Yesterday we covered a fair bit on expectations for tonight’s match-up in Chatterbox. To be blunt about it this game should be viewed as a playoff game for the sake of the road ahead. The Milwaukee Admirals are making their last trip into the formidable Van Andel Arena for the 2016-17 regular season. They still see the Grand Rapids Griffins on the regular season finale at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. Yet, this could well still be either an opening round or second round playoff match-up.
It is crucial to start making tight games like Sunday’s defeat become a victory. The lessons being offered up by way of experience is great. The ability to cement experience and spring-load off of what was learned is the next step. And that is what tonight’s game is going to showcase.
The Griffins are still the Central Division leaders with a record of 43-18-1-4 (91 points, 0.689 points percentage). With their 3-2 win over the Admirals on Sunday they became the first Central Division team this season to clinch a playoff spot. They have won their last three games and are 8-2-0-0 in their last ten games played on home ice.
Against the Admirals this season the Griffins have gone 6-4-0-0. The Admirals hold a 4-5-1-0 mark in the head-to-head. Specifically at the Van Andel Arena the Admirals hold a 2-3-0-0. They had won consecutively in Grand Rapids until running into a 6-2 wood chipper of a loss back on 2/25/17.
What is perhaps most intriguing to me about what the Griffins can do tonight is change-up their lineup now that they have clinched a playoff spot. They do have a good amount of wiggle room over the Chicago Wolves (0.647) for the top of the Central Division lead. That could mean seeing players such as Patrick McCarron or Givani Smith making their pro debuts either tonight or in the very near future.
On the Admirals end of things it appears that Adam Pardy will be making his return to game action tonight. The veteran defenseman has missed the last 29 games following a compound fracture of his left arm. He steps in where he left off alongside his defensive linemate Alex Carrier.
Also, based on yesterday, it would feel that Jimmy Oligny and Justin Kirkland are still on the comeback trail from injury. That opens the door for Stephen Perfetto and Tyler Kelleher to step into a high intensity game.
This game will mark the end of the Admirals’ March slate. They have gone 7-4-0-1 during the busy run towards April. Pontus Åberg has been spectacular to watch during this month and has produced 14 points (11 goals, 3 assists) from 12 games. The Swede has three multi-goal games during that span. If Åberg pulls of a repeat of his efforts on Sunday he will become the fourth ever Admiral to score 30 goals in an AHL season: Darren Haydar in 2005-06 (35 goals), Rich Peverley in 2006-07 (30 goals), and Chris Mueller in 2011-12 (32 goals).
What are your expectations for tonight’s game? Now that fatigue isn’t a factor for either team what sort of game will develop: defensively grinding or a more open North-South speed game?
Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.