IceHogs in crucial stretch

The last-place Rockford IceHogs take the ice tonight looking for an absolutely essential two points versus division rival Houston Aeros.

The last place IceHogs will be in Oklahoma City, the team directly above them in the standings, this weekend for a two game set.  Rockford currently trails the Oklahoma City Barons by six points, and have three games in hand on them as well.

These next three games very well may determine the IceHogs playoff hopes.  Three wins would be ideal.  Any less than five points will be a setback.

Up front, the IceHogs will start with these lines:

Mathis Olimb – Ryan Potulny – Jeff Taffe

Kyle Beach – Brandon Pirri – Brandon Bollig

Rob Klinkhammer – Evan Brophey – Ben Smith

Kyle Hagel – Pete Leblanc – Igor Makarov

Coach Bill Peters will role four lines for the most part.  Leblanc skates on the first power play unit, which has featured Mathis Olimb on the left point.

Tonight’s defensive pairings should remain as they have since the Christmas break.  Wade Brookbank took the warmup, which is unusual.  Garnet Exelby has been hampered by what appears to be a lower-body injury of late.  That could be why.

Ryan Stanton – Brian Connelly

Garnet Exelby – Shawn Lalonde

Ivan Vishnevskiy – Simon Danis-Pepin

Scratches: Chris DiDomenico (healthy), Wade Brookbank (healthy), Hugh Jessiman (foot), Nick Leddy (loaned to Team USA-WJC), Jeremy Morin (loaned to Team USA-WJC)

Hannu Toivonen, who picked up the victory in Milwaukee on Tuesday night, will get the start.  Alec Richards is backing up.

One referee system tonight.  Marcus Vinnerborg, with Mike Hamilton and Aaron Mills calling the lines.

- IceHogs goal scoring droughts: Ryan Stanton (30), Garnet Exelby (29), Wade Brookbank (18), Simon Danis-Pepin (18), Chris DiDomenico (18), Nick Leddy (12), Brian Connelly (9), Rob Klinkhammer (9), Ivan Vishnevskiy (8), Brandon Pirri (8), Kyle Hagel (7), Hugh Jessiman (7), Ryan Potulny (7), Kyle Beach (6),  Igor Makarov (5), Brandon Bollig (3), Jeff Taffe (3), Pete Leblanc (2), Shawn Lalonde (1), Evan Brophey (0), Jeremy Morin (0), Mathis Olimb (0), Ben Smith (0),

DiDomenico and Stanton have each yet to score a professional goal.  Exelby’s drought is actually longer but dates back to 2003, when he last played in the AHL prior to this season.

ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com

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