Saturday buzz: Time running out for defending champs

Photo: Ross Dettman

📝 by Patrick Williams

With 12 games to go in the AHL regular season, time is running out quickly for the defending Calder Cup champion Chicago Wolves.

The Wolves are 11 points out of a Central Division playoff spot as they open a two-game visit to Texas tonight. Rockford currently holds the fifth and final position, and Grand Rapids is in between in sixth place.

It’s a tangled-up knot of teams with three weeks remaining.

Help has arrived, however, for the Wolves, as the Carolina Hurricanes reassigned forwards Ville Koivunen and Tuukka Tieksola from Karpat Oulu of the Finnish Liiga on Friday. Koivunen is a Hurricanes second-round pick from the 2021 NHL Draft; Tieksola, a fourth-rounder in 2019, is back in a Wolves sweater after starting the season with the team.

Koivunen, 19, finished fifth in scoring with Karpat this season, contributing 12 goals and 28 points in 52 games. Last season his 29 points in 53 contests placed him first among Liiga rookies in scoring.

The 21-year-old Tieksola picked up 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 40 games with Chicago before rejoining his hometown Oulu club, where he had three goals and five points in 11 games plus an assist in three playoff appearances.

The Wolves, who have won five division titles in the last six years, have not missed the postseason since 2016, when they were a St. Louis Blues affiliate.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported this morning that Ottawa Senators head coach D.J. Smith announced that forward Ridly Greig is out for the season with a sternum injury.

Greig had one goal and five assists in 16 games with Ottawa. Belleville had hoped he would be a critical piece of their lineup when he returned; the 20-year-old rookie had 13 goals and 27 points in only 35 games with the B-Sens while also adding an agitating presence.

Greig’s setback is the latest to impact Belleville, who have fought injury problems since opening night when starting goaltender Mads Sogaard was hurt less than five minutes into the season. Despite it all, Belleville holds the North Division’s fifth and final playoff spot going into tonight’s game with the visiting Milwaukee Admirals.