Vitali Kravtsov’s return to the AHL on Tuesday went horribly for the Hartford Wolf Pack. After two periods they were losing 5-1 and getting outshot 31-11 by the Charlotte Checkers. Igor Shesterkin was pulled early in the second period. The entire team looked off its game, with even usually reliable players like Steven Fogarty and Danny O’Regan making atypically careless mistakes.
The Wolf Pack lost, 6-3, and the coaching staff will want to either burn the tape or burn the footage into the players’ memories. On some small level, though, the team’s bad performance did pay off. Kravtsov started the game on the third line with Nick Jones and Ryan Gropp. Following those horrible two periods, Hartford’s coaching staff predictably shook up the lines. Kravtsov was moved onto the top line with Danny O’Regan and Phil di Giuseppe. The move paid off, as Kravtsov set up di Giuseppe for a goal.
Aside from the assist, Kravtsov had three shots on goal during the game. It wasn’t exactly a superhuman performance, but it’s more than adequate given the circumstances. Kravtsov was making his “re-but” for Hartford, having left the team following an underwhelming October stint in which he produced just one point and two shots on goal in five games.
Obviously, it’s great to see Kravtsov making a play. But there’s also the meta-analysis that it hopefully takes some pressure off of the situation and creates forward momentum. Not to overanalyze, but it’s hard to imagine that Kravtsov was feeling awesome about his game following failed stints both in North America and Russia over the course of a few months. To put three shots on goal and earn a primary assist should be a self-esteem booster. He’s a talented offensive player, and there’s some nice affirmation for him to reflect on.
Kravtsov will have a chance to build on this today, as the Wolf Pack take on Charlotte in a rematch. The Hartford coaches may have a different idea, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they extend his stay on a scoring line.