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Red Wings prospect news: David Pope kicks off playoff campaign; Griffins post weekly release

Tonight's crop of Red Wings prospect news is a bit thin, but still significant:

In the first playoff news of the spring, in the BCHL, David Pope had two assists as his West Kelowna Warriors defeated the Vernon Vipers 5-1, taking a 1-0 series lead;

IIn soon-to-be-in-the-playoffs news, according to Expressen's Stefan Ottoson and Jonathan Grolund, Mattias Janmark and AIK Stockholm will have to play against Djurgardens IF to determine whether the AIK's demoted from the SHL to the Allsvenskan;

Kelowna's Major Junior franchise didn't do as well, with the WHL's Kelowna Rockets losing 5-1 to Everett. Mitchell Wheaton finished at -1 in the affair;

In the OHL, I've got two "in-absentia results" as Jake Paterson sat on the bench watching his Saginaw Spirit take a 5-2 decision over the Sarnia Sting, and Tyler Bertuzzi may be done for the year, but his Guelph Storm defeated the Kitchener Rangers 2-0, winning their 49th game (out of 63 games played).

The Grand Rapids Griffins also posted their weekly press release:

GRIFFINS CARRY FIVE-GAME WINNING STREAK INTO THREE-GAME HOME SET

This Week’s Games
Wed., March 5    Chicago Wolves at GRIFFINS    7 p.m.    WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Fri., March 7    Iowa Wild at GRIFFINS    7 p.m.    WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., March 8    Iowa Wild at GRIFFINS    7 p.m.    WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com

Last Week’s Results
Wed., Feb. 26    GRIFFINS 5 at Milwaukee Admirals 1    33-17-2-3, 71 pts. (1st, Midwest Division)
Fri., Feb. 28    GRIFFINS 4 at Abbotsford Heat 3 SO    34-17-2-3, 73 pts. (1st)
Sat., March 1    GRIFFINS 5 at Abbotsford Heat 2    35-17-2-3, 75 pts. (1st)

High Five: Now on a five-game winning streak, the Griffins sit atop the Midwest Division and the Western Conference heading into a three-game home set. Last Wednesday, the Griffins traveled to Milwaukee for a rematch against the Admirals following a narrow 1-0 shootout victory on Feb. 23. The Griffins sunk the Admirals, 5-1, and both Teemu Pulkkinen (two goals, one assist) and Calle Jarnkrok (one goal, two assists) enjoyed three-point games, while Andrej Nestrasil earned two points (goal and assist). On Friday, Grand Rapids defeated the Abbotsford Heat, 4-3, on the road in their second shootout in five days. The eight-round skills competition saw Brennan Evans, who scored on his first-ever shootout attempt of his 11-year career on Feb. 23, connect on his second career attempt, and defenseman Gleason Fournier, who has no points through 13 games, earned the game-winning goal. Pulkkinen notched two more goals in the win, and Jarnkrok repeated his Friday performance with a goal and two assists. In a rematch on Saturday, the Griffins came back from a two-goal deficit in the first period to douse the Heat, 5-2, claiming the Western Conference lead over the Texas Stars (74 pts.).

Wednesday Promotions: Wednesday’s game versus the Chicago Wolves is the final “Wednesday is Hockey Night” of the season, when fans can show their Griffins ticket at participating Arena District restaurants and bars to enjoy Happy Hour specials before the game and Hockey Night specials afterward. Please visit griffinshockey.com/hockeynight/ for more information. Wednesday is also the final Amway Winning Wednesday of the season. If the Griffins beat the Wolves, every fan in attendance may redeem their ticket stub for a free ticket to the game on April 2 against the Iowa Wild. The box office will be open following the game for redemptions if the Griffins win. Fans may also redeem their stubs at The Zone during business hours (Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m.-2p.m.) and at the box office the night of March 5. Additionally, the first 300 fans to visit the Amway table in Section A will receive a gift. Wednesday is also a Library Day; 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. Children with Griff's Reading Goals bookmarks who have completed the three hours of reading can redeem their bookmark for two free upper level tickets to either this game or the April 2 or 4 games.

Third Annual Purple Game: Purple will literally be the name of the game this Friday when the Griffins host their third annual Purple Community ® Game to benefit Van Andel Institute (VAI) and cancer research. When fans arrive for the 7 p.m. battle against the Iowa Wild, they will step into the battle against cancer as nearly everything at Van Andel Arena will be in sync with the color associated with cancer survivors, including:

•  Purple accented jerseys that will be worn by the Griffins, autographed and auctioned to the public in the Intermission Restaurant & Bar after the game, with proceeds benefiting VAI;
•   Purple concession items such as beer, cotton candy, slushies, and donuts;
•   Purple VAI logos embedded in the arena’s ice surface;
•   Purple game production elements, including songs, videos and LED graphics.

Fans attending the game can become a member of Purple Community, VAI's grassroots fundraising program which connects individuals who are passionate about fighting cancer and other diseases with the resources needed for action. Free purple gear is available for fans who register to become a member of Purple Community, as well as a Purple Community photo booth located on the concourse for all fans. The first intermission activities will be hosted by Maranda of WOTV4’s “Where You Live”. The game will kick off with a ceremonial puck drop by Ethan Miller, a 14-year-old resident of Caledonia, Mich., who is fighting Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Joining Miller will be longtime Griffins goal judge Harold “Doc” Pierce, who is battling throat cancer. Together, the two will illustrate the idea that cancer affects people of all ages and walks of life. Fans who would like to attend the game and support fundraising for cancer research can purchase a “Purple Pack” for $25, which includes a lower bowl seat, a 2014 Griffins Purple Community Game t-shirt and the opportunity to be part of an on-ice human purple ribbon with a Griffins player for a commemorative photo following the game. A portion of the funds from every “Purple Pack” sold will be donated to Van Andel Institute. Tickets are available at griffinshockey.com/purple. Fans who already have tickets to the game but would still like a purple t-shirt and the chance to participate in the on-ice photo can click here. Friday also gives fans the opportunity to enjoy $2 hot dogs and $2 domestic drafts from 6-8 p.m., while supplies last. College students can 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 also a Griffins D-Zone night, where fans can have $2 beers and $2 hot dogs served directly to their seats, and a Free Ride Friday, permitting any fan to enjoy complimentary fare on the Rapid busses by showing their ticket to that night’s game. Call (616) 774-4585 ext. 2 or visit griffinshockey.com/dzone to order D-Zone tickets, and visit ridetherapid.org for information on bus schedules, routes and maps.

Star Wars Night/Saturday Promotions: In addition to Friday’s Purple Community Game, the Griffins will host another popular annual event on Saturday versus Iowa in Star Wars Night. The 501st Legion returns for another year, and over 55 costumed characters will be roaming the arena and interacting with fans. A photo area will be set up on the concourse for fans to get their picture taken with their favorite characters for a small donation. Following the game Adam Almquist, Nick Jensen and Petr Mrazek will sign autographs from the bench, presented by Huntington Bank. Saturday night also gives fans the opportunity to redeem Fan 4 Packs. For select games, receive four tickets and $12 in concession cash for a great low price. Valid for games on March 8 and 29; and April 5. Visit griffinshockey.com/f4p or call (616) 774-4585 ext. 2.

Midwest Race: After breaking free from a hot-and-cold 8-9-1-1 record to begin 2014, the Griffins (35-17-2-3, 75 pts.) remain in first place in the Midwest Division, just three points ahead of the second-place Chicago Wolves (33-17-4-2, 72 pts.). The Griffins and Wolves will face off on Wednesday, when either Grand Rapids (five games) or Chicago (four games) will see an end to its winning streak. The Rockford IceHogs (29-22-5-3, 66 pts.) sit in third, while the Milwaukee Admirals (25-19-6-6, 62 pts.) rank fourth. The Iowa Wild (22-24-6-4, 54 pts.) rank fifth and will face the Griffins for back-to-back tilts on Friday and Saturday night. The Griffins have tallied the most goals of any team in the division (185), while giving up only one more goal than the Wolves’ division-leading 140 goals allowed. Grand Rapids has also garnered the lowest amount of penalty minutes (746).

One for the Ages: Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Wolves is pivotal for the Griffins, as a loss would put Chicago within one point of tying for the division lead. Adding to the fire, Grand Rapids is on a five-game winning streak, while Chicago is on a four-game winning streak. The Griffins and Wolves will face off for the 10th and final regular season game on March 23 at Allstate Arena.

For/Against: The Griffins average 3.25 goals per game, good enough for fourth in the AHL, and the team averages a 2.47 goals against average, which ranks first in the league.

Brennan “Shootout” Evans: Now in his 11th professional season, defenseman Brennan Evans has earned numerous accolades in his second campaign with Grand Rapids. On Feb. 23, Evans was called on as the fifth shooter in a skills competition against the Milwaukee Admirals after regulation and overtime play resulted in a 0-0 knot. After both teams notched three markers through four rounds, Petr Mrazek turned away Milwaukee’s Simon Moser in the final round to set the stage for Evans’ first career shootout attempt, which he connected on to win the game. Déjà vu struck for Evans last Friday when he was called on once again as the fifth shooter in a 4-3 shootout victory over the Abbotsford Heat on the road. And again, Evans buried the puck and extended the contest into extra rounds, where defenseman Gleason Fournier, who doesn’t have a point through 13 games, notched the game-winning goal. With 14 points (4-10—14) to his name, Evans has accumulated a career-high four goals this season and consistently performs as a heavy-hitter on the blueline, earning a team-high 99 penalty minutes.

Mrazek’s Fire: Goaltender Petr Mrazek has once again found his sweet spot, earning victories in his last five appearances for Grand Rapids. Posting a 16-5-1-2 record and a 0.925 save percentage, Mrazek played between the pipes in all three games last week, including a relief appearance for Tom McCollum in Saturday’s 5-2 dousing of the Abbotsford Heat. Mrazek’s 2.11 goals against average ranks second among league goaltenders, while McCollum’s 2.33 GAA ranks 10th. The only goaltender with a better GAA than Mrazek is Chicago’s Jake Allen, who Mrazek will likely face off against when the Griffins host the Wolves on Wednesday. In Friday’s 4-3 shootout victory over Abbotsford, Mrazek stopped seven of eight attackers to earn the win. Adding to his resume, Mrazek has earned two shutouts this season, both against the Milwaukee Admirals (Nov. 20, Feb. 23).

Pulkkinen on the Prowl: Last week, right wing Teemu Pulkkinen returned from a four-game point drought and garnered six points (four goals, two assists) in three games, including a three-point performance in Wednesday’s 5-1 sinking of the Milwaukee Admirals. In the victory, Pulkkinen scored two goals in nine seconds, which is the shortest amount of time between any two goals for the Griffins this season. Both times, Pulkkinen blasted the puck past the Admirals’ Marek Mazanec from the top of the right circle in near-identical fashion. The Vantaa, Finland, native leads the Griffins in scoring with 24 goals and 24 assists, ties for a team-high plus-20 rating and has popped off 161 shots, the most of any Griffin, yielding a 14.9% shooting percentage. Pulkkinen is also the owner of the Griffins’ longest point streak (eight games) and ties with center Cory Emmerton (Nov. 30-Dec. 18) for the longest goal streak (three games) on two separate occasions (Nov. 3-8; Feb. 26- March 1).

Jarnkrok Heats Up: Hailing from Gavle, Sweden, center Calle Jarnkrok has made a splash in his first full season with the Griffins, ranking third on the team in scoring (13-23—36). Last week, Jarnkrok enjoyed back-to-back three-point performances (1-2—3), first in a 5-1 trouncing of the Milwaukee Admirals on Wednesday and second in a 4-3 shootout victory over the Abbotsford Heat on Friday. Among Jarnkrok’s other 2013-14 accolades include 14 penalty minutes, a plus-19 rating, eight power play assists, three game-winning goals and a 13.1% shooting percentage.

Team Leaders: Right wing Teemu Pulkkinen (24-24—48) leads the Griffins in scoring and registers a plus-20 rating through 57 games. Defenseman Adam Almquist (2-37—39), who ties for fourth among league defensemen, ranks second on the team, followed by center Calle Jarnkrok (13-23—36). Brennan Evans (99) leads the team in penalty minutes and is just one infraction away from crossing the 100-minute threshold. Pulkkinen has rifled off the most shots of any Griffins (161), yielding a team-high 14.9% shooting percentage.

Walleye World: The ECHL’s Toledo Walleye (16-33-3-0) extended their losing streak to 10 games last weekend with back-to-back losses against the Greenville Road Warriors on Saturday and Sunday. Walleye head coach Nick Vittuci stepped down from his position last Tuesday, making way for interim head coach Dan Watson, who is now 0-2 since taking the reins of the squad. Trevor Parkes (17-17—34), who is currently with the Griffins, continues to rank first on the team in scoring, while forward Travis Novak (10-20—30) ranks second and Alden Hirschfeld (9-20—29) ranks third. Both Novak and Hirschfeld have joined the Griffins this season on professional tryouts. Toledo (36 pts.) ranks fifth in the North Division, 24 points behind the fourth-place Evansville IceMen.

Marchenko Out: The Griffins’ 2014 AHL All-Star defenseman Alexey Marchenko suffered an ankle injury in a game against the Milwaukee Admirals on Feb. 23. Marchenko will have surgery some time in the next few days for a severe high ankle sprain and is expected to be out for the remainder of the regular season.

Scouting Report

Wed., March 5 vs. Chicago Wolves (33-17-4-2) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:40 p.m. TV: The U-Too at 7 p.m. (Chicago) Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 60-44-2-4-2 Overall, 30-19-2-2-2 Home. Season Series: 4-4-0-0 Overall, 2-2-0-0 Home. Ninth of 10 meetings overall, fifth of five at Van Andel Arena. NHL Affiliation: St. Louis Blues. Head Coach: John Anderson (12th season). Notes: The Wolves rank second in the Midwest Division, tie for third in the Western Conference and tie for fifth overall…The Wolves are currently on a four-game winning streak and post a 7-1-2-0 record through their last 10 contests…Chicago goaltender Jake Allen is currently the number one goaltender in the AHL with a 2.07 goals against average through 2350:42 minutes of play, just one spot ahead of Petr Mrazek (2.11 GAA, 2nd). Allen posts a 25-12-0-2 record and a 0.925 save percentage…Rookie right wing Ty Rattie (22-15—37) leads the Wolves in scoring and ties for eighth among league rookies. He also has the most goals (22) of any active rookie in the league…The Wolves struggle on the power play (12.8%), ranking last in the league, but their penalty killing record (85.5%) ranks fifth overall.

Fri., March 7 vs. Iowa Wild (22-24-6-4) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Sat., March 8 vs. Iowa Wild – 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/Season Series: 4-1-0-0 Overall, 1-1-0-0 Home. Season Series: Sixth and seventh of 10 meetings overall, third and fourth of five at Van Andel Arena. NHL Affiliation: Minnesota Wild. Head Coach: Kurt Kleinendorst (1st season). Notes: The Wild rank fifth in the Midwest Division, 13th in the Western Conference and 23rd overall…Iowa is on a five-game losing streak, posting a 2-7-1-0 record through its last 10 games...The Wild yield a 16.5% power play record (15th) and a 79.0% penalty killing record (26th)…Left wing Brad Winchester (16-14—30), who played in 55 games with the Rockford IceHogs earlier this year, leads the team in active scoring. The next highest active scorer is left wing Zack Phillips (10-16—26), followed by defenseman Jonathon Blum (7-19—26).

 

Update: Hockey's Future's Jason Menard had a chat with Owen Sound Attack captain Zach Nastasiuk regarding his "athletic bloodlines"--his dad was a Canadian Football League player--as well as his hockey aspirations going toward next season:

And while NHL camp is still “a long way away,” Nastasiuk is looking forward to his second NHL camp with the Red Wings, who signed the forward to a three-year, entry-level contract earlier this season.

“I need to get bigger, get stronger, and go make a name for myself at camp,” he said. “But that’s pretty far away right now, though. My focus is on Owen Sound right now.”

...

Nastasiuk said there wasn’t any one player that stood out in terms of helping him out. Rather, he said the entire organization was supportive — a testament to the framework in which the franchise works.

“They’re very professional with what they do,” he said. “I think Jeff Blashill, the AHL coach [of the Red Wings’ Grand Rapids Griffins affiliate], really helped me a lot. I got to know him pretty well because he was our coach at prospect camp. I heard his voice a lot and he taught me some new terms.”

And Nastasiuk is quick to credit his OHL coach for helping make the transition even smoother — both now and, hopefully, in the future.

“Greg Ireland, our coach, has done a great job teaching me all the terms and the systems,” he said. “Going up there it wasn’t that much different for me. I can’t thank Greg enough for making it so easy for me.”

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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.