03/29/2011 8:01 AM
03/29/2011 8:01 AM -
Last Week’s Results
Crunch Time: With only six games remaining in the regular season, Grand Rapids stands in fifth place in the North Division but just three points behind third-place Hamilton and the final guaranteed playoff spot. The Griffins also sit one point in back of fourth-place Toronto and three points behind the top two crossover candidates from the West Division, Chicago and Oklahoma City. This Friday and Saturday, they’ll make what has become their annual two-game visit to Abbotsford to face a Heat squad that currently resides in sixth place in the North, only two points behind Grand Rapids.
Breaking it Down: The top six teams in the North Division are separated by a total of 10 standings points…The Griffins’ six remaining games are tied for the fewest within the North Division, their three divisional games are the fewest, their one home game is the fewest, and their opponents’ winning percentage of 0.573 is the second-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 tie for the final guaranteed playoff spot (third place), which translates into a 6-0 record.
Twist of Fate: The Griffins’ three defeats last week matched the number of regulation losses they had suffered in their previous 20 games combined (13-3-1-3 from Feb. 9-March 20).
It’s Been Such a Long Time: Friday’s 5-3 loss to the Stars marked the Griffins’ first regulation loss this season when entering the third period with a lead (24-1-0-4), as Texas scored five times in the final 25:46 after trailing 3-0. The last time Grand Rapids failed to earn a point when leading after 40 minutes was on Feb. 6, 2010 versus Houston, when the Aeros erased a 2-0 deficit with three goals over the final 22:36. In the interim, the Griffins were 32-0-0-4 when leading after two periods.
Welcome to the Club: Forward Gustav Nyquist, the Detroit Red Wings’ third choice (121st overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, signed an amateur tryout with the Griffins on Friday and contributed immediately during the weekend’s games at Texas, registering an assist in his pro debut on Friday and netting his first goal on Saturday. The 21-year-old was recently named a Hobey Baker Award top-10 finalist for the second straight year following his junior season at the University of Maine. Nyquist, who led the nation in scoring last season and paced the Black Bears in points during each of his three campaigns, is one of two Hobey Baker finalists on Grand Rapids’ current roster, joining defenseman Brendan Smith (2010 Wisconsin).
Hitting the Road: The Griffins will play five of their final six regular season games on the road. They own an overall mark of 17-14-1-3 away from Van Andel Arena this season, including 4-2-1-0 since Feb. 27 and 9-5-1-3 since Jan. 13.
Dwindling Opportunities: Grand Rapids, whose 17-10-0-4 record (0.613) within the North Division trails only Lake Erie’s 24-9-0-2 mark (0.714) and Abbotsford’s 15-8-1-3 record (0.630), will play just three of its final six against divisional opponents (Friday, Saturday and April 8 against sixth-place Abbotsford). 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 more than half – and in some cases, all – of its remaining schedule within the division.
Ironman Between the Pipes: Rookie goalie Jordan Pearce has started 20 consecutive games for Grand Rapids (12-5-1-2 from Feb. 16-March 26), just four starts shy of the franchise record set by Joey MacDonald from Feb. 25-April 9, 2005. Now with 20 career wins as a Griffin, Pearce sits in 10th place on the franchise’s all-time list.
Mac in Motown: Joey MacDonald stopped 38 of 41 shots for the Red Wings in their 3-2 overtime loss to Chicago on Monday. Following another stellar effort for Detroit, he owns a 5-4-3 record with one shutout and leads the team’s netminders in goals against average (2.13) and save percentage (0.928) through 14 games. MacDonald’s personal shutout streak of 110:47 was snapped by the Hawks’ Jonathan Toews 2:54 into the opening period.
Short Story: Jamie Tardif scored the Griffins’ league-leading 13th shorthanded goal of the season on Friday at Texas, giving Grand Rapids one more than Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The Griffins are bidding to lead the AHL in shorties for the first time since 2006-07, when their 24 tied Hershey and set a franchise record.
AHL Award Candidates: The AHL will begin handing out its annual awards on Wednesday with the announcement of the All-Rookie Team. Despite an injury-plagued season, Brendan Smith is a solid candidate on defense, having posted 32 points (12-20—32) and a plus-seven rating in 57 games. His 12 goals lead all rookie defensemen while his 32 points rank fourth. Ilari Filppula (20-42—62, 10th in AHL) has a shot at being named to the First or Second All-Star Team (Thursday), Derek Meech and Jamie Tardif are nominees for the Fred T. Hunt Award for sportsmanship, determination and dedication (Friday), while the Griffins’ Man of the Year, Greg Amadio, is eligible for the AHL’s league-wide honor, the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award (April 6).
Who’s Hot?: Jamie Tardif has points in two straight games (1-1—2) and four of the last six contests (1-5—6)…Derek Meech has points in three straight games (1-2—3) and five of the last six outings (1-4—5).
Milestones: Derek Meech currently stands in fifth place on the Griffins’ all-time games played list with 299, just three behind fourth-place Ryan Oulahen (302)…Francis Pare has 77 helpers for his Grand Rapids career to tie him with teammate Cory Emmerton for ninth on the franchise’s all-time list…Last Saturday in Texas, Doug Janik logged both his 700th pro contest and his 1,000th pro penalty minute (1,005).
Closing In: Already the Griffins’ leader with 234 games as head coach, Curt Fraser is closing in on a prestigious franchise record. With an all-time record of 112-93-11-18 (0.541), 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).
Packing the Van: The Griffins, whose average attendance of 7,149 ranks fifth out of 30 AHL teams, are guaranteed to finish with an attendance increase for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Heading into their April 8 home finale, their attendance of 278,812 is just 1,815 shy of last season’s total. An anticipated sellout for the final home game would give the Griffins a 3.2% attendance increase over last season, and the season-long figure of 289,646 would mark their second-largest in 10 seasons of AHL membership (297,905 in 2008-09).
Take Your Best Shot: Last Wednesday, Toronto’s Aaron Voros was awarded a penalty shot at 8:50 when Greg Amadio tripped him during a partial breakaway, and he slipped the puck through Jordan Pearce’s five hole to make it a 2-0 advantage for the visitors. It was the first goal allowed by Pearce in four career penalty shots faced, and it marked the 10th attempt for a Griffins opponent – including six this season – since Grand Rapids was last awarded one of its own (Dec. 9, 2009, Francis Pare).
Fri., April 1 at Abbotsford Heat – Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre – 10 p.m.
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