This Week’s Games
Wed., March 25 - GRIFFINS at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins - 7:05 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Fri., March 27 - GRIFFINS at Norfolk Admirals - 7:15 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., March 28 - GRIFFINS at Philadelphia Phantoms - 7:05 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sun., March 29 - GRIFFINS at Philadelphia Phantoms - 5:05 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Last Week’s Results
Fri., March 20 - Toronto Marlies 1 at GRIFFINS 2 SO - 39-18-6-6, 90 pts. (2nd, North Division)
Sat., March 21 - Toronto Marlies 2 at GRIFFINS 3 - 40-18-6-6, 92 pts. (2nd)
Sun., March 22 - GRIFFINS 3 at Lake Erie Monsters 2 - 41-18-6-6, 94 pts. (2nd)
Crunch Time: Entering the final three weeks of the regular season, the second-place Griffins stand just four points behind Manitoba in the North Division race and have rebuilt their lead over third-place Hamilton to five points. Grand Rapids has won three straight games and is 7-3-0-0 in its last 10 outings.
Punch the Ticket: The Griffins could clinch their 10th playoff berth in 13 seasons as soon as Wednesday, when they visit Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. With Grand Rapids already immune from the threat of any crossover candidate from the West Division, its magic numbers for securing a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs stand at either three points over Syracuse (next game: Tuesday at Manitoba) or four points over Toronto (Wednesday at Hershey).
Banner Year for Attendance: With the Griffins having sold out each of their last three home games (five total this season), the anticipated sellout for their April 10 home finale will give them four consecutive sellouts for the first time in more than 10 years (Dec. 31, 1998-Jan. 29, 1999) and a season-ending attendance of 297,905 (7,448 avg.), their highest since drawing 328,919 during the 2000-01 season. Grand Rapids has already achieved a third straight season of increased attendance for the first time in franchise history, and it will finish with its largest percentage increase ever from one season to the next (8.0%, or exactly 22,000 more fans than last season).
On the Road Again: Sunday’s 3-2 win at Lake Erie began a franchise-record eight-game road trip for the Griffins, who will play just one of their final nine regular season games – April 10 vs. Hamilton – at Van Andel Arena. The team’s two previous seven-game trips also occurred at this point in the season and bore fruitful results, as Grand Rapids went 4-3-0-0 from March 7-18, 2003 and 6-1-0 from March 25-April 7, 2000.
Best Behavior: Saturday’s 3-2 victory over Toronto marked the first penalty-free game in Griffins history and the AHL’s first in one year and a day. The last time a Griffins player did not incur a penalty was on Jan. 4, 2008, while never before had a Grand Rapids’ opponent either gone penalty free or not provided the Griffins with a power play. Jeff Smith, meanwhile, became the first AHL referee to give his whistle the night off since Bob Langdon officiated a well-behaved Lake Erie/Toronto matchup on March 20, 2008.
Take Pride: Friday’s shootout win over the Marlies gave the Griffins 90 points for the first time since the 2005-06 campaign and marked the eighth time in 13 seasons they’ve reached that milestone. They need six more points to reach 100 points for the fifth time…On Saturday, Grand Rapids hit the 40-win mark for the first time since 2005-06 and the ninth time overall. The victory was the Griffins’ 300th regular season win at Van Andel Arena (300-164-15-10-35 (W-L-T-OTL-SOL), 0.630).
AHL Player of the Week Nominee: The Griffins today nominated left wing Ville Leino for the Reebok/AHL Player of the Week award, after he contributed four points (2-2—4) and a plus-three rating in three games last week. He scored a goal and added an assist in both Saturday’s win over Toronto and Sunday’s triumph at Lake Erie, earning First Star honors each night. Leino has points in six of nine games (4-4—8) since returning from the Red Wings.
Climbing the Charts: Jimmy Howard earned his 88th career win as a Griffin on Sunday at Lake Erie, tying Joey MacDonald’s franchise record…Darren Haydar already ranks among the Griffins’ all-time best season-single performers with 72 points (T10th), 13 power play goals (T4th) and nine first goals (T2nd)…Should he maintain it, Francis Pare’s 0.195 shooting percentage would finish as the fourth-highest single-season mark in team history…Pare and Justin Abdelkader each have 22 goals, equaling the franchise’s rookie record set by Kevyn Adams in 1996-97…Daniel Larsson earned his 22nd victory of the season on Saturday, climbing into a tie for eighth place on the Griffins’ single-season wins list. He already is tied for sixth with five shutouts.
Decorated Veterans: Darren Haydar has points in 13 of the last 15 games (8-14—22), 20 of the last 23 contests (12-21—33), 25 of the last 30 outings (14-25—39) and 30 of the last 36 games (15-31—46)…Darren McCarty has points in eight of 11 games (3-6—9) since rejoining the Griffins.
Take Me to Your Leaders: Several Griffins rank among the AHL’s individual leaders: Darren Haydar – 5th points (72), T8th goals (28), T9th assists (44), 3rd power play points (36), T8th power play goals (13), T7th power play assists (23); Justin Abdelkader – T4th rookie points (48), T3rd rookie goals (22), T10th rookies assists (26), T5th rookie shots (174); Cory Emmerton – T14th rookie assists (25), T2nd among rookies in shootout-winning goals (2); Francis Pare – T14th rookie points (42), T3rd rookie goals (22), T11th overall and 3rd among rookies in shooting percentage (0.195), T15th overall and T4th rookie plus/minus (+19); Garrett Stafford – 7th defenseman points (41), T4th defenseman goals (11); Jakub Kindl – T20th defenseman points (31); Jimmy Howard – T16th wins (19), 15th GAA (2.49), T14th save percentage (0.915), T11th shutouts (3); and Daniel Larsson – T10th wins (22), T2nd shutouts (5).
Milestones: Darren Haydar is one goal shy of 200 as a pro and two tallies away from 200 in the AHL…Ryan Oulahen logged his 300th regular season game as a Griffin on Sunday. Only Travis Richards (655) and Michel Picard (364) have played more games in a Griffins uniform…Jason Jozsa is two games away from 400 as a pro…Evan McGrath notched his 200th contest as a Griffin on Sunday in Cleveland.
Ericsson Excelling in Detroit: Since his recall on March 2, Jonathan Ericsson has tallied two assists and four PIM through nine games with the Red Wings, while showing a plus-2 rating with an average ice time of 16:35.
Get Busy: After sweeping the three-game set over the weekend, Grand Rapids is now 17-8-0-2 (0.667) this season when playing three times in as many nights, including a 6-3 mark in the third game. The Griffins will run that same 3-in-3 gauntlet twice more this season, including each of the next two weekends (Fri.-Sun.).
Here’s the Situation: The Griffins have not lost in regulation when entering the third period with the lead (30-0-3-3). Only Lowell (20-0-0-2) and Milwaukee (25-0-1-1) can say the same…Grand Rapids is 30-8-3-4 when scoring first and has managed a plus-0.500 record (11-10-3-2) when allowing the first goal.
Give Peace a Chance: The Griffins are the only team in the AHL with fewer than 1,000 penalty minutes (849), as well as the only team whose opponents have accumulated fewer than 1,000 PIM (918).
M*A*S*H Report: Several Griffins have been sidelined recently due to injuries, including Jamie Tardif (seven games), Aaron Downey (three), Mattias Ritola (two) and Sergei Kolosov (two).
Wed., March 25 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (43-24-2-2) – Wachovia Arena – 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:59 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast ($6 at AHLLive.com) and audio web cast (free at woodradio.com) available through griffinshockey.com. All-Time Series: 4-0-0-1 Overall, 2-0-0-0 Road. Season Series: 0-0-0-1 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Second of two meetings overall, first and only in Wilkes-Barre. NHL Affiliation: Pittsburgh Penguins. Head Coach: Todd Reirden (1st season). Notes: The third-place Penguins are locked in a three-way battle for the East Division crown, five points behind Hershey and six in back of Bridgeport…Wilkes-Barre is 24-7-1-2 at home…Todd Reirden was named the Pens’ interim head coach after Grand Haven, Mich., native Dan Bylsma was promoted to head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 15…Wilkes-Barre interim assistant coach Chris Cichocki served as an assistant for the Griffins during the last 32 games of the 2004-05 season, helping them to a 17-13-1-1 mark…Former Griffin Adam Berkhoel ranks among the AHL leaders with a 2.41 GAA (11th) and four shutouts (T5th).
Fri., March 27 at Norfolk Admirals (29-35-3-5) – Norfolk Scope – 7:15 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:59 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast ($6 at AHLLive.com) and audio web cast (free at woodradio.com) available through griffinshockey.com. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 3-1-1-0-0 Overall, 1-0-1-0-0 Road. Season Series: 1-0-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Second of two meetings overall, first and only in Norfolk. NHL Affiliation: Tampa Bay Lightning. Head Coach: Darren Rumble (1st season). Notes: The Griffins have not visited Norfolk since skating to a 3-3 tie on Jan. 22, 2003…The Admirals sit seventh in the East Division and have been eliminated from playoff contention…Norfolk head coach Darren Rumble played two seasons as a defenseman with Grand Rapids (1998-00) before becoming one of 102 Griffins alumni to play in the NHL. He is also one of 12 former Griffins to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup, as a member of the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning…Griffins forward Aaron Downey racked up 23 points (6-17—23) and 255 penalty minutes in two seasons with Norfolk (2000-02).
Sat., March 28 at Philadelphia Phantoms (35-28-2-4) – Wachovia Spectrum – 7:05 p.m.
Sun., March 29 at Philadelphia Phantoms – Wachovia Spectrum – 5:05 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:35 p.m. (Sat.) and 4:35 p.m. (Sun.). Web Casts: Video web cast ($6 at AHLLive.com) and audio web cast (free at woodradio.com) available through griffinshockey.com. All-Time Series: 8-3-1-0 Overall, 4-1-0-0 Road. Season Series: 1-0-1-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Third and fourth of four meetings overall, first and second of two in Philadelphia. NHL Affiliation: Philadelphia Flyers. Head Coach: John Paddock (1st season). Notes: The Griffins will make their final two visits to the historic Spectrum, which will be torn down later this year. They are 3-1 all time at the former home of the Broad Street Bullies, as their first road win against the Phantoms came at the Wachovia Center, the home of the Flyers…Despite being seven games over 0.500, fifth-place Philadelphia is eight points out of a playoff spot in the East Division…The Phantoms are a solid 20-11-1-2 at home…Matt Clackson leads all AHL rookies with 242 PIM…Former Griffin Danny Syvret (2006-07) places among the league’s top defensemen with 48 points (2nd) and 37 assists (T3rd).