Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings prospect news: Bertuzzi stars for Guelph; Griffins’ Blashill named AHL’s best; more news

Aside from multimedia, the other thing I can bring you up to speed with involves the Red Wings' prospects, and a significant amount of "stuff" took place.

In playoff action, in the OHL, Tyler Bertuzzi scored 2 goals, including a game-tying 3rd period marker (he looks quite happy about it, too) as his Guelph Storm defeated the Erie Otters 5-4 in Game 1 of the OHL's Western Conference Final.

Bertuzzi has 7 goals, 4 assists and 11 points in 9 playoff games played, and Yahoo Sports Buzzing the Net's Neate Sager penned a feature article about Bertuzzi's comeback from neck and back issues:

"I've been out four months or so, when I was coming back, I was just working out every day, skating," Bertuzzi told a post-game press conference following Guelph's win. "Just being able to be back with the guys and have that positivity... it's good to be back and working hard."

Even though the code is to not discuss injuries during the playoffs, it would have been remiss not to let people in on how close the nephew of veteran NHLer Todd Bertuzzi was to being shut down until next season.

"I had a big smile on my face," Storm GM Mike Kelly told Rogers TV Guelph. "We were just about to the point where Tyler didn't look like he was going to play again this year. Lo and behold, we took one last shot at it and took him down to Detroit. The Red Wings were able to connect him with some specialists down there at the University of Michigan.

"The doctors did wonderful stuff. If you could imagine, the medical doctors were actually on the ice with him — okay? — going through drills, feeling how he was going, et cetera. They did some manipulations, they did some work. They told us to be much more aggressive with his rehabilitation. There were going to be time periods where he wouldn't feel quite right. That was normal. We pushed through all that and he's pushed through all that and here's what we see. When I think of how close he was to calling it a season... he's been a key to our success throughout the first few playoff games."

That's U of M for you. They've got a wonderful orthopedic department.

On Friday night, in the QMJHL, Anthony Mantha and the Val-d'Or Foreurs will begin their Conference Final match-up against the heavily-favored defending QMJHL champs, the Halifax Mooseheads.

Yahoo Sports' Mike Sanderson notes that Mantha's performance against Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Jonathan Drouin may tell the tale here:

2) Halifax Mooseheads (47-18-0-3, 97 pts.) vs. (3) Val-d’Or Foreurs (46-20-1-1, 94 pts.)

Season series: Halifax (2-0). Odds favour: Val-d’Or 59%. Most mathematically likely outcome: Val-d’Or in 6. Prediction: Halifax in 6.

Will this series break down into Jonathan Drouin vs. Anthony Mantha? I, for one, certainly hope so. The two premier talents of the league going head-to-head in a lengthy seven-gamer would produce amazing hockey. The league could attract some more eyes if Mantha and Drouin were to go all Jordan and Bird on us, and create a staggering display of one-up-manship throughout the series.

One thing’s for sure: both players are shredding the league up right now. Mantha leads all playoff scorers with 10 goals, while Drouin is currently scoring at a three-points-a-game clip(!).

Mantha has 10 goals and 5 assists for 15 points in 10 playoff games played, but that's only good for 4th in QMJHL playoff scoring: Drouin has 9 goals and 18 assists for 27 points registered over the course of only 9 playoff games played, and linemates Nikolaj Ehlers (20 points in 9 playoff games played) and Phillipe Gadoury (17 points in 9 playoff games played) rank 2nd and 3rd, respectively.

Both players names will be on the marquee as the main attractions, and rightly so. Now, both players have to earn it. The better player will win the series for his team, here is no question about it.

...

So what you’re saying is 'if you like scoring, pay attention to this series’? Pretty much. The seven best scorers still alive in the QMJHL playoffs are in this series. Get your popcorn ready.

In the WHL, Marek Tvrdon, Michell Wheaton and the Kelowna Rockets will battle the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL's Western Conference Final on Friday, and while Wheaton's been solid in registering 4 assists and a +5 in 9 playoff games played, Tvrdon took off after being reassigned to junior hockey in February, and he's registered 5 goals, 6 assists and 11 points over the course of 9 playoff games played.

Yahoo Sports' Cam Charron's picking the Rockets to prevail--barely:

Season series: Rockets 4-0-0-0. Odds favour: Portland 60%. Most mathematically likely outcome: Portland in 6. Prediction: Kelowna in 7.

What kind of home ice advantage can the Rockets expect? Much has been made over the course of the year of the Rockets' near dominance on home ice. Kelowna went 28-4-0-4 at home, and three of those regulation defeats came against a single team: Victoria. Prospera Place is unique in the junior hockey world for being a large facility sitting more than 6,000 fans without an upper bowl, packing the fans and the noise close to the ice, which can create loud atmospheres if the team is playing at capacity.

In regular-season play, in the AHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins will wrap up their regular season with a pair of games against the Lake Erie Monsters this weekend, and they will do so with the AHL's Coach of the Year in tow:

BLASHILL NAMED AHL COACH OF THE YEAR

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Grand Rapids Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill has been named the winner of the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the American Hockey League’s outstanding coach for the 2013-14 season, as voted by fellow coaches and members of the media in each of the league’s 30 cities.

Born in Detroit and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., the 40-year-old Blashill helped the Griffins maintain prominence this season in defense of their 2013 Calder Cup title despite a large-scale roster overhaul. With a 46-22-2-4 record (98 pts.), Grand Rapids currently ranks second in the Western Conference and sits only two points from claiming a second straight Midwest Division title.

Despite turnover which saw only four of their top 12 scorers from a year ago and just three of their top 10 playoff producers play a majority of this season in Grand Rapids, the Griffins have posted three separate seven-game winning streaks and have held first place in the Midwest Division since Nov. 3, never losing more than two consecutive games in regulation at any point this season. Grand Rapids ranks seventh in the AHL in offense (3.15 goals per game) and second in defense (2.42).

Blashill’s influence has had a huge impact on the parent Detroit Red Wings as well, as he’s prepared 10 of his 2013-14 players for their NHL debuts, including nine as members of the Wings. All told, 18 members of Blashill’s 2013-14 squad were called up to play a total of 391 NHL games, and 13 players from his Calder Cup championship team logged time in Detroit this season, helping the club extend its playoff streak to 23 consecutive seasons. Calder Cup champions scored goals in 15 of Detroit’s 16 games prior to clinching a postseason berth.

In February, Blashill became the first Griffins head coach in 12 years to take part in the AHL All-Star Classic, guiding the AHL All-Stars to victories over Färjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League in both the skills competition and All-Star Game. The event, which took place at the Mile One Centre in St. John’s, Newfoundland, marked the first international contests in AHL All-Star history.

In 2012-13, his first season as a head coach at the pro level, Blashill led the Griffins to the Calder Cup, marking the first championship in the franchise’s 17-year history. Blashill was named by the Red Wings as the ninth head coach in Griffins history on June 25, 2012 after serving as an assistant coach for the parent club in 2011-12, when he helped the team to its 12th consecutive 100-point season and 21st consecutive postseason appearance.

Blashill is the second Griffins head coach to be named AHL Coach of the Year and the third to be named his league’s coach of the year, following the selections of Bruce Cassidy in 2001-02 and Guy Charron for the 1999-2000 International Hockey League season. Each prior winner moved on to the NHL the season after his honor, with Cassidy taking the reins of the Washington Capitals and Charron joining the Anaheim Ducks as an assistant.

The Louis A.R. Pieri Award, which was first presented in 1968, honors the late Mr. Pieri, a long-time contributor to the AHL as the owner and general manager of the Providence Reds and a 2009 inductee into the American Hockey League Hall of Fame. Previous winners of the award include Frank Mathers (1969), Fred Shero (1970), Al MacNeil (1972, ’77), John Muckler (1975), Jacques Demers (1983), Larry Pleau (1987), Mike Milbury (1988), John Paddock (1988), Marc Crawford (1993), Barry Trotz (1994), Robbie Ftorek (1995, ’96), Peter Laviolette (1999), Claude Julien and Geoff Ward (2003), Claude Noel (2004), Randy Cunneyworth (2005), Kevin Dineen (2006), Mike Haviland (2007), Scott Gordon (2008), Scott Arniel (2009), Guy Boucher (2010), John Hynes (2011), Jon Cooper (2012) and Willie Desjardins (2013).

The Griffns also made some significant personnel moves. First, the Griffins reassigned Petr Mrazek and their Toledo Walleye representatives to Grand Rapids...

The Detroit Red Wings on Monday assigned goaltender Petr Mrazek to the Grand Rapids Griffins. In addition, Detroit reassigned defenseman Richard Nedomlel and goaltender Jared Coreau from the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye to their AHL affiliate.

Mrazek, 22, earned a shutout against the St. Louis Blues yesterday behind a 23-save performance for Detroit, marking his second NHL shutout in just 11 career games. Detroit’s fifth choice (141st overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Mrazek has played in nine games with the Wings this season, posting a 1.74 GAA, a 0.927 save percentage and a 2-4-0 record.

Through 31 appearances with the Griffins this season, Mrazek is tied for first among AHL goaltenders with a 2.07 goals against average, while owning a 0.925 save percentage and a 22-8-1 record. The Ostrava, Czech Republic, native was named to the 2013-14 AHL Second All-Star Team last Thursday along with Griffins defenseman Adam Almquist.

Nedomlel, 20, has appeared in three contests with the Griffins this season, registering two penalty minutes and one shot on goal. The 6-foot-5, 231-pound defenseman wrapped up his season with the Walleye on Sunday, finishing with 18 points (8-10—18) and 150 penalty minutes in 60 games. Detroit’s eighth choice (175th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Nedomlel earned 84 points (17-67—84) and 295 PIM with the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos prior to turning pro.

Coreau, 22, has made five appearances with Grand Rapids in his first professional season and has posted a 0-4-0 record, a 4.39 goals against average and a 0.873 save percentage. The 6-foot-4, 208-pound goaltender has also appeared between the pipes in 20 games with the Walleye, registering a 1-12-6 record, a 4.03 GAA and 0.879 save percentage.

Prior to being signed to a three-year entry-level contract by Detroit last April, Coreau spent three seasons with Northern Michigan University, where he posted a 15-19-4 record, a 2.70 GAA, a 0.919 save percentage and one shutout after starting in all 38 games during his junior year.

And then the Wings' pair of Swedish League prospects and an OHL'er joined the mix...

ATHANASIOU, BACKMAN AND JANMARK TO GRAND RAPIDS

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday reassigned left wing Andreas Athanasiou and defenseman Mattias Backman to the Grand Rapids Griffins. In addition, the Griffins signed center Mattias Janmark to an amateur tryout.

Backman's already signed to a contract, so the Wings control his rights. Janmark's still an unsigned prospect.

Athanasiou, 19, earned 95 points (49-46—95) and 52 penalty minutes in 66 games with the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts this season, while posting 12 points (3-9—12) in 11 games with the team during the 2014 OHL Playoffs. The Woodbridge, Ontario, native tallied 59 points (33-26—59) and 43 PIM with the London Knights from 2010-12, before being traded to Barrie for a second-round pick in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection, a third-round pick in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection and a conditional second-round pick in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection.

Detroit’s fourth choice (110th overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Athanasiou has notched a total of 162 points (78-84—162) and 82 PIM in 132 games since joining the Colts. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Athanasiou was named the OHL Player of the Week for the week ending Feb. 16 after leading the league with eight points (6-2—8) in four games and owning a plus-four rating.

A native of Linkoping, Sweden, Backman collected 21 points (6-15—21), 16 PIM and a plus-25 rating in 54 games with the Swedish Hockey League’s Linkopings Hockey Club during the 2013-14 campaign. Detroit’s fifth choice (146th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Backman potted seven points (0-7—7), six penalty minutes and a plus-four rating in 13 playoff games with Linkopings this season. In 2012, the 6-foot-2, 176-pound defenseman won a gold medal with Sweden at the IIHF World Junior Championship.

A native of Danderyd, Sweden, Janmark was Detroit’s third choice (79th overall) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Janmark has played three seasons with the SHL’s AIK from 2011-14, earning 61 points (32-29—61) and 90 penalty minutes in 118 games. The 21-year-old Janmark ranked among AIK leaders with 30 points (1st), 18 goals (1st), 12 assists (T6th) and 56 PIM (1st) during the 2013-14 season.

On Thursday, the Wings assigned Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet to Grand Rapids--and they activated a player who's been sidelined for the better part of a year in Willie Coetzee:

THREE MORE BOUND FOR GRAND RAPIDS

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Detroit Red Wings on Thursday assigned right wing Willie Coetzee and defensemen Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Ouellet, 20, has skated in 68 games with Grand Rapids this season, netting 16 points (4-12—16), a plus-three rating and 22 penalty minutes. The 6-foot, 200-pound blueliner has also suited up in four games with Detroit, registering four shots and two PIM. Detroit’s second choice (48th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Ouellet made his NHL debut with the Wings on Oct. 21 versus the San Jose Sharks.

Sproul, 21, became the 145th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL when he made his debut with Detroit on April 13, registering three shots and 18:25 of ice time. A native of Toronto, Ontario, Sproul has potted 31 points (10-21—31) and 49 PIM in 71 appearances with the Griffins this season and ties for second in scoring among Grand Rapids defensemen. On April 9, Sproul was named to the 2013-14 AHL All-Rookie Team along with teammate Teemu Pulkkinen.

Coetzee, 23, returns to the Griffins following a season-long injury. A native of Johannesburg, South Africa, Coetzee has accumulated 27 points (11-16—27) in 89 career AHL games with Grand Rapids since 2009. In his 2012-13 campaign, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound right wing played in 64 games with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye, leading the team in scoring with 68 points (28-40—68). In 100 career games with the Walleye, he has recorded 88 points (37-51—88) and 26 penalty minutes.

The Griffins will return to Van Andel Arena on Friday to battle the Lake Erie Monsters in their regular season home finale, before closing out the campaign with a rematch against the Monsters at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday. Both games will begin at 7 p.m.

The Griffins also posted their weekly press release...

GRIFFINS WRAP UP REGULAR SEASON WITH HOME-AND-HOME AGAINST LAKE ERIE MONSTERS

This Week’s Games
Fri., April 18    Lake Erie Monsters at GRIFFINS    7 p.m.    WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., April 19    GRIFFINS at Lake Erie Monsters    7 p.m.    WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
END OF REGULAR SEASON

Last Week’s Results
Thu., April 10    GRIFFINS 0 at Charlotte Checkers 3    45-22-2-4, 96 pts. (1st, Midwest Division)
Sun., April 13    GRIFFINS 2 at Charlotte Checkers 1    46-22-2-4, 98 pts. (1st)

Monster Finish: A two-game set in Charlotte last week saw the Griffins fall to the Checkers 3-0 on Thursday before edging them out 2-1 in a rematch on Sunday. Thursday’s shutout marked the fifth time that the Griffins have been blanked this season; two of those losses came courtesy of the Checkers, and with John Muse doing the honors in both games. On Sunday, Cory Emmerton finally solved Muse at 19:21 of the first period after the goaltender blanked the Griffins for a total of 139:21 this season. Trevor Parkes scored the eventual game-winner, his sixth of the campaign, to further inch Grand Rapids toward what would be a second-straight Midwest Division title. The Griffins could have clinched the division with a Chicago Wolves loss to the Rockford IceHogs on Sunday, but the Wolves refused to be eradicated as they defeated a playoff-hungry Rockford squad, 4-2. The Griffins have another chance to clinch tonight if the Iowa Wild can overcome the Wolves in regulation at 7:05 p.m CDT. The Griffins will return to Van Andel Arena on Friday to battle the Lake Erie Monsters in their regular season home finale, before closing out the campaign with a rematch against the Monsters at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday. Both games will begin at 7 p.m.

Regular Season Home Finale Promotions: On Friday, fans can enjoy $2 hot dogs and $2 domestic drafts from 6-8 p.m., while supplies last. Bring your skates to the rink and take to the ice one last time this season for the post-game open skate. The Griffins will wear their Red Wings-inspired Friday jerseys that will be autographed and auctioned off to the public after the game, presented by Huntington Bank. From 6-8 p.m. in Banquet Room B, fans can purchase an assortment of used Griffins equipment, including goalie gear, 2012-13 Wednesday jerseys and 2013 Calder Cup Playoff sticks, gloves and helmets. Ride the Rapid to and from any Friday game and enjoy complimentary fare by showing your ticket to the game. Visit ridetherapid.org for schedule information, routes and maps. College students can show their ID to purchase an upper bowl ticket for $13 (or $11 in advance at The Zone) and stop by the McFadden’s concourse table to receive a free pass to the post-game party at McFadden's. Every Friday night is a Griffins D-ZONE night. Avoid the concession lines and get your $2 beers and $2 hot dogs served to you in your seats. Call (616) 774-4585 ext. 2 or visit http://griffinshockey.com/dzone to get your tickets today.

Midwest Playoff Race: The Griffins (46-22-2-4, 98 pts.) continue to lead the Midwest Division heading into their final two games, a position they’ve held since Nov. 3. Still, Grand Rapids has yet to clinch the division title over the second-place Chicago Wolves (42-21-5-5, 94 pts.), who kept themselves in contention for the title with a 4-2 victory over the Rockford IceHogs on Sunday. The third-place Milwaukee Admirals (38-23-6-7, 89 pts.) clinched a playoff berth with a 4-1 win over the fourth-place IceHogs on Friday. Rockford (34-31-5-4, 77 pts.) ties with the Charlotte Checkers for the ninth-place spot in the Western Conference, just on the outskirts of the playoffs. The Iowa Wild (27-36-6-4, 64 pts.) rank fifth in the division and are out of playoff contention all together. The Griffins, who are 6-4 in their last 10 games, have scored the most goals (233) in the Midwest while allowing the fewest (179). In addition, the Griffins squad has the fewest number of penalty minutes (924).

Playoff Path: The Griffins have secured at least a top-four playoff seed and home ice in the upcoming Western Conference Quarterfinals, but their playoff opponent is yet to be determined. As the Griffins aim to clinch the Midwest Division title, they will face the lightest opposition of any team in the Western Conference. Their remaining opponent, the Lake Erie Monsters, owns only a 0.480 winning percentage. The Griffins’ magic number for claiming their second straight Midwest Division crown is just two points over Chicago. In terms of the Western Conference, Grand Rapids ranks second to the Texas Stars, who clinched the Western Conference title with an 8-4 win at San Antonio on Saturday.

Team Leaders: Rookie Teemu Pulkkinen (30-26—56) continues to lead the Griffins in scoring with a team-high 30 goals, but defenseman Adam Almquist (4-48—52) is hot on his trail with the help of his 48 assists, which rank third among league scorers and first among defensemen. Mitch Callahan (26-18—44) ranks third and owns a team-high plus-23 rating. Pulkkinen has rifled off 197 shots, the most on the team, but Cory Emmerton’s 15.5 shooting percentage edges out Pulkkinen’s 15.2% for first.

Holy Moly, Goalies: Both Petr Mrazek and Tom McCollum have provided the Griffins with boundless skill between the pipes this season, ranking among AHL goaltending leaders all season long. Mrazek ties for first with Chicago’s Jake Allen with a 2.07 goals against average, while McCollum own the next-best GAA at 2.28. Mrazek returned to the Griffins on Monday following a brief stint with the Detroit Red Wings, in which he earned his second career NHL shutout with a 23-save performance against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday. His 2013-14 AHL resume also includes a 22-8-0-1 record and a 0.925 save percentage. McCollum earned first-star honors following a 2-1 win over the Charlotte Checkers on Sunday, when he blocked 35 shots and overcame a 36-27 shot disadvantage to earn the victory. The Sanborn, New York, native has played in net for 2,495:46 this season and owns a 24-12-0-3 record and a 0.922 save percentage. The duo could become the first Griffins since 2002-03 to earn the AHL’s Harry “Hap” Holmes Award for outstanding team goaltending. Grand Rapids has allowed only 179 goals, second to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s 178, with two games remaining for each team. Marc Lamothe and Joey MacDonald earned the honor for the Griffins 11 years ago, while Martin Prusek, Simon Lajeunesse and Mathieu Chouinard won it for the prior 2001-02 campaign.

Helping Hands: Since returning from the Detroit Red Wings on March 25, center Cory Emmerton has regularly contributed to the team’s scoring, chipping in eight points (2-7—9) in eight games from March 28-April 13. In 51 contests with the Griffins this season, Emmerton has earned 44 points (16-28—44), a plus-15 rating and only 14 penalty minutes. In addition, Emmerton’s 15.5 shooting percentage leads the team among active shooters. The St. Thomas, Ontario, native has also appeared in 18 games with Detroit, notching two points (0-2—2), four PIM and 22 shots on goal. In 262 career games with Grand Rapids, Emmerton has tallied 155 points (50-105—155) and 80 PIM. Emmerton earned the 50th goal of his Griffins career by solving Charlotte Checkers goaltender John Muse on Sunday at The Time Warner Cable Arena.

#145: Defenseman Ryan Sproul made his NHL debut with the Red Wings on Sunday, becoming the 145th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL. Sproul saw 18:25 of ice time – fourth-most on the club - while firing three shots on goal. The Mississauga, Ontario, native was recalled by Detroit on April 12 along with fellow defenseman Xavier Ouellet. Both Sproul and Ouellet remain with the Wings heading into the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs versus the Boston Bruins.

Calder Cup Cavalry: Thirteen players from the 2013 Calder Cup championship team logged time in Detroit this season, helping the Wings extend their playoff streak to 23 consecutive seasons. Calder Cup champions scored goals in 15 of Detroit’s 16 games prior to clinching a postseason berth. Last year’s AHL champs accounted for 28 of the Red Wings’ 46 goals during that span (Gustav Nyquist 12, Tomas Tatar 5, Riley Sheahan 5, Tomas Jurco 3, Joakim Andersson 1, Danny DeKeyser 1, Luke Glendening 1). The Red Wings will face the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, with the game schedule as follows:

Blashill Receives AHL’s Louis R. Pieri Memorial Award: Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill on Tuesday was named the winner of the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach for the 2013-14 season, as voted by fellow coaches and members of the media in each of the league’s 30 cities. Born in Detroit and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., the 40-year-old Blashill helped the Griffins maintain prominence this season in defense of their 2013 Calder Cup title despite a large-scale roster overhaul. With a 46-22-2-4 record (98 pts.), Grand Rapids currently ranks second in the Western Conference and sits only two points from claiming a second straight Midwest Division title. Despite turnover which saw only four of their top 12 scorers from a year ago and just three of their top 10 playoff producers play a majority of this season in Grand Rapids, the Griffins have posted three separate seven-game winning streaks and have held first place in the Midwest Division since Nov. 3, never losing more than two consecutive games in regulation at any point this season. Grand Rapids ranks seventh in the AHL in offense (3.15 goals per game) and second in defense (2.42). Blashill’s influence has had a huge impact on the parent Detroit Red Wings as well, as he’s prepared 10 of his 2013-14 players for their NHL debuts, including nine as members of the Wings. All told, 18 members of Blashill’s 2013-14 squad were called up to play a total of 391 NHL games, and 13 players from his Calder Cup championship team logged time in Detroit this season, helping the club extend its playoff streak to 23 consecutive seasons. In February, Blashill became the first Griffins head coach in 12 years to take part in the AHL All-Star Classic, guiding the AHL All-Stars to victories over Färjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League in both the skills competition and All-Star Game. The event, which took place at the Mile One Centre in St. John’s, Newfoundland, marked the first international contests in AHL All-Star history. In 2012-13, his first season as a head coach at the pro level, Blashill led the Griffins to the Calder Cup, marking the first championship in the franchise’s 17-year history. Blashill was named by the Red Wings as the ninth head coach in Griffins history on June 25, 2012 after serving as an assistant coach for the parent club in 2011-12, when he helped the team to its 12th consecutive 100-point season and 21st consecutive postseason appearance. Blashill is the second Griffins head coach to be named AHL Coach of the Year and the third to be named his league’s coach of the year, following the selections of Bruce Cassidy in 2001-02 and Guy Charron for the 1999-2000 International Hockey League season. Each prior winner moved on to the NHL the season after his honor, with Cassidy taking the reins of the Washington Capitals and Charron joining the Anaheim Ducks as an assistant. The Louis A.R. Pieri Award, which was first presented in 1968, honors the late Mr. Pieri, a long-time contributor to the AHL as the owner and general manager of the Providence Reds and a 2009 inductee into the American Hockey League Hall of Fame. Previous winners of the award include Frank Mathers (1969), Fred Shero (1970), Al MacNeil (1972, ’77), John Muckler (1975), Jacques Demers (1983), Larry Pleau (1987), Mike Milbury (1988), John Paddock (1988), Marc Crawford (1993), Barry Trotz (1994), Robbie Ftorek (1995, ’96), Peter Laviolette (1999), Claude Julien and Geoff Ward (2003), Claude Noel (2004), Randy Cunneyworth (2005), Kevin Dineen (2006), Mike Haviland (2007), Scott Gordon (2008), Scott Arniel (2009), Guy Boucher (2010), John Hynes (2011), Jon Cooper (2012) and Willie Desjardins (2013).

Points Comparison: As the 2013-14 regular season draws to a close, many of the 13 remaining Calder Cup champions on the Griffins’ active roster have exceeded their performances from last year. In comparison:

          
Stocking Up:
The Red Wings on Monday assigned goaltender Petr Mrazek to the Griffins. In addition, Detroit reassigned defenseman Richard Nedomlel and goaltender Jared Coreau from the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye to their AHL affiliate. Mrazek, 22, earned a shutout against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday behind a 23-save performance, marking his second NHL shutout in just 11 career games. Detroit’s fifth choice (141st overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Mrazek has played in nine games with the Wings this season, posting a 1.74 GAA, a 0.927 save percentage and a 2-4-0 record. Through 31 appearances with the Griffins this season, Mrazek is tied for first among AHL goaltenders with a 2.07 goals against average, while owning a 0.925 save percentage and a 22-8-1 record. The Ostrava, Czech Republic, native was named to the 2013-14 AHL Second All-Star Team on April 10 along with Griffins defenseman Adam Almquist. Nedomlel, 20, has appeared in three contests with the Griffins this season, registering two penalty minutes and one shot on goal. The 6-foot-5, 231-pound defenseman wrapped up his season with the Walleye on Sunday, finishing with 18 points (8-10—18) and 150 penalty minutes in 60 games. Detroit’s eighth choice (175th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Nedomlel earned 84 points (17-67—84) and 295 PIM with the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos prior to turning pro. Coreau, 22, has made five appearances with Grand Rapids in his first professional season and has posted a 0-4-0 record, a 4.39 goals against average and a 0.873 save percentage. The 6-foot-4, 208-pound goaltender has also appeared between the pipes in 20 games with the Walleye, registering a 1-12-6 record, a 4.03 GAA and 0.879 save percentage. Prior to being signed to a three-year entry-level contract by Detroit last April, Coreau spent three seasons with Northern Michigan University, where he posted a 15-19-4 record, a 2.70 GAA, a 0.919 save percentage and one shutout after starting in all 38 games during his junior year.

Three Prospects: The Red Wings on Tuesday reassigned left wing Andreas Athanasiou and  defenseman Mattias Backman to the Griffins, who also signed center Mattias Janmark to an amateur tryout. Athanasiou, 19, earned 95 points (49-46—95) and 52 penalty minutes in 66 games with the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts this season, while posting 12 points (3-9—12) in 11 games with the team during the 2014 OHL Playoffs. The Woodbridge, Ontario, native tallied 59 points (33-26—59) and 43 PIM with the London Knights from 2010-12, before being traded to Barrie for a second-round pick in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection, a third-round pick in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection and a conditional second-round pick in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection. Detroit’s fourth choice (110th overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Athanasiou has notched a total of 162 points (78-84—162) and 82 PIM in 132 games since joining the Colts. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Athanasiou was named the OHL Player of the Week for the week ending Feb. 16 after leading the league with eight points (6-2—8) in four games and owning a plus-four rating. A native of Linkoping, Sweden, Backman collected 21 points (6-15—21), 16 PIM and a plus-25 rating in 54 games with the Swedish Hockey League’s Linkopings Hockey Club during the 2013-14 campaign. Detroit’s fifth choice (146th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Backman potted seven points (0-7—7), six penalty minutes and a plus-four rating in 13 playoff games with Linkopings this season. In 2012, the 6-foot-2, 176-pound defenseman won a gold medal with Sweden at the IIHF World Junior Championship. A native of Danderyd, Sweden, Janmark was Detroit’s third choice (79th overall) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Janmark has played three seasons with the SHL’s AIK from 2011-14, earning 61 points (32-29—61) and 90 penalty minutes in 118 games. The 21-year-old Janmark ranked among AIK leaders with 30 points (1st), 18 goals (1st), 12 assists (T6th) and 56 PIM (1st) during the 2013-14 season.

Walleye World: The ECHL’s Toledo Walleye (21-44-4-3) finished their season with consecutive losses to the Kalamazoo Wings (3-2 OT, Friday), Fort Wayne Komets (4-3 SO, Saturday) and Cincinnati Cyclones (4-1, Sunday). This is the third time that the Walleye have not qualified for the playoffs since their inaugural season in 2009.

Scouting Report

Fri., April 18 vs. Lake Erie Monsters (30-33-1-10) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Sat., April 19 at Lake Erie Monsters – Quicken Loans Arena – 7 p.m.

Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:40 p.m each night. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 26-15-2-5 Overall, 16-7-0-1 Home, 10-8-2-4 Road. Season Series: 1-1-0-0 Overall, 0-1-0-0 Home, 1-0-0-0 Road. Third and fourth of four meetings overall, second of two at both Van Andel Arena and Quicken Loans Arena. NHL Affiliation: Colorado Avalanche. Head Coach: Dean Chynoweth (second season). Notes: The Lake Erie Monsters rank fifth in the North Division, 13th in the Western Conference and 25th overall and have been knocked out of playoff contention...The Monsters have been to the shootout 17 times this season and post a 7-10 record, scoring 22 goals on 82 attempts (0.268%). Rookie Colin Smith ties for first among league scorers with nine shootout goals…Forwards Garrett Meurs (32) and Mitchell Heard (30) rank fourth and fifth, respectively, among league rookies in minor penalties, while defenseman Daniel Maggio (36) ties for fourth among defensemen. The Monsters average 21.55 penalty minutes per game…Lake Erie ranks 24th in goals for (2.55) and 23rd in goals against (3.07) per game…Center Mark Olver (15-33—48) leads the team in scoring, while left wing Andrew Agozzino (16-31—47) trails by only one point in second. Agozzino ranks first in goals on the team…Goaltender Sami Aittokallio shut out the Griffins, 4-0, the last time the teams met on Feb. 5 at Van Andel Arena.

The Griffins have a playoff theme, too--DEFEND OUR CUP--reports the Grand Rapids Press's Jeff Charney, who spoke with a Griffisn coach not worried about his team's would-be opponents;

“I don't think it matters who we play,” Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan said. “At this point, the teams that are trying to get in are tough, so we'll have to see what happens. We have prepared during the regular season for this, so we will be ready.”

If Grand Rapids does win Friday and locks up the second seed, it will play Rochester in the AHL Western Conference quarterfinals. The Griffins are 4-0 against Rochester this year, but that doesn't matter to coach Jeff Blashill.

“To be honest, for me, it's not who you play, because whoever you play will be a good team,” Blashill said. “They will have earned their way into the Calder Cup playoffs, and their roster will depend on how healthy they are, and if their parent club is in the Stanley Cup playoffs. From what I learned last year, who you play will be good, they will all be tight series and you need to play great hockey to give your chance to win.”

That means that Grand Rapids' roster is not totally set because the Detroit Red Wings are in the Stanley Cup playoffs, battling the top-seeded Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The Griffins have been dealing with roster moves all season while compiling a 46-22-2 record. And the same scenario was played out last year in the team's run to its first-ever Calder Cup championship.

“Right now, we have both goalies, four on defense and six on offense that played in the playoffs last year, so that's half the team at least,” Blashill said. “The core has been real important all year long. We have been able to be steady on the rudder and handle ups and downs. The veteran leadership attacks each day and the emotional swings of a long hockey season. I think our veteran leadership can help us in the playoffs.”

Hoggan said knowing the day-to-day grind of the playoffs, and not getting too high or too low, will help

“It is long road. It will be tough, probably tougher this time around. We just need to embrace the grind to another championship," he said.

Here's Blashill speaking with WDFN's Matt Sheppard on Thursday:

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Our prospect pool is the deepest we have seen it for over a decade. It bodes well for the Wings’ future.

Posted by NewfieWing on 04/18/14 at 12:55 PM ET

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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.