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Grand Rapids Griffins look to stretch unbeaten streak to 17 games tonight

As the AHL's website notes, the Grand Rapids Griffins are on a mighty roll, and Griffinshockey.com's Alan Cross tells the tale of a team that hopes to stretch its unbeaten streak to SEVENTEEN games when it battles the Charlotte Checkers this evening:

The Grand Rapids Griffins have played incredible hockey in the past month and a half.

Under the charge of third-year head coach Jeff Blashill, the Griffins struggled in the first half of the season to produce consistent results. While the team wasn’t performing terribly, it certainly wasn’t performing to the standards that fans have come to expect from the Blashill era of hockey in Grand Rapids.

Through 39 games, just one past the midway point of the season, the Griffins owned a 19-16-3-1 record (0.538), ranking them fourth in the Midwest Division and tying for eighth in the Western Conference. The Rockford IceHogs led the Midwest 12 points ahead of Grand Rapids, while the Oklahoma City Barons sat atop the conference with a 19-point lead on the team.

Then, something clicked.

On Jan. 23, the Utica Comets paid their first-ever visit to Van Andel Arena in the midst of a four-game losing streak for Grand Rapids. In a seemingly normal victory, the Griffins defeated the North Division leaders 5-1 to snap their skid.

Unbeknownst to anyone, that night’s victory over the Comets would kick off Grand Rapids’ meteoric rise to the top of the standings, in which a 17-1-3-0 performance in their next 21 games currently sees the Griffins in first in the Western Conference. The only regulation loss in that span came in the form of a 4-0 shutout by the Milwaukee Admirals on Jan. 31.

The points rolled in from there. Upon defeating the Charlotte Checkers 3-2 on Tuesday, the Griffins tied a franchise record for the longest point streak with 16 straight games (13-0-3-0). The feat was first achieved during the team’s second AHL season, from Oct. 25-Nov. 30, 2002 (11-0-3-2 = W-L-T-OTL).

The light switch was turned on at the right time for the Griffins, who were previously headed toward a toe-to-toe battle for playoff positioning in the second half of the season. So what sparked the change for the team?


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Red Wings-Blue Jackets game-day articles: no Dubinsky for CBJ; on ‘getting started on time,’ LGD

Updated 3x at 4:37 PM: The Red Wings "took an optional" ahead of tonight's game vs. the "flu-like illness"-suffering Blue Jackets (7:30 PM EDT on FSD/FS Ohio/97.1 FM), so we actually found out more about the Blue Jackets' lineup from their Game Day blog than the Wings' lines...

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Red Wings-Blue Jackets morning skate Tweets: Red Wings ‘take an optional’

Updated 7x at 12:09 PM: The Red Wings will host a Columbus Blue Jackets team that has a case of "flu-like illness" making its way through the locker room and very little chance of making the playoffs but a whole lot of team pride whenever they face the Wings this evening (7:30 PM EDT on FSD/FS Ohio; per the game notes, Dave Jackson and Frederick L'Ecuyer will referee tonight's game).

This affair falls into the, "If It's Not a Divisional Showdown, It's a Trap Game" category, especially given that Sergei Bobrovsky's a bit pissed off about his team's fate.

The Wings took to the ice at Joe Louis Arena with an important player in tow but not likely to play tonight, as the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa noted:

@DetroitRedWings on ice, morning skate. Columbus tonight.


Helm going at it pretty good, here. Said to be a possibility for the weekend.

And MLive's Ansar Khan confirmed...

Optional morning skate today. Helm, already ruled out tonight, is on the ice.

As did DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose:

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Alexey Marchenko Feeling Better, Blue Jackets Battling The Flu

from Bill Roose of the Red Wings website,

For Marchenko, who has been skating since early last week, Wednesday was the first time he’s felt near 100 percent.

“It’s good, I can shoot, I can do slap shots no problem,” he said. “It was like my first real practice where I was shooting. I can do everything.”

With seven other defensemen currently up with the team, there doesn’t seem to be a reason to rush Marchenko back too soon.

“Trainer said I need to practice more, because this was like my first full practice,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes next practice, see how it feels tomorrow.

“They’ll decide. I’m just doing my best to be ready for the games. They tell me what to do and I’m doing this.”

much more on the Wings..

Meanwhile tomorrow's opponent, the  Columbus Blue Jackets have been hit with the flu bug...

from Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch,

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The Latest On Johan Franzen, Darren Helm And Alexey Marchenko

from Ansar Khan of Mlive,

 Johan Franzen has good days and bad days as he continues dealing with concussion symptoms that have idled him for nine weeks.

He is skating a little bit on his own, but apparently not close to being cleared to practice. His chances of returning this season are dwindling.

His Detroit Red Wings teammates are happy to see him at the rink more often lately.

"Just him being around the guys, being around the rink is a great indicator he's feeling a little bit better," Niklas Kronwall said. "It's great to have him out there."

Kronwall said Franzen hasn't really given him an indication of how he's feeling.

"At this point of the game you don't want to ask every day," Kronwall said. "In the beginning when he came down we were all asking how he was doing, how are you feeling? For him in that situation he gets frustrated (being asked) that question every day from 25 different guys. We'll let it take it's time and when he's ready we'll find room for him."

continued with some Helm and Marchenko updates...

from Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press,

Help is on the way by the weekend, it sounds like. Helm (strained oblique) practiced, and Babcock estimated that the forward should be available either Saturday at Philadelphia or Sunday at Pittsburgh. Defenseman Alexey Marchenko (strained oblique) sounded like he could play but pointed out that the team is playing well, so "I've got time to recover better. No reason to rush."

Franzen, who has begun solo skating after suffering a concussion Jan. 6, milled about with his 4-year-old son, Eddie Bo. Franzen scampered when approached by reporters. Asked whether he's feeling better, he yelled, "Some days."


Update: The Detroit News's Gregg Krupa took note of some of coach Babcock's take on the "off day"...

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Practice Tweets: Helm on ice during barbecue day

Updated with no-Helm-till-weekend news @ 12:28 PM: The Red Wings have rebounded from the first consecutive regulation losses of their 2014-15 campaign with a tighter-than-the-scoresheet-indicates 5-2 win over Edmonton, the Grand Rapids Griffins are surging and their various graduates will get the opportunity to gain ground upon the Lightning and Canadiens as the Wings prepare to play 3 games in 4 nights, battling the Blue Jackets on Thursday and the Flyers and Penguins on Saturday and Sunday.

After taking Tuesday off, the Wings returned to Joe Louis Arena to prepare for their 3-games-in-4-nights stretch, and MLive's Ansar Khan reported that the straw that stirs the drink skated with the team for the first time since injuring an oblique muscle a week-and-a-half ago:

Wings on ice for practice. Helm practicing with team for first time since injury on 2-28.

Edit/update: I HAS A SAD:

Helm left midway through practice, so it's safe to assume he's not ready for tomorrow.


Power play
Nyquist-Datsyuk-Tatar, Sheahan (net front), Zidlicky
Cole-Zetterberg-Pulkkinen, Weiss (subbing for 8, who's on PK) Kronwall.

It's apparently a very special day at the Joe, too, per the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa:

@DetroitRedWings on ice, practice. Smells like Mr. Sobotka has the grill going.

This stat from DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose is surprising, too:

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The Grand Rapids Griffins Are On 13-0-3 Run

from the Grand Rapids Griffins,

The Grand Rapids Griffins lit the lamp in each period in a 3-2 win over Charlotte Checkers at Time Warner Cable Arena Tuesday. With the win the Griffins extended their point streak to 16 games, equaling a franchise record set between 10/25/02-11/30/02. Grand Rapids sports a record of 13-0-3-0 during its current run compared to 11-0-3-2 during the 2002 streak.

Charlotte scored first at 7:05 of the opening period when Ben Holmstrom got past the Grand Rapids defense and passed the puck to Brock McGinn after a shot fake that resulted in a goal between Tom McCollum’s legs.

Charlotte’s lone power play goal of the night on two chances snapped a streak of 25 consecutive penalties killed on the road, dating back to Jan. 17 at Hamilton.

Grand Rapids defensemen accounted for two of the three goals scored, with the first coming from Scott Czarnowczan at 18:03. Czarnowczan passed the puck to Kevin Porter, who got the puck back and fired a low wrister that beat Drew MacIntyre through traffic in front of the net for his second goal of the season.

Andreas Athanasiou gave the Griffins the lead at 13:44 of the middle frame when he stole the puck, streaked into the offensive zone and fired a backhander under the crossbar following a deke around a defender for his 13th goal of the season.


Watch the Athanasiou goal below...

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Wrapping Up Detroit’s 5-2 Win Over Edmonton

from Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News,

This still wasn't a perfect piece of work, but at this point the Red Wings just needed a victory, no matter how it looked.

That, they were able to earn.

Overcoming a sluggish start, the Red Wings rallied for a 5-2 victory Monday over the Edmonton Oilers.

Teemu Pulkkinen gave the Red Wings some breathing room, then Justin Abdelkader and Pavel Datsyuk scored empty-net goals to seal the win.

Niklas Kronwall (power play) and Riley Sheahan scored second-period goals to help the Red Wings overcome a 1-0 deficit.

"That's how you want to play," coach Mike Babcock said of his team's performance after a ragged opening 20 minutes. "Just because you want to play that way doesn't mean you'll get to all the time.

"The emotional well, sometimes you just don't have it, and there's no gas station to fill it up. That's the truth. It fills up when it fills up and sometimes you're just 'blah'. We've been 'blah' for a bit but hopefully we'll get some energy and get playing."

Jimmy Howard stopped 36 shots to earn the victory.


Below, some videos...

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Wings/Oilers Post-Game

George is ill and I have had a long day so this post is for you.

Feel free to discuss the Wings 5-2 win over the Oilers. 

I will have a full recap in the morning. 

Here are the highlights:

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Stephen Weiss Sits Tonight, Tomas Jurco Is In

added 5:27pm,

Beat writers report Howard starts in goal.

added 6:09pm, Ken Holland tells the assembled media Jonas Gustavsson isn't feeling right after taking a hit from Milan Lucic yesterday.

He has concussion-like symptoms and as of this point is day-to-day.

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.



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