Griffins: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Milwaukee Admirals)
I really hope that the Milwaukee Admirals are able to hit the target with their shots despite being dressed as Stormtroopers this weekend. (Photo Credit: Milwaukee Admirals)

It’s about time that the Milwaukee Admirals and Grand Rapids Griffins finally squared off against one-another. It feels like it has been far too long. The Admirals have already played 17 games on the season. You have to go back to the 2007-08 season for the last time the Admirals met the Griffins this deep into a regular season. At that time the two were in different divisions, Admirals (West Division) and Griffins (North Division), and it was the game #21 of the season for the Admirals. They were shutout that night at home 1-0 in a goaltending match-up that featured Pekka Rinne versus Jimmy Howard. Not too shabby -but- I believe we’d all like to avoid such a result as that one.

~Rough Start~

The Griffins enter tonight’s game with a record of 6-8-0-1 (13 points). Their 0.433 points percentage sees them sitting in sixth place of the Central Division and third from the bottom in the entire Western Conference.

It was a really poor start to the season for the Griffins who went five games into this season before finally earning their first win. They were shutout twice in the first four games and currently sit on a goal differential of -10 (36 goals forced, 46 goals allowed).

What was to blame for the bad start? If you were to look at the Griffins roster there are so many returning faces from year’s past that have made them a high quality team. It’s sort of puzzling. Then again, the name that isn’t in Grand Rapids anymore than might be missing from their AHL outfit the most is their head coach of the last three-seasons Jeff Blashill. He is now the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings. With his promotion also came the promotion of Teemu Pulkkinen and Alexei Marchenko. That puts new Griffins bench boss, and former head coach of the Oklahoma City Barons and Edmonton Oilers, Todd Nelson in a slightly tough spot. But my guess is that, much like the Admirals, the Griffins had some early kinks to get through as far as familiarity goes. For the Admirals it was a player-to-player problem. For the Griffins it’s coming to grips with a new coach.

Since losing two-games in two-days in Lake Erie, the Griffins appear to have found their polished identity once more and are currently on a four-game winning streak.

This winning streak has looked as such: 3-2 win vs. Rockford… 7-4 win vs. San Diego… 2-1 win @ Chicago… 5-1 win vs. Iowa. The Griffins have: outscored opponents 17-8, outshot opponents 128-127, and gone 5/18 on the power-play (27.8%) and 15/17 on the penalty kill (88.2%).

During the four-game winning streak for the Griffins they’ve seen quality performances by a number of players: Tomas Jurco, 9 points (5 goals, 4 assists)… Andreas Athanasiou, 6 points (3 goals, 3 assists)… Mitch Callahan, 5 (3 goals, 2 assists)… Eric Tangradi, 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists)… Robbie Russo, 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists)… Andy Miele, 4 points (0 goals, 4 assists).

~AHL Player of the Week~

It will be worth highlighting the current AHL Player of the Week in tonight’s game. He’ll be the man rocking the number 28 on the ice for the Griffins, Jurco.

Press Release via AHL:

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that Grand Rapids Griffins left wing Tomas Jurco has been selected as the CCM/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending Nov. 22, 2015.

Jurco joined the Griffins on a conditioning loan from the Detroit Red Wings and injected life into the Grand Rapids offense, tallying three goals and four assists for seven points – including assists on all three game-winning goals – while helping the club to victories over three Western Conference powers.

In his first AHL appearance of the season on Wednesday, Jurco helped set up the winning goal with 9:49 left in regulation as Grand Rapids defeated Rockford, 3-2, to end the IceHogs’ 10-game points streak. On Friday, Jurco tied a franchise record with three power-play goals for his third career hat trick, part of a four-point effort to lead the Griffins over San Diego, 7-4. And on Saturday night, Jurco assisted on both Grand Rapids goals in a 2-1 win at Chicago, the Griffins’ third straight win after they had been 2-8-0-1 on the season entering the week.

Jurco, 22, had one assist in four NHL games with Detroit this season before joining the Griffins last week. A member of Grand Rapids’ Calder Cup championship team as a rookie in 2012-13, Jurco has gone on to play 103 games in the National Hockey League with the Red Wings, totaling 11 goals and 23 assists for 34 points. Jurco, a native of Kosice, Slovakia, was a second-round draft choice by Detroit (35th overall) in 2011 and has registered 30 goals and 37 assists for 67 points in 109 AHL games with Grand Rapids.

~Familiar Friend~

Tonight will mark the return of Triston Grant to Milwaukee since he signed on with the Griffins this past off-season. It feels like Grant really does have two places he can comfortably call home, Milwaukee and Grand Rapids. He has played a total of 328 games for both clubs (202 with the Admirals, 126 with the Griffins).

Sadly, it looks as if some sort of injury is keeping this ol’ relie from getting back on the ice. Grant has yet to play a game for the Griffins in the 2015-16 season. He might be added to the injury list of familiar faces that played with the Admirals last season but missed out on playing in Milwaukee early this season: Mike Liambas and Joe Piskula.

~Between the Pipes~

This season the Griffins have a clean split at the goaltending department with both Tom McCollum and Jared Coreau having logged 8 games in net each. McCollum leads the way with 8 starts this season but was yanked from the net after an abysmal seven-minutes against the San Antonio Rampage. McCollum went 6/9 in saves beforing giving way to Coreau who would stop all 22 shots he’d face for the rest of that game.

That’s essentially the story for the goaltending as a whole for the Griffins, too. Coreau has shown better results than his more seasoned AHL goaltending partner McCollum. Coreau has earned a record of 4-2-0-1, 2.78 goals against average, and 0.915 save percentage. McCollum has a record of 2-6-0-0 (losing his first 6 starts consecutively), 2.83 goals against average, and 0.907 save percentage. As far as who gets tabbed with starting duties tonight against the Admirals it is a clean toss up.

Which winning streak lives another day, Admirals or Griffins? Will the Admirals losing Colton Sissons to the Nashville Predators stretch the team or could a returning Stevie Moses be a boost? Would you prefer to have a player up with the Admirals to serve as a flex option at forward or should the roster stay bare bones with players remaining active and performing with the Cincinnati Cyclones at the ECHL level?

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