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Playoff Push and Other Notes

04/06/2012 12:43 PM - Mike Peck
Here we go again- it’s another edition of “The Biggest Weekend Of The Season” for the Rockford IceHogs. This weekend’s two-game set in Lake Erie against the Monsters is huge. With one game in-hand on Lake Erie, Rockford trails the Monsters by two points in the standings and three total points separates the Hogs from the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Rockford is 0-2-0-0 against the Monsters this season and needs a minimum of three points this weekend to stay in contention heading into the final week of the regular season.

Rostislav Olesz is out for tonight’s game and his status for Saturday’s contest is still uncertain. Defenseman Eric Baier will make his IceHogs debut tonight, becoming the 40th different player to suit up for Rockford this season.

That’s about average as the IceHogs have used 36 (2010-11; a single-season low), 41 (2009-10), 44 (2008-09) and 45 players (2007-08; a single-season high) over the previous four years. That’s an average of just over 41 players per season.

The other scratches for Rockford tonight include the suspended Rob Flick and Shawn Lalonde, injured skaters Ben Smith and Paul Zanette, along with Simon Danis-Pepin, Mark McNeill and Kent Simpson.

Random Thoughts and Notes:

-Since the turn of the calendar year, the only team in the Western Conference with a better record than Rockford is Toronto. But if Rockford slips this weekend, it might not matter as the team is still walking the tightrope towards the postseason.

-It was fun this morning seeing some former IceHogs skaters, now with the Monsters, at morning skate. Danny Richmond, Evan Brophey, Mike Brennan and Pete MacArthur are all now with Lake Erie and they are all four quality people that were a joy to have in Rockford.

We’ll have an interview with MacArthur during the second intermission report tonight. He’s a guy who’s battled a lot of injury over the past two seasons and it’s great to see him back in the AHL. No one works harder than MacArthur and I’m sure he’ll be a factor tonight.

In 21 games this season (including 20 with Lake Erie), MacArthur has 4g-9a-13pts.

-A quick thought on the Chicago Express ceasing operations. Personally, I have a lot of ties to that organization, from the owner, to the coach, GM, a few players and of course the PA Announcer. There were a lot of good people in that organization and it’s too bad things didn’t work out. Putting a team back in the Sears Centre was a risk, and it obviously didn’t work out.

When a team folds, it’s easy to brush it off, but when you realize the jobs that are lost and all the hard work that goes down the tubes, it’s disappointing.

-We got into Cleveland at 4:45 p.m. yesterday and little did I know that we still could have caught six innings of baseball if we would have made our way over to Progressive Field after unloading the gear at the Quicken Loans Arena.

A few of us we’ll make up for it tomorrow as the Indians and Blue Jays play at 1 p.m. With the “Q” located 200 feet from Progressive Field, I’d be foolish not to check it out. I know baseball is on the exact opposite end of the spectrum from hockey as action goes, but they are my two favorite sports (probably for that reason!)  So needless to say this is my favorite time of year from a sports calendar perspective. Combine hockey playoff push and playoffs, the start of baseball season, NCAA tourney (basketball and hockey) and the Masters, it doesn’t get much better than that!

-Finally, I feel obligated to send out a congrats to Ben Smith and Mike Brennan’s for their BC Eagles knocking off my Gophers on Thursday in the NCAA Frozen Four. BC looks primed for another national title and if you watch on Saturday, keep an eye on Blackhawks prospect Kevin Hayes.