ROSEMONT, IL – Though the Chicago Wolves are 1-1-1-0 in three games this season, injuries to Vegas Golden Knights players have resulted in the loss of two major Wolves players to call-ups – Alex Tuch and Max Lagace. Their loss leaves a question mark on the team as it enters a two-game series against the Tucson Roadrunners this weekend. On a positive note, Wade Megan will be rejoining the club just in time for the weekend after clearing waivers Thursday morning.
Alex Tuch registered four goals and one assist in his three games with Chicago, and has two goals and one assist in his two games with Vegas. Lagace registered 34 saves in Chicago’s win against the Ontario Reign on Oct. 14. The loss of both means there is an open spot on the very successful top line, and that Oscar Dansk will be the new starting goaltender.
Dansk had an extremely successful camp with the Golden Knights, not only standing out during scrimmages but also recording 18 saves on 18 shots in the one preseason period he played against the Avalanche. However, he appeared a bit shaky in his first game with Chicago, allowing six goals on 36 shots. Much in the way that Lagace was able to bounce back from his subpar first game performance, fans are hoping Dansk will too. The Wolves will need a big game from the goaltender, as the Roadrunners registered ten goals in their first two games of the season.
C.J. Motte also makes his return to the Wolves after a stellar preseason performance against the Rockford IceHogs, where he made 15 saves on 16 shots. With back-to-back games in Tucson, Motte will surely be seeing some gameplay. In his six regular-season games at the AHL level, Motte has allowed only 11 goals against. Expect him to pleasantly surprise in goal for the Wolves.
Tucson is coming off of a 4-0 shutout win against the Bakersfield Condors. Not only will the Chicago Wolves defense have to be lights-out against the Roadrunners’ high octane offense, but the team will have to keep the scoring magic it has shown through three games.
Luckily for Wolves fans, their defensive corps remains untouched. Fan-favorite Shea Theodore remains on the roster, and the team finally showed defensive chemistry against the Reign, bouncing back after two quick goals by the opposition in the third period.
For Chicago to walk away with its second win of the season, it will need all four forward lines to contribute on both ends of the ice. Scoring depth was key in Chicago’s win over the Ontario Reign, with its five goals coming from five different players. Ontario was not much of a challenge for the defense, but Chicago’s forwards stepped up in their own zone, a welcome change from its two losses against the Texas Stars. The forwards will need to continue their success on the backcheck, especially if Dansk appears shaky again and with Motte looking to make his first start of the season.
The addition of Wade Megan is a significant bump for the offense after the loss of Tuch. In 73 games with Chicago last season, Megan recorded 33 goals, which led the AHL last season, and 33 assists. He was also plus-27. Expect him to make his debut on the top line with Teemu Pulkkinen and Brandon Pirri, slotting in at either wing or center. Pirri has previous experience as a winger, but he’s been very successful for the Wolves at the dot this season.
Continued special teams success will also be an important key for the Wolves this weekend. It is 6-for-15 at this point in the season on the power play, and 9-for-10 on the penalty kill. While Tucson has also found early power play success, going 4-for-13, it is 7-for-10 on the kill.
The Chicago Wolves finally looked to be finding their identity last weekend after coming together last-minute before regular season play opened up. While Tuch and Lagace’s call-ups change the team’s dynamic yet again, the return of Wade Megan will surely lessen the loss of Tuch. As long as Chicago continues to play the way it did against Ontario, the Wolves should walk away with a split or better against the Tucson Roadrunners.