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12/12/2005 3:05 PM - Five-Game Swing Starts Wednesday in Toronto

This Week’s Games

Wed., Dec. 14 - GRIFFINS at Toronto Marlies - 7:30 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/B2 Networks

Fri., Dec. 16 - GRIFFINS at Rochester Americans - 7:35 p.m. - Comcast Local/WOOD/B2

Sat., Dec. 17 - GRIFFINS at Toronto Marlies - 7 p.m. - WOOD/B2

Sun., Dec. 18 - GRIFFINS at Syracuse Crunch - 5 p.m. - WOOD/B2

Last Week’s Results
Wed., Dec. 7 - Hamilton Bulldogs 3 at GRIFFINS 4 - 18-5-0-2, 38 pts. (1st, North Division)

Fri., Dec. 9 - GRIFFINS 2 at Milwaukee Admirals 5 - 18-6-0-2, 38 pts. (2nd)

Sat., Dec. 10 - Cleveland Barons 4 at GRIFFINS 2 - 18-7-0-2, 38 pts. (2nd)

Northern Exposure: Grand Rapids, which has played eight of its last 12 games away from Van Andel Arena, will hit the road again for five straight games, including a four-games-in-five-nights stretch against North Division rivals that commences Wednesday in Toronto. Despite a 3-4-0-1 mark in their last eight games, the Griffins maintain the best winning percentage in the division (0.704) and reside just one point behind first-place Manitoba with three games in hand.

On the Tube: The Griffins’ game at Rochester this Friday at 7:35 p.m. will be televised live throughout lower Michigan on Comcast Local (ch. 23 in Grand Rapids), which will provide a feed of the Amerks’ Time Warner Cable telecast…Griffins assistant coach Jim Paek will be a guest panelist on TSN's Off the Record with Michael Landsberg, airing throughout Canada this Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 6 p.m.

So Unusual: The Griffins’ 4-2 loss to Cleveland on Saturday marked just their second regulation loss both at home (9-2-0-2) and within the North Division (12-2-0-2). It also gave Grand Rapids back-to-back regulation defeats for the first time this season…The 0-0 second period Saturday against the Barons was just the second scoreless frame at Van Andel Arena this season.

Learn From the Past: For the second straight year, the Griffins earned an impressive 18 wins in this season’s first 26 games. For the 2004-05 edition, however, it was all downhill following its 18-7-1-0 start. A 3-1 loss at Utah on Dec. 17, 2004 - in game number 27 - sparked a team-record nine-game losing streak (0-8-0-1). Grand Rapids would win just one game from Dec. 16, 2004 through Jan. 20, 2005 (1-10-0-1) en route to missing the playoffs for just the second time in its first nine seasons.

Short End of the Stick: Grand Rapids tied a franchise record by facing 13 shorthanded situations in Friday’s 5-2 loss at Milwaukee, the second time this season (Oct. 28 vs. Iowa) the Griffins have been charged with killing off a baker’s dozen…The Griffins have experienced an incredible season-long disparity in two-man advantages. Opponents have received more than twice as many 5-on-3’s (34 to 14) and have scored 12 times as many goals in those situations (12 to 1). Grand Rapids has capitalized on only 7.1% of its two-man advantages, while foes have cashed in 35.3% of the time.

Rally Caps: The Griffins rallied from two-goal deficits to earn each of their last two wins: a 5-4 overtime decision against Milwaukee on Dec. 3 and a 4-3 triumph over Hamilton last Wednesday. Grand Rapids, which has trailed at some point in 12 of its last 13 wins, has 13 come-from-behind wins this season, including six victories in games it had trailed by two goals.

Detroit Exports: Goaltender Jimmy Howard and left wing Jiri Hudler both returned to the Griffins from Detroit on Saturday and played in that night’s 4-2 loss to Cleveland. Howard has posted a 4-2-1 record, a 2.91 GAA and a 0.898 save percentage with Grand Rapids this season, while Hudler is tied for second in the AHL with 36 points (16-20—36). After contributing 26 saves and one assist, respectively, during their one-day stopover in Grand Rapids, Howard and Hudler returned to the Red Wings on Sunday.

Milestones: Eric Manlow, who played his 400th AHL game last Wednesday, appeared in his 700th professional contest on Friday…Tomas Kopecky logged his 191st game in a Griffins uniform last Wednesday, moving past Danton Cole (190) into sole possession of tenth place on the franchise’s all-time list.

Three-Peated Success: With their Dec. 3 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. They’ll face the season’s fourth gauntlet this Friday through Sunday.

Explosive Offense: Grand Rapids has scored an AHL-high 106 goals, its most ever through 27 games (96 in 2001-02) and 34 more than its 2004-05 edition – an increase of 47%. 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 314 goals this season, shattering their record of 279 from 2000-01.

It’s How You Finish: The Griffins have been outscored 33-21 in opening periods this season before gaining control, holding scoring advantages of 35-31 in the second period and 46-22 in the third. No AHL team has scored more third-period goals, and only five have allowed fewer.

League Leaders: Jiri Hudler stands near the top of the AHL with 16 goals (T3rd), 20 assists (T5th) and 36 points (T2nd)…Eric Manlow ranks among the leaders with 19 assists (T8th) and 28 points (T9th)…Valtteri Filppula’s 26 points (11-15—26) tie for 16th…Drew MacIntyre is ninth with a 2.52 GAA…Tomas Kopecky’s plus-11 rating ties for seventh in the AHL, while Darryl Bootland’s 162 penalty minutes lead the circuit.

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 11 of his last 17 games (11-5—16). MacLean, who has 11 points (9-2—11) in the last 10 games, scored twice in a 29-second span of the third period on Dec. 1 at Omaha to tie the game at 3-3 in an eventual 4-3 shootout win for the Griffins. He also scored twice last Wednesday against Hamilton to lead Grand Rapids to another 4-3 come-from-behind win.

Who’s Hot?: Clay Wilson has assists in three of the last five games…Eric Manlow has four assists in the last four games…Kent McDonell scored two goals over three games last week…Nate DiCasmirro has three points (1-2—3) in the last three games…Valtteri Filppula had a three-game point streak (2-1—3) snapped Saturday but still and has points in 11 of the last 14 games (7-12—19)…Jiri Hudler has registered points in each of his last four games with the club (2-4—6).

Welcome Back: Right wing Eric Himelfarb returned to the Griffins’ lineup on Saturday after missing the previous 13 games due to injury. He went scoreless against the Barons and now shows seven points (1-6—7) in 13 games.

Making Their Marks: In Friday’s loss at Milwaukee, Ryan Keller’s goal and Brad Bonello’s assist marked the first point of each rookie’s AHL career.

This Week in Griffins History: Dec. 12: Petr Schastlivy scores the fastest overtime goal in Griffins history (0:22) to give Grand Rapids a 2-1 win at Utah (2001). Dec. 13: Center Jeff Nelson sets team records with four assists and five points in a 7-4 home win over Las Vegas (1996). Dec. 14: Goalie Mike Fountain, defenseman Travis Richards and center Todd White are chosen to play in the 2001 IHL All-Star Game. Former Griffins bench boss Guy Charron is promoted to head coach of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (2000). Dec. 15: Slava Butsayev’s goal with 35 seconds left in regulation and Todd White’s marker in the final second of overtime lift the Griffins to a 5-4 win at Cleveland (2000). Dec. 16: NHL veteran Derek King is assigned to Grand Rapids by the St. Louis Blues (1999). Dec. 17: Michel Picard tallies the first hat trick in Griffins’ history, scoring three goals on just four shots, but Grand Rapids falls at Milwaukee, 6-4 (1996). Dec. 18: A pair of Derek King goals in the third period lift Grand Rapids to a 2-1 win over Milwaukee (1999).

Scouting Report

Wed., Dec. 14 at Toronto Marlies (12-14-0-0) – Ricoh Coliseum – 7:30 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 17 at Toronto Marlies – Ricoh Coliseum – 7 p.m.

Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:10 p.m. (Wed.) and 6:40 p.m. (Sat.). Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through Season Series: 1-0-0-0 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Road. Second and third of six meetings overall, second and third of three in Toronto. NHL Affiliation: Toronto Maple Leafs. Head Coach: Paul Maurice (1st season). Fire One Up: Grand Rapids won its inaugural meeting with the Marlies by a 3-1 count in Toronto on Nov. 20…The Marlies are just 5-7-0-0 at home thus far…John Pohl (14-12—26) is tied for 16th in the AHL scoring race and his eight power play goals tie for fifth.

Fri., Dec. 16 at Rochester Americans (15-11-0-0) – Blue Cross Arena – 7:35 p.m.
TV: Comcast Local (ch. 23) at 7:30 p.m. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:10 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through Season Series: First of six meetings overall, first of three in Rochester. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 6-5-1-0-0 Overall, 3-3-0-0-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: Buffalo Sabres. Head Coach: Randy Cunneyworth (6th season). American Pride: In each of the previous two seasons, the Griffins lost their lone visit to Rochester…The Amerks stand in third place in the North Division, eight points behind Grand Rapids…Jason Pominville leads the league with 19 goals and is tied for 16th with 26 points.

Sun., Dec. 18 at Syracuse Crunch (12-9-1-1) – Onondago County War Memorial – 5 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 4:40 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 six meetings overall, first of three in Syracuse. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 5-1-0-0-0 Overall, 2-0-0-0-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: Columbus Blue Jackets. Head Coach: Gary Agnew (6th season). Feel the Crunch: The Griffins won both of their prior visits to Syracuse (in 2002-03) and swept a two-game set against the Crunch at Van Andel Arena in early November…Geoff Platt’s 15 goals tie for seventh in the AHL and his 24 points tie for fifth among rookies.

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