Preview: Rampage vs Chicago

GAME PREVIEW: The San Antonio Rampage (24-25-1-4) return home to the AT&T Center for the first time in more than month as they face the Chicago Wolves (27-17-4-3) tonight at 7:00 p.m. in the team’s 10th annual Military Appreciation Night. Tonight’s contest will mark the first time the Wolves have made the trek to the Alamo City this season. The teams have split the two-game season series this season, with Chicago earning a 6-5 victory on Oct. 27 and the Rampage claiming a 5-4 shootout win on Feb. 17th. In the last meeting between the two teams, which was a part of San Antonio’s Rodeo Road Trip, the Rampage overcame a two-goal deficit to take the game to extra time. Zach Hamill and Jon Rheault both scored in the shootout, while Jacob Markstrom stopped 28 shots in regulation and all four shooters he faced in the shootout. Last Sunday, the Rampage ended their nine-game, 21-day Rodeo Road Trip with a 7-3 loss to the Midwest Division-leading Grand Rapids Griffins. Despite the loss, San Antonio finished the annual road trip with a 5-3-1-0 record and was only one win shy of recording the best Rodeo Road Trip in franchise history in terms of winning percentage. The impressive Rodeo Road Trip also solidified a 6-3-1-0 record in the month of February, the club’s best monthly split this season. Last night, Chicago scored two first period goals and netminder  Matt Climie stopped all 33 shots he faced as the Wolves shutout the league-leading Texas Stars, 2-0, at Cedar Park Center. The shutout was Climie’s fifth of the season and his second in the last three games dating back to a 3-0 win over Peoria last Saturday. Chicago is currently second in the Midwest Division and seventh in the Western Conference with 61 points. The Rampage are fifth in the South Division and 13th in the Western Conference and trail the Wolves and Lake Erie Monsters by eight points for the last playoff spot in the West.

AGAINST THE WOLVES: The Rampage are 25-38-1-3 all-time against Chicago and 16-15-0-1 at the AT&T Center. The two clubs have split wins half-way through the season series. San Antonio earned their first win against the Wolves this season with a 5-4 shootout victory in Chicago on Feb. 17th. The Rampage will be happy to return home and face a Midwest Division opponent tonight. San Antonio has won nine of their last 11 games at home dating back to Dec. 8 and will play 15 of their final 22 games at AT&T Center, which is the most remaining for any American Hockey League team.  In addition, the Rampage have been dominant against Midwest Division foes this season. The club owns an 8-4-1-1 record against the Midwest, their best splits against any division in the Western Conference.  Before last night’s win in Cedar Park, Chicago had lost six of their last eight games in Texas, including the playoffs, but come into tonight having won four of their last five games away from Allstate Arena. On the season, the Wolves have gone 12-10-2-0 on the road. 

The end of the NHL lockout meant the departures of some talent back to the Wolves parent club, the Vancouver Canucks. Zack Kassian and Jordan Schroeder both returned to Vancouver, taking their 56 points of combined scoring in 77 games. Goaltender Eddie Lack was also lost to an injury last month, making way for former Rampage goaltender Matt Climie to step into the starting role. Climie has started nine-straight games for the Wolves dating back to Feb. 8.

The Wolves are currently led in scoring by Darren Haydar who checks in with 40 points (17 goals, 23 assists) in 46 games. Haydar was also named the CCM/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending Feb. 24, after having a hand in all seven of the Wolves’ goals in their three games last week, scoring four goals and collecting assists on three more. Andrew Ebbet has also contributed since his return from a five-game stint with the Vancouver Canucks. Ebbet scored four points in three games last week and is third in team scoring with 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) in 32 games. In net, Matt Climie has taken over primary netminding duties and has gone 15-14-2 with a 2.31 goals against average and a .924 save percentage in 32 starts.

The Rampage will be able to once again call on Jacob Markstrom in net as the Florida Panthers reassigned the Swedish netminder to San Antonio earlier this week. Markstrom started in two games for the Panthers and stopped 65 of the total 71 shots he faced against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins. Markstrom currently leads Rampage goaltenders in goals-against average (2.65) and save percentage (.920). Also returning after a stint in South Florida is center Scott Timmins, who won 71.4 percent of his faceoffs in 11:35 minutes of ice time in his first game of the season with the Panthers on Tuesday night.

The Rampage have recorded a very balanced scoring attack against the Wolves this season. In the two games, 10 players on the Rampage active roster have recorded at least one point. Jared Gomes, Andre Deveaux and Jon Rheault lead the way with two points each against Chicago this season. Rheault currently paces the Rampage in scoring with 37 points (17 goals, 20 assists) in 49 games. His 17 goals and 37 points are new career highs for the fifth year pro. Behind him is center Zach Hamill, who has amassed 32 points (15 goals, 17 points) between Hershey and San Antonio. The sixth year pro has scored 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 10 games since being acquired from the Washington Capitals in exchange for Casey Wellman on Jan. 31. 

Tonight’s game marks the second for defenseman Zach Miskovic against his former team since being dealt from the Wolves to the Rampage on Feb. 14. The defenseman led the Rampage in plus-minus over the course of the Rodeo Road Trip with a plus-4 in six games and has a goal and two assists in six games since arriving in San Antonio. He also tallied an assist against his former mates in the last meeting between the two clubs on Feb. 17.

Both teams have had success against each other on the power play in the two previous meetings this season, as San Antonio is 5-for-13 with the man advantage and Chicago is 2-for-7 on the power play against the Rampage. On the season, the Wolves have outscored opponents in the first two periods, but have struggled in third periods, being outscored, 52-42, in the final frame. 

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