32-19-13-1, 78 pts
#6 Western Conference
|v.||Grand Rapids Griffins|
38-19-6-2, 84 pts
#3 Western Conference
March 27th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX
UPDATE (9:30am): Valeri Nichushkin has officially been assigned from Dallas. Jesse Root has been assigned to Idaho.
Hockey's back at the Cedar Park Center after a four game roadie for the Texas Stars. They'll welcome in a club that hasn't seen central Texas for 10 months: the Griffins.
Of course, you'll remember the last time these two teams squared off in Cedar Park. In fact, #MrazekGuarantees you'll remember the last time. Coming home from their three games in Grand Rapids with a 3-2 series lead, the Stars absolutely pasted the Griffins in Game 6 to head to the Western Conference Finals.
This year, these two teams have already played twice with both contests in Michigan happening early in the season. Texas lost to Grand Rapids in 3-on-3 overtime both nights, a back-to-back gut punch that really kickstarted their bad luck in OT this season. After those games, watching Grand Rapids in the standings was odd. The perennial power was having trouble staying in playoff contention. They found themselves at 19-16-3-1 in late January, and then something clicked.
From Janaury 23rd until last weekend, the Griffins have lost one game in regulation. They were an obscene 19-1-3-1 over the two month stretch that included a nine-game winning streak. There is a chink in the armor though as lowly Lake Erie and bubble-team Adirondack both put up four and handed the Griffs a loss this past weekend.
Part of that would be Petr Mrazek heading up to Detroit. The Calder Cup winning goalie won't get a repeat showing at the CPC this weekend. Instead it will be Tom McCollum and Jared Coreau. Another player who will not be Teemu Pulkkinen. That's probably a good thing for Texas as well. Pulkkinen has played two games since February 15th and still leads the league in goals by five. He's the top Griffins point scorer by one despite having 14 fewer games played than the next closest player, Andy Miele.
Mattias Backman won't be in the lineup for Grand Rapids this go-round for a different reason. He was traded to the Stars in return for Erik Cole at the deadline. He is currently playing in Europe and could join Texas fully next season.
On the Texas side, it's time to keep things rolling. The good feeling from the road trip needs to continue into the homestand, where Texas has been hot recently. Jussi Rynnas hasn't skated since getting injured last week, so it's still Jack Campbell's net. He's likely to get both games this weekend.
Valeri Nichushkin is expected in the lineup for tonight and tomorrow on a conditioning assignment from Dallas. His assignment will present an interesting question for Coach Laxdal as to where to place him in the lineup. He's definitely top six, but whom do you displace for him? My feeling is put him with Dowling and Ranford in place of Glennie and before that Ritchie. Big bodied scoring winger is a good place for him.
Tonight will also be the only game you'll get to see Esa Lindell this season. He'll head back to Finland after tonight's game to compete in the World Championships.
Stars injury/call up report:
McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Rynnas, Faksa (injury)
Blog: Griffins Hockey on MLive.com