The Admirals season-long six game road trip ends tonight with a match up with the Midwest Division and Western Conference leading Grand Rapids Griffins. To date, and results-wise, this road trip has not gone well. The good news? The Admirals have had good stretches within those bad results and came good with their 4-2 win over the Oklahoma City Barons. The good-er-er news? The Griffins could well be set for a fall tonight with some top talents up in the NHL.
~Short & Sweet~
The Griffins enter tonight’s game with a record of 37-17-6-2 (82 points). As mentioned above they lead both the division and conference. This comes thanks to the surge that is this astonishing eighteen game point streak: 14-0-3-1. The last time that the Griffins lost in regulation came on home ice at the hands of the Admirals in a 4-0 shutout.
~Lacking Star Power~
When looking at the Griffins roster tonight your spirits will be instantly lifted when you see the names Teemu Pulkkinen and Petr Mrázek are absent. Both were recalled to the Detroit Red Wings over the past two weeks. So what does their lack of presence mean tonight? Only good things!
Pulkkinen has been the AHL’s top scorer for a solid chunk of this season. If not for his NHL recalls he’d probably still be the AHL’s scoring leader. I’m sure he doesn’t mind the NHL time. Still, no Pulkkinen takes a major nuclear level weapon off the battlefield for Grand Rapids. He has scored 61 points (34 goals, 27 assists) this season. No one in the AHL has scored as many goals as him and the next closest is Shane Harper with 28 goals. Someone else for the Griffins will need to do the damage tonight.
I hope that Mrázek’s recent AHL spell was a warning shot across the bow of the Red Wings and potential NHL suitors everywhere. He pulled in six straight wins out of seven starts, recorded three shutouts, and had a ludicrous 1.39 goals against average and 0.956 save percentage. No offense to Tom McCollum or Jared Coreau but they are not Mrázek and I am therefore not as concerned heading into this game. Please ignore the fact that Coreau has played great against the Admirals and McCollum won his last start against the Admirals as well.
~That Other Bloke~
So, no Pulkkinen? Who should the Admirals fear the most on the Griffins now? Andy Miele. He hasn’t had an NHL chance yet this season but someone should take notice of the great season he has put together for Grand Rapids. Miele is tied for third in the league in scoring with 58 points (20 goals, 38 assists). Against the Admirals he has 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists). You might remember those goals specifically as well. He was the initial 0.4 second man before Viktor Stålberg took his gimmick and improved it with a hat trick and NHL call up.
Landon Ferraro is the leading scorer for the Griffins in this match-up. He has 5 points (4 goals, 1 assist) against the Admirals this season. He does trail the duo of Colton Sissons and Viktor Arvidsson though: Sissons, 7 points (6 goals, 1 assist)… Arvidsson, 7 points (0 goals, 7 assists). Ferraro might well be the trigger-man that the Griffins need in place of Pulkkinen as he trails him for the team lead in goal scoring with 23 goals this season.
One other player worth mentioning is first year pro Anthony Mantha. His season started with an injury but he’s managed to really get with the program and put in a productive season for the Griffins. He has 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists), a plus/minus rating of +11, and 53 penalty minutes in 51 games. Like Pulkkinen, Mantha’s slap shot is a powerful one and he can range from the wing to the point on the power-play effortlessly. He has scored 4 power-play goals this season for the Griffins. Yet another gem of many in the Red Wings system.
Expectations for tonight’s game? Which streak hits nineteen tonight, the Grand Rapids point streak or Scott Ford‘s ECHL/AHL winning streak? Should Magnus Hellberg be given the net over Marek Mazanec tonight?