Wild: Scouting the Enemy

Pekka-35

He’s waited months to return to game action. Tonight, Pekka Rinne makes that return in the familiar setting of Milwaukee where his North American professional hockey career started.

The Admirals are enduring their longest losing streak of the season, 5 games. While the problem has been a bit more to do with a lack of offense the spark they’ll be getting tonight comes in the form of Pekka Rinne starting between the pipes.

There is going to be such an intense focus on Rinne’s return tonight and with great reason. (1) He is Pekka Rinne. (2) He is returning to the ice for the first time in four months after complications of an infection related to his off-season hip surgery. (3) This is his first time back in Milwaukee since 2008. (4) How will he play in his return to game action?

While I’m certainly going to be hitting on all those bullet points throughout the day, I’m literally going to live at the Bradley Center all day today, I don’t want to take away the main focus which is tonight’s game against the Iowa Wild. In fact, while many might be wagging the finger at Rinne’s return as a source of turning this losing streak around – I actually feel the best thing that will happen tonight for the Admirals is that they are playing the Wild in the first place.

The Iowa Wild enter tonight’s game with a record of 22-22-6-4 (54 points) and sit 4 points beneath the Admirals at the bottom of the Midwest Division. In their last 10 games they have stumbled around much like the Ads have: 3-6-1-0 record (7 points). They are currently on a losing streak of their own, 3-games. Someone will go slump-busters tonight.

In recent days the Wild have made some transactions worth talking about. They acquired former-Admiral Brad Winchester from the Rockford IceHogs, along with Zach Miskovic, for Brian Connelly.

Winchester has quietly had a very productive season as a member of the IceHogs: 55 games, 30 points (16 goals, 14 assists), plus/minus of -8, and 85 penalty minutes. We saw what he meant to the Admirals when he joined last season. For a team that has sputtered around all season long – perhaps a guy like Winchester is an acquisition that can really boost the Wild’s season. Time will tell. In 7 games with the IceHogs against the Ads this season he had produced 3 points (2 goals, 1 assist), plus/minus of -2, and has taken 8 penalty minutes.

Another transaction that the Wild made involved bringing in Hannu goaltender. Eh? Eh? That’s right. Fresh off of his release from the Admirals on a PTO contract – Hannu Toivonen found himself Hannu PTO deal with the Wild. He fills the spot of John Curry who was recently called up to Minnesota.

I anticipate Johan Gustafsson in net over the likes of Hannu, BUT, the Wild and Gustafsson played last night against the Rochester Americans. They were taken down in Iowa by a final score of 4-2 and Gustafsson allowed 3 goals from 34 shots on goal. I can see him playing two-in-two. Should we see Hannu in net so soon after being released… awkward.

Will tonight be the night that the Admirals breakout of this losing streak? How do you feel Pekka Rinne will perform in his return? Does the offense snap out of their own funk with a game against a team like the Iowa Wild? Will last night’s game hurt or help the Wild entering tonight?

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3 Responses to Wild: Scouting the Enemy

  1. Lavender says:

    Decided to publish this instantly before going to sleep. Going to be a busy day tomorr… today! I’ll be at morning skate, media scrum after practice, and no doubt be puzzling together all that I can from that after I get it all. Should then be all settled in for the game after that – with a bigger post-game media scrum than we’ve had in some time.

    Stay tuned! It’s going to be a heck of a day, Milwaukee.

  2. No surprise from me that Hannu had a soft AHL landing. Teams are always looking for quality goaltending and Toivo acquitted himself very well in his brief time in Milwaukee.

    But tonight certainly marks an interesting crossroads. The past two seasons January into February marked the winter swoon for the Admirals prior to a late season turnaround. This year it seems to be coming a bit later and this is of course a far worse time for a slump than in January with less games to make up for the fall. Then again Milwaukee is far better shape to survive a slump this season than they were the previous two years (the Admirals are still in the playoffs at this point).

    Milwaukee still stands in decent playoff shape at 54 GP, 23-19-6-6–58 pts. But as of today San Antonio (9th place) is only two points back, Iowa four (10th) and OKC five (11th).

    Pekka Rinne’s visit might just be a welcome distraction to help get the Admirals out of their current funk. Any change could only help Milwaukee right now.

  3. Lavender says:

    Jason: Hannu what you mean. /I can do that all day

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