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GRIFFINS FACE ADMIRALS AND ICEHOGS ON THE ROAD BEFORE HISTORIC OUTDOOR GAME

This Week’s Games
Thu., Dec. 26    GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals    8 p.m.    WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Fri., Dec. 27    GRIFFINS at Rockford IceHogs    8 p.m.    WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Mon., Dec. 30    Toronto Marlies at GRIFFINS (Comerica Park)    5 p.m.    Fox Sports Detroit / WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Tue., Dec. 31    Toronto Marlies at GRIFFINS    6 p.m.    WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com

Last Week’s Results
Wed., Dec. 18    GRIFFINS 2 at Iowa Wild 1    20-5-1-1, 42 pts. (1st, Midwest Division)
Fri., Dec. 20    Rockford IceHogs 2 at GRIFFINS 3    21-5-1-1, 44 pts. (1st)
Sat., Dec. 21    GRIFFINS 2 at Chicago Wolves 3    21-6-1-1, 44 pts. (1st)
 
Continued Success: The Griffins won two games of three games last week, securing four points and maintaining their first place spot atop the Midwest Division. Grand Rapids claimed consecutive overtime victories, first against the Iowa Wild at Wells Fargo Arena on Wednesday (2-1) and then against the Rockford IceHogs at Van Andel Arena on Friday (3-2), before dropping a 3-2 regulation decision to the Chicago Wolves on Saturday at Allstate Arena. Despite Saturday’s loss, Grand Rapids’ 21-6-1-1 record still marks the best start in franchise history. Saturday’s loss to the Wolves snapped a four-game winning streak for the defending Calder Cup champions, their third-longest of the year, as well as a four-game winning streak for goaltender Tom McCollum. The Griffins have won 19 out of 23 games after beginning the season with a 2-2-1-1 record. Currently, Grand Rapids’ 0.759 winning percentage is second in the league only to the Springfield Falcons’ 0.796.

The Midwest Division: Since Nov. 3, Grand Rapids (21-6-1-1, 44 pts.) has had sole possession of the Midwest Division lead, keeping its distance from the second-place Milwaukee Admirals (14-7-5-1, 34 pts.) and the third-place Rockford IceHogs (15-13-3-0, 33 pts.), who have been leapfrogging each other in terms of placement. The Chicago Wolves (15-12-0-2, 32 pts.) sit in fourth place and are now in points contention with Rockford and Milwaukee, further complicating the placement battle in the division. The Iowa Wild (12-13-2-0, 26 pts.) rank fifth in the division, even after earning five points last week. The Griffins (107) have scored 18 more goals than the next highest-scoring team in the division, the IceHogs (89), and have nearly doubled the number of goals by the fifth-place Wild (64). The Griffins also have the fewest number of goals against (65) and penalty minutes (396) in the division.

Conference/League Standings: The Griffins and the Abbotsford Heat (21-9-1-1, 44 pts.) are tied for first place in the Western Conference and second place overall in the league, right behind the Manchester Monarchs (21-5-1-4, 47 pts.). The Springfield Falcons (20-4-1-2, 43 pts.), who have played two fewer games than the Griffins, are second place in the Eastern Conference and rank fourth overall but have the highest winning percentage in the AHL (0.796).

Outdoor Game: On Monday, Dec. 30, the Griffins will face the Toronto Marlies at Comerica Park for the first-ever outdoor game in franchise history as part of the Hockeytown Winter Festival. Fans can purchase tickets for $18, $28 and $38 through http://www.ticketmaster.com/Hockeytown-Winter-Festival-tickets/artist/1747355.

AHL Outdoor Game History:

Date Teams Location Attendance
Feb. 20, 2010 Syracuse 2, Binghamton 1 New York State Fairgrounds (Syracuse, N.Y.) 21,508
Feb. 19, 2011 Providence 5, Connecticut 4 Rentschler Field (East Hartford, Conn.) 21,673
Jan. 6, 2012 Adirondack 4, Hershey 3 (OT) Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia, Pa.) 45,653
Jan. 21, 2012 Toronto 7, Hamilton 2 Ivor Wynne Stadium (Hamilton, Ont.) 20,565
Jan. 20, 2013 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 2, Hershey 1 Hersheypark Stadium (Hershey, Pa.) 17,311
Dec. 13, 2013 Rochester 5, Lake Erie 4 (SO) Frontier Field (Rochester, N.Y) 11,015
Dec. 30, 2013 Grand Rapids vs. Toronto Comerica Park (Detroit, Mich.) TBD


NYE Celebration: On Tuesday, Dec. 31, the Griffins will battle the Toronto Marlies at Van Andel Arena for the 17th Annual New Year’s Eve Celebration. The showdown begins at 6 p.m. and, following the game, the Griffins will host West Michigan’s largest indoor fireworks show. Fans can also participate in a post-game open skate. The Griffins’ all-time NYE record is 7-8-1-0, and Grand Rapids has claimed a victory in each of the last three NYE games.

Goaltender Firestorm: In the wake of Petr Mrazek’s recall to the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 11, goaltender Tom McCollum has filled the primary role between the pipes for the Griffins, backed up by rookie Jared Coreau, who returned to Grand Rapids from the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye the same day Mrazek was recalled. Much of Grand Rapids’ success this season can be attributed to the strong performances of McCollum and Mrazek, who both rank in the AHL’s top five goaltenders. McCollum ranks fifth in the league for goals against average (2.17) and posts an 11-4 record, including a 5-0 shutout against the Milwaukee Admirals on Dec. 14, his first of the season. McCollum’s 56th career win last Friday put him in sole possession of third place on the Griffins’ all-time list. In addition, his four career shutouts tie Jani Hurme and Martin Prusek for seventh all time. McCollum enjoyed a six-game winning streak from Oct. 4-Nov. 6 to begin the season, tying with Mrazek’s 2012-13 franchise-best goaltending start. Mrazek, who is on a career-high nine-game winning streak with the Griffins, posts a 10-2-1 record this season. His previous career-high was an eight-game winning streak three seasons ago in juniors as a member of the OHL’s Ottawa 67s (Nov. 12-Dec. 3, 2010). Mrazek earned his second shutout this season on Nov. 20 versus the Milwaukee Admirals, when he blocked 16 of 16 shots. Mrazek ranks second among AHL goaltending leaders with a 2.09 GAA and 0.927 save percentage.

Defending the Freezer on Fulton: After dropping their first two home contests of the season, the Griffins won eight straight games at Van Andel Arena before falling to the Chicago Wolves 4-2 on Dec. 11. The eight-game winning streak was the team’s longest at home in more than four years (eight straight from Oct. 23-Nov. 13, 2009). Grand Rapids scored at least five goals in each of the first seven games of that streak, marking the longest such run at home in franchise history (5+ goals in four straight home games from Nov. 15-Dec. 3, 2005). The Griffins bounced back with consecutive home victories over the Milwaukee Admirals on Dec. 13 and 14 and a 3-2 overtime victory over the Rockford IceHogs last Friday, improving their home record to 11-3 on the season. Grand Rapids finished a seven-game home stand with an impressive 5-0 shutout against the Admirals on Dec. 14, ending its longest home-stretch of the season with a 6-1 record. Only two of the Griffins’ 11 home wins this season have been decided by a single goal, including Friday’s 3-2 overtime victory against the Icehogs and a 5-4 win versus the Texas Stars on Nov. 29. In addition, only one home loss has been decided by one goal (2-3 vs. Milwaukee, Oct. 18).

Griffins Leaders: Right wing Tomas Jurco, who is currently with the Detroit Red Wings, continues his reign as points leader on the Griffins, tallying 27 points (11-16—27) through 26 games. After recording an eight-game point streak, right wing Teemu Pulkkinen (10-14—24) climbed to second on the leaderboard through 29 games. Right  wing Gustav Nyquist (7-14—21), who has earned a full time roster spot with Detroit, still ranks third on the team despite only playing in 15 games before joining the Wings. Captain Jeff Hoggan (10-10—20) and Cory Emmerton (6-14—20) tie for fourth place, while rookie defenseman Ryan Sproul (6-13—19) ranks sixth.

Emmerton’s Evolution: On Sept. 29, the Red Wings placed center Cory Emmerton on waivers in order to become cap compliant and alleviate an overstocked roster. The St. Thomas, Ontario, native cleared waivers and was subsequently assigned to the Griffins just over a week later, on Oct. 10. His assignment to the AHL marked a return to the Griffins for Emmerton, who played in three full seasons with Grand Rapids from 2008-11. The 6-foot, 191-pound center’s consistency was on full display during his first stint with the Griffins; Emmerton tallied 35 points (10-25—35) in the 2008-09 season, 37 points (12-25—37) in the 2009-10 season and 38 points (12-26—38) in the 2010-11 season. Emmerton has been one of the hottest Griffins this season, despite periodically being a healthy scratch and temporarily being recalled to Detroit. Upon rejoining Grand Rapids from Detroit on Dec. 14, Emmerton recorded a four-point game (two goals, two assists), capturing the most points in a single game of any Griffin this season. Last Wednesday, Emmerton notched the game-winning overtime goal against the Iowa Wild and, on Friday, recorded an assist to increase his point streak to seven games before having it snapped in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Chicago Wolves. Emmerton’s seven-game point streak is the second-longest on the team, being edged out only by Teemu Pulkkinen’s nine-game streak (Nov. 29-Dec. 18).

Starting Strong: Grand Rapids holds a 13-2-0-1 record when scoring first and ranks second in the league for goals scored in the first period (31). Grand Rapids has more than doubled its opponents’ scoring during the second period (44-21) while nearly accomplishing the same feat in the first period (31-19).

All Eyes on Jurco: In the absence of former point leaders such as Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, who have joined the Detroit Red Wings full time, right wing Tomas Jurco has stepped into the role of “go-to” guy this season. Jurco’s 2013-14 accolades include 27 points (11-16—27), a plus-12 rating, two game-winning goals and a 14.5 shooting percentage. His 27 points tie him for eighth place overall in the AHL for points. Jurco has tallied points in 16 out of 26 contests and has also registered multiple points in nine matches, including a hat trick on Nov. 15 in a 5-3 home victory over the Rockford IceHogs. Jurco ties with Mitch Callahan on the Griffins in goals with 11 and ranks second in assists (16) next to defenseman Adam Almquist (17). Jurco is one point away from matching his rookie season numbers (14-14—28). On Dec. 15, Jurco was recalled to the Detroit Red Wings and subsequently made his NHL debut in a 3-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning that evening, becoming the 138th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL. Jurco tallied his first NHL goal and point against the Anaheim Ducks on Dec. 17 and tallied a goal and an assist in Saturday’s 5-4 shootout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Plus/Minus: Defenseman Ryan Sproul leads all AHL rookies in plus/minus at plus-16, with Griffins defenseman Alexey Marchenko securing second place at plus-15. Defenseman Xavier Ouellet holds fourth place with a plus-11 rating. Sproul is fourth in the league overall. Mitch Callahan and Teemu Pulkkinen (plus-15) tie for second with Marchenko on the Griffins. Only Louis-Marc Aubry, Martin Frk and Trevor Parkes currently register a minus rating on the team.

Double Duty: The Griffins lead the AHL in goals scored per game, averaging 3.69, despite having no active players in the league’s top 20 scorers. The team also ranks first in the league in goals against per game, averaging 2.24, just ahead of the Springfield Falcons (2.33). Grand Rapids is one of only three teams in the league to have scored more than 100 goals this season, and the team ties with the Texas Stars for the most goals scored in the league (107). Overall, the Griffins have outscored their opponents 107-65 and outshot them 911-850. The last time an AHL team finished a season ranked first in both goals scored and goals against was the 1992-93 Binghamton Senators (392-246). The closest team to the accomplishment since then was the 1998-99 Rochester Americans, ranking second in goals for and first in goals against.

Detroit Calls for Backup: Over the course of eight days, the Red Wings recalled six players from the Griffins. First, goaltender Petr Mrazek was called up on Dec. 11 in light of former Griffin Jimmy Howard’s knee injury. Then on Dec. 13, Detroit recalled right wing Patrick Eaves and center Luke Glendening from the Griffins and assigned center Cory Emmerton to their AHL affiliate. On Dec. 15, the Wings recalled right wing Tomas Jurco from the Griffins and reassigned left wing Trevor Parkes from the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye to Grand Rapids. In addition, the Wings on Dec. 16 recalled center Riley Sheahan from Grand Rapids and reassigned center Louis-Marc Aubry from Toledo to the Griffins before recalling Jordin Tootoo on Dec. 18. Eaves made his first appearance with the Wings since joining the Griffins in a 4-1 home loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Dec. 14, becoming the 137th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL. A day later, Jurco made his NHL debut with Detroit in a 3-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Joe Louis Arena, becoming the 138th alumnus. Tootoo became the 139th Griffins alumnus on Dec. 19 versus the Calgary Flames. The roster moves come as a result of a severely depleted Wings team, which has temporarily lost former Griffins Justin Abdelkader (concussion) and Danny DeKeyser (shoulder), Johan Franzen (concussion), former Griffin Darren Helm (shoulder), goaltender Howard (knee), Gustav Nyquist (groin) and captain Henrik Zetterberg (back) due to injuries.

Filling Big Skates: Many of Grand Rapids’ most highly-touted prospects have been making big waves in Detroit since being recalled. In Saturday’s 5-4 shootout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs, right wing Tomas Jurco notched a goal and an assist, right wing Jordin Tootoo posted an assist and center Riley Sheahan recorded his first NHL points by tallying two assists. Both Jurco (one goal) and Luke Glendening (one assist) earned their first NHL points in a 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Dec. 17. Since being recalled to the Wings on Nov. 21, right wing Gustav Nyquist has contributed eight points (4-4—8) and goaltender Petr Mrazek, who departed for Detroit on Dec. 11, has posted a 1.49 goals against average, a 0.916 save percentage and a 1-1 record over three appearances this season.

Frk Rejoins: The Red Wings last Thursday reassigned right wing Martin Frk from the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye to the Grand Rapids Griffins. Frk, 20, has skated in 15 games with Toledo since his reassignment to the Walleye on Nov. 4, tallying 13 points (5-8—13) and 10 PIM. The 6-foot, 203-pound forward has also appeared in eight contests with Grand Rapids this season, yielding six penalty minutes. Originally drafted by Detroit in the second round (49th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Frk spent the past three seasons with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, where he registered 163 points (73-90—163) in 152 games with the club. In the 2012-13 season, he produced 84 points (35-49—84) in 56 regular season games for the Mooseheads en route to capturing the QMJHL’s President Cup and the CHL Memorial Cup.

Tootoo’s Trip West: The Red Wings on Monday assigned right wing Jordin Tootoo to the Griffins. Originally the Nashville Predators’ sixth selection (98th overall) in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Tootoo, 30, has skated in 538 regular season games over 10 NHL seasons, posting 134 points (49-85—134) and 808 penalty minutes. The 5-foot-9, 198-pound right wing signed as a free agent with the Wings on July 1, 2012, and has since produced nine points (3-6—9) and 83 PIM in 52 games for the team, including one assist in 10 appearances this season. The Churchill, Manitoba, native has also played in 40 career Stanley Cup Playoff games over the course of his career, notching 10 points (3-7—10) and 65 PIM. In his 11th professional season, Tootoo has appeared in 12 contests with Grand Rapids, registering four points (1-3—4), a plus-four rating and 23 penalty minutes. Prior to joining the Griffins, Tootoo last played in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals during the 2005-06 season, when he accumulated 49 points (23-26—49) and 399 PIM in 100 games.

Quick Trip: On Saturday, Detroit reassigned center Louis-Marc Aubry and defenseman Gleason Fournier from the Griffins to the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. Aubry and Fournier both made appearances in Toledo’s 2-1 loss to the Kalamazoo Wings on Saturday before being reassigned from the Walleye to the Griffins later that night.

Evans’ Milestones: In last Wednesday’s 2-1 overtime victory over the Iowa Wild, defenseman Brennan Evans scored his first regular season goal since joining the Griffins last season. Evans tallied two goals during the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs, including the Calder Cup-clinching goal in Game 6 against Syracuse. On Saturday, Evans scored the Griffins’ second and final goal of their 3-2 regulation loss to the Chicago Wolves. In 25 games, Evans has clocked seven points (2-5—7), 48 penalty minutes and a plus-12 rating.

Walleye World: The ECHL’s Toledo Walleye (8-13-3-0) dropped two of three contests last week. Last Wednesday, the Walleye fell 7-3 to the Evansville Icemen before bouncing back in a 2-1 victory over the Kalamazoo Wings on Saturday. However, Kalamazoo flipped the scoreboard on Saturday, edging out Toledo 2-1. The Walleye rank fifth in the North Division.

Scouting Report

Thu., Dec. 26 at Milwaukee Admirals (14-7-5-1) – BMO Harris Bradley Center – 8 p.m.
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: 62-48-7-5-7 Overall, 26-25-5-4-5 Road. Season Series: 3-2-0-0 Overall, 0-1-0-0 Road. Sixth of 10 meetings overall, second of five at BMO Harris Bradley Center. NHL Affiliation: Nashville Predators. Head Coach: Dean Evason (2nd season). Notes: Milwaukee has handed the Griffins two of their six regulation losses this season, but Grand Rapids has won the last three games versus the Admirals, including two 5-0 shutouts at Van Andel Arena on Nov. 20 and Dec. 14…The Admirals currently rank second in the Midwest Division with 34 points, just one point ahead of the Rockford IceHogs (33 pts.), and rank ninth overall in the league…Admirals goaltender Magnus Hellberg has the highest number of losses in the league (11)…Defenseman Anthony Bitetto is tied for the 14th highest-scoring defenseman in the league, posting 16 points (8-8—16), the same number of points as Griffins defenseman Alexey Marchenko (2-14—16). Bitetto is tied for second among defensemen for goals (8) and power-play goals (5)…Left wing Michael Liambas is on a seven-game penalty minute streak, tallying 55 penalty minutes since Nov. 27…Two rookies sit atop the Milwaukee leaderboard, left wing Mikka Salomaki (6-14—20, 1st ) and center Colton Sissons (10-9—19, 2nd ), while Austin Watson (7-10—17) ranks third and Bitetto (8-8—16) ranks fourth…Center Mathieu Tousignant has registered 61 penalty minutes this season, spending more time in the penalty box than any other Admiral.

Fri., Dec. 27 at Rockford IceHogs (15-13-3-0) – BMO Harris Bank Center– 8 p.m.
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: 17-15-3-4 Overall, 5-9-2-2 Road. Season Series: 4-0-0-1 Overall, 1-0-0-1 Road. Sixth of 10 meetings overall, third of five at BMO Harris Bank Center. NHL Affiliation: Chicago Blackhawks. Head Coach: Ted Dent (3rd season). Notes: After falling to the IceHogs 5-4 in a shootout on Oct. 19, the Griffins have won the last three games at home, scoring at least five goals in two of those contests…Rockford ranks third in the Midwest Division (33 pts.), just one point behind the Milwaukee Admirals (34 pts.) and one point ahead of the Chicago Wolves (32 pts.)…Rockford is on a three-game losing streak, which was kicked off by its 3-2 overtime loss to the Griffins last Friday…IceHogs rookie center Mark McNeill ties for 15th among league rookies in scoring (9-9—18)…Adam Clendening (4-19—23, 3rd ) and Klas Dahlbeck (8-9—17, T9th) both rank among the league’s top defensemen…Rockford’s overall penalty killing record ranks last in the league at 75.5%...Defenseman Theo Peckham has incurred a penalty infraction in 10-straight games, tallying 40 minutes in the penalty box since Oct. 26, the longest penalty minute streak in the AHL…Defenseman Jared Nightingale leads the team in penalty minutes (72).

Mon., Dec. 30 vs. Toronto Marlies (16-9-1-1) – Comerica Park – 5 p.m.
Tue., Dec. 31 vs. Toronto Marlies – Van Andel Arena – 6 p.m.

TV:  Fox Sports Detroit at 5 p.m. (Mon.) Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 4:40 p.m. (Mon.) and 5:40 p.m. (Tue.) Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 28-23-3-1 Overall, 12-13-2-1 Road. Season Series: 0-0-1-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Home. Second and third of four meetings overall, first and second at home. NHL Affiliation: Toronto Maple Leafs. Head Coach: Steve Spot (1st season). Notes: The Marlies and Griffins have met only one time this season on Oct. 5, when Toronto defeated Grand Rapids 4-3 in overtime. Griffins rookie goaltender Jared Coreau had his only appearance between the pipes for Grand Rapids this season in the loss…Monday’s game at Comerica Park marks the first-ever outdoor game in franchise history and the seventh overall in AHL history…The Marlies (34 pts.) lead the North Division, while the Rochester Americans (13-11-3-3, 32 pts.) follow closely behind in second and the Lake Erie Monsters (14-11-0-3, 31 pts.) rank third…Toronto defenseman T.J. Brennan (12-15—27), who ties with Spencer Abbot (5-22—27) for the scoring lead on the Marlies, leads all AHL defensemen and ties for eighth overall in the league in scoring. Brennan recorded a hat trick in the Oct. 5 game… Marlies goaltender Drew MacIntyre, a former Griffin, has the most wins of any goaltender in the league (14)…Toronto ranks 15th in the league in both overall power play record (17.0%) and overall penalty killing record (82.5%)…The Marlies are on a two-game road winning streak.


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