DETROIT – The Grand Rapids Griffins received their Calder Cup rings more than a week ago in a private ceremony. Unfortunately for guys like Tomas Tatar and Joakim Andersson they were on a business trip to western Canada and had to wait until Thursday to receive their mementos from the Griffins first-ever championship.
“I’m kind of sad I missed the ceremony … we couldn’t make it,” Tatar said. “I’m glad we get it this way, too. Obviously, it’s a big reward and I’m very happy our owner in Grand Rapids could do it for us.”
Each ring, made by Grand Rapids-based Terryberry, has 73 stones and includes the Griffins and Red Wings logos intertwined on one side.
The Griffins clinched the title in 24 games, defeating the Houston Aeros (3-2), the Toronto Marlies (4-2), Oklahoma City Barons (4-3) and the Syracuse Crunch (4-2).
Tatar has keepsakes from his junior league days in Slovakia and a silver medal from the 2012 World Championships, but this is his first ring, he said. But he still has his hopes on something bigger.
“Obviously, that’s what you work the whole year for, actually all your life,” Tatar said. “You battle here the same way and you want to win the Stanley Cup, that’s the dream and hopefully I can achieve that in my career and I think this is the right spot to be for that.”
For Andersson, who won two junior titles with Frolunda in Sweden, the Calder Cup ring is just cool to have, he said.
“It’s a nice ring and a good memory to have,” Andersson said. “I played 2 ½ seasons with the Griffins, it was fun to win with the guys and the people around the team. So it was a great experience.”
BACK ON THE HORSE: Defenseman Adam Almquist made his NHL debut on Monday, but wasn’t overly thrilled his minus-2 rating in a 4-2 loss at Winnipeg.
“I think I played OK, pretty simple until the goals there,” Almquist said. “Obviously I don’t want to be on for those. I want to change that.”
The 22-year-old Almquist gets a chance for redemption tonight when he lines up with defensive partner Kyle Quincey as the Red Wings host the Dallas Stars at Joe Louis Arena.
“He’s a guy who’s got limited size, but he’s got elite hockey sense and can move the puck,” coach Mike Babcock said of Almquist. “He’s got to pick good spots and not get himself in bad spots. If he does that, he’ll have success.
“I thought he moved the puck real well (against Winnipeg), but he was also on for the game-winning goal against. He got himself way out wide and then got himself behind the net when he should have got himself out front. Those are things he’s got to learn, but if he learns quick, he’ll be fine.”
Having played alongside Almquist last season in Grand Rapids, Brian Lashoff said he has faith that the youngster will develop into a solid NHL player.
“He has a lot of composure with the puck, he’s real patient and he moves it real well to our forwards and that helps us play fast,” Lashoff said. “He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s good with positioning and he has real good offensive instincts.
“I think he’ll be fine. It was his first game, and I think he moved the puck real well. That’s his game, so I think as he gets going he’ll be better and better. We can use a guy like that who can move the puck up to our forwards.”
THE STARS COME OUT: The Stars bring a two-game winning streak into their game against the Red Wings tonight. The back-to-back shootout wins at Ottawa and Boston represents the first time the Stars have won consecutive games this season.
“Dallas is playing real well, playing real fast,” Babcock said. “I’m very impressed with their group. They’ve been getting good goaltending and up front they really, really skate. It’s going to be a tough test for us. When we went into Colorado, they told us the only team that out-skated them was Dallas.”
The Avalanche is tied with Anaheim for the second-best record in the league with 24 points each.
PK STREAK: The Red Wings’ penalty killing unit hasn’t allowed a power-play goal to an opponent since the New York Rangers on Oct. 26. Since then, Detroit has killed off 18 straight, the longest such stretch since last season.
“I think we’ve put some emphasis on pressuring the puck when they don’t have full control of it and kind of being a team that takes advantage of those bobbled pucks,” Lashoff said. “Other than that I think the principles are the same, we have to be a good team that blocks shots and get good goaltending, which we’ve had. Those are the things that have helped us.”
SMITH UPDATE: Defenseman Brendan Smith will miss at least the next two games, tonight vs. Dallas and Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Smith, who injured a shoulder in a fight with Edmonton’s Will Acton late in last Saturday’s 5-0 win over the Oilers, participated in the Red Wings’ optional skate Thursday morning at Joe Louis Arena.
Smith reported no problems or limitations with the shoulder.
“It was pretty good,” he said. “I don’t know if you guys were able to watch, but I was able to pass, shoot and do everything today, so that’s obviously a good sign for me.”
Smith is on short-term injured reserve, and the earliest he can return to the Wings’ lineup is next Tuesday when Detroit hosts the Winnipeg Jets.
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