The Chicago Blackhawks sent Rostislav Olesz to their AHL affiliate in Rockford following his recovery from knee surgery last month. Olesz and Steve Montador have wasted little time pitching into the IceHogs' push for the postseason.
Monday, Olesz was awarded the CCM/AHL Player Of The Week award for his play last week in four Rockford victories. Olesz is the third IceHog to claim the honor this season following Kyle Beach and Brandon Saad.
Olesz, who has scored in eight of his nine games since joining Rockford March 14, did not score last Tuesday in a 2-1 IceHogs win over Milwaukee. However, he had the game winners in crucial games on Friday and Saturday.
Two third-period goals Friday in Milwaukee propelled Rockford to a 4-3 win. The next night, Olesz netted his second goal of the evening with two minutes to play as the IceHogs beat Peoria 5-4.
Olesz wasn't as heroic Sunday in Rockford's 4-1 win over the Rivermen at the BMO Center, but assisted Brad Mills on a third-period goal that gave the IceHogs some breathing room. In all, Olesz tallied four goals and three assists on the week.
In nine games, Olesz has six goals and seven assists. As he did at times with Rockford last season, he has been able to dominate the action in the AHL. For a guy who is essentially being buried in Rockford, he has played hard and helped give the IceHogs a legitimate shot and grabbing one of the last playoff spots with five games left in the regular season.
Life On The Edge
The IceHogs are even with Milwaukee with 79 points in the AHL's Western Conference. It looks as though it will come down to the Admirals, Rockford and the Chicago Wolves for the final seed.
Chicago trails with 77 points but has two games in hand on Rockford. Milwaukee has one game in hand heading into the final games. This makes this week's games must-wins, in my eyes.
After visiting Peoria Wednesday, the IceHogs host the Wolves Friday before going north to play Milwaukee Saturday night. Wins against their division rivals and closest competition are going to be vital.
Rockford has won four straight and 16 of its last 22 contests. It is going to have to win four of its last five games to give itself a solid chance at hosting a playoff game for the first time in three seasons.
Pirri Continues To Roll
Center Brandon Pirri, who leads the IceHogs in scoring, is enjoying his best professional season to date. Pirri has eclipsed last season's point total with 63 points in 71 games and is tied for second in the AHL in scoring. This past week, Pirri had a goal to go along with six helpers.
He is among four players who are all one point behind Pirri's former IceHogs teammate Jeff Taffe, who leads the AHL with 64 points. Pirri continues to grow as a player and continues to make his case for a shot at next year's Blackhawks roster.