Tonight, the Griffins will look to rediscover their offensive mojo when they visit the Milwaukee Admirals at 8 p.m. If they succeed, they’ll need to send a thank you note to the Nashville Predators.
Heading into their matinée matchup with the Admirals on Nov. 10, the Griffins owned a 7-3-0-2 record, had scored four or more goals in seven consecutive games, led the league in power play (15-for-52, 28.8%) and ranked fifth in goals per game (3.58).
However, Milwaukee netminder Mark Dekanich, who entered that contest as the AHL’s third-ranked backstop, turned aside all 35 Griffins shots in the Admirals’ 1-0 shootout win. That game sparked an offensive drought of historic proportions for Grand Rapids, which has eclipsed two goals in just one of its last 10 games (2-6-0-2): the wacky 10-8 triumph in Chicago last Saturday. Excluding that game, the Griffins totaled just nine goals in their other nine contests.
Grand Rapids has scored on only two of its last 53 power play chances (3.8%) to fall to 19th overall (16.2%), while its scoring average has dropped to 17th on the circuit (2.82). While the Griffins have searched high and low for answers, one reason for their offensive troubles is as clear as the goalie on the other end of the ice.
In five of their last 10 games, the Griffins faced a netminder who ranked among the AHL’s top 12 heading into the contest, posting a 0-4-0-1 record in those outings. Dekanich stood third prior to his shutout of Grand Rapids, which has also been victimized recently by Lake Erie’s Jason Bacashihua (12th, 3-0 on Nov. 17, 29 saves), Houston’s Anton Khudobin (7th, 5-0 on Nov. 19, 28 saves), Toronto’s Jussi Rynnas (5th, 3-1 on Nov. 24, 26 saves) and Peoria’s Jake Allen (1st, 3-2 on Nov. 28, 36 saves).
Overall this season, the Griffins are 4-6-0-1 against goaltenders who were ranked among the AHL’s top 20, including 0-2 versus Dekanich, whose 1.71 GAA is currently the fourth-lowest and who has posted three shutouts in his last eight starts. However, the fifth-rounder from the 2006 NHL Entry Draft received his second summons of the season by Nashville today, making rookie Jeremy Smith (2-1-0, 3.34 GAA, 0.891 save percentage) his likely replacement between the pipes tonight when the Griffins come calling.
Smith, a native of Dearborn, Mich., is anything but a pushover, though, as he was the co-winner of the ECHL’s playoff MVP honors last spring, when he led the Cincinnati Cyclones to a league championship.
Today’s Griffins link:
- Tardif puts team success first (Griffins)
Alumni news and notes:
Red Wings’ Justin Abdelkader matches up well against the physical Ducks (Detroit Free Press)
- Ann Arbor starting point for Red Wing Jimmy Howard (Heritage Newspapers)