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The Rockford IceHogs face a familiar opponent in the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. After completing a sweep of Texas at the BMO this past Wednesday, the IceHogs will be facing off in Grand Rapids this Wednesday and Friday in the first two games of the Western Conference Semifinal.

The Griffins battled back from an 0-2 deficit against Toronto, winning three straight home games to advance to the second round. The best-of-seven series will feature a 2-3-2 format, meaning that Rockford plays host in Games 3, 4 and 5 should it go that far.

The way things have gone between the two teams this season, it should go at least that far. This really shapes up to be a high-octane series.

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The Rockford IceHogs seem to be peaking at the perfect time of the season. Winners of eight of their last ten games, the Hogs have assured themselves of the team’s first trip to the AHL postseason in five years.

The IceHogs have avoided lengthy slumps that have doomed past campaigns. The worst stretch of hockey for Rockford came from November 28 to January 19, when the team was 8-9-4-1 in 22 games.

The Hogs tend to jell in the spring and this season has been no exception. What has been the difference is the team’s 15-4-0-1start. With 41 wins this season with seven games to play, the AHL franchise high water mark of 44 victories (set in 80-game seasons in 2007-08 and 2009-10) is certainly within reach.

You can point to a lot of factors that have gotten Rockford to this point. Here are some players who have provided a recent jump in the step of the IceHogs.

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If the Rockford IceHogs want to claim the AHL’s Midwest Division in 2014-15, the next two games on their schedule are vital. The IceHogs will have two shots at the team in front of them this week.

 

Rockford trails the Grand Rapids Griffins, who currently have 88 points, in the division race. The Hogs have 85 points, a game in hand on the Griffins and consecutive games against the division leaders.

 

The IceHogs are in Grand Rapids Wednesday and host the Griffins Friday night. Wins in both games would vault Rockford into first and could also pave the way for a run at the top seed in the AHL’s Western Conference.

 

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Recently, I noted that veteran center Peter Regin, drawing an NHL salary down with the Rockford IceHogs this season, could stand to raise his game in response to several offensive threats being called up to the Blackhawks. Regin has indeed increased his production in what has been a big run by the Hogs of late.

Regin’s seven-game point streak came to an end Sunday. Still, he has points in 11 of his last 13 games. He has three goals and eight assists in that span as Rockford went 9-3-1. This includes a four-game winning streak that has closed the gap on Grand Rapids in the AHL’s Midwest Division.

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The Rockford IceHogs went down to Texas and swept a pair of games from the Stars last weekend. To have done so in the face of the shake-up to the roster was impressive, indeed.

Recent call-ups and trades by the organization have really changed the landscape for the Hogs, who currently fourth seed in the AHL’s Western Conference. Rockford, just two points behind Grand Rapids in the Midwest Division, has responded well initially to this shuffling of the deck.

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After a big week of action that saw the Rockford IceHogs hold two consecutive opponents scoreless, the Chicago Blackhawks called up a forward. That player may come as a bit of a surprise. Dennis Rasmussen will be joining the Blackhawks as they head on their post-All-Star break road trip.

The 24-year-old center is in his rookie season in Rockford and has eight goals and eight assists in 44 games with the IceHogs. He’s a plus-ten and has been a mainstay on a strong penalty kill unit.

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Chicago Blackhawks defensive prospect Stephen Johns missed nearly seven weeks of action following a concussion suffered back in Rockford November 26. Johns made his return to the lineup this past weekend for the IceHogs. It was fitting that he came back against the team he last played against.

Johns skated with Klas Dahlbeck Friday night against the Iowa Wild and Saturday in Chicago. The Hogs won both games and Johns showed he hasn’t lost his taste for contact.

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The Rockford IceHogs will be hosting nine of their next 15 games at home through next month. That’s fine by me; the IceHogs are limping home after losing the last three games of their six-game road trip.

Some recent events around the AHL prompted me to take a look at the drawing power of the Blackhawks affiliate out here in Northwest Illinois. You might be surprised. Then again, you may not.

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The Rockford IceHogs will be hosting nine of their next 15 games at home through next month. That’s fine by me; the IceHogs are limping home after losing the last three games of their six-game road trip.

Some recent events around the AHL prompted me to take a look at the drawing power of the Blackhawks affiliate out here in Northwest Illinois. You might be surprised. Then again, you may not.

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The Rockford IceHogs ran their road record to 10-4-0-1 this week. The AHL’s Midwest Division leaders beat the Admirals in Milwaukee for the second time in six days Wednesday night. Rockford then split a pair of games at Lake Erie over the weekend.

Heading into another week of travel, Rockford is piling up points away from the BMO Harris Bank Center. One big factor in this road surge has been a dominating penalty kill. Come to think of it, it’s been pretty darn good at home as well.

In 2013-14, the Hogs were an absolute joke when shorthanded. They were dead last in the AHL in this department with a 72.3 success rate. Here are some numbers that show the dramatic change from a season ago: