03/22/2011 2:55 PM
This Week’s Games
Wed., March 23 - Toronto Marlies at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - Buy Tickets / ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Fri., March 25 - GRIFFINS at Texas Stars - 8:30 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Sat., March 26 - GRIFFINS at Texas Stars - 8 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Last Week’s Results
Moving On Up: With their ninth win in 11 games, the Griffins (35-26-2-8, 80 pts.) on Sunday moved into third place – the final guaranteed playoff spot in the North Division – for the first time since Nov. 18. They also stand just two points behind North Division co-leaders Manitoba and Lake Erie, the closest they’ve been to first place since Nov. 11. Remarkably, Grand Rapids needed just 10 games and 17 days (March 4-20) to move from seventh to third in the North, leap-frogging over Rochester, Abbotsford, Toronto and Hamilton. Since sitting in last place, the Griffins have fired off an 8-1-1-0 record during their “March” to the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Breaking it Down: The top six teams in the North Division are separated by a total of five standings points…The Griffins’ nine remaining games tie for the second-fewest within the North Division, their four divisional games are by far the fewest, their two home games are the fewest, and their opponents’ winning percentage of 0.569 ties for the highest…If the other six teams in the North Division maintain their current winning percentages through the end of the regular season, the Griffins would need to finish with 92 points to clinch a playoff spot, which translates into a 6-3 record over their final nine games.
Rollin’ on the River: Grand Rapids is 9-1-1-0 in its last 11, 11-2-1-0 in its last 14, 12-2-1-2 in its last 17, and 13-3-1-3 in its last 20, having played the last quarter-season’s worth of games at a 0.750 clip.
Home Cookin’: After finishing last week’s first-ever 4-in-5 on home ice with a 3-1 record, the Griffins will conclude their five-game, eight-day homestand Wednesday against Toronto, after which they’ll play seven of their final eight regular season games on the road.
Fun at the Van: Wed. vs. TOR – The Griffins will try to stretch their remarkable winning streak in Wednesday home games to seven. It’s a redemptive Winning Wednesday, so all fans who were in attendance for the Griffins’ 2-1 shootout win over Oklahoma City on March 16 can redeem their ticket stubs for free tickets to this game. (Redeemed tickets based on availability and for equal or lesser price category only.) Other promotions include the Hockey Night discount at Arena District restaurants and bars, Library Night, and the post-game party at Peppino’s downtown.
Dwindling Opportunities: Grand Rapids, whose 17-9-0-4 record (0.633) within the North Division trails only Lake Erie’s 21-9-0-2 mark (0.688) and Abbotsford’s 15-7-1-2 record (0.660), will play just four of its final nine games against divisional opponents, putting greater importance on its remaining games against fifth-place Toronto (Wednesday) and sixth-place Abbotsford (April 1, 2 and 8). The Griffins, who will finish the season with a low of just 34 games within the North Division, will watch each other team in the North play well over half – and in some cases, all – of its remaining schedule within the division.
Closing In: Already the Griffins’ leader with 231 games as head coach, Curt Fraser is closing in on a prestigious franchise record. With an all-time record of 112-90-11-18 (0.548), he has passed Greg Ireland (109) for second place on the team’s wins list and now stands just four victories shy of tying leader Danton Cole (116).
Reebok/AHL Player of the Week Nominee: The Griffins on Monday nominated left wing Tomas Tatar for the Reebok/AHL Player of the Week award, after he tallied five goals and a plus-one rating in four games. After rounding out the weekend with consecutive two-goal games against Rochester and Rockford, he ranks second on the Griffins in goals (23, tied), assists (32), points (55) and plus-minus (20).
Impeccable Pearce: Rookie goalie Jordan Pearce has started 17 straight games for Grand Rapids and has just two regulation losses during his last 18 games, going 12-2-1-3 with a 2.66 GAA, a 0.910 save percentage and one shutout. Pearce, who recorded his first AHL shutout with 36 stops in a 3-0 win at Peoria on March 8, is 16-4-1-4 with a 2.69 GAA and a 0.913 save percentage in his last 25 decisions (since Jan. 16). Now with 20 career wins as a Griffin, he sits in 10th place on the franchise’s all-time list.
Trading Places: The Red Wings on Tuesday assigned goaltender Joey MacDonald to the Griffins and recalled right wing Jan Mursak. MacDonald, 31, has spent nearly all of the last seven weeks in Detroit, where he shows a 4-4-2 record and leads the Red Wings’ netminders in goals against average (2.10) and save percentage (0.926) through 12 appearances this season. After making 37 saves to earn his second career NHL shutout during the Red Wings’ 2-0 win at Columbus last Thursday, he entered last night’s game against Pittsburgh in the second period with Detroit trailing 4-0 and stoned the Penguins the rest of the way, enabling the club to rally for a point in a 5-4 shootout loss. Counting back to the waning minutes of a 3-1 loss at San Jose on March 3, MacDonald has posted an impressive shutout streak of 94:04, stopping all 47 shots he faced during that span. Mursak, 23, has posted 35 points (13-22—35) in 51 games for the Griffins this season, including a career-high 22 assists and a plus-17 rating that ranks third on the club. The second native of Slovenia to play in the NHL (Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar), Mursak has appeared in 18 games for the Red Wings this season, netting one goal and averaging 8:11 in ice time. He’ll be available for action on Wednesday when Detroit hosts the NHL-leading Vancouver Canucks at 7:30 p.m.
Exclusive Company: With eight goals in the last night games and points in six of seven (5-3—8), eight of 10 (8-4—12) and 10 of 13 contests (10-5—15), Francis Pare has become just the sixth player to currently rank among the Griffins’ top-10 all time in goals (63, T8th), assists (76, T10th) and points (139, 9th). He joins Matt Ellis, Jiri Hudler, Derek King, Kip Miller and Michel Picard in that exclusive sextet.
Finntastic: Ilari Filppula owns a six-game point streak (1-9—10) and has points in 14 of his last 15 games (2-20—22). During that time, he notched an eight-game point streak (1-11—12) that matched Jan Mursak for the team’s longest this season. Filppula currently ranks among the AHL’s scoring leaders with 62 points (8th) and 42 assists (T6th).
Sit a Spell: Jamie Johnson on Tuesday was suspended by the AHL for two games as a result of his actions in last Friday’s game against Lake Erie, under the provisions of AHL Rule 28.1 (supplementary discipline). He will miss Wednesday’s game against Toronto and Friday’s contest at Texas, ending his streak of 151 consecutive regular season games played that had been tied for the AHL’s longest with Charlotte’s Chris Terry.
Who Else is Hot?: Jamie Tardif has two multi-assist games in the last three contests, as well as points in 10 of the last 15 games (7-10—17) and 13 of the last 20 (11-11—22)…Derek Meech has points in eight of the last 13 games (2-6—8) and 10 of the last 16 (2-9—11)…Tomas Tatar has goals in three straight games (5-0—5) and shows points in nine of the last 11games (7-6—13) and 14 of the last 17 (11-9—20).
Milestones: Derek Meech currently stands in fifth-place on the Griffins’ all-time games played list with 296, just seven behind fourth-place Ryan Oulahen (302). In addition, his next point will mark his 100th as a Griffin…Chris Minard logged his 600th pro game on Saturday…Doug Janik is nearing his 700th pro contest (697)…Adam Keefe played his 300th professional game on Sunday...Cory Emmerton posted his 77th assist as a Griffin on Saturday, moving him past Jakub Kindl into sole possession of ninth place on the franchise’s all-time list.
Join the Club: On Saturday, the Griffins signed goalie David Brown to a professional tryout. Brown, 26, shows a 17-16-1 record with a 2.33 GAA and a 0.930 save percentage through 37 games with Quad City (CHL) this season. Pittsburgh’s 11th choice, 228th overall, in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Brown played four seasons at Notre Dame from 2003-07, where he was named a 2007 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. Through 23 career AHL contests with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton between 2007-09, he has a 10-9-1 record with a 2.60 GAA and a 0.902 save percentage.
Fire Away: Following Friday’s loss to Lake Erie, the Griffins took out their frustrations on Rochester during Saturday’s opening frame, scoring twice on the power play and setting a new franchise record for shots in a period by out-gunning Rochester 24-8. Grand Rapids’ previous record of 23 shots in a period was set on three occasions, most recently on March 31, 2006 at Manitoba (2nd). It had occurred only once at Van Andel Arena, on Feb. 8, 2003 against Chicago (3rd).
Packing the Van: With Sunday’s attendance of 8,113, the Griffins drew 34,602 fans for last week’s first-ever 4-in-5 on home ice, including 27,477 for the three weekend games at Van Andel Arena and 10,834 for Saturday’s third sellout of the campaign…Grand Rapids’ average of 7,103 currently ranks fifth in the league, one fan per game behind Chicago (7,104)…The Griffins need to draw 10,721 over their final two games to finish with an attendance increase for the fourth time in the last five seasons.
Give Them the Shirts Off Your Backs: Saturday’s auction of the Griffins’ red game sweaters, modeled after the Detroit Red Wings’ home jerseys, raised $14,750 in bids to benefit PennyBen and American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge. Brendan Smith’s jersey garnered a high bid of $750.
Wed., March 23 vs. Toronto Marlies (34-28-1-9) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Fri., March 25 at Texas Stars (36-24-4-6) – Cedar Park Center – 8:30 p.m.
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