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The Malik Report

Grand Rapids Griffins frame their week ahead; talkin’ about McCollum and Ferraro

Updated 2x at 7:17 PM: The Grand Rapids Griffins won two of three games last weekend, which was pretty darn impressive that they played at home, in Chicago and then in Des Moines, Iowa over a 36-hour period (and AHL teams ride ye olde iron lung).

This week, the Griffins will play 2-out-of-3 on the road, just as they did last weekend, but they'll hope to earn a measure of revenge for last Friday's 5-0 home-ice drubbing by the Charlotte Checkers when they welcome Rick DiPietro (seriously) and company to town tomorrow, as noted by the Griffins' weekly press release:

GRIFFINS RIDE TWO STRAIGHT WINS INTO REMATCH WITH CHARLOTTE

This Week’s Games
Wed., Oct. 30    Charlotte Checkers at GRIFFINS    7 p.m.    WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM/ AHLLive.com
Fri., Nov. 1    GRIFFINS at Lake Erie Monsters    7:30 p.m.    WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM/ AHLLive.com
Sun., Nov. 3    GRIFFINS at Rockford IceHogs    5:00 p.m.    WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM/ AHLLive.com

Last Week’s Results
Fri., Oct. 25    Charlotte Checkers 5 at GRIFFINS 0    2-2-1-1, 6 pts. (T4th, Midwest Division)
Sat., Oct. 26    GRIFFINS 3 at Chicago Wolves 2    3-2-1-1, 8 pts. (T2nd)
Sun., Oct. 27    GRIFFINS 3 at Iowa Wild 2    4-2-1-1, 10 pts. (2nd)
  
The Midwest: The Rockford IceHogs (15 pts.) have taken a five-point lead over the rest of the Midwest Division, while the Griffins (10 pts.) rank second. Rockford is currently undefeated at home (3-0-0-0) and has garnered points in its last six games (5-0-1-0). The Milwaukee Admirals and Iowa Wild (T3rd) are knotted closely behind Grand Rapids with eight points apiece, while the Chicago Wolves (7 pts.) rank fifth.

Wednesday Promotions: If the Griffins beat the Checkers on Wednesday, all fans in attendance may redeem their ticket to the Griffins game on either Wednesday, Nov. 6 versus the Rockford IceHogs at 11 a.m (annual matinee game) or Wednesday, Nov. 20 versus the Milwaukee Admirals at 7 p.m. Tickets can be redeemed at The Zone during business hours (M-F 10-6; Sat. 10-2) and at the box office on the day of the game. Fans who present their Grand Rapids Public Library card or Kent District Library card at the Van Andel Arena box office on the day of the game or at The Zone anytime during the store’s regular business hours can save $7 off the price of a Lower Level Faceoff ticket (regularly $18 in advance and $20 day of game). Limit four tickets per card per person, subject to availability.

The Dichotomy: Dating back to the playoffs, the Griffins are 9-0-1-1 in the last eleven road games, including 4-0-1-1 this season, and 0-4 in the last four at home. Friday’s 5-0 loss to the Charlotte Checkers was the first time Grand Rapids was shut out since the first game of the playoffs last season.

One-Goal Decisions: Six out of eight contests this season have been decided by a single tally. Center Landon Ferraro (2-1—3) scored the first shorthanded goal of the season in Sunday’s 3-2 stunning, last-minute victory over the Iowa Wild. Ferraro led the AHL last season with seven (3-4—7) shorthanded points and has registered points in three out of five appearances this season. Beginning its season at home the same way as the 2012-13 campaign, Grand Rapids fell to the Milwaukee Admirals 3-2 in the home-opener. The team has been to the shootout twice, winning against the Hamilton Bulldogs on Oct. 12 and losing to the Rockford IceHogs on Oct. 19. Grand Rapids also fell in overtime to the Toronto Marlies on Oct. 5.

Team Leaders: Gustav Nyquist (3-5—8) has led the team in scoring, along with multiple other categories, since the season opener, and he is followed closely by Tomas Jurco (T2nd, 2-5—7) and Teemu Pulkkinen (T2nd, 3-4—7), who has jumped up on the Griffins’ leaderboard courtesy of a two-goal game on against Rockford on Oct. 19 and a two-assist game against the Iowa Wild on Sunday. Jurco, Nyquist and Pulkkinen are the only members of the roster who have scored multiple points on more than one occasion this season. Brennan Evans (1st, 18) and Triston Grant (2nd, 14) lead the team in penalty minutes, both having appeared in all eight contests with the Griffins.

Redemption: This week’s series of games marks the first time the Griffins will face repeat opponents this season, and the team is looking for redemption in both contests. First, the team will battle the Charlotte Checkers on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in a rematch of Friday’s 5-0 loss at Van Andel Arena. After Saturday’s game in Cleveland against the Lake Erie Monsters, the Griffins will face off against the Rockford IceHogs at 5 p.m EDT. on Sunday, looking to avenge their 5-4 shootout loss on Oct. 19.

Return of the Monsters: While Friday will be the first time that Grand Rapids faces the Lake Erie Monsters this season, the two teams played in a series of neutral-site preseason games in Plymouth, Mich. and Windsor, Ont. at the end of September. Each team took away a game, with Grand Rapids earning a 3-2 shootout victory on Sept. 28 in Plymouth and Lake Erie shutting out the Griffins 2-0 in Windsor on Sept. 29.

Road Warriors: After beating the Chicago Wolves 3-2 on Saturday and the Iowa Wild 3-2 on Sunday, the Griffins improved their road record to 4-0-1-1 this season. Grand Rapids is tied with the Manchester Monarchs for first place for the longest road point streak this season with six games, dating back to the Griffins’ season-opening 8-1 win over the Rochester Americans.

Griffins Streaks: A shared season-high four-game point streak (Oct. 4-18) for Tomas Jurco and Gustav Nyquist came to a halt with the team’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Rockford IceHogs on Oct. 19. Jurco is the sole leader for the longest assist streak (four games, Oct. 4-18). In the goal category, Mitch Callahan, Jeff Hoggan, Nyquist and Riley Sheahan are all tied on the team with snapped two-game goal streaks and goaltender Tom McCollum is on a three-game winning streak (Oct. 4-27).

EGR’s Finest: The Detroit Red Wings on Monday recalled center Luke Glendening from their AHL affiliate. Glendening, a 24-year-old native of East Grand Rapids, made his debut with the Wings on Oct. 12 versus Philadelphia, when he became the 133rd Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound forward has appeared in five games with the Wings, posting six shots on goal and two penalty minutes. Glendening has also skated in five games with the Griffins in his second professional season, producing three points (1-2—3) and eight penalty minutes.

Walleye World: Several familiar faces took to the ice in the ECHL Toledo Walleye’s 2-0 home-opening shutout against the Wheeling Nailers on Saturday. Kevin Lynch, who signed a one-year contract with the Griffins over the summer, tallied the game-winning goal just 21 seconds into the third period. Trevor Parkes and Max Nicastro have also played in all three contests for the Walleye this season. On Monday, the Detroit Red Wings reassigned defenseman Richard Nedomlel and left wing Marek Tvrdon to the Walleye from the Griffins. Tvrdon skated in one game with Grand Rapids this year, while Nedomlel did not acquire any ice time.

Scouting Report

Wed., Oct. 30 vs. Charlotte Checkers (4-2-0-1) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 2-7-0-0 Overall, 1-4-0-0 Home. Season Series: 0-1-0-0 Overall, 0-1-0-0 Home. Second of four meetings overall, second of two at Van Andel Arena. NHL Affiliation: Carolina Hurricanes. Head Coach: Jeff Daniels (3rd season). Notes: The Griffins fell to the Checkers on Friday, 5-0, enduring their first shutout of the season. Checkers goaltender John Muse blocked all 30 shots he faced against the Griffins, then stopped all 27 shots against the Chicago Wolves on Sunday, earning him CCM/AHL Player of the Week honors for the period ending Oct. 27.…Charlotte defenseman Mark Flood ranks second among league defensemen in goals with five tallies, is tied for second among defensemen in power-play goals with three, and ranks third in shooting percentage (27.8%) with five goals on 18 shots.

Fri., Nov. 1 at Lake Erie Monsters (4-4-0-0) – Quicken Loans Arena – 7:30 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 7:10 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 25-14-2-5 Overall, 9-8-2-4 Road. Season Series: First of four meetings overall, first of two at Quicken Loans Arena. NHL Affiliation: Colorado Avalanche. Head Coach: Dean Chynoweth (2nd season). Notes: Grand Rapids won the 2012-13 series, 4-1-0-1, posting a 2-1 record at Quicken Loans Arena…Lake Erie left wing Bryan Lerg (5-2—7), center Mark Olver (2-5—7) and left wing Andrew Agozzino (1-6—7) are all tied for the scoring lead on the team…Agozzino led Lake Erie in assists (32), points (52) and plus/minus (+16) in his rookie season with the Monsters last year.

Sun., Nov. 3 at Rockford IceHogs (7-2-1-0) – BMO Harris Bank Center – 5 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 4:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 13-15-3-3 Overall, 4-9-2-2 Road. Season Series: 0-0-0-1 Overall, 0-0-0-1 Road…First of 10 meetings overall, second of five at BMO Harris Bank Center. NHL Affiliation: Chicago Blackhawks. Head Coach: Ted Dent (3rd season). Notes: The Griffins fell to the IceHogs 5-4 in a shootout on Oct. 19 after giving up a two-goal lead in the last three minutes of the third period…Rockford defenseman Adam Clendening (2-8—10) is tied for tenth in the league in scoring and is ranked third overall among defensemen in scoring…IceHogs center Alex Broadhurst leads all AHL rookies in assists, notching six in 10 games.

Update: The Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner penned an article about Tom McCollum's attempts to overcome doubts and disappointing seasons as a 29th overall draft pick in 2008...

Turned an AHL-only contracted player who may be squeezed out of the Wings' goaltending picture by the rapidly-developing Petr Mrazek and current Toledo Walleye goalie Jared Coreau. Wallner notes that McCollum's still very young at 23:

“That is something I struggled with my first few years just being a high draft pick,” he said. “I had that expectation that I’d be able to come in and have a season like Petr did right out of the gate. But it didn’t work that way. I needed to learn some things as a player.”

That has meant patience.

“Obviously I would love to be in the NHL right now,” he said. “When I was younger, I expected myself to be there. But at the same time, over the course of four years I’ve realized that I had a lot of maturing to do as a person and as a player. As the years have gone by, I’ve really learned to relax on the ice and be more comfortable with whom I am as a player and that has transpired me to be a lot more confident on the ice.”

Second-year coach Jeff Blashill doesn’t play favorites; he plays the hot hand. The only other factor he considers for his starter is confidence.

“As you build a resume and do a good job, that gives the coach more confidence to play you,” Blashill said. “That’s the only thing in terms of past performance. Otherwise, I try and live in the present, and all I know is that Tom McCollum has made himself into a real good goalie.”

That has come with determination.

After the Griffins won the Calder Cup, McCollum briefly visited his hometown in Sanborn, New York, before he left for Toronto to work most of the summer with Detroit Red Wings strength and conditioning coach Pete Renzetti. His goal was to tighten his game, gain strength and improve his flexibility. Now it appears his patience is being rewarded.

While Mrazek has gotten off to a slow start (1-2-1-0 with a 3.46 GAA and .878 save percentage), McCollum has emerged with the hot hand. After he relieved Mrazek at the start of the second period in Friday’s dismal 5-0 loss to Charlotte at home, the Griffins won with him in the nets in Chicago on Saturday and in Iowa on Sunday, both by 3-2 scores.

The Griffins (4-2-1-1) are home 7 p.m. Wednesday for a rematch against Charlotte, and then play at Lake Erie on Friday and at Rockford on Sunday. McCollum will start as much as he shows Blashill he is still is the most productive goalie.

“I’ve learned the hard way that pressing is not going to do me any good,” McCollum said. “I’m confident in what I can do and I just try and go out and do it and help my team win.”

Update #2: Via RedWingsFeed, RedWingsCentral penned a timely prospect report spotlighting Landon Ferraro:

The 22-year-old center is in his final season exempt from NHL waivers and needs to turn heads with the American Hockey League’s Grand Rapids Griffins to prove he’s ready for prime time in 2014-15.

Starting this season with a fracture in his right foot in training camp didn’t exactly help, but Ferraro has two goals and one assist in five games since debuting with the Griffins on Oct. 18.

The third-year pro is coming off a breakthrough campaign that saw him record 24 goals and 23 assists for 47 points in 72 games, as well as 16 points in 24 games en route to a Calder Cup title.

“We look to him to be in all situations for us — lots of five on five, a guy on our power play, and on our penalty play,” Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill told MLive.com. “So his impact will be real significant on our team.”

Ferraro, whose father Ray scored 400 goals in the NHL, was taken 32nd overall in 2009 and has rounded into a solid prospect. The right-shooting 6-foot, 174-pounder is an outstanding skater who can self-create offense, while he’s learning to be a reliable defensive player. As an added bonus, he’s shown the ability to play center and both wings.

RWC also notes the performances of Teemu Pulkkinen and Mattias Janmark, who's been named to Sweden's Karjala Cup team, and it discusses the Griffins' demotions to Toledo.

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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.