Wolves-Griffins set for winner-take-all Sunday playoff showdown
Next man up.
It's a popular phrase among injury-ravaged teams and certainly one that applies to the Chicago Wolves as they prepare for a winner-take-all Game 5 against the Grand Rapids Griffins at Allstate Arena on Sunday at 3 p.m.
Despite losing some of their best players, the Wolves still managed to win the Central Division this season and then battled back against the archrival Griffins after dropping Games 1 and 3 of this contentious, bitter series.
Game 3 was a particularly ugly affair in which Grand Rapids forward Givani Smith was suspended for an illegal check to Griffin Reinhart's head, and Dominic Turgeon was suspended for two games for boarding Gage Quinney. Tyler Wong also did not return after Dylan McIlrath's check to the head earned McIlrath a 10-minute match penalty in the first period.
The Wolves' Alex Gallant also ran over Filip Zadina in the third period and received a misconduct after Martin Frk came to Zadina's aid.
A whopping 144 penalty minutes were doled out during Grand Rapids' 6-2 victory.
"Obviously that's not something you want to see," said Wolves coach Rocky Thompson. "You want a competitive, hard-fought series, but you don't want to have cheap shots and stuff. That's kind of what that game turned in to."
The short-handed Wolves fought back with a 5-2 victory in Game 4, setting the stage for what figures to be an intense afternoon in Rosemont on Sunday.
"It's going to be a war for sure," said Wolves forward T.J. Tynan, whose first-period power-play goal gave the Wolves a 2-1 lead in Game 4. "Obviously we've got home ice, which is why you play the regular season. We're happy to be at home."
Reinhart (a defenseman who was fourth overall pick by the Islanders in 2012), Quinney (19 goals this season) and Wong did not practice Friday and their status is unknown for Sunday.
Daniel Carr, however, did practice and he might be able to play for the first time since March 5. Carr was the league MVP, scoring 30 goals and dishing out 41 assists in 52 games.
No matter who is on the ice, a big key for the Wolves will be staying focused and not letting players like Smith detract from their game plan. Smith, the Griffins' physical, motormouth forward, has gotten under the Wolves' skin on more than one occasion.
"It's working pretty good," Smith said in an article on Mlive.com. "(The Wolves have) a lot of skill guys and good power play with guys who can put the puck in the net. So just try and get them off the game a little bit and get them checking their heads."
Tye McGinn, who leads the Wolves this postseason with 3 goals and 3 assists, knows that can't happen Sunday.
"Game 4 was a game where we really had focus and stayed out of that stuff," McGinn said. "We came out with a game plan, executed it great and we came out on top."
Said Thompson: "We've got to play the exact same game we played in Game 4 but a little bit better because we know Grand Rapids is going to be better as well. … As hard as you worked -- as much as you sacrificed and competed -- you have to take it to the next level.
"The teams that do are the teams that move on."