The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/05/14 at 03:24 AM ET
The Grand Rapids Griffins will head to the Lone Star State to battle the Texas Stars in the second round of the AHL playoffs this week--as the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner notes, the AHL employs a 2-3-and-2 series format, too, so it must be mentioned that "home ice advantage" is interpreted a little differently there--and the Detroit Free Press's George Sipple spoke with Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill about managing his team's 6-day break between the series clincher over Abbotsford last Friday and this round's opening game on Thursday, May 8th:
“We took Saturday off and thought we’d practice today,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “If we play Texas, Tuesday is a travel day for us and not a practice day. We wanted to make sure we got three skates in before we played them.”
The Griffins will play the AHL regular-season champion Texas Stars in the best-of-seven conference semifinals, beginning with Games 1 and 2 on Thursday at Saturday at Cedar Park Center in suburban Austin, Texas. The series switches to Van Andel Arena for games May 13-14. The Griffins won three of the four meetings versus the Stars in the regular season.
Blahsiill tells Sipple that the Griffins' playoff scoring leader, Teemu Pulkkinen, still has some improving to do...
Teemu Pulkkinen, who played in three games for the Red Wings this season, leads the Griffins with five points (three goals, two assists) in four playoff games. Pulkkinen led the Griffins with 31 goals and 59 points in 71 regular-season games.
“He’s got a real special ability to score goals,” Blashill said. “His shot generates goals for us, but it also generates opportunities for other guys from the rebounds. Teemu can have games where he plays great, and he can also have games where he’s not playing great but finds a way to get points because he’s got that special shot.”
And Sipple also reports that Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco are performing well after having been reassigned to the Griffins:
“Sheahan and Jurco are on the same power-play unit,” Blashill said. “Jurco kind of runs it off the half wall, and Sheahan kind of plays in the middle of the ice. Sheahan is also one of our penalty killers.”
The Texas Stars' coach also spoke with the Austin American-Statesman's Sean Shapiro about his team's ability to rest and recover from their first-round battles:
Texas was the first team to clinch a spot in the second round when it finished a sweep of the Oklahoma City Barons last Wednesday. But as the top seed, the Stars had to wait until Sunday’s series-deciding Game 5 between the Chicago Wolves and Rochester Americans to learn their second-round opponent.
Chicago won 4-2, finalizing the second round. The other Western Conference semifinal will feature the Toronto Marlies and Chicago in a battle between North and Midwest division champions.
Texas has the longest rest between rounds 1 and 2 of any AHL team, with more than a week between playoff games.
“It’s huge, you just need it at this time of year,” Stars coach Willie Desjardins said after winning Game 3 against Oklahoma City. “With so many guys, and it’s not big injuries, but they just need time off. We’ll use it well.”
Desjardins said the team would still “go hard” during practice, but players like Brett Ritchie and Patrik Nemeth have more time to heal and the team has an optional practice Tuesday.
The series will start at the Cedar Park Center on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Game 2 will be Saturday, before the series switches to Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich., for Games 3 through 5.
In terms of the Wings' pair of non-AHL-playing prospects' workloads this week, Tyler Bertuzzi's Guelph Storm are tied 1-1 with the North Bay Battalion, and the Ontario Hockey League's championship series resumes with games on Tuesday the 6th and Wednesday the 7th in North Bay, ON;
The same's the case for Anthony Mantha's Val-d'Or Foreurs, who are tied 1-1 with Baie-Comeau in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's championship series. Val-d'Or will host games on Tuesday and Wednesday...
And the Red Wings will have NHL representatives skating in the World Championships, which kick off this Thursday in Minsk, Belarus.
Danny DeKeyser and Justin Abdelkader will play for Team USA; Gustav Nyquist will be the Wings' lone representative on Team Swedne; Tomas Tatar will play for Slovakia, and Jakub Kindl will play for theCzech Republic. The U.S. games will be televised on NBCSN, and TSN usually covers the Canadian games.
If you do not live in the U.S., Canada, Russia, Belarus, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy, Lativa or Kazakhstan the IIHF will stream all the games on their YouTube channel, but if you live in one of those 16 countries...You'll be looking for quasi-legal or illegal streams like the rest of us.
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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.