1. Deadline looming
With the National Hockey League’s trade deadline set for 3 p.m. ET on Wednesday, many moves made at the NHL level are sure to be felt by American Hockey League clubs as they prepare for the stretch run towards the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs.
In addition to trades, the NHL requires that in order to be eligible to be sent down to the AHL for the remainder of the 2013-14 season, an NHL player must be on an AHL roster at Wednesday’s deadline.
The AHL’s own trade deadline is set for next Wednesday, Mar. 12, at 3 p.m. ET.
2. Morin streaks to stellar month
It was a fantastic February for Rockford forward Jeremy Morin — both personally and for his IceHogs.
Morin was named the CCM/AHL Player of the Month after notching 18 points in 11 games and helping the Hogs to a 9-0-1-1 record during February. The IceHogs, bidding for their first postseason appearance since 2010, enter the week in sixth place in the Western Conference and seven points clear of the ninth spot.
Morin, who made it 12 consecutive games with a point when he scored a goal to kick off March, has the longest scoring streak by a Rockford player since Jeff Taffe‘s 15-game run in 2010-11.
Morin will be looked to even more after the parent Chicago Blackhawks dealt Brandon Pirri to Florida on Sunday. Coming off an AHL league scoring title last season, Pirri registered 11-15-26 in 26 games with the IceHogs this year and was the MVP of last month’s 2014 AHL All-Star Game.
3. Rinne returns
Six years since his last appearance with the team, Pekka Rinne suited up for the Milwaukee Admirals over the weekend for a siccessful return to the ice.
Sidelined since Oct. 24 recovering from an infection to his surgically repaired hip, the two-time Vezina Trophy finalist made 16 saves to lead Milwaukee to a 9-1 win over Iowa on Friday night, then stopped 17 of 18 shots on Sunday as the Admirals earned a 2-1 overtime victory over Rochester.
Rinne, who was recalled by Nashville following the weekend, was twice an AHL All-Star and backstopped Milwaukee to the Calder Cup Finals in 2006. He compiled a record of 81-49-11 with 10 shutouts in 146 appearances with Milwaukee from 2005-08.
4. Pulkkinen strikes quickly
Grand Rapids forward Teemu Pulkkinen made quick work of the Milwaukee Admirals last Wednesday night, scoring two goals in nine seconds during the Griffins’ 5-1 victory.
After scoring 59 seconds into the third period, Pulkkinen stole the puck from an Admirals defenseman off the ensuing faceoff, skated into the offensive zone and blasted another shot past Marek Mazanec.
The AHL record for fastest two goals by one player is five seconds, established by Norm Corcoran of the Hershey Bears in 1951 and matched by Jimmy Bartlett of the Providence Reds in 1958 and by Dennis Olson of the Springfield Indians in 1959.
Pulkkinen, a fourth-round draft choice by the Detroit Red Wings in 2010, leads all AHL rookies with 24 goals and is third in rookie scoring with 48 points this season.
5. Standings watch
With the end of the regular season less than seven weeks away, the AHL’s daily Playoff Primer is your source for the latest snapshot of the league’s postseason picture.
Entering play on Tuesday, just seven points separated third through ninth place in the Eastern Conference, while over in the Western Conference, no team was more than 10 points out of a playoff position.
Last season, four teams who were not in the top eight in their conference on the morning of March 1 — Manchester, Rochester, Oklahoma City and Milwaukee — rallied to qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs. The Barons, in 10th place at the start of March last season, wound up reaching Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals.
6. Wolves in good hands at Allstate
The Chicago Wolves set a franchise record on Sunday, running their home points streak to 17 games (15-0-2-0) with a 4-0 win over Iowa.
The Wolves’ last regulation loss at Allstate Arena was back on Dec. 7, 2013, a 5-2 defeat to Oklahoma City.
Chicago’s previous longest home points streak was 16 games, during the 2009-10 season. That same year, the Hershey Bears established an AHL record by earning points in 25 consecutive home games (24-0-0-1), a streak that included 24 straight wins.
7. Murphy’s law
Rookie defenseman Ryan Murphy has strung together a 10-game scoring streak for the Charlotte Checkers, picking up one goal and 12 assists during that time.
He is the first blueliner with a 10-game scoring streak in the AHL this season, and his 10 consecutive games with at least one assist is the longest such streak by either a rookie or a defenseman since Mattias Karlsson had helpers in 12 straight games for Binghamton in 2008-09.
Murphy, who turns 21 later this month, was the 12th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by Carolina. He has 1-16-17 in 15 games with Charlotte along with 2-9-11 in 39 NHL contests with the Hurricanes this season.
8. Wild weekend for Barons
The Oklahoma City Barons enjoyed an undefeated — and high-scoring — weekend, using late-game heroics to sweep a three-in-three stretch at the Cox Convention Center.
On Friday night, the Barons trailed Rockford 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3 before tying the game on Ben Eager‘s goal with 2:46 left in regulation and winning it, 5-4, on Tyler Pitlick‘s goal 46 seconds into overtime.
In Saturday’s rematch with the IceHogs, it was Oklahoma City coughing up leads of 2-0 and 4-2, but Austin Fyten scored the game-winner with 3:49 left in the third period for another 5-4 decision.
Finally, the Barons raced out to an early 3-0 lead over San Antonio on Sunday but trailed 5-3 with less than nine minutes to go before Travis Ewanyk (11:02) and Brandon Davidson (11:28, 19:24) gave Oklahoma City the 6-5 win. Davidson’s tying and winning goals were his first two tallies since Apr. 2, 2013 — ending a drought of 75 regular-season and playoff games.
Since Jan. 30, the Barons are 10-2-0-1 while scoring 59 goals (4.54 per game).
9. Monarchs still kings of the East
Despite a pair of setbacks in Norfolk over the weekend, the Manchester Monarchs retained their spot atop the AHL’s overall standings heading into the new week.
Manchester (36-16-2-6, 80 points) are six points ahead of second-place Springfield in the Eastern Conference, and eight points up on St. John’s in the Atlantic Division. The Monarchs do have the fewest games remaining (16) of any team in the league, but they will not leave New England for the rest of the regular season.
Norfolk’s 3-2 and 4-1 wins over Manchester marked just the third time all season that the Monarchs dropped back-to-back games in regulation; they look to avoid their first three-game losing skid of 2013-14 when Adirondack visits the Verizon Wireless Arena on Friday night.
All five players debuted in the bigs on the same night — Feb. 27.
For the 2013-14 season, a total of 96 AHL players have now made their NHL debuts.