Ville Leino (left) and Darren Helm
This Week’s Games
Wed., March 4 - Rockford IceHogs at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Thu., March 5 - GRIFFINS at Houston Aeros - 8:05 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., March 7 - GRIFFINS at San Antonio Rampage - 8 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Last Week’s Results
Fri., Feb. 27 - GRIFFINS 5 at Syracuse Crunch 6 - 34-15-6-5, 79 pts. (2nd, North Division)
Sat., Feb. 28 - GRIFFINS 2 at Lake Erie Monsters 3 SO - 34-15-6-6, 80 pts. (2nd)
Sun., March 1 - GRIFFINS 5 at Toronto Marlies 4 - 35-15-6-6, 82 pts. (2nd)
The Battle Continues: With only six weeks remaining until the start of the 2009 Calder Cup Playoffs, the Griffins stand in second place in the North Division, five points in back of Manitoba with a game in hand and eight points ahead of Hamilton. Grand Rapids will carry a two-game point streak (1-0-0-1) into Wednesday’s home game against Rockford before visiting Texas for its only road games this season against Houston (Thu.) and San Antonio (Sat.).
Final Winning Wednesday: Fans who were in attendance for the Griffins’ 3-2 overtime win against Toronto on Jan. 21 can redeem their ticket stubs for a free ticket to Wednesday’s game against Rockford. Plus, if Grand Rapids defeats the IceHogs, all fans in attendance can redeem their ticket stubs for a free ticket to the Sunday, March 15 game vs. Milwaukee.
The Shortest Month, Thankfully: February marked the first losing month (5-6-0-2) this season for the Griffins, who were challenged by the loss of numerous players to either callups or injuries. Thirteen different players missed a total of 71 games during February, the equivalent of nearly 5.5 players being out of the lineup for each game. By way of comparison, the Griffins’ previous worst month for man-games lost had been January, when seven players missed a total of 31 games (2.2 per game). Darren Helm (Detroit), Ville Leino (Detroit) and Landon Wilson (Dallas) missed each of Grand Rapids’ 13 February games while on recall to the NHL.
Nice to See You Again: The Red Wings on Monday assigned forwards Darren Helm and Ville Leino to the Griffins and recalled right wing Aaron Downey and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson. Helm and Leino have missed the Griffins’ last 14 games and 16 games, respectively, while on recall to Detroit. Each has averaged more than 0.8 points per game for Grand Rapids this season, with Helm contributing 31 points (11-20—31) in 37 contests and Leino totaling 37 points (11-26—37) in 44 outings. Helm has appeared in a total of 16 games with the parent club this season, chipping in one assist while averaging 12:25 in ice time. Leino, meanwhile, made the most of his impressive NHL debut, scoring five goals and nine points and averaging 12:42 in playing time during his 13 games with the Wings. His 29.4 shooting percentage stands first among all Detroit players this season.
Mac’s Back: Darren McCarty is slated to make his first Van Andel Arena appearance since Nov. 26 on Wednesday when the Griffins host Rockford. In three games with Grand Rapids this season, the four-time Stanley Cup champion has contributed two assists and one shootout goal. During the 2007-08 campaign, McCarty logged 13 games with the Griffins, registering 10 points (5-5—10) and 21 penalty minutes. He has netted one goal and has 25 PIM through 13 appearances with the Red Wings this season.
AHL Player of the Week Nominee: The Griffins on Monday nominated right wing Darren Haydar for the Reebok/AHL Player of the Week award, after he contributed three goals, four assists and an even rating in three games last week. He tallied his first hat trick as a Griffin in Friday’s 6-5 loss at Syracuse, assisted on the goal that forced overtime in Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss at Lake Erie, then logged three helpers in Sunday’s 5-4 win at Toronto. Haydar now has points in 13 of his last 14 games (8-16—24).
Shining Star in a Dark Night: Darren Haydar’s hat trick on Friday in Syracuse marked just the fourth time ever and the second time in the last 12 seasons that a Griffin netted a hat trick in a regulation loss. The last time also occurred in Syracuse, when Jamie Tardif scored three goals in a 5-3 defeat on March 3, 2007.
Youth Shall Serve: Justin Abdelkader, the Griffins’ second-leading goal and point producer, ranks among the AHL’s rookie leaders with 44 points (3rd) and 20 goals (T4th), and he’s become just the third rookie in franchise history to eclipse 20 goals and 20 assists in a season. His 44 points are third all-time among Griffins rookies, 11 behind record-holder Glen Metropolit (1997-98), while his 20 goals are tied with Metropolit for fourth among first-year Griffins, just two behind leader Kevyn Adams (1996-97)…All-time among Griffins rookies, Francis Pare is tied for sixth with both 19 goals and 37 points.
Get Busy: Sunday’s game at Toronto concluded the Griffins’ seventh 3-in-3 of the season, a gauntlet the team will run four times over its final 15 games (starting March 13). Combined, Grand Rapids is 13-6-0-2 (0.667) when playing three times in as many nights and 17-6-0-1 (0.729) when playing four times in five nights.
Home Sweet Home: Grand Rapids’ 21-5-3-4 record at Van Andel Arena gives it the second-most home wins (tied), most home points (49) and fewest home regulation losses (tied) in the AHL. The Griffins have points in 17 of their last 20 (14-3-2-1) and 25 of their last 29 (19-4-3-3) home games. In addition, Grand Rapids’ 116 goals scored at home ranks second in the league (Hershey – 134).
Hitting the Road: Grand Rapids will be on the road for 11 of its final 18 regular season games. The stretch run will include a franchise-record eight-game road trip from March 22-April 5.
Honor Roll: Garrett Stafford has five assists in the last three games and has factored on the scoresheet in 10 of the last 14 contests (5-11—16)…Cory Emmerton has points in eight of the last 13 games (4-6—10)…Evan McGrath owns a three-game point streak (1-3—4)…Ryan Oulahen has three goals and five points in the last three games…Francis Pare has lit the lamp in consecutive games…Justin Abdelkader has six multi-point outings in his last 13 games (6-10—16) as well as points in 10 of 14 appearances (6-11—17) since returning from a two-game stint with Detroit…Darren Haydar has points in six straight games (4-9—13), 23 of the last 27 contests (11-26—37) and 30 of the last 37 outings (14-31—45)…Darren McCarty had an assist in both games he appeared in last weekend.
Take Me to Your Leaders: Several Griffins rank among the AHL’s individual leaders: Darren Haydar – T4th points (63), T9th goals (24), 6th assists (39), 1st power play points (34), T4th power play goals (13), T8th power play assists (21); Justin Abdelkader – 3rd rookie points (44), T4th rookie goals (20), T10 rookies assists (24); Cory Emmerton – T12th rookie assists (23), T2nd among rookies in shootout-winning goals (2); Francis Pare – T6th rookie goals (19), 15th rookie points (37), 18th overall and 5th among rookies in shooting percentage (0.194), 6th rookie plus/minus (+14); Garrett Stafford – T5th defenseman points (35), T5th defenseman goals (10); Jakub Kindl – 17th defenseman points (30); Jimmy Howard – T17th save percentage (0.913), T7th shutouts (3); and Daniel Larsson – T11th wins (19), T2nd shutouts (5).
M*A*S*H Report: Last Friday, Jonathan Ericsson returned to the Griffins’ lineup for the first time since Jan. 31, after missing 11 straight games due to injury. Francis Lemieux (four games), Tom Galvin (two) and Jimmy Howard (two) have also been sidelined recently due to various injuries.
Milestones: The first of Ryan Oulahen’s two goals on Sunday in Toronto made him the 12th player in Griffins history to reach 50 goals and marked his 100th point in a Grand Rapids uniform (51-51—102). The game was his 291st as a Griffin, moving him within two of third-place Darryl Bootland (293) on the team’s all-time games played list…Jamie Tardif (45-52—97) is three points away from 100 as a pro.
Enjoy It While It Lasts: After staging five consecutive home games in a nine-day span from March 13-21, the Griffins will play only one of their final 10 regular season contests within the friendly confines of Van Andel Arena. They’ll embark on a franchise-record eight-game road trip that begins March 22 in Lake Erie and concludes April 5 in Rochester, before hosting Hamilton in their home finale on April 10.
Come One, Come All: The Griffins stand third in the AHL in attendance with an average of 6,953, which represents a year-to-date increase of 4.9% over the first 33 home contests of 2007-08 (6,627). The team’s total attendance of 229,455 is its highest through 33 home games in six years, since the 2002-03 campaign (232,560).
Wed., March 4 vs. Rockford IceHogs (32-24-0-5) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:59 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast ($6 at AHLLive.com) and audio web cast (free at woodradio.com) available through griffinshockey.com. All-Time Series: 3-2-1-1 Overall, 2-1-0-0 Home. Season Series: 2-0-1-0 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Home. Fourth of four meetings overall, second of two in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Chicago Blackhawks. Head Coach: Bill Peters (1st season). Notes: The IceHogs are tied for second in the West Division with Chicago, 13 points behind first-place Milwaukee…After losing their first three games (0-2-0-1) to Rockford last season, the Griffins have gone 3-0-1-0 in their last four meetings…Rockford goalies Antti Niemi (2.41 GAA, T8th) and Corey Crawford (2.54 GAA, T16th) both place among the league’s best…Former Griffin Danny Groulx (2002-05) is seventh among AHL defensemen with 35 points (5-30—35).
Thu., March 5 at Houston Aeros (29-23-1-8) – Toyota Center – 8:05 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:59 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast ($6 at AHLLive.com) and audio web cast (free at wtkg.com) available through griffinshockey.com. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 30-23-6-2-6 Overall, 13-13-4-1-3 Road. Season Series: 1-0-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Second of two meetings overall, first and only in Houston. NHL Affiliation: Minnesota Wild. Head Coach: Kevin Constantine (2nd season). Notes: The Griffins and Aeros haven’t met since Nov. 11, when Daniel Larsson made 16 saves to record a 1-0 shutout at Van Andel Arena…Houston is 7-2 in its last nine games…Corey Locke’s 60 points (20-40—60) place him eighth in the AHL scoring race…The Aeros boast the league’s third-best power play (21.1%) and fifth-ranked penalty kill (85.7%), each one spot below the Griffins’ standing.
Sat., March 7 at San Antonio Rampage (25-33-2-4) – AT&T Center – 8 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:35 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast ($6 at AHLLive.com) and audio web cast (free at woodradio.com) available through griffinshockey.com. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 27-10-1-1-0 Overall, 13-5-0-1-0 Road. Season Series: 1-0-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Second of two meetings overall, first and only in San Antonio. NHL Affiliation: Phoenix Coyotes. Head Coach: Greg Ireland (2nd season). Notes: San Antonio head coach Greg Ireland led the Griffins to a 109-65-8-10 record from 2004-07…Since suffering through a 17-game winless streak (0-16-0-1) from Oct. 26-Nov. 29, the Rampage have gone 23-13-2-3 to climb within 11 points of a playoff spot in the West Division…In their only previous meeting this season, Grand Rapids prevailed 5-4 over the Rampage on Feb. 22 at Van Andel Arena.