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The Malik Report

Grand Rapids Griffins drop 5-0 decision to Charlotte; Mantha, Nastasiuk, Athanasiou roll along

The Toledo Walleye are holding their home opener this evening, and the Grand Rapids Griffins have played two of their first six games at home...

And at this rate, they may want to ask the schedule-maker to keep them away from Van Andel Arena until a proper exorcism is held there. The Griffins dropped a 3-2 decision to Milwaukee in their home opener, and on Friday, they laid an egg, losing 5-0 to the Charlotte Checkers, opening a slate of 3 games in 3 nights (in 3 different cities) on a low note.

The Griffins provide a recap...

On the strength of three power play goals and 30 saves by John Muse, the Charlotte Checkers glided to a 5-0 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday at Van Andel Arena.

Grand Rapids, which fell to 2-2-1-1 on the season and 2-7 all-time against Charlotte, will travel to Chicago tomorrow at 8 p.m. EDT and Iowa on Sunday at 6:05 p.m. EDT before hosting a rematch with the Checkers on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The Checkers (3-2-0-0) capitalized on a pair of power plays late in the first period to grab a 2-0 lead. At the 17:31 mark, Petr Mrazek was scrambling to get back into position as the puck came to Mark Flood below the left circle, and the defenseman scored on the sharp angle despite Xavier Ouellet’s attempt to hug the post and block the shot.

Veteran Chris Terry notched the other marker 44 ticks before intermission, taking a pass from Michal Jordan and one-timing a laser past Mrazek from the top of the right circle.

After making 10 saves in the opening frame, Mrazek yielded his crease to Tom McCollum to begin the second. The fifth-year backstop made an impressive stop seven minutes in to keep it a two-goal game, robbing Victor Rask on a point-blank deflection with his left pad, but Rask exacted his revenge with 5:28 remaining. Zack Boychuk knocked down Adam Almquist’s clearing attempt and quickly fed Rask, who whipped a shot inside the far post from the right hashmarks.

Brendan Woods was credited with his first pro goal at 8:36 of the third when his centering pass caromed off Ryan Sproul’s skate and through McCollum’s five hole, before Boychuk’s wrister at 14:06 gave the Checkers three power play goals and their ultimate 5-0 margin.

McCollum finished with 20 saves in a no-decision.

Notes: Gustav Nyquist, the Griffins’ leading scorer (3-4—7), and Riley Sheahan were both scratched due to undisclosed ailments…Dating to the playoffs, the Griffins are on a 7-0-1-1 streak on the road and a 0-4 drought at home.

The Griffins also posted a photo gallery and a set of highlights and post-game interviews:

The Griffins expressed their disappointment to the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner, who reports that Nyquist has an "upper-body" injury and that Sheahan has the flu...

"I don't think there's an excuse; we just had a bad game," [Lukel] Glendening said after the loss. "This is the second one at home that we gave away and we can't continue to do this."

The Griffins took three penalties in the first period and it bit them twice within just over two minutes. Charlotte’s Mark Flood scored with one second left on a penalty to Glendening. A minute later, Grand Rapids’ Calle Jarnkrok went off for interference, and Chris Terry scored moments later on a shot from the right point that darted through a crowd and past goalie Petr Mrazek.

Tom McCollum relieved Mrazek after the two-goal first period and 12 shots.

"I ddin't think they were real bad goals that he gave up," [Griffins coach Jeff] Blashill said of Mrazek's play. "I thought they were savable, especially the second one ... but I'd say it was more of trying to get a jolt for the team."

...

Blashill thought the team played better in the second and then faded in the third.

"I thought we were real flat in the first, then we didn't execute in the penalty kill," he said. "I actually thought in the second we were very good. I thought we went through a stretch of about 10, 12 13 minutes when we were playing extremely well. They scored in the third, it took a little life out of us, and then when they scored again we, uncharacteristically, quit playing."

...

With the absences of Nyquist and Sheahan, Louis-Marc Aubry played for the first time this season. Top prospect Martin Frk was also active for his third game. He was a scratch for the opener as well as the past two games

And Michigan Hockey's Pat Evans:

"We started bad and it was really hard to get back into the game,” [Xavier] Ouellet said. ”Our bad start killed us. That’s hockey, we have to find a way to turn the page.”

McCollum replaced Mrazek at the start of the second period. The switch wasn’t because the goals Mrazek gave up were bad; Blashill said he hoped a goaltending change could help his team rally.

“Tommy hadn’t played in awhile,” he said. “I thought it might give us a jolt.”

...

The Griffins still have two games this weekend, with a game in Chicago Saturday and in Iowa on Sunday. It’s the first of six three games in three days this season for Grand Rapids. The team will spend upwards of 20 hours on a bus this weekend, if the team can win in Chicago, it doesn’t all have to be negative.

“It gives a lot of time to think, that’s for sure,” Glendening said. “You hope you get your mind right on the bus ride.”

The team was without centers Gustav Nyquist and Riley Sheahan, and could be all weekend. But Blashill said that isn’t an excuse.

“We had 20 players who were easily good enough to win the game,” he said. “I don’t ever think about the players we don’t have, we’re good enough if we execute.”

Elsewhere...

In the QMJHL, Anthony Mantha registered an assist but finished at -2 in the Val-d'Or Foreurs' 4-2 loss to Rouyn-Noranda;

And if Phillipe Hudon's looking to make an impact for the Victoriaville Tigres this season, he's doing it in the wrong way. Last weekend, he got tossed for fighting in the final 5 minutes of the game, and on Friday, he was ejected from the Victoriaville Tigres' 5-3 loss to Drummondville for an "illegal check to the head," which he followed up with a fight;

In the OHL, Owen Sound Attack captain Zach Natasiuk scored a goal as the Attack visited the Red Wings' backyard, defeating the Plymouth Whalers by a 6-4 tally.

The Whalers are holding their "Pink Out!" Game on Saturday to raise funds for breast cancer research and the Karmanos Cancer Institute;

In Sarnia, Andreas Athanasiou registered a goal and 2 assists, finished at +2 and was named the second star in the Barrie Colts' 7-5 win over the Sarnia Sting;

And Tyler Bertuzzi flashed his offensive instincts instead of his fists on Friday, registering 2 assists and finishing at +2 in the Guelph Storm's 7-2 win over North Bay;

In the WHL, Marc McNulty has yet to jump-start his offensive game. He finished with no points and 2 penalty minutes in the Prince George Cougars' 4-3 shootout win over Calgary;

Mitchell Wheaton is off to a beter start. He registered an assist in the Kelowna Rockets' 4-1 win over Victoria. He's registered 2 assists in 4 games since returning from shoulder surgery.

In the BCHL, David Pope returned to the West Kelowna Warriors' lineup after suffering some sort of injury that kept him out of last weekend's games, and he did very well, scoring a goal in West Kelowna's 4-3 win over Coquitlam;

And in NCAA hockey, James de Haas registered an assist on the game-winning goal as Clarkson University Golden Knights defeated Colorado College 2-1,

And Ben Marshall didn't register a point in the rarest of hockey happenings these days--a 3-3 tie between Boston College and Marshall's University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.

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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.