Griffins: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Stephanie Moebius)
(Photo Credit: Stephanie Moebius)

The last time these two met it was the best of times, it was the worst of time. Marek Mazanec and company made some blunders in the first period and it put the Milwaukee Admirals in a 3-0 hole to the Grand Rapids Griffins. Yet, the Admirals surge and fight from that deficit was among the more impressive displays in this young season. The Admirals could have easily snowballed more mistakes or flat out conceded defeat early. They didn’t and the pushed back hard to earn a point in overtime. Sadly, another gaffe from Mazanec meant it being an overtime loss after such a strong comeback. Sour taste.

Fortunately there was no real hangover from the mistakes made that night. That overtime loss for the Admirals resulted in the lone point being dropped by the team in 8 games. The last time the Admirals lost in regulation was to the Iowa Wild on the night of the home opener. If anything the stronger side of the Admirals performance against the Griffins has been manifested in the games that have followed. The Admirals have been defensively sound, limiting mistakes, and grinding out timely offense to earn three straight wins since the Griffins overtime win in Milwaukee. The last team to come in and beat the Admirals? The Iowa Wild. The next time that team came into Milwaukee? They lost. If history repeats itself tonight the Admirals will have beaten every team they’ve faced on the calendar so far through the first 15 games and 8 opponents.

The Griffins enter tonight’s game with a record of 9-5-0-0 (18 points, 0.643 points percentage). They are second in the Central Division and trail the Admirals by 4 points while having played the same amount of games to this point. Since defeating the Admirals in overtime the Griffins have played host to the Texas Stars for a pair of games and split the two: winning 6-3 on 11/16/16 (Video Highlights) and losing 4-3 on 11/18/16 (Video Highlights).

As far as just how the Griffins look at the moment one could say depleted. That’s simply down to the sheer amount of injuries that the Detroit Red Wings are currently battling through up top. The slight bit of bright news, on their end, is that one of those injured players is on the comeback trail from injury and returns to the Griffins on conditioning assignment: Tomas Jurco.

Jurco has bounced between the NHL and AHL since becoming a pro in 2012-13. He has logged 143 games at the NHL level where he has recorded 39 points (15 goals, 24 assists). He has played less at the AHL level, 111 games, but does score at a much higher clip: 69 points (32 goals, 37 assists) for a 0.62 points per game average. In his career against the Admirals Jurco has scored 7 points (1 goal, 6 assists) from 14 games with 10 penalty minutes and a plus/minus rating of +8. He played in one game against the Admirals a season ago while -also- on a conditioning assignment. It was the last of 5 games played during his conditioning assignment and he recorded no points in the outing while the Griffins won in Milwaukee 6-0.

Of all the head scratching items from the first meeting of the season one came before the game even started when Eddie Pasquale received the nod in net over Jared Coreau. Pasquale to this point has only made 2 appearances on the season, both starts, and his last appearance came in Milwaukee. He stopped 34/37 shots on goal in that game while earning his first win with the Griffins.

I’d still say it would be a safe bet for Coreau to get the start. He has started all but 2 games for the Griffins this season, holds a 8-4-0-0 record, 2.33 goals against average, 0.926 save percentage, and held a 30-save shutout over the Rockford IceHogs on 11/11/16 to record his first shutout of the season. Since the shutout he has made 2 starts and stopped only 52/59 for a 0.881 save percentage.

What are your expectations for tonight’s game? How big of an advantage will it be for the Milwaukee Admirals to have both Juuse Saros and Anthony Bitetto around for this game against the Grand Rapids Griffins? Will the defensive style game that the Admirals displayed in Cleveland shine again tonight or is the offense going to step up as a result of positive defensive efforts?

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