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AHL Notebook: Predators enjoying partnership with Milwaukee

Tolvanen, veterans, coaching have team in running for Calder Cup title

by Patrick Williams / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

The Nashville Predators and their American Hockey League affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, have had a successful partnership for more than 20 years.

Their relationship dates to the 1998-99 season, which was the first in the NHL for the Predators. At the time, Milwaukee was a member of the International Hockey League before shifting to the AHL in 2001. Milwaukee has reached the Calder Cup Playoffs in 15 of 18 AHL seasons, including winning the Calder Cup championship in 2004. 

Milwaukee is 33-8-4-2 and ranks first in the AHL with a .766 point percentage, entering play Tuesday. It has won five consecutive games, including a 7-3 win at Chicago (Vegas Golden Knights) and a 7-1 victory at Rockford (Chicago Blackhawks) this weekend. They also had a team-record 13-game winning streak earlier this season (Nov. 2-Dec. 1). 

Here is a look at what has made the team successful this season:

 

Alexandre Carrier

The 23-year-old defenseman, who Nashville selected in the fourth round (No. 115) of the 2015 NHL Draft, has developed slowly with Milwaukee.

Carrier (5-foot-11, 174 pounds) has helped Milwaukee's first-ranked power play (28.6 percent) and is sixth in the AHL among defensemen in points with 30 points (four goals, 26 assists) in 40 games. Sixteen of his assists have come on the power-play, tying him for third-most among AHL defensemen.

 

Connor Ingram

The 22-year-old goalie took part in the AHL All-Star Classic last week in Ontario, California. Selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third round (No. 88) of the 2016 NHL Draft, he produced for Syracuse at the AHL level last season but was traded to Nashville on June 14, 2019 for a seventh-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. 

Ingram (6-2, 196) has teamed with veteran Troy Grosenick to put Milwaukee first in the AHL at 2.23 goals-against per game. Ingram is 16-4-4 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in 25 games. His GAA and save percentage each rank second in the AHL.

"I use a little advice I got from a guy that coached for a long time," Milwaukee coach Karl Taylor said of Ingram. "Jimmy Bedard was like, "It's only a big deal if you make it a big deal.' So I never talked to Ingram about last [season]. We didn't make it a big deal. I said, 'Hey, you're going to play every second game until you decide you're not going to.' He's growing and pushing and knocking on an opportunity in Nashville."

 

Rem Pitlick

Nashville took the 22-year-old in the third round (No. 76) of the 2015 draft, and he turned pro after three seasons at the University of Minnesota (NCAA).

The jump to the pro game proved to be a challenging one for Pitlick (5-11, 196), who did not score his first professional goal until his 15th game. However, it began an impressive run of seven goals in a seven-game span for him and he has 28 points (15 goals, 13 assists) in 47 games.

 

Eeli Tolvanen

The 20-year forward has had goalless streaks of 12 and 16 games this season. However, Tolvanen (5-10, 191), who was selected by Nashville in the first round (No. 30) of the 2017 NHL Draft, had three points (two goals, assist) in the win at Rockford on Saturday. Milwaukee had 48 shots on goal in the game and Tolvanen tied for the team lead with seven of them. His 133 shots on goal are tied for eighth in the AHL.

After ending his 16-game goal drought, Tolvanen has six goals in his past six games. He has 24 points (13 goals, 11 assists) in 47 games in his second AHL season and also has played four games with the Predators this season (one goal, one assist).

Video: CHI@NSH: Tolvanen nets Smith's feed for first goal

 
Veteran players

Forward Daniel Carr won the Les Cunningham Award as the most valuable player in the AHL with Chicago last season, which earned him a one-year, one-way contract with the Predators on July 1, 2019.

The 28-year-old has played 11 games with Nashville (one goal) but finds himself back in the AHL with Milwaukee. Carr (6-0, 193) is tied for seventh in AHL scoring with 41 points (19 goals, 22 assists) in 35 games.

Forward Cole Schneider (29), second on the team in scoring with 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists) in 38 games, is a proven AHL point producer. Defenseman Matt Donovan (29) is an established puck-mover who has 24 points (four goals, 20 assists) in 46 games. Grosenick (30) is 17-4-2 with a 2.25 GAA and .921 save percentage in 24 games.

Video: STL@NSH: Carr wins it for Predators in shootout 

 
Coaching 

In his second season with Milwaukee, Taylor has done an outstanding job.

"When we're playing well, we're an 'O'-zone possession team, we're grinding teams," he said. "We're going to reset pucks. We're just going to be hard to handle because we're going to consistently grind teams down and, and that's who we are. And that's what we pride ourselves on. In the same breath, we like to play quick and break out with possession. That's a huge focus for our team. 

"We'll get our challenges in the second half. To carry on like we have to this point is probably unrealistic. We know that. But we're going to ride it as long as we can."

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