ROCKFORD, Ill. – The Rockford IceHogs enter the weekend on the verge of a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs. With two big games at the BMO Harris Bank Center, a single win will punch Rockford’s ticket to the postseason.
The Hogs (35-27-4-1) have five games remaining in the regular season. With an outside shot at overtaking Milwaukee for third place in the Central Division, Rockford is looking to finish strong. Despite a 5-3 home loss to Grand Rapids on Wednesday night, the IceHogs have won seven of their last ten games. This includes Tuesday’s victory in Rosemont over the Chicago Wolves.
The Wolves locked up the division title a week ago, but Rockford’s 4-3 triumph gives the Hogs an 8-2-0-1 mark against their interstate rival. Mike Hardman‘s late goal secured the win, the fourth-straight for Rockford over Chicago.
The IceHogs can also lock up a playoff spot with a loss by Grand Rapids and Texas. Both are in action Friday night; the Griffins host Chicago and the Stars are in Iowa. Starting Saturday, Rockford will have a chance to control its destiny.
Manitoba visits the BMO Saturday night. Rockford is 4-3 in the season series against the Moose, but have not lost to Manitoba in three home games this season. The Hogs split two games in Winnipeg this past weekend.
Sunday afternoon, Rockford has a chance to solidify their current fourth-place position when it hosts Iowa. It figures to be a hotly contested game since the Wild hold a 7-1-0-2 advantage in the season series and are fighting for their playoff lives.
- Lukas Reichel returned to the IceHogs on Monday from a stint with the Chicago Blackhawks. It comes at a good time, with veteran Brett Connolly out of the lineup since leaving Saturday’s game in Manitoba with a injury to his left knee. Connolly was supposed to be re-evaluated this week in Rockford, though no return has been set.
- The IceHogs announced Tuesday forward D.J. Busdeker will miss 7-10 days with an injured right shoulder. This suggests that Busdeker (6G, 20A) could return for the last two games of the regular season.
- Despite giving up a pair of power-play goals on Wednesday, the IceHogs penalty kill remains one of the AHL’s best. Rockford is sixth in the league with an 83 percent success rate.
- Hardman’s game winner was his second of the night on Tuesday. He also potted a goal in Wednesday’s loss to the Griffins. In 38 games with Rockford, Hardman has 18 goals to go with 12 assists. He could be a force around the net in a playoff series.
- Evan Barratt (13G, 13A) is another player who is beginning to pick up his game. He is currently on a five-game point streak.
- Andrei Altybarmakian (8G, 20A) continues to be a steady presence in the Hogs lineup of late. He has goals in each of his last three games.
- Saturday’s puck drop with the Moose is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Central time. Sunday’s game with Iowa is set to begin at 5:00 p.m.
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