In a matchup pitting the top team in the AHL’s Midwest Division against the worst, the Peoria Rivermen (St. Louis Blues) travel to Van Andel Arena tonight to take on the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings). The Griffins suffered their first regulation loss in their last six games Friday night, falling to the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks), 5-2. Peoria snapped a three-game losing streak last night with a 5-2 drubbing of the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators). The Admirals and Griffins both losing keeps a seven point difference between the two for first and second place in the Midwest Division.
The Griffins got another good game out of Tomas Tatar, who scored for the second straight game against the IceHogs. It was a rough night for goaltender Petr Mrazek, who made 28 saves on 33 shots and is now 13-4 on the season. Thomas McCollum likely gets the start tonight at home. Gustav Nyquist also scored Friday, and the Griffins await word on if he and Tatar might be called to Red Wings training camp starting Sunday.
The Rivermen saw their offense come alive against Milwaukee, with five different players getting in on the scoring action. Sergey Andronov, Cody Beach, Adam Cracknell, Evgeny Grachev and Andrew Murray had goals, while Mike McKenna got a well-deserved win between the pipes, stopping 22 of 24 shots. Jake Allen could get the start tonight, or coach Dave Allison may turn to McKenna for a back-to-back start. The Rivermen are without their top two defensemen, Ian Cole and Taylor Chorney, who have joined the Blues at training camp. Jaden Schwartz, the team’s third leading scorer, has also joined the Blues. Last night’s game showed the remaining players can elevate their game when needed.
With both teams weary from the trip to Grand Rapids, this game could get off to a slow start. The Griffins have been dominant against the Rivermen this season, and it will be interesting to see how both teams continue to play with some of their top talent gone to the NHL.