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Mid-season team assessments

Hamilton's David Desharnais has 10 goals and 42 points through 34 games this season. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Hamilton's David Desharnais has 10 goals and 42 points through 34 games this season. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

It won't be long before clubs reach the 40-game mark. Time enough to suss out some trends for the first half of the American League season.

Some teams are proceeding as expected - good, bad or otherwise – while others have overachieved or underachieved. And still others have been consistently inconsistent this season. Here is a look at some teams that have intrigued so far.

Chicago - How has a club that can throw out the likes of Darren Haydar, Jason Krog and Nigel Dawes been so up and down this season? The offense has delivered for the Wolves, but the club ranks near the bottom of the AHL defensively. Goaltending was expected to be a major strength for the club, but Peter Mannino has not delivered in net. The penalty kill has also been a disaster.

Connecticut - Absolutely horrible through the first six weeks of the season, the former Hartford Wolf Pack were rebranded in a tribute to the city's former NHL club. With a record of 6-11-2-3 on Nov. 27, the date the rebranding officially occurred, the club rolled off a 10-1-0-2 mark and rocketed northward in the Eastern Conference standings. This week's additions of NHL veterans Todd White and Jason Williams bodes well.

Hershey - Injuries and the resulting lineup upheaval have dented the Bears' first half. Free-agent addition Dany Sabourin experienced some struggles in net and the Hershey blueline has been a shell of its 2009-10 self, especially before the steady Patrick McNeill returned to action. Through it all, the Bears have managed to stay in the Eastern Conference mix in a bid to win the club's third consecutive Calder Cup. But a grueling division will not make the road any easier.

Oklahoma City - A six-game winless streak has sent the Barons tumbling down the Western Conference ladder. They survived Alexandre Giroux's goal-scoring drought in November. With one of the AHL's best rosters, the Barons need to be much better.

Norfolk - The AHL's highest-scoring club is averaging close to four goals per game. Norfolk does not have any of the AHL's biggest names, but the Admirals score by committee. By the season's midpoint, the Admirals could very well possess nine forwards with 10 or more goals. Mike Angelidis and Alex Berry have never put up big AHL goal-scoring numbers, but both could hit 20 goals this season.

Peoria - The Rivermen have an extremely experienced and talented blueline, helping to keep opponents to an AHL-best 2.30 goals per game. Rookie goaltender Jake Allen has excelled and, with a solid season so far, Ben Bishop is asserting that he is also still a prospect worth keeping an eye on.

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Syracuse - A new affiliation was viewed with a lot of optimism, but is has been a disaster so far for the Crunch. What was expected to be a very solid defensive corps has instead been a group that has allowed the AHL's most shots per game (34.4) and the goaltending has not been strong enough to compensate. Losing workhorse Danny Syvret did not help.

Toronto - Much like Connecticut, the Marlies were brutal in the early going. A daunting road trip in the first half of November reversed the Marlies' fortunes and the club remains very much a contender.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton - Extremely aggressive in the free-agent market this past summer, and with an interesting mix of prospects, the Penguins have delivered so far this season and lead the AHL with 50 points. The success of the parent Pittsburgh Penguins has allowed the AHL club to remain mostly intact this season. Locked in what might be the AHL's toughest division, can the Penguins maintain that pace?

THIS & THAT

Hamilton's David Desharnais won AHL player of the week honors for two goals and five points in two games last week...

Connecticut, which has completely turned around its season in the past month, added NHL veteran Jason Williams this week. The club also gained the services of Todd White from the parent New York Rangers...

Chicago coach Don Lever is the 16th coach in AHL history to reach the 300-win mark...

The stingy Peoria Rivermen were the AHL's top defensive team entering the week, but the Manitoba Moose torched the Rivermen for nine goals in the clubs' two-game series earlier this week...

Hamilton's Dustin Boyd has scored in each of his six games with the Bulldogs and reached the nine-goal mark with a hat trick Tuesday night.

 

From THN.com American League correspondent Patrick Williams, Around The AHL keeps tabs on the world's second best circuit, details all the news and notes and profiles prospects destined for the next level. It appears every Thursday only on TheHockeyNews.com.

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