01/06/2009 3:21 PM
Last Week’s Results
On the Right Foot: Grand Rapids began 2009 in first place in the North Division, marking the first time since 2006 that it owned the division’s top spot as of Jan. 1. The Griffins (21-8-4-3), who currently lead second-place Manitoba by three points, are an AHL-best 8-1-1-0 in their last 10 games and continue to lead the league with just eight regulation losses.
That’s Entertainment: The Griffins have a number of promotions on tap this week: Wed. vs. Rockford – As part of Winning Wednesday, all fans in attendance can redeem their ticket stub for a free ticket to the Jan. 21 game vs. Toronto if the Griffins defeat the IceHogs. Fri. vs. Philadelphia – The first 5,000 fans will receive a 2008-09 Griffins Team Poster, presented by Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan. It’s another Dollar Beers, Dollar Dogs night, with $1 hot dogs and $1 domestic drafts available from 6-8 p.m. while supplies last, as well as College Night and Library Night. Sat. vs. Philadelphia – Thanks to Centennial Securities, 2,500 fans will receive a Valtteri Filppula figurine, commemorating his memorable “superman” goal during Game 2 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals. The second intermission will feature a U.S. Army swear-in ceremony with 30 men and women. In addition, fans can bring their skates and take to the ice for the post-game open skate.
Cold Fun in the Wintertime: This weekend, the Griffins will present the Great Skate Winterfest at Rosa Parks Circle, a benefit for the Griffins Youth Foundation. An inaugural winterfest will be held from noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 10, featuring winter sports demonstrations, dog sled rides, ice sculptures, games and family activities sponsored by a host of local museums and institutions. Immediately after Saturday’s game against Philadelphia, the seventh annual Great Skate will commence, with every Griffins player and coach taking turns skating with fans around the clock from 10 p.m. Saturday to 10 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free but donations are encouraged and certain activity fees apply. For complete information, or to make a pledge toward a Griffin’s participation in the Great Skate, go to griffinshockey.com/greatskate.
Positive Indicators: The Griffins are 13 games over 0.500 for the first time since the conclusion of the 2005-06 season…Grand Rapids owns the third-best mark in franchise history through 36 games in terms of points (49), trailing only the 2005-06 team that started 24-10-0-2 (50 pts.) and the 2000-01 IHL squad that set the standard at 27-6-3 (57 pts.).
No Soup for You!: The Griffins have allowed just nine goals in their last eight games and have shut out four of their last eight opponents, lowering their team GAA to 2.58 (third in AHL) in the process. With six shutouts through 36 games, they are more than halfway to the franchise record of 10 set in 2003-04.
Year End Wrap Up: The Griffins’ 6-0 shellacking of Iowa last Wednesday improved their record in their annual New Year’s Eve game to 4-7-1-0 and enabled them to finish the 2008 calendar year with a 37-31-4-6 record (0.538).
Bring It On!: Following Saturday’s 2-1 win at Manchester, the Griffins now own an incredible 10-1-0-1 (0.875) record this season when playing four games in five nights.
Silent Killers: Having denied all 18 opponent power play opportunities over the last five games, the Griffins now rank first in the AHL in penalty killing at 87.9%. Grand Rapids, which has allowed a league-low eight power play goals at home while denying an AHL-high 91.6% of its visitors’ chances, has surrendered power play goals in just two of its last 11 games (44-for-47, 93.6%).
For the Record: The Griffins set three franchise records last week. During the 3-1 win at Peoria on Tuesday, Jamie Tardif scored just eight seconds into the contest, setting new standards for the fastest goal to start both a game and a period in Griffins history. The next night, the Griffins earned a 6-0 win versus Iowa, recording their fourth shutout in six games for the first time in franchise history. During that win, Grand Rapids fired a season-high 22 shots in the second frame, one shot away from the team mark for shots in a single period.
Home Sweet Home: The Griffins boast an impressive 12-2-2-3 record at Van Andel Arena this season, tying Milwaukee for the fewest regulation home losses in the league, and they have points in 14 of their last 15 games in friendly territory (10-1-2-2).
Grand Larssony: On Friday in Hartford, Daniel Larsson suffered his first loss since Dec. 5 versus Toronto (OTL), snapping his five-game winning streak. Amazingly, it marked Larsson’s first regulation loss of the season when playing an entire game, and it continued a trend in which he has posted a 0-4 record in his first decision of each month and a 12-0-1 mark in all other games. Larsson, who ranks among the league’s leaders with four shutouts (T1st), a 0.924 save percentage (4th) and a 2.30 GAA (T4th), is 10-2-1 with four shutouts, a 1.80 GAA and a 0.939 save percentage over his last 14 outings (Nov. 11-Jan. 2).
Player of the Week Nominee: The Griffins today nominated goaltender Jimmy Howard for the Reebok/AHL Player of the Week award, after he went 2-0 with one shutout, a 0.50 GAA and a 0.980 save percentage in two games last week. He made 24 saves during Wednesday’s 6-0 win over Iowa to earn his second shutout in a span of three games and give him 12 shutouts for his Griffins career. Howard has now allowed either one or zero goals in four of his last five games, in the process going 4-1-0 with two shutouts, a 1.19 GAA and a 0.952%.
Howard’s High Notes: Jimmy Howard is nearing or getting ready to supplant New York Islander Joey MacDonald as the leader in numerous Griffins career goaltending categories. Howard currently ranks second all time to MacDonald in goalie games played (164 to 161, three away), minutes (9208:13 to 9181:04, 27:09 away), saves (4,251 to 4,104, 147 away), wins (88 to 78, 10 away) and shutouts (16 to 12, four away).
Tremendous Trio: The line of Francis Pare (5-7—12), Francis Lemieux (5-5—10) and Evan McGrath (4-4—8) has combined for 30 points (14-16—30) over the last nine games.
Honor Roll: Evan McGrath has notched a point in nine of his last 11 games (4-6—10)…AHL Rookie of the Month nominee Francis Pare had a career-high three-point night (1-2—3) last Wednesday against Iowa. Despite seeing his season-high three-game goal streak end on Saturday, he still has points in eight of his last 10 games (6-7—13)...Mattias Ritola has two goals and three points in the last three games…Darren Haydar has lit the lamp in three of the last five games and has points in nine of the last 13 games (5-6—11) to take over the club lead in scoring (14-14—28)…Francis Lemieux has points in six of the last nine games (5-5—10).
Take Me to Your Leaders: Several Griffins rank among the AHL’s individual leaders: Justin Abdelkader – T13th rookie points (21); Darren Helm – T4th shorthanded goals (2); Jimmy Howard – 15th GAA (2.52), T9th shutouts (2); Jakub Kindl – 6th defenseman points (22), 5th defenseman power play points (13), T1st defenseman game-winning goals (2); Daniel Larsson – T1st shutouts (4), T4th GAA (2.30), 4th save percentage (0.924); Ryan Oulahen – T3rd shorthanded points (3), T4rd shorthanded assists (2); and Francis Pare – T18th rookie points (20), 5th rookie plus/minus (+12), T4th rookie game-winning goals (2).
Better Late Than Ever: The Griffins’ eight regulation losses are the fewest in the AHL but their seven defeats past regulation time (4 OTL, 3 SOL) are tied with Houston and Quad City for the most in the league.
Milestones: Aaron Downey closed out 2008 by appearing in his 700th pro contest on New Year’s Eve…On Saturday, Ryan Oulahen moved past Derek King into sole possession of sixth place on the Griffins’ all-time games played list with 265. Next in his sights is fifth-place Dave Van Drunen (280)…Garrett Stafford needs two more games for 400 as a pro and four more for 400 career AHL contests…Tom Galvin’s assist on Saturday in Manchester marked his 100th point as a pro…Darren Haydar, who notched his 300th AHL assist against the Monarchs, is just eight points shy of 500 as a pro.
Come One, Come All: The Griffins stand fifth in the AHL with an average attendance of 6,395, a year-to-date increase of 16% over the first 19 home contests of 2007-08 (5,515). The team’s total attendance of 121,500 is its highest through 19 home games in five years, since the 2003-04 campaign (122,822).
Hurray for Hudler: Last Thursday, former Griffin Jiri Hudler tallied three points (2-1—3) to help the Detroit Red Wings rally from a 3-1 deficit and beat the Chicago Blackhawks 6-4 in the NHL’s Winter Classic at Wrigley Field. Four other former Griffins appeared in the contest (Niklas Kronwall, Valtteri Filppula, Chris Chelios and Brett Lebda), while Chris Osgood and Tomas Kopecky saw no action.
Wed., Jan. 7 vs. Rockford IceHogs (19-14-0-3) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Fri., Jan. 9 vs. Philadelphia Phantoms (19-15-1-1) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
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