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IN LIKE A LION, OUT LIKE AN EAGLE

This Week’s Games
GRIFFINS at San Antonio Rampage // Tues., March 7 // 8 p.m. // AT&T Center
Listen: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 7:35 p.m.
Watch: AHLLive.com   
Season Series: 1-0-0-0 Road, 3-0-0-0 Overall. Fourth of four meetings overall, second of two at the AT&T Center.
All-Time Series: 19-14-0-2-1 Road, 39-26-1-5-2 Overall.
NHL Affiliation: Colorado Avalanche
Noteworthy: Grand Rapids is outscoring San Antonio 15-3 this season.

GRIFFINS at Texas Stars // Wed., March 8 // 8:30 p.m. // H-E-B Center at Cedar Park
Listen: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 8:05 p.m.
Watch: AHLLive.com   
Season Series: 1-0-0-0 Road, 2-1-0-0 Overall. Fourth of four meetings overall, second of two at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park.
All-Time Series: 11-5-1-0 Road, 23-9-1-2 Overall.
NHL Affiliation: Dallas Stars
Noteworthy: Grand Rapids has won six straight regular season meetings at Texas.

GRIFFINS at San Jose Barracuda // Sat., March 11 // 9 p.m. // SAP Center at San Jose
Listen: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 8:35 p.m.
Watch: AHLLive.com   
Season Series: 0-0-0-0 Road, 0-1-0-0 Overall. Second of two meetings overall, first and last at the SAP Center at San Jose.
All-Time Series: 0-0-0-0 Road, 0-1-0-0 Overall.
NHL Affiliation: San Jose Sharks
Noteworthy: The Griffins are 2-5 all time in games played in the state of California including: 0-1 at Bakersfield, 1-3 at Long Beach in the IHL, 0-1 at San Diego and 1-0 versus the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks in a 2004 game played at Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim.

GRIFFINS at Stockton Heat // Sun., March 12 // 7 p.m. // Stockton Arena
Listen: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:35 p.m.
Watch: AHLLive.com   
Season Series: 0-0-0-0 Road, 1-0-0-0 Overall. Second of two meetings overall, first and last at Stockton Arena.
All-Time Series: 0-0-0-0 Road, 1-0-0-0 Overall.
NHL Affiliation: Calgary Flames
Noteworthy: The SAP Center at San Jose and Stockton Arena will become the 60th and 61st road venues, respectively, the Griffins have played in since the franchise’s inception in 1996.

Last Week’s Results
Tues., Feb. 28    GRIFFINS 1 at Cleveland Monsters 4    35-16-1-2 (73 points, 1st Central Division)
Fri., March 3    GRIFFINS 4 at San Antonio Rampage 2    36-16-1-2 (75 points, 1st)
Sat., March 4    GRIFFINS 5 at Texas Stars 2    37-16-1-2 (77 points, 1st)

Opening Faceoff: Following last Saturday’s 5-2 win at Texas, the Griffins have won seven of their last nine and continue to lead the Central Division while placing second in the Western Conference and third in the AHL with a 0.688 points percentage. Tuesday at San Antonio continues a season-high seven-game road trip for the Griffins, the longest road swing since Grand Rapids played seven in a row on foreign ice from March 13-28, 2014.

Last Week’s Recap: On Tuesday, the Griffins and Monsters were tied 1-1 with 13 minutes remaining in the second period before Cleveland scored three unanswered goals to earn the win. Grand Rapids is 6-2-1-1 in the season series against Cleveland. On Friday, Ben Street scored the game-winning goal with just under five minutes left in regulation to propel the Griffins to a 4-2 victory at San Antonio. Jimmy Howard, who was assigned by Detroit for conditioning on Saturday, stopped 31 shots later that day as Grand Rapids beat Texas 5-2.  

Follow the Leader(s): Matt Lorito (18-30—48), Ben Street (19-24—43), Martin Frk (21-20—41) and Tomas Nosek (14-24—38) lead the team in points…Lorito ties for sixth in the AHL in scoring...Evgeny Svechnikov’s 35 points (16-19—35) tie for 14th among rookies in scoring…Rookie Dan Renouf has 57 PIM to pace the team…Eddie Pasquale’s 2.34 GAA is 11th in the AHL and his 0.921 save percentage ties for 10th...If he had enough minutes to qualify, Cal Heeter’s 2.07 GAA would place fourth and his 0.933 save percentage would be second in the league.

Road Crew: The Griffins hold a 2-1 record three games into their seven-game road trip. The road swing that began last Tuesday in Cleveland and ends Sunday in Stockton will cover five cities, three time zones and – including two bookend travel days – will last 15 days. This trip marks only the sixth time in franchise history the Griffins will play seven or more consecutive games on foreign ice (2013-14, 2012-13, 2008-09, 2002-03, 1999-00). The 2008-09 team played a club-record eight in a row on the road from March 22-April 5.

On Track: Owning a 37-16-1-2 record (77 points), the Griffins are on pace to finish the season with 50 wins and 104 points. Grand Rapids has reached 50 wins three times previously (55 in 2005-06, 53 in 2000-01 and 51 in 1999-00) and amassed 100 or more points five times (115 in 2005-06, 113 in 2000-01, 111 in 1999-00, 106 in 2002-03 and 100 in 2013-14).

Russo Recalled: The Detroit Red Wings on Sunday recalled defenseman Robbie Russo from the Griffins. A 2017 AHL All-Star Classic participant, Russo has skated in 56 games this season and leads all team defensemen in scoring with 31 points (7-24—31) while tying for 15th among league blueliners. The 6-foot, 195-pound defenseman also places among the team’s leaders with a plus-14 rating (T1st), 24 assists (T2nd) and 115 shots (5th). Should he debut with the Red Wings, Russo will become the 161st Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL. Detroit plays at Toronto tonight at 7:30 p.m. EST.

Howard Assigned for Conditioning: Last Saturday, the Red Wings assigned goaltender Jimmy Howard to the Griffins for conditioning. Howard is joining the Griffins for the second time this season. In his previous conditioning stint, Howard split his two starts on Feb. 4 and 8. The 6-foot-1, 218-pound netminder earned his second win in three starts in a Grand Rapids uniform this season when he turned aside 31 shots during that night’s 5-2 victory at Texas. Saturday marked Howard’s first AHL road win since Grand Rapids came away with a 4-1 decision at Hamilton on April 26, 2009, in Game 6 of the North Division Semifinals. Howard has not played in the NHL since Dec. 20 due to injury.

Callahan Makes Season Debut: Recalled last Wednesday by Detroit, sixth-year pro Mitch Callahan made his season debut with the Red Wings last Friday in their 3-2 overtime loss at Calgary. Skating in his second career NHL game and first since March 25, 2014, Callahan logged 6:24 of ice time and two shots.

McIlrath Joins Griffins: The Red Wings last Wednesday assigned defenseman Dylan McIlrath to the Griffins. He was acquired earlier that day as part of the Thomas Vanek trade. The 6-foot-5, 236-pound blueliner has played in two games with Grand Rapids. Debuting last Friday at San Antonio, McIlrath is the first player in Griffins history to don jersey No. 52. Selected in the first round by the New York Rangers in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, McIlrath has suited up for five different teams this season (Hartford, New York, Florida, Springfield and Grand Rapids). In his career, he has registered five points (3-2—5) and 94 penalty minutes in 43 NHL games and 43 points (13-30—43) and 501 PIM in 206 AHL contests. 

Fantastic Frk: Martin Frk paces the team with 21 goals and has set a career high with 12 power play tallies. Frk’s 12 power play goals are the most in a season by a Griffin since Jeremy Williams banked 14 in 2009-10. In fact, 12 PPGs tie with Carl Corazzini (2007-08), Glen Metropolit (1998-99) and Michel Picard (1996-97) for seventh most in a single season in franchise history. One more and Frk can tie Jeff Nelson (1996-97) for sixth. Donald MacLean holds the team’s single-season power play goal record with 21, set in 2005-06. Frk logged 11 markers on the man advantage in 2015-16 and is the second player in team history to record consecutive seasons with double-digit power play goal totals (Eric Manlow in 2004-05 and 2005-06). Including his 27-goal haul from last season, Frk is the ninth player in franchise history to log consecutive 20-goal campaigns and the first since Teemu Pulkkinen in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Tomas Tatar recorded three-straight 20-goal seasons from 2010-13, the only player in team history to accomplish such a feat.

Current Streaks: Rookie Joe Hicketts matched a season-high with three assists in last Saturday’s win at Texas...Hicketts has five assists in the last four games...Ben Street has four goals in the last six contests...Eric Tangradi has points in six of his last seven games (5-6—11)...Martin Frk is on a six-game point streak (4-5—9)...Matt Lorito has 10 points (6-4—10) in the last six games, including four multi-point efforts...Rookie Evgeny Svechnikov has points in 15 of his last 17 games (6-12—18).

On the Power Play: Grand Rapids continues to lead the league with a power play percentage of 27.6% (67/243) and is a combined 3-for-14 while on the man advantage so far on this road trip. The Griffins have recorded at least one power play goal in eight of the last nine games and 11 of the last 13. Grand Rapids has relied on the power play for 34.0% of their goals (67 of 197), the second-highest percentage in the AHL behind only Tucson’s 34.5% (48 of 139). The power play has been keyed by Martin Frk (12-11—23), Tomas Nosek (7-16—23), Matt Lorito (4-19—23), and Ben Street (8-13—21), who lead the team in points. Frk is third in the league in power play tallies, as 12 of his team-leading 21 markers on the year have come with more skaters. Mitch Callahan has been on the ice 39 times during a power play goal, tops on the team. Of the Griffins’ 67 power play goals, 30 have been scored with five forwards on the ice, 22 with four forwards and one defensemen, 13 with three forwards and two defensemen, one with three forwards and one defenseman and one with six forwards.  

Chasing PP History: To put in perspective the success of the Griffins’ power play thus far, the franchise record for highest power play percentage in a season is 21.8%, set in 2005-06. Through 56 games, the 2005-06 team stood at 22.6% while on the man advantage (86/381). The 2005-06 club, which played 80 regular season games, also scored 120 PPG, the most in team history. The Springfield Indians hold the AHL record for highest power play percentage in a season, finishing at 26.78% in 1993-94.

Goal Output: Second in the AHL in goals per game (3.52), the Griffins have scored four or more goals in 10 of 13 games since the all-star break.

Between the Pipes: With Jared Coreau on recall in Detroit, goaltenders Eddie Pasquale and Cal Heeter have stepped up their games. Pasquale has points in 16 of his 22 starts on the season, ranks 11th with a 2.34 goals against average and has three shutouts. Heeter has won 10 of his 12 starts for the Griffins this season and is a combined 21-3 between the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye and Grand Rapids. If he met the 1,080 minutes requirement, Heeter’s 2.07 GAA would be fourth and his 0.933 save percentage would be second.

The Puck Stops Here: Second in the league in goals against per game (2.43), the Griffins are on pace to allow only 184 goals total which would be the fourth-lowest amount ever in franchise history (166 in 2003-04, 177 in 2002-03, 178 in 2001-02).

Specialty Teams: In addition to having the league’s top power play unit, the Griffins are 11th in penalty killing at 82.7%. Grand Rapids’ combined power play and penalty kill percentage of 110.3 is the highest on the circuit.

Bookends: The Griffins lead the league with a plus-27 goal differential (62-35) in the first period and place second with a plus-30 differential (74-44) in the final frame. Grand Rapids’ 62 first-period markers are the most in the league and the Griffins are 29-3-1-1 (0.882) when striking first. 

Home Sweet Home: Grand Rapids has played 31 home games, tied for third most in the league. Winners in five of their last six on home ice, the Griffins are 21-8-0-2 at Van Andel Arena this season and their 44 points are tied for second in the league. The Griffins own a plus-42 goal differential inside friendly confines, the highest in the AHL. Grand Rapids will not play at home again until March 17 versus Chicago.

Showing Discipline: The Griffins are the least penalized team in the league, averaging just 10.25 penalty minutes per contest. In fact, Grand Rapids is on pace to log 779 PIM, which would break the franchise record for fewest PIM in a season set by the 2014-15 team with 869. Rookie Dan Renouf leads the team with 57 PIM and is on track for 77 this season, which would make him the first team PIM leader to not break the century mark (previous low: Brennan Evans, 111 PIM in 2013-14).

Magic Numbers: The Griffins are 29-3-1-1 when scoring the game’s first goal, 27-1 when leading after one period and 27-1-1-0 when leading after two periods…Grand Rapids is 36-3-0-1 when scoring three goals or more and 1-13-1-1 when scoring two or less.

All About Chances: The Griffins are averaging the most shots in the league (33.70) and the second-most goals (3.52) while surrendering the second-fewest goals against (2.43) and the 15th-fewest shots (29.95).

Spreading the Wealth: Tyler Bertuzzi notched his 10th goal of the campaign during last Saturday’s 5-2 win at Texas, becoming the ninth Griffin to post a double-digit goal total. Nine players with 10 or more goals ties for second-most in the AHL. Martin Frk paces Grand Rapids with 21 goals.

Rookie Production: The Griffins have played eight rookies this season, which surpasses last year’s total of seven. Those eight rookies have combined for 129 points (48-81—129), which equates to 24.4% of the team’s goals (48/197), 24.5% of the assists (81/331) and 24.5% of the points (129/526).

Milestones: With 14 goals this season, Mitch Callahan has 92 in his career to rank third all-time in franchise history…He trails only Francis Pare (102) and Michel Picard (158) in the record books…Callahan’s 179 career points (92-87—179) are tied with Jiri Hudler for seventh all-time in team history…With three more penalty minutes, Callahan can become the ninth player in franchise history to log 400 or more career PIM…Captain Nathan Paetsch has 119 career assists to rank sixth all-time in team history…Paetsch is 11 behind Derek King for fifth…Martin Frk needs three games played to reach 200 as a Griffin.

Rampage Stampede: The Griffins lead the season series against the Rampage 3-0 with one game remaining. Since Grand Rapids and San Antonio began facing each other in 2002-03, the Griffins have swept the season series twice (2-0 in 2008-09 and 4-0 in 2005-06). The Griffins have outscored San Antonio 15-3 in the season series, including 11-1 during a two-game sweep at Van Andel Arena. Grand Rapids earned its first regulation win at the AT&T Center since Jan. 13, 2011, with a 4-2 victory last Friday. The Griffins have won three straight against the Rampage for the first time since Feb. 19, 2008-March 7, 2009.

Seeing Stars: Since the start of the 2014-15 season, the Griffins have won 10 of the last 11 regular season meetings against Texas. Grand Rapids has won six straight at Texas, with the last loss to the Stars on foreign ice coming on Jan. 24, 2014 (4-6 L).

Reunion of Sorts: Former Griffins goaltender Tom McCollum is expected to be on Stockton’s roster Sunday night. Detroit's first choice (30th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, McCollum spent seven seasons with the Griffins (2009-16) and is the franchise's all-time leader with 226 goalie games played, 12737:53 minutes and 5,653 saves. His 103 wins rank second while his seven shutouts are tied for sixth. McCollum also ranks among the club's all-time playoff leaders with 23 games played (3rd), 1330:31 minutes (3rd), a 2.53 goals against average (9th), 12 wins (T2nd), 608 saves (3rd) and a 0.916 save percentage (T6th). McCollum has appeared in one game with the Heat this season, earning the win in a relief effort on Nov. 5 versus San Diego. He has also played five games with Stockton’s ECHL affiliate in Adirondack, showing a 3-1-1 record, a 2.97 GAA and a 0.894 save percentage. 

San Jose Connections: Roy Sommer, who is in his 19th season as bench boss of the Sharks’ AHL affiliate, appeared in 54 games with the Grand Rapids Owls across two seasons (1977-78, 1979-80) and amassed 43 points (21-22—43). Sommer also played two seasons with the Muskegon Lumberjacks (1985-87), totaling 40 points (19-21—40) and 328 PIM in 92 games. His coaching career began as an assistant with the Lumberjacks during the 1987-88 season. Sommer also served as an assistant coach for the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League for one season (1988-89). During that year, a young defenseman by the name of Todd Nelson, playing in his third full WHL campaign, racked up 59 points (14-45—59) and 72 PIM in 72 games.
 
Stockton Connections: Ryan Huska is in his third season as head coach of the Heat’s AHL affiliate after spending the previous 12 years as a coach with the Kelowna Rockets including seven as bench boss (2007-14). Mitch Callahan played three seasons (2008-11) under Huska, accumulating 128 points (57-71—128) and 440 PIM in 204 regular season games. The Rockets claimed the Western Hockey League Championship in 2008-09, Callahan’s first year with the club.

California Love: Grand Rapids will travel to San Jose and Stockton on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, in what will be the second-ever meetings between the Griffins and their Pacific Division counterparts. The Griffins are 2-5 all time in games played in the state of California including: 0-1 at Bakersfield, 1-3 at Long Beach in the IHL, 0-1 at San Diego and 1-0 versus the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks in a 2004 game played at Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim. The SAP Center at San Jose and Stockton Arena will become the 60th and 61st road venues, respectively, the Griffins have played in since the franchise’s inception in 1996. The SAP Center, also home to the NHL’s Sharks, will become the eighth NHL venue to host a Griffins game. Through nine all-time contests on NHL ice surfaces, the Griffins sport a record of 5-4 (including playoffs).

Walleye Report: Under first-year head coach Dan Watson, the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye have clinched a Kelly Cup Playoff berth and post the best record in the league with a 41-13-2-1 (0.746) mark. Rookies Tyson Spink (31-35—66), Tylor Spink (20-41—61) and former Griffin Shane Berschbach (14-47—61) lead the team in scoring. Second-year pro Jake Paterson, Detroit’s second pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, is 28-10-1 while placing third with a 2.37 goals against average and tying for sixth with a 0.913 save percentage. Griffins-contracted Cal Heeter, who is on recall in Grand Rapids, is 11-1 between the pipes and shows a 3.01 GAA and a 0.897 save percentage.

Back-to-Backs: The Griffins will play back-to-back games a total of 27 times this season. Compare the statistics for when the Griffins have played on consecutive nights:

  First Night Second Night
W 10 16
L (incl. OT, SO) 9 3
GF 2.95 4.21
GA 2.37 2.16
PP % 22.50% 30.26%
PK % 80.60% 85.92%
SF 33.58 32.47
SA 28.89 32.47


Win Some, Lose Some: Compare the statistics for the Griffins during their 37 wins and 19 (including overtime and shootout) losses:

  GF GA PP % PK % SF SA
W (37) 4.49 1.86 30.99% 85.93% 34.59 29.92
L (19) 1.63 3.53 21.13% 75.81% 31.95 30.00