03/06/2012 3:12 PM
This Week’s Games
Wed., March 7 - GRIFFINS at Texas Stars - 8:30 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., March 10 - GRIFFINS at Houston Aeros - 8:35 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Sun., March 11 - GRIFFINS at Houston Aeros - 6:05 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Last Week’s Results
Fri., March 2 - Rochester Americans 3 at GRIFFINS 4 - 24-21-5-4, 57 pts. (4th, North Division)
Sat., March 3 - Oklahoma City Barons 3 at GRIFFINS 4 SO - 25-21-5-4, 59 pts. (4th)
Sun., March 4 - GRIFFINS 0 at Hamilton Bulldogs 1 - 25-22-5-4, 59 pts. (4th)
Playoff Push: Grand Rapids played its fourth of six three-in-threes last weekend, earning four of a possible six points – the highest total it has reached in any stretch of three games in three nights this season. The club began the week with a three-game winning streak but fell into a 2-0 hole in Friday’s contest versus Rochester less than two minutes into the second period. The Griffins rallied with three straight goals to take the lead and secured the 4-3 victory when Francis Pare tallied his 10th of the season at the 16:25 mark of the third period. The following night, the Griffins got out to a 3-1 lead over the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Barons courtesy of a pair of goals by Gustav Nyquist, but the visitors fought back with goals at 14:33 and 18:59 of the final frame to force overtime. The Griffins endured the extra session and earned a 4-3 win, with Chris Minard scoring the clinching marker in the fourth round of the shootout and Ty Conklin denying all four Barons shooters to give the team a season-high five-game winning streak. Sunday’s visit to Hamilton saw the streak end, as the Bulldogs scored the game’s only goal midway through the third period to take a 1-0 victory from their division rivals.
Winning Ways: The Griffins’ five-game winning streak from Feb. 22-March 3 was the team’s longest since a nine-game winning streak from Oct. 23-Nov. 13, 2009. The team also won four in a row at home during that stretch for the first time since a five-game home winning streak from Feb. 20-March 16, 2011. Grand Rapids will only play at home four more times in the month of March, with its next home game coming March 16 versus the Toronto Marlies.
Flying South: The Griffins will play each of their next four and six of their next eight games in the state of Texas, the first three of which will come this week. Grand Rapids will visit the Texas Stars on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. EST before playing back-to-back games against the Houston Aeros on Saturday at 8:35 p.m. EST and Sunday at 6:05 p.m. EDT. The team will finish the five-game road trip with a second visit to Texas on March 13. After two home games on March 16 and 17, they’ll return to the southwest corner of the AHL for two games against San Antonio (March 20 and 22) and Oklahoma City (March 24 and 25).
Divisional Dominance: Five of the Griffins’ last six games came against North Division opponents, and the team posted a 4-1 record during that stretch. Grand Rapids has a 15-5-1-1 record in its own division this season, giving it the second-best points percentage in the AHL in divisional play at 0.727 (equaling St. John’s). Only Oklahoma City holds a better percentage than the Griffins at 0.741 (20-7-0-0). The Griffins have outscored their division opponents 78-51. They only have two divisional games left this month, but will play six of eight games against the North in April.
Heavy Workload: Goaltender Ty Conklin has played every minute for the team since being assigned by Detroit on Feb. 21. With his 4-3 shootout victory over Oklahoma City on Saturday, Conklin became just the second goalie in franchise history to win his first five decisions, joining Mathieu Chouinard, who started 5-0 in 2000-01. In his bid to become the first goalie to win his first six, Conklin was nearly flawless. He surrendered just one goal in the team’s 1-0 loss to Hamilton on Sunday, which was the result of an Eric Lampe shot from a sharp angle that glanced off the skate of Garnet Exelby. The veteran NHL netminder shows a 5-1 record, a 1.81 goals against average and a 0.936 save percentage in six games played.
Practice Makes Perfect: Prior to the Griffins’ 5-0 shutout win of Lake Erie on Jan. 20, the team’s penalty kill had surrendered a goal in four consecutive games, ranking 20th in the AHL at 80.7%. In 18 games since then, the Griffins have killed off 59 of 67 penalties (88.1%), including 37 of their past 41 (90.2%). Grand Rapids’ shorthanded unit now ranks 11th in the AHL at 82.8%.
Clear Day Roster: The Griffins on Tuesday released their 2011-12 Clear Day roster. Only the 22 players listed on a team’s Clear Day roster are eligible to compete in the remainder of the AHL regular season games and in the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs, unless emergency conditions arise as a result of recall, injury or suspension. The Griffins’ Clear Day roster consists of goaltenders Ty Conklin and Jordan Pearce; defensemen Travis Ehrhardt, Garnet Exelby, Gleason Fournier, Doug Janik, Brian Lashoff, Logan Pyett and Brendan Smith; and forwards Joakim Andersson, Louis-Marc Aubry, Fabian Brunnstrom, Mitch Callahan, Chris Conner, Landon Ferraro, Jamie Johnson, Chris Minard, Gustav Nyquist, Francis Pare, Trevor Parkes, Brent Raedeke and Tomas Tatar. In addition, goaltender Tom McCollum, defenseman Bryan Rufenach and forward Willie Coetzee are currently in residence.
Missing Pieces: With seven regulars missing from their lineup, the Red Wings recalled three players from the Griffins on Monday, summoning left wing Chris Conner, defenseman Doug Janik and goaltender Jordan Pearce. Conner, who missed Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Hamilton after being recalled by the Red Wings on Saturday, is fourth on the Griffins with 36 points (11-25—36) in 41 games. Janik is one of just four Griffins to skate in each of the team’s 56 games so far this season, posting a team-best plus-18 rating alongside 26 points (7-19—26). In 17 appearances this season, Pearce sports a 3-7-1 record, a 3.53 GAA, a 0.874 save percentage and one shutout.
Making an Impact: Grand Rapids is also without defenseman Brendan Smith, who was recalled to Detroit on Feb. 27. The second-year pro recorded his first NHL goal in the Red Wings’ 6-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Friday, chipping a loose puck over goaltender Josh Harding to give the team a 2-0 first period lead. In Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, Smith logged 17:50 and dropped the gloves with Andrew Shaw in his first NHL fight. In six NHL games this season, Smith has one goal, two assists, a plus-one rating and 11 penalty minutes. Smith ranks among the top AHL blueliners with 10 goals (T6th), 32 points (T8th), two shorthanded goals (T1st), four shorthanded points (1st), three shootout goals (T1st) and four game-winning goals (1st).
Fresh Faces: In addition to recalling three players from the Griffins on Monday, the Red Wings reassigned goaltender Tom McCollum to Grand Rapids from the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye, while the Griffins recalled defenseman Bryan Rufenach. McCollum has appeared in 15 contests with the Griffins this season, showing a 6-8 record, a 3.59 GAA and a 0.883 save percentage. He also owns a 6-6-2 record, a 2.62 GAA and a 0.909 save percentage in 15 games with the Walleye. Rufenach ranks second among ECHL defensemen with 13 goals and 11th with 31 points (13-18—31), and he recorded one assist in three games with the Griffins earlier this season. Rufenach joins fellow first-year defenseman Gleason Fournier, who was reassigned to Grand Rapids from Toledo last Thursday. Fournier has one goal, one assist and eight penalty minutes in six games with the team.
Number One?: Gustav Nyquist leads the Griffins with 54 points (19-35—54) in 52 games and is one point shy of tying Glen Metropolit for the most points ever by a Griffins rookie. Metropolit recorded 55 points (20-35—55) in 79 games during the 1997-98 season. The Halmstad, Sweden, native has already tied Metropolit’s single-season rookie assists record, and he sits five goals away from the single-season goals record. He is currently tied with Eric Himelfarb (2004-05) for seventh place, trailing Metropolit, Chris Bala (21 goals in 2001-02), Josh Langfeld (21 goals in 2001-02), Kevyn Adams (22 goals in 1996-97), Justin Abdelkader (24 goals in 2008-09) and teammate Francis Pare (24 goals in 2008-09).
Player of the Month: The AHL last Thursday announced that Griffins left wing Chris Minard has been named the Reebok/AHL Player of the Month for February. Minard registered eight goals and five assists for 13 points and recorded a plus-seven rating in 10 games during February, returning to form after having missed the season’s first 36 games due to a concussion. Minard is the first Grand Rapids player to earn such an honor since April 2001, when Derek King was named the International Hockey League’s player of the month in that circuit’s final season of existence. The veteran forward has 17 points (12-5—17) in 20 games since returning and is second on the team with a plus-nine rating.
Milestone Watch: Captain Garnet Exelby is enjoying his most productive season as a pro, as his assist in Saturday’s 4-3 shootout win over Oklahoma City gave him a career-best 11 assists. He has 15 points (4-11—15) in 55 games, bettering his AHL-best total of 13 points (3-10—13), set last season with Rockford…Francis Pare’s game-winning goal on Friday versus Rochester was his 74th as a Griffin, giving him sole possession of fourth place all time, passing Derek King. He is one goal away from tying third-place Kip Miller and four from catching second-place Jamie Tardif…Chris Minard is one game shy of 100 as a Griffin…Tomas Tatar will tie Cory Emmerton for 10th place on the franchise’s assists leaderboard with three more helpers…Curt Fraser is four games away from becoming the first head coach in franchise history to hit 300 games.
Wed., March 7 at Texas Stars (25-28-2-2) – Cedar Park Center – 8:30 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 8:15 p.m. EST. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 6-5-0-2 Overall, 3-3-0-0 Road. Season Series: 0-1-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Second of four meetings overall, first of two in Texas. NHL Affiliation: Dallas Stars. Head Coach: Jeff Pyle (1st season). Notes: Texas is currently last in the Western Conference with 54 points…The Stars are led in scoring by Travis Morin, who is tied for 18th in the AHL with 48 points (8-40—48) in 57 games…Texas forward Matt Fraser is tied for fourth in the AHL with 26 goals and ranks seventh among league rookies with 43 points (26-17—43) in 54 games. His 10 power play goals lead a team that has the fourth-best power play in the AHL at 21.1%...Texas surrenders the fourth-most goals in the AHL, averaging 3.19 per game…Stars forward Colton Sceviour has recorded points in his last 13 home games, boasting the second-best home point streak of any player in the league this season…Stars forward Mike Hedden skated in three games with the Griffins last year, recording one assist…Texas head coach Jeff Pyle was briefly an assistant for the Griffins in 1997-98, stepping behind the bench for the final 20 games of the season.
Sat., March 10 at Houston Aeros (27-18-3-9) –Toyota Center – 8:35 p.m.
Sun., March 11 at Houston Aeros –Toyota Center – 6:05 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 96.1 FM at 8:15 p.m. EST (Sat.) and WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 5:45 p.m. EDT (Sun.). Web Casts: Video web casts at AHLLive.com, free audio available through ESPN961.com (Sat.) and woodradio.com (Sun.). All-Time Series: 35-31-6-3-7 Overall, 15-17-4-2-3 Road. Season Series: 0-3-0-1 Overall, 0-1-0-0 Road. Fifth and sixth of six meetings overall, second and third of three in Houston. NHL Affiliation: Minnesota Wild. Head Coach: John Torchetti (1st season). Notes: Friday’s contest will mark the first home game for the Aeros since Feb. 5. Houston has one game left on its season-high 11-game road trip, posting a 4-6 record so far…Houston has struggled at home with a 9-7-3-6 record, compared to its 18-11-0-3 mark on the road…Although the Aeros have the second-fewest losses (18) in the Western Conference, they sit fourth in the West Division with 65 points, due in part to their AHL-high nine shootout losses…Houston is the least-penalized team in the league with 727 penalty minutes…The Aeros are without goaltender Matt Hackett, who is 13th in the AHL with a 2.41 GAA…Houston’s penalty kill is 28th in the AHL at 78.5%...The Aeros average the second-fewest shots in the AHL at 27.86, compared to Grand Rapids’ league-leading 34.45…Jon DiSalvatore leads the Aeros in scoring with 44 points (20-24—44) in 56 games.
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