Everything Else

 vs.

RECORDS: Blues 43-28-8   Hawks 34-33-12

PUCK DROP: 7pm

TV: NBCSN

GROSS: St. Louis Gametime

It’s finally over, people. The Hawks desperate, somewhat sad though fun, and always futile lunge/leap/hail mary for the playoffs is now over. Death came a callin’ last night when the Avs won, and now it’s time for this season to journey to the other side. Peachy keen.

There will be plenty of time for the autopsy, for the criticism, for the investigation. For now, I guess we just stare and be somewhat surprised that it’s only the last three games that will be totally meaningless. Because there was a time when it sure looked like the last three months would be. Then again, that’s a criticism of just how bad the West was this year, because in a normal year the Hawks would have never sniffed a playoff spot, much less held one for about 45 minutes. For now, let’s just say that it was all in front of the Hawks, they had it in their own grasp, and they weren’t able to close their fingers around the easiest playoff spot to grab in a decade or more. Someone should pay. No one will.

Which makes for a distinct contrast to the team they face tonight. The Blues sat with the Hawks as the wooden-spooners of the entire league right after January 1st. They were last in the entire NHL. Since then they’ve ripped of a 27-9-4 to this point, which has them within one win of being tied with both the Jets and Preds. Think about that my beautiful babies. In three months, the Blues went from last in the league to being in with a shout of winning this damn division. That’s how mediocre the division has been, but that’s also how much they’ve turned things around.

A huge part of it is Jordan Binnington, whom the Blues handed the job in January in a true “what-fucking-ever” gesture after Jake Allen for the 18th straight year watched the role dribble under his arm and into the net. Binnington has gone .928 since, including a .936 in January and a .945 in February. He’s mostly responsible for this revival. Who knows if it’s real, but if Binnington doesn’t wake up anytime soon, and considering the state of the West, there’s really no telling how far this could go. There’s something to make your avocado toast come back up, huh?

But it isn’t all just Binnington. Interim coach (for now) Craig Berube has gotten the Blues back to their Hitchcock-levels of shot and chance-suppression, while not sacrificing offense totally to do so. Ryan O’Reilly, whom the Blues got for a fucking song the Hawks probably could have easily matched if they weren’t so busy thinking Anisimov and Schmaltz were fine down the middle, has freaked off for 38 points in 41 games in 2019, And he’s brought the give-a-shit of Vladimir Tarasenko from the red to the black, which is no small task as Tank seemed dead set on playing and bitching his way out of town.

Jaden Schwartz and David Perron finally finding some healthy has helped as well, and Brayden Schenn being able to move to ROR’s wing is another boost.

At the back, Berube finally figured out, which Hitch and Mike Yeo couldn’t, that Colton Parayko nor Alex OrangeJello are puck-movers, and moved Vinnie Dunn Bag O’ Donuts up to the top pairing to be that guy. He responded with nine points in March alone, and keeps Colton Burpo and Jabe O’Meester away from spots where they can do harm to themselves or society. When Dunn is out there the Blues can actually get up and go, which is a real change.

It’s not totally fair to compare the Blues to the Hawks. The Blues were built to compete this year in the summer, where the Hawks were built to take up space. But the Blues did identify a weakness, center, and didn’t just half-ass in trying to patch it up. They brought in O’Reilly and Bozak, who’s been fine. They saw a coach who wasn’t working and the team wasn’t listening to and finally canned him, but the new coach actually was able to implement some changes for the better. None of that has happened here, and it truly is a cold and scornful world where it feels like the Blues have more of an idea of what they’re doing than the Hawks do. But it’s hard to see it otherwise right now.

As for the Hawks, it’s time to just see it out. Corey Crawford will get a rest tonight, and it honestly wouldn’t be a surprise to see him sit the rest of the year. There’s really nothing to be gained from him playing, and now that the Hawks have finally got him healthy and at least in the area of being Crow again, what’s the point of chancing it? Dennis Gilbert has been called up to get a look-see, mostly to reward him for a good season in Rockford. And hey, he’ll keep you from having to watch Gustav Forsling tonight.

The only things that matter now happen at the draft and July 1st. Until then, we’re just killing time.

Game #80 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs were primed for a big weekend of action when they began play Friday night in Milwaukee. For a while, things looked great for the piglets. By “a while”, I mean nearly two full minutes.

The Hogs scored 36 seconds into their tilt in Milwaukee. Rockford was subsequently wiped out for the bulk of the first two games of a three-game set with the Admirals. When the smoke cleared at the BMO Harris Bank Center the following evening, the IceHogs had been outscored 12-4, losing both contests to a Milwaukee.

Two regulation wins would have given Rockford a solid hold of the final playoff spot in the Central Division and sent the Ads postseason hopes in peril. Instead, the IceHogs are just part of the four-team pack hoping to snatch a Calder Cup Playoffs berth.

Following Dennis Gilbert’s put-back of an Andreas Martinsen rebound, Milwaukee scored three times over the rest of Friday’s opening period. Viktor Ejdsell got Rockford to within a goal with a third-period power play strike. However, the Admirals scored just over a minute later to restore what was to become the winning margin, besting the Hogs 4-2.

Saturday night, Milwaukee roared out to a three-goal advantage through twenty minutes. The Hogs responded with a quick pair of goals by Jordan Schroeder and Joni Tuulola to get Rockford back in contention. The Ads beat Hogs goalie Collin Delia for two quick goals near the end of the middle frame, then piled on three more scores in the third period for an 8-2 shellacking.

 

Weekend Lines

My plan was to give you readers some honest to goodness recaps, complete with line combos, this week. Based on the manner in which Rockford was blown out in both games, however, I reconsidered that notion.

In my mind, though, I feel like I owe you some pairings. So…

Lines (Starters in italics)

Friday, March 22

Viktor Ejdsell-Peter Holland (A)-Jordan Schroeder

Andreas Martinsen (A)-Tyler Sikura (A)-William Pelletier

Anthony Louis-Luke Johnson-Alexandre Fortin

Dylan McLaughlin-Nathan Noel-Spencer Watson

Joni Tuulola-Henri Jokiharju

Lucas Carlsson-Dennis Gilbert

Blake Hillman-Dmitri Osipov

Anton Forsberg

 

Saturday, March 23

Viktor Ejdsell-Peter Holland-Jordan Schroeder

Andreas Martinsen-Tyler Sikura-William Pelletier

Dylan McLaughlin-Nathan Noel-Spencer Watson

Anthony Louis-Alexandre Fortin

Joni Tuulola-Henri Jokiharju

Lucas Carlsson-Dennis Gilbert

Blake Hillman-Dmitri Osipov

Josh McArdle

Collin Delia

 

Fun Facts

  • Going into Wednesday’s game with Milwaukee, the Hogs have converted just once in 38 power play chances against the Admirals.
  • The Ads now lead the season series with a 5-1-3 record in head-to-head action with Rockford.
  • All of the IceHogs wins over Milwaukee this season have been by one goal. The Admirals have now posted two, three and six-goal wins in addition to a pair of one-goal victories.
  • With both teams having played 67 games this season, the Admirals (71 points) are just a single point behind Rockford (72 points). Manitoba currently holds the fourth-place spot via points percentage.
  • With four points (2 G, 2 A), William Pelletier is the active leader in scoring for Rockford vs Milwaukee this season. Darren Raddysh, now out of the organization, has seven points against the Ads.
  • As you would expect, the two squads are getting a little chippy with all this together time. Dennis Gilbert and Mathieu Olivier had themselves a pretty spirited bout near the end of the first period Saturday. It’s Olivier’s eighth fighting major of the season and Gilbert’s seventh. Both are near the top of the league leaders in the catagory.
  • Rockford is tied with Cleveland for 26th in the AHL in FMs with 18, though that’s more than last season’s paltry total of 11 fights. Nathan Noel has three bouts for the Hogs, while Luke Johnson has two.
  • Johnson left Friday’s game in the third period after a nasty spill into the boards. He was not in the lineup Saturday, as the Hogs went with seven defensemen. Johnson is going to be missed down the stretch if he continues to be out of the lineup.
  • While Forsberg was no great shakes in net Friday, Delia was flat-out terrible the following night. Neither goalie got a lot of help from his skaters, but the Cucomonga Kid seemed a bit slow going post to post. Chalk it up to an off night and back to the grind this week.

 

This Week

The IceHogs really need to post a regulation win over Milwaukee Wednesday night at the BMO, because the top two clubs in the Central Division come a-calling over the weekend. Grand Rapids visits on Saturday night, while Chicago is in Rockford Sunday afternoon.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for news and notes on the guys in Rockford all season long.

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs had a six-game win streak snapped Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bank Center. The recent success of the ‘Bago County Flying Piglets has brought at least a smidge of hope to an appearance in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

The Hogs boosted their season mark to 23-20-3-5 with a 7-3 record over the last ten games. Rockford is in a tie for fourth in points with Milwaukee (54) in the Central Division. However…

…if the season ended today (which it won’t), neither the Hogs or the Ads would qualify for the postseason. Texas is in that fourth position due to its .531 points percentage, the stat that decides the highest-ranking teams in each division.

In case you are unaware, several Pacific Division teams play 68, not 76 games over the course of the season. This necessitates the use of the points percentage statistic. Since it ranks the teams regardless of how many games in hand one team may have on another, I choose to set the standings in this fashion.

I guess points will eventually matter in the Central Division after the final day of the regular season. Until that day arrives, I will report the standings (as I have for some time now) according to points percentage. So Rockford is tied for fifth, not fourth place. I am killjoy, hear me roar.

Actually, there is a lot to be excited about here on our stretch of I-90. The IceHogs still have home-cookin’ ahead of them through this upcoming weekend. They have three division opponents coming in, with the opportunity to keep pushing up North in the standings. There’s the potential of a trade deadline pact that could provide some help in Rockford.

Plus, some of the boys currently residing in town are beginning to step up.

 

Pacing A Winning Streak

The Rockford win streak was anchored by solid defense and some outstanding play in net. However, pucks need to get into the net for a six-pack of wins.

As needs to be the case with the current roster, the push is communal. Here are some players who have  come to the forefront the last few weeks:

Luke Johnson

Johnson (9 G, 8 A), leads Rockford with five game-winning goals this season. He picked up the deciding tally in both IceHogs wins this week. Over the last seven games, Johnson has four goals and a pair of helpers, including two power play strikes. All four of those goals came in Rockford victories.

 

Dylan Sikura

The Hogs leader in goals and points this season (13 G, 17 A) was very noticeable during the winning streak. Sikura The Younger put up eight points (2 G, 6 A) in his last eight games and is currently on a four-game points streak. (UPDATE-The Blackhawks recalled Sikura Monday morning.)

 

Jordan Schroeder

In 42 games, the veteran has 11 goals and 18 assists on the season. Schroeder is on pace to set a career-high in points, his previous high being 44, set with the Wolves in 2011-12. Schroeder ran his current point streak to five games and has seven points (2 G, 5 A) in his last eight contests.

 

Lucas Carlsson

With several injuries on the blue line, the rookie has continued to contribute at both ends of the ice. With eight goals and 17 helpers in 47 games this season, he is a lone assist from tying Darren Raddysh as the team’s top-scoring defenseman. In his last seven games, Carlsson has a goal and four assists.

 

Dennis Gilbert

I’m throwing Gilbert into this bunch mostly because of his outstanding evening on Saturday night. Even before the big rookie notched what was a game-tying goal at the time, I was impressed with how aggressive his was in the offensive zone.

Gilbert sent a personal-best five shots on the Tucson net Saturday, just missing on a couple of attempts and following up on several rebounds. He has 45 shot on the year in 39 games. In his last 15 games, however, he has put pucks on goal 24 times.

A very nice pass by Gilbert set up Johnson’s eventual game-winner Friday to go with his strong showing the following night. Gilbert may be benefiting from increased responsibility in lieu of several Hogs defenders out of commission at the moment.

The former Notre Dame skater has consistently brought a hard-nosed style to the ice this season. Gilbert is not a puck-moving type by any means. However, if he can display just a bit more of the aggressive game he showed Saturday on a regular basis, he could be an exciting player to watch.

 

Roster Moves

Last Monday, forward Matheson Iacopelli was assigned to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. Iacopelli, a third-round draft pick in 2014 for the Blackhawks, had a goal for the Fuel Saturday night in a 5-4 loss to the Quad City Thunder.

At times, Iacopelli has displayed a high-quality shot from the left side. This season, he has again failed to get solid footing in the IceHogs lineup. With his rookie contract set to expire this summer, it’s hard to see the young man back in the organization.

Several IceHogs defensemen are still nursing injuries. Blake Hillman, who took a nasty turn into the end boards February 1, was proclaimed to be okay the next day by the coaching staff. Hillman, however, has not played since. He skated in warmups Saturday night but was still a scratch. Also scratched Saturday was D Joni Tuulola, who did return from injury the previous night. Brandon Davidson has not played since January 21, missing the last seven games.

Luc Snuggerud, who has missed three months with a concussion, may be at a crossroads in his hockey career. It was reported by theathletic.com’s Scott Powers yesterday that the Blackhawks have placed Snuggerud on unconditional waivers.

Snuggerud, a fifth-round selection in the 2014 NHL Draft, also missed a sizable chunk of his rookie season with a concussion. After putting up 5 goals and 12 assists in 40 games last season, Snuggerud had appeared in just four games this season before suffering his current injury November 6.

 

Recaps

Wednesday, February 6-Rockford 2, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 1

Rockford won its fifth-straight game with a pair of first-period goals, riding a fine night of goal tending by Anton Forsberg to the victory.

Local product Josh McArdle got the Hogs on the board with his first AHL goal just 1:42 into the contest. The play developed after Viktor Ejdsell sent a shot on goal from the high slot. The rebound was fought for in front of the net by Jordan Schroeder and Nick Moutrey, who sent the puck back out to the slot. McArdle pounced on the opportunity, knocking the biscuit past Penguins goalie Anthony Peters for a 1-0 IceHogs lead.

Just over a minute later, Jarrett Burton beat Darren Raddysh to a Ryan Haggerty pass, leading to a breakaway goal that tied the game. The IceHogs got the game-winner 12:49 into the first, however, converting on a 5-on-3 power play.

Lucas Carlsson had won a battle for the puck behind the boards after a Raddysh attempt was wide of the net. Dylan Sikura gained possession in the corner, skated it back up top and sent a pass to Luke Johnson at the bottom of the left circle. Johnson didn’t get all of the one-timer, but the shot found its way past Peters for a 2-1 Hogs advantage at the 12:49 mark.

That lead held up for the remainder of the game, largely because of Forsberg. Rockford was out shot 39-13 in the final 40 minutes, but the IceHogs goalie was up to the challenge. Fittingly, Forsberg was named the game’s First Star for his 45-save performance.

 

Friday, February 8-Rockford 3, Tucson 1

Late in the first period, Rockford opened the scoring on a transition goal set up by a long cross-ice pass by Jordan Schroeder. The pass found the stick of Jacob Nilsson, who skated the the left dot before hitting Anthony Louis at the opposite dot for the one-timer. The goal came at the 17:38 mark.

The Hogs lead doubled 6:27 into the second period after Dennis Gilbert gathered in a loose puck in the Rockford zone. The rookie defenseman slid a stretch pass to Luke Johnson as he entered Tucson ice. Johnson skated to just outside of the right dot before letting fly with a shot that bested the glove of Roadrunners goalie Adin Hill.

Tucson’s Lane Pedersen knocked home a rebound past Hogs goalie Kevin Lankinen later in the period to cut the lead to a single goal. However, the rookie net-minder would not allow another puck past him on this night, stopping 23 shots to secure the victory.

Meanwhile, the IceHogs picked up a late insurance goal when Nilsson caught cord on the power play, drifting across the slot and flinging the puck past Hill at 15:09.

Saturday, February 9-Tucson 5, Rockford 3

The Hogs put together a rally in the third period from two goals down, tying the game before ultimately losing to end a six-game winning streak.

Rockford took a 1-0 lead 8:19 into the game with a power play goal from the top of the left circle by Lucas Carlsson. With time running out on the man advantage, Carlsson sent a Darren Raddysh feed past Tucson goalie Adin Hill.

The Roadrunners quickly responded, tying the game 25 seconds later on Brayden Burke’s ninth goal of the season. New pickup Jeremy Gregoire made it a 2-1 game at the 11:22 mark. Five minutes into the second period, Robbie Russo got a shot past Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg on a power play. Rockford faced a 3-1 deficit heading into the final frame.

The IceHogs comeback hinged on a roughing penalty by Tucson captain Dakota Mermis, who was called for his mugging of Hogs forward Jacob Nilsson. Rockford took advantage, with Jordan Schroeder catching the top corner of Hill’s net 10:28 into the third period.

Less than a minute later, the Hogs came up with the equalizer. Alexandre Fortin drove into the Roadrunners zone and sent a shot off of Hill’s pads. Dennis Gilbert, who had four previous shot attempts turned away, punched in the long rebound from the left circle and drew Rockford even at 11:08 of the period.

Unfortunately, a penalty on the Hogs side proved to be the turning point of the contest. Andreas Martinsen somehow avoided a boarding call on Mermis before shoving him to the ice. Martinsen was sent to the box for interference at 15:55; near the end of the subsequent power play, Russo banged in his second goal of the evening to give Tucson a 4-3 lead. An empty netter 30 seconds later sealed the fate of the IceHogs.

 

This Week

The Hogs are back at it Tuesday night in Rockford, when they host the Texas Stars. Iowa visits the BMO on Saturday night, followed by a game with San Antonio that will close out this lengthy home stand.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts and updates on the IceHogs all season long.

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs are currently riding a three-game winning streak for the first time this season. The piglets are 7-2-1 over their last ten games heading into the holidays. Of those ten games, eight were decided by a single goal, either in regulation or via overtime or a shootout.

Each of the IceHogs victories in the current streak are of the one-goal variety. After besting Grand Rapids 2-1 back on December 16, Rockford has defeated Milwaukee (4-3) and Chicago (5-4) with clutch overtime goals.

In fact, Rockford’s last nine wins this season, dating back to November 9, have all been by one goal. The last time the winning margin was more than one was in Iowa on November 4, when the Hogs posted a 4-2 victory.

In that stretch, the IceHogs have also lost four games by one goal. Credit the play in goal for keeping Rockford competitive in the bulk of its games.

 

Points vs Points Percentage

Heading into post-Christmas action, Rockford is in sixth place in the Central Division with a .581 points percentage. The Hogs (15-10-2-4) have earned 36 points so far in 2018-19. So why not regale you with points as opposed to points percentage? Simple. The AHL standard is points percentage.

In part because the West Coast clubs play only 68 games, rather than the 76 everyone else plays, the four teams with the highest points percentage qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs. Of course, the silly AHL website lists the teams according to points when the standings are shown.

I like going by points percentage, which takes most of the games-in-hand calculations out of the mix. If the season ended today, the IceHogs would not be a playoff team. The good news for Rockford is that Texas (.586), along with Milwaukee and Grand Rapids (.594) are within reach, so upward mobility is achievable.

 

Derek King’s Punchout

Rockford, as I mentioned last week, is the least-penalized team in the league. It’s interesting, however, to take a look at the fighting side of that ledger. The Hogs aren’t the roughest bunch of wranglers in the AHL, but they certainly have been a little quicker to drop the gloves under coach Derek King.

Last season, the IceHogs drew just 11 fighting majors. This was an all-time franchise low by a wide margin (the previous low was 2017-17’s 39 FMs) and the lowest in the AHL. Through the first 12 games of this season, under Jeremy Colliton, Rockford skaters had been involved in three fights. In 96 regular season games and 13 playoff contests, Colliton’s team picked up 14 fights.

In the first 19 games of the King regime, the Hogs have been been in seven fights. That equates to a full season total of 28 fights, still a paltry number even by recent league standards. Compared to Colliton, however, King is helming the Rock’em Sock’em Robots.

As I’ve mentioned countless times, AHL fight totals are dropping and the IceHogs have not been built to scrap. As a matter of fact, Rockford is better off avoiding such activities, as they are largely inexperienced in this area. However, it does appear that this year’s club is sticking up for itself with more frequency. The Hogs are currently tied for 16th in the AHL (with five other clubs) with 10 FMs on the season.

Two of those fights involved Hunter Fejes, who is no longer with the team after a stint on a PTO. Dennis Gilbert, who has brought a physical element to the defense, leads Rockford with four fights.

 

Roster Moves

On Saturday, the Blackhawks recalled Jacob Nilsson and sent Luke Johnson back to Rockford.

 

Recap

Friday, December 21-Rockford 5, Chicago 4 (OT)

For the third time this season, the Hogs ventured into Allstate Arena and beat the Wolves. This time, it took a good portion of extra skating to do so.

The teams exchanged goals midway through the opening period. Chicago’s T.J. Tynan created a scoring opportunity with some nice skating with the puck, opening up space for Nic Hauge at the top of the right circle. Hauge sent a bullet past Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg to give the Wolves a 1-0 lead at the 10:40 mark.

Nathan Noel was held behind the Chicago net by Jake Bischoff soon after, sending the Hogs to the power play. Rockford won the subsequent faceoff, kept the puck in the offensive zone for over a minute and scored on a one-timer by Jacob Nilsson. The rookie center had misfired on a centering pass from Jordan Schroeder, who then regained possession and found Nilsson again for a successful attempt at 12:58 of the period.

Alexandre Fortin got his first two goals of the season for Rockford in the opening minutes of the second period. After Lucas Carlsson made a heads up play to keep a clearing attempt in the Wolves zone, he passed to William Pelletier, who found Fortin open skating toward the right dot. Fortin’s shot banked off of Chicago’s Zach Whitecloud and past Wolves goalie Maxim Lagace 36 seconds into the period.

Minutes later, Fortin skated into the slot and sent an offering to the Chicago net. The rebound rattled around the front of the net before Noel and Graham Knott knocked it toward the left post. Fortin, who was crashing the net after shooting, was on hand to guide the puck into the open net for a 3-1 Rockford advantage.

Chicago would rally with a pair of goals to tie the contest. Curtis McKenzie got open in the slot and fired past Forsberg at the 9:11 mark. Five minutes later, Daniel Carr jumped on a rebound of a Whitecloud blast to knot the game at three.

The score remained tied until the late stages of regulation. Lucas Carlsson took a feed from Nilsson, used a couple of nifty moves to get open in the slot and fired low past Lagace’s glove side with 3:31 to play. The Wolves pulled Lagace soon after.

Graham Knott had a prime chance to ice the game with the puck on his stick and an empty net in front of him. However, Chicago’s Dylan Coughlin closed the gap on Knott and forced an off-target attempt. The Wolves came down and got the equalizer from Gage Quinney with 1:26 left.

Gus Macker Time saw the Wolves with early momentum. Forsberg turned aside several attempts over the first four minutes. Late in the extra session, Louis brought the puck into the Chicago zone on a two-on-one rush. Louis hit Darren Raddysh with a pass at the right circle; the defenseman’s one-timer caught cord with 39 seconds remaining to finish off the Wolves.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura (A)-William Pelletier

Nick Moutrey-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Anthony Louis-Jacob Nilsson-Jordan Schroeder (A)

Terry Broadhurst-Henrik Samuelsson

Lucas Carlsson-Jan Rutta

Joni Tuulola-Dennis Gilbert

Blake Hillman-Darren Raddysh

Andrew Campbell (A)

Anton Forsberg

Power Play (1-2)

Nilsson-Louis-Schroeder-Carlsson-Rutta

Broadhurst-Fortin-Sikura-Samuelsson-Raddysh

Penalty Kill (Chicago was 0-2)

Sikura-Fortin-Campbell-Gilbert

Nilsson-Moutrey-Hillman-Tuulola

Broadhurst-Pelletier-Rutta-Carlsson

 

This Week

The IceHogs will spend Boxing Day in DesMoines, taking on the Wild Wednesday night. On Friday, Rockford begins a home-and-home weekend against the Wolves at the BMO Harris Bank Center. The action moves to Rosemont on Saturday night.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates, news and thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.

 

Everything Else

Rockford IceHogs defenseman Dennis Gilbert has adding a physical element to a team that is more focused on skating than brawling. The former Notre Damer paid a price for that style of play last weekend.

The AHL suspended Gilbert for three games after taking a hard look at a hit he delivered in Sunday’s 3-2 win over San Antonio. Early in that game, Gilbert put a shoulder into the chest of Rampage forward Mackenzie MacEachern. The hit separated MacEachern from the puck as well as his senses.

Before MacEachern could be helped from the ice, Klim Kostin went over and quickly dropped the gloves with Gilbert. Kostin earned an instigator penalty and a ten-minute misconduct in addition to the five-minute fighting major. At the time, all Gilbert was penalized was the five-minutes for fighting. On Tuesday, the league opted for supplemental discipline.

Upon taking a long, slow look at the play, it becomes apparent that Gilbert was just a few inches high on the hit. Contact was made with MacEachern’s head, unintentional as it may have been.

This isn’t the first time that a call that was deemed legal in the course of a game drew the ire of the AHL. The on-ice officials made what they felt was the right call from the perspective of a live-action hit. A few inches lower and Gilbert delivers a legal hit.

Gilbert remained in the contest and assisted on Graham Knott’s game-tying goal in the third period. It was Gilbert’s first point since an assist in his season debut October 13. He’s been paired quite a bit with veteran Andrew Campbell recently. Of Rockford’s seven fighting majors this season, Gilbert has three of them.

Hogs coach Derek King seemed to disagree with the ruling in his weekly media availability, though he stopped short of criticizing the suspension. King said that he had advised Gilbert to continue playing in a physical manner.

In his first weeks as Rockford’s head coach, King has pushed the physical narrative decidedly harder than Jeremy Colliton. The IceHogs are far from being a punishing team in this regard, but it’s interesting to see how this plays out as the season progresses.

 

Roster Moves

Gilbert’s absence prompted the Hogs to recall D Josh McArdle from the Indy Fuel Tuesday. The Rockton, Illinois native was in the lineup at the BMO November 7 against Iowa, thought that was Rockford’s morning school-day game. He should get a big reception from the home fans if he gets into a game this weekend.

The next day, goalie Kevin Lankinen was assigned to the Fuel, signaling that Collin Delia was ready to return to action after missing the last three games. Lankinen played well in this most recent stint with Rockford, picking up his first win of the season Sunday afternoon.

 

This Weekend

Rockford is attempting to win consecutive games for the first time since November 9 and 10. To do so, they will have to shut down a streaking opponent.

Grand Rapids, the hottest team in the Western Conference, comes to Rockford Friday night. The Griffins have won seven of their last eight, with the lone loss coming in a shootout against Milwaukee back on November 23.

Veteran Chris Terry leads the Grand Rapids offense with 15 goals and nine helpers in 23 games. Matt Puempel has chipped in with ten goals.  Veteran centers Turner Elson (8 G, 13 A) and Carter Camper (5 G, 15 A) have also been steady contributors.

Rockford will probably be looking at Patrik Rybar (6-2-2, 2.27, .910) in net for the Griffins. Rybar held the Hogs to a single goal November 14 in Grand Rapids, stopping 29 shots on the way to a 3-1 victory.

Saturday night is another Illinois Lottery Cup tilt with the Chicago Wolves. Chicago has struggled of late, but rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat Iowa in overtime on Wednesday night.

Former IceHogs forward Brandon Pirri has picked up his scoring pace, with six goals and eight assists in his last ten games. He currently leads the AHL in scoring with 30 points (10 G, 20 A).

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on Rockford happenings throughout the season.