Hartford Wolf Pack Weekly: Welcome Sammy Blais to lineup

The Hartford Wolf Pack will welcome New York Rangers forward Sammy Blais to their lineup this weekend. Blais was assigned to the Pack on a conditioning stint on Tuesday.

This season, Blais is struggling to stick in the Rangers lineup. After suffering a major knee injury in 2021-22, the big winger just can’t seem to keep pace with his line mates. The 26 year-old has registered only 5 assists in 38 games this season.

He now joins a Pack team that for the second straight week, they remain in a playoff spot. The team appears to be turning the corner and has shown steady progress since December.

Despite the Wolf Pack’s point streak ending at seven games last Friday, the club bounced back and completed their first three games in three days weekend strong. They went 2-1 by defeating the Rochester Americans 4-1 and splitting two games against the Providence Bruins (5-3 loss, followed by 4-3 overtime win).

Last season, the Wolf Pack were a club that had a strong start and tapered off in the second half of the season. It looks like they might be reversing that trend as this year’s they struggled in the first half of the season, only to gradually become a competitive team in the second half.

A significant factor for the Wolf Pack is a healthy roster and the impact of players like Ryan Carpenter and Zac Jones, who both started the season with the New York Rangers.

In a nice surprise prior to the weekend, Hartford received their captain back and as Jonny Brodzinski made his presence felt by scoring in first game back. Add in strong performances from Turner Elson and Tanner Fritz and the Pack should be a serious threat to make the AHL playoffs.

Entering this week, Hartford will have three games on tap. As a tough January slate concludes, the Wolf Pack are alive and well.

Wolf Pack Weekly Standings Update

Hartford Wolf Pack
Zac Jones celebrates goal for Hartford Wolf Pack (Photo: John Mrakovcich/Hartford Wolf Pack)

Through 39 games, Hartford is 16-14-3-6 for 41 points. That ranks the group sixth in the Atlantic Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference. They’re 20th overall in the AHL.

The Wolf Pack hold the last playoff spot in their division. However, Hartford is in a three-way tie with the Springfield Thunderbirds and Bridgeport Islanders by points. Hartford owns the tiebreaker by having a game in hand.

While the division is competitive, the Wolf Pack are finding ways to collect points. In their last ten outings, Hartford is 5-1-2-2 and have points in the last 9 of 10 games. They also have points in the last 11 of 13 contests.

Looking ahead, Hartford will have a key match ups against Bridgeport, Lehigh Valley, and Springfield in the next month. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms are fifth and two points ahead of Hartford. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are in fourth and also two points ahead of the Wolf Pack. The third place Charlotte Checkers are ahead of the club by three points.

Another key consideration is the Wolf Pack’s schedule. Hartford will have a home heavy slate which bodes well since they’re better at the XL Center than on the road. The club will be home for the next 8 of 10 games.

Standings are as of Monday, January 23rd

Wolf Pack Watch

Jonny Brodzinski’s First Game Back

After clearing waivers on Sunday afternoon and being assigned to Hartford, Jonny Brodzinski was in the lineup for the first time since November 26th. Brodzinski’s return was his 18th game with the club on the year.

Sure enough, the captain scored immediately as he converted on a rebound from Zach Giuttari 2:51 into the game.

The veteran had numerous chances and was paired with Karl Henriksson and Bobby Trivigno. Brodzinski was also a +2 in the game.

The presence of Brodzinski provided a genuine lift for Hartford. The captain is a strong piece for the club and is a very dependable forward. We will see if the lines are altered for the upcoming games this week.

Dylan Garand Continues Strong Performances

The 20 year-old secured his sixth win of the season last Saturday against the Rochester Americans. Garand stopped 23 of 24 shots and was pitching a shutout until the late stages of the third. The goaltender now has wins in two straight starts with giving up only a goal per game.

The Rangers prospect is 6-7-3 with a 3.06 goals against average and a .894 save percentage with two shutouts. Goaltending in Hartford continues to be a bright and consistent spot for the organization. Garand and Louis Domingue are playing well for the club.

Tim Gettinger Returns

The 24 year-old forward returned to the lineup last Friday and played each game of the three in three weekend. The forward was out nearly two months after leaving the game with an upper body injury (wrist) on November 25.

Gettinger returned on Hartford’s fourth line to get back into game action. Over the weekend, Gettinger had good outings by keeping his play simple and easing himself back.

He’ll be another key piece to have for the second half of the season. Gettinger recorded five shots in Saturday’s game against Rochester. Despite being held off the scoresheet, Gettinger is doing the little things on ice.

Offense Heats Up

Hartford’s average goals per scored game has risen from 2.19 to 2.74 in the last 17 games. The offense is clicking in addition to the power play converting on opportunities.

  • Turner Elson has points in four straight games. The veteran has two goals and two assists. Elson leads the team in points with 23 (eight goals, 15 assists).
  • Tanner Fritz is on a four game point streak. Fritz has one goal and three assists. The veteran is ranked second in points with 21 (three goals, 18 assists).
  • Will Cuylle has goals in the last five of eight games. He is ranked third in points with 20 (13 goals, seven assists). The prospect also lead the group in goals.
  • Bobby Trivigno had a two point performance in Sunday’s game against Providence. The prospect has three assists in the last two of three outings.
  • Ryan Carpenter has points in five straight games (one goal, four assists).
  • Ty Emberson leads the defensive core in points with 16 (six goals. 10 assists). He has points in three straight (two goals, one assist).
  • Matthew Robertson has points in two straight (two assists).
  • Zach Giuttari has points in two straight (one goal, one assist).
  • Blake Hillman has points in two straight (two assists).

Struggling Power Play Heats Up

While the power is ranked 32nd (last) in the AHL, the Wolf Pack found momentum over the weekend converting with the man advantage. The power play unit has struggled in the first half of the season despite generating opportunities. However, as of late the club is beginning to find stride as the group collected three power play tallies over six attempts between Friday’s and Saturday’s contest.

Sunday’s game had Hartford gave up a short-handed goal and was unable to convert in their four opportunities. While there is a few flaws and struggles in moments, the power play is improving gradually.

Entering the week, the power play is clicking at 13.4% rate.

On the penalty kill, Hartford is ranked 14th in the league, operating at 81.3%.

Wolf Pack One Timers

  • Hartford’s 4-3 win over Providence last Sunday is the first win of the season when they are trailing after two periods of play.
  • The Wolf Pack’s front office is doing a superb job off the ice with crowds. Hartford is averaging 4,071 fans per game at the halfway point of the home game slate. This will set them up to potentially having a season average greater than 4,000 for the first time since the 2017-18 season.
    • The Wolf Pack had back to back lower bowl sellouts for the second time in franchise history. The previous time was approximately 16 years ago.
  • The Wolf Pack are near healthy as the club is missing forward C.J. Smith. They are no updates on his status.

Transactions

On Tuesday, Will Cuylle was called up to Rangers and Sammy Blais was assigned to the Wolf Pack on a conditioning stint.

Hartford Wolf Pack Upcoming Games

Wednesday, January 25th vs Bridgeport Islanders (New York) at 7pm, XL Center

  • This is the sixth of 12 meetings in the season series. Hartford won the previous two meetings (7-3 win on 1/27, 4-3 win on 12/23). The Wolf Pack are 2-3 against the Islanders. The seventh meeting of the season will be on February 17th in Hartford.
  • Entering the week, Bridgeport is 17-16-6-1 for 41 points. That ranks the group eighth (last) in the Atlantic Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders are 3-6-1 in their last ten outings. However, the group has won their last three of five games.
  • Veteran Chris Terry leads the Islanders in points with 37. Through 37 games, the forward secured 11 goals and 26 assists. He is ranked 19th in the AHL for points. Andy Andreoff is second for points with 34. Through 40 games, the forawrd has 19 goals and 15 assists.
  • Listen – Mixlr. Watch – AHLTV.

Friday, January 27th vs Providence Bruins (Boston) at 7:05pm, Amica Mutual Pavilion

  • This is the sixth of ten meetings against the Bruins. Hartford is 2-2-1 against Providence. The next meeting will be on February 1st in Hartford.
  • Entering the week, Providence is 23-8-6-2 for 54 points. That ranks the group second in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins are 7-2-1 in the last ten games and are on a three game point streak (2-0-1).
  • Former Ranger Vinni Lettieri leads the Bruins in points with 33. Through 38 games, Lettieri has 16 goals and 17 assists. Lettieri had two goals against Hartford in the previous meeting and has burned Hartford in the last three meetings with four goals and one assist. Georgii Merkulov is second in points with 25. Through 35 games, the prospect has seven goals and 18 assists.
  • Listen – Mixlr. Watch – AHLTV.

Saturday, January 28th vs Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay) at 7pm, XL Center

  • This is the first of two meetings in the season series. Last season, Hartford lost the season series with a 0-2 record. Hartford will wrap up the season series with a visit to Syracuse on February 25th.
  • Entering the week, Syracuse is 18-13-3-3 for 42 points. That ranks the group third in the North Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference. The Crunch are 5-3-1-1 in the last ten games and are on a six game point streak (5-0-1).
  • Experienced Alex Barre-Boulet leads the Crunch in points with 44. Through 35 games, the center has 10 goals and 34 assists. He is ranked 5th in the league for points. Former Ranger Darren Raddysh is second on the team in points with 42. The defenseman has ten goals and 32 assists in 36 games. Raddysh is ranked seventh in the league in points. He is the second for points among defenseman in the AHL.
  • Listen – Mixlr. Watch – AHLTV.
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