Wolf Prowl: December 9th, 2011

Patrick Johnston
December 09 2011 10:47AM


Several Chicago Wolves Players Are Photoshopped into this Festive Team Photo.

The old cliche 'consistently inconsistent' is once again in view. The Wolves were rolling through November, looking like they'd found their form. Apparently the end of the month is a bad thing for them. A poor finish to the last month was reinforced by a couple more bad showing last weekend.

Weekly Wrap

The games last Saturday and Sunday went poorly. Despite Matt Climie's 41 saves and a hat trick from Mark Mancari, the Wolves managed to lose in Grand Rapids, 5-4 in overtime. Sunday's return to the Allstate Arena only deepened the gloom, as an uninspired effort saw the men in maroon and gold lose to a weak Abbotsford Heat squad 3-1. The lineup has stablized somewhat, but the results haven't. The team oozes potential but the fans are getting frustrated.

Standouts

Mark Mancari seems to have found his groove. He struggled for a long stretch of the season, but looks to be finding his form. He's skating on the first line and he picked up a hat trick in Grand Rapids. Mancari's got 5 points in his last 3 games. Darren Haydar picked up assists on all three Mancari goals on Saturday.

Sunday's poor showing against Abbotsford netted just one goal scorer, Tim Miller. Miller is quietly putting together a solid season from the middle of the lineup. He now has 11 points in 20 games.

Once again the goaltending was solid, Matt Climie did all he could to steal a win in Grand Rapids and Eddie Lack did his usual tidy job against the Heat.

Anton Rodin continues to show his two-way game, even if he's not putting up points quite as often as anticipated. He was on the ice in overtime against Grand Rapids.

Lowlights

Nolan Baumgartner was -2 against Grand Rapids, as was Mark Matheson the next day against Abbotsford. Baumer is now -6 on the season. For those hoping either  Mancari or Mike Duco might see some big league love, both are -8 on the season. Although Jordan Schroeder scored another goal against Grand Rapids, he hasn't picked up an assist since October 23rd. It will be interesting to see who joins him and Anton Rodin now that Billy Sweatt is skating with the Canucks.

Lineup Notes

As most readers will know, Billy Sweatt made his NHL debut last night in Montreal. He's been a very solid contributor this year. He's reliable at both ends of the ice but not a big hitter. He's likely to stay with the Canucks as long as they don't need a physical presence in his spot. Victor Oreskovich made his return to the Wolves lineup last weekend, playing in all three games and then being recalled to the Canucks. He played just one game before being returned to Chicago.

Some line shuffling took place over the weekend, as Steve Reinprecht took over the number 1 centre spot from Nathan Longpre. The first line is now a very experienced trio: Reinprecht flanked by AHL veterans Mancari and Haydar. As mentioned above, Billy Sweatt was skating with Jordan Schroeder and Anton Rodin before his recall. Longpre may skate with Duco and Oreskovich, or perhaps he'll be paired with Tim Miller. Stefan Schneider continues to hold down the 4th line, Antoine Roussel got some time last weekend and Matt Clackson seems to be rotating in and out of the lineup.

On defence, Adam Polasek drew back in and was paired with Mark Matheson. Kevin Connauton remains on the top pairing with Chris Tanev, while Baumgartner is skating with Yann Sauve. Ryan Parent was scratched for both Saturday's and Sunday's games.

JP Testuwide and Dustin Friesen both spent the weekend with Kalamazoo and Darren Archibald was sent there on Monday. Testuwide and Friesen have both since returned to Chicago.

The Hunting Ahead

The next week is very busy for the Wolves. Another triple header weekend and a couple late week games means they are likely to learn heavily on their large squad. Tonight they travel to Rockford before hosting Milwaukee tomorrow night and Grand Rapids on Sunday. The Wolves then travel to Charlotte for back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday.

Lastly, the Chicago Daily Herald published a very nice profile of Wolves' coach Craig MacTavish on Wednesday.

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Patrick Johnston is a Vancouver journalist. In addition to regular contributions here at Canucks Army, his work has appeared in The Province, Hockey Now and on the CBC. Check out his blog and other writing at http://johnstonwrites.wordpress.com or follow him on twitter: @risingaction
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