12/01/2010 5:00 PM
Dec. 1, 2010
In their last ten games, the Griffins have a 2-6-0-2 record, including close home losses to the Rockford Icehogs and Peoria Rivermen over Thanksgiving weekend. As the team moves into the month of December, where 10 of their 14 games will be played on home ice, head coach Curt Fraser shares his thoughts on the team’s performance in recent games as well as what it’s going to take to move up in the North Division standings.
As you move into the second quarter of the season, how important are the current standings for the team?
First of all you can’t compare this league to the NHL. In the NHL, where you’re at by Thanksgiving sets you up for where you’re going to be by the end, but in this league it’s not as difficult to turn things around and make up some ground. All the teams here are pretty equal and in our division it’s very, very tough to win. The teams are good, big and tough and it’s a battle every night.
With so many home games during December, is there an opportunity to move up in the standings despite being eight points behind Division leader Hamilton?
Absolutely. If you win three games in a row, you can move up close to first or second place. We have to start turning these upcoming home games into to our advantage. Fortunately for us we’ve been good on the road this year. Unfortunately, we’ve been poor at home. Shootout losses, one-goal game losses, those sorts of things can’t happen, and we need to find a way to be better.
What do you think is going to make a difference in winning at home?
Well, it will be nice now that Joey MacDonald will be back in the mix. He’s a veteran, NHL goaltender and when we had him here before, the dynamics of our goaltending was much different. When he left, we had two young guys trying to find their way and while they’ve been good sometimes, consistency has been a problem. With Joey here, it seemed our goaltending performances were much stronger, even when he wasn’t playing. This past weekend we missed Meech and Filppula and both those guys are impact players for us. They’re back in the mix as well now and hopefully that sums up for a good month at home.
Forward Ilari Filppula took a pretty hard hit in the Nov. 24 game against the Toronto Marlies, forcing him to miss the games over the weekend. What’s his recovery process been like?
Well Filppula got hit from behind from Jay Rosehill who’s about 6’3, just huge. Filppula never even saw him and took eight stitches over the eye. He had some headaches for a few days, and a minor concussion. We had to wait on him about a week, but now he’s on the ice. He looked good today for his first practice and hopefully he continues to feel better. Each day he’s got to make a little more progress before we can play him, but he should be cleared to go now and it will be nice to get him back in the line up.
Also during that game, the team recorded a franchise record 112 penalty minutes. Then three days later scored 10 goals against the Chicago Wolves. Is this a lack of consistency in practice or a result of the effort not translating to games?
It seems like we’re feast or famine. We’re the best practice team in the league. We practice like champs, and then we get out in the games and it’s not translating. If things go well in the first period, we seem to be very strong. When we step in a pothole, we seem to be fighting from behind all the time and it’s tough on our guys. We’re a team that always needs to play with the lead and if we can do that, we’re very good and tough to play against. When we’re going through a tough stretch we need to rely on team play, and not individual play. Right now I think that’s where we’re getting caught up.
During the line brawl against Toronto, some players who aren’t known for fighting got involved. Did this surprise you?
Well, Tomas Tatar and Francis Pare were the ones who were running around and fighting out there. Toronto is bigger than us and was trying to beat us up and I’m glad our guys drew a line in the sand and said, “Enough. We’re going to stand up for each other.” I get sick of seeing Amadio and Straub out there every night being the ones who have to stand up for our guys. This time, all the guys competed harder and stepped up.
Tatar went on to set a franchise record, recording seven (2-5—7) points against Chicago. What’s the next step after a performance like that?
Tatar was on the ice for eight of the 10 goals we scored and nobody tallies seven points by accident. He’s a very gifted hockey player who got some good opportunities and he made good of it. Is that going to happen again? Who knows? I think not, but the thing for Tatar is that’s one great game and he’s got to follow it up every game with that same kind of play. If he does that, he’ll have a great season.
How do the games this weekend against Milwaukee and San Antonio compare to other recent match-ups?
San Antonio’s the best team in the other division and Milwaukee’s very good as well. They’re two different teams: one is very good defensively and one is very good offensively, so we’ve got a tough challenge ahead.
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