Tonight marks the Milwaukee Admirals first trip into the Van Andel Arena since being eliminated by the Grand Rapids Griffins in one of the more bizarre games in recent memory for the Admirals. That night saw two pucks fly clean through a net requiring lengthy review processes that stalled out what had been a good start by the Admirals when they needed it.
One would only hope that officials this time around actually check the quality of the goal nets before dropping a puck before every period just to be sure that absurdity is never repeated. Should the netting not be an issue the action surrounding it will be a little like that playoff environment once again.
The Admirals and the Griffins always seem to have very grinding games that exemplify playoff style hockey. As they stand entering tonight the are first and second in the Central Division. The Admirals still maintain the best record in the AHL, 14-3-2-1 (31 points, 0.775 points percentage). The Griffins have the third best record in the Western Conference, 13-6-1-2 (29 points, 0.659 points percentage).
This is the third meeting of the season between these two teams. The Admirals came back from a 3-0 deficit to earn a point but lost in an overtime heartbreaker. They did respond the next time out by winning with a solid 3-1 performance at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. Admirals captain Trevor Smith scored twice in that contest, Vladislav Kamenev added a goal, and Juuse Saros stopped 28/29 shots on goal – only allowing a power-play goal from Tomáš Jurčo coming with a full-two minutes of five-on-three power-play time with 4:31 remaining in regulation.
Saros should have a very busy night tonight. The Admirals defense is without half of the defensive core that played against the Griffins that first time out as Anthony Bitetto, Petter Granberg, and Adam Pardy have since gone up to the Nashville Predators. The Griffins have scored the second most goals in the Western Conference and fourth most in the entire league to this point, 73 goals from 22 games. That is a 3.32 goals per game average. Saros, on the other hand, boasts the second best goals against average in the league among qualified goaltenders at 1.54 goals against average.
Another obstacle in the Admirals path is turning around their fortunes at the Van Andel Arena. Including last year’s playoffs the Admirals have lost their last eight straight games in Grand Rapids (0-7-1-0 record). Their last win in that building came back on 1/31/15 in a 4-0 shutout with Magnus Hellberg in net. In the Dean Evason Era the Admirals are 5-13-1-0 in Grand Rapids and have been shutout by the Griffins 4 times.
The Griffins leading scoring entering this contest is Matt Lorito who ranks third in the AHL in scoring, as well. The former Brown University team captain, who joined the Detroit Red Wings organization from the Albany Devils in the off-season, has 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) in 22 games this season for the Griffins.
I feel the best bet on who gets the start for the Griffins in net tonight would be Jared Coreau -but- Eddie Pasquale did get the start when the Griffins earned an overtime win over the Admirals in the first meeting of the season. Coreau is fresh off his first career stint in the NHL where he had a less than ideal debut with the Red Wings. He has a record of 8-5-0-0 from 13 games for the Griffins this season to go along with a 2.39 goals against average, 0.923 save percentage, and a shutout. Pasquale has a record of 3-1-1-2 from 7 games, 2.50 goals against average, and a 0.918 save percentage. In Pasquale’s last three starts he has picked up losses in games spilling past regulation: two shootout defeats and one in overtime.
What are your expectations for tonight’s game? Can the Milwaukee Admirals buck this poor run of results in Grand Rapids? How important will Saros be in net for the Admirals tonight?
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