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Fitzgerald, MacEachern return to lineup to make impact for Wolves

Small improvements and roster additions are helping the Wolves out.

Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves

By The Numbers

While it likely comes as too little too late for the Chicago Wolves — the predictive model compiled by AHL analyst Sean O’Brien gives the Carolina Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate just a 7.3% of making the playoffs — some big additions to the lineup have been helping to stabilize an ever-changing roster recently.

Defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald made his season debut on January 18 after rehabbing an injury. After taking a few games to get back up to speed, Fitzgerald has been making an impact on the scoresheet. Fitzgerald has only been on the ice for three even strength goals against out of the 15 scored against the Wolves in the seven games he’s been back for. He also has a four game point streak currently, with one goal and three assists in that span.

Forward Mackenzie MacEachern has also made his return to the lineup after being out since November 4 with an unspecified injury. In his two games back MacEachern has yet to find the back of the net but he did have three shots in the Wolves’ win against Cleveland. MacEachern plays an energetic, physical game, something that’s been missed in the Wolves lineup. He’ll also provide valuable net-front presence for the team, and hopefully help them capitalize on some second-chance opportunities that they were not getting to previously.

One other player to highlight recently is Jamieson Rees. He’s hit a new career high in points with 27 through 35 games. (His previous high was last season, with 24 points in 61 games.) Rees has seven points over his last 10 games, including the game-tying goal against Cleveland on Saturday, and an assist on the eventual game-winner. Rees has been one of the top scorers for the Wolves this season and has been impressive as he learns to better direct his energy and enthusiasm on the ice.

Looking at the bigger picture, while the Wolves aren’t always seeing results in the win column, they are having an improved performance on ice. In their last 10 games, they have outshot their opponents seven times. Prior to these 10 games, they had only outshot opponents six times total. The Wolves have won four of their last 10 games and in each of those wins, they’ve outshot their opponent. They continue to take among the fewest shots in the league, although there are several other teams allowing more shots per game. If the Wolves continue to increase their possession time, resulting in more shots on net, they should start experiencing some more success, as their team even strength shooting percentage is at 9.2%, among the top in the league.

The penalty kill has also been excellent lately. They’ve allowed just three goals on 32 chances, which stands as a 90.6% success rate. The Wolves net penalty kill — calculated by removing powerplay goals scored for every short handed goal scored — is seventh in the league, placing them among some of the top teams like the Calgary Wranglers (first) and Texas Stars (third).

The Wolves are spending most of this month playing other teams who are struggling. They’ve got two more games against Cleveland, and while their trip to Tucson recently went poorly, the Roadrunners overall are not a strong team. They also meet Grand Rapids and Iowa, who the Wolves have traditionally had success against.

Game 37: Chicago Wolves 1, Tucson Roadrunners 5

Scoring: Jamieson Rees, 1 G; Anttoni Honka, 1 A; Noel Gunler, 1 A

In net: Pyotr Kochetkov, saved 34 of 39, 0.872 sv%

Game 38: Chicago Wolves 1, Tucson Roadrunners 4

Scoring: Cavan Fitzgerald, 1 G; Jamieson Rees, 1 A; Tuukka Tieksola, 1 A

In net: Zach Sawchenko, saved 36 of 39, 0.923 sv%

Game 39: Chicago Wolves 3, Rockford IceHogs 2 (OT)

Scoring: Max Lajoie, 1 G, 1 A; Logan Lambdin, 1 G; Ronan Seeley, 1 G; Cavan Fitzgerald, 1 A; Jamieson Rees, 1 A; Ryan Suzuki, 1 A; Vasily Ponomarev, 1 A

In net: Pyotr Kochetkov, saved 17 of 19, 0.895 sv%

Game 40: Chicago Wolves 3, Grand Rapids Griffins 5

Scoring: Ronan Seeley, 2 G; Ryan Suzuki, 1 G, 1 A; Max Lajoie, 1 A; Alexander Pashin, 1 A; Noel Gunler, 1 A’; Vasily Ponomarev, 1 A

In net: Zach Sawchenko, saved 18 of 23, 0.783 sv%

Game 41: Chicago Wolves 1, Cleveland Monsters 2

Scoring: Tuukka Tieksola, 1 G; Cavan Fitzgerald, 1 A; Alex Green, 1 A

In net: Pyotr Kochetkov, saved 27 of 29, 0.931 sv%

Game 42: Chicago Wolves 3, Cleveland Monsters 2

Scoring: Jamieson Rees, 1 G, 1 A; Malte Stromwall, 1 G; Max Lajoie, 1 G; Jack Drury, 1 A; Cavan Fitzgerald, 1 A; Griffin Mendel, 1 A;

In net: Pyotr Kochetkov, saved 24 of 26, 0.923 sv%