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11/21/2005 5:00 PM - Take Five-Point Division Lead into Two-Game Set at Manitoba

This Week’s Games

Tue., Nov. 22 - GRIFFINS at Manitoba Moose - 8:30 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/B2 Networks

Wed., Nov. 23 - GRIFFINS at Manitoba Moose - 8:30 p.m. - WOOD/B2

Sat., Nov. 26 - Hamilton Bulldogs at GRIFFINS - 8 p.m. - WOOD/B2

Last Week’s Results
Tue., Nov. 15 - Manitoba Moose 4 at GRIFFINS 5 SO - 10-3-0-1, 21 pts. (1st, North Division)

Fri., Nov. 18 - Cleveland Barons 3 at GRIFFINS 6 - 11-3-0-1, 23 pts. (1st)

Sat., Nov. 19 - GRIFFINS 5 at Cleveland Barons 3 - 12-3-0-1, 25 pts. (1st)

Sun., Nov. 20 - GRIFFINS 3 at Toronto Marlies 1 - 13-3-0-1, 27 pts. (1st)

Uncharted Territory: Grand Rapids is off to the best start in its 10-year history. A 9-1-0-1 record over the last 11 outings has given the Griffins an unprecedented 13 wins (13-3-0-1) and 27 points through 17 games. The Griffins, whose 0.794 winning percentage is first in the Western Conference and second overall in the AHL, own a five-point lead atop the North Division heading into a huge Tuesday-Wednesday set at second-place Manitoba. In the midst of a five-games-in-six-nights run that comprises its busiest stretch of the season, Grand Rapids has won four straight and seven of eight.

Tossing Teddies: The annual Teddy Bear Toss returns this Saturday, Nov. 26, when the Griffins host the Hamilton Bulldogs at 8 p.m. Fans are asked to bring a stuffed animal to the game and throw it onto the ice after the first Griffins goal. All toys collected will be donated to Hug-a-Bears of Kent County. It's also Student Night, as all high school and college students who show their I.D. at the Van Andel Arena box office on game night will receive a lower bowl ticket for just $10. Finally, fans will have the chance to meet their favorite players during the Fox Motors Post-Game Autograph Session.

Rally Caps: Each of Grand Rapids’ last eight wins and nine of its 13 victories this season have been earned in come-from-behind fashion. The Griffins faced two-goal deficits in their first three games last week before rallying for victory on each occasion. On both Friday and Saturday versus Cleveland, the Griffins trailed in the third period before ripping off four straight goals in spans of 4:39 (Friday) and 11:12 (Saturday). Grand Rapids’ eight wins when the opponent scores first are the most in the league, and Norfolk is the only other team that has earned the majority of its wins in games it trailed 1-0.

Mac is Back: After fully recovering from off-season back surgery, AHL all-star goaltender Joey MacDonald returned to the Griffins’ lineup last week to earn wins in both of his starts. Drew MacIntyre (Fri.), MacDonald (Sat.) and Jimmy Howard (Sun.) all backstopped Grand Rapids to wins last weekend, marking the first time in team history that three different Griffins goalies earned victories in a span of three nights.

Explosive Offense: Grand Rapids has scored 71 goals, its most ever through 17 games (61 in 2001-02) and 24 more than its 2004-05 edition. In addition, the Griffins have scored five or more goals nine times, already eclipsing their total of seven from last season. If they can maintain their current pace, the Griffins would accumulate 334 goals this season, shattering their record of 279 from 2000-01.

Val-Terrific: Earlier today, Valtteri Filppula was named the CCM Vector/American Hockey League Player of the Week for the period ending Nov. 20. Filppula, a 21-year-old native of Vantaa, Finland, enjoyed a breakout week to guide the Griffins to four come-from-behind wins in a six-day span. He tallied five goals, six assists, 11 points and a plus-nine rating, contributing at least one goal and two points in all four contests. Detroit’s third choice in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Filppula led the Griffins’ comeback from a 4-2 third-period deficit on Tuesday by scoring a goal, assisting on Bryan Helmer’s marker to force overtime, and notching the decisive shootout goal in a 5-4 win over Manitoba. During the third periods on both Friday and Saturday against Cleveland, he registered three points to tie the franchise record for a single period. The Griffins scored the final four goals each night, riding Filppula’s two-goal, one-assist performance to a 6-3 win on Friday, and his one-goal, two-assist effort to a 5-3 road victory on Saturday. Filppula finished off the week by figuring in each goal during Sunday’s 3-1 win at Toronto, tallying assists in each of the first two periods and scoring the capper in the third. Filppula became the second Griffin to be named AHL Player of the Week this season, following Jiri Hudler’s selection on Oct. 17.

Road Life: After playing seven of the previous nine games at Van Andel Arena - where they’ve tied their best home start at 7-1-0-1 - the Griffins’ win at Cleveland on Saturday began a stretch of four straight, seven of eight, and 13 of 17 games on the road. Fortunately, Grand Rapids’ 6-2-0-0 record in hostile territory ranks among the league’s best.

Taking Care of Business: Eight games deep into a stretch of 11 straight contests against North Division foes, the Griffins show a 7-1-0-0 mark, improving their record within the division to 9-1-0-0…Grand Rapids is 0-2-0-1 versus Houston and 13-1-0-0 against the rest of the AHL.

Not-So-Terrible Trio: Twice this season (Nov. 4-6 and 18-20), the Griffins have played three games in as many nights, posting a perfect 3-0 record on each occasion. They trailed at one point in all six games.

For the Record: During the third periods against Cleveland on both Friday and Saturday, Valtteri Filppula registered three points to tie the Griffins’ record for points in a period. Darryl Bootland and Tomas Kopecky matched the feat in Friday’s win as well…Grand Rapids’ five goals in the third period on Saturday equaled a franchise mark for a single period. It was accomplished six times previously (most recently on Dec. 30, 2002 vs. Utah), including twice on the road (most recently April 1, 2001 at Cleveland)…Nate DiCasmirro’s goal just 13 seconds into Tuesday’s win over Manitoba marked the fastest in franchise history, supplanting Yves Sarault’s record of 15 seconds (March 16, 2000 vs. Michigan)…Prior to being held scoreless in five chances on Friday, the Griffins had scored a power play goal in 11 consecutive games (17-for-77, 22.1%), crushing the previous franchise record of nine straight set from Oct. 18-Nov. 7, 2002.

Start Fresh: Jiri Hudler’s AHL-high and personal-best scoring streak was snapped Friday at 14 games, ranking second in franchise history to Derek King’s 17-game tear in 2000-01. After getting back into the scoring column with a goal on Saturday, Hudler – who’s enjoying the fastest start ever for a Griffin – stands near the top of the AHL with 14 goals (2nd), 14 assists (T4th) and 28 points (3rd).

You ‘Da Manlow: Eric Manlow ranks among the AHL’s leaders with 21 points (9-12—21, T5th) and seven power play goals (T3rd). His power play marker versus the Moose last Tuesday was the 17th of his Griffins career, tying Glen Metropolit and Jeff Nelson for fifth on the franchise’s all-time list.

Dominant Drew: Drew MacIntyre owns a 6-1-0 record and stands among the league’s top goalies with a 1.99 GAA (6th) and a 0.930 save percentage (5th). He has allowed only six even-strength goals in his eight games, and he’s just one win shy of matching his 2004-05 total.

Who’s Hot?: Nate DiCasmirro has goals in four of the last seven games and points in nine of the last 13 contests (6-5—11)…Valtteri Filppula has goals and multiple points in four straight games (5-6—11)…Tomas Kopecky tied the Griffins’ season-high with four assists on Friday, and he owns a four-game scoring streak (1-8—9)…Darryl Bootland also has a four-game streak (2-5—7)…Donald MacLean (2-3—5) and Bryan Helmer (2-3—5) both have points in five of their last seven games.

It’s How You Finish: The Griffins have been outscored 21-16 in opening periods this season before gaining control, holding scoring advantages of 21-17 in the second period and 33-10 in the third. No AHL team has scored more third-period goals, and only one has allowed fewer.

Recent Transactions: Nov. 15: Todd Jackson recalled from Toledo (ECHL) and Ryan Keller recalled from Muskegon (UHL). Nov. 16: Jon Insana signed to a professional tryout. Nov. 18: Ryan Keller assigned to Muskegon (UHL).

This Week in Griffins History: Nov. 21: Martin Prusek makes 29 saves in a 3-0 win at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, joining Jani Hurme as the only Griffins goalies to post consecutive shutouts. Prusek also becomes the first Griffin to win nine of his first 10 decisions (2001). Nov. 22: Marc Lamothe makes 32 saves to extend his personal unbeaten streak to 11 games, a new franchise record, and Dave Van Drunen scores with 26 ticks left in overtime for a 3-2 win over San Antonio (2002). Nov. 23: A staunch Griffins defense establishes a franchise mark by holding an opponent to two or fewer goals for the seventh consecutive game, in a 2-1 win over Chicago (2001). Nov. 24: In a 4-3 loss at Cincinnati, Martin Prusek’s shutout streak of 148:59 is broken just 3:49 shy of Jani Hurme’s team standard, and his seven-game winning streak is halted one short of Mike Fountain’s record (2001). Nov. 25: Griffins visit California for the first time in more than five years, beating the Cincinnati 4-3 in a shootout at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim. It marks the Griffins’ first game in either California or the Pacific Time Zone since their 1999-2000 season in the IHL (2004). Nov. 26: Marc Lamothe stops all 17 shots to lead the Griffins to a 3-0 victory at Chicago (2003). Nov. 27: Grand Rapids overcomes a 3-0 deficit to take a 5-3 win at Orlando, marking its team-record sixth straight road victory (1999).

Scouting Report

Tue., Nov. 22 at Manitoba Moose (10-6-1-1) – MTS Centre – 8:30 p.m.
Wed., Nov. 23 at Manitoba Moose – MTS Centre – 8:30 p.m.

Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 8:10 p.m. each night. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through Season Series: 1-0-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Second and third of eight meetings overall, first and second of four in Winnipeg. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 26-12-1-0-3 Overall, 12-7-0-0-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: Vancouver Canucks. Head Coach: Alain Vigneault (1st season). Got You ‘Pegged: Beginning with their win over the Moose last Tuesday, the Griffins built their five-point lead over Manitoba in just six days…Manitoba defenseman Jason Doig played 57 games for the Griffins in 2001-02, totaling 18 points (1-17—18)…The Moose are 1-3-1-1 in their last six, but they’ve lost only one game this season by more than one goal.

Sat., Nov. 26 vs. Hamilton Bulldogs (7-10-0-1) – Van Andel Arena – 8 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through Season Series: 2-1-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Home. Fourth of eight meetings overall, first of four in Grand Rapids. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 10-6-1-0-0 Overall, 4-2-1-0-0 Home. NHL Affiliations: Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers. Head Coach: Don Lever (1st season). Dog Days: Hamilton’s 5-2 win on Nov. 12 marked the only loss for the Griffins this season to a team other than Houston…Former Griffins tough guys Peter Vandermeer and Ryan Barnes now play for the Bulldogs…The Dogs’ power play ranks seventh in the league at 19.4%...Andre Benoit and Ron Hainsey are tied for sixth in scoring by defensemen with 13 points apiece.

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