Looking for First Win in Chicago

The Lake Erie Monsters (16-19-1-1) are visiting the Chicago Wolves (21-12-1-3) just as they did exactly one week ago and will be trying to avenge last Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of Chicago. The Monsters also suffered a hard-luck loss on Thursday evening in Peoria by a 4-0 score despite a 38-shot effort against Rivermen goalie Ben Bishop. What’s more? Tonight’s contest in Chicago is game 38 of 76; we’re halfway through the marathon of the American Hockey League schedule, and business is certainly picking up.

With half of the season nearly in the books, the Monsters will want to break a few trends following Thursday night’s game. First of all, there’s the current four-game losing skid. The Monsters are 0-4-0-0 since their shootout win in Hamilton on New Year’s Eve. With a pair against Milwaukee, a home game against Oklahoma City, and dates with the surging Hamilton Bulldogs and North Division-leading Toronto Marlies up next on the schedule, the importance of this evening’s tilt against the Wolves becomes magnified.

Aside from the losing streak, the second period becomes a key for the Monsters. Over their last three games, the Monsters have allowed nine second period goals, and on the season, the club sits at -11 in second period goal differential. Tightening up on the middle frame could make a difference between wins and losses moving forward.

The shots on net, however, are becoming more plentiful. The Monsters have topped 30 shots in two of their last three games, which comes on the heels of a four-game streak of being unable to reach 30. Speaking of shots, the 44 allowed by the Monsters on Thursday tied a season-high, but Trevor Cann’s 40 saves happened to set a new season best for a Monsters goalie. His 40 saves surpassed Cedrick Desjardins’ 39 saves from December 28, 2011.

Goaltending will be a key again this evening against a Chicago team that vaulted into the top spot in the Midwest Division with its 2-1 win last night at home over Milwaukee. The Chicago Wolves have been one of the hotter teams in the West as of late, and they’ll look to stay perfect at home all-time (7-0-0-0) against the Monsters tonight. The Wolves have won five straight and nine of their last 11 games. Mark Mancari has four goals in his last two games for Chicago to lead the offense, which has also received two goals and an assist from Michael Davies, who had been away from the Wolves lineup for nine games and had just an assist in 13 previous games this season with Chicago.

For the Monsters, Evan Brophey has even further solidified himself as one of the true catalysts since his return from the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. Brophey has two goals and six assists in seven games since his return, and perhaps even more importantly, has continued to play sound fundamental and position hockey. In some games, it’s Brophey’s contributions that don’t show up on the scoresheet that have been difference-makers.

Tonight’s game is the fourth of five straight on the road for the Monsters, and all the action from Allstate Arena can be heard live on ESPN 850 WKNR. The puck drop is scheduled for 8:00 PM, and live radio coverage begins at 7:55 PM.

And a programming note: tomorrow’s Monsters game in Milwaukee is now a 2:00 PM Eastern start. All of Sunday’s action can be heard live on AM 1220 WHKW.

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