Hockey

High On The Hog: Thoughts For The Stretch

The Rockford IceHogs have 19 games remaining in the 2019-20 season. The piglets had a tough week, earning just two of eight possible points as they attempt to hold on to their playoff aspirations.

At the moment, I am watching the latter stages of the IceHogs 5-1 loss to Chicago in Rosemont. Monday brings the uncertainty of the NHL trade deadline and the turnover that may possibly ensue. How is Rockford equipped to push to the Calder Cup Playoffs over the next few weeks?

Well…it looks like the Hogs will have to get to the postseason largely on the players that have been toiling in Rockford most of the season. Unless they don’t.

The next few hours should tell quite the tale for both the Hawks and IceHogs. If a prospect is obtained in any trades made before the deadline, they will most certainly be sent to Rockford. We may also see a couple of paper transactions over the course of Monday.

Any player on an NHL roster as of the trade deadline is not eligible for the remainder of the AHL season, including the playoffs. That would include Lucas Carlsson, who made his NHL debut yesterday in Dallas.

We may see Carlsson reassigned to Rockford and brought up later Monday evening. Chicago may also choose to yo-yo some other waiver-exempt players down I-90. The short list could include Adam Boqvist, Matthew Highmore and Alexander Nylander. This would allow some young players to get in some extra game experience just in case (sigh) the Blackhawks don’t reach the playoffs.

Of course, if Chicago decides to punt on the season, it could mean a couple of IceHogs may depart to get looks with the Blackhawks or as part of a swap. If a goalie is sent to another club, I’d expect Collin Delia to slide into the backup role. With Kevin Lankinen out with an injury, Rockford may need to call up or sign a backup for Matt Tomkins should the situation dictate.

The bottom line is this; don’t expect the IceHogs roster to improve dramatically in the final two months. Anton Wedin and Phillipp Kurashev both returned to action after lengthy absences. On the other hand, John Quenneville left Sunday’s game with an injury and Hogs coach Derek King hinted that forward Joseph Cramarossa may have injured a shoulder in a fight with Chicago’s Jermaine Loewen.

Sunday’s loss to the Wolves stung, as they occupy the final playoff spot in the Central Division. Back on Tuesday night, Rockford dropped a 2-1 decision to third-place Grand Rapids. The IceHogs rebounded Friday, getting 28 saves from Collin Delia 28-saves to defeat San Antonio 1-0. However, Rockford was on the short end of a 7-2 shellacking in Milwaukee the following evening.

Rockford has now started a crucial stretch of games in which they play all of the teams currently battling for the third and fourth playoff spots in the Central Division. Rockford is in fifth place with 55 points in 57 games.

The Griffins are four points away. Chicago, who has two games in hand on the Hogs, are two points ahead. Just behind Rockford are San Antonio (54 points in 54 games and Texas (51 points in 53 games).

What does thee IceHogs schedule look like for the next three weeks? Rockford begins a road trip with games Wednesday and Friday in Texas. They play the Rampage Sunday afternoon, then return to the BMO March 6 against Grand Rapids. After visiting the Griffins on March 7, Rockford is back in Rosemont the next day against the Wolves. The piglets are then off six days before playing Chicago at Allstate Arena on March 14.

It’s pretty simple, really. To come out ahead of the pack, you need to beat those teams in regulation. The schedule makers have laid out all of the teams Rockford needs to knock off to vault into a playoff spot. It would have been nice to get started on a run Sunday, but it will have to wait until the Hogs get to Texas.

 

Additional Thoughts

  • Garrett Mitchell, signed to a PTO on February 6, has already made an impact in the Rockford locker room. Mitchell, in just his eighth and ninth games with the Hogs, was an alternate captain against the Admirals and Wolves.
  • Dennis Gilbert was involved in a post-game scrap with Grand Rapids defenseman Dylan McIlrath Tuesday. Gilbert wore a full face shield this weekend as a result.
  • The lone goal in Friday’s victory over the Rampage came in the first period came off the stick of Alexandre Fortin. It was a shorthanded triumph eight minutes in, set up by some Tyler Sikura hustle along the boards to gain access to the puck. Fortin took Sikura’s feed in the slot and sent a laser over the glove of Ville Husso.
  • The Hogs produced five goals in their four games this week. They were 0-14 on the power play. The goal scorers for Rockford this week were Carlsson, Fortin, Mitchell, Cramarossa and Brandon Hagel.
  • Kurashev was just beginning to show flashes of offense at the time of his injury in Manitoba. If he can pick up his production from where is was trending in December (3 G, 6 A), good for the Hogs.
  • Tomkins got his first action in net Saturday since being slapped with seven goals against Milwaukee back on February 1. Milwaukee scored six against him before Tomkins night ended in a goalie fight with the Admirals Troy Grosenick. Grosenick, by the way, is 9-0-2 against Rockford over the last two seasons.
  • Like I said a couple of weeks ago, Milwaukee has been feasting on the IceHogs the last two months. If Delia is brought up to Chicago this week, Tomkins may finally see some steady work after signing his NHL contract last month. That would be all right with me. I mean, why sign a guy if you aren’t going to send him out between the pipes on a regular basis?
  • Regardless of how the goalie tandem turns out in the next 24 hours, I think the fact that the Blackhawks now have three NHL contracts in goal should result in one of these goalies serving as an inexpensive backup next season to whomever is tapped to tend goal in Chicago.
  • Who’s to say that Delia can’t come up and be very effective? Does anybody remember when Corey Crawford went from long-time AHL starter to NHL success once he got the opportunity? Before Chicago signs five or six more goalies this summer, why don’t we see what one of the current youngsters can do in net?
  • Brandon Pirri, who scored twice for the Wolves Sunday afternoon, has 34 points (15 G, 19 A) in 37 games. That point total would lead the IceHogs through 57 games.
  • Could picking up one forward and one defenseman make a difference for Rockford’s chances? Heck, yeah, if it’s the right couple of players.  However, I would count the Hogs fortunate if their parent club could nab even one skater to provide a boost.

 

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for my takes on the IceHogs throughout the season.

 

 

 

 

 

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