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04/01/2015 12:04 AM -

Red Wings prospect Petr Mrazek has already led the Griffins to one Calder Cup championship. Will he do it again before graduating to the NHL full time next season?

Petr Mrazek has that swagger. If he were a character out of folklore, he'd be slaying dragons, pulling swords out of stones and rescuing damsels in distress. He has the makings to become a hockey hero for the ages – and he knows it.
The young netminder has all the confidence in the world – and then some – and dreams of the day when he can be considered one of the best goaltenders in the game. And yet such flights of fancy do nothing but foil his focus.
Mrazek has yet to play a full season in the NHL, so nobody is proclaiming him the second coming of Dominik Hasek, his boyhood idol in the Czech Republic, whose unorthodox style allowed him to become a six-time Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL's top netminder and the only goaltender to win the Hart Trophy twice as the league's most valuable player.
Still, even at the tender age of 23, Mrazek has demonstrated the kind of talent that prompts grand predictions for his future. He is doggedly determined, unflappable and unflinching in his attitude while showing an uncanny ability to win hockey games at every level.


04/01/2015 12:03 AM -

Griffins left wing Chris Bruton is a battler who is willing to fight with everything he has to win a championship.

Making a career in hockey can be tough. When fighting, figuratively speaking, for ice time is a certainty and fighting toe-to-toe with your opponents becomes your calling card, life isn't easy.
Chris Bruton loves it.
As a boy growing up in western Canada, Bruton embraced the sport of hockey from an early age. As he got older, he realized that he needed to add fisticuffs to his skillset, much to the chagrin of his mother.
"When I started playing pro hockey, I knew I had to find a role to make a living, and fighting kind of stuck with me," Bruton said. "My mom came to one of my first pro games in Abbotsford and during my first shift, I squared off. She got up and walked away. That was it. She hasn't watched a game since."
Bruton has always been a little fearless and has an adventurous side that came with growing up as the middle child in an active family of three boys born to Ed, a corporate attorney, and Catherine, a flight attendant for Air Canada.
"They've been there every step of the way," said Bruton, who speaks of his parents in glowing terms. "They understood my love of the game and they never pressured us in anything. They completely supported us, whether it was the 6 a.m. practices or driving eight hours to watch me play in Spokane in juniors."


04/01/2015 12:02 AM -

Defenseman Brian Lashoff would like to prove that he belongs back in the NHL.

Brian Lashoff didn't expect to play in Grand Rapids this season.
After spending parts of five seasons with the Griffins, Lashoff figured he had put West Michigan in his rearview mirror. Having signed a three-year contract extension with the Detroit Red Wings in February 2013, he looked firmly ensconced in his position on the blueline in Hockeytown.
But the emergence of Red Wings prospects Xavier Ouellet and Alexey Marchenko this season pushed Lashoff down the depth chart and he found himself a healthy scratch more often than not.
Lashoff, who appeared in only three games with Detroit during December, had not played a game in more than a month when the Red Wings assigned him to Grand Rapids after putting him on waivers on Jan. 31.
What some might have viewed as a negative became a positive – for both Lashoff and the Griffins.
"At the end of the day, it became too long between games – I need to play," Lashoff said. "I can't sit there and watch hockey forever. At 24, I'm still a young guy, so it's important for me to play."


04/01/2015 12:01 AM -

The AHL, which has never had a franchise in California, will now have five of them.

California is known for its seismic activity, and the hockey world was rocked recently when the AHL announced that five of its franchises would be moving there next fall for the 2015-16 season, the league’s 80th campaign.
“Relocating five teams is a complex process, and we are very excited to have brought this initiative to a successful outcome,” said AHL president and CEO David Andrews, who explained that the move was the culmination of three years of discussions between the league and western-based NHL clubs.
Full division alignments and schedule formats will be determined by the AHL Board of Directors at a later date, but the move was seen as a major step forward to further align the NHL with the AHL as its top developmental league.
With the vast majority of the AHL franchises located east of the Mississippi, the western-based NHL teams felt they were at a competitive disadvantage in terms of costs, travel time and opportunities for practice. The formation of a Pacific Division will allow the impacted teams to benefit from the close proximity of their operations.

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