The Afternoon Shift – Nov. 2

Thomas McCollum/Photo by Mark Newman

When the Griffins’ players held their Halloween party on Sunday night, Thomas McCollum joined several teammates in donning pirate garb. While we’re unable to get our hands on any photos of this spectacle for judging, the impression that McCollum’s recently done of Joey MacDonald is undoubtedly more impressive.

McCollum’s struggles during his 2009-10 rookie year were well documented if not totally unexpected, given that at age 19 he became the youngest netminder to ever play for the Griffins. Sure, he was Detroit’s top pick and the 30th overall selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, but remember that it took Jimmy Howard four full seasons of apprenticeship in Grand Rapids before he earned a full-time role with the Red Wings last year at the age of 25. Like fine wine, goalies take time to age properly.

Enter master vintner MacDonald, another all-time Griffins great who was brought back this season to carry the load between the pipes and serve as a mentor to McCollum. While Joey Mac has been as advertised – his 1.72 goals against average is currently tied for second in the AHL – he’s also been absent since last Thursday, serving as the backup in Hockeytown since while first Howard and now Chris Osgood recuperate from various maladies.

Just as Howard’s back returned to health, Osgood sustained a groin injury during practice on Monday that is expected to keep him out for 3-7 days. So, MacDonald is accompanying the Wings on their three-game western road swing that begins Wednesday in Calgary, and McCollum will be called upon to continue his stellar recent play for the Griffins.

After earning consecutive road wins in Rochester and Toronto on Oct. 23-24, he helped the Griffins gain a point in last Friday’s shootout loss to Oklahoma City. McCollum’s real test, though, came on Saturday against the mighty Moose, who were thirsting for revenge after having started 0-2 against Grand Rapids and 5-0 versus the rest of the AHL. Add the pressure of the Griffins’ 0-1-0-2 home start, and McCollum needed to make a statement while also making a fourth consecutive start for just the second time in his career.

With the score tied 1-1 after 20 minutes, McCollum preserved the deadlock during the second period despite Grand Rapids getting out-shot by a 10-4 margin. The Moose struck five minutes into the third but would get nothing more, as McCollum turned aside nine other Manitoba tries while his mates scored on three of four shots to rally for a huge 4-2 win on home ice.

McCollum, who has now appeared in more games this season than MacDonald (5 to 4) for the 5-2-0-2 Griffins, owns a 3-1-1 record to go with a 0.895 save percentage and a 2.96 goals against average, his first sub-3.00 mark since last Dec. 26. Whether it’s a result of MacDonald’s influence, his own maturation or both, it appears that McCollum is growing into the goaltender the Red Wings think he can be.

Today’s Griffins links:

AHL/opponent links:

Alumni news and notes:

Video: NHL alumni goals

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