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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Wolves return home

The Chicago Wolves return to the Allstate Arena tonight after a three week road trip that brought them an 8-1-0-0 streak. Offense is the plan the Wolves have chosen this season. One measure of the dominance of the team’s scoring is that it has the most goals of any team in the league, with 70, compared to 64 goals by the next best scoring team.

The top three scorers on the team, Jason Krog, Darren Haydar and rookie Brett Sterling, are ranked number one, two and five on the leagues list of top scorers. A skeptical fan might note that the next three Wolves are falling at number 76, Steve Martins, number 113, Derek MacKenzie and Joey Crabb, 154. But, Martins is producing more than a point a game and is in double digits with 11 points. Three other Wolves are producing at least a point a game, Cory Larose, Kyle Wanvig and Colin Stuart. And, a total of 21 Wolves have at least one goal this season.

The team is 21.6 percent on the power play, 25 percent on the road. They are 14 for 37 in the last four games, nearly 40 percent. The team is an offensive power house.

In the nets, the team has been anchored by Michael Garnett and Fred Brathwaite. Garnett has a 2.8 goals against average and is stopping 90.7 percent of shots, while Brathwaite has 3.04 goals against average and is stopping 88 percent of shots. Another measure of the defense is the team has allowed 49 goals in 15 games, or 3.27 goals per game, the eighth highest goals against in the league.

In summary, a tough offense and a so-so defense, with the highest number of penalty minutes in the league, averaging more than 20 minutes per game.

Against this background, two of the Wolves defensemen were called up to the Atlanta Thrashers this week, Braydon Coburn and Mark Popovic. Coburn was assigned to Chicago in October and in that time notched seven points. I am not a fan of Coburn, notably yelling at him to get back on the point during a game in Milwaukee last year, loud enough that he looked at me. The man wanders. Plus, he uses a lot of clutch and grab to stop opponents getting by his position. His penalty minute, 27 in nine games, ranks fourth in the Wolves.

This number one draft pick isn’t able to play his position well. I don’t yet know if he is a bust or simply needs more seasoning. But, frankly, I’m glad he’s gone for the moment from Chicago. Coburn replaces Steve McCarthy on the Atlanta rooster.

Another Atlanta player, Garnet Exelby, has been placed on the injured reserve list. Exelby played with the Wolves some years back. Mark Popovic is taking his place in Atlanta.

The moves place the weak defense in a position of having just six blue liners available. Tim Wedderburn was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs earlier in the season and could be recalled. However, as of Saturday morning, there is no sign of Wedderburn making the short trip down the Northwest Tollway.

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