12/27/2011 4:05 PM
This Week’s Games
Last Week’s Result
Back in the Swing: The Griffins played just one game last week, dropping a 4-3 decision in overtime to the Abbotsford Heat on Wednesday before beginning a five-day Christmas break. They will be back in action on Wednesday at 7 p.m. for a critical North Division road game against the Lake Erie Monsters. The Griffins have played the Monsters twice this month, winning a 3-2 game on Dec. 16 before being shut out 3-0 the following night. The team will return home for its first meeting of the season versus the Peoria Rivermen on Friday at 7 p.m. before taking on the Milwaukee Admirals in the annual New Year’s Eve game on Saturday at 6 p.m. to close out 2011.
Climbing the Standings: The Griffins have made up ground in the Western Conference during the month of December, earning points in seven of their nine games this month (and eight of 10 overall) with a 4-2-1-2 record. The team is currently in a three-way tie for third in the North Division with Hamilton and Lake Erie, sitting just three points out of a playoff spot. A successful week could see the Griffins begin 2012 in second place, a spot they haven’t held in the North Division since Nov. 2.
North Division Outlook: The North Division continues to be the tightest division in the AHL, with all five teams separated by just eight points, including three that are tied for third place at 28 points. Toronto’s once comfortable lead in the division has slipped to just five points, as the Marlies have posted a 4-6 record in their past 10 games to give them 36 points on the season. Rochester sits in second place with 31 points, trailed closely by the trio of teams at 28 points. Hamilton has proved to be the hottest of the bunch, riding an AHL-best six-game point streak (4-0-0-2) into this week, while Grand Rapids and Lake Erie will do battle on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Cleveland to continue making up ground in the division. The Griffins will look to improve their division-best 8-3 record against North Division foes.
Promotions Galore: The Griffins are closing out 2011 in style, with a pair of home games to welcome in the New Year. Friday’s contest versus Peoria features dollar beer and hot dogs from 6-8 p.m., while supplies last, as well as other popular Friday promotions, including: College Night, which allows college students to purchase a lower bowl ticket for $13 (or $11 in advance at The Zone) and stop by the McFadden’s concourse table to receive a free pass to the post-game party at McFadden’s; and Free Ride Friday, which provides complimentary fare on the Rapid to or from the game by showing your ticket to that night’s game. Saturday’s contest versus Milwaukee is the 15th Annual New Year’s Eve Celebration, featuring giveaways, special jerseys and post-game entertainment. The first 2,000 fans will receive a Griffins team poster, courtesy of Fox Honda. The team will wear jerseys designed by Jason Valenti of Sayre, Penn., who won the Griffins’ annual jersey design contest held over the summer. All jerseys will be signed by the respective Griffins player and auctioned off following the game inside the Fifth Third Vault, with proceeds benefitting GVSU club roller hockey. Post-game activities include West Michigan’s largest indoor fireworks display immediately following the game, and a J&H Family Stores post-game open skate.
You Again: The Griffins will take on the Lake Erie Monsters for the third time this month on Wednesday at 7 p.m., continuing a stretch that sees Grand Rapids play three consecutive road games (from Dec. 16-28) at Lake Erie. The teams have spit the first two contests, with Grand Rapids winning 3-2 on Dec. 16 due in part to two goals by Jamie Johnson. The following night, the Griffins were shut out by the Monsters, with AHL goals against average and save percentage leader Cedrick Desjardins making 37 saves in Lake Erie’s 3-0 victory. The Griffins shut out the Monsters by the same score in the team’s first meeting this season on Nov. 2 in Grand Rapids.
Easy As 1-2-3: Joakim Andersson is set to become the 123rd alumnus of the Griffins to suit up in an NHL game after being recalled by the Red Wings on Tuesday. Andersson sits fifth on the Griffins with 17 points (8-9—17) in 29 games. He is expected to make his NHL debut tonight when the Red Wings host the St. Louis Blues at 7:30 p.m. Andersson will be the sixth Griffins alumnus to make an NHL debut or return this season, joining Grand Rapids teammates Gustav Nyquist, Brendan Smith and Fabian Brunnstrom, as well as current Red Wing Chris Conner and former Griffin Mark Cullen.
Unwelcome Return: Many former Griffins dot the rosters of other AHL teams, but none has been more effective against his former club than Abbotsford’s Krys Kolanos, who recorded 12 points (6-6—12) in 17 games with the Griffins in 2006-07. Kolanos made his season debut against the Griffins on Oct. 28, over 21 months since his last professional game on Jan. 16, 2010, notching three goals and one assist in a 5-1 Abbotsford win. Kolanos followed up his performance with a three-point effort in last Wednesday’s 4-3 overtime victory for the Heat, giving him five goals and two assists in two games against Grand Rapids this season. The Griffins will see him two more times this season, on Jan. 6-7 when the team makes its annual trip to Abbotsford.
Pare’s Place: Francis Pare continues to move up the Griffins’ franchise leaderboard after recording an assist in last week’s 4-3 loss to the Abbotsford Heat, tying him with Jeff Nelson for seventh place in Griffins history with 87 assists. One more assist will tie him for sixth place, where Glen Metropolit sits with 88. The assist also gave him 155 points as a Griffin, breaking a tie with former teammate Jamie Tardif for sixth place all-time. Pare’s next goal will tie him with Matt Ellis for sixth place all-time in goals with 69.
Sidelined: The Griffins continue to be without the services of forward Chris Conner, who was the team’s leading scorer when he was recalled by the Red Wings on Nov. 30. Conner is still third on the team in scoring, despite missing the Griffins’ last nine games, with 23 points (7-16—23) in 20 games. The Livonia, Mich., native has recorded three points (1-2—3) in six games with Detroit, but he broke his hand on Dec. 13 at Pittsburgh. He is expected to return this week.
On the Mend: The Griffins got good news last week when defenseman Travis Ehrhardt returned to practice for the first time following a shoulder injury suffered on Oct. 16 at Rochester. He is expected to return to game action within the next two weeks. The Griffins are also expecting to receive Jan Mursak from Detroit on a conditioning stint this week. Mursak, who logged 86 points (39-47—86) in 184 games with Grand Rapids from 2008-11, hasn’t seen game action this year after breaking his ankle in a Sept. 25 preseason game.
Milestone Watch: Joey MacDonald is one game shy of 200 as a Griffin and 400 as a pro…Jamie Johnson is one game shy of 600 as a pro…Greg Amadio is four games away from 200 as a Griffin…Brent Raedeke is five games from 100 as a Griffin.
Wed., Dec. 28 at Lake Erie Monsters (13-15-1-1) – Quicken Loans Arena – 7 p.m.
Fri., Dec. 30 vs. Peoria Rivermen (14-15-2-1) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 31 vs. Milwaukee Admirals (18-8-0-1) – Van Andel Arena – 6 p.m.
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