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Iowa takes on Chicago tonight with a “new” face as two move on

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The Wild (22-15-10, 54 pts) look to keep a coincidence from becoming a trend against the second place Wolves (24-15-8, 56 pts)

Gerry Mayhew (20) looks to control the puck with Jake Bischoff (28) defending
Ted Sandeen/Iowa Wild

DES MOINES, Iowa - General Manager Chuck Fletcher decided to make a little bit of noise in anticipation of signing Jordan Greenway at the end of Boston University’s season (and the Olympics) as he dealt 2011 second-rounder Mario Lucia and 2012 sixth-rounder Christoph Bertschy (an alternate captain) to the New Jersey Devils organization to get Viktor Lööv, a left-handed defenseman, in return.

Lööv is expected to make his Minnesota Wild debut tomorrow against the Chicago Blackhawks, much to the chagrin of myself considering that Iowa already has a capable left-handed defenseman waiting in the wings for NHL minutes; something Lööv just has about over 40 of in his four NHL games played...two seasons ago.

In another move, Iowa got a bit “grittier,” adding Ryan White once again on an Standard Player Contract at the AHL level only as he comes over from San Diego. In 21 games with the Gulls, White had 9 pts (3G/6A) and 52 PIMs. Another peculiar move by the Wild organization, especially with a few players on Iowa’s roster more than capable of adding a gritty presence.

Maybe it’s a rant for another day.

Iowa is coming off back-to-back losses to playoff opponents out west on top of losing two of their guys. The Wild hadn’t given up back-to-back regulation losses since late October and haven’t had three consecutive regulation losses all season - something that happened three times before Feb. 20th last season.

Though the Wolves are currently riding a 6-game point streak (5 wins), they have an identical record as the Wild in their last ten games at 6-3-1. Since their last meeting with Iowa on Jan. 17th, the Vegas/St. Louis split-squad has put up 25 goals in their last six games.

Top Performers

Chicago - Points

  1. T.J. Tynan (C) - 38 pts (9G/29A)
  2. Brandon Pirri (C) - 34 pts (18G/16A)
  3. Teemu Pulkkinen (LW) - 32 pts (12G/20A)
  4. Tomáš Hyka (RW) - 31 pts (12G/19A)
  5. Paul Thompson (RW) - 26 pts (14G/12A)

Chicago has been hitting their stride and have been jostling with Iowa for the second and third seed in the Central Division for awhile now and have the second best goal differential in the division, currently, at a plus-15. This is due in large part to a steady presence of veteran players.

On their top scoring list, only Hyka is under the age of 25 and the highest performing rookie currently on the roster is Grand Rapids, Minn., native Jake Bischoff with 12 pts (2G/10A) in 47 games for the Wolves. As far as organizational depth goes, both St. Louis and Vegas are currently lacking in terms of youthful development. That will change, given Vegas’ bevy of draft picks now, but the Wolves are built to run in this Central Division with the added quality of testing some of the more youthful rosters.

Iowa - Points

  1. Cal O’Reilly (C) - 39 pts (8G/31A)
  2. Sam Anas (RW) - 37 pts (16G/21A)
  3. Justin Kloos (C) - 35 pts (14G/21A)
  4. Pat Cannone (C) - 29 pts (12G/17A)
  5. Kyle Rau (LW) - 26 pts (13G/13A)

The top part of the scoring line-ups look relatively close, but in terms of overall depth, Iowa has 15 skaters with over 15 points produced to Chicago’s 11. Still, O’Reilly sits atop the points race with Anas and Kloos very close behind.

#FreeSammy

Though with nine games in hand, Brennan Menell is tied for second for the most points among Iowa defensemen with 19. The 20 year old trails only veteran Alex Grant for that title. Making his Wells Fargo homecoming after missing all of December and January is Kurtis Gabriel following surgery after he took a skate to his wrist.

Disappointing has been the move to bring up Lööv, a non-system player from a struggling Devils-affiliate in Binghamton, instead of a Nick Seeler or even a Carson Soucy to get a cup-of-coffee. Far be it from me to pretend that I run an organization, but to not have faith in draft picks in favor of a, so far, career AHLer with the stigma of being involved in half as many trades as he does NHL games, it’s at the very least peculiar.

Chicago - Goalies

  1. Kasimir Kaskisuo (11-10-2) - 2.50 GAA/.908 SV%
  2. Maxime Lagacé (11-3-2) - 2.63 GAA/.908 SV%

The Wolves are already an intriguing team in that they’re shared by two NHL franchises, but when looking at the netminding corps for Chicago, the plot thickens as a Maple Leafs prospect is their top performing goalie; at least statistically speaking.

The Blues’ top goalie prospect gets his time in San Antonio with the Rampage. Lagacé, with the Golden Knights, hasn’t made a start since taking a knee to the head against the Wild back in mid-January; though he was Kaskisuo’s backup in their most recent game against the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks).

Iowa - Goalies

  1. Niklas Svedberg (12-9-3) - 2.63 GAA/.914 SV%
  2. Steve Michalek (9-4-4) - 2.91 GAA/.912 SV%

Given the Wild’s last two outings, it’s anyone’s net right now after Michalek took a 5-1 shelling against Ontario and Svedberg gave up four goals in San Diego. Both have their strengths, both have their peccadilloes, but it is clear that both are going to need to step up if Iowa is going to make a serious push for the post-season.

Svedberg, still, is performing much better than Stevie has in his last few outings. Hopefully Iowa can break their current slide against a playoff caliber opponent tonight, no matter who is between the pipes.

Game Plan

Who do you want to be tonight?

The Wolves are coming off of a full week’s rest after a couple of home games. Iowa played Tuesday night in California, are returning home, and lost two of their forwards via a trade. It’s easy to hide behind adversity, so we’re going to get a good look at the team’s resilience, something that has been lauded this season.

Shut it down.

It seems like the prevailing notion of “defense wins championships” goes across the sports spectrum. Iowa has gone out and been shelled their last two games out against, currently, playoff-bound teams. I’ve already said that Lööv’s immediate call-up is a bit disheartening in terms of the direction of the franchise, but now is the time for guys to play with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder and show they can shut down a veteran scoring presence like the Wolves have.

Puck drop is schedules for 7:00 CST at Wells Fargo Arena. If you’re coming to the game, Iowa is putting on a food drive, so bring your non-perishables.