Monsters Return to the Ice to Host Griffins

For the third time in three home games, the Lake Erie Monsters (13-15-1-1) will meet the Grand Rapids Griffins (12-13-2-2) tonight. And just as the case has been in each meeting between the two teams this season, North Division positioning is at stake in tonight’s contest. The Monsters and Griffins enter the night tied with 28 points in the standings; the same total also held by the Hamilton Bulldogs. All in all, three of the five teams in the North have the same number of points; five back of second-place Rochester and eight back of first-place Toronto.

Toronto is tomorrow night’s opponent for the Monsters at Quicken Loans Arena, but the Griffins are the first order of business. The game marks the fifth in a stretch of seven straight games against the North Division for the Monsters; a period of time in which the Monsters are currently 2-2-0-0. The club is coming off a game that saw them out-shoot the Rochester Americans in Rochester by a 34-17 margin, only to fall in the game by a 4-1 score. The lone goal for the Monsters last time out came courtesy of Hugh Jessiman; his team-leading 12th of the season. His tally was also a power play goal, giving him a team-leading five goals this season with the man-advantage.

Jessiman has 11 goals in his last 18 games played since returning from a four-game suspension on November 3rd, and he remains a key offensive threat for the Monsters. As a matter of fact, Jessiman enters the evening having scored a greater percentage of his team’s goals than Norfolk’s Cory Conacher and his league-leading 18, and Hershey’s Chris Bourque and his 16 goals; the third-best total on the circuit.

Up front, the Monsters continue to receive boosts. Last week saw the return of Patrick Rissmiller, who missed the first 27 games of the season. Rissmiller has played the Monsters last three games, contributing a power play goal. Tonight marks the return of Evan Brophey, who is coming off a three-game call-up to the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. Brophey’s eight goals this season still stand as second-best on the team.

Dylan King, a defenseman who had been playing for the Allen Americans of the Central Hockey League, was called up yesterday to provide some extra help on the back end. King, just 21, is in his first professional season, and has scored three times in 17 games this season.

Gustav Nyquist remains the key player to watch offensively for Grand Rapids; he has been in the league’s top-ten in scoring for the bulk of the season, and currently boasts 30 points in 29 games. His 21 assists on the campaign leads rookies. Usually teamed on a line with the speedy Tomas Tatar, and Griffins goal scoring leader Jamie Johnson (13), the Griffins have a potent attack. Grand Rapids’ offense has mustered three power play goals in three games against the Monsters this season as well.

The Monsters and Griffins will get things going at 7:00 PM this evening at Quicken Loans Arena. Fans unable to attend can catch all the action live on WHKW-AM 1220. Tomorrow night, the Monsters will be back at it, hosting the North Division-leading Toronto Marlies at 7:00 PM.

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