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Game Notes: Griffins at Stars - Feb. 4, 2023

Feb 04, 2023
Written By: Andrew Streitel

Grand Rapids Griffins (18-20-2-2) at Texas Stars (24-11-6-2)

Game Time: 8 p.m. at H-E-B Center at Cedar Park

February 4, 2023  ·  3 Minutes

Game Day Preview - February 4 vs Texas Stars

Griffins Game #43 * Road Game #23 * AHL Game #707

Season Series: 3-3-0-1 Home Series: 1-2-0-1 Road Series: 2-1-0-0
All-Time Series:
38-25-4-5 All-Time Home Series: 20-11-1-4 All-Time Road Series: 18-14-3-1

Griffins at Stars
Eighth of eight meetings overall, fourth of four at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park...The Griffins have points in five of the last seven games (4-2-1-0) against Texas at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park...Since the 2017-18 season, Grand Rapids is 7-8-2-1 (0.472) against the Stars in Texas and have been outscored 57-48...The home team has points in 14 of the past 22 clashes…Through 43 games, Texas is averaging 3.67 goals for while conceding an average of 2.88...Texas is 5-3-2-0 in its last 10 games and are 13-6-1-1 at home this season...The Stars’ penalty kill unit ranks fourth on the circuit at 84.1% while their power play places 12th at 21.3%...Former Griffin Riley Barber (2020-22) signed with the Stars’ organization during the offseason and currently leads the team lead with 38 points (20-18—38) in 42 appearances...Joel L’Esperance competed with the Texas Stars from 2017-22 and totaled 136 points (80-56—136) in 183 games while Alex Chiasson was with the Stars from 2011-13 and recorded 40 points (14-26—40) in 66 contests.

Last Time Out
The Griffins’ penalty kill and power-play units came up big in a 6-2 win against the Texas Stars on Friday at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park. Grand Rapids tallied a pair of man-advantage goals, as well as a short-handed score from Cross Hanas. This was the first time since Dec. 22 (8-7 OTW at CHI) that the Griffins have lit the lamp multiple times on the power play. Grand Rapids’ penalty kill was 5-for-5 despite the Stars coming into the contest ranking 10th in man-advantage conversion rate in the AHL. Taro Hirose (2-1–3), Matt Luff (0-2–2), Austin Czarnik (0-2–2), Albert Johansson (1-1–2) and Joel L’Esperance (0-2–2) each contributed two or more points to the scoresheet. Filip Zadina played the first game of his conditioning stint, registering three shots on goal.

Roster Shakeup
- Jan. 16—G Alex Nedeljkovic recalled by Detroit; G Alex Nedeljkovic assigned by Detroit
- Jan. 18—Detroit traded F Kyle Criscuolo to San Jose (NHL) for F Jasper Weatherby; F Patrick McGrath acquired by Grand Rapids from San Jose (AHL) for future considerations
- Jan. 24—F Matt Luff reassigned by Detroit
- Jan. 27—F Patrick McGrath assigned to Toledo by Grand Rapids; F Drew Worrad reassigned to Toledo by Grand Rapids
- Feb. 1—G Jussi Olkinuora recalled by Detroit for the purpose of mutually terminating his contract
- Feb. 2—F Filip Zadina assigned by Detroit on a conditioning loan

This Date in Griffins History
2006: Kent McDonell records his first AHL hat trick and Darryl Bootland tallies his franchise career-record 785th penalty minute in a 7-1 win over Syracuse. The Griffins tie a franchise record with five power play goals.

Keep Chugging Along
The Griffins enjoyed a season-high four-game point streak (2-0-1-1) from Jan. 14-21. The run was halted by the Milwaukee Admirals on Jan. 28 in a 4-2 defeat. Since the new year, Grand Rapids has lost in regulation just three times through 13 games (7-3-1-2, 0.654). The Griffins jumped into sixth in the Central Division but are still eight points out of a playoff spot with 30 games left.

Back with Authority
Matt Luff
returned to the lineup this past weekend for Grand Rapids, tallying an assist on Jan. 28 at Milwaukee in his first game since sustaining an injury with the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 8 and his first contest with the Griffins since Oct. 23. Luff returned the following night with a helper against the Chicago Wolves. The Windsor, Ontario, native has been held off the scoresheet just twice with the Griffins and has 11 points (3-8—11) in nine appearances.

Blossoming Swedes
Last Saturday against Chicago, Simon Edvinsson and Elmer Soderblom combined for five points (3-2—5), with one of the two Swedes either providing a goal or an assist on all five scores by Grand Rapids. Edvinsson, a 6-foot-6 defenseman, saw his three-game point streak (2-2—4) end on Tuesday but still has five points (2-3—5) in his last seven appearances. The 6-foot-8 Soderblom was held off the scoresheet in his first six AHL games but exploded for three points (2-1—3) on Jan. 29 against the Wolves and now has goals in three straight games from Jan. 29-Feb. 3.

The Last Czar
Veteran forward Austin Czarnik has been a major boost to the Griffins lineup, totaling 31 points (12-19—31) in 29 games. Czarnik has at least one point in 18 of the 29 contests and at least two points in eight outings. Last weekend, he totaled three assists in two games and now has nine points (3-6—9) in his last seven games. He has also spent a decent amount of time with the Detroit Red Wings, amassing three points (2-1—3) in 12 appearances. The Washington Township, Mich., native was named the Howies Hockey Tape/AHL Player of the Week on Oct. 17 when he registered five points (3-2—5) in two games and became the first Griffins forward to win the award since Matt Lorito on Nov. 20, 2016.

Vroom Vroom Vrana
After being held off the scoresheet in the first four games of his Griffins career, Jakub Vrana is starting to find the back of the net. He earned his first AHL point of the season on an assist against the Texas Stars on Jan. 6. Vrana had goals in consecutive games from Jan. 18-21 and posted his first two-point outing (1-1—2) last game against Chicago on Jan. 29. He now has a three-game point streak from Jan. 29–Feb. 3 and has four goals in his last six appearances. The veteran has totaled seven points (4-3—7) in 14 outings for Grand Rapids.

Power Struggle
After beginning the season with a 29.3% power-play conversion rate in the first nine games of the year, the Griffins have struggled as of late. Grand Rapids is 9-for-72 (12.5%) on the man-advantage in its last 21 outings and have just 12 power-play goals in its last 26 contests (12-for-100, 12.0%). However, the Griffins are 3-for-6 on the power play in their last two games. Grand Rapids was held off the scoresheet on the power play in seven straight games (0-for-21) from Jan. 7-21 but stopped that stretch when it tallied a power-play goal at Milwaukee on Jan. 28. The Griffins rank 24th in the AHL on the power play with a conversion rate of 17.7%.

On the Road Again
The Griffins wrapped up their season-high seven-game homestand that spanned from Dec. 31-Jan. 14. Grand Rapids finished with a 3-3-0-1 mark and are now 8-9-2-1 in West Michigan this season. The Griffins are now in the midst of a stretch of seven out of their next eight games on the road, which began on Jan. 16. Grand Rapids played its only home contest during the run on Jan. 21 against Springfield, a 3-2 overtime defeat. Grand Rapids holds a 10-11-0-1 ledger on foreign ice this season and are just one win away from 500 on the road in franchise history (499-412-12-34-60).

Just Keep it Close
The Griffins have had an up-and-down start to the season, but they have excelled at winning close games. In fact, Grand Rapids is 9-0-2-2 (0.846) in games decided by one goal and 4-0-2-0 (0.833) in overtime contests. In comparison, the Griffins are just 9-20-0-0 (0.310) in games decided by two or more tallies. In the 2021-22 season, the Griffins finished with a 13-7-6-2 (0.607) mark in games decided by one goal.

AHL Leaderboard Tracker
Pontus Andreasson
—Four power-play goals are tied for 11th among rookies
Austin Czarnik—Five game-winning goals are tied for second, three short-handed goals are tied for first
Simon Edvinsson—14 assists are tied for sixth among rookie defensemen, 17 points are tied for seventh among rookie defensemen
Joel L’Esperance—Eight power-play goals are tied for seventh, 140 shots are tied for fourth

Brian Lashoff
appeared in his 750th game as a pro on Feb. 3 at Texas and Jakub Vrana registered his 150th assist as a pro. Vrana skated in his 100th AHL game on Jan. 29 at Chicago and bagged his 300th pro point in the process (151-149—300). Austin Czarnik recorded his 300th pro point with an assist on Jan. 28 at Milwaukee.
Simon Edvinsson—Four points from 50 as a pro
Joel L’Esperance—One goal from 100 as a pro
Chase Pearson—Two assists from 50 as a pro, in the AHL and as a Griffin
Dominik Shine—One assist from 50 as a pro, as a Griffin and in the AHL

Photo by Andy Nietupski/TTL Sports Media