The Grand Rapids Griffins, primary affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, are currently riding a five-game winning streak, thanks to the strong play of rookie goaltender Petr Mrazek and top offensive prospect Gustav Nyquist. They will look to keep their hot streak going tonight in Cleveland as they battle the Lake Erie Monsters, primary affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche.
The Monsters were shut out Wednesday by the Abbotsford Heat (Calgary Flames) and red-hot goaltender Barry Brust. Top Avalanche defense prospects Cameron Gaunce and Tyson Barrie have continued their strong play, while the offense is being paced by Mark Olver (10 points), Bryan Lerg (seven goals) and Mike Sgarbossa (six goals, 13 points). The Monsters’ 9-6 record has them second in the North Division and fourth in the Western Conference.
Tonight’s game will also likely be a battle of highly touted rookie goalies, with Lake Erie sending Calvin Pickard out between the pipes and the Griffins turning to Mrazek, who is 4-0 with a 1.71 goals against average. Pickard was a second round pick for Colorado in 2010 and had an outstanding junior career with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds. Mrazek was a fifth round pick of the Wings the same year, and played three solid seasons with the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s.
Nyquist is currently tied for fourth in the AHL with 15 points, and his six goals lead all Griffins scorers. Tomas Tatar has five goals and 12 points, usually playing on the same top line. Surprising output from rookie defenseman Chad Billins (12 assists, seven on the power play) and strong starts by Landon Ferraro (five goals, 10 points) and Francis Pare (six goals) have helped lead this team’s balanced scoring attack.
Tonight’s contest is the first of six meetings between the Griffins and Monsters this season. The Griffins have been off since Saturday, Nov. 10, when they gave up an early 2-0 lead to the Peoria Rivermen (St. Louis Blues) before sparking a come-from-behind 5-3 victory to keep their streak alive. After tonight’s game, they don’t play again until a home game Nov. 23 against the Chicago Wolves (Vancouver Canucks).