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Red Wings prospect news: Griffins keep the peace, keep rolling; Wheaton returns

Amongst this morning's Red Wings prospect-related news:

The Grand Rapids Griffins possess a remarkable 17-4-1-1 record, and that record stands despite having dealt with both a revolving personnel door due to the Red Wings' injury situation and an influx of AHL demotions which have pushed the Griffins to involuntarily sit 2 and sometimes 3 of their 7 "veteran" players (they're down to six due to the Wings' recall of Cory Emmerton) because the AHL prohibits teams from playing more than 4 players who've played in 320 or more pro games and 1 player who's played in 260 or fewer pro games.

As the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner notes, even the Griffins' captain, Jeff Hoggan, has sat out pretty regularly of late, but the Griffins' veterans are both making the best of a difficult situation and they're keeping the winning machine humming despite the fact that the four vets who are sitting out in Patrick Eaves, Jordin Tootoo and Emmerton's stead--Hoggan, Brennan Evans, Nathan Paetsch and Triston Grant--were very specifically brought back to the AHL's defending champions to lead on an every-night basis:

“I kind of stay positive always with it,” said Hoggan, who volunteered along with Evans to be the first to sit out. “This league, you play 80 games, and we look at it you get a little rest time, a chance to heal the little bumps and bruises you’d normally play through.”

In the four recent games he’s played, the 35-year-old Hoggan has one goal and four assists.

“The hardest thing from a leadership standpoint is you want to lead from the ice,” he added. “But you just have to be there for the guys in the locker room and be supportive and not make it a negative at all.”

Winning also soothes frustration. The Griffins, off to the best start in franchise history, lead the Midwest Division eight points and haven’t lost since Nov. 15. SinceEaves and Tootoo were first in the lineup together Nov. 20, Blashill has caught a break of sorts in his juggling. Paetsch missed four games with a cracked rib and the Red Wings recalled Emmerton on Dec. 3, putting just one vet as a scratch the past two games. Grant and Evans sat out those games.


It helps that Eaves and Tootoo have been effective. Eaves has six points (4-2-6) in seven games, while Tootoo has two assists in nine games and become the familiar physical presence he was with the Red Wings. He has been paired with Glendening and Landon Ferraro most of the past seven games.

“Every player wants to play every night, and to be told you’re not playing because of a rule is not an easy thing to handle.” Blashill said. “But yet they’ve handled it with a selflessness that is indicative of what our team is about. “We try to have guys take their turns, but it’s not a perfect rotation,” he said. “I really address it with a week-by-week plan, and sometimes that turns into a day-by-day situation.”

The Griffins will begin a set of three games played over the course of five nights against the Chicago Wolves this evening, and as such, the Griffins posted their weekly press release on Tuesday afternoon:


This Week’s Games
Wed., Dec. 11    Chicago Wolves at GRIFFINS    7 p.m
.    WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Fri., Dec. 13    Milwaukee Admirals at GRIFFINS    7 p.m.    WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., Dec. 14    Milwaukee Admirals at GRIFFINS    7 p.m.    WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com

Last Week’s Results
Fri., Dec. 6    Rochester Americans 1 at GRIFFINS 5    16-4-1-1, 34 pts. (1st, Midwest Division)
Sat., Dec. 7    Rochester Americans 1 at GRIFFINS 3    17-4-1-1, 36 pts. (1st)

Best Start in Franchise History: After shutting down the Rochester Americans in back-to-back contests last weekend at Van Andel Arena, the Griffins improved their winning streak to seven games and their home winning streak to eight games. On Friday, Grand Rapids gave up the first goal of the game only to turn around and score five unanswered tallies to finish off the Amerks 5-1. Center Landon Ferraro enjoyed a two-goal performance and a fight with Frederick Roy, son of Hockey Hall of Famer Patrick Roy. On Saturday, the Griffins once again allowed Rochester to tally the first goal, but Teemu Pulkkinen, David McIntyre and Jeff Hoggan all notched goals to lead Grand Rapids to a 3-1 win. The Griffins have won 15 out of 17 games after beginning the season with a 2-2-1-1 record. Currently, Grand Rapids’ 0.783 winning percentage is the highest in the league, and the Griffins’ 17-4-1-1 record marks the best start in franchise history.

The Midwest Division: The Griffins (17-4-1-1, 36 pts.) extended their Midwest Division lead to eight points over the Rockford IceHogs (13-11-2-0, 28 pts.) last weekend. The Milwaukee Admirals (11-5-4-1, 27 pts.) rank third in the division, while the Chicago Wolves (11-10-0-2, 24 pts.) rank fourth and the Iowa Wild (8-12-1-0, 17 pts.) bring up the rear.

Wednesday Promotions: Wednesday’s game versus the Chicago Wolves is the first “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 http://griffinshockey.com/hockeynight/ for more information. Wednesday is also an Amway Winning Wednesday, when the Griffins will aim for their fourth-straight Wednesday victory. All fans who were in attendance for the Griffins’ 5-0 win over the Milwaukee Admirals on Nov. 20 can redeem their ticket stub for a free ticket to this game. If the Griffins beat the Wolves, every fan in attendance may also redeem their ticket stub for a free ticket to the game on Jan. 8. 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 Nov. 20. 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.

Friday Promotions: Friday’s game versus Milwaukee 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 also 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 http://griffinshockey.com/dzone to order D-Zone tickets, and visit ridetherapid.org for information on bus schedules, routes and maps.

Mini Championship Banner Giveaway and Jersey Auction: 2,500 fans attending Saturday’s game will receive a mini championship banner presented by Centennial Securities. Fans can participate in a post-game auction of the Grand Rapids Owls commemorative jerseys that will be worn by the Griffins. Following the game, Triston Grant, Tomas Jurco, and Xavier Ouellet 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 Dec. 14; Jan. 11 and 18; Feb. 15 and 22; March 8 and 29; and April 5. Visit griffinshockey.com/f4p or call (616) 774-4585 ext. 2.

Home for the Holidays: The Griffins continue their longest home stand of the season (Nov. 29-Dec. 14) this week. The seven-game stretch will conclude with a game against the Chicago Wolves on Wednesday followed by consecutive games against the Milwaukee Admirals on Friday and Saturday. The Griffins will then hit the road next Wednesday, Dec. 18 when they take on the Iowa Wild, before returning home next Friday for a tilt against the Rockford IceHogs.

Van Andel Stand: After dropping their first two home contests of the season, the Griffins have won eight straight games at Van Andel Arena. The eight-game winning streak is the team’s longest in more than four years (eight straight from Oct. 23-Nov. 13, 2009). Grand Rapids scored at least five goals in each of the first seven games of that streak, marking the longest run at home in franchise history (5+ goals in four straight home games from Nov. 15-Dec. 3, 2005).

Griffins Leaders: Right wing Tomas Jurco (11-14—25) still ranks first in scoring for the Griffins, just ahead of right wing Gustav Nyquist (7-14—21), who has earned a full-time roster spot with the Detroit Red Wings. Jurco is tied for sixth in the AHL in scoring with Brian Gibbons (8-17—25) of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Right wing Teemu Pulkkinen (9-9—18) ranks third on the team and captain Jeff Hoggan (7-9—16) climbed to fourth place after tallying one goal and three assists over the weekend. Two of the AHL’s top-scoring defensemen are Griffins (Ryan Sproul-16 pts.-T5th and Adam Almquist-14 pts –T15th).

Jump Starts: Grand Rapids holds an 11-2-0-1 record when scoring first this season and ties for second in the league with the Albany Devils and Hershey Bears for goals scored in the first period (25), just behind the Rochester Americans (27). Grand Rapids has more than doubled its opponents’ scoring during the second period (38-17). Through 23 games, the Griffins have trailed after the first period, as well as the second period, only four times.

“Go-To” Guy: After finding his footing at the end of the 2012-13 season, right wing Tomas Jurco has stepped into the role of “go-to” guy this season in the absence of former point leaders such as Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, who have joined the Detroit Red Wings full time. Jurco’s 2013-14 accolades include 25 points (11-14—25), a plus-11 rating and two game-winning goals. Jurco has tallied points in 14 out of 23 contests and has also registered multiple points in nine matches, including a hat trick on Nov. 15 in a 5-3 home victory over the Rockford IceHogs. Jurco leads the Griffins in goals with 11 and ties Nyquist and defenseman Adam Almquist in assists with 14. Jurco is quickly approaching his rookie season totals (14-14—28).

Holy Moly, Goalies: Bouncing back after three consecutive losses from Oct. 18-25, Griffins netminder Petr Mrazek improved his career-high winning streak to nine games and his record to 10-2-1 last weekend. Mrazek, who finished with 33 saves on Friday and 29 saves on Saturday, has won 10 in a row overall, including his shutout victory for the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 2. His previous career-high was an eight-game winning streak three seasons ago in juniors as a member of the OHL’s Ottawa 67s (Nov. 12-Dec. 3, 2010). Mrazek earned his second shutout this season on Nov. 20 versus the Milwaukee Admirals, when he blocked 16 of 16 shots. Mrazek ranks third in the league for goals against average (2.09) and is tied for fourth with a 0.927 save percentage. Tom McCollum (2.28 GAA) is tied for ninth place with former Griffin Drew MacIntyre, who now plays for the Toronto Marlies, and Cedrick Desjardins of the Syracuse Crunch, whom the Griffins solved in the Calder Cup Finals last year. McCollum posts a 7-2 record between the pipes this season and enjoyed a six-game winning streak from Oct. 4-Nov. 6 to begin the season, tying with Mrazek’s 2012-13 franchise-best goaltending start.

Refined Rookie: Griffins defenseman Ryan Sproul (5-11—16) is tied for the highest-scoring rookie blueliner in the league, and he ties for fifth overall among league d-men. Sproul (plus-12) ties with defenseman Alexey Marchenko among all AHL rookies in plus/minus and has enjoyed three multiple-point games this season: Oct. 4 at Rochester (two goals), Oct. 30 vs. Charlotte (one goal, one assist) and Nov. 6 vs. Rockford (three assists).

Plus/Minus: The Griffins hold the top three spots in the league for rookie plus/minus. Alexey Marchenko and Ryan Sproul lead all AHL rookies with plus-14, while Xavier Ouellet ranks second with plus-10. All active members of the Griffins roster have a positive rating. Right wing Teemu Pulkkinen ranks second on the team with plus-13 and right wing Mitch Callahan, center Calle Jarnkrok and defenseman Brennan Evans all tie for third (plus-12).

Two For Me, One For You: The Griffins lead the AHL in goals scored per game, averaging 3.87, despite only having one active player in the AHL’s top 20 scorers (Tomas Jurco–25 pts.–T6th). The team also leads the league in goals against per game, averaging 2.30. Overall, the Griffins have outscored their opponents 89-53 and outshot them 727-667. The team’s plus-30 goals differential is more than 50% greater than the next-highest team (Abbotsford Heat, plus-18). The last time an AHL team finished a season ranked first in both goals scored and goals against was the 1992-93 Binghamton Senators (392-246). The closest team to the accomplishment since then was the 1998-99 Rochester Americans, ranking second in goals for and first in goals against.

Close Shaves: Aside from suffering a 5-0 loss to the Charlotte Checkers on Oct. 25, each of the Griffins’ six losses this season has been decided by one goal. Four of the one-goal losses came during regulation, and the other two were accounted for in an overtime (4-3 OTL at TOR, Oct. 5) and a shootout (5-4 SOL at RFD, Oct. 19). The Milwaukee Admirals account for two regulation losses for the team and the Chicago Wolves for one.

Hot Streaks: With last weekend’s victories over the Rochester Americans, the Griffins have now won seven straight games (Nov. 20-Dec. 7) and eight in a row at Van Andel Arena (Oct. 30-Dec. 7). Grand Rapids has the longest active winning streak in the league, and the streak ties for the second-longest winning streak of any team this season, matching Binghamton’s seven-game streak (Nov. 2-22) and the Griffins’ previous seven-game streak (Oct. 26-Nov. 8). The Abbotsford Heat have recorded the longest winning streak this season, winning nine games from Oct. 30-Nov. 15. The Griffins also hold the longest overall home winning streak, inching ahead of Manchester’s seven-game run (Oct. 26-Nov. 29) with last Saturday’s 3-1 victory over the Amerks. Griffins netminder Petr Mrazek, who finished with 33 saves last Friday and 29 saves last Saturday, has now won a career-high nine straight games for the Griffins and 10 in a row overall, including his shutout victory for the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 2. Forwards Landon Ferraro and Teemu Pulkkinen (two goals, three assists, Nov. 29-Dec. 7) are on four-game point streaks, tying for the team’s longest point streak this season. Center Luke Glendening (three assists) is on a three-game point streak, while left wing Jeff Hoggan (one goal, three assists) rides a two-game point streak after last weekend’s tilts against the Amerks.

Back in the Mix: Grand Rapids veteran defenseman Nathan Paetsch returned to the lineup last weekend after missing four consecutive games (Nov. 22-30) due to an upper body injury. While Paetsch’s injury and Cory Emmerton’s recall to Detroit temporarily helped alleviate the amount of veteran players on the roster, the Griffins veterans continue to sit out on a rotating basis.

Bell Ringers: On Monday, eight Griffins players rang bells for the Salvation Army at two different Family Fare locations in 90-minute shifts to compete to see which group could raise the most money. At the Byron Center Family Fare, David McIntyre, Petr Mrazek, Andrej Nestrasil and Riley Sheahan raised $192.30, but they were defeated by the Kentwood Family Fare crew, consisting of Mitch Callahan, Landon Ferraro, Jeff Hoggan and Xavier Ouellet, who raised $230.74. With the help of an anonymous matching donor, the total amount raised for the event was $1,269.12.

Walleye World: The ECHL’s Toledo Walleye (5-10-3-0) were unable to climb out of their slump last week, dropping a 7-3 decision to the Evansville Icemen last Thursday and a 6-5 OT decision on Saturday, extending their losing streak to five games. Forward Trevor Parkes (13-9—22), who had two goals and one assist in last Saturday’s contest, leads the team in scoring, while forward Martin Frk (4-6—10) is tied for third with Alden Hirschfeld (2-8—10) and forward Kevin Lynch (4-5—9) ranks fifth. The Walleye rank fifth in the North Division.

Scouting Report

Wed., Dec. 11 vs. Chicago Wolves (11-10-0-2) – 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:
58-41-2-4-2 Overall, 28-17-2-2-2 Home. Season Series: 2-1-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Home. Fourth of 10 meetings overall, first of five at Van Andel Arena. NHL Affiliation: St. Louis Blues. Head Coach: John Anderson (12th season). Notes: The Griffins and Wolves have met three times so far this season, with Grand Rapids claiming two of the contests (Oct. 26, 3-2, Nov. 23, 2-1) and Chicago winning one (4-3, Nov. 16)…Chicago (24 pts.) ranks fourth in the Midwest Division, just three points behind the Milwaukee Admirals (27 pts.)…The Wolves post a 7-3-0-2 road record, nearly opposite of their 4-7-0-0 home record…Defenseman Joel Edmundson is tied for first among all league rookies for minor penalties (14) and ranks third overall in rookie penalty minutes (58). Edmundson is also on a six-game penalty streak, tallying 42 minutes worth of infractions since Nov. 23…Chicago’s overall power play record ranks 29th in the AHL (11.3%), ahead of only the Adirondack Phantoms (10.1%), but ranks second for its road penalty killing record (90.2%)…The Wolves have been outscored by their opponents 65-64 this season but tend to come alive in the second period, outscoring their opponents 30-18 during the second frame…Center Corey Locke (5-14—19) leads the Wolves in scoring by six points. Second place belongs to rookie right wing Ty Rattie (8-5—13) and third place belongs to rookie left wing Dmitrij Jaskin (6-5—11).

Fri., Dec. 13 vs. Milwaukee Admirals (11-5-4-1) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 14 vs. Milwaukee Admirals – 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:
60-48-7-5-7 Overall, 34-23-2-1-2 Home. Season Series: 1-2-0-0 Overall, 1-1-0-0 Home. Fourth and fifth of 10 meetings overall, third and fourth of five at Van Andel Arena. NHL Affiliation: Nashville Predators. Head Coach: Dean Evason (2nd season). Notes: The Admirals have presented a challenge for the Griffins this season, handing the team two of its four regulation losses. The Griffins fell to the Admirals 3-2 on Oct. 18 at home and 2-1 on Nov. 13 at BMO Harris Bradley Center before shutting out Milwaukee 5-0 on Nov. 20 at Van Andel Arena…Milwaukee ranks third in the Midwest Division (27 pts.), only one point behind the Rockford IceHogs (28 pts.)…The Admirals are on a two-game winning streak and will face the Oklahoma City Barons at BMO Harris Bradley Center on Thursday before travelling to Van Andel Arena for this weekend’s two-game set…Milwaukee’s overall power play record ranks 25th in the AHL (14.2%) and its road power play record ranks 21st (15.0%)…The Admirals have been outshot by their opponents 666-634 and outscored 57-56 so far this season…Defenseman Anthony Bitetto ties for third among league defensemen in goals (7) and power play goals (4) and ranks second in shooting percentage (22.6%)…Rookie center Colton Sissons (8-8—16) leads the Admirals in scoring, followed by rookie left wing Mikka Salomaki (5-9—14, 2nd) and Bitetto (7-6—13, 3rd)…Bitetto currently has a minus-eight rating, despite ranking third on the team in scoring. Bitetto also leads the team in penalty minutes (36).


Elsewhere, in the WHL: He may not be a headline-grabbing prospect, but Red Wings 2013 draft pick Mitchell Wheaton was taken off the ice on a stretcher after a hit from behind yielded a severely broken nose on November 19th, and he didn't register a point but finished at +1 in the Kelowna Rockets' 4-2 win over Swift Current on Tuesday.

This isn't something you recover from overnight--and boy howdy, if you think NHL announcers are biased...

Also in the WHL, Marc McNulty Finished at a -1 in the Prince George Cougars' 3-1 loss to Kootenay;

In Sweden, in the SHL, Mattias Janmark hasn't been able to recapture his mojo in the scoring department. He didn't register a point but played 20:22 in AIK Stockholm's 3-2 OT win over Modo. Janmark was registering a point per game and nearly a goal per game prior to suffering a knee injury at the Karjala Cup, but he's still posted 14 goals, 8 assists and 22 points over the course of 27 games;

Conversely, Mattias Backman's "getting warm." He scored a goal and played 14:19 in Linkopings HC's 7-1 win over Leksands IF, and the vast majority of his 4 goals, 7 assists and 11 points registered over the course of 31 games have been registered over the last half-dozen games.

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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.