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Griffins Face Elimination Against Nashville Farm Team



Matt Luff, red wings, griffins

General manager Steve Yzerman undoubtedly longs for the day when his top prospects are digging deep to help their Detroit Red Wings claw their way back into a high-profile NHL playoff series.

But before we get there, Yzerman and his management team would like to see those prospects help the Grand Rapids Griffins battle their way back into their current AHL series. The Griffins face elimination tonight if they don’t beat the Milwaukee Admirals at Van Andel Arena (7 p.m.). The Nashville Predators’ AHL -affiliate owns a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.

“Everybody has to prepare knowing that this team is going to come out hungry and try to put us away early,” Grand Rapids forward Matt Luff said. “We have to match it and be better. The first 10 (minutes) are huge. I think we set the tone in the first 10 shots, hits and shots on net.”

To come from behind in a playoff series isn’t a historically simple assignment: The Griffins have only rallied to win a playoff series once when they trailed 2-1 in a best-of-five. That came in 2015 when the Griffins rallied from a 2-0 series deficit to down the Toronto team.

One key for the Griffins is whether their injured No. 1 defenseman Simon Edvinsson will be ready to play. He is day to day with an undisclosed injury.

The Griffins have missed his 6-foot-6 size against the bigger Admirals team. Grand Rapids won Game 1 in Milwaukee when he played, and have lost the last two games without Edvinsson in the lineup.

Confident Griffins

Luff’s idea for a Game 4 game plan is a logical approach because the Griffins have started poorly in their last two games.

“(We have) to stay with it, focus on what you can control, make the plays that you need to make and just control the puck,” Griffins center Austin Czarnik said. “If we can do those things, we still have a good chance.”

Luff adds: “We have to push the pace.”

Jonatan Berggren has 10 shots on goal in the first three games of this series, but he hasn’t scored yet. He has two assists. Berggren scored all three game-winning goals for Grand Rapids in its first round triumph over Rockford. With Detroit’s management group all gathered in Grand Rapids for this series, Berggren has an opportunity to show Yzerman he can play a role on the Red Wings next season.

Likewise, Sebastian Cossa has an opportunity to demonstrate his value to the organization.  He is matched up against Jaroslav Askarov, who is Nashville’s goalie of future  Cossa has had a GAA below 3.00 and a save percentage at .900 or above in four of his five playoff starts, but he may have to raise his game to an even higher level against an impressive Milwaukee group.

The Griffins gained plenty of confidence in the second half of the season when they were piling up points. “I know this team is going to turn it around,” Cossa said.