This Week’s Games
Wed., Feb. 3 - GRIFFINS at Rockford IceHogs - 8:05 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com / Comcast Ch. 57 (Rockford)
Fri., Feb. 5 - Toronto Marlies at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., Feb. 6 - Houston Aeros at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Last Week’s Results
Fri., Jan. 29 - Chicago Wolves 3 at GRIFFINS 0 - 21-25-0-1, 43 pts. (T6th, North Division)
Sat., Jan. 30 - Rockford IceHogs 3 at GRIFFINS 2 - 21-26-0-1, 43 pts. (T6th)
Greet Gibby: An autograph session with former Detroit Tigers great Kirk Gibson prior to Saturday’s game against Houston highlights another packed promotional schedule for the Griffins this weekend. Fri. vs. Toronto: The popular Dollar Beers, Dollar Dogs promotion runs from 6-8 p.m. (while supplies last). College Night attendees can purchase lower bowl tickets for just $10, while special discounts on upper bowl tickets are available for fans that follow the Griffins on Facebook and Twitter. Sat. vs. Houston: Kirk Gibson will meet fans and sign autographs for one hour before the game, and the Griffins have teamed up with the West Michigan Whitecaps to offer the ultimate experience for local sports fans with the Double Play Pack. The package includes six specially priced upper level Griffins FLEX tickets; four specially priced reserved seat tickets to any Whitecaps game during the 2010 season; two VIP Passes to meet Gibson prior to the game (first 150 who purchase); and two Gibson 8x10 photo cards created especially for his autograph session with the Griffins, all for just $99! Visit griffinshockey.com/doubleplay for more information. An open skate and autograph session with Griffins players Doug Janik, Jakub Kindl and Kris Newbury will follow the game.
Welcome Faces: On Friday, the Detroit Red Wings assigned center Justin Abdelkader to Grand Rapids. The 2008-09 AHL All-Rookie Team selection, who shows six points (3-3—6), 35 penalty minutes and an average ice time of 10:35 through 50 games with Detroit this season, went scoreless in the Griffins’ two weekend games….Today, defenseman Andreas Lilja joined Grand Rapids on a conditioning stint. Lilja will make his Grand Rapids debut on Wednesday when the Griffins visit the Rockford IceHogs at 8:05 EST, and he is expected to play in the Griffins’ two home games this Friday and Saturday. A member of Detroit’s 2007-08 Stanley Cup champions, the 34-year-old Lilja has not played since sustaining a concussion on Feb. 28, 2009. He earned 13 points (2-11—13) and 66 penalty minutes in 60 games with the Red Wings last season. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound native of Helsingborg, Sweden, has skated in 458 NHL contests between Los Angeles (45), Florida (135) and Detroit (278), collecting 72 points (14-58—72) and 497 PIM. Lilja, a second-round pick by the Kings (54th overall) in the 2000 Entry Draft, shows 37 points (7-30—37) in 65 career AHL games with Lowell (61) and Manchester (4), with whom he made his last AHL appearance in 2001-02.
It Had to be Youth: Two fundraisers last weekend helped raise nearly $30,000 for the Griffins Youth Foundation. The annual Great Skate Winterfest at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids netted an estimated $13,000, while the special jerseys designed by Brian Oesch (the second winner of last summer’s jersey design contest) that were worn during Saturday’s game garnered $14,600 in a post-game auction. Through April 30, fans can still make a donation toward their favorite Griffins player’s participation in the Great Skate by visiting griffinshockey.com/greatskate.
Within Striking Distance: Despite posting a 4-16-0-1 mark over the last seven weeks, the Griffins remarkably sit only six points behind Abbotsford and the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division. To claim that position, they’ll also need to climb over fifth-place Lake Erie and sixth-place Toronto, whom they trail by five and two points, respectively.
If Only We Played in the North Division...Oh, Wait: Of their 48 games thus far, the Griffins have played only 17 within the North Division, compiling a respectable 10-7-0-0 mark against their theoretical rivals. By contrast, they’ve staged 31 interdivisional contests against the West – the only division in which every team sports a winning slate – with an 11-19-0-1 record to show for it. Every other AHL team except Manitoba (18) has played at least 22 games against its own division, while all eight teams in the Atlantic have played between 35-43 games against their own kind. The Griffins won’t play the first of their four games against Manitoba until March 5, and after playing Abbotsford twice at home in last October, they won’t play at their division foe until April 2.
Unfamiliar Territory: During Curt Fraser’s seven previous seasons as a head coach in either the AHL or the original IHL, never did his teams miss the playoffs, finish fewer than 12 games above 0.500, or finish lower than third place in their division. In addition, the Griffins’ 26 regulation losses are already more than his teams sustained in five of his prior full seasons as a bench boss at this level.
Home Sweet Home?: Despite starting the season with eight straight wins at Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids is now one game under 0.500 at home (13-14-0-0) after dropping 11 of its last 12 within friendly confines. Beginning with a Feb. 9 game at Texas, they’ll play 18 of their final 29 contests on the road, where they own an 8-12-0-1 mark.
Unwelcome Visitors From Illinois That Aren’t Asian Carp: After beginning the season with a respectable 4-3-0-0 mark against their three rivals from the Land of Lincoln (through Dec. 14), the Griffins have since posted a combined record of 1-8-0-1 versus Chicago, Peoria and Rockford, including six straight losses by a cumulative score of 23-10. In the midst of playing five consecutive games against either the Wolves or IceHogs, Grand Rapids has lost four straight to Chicago, three straight to Rockford and three straight to Peoria (0-2-0-1).
How Quickly Things Can Change: The Griffins have managed as many wins in their last 21 games (4-16-0-1 from Dec. 15-Jan. 30) as they did in the five games that immediately preceded their skid (4-1-0-0 from Dec. 5-13). Entering play on Dec. 15, the Griffins were five points behind first-place Rochester in the North Division and boasted a winning percentage (0.630) that ranked fourth in the Western Conference and sixth in the AHL. Now on a six-game losing streak, they sit 26 points behind first-place Hamilton and six points out of a playoff spot, while possessing a winning percentage (0.448) that ranks 14th in the conference and 28th in the league.
Short Story: Once the only AHL team that had not scored a shorthanded goal this season, the Griffins have tallied three times while undermanned in their last seven games.
Take Me to Your Leaders: Several Griffins rank among the AHL’s statistical leaders, including Paul Crosty (123 penalty minutes, T17th), Jan Mursak (18 goals, T16th), Kris Newbury (125 PIM, 15th) and Francis Pare (plus-16, T18th).
Go for the Kill: By stifling Rockford’s only power play chance on Saturday, the Griffins’ penalty killing unit extended its flawless streak (12-for-12) to a season-high four games. Grand Rapids has killed off 23 of 25 (92.0%) opponent power play chances over the last seven games, after allowing 10 power play goals on 33 chances (69.7% PK) during the six games prior.
It’s Been a While: The Griffins’ 3-0 loss to Chicago on Friday marked the second time they’ve been shut out this season (0-2 at Texas on Oct. 15) and their first shutout loss at home since a 1-0 defeat to Hamilton on Dec. 31, 2007.
Harsh Penalty: Referee David Banfield awarded penalty shots to Chicago on Friday and Rockford on Saturday, making it the first time in their 14 seasons that the Griffins faced a penalty shot on consecutive nights. IceHogs sniper Akim Aliu converted his chance with just 2:35 remaining on Saturday to break a 2-2 tie, marking just the fourth successful try against the Griffins in their history and the first that accounted for the game-winning goal.
Climbing the Charts: With 249 games played in a Griffins uniform, Evan McGrath stands in eighth place on the franchise’s all-time list, just 15 shy of seventh-place Derek King (264). In addition, with 12 shootout goals and 26 shootout attempts, McGrath also ranks second and third (tied) all time, respectively in those categories…Jamie Tardif has tied Darryl Bootland for fifth all time on the club with 550 shots.
Milestones: Doug Janik, who appeared in his 600th professional game on Jan. 15, is six assists away from 100 in the AHL…Patrick Rissmiller is three games shy of 400 in the AHL…Jeremy Williams will play in his 300th AHL game with two more appearances.
Winter Potholes: Grand Rapids has won one of its last nine games, two of its last 12 contests and three of its last 18 outings…Only twice in their last 21 games have the Griffins limited their opposition to fewer than three goals (3-1 W vs. HAM on Jan. 16, 4-2 W at TEX on Dec. 19)…After giving up 75 goals in their first 27 games this season (2.78 GAA), the Griffins have surrendered 89 in their last 21 contests (4.24 GAA).
Wed., Feb. 3 at Rockford IceHogs (28-19-2-3) – Rockford MetroCentre – 8:05 p.m.
TV: Comcast Ch. 57 (Rockford) at 8 p.m. Radio: ESPN 96.1 FM at 7:35 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through griffinshockey.com. All-Time Series: 5-7-1-1 Overall, 2-2-1-1 Road. Season Series: 1-5-0-0 Overall, 1-1-0-0 Road. Seventh of eight meetings overall, third of fourth in Rockford. NHL Affiliation: Chicago Blackhawks. Head Coach: Bill Peters (2nd season). Notes: Wednesday’s contest will mark the Griffins’ fourth meeting with the IceHogs in their last seven games…Grand Rapids finished 0-4 on home ice against Rockford this season after posting a 3-1 mark from 2007-09…The IceHogs have gone 8-1-0-1 in their last 10 to move within two points of first-place Texas in the West Division race.
Fri., Feb. 5 vs. Toronto Marlies (18-22-5-4) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:35 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through griffinshockey.com. All-Time Series: 18-16-1-0 Overall, 10-6-1-0 Home. Season Series: 3-2-0-0 Overall, 1-1-0-0 Home. Sixth and final meeting overall, third and final in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Toronto Maple Leafs. Head Coach: Dallas Eakins (1st season). Notes: The Marlies broke a seven-game slide (0-5-2-0) with a 4-1 win at Van Andel Arena on Jan. 22…Former Griffin Joey MacDonald, who remains Grand Rapids’ all-time leader with 16 shutouts, made 24 saves to earn that victory in his first game against his former team…Toronto still owns the fewest road wins in the AHL (5-16-2-2)…The Marlies have been outscored by 43 goals (35-78) during the second period.
Sat., Feb. 6 vs. Houston Aeros (24-19-6-1) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:35 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through griffinshockey.com. All-Time Series: 32-25-6-2-6 Overall, 19-10-2-1-3 Home. Season Series: 2-1-0-0 Overall, 2-0-0-0 Home. Fourth of six meetings overall, third and final in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Minnesota Wild. Head Coach: Kevin Constantine (3rd season). Notes: Of the four current AHL head coaches with NHL head coaching experience, Houston’s Kevin Constantine (378 NHL games) and the Griffins’ Curt Fraser (279) are the most tenured…Daniel Larsson made 34 saves in a 2-0 home win over the Aeros on Oct. 29, Grand Rapids’ lone shutout of the season…Houston’s Maxim Noreau leads all AHL defensemen with 14 goals and 40 points.