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GRIFFINS AIM TO EXTEND CONFERENCE LEAD WITH CONTESTS AGAINST WOLVES AND ADMIRALS

Midwest Weekend

This Week’s Games
Fri., Jan. 31    Chicago Wolves at GRIFFINS    7 p.m.    WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., Feb. 1    GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals    8 p.m.    WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com

Last Week’s Results
Fri., Jan. 24    GRIFFINS 4 at Texas Stars 6     27-12-1-2, 57 pts. (1st, Midwest Division)
Sat., Jan. 25    GRIFFINS 4 at Texas Stars 1    28-12-1-2, 59 pts. (1st)
Sun., Jan. 26    GRIFFINS 5 at San Antonio Rampage 6 OT    28-12-2-2, 60 pts. (1st)

Texas Tour: The Griffins wrapped up their three-in-three weekend in Texas with a 1-1-1-0 record, earning three of six possible points to push their conference-leading total to 60. The stretch kicked off with a two-game set against the Texas Stars at the Cedar Park Center. On Friday, Grand Rapids fell 6-4 despite a late third-period rally. After allowing four consecutive goals, goaltender Tom McCollum was pulled in the second period in favor of rookie netminder Jared Coreau, who turned away 33 of 35 shots. Teemu Pulkkinen notched two goals in the contest, his second two-goal game of the season, but penalties by Adam Almquist and Alexey Marchenko in the final five minutes of play deflated the Griffins’ comeback. In a rematch on Saturday, the Griffins defeated the Stars, 4-1. Landon Ferraro was responsible for two of the goals, as Grand Rapids snapped Texas’ 12-game home-ice winning streak. Finishing the weekend, the team fell to the San Antonio Rampage, 6-5, in overtime at the AT&T Center on Sunday. The Griffins enjoyed a four-goal second period and began the final frame with a three-goal lead. However, the Rampage stampeded through their deficit and eventually solved Coreau with only 16 seconds remaining in overtime to earn the extra point. Pulkkinen earned his second two-goal game of the weekend, and Almquist and Calle Jarnkrok both produced three assists in the contest.

The Midwest Division: Through 44 games, the Griffins (28-12-2-2) have banked 60 points and currently hold on to a 10-point lead over the rest of the Midwest Division. The Chicago Wolves (23-15-2-2, 50 pts.), who currently rank second, sit only one point above the third-place Milwaukee Admirals (20-13-6-3, 49 pts.). The Rockford IceHogs (20-20-4-2, 46 pts.) land in fourth, but are followed closely behind by the fifth-place Iowa Wild (19-16-3-3, 44 pts.). Grand Rapids also ranks first in the Western Conference, just one point ahead of the Texas Stars (27-12-2-3, 59 pts.), and third overall in the AHL.

Friday Promotions: Friday’s game versus Chicago gives fans the opportunity to enjoy $2 hot dogs and $2 domestic drafts from 6-8 p.m., while supplies last. College students can purchase an upper 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. Every Friday night is also a Griffins D-Zone night, where fans can have $2 beers and $2 hot dogs served directly to their seats, and a Free Ride Friday, permitting any fan to enjoy complimentary fare on the Rapid busses by showing their ticket to that night’s game. Call (616) 774-4585 ext. 2 or visit griffinshockey.com/dzone to order D-Zone tickets, and visit ridetherapid.org for information on bus schedules, routes and maps.

Shoot-‘Em Up: Last Friday’s 6-4 loss to the Texas Stars marked a new milestone in Griffins franchise history, as Texas’ 59 shots were the most shots that the Griffins have ever allowed. Previously, the most shots against Grand Rapids in a regular season game were 53 on March 13, 2003 while visiting the Houston Aeros, and 58 shots during the playoffs in a home game on May 3, 2001 against the Orlando Solar Bears (IHL).

Almquist Attacks: Fifth-year pro defenseman Adam Almquist chipped in his first goal of the season, as well as an assist, in last Friday’s 6-4 loss to the Texas Stars. In addition, the third-year Griffin recorded his second two-point game in a row last Saturday with two helpers in the Griffins’ 4-1 rematch victory over the Stars. On Sunday, he notched three assists in a 6-5 overtime loss to the San Antonio Rampage. A native of Huskvarna, Sweden, Almquist (1-28—29) ranks sixth among AHL defenseman in scoring and leads all league defenders in assists. Thirteen of Almquist’s assists have come on the power play, tying him for third among all d-men in power play assists. Almquist has now earned three assists in a game on three separate occasions (Oct. 4 at RCH; Nov. 20 vs. MIL; Jan. 26 at SA).

Swedish Influence: Griffins center Calle Jarnkrok has been making an impact of late, earning assists in all three games last weekend. Through the Texas three-in-three, Jarnkrok earned six total assists, including three helpers in Sunday’s 6-5 overtime loss to the San Antonio Rampage. Sunday marked Jarnkrok’s third multi-point game this season (Nov. 8 at HAM, two goals; Jan. 24 at TEX, two assists; Jan. 26 at SA, three assists). Defenseman Adam Almquist also tallied three assists in Sunday’s game. A native of Gavle, Sweden, Jarnkrok is in his second season with the Griffins and fifth season pro, previously playing for Brynas of the Swedish Hockey League.
 
Puck-Happy Pulkkinen: Right wing Teemu Pulkkinen (17-20—37) keeps producing points for the Griffins on a regular basis, having tallied at least one point in 28 of 44 games so far this season. Pulkkinen, a native of Vantaa, Finland, holds the team’s longest point streak, earning three goals and seven assists in eight games from Nov. 29-Dec. 18. In his second season as a Griffin and third year pro, Pulkkinen posts a plus-16 rating, 24 penalty minutes, two game-winning goals and a 13.3 shooting percentage. Last Friday, Pulkkinen enjoyed a three-point performance (two goals, one assist) in the Griffins’ 6-4 loss to the Texas Stars, and he notched an assist in Saturday’s 4-1 victorious rematch against the Stars. To top off his weekend on Sunday, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Pulkkinen added two more goals to his season resume in the team’s 6-5 overtime loss to the San Antonio Rampage. He ties for 12th overall among league scoring leaders, the only Griffin to rank among the top 20.

Impact in the East: Currently, Griffins forwards Patrick Eaves, Cory Emmerton, Luke Glendening, Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan all don a Detroit Red Wings sweater. While Eaves and Emmerton have been Detroit mainstays in the past, Sheahan, who made his NHL debut last season, and Glendening and Jurco, who both made their NHL debuts this season, have been making serious impacts for Grand Rapids’ parent club. Recalled to the Wings on Dec. 30, Glendening has appeared in 27 games with Detroit and has yielded three assists. Jurco made his NHL debut with Detroit on Dec. 15 versus the Tampa Bay Lightning and scored his first NHL goal and point in his second NHL game on Dec. 17 versus the Anaheim Ducks. Jurco has appeared in 13 games with Detroit and has notched a total of five points (2-3—5), a plus-one rating and four penalty minutes. Sheahan, who put away two goals and an assist over the course of last week, has skated in 12 games and has tallied eight points (3-5—8) and a plus-three rating. Sheahan earned the game-winning goal on Jan. 24 in a 4-1 triumph over the Montreal Canadiens.

Magic McCollum: Fifth-year pro Tom McCollum continues to produce between the pipes for the Griffins this season, yielding an 18-8-1 record and a 2.19 goals against average through 31 appearances for Grand Rapids. McCollum has posted two shutouts this season, most recently a 3-0 freezing of the Abbotsford Heat on Jan. 17. His five career shutouts rank him seventh all time among Griffins goaltenders. McCollum’s 60th victory in a Griffins uniform on Jan. 11 made him just the third goalie to reach that plateau, joining eventual NHLers Joey MacDonald (109) and Jimmy Howard (90). 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. Currently, the Sanborn, New York, native ranks sixth overall among league goaltenders and places second in wins (18), fifth in minutes played (1698:33) and fourth in saves (786).

Team Leaders: Right wing Teemu Pulkkinen (17-20—37) took over the scoring lead for the Griffins last weekend after earning six total points (four goals, two assists) through three consecutive games. Pulkkinen’s 128 shots are the highest number for any Griffin this season. Tomas Jurco (13-19—32), who was recalled to the Wings on Jan. 14, follows closely in second. Cory Emmerton (10-19—29), who was recalled by Detroit on Jan. 16, has sole possession of third place, while Adam Almquist (1-28—29) has climbed the ranks to fourth place courtesy of three consecutive multi-point performances this weekend, including a three-assist game in Sunday’s 6-5 overtime loss to the San Antonio Rampage. Brennan Evans (88) now leads the Griffins in penalty minutes after tallying 20 minutes worth of infractions on Friday, including a game-misconduct, and Triston Grant (73) and Jordin Tootoo (58) follow behind in second and third, respectively. Mitch Callahan (13.9%) has the highest shooting percentage of any active Griffin.

Double Suspensions: The American Hockey League on Sunday announced the suspension of Griffins defenseman Brennan Evans for three games as a consequence of an elbowing incident during last Friday’s game against the Texas Stars. Evans was suspended under the provisions of AHL Rule 28.1 (supplementary discipline). He missed Sunday’s game against the San Antonio Rampage and will miss Grand Rapids’ games on Friday, Jan. 31 vs. Chicago and Saturday, Feb. 1 at Milwaukee. In addition, Griffins left wing Triston Grant was suspended for one game as a consequence of a slew-footing incident in last Friday’s game against Texas. Grant was suspended under the provisions of AHL Rule 28.1 (supplementary discipline) and missed Grand Rapids’ game on Sunday at San Antonio.

Sochi-Bound: On Jan.7, Grand Rapids forward Tomas Jurco was named to the Slovakian Olympic Team that will compete at the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, next month. Jurco is set to become just the fifth player in franchise history to participate in the Olympics while an active Griffin, joining Sergei Kolosov (2010 Belarus), Niklas Kronwall (2006 Sweden), Ole-Kristian Tollefsen (2010 Norway) and Julien Vauclair (2002 Switzerland). Teamed on the Slovakian squad with former Griffins Tomas Kopecky and Tomas Tatar, the 2013 Calder Cup and 2011 Memorial Cup champion will be among a contingent of 11 Griffins alumni competing for seven different nations during the Games.

All-Star Duo: On Jan. 9, the American Hockey League announced that Grand Rapids head coach Jeff Blashill and defenseman Alexey Marchenko have been selected to participate in the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Assante Wealth Management, which will be held Feb. 11-12 at the Mile One Center in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The AHL All-Star Team, a 20-man squad consisting of the league’s top contributors, will battle Färjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League in a two-day competition. The 2014 All-Star Classic will mark the first time that a Swedish Hockey League team has competed in North America. Blashill, 40, will be the first Griffins head coach in 12 years to lead an AHL All-Star Team, following Bruce Cassidy’s participation in the 2002 AHL All-Star Classic. Blashill will be joined by Rob Zettler, head coach of the Syracuse Crunch, whom the Griffins defeated in the 2013 Calder Cup Finals. In 2012-13, his first season as a head coach at the pro level, Blashill led the Griffins to the Calder Cup, marking the first championship in the franchise’s 17-year history. Blashill was named by the Detroit Red Wings as the ninth head coach in Grand Rapids Griffins history on June 25, 2012. Marchenko, 22, is just the third rookie defenseman in Griffins history to be named to the AHL All-Star Team, following in the recent footsteps of Chad Billins (2013), also a member of the 2014 AHL All-Star Team representing Abbotsford, and Brendan Smith (2011). The Moscow, Russia, native has had a storybook inaugural season with the Griffins, tallying 17 points (2-15—17), a plus-15 rating and 10 penalty minutes through 39 games. On Jan. 4, Marchenko finished with a plus-two rating in his NHL debut with the Detroit Red Wings, becoming the 140th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL.

Roster Shuffles: The Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday assigned goaltender Petr Mrazek to the Griffins and reassigned goaltender Jared Coreau from the Griffins to the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. In addition, the Griffins announced that forwards Alden Hirschfeld and Travis Novak have been released from their professional tryouts, returning them to Toledo. Mrazek, 21, has appeared in 13 contests with the Griffins this season, posting a 10-2-1 record, a 2.09 goals against average and a 0.927 save percentage. The Ostrava, Czech Republic, native won a career-high nine consecutive games with Grand Rapids before being recalled to Detroit on Dec. 11. Mrazek has earned two shutouts this season, including a 5-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers with Detroit on Nov. 2 and a 5-0 blanking of the Milwaukee Admirals with Grand Rapids on Nov. 20. The 6-foot-1, 187-pound netminder has played in seven games with the Wings this season, registering a 1-3-0 record, a 1.64 GAA and a 0.924 save percentage. Coreau, 22, has made five appearances with Grand Rapids in his first professional season and has posted a 0-4-0 record, a 4.39 GAA and a 0.873 save percentage. The 6-foot-4, 208-pound goaltender has also appeared in nine matches with the Walleye this season, registering a 1-5-3 record, a 4.42 GAA and 0.865 save percentage. Hirschfeld, 25, has skated in two games with the Griffins, tallying one assist and a plus-two rating. In 33 games with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye this season, Hirschfeld has captured 22 points (5-17—22) and 10 penalty minutes. Last season, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound forward played in 37 games with the AHL’s Providence Bruins and 18 games with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays, where he tallied eight points (4-4—8) for each team through 55 appearances. Novak, 25, has played in three games with Grand Rapids since being signed to a professional tryout on Jan. 21, earning two points (1-1—2) and a plus-three rating. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound forward has spent two seasons with the Walleye (2012-14), posting 23 points (8-15—23) this season and, in all, 57 points through 90 career ECHL games.

Walleye World: The ECHL’s Toledo Walleye (13-22-3-0) ended a four-game losing streak on Sunday with a 4-2 victory over the Greenville Road Warriors at the Huntington Center. Kevin Lynch and Max Nicastro both earned assists in the contest. Forward Trevor Parkes (17-17—34) continues to lead the Walleye in scoring despite being reassigned to the Griffins on Jan. 13. Forwards Travis Novak (8-15—23) and Alden Hirschfeld (5-17—22), who were released from professional tryouts with the Griffins on Monday, rank second and third on the team. Toledo ranks fifth in the North Division, 13 points behind the fourth-place Fort Wayne Komets.

Scouting Report

Fri., Jan. 31 vs. Chicago Wolves (23-15-2-2) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 60-43-2-4-2 Overall, 30-18-2-2-2 Home. Season Series: 4-3-0-0 Overall, 2-1-0-0 Home. Eighth of 10 meetings overall, fourth of five at Van Andel Arena. NHL Affiliation: St. Louis Blues. Head Coach: John Anderson (12th season). Notes: Chicago ranks second in the Midwest Division and 14th overall but has posted an aggressive 6-3-1-0 record through its last 10 games and is currently on a two-game winning streak…Goaltender Jake Allen ranks fourth among league goaltenders with a 2.10 goals against average and has also produced a 0.925 save percentage and a 17-10-0-2 record. Allen was named to the AHL All-Star Classic team earlier this month and will compete alongside Griffins defenseman Alexey Marchenko and head coach Jeff Blashill…Chicago’s power play (11.6%) ranks last overall while its penalty kill (85.1%) ranks seventh…The Wolves tend to come alive during the second period and have scored 53 goals in the middle frame while allowing only 32…Right wing Mark Mancari (8-17—25) is the highest active scorer on the team.

Sat., Feb. 1 at Milwaukee Admirals (20-13-6-3) – 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: 62-49-7-5-7 Overall, 26-26-5-4-5 Road. Season Series: 3-3-0-0 Overall, 0-2-0-0 Road. Seventh of 10 meetings overall, third of five at BMO Harris Bradley Center. NHL Affiliation: Nashville Predators. Head Coach: Dean Evason (2nd season). Notes: Milwaukee has handed the Griffins three of their 12 regulation losses this season, but the series is currently split at three wins for each club…The Admirals rank third in the Midwest Division, just one point behind the second-place Chicago Wolves, and rank 15th overall…Miikka Salomaki (11-16—27) ties for eighth among rookie leaders despite recording 21 minor penalties this season (third among rookies). Nine of Salomaki’s assists have come on the power play and he has scored 14 total points with an extra attacker on the ice…Taylor Beck is on seven-game point streak at home for Milwaukee and has notched 12 points in those seven games at the BMO Harris Bradley Center…Colton Sissons and Taylor Beck, the two leading scorers on the Admirals, are currently with Nashville...Anthony Bitetto (9-16—25) is the highest-scoring active Admiral.


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