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The Wild and Wolves meet up to break in the back half of the season

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Iowa (15-10-8, 38 pts) and Chicago (14-12-7, 35 pts) meet for just the third time this season just as the Wolves have started to hit their stride

Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves

Apart from their six game slide in November, the Chicago Wolves (Vegas/St. Louis) have had a similar point trend as the Wild, and are now just three points behind the Des Moines based club in the standings and fifth in the Central going into the second half of the season.

It’ll be a back half heavy schedule between these two as their playing in their third of eight meetings this season - their first at Wells Fargo Arena.

Iowa has been looking great on their power play, having scored at least one power play goal in all but two games in the month of December. With that, the Wild have climbed to the fourth most efficient power play unit in the AHL at 20.9 percent.

Top Performers

Chicago - Points

  1. Brandon Pirri (C) - 26 pts (12G/14A)
  2. Teemu Pulkkinen (LW) - 26 pts (9G/17A)
  3. T.J. Tynan (C) - 21 pts (7G/14A)
  4. Paul Thompson (RW) - 20 pts (10G/10A)
  5. Beau Bennett (RW) - 20 pts (4G/16A)

Lots of familiar names come up in the Wolves’ top five, though some more infamous than others. Pulkkinen is still following the trend of being a career minor leaguer in North America. The other names on this list are all past the “prospect” range, but all have some NHL experience in the waning years of their 20s.

The only players enjoying some success under the age of 25 are right-winger Thomas Hyka (9G/9A), playing his first season in North America after being drafted by the LA Kings back in 2012; left-handed defenseman Jake Walman (2G/9A), who left Providence College early to get his shot with the Blues; and Tobias Lindberg (5G/4A), playing in his third organization since turning pro in North America back in 2015.

Iowa - Points

  1. Sam Anas (RW) - 24 pts (11G/13A)
  2. Justin Kloos (C) - 24 pts (9G/15A)
  3. Pat Cannone (C) - 23 pts (11G/12A)
  4. Cal O’Reilly (C) - 23 pts (5G/18A)
  5. Kyle Rau (LW) - 16 pts (8G/8A)

The Wild head into 2018 with their top five performers relatively unchanged. Anas saw his point streak come to an end in Rockford, but he made it clear that winning is more of where he wants to be than with the individual accolades. Either way, ten straight games and four multi-point performances was some inspired hockey; adding fourteen points to his résumé in December alone.

Kloos continues his success going into the New Year, scoring in nine of thirteen contests in December, including three multi-point performances of his own. A lot of credit goes to the coaching staff and the chemistry found with Kloos centering Anas and Gerald Mayhew on the wings. The Lakeville native has also found success on the power play.

Zach Palmquist saw his point streak of four games come to a close, but he also had his most productive month of the season to complement his defensive play. He added seven points to his total, with two multi-point performances. Mario Lucia is also playing some good hockey as of late, doubling his point total this month with two multi-point games of his own late in the December schedule.

Chicago - Goalies

  1. Kasimir Kaskisuo (6-8-1) - 2.59 GAA/.907 SV%
  2. Max Lagacé (7-2-2) - 2.68 GAA/.910 SV%

With the Wolves being split up by two NHL franchises, it makes whatever move in net peculiar. Even stranger is the loaning of players in the A, as Kaskisuo is under contract with the Maple Leafs that have some development issues with their goalies for the Marlies already. He’s made 14 appearances for the Wolves to his 1 with his own organization.

In his five starts this month, the Vantaa native has a GAA of 2.47 and a .888 save percentage on 111 shots against.

Lagacé has made two more starts than Kaskisuo in the month of December after the goalie debacle in Vegas earlier this season. He has a slightly better GAA at 2.38, but a much better save percentage at .920 on 217 shots against.

Iowa - Goalies

  1. Steve Michalek (7-2-2) - 2.80 GAA/.919 SV%
  2. C.J. Motte (2-1-3) - 2.26 GAA/.925 SV%

With Michalek back, Iowa returned to some normalcy in net and decided to keep C.J. Motte along who is actually under contract with the Wolves...

Even with the flux of goaltenders due to the Dubnyk injury, Iowa was still able to maintain points, but also give up some leads late. Michalek had a bit of a rusty start in his return, but bounced back and made 45 saves in the win over Rockford. He’s 2-0-1 in games where he needs to make more than 40 saves.