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TITANIC TUSSLE

Griffins and Rivermen Locked in Tight Battle for Playoff Spot

2007 Rbk Hockey AHL All-Star Classic – Toronto
Mon., Jan. 29 - AHL All-Star Game - 7 p.m. - Comcast Local/B2 Networks

This Week’s Game
Sat., Feb. 3 - Peoria Rivermen at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/B2 Networks

Last Week’s Results
Wed., Jan. 24 - GRIFFINS 4 at Rochester Americans 5 - 20-19-4-2, 46 pts. (4th, North Division)

Fri., Jan. 26 - GRIFFINS 1 at Rochester Americans 5 - 20-20-4-2, 46 pts. (4th)

Sat., Jan. 27 - Toronto Marlies 3 at GRIFFINS 6 - 21-20-4-2, 48 pts. (4th)

High Stakes: The Griffins hit the AHL all-star break with a 21-20-4-2 record, good for 48 points and a comfortable fourth-place standing in the North Division. However, not only do they trail fifth-place Peoria of the West Division by one point in the race for a playoff spot (due to the AHL’s crossover rule), but the Rivermen also have two games in hand. This Saturday’s crucial meeting of the Griffins and Rivermen will be the last at Van Andel Arena during the regular season, as the final two clashes will play in Peoria on Feb. 18 and 23.

Go Fisch: Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jiri Fischer will be the Griffins’ special guest during this Saturday’s game against Peoria, thanks to West Michigan Chrysler Jeep Dealers. Fischer will meet with fans and sign autographs from 6-7 p.m. A post-game skate and autograph session with Griffins players will conclude the evening.

Time to Shine: Center Kip Miller (captain, PlanetUSA AHL All-Stars) and defenseman Derek Meech (Canadian AHL All-Stars) will represent the Griffins at tonight’s 2007 AHL All-Star Game in Toronto. Both players are making their first all-star appearances along with a pair of former Griffins, defenseman Sheldon Brookbank of the Milwaukee Admirals and starting forward Alexandre Giroux of the Hershey Bears. The game will be televised live at 7 p.m. on Comcast Local, with a free web cast available through griffinshockey.com. In Sunday’s all-star skills competition, PlanetUSA prevailed over Canada by a 19-14 count.

Closing In: With a cumulative record of 93-53-6-7, coach Greg Ireland is two victories from tying Bruce Cassidy (95-49-11-4-3) for second on the Griffins’ all-time wins list. Ireland, who will mark two calendar years as the team’s head coach on Feb. 10, stands 23 wins behind all-time leader Danton Cole (116-72-16-3-1), his predecessor.

Home Sweet Home: Grand Rapids has won five of its last six games at Van Andel Arena, including consecutive victories before sellout crowds of 10,834. The Griffins will play seven of their next 11 games within friendly confines before completing their regular season slate by playing 15 of their final 22 games on the road.

Motown Griffins: Of the 20 players who dressed for the Detroit Red Wings in their 2-1 overtime loss at St. Louis on Friday, 10 of them had previously played for the Griffins: starter Chris Osgood, backup Joey MacDonald, defensemen Niklas Kronwall and Brett Lebda, and forwards Matt Ellis, Valtteri Filppula, Jiri Hudler, Matt Hussey, Josh Langfeld and Jason Williams. Hussey made his Red Wings debut, becoming the 84th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL; he and fellow callups Ellis and Langfeld played on the same line and each logged over nine minutes of ice time.

A Goaltending First: Starting goaltender Dominic Vicari and understudy Ryan Cyr each saw action for Grand Rapids in Friday’s 5-1 loss at Rochester, marking the first time ever that two goalies made their Griffins debuts – much less their AHL/IHL debuts – in the same game.

Record Within Reach: If the Griffins win 19 of their final 33 games they’ll record their eighth-consecutive 40-win season overall and their sixth straight as members of the AHL, tying the league record set by the Cleveland Barons from 1947-53.

Break the Chain: The Griffins’ 6-3 home win over Toronto on Saturday broke a streak of eight straight victories by the visiting team in the rivalry, a run that dated to the 2006 North Division Semifinals. The last win in the series by a home team had been Grand Rapids’ 6-5 triple-overtime triumph in Game 1 of the postseason.

Player Plaudits: Kip Miller, whose team-high 48 points (16-32—48) tie for 13th in the AHL, enjoyed a pair of multi-point games last week, notching a goal and an assist in Wednesday’s loss at Rochester and registering three assists for First Star honors in Saturday’s win over Toronto…Matt Hussey has points in each of his last four games as a Griffin (2-3—5)…Ryan Oulahen set a career high with three points (1-2—3) on Saturday…Scott Barney owns his first three-game point streak of the season (1-2—3)…Jeff Campbell has points in three of the last four games (1-3—4)…Jimmy Howard has missed the last 11 games due to injury, but the Griffins have posted a 6-5 mark during his absence…After making his Griffins debut Friday in Rochester, Jamie Tardif netted the game-winning goal on Saturday against Toronto for his first AHL lamplighter. The ECHL all-star’s first AHL point came earlier in the evening on an assist of Darryl Bootland’s first-period tally.

Enough Was Enough: From Jan. 20-26, the Griffins allowed five goals in three consecutive regular season games for the first time since Dec. 28, 2004-Jan. 7, 2005.

Scouting Report

Sat., Feb. 3 vs. Peoria Rivermen (23-19-1-2) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:40 p.m. Web Cast: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through griffinshockey.com. Season Series: 2-3-0-0 Overall, 1-2-0-0 Home. Sixth of eight meetings overall, fourth and final in Grand Rapids. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 5-4-0-0-0 Overall, 3-2-0-0-0 Home. NHL Affiliation: St. Louis Blues. Head Coach: Dave Baseggio (1st season). Notes: The Rivermen have not scored an even-strength goal against Grand Rapids in the last three meetings. Stefan Liv shut them out on 28 saves in a 3-0 Griffins win on Jan. 10, and the six goals Peoria scored in consecutive meetings on Dec. 22-26 all came on power plays…The Rivermen were 8-for-21 (38%) on the power play over the first four meetings before going 0-for-10 on Jan. 10…Baseggio played 15 regular season and 15 playoff games for the Griffins during the 1999-2000 season…Peter Sejna, currently with the St. Louis Blues, has torched the Griffins for nine points (2-7—9) in the previous five meetings.



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