Friday, November 29, 2013

Gameday Preview: Stars at Grand Rapids Griffins

Texas Stars
11-6-2-2, 26 pts
#4 Western Conference
atGrand Rapids Griffins
13-4-1-1, 28 pts
#2 Western Conference
November 29th at 6:00 PM
Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, MI

While their fans were busy eating turkey and watching football in the comfort of their own homes, the Texas Stars made a Thanksgiving plane flight to Grand Rapids for a two-game set starting tonight. Not to fear, the Americans among the team, including Travis Morin, celebrated with their families last weekend.

The Stars have yet to face the Griffins this year. Grand Rapids is the defending Calder Cup champion, a goal that Texas seemingly had in its sights as the playoffs started last year.

Coach Desjardins said after Oklahoma City that playing the defending champion is something that they are "looking forward to".

He continued, "They're a really good team and have a really strong lineup right now. They have a few guys down from Detroit. We are going to have to push and play our best through all facets of our game. They like coming against us too, I think, with Jim Nill here. They want to come after ours team. We played them in Traverse City and they were ready, more ready than we were. We have to be ready."

Coach Desjardins is definitely correct about that Detroit talent. While the Stars are lucky to not face Gustav Nyquist (7-14-21 in 15 GP) this evening, they will see Tomas Jurco (10-12-22 in 19 GP). Jurco was a second round pik in 2011 for the Red Wings and put up point per game numbers in the QMJHL. After a fair season last year with the Griffins (14-14-28 in 74 GP), he is leading the club in goals and points and Nyquist is the only player even close. The next player after those two is Finnish RW Teemu Pulkkinen at 7-6-13.

Also in the lineup are longtime NHLers Jordin Tootoo and Patrick Eaves. Tootoo is known mostly as a pugilist from his time with Nashville and Detroit. He only has two penalty minutes in five games played with Grand Rapids. He last played in the AHL in 2006 with Milwaukee, earning 133 PIMs in just 41 games. Eaves also last played in the AHL in 2006, a short 18 game stint with the Binghamton Senators that saw him score 5-8-13.

The Griffins lead the Midwest Division by a comfortable five point margin. Most impressive in their stat line is their road record of 9-2-1-1. The schedule masters have sent GRG out on the road 13 times this season so far compared to only six home contests. Tonight's game opens a seven-game Griffins' homestand reaching into mid-December that will even out that imbalance.

Grand Rapids has had excellent goaltending this season with Mrazek and McCollum both sporting sub-2.50 GAAs and SV& north of .910. They have splitw work evenly. In fact, the Griffins are allowing the third fewest goals per game in the league right now (2.42), only surpasses by Norfolk and Springfield out East. That works out really well considering that they are one of only four teams scoring more goals per game than the Texas Stars. Texas is fifth at 3.48 goals and Grand Rapids is in second at 3.74.

The Griffins come in on a three game winning streak, while Texas is looking to string three together themselves.

Texas will have a decision tonight of waht to do with the goalie situation. It seemed like Cristopher Nilstorp had a big time bounce-back confidence-builder game on Wednesday. He still doesn't seem 100% on the injury front though, so I should think that York gets one start and Nilstorp the other.

Stars injury/call up report:
Campbell (injured)

Website: griffinshockey.com
Twitter: @GriffinsHockey
Blog: Griffins Hockey on MLive.com

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