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GRIFFINS' STARS ALIGN FOR PLANETUSA


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Grand Rapids Griffins goaltender Jimmy Howard and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson have been selected to play for the PlanetUSA AHL All-Star Team at the 2008 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Reebok, which will be held Jan. 27-28 at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton, N.Y. Both players were chosen to participate in their first AHL All-Star Classic by a committee of the league’s coaches.

Howard, 23, was recently named the Rbk X-Pulse/AHL Goaltender of the Month for December, after posting the best numbers of his career for a calendar month with a 1.72 goals against average and a 0.939 save percentage. For the season, he shows a 13-14-2 record with a 2.56 GAA and a 0.913 save percentage, ranking among the league leaders with 1,756 minutes played (3rd), 789 saves (5th), two shutouts (T5th) and 13 wins (T8th).

Since a career-high six-game winless streak from Nov. 9-21, Howard has a 10-8-1 record with two shutouts, a 1.96 GAA and a 0.932 save percentage (520-558) over his last 20 games. In those nine losses during his current run, the Griffins have totaled just 11 goals, including five games in which they scored one goal and two in which they were shut out.

Detroit’s first pick (64th overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Howard becomes the eighth Grand Rapids goaltender in 12 years to be chosen to play in an all-star game, following in the footsteps of Joey MacDonald (2005), Marc Lamothe (2003) and Martin Prusek (2002) in the AHL, and Mike Fountain (2001), Jani Hurme (2000), Ian Gordon (1998) and Pokey Reddick (1997) in the International Hockey League. The decorated netminder was named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team in 2006 – the only Griffins player to ever receive that honor – and he captured the first of his two goaltender of the month awards in March of that year.

The 23-year-old Ericsson, a native of Karlskrona, Sweden, is developing into one of the top young defensemen in hockey, despite having played primarily as a center until three seasons ago. Now in his second season in North America, he ranks among the Griffins’ leaders with five goals (T7th), 11 assists (5th), 16 points (T4th), a plus-two rating (4th) and four power play goals (T3rd). His goal, point and power play goal totals lead Grand Rapids’ defensemen, while his assists and plus-minus rating place second among the team’s blueliners.

The final player selected in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft – 291st overall by Detroit – Ericsson didn’t play his first game on defense until the age of 17, during his 2001-02 junior campaign with Hasten in Sweden, and he didn’t permanently switch positions until his rookie season with the Griffins in 2006-07.

Ericsson is the fifth Grand Rapids defenseman in seven years to be selected to play in the AHL All-Star Classic, joining Derek Meech (2007), Niklas Kronwall (2004-05), Travis Richards (2004) and John Gruden (2002).

Howard and Ericsson will be joined at the 2008 AHL All-Star Classic by three former Griffins, including PlanetUSA defenseman Clay Wilson (Syracuse) and defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski (Chicago) and goaltender Drew MacIntyre (Manitoba) of the Canadian All-Star Team. 

2008 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Reebok
Jan. 27-28 at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton, N.Y.

PlanetUSA AHL All-Stars

Forwards
Keith Aucoin, Albany ("C")
Gabe Gauthier, Manchester
T.J. Hensick, Lake Erie
x-Joakim Lindstrom, Syracuse
Greg Moore, Hartford
Joe Motzko, Hershey
Toby Petersen, Iowa
Jared Ross, Philadelphia
x-Bobby Ryan, Portland
Rob Schremp, Springfield
x-Brett Sterling, Chicago
Jeff Taffe, W-B/Scranton
Petr Vrana, Lowell
 
Defensemen
Jonathan Ericsson, Grand Rapids
Peter Harrold, Manchester
x-Matt Lashoff, Providence
Brian Lee, Binghamton
x-Erik Reitz, Houston
Brian Salcido, Portland
Anton Stralman, Toronto
Clay Wilson, Syracuse
 
Goaltenders
Jimmy Howard, Grand Rapids

x-Tuukka Rask, Providence
Pekka Rinne, Milwaukee
 
Head Coach: TBD
Assistant Coach: TBD

x-starters

Canadian AHL All-Stars

Forwards
Derick Brassard, Syracuse
Nigel Dawes, Hartford
Denis Hamel, Binghamton ("C")
Mike Iggulden, Worcester
Jason Krog, Chicago
Clarke MacArthur, Rochester
x-Pascal Pelletier, Providence
Joel Perrault, San Antonio
Rich Peverley, Milwaukee
x-Teddy Purcell, Manchester    
x-Martin St. Pierre, Rockford    
Jeff Tambellini, Bridgeport    
Kyle Wanvig, Norfolk

Defensemen
x-Cam Barker, Rockford
Micki DuPont, Peoria
Joel Kwiatkowski, Chicago 
x-Lawrence Nycholat, Binghamton  
Ryan O'Byrne, Hamilton   
Adam Pardy, Quad City  
Alexandre Picard, Philadelphia  
Derrick Walser, Toronto  

Goaltenders
x-Michael Leighton, Albany
Drew MacIntyre, Manitoba
Nolan Schaefer, Houston

Head Coach: Don Lever, Hamilton
Assistant Coach: Ron Wilson, Hamilton
 
x-starters


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