Welcoming plenty of new faces, Wolves open season with loss to Grand Rapids

Only eight players from last season’s Western Conference championship team dressed. Gone are league MVP Daniel Carr, prolific forwards Brooks Macek and T.J. Tynan and goalie Max Lagace, just to name four.

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The Wolves’ Patrick Brown is driven into the boards during Saturday’s game.

Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves

Before the Wolves’ season-opening 8-5 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins on Saturday, their entire roster was introduced to the Allstate Arena crowd.

That was probably helpful after all of the roster changes during the offseason.

“It’s always fun when you get to build something,’’ coach Rocky Thompson said. ‘‘I wouldn’t say it’s quite from scratch, but there have been a lot of changes. Your team does have to start over at the beginning of every year. It’s going to be fun.”

The opener made it clear that the Wolves have plenty of building ahead.

Facing a Grand Rapids team with five Red Wings first-round picks over the last five years, the Wolves looked like a team in transition. The play was ragged at times, and some connections were missed. There were some promising signs, but it was obvious the Wolves are still getting used to each other.

“I’m not disgusted with the way we played,” Thompson said. “There were a lot of good things we did. Obviously, it’s the start of the year, so there are going to be some mishaps along the way.”

Only eight players from last season’s Western Conference championship team dressed. Gone are league MVP Daniel Carr, prolific forwards Brooks Macek and T.J. Tynan and goalie Max Lagace, to name four. Top prospects Cody Glass and Nic Hague, who still could spend time with the Wolves, are with the Vegas Golden Knights.

As Thompson and the players know, that’s just part of life in the American Hockey League. The Wolves aren’t the only team working through a dramatically different roster, but that fact doesn’t alter their urgency to figure out who plays well with whom.

“As soon as possible,’’ said Curtis McKenzie, one of the holdovers. ‘‘We’ll see. I guess it depends by group and how they jell. It went pretty quickly last year for guys to get together. Hopefully, it’s the same this year.”

McKenzie, 28, a member of the 2014 Calder Cup-winning Texas Stars, has seen when the transition period goes well. He said sometimes one can see combinations mesh right away or it can happen in the middle of a game. Some have to be worked on.

McKenzie hopes for a reprise of last season but re-emphasized that the Wolves aren’t the only ones in this situation.

“It’s a very common thing,” McKenzie said. “With all the free agents last year, we knew there was going to be a huge turnover, so it is what it is. It’s the American Hockey League.”

The new players include forwards Patrick Brown — whose appearance in Rosemont was his first since lifting the Calder Cup last season as the Charlotte Checkers’ captain — and Tyrell Goulbourne, defensemen Jaycob Megna and Brett Lernout and goalie Garret Sparks.

The Wolves like the roster they’ve put together but realize everything won’t click instantly. This loss to one of the AHL’s most talented teams proved that.

“We’ve got to work as a team,” said forward Lucas Elvenes, who had a goal and three assists. “Everyone will start to know each other, and as soon as we [get] to know each other better, we’ll get better.”

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