Wild: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Reese Strickland)
Teemu Pulkkinen, code named The Holy Slapper, has been unleashed back into the AHL through the Iowa Wild this season. It’s a wonder why no other NHL organization tried to claim him off waivers for a second time when he cleared from the Minnesota Wild. (Photo Credit: Reese Strickland)

The Milwaukee Admirals had a long layoff a week ago that saw them sitting for six straight days before playing a game. With a stretched roster they fell 4-1 to the Cleveland Monsters for their first regulation loss since the end of October. The next night, with an even more stretched squad, they bounced right back against the Monsters with a 4-1 win of their own.

Great news is that some roster relief is in sight for the Admirals. And it isn’t just limited to the forward roles, either. The Admirals will have Pontus Åberg, Mike Liambas, and Juuse Saros all on-hand for tonight’s game. Åberg has been a point per game player at the AHL level this season. Liambas provides such a physical but also defensively polished approach on the lower lines that can help tilt the ice back to offense. And Saros is the reigning AHL/CCM Goaltender of the Month  who arrives back to the AHL where he is riding a personal winning streak of six straight games.

Saros should be a very welcome addition because I believe that the Finn might be able to help neutralize the Iowa Wild’s Finn, Teemu Pulkkinen. When the Admirals last played the Wild it was only Pulkkinen’s second game with the Wild after a hectic waiver wire start to his season saw him switch NHL organizations and then end up down in Iowa. He looked lost in that game in Milwaukee that ended in a 5-3 win for the Admirals. Since? He’s looked just like his old AHL self when he was explosive for the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Pulkkinen has played 15 games for the Wild this season. He is a point per game player with 15 points (8 goals, 7 assists). Half of his goals scored come on the Wild’s power-play which comes in eleventh in the league on home ice (21.4%). He has always had a stunning slap shot. But now he appears to be finally settled into the Wild organization. He shouldn’t look like a lost puppy as he did that first game against the Admirals a month ago. He should be the man that needs to get clamped down. He hasn’t scored a point in the last two games, true, but before that he had goals in four straight games. Saros should enter from Nashville and instantly find a nice test from a re-energized Wild offense.

Speaking of re-energized. The Wild, like the Admirals yesterday, did pick up some help ahead of tonight’s game from their parent club. Zack Mitchell and Gustav Olofsson were both reassigned by the Minnesota Wild to the AHL yesterday. Mitchell has split time almost evenly between the NHL and AHL ranks this season. Meanwhile Olofsson has mainly been at the AHL level and has performed very well for Iowa this season from the blueline: 12 points (3 goals, 9 assists) in 21 games.

The Wild are currently fifth in the Central Division with a record of 10-11-1-1 (22 points, 0.478 points percentage). They have played four more games than the Admirals have to this point. They average 2.7 goals scored per game while allowing an average of 3,3 goals against per game. Compared to the Admirals, who roll a 2.8 goals per game and 2.4 goals against per game, they’re defense can be a bit erratic.

In net the Wild have shared time between Steve Michalek and Alex Stalock. The majority of game action to this point has favored the Stalock (14 games) over Michalek (12 games). The two both have pretty average to below average numbers on the season. Stalock: 6-6-1-0 record, 3.02 goals against average, 0.901 save percentage, and a shutout. Michalek: 4-5-0-1 record, 3.28 goals against average, and a 0.912 save percentage.

Tonight’s game starts at 7:00 PM CST. After the game completes the next journey for the Admirals takes them to Grand Rapids for the first time this season. They’ll be traveling tomorrow, practicing there on Thursday, and then getting the Griffins at the Van Andel Arena Friday night at 6:00 PM CST. It will complete the Admirals four game road trip. The Admirals return home this Saturday night when they get the Chicago Wolves at 6:00 PM CST.

Expectations for tonight’s game? How big of a boost will the recent returns from the Nashville Predators be for the Milwaukee Admirals?

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