Oh, deary me – it’s these lads again! After this weekend the Chicago Wolves will have appeared on the Milwaukee Admirals schedule for six of their last fourteen games played with only one of those games taking place in Milwaukee. Also after this weekend, thankfully – and surprisingly, the Admirals will have played their last game at the Allstate Arena in the 2016-17 regular season.
This road heavy schedule for the Admirals is just one more weight to the shoulders of a team that have been enduring a lot of adversity since the start of December. The Admirals are right now at the literal mid-way point of the season at 38 games played. The Admirals are tied with the Wolves for the second most road games played this season with 23 road games. Only the Charlotte Checkers, 24 road games, have played more.
Yet, as is the circumstance today, that tie between the Amtrak Rivals will be broken and the Admirals will be moving past the Checkers by the end of the weekend for that title. And, after the Ontario Reign host the San Jose Barracuda, no one in the AHL will have played less home games this season than the Admirals.
As bad as that sounds what it means is that the Admirals will have endured -technically- the hard part of the season first. The road games will start to trend down and the Admirals will be finishing the final 38 games of the regular season with 23 home games.
The Grand Rapids Griffins have 18 home games remaining. The Wolves -this weekend not included- have 19 home games remaining. For all that has been thrown at the Admirals in recent times they still have a lot in-hand once the home heavy side of this season begins.
The Wolves will be entering this weekend’s set against the Admirals already having battled last night. They lost 3-2 on the road against the Griffins last night. That’s a sour bus ride back from Grand Rapids only to get two more games against an Admirals team that will be rested as the Wolves grind along in a three-in-three weekend.
The Wolves record right now stands at 23-14-3-2 (51 points, 0.607 points percentage). They are third behind the Griffins (0.705) and Admirals (0.632) in the Central Division standings. They are sixth in the Western Conference standings. The Wolves are tied with the Iowa Wild as the teams who have logged the most games in the AHL to date, 42 games played.
If the “three-in-three” element isn’t enough for the Wolves to be knuckling down hard this weekend then the following is. Their top goaltender this season, Pheonix Copley, was recalled by the St. Louis Blues yesterday as Jake Allen seems to be going through the motions at the moment. In this match-up Copley has started in seven of the eight games played this season.
Jordan Binnington is therefore the lone goaltender on the Wolves active roster to have faced the Admirals this season. He was in net for the “School Day” game and allowed 5 goals from 24 shots. This season and last season have seen him really shy away from his excellent 2014-15 season. He has 7 wins from 17 appearances this season with a 3.02 goals against average and 0.905 save percentage. He did not start last night for the Wolves – Ville Husso did.
Where goaltending might be a question mark then – it could all be answered or diverted by one of the AHL’s best offenses this season. The Wolves have three top the league’s top ten scorers right now on their roster with Kenny Agostino leading the way (and the league). Agostino has 52 points (16 goals, 36 assists) in 42 games. The next closest player in the AHL to Agostino for assists this season is former-Admiral Taylor Beck who is still 8 assists shy of Agostino.
The other top scorers for the Wolves this season include: Wade Megan, 35 points (19 goals, 16 assists) in 40 games and Ivan Barbashev, 35 points (18 goals, 17 assists) in 42 games. The man behind those two on the Wolves leading scorer’s list sees recently waiver claimed defenseman Brad Hunt – now of the Nashville Predators – with 29 points (9 goals, 20 assists) in 23 games.
For the Admirals it appears that their roster is starting to get filled back out as their parent club heals up. Alex Carrier will return to the Admirals after playing his first 2 games in the NHL with the Predators. Kevin Fiala remains on the Admirals roster for the time being. And Anthony Richard has made a splash since returning from a concussion that sidelined him for a month.
The interesting storyline for this weekend will be if the Admirals get to see just who Max Görtz was traded away for in Andrew O’Brien. Görtz made his San Diego Gulls debut last night in a 5-1 win over the Barracuda. O’Brien only recently made his return from an injury that had sidelined him for a month (11 games). O’Brien was described in the AHL’s Press Release as a left-winger. That means he is a converted defenseman not too unlike the Jaynen Rissling experiment from a season ago. O’Brien has yet to be officially added to the Admirals AHL Roster at the time this was published.
Expectations for this weekend’s Amtrak Rivalry games? Are the Admirals playing the Wolves at an ideal time? Will the injury to Pardy hurt moving forward or can the group collectively pick up the slack? With Fiala and Richard’s pace still on the team – will the Admirals offensively be able to match the Wolves or should they play a more defensive approach as they did when they last met?
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