03/12/2012 2:26 PM
This Week’s Games
Tue., March 13 - GRIFFINS at Texas Stars - 8:30 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Fri., March 16 - Toronto Marlies at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WBFX 101.3 FM / AHLLive.com
Sat., March 17 - Hamilton Bulldogs at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Last Week’s Results
Wed., March 7 - GRIFFINS 4 at Texas Stars 5 OT - 25-22-6-4, 60 pts. (4th, North Division)
Sat., March 10 - GRIFFINS 1 at Houston Aeros 5 - 25-23-6-4, 60 pts. (4th)
Sun., March 11 - GRIFFINS 5 at Houston Aeros 2 - 26-23-6-5, 62 pts. (4th)
Never Say Never: The Griffins began last week having won five of their last six games, ending a season-high five-game winning streak with a 1-0 loss to Hamilton on March 4. The team was down four goals to Texas heading into the third period of last Wednesday’s contest against the Stars, but goals by Travis Ehrhardt, Landon Ferraro, Chris Conner and Chris Minard erased the deficit and forced overtime. A deflection by Mike Forney gave Texas the 5-4 overtime win, but it marked the second time this season the Griffins earned a point after trailing by four goals. Grand Rapids also erased a 4-0 first period deficit against Lake Erie on Dec. 28, gaining the extra point in a 6-5 overtime loss. The Griffins then split back-to-back weekend games against Houston, dropping a 5-1 decision on Saturday night and winning 5-2 on Sunday evening, improving their record to 6-2-1-0 since the arrival of Ty Conklin.
Playoff Picture: The Western Conference playoff race continues to tighten as the end of the regular season (April 15) draws nearer. The conference’s final five playoff seeds (4-8) are currently separated by just one point, with a four-point gap between third place and tenth place. Grand Rapids is currently eight points behind eighth-place Lake Erie but has four games in hand over its North Division rival. The Griffins have played the fewest number of games (59) of any Western Conference team, meaning they can make up ground with seven games in the next 14 days.
On Tap: The Griffins will finish off their season-high five-game road trip on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. EDT against the Texas Stars, the only team on the Griffins’ schedule whom they haven’t beaten yet (0-1-1). Grand Rapids will then return home for back-to-back games against North Division opponents this weekend, hosting Toronto at 7 p.m. on Friday and Hamilton at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
North Division Supremacy: Two of the Griffins’ next three games will be against North Division opponents. Grand Rapids has a 15-5-1-1 record within 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 divisional opponents 78-51. They are a perfect 4-0 against Friday’s opponent, the North Division-leading Toronto Marlies, and they are 5-2 against the Hamilton Bulldogs, having outscored them 27-12.
Promotions: Fans who attend Friday’s contest versus Toronto can enjoy $1 hot dogs and $1 domestic drafts from 6-8 p.m., while supplies last. Fans can ride the Rapid to and from the game and enjoy complimentary fare by showing their ticket. Visit ridetherapid.org for schedule information, routes and maps. College students can show their ID to purchase a lower bowl ticket for $13 (or $11 in advance at The Zone) and stop by the McFadden’s concourse table to receive a free pass to the post-game party at McFadden’s. Additionally, with a ticket in the Griffins WGRD D-Zone, fans can avoid concession lines and get $1 beers and $1 hot dogs served to their seats. Visit griffinshockey.com/dzone to purchase D-Zone tickets. Finally, Elizabeth Wertenberger, winner of Miss Michigan 2011, will drop the ceremonial first puck. On both weekend games, the Fifth Third Bank Vault restaurant will be offering a sweet potato chicken dinner all weekend to benefit LaughFest, which runs from 8-18. Two dollars from each dinner sold will be donated to Gilda’s Club. On Saturday, the first 2,000 families through the gates will receive a Griffins barbecue set, courtesy of Comerica Bank. The Griffins will wear special jerseys designed by Fraser Davidson of London, England, who won the Griffins’ third annual jersey design contest held last summer. Davidson’s entry was one of two winners selected from a pool of 119. All jerseys will be signed by the respective Griffins player and auctioned off following the game inside the Fifth Third Vault, with proceeds benefiting PennyBen and the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge. Green beer and margaritas will be served at the Fifth Third Bank Vault restaurant and at select portable concession locations during the game. Green concession items such as cotton candy, slushies and cupcakes will also be available at certain stands. The fun will continue after the game, as select Griffins’ players will be participating in the J&H Family Stores Post-Game Open Skate on the ice following the game, while others will be signing autographs from the bench for the Huntington Bank Post-Game Autograph Session.
Home Away from Home: Four of the five games on the Griffins’ season-high road trip are in the state of Texas, with the final game coming on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. EDT against the Stars. Grand Rapids opened the trip up with a 5-4 overtime loss to Texas last Wednesday before splitting a back-to-back set against Houston, with the Aeros winning 5-1 on Saturday and the Griffins winning 5-2 on Sunday. After two home games this weekend, they’ll return to the southwest corner of the AHL for two games each against San Antonio (March 20 and 22) and Oklahoma City (March 24 and 25).
Best Rookies: With his goal in Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Houston Aeros, Gustav Nyquist tied the Griffins’ single-season rookie scoring record set by Glen Metropolit, who recorded 55 points (20-35—55) in 79 games during the 1997-98 season. The Halmstad, Sweden, native has 55 points (20-35—55) in 54 games, also tying Metropolit’s single-season rookie assists record, and he sits four goals away from the single-season goals record. He is currently tied with Metropolit for sixth place, trailing 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) and making him one of just seven Griffins rookies to ever score 20 goals.
Welcome Back: The Griffins have been without several key pieces during their season-high five-game road trip, but have seen Joakim Andersson, Chris Conner and Jordan Pearce return after all spending time with Detroit last week. Andersson logged 6:17 in the Red Wings’ 4-3 victory over Los Angeles on Friday night and returned to the Griffins’ lineup for their game in Houston on Saturday. Andersson has a plus-one rating and three shots in five games with Detroit this season. Conner was assigned to the Griffins last Wednesday and recorded four points (2-2—4) in three games with the team last week. The Livonia, Mich., native has suited up for eight games with the Red Wings this season, recording one goal, two assists and a plus-two rating. Pearce did not see game action for Detroit, serving as the backup to former Griffin Joey MacDonald in three contests last week. Pearce has a 3-7-1 record, a 3.53 goals against average and a 0.874 save percentage in 17 games with the Griffins this season.
Still Missing: The Griffins still have three players with the parent Red Wings, including Gustav Nyquist, who was summoned back to Detroit on Monday. The 22-year-old forward has three points and a plus-two rating in seven games with Detroit this season, recording assists in back-to-back games last week. He assisted on the game-winning goal in the Red Wings’ 4-3 win over Los Angeles on Friday and added another assist in the team’s 3-2 loss to Nashville on Saturday. Brendan Smith has also made an impact on the scoresheet, notching his first NHL goal on March 2 versus Minnesota and adding four more points (all assists) in nine games with Detroit this season. Doug Janik is a plus-four with two penalty minutes in four games with Detroit since being called up to Detroit on March 5.
Five More Years!: The Griffins and Red Wings last Wednesday announced a five-year extension of their affiliation agreement, ensuring that the relationship between Michigan’s premier hockey teams will continue through at least the 2016-17 season. The 10-year-old affiliation is currently in its final season of a second five-year deal, and it has helped produced a Stanley Cup and an AHL regular season championship, along with multiple division titles for both teams.
Milestone Watch: Curt Fraser will become the first head coach in franchise history to log 300 games in Tuesday’s contest at Texas. Fraser, in his fourth season as the Griffins’ coach, owns a cumulative 139-121-17-22 record since taking over prior to the 2008-09 season…Francis Pare’s 11th goal of the season in Sunday’s 5-2 win over Houston was his 75th as a Griffin, tying Kip Miller for third place all time. Pare is also three games shy of tying Dave Van Drunen for eighth all time in games played and is three assists away from 100 as a Griffin…Tomas Tatar will tie Cory Emmerton (77) for 10th all time in assists with two more helpers…Gustav Nyquist will become the Griffins’ all-time rookie scoring leader with his next point.
Tue., March 13 at Texas Stars (27-29-2-2) – Cedar Park Center – 8:30 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 8:15 p.m. EST. Web Cast: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 6-5-1-2 Overall, 3-3-1-0 Road. Season Series: 0-1-1-0 Overall, 0-0-1-0 Road. Third of four meetings overall, second of two in Texas. NHL Affiliation: Dallas Stars. Head Coach: Jeff Pyle (1st season). Notes: Texas is currently 15th in the Western Conference with 58 points…The Stars are led in scoring by Travis Morin, who is sixth in the AHL with 41 assists (9-41—50)…Texas forward Matt Fraser is tied for fourth in the AHL with 28 goals and ranks sixth among league rookies with 45 points (28-17—45) in 57 games…Fraser and teammate Colton Sceviour are tied for fourth in the AHL with 197 shots…Sceviour has an active 16-game home points streak, the longest such streak of any player in the AHL this season. He has recorded 23 points in 16 home games since Dec. 27…Texas has taken the fewest minor penalties of any team in the league this season (256) and averages the third-fewest penalty minutes per game at 13.45…Texas’ power play is fifth in the AHL at 21 percent…Grand Rapids is the highest scoring team in the Western Conference, averaging 3.20 goals per game, and Texas ranks third at 3.00…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.
Fri., March 16 vs. Toronto Marlies (34-21-4-2) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: WBFX 101.3 FM/1300 AM at 6:45 p.m. Web Cast: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through 101thefoxrocks.com. All-Time Series: 26-18-1-1 Overall, 15-7-1-1 Home. Season Series: 4-0-0-0 Overall, 2-0-0-0 Home. Fifth of eight meetings overall, third of four in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Toronto Maple Leafs. Head Coach: Dallas Eakins (3rd season). Notes: Grand Rapids is undefeated against the North Division-leading Marlies this season…Toronto has earned more points (42) than any other team in the AHL at home with a 19-8-3-1, but they are 15-13-1-2 on the road…Mike Zigomanis leads the team and is tied for 11th in AHL scoring with 53 points (18-35—53) in 59 games…Marlies goaltender Ben Scrivens is third in the AHL with a 2.12 goals against average, while also owning a 17-13-0-1 record and a 0.923 save percentage…Toronto has the fourth-worst power play in the AHL at 14.5 percent, but they own the best penalty kill at 87.5 percent…Toronto surrenders 2.35 goals per game, lower than any team except Oklahoma City (2.31).
Sat., March 17 vs. Hamilton Bulldogs (26-27-2-5) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:45 p.m. Web Cast: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 31-30-1-0-3 Overall, 17-13-1-0-2 Home. Season Series: 5-2-0-0 Overall, 3-1-0-0 Home. Eighth of 10 meetings overall, fifth of five in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Montreal Canadiens. Head Coach: Clement Jodoin (1st season). Notes: Hamilton currently trails Grand Rapids in the North Division standings by three points, having played in one more game…The Bulldogs are led in scoring by Andreas Engqvist, who has 35 points (18-17—35) in 46 games…Hamilton enters the week without the services of Aaron Palushaj (13-18—31 in 31 games), Louis Leblanc (9-10—19 in 27 games) and Blake Geoffrion (2-6—8 in five games after a trade to Montreal from Nashville), who are all currently with the parent Canadiens…Hamilton’s Zack FitzGerald leads the AHL with 212 penalty minutes…Bulldogs goaltender Nathan Lawson is tied for second in the AHL with five shutouts, having shutout the Griffins 1-0 in the teams’ last meeting (March 4)…Griffins goaltender Ty Conklin led Hamilton to within one win of the Calder Cup in 2003, losing in seven games to Houston. Conklin played in 78 games with the Bulldogs from 2001-06, posting a 33-27-11 record.
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