Monsters: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: John Saraya)
(Photo Credit: John Saraya)

As this day in the AHL begins the Milwaukee Admirals have played the most road games (25 games) and the fewest home games (15 games) in the entire league. Needless to say that is rather crazy. That poignantly being said, there is always a healthy balance to the way the schedule shakes out and all that really means is that the Admirals are going to be ending this season with a serious dose of hockey on home ice.

You’d assume then that the Admirals road hefty start has set them back. Right now, even with all the roster activity that occurred over the last two months or so, that actually isn’t the case. The Admirals have a record of 23-13-2-2 (50 points, 0.625 points percentage) and are second in the Central Division and fourth in the Western Conference standings. The Admirals, who’ve played more road games than anyone, have the third best road record (0.640) in the Western Conference.

It’s high time then that the home games start to finally surface on the schedule. And that is where the following few weeks will help out. The Admirals will be playing 10 of their next 12 games at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. Not only are they doing that but their roster is starting to finally strengthen back up. It’s all a bit of a perfect storm to see the team get on a run.

Standing in their way tonight are the defending Calder Cup champions the Cleveland Monsters. This season isn’t exactly going to plan. They are a streaky team and find themselves with a record of 18-16-1-3 (40 points, 0.526 points percentage). That sees them sitting in fourth place in the Central Division and tenth place in the Western Conference standings.

What then troubles the Monsters? Well, while the Admirals are road warriors this season, the Monsters have managed a 0.444 points percentage from 18 road games. Their road power-play is 12.1% which is twenty-sixth in the AHL. Their road penalty kill is 81.1% which is around the middle of the pack – twelfth in the AHL. The are allowing 3.56 goals against per game while only scoring 2.83 goals per game on the road.

Scoring has been one of the more erratic qualities to the Monsters. No one player truly stands out on their team scoring list and goal scoring very much seems to be by committee – which often times can be a good and a bad thing. For the Monsters – it has been a bad thing. 36-year old defenseman Marc-André Bergeron is the lone player on the team with a points per game average above 0.70 – yet he has only played 6 games this season. The Admirals feature four players above that clip with the least amount of games played of those achieving that being Kevin Fiala at 11 games.

The Monsters leading scorer this season T.J. Tynan who has 24 points (4 goals, 20 assists) in 38 games. He is followed by: Alex Broadhurst, 21 points (8 goals, 13 assists)… Sonny Milano, 20 points (9 goals, 11 assists)… Daniel Zaar, 20 points (8 goals, 12 assists)… and Oliver Bjorkstrand, 17 points (11 goals, 6 assists).

In net the Monsters will be without the services of Joonas Korpisalo. He has been up with the Columbus Blue Jackets since being recalled two weeks ago. That means the Monsters first game of the season in Milwaukee will have either Anton Forsberg or Brad Thiessen between the pipes.

Forsberg has been having a good season with the Monsters: 12-8-0-2 record from 24 games, 2.22 goals against average, 0.928 save percentage, and a shutout. After winning six straight games in net he has since lost three straight starts.

Thiessen has been a bit of a mystery man in the organization this season. He has been healthy but hardly used. He has made a pair of appearances with the Admirals ECHL affiliate the Cincinnati Cyclones and just four with the Monsters in the AHL with a single win to show for it. That win did come on Friday though and was a 32-save shutout over the Rockford IceHogs.

Expectations for tonight’s game? How good is it for the Milwaukee Admirals to finally get a solid chunk of home games for a change? With all the struggles of the past two months will getting home games allow the team to start settling back down and get a run going? Will the Admirals offense find its feet again at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena?

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