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Grand Rapids Griffins set to open 2013-14 campaign on Friday evening

The Grand Rapids Griffins begin their 2013-2014 season this evening in Rochester, NY, and the Griffins' PR department sent out a press release offering news, notes and "get-to-know-you" bios of the revamped Griffins' players. The Griffins won't play at home until October 18th, when they'll raise their 2013 Calder Cup Champions banner against the Milwaukee Admirals, but they'll play three games before their home opener.

GRIFFINS BEGIN DEFENSE OF CALDER CUP THIS WEEKEND

This Week’s Games

Fri., Oct. 4    GRIFFINS at Rochester Americans    7:05 p.m.    WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM/ AHLLive.com

Sat., Oct 5    GRIFFINS at Toronto Marlies    3:00 p.m.    WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM/ AHLLive.com

Never Just a Game: The Griffins will commence their 2013-14 campaign and their defense of their 2013 Calder Cup title by facing the Rochester Americans at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y. on Friday at 7:05 p.m. Grand Rapids enters its 18th season overall, 13th in the AHL and 12th as the primary affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings.

Shaking off the Rust: The Griffins played a pair of preseason games last weekend against the Lake Erie Monsters in Plymouth and Windsor, splitting the tune-ups. On Saturday, Grand Rapids defeated the Monsters 3-2 in a five-round shootout. Martin Frk opened the scoring for the Griffins, Marek Tvrdon notched the second goal of the night and Frk was the only skater for either side to score in the shootout, securing the victory. Lake Erie responded on Sunday night by shutting out Grand Rapids 2-0.

Good Starts: Grand Rapids is 10-4-2-1 all time in season openers, earning points in eight straight debuts (5-0-2-1) before Rockford snapped that streak at the start of the 2011 season. Grand Rapids is 10-5-2-0 all time in road openers, including losses in three straight road openers.

Pups and Pucks: On Monday, Oct. 14, the Griffins will host their sixth annual “Pups and Pucks” Fall Dog Walk-A-Thon presented by BeeneGarter L.L.P. The event will take place at Mackenzie’s Animal Sanctuary in Lake Odessa, Mich., and feature events ranging from live music and a BBQ dinner to hay rides and appearances by pet experts and vendors. Everyone is encouraged to join Griffins players, coaches and front office staff, who will attend and assist in raising funds and awareness for the sanctuary. The evening’s events will kick off at 5 p.m. For more information, visit Mackenzie’s FirstGiving page here.

At the Helm: Jeff Blashill, who served as a Detroit assistant coach in 2011-12 before commanding last year’s squad to the Calder Cup Championship, returns for his second season as head coach of the Griffins. Born in Detroit and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Blashill made coaching stops at Ferris State and Western Michigan en route to joining the Red Wings organization. Blashill earned several national coach of the year honors in his lone season as head coach of the WMU Broncos after leading the USHL’s Indiana Ice to a franchise-record 39 wins and a Clark Cup championship in his first season as a head coach in 2008-09. Blashill is joined behind the bench by two familiar faces to Griffins fans. The longest-tenured coach in franchise history, Jim Paek, returns for his ninth season as an assistant coach and Spiros Anastas is back for his second.

Offensive Reload: The Griffins begin the 2013-14 season without many strong contributors from last year’s Calder Cup-winning roster. AHL Playoff MVP Tomas Tatar, Joakim Andersson, Brian Lashoff and Danny DeKeyser all garnered spots on the Red Wings roster this year.

Defensive Shuffle: While the offense remains relatively consistent from 2012-13, drastic changes were made on the Griffins’ blueline, which sees only Adam Almquist, Brennan Evans and Nathan Paetsch return from last year’s full-time defensive corps. The unit will see some familiarity as Gleason Fournier (30 games played) and Ryan Sproul (2 games played) assume more regular roles in the lineup. The group will also be reinforced by third-year pro Alexey Marchenko and rookies Richard Nedomlel and Xavier Ouellet.

Detroit Exports: Eighteen Red Wings-contracted players are on the Griffins’ 24-man roster, including goaltender Jared Coreau; defensemen Adam Almquist, Gleason Fournier, Alexey Marchenko, Richard Nedomlel, Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul; and forwards Louis-Marc Aubry, Mitch Callahan, Martin Frk, Luke Glendening, Calle Jarnkrok, Tomas Jurco, Andrej Nestrasil, Gustav Nyquist, Teemu Pulkkinen, Riley Sheahan and Marek Tvrdon.

Winged Wheels: The current Detroit Red Wings roster is bolstered by many players who have played for the Griffins, including all seven defenseman and three goalies. Both Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek spent at least a full season with Grand Rapids, and Jonas Gustavsson, who is currently on injured reserve, conditioned with the team late last year. In all, 13 of the 22 players on the Red Wings’ active roster are former Griffins.

Signed and Sealed: Six players on the current roster are under contract to the Griffins: forwards Jeff Hoggan, Triston Grant and David McIntyre, defensemen Brennan Evans and Nathan Paetsch and goaltender Tom McCollum. Evans, Grant, Hoggan, McCollum and Paetsch all skated with the Griffins last year, while McIntyre bursts on to the scene following two years with the Houston Aeros, with whom he lost to the Griffins in the 2013 Western Conference Quarterfinals.

Ready in Waiting: On Monday, the Griffins assigned forward Kevin Lynch to the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. In addition, Detroit Red Wings reassigned forward Trevor Parkes and defenseman Max Nicastro to the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye from Grand Rapids on Tuesday. Lynch, Nicastro and Parkes all skated for the team at training camp and could see time in Grand Rapids this season.

The Walleye play a 72-game season, and they don't open their campaign until October 30th.

Fresh Faces: Seven members of the Griffins’ season-opening roster skated elsewhere in 2012-13. Here’s a brief look at each of the new arrivals:

•    Jared Coreau – Signed to a three-year entry-level contract by Detroit on April 3, 2013, Coreau started all 38 games for Northern Michigan University as a junior last year. The six-foot-four, 208-pound goalie finished 10th in the nation in minutes with 2181:36 and owned a 15-19-4 record with a 2.70 goals against average, a 0.919 save percentage and one shutout;

•    Martin Frk – Detroit’s first choice (49th overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Frk begins his first professional season after tallying 84 points (35-49—84) in 56 regular season games and 33 points (13-20—33) in 17 playoff games with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL last year. He also tied for the league lead in shootout conversion (3-for-3), tallied nine multi-point games during an 11-game point streak and recorded a record eight-point game in the playoffs as the Mooseheads won both the QMJHL President’s Cup and the CHL Memorial Cup;

•    Alexey Marchenko – The Moscow, Russia, native arrives after his first full season in the KHL with CSKA Moscow. The six-foot-two, 212-pound defenseman was Detroit’s 9th choice (205th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He was signed to a three-year contract with Detroit on May 30, 2013. During last year’s NHL lockout, he skated with Pavel Datsyuk;

•    David McIntyre – Fourth-year pro McIntyre joins the Griffins from the Houston Aeros where he posted 66 points (31-35—66) in two seasons. Last year, he led the Aeros with a plus-19 rating and ranked among team leaders with 15 goals (T4th), 18 assists (T6th), 33 points (5th), 45 penalty minutes (T5th), three game-winning goals (T3rd) and 143 shots (3rd). In the 2011-12 season, McIntyre appeared in seven NHL regular season games with the Minnesota Wild and notched two points (1-1—2);

•    Richard Nedomlel – Clocking in at a massive six-foot-five and 228 pounds, Nedomlel served as a “black ace” for the Griffins during the first round of the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs. A first-year pro, he spent the last three seasons with Swift Current of the WHL and played in 210 regular season games, amassing 84 points (17-67—84). In his third season with Swift Current, he tallied 28 points (7-21—28) and 105 penalty minutes in 72 outings and ranked among team leaders in goals (10th), points (10th), penalty minutes (2nd) and power play goals (3, T6th). He also placed second among the club’s defensemen in scoring that year and notched an assist in five playoff appearances;

•    Xavier Ouellet – A first year pro, Ouellet was signed to a three-year entry-level contract by Detroit on March 3rd, 2013. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound defenseman is a native of Bayonne, France, and spent the last two years with the QJMHL’s Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. During the 2010-11 season, Ouellet was a member of the Montreal Juniors along with current Griffin Louis-Marc Aubry;

•    Marek Tvrdon – Tvrdon enters his first professional season and first year with the Griffins after being exposed to the organization as a “black ace” during the first round of the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs. Previously, he skated with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL for three seasons. In the 2012-13 season, he was limited to just 18 games due to a blood clot. However, he posted 22 points (8-14—22) before his injury and finished eighth in scoring for Vancouver.

Welcome Back: Seventeen players from the Griffins’ 2012-13 championship edition, 15 of whom will have their name engraved on the Calder Cup, are on the season-opening roster: goaltender Tom McCollum; defensemen Adam Almquist, Brennan Evans, Gleason Fournier, Nathan Paetsch and Ryan Sproul; and forwards Louis-Marc Aubry, Mitch Callahan, Luke Glendening, Triston Grant, Jeff Hoggan, Calle Jarnkrok, Tomas Jurco, Andrej Nestrasil, Gustav Nyquist, Teemu Pulkkinen and Riley Sheahan.

Melting Pot: The Griffins’ roster this year will feature players representing nine countries from all over the world. While a majority of the roster comes from North America, other countries featured are Finland (Teemu Pulkkinen), Russia (Alexey Marchenko), France (Xavier Ouellet), Sweden (Adam Almquist, Calle Jarnkrok and Gustav Nyquist), Slovakia (Tomas Jurco and Marek Tvrdon) and Czech Republic (Martin Frk, Richard Nedomlel and Andrej Nestrasil). Willie Coetzee, who is currently on injured reserve with Detroit, is a native of South Africa.

Back-to-Back: Only nine teams in the history of the AHL have claimed back-to-back Calder Cup championships, most recently the 2009-10 Hershey Bears. The Buffalo Bisons, Cleveland Barons, Rochester Americans, Nova Scotia Voyageurs and Maine Mariners have all accomplished the task once in franchise history, while the Bears have repeated the title on two separate occasions. The Springfield Indians not only repeated in 1991, but also won the title three years in a row from 1960-62.

Do You Feel a Draft?: Twenty of the Griffins’ 24 players were once selected in the NHL Entry Draft, including 19 who were tabbed by the Red Wings. This season, the Griffins will employ the Red Wings’ top pick in each draft class from 2008-12: Tom McCollum (30th overall in 2008), Landon Ferraro (32nd overall in 2009), Riley Sheahan (21st overall in 2010), Tomas Jurco (35th overall in 2011) and Martin Frk (49th overall in 2012). In a rare draft oddity, Nathan Paetsch was actually drafted twice – first by the Washington Capitals with their first pick (58th overall) of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, and then as an unsigned draft re-entry by Buffalo with its eighth choice (202nd overall) in 2003.

NHL Experience: Eight Griffins have seen time in the NHL, combining for 297 total games: Nathan Paetsch (167), Jeff Hoggan (107), Triston Grant (11), David McIntyre (7), Brennan Evans (2 playoff games), Riley Sheahan (2) and Tom McCollum (1).

Veteran Roll Call: AHL clubs may dress up to five veteran skaters with more than 260 games of experience in the NHL, AHL or European Elite leagues, plus another with 320 or fewer games played. Four out of five veterans who suited up for the Griffins in 2012-13 return this year. Brennan Evans, Triston Grant, Jeff Hoggan and Nathan Paetsch boast a combined total of 2,029 AHL regular season games and 208 AHL playoff games.

Newbies: The Griffins have seven players who will be considered rookies this season, including six newcomers: Jared Coreau, Martin Frk, Alexey Marchenko, Richard Nedomlel, Xavier Ouellet and Marek Tvrdon. Ryan Sproul, who appeared with the Griffins in two games last year, will also be considered a rookie, having not met the AHL’s 25-game threshold. Calle Jarnkrok and Teemu Pulkkinen, who appeared in less than 25 games last year, do not qualify as rookies as they appeared in more than 100 games in European elite leagues.

One for the Ages: The average age of the Griffins is 23 years and seven months – three months older than the average for their 2012-13 roster (23 years and four months). This year marks the first season in seven years that the opening day lineup has been older than the season that preceded it. Jeff Hoggan (35), Nathan Paetsch (30) and Brennan Evans (31) check into the over-30 club, but a majority of the 24 players on the roster (16) were born in the ‘90s. Xavier Ouellet (20 years, two months) earns the title of youngest player on the roster, but he’s followed closely by Richard Nedomlel, Marek Tvrdon and Ryan Sproul, who were all born in 1993.

Where Are They Now?: Six of the players from the Griffins’ 2012-13 season-ending roster now find themselves in other locales, including Germany (Brent Raedeke/Iserlohn Roosters), Finland (Francis Pare/Liiga TPS), AHL Abbotsford (Chad Billins) and  Russia (Jan Mursak/Amur Khabarovsk). Additionally, Jordan Pearce and Brett Skinner are free agents.

Griffins’ Coaching Tree: Six former players or coaches for the Griffins are currently involved in hockey operations with other AHL squads, including Lake Erie director of AHL operations/assistant coach David Oliver (2000-01), Oklahoma City head coach Todd Nelson (1996-98, 1999-00, 2001-02, AC 2002-03), Chicago assistant coach Dave Allison (HC 1996-98), Providence head coach Bruce Cassidy (HC 2000-02), Springfield assistant coach Jared Bednar (1998-99) and Toronto assistant coach Derek King (1999-01, P/AC 2002-04).

Banner Ceremony: The Griffins kick-off their home opener presented by Huntington Bank on Friday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. vs. the Milwaukee Admirals. Before the puck drops, the team will raise their championship banner to celebrate last year’s Calder Cup victory.

Scouting Report

Fri., Oct. 4 at Rochester Americans (0-0-0-0) – Blue Cross Arena – 7:05 p.m.

TV: Time Warner Cable SportsChannel (RCH/BUF) at 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: 33-22-1-1-3 Overall, 13-15-0-1-1 Road. Season Series: First of four meetings overall, first of two on the road. NHL Affiliation: Buffalo Sabres. Head Coach: Chadd Cassidy (2nd season). Notes: The Griffins will meet the Americans three other times this season (Dec. 6 and 7; and Feb. 8)…Two Rochester players who once served as captains for the Griffins, Matt Ellis (2005-06) and J amie Tardif (2009-11), will play their first games ever against Grand Rapids…Ten players who have suited up for the Amerks this season have NHL experience, including both Ellis and Tardif… Rochester forward Frederick Roy is the son of Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy…Griffins defenseman Nathan Paetsch was a member of the Americans from 2003-06 and briefly in 2010-11, having been a member of Buffalo’s organization from 2003-10…Grand Rapids forward Triston Grant also played for Rochester in 2010-11, recording 13 points (7-6—13) and 144 penalty minutes in 56 games.

Sat., Oct. 5 at Toronto Marlies (0-0-0-0) – Ricoh Coliseum – 3 p.m.

TV: Leafs TV at 3 p.m. Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 2:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 28-23-2-1 Overall, 12-13-1-1 Road. Season Series: First of four meetings overall, including the Griffins’ inaugural outdoor game at Comerica Park. NHL Affiliation: Toronto Maple Leafs. Head Coach: Steve Spot (1st season). Notes: Grand Rapids defeated Toronto 4-2 in the 2013 Western Conference Semifinals on their way to the championship…Posted a 43-23-3-7 regular season record last year and finished with 96 points… .Former Griffins goalie Drew McIntyre is part of the Marlies’ roster this year, posting a 13-5-3 record, 1.83 goals-against average and save percentage of  0.931% for the 2012-13 season... Griffins defenseman Brennan Evans had eight points (1-7—8) and 199 penalty minutes with Toronto in 2009-10.

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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.