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12/05/2005 5:16 PM - Three Sellouts Spark Attendance Increase of 11.5 Percent

This Week’s Games
Wed., Dec. 7 - Hamilton Bulldogs at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/B2 Networks

Fri., Dec. 9 - GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals - 8 p.m. - WOOD/B2

Sat., Dec. 10 - Cleveland Barons at GRIFFINS - 8 p.m. - WOOD/B2

Last Week’s Results

Tue., Nov. 29 - GRIFFINS 2 at Iowa Stars 3 - 15-4-0-2, 32 pts. (1st, North Division)

Thu., Dec. 1 - GRIFFINS 4 at Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights 3 SO - 16-4-0-2, 34 pts. (1st)

Fri., Dec. 2 - GRIFFINS 4 at Peoria Rivermen 7 - 16-5-0-2, 34 pts. (1st)

Sat., Dec. 3 - Milwaukee Admirals 4 at GRIFFINS 5 OT - 17-5-0-2, 36 pts. (1st)

Pack ‘Em In, Send ‘Em Home Happy: While Grand Rapids’ 8-1-0-2 home record marks its second-best start ever at Van Andel Arena, perhaps the bigger story for the Griffins this season has been their dramatic jump in attendance. Their third sellout crowd of the season (10,834) on Saturday raised their average to 6,377, an 11.5% increase over the same period last season. It marked the team’s first December crowd in excess of 10,000 since Dec. 29, 1999, and its first December sellout since New Year’s Eve 1998. In addition, Grand Rapids’ three sellouts through its first 11 home games are as many as it had in 80 combined games during the 2004-05 (one) and 2003-04 (two) seasons.

Happy Holidays: At 17-5-0-2, the Griffins maintain first place in the AHL’s North Division, one point ahead of second-place Manitoba with three games in-hand. Following a stretch of seven-of-nine on the road, the Griffins will play a pair at Van Andel Arena this week against division rivals Hamilton (Wed.) and Cleveland (Sat.). On both nights, fans are asked to support the Salvation Army Angel Tree program by bringing a new, unwrapped toy to the arena entrance. In return, they’ll receive a coupon for a free hot dog and small soft drink. All donated toys will benefit the Salvation Army of West Michigan and will be distributed to children of families in need.

Hudler Heeds Call: After scoring the game-winner with 20 seconds left in overtime on Saturday, Jiri Hudler became the fifth Griffin this season to be recalled by the Detroit Red Wings. Hudler, whose 35 points (16-19—35) led the AHL at the time of his departure, tied Kevin Miller’s franchise record with the third overtime goal of his Griffins career. He is expected to be in the Wings’ lineup on Tuesday when Detroit hosts New Jersey.

Best of Both Worlds: As of Jiri Hudler’s recall to the Red Wings on Saturday night, the Griffins boasted both the leading scorer in the AHL and an alumnus – Ottawa’s Jason Spezza – who is the NHL’s leading scorer.

The Shirts Off Our Backs: The commemorative, NY Rangers-style jerseys worn by the Griffins on Nov. 5 and Dec. 3 were auctioned to fans after Saturday’s game. A total of $11,710 – including a high bid of $2,000 for Darryl Bootland’s sweater – was raised for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Rally Caps: The Griffins rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Admirals 5-4 in overtime on Saturday, giving Grand Rapids its 12th come-from-behind win this season and its fifth victory after trailing by two goals. They’ve trailed at some point in 11 of their last 12 wins.

Three-Peated Success: With Saturday’s win over Milwaukee, the Griffins are now 8-1-0-0 this season when playing three games in three nights, including a perfect 3-0 mark in the third contest.

Explosive Offense: Grand Rapids has scored an AHL-high 98 goals, its most ever through 24 games (87 in 2001-02) and 33 more than its 2004-05 edition – an increase of 51%. In addition, the Griffins have scored five or more goals 11 times, already crushing their total of seven from last season. If they can maintain their current pace, the Griffins – who scored only 200 goals last year – would accumulate 326 goals this season, shattering their record of 279 from 2000-01.

Dominant Drew: Drew MacIntyre owns an 8-1-0 record, already surpassing the win total from his 2004-05 rookie campaign when he went 7-8-0. His 2.27 GAA ranks eighth in the AHL, and he has allowed only 11 even-strength goals in his 10 games.

Take Your Best Shot: Peoria’s Brendan Brooks was awarded a penalty shot with 3:29 remaining on Friday but was denied by Joey MacDonald. The goalie has now faced four penalty shots in the last three seasons, denying three of the attempts.

Working Overtime: Four of the Griffins’ last six games have been decided either in a shootout (2-1) or in overtime (1-0)…Drew MacIntyre denied Omaha’s final seven shootout attempts on Thursday, as the Griffins prevailed in an eight-rounder…Valtteri Filppula (4-6, 67%) has been Grand Rapids’ deadliest shooter. He’s been slotted as the fifth shooter in each of the team’s last four shootouts; twice he’s netted the clinching goal, and two other times he scored to extend the shootout to sudden death.

Howard Watch: Goaltender Jimmy Howard posted a 4-1-1 record, a 2.88 GAA and a 0.899 save percentage with the Griffins prior to his Nov. 26 recall by the Red Wings. He made his NHL debut with Detroit last Monday, allowing only two goals – one on a penalty shot – and making 22 saves in a 5-2 win at Los Angeles. Howard, who became the 74th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL, now shows a 1-2-0 record with a sparkling 2.36 GAA and 0.920 save percentage in three consecutive starts for the Wings.

League Leaders: Jiri Hudler stands near the top of the AHL with 16 goals (2nd), 19 assists (T3rd) and 35 points (2nd)…Eric Manlow ranks among the leaders with 17 assists (T7th), 26 points (T8th) and seven power play goals (T6th)…Valtteri Filppula’s 24 points (10-14—24) tie for 14th in the scoring race…Tomas Kopecky’s plus-13 rating stands fourth in the AHL, while Darryl Bootland’s 133 penalty minutes place second.

Mac Daddy: After recording just a single goal in the season’s first eight games, Donald MacLean has caught fire of late, registering points in nine of his last 14 games (8-5—13). MacLean, who has eight points (6-2—8) in the last seven games, scored twice in a 29-second span of the third period last Thursday at Omaha to tie the game at 3-3 in an eventual 4-3 shootout win for the Griffins.

Who’s Hot?: Rookie defenseman Clay Wilson has registered assists in three of his first five AHL contests…Tomas Kopecky has points in eight of 11 games (4-10—14). He scored the decisive shootout goal last Thursday in Omaha…Valtteri Filppula, whose three-game point streak (0-4—4) was snapped on Friday, has points in nine of the last 11 games (6-11—17)…Bryan Helmer also had a three-game scoring streak (2-1—3) stopped on Friday, but he still has points in nine of the last 14 contests (4-5—9)…Matt Ellis had points in three consecutive outings (1-4—5) before Saturday…Travis Richards has assists in three of his last four outings…Jiri Hudler has points in four of the last five games (2-5—7)…Darryl Bootland has points in nine of the last 11 games (5-7—12).

It’s How You Finish: The Griffins have been outscored 26-19 in opening periods this season before gaining control, holding scoring advantages of 32-29 in the second period and 43-19 in the third. No AHL team has scored more third-period goals, and only four have allowed fewer.

Taking Care of Business: The Griffins, who have tied their franchise record with 17 wins through 24 games, have built much of their success on the backs of their North Division foes. They own an 11-1-0-1 mark within the division, with games against Hamilton (2-1-0-1) and Cleveland (3-0-0-0) on tap this week.

Power Supply: Over their first nine seasons, the Griffins allowed as many as four power play goals just twice. In the first 24 games this season, Grand Rapids’ opponents have already scored four or more goals with the advantage on three occasions, including Friday’s record of six power play goals by Peoria. On the bright side, the Griffins converted two of 13 power play chances against the Rivermen, tying a franchise record for opportunities set earlier this season (Oct. 15 vs. Houston).

This Date in Griffins History: Dec. 5: Griffins’ one-millionth fan, Tom Schafer, passes through Van Andel Arena’s turnstiles (1998).

Scouting Report

Wed., Dec. 7 vs. Hamilton Bulldogs (8-16-0-2) – 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: 2-1-0-1 Overall, 0-0-0-1 Home. Fifth of eight meetings overall, second of four in Grand Rapids. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 10-6-1-0-1 Overall, 4-2-1-0-1 Home. NHL Affiliations: Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers. Head Coach: Don Lever (1st season). Dog Days: Two of the Griffins’ seven defeats overall this season (including one of two shootout losses) have been at the paws of the Bulldogs…Hamilton has lost four straight (0-3-0-1) and is 1-9-0-1 in its last 11, with the lone win coming in 6-5 shootout fashion at Van Andel Arena on Nov. 26…The Dogs rank eighth in power play (18.9%) but are last in penalty killing (76.6%).

Fri., Dec. 9 at Milwaukee Admirals (13-6-1-1) – Bradley Center – 8 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:59 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through Season Series: 2-0-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Third of eight meetings overall, first of four in Milwaukee. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 37-20-7-1-3 Overall, 14-12-5-1-3 Road. NHL Affiliation: Nashville Predators. Head Coach: Claude Noel (3rd season). Ships Ahoy: Dating to last season, the Griffins have won four straight meetings with the Admirals at Van Andel Arena…Milwaukee has lost two in a row (0-1-1-0), including Saturday’s 5-4 decision against the Griffins, on the heels of a 13-2 run…Grand Rapids’ five goals against Pekka Rinne on Saturday are the most he’s allowed so far in his 14-game North American debut.

Sat., Dec. 10 vs. Cleveland Barons – 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: 3-0-0-0 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Home. Fourth of 10 meetings overall, second of five in Grand Rapids. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 16-8-0-0-1 Overall, 9-3-0-0-0 Home. NHL Affiliation: San Jose Sharks. Head Coach: Roy Sommer (5th season). Spy Glass: The Griffins have won the last five meetings with the Barons, including three this season…Grand Rapids rallied to win each of the last two clashes…The Barons are averaging a league-low 26.68 shots per game and are allowing 3.64 goals, second-worst in the AHL.

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