12/20/2011 11:10 AM
This Week’s Game
Wed., Dec. 21 - Abbotsford Heat at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Last Week’s Results
Wed., Dec. 14 - Rockford IceHogs 4 at GRIFFINS 5 SO - 11-12-1-2, 25 pts. (4th, North Division)
Fri., Dec. 16 - GRIFFINS 3 at Lake Erie Monsters 2 - 12-12-1-2, 27 pts. (T2nd)
Sat., Dec. 17 - GRIFFINS 0 at Lake Erie Monsters 3 - 12-13-1-2, 27 pts. (3rd)
Moving Up: Grand Rapids began last week by extending its home-ice winning streak to three games with a 5-4 shootout win over the Rockford IceHogs on Wednesday. The Griffins were led by two goals from Willie Coetzee and a seventh-round shootout-clinching goal from Landon Ferraro. They went on to split a weekend series on the road against the Lake Erie Monsters, winning 3-2 on Friday and losing 3-0 on Saturday. Friday’s win moved the Griffins past fourth place in the North Division standings for the first time since Nov. 2, when they sat second after a 3-0 win over the Monsters. The team was tied for second place with Rochester after the night was over, but they fell to third after losing to, and being passed by, Lake Erie on Saturday. Rochester won on Sunday, putting the idle Griffins back in fourth place. Still, Grand Rapids begins the week just two points out of second in the North Division and three points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Heating Up: December has treated the Griffins well, as they’ve earned points in seven of their last nine games (5-2-0-2), including a 4-2-0-2 record this month. They’ve won three straight games at home for the first time since March 4-16, a streak they’ll look to continue when the Abbotsford Heat come to town on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
No Easy Task: The Griffins have just one game this week before they begin their five-day Christmas break, hosting the Abbotsford Heat on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Although the Griffins have played well on home ice of late, winning their last three games at Van Andel Arena, Abbotsford boasts the best road record in the league at 14-3 and holds an AHL-best seven-game point streak, winning six consecutive games before losing to Hamilton in overtime on Sunday.
Fireworks: The first meeting between Abbotsford and Grand Rapids this season, a 5-1 win for the Heat on Oct. 28, featured the AHL’s second-highest penalty minute total of the season, with 118 minutes between the two clubs. Eighty-eight of those minutes came in the second period when a scrum erupted in the Griffins’ crease and sparked several fights, including one between the Griffins’ Joey MacDonald and his goaltending counterpart, Leland Irving. The goalie fight was just the second involving a Griffin since at least the start of the 2000-01 season. The only other fight in that stretch occurred on April 9, 2006, when Jimmy Howard and Rochester’s Michael Leighton battled during the first period of a 6-4 Americans victory in Rochester. A repeat bout is unlikely, though, as Irving is currently with the NHL’s Calgary Flames.
Winning Wednesday: All fans who were in attendance for the Griffins’ 5-4 shootout win over Rockford last Wednesday can redeem their ticket stub for a free ticket to Wednesday’s game versus Abbotsford. Additionally, if the Griffins beat the Heat, each fan in attendance will receive a free ticket to the next Wednesday game, Jan. 11 versus Houston. Tickets can be redeemed at The Zone during business hours (M-F 10-6; Sat. 10-12) and at the box office before the game. Wednesday also marks the return of the popular “Wednesday is Hockey Night” promotion. Before or after every Wednesday game through February, fans can show their Griffins ticket to receive great food and drink specials at participating Arena District restaurants and bars, including Peppino’s Sports Grille, home of the Griffins’ Wednesday post-game parties. Visit griffinshockey.com/hockeynight for a list of participating restaurants.
North Division Outlook: The North Division was the most tightly-contested division in the AHL heading into last week, and the race only got tighter after the weekend. Toronto’s eight-point lead in the division sits at just five now, as the Marlies (34 points) have lost three straight games in regulation. The remaining four teams are separated by just three points, with Rochester (29 points) sitting in second place after surpassing the Griffins with a Sunday victory over Houston. After splitting a weekend series with the Griffins, Lake Erie (28 points) is holding on to third place, but Grand Rapids (27 points) has played one fewer game than each team in front of it. Hamilton (26 points) is gaining ground from the North Division’s basement after putting together a five-game point streak (3-0-0-2).
Milestone Man: Although he already ranks first in franchise history in games played, wins, shutouts, saves and minutes played, Joey MacDonald continues to hit milestones and work his way up the franchise all-time leaders in other categories. Last Wednesday versus Rockford, MacDonald eclipsed 11,000 minutes spent in between the pipes, while recording his 5,000th save as a Griffin the same night. MacDonald made that victory, his 105th with the club, his 11th shootout victory, tying him with Ian Gordon for second place in franchise history. He trails only former teammate Jimmy Howard in that category, who tops the charts with 16 shootout victories.
AHL First: Griffins rookie forward Trevor Parkes achieved a personal milestone last Wednesday versus Rockford, scoring his first career AHL goal. After recording one assist in 14 games with the team, Parkes was reassigned to the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. He made the most of his time there, scoring four goals (his first four professional goals) in four games. He was reassigned to Grand Rapids on Dec. 10. Parkes’ first AHL tally came midway through the third period and tied the game at four, setting the stage for overtime and the eventual seven-round shootout that the Griffins won to take a 5-4 victory over the IceHogs.
Johnny on the Spot: In 78 games during his first season with Grand Rapids, Jamie Johnson scored 12 goals. Johnson’s two goals in Saturday’s 3-2 win at Lake Erie were his 12th and 13th of the season, eclipsing his 2010-11 total in just 27 games. Johnson is on pace for 35 goals, which would smash his previous career best of 27 (set in 2009-10 with Rochester) and place fourth on the Griffins’ all-time single-season list
Sidelined: The Griffins continue to be without the services of forward Chris Conner, who was the team’s leading scorer when he was recalled by the Red Wings on Nov. 30. Conner is still tied for second on the team in scoring, despite missing the Griffins’ last eight games, with 23 points (7-16—23) in 20 games. The Livonia, Mich., native has recorded three points (1-2—3) in six games with Detroit, but he broke his hand last Tuesday in the Red Wings’4-1 win over Pittsburgh and is expected to miss about two weeks.
Milestone Watch: Several Griffins are approaching personal milestones…Francis Pare is one goal from tying Matt Ellis (69) for sixth in franchise history, one assist from tying Jeff Nelson (87) for seventh in franchise history (and two from tying Glen Metropolit for sixth) and one point from breaking a tie with former teammate Jamie Tardif (154) for sole possession of sixth in Griffins’ history after passing Ellis (153) with a goal last Wednesday versus Rockford…Joey MacDonald is two games shy of 200 as a Griffin and 400 as a pro…Jamie Johnson is two games shy of 600 as a pro…Greg Amadio is five games away from 200 as a Griffin…Brent Raedeke is six games from 100 as a Griffin.
Wed., Dec. 21 vs. Abbotsford Heat (19-8-2-0) – 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: 2-6-0-1 Overall, 2-2-0-1 Home. Season Series: 0-1-0-0 Overall, 0-1-0-0 Home. Second of four meetings overall, second of two in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Calgary Flames. Head Coach: Troy G. Ward (1st season). Notes: Abbotsford won the first game of the season series, riding former Griffin Krys Kolanos’ hat trick in his season debut to a 5-1 win on Oct. 28. Kolanos leads the Heat in scoring with 25 points (13-12—25) in 20 games…The Heat are without starting goaltender and AHL-wins leader (15) Leland Irving, currently with the parent Flames…Backup goaltender Danny Taylor, who also played 10 games for the Springfield Falcons this season, has filled in admirably, winning his first four games before losing an overtime contest to Hamilton on Sunday. Taylor is sporting nine wins (T11th), a 2.20 GAA (T5th) and a 0.926 save percentage (T7th) to rank among AHL leaders…Their 19 wins rank second in the AHL, but the Heat sit third in the West Division, where the AHL’s top three teams (along with Oklahoma City and Houston) all currently reside…The Heat are second in the league with a 2.31 goals against average…Abbotsford also has the second best penalty kill (87.1) and best road penalty kill (90.5) in the AHL…No team has more road wins (14) or a better road winning percentage (0.824) than the Heat.