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12/11/2006 4:11 PM - Early Playoff Implications, Milwaukee’s Streak Add Spice to Rivalry

This Week’s Games

Wed., Dec. 13 - GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals - 8 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/B2 Networks

Fri., Dec. 15 - Milwaukee Admirals at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - Comcast Local/WOOD/B2

Sat., Dec. 16 - GRIFFINS at Peoria Rivermen - 8 p.m. - WOOD/B2

Sun., Dec. 17 - GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals - 6 p.m. - WOOD/B2

Last Week’s Results
Fri., Dec. 8 - Toronto Marlies 3 at GRIFFINS 2 - 10-11-2-2, 24 pts. (T4th, North Division)</b>

Sat., Dec. 9 - GRIFFINS 2 at Toronto Marlies 1 - 11-11-2-2, 26 pts. (4th, North)   
Season’s Greetings: The Griffins, on a season-best 5-2-0-1 run, will welcome the Milwaukee Admirals to town this week for the last of nine consecutive Friday night games at Van Andel Arena. Fans will be treated to pre-game and intermission music from Jason Eller as part of the Bud Light Friday Nights series, and those who bring a new, unwrapped gift for donation to the Salvation Army Angel Tree program will receive a coupon for a free small Pepsi. Several ticket specials are available, including a Holiday Hockey 2-for-1 coupon at Meijer stores that offers one complimentary upper bowl ticket when a ticket of equal value ($13) is purchased. In addition, all college and high school students can purchase a lower bowl ticket for only $10 with a valid student ID, and the Wendy’s Friday Family Four Pack offers four small single combos and four Griffins tickets for $44.

All-Star Voting Underway: Fan balloting for the 2007 Rbk Hockey AHL All-Star Classic is now underway at and accessible through a home page link at The players receiving the most votes by position will earn berths in the starting lineups of both the Canadian AHL All-Star team and the PlanetUSA AHL All-Star team at the 2007 Rbk Hockey AHL All-Star Classic, to be held Jan. 28-29 in Toronto. A committee of AHL coaches will select the remaining All-Stars, and all 27 clubs will be represented on the final rosters. By completing the official ballot, fans will be entered to win various prizes, including the grand prize of a team-signed authentic 2007 AHL All-Star jersey. Ten second-prize winners will each win an autographed commemorative magazine from the event, and 10 third-prize winners will each receive an official 2007 Rbk Hockey AHL All-Star Classic T-shirt. On-line fan balloting will end at 11:59 p.m. EST on Sunday, Jan. 7.

Only Four Months Until the Playoffs: While still early in the season, this is an important week for Grand Rapids in light of the crossover rule in effect for the Western Conference playoffs (if the fifth-place team in the West Division finishes with more points than the fourth-place team in the North Division, it will cross over and compete in the North Division playoffs). The Griffins currently occupy fourth in the North with 26 points, two more than division rival Toronto. But Milwaukee, whom they’ll play three times in five days this week, is tied for fifth in the West with 23 points, putting a four-point swing and added importance on each non-divisional meeting.

Motor City Meech: Defenseman Derek Meech made his debut with the Detroit Red Wings in last Thursday’s 4-3 win over St. Louis, becoming the 82nd Griffins alumnus to graduate to the NHL. He skated eight shifts over 4:57, recording a plus-one rating, one blocked shot and a team-high three hits. He then logged 12 shifts for 9:53 in Saturday’s 5-1 victory against Toronto, showing two shots, two hits and two penalty minutes.

Right the Ship: The Griffins went 6-1 against Milwaukee during their first seven meetings of the 2005-06 regular season. Since then, the Admirals have beaten Grand Rapids seven consecutive times, including the 2005-06 regular season finale, their sweep of the 2006 Western Conference Finals, and the first two clashes this season. In the most recent meeting on Nov. 14, the Griffins suffered the worst home loss in franchise history, 8-1. The seven-goal margin of defeat was Grand Rapids’ largest ever at Van Andel Arena and tied the overall record witnessed twice before, most recently in a 7-0 setback at Milwaukee on Jan. 3, 2004. Meanwhile, the eight goals allowed matched a mark established on two occasions, including once at home: an 8-4 loss to Cincinnati on Dec. 31, 1996.

Oh Captain My Captain: After accounting for three of the Griffins’ four goals over the weekend, Matt Ellis has tied Kip Miller for the team lead with 10 goals. He has lit the lamp in three of the last four games, including a pair of two-goal outings, and the five goals are his most ever in a four-game span. Ellis’ 53 career goals have moved him past Ed Patterson (51) into 10th place on the Griffins’ all-time list.

High Marks for Howard: Jimmy Howard is 5-1-1 in his last seven decisions, with a 2.27 GAA and a 0.928 save percentage. He has appeared in each of the Griffins’ last 14 games, tying his personal high for consecutive games played set last season, and is on pace to play in 67 contests, which would surpass Joey MacDonald’s franchise record of 66 established in 2004-05.

Seventeen Hours in the Hole: Darryl Bootland’s 21 penalty minutes on Saturday at Toronto made him the first player in Griffins history to eclipse the 1,000-PIM plateau. His Grand Rapids total now stands at 1,020 PIM, exactly 17 hours in the penalty box and nearly four more hours than no. 2 on the Griffins’ all-time list, Bruce Ramsay (781).

Special Situations: After scoring on the power play in nine of the season’s first 11 games (13-for-75, 17.3%), the Griffins have tallied with the advantage in just six of their last 15 contests (9-for-78, 11.5%)…Grand Rapids’ opponents had scored a power play goal in 11 consecutive games (18-for-76, 23.7%) – one shy of the franchise record – before Hamilton went scoreless in six attempts on Nov. 29. Now, the Griffins have not allowed a power play goal in five straight games (0-for-25), their longest stretch since a six-game run from Feb. 4-17, 2006.

Odds n’ Ends: After swapping victories on each other’s ice last weekend, the visiting team has now won the last eight games between Grand Rapids and Toronto…Grand Rapids is 9-2 when leading after two periods, 2-3-0-2 when tied and 0-6-2-0 when trailing…The Griffins posted a 12-5 record last season in games decided after regulation (6-1 in overtime, 6-4 in shootouts). So far this season, they are 1-4 (0-2 OT, 1-2 SO)…Grand Rapids’ scoring differentials by period are plus-two in the first (25-23), plus-six in the second (28-22) and minus-11 in the third (20-31)…In two games against the Griffins this season, rookie Toronto goalie Justin Pogge is 2-0 with a 1.00 GAA, a 0.975 save percentage and one shutout. In 10 appearances against the rest of the AHL, he owns a 1-9 record with a 3.42 GAA, a 0.890 save percentage and no shutouts.

Scouting Report

Wed., Dec. 13 at Milwaukee Admirals (10-11-2-1) – Bradley Center – 8 p.m.
Fri., Dec. 15 vs. Milwaukee Admirals – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Sun., Dec. 17 at Milwaukee Admirals – Bradley Center – 6 p.m.

TV: Comcast Local at 7 p.m. (Fri. only). Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:59 p.m. (Wed.), 7 p.m. (Fri.) and 5:40 p.m. (Sun.). Web Cast: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through Season Series: 0-1-1-0 Overall, 0-1-1-0 Home, 0-0-0-0 Road. Third, fourth and fifth of eight meetings overall, third of four in Grand Rapids, first and second of four in Milwaukee. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 41-23-7-2-3 Overall, 24-10-2-1-0 Home, 17-13-5-1-3 Road. NHL Affiliation: Nashville Predators. Head Coach: Claude Noel (4th season). Notes: The Admirals have outscored the Griffins 30-13 during their seven-game series winning streak, including by a 22-7 margin in the five wins at Van Andel Arena…Milwaukee enters the week on a 3-0-0-1 streak…Former Griffin Sheldon Brookbank is tied for third among AHL defensemen with 18 points (6-12—18).

Sat., Dec. 16 at Peoria Rivermen (13-8-1-2) – Peoria Civic Center-Carver Arena – 8 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:40 p.m. Web Cast: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through Season Series: 0-1-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Second of eight meetings overall, first of four in Peoria. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 3-2-0-0-0 Overall, 1-1-0-0-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: St. Louis Blues. Head Coach: Dave Baseggio (1st season). Notes: Baseggio played 15 regular season and 15 playoff games for the Griffins during the 1999-2000 season…Griffins right wing Brendan Brooks played three seasons in Peoria, scoring 27 points (14-13—27) for the Rivermen in 2005-06…Peoria has lost two straight following a 7-0-0-1 run…Marek Schwarz, the AHL’s fourth-ranked goalie at 2.28 GAA, is currently with the parent St. Louis Blues.

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