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Grand Rapids Maintains Share of First in Tight West Division Race

This Week’s Games

Wed., Dec. 22 - GRIFFINS at Cleveland Barons - 7 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM
Thu., Dec. 23 - GRIFFINS at Chicago Wolves - 8 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM / WHTC 1450 AM
Sun., Dec. 26 - Cincinnati Mighty Ducks at GRIFFINS - 6 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM

Last Week’s Results

Wed., Dec. 15 - GRIFFINS 4 at Utah Grizzlies 2 - 18-7-1-0, 37 pts. (1st, West Division)
Fri., Dec. 17 - GRIFFINS 1 at Utah Grizzlies 3 - 18-8-1-0, 37 pts. (T1st)
Sat., Dec. 18 - Cleveland Barons 2 at GRIFFINS 0 - 18-9-1-0, 37 pts. (T1st)

Close Quarters: Despite losing two straight and three of their last four games, the Griffins maintain a share of first place in the West Division with the Milwaukee Admirals and stand only one point behind Western Conference-leading Manitoba. Grand Rapids (18-9-1-0) and Milwaukee (17-6-2-1) each have earned 37 points, while the Chicago Wolves (16-9-3-1) sit one point back in the division race.

Happy Festivus!: The Griffins will celebrate all things “Seinfeld” when the Mighty Ducks come calling this Sunday. There will be Seinfeld related contests, video clips and prizes throughout the night, and special “Festivus” T-shirts will be available for $12 at merchandise kiosks on the concourse. As part of D&W Family Sunday, fans can get a buy-one-get-one-free deal on a $13 ticket by showing a receipt of $20 or more from any D&W store. (These tickets must be purchased either at The Zone or at the Van Andel Arena box office.) The post-game festivities will include a Max & Erma’s Family Fun Skate with WSNX and an autograph session with Griffins players.

Buckeye Success: Saturday’s loss to the Barons was the first sustained by the Griffins in eight tries against Ohio-based teams this season. Grand Rapids shows records of 3-1-0-0 against Cleveland and 4-0-0-0 versus Cincinnati, with all four wins against the Ducks and two of the three versus the Barons having come by one-goal margins. The Griffins will try to avenge Saturday’s shutout defeat when they visit Gund Arena on Wednesday, and they’ll wrap up the week by hosting the Ducks on Sunday.

Road Sweet Road: The Griffins own just a 2-4-0-0 mark against Chicago this season, but this Thursday at Allstate Arena they’ll try to continue a remarkable trend that has seen the road team win each of the first six meetings between the rivals.

Nifty 50: Joey MacDonald made 30 saves in last Wednesday’s 4-2 win at Utah to record his 14th victory of the season and the 50th triumph of his Griffins career (50-26-3, 0.652). Third on the franchise’s all-time list behind only Mike Fountain (55) and Marc Lamothe (54), MacDonald reached the milestone in just 85 games played, second-fastest behind Fountain’s 80 games.

Road Warriors: At 10-2-0-0, the Griffins own both the AHL’s best road record (0.833) and the best road start in franchise history. However, their success away from home stands in contrast to their record at Van Andel Arena, where they’ve won just half of their 16 outings (8-7-1-0).

Going to Extremes: The road-weary Griffins have traveled approximately 7,000 miles the last two weeks to play a pair of games each in St. John’s, Newfoundland and West Valley City, Utah. They suffered defeats in their homecoming games the last two Saturdays, after flying back to Grand Rapids on game day, but they won’t have to board a plane again until they travel to Houston and Edmonton late next month (Jan. 22-27).

Get Shorty: Erik Westrum’s unassisted tally at 19:40 of the first period on Friday in Utah marked the first shorthanded goal allowed by the Griffins this season. By contrast, Grand Rapids has already scored four goals while outmanned.

Here’s to You, Mr. Robinson: Todd Robinson, signed from UHL Muskegon on Nov. 12, saw his nine-game scoring streak (3-9—12) snapped by the Grizzlies on Friday, ending the longest point streak on the Griffins and the third-longest in the AHL this season. Still, he has registered points in 11 of the last 14 outings (3-11—14) to move into a tie for third on the team with 15 points (3-12—15) in just 19 games. Robinson, who stands second on the Griffins with 12 assists, needs just two points to reach 500 for his pro career (138-360—498).

Manlow Among Boys: Eric Manlow’s five-game goal streak, the second-longest in the AHL this season, came to an end on Friday in Utah, one game shy of the franchise record held by Kip Miller (2000-01) and Pavol Demitra (1996-97). Manlow, whose six-game point streak (5-2—7) was also snapped, leads the Griffins with 11 goals and five power play tallies, places second with 21 points and stands third with 10 assists.

League Leaders: Joey MacDonald ranks among the AHL’s leaders with 14 wins (T3rd), four shutouts (T1st), a 1.93 GAA (6th) and a 0.934 save percentage (T6th)…Niklas Kronwall, who leads the Griffins in scoring, ranks first among league blueliners with 26 points and nine goals, while his 17 assists place fourth…Eric Himelfarb’s 15 points (5-9—14) tie for third on the Griffins and 11th among AHL rookies. He leads all first-year players and is tied for fourth overall in the AHL with two shorthanded goals.

Milestones for Helmer: Defenseman Bryan Helmer’s next goal will be the 100th of his 12-year pro career. He logged the 250th assist of his AHL tenure with his second helper in the 3-2 loss to Chicago on Dec. 11.

So Long: Yesterday, the Griffins released forward Nick Parillo from his tryout and returned him to the ECHL’s Toledo Storm. In four games over two tours of duty with Grand Rapids this season, Parillo is scoreless with nine penalty minutes.

Missing in Action: Jiri Hudler, who is currently in the Czech Republic alongside his ailing father, has missed the last 12 games…Tomas Kopecky has missed the last 11 games due to a broken finger…Kory Karlander has sat out the last three games after suffering a broken left foot when hit by the puck during the Dec. 11 loss to Chicago.

By the Numbers: Where the Griffins rank among the AHL’s 28 teams in various statistical categories:
• Power Play: 25-for-163, 15.3% (14th)
• Penalty Killing: 139-for-153, 90.8% (2nd)
• Penalty Minutes: 19.61 avg. (26th)
• Goals For: 2.57 avg. (T15th)
• Goals Against: 2.07 avg. (4th)
• Shots For: 29.96 avg. (17th)
• Shots Against: 29.21 avg. (9th)
• Attendance: 5,973 avg. (10th)

This Week’s Scouting Report

Wed., Dec. 22 at Cleveland Barons (13-12-1-2) – Gund Arena – 7 p.m.

TV: None. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:59 p.m. Season Series: 3-1-0-0 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Road. Fifth of eight meetings overall, second of four in Cleveland. All-Time Series: 11-7-0-0 Overall, 4-4-0-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: San Jose Sharks. Head Coach: Roy Sommer (4th season). Spy Glass: After losing five straight, the road team has won two of the last three series games, including the Griffins’ 3-2 triumph at Gund Arena on Nov. 19…The Griffins and Barons have split the last two meetings, with each winning by shutout at Van Andel Arena…Shane Joseph (1-3—4) and Nolan Schaefer (1.52 GAA, 0.951%, 1 SO) have fared well versus Grand Rapids…The Barons have won a season-high four straight by a margin of 14-5, and they’ve allowed just eight goals in their last six games.

Thu., Dec. 23 at Chicago Wolves (16-9-3-1) – Allstate Arena – 8 p.m.
TV: None locally. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM/WHTC 1450 AM at 7:59 p.m. Season Series: 2-4-0-0 Overall, 2-0-0-0 Road. Seventh of 10 meetings overall, third of five in Rosemont. All-Time Series: 33-22-4-1 Overall, 17-12-0-1 Road. NHL Affiliation: Atlanta Thrashers. Head Coach: John Anderson (8th season). Wolf Tracks: The road team has won each of the first six meetings…Dating to last season, the Wolves have won 10 of the last 12 against Grand Rapids…Chicago is 5-1-1-0 in its last seven…J.P. Vigier (4-3—7) and Travis Roche (3-4—7) have enjoyed success against the Griffins…Vigier rides a seven-game point streak into this week’s action, while Roche is second among AHL defensemen in scoring (7-15—22)…Kari Lehtonen’s 14 wins tie for third on the circuit.

Sun., Dec. 26 vs. Cincinnati Mighty Ducks (11-17-0-2) – Van Andel Arena – 6 p.m.
TV: None. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 5:40 p.m. Season Series: 4-0-0-0 Overall, 2-0-0-0 Home. Fifth of 10 meetings overall, third of five in Grand Rapids. All-Time Series: 20-6-2-0 Overall, 10-2-2-0 Home. NHL Affiliation: Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Head Coach: Brad Shaw (3rd season). Just Ducky: Each of the Griffins’ four wins over the Ducks this season has been by a one-goal margin…Former NHLer Dan Bylsma, a native of Grand Haven, Mich., is an assistant coach with Cincinnati…Former Griffin Mathieu Chouinard owns a 1.57 GAA and a 0.947 save percentage in three games with the Ducks…Michael Holmqvist has a team-high three goals against the Griffins, while former Ferris State star Chris Kunitz logged a pair in his lone appearance against Grand Rapids.

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