Normally, I would like to say that I am an eternal optimist. Tonight’s game is one I’ve looked at on the schedule for awhile and thought it just didn’t look great. The Milwaukee Admirals split the deck with the Iowa Wild in the first two legs of this three-in-three weekend. That meant having a lengthy bus ride back after a 4-1 loss in Iowa to come home where a dominant Griffins team awaits. By all accounts this feels like it sets up harshly for the Admirals. If they are able to flip last night’s script to defeat the Griffins tonight? It could be one of the best results of the season.
What will be a factor for both teams is they are both at the end of a three-in-three. The Admirals had the Wild for two games. The Griffins played twice against the Chicago Wolves, first-leg at home and second-leg on the road, and won both times in games that each required overtime. Fatigue will very much play a factor in how this game can go. And -if it stays tight- it will likely be a test to see who has anything left in the gas tank in the third period to make a difference.
The Griffins will arrive to Milwaukee with a record of 40-17-1-4 (85 points, 0.685 points percentage). They are in the lead of the Central Division and saw their gap to second place ever so slightly grow with the overtime wins against the Wolves (0.656). The Admirals right now rest nestled in third place (0.619) as they have for quite some time now.
As high powered as the Wolves offense might be it is actually the Griffins who are the most lethal attacking team in the division. They score 3.48 goals per game while only conceding 2.47 goals against per game. The Griffins are one of the most balanced and well structured teams in the AHL. And, against the Admirals this season, are 5-3-0-0 with a pair of wins from three contests in Milwaukee.
The leading scorer for the Griffins is Matt Lorito who has 52 points (19 goals, 33 assists). He is followed very closely by Ben Street who has 50 points (23 goals, 27 assists) which includes last night’s game-winning goal in overtime against the Wolves.
Those two are clearly not standing alone. The Griffins have three other players with 40 points or more: Martin Frk, 45 points (22 goals, 23 assists)… Evgeny Svechnikov, 40 points (17 goals, 23 assists)… and Tomas Nosek 40 points (15 goals, 25 assists).
By comparison the Admirals have no players at the 50 point plateau and only three players at the 40 points or more threshold: Frédérick Gaudreau, 42 points (20 goals, 22 assists)… Pontus Åberg, 41 points (24 goals, 17 assists)… and Trevor Smith, 40 points (12 goals, 28 assists).
Vladislav Kamenev could join that group tonight. The Russian currently has 39 points (14 goals, 25 assists). It would take a bit of puck luck for it to be done tonight -but- Matt White is also close to reaching that mark, too. White has 37 points (12 goals, 25 assists) right now.
In net the Griffins have a tandem of Jared Coreau and Eddie Pasquale. Coreau made his NHL debut this season and has made 14 appearances this season with the Detroit Red Wings. He participated in both contests against the Wolves on Friday and Saturday night to push his season total in the AHL up to a record of 14-7-0-2 from 23 appearances with a 2.29 goals against average, 0.922 save percentage, and 2 shutouts.
If the Griffins decide to go a different route and not see Coreau work all three games of the weekend set it would give the reigns to Pasquale. As nice as that might sound the veteran netminder has won all three starts he has made against the Admirals this season and has a spectacular 0.99 goals against average, 0.968 save percentage, and 2 shutouts in the process.
What are your expectations for tonight’s game? Is this Milwaukee Admirals team capable enough right now to compete with this Grand Rapids Griffins team? How important will the start to this game be for the Admirals?
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