Weekend watch list: Jan. 5-7

Patrick Williams, TheAHL.com Features Writer

The Tucson Roadrunners have taken care of nearly everything sent their way recently. But can they handle the AHL’s hottest goal-scorer?

Tucson visits Rocco Grimaldi and the Chicago Wolves at Allstate Arena tonight and Saturday. Grimaldi has scored in six consecutive games and has struck for 12 goals in his last 10 outings entering the weekend. His 19 tallies overall tie him with Hershey’s Pierrick Dubé for the league lead.

Grimaldi’s third-period goal lifted the Wolves to a big 3-2 win on Tuesday night against Texas, the Central Division leader. He is now up to a tie for third place in the AHL scoring race with 32 points (19 goals, 13 assists) in 29 games.

The Roadrunners, meanwhile, have gone on a 10-3-0-0 run that has helped to take them to within one point of Calgary for first place in the Pacific Division. Tucson, in the midst of a five-game road stretch, is 11-4-1-1 away from home this season.

It’s a crucial weekend for Chicago, which remains last in the Central Division but sits just three points out of a playoff spot. The Wolves are 5-1-2-0 in their last eight home games, but after this weekend they will play 11 of their next 13 games on the road.

An all-California rivalry is on display when the Ontario Reign host the San Jose Barracuda in the AHLTV Free Game of the Week on Saturday (9 ET/6 PT).

The match-up will be the middle game of a stretch of three meetings in five nights between the teams. The Reign swept a pair of games in a visit to San Jose on Nov. 24-25.

Ontario is tied for fifth in the tight Pacific Division at 16-10-3-1, and will be working to make up for the loss of standout rookie defenseman Brandt Clarke after he was recalled to the parent Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday. Clarke, the eighth overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, leads all AHL defenseman with 32 points (seven goals, 25 assists) in 30 games and is tied for third overall in league scoring.

San Jose, six points off the pace below the Pacific Division playoff line, secured a 6-4 win against Tucson on Wednesday night. Daniil Gushchin collected two more goals, Nathan Todd had three points (one goal, two assists) and five other Barracuda players chipped in two points apiece.

An AHLTV account is required to watch the AHLTV Free Game of the Week, but no subscription is needed. Visit AHLTV.com for details.

The Hershey Bears have been hot on the ice all season, but this weekend they will excel off it as well.

The defending Calder Cup champions, off to a 28-6-0-0 start, host their annual Teddy Bear Toss on Sunday when the Lehigh Valley Phantoms visit Giant Center. The promotion has collected nearly 400,000 stuffed toys – including a world-record 67,309 last season – since 2001.

As part of the club’s Hershey Bears Cares initiative, the stuffed animals are collected and donated to more than 35 local and regional organizations. Additionally, if at least 50,000 plush items are thrown on the ice Sunday, the Sweigart Family Foundation will donate $50,000 to Children’s Miracle Network Hershey.

Coverage begins at 3 ET on Sunday on AHLTV and FOX 43.