Game time is 7:30 p.m.
The Wolves are in the midst of an eight-game home stand and, half way through it, they have rung up a 4-0 record. Sudbury has bested Niagara, Ottawa, Sarnia and Mississauga — teams lower in the standings than the Wolves.
The Greyhounds present the Pack's toughest challenge in the eight games, as they sit second overall in the Western Conference.
The Wolves first three wins in the home stand were anything but convincing as they had to come-from-behind to beat Ottawa and Sarnia in two of the games. But in the fourth game, against Mississauga, the Wolves had everything clicking and trounced the Steelheads 8-1.
“We’re playing better as a team overall,“ Sudbury president and GM Blaine Smith said. “When we stick to the game plan, at both ends of the rink, we have success. When we don’t, we look like an average team.”
The most surprising aspect of the game against the Steelheads was the fact the Wolves didn’t take one penalty. Needless to say, if you have ever followed the Wolves or most any hockey team, penalty-free games are a rare occurrence.
Disciplined play can be a major factor in a team’s success and can’t be stressed enough, especially when it comes to the Wolves, who have been struggling to kill of penalties and now own the worst penalty kill unit ranking in the league at 67.4 percent.
“Penalties have been one of our issues the last few years,” Smith said. “This year, we have been more disciplined. It’s two-fold.
“Our penalty kill has not been good. The coaches and players are working on it to improve it. When it is last, you have to make sure to take as few penalties as possible.”
The Wolves own the best home winning percentage (.750) in the Eastern Conference at 10-3-0-1. Sudbury is expecting a determined Greyhounds squad Tuesday night.
“They are a tough team,” Smith said. “They have one of the best road records in the league. They have a big defence that is hard to penetrate. They are getting a lot of production from a lot of players. They also have (goalie) Matt Murray, who can win games by himself.”
There is no doubt forward Dominik Kahun has raised his level of game, with three goals, five assists and eight points during the Wolves five-game winning streak. Kahun now has 12 points in 14 games and is rolling after missing more than a month of action earlier in the season.
“Dominik missed 16 games and it has taken a while for him to get his timing and chemistry back,” Smith said. “He is showing his speed and skill now. He is one of our most dangerous forwards.”
Forward Nathan Pancel is clearly the big shooter on the Wolves, with 29 goals in 30 games. His passing game is coming around the last month-and-a-half, with 18 assists overall. Pancel is on an eight-game points streak, with eight goals and 14 points in the span. Pancel deflects all praise and passes it onto teammates for the bust-out campaign he is enjoying in 2013-14.
“I didn’t expect to get this many goals at this point. I’m having fun and I just want to contribute what I can,” Pancel said. “All my teammates have helped me out. I got a few key goals this season, but all the guys are getting big goals. I’m just getting lucky.”
Enemy lines: Catching up with the Greyhounds
The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds are in town for a makeup game against the Sudbury Wolves on Dec. 10. The teams are making up what was supposed to be their first 2013-14 regular season game, which was cancelled on Sept. 20 at Sudbury Arena due to heavy fog in the building. The two teams have met twice since then in the Soo, with each taking a win.
The Greyhounds demolished the Wolves 10-3 on Sept. 21, while the Wolves defeated Sault Ste. Marie 3-2 in shoot-out on Nov. 27. Here’s a look at the Greyhounds and the season they are having.
The Greyhounds have a bite worse than its bark and are one of the top teams in the league, not just the Western Conference. Sault Ste. Marie sits in first place in the West Division with a 21-6-0-3 record. They come into the game on a two-game winning streak.
The Greyhounds are one of the better road teams in the league, going 9-5-0-1 so far. The two-game winning streak is thanks to two road wins. The Soo defeated Plymouth 4-3 on Dec. 6 and Saginaw 5-4 in overtime on Dec. 7.
It doesn’t taken a genius to figure out Greyhounds forward Sergey Tolchinsky is a catalyst, with 18 goals and 51 points in 30 games. He is one of the top offensive players in the OHL. Tolchinsky is riding a nine-game point streak, with three goals and 15 points in the span.
Stopping Tolchinsky, or at least limiting the damage he can dish out, will be a tough chore for the Wolves defenders.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, it will also not be easy for Sudbury to score goals with Soo goalie Matt Murray standing in the way.
Simply put, Murray is having a career year with a 16-5-0-3 record, 2.38 goals-against-average and .925 save percentage. Murray’s stats are in the top three in the league across the board.
Keep an eye out for Greater Sudbury boy, Trent Mallette, who has one goal and five points in 22 games. Mallette wears No. 20.