Tyler Pitlick helping Hartford Wolf Pack hold a playoff spot

NHL: New York Rangers at Toronto Maple Leafs
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Hartford Wolf Pack are doing their best to stay afloat as they continue to deal with losing players to injury and the New York Rangers call ups this season.

Recently, forwards Matt Rempe and Adam Edstrom were promoted to Broadway. As they appear to be sticking around for a while, veteran Tyler Pitlick was sent down to give the Pack some help. In last week’s action, they collected three out of a possible six points to maintain fourth place in the Atlantic Division.

Hartford’s interim head coach Steve Smith has done an amazing job taking over for Kris Knoblauch, who left to coach the Edmonton Oilers. He’s constantly juggling a lineup of different faces, and at one point last weekend, the Wolf Pack were missing eight out of 14 forwards from their opening night roster.

Coming into this week, they’ll play three games starting on Wednesday against the Charlotte Checkers. Through 49 games, Hartford is 26-17-5-1 for 58 points.

Related: NHL Enforcer John Scott has some advice for Matt Rempe

Hartford Wolf Pack: Tyler Pitlick helping out

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at New York Rangers
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Pitlick Emerges as Reliable Veteran

Placed on waivers by the Rangers in late February, 32-year-old Tyler Pitlick has quickly adjusted to playing with the Wolf Pack in a fast-paced schedule. The veteran impressed last week, securing five points (3 goals, 2 assists) in three games.

Against the Cleveland Monsters, Pitlick sparked helped the team rally for a point in a shootout, when he capitalized on the power play in the second period. The veteran was also credited with the primary assist on Brennan Othmann’s game winning goal against the Bridgeport Islanders.

“Pitlick has been really good so far,” coach Smith said. “He’s had a couple opportunities, but what he’s doing right now is skating, finishing hits, and he’s concerned about his overall game. He’s got to be strong defensively and work along the walls. It was great to see him end up with a goal.”

While Pitlick struggled in New York, the forward is beginning to find his game and is comfortable in his new role. While his future is uncertain, Hartford will be enjoying his presence until moves are executed at NHL Trade Deadline (Mar. 8).

Brett Berard Continues Excellent Rookie Season

Sensational forward Brett Berard is playing well with Hartford. Through 49 games, Berard’s recorded 17 goals and 17 assists for 34 points. He is ranked second on the active roster for points. The 21-year-old also has five game-winning goals, which is ranked 3rd among rookies in the AHL.

Berard continues to develop nicely, but his name is starting to surface in possible trade rumors as the Rangers look to bolster their roster for the playoffs. If he sticks around for next season, Berard will be competing for a spot in New York. The forward is ready for the NHL and the next big step.

Jake Leschyshyn’s Strong Weekend

Another player that has experience with Hartford and New York, is 24-year-old center Jake Leschyshyn. Over the weekend, the forward recorded four points (1 goal, 3 assists) and chipped in a shootout goal.

Through 25 games, Leschyshyn has produced 5 goals and 9 assists for 14 points. He is quietly having a good season in Hartford despite a slow start and a lengthy injury in the first half of the year. While his future is cloudy, he is reliable and has value for the Wolf Pack.

Pack News and Notes

Penalty Kill Woes

In their last two games, Hartford has given up five goals on the penalty kill out of seven chances. Despite being perfect on Wednesday (3/3), the club ran into penalty trouble often and was punished for it. The Thunderbirds capitalized on two 5-on-3 opportunities as the club struggled to clear the puck.

Hartford takes way too many penalties, which is the first issue they need to solve in order to improve in this area.

Injury Updates

On Wednesday in the 3rd period, Hartford suffered two additional losses to the forward group:

  • Anton Blidh was hurt on a sequence. He is day to day.
  • Riley Nash was hurt on a different play. He is also day to day.

As a result, Hartford a forward a through Professional Tryout (PTO). The Wolf Pack requested services from Cameron Hillis. In addition, Sahil Panwar was called up from Cincinnati ECHL. The Wolf Pack also signed a forward (Ethan Keppen) and a defenseman (Chris Cameron) on February 21st through PTOs.

Entering the week, there is encouraging news as Hartford released Cameron Hillis and Chris Cameron from their PTOs. Blidh or Nash will be able to return in Hartford’s next game. In addition, the defenseman released could mean Zach Berzolla is returning from injury. He was skating with the club in a non-contact jersey recently. His last game was on November 25th.

One Timers

  • Nikolas Brouillard is on a 3 game point streak (3 assists).
  • The Wolf Pack had back to back weeknight games (Wednesday and Thursday). The front office brought in 5,800 fans. Weeknight attendance is up this season as well with crowds around 3,000. Through 6 weeknight games, Hartford drew 17,372 fans with an average of 2,895. Impressive for nights that are considering a struggle for most AHL clubs.
  • The Wolf Pack have 23 games remaining on the docket. They have 11 home games and 12 away games.

Hartford Wolf Pack Schedule

Wednesday, February 31st vs Charlotte Checkers (Florida) at 7pm, XL Center

  • This is the 2nd of 8 meetings in the season series. Hartford dropped the first game 4-2 on January 31st. The 3rd and 4th meetings will be in Charlotte on March 12th and 13th.
  • Entering the week, Charlotte is 25-20-6 for 56 points. That ranks the group 5th in the Atlantic Division and 9th in the Eastern Conference. The Checkers are on a 6 game point streak (4-0-2).
  • Defenseman Lucas Carlsson leads the Checkers in points with 39. In 51 games, the defenseman recorded 15 goals and 24 assists. Rookie Mackie Samoskevich is 2nd on the roster for points with 32. In 41 games, the forward collected 13 goals and 19 assists.
  • Listen – Mixlr. Watch – AHLTV.

Friday, March 1st vs Laval Rocket (Montreal) at 7pm, XL Center

  • This is the 4th and final meeting in the season series. Hartford is 1-2 against the Rocket.
  • Entering the week, Laval is 22-22-5-2 for 51 points. That ranks the group 6th in the North Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference. The Rocket are on a 2 game skid and are 4-5-1 in their last 10 outings.
  • Forward Brandon Gignac leads the Rocket in points with 42. In 45 games, Gignaic notched 14 goals and 28 assists. He is ranked 19th in the AHL for production. Philippe Maillet is 2nd in points on the roster with 37. in 46 games, the forward collected 13 goals and 24 assists.
  • Listen – Mixlr. Watch – AHLTV.

Sunday, March 3rd vs Providence Bruins (Boston) at 3:05pm, Amica Mutual Pavillion

  • This is the 8th of 10 meetings in the season series. Hartford is 3-3-1 against Providence. The next meeting will be on March 8th in Hartford. The final meeting will return to Providence on April 21st (last game of the season).
  • Entering the week, Providence is 33-15-3-2 for 71 points. That ranks the group 2nd in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. The Bruins are also ranked 3rd in the AHL. Providence is on a 4 game winning streak.
  • Forward Georgii Merkulov leads the Bruins in points with 49. In 49 games, Merkulov produced 21 goals and 28 assists. He is ranked 4th in the AHL for points. Fabian Lysell is 2nd in points on the roster with 43. In 49 games, he produced 15 goals and 28 assists. He is ranked 11th in the AHL for points.
  • Listen – Mixlr. Watch – AHLTV.

Ricky Milliner is a Hartford Wolf Pack season ticket holder. While growing up, he discovered hockey by attending a... More about Ricky Milliner

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