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IT ALL STARTS HERE

Griffins captain Jamie Tardif


This Week’s Game
Sat., Oct. 3 - GRIFFINS at Peoria Rivermen - 8 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM / AHLLive.com

It All Starts Here: The Griffins will take to the ice for the first time this Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT, when they open the 2009-10 regular season at Carver Arena against the Peoria Rivermen. Grand Rapids, which closed out the 2008-09 regular season with a 5-2 loss at Peoria on April 11, enters its 14th season overall, its ninth in the AHL, and its eighth as the Detroit Red Wings’ top development club.

A Long Time Coming: After starting the season with five straight road games, the Griffins will make their Van Andel Arena debut on Friday, Oct. 23 against the Abbotsford Heat at 7 p.m., the start of an unprecedented three-game weekend to open their home schedule. Single-game tickets for all 40 home games are now on sale at all Star Tickets outlets, including the Zone and Meijer stores, or online through griffinshockey.com, while group, full-season and mini-plan ticket packages are available by calling the Griffins at (616) 774-4585.

For Starters: Grand Rapids is 9-2-2-0 all time both in season openers and road openers. The Griffins, who kicked off last season with a 4-3 overtime loss at Lake Erie on Oct. 11, 2008, have earned points in each of their last 10 road debuts (8-0-2-0) as well as in six straight season openers (4-0-2-0).

At the Helm: Griffins general manager Bob McNamara begins his 14th season with the club. Curt Fraser starts his second season as head coach following last year’s 43-25-6-6 campaign in which the Griffins finished third in the North Division, earned their first-ever playoff upset by defeating Hamilton in the opening round, then lost to eventual Calder Cup runner-up Manitoba in the North Division Finals. Assistant coach Jim Paek returns for his fifth season, making him the longest-tenured coach in franchise history.

And Colorado Makes 30: When defenseman Kyle Quincey skated onto the ice Thursday night during the Colorado Avalanche's 5-2 season-opening win against San Jose at Denver's Pepsi Center, it marked a milestone for the Griffins franchise. Colorado became the 30th and final NHL club for which a former Griffin has played since the team's inception in 1996. Quincey, who made his NHL debut with Detroit on a recall from Grand Rapids on Nov. 25, 2005, joined the Avalanche in a July trade from Los Angeles, setting the stage for the achievement. Since Pavol Demitra suited up for the St. Louis Blues on March 17, 1997 to become the first Grand Rapids alum to play in the NHL, 101 others have graduated from the Griffins, most recently Detroit's Ville Leino on Jan. 31, 2009.

NHL Alumni: The NHL’s 30 season-opening rosters contain the names of 26 former Griffins, including 12 who are currently playing for the Detroit Red Wings: Justin Abdelkader, Jonathan Ericsson, Valtteri Filppula, Darren Helm (IR), Jimmy Howard, Niklas Kronwall, Daniel Larsson, Brett Lebda, Ville Leino, Derek Meech, Chris Osgood and Jason Williams. Abdelkader, Ericsson, Helm, Howard, Larsson and Leino all played entirely or primarily for the Griffins last season, before the quartet of Abdelkader, Ericsson, Helm and Leino gained national attention by recording two points apiece during the Red Wings’ loss to Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Late Roster Changes: After submitting their official 24-man roster to the AHL on Thursday, the Griffins made two roster moves on Friday. Center Cory Emmerton was assigned to the Griffins by the Red Wings after being activated from Detroit’s injured reserve list, while forward Dan Charleston was released from his professional tryout.

Who Will Step Up?: The Griffins begin the 2009-10 season without the services of their top two point producers from last season (Lake Erie’s Darren Haydar and Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader), as well as nos. five (Detroit’s Ville Leino), six (Texas’ Garrett Stafford) and eight (Detroit’s Darren Helm). In addition, for the first time since the 2004-05 season, Grand Rapids will look to someone other than Jimmy Howard to carry the load in goal, as he is now backing up Chris Osgood in Detroit.

Detroit Exports: Nineteen Red Wings-contracted players are on the Griffins’ 24-man roster, including goaltenders Thomas McCollum and Jordan Pearce; defensemen Andy Delmore, Travis Ehrhardt, Doug Janik, Jakub Kindl, Sergei Kolosov, Sebastien Piche and Logan Pyett; and forwards Dick Axelsson, Cory Emmerton, Evan McGrath, Jan Mursak, Kris Newbury, Francis Pare, Mattias Ritola, Jamie Tardif, Tomas Tatar and Jeremy Williams.

Signed and Sealed: Five players on the current roster are under contract to the Griffins, including forward/defenseman Paul Crosty (PTO) and forwards Francis Lemieux, Brad May (PTO), John Vigilante and Mike Walsh (PTO).

Waiting in the Wings: 2008-09 AHL All-Rookie center Justin Abdelkader and 2009 AHL All-Star Classic goaltender Daniel Larsson have started the season in Detroit but should make significant contributions to the Griffins this season, while Ryan Oulahen is expected to miss the first several months of this season while continuing his rehabilitation from a dislocated hip suffered on March 27 in Norfolk.

Fresh Faces: Half of the Griffins’ 24-man roster is comprised of players who skated elsewhere in 2008-09. Here’s a brief look at the 12 newcomers:
• Dick Axelsson – Drafted by the Red Wings in 2006, this left wing makes his North American debut after helping Farjestads capture the championship of the Swedish Elite League last season.
• Paul Crosty – A fourth-year pro who can play as either a defenseman or forward, he accumulated 451 penalty minutes in just 130 games with AHL Manchester over the last three seasons.
• Andy Delmore – An offensive force who led all NHL defensemen with 14 power play goals in 2002-03 (Nashville) and was named the AHL’s outstanding defenseman in 2005-06 (Syracuse), he returns from two seasons in Germany with 283 NHL games and a 1998 Calder Cup (Philadelphia) on his resume.
• Travis Ehrhardt – A rookie who made his AHL debut late last season with Manitoba and subsequently signed with Detroit, he led WHL Portland’s defensemen with nine goals, 28 assists and 37 points in 68 games during 2008-09.
• Doug Janik – The veteran defenseman, who played for the PlanetUSA squad at the 2004 AHL All-Star Classic in Grand Rapids, appeared in 161 NHL games over his first eight seasons, most recently logging 15 games between Dallas and Montreal in 2008-09.
• Brad May – Currently working out with the Griffins on a tryout, the veteran of 18 NHL seasons has never played a game in the minors. The 2007 Stanley Cup champion (with Anaheim) appeared in his 1,000th NHL contest on April 8, 2009 with Toronto, becoming the 243rd player in history to reach that milestone.
• Thomas McCollum – One of two first-round Detroit picks on the Griffins’ roster (Jakub Kindl), the highly touted rookie led the OHL with seven shutouts last season and placed second with a 2.11 GAA and a 0.927%. He played in the OHL All-Star Game, was named a Second-Team All-Star, and led Brampton to the league finals.
• Kris Newbury – After posting a career-high 22 goals and 59 points during his last full AHL campaign in 2005-06, the 2007 Canadian AHL All-Star split time between Toronto’s NHL and AHL squads the last three seasons, appearing in 44 games with the Maple Leafs.
• Sebastien Piche – A brilliant 2008-09 season with QMJHL Rimouski prompted the Red Wings to sign this prolific rookie defenseman, who was named a Second-Team All-Star after leading all QMJHL blueliners with 23 goals and 72 points.
• Tomas Tatar – After making a strong impression during the Red Wings’ prospect tournament and training camp, the 18-year-old Slovakian becomes the first Detroit draft pick (2nd choice, 60th overall in 2009) to begin the season with the Griffins in the same year he was drafted.
• John Vigilante – The Dearborn, Mich., native played a career-high 76 AHL games between Syracuse and Quad City in 2008-09, following a pair of campaigns with AHL Milwaukee highlighted by a 2007-08 season in which he placed fourth on the Admirals in both assists (31) and points (46).
• Jeremy Williams – A Toronto farmhand and part-time Maple Leaf over the last five years, he scored a career-high 32 goals last season (27 for the Marlies, five for the Leafs) and ranked fourth in the AHL with 19 power play goals.

Welcome Back: Twelve players from the Griffins’ 2008-09 edition are on their season-opening roster: goaltender Jordan Pearce; defensemen Jakub Kindl, Sergei Kolosov and Logan Pyett; and forwards Cory Emmerton, Francis Lemieux, Evan McGrath, Jan Mursak, Francis Pare, Mattias Ritola, Jamie Tardif and Mike Walsh.

Oh Captain, My Captain: Jamie Tardif has been named the Griffins’ captain for the 2009-10 season, while Doug Janik and Evan McGrath will serve as alternate captains.

Tell Me What It Takes: Several players and coaches for the Griffins have won major championships in North America at the pro, college or major junior level. Jakub Kindl and Mattias Ritola served as “black aces” for the Red Wings during their Stanley Cup run in 2008, while Brad May won the cup with Anaheim in 2007. Other cup winners include assistant coach Jim Paek (Stanley Cup – 1991 and 1992 Pittsburgh, IHL Turner Cup – 1989 Muskegon and 1999 Houston), Andy Delmore (Calder Cup – 1998 Philadelphia), Doug Janik (NCAA – 1999 Maine), Francis Lemieux (Calder Cup – 2007 Hamilton) and Evan McGrath (CHL Memorial Cup – 2003 Kitchener).

Do You Feel a Draft?: Sixteen of the Griffins’ 24 players were once selected in the NHL Entry Draft, including 10 who were tabbed by the Red Wings. Brad May (14th overall by Buffalo in 1990), Jakub Kindl (19th overall by Detroit in 2005) and Thomas McCollum (30th overall by Detroit in 2008) were each chosen in the first round, while Jeremy Williams was taken by Toronto with the 220th pick in 2003.

NHL Experience: Six Griffins have combined to play 1,522 regular season games in the National Hockey League, including 85 contests last season: Brad May (1,001/58), Andy Delmore (283/0), Doug Janik (161/15), Kris Newbury (44/1), Jeremy Williams (31/11) and Mattias Ritola (2/0).

Veteran Roll Call: AHL clubs may dress up to five veteran skaters with more than 260 games of experience in the NHL, AHL or European Elite leagues, plus another with 320 or fewer games played. The Griffins currently have five veterans in Andy Delmore, Doug Janik, Brad May, Kris Newbury and Jeremy Williams, all of whom are in their first seasons with the club. Once he returns from injury, long-time Griffin Ryan Oulahen will be designated as the under-320 player.

One For the Ages: The average age of the Griffins is 24 years and five months, one month younger than the average for their 2008-09 opening roster. Brad May (37) and Andy Delmore (32) are the only players over 30, while Tomas Tatar (18), Thomas McCollum (19) and Travis Ehrhardt (20) have yet to reach their 21st birthdays. Twelve of the Griffins’ 24 players are 22 or younger. 

Where Are They Now?: Nineteen players from last season’s playoff roster now find themselves in other locales, including Detroit (Justin Abdelkader, Jonathan Ericsson, Darren Helm-IR, Jimmy Howard, Daniel Larsson and Ville Leino), AHL Lake Erie (Darren Haydar), AHL Texas (Aaron Gagnon and Garrett Stafford), ECHL Cincinnati (Jason Jozsa), Sweden’s Frolunda (Joakim Andersson), OHL Erie (Zack Torquato), OHL Kingston (Brian Lashoff) and WHL Edmonton (Brent Raedeke). In addition, Dan Charleston, Aaron Downey, Tom Galvin and Darren McCarty are free agents, while Brett Peterson has retired.

Griffins’ Coaching Cradle: Six former players or coaches for the Griffins are currently involved in hockey operations with other AHL squads, including Abbotsford assistant coach Jared Bednar (1998-99), Providence assistant coach Bruce Cassidy (HC 2000-02), San Antonio head coach Greg Ireland (AC/HC 2003-07), Toronto assistant coach Derek King (1999-01, 2002-04), Lake Erie general manager David Oliver (2000-01), and Norfolk head coach Darren Rumble (1998-00).

Attendance Notables: When the Griffins make their Van Andel Arena debut on Oct. 23 versus Abbotsford, they will attempt to sell out their home opener for the 14th consecutive season…The Griffins concluded their 2008-09 regular season home slate with four consecutive sellouts, giving them a season-ending attendance of 297,905 (7,448 avg.), their highest since drawing 328,919 during the 2000-01 season. Grand Rapids has enjoyed three straight seasons of increased attendance for the first time in franchise history after finishing with its largest percentage increase ever from one season to the next (8.0%, or exactly 22,000 more fans than 2007-08). The Griffins finished third in the AHL in attendance last year, their highest ranking in eight seasons of league membership.

Scouting Report

Sat., Oct. 3 at Peoria Rivermen – Carver Arena – 8 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:35 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through griffinshockey.com. All-Time Series: 11-11-1-1 Overall, 6-6-0-0 Road. Season Series: First of eight meetings overall, first of four in Peoria. NHL Affiliation: St. Louis Blues. Head Coach: Davis Payne (2nd season). Notes: In 2008-09, the Rivermen finished second in the West Division and fifth in the Western Conference with a 43-31-2-4 mark, before losing to Houston in seven games in the West Division Semifinals…Grand Rapids forwards Francis Pare (3-3—6 in 6 GP) and Evan McGrath (3-2—5 in 5 GP) each averaged a point per game in last year’s season series against Peoria, while Rivermen defenseman Jonas Junland (5-3—8 in 6 GP) led all scorers.


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