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AHL Preview: Rockford IceHogs vs. Grand Rapids Griffins

Brandon Pirri

Tim Fuller – USA TODAY Sports

First place in the AHL’s Midwest Division will once again be up for grabs tonight when the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks) visit the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings) in the last game of the year.

Rockford comes into tonight’s contest on a three-game winning streak, and goaltender Carter Hutton ranks near the top of the league with 13 wins. Martin St. Pierre continues to pace the team offensively with 14 goals and 30 points, while Ben Smith (13 goals), Brandon Pirri (10 goals) and Jeremy Morin (10 goals) help balance out the scoring attack. Rookie defenseman Adam Clendening (22 points) also continues to impress – he is eighth in rookie scoring and fourth in power play assists. The IceHogs are the fifth-highest scoring team in the AHL, yet also rank third in penalty minutes.

The Griffins saw a four-game win streak end on Saturday thanks to a fluky second period “empty net” goal. Griffins netminder Tom McCollum, thinking he had seen a teammate touch the puck and believing the delayed penalty to be on the visiting Toronto  Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs), skated to the bench and was passed by Toronto’s Carter Ashton, who netted the easy goal. The Marlies would go on to win 3-1, dropping McCollum to 7-5-1 on the season. Rookie Petr Mrazek likely gets the start tonight, and his 10-3 record with a 2.21 GAA will be tested by Rockford’s high powered offense. Riley Sheahan picked up his seventh goal in Saturday’s loss and continues to improve on both ends of the ice for the team. Gustav Nyquist (10 goals, 27 points), Tomas Tatar (11 goals, 24 points) and Landon Ferraro (nine goals, 21 points) will look to jump start a potent offense that has struggled in the past week, especially on the power play.