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04/11/2005 1:00 AM - Playoff Chances in Their Own Hands Thanks to Two Games Against Cincinnati

This Week’s Games

Tue., April 12 - GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals - 8 p.m. - Comcast Local/b2/WOOD 1300 AM

Fri., April 15 - Cincinnati Mighty Ducks at GRIFFINS - 7:30 p.m. - b2/WOOD 1300 AM

Sat., April 16 - San Antonio Rampage at GRIFFINS - 7:30 p.m. - b2/WOOD 1300 AM

Sun., April 17 - GRIFFINS at Cincinnati Mighty Ducks - 5:05 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM

Last Week’s Results
Thu., April 7 - GRIFFINS 7 at San Antonio Rampage 4 - 39-31-2-2, 82 pts. (5th, West Division)

Fri., April 8 - GRIFFINS 4 at Utah Grizzlies 2 - 40-31-2-2, 84 pts. (5th)

Sat., April 9 - GRIFFINS 3 at Utah Grizzlies 4 - 40-32-2-2, 84 pts. (5th)

Too Close to Call: Despite owning an 11-4-0-1 record in their last 16 games, the fifth-place Griffins stand five points behind both Houston and Cincinnati in the West Division playoff race with only four games remaining. However, two of those games will be against the Ducks, giving Grand Rapids control of its own destiny in its quest for a sixth consecutive postseason berth. Among other scenarios, a sweep of their final four games – including regulation wins over Cincinnati at home Friday and on the road Sunday in their season finale – would guarantee the Griffins a playoff spot, regardless of the outcome of the Ducks’ home game against Milwaukee on Saturday. Grand Rapids owns a 5-3-0-0 record against Cincinnati this season. Here’s how the race stacks up:

Team - Points/Wins - Games Left - Opponents’ Win. %
Cincinnati - 89 / 42 - 3 (2 home, 1 road) - 0.586 (@Gra, MIL, GRA)
Houston - 89 / 39 - 2 (2 home, 0 road) - 0.497 (CHI, UTA)
Grand Rapids - 84 / 40 - 4 (2 home, 2 road) - 0.546 (@Mil, CIN, SAN, @Cin)

Scotty Bowman Joins the Celebration: After wrapping up their five-game road swing Tuesday in Milwaukee, the Griffins will return to Van Andel Arena this Friday and Saturday for the “Grand Finale Weekend,” presented by West Michigan Chrysler Jeep Dealers. For Friday’s all-important showdown with Cincinnati, the first 3,000 fans will receive a Griffins travel mug, and college students who show a valid student I.D. can purchase an upper bowl ticket for $8 (a $5 savings). Saturday’s final regular season home game against San Antonio will feature the fourth and final installment of the “Hockeytown Heroes” series, as legendary Detroit Red Wings head coach and Hockey Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman will sign autographs in the arena banquet room from 6:30-7:20 p.m. A Fox Motors autograph session with Griffins players will take place after each game.

Watch it Live: Fans can use two different methods to watch Tuesday’s Griffins/Admirals tilt live at 8 p.m. from the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. Comcast Local (ch. 23 in Grand Rapids) will televise the game throughout Michigan, in the sixth and final Griffins telecast of the season. In addition, fans with DSL or cable internet connections can click on the “b2 networks” banner at and pay $6 to view the game. Web casts of Friday’s and Saturday’s contests at Van Andel Arena will also be available through b2 networks.

Tradition of Excellence: With their 7-4 win at San Antonio last Thursday, the Griffins (40-32-2-2) secured their sixth consecutive season with a winning record, and Friday’s victory over Utah clinched their sixth straight 40-win campaign. The 1998-99 squad (34-40-8) was the only team in the franchise’s nine-year history that either finished with a losing record or missed the playoffs.

Road Warriors: The Griffins’ 22 road wins (22-15-0-1) tie Rochester for the AHL lead, marking the third straight season and fifth time in the last six campaigns that they’ve claimed at least 20 victories on foreign ice. Unfortunately, the Griffins are the only team with 19 or more road wins that has not already clinched a playoff spot, due to their 18-17-2-1 record at home.

For the Record: Grand Rapids is 16-10-1-1 (0.607) since former assistant Greg Ireland was named head coach on Feb. 10, including a 15-7-1-1 record (0.667) since Feb. 25 and an 11-4-0-1 mark (0.719) since March 11…The Griffins have won seven of their last 11 (7-2-1-1) at Van Andel Arena…Six of Grand Rapids’ last 13 home games have gone past regulation, with the Griffins going 2-1 in overtime and 2-1 in shootouts.

Miller Time: Kip Miller’s five-point outburst (3-2—5) last Thursday in San Antonio tied the AHL’s season-high and ranked as the Griffins’ most prolific individual performance since Miller’s franchise-record six-point night (2-4—6) on Jan. 10, 2002 at Chicago. Coupled with his two-point effort Friday against Utah, his seven points (4-3—7) over a two-game span tied for the second-most ever in team history, falling short of only his own record of eight points (4-4—8) from Jan. 10-11, 2002. Miller’s hat trick on Thursday was the second of his Griffins career (Oct. 24, 2001 vs. CIN) and the second for Grand Rapids this season, following Jiri Hudler’s trick at San Antonio on Oct. 24, 2004. Meanwhile, Miller’s goal on Friday was his 49th in a Griffins uniform, moving him past Glen Metropolit, Jeff Nelson and Petr Schastlivy into sole possession of sixth place on the team’s all-time list.

Kudos for Kronwall: Griffins defenseman Niklas Kronwall was named to the 2005 AHL First All-Star Team last Thursday. He became only the third Griffins defenseman to be named to a postseason all-star team, following the selections of John Gruden in 2002 (First Team AHL) and Travis Richards in 2001 (Second Team IHL). The honor also established Kronwall as a top candidate for the AHL’s Eddie Shore Award (outstanding defenseman), the winner of which will be announced on Tuesday.

I Am Ironman: Joey MacDonald, who Saturday pushed his franchise-record streaks to 31 consecutive games played and 24 straight starts, earned his 34th win of the season on Friday to tie Mike Fountain’s standard set in 2000-01. MacDonald is poised to become the third Grand Rapids goalie to lead the league in games played (66) and minutes played (3754:40), and the first to pace the circuit in saves (1,785). The Griffins’ single-season record holder for starts (64), games played (66), minutes played and saves, he also ranks as Grand Rapids’ all-time leader in starts (126), games played (130), minutes played (7340:09), wins (70), shutouts (14) and saves (3,409).

Offensive Outbursts: The Griffins’ 7-4 win at San Antonio last Thursday marked their largest offensive output in more than two years, dating to a 7-4 win at Chicago on Feb. 26, 2003. Combined with Friday’s 4-2 victory against Utah, the 11 goals scored by the Griffins were their most over a two-game span since tallying 13 from Feb. 23-26, 2003.

Power Surge: After going 1-for-25 with the advantage over a five-game span, the Griffins have converted 5-of-11 chances (45.5%) the last three games. Thursday in San Antonio, they scored a season-high three times in six tries against the Rampage, including Eric Manlow’s team-high tenth power play goal that moved him into a tie with Derek King for seventh place on the Griffins’ single-season list.

Welcome Back: The Griffins on Friday signed center Brent Kelly to a professional tryout. Kelly, who tallied three assists in 16 appearances with Grand Rapids earlier this season, scored his first goal as a Griffin in his return that night against Utah. He has totaled 40 points (15-25—40) in 37 games with ECHL Johnstown.

A.W.O.L.: Travis Richards (40 games) and Niklas Kronwall (three games) have recently missed time due to injuries, while Peter Vandermeer has served three games of a four-game suspension imposed by the AHL.

Three for All: This weekend, the Griffins will play their 11th and final “three-in-three” of the season. They are 17-12-0-1 (0.583) when playing three games in as many nights, including a 5-5-0-0 record (0.500) in the third game.

On Fire: Jiri Hudler owns a five-game point streak (2-6—8) and has points in seven of the last eight games (3-7—10)…Eric Manlow has a three-game point streak (2-3—5)…Eric Himelfarb, who had a four-game point streak (2-2—4) snapped on Friday, contributed an assist on Saturday to give him points in six of nine contests (2-4—6). With 38 points (17-21—38), he has tied Tomas Kopecky (2002-03) for third place on the Griffins’ single-season rookie scoring list…Bryan Helmer has points in five of the last seven games (2-3—5).

Milestones: Eric Manlow, who scored his 20th (Thurs.) and 21st (Fri.) goals of the season last week, notched his 100th AHL lamplighter on Friday. He also has 294 pro assists in 670 games…Jeff Panzer has 97 AHL/pro assists in 277 games.

League Leaders: Joey MacDonald stands among the league’s top goalies with a 2.29 GAA (T11th), a 0.926 save percentage (10th), five shutouts (T10th), 34 wins (4th), 66 games played (1st), 64 starts (1st), 3,754:40 minutes played (1st) and 1,785 saves (1st)…Niklas Kronwall places among the AHL’s top blueliners with 12 goals (T8th), 38 assists (T3rd) and 50 points (T2nd)…Eric Himelfarb ranks among the circuit’s top rookies with 17 goals (T6th), 38 points (T10th), seven power play goals (T5th) and two shorthanded goals (T2nd)…Darryl Bootland (329 PIM) and Peter Vandermeer (308 PIM) rank third and sixth, respectively, in sin-bin time.

This Week’s Scouting Report

Tue., April 12 at Milwaukee Admirals (45-22-4-5) – Bradley Center – 8 p.m.

TV: Comcast Local (ch. 23) at 8 p.m. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:59 p.m. Season Series: 4-3-0-0 Overall, 2-1-0-0 Road. Eighth and final meeting overall, fourth and final in Milwaukee. All-Time Series: 35-19-11-0 Overall, 14-11-9-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: Nashville Predators. Head Coach: Claude Noel (2nd season). Ships Ahoy: Despite consecutive losses, the defending Calder Cup champs are only four points behind Chicago in the chase for the West Division crown…The Wolves’ 2-0 win on Saturday broke Milwaukee’s five-game home point streak (3-0-1-1)…The Griffins took a 4-3 overtime win at the Bradley Center on March 23…Kip Miller leads all series scorers with six points (2-4—6)…Joey MacDonald (1 SO, 1.99 GAA, 0.935%) and Brian Finley (1 SO, 1.75 GAA, 0.944%) have been spectacular in the season series…Nine of Milwaukee’s 14 series goals (64%) have come on the power play (9-for-40, 22.5%).

Fri., April 15 vs. Cincinnati Mighty Ducks (42-30-1-4) – Van Andel Arena – 7:30 p.m.
Sun., April 17 at Cincinnati Mighty Ducks - Cincinnati Gardens – 5:05 p.m.

TV: None. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:10 p.m. (Fri.) and 4:40 p.m. (Sun.). Season Series: 5-3-0-0 Overall, 2-2-0-0 Home, 3-1-0-0 Road. Ninth and tenth of 10 meetings overall, fifth and final in both Grand Rapids and Cincinnati. All-Time Series: 21-9-2-0 Overall, 10-4-2-0 Home, 11-5-0-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Head Coach: Brad Shaw (3rd season). Just Ducky: Dating to last season, nine of the last 10 meetings between the Griffins and Ducks have been decided by one goal…Cincinnati has held off hard-charging Grand Rapids by winning three straight and six of the last seven…The Ducks are 26-10-0-2 at home but just 16-20-1-2 on the road…The Griffins broke a three-game series losing streak with a 3-2 win in the Queen City on Feb. 27.

Sat., April 16 vs. San Antonio Rampage (25-44-3-5) – Van Andel Arena – 7:30 p.m.
TV: None. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:10 p.m. Season Series: 6-1-0-0 Overall, 2-1-0-0 Home. Eighth and final meeting overall, fourth and final in Grand Rapids. All-Time Series: 18-8-1-0 Overall, 8-4-1-0 Home. NHL Affiliation: Florida Panthers. Head Coach: Steve Ludzik (2nd season). On a Rampage: The Griffins finished off a 4-0 road sweep of the Rampage with their 7-4 victory in San Antonio last Thursday, their fourth straight series win…San Antonio has lost eight straight and 12 of its last 13, and owns just a 3-19-1-1 record since Feb. 5…Five of seven meetings this season have been decided by a single goal…The four goals scored by the Rampage in their 7-4 loss to the Griffins last Thursday marked their only output of more than one goal over their last 13 games…Grand Rapids has scored on 12 of 44 power play chances (27.3%) in the series.

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