we’re not going to win. That’s what happens in hockey.”

After a rather sluggish opening period – there were some real fireworks that spurted out of the second. The Monsters were awarded a penalty shot when Jimmy Oligny hauled down Andrew Agozzino. Magnus Hellberg, making his first start of the season, bailed out his rookie defenseman with a pad save on the penalty shot attempt to keep things scoreless.

Then some rough stuff. Joe Piskula and Colin Smith had a small scrap that only resulted in roughing calls for each. This was followed later in the second period by a fight of the year candidate between Triston Grant and Daniel Maggio. Both leveled one another to the point of patchwork. Grant, who I’d give the win to, had Quinten Tarantino level blood splatter on his helmet visor. His counterpart Maggio was handed a fresh jersey whilst in the penalty box.

After a puck was spilled by Hellberg in net, the Monsters broke the deadlock in the second period with a goal from Paul Carey. As soon as the puck left the clutches of Hellberg the battle in front of him became a mess. Carey picked up the loose puck, skated for a shot, and had the entire top shelf to hit for his second goal of the season.

Another scrum came in the third period as Austin Watson leapt to the defense of his linemate Brendan Leipsic after a solid check by Maxim Noreau. It wasn’t anything near the level or intensity of the previous Grant battle – but was a solid display of sticking up for your teammates from Watson nonetheless.

With 7:21 left in regulation, Garrett Noonan scored his first professional goal to level the game at 1-1. Noonan pump faked a slap shot and then zipped one towards traffic. Zach Budish jumped over the puck, Joe Pendenza set a screen in front of Calvin Pickard, and the Noonan shot flew past everyone and into the back of the net.

For the second consecutive night we were then treated to the new AHL overtime format. Prior to the three-on-three change over, the Admirals were awarded with a penalty shot as Viktor Arvidsson was chopped down by Stefan Elliott. Just like the previous penalty shot attempt. The five hole move wasn’t working. And this game lasted all the way into a shootout.

Leipsic was up first for the Admirals and beat Pickard with a barrage of moves. Mike Sgarbossa’s follow up for the Monsters belted the post and came right back out for a miss. Arvidsson stepped up next for the Ads and again failed on a five hole move. Smith was next for the Monsters and flipped his backhander high and wide. The game then fell on the stick of Pontus Aberg – who deked himself enough room to beat Pickard to the far post and in for the game-winner.

“For a lot of the weekend we didn’t play the way that we had in our first four,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. “The league is going to get better, teams are going to get better, and we need to get better. We’ll continue to work at it.”

Ramblings: Patrick Cehlin was the lone player out with injury tonight for the Admirals as he recovers from a hip injury. Jonathan Diaby and Mike Liambas were both listed as healthy scratches. Tonight was Magnus Hellberg’s first competitive start since 4/13/14 with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL – he stopped 21/22 in a 4-1 win. The Admirals remain the final unbeaten AHL team remaining with a franchise record 6-0-0-0 start to a season.

Thoughts and observations from tonight? How did Magnus Hellberg fair in his first start of the season? What did you make of the Admirals offense being, for the most part, shutdown tonight? And will this new AHL overtime format give you heart problems throughout the season? …because I think it will for me in the best of ways.

Be sure to follow Admirals Roundtable on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and see our photos on Instagram.

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Monsters: Scouting the Enemy

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When the Milwaukee Admirals and Lake Erie Monsters clashed last season we saw a goalie fight. Call me biased but I think Scott Darling bested Sami Aittokallio.

Before leaping ahead to the match-up we have tonight against the Lake Erie Monsters I feel like some recapping is in order from the 3-2 (OT) win in Chicago last night.

With the Texas Stars losing 5-3 to the Oklahoma City Barons last night – the Milwaukee Admirals became the last remaining unbeaten AHL team. This start, five wins in five games, ties the franchise record for the best start to a season (1988-89). The four-consecutive road wins to start a season is a new record for the Admirals. And, for good measure, they also became the first team in the AHL this season to reach double digit points.

The only other team with more goals than the Admirals this season are the Rochester Americans – who have 21 goals to the Admirals 20 goals. That same team is also on equal playing field with the Admirals for the best goal differential in the league with +10.

Brendan Leipsic, who recorded another primary assist last night on Austin Watson‘s goal, now leads in rookie scoring with 7 points – all of which are assists – a category in which he leads the entire league in. Viktor Arvidsson and Pontus Åberg are both tied for third place in rookie scoring with 5 points.

Plenty of superlatives to dish out from this start to the season. Positives all over the place. And you almost forget that Marek Mazanec, for the second consecutive season, has started his AHL season off with five straight wins.

~The New Divisional Foe~

With this season’s divisional realignment, the shuffle saw the Iowa Wild go from our division to the West Division and the Lake Erie Monsters step in from the North Division. Since their inception in 2007-08, they have gone 13-7-3-1 against the Milwaukee Admirals.

Previous seasons have only seen the two battling home and away in two-game sets for a total of four games in a season. The most recent edition, the 2013-14 season, saw a combined total of 212 penalty minutes between the two teams in four games. In addition, there were 31 goals scored – 10 goals from the power-play – 2 shorthanded (one by each team) – and a single empty netter.

The Monsters, the AHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche, enter tonight’s game with a 2-3-0-0 record from their opening five games. They are at the bottom of the Midwest Division. They have scored 13 goals and have 18 goals against. Despite getting spanked by the Chicago Wolves last weekend they enter tonight’s game off of a stellar 5-4 road win against the Grand Rapids Griffins. Each and every goal scored in that game by the Monsters was with Petr Mrazek in net. Weirdly, they finished the night 0/5 on the power-play and still scored 5 goals.

~Prospect Watch~

According to the Fall Top 20 for Avalanche prospects on Hockey’s Future – the Monsters will boast half of that list on their current roster that will be rolling into Milwaukee from Grand Rapids.

Topping their list of current Monsters is defenseman Duncan Siemens. The 21-year old Alberta native was selected by the Avalanche with the 11th Overall Selection in the 2011 NHL Draft. Last year was his rookie season of professional hockey and it was tattered with injuries. He only played in 46 games for the Monsters, scored 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists), had 45 penalty minutes, and a plus/minus of -1. He is healthy to start this season off, has played in all five games so far, and has an assist with a -4 rating.

Joey Hishon is another name worth spying on tonight. You might remember that he scored a hat trick against the Admirals last season in a 6-5 defeat for the Monsters in Milwaukee. To boot, the main AHL website has given him a feature story worth looking at. He is also a former first round selection of the Avalanche (10th Overall). And, despite a great pre-season camp with Colorado, has no points in three games for the Monsters and is a -5 rating to boot. Look for him to potentially get off the mark tonight.

Expectations for tonight’s game? Will the Admirals set a franchise record for a best ever start to a season? Would you dare rotate Marek Mazanec out of the net in favor of giving Magnus Hellberg his first start of the season tonight?

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