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Hot Team: Grand Rapids Griffins
The Griffins are turning their rough October into a distant memory. Grand Rapids was 2-3-1-1 last month but is on a five-game winning streak in November. In that span, the Griffins have outscored their opponents 20-10 on their way to the top of the Midwest Division.
Much of their recent success can be credited to rookie goaltender Petr Mrazek. The former Ottawa 67’s starter began the season in the ECHL but has been stellar since getting called up, going 4-0 with a .940 save percentage.
Gustav Nyquist, who played 18 games with the Detroit Red Wings last season, leads Grand Rapids with 15 points, good for second in the league in scoring. With both their offense and defense on a roll, the Griffins don’t show any signs of slowing down soon.Cold Team: Norfolk Admirals
After a hot start to the season, reality has set in for the Admirals. Norfolk had lost four of five games in November heading into Monday. Goaltender Igor Bobkov has been pulled after the first period in each of his last two starts, while the Admirals’ offense scored only four goals in their last three losses.
Leading scorers Peter Holland and Kyle Palmieri have gone cold, with one three points between them in the last three games. Rookie defenseman Sami Vatanen has two assists this month, a step backwards from the seven points in six games he posted in October.
Norfolk is in Albany Monday followed by three home games, which is good news for the Admirals considering their home record. But two of those games are against Eastern Conference-leading Springfield.
Prospect Watch: Oklahoma City Barons
Justin Schultz slowed down a little in the past week. The rookie defenseman went two games without recording a point after starting the season on a nine-game streak. But Schultz scored the OT winner against Abbotsford Saturday and still leads the league in scoring with 16 points.
Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins trail Schultz with 12 and 11 points, respectively, but the real story on the Barons’ top line is former sixth-round pick Teemu Hartikainen, who played 29 games with the Oilers over the past two seasons and has 10 points for Oklahoma City.
Hartikainen is keeping pace with his marquee linemates and making his case for a return to Edmonton, perhaps in more of a scoring role, once the NHL resumes playing.Power Players: Charlotte Checkers
No team has been more effective with the man advantage than the Checkers this season. Charlotte is converting 30 percent of its power-play chances, accounting for 18 of its league-leading 50 goals scored. Zach Boychuk and Drayson Bowman each have four power-play goals.
The Checkers’ effective power play starts with defensemen Marc-Andre Gragnani and Justin Faulk, both of whom spent most of last season in the NHL. Gragnani and Faulk quarterback Charlotte’s top unit and often appear in the assist column when a power-play goal is scored. Gragnani has nine assists on the season, while Faulk has 11.
With 19 points so far, the Checkers lead the league, and they will likely stay near the top if other teams keep taking penalties against them.Surveying the schedule
- The Toronto Marlies return to Canada from a successful Texas road trip after stopping in Oklahoma City Tuesday. The Marlies won three straight in the Lone Star State and will try to maintain that momentum when they face the Bulldogs in Hamilton Friday before hosting two games on the weekend.
- The Lake Erie Monsters will be the latest team to try and derail the Abbotsford Heat’s home stranglehold. Through eight home games, the Heat have yet to lose in regulation. Lake Erie will have two chances Tuesday and Wednesday before returning to Cleveland to host Grand Rapids Friday.