This Week’s Games
Fri., Feb. 1 - GRIFFINS at Hamilton Bulldogs - 7:30 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., Feb. 2 - Abbotsford Heat at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Last Week’s Results
Wed., Jan. 23 - Oklahoma City Barons 4 at GRIFFINS 5 SO - 24-12-2-2, 52 pts. (1st, Midwest Division)
Fri., Jan. 25 - Houston Aeros 1 at GRIFFINS 0 - 24-13-2-2, 52 pts. (1st)
Sat., Jan. 26 - Houston Aeros 5 at GRIFFINS 2 - 24-14-2-2, 52 pts. (1st)
Back to Work: The Griffins will resume their regular season schedule this week after a brief break for the 2013 AHL All-Star Classic, which was held on Sunday and Monday in Providence, R.I. The Griffins return to practice on Thursday before departing for Hamilton to take on the Bulldogs at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and returning to host the Abbotsford Heat on Saturday at 7 p.m. Despite dropping a pair of games to the Houston Aeros last week, the Griffins enter post-break play with a seven-point lead in the Midwest Division, ranking second in the Western Conference and tying for sixth overall in the AHL.
Hot and Cold: Despite boasting one of the most potent offenses in the AHL – currently ranking fifth with an average of 3.24 goals per game – the Griffins experienced an up-and-down month in the goal-scoring department. After being blanked 1-0 by Charlotte on Jan. 16, the team racked up 21 goals over its next three games, winning a rematch against the Checkers 5-3 on Jan. 17, setting a franchise record for goals in an 11-6 win at Rockford on Jan. 19 and besting Oklahoma City 5-4 in a shootout last Wednesday. However, the Griffins suffered their second 1-0 loss in a five-game span, falling to the Houston Aeros on Friday after a late second-period goal by Justine Fontaine. Chad Billins and Riley Sheahan lit the lamp for the team in Saturday’s rematch, but Grand Rapids dropped its second straight to Houston with a 5-2 loss.
Thank You, Fans!: Griffins fans packed Van Andel Arena this weekend, as the team sold out on Friday and Saturday against Houston. Friday’s sellout versus the Aeros was the Griffins’ second of the season and their first in a midseason game (non-opener/finale) since March 19, 2011. Saturday marked consecutive sellouts for Grand Rapids for the first time since it sold out four straight at Van Andel Arena from March 15-April 10, 2009. The Griffins currently rank sixth in the AHL in attendance, averaging 7,051 fans per game. Only Hershey, Lake Erie, Chicago, Providence and Toronto have drawn more.
All-Star Wrap: Following Saturday’s game versus Houston, Chad Billins, Petr Mrazek and Gustav Nyquist departed for Providence, R.I. for the 2013 AHL All-Star Classic. Prior to Monday’s game, the all-stars competed in the annual Skills Competition, where all three Griffins made their mark during the Western Conference’s 12-11 win. Billins and Nyquist participated in the Puck Control Relay to kick off the event, with Billins helping the Western Conference earn their lone point in the event after combining with San Antonio’s Drew Shore and Lake Erie’s Andrew Agozzino for a victory in the second heat of the team portion. Nyquist looked to have a lead on Providence’s Trent Whitfield in the individual portion of the relay, but slipped late in the race. Mrazek made his first appearance during the Rapid Fire competition, allowing just one goal against his shooters, Worcester’s Bracken Kearns and former Griffin Derek Meech (St. John’s). All three Griffins participated in the Pass and Score three-on-zero competition. Nyquist combined with his trio to earn a goal on Binghamton’s Robin Lehner, and Billins did the same on Springfield’s Curtis McElhinney. Mrazek surrendered just one goal on three shots, and he continued his solid play during the Breakaway Relay as one of two goalies to stop all six shootout attempts he faced. The West also captured bragging rights during the All-Star Game, earning a 7-6 win after Toronto’s Ryan Hamilton completed a hat trick with 11.2 seconds remaining. Mrazek earned the win, stopping six of eight shots in the third period, while Nyquist registered one assist.
Saturday Promotions: Saturday’s game versus Abbotsford will feature 2,500 fans receiving a Gustav Nyquist bobblehead, courtesy of Lake Michigan Credit Union. A native of Halmstad, Sweden, Nyquist recently became the first Griffin since Niklas Kronwall to make the AHL All-Star Classic in back-to-back seasons. He currently leads the Griffins in scoring with 40 points (14-26—40) in 42 games after setting the franchise’s rookie scoring record in 2011-12 with 58 points (22-36—58) in 56 games. Nyquist became the fifth-fastest Griffin to reach 100 points, reaching the century mark in his 102nd game on Jan. 17 at Charlotte. Following the game, Adam Almquist, Joakim Andersson and Nyquist will sign autographs from the team’s bench, presented by Huntington Bank. Saturday’s game is also a Fan 4 Pack game, as fans can receive four tickets and $12 in concession cash for a great low price. Visit griffinshockey.com/f4p for more details.
Roster Moves: The AHL transaction wire has seen much more movement in the last three weeks since the NHL resumed play. After a busy week, the Griffins still find themselves without the services of Brian Lashoff and Tom McCollum, both currently with the Red Wings. Due to low numbers on defense, the Griffins added a pair of defenseman last week in Erik Spady, who played on Wednesday, and Mark Mitera, who suited up on Friday and Saturday, but both were released from their tryouts. The Red Wings also reassigned three players from Grand Rapids to Toledo, moving Andrej Nestrasil and Trevor Parkes on Thursday and Jordan Pearce on Sunday. The Griffins begin this week with just 20 players on their roster: 13 forwards, six defensemen and one goaltender.
Mission Accomplished: Last Wednesday’s game versus Oklahoma City marked the Griffins debut of NHL veteran right wing and East Kentwood native Mike Knuble, who the Griffins signed to a professional tryout on Monday. Knuble played just one game with the Griffins before finding a spot in the NHL, as the Philadelphia Flyers signed the 40-year-old to a one-year contract on Friday. Knuble became the second Greater Grand Rapids native to play for the Griffins, joining East Grand Rapids’ Luke Glendening. Born in Toronto, Ontario, Knuble has numerous ties to the area, as he helped the East Kentwood High School Falcons to a state championship in 1990, was drafted by Detroit (fourth round, 76th overall) in 1991, played four seasons for the University of Michigan (1991-95), and made his NHL debut with the Red Wings in 1996-97 before helping the team to their second straight Stanley Cup in 1998. He also became the Griffins’ 127th NHL graduate when he made his Flyers season debut on Saturday, recording an assist in a 7-1 win over Florida.
Shootout Aces: After their 5-4 shootout win over Oklahoma City last Wednesday, the Griffins improved to 8-4 in overtime games this season, including a league-high five shootout wins. The Griffins have been one of the best shootout teams in the league this season, both in scoring goals and preventing them. Grand Rapids has converted on 15-of-37 (0.405) shootout opportunities, tying for third in the league in that category. Only Adirondack (11-for-25, 0.440) and Rockford (6-for-14, 0.429) have been better. Additionally, Griffins netminders have stopped 0.771 percent of the chances they’ve faced, which is fourth-best in the league among teams that have had more than three shootouts. Chad Billins is tied for the league lead with a perfect shootout percentage, and he’s one of just three players (along with Adirondack’s Danny Syvret and Hamilton’s Nathan Beaulieu) to boast a three-for-three record in the shootout.
Road Warriors: The Griffins have posted a 12-5-0-1 record on the road this season, for a winning percentage (0.694) that ranks fourth in the AHL. Only Syracuse (16-4-0-2, 0.773), Springfield (14-5-2-0, 0.714) and Charlotte (14-5-2-2, 0.696) have posted better records away from home. The Griffins will play just one of four February road games on Friday, visiting Copps Coliseum for the first time this season to take on the Hamilton Bulldogs. The team will play three of its next five on the road (Feb. 1-9) and one for the remainder of the month before a season-high 11 in March.
League Leaders: Gustav Nyquist currently ranks fourth in the AHL in scoring with 40 points (14-26—40) in 42 games. Only Jonathan Audy-Marchessault (16-29—45 in 42 games) bests Nyquist among the AHL’s active players, as the league’s top two scorers – Oklahoma City’s Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz – have not played since the NHL lockout ended…Tomas Tatar is tied for 12th in the AHL with 36 points (16-20—36) in 42 games. Tatar also ranks fourth in the league with 141 shots…Landon Ferraro leads the league with six shorthanded points (3-3—6), as one of just two players (along with Binghamton’s Derek Grant) with more than three shorthanded points…Tatar and Ferraro share the team lead with 16 goals, which ties for 14th in the AHL…Joakim Andersson is tied for second in the league with five game-winning goals, behind Syracuse’s Brett Connolly…Team penalty minute leader Triston Grant ranks 18th in the AHL in that department with 108 penalty minutes…Team plus-minus leader Riley Sheahan’s plus-13 rating ties for 16th in the league…Petr Mrazek ranks among the league’s top goalies with a 2.42 goals against average (16th) and 14 wins (T11th).
Milestone Watch: Landon Ferraro skated in his 100th professional game on Saturday versus Houston…Joakim Andersson’s next point will be his 100th as a Griffin. If he reaches that mark in the next five games, he’ll become the 15th-fastest Griffin to 100 points…Triston Grant is seven penalty minutes shy of 1,400 as a pro.
Walleye Watch: The Toledo Walleye posted a 2-1 record during last weekend’s home three-in-three, losing 3-1 to Kalamazoo on Friday and beating Bakersfield 5-1 on Saturday and Evansville 4-1 on Sunday. Toledo ranks second in the ECHL’s North Division with a 23-17-0-4 record (50 pts.)…Willie Coetzee leads Toledo with 37 points (18-19—37) in 42 games, accounting for two of Toledo’s four goals during Sunday’s win over Evansville…Andrej Nestrasil is second on the team with 36 points (10-26—36) points in 34 games, recording five assists over the team’s three weekend games. Nestrasil has recorded points in 14 of his last 15 ECHL games…Trevor Parkes has now skated in seven career ECHL games and has scored a goal in five of them, making his season debut with Toledo on Friday and showing four points (2-2—4) in three games this season…Jordan Pearce surrendered one goal on 31 shots on Sunday, showing a 2.48 goals against average and 0.909 save percentage with the Walleye this season. Toledo will face another three-in-three this week, visiting Cincinnati on Thursday before hosting Elmira on Friday and Reading on Saturday.
Fri., Feb. 1 at Hamilton Bulldogs (14-21-1-5) – Copps Coliseum – 7:30 p.m.
TV: Cable 14 (Hamilton) at 7:30 p.m. Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 7:10 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 32-32-1-0-4 Overall, 14-19-0-0-1 Road. Season Series: 0-0-0-1 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Second of four meetings overall, first of two in Hamilton. NHL Affiliation: Montreal Canadiens. Head Coach: Sylvain Lefebvre (1st season). Notes: Hamilton sits last in the AHL with a 14-21-1-5 record…The Bulldogs have played a league-low 17 home games but have posted an 8-6-1-2 record at Copps Coliseum…Hamilton ranks last in the league on the man advantage (10.1 percent) and 24th on the penalty kill (80.5 percent)…The Bulldogs average the fewest goals-per-game in the league (2.12) and allow the fourth most (3.17)…Gabriel Dumont leads Hamilton in scoring with 24 points (13-11—24) in 39 games…Brendan Gallagher and Mike Blunden, the Bulldogs’ second- and third-highest scorers, are currently with the parent Canadiens…Hamilton’s Zack Stortini is tied for seventh in the league with 142 penalty minutes.
Sat., Feb. 2 vs. Abbotsford Heat (22-13-3-4) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 96.1 FM at 6:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through espn961.com. All-Time Series: 5-6-1-1 Overall, 3-2-1-1 Home. Season Series: 1-0-0-0 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Home. Second of four meetings overall, second of two in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Calgary Flames. Head Coach: Troy G. Ward (2nd season). Notes: The Heat currently lead the Toronto Marlies by one point in the North Division…Abbotsford has more points at home (33) than any other team in the league but show a 7-7-1-3 record on the road…The Heat average the fifth-fewest penalty minutes in the league at 12.9…Abbotsford boasts two of the league’s top goaltenders in Barry Brust and Danny Taylor. Brust ranks first in goals against average (1.66) and second in save percentage (0.941), while Taylor ranks second in goals against average (1.75) and fourth in save percentage (0.930)…Ben Walter leads the Heat in scoring with 27 points (8-19—27) in 37 games…Abbotsford’s Ben Street is second in the league with 150 shots…The Heat have the best penalty killing in the AHL at 88.6 percent…Krys Kolanos had 12 points (6-6—12) in 17 games for the Griffins in 2006-07 and has 22 points (11-11—22) in 30 games for Abbotsford this season.