With only four goals through his first 21 games this season, something had to change for Chicago Wolves right wing Mark Mancari. Neither he nor the organization could be satisfied with a lack of production like that from a player with more than 200 career goals in the AHL.
As the Wolves ready to face Midwest Division-leading Grand Rapids tonight at Allstate Arena, Mancari is showing signs of breaking out of his slump. He has goals in back-to-back games, including the game-winner in the Wolves' 5-2 victory over Hamilton on Wednesday.
"It’s simplifying my game," Mancari said of his new approach. "It’s moving my feet consistently and just trying to go to the dirty areas and stop playing on the perimeter. It’s worked so far. Let’s hopefully keep it going."
Mancari scored 30 goals in his original go-around with the Wolves in 2011-12, and has scored at least 20 goals in seven consecutive seasons in the AHL. The only time he missed that mark was when he scored 18 during his rookie campaign with Rochester in 2005-06.
His slump this season came on suddenly after he got off to a hot start, scoring four goals in his first five games. That included a two-goal performance in the Wolves' 3-2 overtime victory at Milwaukee on Oct. 19. Then scoring abruptly stopped. Mancari, now in his ninth pro season, went 17 games without a goal until scoring in a 4-3 loss at San Antonio last Saturday.
After scoring again against Hamilton, Mancari appears to have snapped out of his slump.
"He wasn’t playing that great, and we had a little talk (Tuesday)," Wolves coach John Anderson said after Wednesday's game. "Gotta give him credit, he showed up to play hard today. He was one of our better players. He’s a guy we need to score, for sure."
C IS FOR CHORNEY AND FOR CAPTAIN
Defenseman Taylor Chorney switched letters on his jersey prior to Wednesday's game. The "A" for alternate captain was replaced by a "C' as the Wolves named him captain for the remainder of the season.
"It’s a pretty cool feeling just to know that you got the respect of your teammates like that and the staff and everybody," Chorney said. "It’s a big responsibility and I’m grateful for the opportunity."
Center Alexandre Bolduc and defenseman Brent Regner were named alternate captains.
PK REBOUNDS IN BIG WAY VS. BULLDOGS
While the Wolves power-play and overall offense have been areas of concern this season, the one spot they've been able to rely upon has been their penalty-kill unit. But even that showed signs of faltering in recent games.
Prior to Wednesday, the Wolves had allowed a power-play goal in five consecutive games, including two each against Texas and San Antonio last weekend. The slump dropped the Wolves from fourth to eighth overall in the league with an 84.6 efficiency rating (110-for-130).
But after shutting down Hamilton on all seven power plays Wednesday, things seem to be back in order for the Wolves, who now rank sixth in the league with an 85.4 rating.
"For the most part this year we’ve actually been doing a pretty good job on the PK," Chorney said. "But at the same time when you give up a few like that there’s some things you’ve got to work on. For us it was just kinda simplifying it, making sure that we know our routes, stops and starts, just little things. It showed (against Hamilton)."
CHRISTMAS HIATUS FOR HOWLIN' WOLVES
On a personal note, I will be visiting out-of-state family next week for Christmas, so this blog won't be updated for a spell. I hope to return in time for the Wolves home game Dec. 29 against Charlotte (coincidently, I'll be vacationing about an hour north of Charlotte).
Look for a fresh post before the new year, and I'll be around on Twitter (@platour68) a little bit in case there is any breaking news to report.
Enjoy the holidays, and thanks for reading.