Griffins: Scouting the Enemy

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The last time the Admirals played the Griffins, Joonas Jarvinen decided to do some chiropractic work on Teemu Pulkkinen. How nice of him! (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Admirals did two amazing things last night in Iowa. They won on the road. And they won in overtime. Prior to last night’s victory the Ads were on a stretch, starting in Lake Erie, of six-straight road defeats. In overtime this season the Ads are 5-0-6-3 (19 points) in 14 games. Their six defeats in overtime are the most in the entire AHL right now. Last night was only their second overtime win.

Another bit of good news from last night was the return of Patrick Cehlin after he missed thirty-four games due to injury.

In his return he played on a line with Filip Forsberg and Mark Van Guilder. He didn’t score a point in his return, had two shots on goal, and his plus/minus was a -1. Still, after missing so much time, it’s understandable if he feels his way back into game speed. He could have been skating and practicing as much as anyone in the last two weeks – but you can never simulate game action. Last night’s game was a good first step back into what the Ads hope is an added scoring option on the top lines.

More good news? Sure! The Admirals are now starting up a five game homestand where they are the second best team on home ice in the AHL this season with a 0.763 winning percentage. In nineteen home games this season the Ads are 13-3-3-0 (29 points). Their home ice goal differential is +19.  Also, of the six meetings against the division leading Grand Rapids Griffins, the Ads have won both home contests in the season fixture with last season’s Calder Cup champs:

Oct. 18 @ Grand Rapids: W, 3-2
Nov. 13 vs. Grand Rapids: W, 2-1
Nov. 20 @ Grand Rapids: L, 5-0
Dec. 13 @ Grand Rapids: L, 4-2
Dec. 14 @ Grand Rapids: L, 5-0
Dec. 26 vs. Grand Rapids: W, 4-1

Sure, there have been some clunkers in that mix – but there have also been some of the more stellar all-around performances from the Admirals as well. Seeing as it has been over a month since we’ve last seen the Griffins – just what have they been up to?

The Grand Rapids Griffins enter tonight’s game with a record of 28-13-2-2 (60 points). They’ve pretty much been in charge of the Midwest Division from the start of the season and still maintain an 8 point cushion over the second place Chicago Wolves – and a 9 point lead over the third place Admirals. In their previous ten games they have gone 5-4-1-0 (11 points). They are also on a two game losing skid in which they have conceded six goals in both defeats: 1/26, @ San Antonio and 1/31, vs. Chicago.

Don’t let those defeats fool you though. The Griffins have been a model of consistency this season and to remind you of that let me bring up the home and away again. The Griffins are right behind the Admirals with the third best home record in the AHL with a 0.688 winning percentage (the top home team in the conference and entire league is Texas with a bazonkers 0.804 winning percentage). Where the Griffins differ to the Admirals is how lethal they can be on the road. The Griffins have a conference best 0.643 winning percentage on the road. They also have a +14 goal differential in road games. Again, don’t let their recent defeats where they have conceded six goals in back-to-back outings fool you. This team can rebound better than perhaps any in the AHL this season.

Making some news this week was the announcement that long time NHL’er Mikael Samuelsson cleared waivers and joined the Griffins. How did the 37-year old feel his Griffins debut went last night?

“I didn’t feel great. I’m not going to lie. I felt better as the game went on, had a couple chances, but, overall, not my best game.” Mikael Samuelsson (source)

He has played in 699 career NHL games – including 26 games with the Red Wings this season. He might be on the decline. But the experience and skill that he possesses pose a big threat for the Admirals to deal with tonight.

Another name back in camp is goaltender Petr Mrazek. His last game played for the Griffins was 12/7 vs. Rochester. Since? He’s been up with the Red Wings before his reassignment this past Tuesday. He didn’t play in the team’s defeat last night. He could well be the man between the pipes for the Admirals to scrap it out with tonight.

Thoughts on tonight’s game? Can the Admirals take down the division leaders? Would you start Hannu Toivonen in net tonight?

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