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A TOUGH TEST


This Week’s Games
Tue., March 6 - Peoria Rivermen at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/B2 Networks

Fri., March 9 - GRIFFINS at Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights - 8 p.m. - WOOD/B2

Sat., March 10 - GRIFFINS at Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights - 8 p.m. - WOOD/B2

Last Week’s Results
Wed., Feb. 28 - GRIFFINS 2 at Rochester Americans 3 OT - 29-22-5-2, 65 pts. (4th, North Division) 

Sat., March 3 - GRIFFINS 3 at Syracuse Crunch 5 - 29-23-5-2, 65 pts. (4th) 

Sun., March 4 - GRIFFINS 3 at Rochester Americans 1 - 30-23-5-2, 67 pts. (4th) 

Down the Stretch They Come: With exactly one-quarter of their regular season schedule remaining, the Griffins begin the week with a one-point lead over Iowa in the race for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot. Grand Rapids, 10-3-1-0 in its last 14 games, will battle the AHL’s two hottest teams this week. On Tuesday, Peoria brings its 5-0-0-2 point streak into Van Andel Arena, while on Friday and Saturday the Griffins visit Omaha, winners of six straight and owners of the best winning percentage in the conference (0.650).

Snow Day: Tuesday’s game against Peoria is the rescheduled date for the Feb. 3 contest that was postponed due to a blizzard. All tickets originally purchased for Feb. 3 are valid for this game. It’s the second installment of the “Give and Go” food drive, as each fan who brings a canned or boxed food item can purchase a game ticket for just $2. All collected items, as well as all proceeds from the $2 tickets, will be donated to four local ministries: Degage Ministries, God’s Kitchen, Guiding Light Mission, and Mel Trotter Ministries. The first food drive on Feb. 16 raised $1,016 and 508 food items for the missions. Fans can also visit griffinshockey.com for a coupon redeemable for up to four lower bowl tickets for just $5 each. Finally, although it’s not indicated as a redemption date on the bookmarks, any children who’ve completed the required three hours of reading as part of the “Griff’s Reading Goals” program can redeem their voucher at The Zone or at the Van Andel Arena box office for two free tickets to this game.
 
Turning the Trick: Rookie Jamie Tardif scored a natural hat trick in the second period of Saturday’s 5-3 loss at Syracuse, becoming just the third Griffin to score three goals in a single period. He joined Tomas Kopecky (2/16/06 at CLE, 2nd) and Petr Schastlivy (11/17/01 vs. MIL, 2nd). The defeat marked just the third time in franchise history - and the first time in almost exactly 10 years - that the Griffins lost in regulation despite getting a hat trick from one of their players. The last time was March 9, 1997, when Pavol Demitra scored three in a 6-4 loss at Orlando.

Road Trippin’: Grand Rapids has played 32 home games – tied for the second-most in the AHL – meaning that 12 of its final 20 contests will be played on the road. That gauntlet is particularly challenging in light of the incredible strength of schedule, as nine of those 12 games will be hosted by teams that currently stand first, second or third in their divisions.

It’s a Snap: The Griffins broke two long streaks this weekend, one positively and one negatively. Sunday’s 3-1 win at Rochester was their first in their last five trips to Blue Cross Arena, while Saturday’s 5-3 loss at Syracuse snapped their record 10-game stranglehold over the Crunch that dated to Jan. 10, 2003. It also was their first defeat ever at the Onondaga County War Memorial (5-1-0-0).

Streaky Play: This season, the Griffins have experienced four winning streaks of at least three games (3, 3, 6 and 6) and five losing streaks of at least three games (3, 3, 4, 4 and 7). Only four of their 26 decisions since Dec. 30 have not been part of streaks (Jan. 12 and 13, Feb. 18, and March 4), as they’ve alternated from six straight wins (Dec. 30-Jan.10) to four straight losses (Jan. 19-26) to six straight wins (Jan. 27-Feb. 17) to three straight wins (Feb. 21-24) to three straight losses (Feb. 25-March 3).

Record Within Reach: If the Griffins win 10 of their final 20 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.

NHL Alumni News: With today’s recall of Darryl Bootland to Detroit, six members of the 2006-07 Griffins are currently with the Red Wings, including goalie Jimmy Howard and forwards Matt Ellis, Valtteri Filppula, Matt Hussey and Josh Langfeld. Moreover, the Griffins’ top netminder and second-through-fifth-leading scorers now find themselves in the Motor City…Defenseman Danny Syvret became the 86th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL in Edmonton’s 3-0 loss to Phoenix last Tuesday, and he averaged well over 16 minutes of ice time in his three games with the Oilers last week…Joey MacDonald, the Griffins’ all-time leader in most goaltending categories, was claimed by Boston on waivers from the Red Wings on Feb. 24. He made his Bruins debut last night at New Jersey, making 26 saves to backstop a 4-1 win over the legendary Martin Brodeur…Of the eight total goals scored in Detroit’s 6-2 win over Chicago on Friday, four were scored by former Griffins, including two by the Blackhawks’ Jason Williams and one each by the Red Wings’ Filppula and Jiri Hudler. Grand Rapids alumni Niklas Kronwall and Brett Lebda also had assists.

Home Cooking: Grand Rapids, which owned a 7-9-2-2 record on home ice in late December, has since won seven of eight and 10 of the last 12 games within friendly confines. Fans have noticed, as four of the last eight home games have been witnessed by crowds in excess of 10,000, including three sellouts. The capacity crowd of 10,834 on Feb. 24 was the fourth of the season and the 113th all time at Van Andel Arena.

Reversal of Fortune: Darryl Bootland helped the Griffins earn a point last Wednesday by scoring the game-tying goal with 14 seconds left in regulation, but the Amerks scored in the extra session to take a 3-2 win and drop Grand Rapids’ overtime record this season to 0-5. In 2005-06, the Griffins could do almost no wrong in O.T., winning their last five regular season decisions to finish 6-1, before going 3-0 in overtime during the playoffs.

Player Plaudits: Derek Meech has points in 10 of his last 11 games (4-9—13) after recording points in just nine of his first 45 contests (2-10—12). He now leads all Griffins defensemen in scoring with 25 points (6-19—25)…Stefan Liv has led the Griffins to points in seven of his last eight games (6-1-1-0)…Jamie Tardif has points in three straight appearances (4-1—5) and in five of his last six outings (4-3—7)…Ben Simon (1-2—3) and Jonas Johansson (1-1—2) both had points in two of their first three games with the Griffins last week.

Scouting Report

Tue., March 6 vs. Peoria Rivermen (31-20-2-4) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:59 p.m. Web Cast: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through griffinshockey.com. Season Series: 3-4-0-0 Overall, 1-2-0-0 Home. Eighth and final meeting overall, fourth and final in Grand Rapids. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 6-5-0-0-0 Overall, 3-2-0-0-0 Home. NHL Affiliation: St. Louis Blues. Head Coach: Dave Baseggio (1st season). Notes: Twelve of the 23 goals Peoria has scored against the Griffins this season have come on the power play…The Rivermen power play is 12-for-46 (26.1%) versus Grand Rapids this season…The Rivermen are 8-1-1-2 since the Feb. 3 blizzard postponement in Grand Rapids…Peoria is 11 games over 0.500 despite outscoring the opposition by just one goal (162-161).

Fri., March 9 at Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights (37-19-3-1) – Omaha Civic Auditorium – 8 p.m.
Sat., March 10 at Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights – Omaha Civic Auditorium – 8 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:59 p.m. (Fri.) and 7:40 p.m. (Sat.). Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through griffinshockey.com. Season Series: 0-2-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Third and fourth of four meetings overall, first and second of two in Omaha. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 4-2-0-0-0 Overall, 2-0-0-0-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: Calgary Flames. Head Coach: Ryan McGill (2nd season). Notes: The Griffins won all four clashes in 2005-06, including their two visits to the Civic Auditorium, but they lost both prior meetings at Van Andel Arena this season…The Knights have allowed the third-fewest goals in the AHL (147), due in large part to goalie Curtis McElhinney, who ranks among the league’s best with a 2.14 GAA (T2nd), six shutouts (T2nd) and 26 wins (3rd).



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