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Game Notes: Griffins vs. Stars - Dec. 15, 2023

Dec 15, 2023
Written By: Andrew Streitel

Grand Rapids Griffins (8-12-2-1) vs. Texas Stars (14-5-2-1)

Game Time: 7 p.m. at Van Andel Arena

December 15, 2023  ·  2 Minutes

Game Day Preview - December 15 vs. Texas Stars

Griffins Game #24 * Home Game #12 * AHL Game #360

Season Series: 0-3-0-0 Home Series: 0-1-0-0 Road Series: 0-2-0-0
All-Time Series:
39-28-4-5 All-Time Home Series: 20-12-1-4 All-Time Road Series: 19-16-3-1

Stars at Griffins
Fourth of eight meetings overall, second of four at Van Andel Arena...Since the 2019-20 season, the Griffins are 9-13-2-2 (.423) against Texas with a minus-18 scoring margin (90-72)...Also since 2019-20, Grand Rapids is 4-6-1-1 (.417) against the Stars at Van Andel Arena and has been outscored 39-34...Through 22 games, Texas ranks first in the AHL with an average of 4.14 goals scored, while conceding an average of 3.14 goals (20th in AHL)...Texas is 8-2-0-0 in its last 10 games and is 9-3-0-0 on the road this season...The Stars are on a three-game win streak...The Griffins are 4-5-1-0 in their last 10 and are 6-4-1-0 at home, including wins in four of their last six home games...The Stars’ penalty kill unit is tied for 21st on the circuit at 79.3%, while their power play places third at 23.3%...Joel L’Esperance competed with the Texas Stars from 2017-22 and totaled 136 points (80-56—136) in 183 games...Texas’ Logan Stankoven (14-15—29, 2nd) and Mavrik Bourque (8-24—32, 1st) are the top two scorers in the AHL. Bourque also paces the league in assists, while Stankoven is tied for the lead in goals.

Last Time Out
Matej Blumel's second-period goal and Remi Poirer's 26-save shutout were enough to blank the Griffins 2-0 at Van Andel Arena on Wednesday. Entering the night, the Stars had scored at least three goals in 12 consecutive games since a 4-2 loss at Iowa on Nov. 5. In addition, Texas had been held to fewer than three tallies only four times in its first 21 games.

Roster Shakeup
- Dec. 10—F Alex Doucet and D Antti Tuomisto reassigned to Grand Rapids from Toledo (ECHL) by Detroit; F Trenton Bliss recalled by Grand Rapids
- Dec. 11—F Zach Aston-Reese, F Jonatan Berggren and F Austin Czarnik recalled by Detroit
- Dec. 14—F Trenton Bliss reassigned to Toledo (ECHL) by Grand Rapids

This Date in Griffins History
2001: In a game that starts 1:50 late due to weather delays in the Griffins' return from a game in Utah the previous night, Grand Rapids skates to the first tie in franchise history, a 2-2 deadlock with Cincinnati at Van Andel Arena.

Home Sweet Home
The Griffins concluded their five-game road trip on Sunday with a 1-3-1-0 mark, which included three games in three days. Now, Grand Rapids returns home for a pair of contests against the Texas Stars, that began on Wednesday with a 2-0 defeat. The Griffins have fared well at home, showing a 6-4-1-0 record with a plus-six scoring margin compared to a 2-8-1-1 road ledger and a minus-19 margin. The Griffins have won four of their last six home games, dating back to Nov. 15. However, Grand Rapids will play just two out of its next eight games inside Van Andel Arena. Despite struggling to string together wins, the Griffins are just three points out of third place in the Central Division standings.

Simon Says
Defenseman Simon Edvinsson has 12 points (3-9—12) in his last 12 games and enjoyed a seven-game point streak (3-7—10) from Nov. 18-Dec. 8, which is tied for the longest run by a Griffin this season. Edvinsson exploded for his first two-goal game in North America on Dec. 1 against the Milwaukee Admirals and logged two assists in consecutive games from Nov. 18-24. The 6-foot-6 defensive prospect ranks second on the team with 16 points (6-10—16) in 22 games. Edvinsson is also tied for ninth among AHL defensemen with 16 points and places fourth among blueliners with six goals. The Onsala, Sweden, native, who was selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, saw action in nine NHL games with the Red Wings last season and scored two goals.

Great Tidings of Joel
After being held without a goal for the first 11 games of the season, Joel L’Esperance has started to find a rhythm offensively, scoring six goals in his last 10 outings. L’Esperance broke his drought with two goals against Manitoba on Nov. 24 and now has scored three goals in his last five contests from Dec. 5-13, which included goals in consecutive games from Dec. 5-8. The Brighton, Michigan, native has scored at least 24 goals in each full AHL season since 2018-19, including 25 tallies last season for the Griffins.

Under Three is Key
Unsurprisingly, the Griffins have done well in games where they have scored four or more goals, going 6-1-1-0 (.813). Although, when scoring three goals or less the team is just 2-11-1-1 (.200). Grand Rapids has scored four or more goals in six of its last 11 outings. On the flip side, Grand Rapids is just 1-10-2-1 (.179) when allowing at least three goals, compared to a 7-2-0-0 mark (.778) when allowing two goals or less. In their last 11 appearances, the Griffins have allowed three or more goals seven times.

Uncharted Territory

Defensemen Josiah Didier and Albert Johansson have produced uncharacteristic offense as of late, as they have combined for eight points (1-7—8) in the last seven games for the Griffins. Johansson, a former 2019 second-round draft pick by the Red Wings, has five points (1-4—5) in his last seven outings, which included two points on Dec. 1 against Milwaukee (0-2—2) and on Dec. 5 at Toronto (1-1—2). In the AHL, Johansson has averaged just .31 points per game through 70 appearances. Didier logged three assists in a two-game span from Dec. 8-9, which tripled his scoring output in the previous 16 games this season. Throughout 397 career AHL contests, the 30-year-old has averaged just .18 points per game.

Power Surge
Grand Rapids’ power play has been a bright spot for the team thus far, as it is tied for 16th in the AHL with a conversion rate of 18.8%. On the road, the Griffins ranks 15th at 20.5% compared to 17.1% at home (15th). Grand Rapids is 2-for-10 on the man-advantage in its last three games and has scored at least one power-play goal in five out of the previous seven contests (6-for-29, 20.7%). Taro Hirose leads the team with three power-play goals and six power-play assists. Simon Edvinsson is tied for second among AHL defensemen with two power-play goals.

Add Him to the List
On Monday with the Red Wings, Zach Aston-Reese became the 204th Griffins alum to play in the NHL, logging 6:21 of ice time in a 6-3 defeat at the Dallas Stars. The 29-year-old has competed in 308 NHL games across seven seasons and totaled 80 points (42-38—80) and a plus-33 rating. In 2022-23, Aston-Reese appeared in a career-high 77 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs and accumulated 14 points (10-4—14) and 25 penalty minutes. Aston-Reese has seven points (4-3—7) in 20 games with the Griffins this season, making his Grand Rapids debut on Oct. 13 against the Colorado Eagles.

AHL Leaderboard Tracker
Simon Edvinsson
—16 points are tied for ninth among defensemen, six goals rank fourth among defensemen, two power-play goals are tied for second among defensemen
Carter Mazur—24 penalty minutes rank 10th among rookies

On Sunday, Wyatt Newpower skated in his 150th pro game. Last Saturday, netminder Michael Hutchinson recorded his 200th win as a pro in a 4-3 overtime victory over Belleville.
Austin Czarnik—Two goals from 100 in the AHL
Taro Hirose—Two points from tying Mitch Callahan for seventh on the team’s all-time point list
Joel L’Esperance—One point from 200 as a pro
Nolan Stevens—Three goals from 50 as a pro

Photo by Mark Newman/Griffins