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GAME PREVIEW: The San Antonio Rampage (18-22-0-4) welcome the Rockford IceHogs to the AT&T Center for San Antonio’s third annual Pink in the Rink game tonight at 7:30 p.m. on a KZEP Dollar Drink Night. The game will also air live on FOX Sports Southwest. Tonight’s game is San Antonio’s third-annual Pink in the Rink night in franchise history in support of breast health awareness. During last season’s Pink in the Rink Night, the Rampage fell to the Lake Erie Monsters, 3-1, but set a franchise record for attendance with a sellout crowd of 16,151 fans showing up to see the Herd play on pink ice. The AT&T Center will be full once again for tonight’s match against the IceHogs. Rockford comes into tonight’s game losers of seven of their last 10 games and have dropped four straight dating back to a 11-6 loss to Grand Rapids on Jan. 19th. Over that stretch the IceHogs have been outscored, 23-13. Last Saturday, Rockford allowed three goals in the second period and the Oklahoma City Barons went on to win, 4-3, at BMO Harris Bank Arena. The Rampage have split their last ten games (5-5-0-0) and are coming off a 4-1 loss last Saturday to the Texas Stars at Cedar Park Center. The loss capped a weekend split between the I-35 rivals, as San Antonio won, 2-1, in overtime last Friday. Through the past four games, the Rampage penalty kill has been near perfect (13-for-14, 92.8%) with the lone power play tally going to Texas’ Justin Dowling last Saturday. The IceHogs are currently fifth in the Midwest Division and 13th in the Western Conference with 42 points. San Antonio is currently fifth in the South Division and 14th in the Western Conference with 40 points. Despite being near the bottom of the standings, the Rampage are only seven points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Tonight’s game will be San Antonio’s last at home before hitting the road for the month of February as the team will clear out for their annual Rodeo Road Trip to make room for the San Antonio Rodeo.
AGAINST THE ICEHOGS: The Rampage are 14-18-0-2 all-time against Rockford and are 8-6-0-1 at the AT&T Center. Last season, the Rampage split their two meetings at home with the IceHogs. This year, the Rampage posted a shootout and a regulation loss (0-1-0-1) at Rockford in October. Andre Deveaux tallied the lone Rampage goal in San Antonio’s 2-1 shootout loss on Oct. 25 at BMO Harris Bank Center, while Casey Wellman lit the lamp for San Antonio in the team’s 3-1 loss at Rockford two days later. San Antonio held Rockford to 1-for-12 with the man advantage in the two games.
With the end of the NHL lockout the IceHogs look like a much different team than the Rampage encountered in late October. Marcus Kruger, Brandon Saad, Nick Leddy, Andrew Shaw, and Brandon Bolig all returned to the team’s parent club, the Chicago Blackhawks. Combined, those five players accounted for 81 points from Rockford’s total offense. Of Rockford’s remaining players, veteran Martin St. Pierre leads the IceHogs with 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 43 games this season. St. Pierre, along with rookie blueliner Adam Clendening, represented the IceHogs at this season’s AHL All-Star Classic. Clendening, a former standout at Boston University, leads the IceHogs in rookie scoring with 25 points (four goals, 21 assists) in 40 games. Clendening is also 12th in the league among rookies in scoring.
The Rampage have also undergone several changes of late. Leading rookie scorer, and All-Star, Drew Shore was recalled by the Florida Panthers last week as has remained with the big club since making his NHL debut on Jan. 22. Defenseman Michael Caruso also made his NHL debut in Florida after the lockout but suffered an injury and has been held out of the lineup. Veteran forward Jon Sim was released from his PTO last week after recording six goals and seven assists in 22 games for the Rampage.
San Antonio has brought five new players into the fold this week. On Thursday, the Panthers loaned San Antonio defenseman Erik Gudbranson and forward Mike Santorelli. Gudbranson, Florida’s first round pick (3rd overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, played in 72 games in Florida last season as a rookie scoring eight points (two goals, six assists) in 72 games. In 149 games with the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs, Gudbranson scored 62 points in in 148 games. Santorelli has 234 games of NHL experience and scored 11 points (nine goals, two assists) in 60 games with the Panthers last season. In addition, the Panthers also inked Jed Ortmeyer, who has logged 345 NHL games, to an AHL contract on Thursday. San Antonio also signed Doug Jones to a professional tryout contract from the ECHL’s Gwinnett Gladiators. Lastly, the Panthers brought in center Zach Hamill from the Washington Capitals on Thursday in exchange for Casey Wellman. In 40 games with the Hershey Bears this season, Hamill scored 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) and was a plus-8. Hamill, Boston’s first round pick (8th overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, has 161 points in 296 career AHL games.
The IceHogs boast the fifth best power play in the league (38-for-184, 20.7%) and the sixth best on the road (16-for-76, 21.6%) and will be facing a Rampage penalty kill that is sixth in the league (29-for-195, 85.1%). They have also killed all but one power play in their last four games (13-for-14, 92.8%). The season series will wrap up on Apr. 19th in San Antonio in the Rampage’s second-to-last game of the year.