Here we are once again. The Milwaukee Admirals and the Rockford IceHogs in a battle between the top two teams of the Central Division. Both have been in this position for quite some time now but they do have a surging Grand Rapids Griffins waiting in tow with a current eight-game winning streak. The Admirals enter Rockford tonight on a three-game winning streak while the IceHogs have a four-game point streak.
This should have all the makings of a playoff atmosphere as well as set the stage for when this same fixture takes place next time. When the Admirals and IceHogs next play, after tonight’s contest, it will be the regular season finale. The Central Division or the best record in the Western Conference might be on the line that night. Don’t think that isn’t a talking point for both teams entering tonight’s contest. This is the second to last meeting of the season and an incredibly important pair of points are on the line.
The IceHogs enter tonight’s game with a record of 32-14-7-4 (75 points). Their 0.658 points percentage has them ahead of the Admirals (0.647) for first place in the Central Division and they trail only the Ontario Reign (0.686) for the best record in the Western Conference standings.
Considering the Admirals locked up the Amtrak Trophy last time out against the Chicago Wolves you’re probably wondering just where they stand against the IceHogs. From 10 games played this season the Admirals have the edge over the IceHogs by going 6-3-1-0 against them. That includes a 3-0-1-0 mark in Rockford this season with three of those games pushing into overtime or longer.
One thing that the Admirals will not need to worry to much about is being a footnote in the AHL history books because that role went to the Lake Erie Monsters on Saturday night. Michael Leighton officially broke Johnny Bower‘s near 59-year long AHL record for career shutouts by stopping all 35 shots on goal that the Monsters threw at him to earn his 46th career shutout in the AHL.
While the Admirals won’t be on the wrong end of history tonight they still have every reason to fear the form that Leighton has possessed this entire season. He has played in 43 of the IceHogs 57 games played and garnered a record of 27-6-8-3 in net. He has a 2.38 goals against average, 0.920 save percentage, and 5 shutouts this season.
Specifically when looking at Leighton’s efforts against the Admirals this season he has been good – but not as great as his overall season numbers. He has made seven appearances (six starts) for a record of 4-0-1-1 while stopping 160/177 for a 0.904 save percentage with a 2.80 goals against average. In his last two starts he has allowed 4 goals to the Admirals both times out.
~Those Other Little Piggies~
One of the more surprising moves that didn’t happen at the NHL Trade Deadline was seeing the Chicago Blackhawks off-load Bryan Bickell to anyone willing to eat some of his salary. That didn’t happen. And the IceHogs will now stand to benefit from that. Bickell has the best points per game average on the IceHogs roster (0.94) by having produced 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 31 games.
Speaking of trades, the Blackhawks were still active in the trade market and did have moves that impacted the IceHogs lineup. Marko Dano was packaged to the Winnipeg Jets in the Andrew Ladd trade which also saw the likes of Matt Fraser and Jay Harrison move from the Manitoba Moose to the IceHogs. It didn’t stop there, either. They acquired former Admirals goaltender Drew MacIntyre from the Carolina Hurricanes organization in exchange for defenseman Dennis Robertson.
At the moment the IceHogs have four players with 30 points or more of offense on the season: Mark McNeill, 35 points (17 goals, 18 assists)… Vinnie Hinostroza, 33 points (13 goals, 20 assists)… Ryan Hartman, 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists)… Ville Pokka, 32 points (6 goals, 26 assists).
~Roundtable on the Road~
I will be making my first road trip since starting my tenure on Admirals Roundtable for tonight’s game. Idea being, if the Admirals and IceHogs have the regular season finale in Rockford with the division or conference at stake – it might be nice to be there. I’ll be adventuring on down and trying to get to know the building a bit ahead of the game. From there you’ll be getting home style coverage from myself including a Chatterbox that should be ready by tomorrow morning. If any of you Admirals fans will also be making the trip be sure to give a wave!
Expectations for tonight’s game? The Milwaukee Admirals have managed to win their last two games without Colton Sissons or Cody Hodgson. Are you confident they could keep that momentum going?
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