The Connecticut Whale will be severely tested in the coming games – starting Friday night – due to the regular flow of players to the injury hit Rangers but results and performances recently have been promising. Recent Whale players such as Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello are currently core Rangers while Kris Newbury, Dale Weise and now Brodie Dupont and Chad Kolarik are with the big club essentially as injury fill ins. Of course, on the flip side, the Whale have benefited from the demotion of Mike Del Zotto. In the coming games, a lot will depend on how Evgeny Grachev (sure to see more ice time) continues his recent upwards trend in form and how Jeremy Williams can take on the mantle of main scorer now Kolarik is in New York. Tim Kennedy, Todd White and the returning Wade Redden will all need to be core contributors for the Whale (especially as NHL veterans) if the Whale are able to cope without the glut of core players.
The Whale have been on a 6-4 run in their recent games and while that is relatively inconsistent (but winning) form it is still huge progress since the beginning of the season. Indeed the Pack Whale have managed to climb back into divisional reckoning as they are ‘just’ 8 points behind Manchester as they sport a 21-16-2-5 record sitting in third place. One concern for the Whale may be their shootout efforts as they are just 2-5 in the skills comp.
In their most recent games, the Whale lost last Saturday in regulation – 3-2 – to the Providence Bruins as they got a goal off Rangers call-up Brodie Dupont but then rebounded nicely with an excellent 6-3 victory over Wilkes-Barre on Sunday. Given that the Baby Penguins were 33-8 before the game it speaks highly of the Whale’s effort and performance. The victory was owed in large parts to a 4 goal first period as well as a 2 goal game from Grachev and a 4 point, 2 shorthanded goal, performance from Chad Kolarik. It may be that this performance was the a key reason for Kolarik’s call up as, regardless of injuries, the recent acquisition has been in excellent form for the Whale since arriving in Connecticut.
This weekend sees the Whale play Friday against Hamilton at home and travel to Springfield on Saturday. Given the roster upheaval, this is a good weekend not to have a typical AHL 3 game weekend.