Take #3! The Milwaukee Admirals are opening up a three-game homestand tonight. They first must solve a puzzle that has stumped them the past two games – the Cleveland Monsters. The Admirals will be doing this without previous NHL caliber names that they had last week in Cleveland: Juuse Saros, Pontus Åberg, and Frédérick Gaudreau. They won’t have Yakov Trenin due to injury. And Trevor Smith and Pierre-Cédric Labrie are questionable due to injury. Despite all of that: can the Admirals avoid losing three straight games for the first time this season?
The Monsters enter tonight’s game with a record of 7-4-2-1 (17 points, 0.607 points percentage) and are currently second in the Central Division behind the Manitoba Moose (0.684). Fun Fact: The lone team in the Central Division not at or above 0.500 are the Chicago Wolves. The Admirals outside of tonight’s game get to play the Wolves and Moose this weekend to complete the homestand.
With all that happened last week in Cleveland there were numerous talking points that the Admirals needed to address in practice. Thursday was one of the sloppiest games played this season. They “went to work” last Friday between games and did see a better performance on Saturday. What held them back from making more of a dent in that games was a power-play that went 0/6 on the night. The flipside to that, of course, is that the Monsters penalty kill went a solid 6/6 and that was helped that much more on the occasion by a really strong effort in net by Joonas Korpisalo who was 27.8 seconds away from earning a shutout. The Admirals weren’t necessarily being torched on defense as they did on the first game -but- there were still some team-play items that sloppy. This is where the absence of so many players on the Admirals roster could be a real bright spot as it forces the team to get away from individual skills and work far more structured and defensive. The last time the roster was beaten up such as this they dressed seven-defensemen and earned a 3-0 shutout over the Wolves. The more simplistic the Admirals can make this game – the better.
Speaking of Korpisalo: he isn’t with the Monsters at the moment. The Columbus Blue Jackets recalled the Finnish goaltender as well as Gabriel Carlsson and Sonny Milano the day after these two last played. As nice as that sounds? Those three weren’t on the ice on the much more dominant game played on Thursday. It just goes to show that it doesn’t always matter who is in the lineup.
The Monsters will be without those NHL names but they will also be without defenseman Cameron Gaunce. The AHL officially suspended him for three-games following his boarding major that injured Yakov Trenin on Saturday night in Cleveland. Could there be chippy behavior on the ice following that? Well, there really wasn’t after the fact last time out and -with no Gaunce- it wouldn’t make sense for that. The Admirals should keep distractions such as that out of their mind and purely focus on the task at hand if they are to return to the win column.
Someone that could alter tonight’s game is Anders Lindbäck. The Big Swede was with the Nashville Predators late last week. This will be his introduction to the Monsters tonight and his calming influence and swift puck movement around the net could really serve as a boost to limiting attacking zone time for a Monsters. Lindbäck was leading the AHL with 8 wins prior to his recall to Nashville. He is now locked into a six-way tie for that title. Depending on the results tonight he could reclaim that… though all goaltenders tied for the spot could be in action tonight.
What are your expectations for tonight’s game? Can the Milwaukee Admirals get past the Cleveland Monsters and could it be to their benefit to be missing certain pieces so they play a more refined game? If the Admirals end up playing seven-defensemen: should Fred Allard or Joonas Lyytinen get the nod?
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