Two games down, one to go as the Wild finish up their second out-of-division road trip of the season tonight in Cedar Park against the Texas Stars (Dallas). Derek Lalonde and the boys have picked up three points already, and another two doesn’t sound too bad for a club that has earned a point in eight of their last ten games.
Iowa has been playing some really good hockey as of late and against some top opponents that are all jockeying for playoff positions as of today. With the Central taking some time away from each other and with six points separating spots two through six, the Wild need to start making moves to break into the .600 club.
As for the Stars, they’ve been playing at a similar pace as Iowa. They’re 7-3-0 in their last ten games and they’ve scored just as many goals as Iowa (68) with one more game played.
Texas - Points
- Travis Morin (C) - 23 pts (4G/19A)
- Roope Hintz (LW) - 14 pts (8G/6A)
- Brian Flynn (RW) - 14 pts (6G/8A)
- Matt Mangene (RHD) - 10 pts (5G/5A)
- Dillon Heatherington (LHD) - 9 pts (3G/6A)
Hintz is playing in his first professional season in North America after playing the last three seasons in Finland’s Liiga for Ilves and HIFK. The Tampere, Finland-native is 12th in scoring among all active rookies in the AHL; tied for seventh in goals scored. He hasn’t been called up to Dallas yet, but at 21-years-old he appears that he’s doing everything to earn one.
The second round pick for the Stars in 2015 has been on a tear as of late, tallying seven points (4G/3A) in his last five appearances for Texas - five points on the power play.
Heatherington is an interesting name on this list. He’s a former second rounder for the Columbus Blue Jackets back in 2013 and this is his third full professional season; though with his second franchise. This year, he’s already matched a career high in goals, and through just 23 games played is ten points away from his career high set in his rookie season - 19 pts (3G/16A) in 63 games.
He was the piece of the trade that sent Lauri Korpikoski to the Jackets last March.
Iowa - Points
- Pat Cannone (C) - 16 pts (9G/7A)
- Cal O’Reilly (C) - 14 pts (5G/9A)
- Kyle Rau (LW) - 12 pts (6G/6A)
- Colton Beck (C/LW) - 12 pts (6G/6A)
- Justin Kloos (LW/C) - 12 pts (4G/8A)
In 23 games played to start the season, Iowa currently has nine players on their roster with double-digit points, though nobody with double digit goals. Zack Mitchell and Ryan Murphy would make that list bump up to eleven, though both are up in Minnesota.
Joel Eriksson Ek has been impressive down in Iowa. Though he wasn’t contributing with the big boys in Minnesota, he’s averaged a point-per-game in his six appearances in the AHL. Luke Kunin hasn’t found the back of the net yet, but has two assists since being sent down.
Kloos hasn’t netted a goal since Nov. 15th, though that might not be entirely on him. He’s been moved from his center position to the wing opposite Kunin and JEE in the middle. The Lakeville, Minn., native has also been moved around on the power play as well, and is missing his biggest partner on the score sheet on the PP: Zack Mitchell.
If Minnesota is in need of any more offensive weapons, Rau has made a case for himself. Though he has continued his trend: going back-to-back games without a point after scoring. In 18 games, I’d call that a trend, meaning he’s due tonight against Texas.
Texas - Goalies
- Landon Bow (7-4-0) - 2.68 GAA/.904 SV%
- Mike McKenna (6-5-1) - 3.53 GAA/.871 SV%
Texas appears to be going with an even split in net to start the season between a career AHLer in McKenna and a rookie Landon Bow, who went undrafted out of Swift Current in the WHL.
Despite his five goal thrashing against Rockford on Saturday, Texas had won four of their last five with the St. Albert, Alta., native between the pipes. He had a pretty shaky start to the season, but in his last five starts, he’s averaged a GAA of 2.21 and a save percentage of .922.
Iowa - Goalies
- Steve Michalek (5-1-1) - 2.41 GAA/.929 SV%
- Adam Vay (0-0-1) - 4.74 GAA/.853 SV%
It’s been Michalek’s net since Svedberg went down, and he’s found himself above the 2.00 GAA plane after giving up ten goals on 108 shots in his last three starts. In that stretch, Iowa went 1-1-1, but it’s a good time to see what kind of line he walks when thrown into the limelight like this.
Despite Iowa having Vay with them in Texas, the development staff has made it clear that there is more than just a “noticeable” drop off from the top four goalies in Minnesota’s system and the rest of them.
Just as in San Antonio, special teams might be the deciding factor. Iowa has been producing on the power play as of late and have bumped up their efficiency to 16.8 percent this season; third best in the Central.
They’ve had a 26.1 percent efficiency in their last five games alone (6 goals on 23 opportunities).
Texas on the other side, has the third worst penalty kill in the Pacific Division at 80.0 percent (23rd in the entire AHL). However, the Dallas Stars-affiliate has shown improvement on this end, having killed off 88.0 percent of their penalties in the last five games (3 goals conceded in 25 opportunities).
Iowa needs to get back on the right track with their scoring opportunities. In that 4-2 loss to Milwaukee last Tuesday, the Wild had arguably their best offensive night of the year after launching 42 shots. In San Antonio, Iowa didn’t break 25 SOG in either game, even with an overtime opportunity.
The Wild currently sit at even in terms of goal differential (68 GF/68 GA), it’s time to start getting in the plus side of that divide, something Lalonde has been consistent in chipping away at since coming to the Wild organization.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 CST from Cedar Park, Texas.