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01/16/2006 1:19 AM - 15-2-1-2 Home Record is Team’s Second-Best Ever Through 20 Games

This Week’s Games
Wed., Jan. 18 Iowa Stars at GRIFFINS 7 p.m. WOOD 1300 AM/B2 Networks

Fri., Jan. 20 Toronto Marlies at GRIFFINS 7 p.m. WOOD/B2

Sat., Jan. 21 Toronto Marlies at GRIFFINS 7 p.m. Comcast Local/WOOD/B2

Last Week’s Results
Fri., Jan. 13 Chicago Wolves 4 at GRIFFINS 5 SO 27-11-1-2, 57 pts. (1st, North Division)

Sat., Jan. 14 Milwaukee Admirals 2 at GRIFFINS 3 OT 28-11-1-2, 59 pts. (1st)

Flying High: With 10 victories and just one regulation loss in their last 12 games (10-1-1-0), the Griffins continue their season-high six-game homestand with three contests this week: Wednesday versus Iowa, and a Friday-Saturday set against Toronto. Winners of four straight games, the first-place Griffins continue to hold a four-point lead over Manitoba in the North Division race.

Home is Where the Wins Are: Halfway through their 40-game home schedule, the Griffins’ 15-2-1-2 mark at Van Andel Arena gives them the third-best home ice record in the AHL. Grand Rapids, which has points in seven straight home contests (6-0-1-0), could challenge the 2000-01 squad that posted a 17-2-1 record through 20 games en route to a franchise-best 31-7-3 record in friendly confines. The Griffins’ success this season stands in stark contrast to 2004-05, when they went 8-11-1-0 through their first 20 home games.

Wild Weekend: A great weekend is in store for Griffins fans when the Toronto Marlies make their first-ever visit to Van Andel Arena. Friday’s game will feature the Subway Four-Pack (four tickets to the game, four coupons for Subway Fresh Meal Deals and parking for $44) and the Bud True Music Happy Hour. From 6-7 p.m. on the concourse, fans 21 and older can enjoy $2.25 drafts and live music by acoustic pop artist Patrick Brown. Saturday’s game, which will be televised live on Comcast Local (ch. 23), is “NASCAR Nation,” presented by Lighthouse Group Insurance. Nextel Cup veteran Joe Nemechek will meet fans and sign autographs in banquet room A before the game, and fans can take part in racing games throughout the night on the arena concourse. Pre-game fireworks and a post-game skate will bookend the night’s festivities.

Birthday Boy: On Saturday, Donald MacLean celebrated his 29th birthday by scoring his third goal 35 seconds into overtime, giving the Griffins a 3-2 win over Milwaukee. After twice bringing Grand Rapids back from one-goal deficits during regulation, he set a team record with his third hat trick of the season, and he also became the first Griffin whose hat trick accounted for all of his team’s goals in a winning effort. Now second in the AHL with 24 goals, MacLean has already surpassed Eric Manlow’s team-leading total of 21 goals last season. He owns a four-game point streak (4-3—7) and has registered points in 11 of the last 12 games (12-7—19); in addition, he has 12 goals in the last 12 games and 23 goals in his last 31 contests.

Defensive Dominance: After being out-shot 16-12 by the Admirals in the opening period on Saturday, the Griffins enjoyed a whopping 28-5 advantage the rest of the way: 13-4 in the second, 13-1 in the third and 2-0 in overtime. Only once in franchise history have the Griffins submitted a more stifling defensive performance than that third period (3/3/98 vs. Manitoba, 3rd).

Working Overtime: On Saturday, Grand Rapids claimed its second straight home overtime win against Milwaukee (Dec. 3), winning for the fifth time in its last six overtime decisions. The Griffins, 2-1 during the extra session this season, now show an all-time regular season mark of 24-9 in games decided during overtime.

Shootout Success: The Griffins’ top three scorers – Jiri Hudler, Eric Manlow and Valtteri Filppula – tallied in the final three shootout rounds on Friday to lift Grand Rapids to a dramatic 5-4 victory over Chicago at Van Andel Arena. Filppula, who improved to 5-for-7 (0.714) on the season in the shootout, is now a perfect 5-for-5 when slotted as the fifth shooter, scoring three times to win a game and twice more to force sudden death. The win improved Grand Rapids’ shootout records to 4-2 this season, 11-4 as an AHL member and 47-49 all time.

Smashing Debut: 21-year-old Valtteri Filppula, who played five too many games in Finland’s top league from 2003-05 to be considered an AHL rookie, is nonetheless staking his claim as one of the league’s top youngsters. His recent 10-game point streak (4-11—15 from Dec. 21-Jan. 13) tied for the fifth-longest in franchise history, and he has points in 21 of his last 25 games with the Griffins (11-23—34). Filppula ranks among the AHL’s leaders with 41 points (T11th) and 26 assists (T10th).

Back Support: Jimmy Howard, who recently joined Joey MacDonald as the only goalies in franchise history to earn three wins in three nights (Dec. 21-23), has helped the Griffins earn points in each of his last seven starts (6-0-1-0) and in nine of his last 10 appearances (8-1-1-0).

Halfway Home: Two games past the midpoint of their 80-game schedule, the Griffins are on pace to reach significant milestones or set franchise records:

  • Grand Rapids is on schedule to become the third squad in franchise history to earn 50 wins and the fourth to register 100 points. The records of 53 wins and 113 points were set in 2000-01, and the Griffins are currently on track for 53 wins and 112 points.
  • The Griffins have scored an AHL-high 164 goals, their most ever through 42 games and 63 more than their 2004-05 edition – an increase of 62%. On their current pace, the Griffins – who scored only 200 goals last year – would accumulate 312 goals, smashing their record of 279 from 2000-01.
  • Grand Rapids has already tallied 62 power play goals, more than its total from the entire 2004-05 season (55) and just five shy of the team record set in 2002-03. The Griffins’ 21.6% conversion rate ties for the league lead.
  • Ranking third in the AHL with 51 points (21-30—51), Jiri Hudler is bidding to break the franchise scoring record (Michel Picard, 101 points in 1996-97) and become the second Griffin to win a league scoring title (Derek King, 83 points in 2000-01). He and Donald MacLean (24 goals) could join Picard (46 goals in 1996-97) as the only Griffins to light the lamp 40 times in one season, and Hudler’s projected 57 assists would eclipse the current team standard of 55 (Jeff Nelson and Picard in 1996-97).

    Who’s Hot?: Clay Wilson has points in three of the last four games (1-4—5), as does Eric Manlow (0-4—4)…Tomas Kopecky has points in four of his last five appearances (3-3—6) and in eight of 12 games (4-8—12)…Nate DiCasmirro has an assist in three straight games…Darryl Bootland had a six-game point streak (3-6—9) – including three two-point efforts – snapped on Saturday.

    Milestones: Tomas Kopecky’s third point on Friday, an assist, marked his 100th AHL point (45-55—100 in 209 games)…Jiri Hudler’s 50 goals tie Kip Miller for sixth place on the franchise’s all-time list and stand within one of Ed Patterson. His 134 points also rank sixth and put him just two behind Nelson, Miller and Glen Metropolit (136), while his 14 power play goals tie Nathan Robinson for 10th.

    League Leaders: Jiri Hudler stands near the top of the AHL with 21 goals (T4th), 30 assists (T5th) and 51 points (3rd)…Donald MacLean is second with 24 goals…Eric Manlow ranks among the leaders with 29 assists (T7th), 42 points (T9th) and 10 power play goals (T6th)…Valtteri Filppula boasts 26 assists (T10th) and 41 points (T11th)…Darryl Bootland’s 199 penalty minutes place third on the circuit.

    There’s Nothing Like January in Winnipeg: Last Wednesday, Griffins forwards Jiri Hudler and Valtteri Filppula were selected to play for the PlanetUSA AHL All-Star Team at the 2006 Rbk Hockey AHL All-Star Classic, which will be held Jan. 31-Feb. 1 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Hudler, who will make his second all-star appearance in three seasons (2004), was chosen as a starter for the Feb. 1 All-Star Game via fan voting at, while Filppula was selected as a reserve by a committee of AHL coaches. Comcast Local will televise the AHL All-Star Skills Competition live on Jan. 31 at 7 p.m., and provide a next-day broadcast of the AHL All-Star Game that will air on Feb. 2 at 7 p.m.

    If at First You Don’t Succeed: Grand Rapids has scored first in 18 of its 42 contests this season. The Griffins are 15-1-0-2 when scoring the game’s opening goal, compared to 13-10-1-0 when falling behind 1-0.

    This Week in Griffins History: Jan. 16: All-Star Kip Miller, the AHL's leading scorer with 56 points, signs an NHL contract with the New York Islanders for the remainder of the season (2002). Jan. 17: Kevin Miller’s team-record third overtime goal of the season gives Grand Rapids a 2-1 win over St. John’s. Jiri Hudler assists on the play to extend his point streak to 12 games, the longest in the AHL this season and second-longest in franchise history. The Griffins, who matched a team record by playing seven games in a span of only nine days, finish the test with an incredible 5-0-2-0 mark (2004). Jan. 18: Thanks to a 4-2 win over San Antonio, the Griffins extend their lead atop the Central Division to 17 points, marking the largest margin in the team’s seven seasons (2003). Jan. 19: Griffins net a pair of goals 1:15 apart in the third period to earn a 3-1 victory over Milwaukee (2001). Jan. 20: Jani Hurme becomes the first Griffins goalie to record consecutive shutouts in a 5-0 win over Michigan. Grand Rapids improves to 11-1-1 over its previous 13 games, the most successful span in franchise history (2000). Jan. 21: Grand Rapids goes to overtime for a record sixth straight home game, earning a 2-2 tie with Rochester (2004). Jan. 22: Snowstorms in the Midwest prevent the Griffins from arriving in Houston in time to play their game, resulting in the third postponement in franchise history. The game is rescheduled for March 7 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., home of Houston’s NHL parent, the Minnesota Wild (2005).

    Scouting Report

    Wed., Jan. 18 vs. Iowa Stars (20-17-1-1) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.

    Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:59 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through Season Series: 1-1-0-0 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Home. Third of four meetings overall, second and final in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Dallas Stars. Head Coach: Dave Allison (1st season). Starry Night: Dave Allison coached the expansion Griffins to a 70-55-19 record from 1996-98…The home team has won both meetings this season, including a 6-2 victory by the Griffins on Oct. 28…Grand Rapids’ power play is tied for first in the AHL (21.6%), while Iowa’s ranks 25th (12.6%)…Stars goalies Mike Smith (2.44 GAA) and Dan Ellis (2.46 GAA) rank eighth-ninth in the league.

    Fri., Jan. 20 vs. Toronto Marlies (21-17-3-0) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
    Sat., Jan. 21 vs. Toronto Marlies – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.

    TV: Comcast Local (ch. 23) at 7 p.m. (Sat. only). Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:59 p.m. (Fri.) and 6:40 p.m. (Sat.). Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through Season Series: 1-2-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Home. Fourth and fifth of six meetings overall, first and second of three in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Toronto Maple Leafs. Head Coach: Paul Maurice (1st season). Fire One Up: The Griffins have dropped two straight to the Marlies, including a 5-0 defeat at Toronto on Dec. 14 that still stands as their only shutout loss this season…The Marlies are 1-1-2-0 on their current 10-game road swing…John Pohl’s 21 goals (T4th) and 12 power play goals (T2nd) place him among the AHL’s best…Jean-Sebastien Aubin owns a 2.02 GAA and a 0.910 save percentage in three games against the Griffins.

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