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END IN SIGHT

This Week’s Games
Tue., April 2 - GRIFFINS at Houston Aeros - 8:05 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com

Fri., April 5 - GRIFFINS at Abbotsford Heat - 10 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com

Sat., April 6 - GRIFFINS at Abbotsford Heat - 10 p.m. - WTKG 1230 AM / AHLLive.com

Last Week’s Results
Thu., March 28 - GRIFFINS 1 at San Antonio Rampage 4 - 37-22-3-3, 80 pts. (1st, Midwest Division)

Fri., March 29  - GRIFFINS 3 at Houston Aeros 2 - 38-22-3-3, 82 pts. (1st)

Sat., March 30 - GRIFFINS 1 at Texas Stars 3 - 38-23-3-3, 82 pts. (1st)

Texas Triangle: The Griffins’ season-high seven-game road trip continues last week with three games in three nights against teams in the state of Texas. Grand Rapids controlled much of its first game of the week in San Antonio on Thursday, outshooting the home team 40-16. But Rampage netminder Brian Foster was nearly unbeatable, making 39 saves, and his team made their shots count as they skated to a 4-1 win. The Griffins came out strong the following night against Houston, as Jeff Hoggan scored just 29 seconds into the game. The Aeros took the lead with goals just 19 seconds apart by Chad Rau and Nick Petersen, but Hoggan’s second of the game evened the score at two before the midway point of the first period. The game remained tied until Chad Billins snuck in from the point to tally the game-winning goal with 2:01 remaining, giving the Griffins a 3-2 win. Saturday’s game at Texas was reminiscent of Thursday’s contest in San Antonio, as Stars netminder Jack Campbell allowed just one goal on 43 shots as Grand Rapids fell 3-1 to the Western Conference leaders.

South to North: Grand Rapids will remain in Texas this week for its fourth straight game against a South Division opponent when it visits Houston on Tuesday at 8:05 p.m. EDT. From there, the Griffins will head north to battle Abbotsford on back-to-back nights to wrap up their season-high seven game road trip. The team will square off with the Heat on Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m. EDT.

End in Sight: The calendar flipping from March to April is a welcome sight for the Griffins, as the team will finish a stretch of 10 of 11 games on the road (March 16-April 6) this week before playing four of their last six games at home. Following a 3-2 home victory over Chicago on March 13, the Griffins have not spent many nights in Grand Rapids with a stretch that includes three straight divisional games against Milwaukee and Peoria (March 16-19), a home-and-home set against Lake Erie (March 22-23), four straight games in Texas (March 28-April 2) and back-to-back games in Abbotsford (April 5-6). The Griffins will wrap up the regular season with a four-game homestand (April 10-21) and back-to-back road games against Lake Erie and Chicago (April 20-21).

Playoff Picture: With nine games remaining in the regular season, the Griffins still hold a seven-point lead on Milwaukee for the top spot in the Midwest Division, and they sit third in the Western Conference, trailing Toronto by two points. Below is a brief look at the Western Conference’s playoff picture, including regulation wins (ROW, the first playoff tiebreaker), a breakdown of the remaining schedule and each team’s magic number to finish above or below Grand Rapids:

Midwest Division

Team Points Wins ROW Games Left Home Road Opponents' Winning % GR Magic # Over (Pts.) Magic # Over GR
Grand Rapids
82 38 33 9
4 5 0.533 --- ---
Milwaukee 75 34 31 10 4 6 0.566 14 26
Chicago 73 32 27 11 3 8 0.564 14 28
Rockford 71 34 29 9 3 6 0.549 8 30
Chicago 69 31 25 8 5 3 0.575 4 32


Remaining Western Conference Teams

Team Points Wins ROW Games Left Home Road Opponents' Winning % GR Magic # Over (Pts.) Magic # Over GR
Texas 89 39 34 9 4 5 0.535 26 12
Toronto 84 38 35 9 4 5 0.506 21 17
Charlotte 83 39 36 8 4 4 0.576 18 18
Rochester 78 37 30 9 4 5 0.522 15 23
Houston 76 33 28 10 7 3 0.539 15 25
Oklahoma City 74 32 28 11 6 5 0.550 15 27
San Antonio 65 29 26 10 7 3 0.583 4 36
Abbotsford        72 31 25 6 4 2 0.603 2 29
Lake Erie 68 29 23 7 4 3 0.558 n/a n/a
Hamilton 58 26 23 10 4 6 0.549 n/a n/a


Lead by Example
: No Griffin has been hotter on the team’s season-high seven-game road trip than Jeff Hoggan, who is currently riding a five-game point streak (the AHL’s sixth-longest streak). The team’s captain has racked up seven points (4-3—7) since March 22 and factored in on 100% of the team’s offense last week, scoring the team’s lone goal at San Antonio on Thursday, picking up three points (2-1—3) in Houston on Friday and setting up Jan Mursak’s goal on Saturday at Texas. Hoggan is currently tied for third on the team with 38 points (17-21—38) and is one of three Griffins to appear in all 67 games (along with Chad Billins and Brennan Evans). The Hope, British Columbia, native has become a major offensive factor in the second half of the season, with 24 points (12-12—24) in his last 28 games (Jan. 19-March 30) after 14 points (5-9—14) in the team’s first 38 games.

In and Out: The Griffins blueline was bolstered this weekend by Carlo Colaiacovo, who played two games with the team on a conditioning stint last weekend. Recalled back to Detroit on Sunday, Colaiacovo departs Grand Rapids with four shots in two games. The 30-year-old defenseman is expected to return to the Red Wings’ lineup tonight versus Colorado, which would make him the 131st player to debut/return to the NHL after skating for the Griffins. A native of Toronto, Colaiacovo was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs with the 17th pick of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft and saw time with his hometown team before a trade to St. Louis in 2008-09. In 372 NHL games with the Maple Leafs, Blues and Red Wings, he has registered 139 points (30-109—139) and 191 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound defenseman spent parts of five seasons in the AHL with the St. John’s Maple Leafs and Toronto Marlies from 2003-08, showing 72 points (16-56—72) and 127 penalty minutes in 132 games.

Lashoff Returns: To make room for the return of defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, the Red Wings on Sunday assigned defenseman Brian Lashoff to the Griffins. Lashoff, 22, has appeared in 30 of the Red Wings’ 35 games this season, registering five points (1-4—5) and 15 penalty minutes. A 6-foot-3, 216-pound defenseman, Lashoff has also played 36 games with the Griffins, notching six points (2-4—6) and 23 penalty minutes. A native of Albany, N.Y., Lashoff last skated with the Griffins on Jan. 19 at Rockford and earned a three-year contract extension while with Detroit (Feb. 25).

Fantastic First-Years: Part of the Griffins’ success this season has been due to a strong rookie class that looks to be cementing itself in the franchise record books. Chad Billins is threatening to become the Griffins’ all-time leading scoring leader among rookie defensemen, with 34 points (8-26—34) in 67 games. Billins’ goal on Friday at Houston moved him past Kyle Quincey (7-26—33 in 2005-06) and into second place, trailing Clay Wilson (10-27—37 in 2005-06) by three points. Billins currently sits 12th among single-season rookie scorers and is tied for fifth in assists. A fellow AHL All-Star, Petr Mrazek is having one of the best-ever seasons for a Griffins’ rookie goaltender. His 2.37 goals against average and 0.915 save percentage rank third behind only Simon Lajeunesse (2.11 GAA and 0.916 save percentage in 2001-02) and Joey MacDonald (2.20 GAA and 0.916 save percentage), while his 21 wins place him second behind only Jimmy Howard (27 in 2005-06). Finally, Riley Sheahan currently ranks among the team’s all-time rookie scoring leaders, as his 37 points (16-19—35) tie him with Cory Emmerton for 11th all time. Two more points will move him into a four-way tie with Josh Langfeld (2001-02), Chris Bala (2001-02) and Clay Wilson (2005-06) for eighth place.

In Reach: The Griffins could reach a historic milestone this week, as they sit two wins shy of 700 in their 17-year history. Grand Rapids is 38-23-3-3 this season, improving its all-time mark to 698-503-27-38-87 (W-L-T-OTL-SOL).

Motown Update: The Red Wings currently sit seventh in the Western Conference, two points ahead of eighth-place Columbus and one point behind sixth-place San Jose…Several players who have skated for the Griffins this season have continued to make an impact at the NHL level…Joakim Andersson has seven points (3-4—7) in 25 games and is tied for fifth on the team with a plus-four rating…Brian Lashoff has five points (1-4—5) in 30 contests and averages 17:51 in ice time…Brendan Smith has four assists, a plus-one rating and an average ice time of 18:40 in 24 contests…Gustav Nyquist has two points (1-1—2) in nine games this season…The Red Wings will play four games over the next seven days: vs. Colorado on Monday, at Phoenix on Thursday, at Colorado on Friday and vs. St. Louis on Sunday.

Road Warriors: With only five road games remaining this season, the Griffins find themselves owning the AHL’s sixth-best road record at 18-13-1-1 (0.576). Only Texas (0.697), Syracuse (0.681), Charlotte (0.676), Providence (0.606) and Springfield (0.597) have been better away from home. The Griffins also have the league’s second-best offense on the road (3.36 goals per game) behind Syracuse (3.5) and the eighth-best road power play (18.2 percent).

League Leaders: Despite missing eight of the Griffins’ last nine games, Gustav Nyquist owned a share of the AHL scoring lead until Manchester’s Linden Vey (20-42—62), Hershey’s Jeff Taffe (18-44—62) and Peoria’s T.J. Hensick (17-45—62) passed him on Friday night; however, Nyquist has played in fewer games (58) than Vey (67), Taffe (64) and Hensick (68)…Landon Ferraro shares the AHL lead with six shorthanded points (3-3—6)…Petr Mrazek ranks among the league’s top goaltenders with a 2.37 goals against average (14th), a 0.915 save percentage (T18th) and 21 wins (T9th)…Riley Sheahan is 14th among AHL rookies with 35 points (16-19—35) in 65 contests…Chad Billins is tied for 16th among rookies and for 10th among defensemen with 34 points (8-26—34) in 67 games. He’s also the only player in the league to have a perfect four-for-four conversion in shootouts.

Milestone Tracker: Triston Grant played in his 500th AHL game on Friday at Houston…Jan Mursak recorded his 150th professional point on Saturday at Texas and sits two points away from 100 as a Griffin…Francis Pare is two assists shy of Kip Miller’s 133 (3rd in franchise history) and one goal away from 100 as a Griffin…Nathan Paetsch is one assist shy of 100 in the AHL and one point away from 200 as a pro…Brett Skinner is one assist away from 200 as a pro…Jeff Hoggan’s next point will be his 250th in the AHL.

Walleye Watch: Toledo finished the regular season with an 8-5 win over Wheeling on Friday to set up a series between the second-seed Cincinnati Cyclones and seventh-seed Walleye in the first round of the ECHL playoffs…Eleven players saw time with both the Griffins and Walleye this season: Willie Coetzee (28-40—68 in 64 games for Toledo), Andrej Nestrasil (11-30—41 in 40 games), Trevor Parkes (14-16—30 in 19 games), Luke Glendening (14-7—21 in 27 games), Cody Lampl (6-9—15 in 64 games), Max Nicastro (2-3—5 in nine games), Erik Spady (0-4—4 in 25 games), Brent Raedeke (1-0—1 in two games), Gleason Fournier (1-0—1 in 15 games), Jordan Pearce (15-11-2-1, 2.76 GAA, 0.899 SV%) and Petr Mrazek (2-1, 2.02 GAA, 0.944 SV%)…Toledo will host the opening two games of its playoff series against Cincinnati on Friday and Saturday at 7:35 p.m.

Scouting Report

Tue., April 2 at Houston Aeros (33-23-5-5) – Toyota Center – 8:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 7:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 39-34-6-3-7 Overall, 19-18-4-2-3 Road. Season Series: 3-2-0-0 Overall, 2-0-0-0 Road. Sixth of six meetings overall, third of three in Houston. NHL Affiliation: Minnesota Wild. Head Coach: John Torchetti (2nd season). Notes: Justin Fontaine leads Houston with 46 points (18-28—46) in 54 games…Assigned to Houston on Saturday, Darcy Kuemper falls short (1178:32) of the 1320 minutes required to be considered among the league’s goaltending leaders, but Kuemper’s 1.78 goals against average would lead the AHL and his 0.937 save percentage would place second…Aeros forward Jason Zucker is tied for seventh among rookies with 43 points (20-23—43) in 49 games, and Johan Larsson is 13th in the same category with 37 points (15-22—37) in 62 games…Houston defenseman Brian Connelly is tied for 15th among defensemen with 31 points (5-26—31) in 44 games…The Aeros average the third-fewest penalty minutes in the league (12.97) behind Charlotte and Texas…Houston’s power play is tied for eighth in the league at 18.5 percent…Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan won a Calder Cup with Houston in 2003 and recorded 47 points (27-20—47) in 142 games with the Aeros from 2002-04.

Fri., April 5 at Abbotsford Heat (31-29-4-6) – Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre – 10 p.m. EDT
Sat., April 6 at Abbotsford Heat – Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre – 10 p.m. EDT
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 9:40 p.m. (Fri.) and WTKG 1230 AM at 9:40 p.m. (Sat.). Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com (Fri.) and wtkg.com (Sat.). All-Time Series: 6-6-1-1 Overall, 2-4-0-0 Road. Season Series: 2-0-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Third and fourth of four meetings overall, first and second of two in Abbotsford. NHL Affiliation: Calgary Flames. Head Coach: Troy G. Ward (2nd season). Notes: Ben Walter leads Abbotsford with 43 points (14-29—43) in 62 games…The Heat ranked among Western Conference leaders during the first half of the season, but currently sit 10th in the conference after winning five of its last 21 games (5-13-1-2)…The Heat boast one of the top goaltending tandems in the league in Danny Taylor and Barry Brust. Taylor ranks fifth in the AHL with a 2.18 goals against average and tied for 14th with a 0.917 save percentage, while Brust is tied for 18th with a 2.50 GAA and for fifth with five shutouts…Abbotsford is tied for fifth in the league in home wins, finding more success at home (20-11-2-1) than on the road (11-18-2-5)…Heat forward Ben Street is fourth in the AHL with 218 shots…Abbotsford has struggled against the Midwest Division at 7-12-0-3…The Heat are tied for ninth in the league on the penalty kill (84.3 percent)…Krys Kolanos had 12 points (6-6—12) in 17 games for the Griffins in 2006-07 and has 34 points (14-20—34) in 47 games for Abbotsford this season.

Griffins Game Rewinds
March 28 - GR 1 at SA 4

AHLLive Video Highlights
WOOD Radio Highlights:  Hoggan Goal  Rheault Goal
Flickr Photo Gallery
Official Game Report

 

March 29 - GR 3 at HOU 2
AHLLive Video Highlights
WTKG Radio Highlights:  Hoggan Goal  Billins Goal
Flickr Photo Gallery
Official Game Report


 

March 30 - GR 1 at TEX 3
Video Highlights
WOOD Radio Highlights:  Mursak Goal   Morin Scores   Fraser PPG
Flickr Photo Gallery
Official Game Report

 



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