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Griffins Trail Third-Place Hamilton by Two Points Entering Two-Game Road Set

This Week’s Games
Fri., Jan. 19 - GRIFFINS at Hamilton Bulldogs - 7:30 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/B2 Networks

Sat., Jan. 20 - GRIFFINS at Hamilton Bulldogs - 7 p.m. - WOOD/B2

Last Week’s Results
Mon., Jan. 8 - GRIFFINS 3 at Philadelphia Phantoms 2 - 18-15-4-2, 42 pts. (4th, North Division)

Wed., Jan. 10 - Peoria Rivermen 0 at GRIFFINS 3 - 19-15-4-2, 44 pts. (4th)

Fri., Jan. 12 - Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights 4 at GRIFFINS 0 - 19-16-4-2, 44 pts. (4th)

Sat., Jan. 13 - Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 3 at GRIFFINS 4 SO - 20-16-4-2, 46 pts. (4th) 

Keep on Rockin’: Although the Griffins’ season-high six-game winning streak and seven-game point streak were snapped by Friday’s 4-0 loss to Omaha, they rebounded Saturday with a 4-3 shootout win over Wilkes-Barre to improve to 7-1 in their last eight and 8-2-2-0 in their last 12. On Dec. 19 the Griffins were 12-14-2-2, tied with Toronto for fourth place in the North Division at 28 points and trailing Rochester (13 pts.), Hamilton (7) and Manitoba (6). While still in fourth place, Grand Rapids (20-16-4-2, 46 pts.) has made up ground on all four rivals in the last four weeks, building a nine-point advantage over Toronto and slicing its deficits to Rochester (7), Manitoba (5) and Hamilton (2). With two games at Hamilton this weekend, the Griffins have a chance to move out of fourth place for the first time since late November.

Giant Killers: Three times since the start of December the Griffins have beaten the AHL’s top team (in terms of winning percentage) at Van Andel Arena. Their 4-3 shootout win over Wilkes-Barre on Saturday followed a two-game sweep of then-leader Rochester on Dec. 1-2. Saturday’s win was also their second over the Penguins in a nine-day span, including a 6-5 triumph in Wilkes-Barre on Jan. 5.

Shutout Stories: Four of the last five games at Van Andel Arena have featured a shutout. The Griffins posted a team-record three consecutive home shutouts over conference powers Hamilton, Rochester and Peoria from Dec. 30-Jan. 10, before Omaha and Curtis McElhinney snapped their record home shutout streak at 204:39 Friday night in a 4-0 Knights win. The previous standard of 171:40 was set from Feb. 6-20, 2004.

On the Road Again: The Griffins have already played 25 of their 40 home games, meaning 23 of their final 38 games will be contested in hostile territory, where they are 9-6-2-0 (0.588) this season. Grand Rapids’ next four games will be on the road against North Division rivals, including a pair at Hamilton this weekend and two at Rochester on Jan. 24-26.

Welcome Back: Two games into his conditioning assignment from the Detroit Red Wings, Joey MacDonald is 1-1 with a 2.93 GAA and a 0.898 save percentage. Saturday’s 27-save victory over league-leading Wilkes-Barre was his first in either the NHL or AHL this season. In four appearances with the Red Wings, MacDonald shows a 0-2-1 record with a 3.67 GAA and a 0.857 save percentage.

Great Skate Update: This weekend’s fifth annual Great Skate at Rosa Parks Ice Rink raised a record total of nearly $15,000 for the Griffins Youth Foundation.

Shootout Perfection: Saturday’s perfect shootout performance against the Penguins – Joey MacDonald stopped all three Wilkes-Barre attempts while Ryan Keller, Josh Langfeld and Jonathan Ericsson all potted their shots – was just the second in franchise history. In a 4-3 win over IHL Cleveland on Oct. 6, 2000, the Griffins prevailed 2-0 in the shootout, with Mathieu Chouinard stopping both Lumberjacks’ tries and John Emmons and Slava Butsayev scoring on Grand Rapids’ two attempts. The Griffins have now scored on their last five shootout attempts while denying each of their opponents’ last seven tries.

Facing the Best: Should the Griffins face Hamilton goalie Jaroslav Halak on Friday, it will mark the third straight game they face one of the AHL’s top three netminders. Halak leads the league with a 1.87 GAA, Omaha’s Curtis McElhinney (4-0 win over GR on Friday) is second at 2.27, and Wilkes-Barre’s Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers (4-3 shootout loss to the Griffins on Saturday) is tied for third at 2.30.

Kudos: Stefan Liv has won five straight games – including two shutouts – and is 6-1 in his last seven games since starting the year 1-6-1…Jonathan Ericsson has points in 10 of the last 15 games (2-11—13). His 22 points (4-18—22) tie him for ninth among AHL defensemen and rank second among first-year blueliners…Eric Himelfarb’s two goals on Saturday versus Wilkes-Barre tied his career high accomplished three other times…Josh Langfeld has points in five of his last six games as a Griffin (2-4—6)…Kip Miller is currently tied for 14th in AHL scoring with a team-high 43 points (15-28—43).

Fight the Power: The Griffins have killed off 32 of their opponents’ last 33 power play chances both at home and overall.

Chasing Records: Kip Miller, Matt Hussey and Dan Smith have played in each of Grand Rapids’ 42 games so far, putting them on track to join 14 other Griffins who played in every game during a single regular season…Miller’s 28 assists put him on pace for 53, within shouting distance of Jiri Hudler’s single-season franchise mark of 60 set last season…Matt Ellis’ 157 shots project to 299, which would crush the standard of 271 (Donald MacLean, 2005-06).

Honor Roll: Center Kip Miller (captain, PlanetUSA AHL All-Stars) and defenseman Derek Meech (Canadian AHL All-Stars) will represent the Griffins at the 2007 Rbk Hockey AHL All-Star Classic, Jan. 28-29 in Toronto. Both players will make their first AHL All-Star Classic appearances alongside a pair of former Griffins, defenseman Sheldon Brookbank of the Milwaukee Admirals and starting forward Alexandre Giroux of the Hershey Bears. Comcast Local will televise the AHL All-Star Classic live throughout Michigan, beginning with the AHL All-Star Skills Competition on Sunday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. and concluding with the AHL All-Star Game on Monday, Jan. 29 at 7 p.m.

Scouting Report

Fri., Jan. 19 at Hamilton Bulldogs (23-17-1-1) – Copps Coliseum – 7:30 p.m.
Sat., Jan. 20 at Hamilton Bulldogs – Copps Coliseum – 7 p.m.

Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:10 p.m. (Fri.) and 6:40 p.m. (Sat.). Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through Season Series: 1-0-0-1 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Third and fourth of 10 meetings overall, first and second of five in Hamilton. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 13-8-1-0-2 Overall, 6-5-0-0-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: Montreal Canadiens. Head Coach: Don Lever (2nd season). Notes: Since posting a 19-4-1-1 tear, the Bulldogs are just 2-7 in their last nine games…Griffins goalie Stefan Liv made 24 saves in a 2-0 win over the Bulldogs on Dec. 30, their last meeting…Hamilton netminder Jaroslav Halak leads the AHL in GAA (1.87), save percentage (0.938) and shutouts (5)…Erstwhile Griffins Eric Manlow (2004-06) and Danny Groulx (2002-05) play for Hamilton, while former Bulldogs Brad Norton (1998-01), Dan Smith (2005-06) and Danny Syvret (2005-06) now toil in Grand Rapids.

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