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IT'S NOW OR NEVER

This Week’s Games
Tue., April 10 - GRIFFINS at Rochester Americans - 7:05 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com

Fri., April 13 - Chicago Wolves at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com

Sat., April 14 - GRIFFINS at Hamilton Bulldogs - 7 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com

Sun., April 15 - GRIFFINS at Hamilton Bulldogs - 3 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com

Last Week’s Results
Wed., April 4 - Texas Stars 2 at GRIFFINS 4 - 32-28-6-4, 74 pts. (4th, North Division)

Fri., April 6 - Toronto Marlies 4 at GRIFFINS 2 - 32-29-6-4, 74 pts. (4th)


Sat., April 7 - GRIFFINS 2 at Toronto Marlies 3 OT - 32-29-7-4, 75 pts. (4th)

The Week That Was
: The Griffins opened last week on a high note, beating the Texas Stars 4-2 on Wednesday at Van Andel Arena. After the Griffins jumped out to a two-goal lead for the fourth straight game, the Stars rallied to make it a one-goal game midway through the third period. Joakim Andersson completed his first professional hat trick at 14:59 of the third period to seal the 4-2 victory. Grand Rapids then dropped a home-and-home set with North Division-leading Toronto, losing 4-2 at home on Friday and earning a point in a 3-2 overtime loss on Saturday afternoon at Ricoh Coliseum.

Never Say Never
: Despite sitting 13th in the Western Conference, the Griffins are not yet eliminated from the postseason, but they’ll need to win all four of their remaining games and hope for some help from other clubs in order to get to the playoffs. Currently sitting at 75 points, the Griffins can earn a maximum of 83 points this season, meaning that a regulation loss this week would mathematically eliminate the club. Currently, four teams (#5-8) are tied at 82 points: Milwaukee (72 GP), Houston (73 GP), Peoria (74 GP) and Lake Erie (74 GP). Grand Rapids, with only 72 games played, could catch any team that loses all of its remaining games. It will also be chasing San Antonio (81 points, 72 GP), Rochester (81 points, 73 GP) and Charlotte (79 points, 73 GP), but not 12th-place Rockford (76 points, 73 GP), which has already been eliminated from postseason contention.

On Tap: The final week of the AHL regular season is one of the busiest weeks of the year for the Griffins, who play three games in three days this weekend and four games in six days to close the season. The team opens up on Tuesday with a game in Rochester at 7:05 p.m., before hosting Chicago on Friday at 7 p.m. for the Griffins’ 2011-12 regular season home finale. Grand Rapids will close the regular season with back-to-back games in Hamilton, where it has limited the Bulldogs to just one goal in three contests this season, on Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Regular Season Home Finale: Fans attending the Griffins’ 16th regular season home finale this Friday versus the Chicago Wolves will be treated to a variety of specials and promotions. The first 2,500 fans through the gates will receive a “Beat Chicago” rally towel, courtesy of Huntington Bank. The Griffins will wear their special Red Wings-inspired Friday jerseys with the Love for Lokomotiv patch. The jerseys will be signed by the respective players and auctioned off following the game in the Fifth Third Vault. The game will also feature $1 hot dogs and $1 domestic drafts from 6-8 p.m., while supplies last. Additionally, 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. 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. Finally, fans are encouraged to bring their skates to the rink and take to the ice after the game for the final J&H Family Stores post-game open skate of the season.

The Road Ahead
: The Griffins enter this week with the fourth-easiest remaining schedule of the 15 teams in the Western Conference. Grand Rapids will face Rochester, Chicago and Hamilton (twice) to end the season, adding up to a combined 0.531 opponent winning percentage. Only Lake Erie (0.521), Chicago (0.522) and Oklahoma City (0.523) have an easier remaining schedule.

Minard Wins Hunt
: The AHL announced on Friday that Griffins left wing Chris Minard has been named the 2011-12 winner of the Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award as the AHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey. The award is voted on by coaches, players and members of the media in the league’s 30 cities. The 30-year-old forward missed the team’s first 36 games this season while dealing with the continuing after-effects of a concussion suffered during the 2009-10 season. The Owen Sound, Ontario, native rejoined the Griffins on Jan. 15 at Charlotte and tallied two goals in his second game back. Minard went on to capture the Reebok/AHL Player of the Month honors for February after racking up 13 points (8-5—13) and a plus-seven rating over 10 games during the month. He spent most of his first four professional seasons in the ECHL and Central Hockey League before joining the AHL full-time in 2006-07. Now in his 10th professional season, Minard has skated in 367 career AHL contests with six different clubs, registering 272 points (159-113—272). He’s also appeared in 40 NHL games with Edmonton and Pittsburgh, serving as a “black ace” during the Penguins’ Stanley Cup championship season of 2008-09.

AHL All-Rookie Team: Griffins left wing Gustav Nyquist last Wednesday was named to the 2011-12 AHL All-Rookie Team. Despite missing 12 of the Griffins’ last 15 games while with the parent Red Wings, Nyquist still ranks among the AHL’s top rookies with 22 goals (8th), 36 assists (8th) and 58 points (5th) while leading the Griffins and tying for 18th overall in the AHL overall in scoring. In his last game with the club – a 5-2 win versus Hamilton on March 17 – Nyquist recorded three points (2-1—3) to become the franchise’s all-time rookie scoring leader. The 22-year-old is just one of seven Griffins rookies ever to score 20 goals, and his 22 goals trail only Francis Pare and Justin Abdelkader on the team’s all-time rookie goal scoring list. Nyquist became the fourth Griffin to be named to the AHL All-Rookie Team, joining current Red Wings Justin Abdelkader (2008-09) and Jimmy Howard (2005-06), as well as Brendan Smith, who was named to the All-Rookie Team last season. The Halmstad, Sweden, native was the team’s lone representative at the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic. Nyquist becomes a top candidate for the AHL’s Dudley (Red) Garrett Memorial Award (outstanding rookie), the winner of which will be announced on Thursday.

Points for Pare: No Griffin has been hotter of late than right wing Francis Pare, who extended his career-best point streak to eight games (March 24-April 7) with an assist in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to Toronto. Pare, who has racked up 11 points (2-9—11) over the eight-game stretch, has matched Gustav Nyquist for the longest point streak of any Griffin this season. Nyquist recorded 11 points (5-6—11) over eight games from Feb. 4-24. If Pare can extend his point streak to nine games on Tuesday at Rochester, he will tie for the 14th-longest in Griffins history. Additionally, Pare’s next goal will be his 79th as a Griffin, which will break a tie with Jamie Tardif for second place in franchise history. The Lemoyne, Quebec, native also sits among the franchise’s all-time leaders with 291 games played (two shy of tying Darryl Bootland for sixth place), 110 assists (four shy of tying Jiri Hudler for fifth place), 188 points (5th) and 684 shots (5th).

Thank You Fans!: With one home game remaining, the Griffins have welcomed the sixth-most fans in the AHL, totaling 265,415 through 37 home games. They’re also one of six teams to average over 7,000 fans per game, trailing only Hershey (9,872), Providence (7,745), Lake Erie (7,682), Chicago (7,592) and Houston (7,184). If they draw at least 9,782 for Friday’s finale, they’ll celebrate an average attendance increase for the fifth time in the last six seasons.

NHL Playoffs: The Griffins have seen an alumnus engrave his name on the Stanley Cup in each of the past four seasons (2008-2011) and six times in the last seven seasons. This season, the team seen 31 alumni suit up for nine of the 16 playoff teams: Boston (Chris Kelly), Detroit (Justin Abdelkader, Joakim Andersson, Fabian Brunnstrom, Ty Conklin, Chris Conner, Cory Emmerton, Jonathan Ericsson, Valtteri Filppula, Darren Helm, Jimmy Howard, Jiri Hudler, Doug Janik, Jakub Kindl, Niklas Kronwall, Joey MacDonald, Jan Mursak, Gustav Nyquist, Kyle Quincey, Riley Sheahan and Brendan Smith), Florida (Mark Cullen and Tomas Kopecky), Los Angeles (Scott Parse), Nashville (Chris Mueller), NY Rangers (Sean Avery and Kris Newbury), Ottawa (Jason Spezza and Chris Neil), Philadelphia (Andreas Lilja) and Pittsburgh (Jason Williams).

Number 125: Riley Sheahan became the 125th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL when he suited up for Detroit in the Red Wings’ 3-2 shootout loss on Saturday versus Chicago. The St. Catharines, Ontario, native logged four penalty minutes and three shots in 6:03 of ice time. The 20-year-old center played in six games with the Griffins after completing his junior season at the University of Notre Dame, recording two points (1-1—2). Sheahan joined Gustav Nyquist, Fabian Brunnstrom, Brendan Smith, Mark Cullen, Chris Conner, Joakim Andersson and Ty Conklin as the eight players who made their NHL debuts/returns this season.

Divisional Days: After losing three straight games (two in regulation and one in overtime) to the North Division-leading Toronto Marlies during the first seven days of April, the Griffins still rank in the top 10 in the AHL in divisional winning percentage, sitting eighth with a 0.648 mark against the North Division. Three of the team’s final four regular season games are against divisional opponents, giving it a chance to improve its 16-8-2-1 divisional record and climb as high as third place before the end of the season. Grand Rapids will play Rochester, a team it has beaten in two straight meetings, on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m., and Hamilton on Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. The Griffins are 6-2 against the Bulldogs this season, and has outscored them 32-15 and 11-1 at Copps Coliseum, the site of both weekend contests.

Light the Lamp: The Griffins are currently tied with St. John’s as the third-highest scoring team in the AHL, averaging 3.21 goals per game. They trail only Norfolk (3.58) and Hershey (3.25), while leading the Western Conference with 231 goals on the season. Grand Rapids also leads the AHL with a 34.07 shots-per-game average, ahead of second-place Rockford (33.29).

In and Out: Last week, the Griffins released three players (Riley Sheahan, Richard Nedomlel and Ryan Sproul) from amateur tryouts, and they released Marek Tvrdon on Monday. Sheahan was the only one of the four to see game action, recording two points (1-1—2) in six games. Alan Quine is the only junior-aged tryout remaining on the Griffins 26-man roster, but he could see game action after the team was left with just 12 healthy forwards due to the Red Wings recalling Chris Conner on Sunday.

Man of the Year: The Griffins announced last week that Francis Pare has been named the team’s winner of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year award for his outstanding contributions to the Grand Rapids community during the 2011-12 season. A native of Lemoyne, Quebec, Pare has always been an active and unselfish participant in the Griffins’ community relations efforts during his four seasons as a member of the team. This season, Pare was a regular volunteer at local youth hockey practices as part of the Growing with the Griffins program and the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, going beyond the call of duty with several trips on his own time. Pare was also at the forefront of numerous full-team charitable activities, walking dogs at the Pups and Pucks Fall Walk-a-Thon (Mackenzie’s Animal Sanctuary), serving beverages at Reds, Whites and Brews (Easter Seals), packing lunches at Kids’ Food Basket, attending the annual Pumping Gas fundraiser (Kids’ Food Basket), skating with fans for hours at the Great Skate Winterfest and even suiting up in goalie equipment for the Griffins versus Sled Wings sled hockey game. In recognition of his efforts, Pare was presented with an etched crystal trophy during an on-ice presentation prior to Friday night’s game versus Toronto.

Milestone Watch: Captain Garnet Exelby is one point from 100 as a pro and 50 in the AHL and two penalty minutes from 700 in the AHL…Logan Pyett reached a new career high in assists (22) in Wednesday’s 4-2 win versus Texas, and he passed Matt Ellis for eighth-place in franchise history when he played in his 283rd career game on Saturday versus Toronto…Francis Pare’s next goal will give him sole possession of second place in franchise history with 79 goals, passing Jamie Tardif. He’s also three games away from passing Darryl Bootland (293 GP) for sixth place all time in games played…Jamie Johnson is four points from 500 as a pro and five points from 100 as a Griffin…Fabian Brunnstrom needs four assists for 100 as a pro and 50 in the AHL…Tomas Tatar passed Bootland for ninth place on the franchise’s all-time leaderboard with his 141st point as a Griffin during his 200th AHL game on Sunday at Toronto. He is two goals from tying Don MacLean for 10th all time…Doug Janik’s next assist will be his 150th in the AHL…Tom McCollum will establish a new career high in wins (11) with his next victory.

In the Show
: With the advancement of eight current or former Griffins to the NHL this season, Grand Rapids has now sent 125 players on to the NHL during its 16 seasons of play. Forty-three Griffins alumni logged ice time with 16 different NHL teams during the 2011-12 regular season, combining to play 1,586 games while accumulating 199 goals, 339 assists, 538 points, 48 wins and seven shutouts. (* Played for Grand Rapids this season.)

Player NHL Club GP G A PTS +/- PIM
Jason Spezza
Ottawa 80 34 50 84 11 36
Valterri Filppula Detroit 81 23 43 66 18 14
Jiri Hudler Detroit 81 25 25 50 10 42
Chris Kelly Boston 82 20 19 39 33 41
Niklas Kronwall Detroit 82 15 21 36 -2 38
Tomas Kopecky Florida 80 10 22 32 -8 32
Chris Neil Ottawa 72 13 15 28 -10 178
Darren Helm Detroit 68 9 17 26 5 12
Kyle Quincey COL/DET 72 7 19 26 -1 89
Ville Leino Buffalo 71 8 17 25 -2 16
Justin Abdelkader Detroit 81 8 14 22 4 62
Sheldon Brookbank Anaheim 80 3 11 14 11 72
Jakub Kindl Detroit 55 1 12 13 7 25
Jonathan Ericsson Detroit 69 1 10 11 16 47
Cory Emmerton Detroit 71 6 4 10 1 14
Matt Ellis Buffalo 60 3 5 8 -3 25
*Gustav Nyquist Detroit 18 1 6 7 2 2
*Brendan Smith Detroit 14 1 6 7 3 13
Andreas Lilja Philadelphia 46 0 6 6 9 34
Mark Eaton NY Islanders 62 1 3 4 -17 10
Brett Lebda Columbus 30 1 3 4 -1 14
Sean Avery NY Rangers 15 3 0 3 2 21
*Jan Mursak Detroit 25 1 2 3 2 0
*Chris Conner Detroit 8 1 2 3 2 0
Scott Parse Los Angeles 9 2 0 2 1 14
Jason Williams Pittsburgh 8 1 1 2 1 4
Alexandre Giroux Columbus 9 1 0 1 -2 8
Krys Kolanos Calgary 13 0 1 1 -1 2
*Doug Janik Detroit 9 0 1 1 2 6
Mark Cullen Florida 6 0 1 1 2 2
*Fabian Brunnstrom Detroit 5 0 1 1 -2 4
Aaron Gagnon Winnipeg 7 0 0 0 -1 0
Kris Newbury NY Rangers 7 0 0 0 -1 24
*Joakim Andersson Detroit 5 0 0 0 1 0
Clay Wilson Calgary 5 0 0 0 0 4
Mattias Ritola Tampa Bay 5 0 0 0 -2 6
Chris Mueller Nashville 4 0 0 0 -1 0
Derek Meech Winnipeg 2 0 0 0 1 4
*Riley Sheahan Detroit 1 0 0 0 0 4

Goalie NHL Club GP W L OT SO GAA SPCT
Drew MacIntyre Buffalo 2 0 0 0 0 1.40 0.944
Jimmy Howard Detroit 57 35 17 4 6 2.13 0.920
*Joey MacDonald Detroit 14 8 5 1 0 2.16 0.912
*Ty Conklin Detroit 15 5 6 1 1 3.28 0.884

Scouting Report

Tue., April 10 at Rochester Americans (34-26-9-4) – Blue Cross Arena – 7:05 p.m.
TV: Time Warner Cable SportsNet (Rochester) at 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: 31-21-1-1-3 Overall, 12-14-0-1-1 Road. Season Series: 2-2-0-1 Overall, 0-2-0-0 Road. Sixth of six meetings overall, third of three in Rochester. NHL Affiliation: Buffalo Sabres. Head Coach: Ron Rolston (1st season). Notes: Rochester has picked up points in seven of its last 10 but has won just three (3-3-3-1), putting them one point out of a playoff spot…Rochester is led in scoring by Phil Varone, who is 10th among AHL rookies with 51 points (11-40—51) in 73 games…Amerks goalie David Leggio ranks among AHL goaltending leaders with 26 wins (T4th), 23 losses (2nd), 3061:57 minutes (3rd) and 1,489 saves (2nd)…Rochester has earned the fifth-most points at home this season, with a 20-10-4-2 record (46 points) at Blue Cross Arena… The Amerks are currently on a four-game home winless streak, having not won at home since March 10…Rochester has the sixth-worst power play in the AHL at 14.9 percent…Rochester takes the fourth-fewest shots per game, averaging 29.03…Former Griffin Evan Rankin has recorded 27 points (14-13—27) in 32 games with Rochester this season. Rankin had a goal and an assist in 10 games with Grand Rapids last season…Rochester goaltender Drew MacIntyre played 37 games for the Griffins between 2004-06…The Griffins have two former Americans: Doug Janik (18-73—91 in 376 games from 2001-06) and Jamie Johnson (27-44—71 in 80 games in 2009-10).

Fri., April 13 vs. Chicago Wolves (40-26-3-3) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
TV: Comcast Network 100 (Chicago) at 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: 49-38-2-4-2 Overall, 25-15-2-2-2 Home. Season Series: 1-1-1-0 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Home. Fourth of four meetings overall, second of two in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Vancouver Canucks. Head Coach: Craig MacTavish (1st season). Notes: Chicago leads the Midwest Division with 86 points, having posted a 7-2-1-0 record in its last 10 games…The Wolves’ goaltending tandem of Eddie Lack and Matt Climie ranks among the top in the league, as Lack sits seventh in the AHL with a 2.26 GAA and Climie ranks 19th with a 2.45 GAA…Wolves defenseman Kevin Connauton is tied for fourth among AHL defensemen with 13 goals…Chicago has the fifth-worst power play in the league (14.8 percent) but the eighth-best penalty kill (84.2 percent)…The Wolves allow the fourth-fewest goals per game, averaging 2.49…Chicago takes an average of 28.71 shots per game, ranking 28th in the AHL…Former Griffin Darren Haydar is second on Chicago with 39 points (12-27—39), trailing only Mark Mancari, who leads the team with 29 goals and 56 points (29-27—56). Mancari has four goals against the Griffins this season, three of which came in a 5-4 overtime win for Grand Rapids on Dec. 3…Griffins captain Garnet Exelby won a Calder Cup with Chicago as a first-year pro in 2001-02. Exelby recorded seven points (3-4—7) and 257 penalty minutes in 75 regular season games with the Wolves, adding four assists in 25 playoff contests.

Sat., April 14 at Hamilton Bulldogs (32-34-2-5) – Copps Coliseum – 7 p.m.
Sun., April 15 at Hamilton Bulldogs – Copps Coliseum – 3 p.m.

TV: Cable 14 (Hamilton) at 7 p.m. (Sat.) and 3 p.m. (Sun.). Radio: ESPN 96.1 FM at 6:45 p.m. (Sat.) and 2:45 p.m. (Sun.). Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through ESPN961.comAll-Time Series: 32-30-1-0-3 Overall, 14-17-0-0-1 Road. Season Series: 6-2-0-0 Overall, 2-1-0-0 Road. Ninth and 10th of 10 meetings overall, fourth and fifth of five in Hamilton. NHL Affiliation: Montreal Canadiens. Head Coach: Clement Jodoin (1st season). Notes: Hamilton ranks 14th in the Western Conference and has lost three straight games…The Bulldogs have scored the fewest home goals (74) of any team in the AHL and average the fewest goals per game (2.38)…Hamilton’s Zack FitzGerald shares the league lead with 257 penalty minutes…The Bulldogs rank 11th in both power play (17.9) and penalty kill (83.3), but they have the second-worst home power play in the AHL (13.5)…The Bulldogs’ lineup was bolstered over the weekend by the return of six players from the parent Canadiens: forwards Gabriel Dumont, Blake Geoffrion, Louis Leblanc and Aaron Palushaj, defenseman Frederic St-Denis and goaltender Robert Mayer…Former Griffin Garrett Stafford has 28 points (9-19—28) in 48 games this season (42 with Hamilton). Stafford had 89 points (22-67—89) in 139 games with the Griffins from 2007-09…Griffins defenseman Doug Janik recorded five assists in 18 games with Hamilton during the 2008-09 season.

Griffins Game Rewinds
April 4 - TEX 2 at GR 4
GriffVision Video Interviews
ESPN Radio Highlights: Andersson 2nd Goal  Andersson Hat Trick
Flickr Photo Gallery
Official Game Report


April 6 - TOR 4 at GR 2
GriffVision Video Interviews
ESPN Radio Highlights: Minard Goal  Tatar Goal
Flickr Photo Gallery
Official Game Report


April 7 - GR 2 at TOR 3 OT
ESPN Radio Highlights:  Brunnstrom Goal   Marlies OT Winner
Official Game Report


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