04/03/2012 2:05 PM
This Week’s Games
Wed., April 4 - Texas Stars at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Fri., April 6 - Toronto Marlies at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Sat., April 7 - GRIFFINS at Toronto Marlies - 3 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Last Week’s Results
Fri., March 30 - Charlotte Checkers 5 at GRIFFINS 3 - 30-27-6-4, 70 pts. (4th, North Division)
Sat., March 31 - Oklahoma City Barons 2 at GRIFFINS 6 - 31-27-6-4, 72 pts. (4th)
Sun., April 1 - GRIFFINS 2 at Toronto Marlies 4 - 31-28-6-4, 72 pts. (4th)
Fast Starts: The Griffins got out to a 2-0 lead or better in each of their three games in three days this past weekend. On Friday, the team hosted Charlotte for the second time ever and saw their career record against the Checkers fall to 0-4, dropping a 5-3 decision to the visitors. Tomas Tatar and Brent Raedeke got the team out to the early lead, but Charlotte rallied with four straight goals for the victory. The following night, Grand Rapids took on Oklahoma City, and it made no mistake in getting out to a 4-0 lead – due largely to Chris Minard’s third hat trick of the season – and holding on for a 6-2 against the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Barons. On Sunday, the Griffins appeared destined for overtime while visiting the North Division-leading Marlies, but Nazem Kadri scored his 17th goal of the season with 52 seconds remaining to break a 2-2 tie and give Toronto the eventual 4-2 victory.
No Answers Yet: With less than two weeks to go in the regular season, only Oklahoma City can rest easy in the Western Conference, knowing that it has already clinched a playoff berth with 93 points. Toronto is right on the Barons’ heels at 89 points, but the remaining six playoff seeds (3-8) are separated by just four points, and eight points separate nine teams (5-13). The Griffins are six points out of a playoff spot, but they hold games in hand over five of the seven teams directly ahead of them in the standings. The Griffins are 13th in the conference with 72 points, two points behind Milwaukee (68 games played) and four behind Rochester (69 GP) and Rockford (71 GP). Peoria currently holds the eighth and final playoff spot at 78 points, even in points with ninth-place Lake Erie, but Grand Rapids had two and three games in hand over those teams, respectively.
On Tap: Grand Rapids will play two of their three remaining home games this week, beginning with a Wednesday contest against the Texas Stars at 7 p.m. The team will then play the Toronto Marlies twice in the span of 20 hours, with the first game of a home-and-home set coming at Van Andel Arena on Friday at 7 p.m. Both clubs will depart immediately following the game for an afternoon contest in Toronto on Saturday at 3 p.m. The games will mark the second and third times that the Griffins and Marlies will face off during the first seven days of April.
Promotions: Wednesday’s contest versus the Texas Stars is the Griffins’ final “Winning Wednesday” of the season. All fans who were in attendance for the Griffins’ 4-2 win over Hamilton on Feb. 22 can redeem their ticket stub for a free ticket to this game, as the Griffins look to improve on their 5-1-1-1 home Wednesday record this season. Tickets can be redeemed at The Zone during business hours (M-F 10-6; Sat 10-12) and at the box office before the game. Additionally, the first 300 fans to visit the Amway table in Section A will receive a t-shirt. There will also be a buy-one, get-one-free deal on 16 oz. Pepsi drinks all night long at any concession stand that sells fountain drinks. Fans who present their Grand Rapids Public Library or Kent District Library card at the Van Andel Arena box office on the day of the game or at The Zone anytime during the store’s regular business hours can save $7 off the price of a Lower Level Faceoff ticket (regularly $18 in advance and $20 the day of game). Limit four tickets per card per person, subject to availability. Following the game, players and staff will head to Peppino’s Sports Grille, home of the Griffins’ Wednesday post-game parties. Friday’s game versus Toronto will feature $1 hot dogs and $1 domestic drafts from 6-8 p.m., while supplies last. Fans can ride the Rapid to and from the game and enjoy complimentary fare by showing their ticket. Visit ridetherapid.org for schedule information, routes and maps. College students can show their ID to purchase a lower bowl ticket for $13 (or $11 in advance at The Zone) and stop by the McFadden’s concourse table to receive a free pass to the post-game party at McFadden’s. Finally, with a ticket in the Griffins WGRD D-Zone, fans can avoid concession lines and get $1 beers and $1 hot dogs served to their seats. Visit griffinshockey.com/dzone to purchase D-Zone tickets.
Veteran Savvy: Chris Minard recorded his third hat trick of the season – and his fourth as a Griffin – during Saturday’s 6-2 victory over the Oklahoma City Barons. His first goal of the game was his 18th of the season, surpassing his total goal output in 79 games last season in just his 31st game this year, while his third goal marked his 20th of the campaign, giving him 20 goals seasons in eight of his 10 professional seasons. Minard totaled four points (3-1—4) that night, along with Chris Conner (0-4—4), to equal the highest total of any Griffin in one game this season. Minard has 31 points (20-11—31) in 32 games after returning from a concussion that kept him out of the team’s first 36 contests.
Youth is Served: Newcomer Riley Sheahan found the scoresheet twice during his fifth professional game on Saturday versus Oklahoma City, first assisting on a goal by Landon Ferraro and then knocking home a loose puck in the slot for his first professional tally to put the team up 5-1 midway through the third period. The St. Catharines, Ontario, native joined the Griffins on March 20 after finishing his junior season with the University of Notre Dame. Grand Rapids also welcomed defenseman Adam Almquist last week, and he made his North American debut on Friday versus Charlotte after logging 122 professional games with HV 71 in Sweden, recording 35 points (5-30—35) and 68 penalty minutes.
Light the Lamp: The Griffins begin this week as the third-highest scoring team in the AHL, averaging 3.23 goals per game, up from fifth place last week. They trail only Norfolk (3.60) and Hershey (3.33), while passing St. John’s (3.20) and Syracuse (3.20) with the 10 goals they registered in three games last week. Grand Rapids also leads the AHL with a 34.04 shot-per-game average, ahead of second-place Rockford (33.39).
Strong to the Finish: Grand Rapids has been one of the best third period teams in the AHL, scoring more goals in the third period (76) than the first (70) or second (70). Its 76 third period goals are the second-most in the AHL, trailing only Norfolk (91). Additionally, the Griffins’ 59 goals against in the third period are fewer than they’ve allowed in the first (63) or second (89), and it ranks as the ninth-fewest surrendered of any AHL team in the third period, as well as the second-best third period goal differential (17) of any team besides Norfolk (37).
Crowded Locker Room: With 30 players on the roster, the Griffins are currently carrying their largest group of players of the season. The team currently has four players (Richard Nedomlel, Alan Quine, Riley Sheahan and Ryan Sproul), all draft picks of the parent Red Wings, on amateur tryouts. On Sunday, the team summoned three players from the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye, after the conclusion of their season on Saturday. The Red Wings reassigned defenseman Gleason Fournier from Toledo to Grand Rapids, while the Griffins recalled defenseman Bryan Rufenach and forward Mike Thomas, who was acquired in a Jan. 19 trade from Springfield.
Divisional Days: The Griffins are 16-7-1-1 against the North Division this season, sitting third in the AHL with a 0.680 winning percentage within their own division. The club trails only the top two teams in the AHL in that category: Oklahoma City (0.758) and Norfolk (0.714). Grand Rapids has played fewer divisional contests (25) than all but four other AHL teams: Adirondack (21), Albany (22), St. John’s (24) and Syracuse (24). It has five games left against North Division rivals – more remaining divisional games than any team except Charlotte, which has six left. The Griffins will play two of those five games this weekend in a home-and-home against Toronto, before visiting Rochester once more and Hamilton twice to close the season.
Workhorse: Tom McCollum has started a career-high seven straight games for the Griffins, logging every minute in net for the team since Ty Conklin was summoned to Detroit on March 21. The third-year pro has posted a 0.909 save percentage in those seven games, and all three of his wins in that stretch have come while seeing 40 or more shots: March 20 at San Antonio (41 saves), March 25 at Oklahoma City (a career-high 43 saves) and March 31 vs. Oklahoma City (38 saves). McCollum has also been named a star of the game in three of those contests, earning first star honors once (March 25) and third star in each of his past two games (March 31 and April 1 at Toronto).
The Road Ahead: Of the 15 teams in the Western Conference, the Griffins entered last week with the second most challenging schedule, as their opponents had a combined winning percentage of 0.569. After taking on Charlotte (fifth in the conference) and two division leaders in Oklahoma City and Toronto last week, the Griffins enter this week with the ninth hardest schedule at 0.553 percent, while still looking at two games against the North Division-leading Marlies this weekend. Abbotsford currently has the most difficult remaining schedule (0.587), followed by Texas (0.576) and Peoria (0.572), while Lake Erie (0.532), Oklahoma City, Rochester and Toronto (0.539) have the easiest remaining schedule.
Milestone Watch: Tomas Tatar entered the Griffins’ all-time points leaderboard when he tied Tomas Kopecky for 10th place in franchise history with 139 points on Saturday…Logan Pyett overtook Dave Van Drunen for ninth place all-time in games played with 281 on Sunday, sitting just two shy of passing Matt Ellis for eighth now…Brendan Smith tallied his 50th pro assist on Friday versus Charlotte and logged his 200th AHL penalty minute the following night versus Oklahoma City…Francis Pare passed Jiri Hudler for fifth all-time in points on Friday (currently sitting at 183) and tied Jamie Tardif for second in franchise history with 79 goals on Sunday…Joakim Andersson is two points shy of 100 as a pro.
Wed., April 4 vs. Texas Stars (25-28-2-2) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 96.1 FM at 6:45 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through ESPN961.com. All-Time Series: 7-5-1-2 Overall, 3-2-0-2 Home. Season Series: 1-1-1-0 Overall, 0-1-0-0 Home. Fourth of four meetings overall, second of two in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Dallas Stars. Head Coach: Jeff Pyle (1st season). Notes: Texas is currently last in the Western Conference with 64 points…The Stars are led in scoring by Travis Morin, who is tied for seventh in the league with 62 points (12-50—62) in 70 games…Rookie forward Matt Fraser is second in the AHL with 33 goals and tied for fourth with 227 shots. Fraser is sixth in rookie scoring with 51 points (33-18—51) in 67 games…Goaltender Jack Campbell has given Texas a boost since coming over after his OHL season, posting a 3-2 record, a 2.80 goals against average, a 0.920 save percentage and one shutout in six contests…Stars forward Colton Sceviour is third in the AHL with 233 shots…Texas has earned the AHL’s fewest points on the road (27), with a 13-20-0-1 record…The Stars have the seventh-best power play in the league at 19.3 percent…Texas is the least penalized team in the AHL, averaging 12.97 minutes per game and having spent only 908 minutes in the penalty box…Stars forward Mike Hedden skated in three games with the Griffins last year, recording one assist…Texas head coach Jeff Pyle was briefly an assistant for the Griffins in 1997-98, stepping behind the bench for the final 20 games of the season.
Fri., April 6 vs. Toronto Marlies (41-23-4-3) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Sat., April 7 at Toronto Marlies – Ricoh Coliseum – 3 p.m.
TV: Rogers TV (Toronto) at 3 p.m. (Sat.). Radio: ESPN 96.1 FM at 6:45 p.m. (Fri.) and 2:45 p.m. (Sat.). Web Casts: Video web casts at AHLLive.com, free audio available through ESPN961.com. All-Time Series: 26-20-1-1 Overall, 15-8-1-0 Home, 11-12-0-1 Road. Season Series: 4-2-0-0 Overall, 2-1-0-0 Home, 2-1-0-0 Road. Seventh and eighth of eight meetings overall, fourth of four in Grand Rapids, fourth of four in Toronto. NHL Affiliation: Toronto Maple Leafs. Head Coach: Dallas Eakins (3rd season). Notes: Toronto has surrendered 162 goals this season, the fewest in the AHL…The Marlies are second in the Western Conference with 89 points, four points behind Oklahoma City…Toronto has won three straight and eight of its last 10, the best in the Western Conference…Marlies center Mike Zigomanis is tied for 10th in the AHL with 61 points (19-42—61) in 68 games…Toronto goaltender Ben Scrivens is first in the league with a 2.07 goals against average and third with a 0.925 save percentage, but he is currently with the parent Maple Leafs…Toronto has earned more points at home (48) than any team except Norfolk (50), with a 22-10-3-1 record at Ricoh Coliseum…The Marlies have the best penalty killing in the AHL (87.9 percent) but the worst power play (13.9 percent)…Toronto allows the third-fewest shots per game (27.89).
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