AHL Preview: Grand Rapids Griffins vs. Rockford Ice Hogs
The Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings affiliate) will face the Rockford Ice Hogs (Chicago Blackhawks affiliate) Wednesday night in an AHL Midwest Division showdown that will give both teams their first look at how their rosters will look now that the NHL season is going to happen.
There has been quite a rivalry developing between the two teams this season, helped along by their frequent meetings and close proximity in the standings. Tonight’s game will mark the first chance in recent memory that the Griffins’ Brendan Smith and the Hogs’ Andrew Shaw can get in each others faces (see above), as Smith has already headed to Detroit to join informal skates with the Wings and Shaw should be a likely candidate for Blackhawks training camp.
Rockford has lost three straight games, scoring just four goals in the process and now find themselves seven points off the division lead. Center Martin St. Pierre, who got the 500th point of his AHL career in Saturday’s loss to the Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs affiliate), leads the team with 14 goals and 31 points. Several of the Ice Hogs’ top scorers could be on their way to training camp in Chicago soon as well: Adam Clendening, Brandon Pirri, Jeremy Morin, Jimmy Hayes, Nick Leddy and Ben Smith. Both Rockford goaltenders have seen their season numbers level out, as Carter Hutton is now 13-13-1 and Alec Richards is 4-4.
The Griffins may lose Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar alongside Smith, which would force players like Landon Ferraro (12 goals, 25 points) and Riley Sheahan (nine goals, 16 points, +10) to step up their game. Petr Mrazek is now 12-3-1 with a 2.10 GAA, giving the Griffins a chance to stay competitive in close games.
The Red Wings and Blackhawks share an affiliation with the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL so a handful of these players have spent time together before. This week has seen Andrej Nestrasil, Max Nicastro and Gleason Fournier added to the Griffins roster and Ben Youds, Brandon Svendsen and Terry Broadhurst promoted to the Ice Hogs. Those moves now leave the Walleye without almost all of their top scorers this season.