Before even approaching the enemy tonight I feel as if some Milwaukee Admirals recapping is in order. The team is currently on quite the run these last six-games going a cool 5-0-1-0 in that window. That span started after the team received a well needed rest after a marathon run of the December schedule spilling into January had them on a winless skid of four-games. They’re rested now. And I believe the offense has reflected a team that has its batteries recharged.
During the Admirals last six games they have outscored their opponents 25-11, outshot their opponents 179-137, they’ve gone 6/27 on the power-play (22.2%), and a ridiculous 18/19 on the penalty kill (94.7%) – which includes an active run of twelve straight successful kills.
~Joe Piskula & Friends~
The San Diego Gulls enter tonight’s game with a record of 20-18-1-1 (42 points). Their 0.525 points percentage has them in fourth place of the Pacific Division and tenth in the Western Conference standings. In their last ten-games they have rattled off a not so hot record of 3-6-1-0 which includes a 4-2 win over the Stockton Heat last night on home ice.
This will be the second and final meeting between these two teams this season. The first came in Milwaukee back in late-November when the Admirals won 3-1. That night saw Kevin Fiala finally get to drop his shoulders and squeeze that stick a little less tight thanks to scoring his first goal of the season after having gone eleven straight games without one. Frédérick Gaudreau had the game-winner with what still might be the best goal scored this season. The game would be sealed by an Adam Payerl empty netter. Also of note, Nicolas Kerdiles of the Gulls was just an awful human being – dogging Vladislav Kamenev and Trevor Murphy most of the night – and shooting on net after whistles. He earned seven penalty minutes that night including a fight attempt, that earned a roughing minor, and a tilt with Conor Allen – who now plays his trade with the Binghamton Senators.
If you’re looking for a high intensity match-up between these two teams tonight it will come on special teams. The Gulls have the third best home power-play in the AHL going 19/73 with the man-advantage (26.0%) while the Admirals road penalty kill is the second best in the AHL killing 66/75 (88.0%). The Gulls are a team that heavily lean on their power-play to do the damage as 33.98% of their goals scored this season have come on the power-play.
~The Old Guard~
The Gulls have a few familiar names floating around on their roster. It starts with their captain and former captain of the Milwaukee Admirals, Joe Piskula. He played 163 career games for the Admirals. Then there is Chris Mueller who played 262 career games for the Admirals and is the team’s third all-time scorer in the AHL history of the team with 173 points (87 goals, 86 assists). Then there are two former members of the Nashville Predators on the squad. Shane O’Brien played with the Predators during the 2010-11 season. Brian McGrattan was part of the Predators organization from 2011-13 and did play six-games for the Admirals before being traded to the Calgary Flames in exchange for Piskula.
~Who What Now?~
The Gulls leading scorer is defenseman Brandon Montour who has 32 points (6 goals, 26 assists) in 40 games. His assists total is the third most among AHL defensemen this season.
Montour is followed in team scoring with a tie between two forwards. Nick Ritchie leads the Gulls in goals and has 27 points (15 goals, 12 assists) in 31 games. He’s tied with former-Admirals center Mueller who has 27 points (7 goals, 20 assists) in 39 games.
Sometimes it takes looking at a team like the Gulls to realize you might be taking things for granted. The Admirals have only utilized two goalies this entire season. The Gulls have used six different goaltenders throughout their 2015-16 season and we’ve just entered February. That’s plenty of time to add another name on the goaltending yule log going on in San Diego.
In camp right now are three “once upon a time” NHL’ers: Matt Hackett, Anton Khudobin, and Dustin Tokarski. It’s unclear which one is inactive but, in order of their last appearance, the list goes: Khudobin (2/5/16), Hackett (1/29/16), and Tokarski (1/19/16). The latter of the names, Tokarski, was actually part of a trade in January that saw him arrive from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for left winger Max Friberg.
Expectations for tonight’s game? Can the Milwaukee Admirals once again use their speed to beat an opponent’s size? Would it be smart for Juuse Saros to finally break Marek Mazanec‘s string of four-consecutive starts despite Mazanec having been the goalie of record against these Gulls earlier this season?