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City of Monsters?
10/10/2008 10:32 AM -

This Week’s Game
Sat., Oct. 11 - GRIFFINS at Lake Erie Monsters - 7 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/AHL Live

Off and Running: A Griffins squad featuring new head coach Curt Fraser and 13 new players will take to the ice for the first time on Saturday, when they open the 2008-09 regular season at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland against the Lake Erie Monsters. Grand Rapids enters its 13th season overall, its eighth in the AHL, and its seventh as the Detroit Red Wings’ top development club.

Familiar Beginnings: Saturday’s game will mark the second straight year that the Griffins begin their regular season schedule on the road against the Monsters, and the fifth time in the last nine seasons that they open against a team from Cleveland. Grand Rapids, which will return to Quicken Loans Arena for game no. 2 next Saturday, Oct. 18, claimed a 3-2 win at Lake Erie on Oct. 6, 2007 as part of last season’s 3-0 start.

A Long Time Coming: After beginning the season with three straight road games, the Griffins will finally make their Van Andel Arena debut against the Hamilton Bulldogs on Saturday, Oct 25, the latest date for a home opener in franchise history. The Griffins will try to extend their remarkable opening-night sellout streak to 13 years during the Opening Night Celebration presented by Northwest Airlines WorldPerks®. The first 5,000 fans will receive LED Thundersticks, and an extended pre-game show will celebrate the former Griffins who won the 2008 Stanley Cup as members of the Detroit Red Wings.

Get ‘Em While They’re Hot: Single-game tickets for all 40 Griffins home games are now on sale at all Star Tickets outlets, including the Zone and Meijer stores, by phone through Star Tickets at (800) 585-3737, or online. Group, full-season and mini-plan ticket packages are available by calling the Griffins at (616) 774-4585.

For Starters: Grand Rapids is 9-2-1-0 all time both in season openers and road openers. The Griffins have earned points in each of their last nine road debuts (8-0-1-0) as well as in five straight season openers (4-0-1-0).

Dog-Gone It: The Griffins will host their inaugural “Pups and Pucks” Fall Walk-a-Thon this Monday, Oct. 13 at Mackenzie’s Animal Sanctuary in Lake Odessa. Beginning at 5:45 p.m., Griffins players, coaches and front office staff will walk rescued dogs for pledges collected by members of the Griffins Booster Club. All animal lovers are encouraged to attend, with or without a dog to walk, and enjoy a host of activities that begin at 5 p.m. For more information, click here.

At the Helm: Griffins general manager Bob McNamara begins his 13th season with the club, Curt Fraser starts his first season as head coach, and assistant coach Jim Paek returns for his fourth season. Fraser, who coached the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers for their first three and a half seasons (1999-2003) and more recently guided the Belarus National Team to a berth in the 2010 Olympics, was named the eighth head coach in franchise history on July 23. He will attempt to become the fifth man to win his debut behind the Griffins’ bench (Dave Allison in 1996, Guy Charron in 1998, Bruce Cassidy in 2000, and Mike Stothers in 2007).

Graduation Celebration: Kyle Quincey, who played for Grand Rapids each of the last three seasons, is starting the campaign on the Detroit Red Wings’ roster, making him one of 27 former Griffins who are on the season-opening rolls of 14 different NHL teams. Should former Grand Rapids captain Matt Ellis play for Buffalo tonight, the Sabres will become the 29th NHL team to ice a Griffins graduate, leaving Colorado as the only exception. In all, 95 Griffins have continued on to play in the NHL since 1996.

Detroit Exports: Seventeen Red Wings-contracted players are on the Griffins’ 26-man roster, including goaltender Daniel Larsson; defensemen Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, Sergei Kolosov and Logan Pyett; and forwards Justin Abdelkader, Aaron Downey, Cory Emmerton, Randall Gelech, Darren Haydar, Darren Helm, Ville Leino, Evan McGrath, Jan Mursak, Ryan Oulahen, Mattias Ritola and Jamie Tardif.

Fancy Meeting You Here: Garrett Stafford, who led all Griffins defensemen and placed third overall on the team last season with 44 points (11-33—44) while under contract to Detroit, has rejoined the team on loan from the Dallas Stars. He is the lone returnee from the Griffins’ top-four point producers in 2007-08. Dallas, which is without an NHL affiliate this season, has three players to Grand Rapids, including veteran NHL forward Landon Wilson and second-year prospect Aaron Gagnon.

Signed and Sealed: Six players on the current roster are under contract to the Griffins, including goaltender Isaac Reichmuth (PTO), defensemen P.J. Atherton, Tom Galvin and Jason Jozsa, and forwards Francis Lemieux and Francis Pare.

Fresh Faces: Half of the Griffins’ season-opening roster is comprised of players who skated elsewhere in 2007-08. Here’s a brief look at the 13 newcomers:

• Justin Abdelkader – Muskegon native was named Michigan’s “Mr. Hockey” at Mona Shores High School in 2004, scored the NCAA championship-clinching goal for Michigan State and was named the Frozen Four’s outstanding player in 2007, and made his pro debut with the Red Wings last spring.
• P.J. Atherton – Former Tampa Bay draft pick (170th in 2002) and 2003 NCAA champ at Minnesota has played 25 AHL games over the last three seasons, including nine last year with Manchester.
• Aaron Downey – Assigned by Detroit on Oct. 8, this 2008 Stanley Cup champion won a Calder Cup with Providence in 1999 and led the AHL in penalty minutes in both 1997-98 (407) and 1998-99 (401) as a Bruin.
• Aaron Gagnon – Two-time WHL First-Team All-Star made his AHL debut last season with Iowa and comes to Grand Rapids on loan from Dallas.
• Darren Haydar – Two-time Calder Cup champ ranks as the AHL’s all-time leading playoff scorer with 55 goals (1st) and 69 assists (2nd) for 124 points (1st) in 95 postseason appearances. Was the AHL’s top scorer (41-81—122) and MVP for Chicago in 2006-07 and was named the circuit’s rookie of the year in 2002-03 with Milwaukee.
• Sergei Kolosov – Detroit’s third choice in the 2004 draft played two seasons (2005-07) with USHL Cedar Rapids before returning last year to Belarus. Under the guidance of coach Curt Fraser, he helped his country earn a berth in the 2010 Olympics by virtue of the team’s performance at the World Championship.
• Daniel Larsson – Detroit’s fourth choice in the 2006 draft was named the Swedish Elite League’s top goaltender and rookie of the year last season with Djurgarden, when he posted a 2.29 GAA, a 0.921 save percentage and six shutouts.
• Ville Leino – 2007-08 Finnish Elite League player of the year set Jokerit Helsinki’s single-season club record and ranked second on the circuit with 77 points (28-49—77). He tallied six points (3-3—6) in eight preseason games with Detroit.
• Jan Mursak – Detroit’s fifth choice in the 2006 draft played seven games with the Griffins during the 2007 playoffs, recording two assists, then finished his OHL career with 64 points (17-47—64) last season for Saginaw and Belleville.
• Francis Pare – QMJHL’s 2007-08 MVP led the league with 54 goals and placed third with 102 points for Chicoutimi.
• Logan Pyett – Detroit’s seventh choice in the 2006 draft served as captain for WHL Regina last season and won a gold medal with Canada at the World Junior Championship.
• Isaac Reichmuth – Former Muskegon Fury netminder signed a pro tryout with the Griffins on Oct. 8 due to Jimmy Howard’s injury. He went 13-12-3 with a 3.52 GAA in 31 IHL contests last season.
• Landon Wilson – Veteran’s 348 NHL games (1995-2004) are the most of any current Griffin. After spending the last four seasons in Europe, the 1999 Calder Cup champ (Providence) joins Grand Rapids on loan from Dallas.

Welcome Back: Thirteen players from the Griffins’ 2007-08 edition are on their season-opening roster: defensemen Jonathan Ericsson, Tom Galvin, Jason Jozsa, Jakub Kindl and Garrett Stafford; and forwards Cory Emmerton, Randall Gelech, Darren Helm, Francis Lemieux, Evan McGrath, Ryan Oulahen, Mattias Ritola and Jamie Tardif.

Oh Captain, My Captain: Darren Haydar, who captained Chicago to the Calder Cup last season, will fill the same role for the 2008-09 Griffins, while Jonathan Ericsson and Landon Wilson will serve as alternate captains.

Mending His Wing: Goaltender Jimmy Howard remains on Detroit’s injured reserve list but is rehabbing his broken finger in Grand Rapids.

Tell Me What It Takes: Thirteen players and coaches for the Griffins have won major championships in North America at the pro, college or major junior level. Aaron Downey (Calder Cup – 1999 Providence) and Darren Helm have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup as members of the 2008 Detroit Red Wings, while Justin Abdelkader (NCAA Championship – 2007 Michigan State, USHL Clark Cup – Cedar Rapids), Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl and Mattias Ritola served as “black aces” for the team during its championship run. Meanwhile, Darren Haydar led the Chicago Wolves to the Calder Cup last spring, giving him his second AHL title (2004 Milwaukee). Other cup winners include assistant coach Jim Paek (Stanley Cup – 1991 and 1992 Pittsburgh, IHL Turner Cup – 1989 Muskegon and 1999 Houston), P.J. Atherton (NCAA – 2003 Minnesota), Randall Gelech (CHL Memorial Cup – 2004 Kelowna), Francis Lemieux (Calder Cup – 2007 Hamilton), Evan McGrath (CHL Memorial Cup – 2003 Kitchener) and Landon Wilson (Calder Cup – 1999 Providence).

Do You Feel a Draft?: Nineteen of the Griffins’ 26 players were once selected in the NHL Entry Draft, including 13 who were tabbed by the Red Wings. High picks Jakub Kindl (2005 DET) and Landon Wilson (1993 TOR) were each chosen with the 19th selection in drafts separated by 12 years, while Jonathan Ericsson was taken by Detroit with the 291st and final pick in 2002.

NHL Experience: Eight Griffins have combined to play 630 regular season games in the National Hockey League, including 93 contests last season: Landon Wilson (348/0), Aaron Downey (239/56), Darren Haydar (22/16), Jonathan Ericsson (8/8), Darren Helm (7/7), Justin Abdelkader (2/2), Mattias Ritola (2/2) and Garrett Stafford (2/2).

Veteran Roll Call: AHL clubs may dress up to five veteran skaters with more than 260 games of experience in the NHL, AHL or European Elite leagues, plus another with 320 or fewer games played. The Griffins currently have five veterans in Aaron Downey, Randall Gelech, Darren Haydar, Garrett Stafford and Landon Wilson, while Ville Leino is designated as the under-320 player.

One For the Ages: The average age of the Griffins is 24.5 years, half a year younger than the 2007-08 squad and a full year younger than the 2006-07 edition. Aaron Downey (34) and Landon Wilson (33) are the only players over 30, while Jan Mursak, Logan Pyett and Cory Emmerton are all looking forward to their 21st birthdays in the coming year. Fully half of the Griffins’ squad – 13 players – is 22 or younger. 

They Said It: “[Jonathan Ericsson, Darren Helm and Ville Leino] are the best players I've ever been involved with sending to the minors ever, I can tell you that.” – Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock.

Where Are They Now?: Ten players from last year’s season-ending lineup now find themselves on other rosters, including Detroit (Kyle Quincey and Jimmy Howard-IR), AHL Lake Erie (Chris Mueller), AHL Manitoba (Mark Cullen), AHL Springfield (Carl Corazzini), AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Adam Berkhoel), ECHL Cincinnati (Jon Insana), ECHL Reading (Mark O’Leary), OHL Erie (Zack Torquato) and Denmark’s Odense (Tyler Redenbach).

Scouting Report

Sat., Oct. 11 at Lake Erie Monsters – Quicken Loans Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:30 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at, free audio available through All-Time Series: 6-3-0-1 Overall, 2-2-0-1 Road. Season Series: First of eight meetings overall, first of four in Cleveland. NHL Affiliation: Colorado Avalanche. Head Coach: Joe Sacco (2nd season). Notes: Lake Erie forward and former Michigan State Spartan Chris Mueller made his pro debut with the Griffins at the end of last season, going scoreless in two games…Monsters GM David Oliver was a member of the Griffins’ 2000-01 squad that captured the old IHL’s final regular season championship, totaling 31 points (14-17—31) in 51 games…Lake Erie finished sixth in the North Division last season – one spot behind Grand Rapids – with a 26-41-6-7 mark in its inaugural campaign.

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