The Rockford IceHogs, the Blackhawks AHL affiliate, kick off the home portion of their schedule Saturday night. After dropping the season opener in Iowa last Friday, the IceHogs are at home for their next three games.
Following Saturday’s game with the Grand Rapids Griffins, Rockford hosts the Laval Rocket for the first time ever on Monday afternoon. The home stand concludes October 18 with the first tilt of the season against the Chicago Wolves.
With Dennis Gilbert joining Rockford this week, defenseman Jack Ramsey was assigned to the ECHL’s Indy Fuel.
The Hogs currently have 17 forwards, seven defensemen and three goalies on the roster. I would expect that to change, starting with Matt Tomkins being sent to Indy soon.
Spotlight On The Opponent: Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids reached the postseason last spring, losing in five games to Chicago in the first round. The Hogs took seven of the ten meetings between the two teams in 2018-19. Four of those wins were decided in Gus Macker Time. Rockford was 4-1 against the Griffins at the BMO Harris Bank Center last season.
After besting the Wolves 8-5 in Chicago Saturday night, Grand Rapids will be hosting Milwaukee Friday before pulling into Rockford.
Grand Rapids is a veteran-laden club, with a lot of players who have put in their time in AHL rinks. The Griffins also present a physical challenge to a Rockford team that is predicated on pushing the tempo.
Leading that bunch is Chris Terry, a 30-year-old wing who has been a points machine in the league for the last decade. Terry, who had 29 goals and 32 assists in 2018-19, will be a focal point of the Griffins attack.
Matthew Ford, who turned 35 this week, has been with Grand Rapids the last three seasons. Matt Puempel has nearly 300 AHL games under his belt and is coming off a 50-point season.Turner Elson, a seventh-year pro, starts his third season in the Wings organization. He had a pair of assists in the Griffins 8-5 win over Chicago. Center Dominic Tergeon is back for his fourth year with Grand Rapids.
Givani Smith is a hard-hitting forward that comes back for his second full season with the Griffins. Also returning up front is Filip Zadina, who will be looking to improve upon a solid rookie campaign (16 G, 19 A)
On defense, the Griffins are also very experienced. Alex Biega comes over from Vancouver, where he has 179 NHL games to his credit. He joins Brian Lashoff and Dylan McIlrath, two physical veterans who have been in the league for years. Joe Hicketts returns for a fourth season with Grand Rapids.
Goalie Calvin Pickard has faced Rockford while with Lake Erie and San Antonio earlier in his career. Rockford will be shooting at Pickard or rookie Filip Larsson Saturday night.
Among the newer faces in the Grand Rapids lineup are Joe Veleno, who was Detroit’s first-round selection in the 2018 NHL Draft. Veleno is a speedy forward who had 104 points with Drummondville in his last year of juniors. Also coming from Drummondville is Gregor MacLeod.
Jarid Lukosevicius is entering his first pro season after a college career at Denver. Princeton’s Ryan Kuffner and Northern Michigan’s Troy Loggins also begin their first full seasons in the AHL.
6’6″ center Michael Rasmussen, the Red Wings 2017 first-rounder, spent most of last season in Detroit but is starting 2019-20 with the Griffins.
Newcomers to the blueline include Oliwer Kaski, Gustav Lindstrom, Moritz Seider and former Cornell skater Alec Mcrea.
Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates on Saturday’s action well as news and opinions on the IceHogs all season long.