Wolf Pack Weekly: Hartford keeps rolling, and Hajek joins team for conditioning

Catch up with the Pack!

By Ricky Milliner
hartford wolf pack
Pack celebrate a goal (Photo: Kelly Shea/Hartford Wolf Pack)

The Hartford Wolf Pack completed another three in three weekend collecting four of six points from November 5th through the 7th. Hartford enters this weekend ranked second in the Atlantic Division with a record of 7-3-1 for 15 points (.682 point percentage).

After strong efforts last Friday and Saturday, Hartford fell short on Sunday as Bridgeport notched the goal ahead goal with under a minute remaining in the third period. The regulation loss ended Hartford’s win streak at three.

The Wolf Pack will begin to face a challenging slate of games through the month of November. This upcoming Friday will feature a showdown with the superb Springfield Thunderbird, who are first in the division. Saturday will feature a struggling Providence club that always gives the Wolf Pack difficulties. Finally, Hartford will return home on Wednesday, November 17th to face the Bridgeport Islanders at the XL Center.

Let’s get to the latest news on the Pack.

Wolf Pack: Roster Moves

Libor Hajek joins Pack for a Conditioning Stint.

Announced by the New York Rangers on Monday evening, the club elected to send defenseman Libor Hajek to Hartford for conditioning.

The conditioning stint is different than a regular assignment to Hartford which means Hajek will not need to go through waivers. The stint is for two weeks and in that span Hartford will be playing in five games. Additionally, the player needs to agree to the stint and will be paid his regular NHL salary.

This is a good move for both parties as Hajek has been a healthy scratch for every game this season. Despite a crowded blue line, Hartford will manage to get Hajek into the lineup with another roster move involving Jeff Taylor.

libor hajek
May 6, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Libor Hajek (25) during the first period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Taylor Assigned to Jacksonville

When the Rangers assigned Hajek to Hartford through a conditioning stint, the Wolf Pack had nine defenseman briefly. Hartford elected to send defenseman Jeff Taylor to the Jacksonville Icemen of the ECHL.

Taylor was often a healthy scratch as well. Despite being experienced, Taylor only played in one game in the season (on opening night, October 15th). The move will give Taylor an experience to play as he sat out in majority of game nights.

Greg McKegg Joins

The forward will join Hartford after being in New York to start the season. Despite being assigned to Hartford to start the season, McKegg earned an opportunity to stay with the big club, which faced injuries and COVID protocol. McKegg will further enhance Hartford’s offense and will be another strong center for the Wolf Pack.

Hartford Swaps Third Goalie

After playing one game in Hartford, the organization opted to assign goaltender Tyler Wall to Jacksonville of the ECHL. The move is not performance based and is for playing time. Wall was often the healthy scratch in Hartford as Keith Kinkaid is the primary goalie, followed by Adam Huska having the backup spot.

As a result, Hartford called up Francois Brassard from Jacksonville. Brassard has a 1-1-1 record through three games with the Icemen.

Hartford Suffers First Injury of Season

In Saturday’s game against Wilke-Barre/Scranton, Patrick Khodorenko left the game in the first period after an illegal check to the head by Penguins defenseman Cam Lee.

Khodorenko did not play in Sunday’s game against Bridgeport and will be out of the lineup. The timetable and severity of the injury is not disclosed. The American Hockey League has looked at the play and deemed that Lee will be serving a two game suspension for his actions.

Eye on the Pack’s Pajuniemi

Lauri Pajuniemi Heats Up

After a quiet October on the scoresheet, Pajuniemi found the back of the net in back to back games for Hartford last weekend. The talented Rangers prospect continues to adjust to the North American ice, finding ways to impact the game. The forward is playing in the top six role and had a few nice plays with Ty Ronning and Morgan Barron.

Pajuniemi has a great shot and has the potential to be lethal on Hartford’s power play. If he continues to put up points, the opposition better watch out. There is a high ceiling with his career is just beginning. Here’s to more goals for the prospect!

Wolf Pack News and Notes

Through 11 games of the season, Hartford has found good chemistry with these lines and pairings:

Gettinger – Brodzinski – Greco

Ronning – Barron – Pajuniemi

Khodorenko – Fritz – Rueschhoff

Labrie – Richards – Whelan

Jones – Schneider

Robertson – Bitetto

Reunanen – Skinner

One Timers

  • Jonny Brodzinski’s point streak was snapped on Sunday. The captain had points in 10 games (11 points). Brodzinski leads the team total points and assists (eight). He recorded three goals as well.
  • Anthony Greco’s point streak ended on Sunday. Greco had points in three straight and in seven of nine. The veteran is second in points (10) among the team.
  • Tim Gettinger leads the team in goals (five). The forward had points in six straight prior to Sunday’s game (four goals, four assists for eight points).
  • Tanner Fritz has found his offensive touch. The veteran has points in four straight. In that span, he recorded three goals and three assist for six points. He recorded two games with two points each.
  • Cristiano DiGiacinto recorded goals in two of three games last weekend.
  • Congrats to Matthew Robertson on his first professional point! The rookie recorded an assist in Saturday’s game against the Penguins.

Power Play Struggles

Hartford is ranked 26th in the league on the power play, converting at 13.9% (5/36). The young core will have to continue to grow and further utilize the power play as an opportunity to create more damage on the scoresheet.

Penalty Kill Efficient

The Wolf Pack’s penalty kill operates at 87.5% (40 times short-handed, 5 power play goals against, 35/40). They are ranked third in the AHL which is impressive. In addition, the group found a way to generate shots on goal and provide opportunities. Hartford has scored two goals thus far while down a player.

Upcoming Games

Hartford’s three game road trip ends on Saturday before returning home. The club has 61 games remaining on the docket.

Friday, November 12th vs Springfield Thunderbirds (St. Louis) at 7:05pm, Mass Mutual Center

  • This is the second of 12 meetings in the season series. Both clubs met on October 16th in Springfield for the first meeting (Hartford dropped the game 2-1). The third meeting will be on November 26th in Hartford, followed by the fifth on the 27th in Springfield.
  • Springfield is first in the Atlantic Division with a record of 8-1-2 for 18 points (.818 point percentage). The Thunderbirds fell short to Hershey on Sunday (5-3 loss) and rebounded with a win against Providence this past Wednesday (4-1).
  • Thunderbirds rookie defenseman Scott Perunovich leads the league in points (17). The Blues prospect notched two goals and 15 assists thus far, having points in all 10 of his games played. Veteran Matthew Peca leads the forwards in points with 11 (six goals, five assists).
  • Listen – News Radio 560 WHYN. Watch – AHLTV.

Saturday, November 13th vs Providence Bruins (Boston) at 7:05pm, Dunkin’ Donuts Center

  • This is the second of 10 meetings in the season series. Hartford defeated Providence in the first meting on October 17th (4-3 shootout win). The third meeting will take place on November 19th in Providence.
  • Providence is ranked seventh in the Atlantic Division with a record of 4-4-1-1 for 10 points (.500). Providence won two straight before suffering a loss to Springfield this past Wednesday.
  • Bruins prospect Oskar Steen leads the team in points (10). Steen has five goals and five assists in seven games. Former Wolf Pack captain Steven Fogarty is tied for second in points in the group (seven points). Fogarty is tied with Jesper Froden.
  • Game Coverage – Mark Divver. Watch – AHLTV.

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