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MOOSE HUNT, WILD ADVENTURE AHEAD FOR GRIFFINS

This Week’s Games
Manitoba Moose at GRIFFINS // Wed., Feb. 8 // 7 p.m. // Van Andel Arena
Listen: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:35 p.m.
Watch: AHLLive.com   
Season Series: 0-0-0-0 Home, 0-0-0-0 Overall. First of four meetings overall, first of two at Van Andel Arena.
All-Time Series: 25-10-1-1-5 Home, 47-25-1-1-7 Overall.
NHL Affiliation: Winnipeg Jets
Noteworthy: The Moose returned to the AHL last season following a four-year absence.

GRIFFINS at Iowa Wild // Fri., Feb. 10 // 8 p.m. // Wells Fargo Arena
GRIFFINS at Iowa Wild // Sat., Feb. 11 // 8 p.m. // Wells Fargo Arena
Listen: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 7:35 p.m. both nights
Watch: MC-22 (Des Moines) on Friday and AHLLive.com both nights   
Season Series: 2-0-0-0 Road, 4-1-0-1 Overall. Seventh and eighth of eight meetings overall, third and fourth of four at Wells Fargo Arena.
All-Time Series: 11-2-0-0 Road, 22-5-0-1 Overall.
NHL Affiliation: Minnesota Wild
Noteworthy: Iowa has points in eight straight games (6-0-2-0), including wins in its last six.

Last Week’s Results
Fri., Feb. 3    GRIFFINS 5 at Chicago Wolves 2    29-12-1-2 (61 points, 1st Central)
Sat., Feb. 4    Milwaukee Admirals 5 at GRIFFINS 4    29-13-1-2 (61 points, 1st)

Opening Faceoff: The Griffins continue to lead the Western Conference and place third in the AHL with a 0.678 points percentage (29-13-1-2). Grand Rapids has points in 23 of the last 30 games (20-7-1-2). The Griffins host Manitoba on Wednesday for the first time this season before hitting the road for a Friday-Saturday set at Iowa.

This Week’s Promotions: Wednesday against Manitoba will be a Winning Wednesday presented by Farm Bureau Insurance. Every time the Griffins win at home on Wednesday, each fan in attendance will receive a free ticket to the next Wednesday game.

Last Week’s Recap: The Griffins split a pair of games against Central Division opponents. On Friday at Chicago, Grand Rapids used 30 saves from Eddie Pasquale and two goals from Matt Lorito to earn a 5-2 victory. On Saturday, Milwaukee snapped a nine-game winless streak at Van Andel Arena with a 5-4 win. Assigned by Detroit to Grand Rapids for conditioning earlier that day, goaltender Jimmy Howard made his first appearance in a Griffins uniform in nearly eight years (May 6, 2009) and recorded 24 saves.

Follow the Leader(s): Ben Street (15-21—36), Matt Lorito (12-23—35), Tomas Nosek (14-20—34), Martin Frk (14-15—29) and Mitch Callahan (11-18—29) lead the team in points…Kyle Criscuolo’s 27 points (12-15—27) tie for 14th among rookies while Evgeny Svechnikov’s 26 (13-13—26) tie for 17th…Robbie Russo’s 26 points (6-20—26) are the most among team defensemen and 14th among league blueliners…Dan Renouf and Martin Frk both have 42 PIM to pace the team…A season after leading the league with a +40 rating, Russo’s +15 ties for 11th this year. 

Howard’s Return: Assigned by Detroit for conditioning last Saturday, Jimmy Howard is expected to make his second consecutive start with the Griffins on Wednesday when the Manitoba Moose visit Van Andel Arena. Last Saturday, in a 5-4 loss to Milwaukee, Howard made 24 saves while playing in his first game in a Griffins uniform since May 6, 2009 at Van Andel Arena, setting a franchise record for longest time between appearances (2,831 days, or seven years, eight months and 28 days). The record had been held by Jeff Nelson, the brother of Griffins head coach Todd Nelson (2,375, or six years, six months and one day, from April 28, 1997 to Oct. 29, 2003). Detroit’s first choice, 64th overall, in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Howard played with the Griffins from 2005-09. He ranks among the franchise’s leaders with 187 games (3rd), 10717:33 minutes (3rd), 90 wins (3rd), 14 shutouts (2nd) and 4873 saves (3rd).

On the Power Play: The Griffins lead the league with a power play percentage of 27.3% (53/194) and have recorded at least one goal while on the man advantage in 13 of the last 15 games, 18 of the last 21 and 31 of the last 36. The Griffins have relied on the power play for 35.3% of their goals (53 of 150), the second-highest percentage in the AHL behind only Toronto’s 35.6% (47 of 132).  The power play has been keyed by Tomas Nosek (7-15—22), Matt Lorito (4-14—18), Martin Frk (9-9—18) and Ben Street (6-12—18), who lead the team in points. Nosek’s 22 points are tied for third league-wide while Frk ties for third in the league in power play tallies, as nine of his 14 markers on the year have come with more skaters. Mitch Callahan has been on the ice 35 times during a power play goal, tops on the team. Of the Griffins’ 53 power play goals, 26 have been scored with five forwards on the ice, 14 with four forwards and one defensemen, 11 with three forwards and two defensemen, one with three forwards and one defenseman and one with six forwards.

Chasing PP History: To put in perspective the success of the Griffins’ power play thus far, the franchise record for highest power play percentage in a season is 21.8%, set in 2005-06. Through 45 games, the 2005-06 team stood at 21.4% while on the man advantage (66/309). The 2005-06 club, which played 80 regular season games, also scored 120 PPG, the most in team history. The Springfield Indians hold the AHL record for highest power play percentage in a season, finishing at 26.78% in 1993-94.

Sellouts: Last Saturday’s capacity crowd of 10,834 marked the 167th overall sellout of Van Andel Arena and the fourth this season. Over the course of their 21-year history at the “Freezer on Fulton,” the Griffins have enjoyed the raucous crowd support, showing an 87-62-1-2-15 record (0.575) while outscoring opponents 500-450 (2.99-2.69 average per game) in sold-out home games.

Start It Up: The Griffins’ 0.678 points percentage is the fourth-best record in franchise history after 45 games, trailing only the 2000-01 (33-8-4, 0.778), 2005-06 (30-12-1-2, 0.700) and 2008-09 (27-9-6-3, 0.700) teams.

The Puck Stops Here: Second in the league in goals against per game (2.38), the Griffins are on pace to allow only 181 goals total and 2.38 per game, both of which would be the fourth-lowest amounts ever in franchise history (166 and 2.08 in 2003-04, 177 and 2.21 in 2002-03, 178 and 2.23 in 2001-02).

Specialty Teams: In addition to having the league’s top power play unit, the Griffins tie for 13th in penalty killing at 82.6%. Grand Rapids’ combined power play and penalty kill percentage of 109.9 is second on the circuit behind only San Jose’s 110.7.

Current Streaks: Ben Street has four points (2-2—4) during his three-game point streak…Tyler Bertuzzi has points in four straight (1-4—5)…Rookie Kyle Criscuolo has points in three consecutive contests (2-1—3). 

Russian Influence: Rookie Evgeny Svechnikov has accumulated nine points (3-6—9) during his seven-game point streak, which is the longest run on the team this season. Svechnikov has skated in all 45 games this season and ties for 10th among first-year AHL players with 13 goals.

Fast Starts: The Griffins are outscoring opponents 48-28 in the first period, and their plus-20 difference is the largest in the league. Grand Rapids’ 48 first-period markers and 29 first goals are both tied for the most in the AHL and the Griffins are 24-3-1-1 (0.862) when scoring first.

You Again: Grand Rapids has played 45 games thus far with 41 coming against Central Division foes. The Griffins post 27 divisional victories, the most among teams in the Central. Grand Rapids’ win/loss breakdown in the division is as follows: 2-3 vs. Charlotte, 6-2 vs. Chicago, 6-1-1-1 vs. Cleveland, 4-1-0-1 vs. Iowa, 4-2 vs. Milwaukee and 5-2 vs. Rockford. Wednesday’s contest against Manitoba will be the first against the Moose this season. The Griffins have held either of the top two spots in the division for the last 12 consecutive weeks, including spending the last four in the top spot. 

Home Sweet Home: The Griffins have won nine of their last 13 on home ice and will play seven of 11 games in February inside friendly confines. Grand Rapids is 16-7-0-2 at home this season and its 34 points are third in the league.

Quieting the Crowds: Grand Rapids is 13-6-1-0 on foreign ice and its 27 points are seventh in the AHL, despite tying for the fifth-fewest road games played (20). The Griffins’ plus-18 goal differential on the road is second in the league.

Between the Pipes: With Jared Coreau on recall in Detroit, goaltenders Eddie Pasquale and Cal Heeter have stepped up their games. Pasquale has points in 14 of his 18 starts on the season, ranks fifth with a 2.21 goals against average and has two shutouts. Heeter has won seven of his nine starts for the Griffins this season and is a combined 17-3 between the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye and Grand Rapids. If he had enough minutes to qualify, Heeter’s 2.11 GAA would rank third and his 0.932 save percentage would tie for the league lead. In fact, if Heeter’s minutes met the 840 minutes requirement, all three goalies who have played a game with the Griffins this season would rank inside the league’s top five in GAA. In his last six starts, Pasquale has let in just 10 goals (1.69 GAA) and stopped 174-of-184 shots while Heeter has given up nine goals (1.81 GAA) and saved 143-of-152 in his last five.

Milestones: With 11 goals this season, Mitch Callahan has 88 in his career to rank third all-time in franchise history…He trails only Francis Pare (102) and Michel Picard (158) in the record books…Callahan’s 172 career points (89-83—172) are eighth-most in team history, seven behind Jiri Hudler for seventh…Captain Nathan Paetsch has 117 career assists to rank sixth all-time in team history…Paetsch is 13 behind Derek King for fifth…Matt Lorito recorded his 100th point in the AHL on an empty-net goal at Chicago last Friday…The Griffins have had 10 players in franchise history play in 300 or more regular season contests with the club, including three who reached the benchmark this season – Callahan on Oct. 14 vs. Chicago, Paetsch on Nov. 18 vs. Texas and Brian Lashoff on Jan. 28 vs. Stockton…Tomas Nosek needs two points to reach 100 as a Griffin…Martin Frk needs three points to reach 100 as a Griffin…Tyler Bertuzzi needs three games played to reach 100 as a Griffin…Todd Nelson needs one win to reach 250 as an AHL head coach.

Miller Time: Assigned by Detroit on Jan. 31, forward Drew Miller is expected to make his Griffins debut this week. A 10-year veteran of the NHL, Miller has logged 551 career regular season games between Anaheim, Tampa Bay and Detroit and recorded 121 points (62-59—121). He has played in 484 games with the Red Wings since 2009-10 and contributed 106 points (56-50—106). Anaheim’s sixth choice (186th overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Miller appeared in three playoff games with the Ducks in 2006-07 and helped the club win the Stanley Cup. Drew can become the fourth Miller cousin to skate with the Griffins. Kelly played in Grand Rapids during the 1999-00 season and compiled eight points (4-4—8), a plus-11 rating and eight PIM in 26 contests. Kevin appeared in 137 games from 1999-00 and 2003-04 and totaled 102 points (47-55—102), a plus-15 rating and 73 PIM. Kip, a Hobey Baker award winner at Michigan State, played in 203 games with the Griffins from 2000-02, 2004-05, 2006-07 and recorded 208 points (75-133—208), a plus-19 rating and 104 PIM. Miller’s last game in the AHL came as a member of the Iowa Chops on March 17, 2009 versus Hamilton. Miller has logged one game at Van Andel Arena in his career, skating in Iowa’s 6-0 loss against Grand Rapids on Dec. 31, 2008.

Showing Discipline: The Griffins are the least penalized team in the league, averaging just 9.96 penalty minutes per contest. In fact, Grand Rapids is on pace to log 757 PIM, which would break the franchise record for fewest PIM in a season set by the 2014-15 team with 869. Dan Renouf and Martin Frk are tied atop the team lead with 42 PIM and are on track for 71 this season, which would make either one of them the first team PIM leader to not break the century mark (previous low: Brennan Evans, 111 PIM in 2013-14).

Magic Numbers: The Griffins are 24-3-1-1 when scoring the game’s first goal, 20-1 when leading after one period and 23-1-1-0 when leading after two periods…Grand Rapids is 28-2-0-1 when scoring three goals or more and 1-11-1-1 when scoring two or less.

All About Chances: The Griffins are averaging the most shots in the league (33.91) and the fifth-most goals (3.33) while surrendering the second-fewest goals (2.38) and the 13th-fewest shots (29.31).

Spreading the Wealth: The Griffins have seven players with double-digit goal totals, which ties with Lehigh Valley, San Jose and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the most in the league. Ben Street leads Grand Rapids with 15 goals.

Rookie Production: The Griffins have played eight rookies this season, which surpasses last year’s total of seven. Those eight rookies have combined for 99 points (40-59—99), which equates to 26.7% of the team’s goals (40/150), 23.4% of the assists (59/252) and 24.7% of the points (99/401).

Three in Detroit: Jared Coreau, Nick Jensen and Anthony Mantha remain on recall with the Detroit Red Wings. Coreau, the 158th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL, shows a 5-2-3 record, a 3.01 GAA, a 0.901 save percentage and two shutouts. Jensen, the 159th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL, has skated in 19 games, recording five points (1-4—5), a plus-two rating and two PIM. Jensen scored his first NHL goal on Jan. 31 versus New Jersey. Mantha totals 26 points (12-14—26), a plus-12 rating and 18 PIM in 37 contests.

Walleye Report: Under first-year head coach Dan Watson, the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye are tied for the most points in the league with a 32-11-1-1 mark (66 points). Rookies Tyson Spink (21-29—50), Tylor Spink (16-30—46) and former Griffin Shane Berschbach (9-37—46) lead the team in scoring. Second-year pro Jake Paterson, Detroit’s second pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, is 22-8-1 while tying for eighth with a 2.65 goals against average and tying for 14th with a 0.906 save percentage. Griffins-contracted Cal Heeter, who is on recall in Grand Rapids, is 10-1 between the pipes and shows a 3.03 GAA and a 0.898 save percentage.

Getting Wild: Over the course of its history, Grand Rapids has shown great success playing on the road against AHL teams from Iowa, combining to post a 15-4-0-1 record (0.775) versus the Iowa Chops (1-0), Iowa Stars (3-2-0-1) and Iowa Wild (11-2). Both road losses against the Wild came last season. In 13 meetings between the Wild and Griffins at Wells Fargo Arena, Grand Rapids is outscoring Iowa 43-27. 
 
Iowa Comebacks: The last meeting between Grand Rapids and Iowa at Wells Fargo Arena came on Jan. 18, a game which resulted in a 3-2 overtime victory for the Griffins. In that contest, Grand Rapids trailed 2-0 with 11:06 left in the third before goals from Tyler Bertuzzi and Ben Street tied the score to set the stage for Martin Frk’s winner 1:34 into overtime on the power play. The win on Jan. 18 marked the third time in the last six games at Iowa the Griffins have rallied from at least a two-goal deficit in the third period. In the first meeting of the season on Oct. 18, Grand Rapids trailed 3-1 with 18:29 left in the third before a pair of Anthony Mantha power play goals evened the score and Kyle Criscuolo scored the game-winner with 3:58 remaining in regulation. On Dec. 13, 2015, the Griffins trailed 3-0 with 5:41 left in the second period and 3-1 with 2:20 left in the third but rallied behind tallies from Frk and Mark Zengerle. Xavier Ouellet delivered the game-winner 2:33 into overtime. 

Moose Crossing: Following a four-year absence, the Moose returned to the AHL last season and were met with a rude welcome from the Griffins. Playing Manitoba for the first time since the 2010-11 season, Grand Rapids won three of four games against the Moose and outscored them 17-6, including 12-3 during a two-game sweep at Van Andel Arena.

Back-to-Backs: The Griffins will play back-to-back games a total of 27 times this season. Compare the statistics for when the Griffins have played on consecutive nights:

  First Night Second Night
W
8 12
L (incl. OT, SO) 7 3
GF 2.80 3.93
GA 2.20 2.27
PP % 24.19% 28.81%
PK % 79.25% 87.27%
SF 33.87 32.00
SA 28.87 32.33


Win Some, Lose Some:
Compare the statistics for the Griffins during their 29 wins and 16 (including overtime and shootout) losses:

  GF GA PP % PK % SF SA
W (29) 4.31 1.83 30.53% 87.74% 34.55 29.52
L (16) 1.56 3.38 22.58% 71.43% 32.75 28.94