03/19/2012 2:02 PM
This Week’s Games
Tue., March 20 - GRIFFINS at San Antonio Rampage - 8 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Thu., March 22 - GRIFFINS at San Antonio Rampage - 8 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., March 24 - GRIFFINS at Oklahoma City Barons - 8 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sun., March 25 - GRIFFINS at Oklahoma City Barons - 5 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Last Week’s Results
Tue., March 13 - GRIFFINS 5 at Texas Stars 2 - 27-23-6-4, 64 pts. (4th, North Division)
Fri., March 16 - Toronto Marlies 2 at GRIFFINS 0 - 27-24-6-4, 64 pts. (4th)
Sat., March 17 - Hamilton Bulldogs 3 at GRIFFINS 5 - 28-24-6-4, 66 pts. (4th)
The Right Path: The Griffins opened last week with a victory, closing out a season-high five-game road trip with consecutive wins over Houston and Texas. The Griffins beat the Stars 5-2 last Wednesday, paced by a pair of goals each from Chris Conner and Fabian Brunnstrom and a season-high 38 saves from goaltender Ty Conklin. Conklin was nearly perfect the following game, conceding only one goal in a 2-0 loss to the Toronto Marlies on Friday, as the Griffins saw a four-game home-winning streak come to an end. The team got back in the win column with a 5-3 victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs on Saturday, as Gustav Nyquist registered the first game-winning goal of his professional career as part of a three-point night (2-1—3) that saw him become the franchise’s all-time rookie scoring leader.
Playoff Picture: Grand Rapids begins this week tied for 11th place in the Western Conference with the Milwaukee Admirals at 66 points, five points behind the eighth-place Rochester Americans and the final playoff spot. Along with Milwaukee, Grand Rapids has played the fewest games in the AHL (62), meaning it can make up ground with four games coming in a six-day span from Tuesday to Sunday. The Griffins have one game in hand over the Americans, but they have as many as three in hand over other teams in the playoff hunt, including Lake Erie (71 points) and Abbotsford (73 points). The conference’s final four playoff spots (5-8) are separated by just two points, while nine teams (5-13) are separated by eight points.
On Tap: The Griffins will head southwest this week for pivotal road games against two teams from the West Division. The team will open the week in San Antonio, taking on the Rampage on Tuesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. EDT for their fifth and sixth consecutive road games in the state of Texas. They will barely leave the state for their next two road games against the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Barons on Saturday at 8 pm. EDT and Sunday at 5 p.m. EDT.
Alone at the Top: With his three-point performance in Saturday’s 5-3 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs, left wing Gustav Nyquist became the Griffins’ all-time rookie scoring leader. Nyquist, who has 58 points (22-36—58) in 56 games, surpassed Glen Metropolit (20-35—55 in 79 games in 1997-98) to take sole possession of the record. The Halmstad, Sweden, native is also two goals shy of tying Justin Abdelkader and Francis Pare (24 each in 2007-08) for the rookie goals record.
Offensive Onslaught: Continuing a season-long trend, the Griffins are currently one of the league’s highest scoring team, leading the Western Conference with 199 goals scored and a 3.21 goals-per-game average. Grand Rapids has scored five goals in each of its last three wins to improve to fourth place in the AHL in goals per game overall, trailing Norfolk, Hershey and St. John’s. The Griffins’ 115 goals at Van Andel Arena are the second most by any team at home this season, behind only Hershey (119). They lead the entire AHL with a 34.44 shot-per-game average, over one full shot (1.19) better than second-place Rockford. The team leads the AHL with 2,135 total shots, but they’ve also done their part to limit their opponents. They’re one of two teams (Norfolk) in the league to outshoot their opponent by over 100 in the third period this season (683-548) and are one of three teams (St. John’s and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) overall to have a 100-shot advantage over opponents in two periods, with a cumulative 717-594 advantage in the first period as well.
Travel Light: This week, the Griffins will play the final four games of a season-high nine road games in the month of March, as well as the final road games against teams outside the North Division. While Grand Rapids will still host three different non-divisional teams, it will only travel to Toronto (April 1 and 7), Rochester (April 10) and Hamilton (April 14 and 15) during the final three weeks of the regular season as they push for a playoff berth.
Bumpy Road Ahead: The Griffins have the hardest remaining schedule of the 15 teams in the Western Conference, as their opponents have a combined winning percentage of 0.579, slightly more challenging than the schedule of Texas (0.575). Rochester (0.529), Oklahoma City (0.531) and Lake Erie (0.531) have the easiest remaining schedules based on opponent’s winning percentage. The Griffins number is inflated due in part to three games each against Toronto and Oklahoma City – two teams they have done well against this season. Grand Rapids is 4-1 against the North Division-leading Marlies, with its first loss of the season series coming in a 2-0 shutout on Friday, and it is 2-3 against the West Division-leading Barons, with two of those losses coming by just one goal.
Making it in Motown: Grand Rapids begins this week with four players recalled to the parent Red Wings: left wing Gustav Nyquist, defensemen Doug Janik and Brendan Smith, and goaltender Jordan Pearce. Nyquist was recalled by Detroit on Sunday for the third time since March 8. The Halmstad, Sweden, native has three assists and two penalty minutes in eight games with Detroit this season to go along with 58 points (22-36—58) in 56 games with the Griffins. Janik has recorded one assist, a plus-two rating and six penalty minutes in seven games with the Red Wings since being recalled on March 5, while Smith has one goal, four assists, a plus-three rating and 13 penalty minutes in 12 contests with Detroit this season. Pearce has yet to see game action for Detroit, sporting a 3-7-1 record, a 3.53 goals against average and a 0.874 save percentage in 17 games with Grand Rapids.
Nestrasil Returns: The Red Wings on Monday reassigned right wing Andrej Nestrasil (NEHS-tra-shihl) to the Griffins from the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. A native of Prague, Czech Republic, Nestrasil was selected in the third round (75th overall) by the Red Wings in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. The first-year pro has 29 points (7-22—29) and 20 penalty minutes in 51 games with the Walleye this season. In his first stint with the Griffins, the 21-year-old forward recorded a goal and an assist in his second AHL game (Oct. 22 at Oklahoma City) and added a goal the following night (Oct. 23 at Houston). Nestrasil has three points (2-1—3), two penalty minutes and 17 shots in 11 games with the team overall.
Workhorse: Goaltender Ty Conklin has played every minute between the pipes since being assigned to the Griffins on Feb. 22. In addition to becoming the second goaltender in franchise history to start 5-0 (joining Mathieu Chouinard, who went 5-0 in 2000-01), he has helped the team earn points in nine of their last 12 games (8-3-1). The veteran NHL netminder has a 2.40 goals against average and a 0.915 save percentage in 12 games with Grand Rapids this season. In two of his four losses, Conklin has surrendered only one goal: March 4 at Hamilton (1-0 L) and last Friday versus Toronto (2-0 L, one empty net goal).
North Division Supremacy: After splitting back-to-back home games over the weekend to North Division opponents, Grand Rapids has a 16-6-1-1 record against its own division, the third-best winning percentage of any team in the AHL in divisional play. The Griffins have a 0.708 winning percentage within the North, trailing only Oklahoma City (0.750) and Norfolk (0.714). The team will play six of eight games within their own division in the month of April to close out the regular season.
5 Millionth Fan: Russ Campbell of Wyoming, Mich., became the 5 millionth fan in Griffins franchise history when he walked through the turnstiles about 30 minutes before Saturday’s 5-3 win versus Hamilton. Campbell, who attended the game with his children, Hunter and Autumn, received a prize package that included: a customized Griffins jersey with the numeral 5; five lower bowl tickets to every Griffins home game during the ensuing 5 million seconds (58 days); enough Marathon gas cards to travel 5 million feet, courtesy of J&H Family Stores ($150); 5 million microliters of Pepsi (5 liters); 5 million micrometers of hot dogs (32 packaged dogs); 5 million milligrams of Van Andel Arena popcorn (11 pounds); five tickets to Cirque du Soleil at Van Andel Arena; five entrees from Qdoba; five days of recognition on the griffinshockey.com splash page; and a 5 million microsecond (five second) standing ovation from Griffins fans during a second-period presentation.
Milestone Watch: Tomas Tatar recorded his 77th assist as a Griffin in Saturday’s 5-3 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs, tying him with Cory Emmerton for 10th place in franchise history…Francis Pare passed Dave Van Drunen on the team’s games played list when he suited up for his 281st game as a Griffin on Saturday. He is one game shy of tying Matt Ellis for seventh place and one assist away from 100 as a Griffin…Curt Fraser became the first head coach in franchise history to log 300 games with last Wednesday’s 5-2 win over Texas…Gustav Nyquist became the Griffins’ all-time rookie scoring leader with the first point of his three-point night against Hamilton on Saturday…Brent Raedeke set a new personal-best in points with his 14th point of the season the same night.
Tue., March 20 at San Antonio Rampage (33-26-3-1) – AT&T Center – 8 p.m.
Thu., March 22 at San Antonio Rampage – AT&T Center – 8 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 96.1 FM at 7:45 p.m. EDT (Tue.) and WOOD 106.9FM/1300 AM at 7:45 p.m. EDT (Thu.). Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through ESPN961.com (Tue.) and woodradio.com (Thu.). All-Time Series: 32-16-1-3-0 Overall, 16-8-0-1-0 Road. Season Series: 1-0-1-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Third and fourth of four meetings overall, first and second of two in San Antonio. NHL Affiliation: Florida Panthers. Head Coach: Chuck Weber (1st season). Notes: San Antonio is currently in 10th place in the Western Conference, just one point out of a playoff spot after losing three straight games…The Rampage are among the lowest scoring teams in the league, with 156 goals scored this season (28th), averaging 2.48 goals per game (27th)…San Antonio surrenders just 2.71 goals per game (9th), due in large part to goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris, who joined the Griffins briefly on a tryout last season but did not play. Grumet-Morris is fourth in the AHL with a 2.22 GAA and a 0.925 save percentage, alongside a 19-11-1 record and three shutouts…San Antonio’s Eric Selleck is fifth in the AHL with 182 penalty minutes…The Rampage average the third-fewest penalties per game at 13.48 minutes…The Rampage have struggled on special teams, with a power play that ranks 25th in the league (14.8 percent) and a penalty kill that ranks 24th (80.2 percent). The units are worse at home, sitting 30th in both power play (11.6) and penalty kill (78.0)…Jon Matsumoto leads San Antonio with 52 points (19-33—52) in 63 games, including 18 points (6-12—18) in 22 games since coming over from Charlotte via trade…Former Griffin Mark Cullen has 37 points (9-28—37) in 45 games with San Antonio this season. He became the 121st Griffins alumnus to suit up for an NHL game when he made his NHL return with Florida on Nov. 29 at Carolina.
Sat., March 24 at Oklahoma City Barons (39-17-4-5) – Cox Convention Center – 8 p.m.
Sun., March 25 at Oklahoma City Barons – Cox Convention Center – 5 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 106.9FM/1300 AM at 7:45 p.m. EDT (Sat.) and 4:45 p.m. EDT (Sun.) Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 4-3-1-1 Overall, 2-1-1-0 Road. Season Series: 2-3-0-0 Overall, 0-2-0-0 Road. Sixth and seventh of eight meetings overall, third and fourth of four in Oklahoma City. NHL Affiliation: Edmonton Oilers. Head Coach: Todd Nelson (2nd season). Notes: Oklahoma City is second in the AHL and first in the Western Conference with 87 points, eight points better than second-place Toronto…The Barons have the second-best points streak in the AHL at seven games (4-0-2-1), trailing only Norfolk, which is on an AHL-record 18-game winning streak…Oklahoma City goaltender Yann Danis ranks among AHL goaltending leaders with a 2.03 GAA (1st), a 0.924 save percentage (5th), 22 wins (5th) and five shutouts (T2nd), while backup goaltender David LeNeveu is eighth in the AHL with a 2.31 GAA along with a 16-10-3 record, a 0.915 save percentage and one shutout…Barons rookie forward Hunter Tremblay is tied for the AHL lead in shorthanded goals (5) and leads in shorthanded points (7)…Oklahoma City has the league’s third-best penalty kill overall at 84.9 percent and the second-best at home (88.8 percent)…Oklahoma City averages the fewest goals against per game (2.32) and the third-fewest shots per game (27.77)…The Barons have two former Griffins in Ryan Keller, who leads the team with 46 points (19-27—46) and a plus-21 rating that ranks fifth in the AHL, and Bryan Helmer, who has 22 points (2-20—22) in 60 games…Oklahoma City head coach Todd Nelson became the first player ever signed by the Griffins on July 24, 1996. The defenseman recorded 67 points (11-56—67) in 236 career games with Grand Rapids from 1996-02.
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