The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/23/13 at 04:00 PM ET
While the Red Wings are preparing to battle the Chicago Blackhawks tonight, the Wings' AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, are preparing to host the Oklahoma City Barons in the first two games of the AHL's Western Conference Finals, which willt ake place at Van Andel Arena on Friday and Saturday night.
As the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan notes, the Wings players who spent the first half of their 2012-2013 season in Grand Rapids before joining the parent club for its 2013 campaign aren't surprised by the Griffins' post-season success...
"They have a good team, and the older guys are making a difference," said Andersson, noting veterans such as Jeff Hoggan, Nathan Paetsch and Brennan Evans. "In the American League there are so many young guys and teams, you need good leadership."
The Griffins open the conference finals against Oklahoma City on Friday at Van Andel Arena.
"I still talk to a lot of guys down there, I keep track of them for sure," said Nyquist, who was the team's leading scorer (60 points) while playing 58 games in Grand Rapids. "Guys have taken on bigger roles and the veterans have done a great job."
Nyquist credits Griffins coach Jeff Blashill, an assistant on Mike Babcock's staff last season, as a key to the Griffins' success.
"I don't think we were ranked pretty high before the start of the season, but he's done a tremendous job," Nyquist said. "He likes to show video and that's important for a lot of the younger players to learn and it's really helped. It also helped him and the whole team that he was in Detroit last year and knows what it takes to be a Red Wing. He's definitely a good teacher."
The Barons are the Edmonton Oilers' AHL affiliate, and the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner asked coach Blashill about the Barons...
“Oklahoma City is a different type of team from Houston and Toronto,” Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill said. “They really like to push the envelope.”
The Griffins’ frontliners had superior speed against Toronto, which had swept Rochester in the first round and had the second best record in the Western Conference in the regular season. The same was true for Houston, which relied on defense and muddled the middle.
The Barons, meanwhile, like to move the puck. They were third in the AHL in goals a game (3.16) and eighth in shots (31.3) and feature Mark Arcobello. The third-year center was the fourth-leading scorer in the AHL during the regular season (22-44-68) and is the top scorer in the playoffs (9-6-15). Linemate Toni Rajala is sixth in scoring with 16 points (3-10-16).
The Barons also had the best power play during the regular season at 21.6 percent. That will challenge Grand Rapids, which was 29th in penalty kill at 80.3 percent, but was 85.2 percent against Toronto.
“Offensively, they really like to pressure you, which is a lot different than Houston and a little different from Toronto,” Blashill said. “So we’ll adjust our game plan in a very quick time period.”
And Wallner also made sure to mention that the Griffins have been paced by two players in the playoffs thus far:
Tomas Tatar has starred offensively for the Griffins with eight goals and 11 points in the two series. He scored two goals each in clinchers against Houston and Toronto. His eight goals are three off the franchise record set by Kevin Miller in 2000.
The surprise of the series so far has been the play of first-year center Luke Glendening. The East Grand Rapids product is second in scoring with 10 points (5-5-10), including the late third-period winner against Toronto.
For the record, the Griffins are offering an essay = Zamboni ride contest...
The first in-person Red Wings training camp ticket sale is scheduled for 8:30 am on July 13th at Centre I.C.E. Arena. This years training camp is scheduled for September 12th – 17th. The NHL prospects tournament is slated for September 5th – 9th. Tickets for both events will be available for sale at the in-person sale. Additional ticket sale dates will be evaluated based on need and availability. For full details on the events click here or visit the LWL’s training camp page.
The July 13th in-person ticket sale also coincides with the Red Wings development camp which will be held July 9th – 17th. This camp will feature the organizations top prospects and it is the first place to see the Red Wings 2013 NHL draft class and many of the European and college prospects who don’t attend training camp. Stay tuned to the LWL for details on all off season events as they become available.
Update: DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose also spoke with Nyquist about the Griffins' success:
Nyquist said that he’s paid close attention to his Griffins teammates who are headed to the AHL’s Western Conference finals after defeating the Toronto Marlies in the second round.
“The Griffins are doing a fantastic job,” said Nyquist, who led the Griffins with 37 assists and 60 points this season. “It was a crazy game the other night, I saw they were down 3-1 with 10-minutes to go and they won 4-3, so moved on to the conference finals, and obviously the leaders are all of the veterans, like (Tomas) Tatar and I think (Riley) Sheahan and (Landon) Ferraro have taken a bigger role down there. All of the vets have done a great job for them down there, and I’m happy for them and hopefully they’ll keep going like this.”
The Griffins will host the Oklahoma City Barons with Games 1 and 2 this Friday and Saturday at Van Andel Arena.
Nyquist took a moment Thursday to share his thoughts for those impacted by the severe storms that devastated central Oklahoma.
“It’s horrible to see,” he said. “It’s real sad to see stuff like that happen. Hopefully there won’t be anymore (tornadoes). I really haven’t kept up the last few days if there are any more tornado warnings, but yeah, you don’t want to see that happen.”
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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.