03/28/2012 12:21 PM
This Week’s Games
Fri., March 30 - Charlotte Checkers at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Sat., March 31 - Oklahoma City Barons at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sun., April 1 - GRIFFINS at Toronto Marlies - 3 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Last Week’s Results
Tue., March 20 - GRIFFINS 5 at San Antonio Rampage 4 SO - 29-24-6-4, 68 pts. (4th, North Division)
Thu., March 22 - GRIFFINS 2 at San Antonio Rampage 4 - 29-25-6-4, 68 pts. (4th)
Sat., March 24 - GRIFFINS 2 at Oklahoma City Barons 5 - 29-26-6-4, 68 pts. (4th)
Sun., March 25 - GRIFFINS 4 at Oklahoma City Barons 1 - 30-26-6-4, 70 pts. (4th)
Western Splits: The Griffins finished a four-game road trip on Sunday with a 2-2 record. The team opened up last Tuesday with a 5-4 comeback shootout victory over San Antonio. The Rampage got out to a 3-0 lead early in the second frame, and they held a 4-1 advantage heading into the third period. The Griffins got two goals from Tomas Tatar and one from Chris Minard to force the eventual shootout, where Louis-Marc Aubry scored in the seventh round to give Grand Rapids the win. San Antonio got revenge on Thursday, handing the Griffins a 4-2 loss. The Griffins then split back-to-back games over the weekend in Oklahoma City, dropping a 5-2 decision on Saturday and beating the Western Conference leaders 4-1 on Sunday.
Playoff Picture: With just 10 games left in the season for Grand Rapids, the team finds itself sitting five points out of a playoff spot entering this week. The Western Conference continues to be tightly contested, with four teams tied at 75 points (#6-9). Only four points separate seven teams (#3-9), while seven points separate 10 teams (#4-13). The Griffins are currently 13th in the conference, but they have two games in hand over four of the five teams directly ahead of them in the standings (#8-12). The team is just one point behind Milwaukee and Rockford and four behind Lake Erie, as it looks to climb closer to the final playoff spot.
On Tap: The Griffins will play their fifth of six three-in-threes this weekend, with two games at home and one on the road. After playing nine of their last 11 games on the road, the Griffins will finish the month at Van Andel Arena, where they have won five of their last six games. Grand Rapids will host Charlotte for just the second time ever on Friday at 7 p.m., and Oklahoma City will visit on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the fourth game against the Western Conference-leading Barons this month. The club plays its third game in three days with a Sunday visit to Toronto at 3 p.m. to take on the North Division-leading Marlies.
Offense vs. Defense: The Western Conference’s best offense will get a strong test against some of the league’s best defenses this week. The Griffins continue to lead the conference with 212 goals scored and a 3.21 goals-per-game average (fifth in the AHL), while leading the AHL with a 34.39 shots-per-game average. All three opponents this week rank among the top 10 teams defensively in the AHL: Toronto (2.29 GA/game) and Oklahoma City (2.32 GA/game) surrender the fewest goals in the league, while Charlotte (2.76 GA/game) is tied for 10th. Toronto (27.93 SA/game) and Oklahoma City (28.06 SA/game) rank third and fourth, respectively, in fewest shots allowed. Additionally, the three teams own the league’s best three penalty kills: Toronto (88.1), Charlotte (85.2) and Oklahoma City (85.1).
North Division Supremacy: Grand Rapids has a 16-6-1-1 record against its own division, the third-best winning percentage of any team in the AHL in divisional play. The Griffins have a 0.708 winning percentage within the North, trailing only Oklahoma City (0.758) and Norfolk (0.714), and they’ve played the fourth-fewest divisional games (24), behind only Adirondack (20), Albany (22) and Syracuse (23). The team will play six of eight games within its own division during the month of April to close out the regular season, and all of its remaining road games are against North Division opponents. They will play Toronto on Sunday in the first of three games against the North Division-leading Marlies during the first seven days of April. The Griffins are 4-1 against the Marlies this season, outscoring them 15-11.
Promotions: Fans who attend Friday’s contest versus Charlotte 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. On Saturday, 2,500 fans will be going home with Greg Amadio Bobblefists, courtesy of Appletree Christian Learning Centers. During the second intermission, the Russian Bare Trio will perform. Returning to Van Andel Arena for a second season, the amazing balancing act has been seen on America’s Got Talent. Additionally, 11-year-old Noah Krakowski of Rockford will receive a new bike during a second-period timeout, courtesy of the Griffins’ “Put A Lid On It” helmet safety program presented by Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. His name was chosen at random from more than 600 children who visited griffinshockey.com during the past year and made a pledge to always wear their helmets when riding their bikes. For more information, visit griffinshockey.com/putalidonit. Finally, fans can bring their skates to the rink and take to the ice after the game in another J&H Family Stores Post-Game Open Skate.
Youth Movement: The Griffins have welcomed six new players in the past week, five on amateur tryouts and one on reassignment by Detroit. Here’s a brief look at each of the new arrivals:
• Adam Almquist – The second-to-last pick (seventh round, 210th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft was reassigned from HV 71 (Sweden) to Grand Rapids by Detroit on Monday. The 5-11, 174-pound defenseman broke into the Swedish Eliteserien in 2009-10 after posting 34 points (5-29—34) in 15 games in the Swedish junior circuit. The Jonkoping, Sweden, native brings 122 games of professional experience to the Griffins, posting 35 points (5-30—35) and 68 penalty minutes over three years with HV 71;
• Richard Nedomlel – The 18-year-old defenseman becomes the largest player on the roster (6-4, 227 pounds) after signing an ATO with Grand Rapids on Monday. Detroit’s eighth selection (175th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Nedomlel more than quadrupled his offensive output as a rookie during his second year with the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos, ranking second among the team’s defensemen with 46 points (10-36—46) in 72 games;
• Alan Quine – Detroit’s fourth choice (85th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft finished second on the OHL’s Peterborough Petes with 70 points (30-40—70) in 65 contests. A native of Belleville, Ontario, the 19-year-old center has racked up 151 points (67-84—151) in 198 career OHL contests between Kingston and Peterborough;
• Ramis Sadikov – Sadikov is the lone acquisition whose rights do not belong to Detroit. After finishing his third season in the OHL, he joined the Griffins on an ATO on Saturday but remains a free agent. The 20-year-old goaltender won a career-high 36 games in 2010-11, while posting a 51-50-10 record, a 3.53 GAA, a 0.901 save percentage and two shutouts in 119 games with the Erie Otters;
• Riley Sheahan – Detroit’s first-round selection (21st overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft is turning pro after three seasons at the University of Notre Dame. The 20-year-old native of St. Catharines, Ontario, recorded 25 points (9-16—25) in 37 games this season, giving him 64 points (20-44—64) in 114 career games with the Fighting Irish. Sheahan, who finished fourth on Notre Dame in points this season, was one of three finalists for the CCHA’s Best Defensive Forward award;
• Ryan Sproul – A native of Mississauga, Ontario, Sproul led all OHL defenseman with 23 goals and tied for third with 54 points (23-31—54) in 61 games this season as a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. In 122 career games with Sault Ste. Marie, Sproul has recorded 87 points (37-50—87) and 89 penalty minutes. In a yearly poll of OHL Western Conference coaches, Sproul finished first in the Hardest Shot category, while finishing second in Best Shot and Best Offensive Defenseman.
Reinforced Blueline: The Griffins received two key defenders back from NHL call-ups last week. First, the Red Wings last Thursday assigned defenseman Doug Janik to the Griffins. Janik had missed the team’s previous seven games while with Detroit. In nine NHL games this season, Janik has tallied one assist, a plus-two rating and six penalty minutes, while averaging 14:30 in ice time. The Agawam, Mass., native is second in scoring among Griffins defensemen with 27 points (7-20—27) in 55 games, and he leads the team with a plus-17 rating. On Sunday, the Griffins received defenseman Brendan Smith back from Detroit. Smith has one goal, six assists, a plus-three rating and 13 penalty minutes in 14 contests with Detroit this season. He leads all Griffins defensemen with 32 points (10-22—32) in 47 games. The Mimico, Ontario, native missed the team’s last 13 games while with Detroit.
Between the Pipes: With Ty Conklin and Jordan Pearce up in Detroit, the Griffins have turned to Tom McCollum in each of their last four games. The 22-year-old netminder has posted a .910 save percentage and 2-2 record in that span. McCollum set a career high in saves when he made 41 last Tuesday’s 5-4 win over San Antonio last Tuesday. Additionally, he stopped six of seven shooters in the shootout, giving him a 0.857 save percentage in the shootout, which ranks fifth among all AHL goaltenders. The Sanborn, N.Y., native bested his Tuesday performance in Sunday’s 4-1 win over Oklahoma City, setting a new career high with 43 stops en route to being named first star against the top team in the Western Conference.
Two to Toledo: The Red Wings on Tuesday reassigned defenseman Gleason Fournier to the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye from the Griffins, and the Griffins assigned defenseman Bryan Rufenach to Toledo. Fournier has skated in 13 games with the Griffins this season, recording four points (1-3—4) and 14 penalty minutes. The 20-year-old defenseman also has 17 points (2-15—17) and 32 penalty minutes in 52 games with the Walleye. Rufenach ranks fourth on Toledo and 16th among ECHL defensemen with 31 points (12-19—31) in 51 games. The 22-year-old Rufenach has also added two assists and 11 penalty minutes in 13 contests with Grand Rapids this season.
Making it in Motown: Grand Rapids begins this week without the services of Gustav Nyquist, who is currently with the parent Red Wings. After setting the Griffins’ single-season rookie scoring record with a three-point performance in a 5-2 win versus Hamilton on March 17, the Halmstad, Sweden, native was summoned to Detroit. Nyquist has tallied seven points (1-6—7) in 12 games with Detroit while playing on the team’s top two lines, notching his first NHL goal in a 7-2 win over Columbus on Monday.
Conklin Recalled: The Red Wings last Wednesday recalled goaltender Ty Conklin from the Griffins. Conklin played every minute between the pipes for the Griffins from Feb. 22-March 17. He became just the second goalie in franchise history to win his first five starts, joining Mathieu Chouinard, who started 5-0 in 2000-01. The Griffins earned points in nine of 12 games with Conklin in net, posting an 8-3-1 record in that span. The veteran NHL netminder shows an 8-4-0 record, a 2.40 goals against average and a 0.915 save percentage in 12 AHL contests this season. With his Red Wings return last Wednesday against the New York Rangers, Conklin became the 124th Griffins alumnus to don an NHL sweater after playing for the Griffins when he helped Detroit earn an overtime point with a 32-save performance in a 2-1 loss to the Rangers. Conklin has won his last two starts, bringing his record in the NHL to 5-5-1 this season, with a 3.21 GAA and a 0.885 save percentage.
The Road Ahead: Of the 15 teams in the Western Conference, the Griffins have the second hardest schedule remaining, as the combined winning percentage of their remaining opponents is 0.569. Abbotsford has the most challenging remaining schedule at 0.584 percent, while Lake Erie (0.515), Oklahoma City (0.538), Toronto (0.545) and Charlotte (0.545) have the easiest remaining stretch. The Griffins will take on each division leader at least once, playing Toronto three times and Chicago and Oklahoma City once.
Milestone Watch: With his assist on Saturday at Oklahoma City, Tomas Tatar overtook former teammate Cory Emmerton for 10th place in franchise history with 78 career assists. Tatar also logged his 250th professional game that night and reached 150 pro points…Francis Pare became the sixth player in franchise history to reach 100 assists last Tuesday at San Antonio. Pare also passed Matt Ellis in games played, currently sitting eighth in franchise history with 285 games, and he is tied with Jiri Hudler for fifth in franchise history with 179 points…Chris Minard’s two points in Sunday’s 4-1 win over Oklahoma City gave him 500 career AHL points…Tom McCollum overtook Pokey Reddick in games played and minutes last week. McCollum currently sits seventh in franchise history with 73 games played and 3955:27 minutes.
Fri., March 30 vs. Charlotte Checkers (33-24-3-6) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 96.1 FM at 6:45 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through ESPN961.com. All-Time Series: 0-3-0-0 Overall, 0-1-0-0 Home. Season Series: 0-3-0-0 Overall, 0-2-0-0 Home. Fourth of four meetings overall, second of two in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Carolina Hurricanes. Head Coach: Jeff Daniels (2nd season). Notes: After leading the Midwest Division for much of the season, Charlotte has slid to second place after posting a 2-5-1-2 record in its past 10 games and winning only four of its past 17 contests (4-8-1-4)…The Checkers have been strong on special teams this season, with a penalty kill that ranks second in the AHL (85.2) and a power play that ranks fourth (20.3)…Leading scorer Chris Terry (13-40—53 in 64 games) is fourth in the AHL with 26 power play assists, while Bobby Sanguinetti, who is fourth among AHL defensemen with 42 points (9-33—42), ranks sixth in the AHL with 28 power play points. Sanguinetti is currently on a six-game points streak, racking up 10 points (2-8—10) during that span.
Sat., March 31 vs. Oklahoma City Barons (41-18-4-5) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 106.9FM/1300 AM at 6:45 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 5-4-1-1 Overall, 2-2-0-1 Home. Season Series: 3-4-0-0 Overall, 1-2-0-0 Home. Eighth of eight meetings overall, fourth of four in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Edmonton Oilers. Head Coach: Todd Nelson (2nd season). Notes: Oklahoma City is second in the AHL and first in the Western Conference with 91 points, eight points better than second-place Toronto…The Barons’ only regulation loss in their past 10 games (6-1-2-1) came to the Griffins on Sunday… Oklahoma City goaltender Yann Danis ranks among AHL goaltending leaders with a 2.00 GAA (2nd), a 0.926 save percentage (T4th), 24 wins (T4th) and five shutouts (T2nd), while backup goaltender David LeNeveu is ninth in the AHL with a 2.33 GAA along with a 16-11-3 record, a 0.915 save percentage and one shutout…Barons rookie forward Hunter Tremblay is tied for the AHL lead in shorthanded goals (5) and leads in shorthanded points (7)…The Barons have two former Griffins in Ryan Keller, who leads the team with 47 points (19-28—47) and a plus-25 rating that is tied for fourth in the AHL, and Bryan Helmer, who has 23 points (2-21—23) in 61 games…Oklahoma City head coach Todd Nelson became the first player ever signed by the Griffins on July 24, 1996. The defenseman recorded 67 points (11-56—67) in 236 career games with Grand Rapids from 1996-02.
Sun., April 1 at Toronto Marlies (38-23-4-3) – Ricoh Coliseum – 3 p.m.
TV: LeafsTV at 3 p.m. Radio: ESPN 96.1 FM at 2:45 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through ESPN961.com. All-Time Series: 26-19-1-1 Overall, 11-11-0-1 Road. Season Series: 4-1-0-0 Overall, 2-0-0-0 Road. Sixth of eight meetings overall, third of four in Toronto. NHL Affiliation: Toronto Maple Leafs. Head Coach: Dallas Eakins (3rd season). Notes: Grand Rapids is 4-1 against the North Division-leading Marlies this season…Toronto has surrendered 156 goals this season, the fewest in the AHL…The Marlies are 21-10-3-1 at home this season, giving them more points at home (46) than any other AHL team…Toronto center Mike Zigomanis is tied for eighth in the AHL with 59 points (18-41—59) in 65 games…Marlies goaltender Ben Scrivens is third in the AHL with a 2.02 GAA and a 0.927 save percentage alongside a 20-14-1 record and four shutouts…Toronto defenseman Juraj Mikus is tied for fourth among AHL defenseman with a plus-20 rating…The Marlies have the best penalty kill (88.1) and home penalty kill (89.2) in the AHL, but their power play ranks 28th (14.2).
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