Amtrak Rivalry night is upon us and revenge is on the mind. The last time the Ads and Wolves played was the home opener in Milwaukee. It went something like this:
Got to love a good rivalry, eh?
As for the last scouting report, not much has really changed in terms of the general make up of this team. The Wolves currently sit fourth in the Midwest Division with a 7-6-0-1 record good for 15 points out of 14 games played. Like the Admirals, this isn’t a team that draws too many penalties. The Ads are the least penalized team in the AHL with 164 PIM’s. The Wolves have 197 PIM’s. However, that first meeting of the season produced a combined 46 minutes worth of penalties. Roughing. Fighting. Slashing. Good times. I won’t be surprised to see a similar hockey game played even with the injury that currently sees Mike Liambas on the sidelines.
For the Wolves, this game will mark the conclusion of a lengthy six-game road trip. Regardless of tonight’s outcome this has been a very successful road trip for Chicago. They’ve won four of five, including three straight games, heading into the Amtrak Rivalry. The first on that trip was a 6-0 rout of the Oklahoma City Barons. They then dropped the rematch the following night, 4-2. But since? Perfect. 2-1, in Charlotte. 2-1, in Charlotte (again). Their last game was a 3-1 victory against the Iowa Wild on Wednesday.
I feel the first meeting between the Ads/Wolves is going to be a perfect barometer to tell just what type of game we should get tonight. My guess is this will be nip and tuck, scrappy, and defensive hockey. Last time out the Ads did a fantastic job staying composed defensively against one of the best teams in the AHL. They’ll need to continue that feat again against the Wolves.
While the Ads defense looked good against Grand Rapids it took a minor hit yesterday with the news regarding Filip Forsberg. In short, he won’t be in Milwaukee for this one. So what does that mean for the offense? The top two forward lines against the Griffins were strong throughout the course of that hockey game. Small example of what I mean: the starting forward group at the opening puck drop (Salomaki-Watson-Rask) won the draw and worked the puck in the offensive zone, line change (Moser-Sissons-Forsberg) with the puck still deep, and -bingo- goal. There is no guarantee that Taylor Beck instantly drops into the pairing with Moser and Sissons… but it seems likely don’t you think?
As for the starting line last game, after struggling to really have consistency with who he has been on the ice with, it seems as though Austin Watson has found a line in which everyone clicks into place. The Finnish combo of Salomaki and Rask provide the Michigan native with good speed, skill, and -tactically- wingers who are more than capable of playing defense just as well as offense.
“It’s nice to find that chemistry,” said Austin Watson of his linemates after Wednesday’s game. “[Salomaki and Rask] are two very skilled players. They work really hard. It’s great that we found that chemistry. We put in some good shifts together. The biggest thing I think is there speed and skill is so good that we can just sustain pressure in the offensive zone for twenty to thirty seconds at a time. That’s huge, and it’s going to create scoring chances for us.”
While I think it’ll be most interesting to see where Taylor Beck lines up tonight, the Ads are going to need the exact same consistency that Salomaki-Watson-Rask produced with the win over the Griffins. It set the tempo for the lines that followed and really guided the offense to zone time and -therefore- shots to the net. With a scrappy game in the cards. They could use lots of that.
Who wins tonight? How do you think Taylor Beck will respond in his return to the Admirals? Where would you fit Beck into the forward group? Will we see more fisticuffs in this one? Banter! Banter! Banter!