This was supposed to be the time when I was going to write my first game preview at SCH for the Blackhawks game against the Blue Jackets tonight, but oh well. So instead I am heading to the Allstate Arena to watch the Rockford IceHogs open their season against the Chicago Wolves. The Hogs and Wolves have developed quite the rivalry and this weekend should make for some good hockey. These two teams will play tonight at 7pm and again tomorrow afternoon at 3pm.
The IceHogs should have a good team until the lockout ends. They have quite the influx of NHL talent with the likes of Nick Leddy, Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw, Brandon Bollig, Dylan Olsen, Brett Lebda and Jimmy Hayes all in Rockford. The IceHogs have missed the Calder Cup playoffs the last two seasons mostly due to slow starts. They look to change their fortunes against the Wolves this weekend.
Look for Carter Hutton to get the start in net for the Hogs tonight. He played very well down the stretch last season for Rockford. He played so good he got a call up to the Blackhawks to backup Corey Crawford when Ray Emery couldn't go late in the season. Hutton went 8-2-0-0 with a 928 save percentage, 2.29 goals against average and two shutouts for the Hogs last season.
Brandon Pirri was the Hogs leading scorer last year with 56 points (23 G, 33 A) and made the AHL All Star game for the first time. Jeremy Morrin lead all Hogs with 9 points (3 G, 6 A) versus the Wolves last season. Andrew Shaw scored four times against Chicago during his stint in the AHL last year.
The Wolves start their 19th season, 2nd as the Vancouver Canucks AHL affiliate, with a new head coach. Former Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel makes his Wolves debut this weekend. The Wolves are the defending Midwest Division champions and look to improve on last season's disappointing playoff run. They were bounced out of the playoffs by the San Antonio Rampage in just five games.
Talented goalie Eddie Lack will start for the Wolves in net tonight. Lack went 21-20-2-3 with a .925 save percentage and 2.31 goals against average in 46 games for Chicago last year. Lack will be Cory Schneider's backup in Vancouver if and when the Canucks trade Roberto Luongo.
The Wolves will have some NHL talent of their own as former Blackhawk Andrew Ebbett along with Steve Pinizzotto, Zack Kassian and Chris Tanev are all playing in the AHL during the lockout. The over/under on the first Bollig and Kassian fight is 4:30.
Going to the IceHogs game instead of the Blackhawks season opener will be a bit depressing but it will be great to see some live hockey again. If you can't make to the Allstate Arena tonight the game will be streamed live at www.icehogs.com.