01/13/2009 3:19 PM
Last Week’s Results
Prepare for Battle: Grand Rapids, which has suffered just one regulation loss in its last 13 games (10-1-2-0), will face its top two contenders for the North Division crown this week. The Griffins, who are tied with Manitoba atop the division at 54 points, will host the Moose this Friday at 7 p.m., following a Wednesday visit to Hamilton, which sits only four points back in third. The 4-in-6 gauntlet will conclude with a two-game set on Saturday and Monday at Rockford, which currently occupies second place in the West Division at 46 points. With only four points separating Grand Rapids, Manitoba and Hamilton, the North Division boasts the tightest race in the AHL.
Moose Hunt: Prior to this Friday’s game against Manitoba, 2,500 fans will receive a Griffins’ European-style scarf, courtesy of Comerica Bank (guaranteed giveaway for season ticket holders). It’s another Dollar Beers, Dollar Dogs night, with $1 hot dogs and $1 domestic drafts available from 6-8 p.m. while supplies last, as well as College Night and Library Night.
Nearly Halfway Home: With this Wednesday’s game at Hamilton marking the halfway mark (40 games) of the Griffins’ regular season schedule, Grand Rapids is only eight wins and 16 points shy of the totals earned by its 2007-08 brethren…The Griffins’ 54 points are their second-most ever through 39 games, trailing only the 61-point start of their 2000-01 IHL squad (29-7-3)…With 34 points through 22 home games, the Griffins are on pace to become just the third team in franchise history to break the 60-point mark at home (65 in 2000-01, 64 in 2005-06)…Two first-year Griffins are on pace to set franchise records. Francis Pare’s 0.211 shooting percentage would eclipse the standard of 0.207 set by Donald MacLean during his AHL MVP season of 2005-06, while Daniel Larsson’s five shutouts are just one shy of the team mark held by five different goalies.
Home Sweet Home: The Griffins’ nine-game home point streak (7-0-2-0) is their longest since a 10-game run (9-0-0-1) from Feb. 18-April 14, 2006. Grand Rapids is 14-2-3-3 overall at Van Andel Arena this season, including a 12-1-3-2 mark in its last 18 home outings.
Cold-Blooded Killers: The Griffins denied all 30 opponent power play chances over their last eight games, propelling them into first in the AHL’s penalty killing rankings at 88.6%. Should they hold Hamilton’s power play unit scoreless on Wednesday, the Griffins will tie the franchise record of nine straight games without allowing a power play goal (Nov. 19-Dec. 6, 2003). Grand Rapids has allowed a league-low eight power play goals at home while denying an AHL-high 92.5% of its visitors’ chances.
Blanks for the Memories: Grand Rapids has shut out five of its last 11 opponents overall, including four of the last seven at home, and now shows seven shutouts on the season, just three shy of the franchise standard set in 2003-04. The Griffins’ recent domination has moved them into third in the AHL in goals allowed (2.62 per game).
GR’s Stars Set to Shine: Griffins defenseman Jakub Kindl and goaltender Daniel Larsson have been selected to play for the PlanetUSA AHL All-Star Team at the 2009 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Charter Communications, which will be held Jan. 25-26 at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass. Kindl was chosen as a starter via on-line fan balloting at theahl.com, while Larsson was selected as a reserve by a committee of AHL coaches. Kindl is the sixth Grand Rapids defenseman in eight years to be selected to play in the AHL All-Star Classic, joining Jonathan Ericsson (2008), Derek Meech (2007), Niklas Kronwall (2004-05), Travis Richards (2004) and John Gruden (2002). Larsson becomes the ninth Grand Rapids goaltender in 13 years to be chosen to play in an all-star game, following in the footsteps of Jimmy Howard (2008), Joey MacDonald (2005), Marc Lamothe (2003) and Martin Prusek (2002) in the AHL, and Mike Fountain (2001), Jani Hurme (2000), Ian Gordon (1998) and Pokey Reddick (1997) in the International Hockey League. Kindl and Larsson will be joined at the 2009 AHL All-Star Classic by three former Griffins, including forward Alexandre Giroux (Hershey) and defensemen Bryan Helmer (Hershey) and Danny Syvret (Philadelphia) of the Canadian AHL All-Star Team.
Player of the Week Nominee: The Griffins on Monday nominated left wing Ville Leino for the Reebok/AHL Player of the Week award, after he registered five points (1-4—5) in three games last week. He was named First Star of Wednesday’s 6-5 shootout win over Rockford after chipping in a goal and an assist during regulation then scoring twice in the shootout, including the clincher. Leino earned an assist in Friday’s OT loss to Philly before contributing two assists in Saturday’s 4-0 rematch, and he now leads the Griffins with 33 points and 24 assists.
Howard’s High Notes: Last Friday, Jimmy Howard surpassed current New York Islander Joey MacDonald as the Griffins’ all-time leader in goaltender minutes played (now 9,244:02 to MacDonald’s 9,208:13). Howard is also nearing or getting ready to pass MacDonald as the leader in numerous other categories, as he currently ranks second all time to MacDonald in goalie games played (164 to 162, two away), saves (4,251 to 4,134, 117 away), wins (88 to 78, 10 away) and shutouts (16 to 12, four away).
For the Record: Last Wednesday, the Griffins matched a franchise record for goals in a single period by netting five in the first frame of their 6-5 shootout win over Rockford.
Grand Larssony: Daniel Larsson stopped 27 Philadelphia shots on Saturday for his seventh win in his last eight games and his AHL-high fifth shutout of the season, moving within one of the Griffins’ single-season record with more than a half-season remaining. Larsson’s five shutouts were earned from Nov. 11 to Jan. 10, as he joined Joey MacDonald as the only Grand Rapids netminders to log five shutouts in a two-month span. Larsson, who also ranks among the AHL’s leaders with 14 wins (14-4-1, 5th), a 2.31 GAA (T5th) and a 0.924 save percentage (6th), is 12-2-1 with a 1.88 GAA, a 0.937% and those five shutouts over his last 16 outings.
Tremendous Trio: The line of Francis Pare (7-7—14), Francis Lemieux (5-6—11) and Evan McGrath (4-6—10) has combined for 35 points (16-19—35) over the last 12 games.
Honor Roll: Evan McGrath has notched a point in 11 of his last 14 games (4-8—12), while linemate Francis Pare has points in 10 of his last 13 games (8-7—15)…Ville Leino has points in nine of the last 14 games (5-8—13) and leads the team in scoring (9-24—33)…Mattias Ritola has lit the lamp in four of the last six games (4-3—7)…Darren Haydar has a four-game point streak (1-4—5) and has registered points in 12 of the last 16 games (5-9—14)…Justin Abdelkader figured on the scoresheet in all three games last week (2-2—4).
Take Me to Your Leaders: Several Griffins rank among the AHL’s individual leaders: Justin Abdelkader – 9th rookie points (25); Darren Helm – T4th shorthanded goals (2); Jimmy Howard – T17th GAA (2.59), T9th shutouts (2); Jakub Kindl – T5th defenseman points (24), T1st defenseman game-winning goals (2); Daniel Larsson – 1st shutouts (4), 5th wins (14), T5th GAA (2.31), 6th save percentage (0.924); Ryan Oulahen – T3rd shorthanded points (3), T4th shorthanded assists (2); and Francis Pare – T16th rookie points (22), T4th rookie plus/minus (+15), T4th rookie game-winning goals (2).
Better Late Than Ever: The Griffins’ eight regulation losses remain the fewest in the AHL but their eight defeats past regulation time (5 OTL, 3 SOL) tie Houston for the most in the league. Grand Rapids’ five overtime losses are tied with Springfield for the most in the AHL.
Milestones: Ryan Oulahen has appeared in 268 games as a Griffin, just 12 behind fifth-place Dave Van Drunen on the franchise’s all-time list…Garrett Stafford appeared in his 400th pro game last Friday and is set to play his 400th AHL contest on Wednesday in Hamilton…Darren Haydar is just five points shy of 500 as a pro (185-310—495).
Come One, Come All: The Griffins stand fifth in the AHL with an average attendance of 6,440, a year-to-date increase of 13.9% over the first 22 home contests of 2007-08 (5,654). The team’s total attendance of 141,672 is its highest through 22 home games in five years, since the 2003-04 campaign (141,763).
Wed., Jan. 14 at Hamilton Bulldogs (24-13-2-0) – Copps Coliseum – 7:30 p.m.
Fri., Jan. 16 vs. Manitoba Moose (26-12-0-2) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Sat., Jan. 17 at Rockford IceHogs (21-14-0-4) – Rockford MetroCentre – 8:05 p.m.
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