IceHogs: Scouting the Enemy

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Miikka Salomaki has scored two goals in three games against the Rockford IceHogs this season. He scored his first multi-goal game Tuesday night against the Toronto Marlies. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Do you like it when the Admirals play against the Rockford IceHogs? Good, because they’ll be playing a three-in-three scenario (home-road-home) all weekend long.

Dean Evason talks about the weekend series with Rockford:

The Admirals will enter Friday’s game after a 3-2 win against the Toronto Marlies on Tuesday night. That victory boosted the Ads to second place in the Midwest Division ahead of the Chicago Wolves. The Ads record now sits at 19-12-5-3 (46 points). In their last ten games they are 4-4-0-2 (10 points).

In this match up you’ll have the Midwest Division’s best home team playing against its worst road team. The Ads are 12-3-2-0 (26 points) on home ice in seventeen games this season. They have scored 57 goals and allowed 38 goals. The IceHogs are 6-11-3-1 (16 points) from twenty-one road games this season. They’ve scored 55 road goals and allowed a staggering 80 road goals – which is the most in the entire AHL. Of the three meetings this weekend – two will be in Milwaukee.

Scott Ford on playing against the Rockford IceHogs:

In the Admirals last game they dressed seven-defensemen and had Taylor Beck and Filip Forsberg double up on lines throughout the night. With the news of Beck’s call up here is what coach Evason had to say:

His comments on Taylor Beck’s recent NHL call up:

With that roster move – will we see seven-defensemen dress again on the weekend?

With the three-in-three scenario, with the additional travel element of Milwaukee to Rockford to Milwaukee, there is also the question of how the goaltending will be worked during these games. Marek Mazanec has played in all three-games since Magnus Hellberg went down with a right ankle injury against the San Antonio Rampage. Mazanec has gone 1-1-0-1 since returning from Nashville with a 2.64 GAA and a 0.896 SV%. This stretch of games might open the door for Hannu Toivonen to play -at least- one game on the weekend.

Evason’s thoughts on working the goalies in the three-in-three:

Toivonen was a first round draft choice of the Boston Bruins in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. After the injury that took place during practice to Scott Darling – the team signed him to a professional try-out (PTO). He had been playing with the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL where he had made 16 appearances in net and won 7 games. His numbers with the Walleye might not have been anything to write home to Finland about, 3.61 GAA and 0.899 SV%, but it’s his veteran experience in this situation the Ads are battling through that makes him fit. From 2005-08 he played 61 games in the NHL with the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues. His last AHL team prior to the PTO with the Admirals? The Rockford IceHogs in the 2010-11 season. He’s made one appearance with the Ads this season. He played all of four seconds in overtime against the San Antonio Rampage and then made four out of six saves in the shootout – giving him a 5-4 shootout loss without facing a shot in regulation or overtime while relieving Hellberg after his injury. Should Toivonen make a start this weekend it will be his first start since April 10, 2011 – which he won while making 37 saves in a 5-4 (OT) game between Rockford and Chicago.

The Rockford IceHogs enter this game with a record of 18-19-4-2 (42 points). In their previous ten games they have gone 3-4-1-2 (9 points). They are currently fourth in the Midwest Division – only two points clear of the basement dwellers the Iowa Wild. Credit where credit is due – they do have a Midwest Division best 690 penalty minutes. They also have conceded the most goals, 144, in the entire AHL. They’ll be entering the game on a winless run of three-games: 0-2-1-0.

Rockford’s top scorer is defenseman Adam Clendening with 32 points (5 goals, 27 assists) – who is second in the AHL for scoring by a defenseman (Ads faced the league leader on Tuesday with T.J. Brennan of the Marlies). Clendenings assists totals are really impressive – so who is scoring the goals? There are four players on the IceHogs with double-digit figures in goals scored: Joakim Nordstrom (13), Brad Winchester (12), Mark McNeill (11), and Garret Ross (11). That’s one better than the Admirals overall – but two better than will be on the ice for this weekend: Sissons (15), Beck (11), and Salomaki (10). Considering how similar these two play the game – anticipate lots of net front traffic as players try to generate screens or rebound chances to score.

The current tandem in net for the IceHogs is Kent Simpson and Jason LaBarbera. Simpson has been the go-to guy for Rockford this season. He has played a team-high 20 games in net and is tied for the team lead with 7 wins with Antti Raanta. He has a 0.897 SV% and a team-low 3.39 GAA. Like Mazanec – it should be Simpson getting the majority of the weekend. Like Toivonen – LaBarbera is another veteran NHL mind currently backing up and waiting for an opportunity to play. He has played in 182 NHL games. Should he get the call – he’ll be ready to go. He has played in 9 games this year with the IceHogs – only winning 2 games but has a quality 0.927 SV%.

Milwaukee and Rockford have played three times already this season:

Friday, Nov. 1 vs. Rockford: W, 4-2
Wednesday, Nov. 27 @ Rockford: L, 2-1 (OT)
Saturday, Dec. 21 @ Rockford: W, 3-1

So far, hostilities have been kept to a minimum. There hasn’t been a single fighting major between the two teams this season. With three-in-three set this weekend, and both treating it as though it were a playoff series, the atmosphere might get a little dose of nasty with two similar teams grinding out a weekend together.

Thoughts on this weekend’s series? Can the Ads sweep the weekend? If the team is going back to six-defensemen, who sits and who plays? When can we expect the first fight of the season between the Ads and IceHogs?

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