By Chris Block
After getting off to an auspicious 0-3-0-1 start to the 2012-13 season, the IceHogs rolled off 4 straight wins over eight days last week to vault themselves into second place in the AHL’s Midwest Division and two points behind the first-place Chicago Wolves.
Those same Wolves will travel up Interstate 90 tonight to face the Rockford IceHogs at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05pm.
In the only other two meetings between the two teams this season, the Wolves bested the IceHogs back on opening weekend, both times at Allstate Arena in Rosemont. The Wolves begin their annual November road trip with tonight’s game. They’ll be on the road for their next five games due to the annual circus stint at Allstate Arena.
Chicago defeated the IceHogs 1-0 in a shootout on October 13th and then again 5-3 the following day. Eddie Lack was in goal for the Wolves both nights and is expected to start between the pipes again for Chicago tonight.
Tonight’s game will be televised locally in Chicago by the Wolves on WCIU channel 50. For those in the Rockford are the game can be seen on 23.2 Weather Now, Comcast 436, Mediacom 1010. You can also listen to the game for free on IceHogs.com or pay to watch the game at AHLlive.com.
I’ll be in Rockford both tonight and for Saturday night’s game vs Lake Erie and you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisBlock for updates, news and notes.
ICEHOGS INJURY UPDATE
Following Sunday’s win, Ted Dent described Nick Leddy’s status as “day-to-day”. Officially Leddy has missed the past two games with an “upper body” injury but a source lists it as a head injury. The injury apparently was incurred in an October 25th win over San Antonio. Leddy did finish that game however and there was no noticeable incident where the injury may have been sustained. Leddy did travel with the team to Grand Rapids last weekend and signed autographs for fans between periods at Sunday’s home game. So while it’s the type of injury you can’t really put a confident timetable on, it does not seem to be serious enough that Leddy will miss too much, if any more time.
Brandon Saad has missed five consecutive games with a leg injury. Saad was to begin skating again this week after being injured in the October 19th game at Peoria. As far as his performance on the ice prior to the injury, Saad has been mostly unnoticeable. Saad turned 20 last Saturday. He is still eligible to return to junior for a final season, but no one expects that to happen. There is nothing left for him to gain by playing junior hockey.
Dent also confirmed to us that winger Brandon Svendsen is recovering from arm surgery. Originally pegged in early October as being out for 6-8 weeks, Svendsen is currently doing some light skating on his own while he rehabilitates his arm. Late-November still seems to be the target for his return.
DYLAN OLSEN’s EFFORT SO FAR NOT GOOD ENOUGH
Probably the biggest concern to this point, 8 games into the season, has been the lackluster play of Blackhawks 2009 1st round pick (28th overall), Dylan Olsen.
Olsen has been designated as a healthy scratch in 3 of the IceHogs’ 8 games and is getting third pairing minutes when he’s been in the lineup.
“He’s got some areas in his game where he needs to improve,” Rockford head coach Ted Dent explained after scratching Olsen out of Sunday’s 3-1 win over San Antonio .
“He’s got to play harder, engage a little more for a guy with his size and strength,” Dent continued.
“He’ll be back in and I’m sure he’ll be better.”
While Olsen experienced the moments you’d expect from a young defenseman adjusting to the NHL game in his time with the Blackhawks during the second half of last season, he never seemed out of place on the NHL blue line.
Dent’s assertion raises some Cam Barker sized red flags when it comes to Olsen’s start.
The Blackhawks would like to see Olsen develop more of a mean streak. Olsen is someone who sees himself as more a stay-at-home and shut down defenseman, but the belief is that a player of his size must be a little nastier to play against to be effective at the next level.
Off season signings of Michal Roszival and Sheldon Brookbank coupled with a poor start to the season will have Olsen quickly falling down the depth chart under the watchful eye of Joel Quenneville and Stan Bowman, who are in attendance and watching most of these IceHogs games, if Olsen doesn’t snap out of the funk Dent sees him in to this point.
BEACH SITS TWICE
For those who heard my Kyle Beach rant on our podcast after the IceHogs two opening weekend losses in Rosemont, you wouldn’t have been shocked when seeing Beach was a healthy scratch in the IceHogs two subsequent games.
When asked last weekend if there was any message being sent to Beach in the consecutive scratches, Ted Dent was coy in his response.
“No, it was just that we have 14 forwards,” Dent said. “We have a lot of bodies. We didn’t get our first win to the fifth game of the year. So we were looking for different ways to try to get a win, to be honest with you. So, guys had to come in and out as we saw fit.”
Beach was erased from the lineup on October 19th in Peoria, and for the IceHogs home opener on October 20th in favor of Philippe Paradis and enforcer (and converted defenseman) Wade Brookbank respectively.
In the six games he’s appeared in, Beach has one goal on the season. That goal came in Grand Rapids last Saturday while skating on a line with Brandon Pirri and Jeremy Morin. The next night in Rockford Beach was back skating on the fourth line where he’s been nearly all season so far.
In six games, Beach has been credited with 5 shots on goal.
YOUDS A VICTIM OF NUMBERS
Rockford had been carrying nine defenseman to start the season as rookies Adam Clendening and first-year North American defenseman Klas Dahlbeck nursed minor ailments.
When both Clendening and Dahlbeck were healthy and ready to go, a roster move was expected.
Second-year pro and AHL contracted blueliner Ben Youds was the odd-man out, being re-assigned to the Toledo Walleye on October 23rd.
The move was a little surprising in the sense that Youds was one of Rockford’s better performers in the team’s first win two days before the demotion.
“Well, yeah. It’s tough any time you have a player who was on our team for most of the year,” Ted Dent explained. “And he played pretty well when he was here.”
“But it’s a business. He’s going to play a lot down [in Toledo] and whenever we need him back up he’s a phone call away and can come up and contribute.”
OTHER NEWS & NOTES
—Brandon Pirri is heating up with 3 goals and 3 assists in the IceHogs current 4-game winning streak. Andrew Shaw ended a streak of 12 games without a goal at the AHL level on Saturday night when he scored in the 6-5 overtime win at Grand Rapids. Rockford had six different goal scorers in that win; Ben Smith, Marcus Kruger, Jimmy Hayes, Kyle Beach, Shaw and Brandon Pirri 58 seconds into the overtime session.
ICEHOGS Individual consecutive AHL games without a goal: Shawn Lalonde (40), Joe Lavin (29), Brett Lebda (27), Ben Youds (20), Nick Leddy (18), Philippe Paradis (11), Ryan Stanton (11), Wade Brookbank (10), Rob Flick (8), Jeremy Morin (6), Adam Clendening (5*), Pete Leblanc (5), Dylan Olsen (5), Klas Dahlbeck (4*), Brandon Bollig (3), Brandon Saad (3*), Kyle Beach (1), Jimmy Hayes (1), Marcus Kruger (1), Brandon Pirri (1), Andrew Shaw (-), Ben Smith (-), Martin St. Pierre (-)
(*) indicates without a career AHL goal
ICEHOGS Individual consecutive AHL games without an assist: Brandon Bollig (23), Dylan Olsen (18), Kyle Beach (12), Philippe Paradis (10), Ben Smith (9), Wade Brookbank (7), Rob Flick (7), Brett Lebda (7), Klas Dahlbeck (4**), Marcus Kruger (3), Pete Leblanc (3), Brandon Saad (3**), Nick Leddy (2), Jimmy Hayes (1), Shawn Lalonde (1), Joe Lavin (1), Ryan Stanton (1), Andrew Shaw (1), Martin St. Pierre (1), Adam Clendening (-), Jeremy Morin (-), Brandon Pirri (-) Ben Youds (-)
(**) indicates without a career AHL assist
–I noticed a lot of comments following Brandon Bollig (2 goals in last 30 AHL games) being chosen as the third shooter in the team’s season opener. Like most teams, the IceHogs regularly practice shootouts (typically for a short time at the end of practice). The reality is Bollig was one of the team’s most consistent scorers in those practices last season and when given the opportunity in a couple of actual games he converted on his chances.
As far as using Bollig on the penalty kill is concerned… watch the games. Bollig works hard, minds his positioning, willingly uses his body and closes shooting lanes well enough at this level.
—Ben Smith’s two-goal game on Sunday marked his 4th multi-goal game in his 109 game AHL career.
–Toledo Walleye are off to a nice 4-2-0-1 start. They’re coming off a 3-2 shootout loss last night in Wheeling, West Virginia.
Ben Youds picked up his first goal of the season in the game. Kent Simpson stopped 25 shots through overtime and another three of the four chances he faced in the shootout. But because all five Toledo shooters (including Byron Froese and Travis Novak) failed to convert on Wheeling goalie Pat Killeen.
So far in Toledo, Simpson is 2-1-0-1 with .905 save percentage and 2.41 GAA.
—Bryon Froese is plus-7 in 7 games for Toledo. He has a goal and five assists for the Walleye.
Terry Broadhurst has a goal and three assists in seven games. Ben Youds has played in four games so far with the Walleye. He’s a plus-5 with a goal and three helpers.
–Former Blackhawks defenseman and 1st round pick Steve McCarthy, 31, is back in North America this season after spending the past two in Europe. McCarthy is playing for the Abbotsford Heat in the AHL’s North Division. The Heat are off to a 5-1-0-2 start. In 8 games thus far, the Trail, B.C. native has a goal and six assists. McCarthy is serving as an alternate captain for the team. Last night, in Abbotsford, McCarthy notched his first goal of the season on a short-handed breakaway. Three seconds later (which must be some kind of record) the Heat scored a second shorty in route to a 3-1 win over the visiting Toronto Marlies.
Last season McCarthy played for coach Bob Hartley on the Zurich Lions and helped that squad win Switzerland’s National A League championship. McCarthy scored the series-clinching goal in Game 7 of the championship final with 2.5 seconds remaining in regulation time. In 2010-11 he skated for TPS in Turku, Finland.
McCarthy was a piece of the three-part package the Blackhawks received from the Detroit Red Wings in the Chris Chelios trade on March 23, 1999. Detroit sent defenseman Anders Eriksson, a first round pick in 1999 (McCarthy, 23rd overall) and a first-round pick in 2001, which would end up being used by the Blackhawks to select goaltender Adam Munro.
With his eyes set on an NHL comeback, McCarthy reported to Abbotsford training camp in late September without a deal. He inked a one-year AHL contract with the Heat on October 8th. Bob Hartley, his coach last season in Switzerland, as in Atlanta a number of years ago, was named the new head coach of the Calgary Flames this past summer. Abbotsford is the American Hockey League affiliate of the Calgary Flames. Bob Hartley is evidently a believer in McCarthy as he explained to the Calgary Herald last month, “For me, he was the best defenseman in the entire league last year. I don’t know. Maybe he was the best-kept secret.”
Ex-IceHogs around The World
–Speaking of Calgary and the Heat… For anyone who may have missed it, former IceHogs defenseman and two-time AHL all-star Brian Connelly signed with the Minnesota Wild in the off season and is playing their AHL affiliate in Houston. Connelly, 26, was traded to the Flames organization last season for Brendan Morrison and spent his entire time there with Abbotsford.
–After the Blackhawks chose not to tender him a qualifying offer back in June, defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin found a home with the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears. He wasn’t there long.
Danis-Pepin was traded to the San Francisco Bulls on October 23rd, just days after Danis-Pepin scored in the Solar Bears sold out home opener. For Orlando, the move was about needing a roster spot to sign a veteran defenseman, and in turn pick up a forward who can contribute offensively. Danis-Pepin, or “SDP” as he’s referred to, is a minus-2 thus far in three games with the Bulls.
—Evan Brophey, whose one-year contract with the Colorado Avalanche expired over the summer, and has unable to secure a new deal elsewhere, signed a 25-game professional try-out contract with the Portland Pirates (AHL) on October 15th. Portland is the AHL affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes. Rob Klinkhammer, another former IceHog and regular line mate of Brophey when the two played in Rockford, is also playing for Portland. Klinkhammer signed with the Coyotes during the off season after being traded from the Blackhawks organization to the Ottawa Senators on October 30, 2012. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is also playing for Portland during the lockout.
Brophey (who turns 26 on December 3rd) has a goal in four games thus far with Portland. His goal came in an 8-7 overtime loss at St. John’s on October 23rd. He was skating on a line with Klinkhammer in that game. Klinkhammer scored a hat-trick in the game and was named the game’s first star in spite of the loss.
—Igor Makarov is off to a strong start with St. Petersburg in the KHL. Getting third-line minutes with SKA (the team Ilya Kovalchuk, Vladimir Tarasenko, Peter Prucha, Viktor Tikhonov skate for as well). Makarov, 25, is currently 5th among SKA forwards in points (4 goals, 10 assists in 20 games). All four of his goals have been scored at even strength. And three of those have been game-winners.
Last season in his first back in Russia after negotiating a release from his Blackhawks contract, Makarov posted 9 goals and 18 points in 42 games for SKA. His postseason was more promising however, as Makarov had 2 goals and 6 assists in 12 playoff games while holding in at a plus-5.
—Kyle Hagel is now with the Hamilton Bulldogs. Hagel, 27, was with Rockford for the 2010-11 season and has a part of a line with Brophey and Igor Makarov that was a key part of that team’s late season surge until injuries and a suspension broke that trio apart. Hagel was signed to a two-way NHL contract by the Blues for the 2011-12 season but the Princeton grad played only 7 games before shoulder surgery ended his season. Hagel signed a one-year AHL deal with the Bulldogs on July 6th. In his one season in Rockford, Hagel played in 77 games, scoring 5 goals, 8 assists while accumulating 245 penalty minutes, an IceHogs regular season AHL record.
—Jake Trask, who was in IceHogs’ training camp last month, didn’t make it in Toledo either. Trask had signed an ECHL deal with the Toledo Walleye on September 10th and got a looksee in Rockford camp. Trask didn’t appear in a game with the Walleye and was released.
Trask signed with the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League on Monday. At 21, he is the youngest player on the team by eleven months. Trask scored 30 goals for his hometown Saskatoon Blades in 2010-11 and followed it up with 23 goals in his overager campaign. He posted an assist in his debut with Tulsa in Allen, Texas on Wednesday night. Adam Pineault, who played in Rockford during the 2008-09 season, plays now for the Allen Americans and recorded 7 shots on goal in that game but was held off the scoresheet. Pineault, you may recall, was traded to the Blackhawks by Columbus in 2008 in exchange for Michael Blunden. Now with the Montreal Canadiens organization, Blunden has appeared in 90 NHL games (10-Chi, 41-Cbj, 39-Mtl), scoring 4 goals and 4 assists.
—Adam Hobson, drafted by the Blackhawks in the 7th round (203rd overall) back in 2005, came to terms with the Toledo Walleye (ECHL) for a return to North America during the off season. Hobson spent the past two seasons playing in his native Sweden in the Allsvenskan (B-level) league after splitting the 2009-10 season between Rockford and Toledo.
Hobson was injured prior to Toledo’s training camp and has yet to appear in a game for the Walleye this season. Officially he’s listed on the suspension list because of ECHL roster rules limiting the number of players a team can carry on its active roster at any one time.
Although those rules allow another ECHL team to pick up any player while listed on the suspension list, Hobson is safe for the time being since the other GMs understand he’s injured and he’ll be activated as soon as he’s healthy.
Hobson didn’t exactly blot the scoresheets over in the Allsvenskan. He totaled 8 goals and 35 points in 84 games there over the two seasons.
–Defenseman Teigan Zahn, once a draft pick of the Blackhawks (2008-5th round) and then by the Tampa Lightning in 2010 (7th round) after the Blackhawks chose not to sign the 6’2” blueliner, has surfaced now on the stacked Oklahoma City Barons team.
Zahn was recalled to the Barons on October 31st. Zahn had been in Oklahoma City’s training camp but didn’t make the cut and wound up loaned to Stockton (ECHL) until now. Before turning professional for this season, Zahn spent last year playing college hockey at the University of Calgary.