10/10/2011 12:27 PM
Last Week’s Result
Pack the Van: Grand Rapids opens up its home schedule this Friday versus Toronto at 7 p.m. in what is expected to be the Griffins’ 16th consecutive home-opening sellout. Fans in attendance will enjoy the first Dollar Beers, Dollar Dogs promotion of the season, live music from Jaded 8 on the concourse prior to the game, and an indoor fireworks show following the game. Additionally, the first 5,000 fans will receive Griffins glow bams, courtesy of Xfinity.
Limited Viewing: Fans looking to see the Griffins play at Van Andel Arena during October will need to move fast to secure tickets, as there are only two home dates during the month. Following Friday’s opener, the Griffins’ only other home game of the month is Oct. 28 vs. Abbotsford. Tickets for those two contests, and for all 38 home games, are available for purchase at griffinshockey.com.
Road Warriors: After taking on the Marlies on Friday, the Griffins will travel to Rochester to face off against the Americans on Sunday, Oct. 16 in the first contest of a season-high five-game road trip. Grand Rapids will travel to Hamilton for an Oct. 18 contest against the Bulldogs before heading southwest for two games in Oklahoma City and one in Houston.
All Good Things Must End: Grand Rapids’ all-time record in season openers fell to 10-3-2-1 with the loss to Rockford breaking the Griffins’ eight-year point streak in debuts (5-0-2-1). After dropping last year’s home opener to Abbotsford 3-2 in a shootout, Grand Rapids stands at 9-5-0-1 in home openers and hopes to improve on that mark against Toronto on Friday.
Youth Movement: In addition to Louis-Marc Aubry, Mitch Callahan and Trevor Parkes making their professional debuts, two other Griffins youngsters put up firsts in the Griffins’ 3-2 loss to the IceHogs. While he misses the cutoff for a rookie by two games, Willie Coetzee recorded his first goal as a Griffin in his 28th career AHL game when he scored the team’s first goal of the season. Rookie Landon Ferraro, who previously appeared in two games with the Griffins in 2009-10, notched his first professional point when he drew the primary assist on Jamie Johnson’s tally.
Mac’s Milestone: When he took his position between the pipes in the season opener, Joey MacDonald moved within one game of tying Jimmy Howard’s franchise record of 186 games played by a goaltender. Already the franchise leader in wins (98) and shutouts (17), MacDonald is also within striking distance of Howard’s minutes (10659:17) and saves (4,489) records, trailing his old teammate by just 227:47 and 115 saves.
Man Down: The Red Wings returned defenseman Brendan Smith to the Griffins on Sunday after recalling him on Saturday. Smith served the first game of his five-game NHL suspension, handed out for an illegal check to the head of an opponent during a preseason game vs. Chicago on Sept. 28. Last week, the AHL ruled that the Griffins would be without the services of the 2010-11 AHL All-Rookie Team defenseman until Oct. 18. AHL by-laws state that a player who is under suspension in another league or organization who seeks to play in the AHL while under that suspension will have the relevant disciplinary matter independently reviewed by the President of the AHL, who may in his discretion deem the player ineligible.
Captain Ex: After Friday’s practice in Rockford, head coach Curt Fraser announced that defenseman Garnet Exelby will be the team’s captain for the 2011-12 season. Greg Amadio and Doug Janik reprise their roles as alternates, while newcomer Chris Conner becomes the team’s third alternate.
At the Helm: After 15 seasons with the club, general manager Bob McNamara stepped down this summer, leaving Grand Rapids without a general manager for the first time in its existence. Player personnel decisions are now being made solely by the Detroit Red Wings hockey operations staff…Curt Fraser starts his fourth season as head coach, showing a mark of 113-98-11-18 in 240 games as Grand Rapids’ bench boss. During the 2010-11 season, he passed Danton Cole (208) for most games coached in franchise history, and he sits just three wins shy of tying Cole’s mark of 116 wins. Fraser is one of just two AHL coaches (Craig MacTavish) with 200 games of NHL experience as both a head coach and a player on his resume…The longest-tenured coach in franchise history, Jim Paek returns for his seventh season as the Griffins’ assistant coach.
Who Will Step Up?: The Griffins begin the 2011-12 season without the services of five of their top 10 point producers from last season, including leading scorer Ilari Filppula (20-44—64), top goal scorer Jamie Tardif (27-27—54), and top scoring defenseman Derek Meech (10-27—37). With Cory Emmerton and Jan Mursak graduating to the NHL, Grand Rapids’ top three returning scorers are Tomas Tatar (24-33—57, second place), Francis Pare (24-30—54, tied for third place) and Jamie Johnson (12-26—38, sixth place).
High Praise: “He's like Pav (Datsyuk) in that he skates faster with the puck than he does without it, creates space every time he's on the ice. He's professional with and without the puck. Looks like a hockey player. He's an NHL player.'' – Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on Gustav Nyquist. Coming off a spectacular collegiate career that earned him two Hobey Baker nominations for the top player in college hockey, Nyquist enters his first full season with Grand Rapids. He enjoyed an eight-game debut with the Griffins late in 2010-11, after signing a contract with the Red Wings following his junior year. The Swedish-born forward led the University of Maine in scoring in each of his three seasons and topped the entire NCAA in points as a sophomore in 2009-10 with 61 (19-42—61).
Welcome Back: Sixteen players from the Griffins’ 2010-11 edition are on their early-season roster: goaltenders Joey MacDonald and Jordan Pearce; defensemen Greg Amadio, Travis Ehrhardt, Doug Janik, Brian Lashoff, Sebastien Piche, Logan Pyett and Brendan Smith; and forwards Joakim Andersson, Willie Coetzee, Jamie Johnson, Gustav Nyquist, Francis Pare, Brent Raedeke and Tomas Tatar.
NHL Experience: Five Griffins have seen time in the NHL, combining for 824 total games: Garnet Exelby (408), Doug Janik (181), Chris Conner (139), Joey MacDonald (87) and Tomas Tatar (9).
Veteran Roll Call: AHL clubs may dress up to five veteran skaters with more than 260 games of experience in the NHL, AHL or European Elite leagues, plus another with 320 or fewer games played. The Griffins return three of the veterans they used last season in Greg Amadio, Doug Janik and Jamie Johnson and add a pair of new veterans in Chris Conner and Garnet Exelby.
Newbies: The Griffins’ rookie class is above average this season, with six players – all forwards – entering their first professional seasons, accounting for almost half of the 13 forwards on the roster: Louis-Marc Aubry, Mitch Callahan, Adam Estoclet, Landon Ferraro, Gustav Nyquist and Trevor Parkes.
One For the Ages: The average age of the Griffins is 24 years and one month, three months younger than the average for their 2010-11 roster -- the fifth consecutive season that the opening day lineup has been younger than the season that preceded it. Joey MacDonald (31), Doug Janik (31), Greg Amadio (30) and Garnet Exelby (30) check into the over-30 club, while six players have yet to reach their 21st birthday. Landon Ferraro (20 years, 1 month), Mitch Callahan (20 years, 1 month) and Louis-Marc Aubry (19 years, 10 months) are the youngest players on the roster.
Where Are They Now?: Nine of the 27 players from the Griffins’ 2010-11 season-ending roster now find themselves in other locales, including Detroit (Cory Emmerton and Jan Mursak), Winnipeg (Derek Meech), AHL Providence (Jamie Tardif), AHL Connecticut (Jordan Owens), Finland (Ilari Filppula/Jokerit Helsinki), Belarus (Sergei Kolosov/Neman Grodno), Great Britain (Adam Keefe/Belfast) and OHL Ottawa (Petr Mrazek). Brandon Straub is currently a free agent.
Fri., Oct. 14 vs. Toronto Marlies (1-0-0-0) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Sun., Oct. 16 at Rochester Americans (0-1-0-0) – Blue Cross Arena – 6:05 p.m.
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