Hartford Wolf Pack Weekly: Libor Hajek solid in AHL return
The Hartford Wolf Pack had two tough losses in last weekend’s action in the competitive and tough Atlantic Division. Despite strong efforts in each game, the Wolf Pack fell short with a 5-2 loss against Lehigh Valley Phantoms, followed by a 2-1 loss against the Hershey Bears.
When the weekend concluded, Hartford remained in sixth place until Wednesday night as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins won their game against Hershey, which bumped Hartford out of the final playoff spot in the division and into seventh.
Entering the weekend, the Wolf Pack are out by one point for a playoff spot. The club has six points on the line this weekend as the group will play their second three-in-three weekend.
These matches are going to be huge, especially Friday against Bridgeport as the Islanders are a point behind the Wolf Pack. On Saturday, they’ll take on the tough Providence Bruins followed by Sunday’s game against Lehigh Valley which is critical in order to move up the standings.
The Wolf Pack will be also begin a five-game road trip staring against Providence. There are 25 games remaining on the docket and the crunch continues for the Rangers affiliate.
Hartford Wolf Pack: Standings Update
Entering the weekend, the Wolf Pack are 19-19-3-6 for 47 points. That ranks the group sixth in the Atlantic Division, 12th in the Eastern Conference, and 22nd in the American Hockey League. The club has held at .500 or above for the last two months from their consistent play.
A bounce back performance is in order this weekend and hopefully they can build momentum for a playoff push.
In eighth (last), the Bridgeport Islanders have 46 points as the New York Islanders AHL affiliate is a .500 club as well. After having strong success in the first half of the season, Bridgeport is struggling, which brought them to last in the Atlantic Division.
In sixth place, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have struggled in the last month. Through 47 games, the Penguins are 21-20-2-4 for 48 points. Similar to the Islanders situation, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton had success in the first half of the season, then began to taper off gradually in the standings. Hartford has to focus on winning both these season series.
Fifth place belongs to the Springfield Thunderbirds. Springfield is 24-17-1-4 for 53 points. Currently the Thunderbirds are on a nine game winning streak after being in similar standings with the Wolf Pack. The difference is that Springfield has strung together important wins as of late and continued to roll.
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms built themselves a cushion as the club is in fourth. The Phantoms are 24-19-3-2 and have gradually maintained playoff positioning in the division.
Charlotte is currently in third with 60 points, followed by Hershey in second with 66 points. The Providence Bruins are in first with 67 points.
To view the standings, click here.
Wolf Pack Watch
Good Efforts Remain with Club
Despite dropping two games, the Wolf Pack played well in each of those contests. Hartford outshot Lehigh Valley 35-24, then outshot Hershey 34-20 but were simply unable to manufacture wins. In both games, they ran into a hot goalie and were unable to get pucks by them.
An observation I noted from Friday’s game, was the Pack had trouble adjusting to the Phantoms’ grind game. Lehigh Valley popped in goals from secondary opportunities and crashing the crease. Meanwhile, Hartford’s shots were mostly from the outside as they were unable to generate greasy goals.
On Saturday, the Pack were done in by their power play having six opportunities and could not convert once. Unfortunately, they even gave up one short-handed goal which ultimately was the game winning goal. To make things more frustrating, Hartford hit the post three times.
Libor Hajek Joins Hartford
After clearing waivers and assigned to Hartford from New York, Hajek played his first game of the season with Hartford last Saturday. The defenseman had a quiet, yet effective game. Hajek was a +1 and adjusted to in game action.
Currently, the Wolf Pack are carrying eight defenseman. A spot in the lineup will continue to be competitive in Hartford for the defensive group. Hajek will add further experience to the lineup when he’s in.
Penalty Kill Remains Strong
Entering the weekend, Hartford’s penalty kill units continue to be effective. Hartford is ranked 14th in the American Hockey League, operating at 81.5%. The Wolf Pack registered three goals thus far while down a man. Hartford killed two of three penalties Friday, followed by a perfect six for six in Saturday’s action.
- Turner Elson has goals (two) in the last two of three games.
- Tanner Fritz continues his production. The veteran has points in three straight (one goal, three assists) and in the last four off five games (one goal, four assists).
- Zac Jones has points (one goal, one assist) in the last two of three games.
- Tim Gettinger has points (two goals, four assists) in the last three of four games.
- Matthew Robertson has points (three assists) in the last two of three games.
Wolf Pack Upcoming Games
Friday, February 17th vs Bridgeport Islanders (New York) at 7pm, XL Center
- This is the seventh of 12 games in the season series. Hartford is 2-4 against Bridgeport thus far. The eighth meeting will be in Bridgeport on March 4th.
- Entering the weekend, Bridgeport is 19-19-7-1 for 46 points. That ranks the group eighth (last) in the Atlantic Division and 13th in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders are on a three game losing streak (0-2-1) and are 4-5-1 in the last ten outings.
- Veteran Chris Terry leads the Islanders in points with 44. Through 41 games, Terry has 14 goals and 30 assists. The forward is ranked 16th in the league for points. Andy Andreoff is second for points with 38. Through 46 games, the center collected 20 goals and 18 assists.
- Listen – Mixlr. Watch – AHLTV.
Saturday, February 18th vs Providence Bruins (Boston) at 7pm, XL Center
- This is the eighth of 10 meetings in the season series. Hartford is 3-3-1 against Providence thus far. The ninth meeting will be on March 31st in Hartford, then the final meeting will be in Providence on April 8th.
- Entering the weekend, Providence is 29-9-7-2 for 67 points. That ranks the group first in the Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins are on a five game winning streak and are 7-1-2 in the last ten outings.
- Bruins prospect Georgii Merkulov leads the Bruins active roster in points with 35. Through 43 games, the forward collected 14 goals and 21 assists. Justin Brazeau is second for points with 28. Through 43 games, Brazeau has 13 goals and 15 assists.
- Listen – Mixlr. Watch – AHLTV.
Sunday, February 19th vs Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philadelphia) at 5:05pm, PPL Center
- This is the third of four meetings in the season series. Hartford is 1-1 against Lehigh Valley. The final meeting will be held in Allentown on April 1st.
- Entering the weekend, Lehigh Valley is 24-19-3-2 for 53 points. That ranks the group fourth in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference. The Phantoms are on a two game losing streak and are 5-5 in the last ten outings.
- Forward Tyson Foerster leads the Phantoms active roster in points with 33. Through 48 games, the forward has 17 goals and 16 assists. Flyers prospect Elliot Desnoyers is second for points with 30. The prospect has 17 goals and 13 assists in 45 games.
- Listen – Mixlr. Watch – AHLTV.