Feels like it has been awhile? That’s perhaps what the Milwaukee Admirals will be thinking come tonight thanks to this little resting period they’re on. They last played on Sunday afternoon in a 4-1 win over the Chicago Wolves. After today’s game, the Ads will have the rest of the weekend off before getting back into game mode on Wednesday against the Iowa Wild. Hopefully we see an energetic team during that span rather than a rusty one due to inactivity.
~Not So Grand Rapids~
The Grand Rapids Griffins are coming off of a four-game homestand where they lost each and every game. The lone contest they recorded a point from was a 6-5 (OT) loss against the Wolves. Their miserable run of form of has them in the cellar of the Midwest Division: 3-4-1-0 (7 points). They are the only team in the AHL yet to record a win on home ice.
That being said, they are unbeaten on the road so far this season. Three wins from three games. With an awful stretch at home in the past. Look for the Griffins to get out their frustrations tonight and compete their way back into the win column for the first time since 10/18/14.
Let’s start this section by stating how fortunate the Predators/Admirals have been so far on the injury front. Jonas Gustavsson dislocated his shoulder this past week for the Detroit Red Wings. This meant a recall for goaltender, and Admiral killer, Petr Mrázek. In addition, top prospect Anthony Mantha has missed the start of the 2014-15 season when he fractured his tibia in mid-September. Mantha is reported to be close to game shape. Still, he is “within weeks” from that happening – meaning, like Mrazek, he will not factor in tonight’s game.
Teemu Pulkkinen is the man I’d keep an eye out for tonight. While he didn’t score in the Griffins last outing, nor has he scored a goal in his previous three-games, Pulkkinen leads the team in scoring with 8 points (4 goals, 4 assists). To boot, he was the leading scorer in this head-to-head last season and was by quite a ways: 11 points (7 goals, 4 assists) in 10 games against the Admirals in 2013-14. To put that in perspective. The top scorer in this match-up for the Admirals last season was Colton Sissons with 5 points (4 goals, 1 assist) in 8 games.
Other prospects that will be on the ice to keep note of will be Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul. The two 21-year old defensemen are very gifted offensively. This season, Ouellet has 5 points (1 goal, 4 assists) in 8 games. Last season, Sproul was phenomenal: 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists) in his first full professional playing season.
~The Other Guy~
So, there will be no Mrazek in net against the Admirals tonight. Thank goodness for that. Last season he played the Admirals six times, won five games, had two shutouts, a goals against average of 1.14, and a save percentage of 0.951. The only other person, alongside Mrazek, who I would cringe at the thought of us playing against was Jake Allen last season. Reason why I got that feeling probably has something to due with the fact that they are both exactly where they belong right now – the NHL.
Who should have the net tonight for the Griffins? Tom McCollum. In all seriousness, he has actually performed better – by the numbers in the AHL this season – than Mrazek. In five-games this season (one of which was a relief appearance of Mrazek) he has won twice, allowed less goals, has a better goals against average, and -as you’d expect- a better save percentage.
The current back-up goaltender for the Griffins is Jared Coreau. This is his second professional playing season and it is not his first look at the AHL level. He played in five-games last season for the Griffins… lost four of them, had a 4.39 GAA, and a 0.873 SV%. His ECHL season last year wasn’t exactly dashing, either. He played in 20 games with a 4.03 GAA and a 0.879 SV%. He’s yet to log an appearance in the AHL yet this season. I’m expecting that to keep trending tonight. Not unless we see the “Leggio Rule” implemented for the first and only time ever tonight.
Thoughts for tonight’s game? Despite their record, do you feel this game against the Griffins is just as big as a game with the Wolves or IceHogs? With his perfomance on Sunday in mind, would you roll out Magnus Hellberg over Marek Mazanec? What is your scoreline prediction?