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02/14/2005 9:00 PM - Well-Rested Club to Play Three Games in as Many Nights

This Week’s Games

Mon., Feb. 14 - AHL All-Star Game (Manchester, N.H.) - 7 p.m. - ESPN2

Fri., Feb. 18 - Milwaukee Admirals at GRIFFINS - 7:30 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM

Sat., Feb. 19 - GRIFFINS at Cincinnati Mighty Ducks - 7:35 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM

Sun., Feb. 20 - Philadelphia Phantoms at GRIFFINS - 4 p.m. - Comcast Local ch. 20 / WOOD 1300

Last Week’s Results
Wed., Feb. 9 - Houston Aeros 1 at GRIFFINS 3 - 24-22-1-1, 50 pts. (T4th, West Division)

Fri., Feb. 11 - Utah Grizzlies 5 at GRIFFINS 2 - 24-23-1-1, 50 pts. (T4th)

High Stakes: The Griffins, who currently stand two points behind Houston in the race for the fourth playoff spot in the West Division, face a pivotal three-in-three this week. They’ll host division-leading Milwaukee on Friday and Eastern Conference power Philadelphia on Sunday, sandwiched around an important divisional contest Saturday at third-place Cincinnati, which sits only six points ahead of Grand Rapids.

Melrose and Mascots, Oh My: In Friday’s third installment of the “Hockeytown Heroes” series, former Detroit Red Wings defenseman and current ESPN broadcaster Barry Melrose will sign autographs in the arena banquet room from 6:30-7:20 p.m., courtesy of West Michigan Jeep Chrysler Dealers. As with every Friday home game, fans may purchase a “Subway Family Four Pack,” offering four tickets, four Subway Fresh Meal Deals and parking, for just $44. Sunday’s game is “Mascot Mania,” featuring the antics of SpongeBob SquarePants and local pals such as Sparty, Mongo Man, Chuck E. Cheese and Geoffrey the Giraffe. As part of D&W Family Sunday, fans can get a buy-one-get-one-free deal on a $13 ticket by showing a receipt of $20 or more from any D&W store. (These tickets must be purchased either at The Zone or at the Van Andel Arena box office.)

Lights, Camera, Action: Sunday’s game against the Phantoms will be televised live at 4 p.m. across the state of Michigan on Comcast Local (ch. 20 in Grand Rapids). Griffins broadcaster Bob Kaser will provide the play-by-play. Comcast Local will also televise Griffins games on March 19 and 30, and April 12.

Shoot for the Stars: Niklas Kronwall (PlanetUSA) and Joey MacDonald (Canada) will represent the Griffins in tonight’s 2005 AHL All-Star Game, which will be televised live at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. Kronwall will become the fifth Griffins defenseman, and MacDonald the sixth goalie, to play in an all-star game. On Sunday, the PlanetUSA AHL All-Stars earned a 17-13 win over the Canadian AHL All-Stars in the skills competition at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H. Kronwall scored against his Griffins teammate in the breakaway relay event.

You Always Remember Your First Time: Greg Ireland made his debut as the Griffins’ new head coach in Friday’s 5-2 loss to Utah. Of the six coaches in franchise history, only three have won their inaugural game:

Dave Allison - 1-0 W at Indianapolis - Oct. 5, 1996
Bob McNamara - 3-4 SOL vs. Manitoba - March 3, 1998
Guy Charron - 2-0 W vs. Kansas City - Oct. 9, 1998
Bruce Cassidy - 4-3 SOW vs. Cleveland - Oct. 6, 2000
Danton Cole - 4-6 L vs. Cleveland - Oct. 12, 2002
Greg Ireland - 2-5 L vs. Utah - Feb. 11, 2005

End the Curse: The Griffins will try to exorcise some demons when the Philadelphia Phantoms visit this Sunday. When the Phantoms last came to town nearly one year ago (Feb. 29, 2004), Grand Rapids had won 10 consecutive home games and was unbeaten in 16 at home, both franchise records. Beginning with their controversial 5-3 loss to the Phantoms that night and including results from the 2004 playoffs, the Griffins have since won 13 of 35 home games (13-21-1-0) and 31 of 73 contests overall (31-40-1-1).

Odd Shots: Friday’s loss to Utah continued a strange shot trend for the Griffins. Grand Rapids, which outshot the Grizzlies 42-22 on the night, is 17-6-1-1 when being outgunned but only 7-16-0-0 when holding the advantage in shots. The Griffins are 6-14-1-0 when registering 30 or more shots, and 11-14-0-0 when allowing fewer than 30.

Eric the Red (Light): Eric Himelfarb ranks second on the Griffins with 13 goals and 29 points, tying for seventh on the team’s single-season rookie scoring list. Himelfarb could challenge the franchise’s rookie records of 55 points (Glen Metropolit, 1997-98) and 22 goals (Kevyn Adams, 1996-97), as he is on pace for 47 and 21, respectively.

Re-Writing the Record Books: Joey MacDonald’s 3-1 win over Houston on Wednesday was his 54th as a Griffin, tying him with Marc Lamothe for second on the franchise’s all-time list behind leader Mike Fountain (55). MacDonald, whose 13 shutouts and 2,683 saves are already the most in team history, appeared in his 103rd game for Grand Rapids on Friday, tying Lamothe’s career record.

King Kronwall: Niklas Kronwall is threatening Griffins records for offensive production by a defenseman. With a team-high 34 points (11-23—34), he is just the fourth blueliner in club history to reach 30 points, a plateau previously achieved by only Travis Richards (2000-01, 1998-99 and 1997-98), Aris Brimanis (1998-99) and Sean McCann (1996-97). Kronwall is on pace to break Brimanis’ single-season standard for goals (16) and points (37) along with Richards’ record for assists (30).

League Leaders: Joey MacDonald places among the league’s top goalies with 18 wins (T10th), a 0.926 save percentage (9th) and four shutouts (T7th)…Niklas Kronwall ranks among the AHL’s top blueliners with 11 goals (2nd), 34 points (T4th) and 23 assists (T8th)…Bryan Helmer’s four power play goals tie for seventh among defensemen…Eric Himelfarb ranks among the AHL’s top rookies with 13 goals (T5th), 16 assists (T8th), 29 points (T7th), six power play goals (4th) and two shorthanded goals (T1st).

Transactions: Following Friday’s game against Utah, the Griffins released forwards Todd Robinson and Robin Bouchard from their tryouts to allow them to play for the UHL’s Muskegon Fury during the AHL all-star break. A return of either player to the Griffins is yet to be determined.

M*A*S*H Unit: Kory Karlander (24), Travis Richards (13), Ernie Hartlieb (9), Eric Manlow (7) and Brent Kelly (5) have all missed a string of games due to various injuries.

By the Numbers: Where the Griffins rank among the AHL’s 28 teams in various statistical categories:
• Power Play: 37-for-245, 15.1% (15th)
• Penalty Killing: 231-for-272, 84.9% (13th)
• Penalty Minutes: 21.47 avg. (24th)
• Goals For: 2.43 avg. (19th)
• Goals Against: 2.41 avg. (6th)
• Shots For: 29.37 avg. (20th)
• Shots Against: 30.47 avg. (15th)
• Attendance: 6,239 avg. (10th)

This Week’s Scouting Report

Fri., Feb. 18 vs. Milwaukee Admirals (35-14-2-3) – Van Andel Arena – 7:30 p.m.

TV: None. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:10 p.m. Season Series: 1-2-0-0 Overall, 0-2-0-0 Home. Fourth of eight meetings overall, third of four in Grand Rapids. All-Time Series: 32-18-11-0 Overall, 19-8-2-0 Home. NHL Affiliation: Nashville Predators. Head Coach: Claude Noel (2nd season). Ships Ahoy: All three meetings this season have resulted in a one-goal victory for the visiting team, including a pair of 3-2 losses for the Griffins at Van Andel Arena…The defending Calder Cup champs have opened up an 11-point lead atop the West Division over Chicago…The Admirals’ 19 road wins (19-9-2-2) lead the AHL…Milwaukee is 7-1-0-1 in its last nine overall and 4-1-0-1 in its last six on the road…The Ads have lost in regulation just once when leading at an intermission…Their 3.33 scoring average places second in the league…Simon Gamache ranks third in AHL scoring (22-45—67).

Sat., Feb. 19 at Cincinnati Mighty Ducks (26-23-1-3) – Cincinnati Gardens – 7:35 p.m.
TV: None. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:10 p.m. Season Series: 4-2-0-0 Overall, 2-0-0-0 Road. Seventh of 10 meetings overall, third of five in Cincinnati. All-Time Series: 20-8-2-0 Overall, 10-4-0-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Head Coach: Brad Shaw (3rd season). Just Ducky: The last eight meetings between the Griffins and Ducks, including all six this season, have been decided by a single goal…Cincinnati owns a sparkling 16-5-0-2 mark at home…Since Dec. 18, the Ducks are 11-0-0-1 at the Gardens…Former Ferris State star Chris Kunitz has three goals in three games against Grand Rapids…Kurtis Foster leads all AHL defensemen with 12 goals, one more than GR’s Niklas Kronwall.

Sun., Feb. 20 vs. Philadelphia Phantoms (28-16-2-4) – Van Andel Arena – 4 p.m.
TV: Comcast Local ch. 20 at 4 p.m. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 3:59 p.m. Season Series: 1-0-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Home. Second of two meetings overall, first and only in Grand Rapids. All-Time Series: 4-1-0-0 Overall, 1-1-0-0 Home. NHL Affiliation: Philadelphia Flyers. Head Coach: John Stevens (5th season). Ghost Tales: The Phantoms set an AHL record with 17 consecutive wins from Oct. 22 to Nov. 27. Since then, their record is just 11-14-2-4…The Griffins took a 4-1 win at the Wachovia Spectrum on Feb. 4, one of just six home losses suffered by the Phantoms this season…Philly owns a plus-17 advantage in goals during the second period, but is minus-three in the first and third periods combined…Antero Niittymaki stands third in the AHL with a 1.97 GAA.

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