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First-Place Grand Rapids Owns 10-Point Lead Over Manitoba

This Week’s Games
Tue., Feb. 14 - Manitoba Moose at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/B2 Networks

Thu., Feb. 16 - GRIFFINS at Cleveland Barons - 7:05 p.m. - WOOD/B2

Fri., Feb. 17 - Hamilton Bulldogs at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD/B2

Sat., Feb. 18 - Manitoba Moose at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD/B2

Last Week’s Results
Fri., Feb. 10 - Philadelphia Phantoms 0 at GRIFFINS 4 - 36-12-1-3, 76 pts. (1st, North Division)

Sat., Feb. 11 - Peoria Rivermen 2 at GRIFFINS 4 - 37-12-1-3, 78 pts. (1st)

Standing On Top: The Griffins, whose 37-12-1-3 record is their best-ever through 53 games, own the most wins and points in the AHL (37 to 36 and 78 to 77 over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton), the best winning percentage in the Western Conference (0.736 to 0.702 over Houston), and a mammoth 10-point lead over Manitoba in the North Division race. They’ll host a pair of showdowns with the Moose this week – Tuesday and Saturday at Van Andel Arena – along with a Friday visit from the Hamilton Bulldogs.

Honor Roll: Grand Rapids boasts the league’s best home record at 21-3-1-2, including an incredible 12-1-1-0 in its last 14 games at Van Andel Arena…The Griffins have earned points in nine straight games (8-0-0-1), and they’ve tied team records with 13 wins in their last 15 games (13-1-0-1) and 19 wins in their last 23 contests (19-2-1-1).

Fun-Filled Week: Beginning with Tuesday’s game against Manitoba, Griffins’ wives and girlfriends will sell limited-edition pink Griffins ballcaps for $15 apiece, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Grand Rapids Affiliate…For Friday’s game against Hamilton, students are invited to “Bring Their ‘A’ Game.” All high school and college students showing their I.D. at the Van Andel Arena box office the night of the game receive a lower bowl ticket for just $10, and students of all ages can bring their report cards to the game and receive prizes for earning A’s in their classes…On Saturday, The Grand Rapids Press presents Detroit Red Wings goaltender Manny Legace, who will meet fans and sign autographs from 6-7 p.m. on the main floor of Van Andel Arena. The first 3,000 fans will receive a Griffins team poster, courtesy of Stock Building Supply and Andersen Windows, and $10,000 in cash and prizes will be distributed in envelopes to the first 3,000 fans age 18 and older.

Nice to See You Again: Niklas Kronwall, the AHL’s outstanding defenseman and a First-Team All-Star as a member of the 2004-05 Griffins, made his return to Grand Rapids’ lineup on Saturday after being assigned by the Detroit Red Wings for conditioning. Kronwall, who’s working his way back into form following knee surgery, has contributed three assists in three games since his return to the Wings on Feb. 1. He set Griffins blueliner records with 53 points and 40 assists last season, becoming the first defenseman to lead the team in either category. After going scoreless in the win over Peoria, Kronwall must sit out the first week of the NHL’s Olympic break, making him eligible to play again for the Griffins on Feb. 22 at Rochester.

Upward Trends: The Griffins’ penalty killers, who have struggled much of the season, have clamped down over the last five games, allowing just one goal over 27 opponent chances (3.7%)…Grand Rapids has allowed only three goals over the last three games, its best stretch this season. Further, the Griffins have allowed two or fewer goals in six of their last eight outings, something they accomplished in just 15 of their first 45 games.

Updating the Chase: During the AHL’s previous 69 seasons, only 94 players eclipsed the 100-point plateau and just 45 reached the 50-goal milestone. Griffins forwards Jiri Hudler and Donald MacLean, respectively, could join those exclusive clubs. Hudler’s 65 points put him on track for 98, three shy of the franchise mark set by Michel Picard in 1996-97. MacLean’s league-high 36 goals give him a 54-goal pace, a total that would break Picard’s team record (46 in 1996-97) and tie for 14th in AHL history. He is attempting to become the first Griffin to lead his league in goals.

Ireland’s Eyes Are Smiling: The Griffins’ 4-2 win at Peoria on Jan. 28 marked the 50th victory for head coach Greg Ireland in 80 games – the equivalent of one full season – behind the Griffins’ bench. Ireland, who assumed the helm on Feb. 10, 2005, now owns a 54-25-2-4 record with Grand Rapids, giving him the highest winning percentage (0.671) of the six head coaches in team history.

No Average Joe: Joey MacDonald has reverted to his old form following a slow start caused by his rehabilitation from injury. After posting a 5-4-1 record, a 3.87 GAA and a 0.877 save percentage through New Year’s Eve, he has since gone 9-2-0 with a 2.25 GAA, a 0.920 save percentage and one shutout. In February alone, he is 3-0-0 with a 2.01 GAA, a 0.929 save percentage and a shutout. His perfect 23-save performance on Friday against Philly extended his franchise shutout record to 15, and his personal-best seven-game winning streak stands one shy of Mike Fountain’s team record.

Streaky Play: Each of the Griffins’ three AHL all-stars has already posted a double-digit point streak this season. Donald MacLean’s current 15-game tear (16-10—26, Jan. 6-present) is the second-longest in franchise history, Jiri Hudler’s earlier 14-game run (13-14—27, Oct. 8-Nov. 15) stands as the third-longest, while Valtteri Filppula’s recent 10-game streak (4-11—15, Dec. 21-Jan. 13) ties for sixth.

Who’s Hot?: Donald MacLean’s 15-game point streak (16-10—26) now stands as the second-longest in franchise history, two shy of Derek King’s standard from 2000-01. He has registered points in 22 of the last 23 games (24-14—38) and has 35 goals in his last 42 contests…Clay Wilson has assists in five of the last eight games (1-7—8) and nine of the last 15 contests (1-13—14)…The four-game point streaks of both Kent McDonell (4-3—7) and Valtteri Filppula (2-2—4) were snapped on Saturday…Nate DiCasmirro has points in five of seven games (2-5—7)…Eric Himelfarb’s three-game point streak (1-2—3) ended Saturday…Bryan Helmer has points in four of five games (1-6—7) and 10 of 12 games (2-14—16)…Darryl Bootland, who has potted goals in four of the last five games (4-2—6), scored his 15th of the season on Saturday, establishing his personal-best as a Griffin…Derek Meech has points in three of four games (2-3—5)…Jimmy Howard has led the team to points in each of his last 10 decisions (eight wins, one overtime loss, one shootout loss).

League Leaders: Jiri Hudler: 25 goals (8th), 40 assists (T3rd) and 65 points (3rd); Donald MacLean: 36 goals (1st), 55 points (T7th), 13 power play goals (T6th) and five game-winning goals (T5th); Eric Manlow: 36 assists (T7th), 51 points (T15th) and 10 power play goals (T16th); Valtteri Filppula: 30 assists (T17th) and a plus-16 rating (T8th); Tomas Kopecky: Plus-16 rating (T8th); Kent McDonell: 12 power play goals (T11th) and five game-winning goals (T5th); Darryl Bootland: 237 penalty minutes (3rd); Nate DiCasmirro: Plus-17 rating (T6th); Bryan Helmer: Plus-19 rating (3rd) and 36 points (T7th among defensemen).

Faster, Higher, Stronger: Six Griffins alumni were selected by their native countries to play in the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy. While Sweden’s Niklas Kronwall will not take part, five of the 12 participating nations will have a former Griffin on their men’s ice hockey roster: Germany (Michael Hackert), Kazakhstan (Konstantin Shafranov), Latvia (Aigars Cipruss), Slovakia (Pavol Demitra) and Switzerland (Julien Vauclair). A seventh Griffins alum, Jason Spezza, is an alternate for Team Canada. The men’s ice hockey schedule begins with a preliminary round (Feb. 15-21) in which each country will play five games. Quarterfinals on Feb. 22 and semifinals on Feb. 24 will lead up to the Bronze Medal Game on Feb. 25 and the Gold Medal Game on Feb. 26.

This Week in Griffins History: Feb. 13: With a 4-0 win over Manitoba at Van Andel Arena, the Griffins set a franchise record of 11 consecutive home games without a loss (8-0-3-0) (2004). Feb. 14: Joey MacDonald becomes the first goalie in Griffins history to record three consecutive home shutouts, making 35 saves to lead Grand Rapids to a 3-0 win over Houston. MacDonald also sets a franchise mark by extending his home shutout streak to 194:41, while the Griffins push their record home unbeaten streak to 12 games (9-0-3-0) and claim their sixth straight win in friendly confines, four of them by shutout (2004). Feb. 15: After signing with the Griffins one day earlier, player/assistant coach Kelly Miller plays his first minor league contest after 1,057 games in the NHL. His two assists combine with brother Kevin’s three points to lead a 4-3 comeback win at Milwaukee (2000). Feb. 16: Bruce Cassidy breaks Guy Charron's franchise record for head coaching wins with his 86th, a 2-1 victory over Utah at Van Andel Arena (2002). Feb. 17: Jason Williams sets a franchise record for goal-scoring proficiency in a 4-3 decision at Syracuse. His two goals give him 12 over the last nine games, surpassing the previous 11-goal efforts of both Kip Miller and Michel Picard (2003). Feb. 18: Grand Rapids hosts the 1997 IHL All-Star Game before a sold-out throng at Van Andel Arena. Pokey Reddick, Michel Picard, and Jeff Nelson represent the Griffins on the Eastern Conference squad, but it’s the Western Conference that claims a 6-4 victory (1997). Feb. 19: Griffins broadcasts on WOOD 1300 AM are named by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters as the "best locally-originated, regularly scheduled sportscast, play-by-play or live sports coverage" in secondary Michigan markets at the MAB Broadcast Excellence Awards in Lansing (2002).

Scouting Report

Tue., Feb. 14 vs. Manitoba Moose (31-16-3-3) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 18 vs. Manitoba Moose – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.

Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:59 p.m. (Tue.) and 6:40 p.m. (Sat.). Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through Season Series: 3-0-0-0 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Home. Fourth and fifth of eight meetings overall, second and third of four in Grand Rapids. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 28-12-1-0-3 Overall, 14-5-1-0-3 Home. NHL Affiliation: Vancouver Canucks. Head Coach: Alain Vigneault (1st season). Got You ‘Pegged: The Griffins’ 10-point lead over second-place Manitoba is their largest of the season…Two of Grand Rapids’ three series wins came via shootouts…These rivals have not met since Nov. 23…The Moose suffered two losses to Omaha over the weekend by a combined 9-2 score…After winning six straight, they are 2-3-0-1 in their last six.

Thu., Feb. 16 at Cleveland Barons (20-32-2-2) – Quicken Loans Arena – 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:59 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through Season Series: 4-1-0-0 Overall, 2-0-0-0 Road. Sixth of 10 meetings overall, third of five in Cleveland. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 17-9-0-0-1 Overall, 7-5-0-0-1 Road. NHL Affiliation: San Jose Sharks. Head Coach: Roy Sommer (5th season). Spy Glass: The Griffins have points in nine straight games (8-0-0-1), while the Barons are winless in their last 10 (0-8-1-1)…Grand Rapids has scored a league-high 212 goals, and Cleveland has allowed 200, second-most on the circuit…The Griffins are 4-1-0-1 in Cleveland the past two seasons.

Fri., Feb. 17 vs. Hamilton Bulldogs (20-31-0-3) – 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: 4-2-0-1 Overall, 2-0-0-1 Home. Eighth and final meeting overall, fourth and final in Grand Rapids. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 12-7-1-0-1 Overall, 6-2-1-0-1 Home. NHL Affiliations: Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers. Head Coach: Don Lever (1st season). Dog Days: Hamilton sits last in the North Division but has three wins in eight tries against the Griffins this season…The Bulldogs have broken out of a 1-6 skid by going 3-2-0-1 in their last six.