Tomas Tatar at 2009 World Junior Championship
This Week’s Games
Sat., Dec. 26 - Chicago Wolves at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM / AHLLive.com / Comcast Ch. 100 (Chicago)
Sun., Dec. 27 - Peoria Rivermen at GRIFFINS - 4 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Mon., Dec. 28 - GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals - 8 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Last Week’s Results
Tue., Dec. 15 - GRIFFINS 3 at Peoria Rivermen 4 SO - 17-10-0-1, 35 pts. (4th, North Division)
Fri., Dec. 18 - GRIFFINS 2 at San Antonio Rampage 4 - 17-11-0-1, 35 pts. (4th)
Sat., Dec. 19 - GRIFFINS 4 at Texas Stars 2 - 18-11-0-1, 37 pts. (4th)
Sun., Dec. 20 - GRIFFINS 3 at Houston Aeros 5 - 18-12-0-1, 37 pts. (4th)
Hustle and Bustle: After playing eight games in 12 days (4-3-0-1) and finishing with five straight road contests (2-2-0-1) in the run-up to Christmas break, the Griffins will return to Van Andel Arena this Saturday to host their longtime rivals, the Chicago Wolves. Following a Sunday afternoon affair with Peoria at home, the Griffins will travel to Milwaukee on Monday to complete their second consecutive three-in-three.
Happy Holidays: For Saturday’s game, fans of the Griffins on Facebook and Twitter can purchase upper bowl tickets for just $10, and children who’ve completed the required three hours of reading as part of the “Griff’s Reading Goals” program can redeem their voucher for two free upper bowl tickets. After the game, six players will take part in the Huntington post-game autograph session with fans in the arena’s Huntington Club…On Sunday, The first 1,000 kids 12 and younger will receive a Griffins player card strip, courtesy of Play N Trade Alpine, and all fans can enjoy $1 Pepsi products and $1 Cole’s Breadsticks from 3-5 p.m. It’s another Reading Goals redemption night and Library Night (show your public library card to purchase a lower bowl ticket for just $10), and fans who bring their skates can take to the ice for the post-game open skate.
“Griffins Give Back” for the Holidays: A minimum of 2,000 lower bowl tickets for this Sunday’s game are being distributed to the unemployed through three Grand Rapids offices of Michigan Works (1560 Leonard NE, 121 Franklin St. Ste 120, and 622 Godfrey SW). While supplies last, those who visit Michigan Works in person and present both proof of unemployment and a valid Michigan photo I.D. can receive up to four free tickets. Thanks to the support of a generous Griffins sponsor, children 12 and younger who attend through the “Griffins Give Back” program will receive a free Lil’ Kinz stuffed plush toy as a holiday gift (while supplies last), when parents present their Michigan Works ticket inside the arena’s banquet room from 3-4 p.m.
The Season of Joy: The Griffins’ 18 wins are their most by Christmas since the 2005-06 season, when they tallied 22 prior to Santa’s arrival. They earned 17 pre-yuletide victories last season after winning only 13 in both 2007-08 and 2006-07.
Comeback Kudos: Grand Rapids rallied from a 2-1 deficit after two periods on Saturday in Texas to earn a 4-2 victory, making the Stars just the fifth AHL home team this season (sixth occurrence overall) to lose in regulation after having led at the second intermission. Texas had been 8-0-1-0 at the Cedar Park Center and 18-0-1-0 overall this season under such circumstances.
AHL Player of the Week Nominee: Center Patrick Rissmiller earned the Griffins’ nomination for the Reebok/AHL Player of the Week award on Monday, after registering two goals, five points and a plus-one rating in four games last week. On Tuesday in Peoria, he forced overtime by scoring with 27 seconds left in regulation, and he capped off the week with a pair of two-point games at Texas on Saturday (0-2—2) and Houston on Sunday (1-1—2). Rissmiller, who leads the Griffins with 23 points (tied) and 15 assists, has gone scoreless in consecutive games only once since joining Grand Rapids on Oct. 23.
Comings and Goings: A trio of Griffins were involved in transactions on Monday. Kris Newbury was assigned to the Griffins by the Red Wings, after logging a goal and four penalty minutes in his first four games with Detroit last week. Newbury, who averaged 8:41 of ice time, became the 108th Griffins alumnus to skate in the NHL…Mattias Ritola made his first trip to Detroit since earning one assist during a two-game call up in March 2008. He’ll be available to make his season debut with Detroit on Wednesday when the Wings host the Chicago Blackhawks at 7:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Detroit…Francis Lemieux returned to ECHL Las Vegas after contributing one assist in three games over the weekend.
Who’s Hot?: Prior to being held off the scoresheet on Sunday, Michael Nylander had assists in each of his first three games (six total) in his return to the Griffins last week, giving him points in six of his nine games (1-11—12) with the team this season…Jeremy Williams’ career-high seven-game point streak (5-4—9) came to an end on Sunday in Houston…Since logging just one two-assist outing in an otherwise scoreless 11-game stretch from Nov. 11-Dec. 5, Francis Pare has recorded points in six of the last eight games (4-5—9), and his team-high plus-15 rating is now tied for third overall in the AHL…Jan Mursak has points in 10 of the last 14 games (6-7—13), giving him four more points and three times as many goals during that span than he tallied all of last season (2-7—9 in 51 games)…John Vigilante has points in consecutive games (1-2—3) for the first time since Nov. 6-8.
Tatar Watch: Griffins left wing Tomas Tatar joined the Slovakian National Junior Team last week in preparation for the 2010 World Junior Championship, which begins this Saturday in Saskatchewan. Tatar led Slovakia to a fourth-place finish at last year’s WJC, pacing his team and tying for fourth overall in the tournament with 11 points (7-4—11) and placing second overall with seven goals. Slovakia’s schedule for the tournament, which will conclude on Jan. 5, begins with preliminary round games against the United States (Dec. 26), Latvia (Dec. 27), Canada (Dec. 29) and Switzerland (Dec. 31). The games against the U.S. and Canada will be televised live on the NHL Network at 8 p.m. EST each night.
Save the Best for Last: The Griffins have been a dynamic third-period team this season, outscoring their opposition by a 38-24 margin, posting a perfect 10-0 mark when leading after 40 minutes (2nd-best in AHL to Hershey’s 18-0), and rallying for an AHL-high five victories when trailing after two periods (5-10-0-1).
Upward Mobility: Grand Rapids’ 0.597 winning percentage ranks third in the North Division, fifth (tied) in the Western Conference and eighth (tied) in the AHL. The Griffins currently reside in fourth place in the North Division, just one point behind third-place Manitoba (with four games in hand), five points behind second-place Rochester, and six in back of division-leading Hamilton.
Out of Balance: Grand Rapids has played only 11 of its 31 games within the North Division, compared to 20 games against West Division foes, but its 8-3-0-0 intradivisional record (0.727) is the best of any North Division squad. The Griffins play only four of their 15 contests during the month of December within their own division.
Hurray for Howard: Former Griffin and current Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard stopped all 30 shots he faced last Thursday to earn his first NHL shutout and propel the Red Wings to a 3-0 win over Tampa Bay. Howard, who is 11-7-1 with a 2.36 GAA and a 0.916 save percentage in 20 appearances for Detroit, ranks among the Griffins’ all-time goaltending leaders with 186 games played (1st), 10,659:17 minutes played (1st), a 2.67 GAA (10th), 90 wins (1st), 14 shutouts (2nd), 4,849 saves (1st), a 0.911 save percentage (T8th), 16 shootout wins (1st) and a 0.696 shootout percentage (T7th).
Sat., Dec. 26 vs. Chicago Wolves (14-14-0-2) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
TV: Comcast Channel 100 (Chicago) at 7 p.m. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:35 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through griffinshockey.com. All-Time Series: 45-30-2-3-2 Overall, 23-11-2-2-2 Home. Season Series: 1-1-0-0 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Home. Third of six meetings overall, second of three in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Atlanta Thrashers. Head Coach: Don Lever (1st season). Notes: The Griffins have won three straight against the Wolves at home and have points in nine of their last 10 meetings at Van Andel Arena (7-1-2-0), dating back to Jan. 21, 2005…Chicago is 9-5-0-1 at home but just 5-9-0-1 on the road…The Wolves boast two of the AHL’s top scorers in Jason Krog (6-25—31, T7th) and Brett Sterling (15-12—27, T15th)…Chicago is a tremendous third-period team, outscoring its opposition 32-17 during the frame…Former Red Wing/Griffin Chris Chelios’ plus-10 rating ranks second on the Wolves.
Sun., Dec. 27 vs. Peoria Rivermen (17-11-1-2) – Van Andel Arena – 4 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 96.1 FM at 3:35 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through griffinshockey.com. All-Time Series: 14-11-1-2 Overall, 6-5-1-1 Home. Season Series: 3-0-0-1 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Home. Fifth of eight meetings overall, second of four in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: St. Louis Blues. Head Coach: Davis Payne (2nd season). Notes: After allowing the Rivermen just a single goal in each of their first three meetings this season, the Griffins surrendered three regulation-time goals in last Tuesday’s 4-3 shootout loss in Peoria…Rivermen defenseman Jonas Junland is tied for fourth among AHL blueliners with 22 points (6-16—22)…Lars Eller’s 22 points (5-17—22) tie for fourth among league rookies…Eleven of Peoria’s 31 games have gone past regulation (8-0-1-2), tying for the most in the AHL…Grand Rapids’ power play ranks third on the circuit at 20.3%, while Peoria’s is tied for fourth at 19.7%.
Mon., Dec. 28 at Milwaukee Admirals (16-9-1-4) – Bradley Center – 8 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:35 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through griffinshockey.com. All-Time Series: 48-36-7-5-4 Overall, 19-20-5-4-3 Road. Season Series: 1-1-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Third of six meetings overall, first of three in Milwaukee. NHL Affiliation: Nashville Predators. Head Coach: Lane Lambert (3rd season). Notes: The Griffins haven’t won a season series against the Admirals since 2005-06, going 7-14-4-1 against their long-time rival since the start of the 2006-07 campaign…Grand Rapids is 0-6-1-0 in its last seven visits to the Bradley Center, with its last victory in Suds City coming in 1-0 fashion on Dec. 2, 2007…The Admirals have played an AHL-low 11 home games yet are tied for second in the West Division…Grand Rapids’ John Vigilante tallied 23 goals and 73 points over two seasons (2006-08) with Milwaukee.