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CRUCIAL TEST AHEAD

This Week’s Games
Fri., Feb. 3 - Hamilton Bulldogs at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com

Sat., Feb. 4 - Hamilton Bulldogs at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com

Last Week’s Results
Wed., Jan. 25 - Rochester Americans 1 at GRIFFINS 4 - 17-16-4-4, 42 pts. (3rd, North Division)

Fri., Jan. 27 - GRIFFINS 2 at Peoria Rivermen 4 - 17-17-4-4, 42 pts. (4th)

Sat., Jan. 28 - GRIFFINS 5 at Peoria Rivermen 3 - 18-17-4-4, 44 pts. (3rd)

No Room for Error: The Griffins begin the week sitting in third place in the North Division, just two behind second-place Rochester. The division continues to be very tightly contested, with no one team breaking away from the pack. Since the Griffins jumped from fourth place into a second-place tie with a 5-4 shootout victory over Rockford on Dec. 14, they have not held the same position within their division for more than two consecutive games. Prior to that streak, they were in fourth place for 10 straight games and were no higher than fourth for 16 in a row. Toronto continues to hold the North Division lead with 51 points, trailed by Rochester at 46. With a game in hand, Grand Rapids (44 points) is in a position to catch Rochester and distance itself from Hamilton and Lake Erie, who are tied for fourth place with 43 points, with a two-game home set against the Bulldogs this Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.

North Division Showdown: This week, the Griffins will host the first and second of three games against the Hamilton Bulldogs in the month of February. Grand Rapids has been successful within its own division this season, with a 10-3-1-1 record, including a 3-0 record against the Bulldogs. Hamilton was shut out by the Griffins in the teams’ first two meetings this season, being outscored 11-0 in the process. The Griffins have won five straight and seven of the past eight contests against their North Division rivals, after beating the Bulldogs 5-2 in the most recent matchup between the teams on Nov. 23.

Welcome to the Jumble: Having earned points in four of their last five games (3-1-0-1), the Griffins have climbed back into the Western Conference playoff race, where no team is more than four points out of a playoff spot. Grand Rapids is three points back of eighth-place Peoria, which has played three more games. The Griffins are right in the middle of the race for the eighth spot, trailing three teams (Milwaukee, Rochester and Rockford) while holding a one-point advantage over three others (Texas, Hamilton and Lake Erie).

Promotions: Fans who attend Friday’s game versus Hamilton can enjoy ‘80s Night, reliving the decade with music, dress, contests and videos. The game also features dollar beers and hot dogs from 6-8 p.m., while supplies last, and free transportation on the Rapid to and from the game by showing your ticket. In celebration of Hockey Day in West Michigan on Saturday, over 300 kids and 44 teams will play nearly 140 games at Van Andel Arena from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. during the Griffins’ fifth annual Cross-Ice Jamboree. Thanks to Lake Michigan Credit Union, 2,500 fans will receive a bobblehead of former Griffins defenseman Niklas Kronwall, the first Griffins alumnus to serve as an alternate captain for the Red Wings. The fun continues after the game, with a J&H Family Stores Post-Game Open Skate, the first this season where fans will be joined by select Griffins players. Several players will also be signing autographs from the bench in a Huntington Bank Post-Game Autograph Session.

Home Ice Advantage: Fans will have plenty of chances to see the Griffins coming up, as the team is currently in its busiest home stretch of the season. Grand Rapids finished up a three-game homestand with a 4-2 win over Rochester last Wednesday before splitting a weekend series in Peoria, losing 4-2 on Friday and winning 5-3 on Saturday. The Griffins will begin February with five straight home games, which is tied for the longest homestand of the season (Nov. 18-27). The team will play just twice on the road in 10 February contests, in a stretch that sees 10 of the next 12 games at home overall. The favorable home schedule lends well to a Griffins team that has lost just once in regulation (6-1-2-2) in their past 11 home contests.

All-Star Weekend: Gustav Nyquist picked up an assist in the Western Conference’s 8-7 comeback shootout victory in the 2012 AHL All-Star Game on Monday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. The Eastern Conference stormed out to a 6-2 lead in the first period, but the West surrendered just one goal in the final 40 minutes of play and won the shootout 2-0. Nyquist set up a goal by Toronto’s Ryan Hamilton to close out the scoring in the second period and cut the East’s lead to 6-4. Peoria’s Ben Bishop was named the MVP of the game, stopping 10 of 11 third-period shots and all four shootout attempts. Nyquist was joined by a number of former Griffins: Darren Haydar (Chicago), Krys Kolanos (Abbotsford), Chris Mueller (Milwaukee), Clay Wilson (Abbotsford) and Ryan Keller (Oklahoma City). Additionally, former Griffins defenseman and current Oklahoma City head coach Todd Nelson served as the head coach for the Western Conference team.

Rewrite the Books: Several Griffins are enjoying seasons that could place them in the franchise’s record books:
• Gustav Nyquist has 28 assists, which already ties him with Justin Abdelkader (2008-09) for the second-most ever by a Griffins rookie, trailing only Glen Metropolit (35) in 1997-98. He’s on pace for 49 assists, which would tie him with Darren Haydar (2008-09) for eighth on the Griffins’ single-season charts. Nyquist is already the sixth highest-scoring rookie in team history with 40 points. He is on pace for 70, which would put him first all time among rookies (passing Metropolit’s 55 points in 1997-98)  and just shy of Eric Manlow’s 73-point season in 2005-06 (10th all time).
• Jamie Johnson’s 16 goals put him on pace for 28, four shy of a four-way tie for eighth place with Jeremy Williams (2009-10), Tomas Kopecky (2005-06), Michel Picard (2002-03) and Derek King (2000-01). Johnson currently has a 0.216 shooting percentage, which would rank first all time, edging out Donald MacLean’s 0.207 from his 56-goal, MVP season of 2005-06.
• Doug Janik is currently a team-best plus-16 and seventh overall in the AHL. He is on pace for a plus-28 rating, just shy of a three-way tie for eighth all time at plus-29: Dave Roberts (2000-01), Michel Picard (1999-00) and Travis Richards (1999-00). Janik has a plus-31 rating overall in his three-year Griffins career. He can crack the all-time top 10 with a plus-9 rating in the team’s final 29 games this season, which would tie him with Tomas Kopecky’s plus-40.
• Joey MacDonald, who is already the franchise leader in games played, wins, minutes, shutouts and saves, can write his name in the single-season top 10 of several categories. He currently boasts 11 wins, on pace for 19. Twenty-two wins will tie him with Daniel Larsson (2008-09) and himself (2003-04) for ninth all time. He’s also on pace for five shutouts, also tying Larsson (2008-09) and himself (2004-05) for sixth all time, and he would tie for first if he records a sixth shutout. MacDonald’s save percentage this season is 0.913, slightly off the mark of a top-10 season. If he can improve to 0.916 by the end of the year, he will tie Jimmy Howard (2008-09), Simon Lajeunesse (2001-02) and himself (2002-03) for ninth all time.

Winning Wednesday: Thanks to the Griffins’ 4-2 win over the Rochester Americans last Wednesday, each fan who was in attendance will receive a free ticket to the next Wednesday game, Feb. 22 versus Hamilton. Tickets can be redeemed at The Zone during business hours (M-F 10-6; Sat. 10-12) and at the box office before the next Wednesday game.

Who’s Hot?: Griffins captain Garnet Exelby has seven points (2-5—7) in his last 10 games. With his two-point game in Saturday’s 5-3 win at Peoria, Exelby tied his AHL-career high with 10 assists and bested career highs with four goals and 14 points…Brendan Smith is on a five-game point streak, totaling three goals and three assists along the way…Jamie Johnson and Gustav Nyquist have five points (2-3—5) in the team’s last five games...Fabian Brunnstrom has recorded eight points (2-6—8) in his last six games…Joakim Andersson has points in six of his last eight games, showing three goals and five assists.

Milestone Watch: Several Griffins achieved personal milestones last week: Brendan Smith played in his 100th pro game last Wednesday versus Rochester and his 100th game as a Griffin on Saturday at Peoria…Fabian Brunnstrom suited up in his 100th AHL game on Friday at Peoria…Francis Pare played in his 263rd game as a Griffin on Saturday, passing Evan McGrath for 10th in franchise history. He will tie Derek King at 264 with his next appearance, and his next goal will tie him with Darryl Bootland for fifth all time with 72…Tom McCollum is two games shy of 100 as a pro, and Brian Lashoff will hit that mark in five games…Joakim Andersson, who eclipsed his rookie point totals with his 23rd point of the year on Friday, is two points away from 50 as a Griffin…Chris Conner is two goal away from 100 as a pro.

Scouting Report

Fri., Feb. 3 vs. Hamilton Bulldogs (19-19-1-4) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 4 vs. Hamilton Bulldogs – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 96.1 FM at 6:45 p.m. (Fri.) and WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:45 p.m. (Sat.). Web Casts: Video web casts at AHLLive.com, free audio available through ESPN961.com (Fri.) and woodradio.com (Sat.). All-Time Series: 29-28-1-0-3 Overall, 15-12-1-0-2 Home. Season Series: 3-0-0-0 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Home. Fourth and fifth of 10 meetings overall, second and third of five in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Montreal Canadiens. Head Coach: Clement Jodoin (1st season). Notes: The Griffins are 3-0 against the Bulldogs this season, outscoring them 16-2 and shutting them out twice. Grand Rapids currently sits one point ahead of Hamilton in the North Division standings…Grand Rapids’ 8-0 win over Hamilton on Nov. 11 still stands as the second-largest margin of victory in the AHL this season…Hamilton’s 105 goals are the second-fewest in the AHL, ahead of only Providence…Bulldogs defenseman Zach FitzGerald is second in the league with 146 penalty minutes…Former Griffin Garrett Stafford leads all Bulldog blueliners with 23 points (5-18—23), tying him for 16th in the AHL. Stafford currently has an AHL-best nine-game point and assist streak, with 11 points (1-10—11) since Hamilton’s first game of 2012, Jan. 6 versus Syracuse…Hamilton’s special teams are much better on the road than at home, with its road power play ranking fifth in the league (21.8) and 26th at home (15.0) and its road penalty kill ranked seventh (83.9), opposed to 18th at home (81.7)…Hamilton is one of three teams (St. John’s and Oklahoma City) that have not lost in regulation when leading after one period, but it has an AHL-high 15 regulation losses when trailing after one…The Bulldogs are led in scoring by Aaron Palushaj, who has 28 points (13-15—28) in 29 games, having missed 14 games while on recall to Montreal…Griffins defenseman Doug Janik played 18 games for Hamilton in 2008-09, posting five assists…Bulldogs president Bob McNamara served as the Griffins’ general manager from 1996-2011.

Griffins Game Rewinds
Jan. 25 - RCH 1 at GR 4
AHLLive Video Highlights
GriffVision Video Interviews
WOOD Radio Highlights:  Brunnstrom Goal   Raedeke Goal   Janik Goal
Flickr Photo Gallery
Official Game Report

 
Jan. 27 - GR 2 at PEO 4
AHLLive Video Highlights
ESPN Radio Highlights:  Smith goal   Rivermen GWG   Andersson goal
Official Game Report

 
Jan. 28 - GR 5 at PEO 3
AHLLive Video Highlights
ESPN Radio Highlights:  Exelby Goal   Brunnstrom Goal   Smith GWG
Official Game Report


 



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