Dec. 9, 2017

The Gulls wrap up a season-long five-game road trip tonight in Des Moines where they face the Iowa Wild, the primary affiliate of the NHL’s Minnesota Wildat Wells Fargo Arena (5 P.M. PT, Mighty 1090-AM). After dropping a 3-1 decision on Wednesday night to the Chicago Wolves, the Gulls (9-11-1-0, 19 pts.) aim to conclude their road trip with a winning record after splitting the first four games of a difficult stretch that started in California and has had stops in Milwaukee and Chicago.

One thing San Diego can expect is to be able to feed off of the energy from right wing Corey Tropp. The veteran right wing returned Wednesday at Chicago after missing 15 games due to a lower-body injury. Tropp led the Gulls in scoring last season with 54 points (21G/33A), with his 21 goals co-leading the team and setting the club record for goals in a season.

“It’s always good to have him back,” center Mitch Hults said. “He’s a guy that likes to chat in the locker room and he likes to get the boys going. He’s got good energy and he’s just a good guy so he’s great to have back.”

As the Gulls welcome Tropp back into the lineup with open arms, one player they’ll be without going forward is Spencer Abbott, who was traded to the Binghamton Senators last night in exchange for future considerations. But as one joins and one leaves, more returns could be coming.

Potentially joining Tropp in the lineup could be forward Nic Kerdiles who has missed the past 15 games with an upper-body injury he sustained on Oct. 25. Kerdiles, who has three points this season (1G/2A), has traveled with the team on the Midwest portion of the road trip and even joined the coaching staff on the bench in Chicago.

Tonight San Diego and Iowa (11-8-4-0, 26 pts.) open a two-game season series. The Wild currently sit third in the tightly-contested Central Division. The Wild recently completed a three-game swing through Texas where they defeated the San Antonio Rampage 5-3 on Dec. 1 before dropping a 4-3 overtime decision to the Rampage a night later. The Wild would suffer more overtime heartbreak on Dec. 5, this time at the hands of the Texas Stars by a final of 5-4.

San Diego has won both previous matchups against Iowa having beaten them twice within a one month span last January. The Gulls took a 3-1 win in Des Moines on Jan. 16 and followed that up with a convincing 5-1 victory in San Diego on Feb. 14. Left wing Jordan Samuels-Thomas (1-2=3) and Corey Tropp (0-3=3) lead the Gulls in scoring in the brief two-game series.

The Wild are led in scoring by center Pat Cannone who has recorded 18 points (10G/8A) in 23 games this season. The Bayport, N.Y. native enjoyed a successful career at Miami University in Ohio before signing with the Binghamton Senators as a free agent in 2011. The veteran has also spent time with the Chicago Wolves before joining the Wild organization. Cannone made his NHL debut a season ago, appearing in three games with the parent club in Minnesota. He comes into tonight’s contest just one goal shy of 100 for his AHL career.

Iowa’s goaltending duties for Iowa are split between the tandem of Niklas Svedberg and Steve Michalek. Svedberg (6-7-1), a native of Sweden, has 19 games of NHL experience with the Boston Bruins where he earned an 8-5-1 record with a 2.31 GAA and .920 SV%. Michalek (5-1-2), a native of Hartford, Conn., was selected by the Minnesota Wild in the sixth round (161st overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft, is in his third season with Iowa.

One of the keys of the game to watch for is the San Diego penalty kill. After killing all four penalties Wednesday night, Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins is looking for his revamped unit to team up with their league-leading power-play to help ignite the club.

“We just have to get it all in sync where we can have our penalty kill shutting people down and our power play popping in one, and then us having 5-on-5 play,” said Eakins after Wednesday night’s game in Chicago.

If those elements click for the Gulls tonight, their coach thinks they have a good chance to grab a big two points before returning home for a three-game homestand.

“When those all come together, that’s when you start winning some games in a row,” added Eakins.