The Afternoon Shift – Nov. 17

When the Griffins visit the Lake Erie Monsters tonight at 7, it will mark just the second mid-week game for Grand Rapids since the 2010-11 season began nearly six weeks ago.

AHL front office types love weekend dates for packing their buildings with fans, but for coaches, these weekday games are much more than necessary evils to fill out an 80-game schedule. Especially early in a season when a team is fresh, these Tuesday-Thursday contests can either help a team maintain its momentum and rhythm, or give it opportunities to work out the kinks and build cohesion at an intensity level that’s simply not achievable during practice.

The balancing act lies in finding the right mix of practice time and game action. A busy schedule of games and travel takes away from practice time, something that is extremely valuable when systems are being honed and young players are still getting to know each other on the ice. Griffins coach Curt Fraser cites a month-long stretch last season with only three full practices as a key contributor to the struggles his team experienced.

However, playing infrequently also has its perils. It’s often better to be the team playing its third game in three nights than to be the one that’s well-rested, as all your focus and energy has been directed on the ice and your bodies are more accustomed to the grind.

It also presents a disadvantage from a standings perspective. To this point, only four AHL teams have played fewer games than the Griffins’ 15, while rival Abbotsford has suited up a league-high 19 times. As a result, even though Grand Rapids’ winning percentage of 0.633 is marginally higher than the Heat’s 0.632 mark, the Griffins trail the North Division leader by five standings points. Even though a team is playing well, it can be disheartening for players to see a standings deficit that exists through no real fault of their own.

The Griffins, though, will experience the best of both worlds in short order. With the stretch of 16 of 22 at home starting this weekend, they’ll have little travel time and ample opportunities for practice and rest. And they’re in the midst of playing six Wednesday games over a seven-week span, so combined with their weekend slates, it will be nearly impossible for an opponent to catch the Griffins cold in the coming months. 

Today’s Griffins links:

AHL/opponent links:

Alumni news and notes:

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