This Week’s Games
Fri., March 1 - GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals - 8 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., March 2 - GRIFFINS at Peoria Rivermen - 8:05 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sun., March 3 - GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals - 4 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Last Week’s Results
Fri., Feb. 22 - GRIFFINS 3 at Rockford IceHogs 4 - 29-17-2-2, 62 pts. (1st, Midwest Division)
Sat., Feb. 23 - San Antonio Rampage 6 at GRIFFINS 3 - 29-18-2-2, 62 pts. (1st)
Sun., Feb. 24 - San Antonio Rampage 3 at GRIFFINS 7 - 30-18-2-2, 64 pts. (1st)
Out on a High Note: The Griffins played a three-in-three last weekend, the first of three consecutive weekends of three games in three nights. Grand Rapids began the stretch in Rockford on Friday, wrapping up the season series against the IceHogs with a 5-2-1-0 record after a 4-3 loss. Francis Pare tallied a pair of goals and Tomas Jurco added his seventh of the season, but goals in the last minute of both the first and second period by Rockford handed the Griffins their third straight road loss – a first for this season. The team finished up the weekend with back-to-back home games against the San Antonio Rampage. While the games had their similarities – the Griffins heavily outshot the Rampage 43-21 on Saturday and 46-23 on Sunday, and the Rampage jumped out to 2-0 leads each night – the teams split the set with one convincing win each. San Antonio won 6-3 on Friday after 40 saves by Dov Grumet-Morris, but the Griffins fired back with seven goals on him the following night. Chad Billins accounted for three of those for his first professional hat trick, while Gustav Nyquist added a goal and picked up two assists to take over the AHL scoring lead. Brett Skinner, Francis Pare and Riley Sheahan also picked up multiple points in the victory, which restored the team’s lead in the Midwest Division to five points over Chicago.
One to Another: The Griffins will play another three-in-three this week with three consecutive road games. The team will begin the stretch in Milwaukee on Friday, playing the first of two weekend contests against the Admirals at 8 p.m. EST. From there, Grand Rapids will head to Peoria to take on the Rivermen on Saturday at 8:05 p.m. EST, before returning for a rematch against the Admirals on Sunday at 4 p.m. EST.
Road Trip: This week marks the beginning of the busiest road month of the season for the Griffins, with a season-high 11 games away from home in March. The team will play 14 of its next 18 games on the road, with only four home dates in a 44-day span (Feb. 25-April 9). Three of those home games will be played in a six-day span (March 8-13). The stretch also includes a season-high seven-game road trip to open up the final month of the season (March 28-April 6). The Griffins have excelled on the road for much of the season, but they’ve lost their last three away from home. The team currently has a 13-8-0-1 road record, which is the fifth-best road winning percentage (0.614) in the AHL, trailing Syracuse (0.759), Charlotte (0.700), Texas (0.683) and Springfield (0.660). Grand Rapids also has the second-best offense away from home, averaging 3.73 goals per game (trailing Syracuse’s 3.76 mark), as well as the third-best road power play (20.8 percent). The Griffins enter this week having played only 22 road games, which is the fewest in the AHL. Only five clubs have played fewer than 25 road games.
McCollum Returns: The Red Wings on Sunday assigned goaltender Tom McCollum to the Griffins, while the Griffins released netminder Jimmy Spratt from his professional tryout. Detroit’s first choice (30th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, McCollum has suited up in 22 games for the Griffins this season, setting a new career high with 12 wins alongside a 2.92 goals against average and two shutouts. The 23-year-old netminder ranks among the Griffins’ all-time goaltending leaders with 104 games played (3rd), 5826:21 minutes (4th), 39 wins (7th), 2,489 saves (4th) and three shutouts (T9th). A native of Sanborn, N.Y., McCollum has appeared in one NHL game with Detroit, making five saves in a relief effort on March 30, 2011 versus St. Louis.
No Sophomore Slump: After recording 13 goals over their three games last week, the Griffins now rank second in the AHL with a 3.31 goals-per-game average. Leading the charge offensively was Gustav Nyquist, who recorded back-to-back three-point games against San Antonio en route to moving the first in the AHL in scoring. Nyquist, who has since been overtaken by Syracuse’s Tyler Johnson, has tallied 52 points (19-33—52) in 51 games with the Griffins this season. Additionally, he became just the second player in franchise history to reach 50 points in both his rookie and second seasons, joining Glen Metropolit, who did so with 55 points (20-35—55) in 1997-98 and 81 points (28-53—81) in 1998-99.
Hats Off to Chad: Chad Billins played a large factor in the Griffins’ 7-3 win over San Antonio on Sunday, picking up his first-ever hat trick in the dominant come-from-behind victory at Van Andel Arena. Billins became just the second defenseman in franchise history to record three goals in one game and was the first to do so at home, as Logan Pyett’s hat trick came on the road in Hamilton on Feb. 27, 2011. Additionally, it was the first hat trick by a rookie defenseman in the AHL since Paul Postma scored three times for Chicago on Feb. 21, 2010. Billins is tied for fifth among AHL defenseman and for 14th among rookies with 29 points (6-23—29) in 52 games.
Welcome to the Club: Petr Mrazek joined a very exclusive club this season after making his ECHL, AHL and NHL debuts in the same season. The 21-year-old netminder is one of two goalies in hockey history to win his debut in each of those leagues in the same season, along with Alex Auld, who saw time with Vancouver, Florida, Phoenix, Boston, Ottawa, Dallas, the New York Rangers and Montreal over 11 NHL seasons (2001-12). Mrazek made his ECHL/pro debut with the Toledo Walleye on Oct. 13 and made 33 saves in a win over Kalamazoo. He earned his first AHL win with the Griffins on Nov. 3 at Texas before winning for the Red Wings on Feb. 7 at St. Louis. Auld, who currently plays for EC Salzburg in Austria, earned his first ECHL win with the Columbia Inferno against Florida on Nov. 13, 2001, took his first AHL decision with the Manitoba Moose at Quebec on Dec. 5, 2001 and won his NHL debut with the Vancouver Canucks at Dallas on Jan. 23, 2002.
What’s Old is New: The Detroit Red Wings on Saturday assigned right wing Jan Mursak to the Griffins. Mursak, 25, has skated in two games with the Red Wings this season, recording four penalty minutes. He also appeared in 30 games with Olimpija Ljubljana in Austria’s top professional league during the NHL lockout, notching 48 points (19-29—48), which led the league at the time of his departure. The Maribor, Slovenia, native has four points (2-2—4) and eight penalty minutes in 46 career games with Detroit. Detroit’s fifth choice (182nd overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Mursak skated in 190 games with the Griffins from 2008-12, notching 87 points (39-48—87) and 108 penalty minutes. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound forward set career highs with the Griffins in 2009-10, finishing with 42 points (24-18—42) and a team-best plus-17 rating in 79 games.
Best in the Midwest: With three games coming up this weekend against Midwest Division rivals, the Griffins can earn critical points to earn breathing room in a tightly-contested division (the 11 points that separate first from fifth serve as the tightest gap in the league) and also improve on their 13-6-2-1 record within the division, which ranks as the AHL’s fifth-best winning percentage (0.659) in that category. Grand Rapids trails Syracuse (0.738), Abbotsford (0.696), Texas (0.690) and Springfield (0.667), and will face a big test with this week’s opponents. The Griffins are 3-4-1-1 this season against Milwaukee and Peoria, having found more success against Chicago and Rockford at a combined 10-2-1-0.
Best Behavior: The Jan. 19 meeting between the Griffins and Rockford IceHogs featured a franchise-record 230 combined penalty minutes between the teams in a game that included 14 fighting majors and 13 game misconducts. After the first two games of the season series drew a combined 16 penalty minutes for the Griffins, the team racked up 291 penalty minutes in the next five games against Rockford before just six penalty minutes in the eighth and final meeting between the teams on Friday night. The Griffins currently rank 13th in the AHL with an average of 17.65 penalty minutes per game, but they would fall to 26th in the league (13.34) if those five games were not included.
Milestone Tracker: Tom McCollum’s next win will tie him with Ian Gordon for sixth in franchise history with 42 victories…Gleason Fournier is three games shy of 100 as a pro…Triston Grant is three games away from 500 as a pro…Jeff Hoggan is three goals shy of 150 as a pro and two points from 300 as a pro…Nathan Paetsch is five points away from 200 as a pro and four games from 300 in the AHL…Francis Pare is three goals away from becoming just the second Griffin to reach 100 goals.
Motown Update: Players who have skated for the Griffins this season continue to make an impact with the parent Red Wings…Tomas Tatar had points in back-to-back games for Detroit last week, sitting ninth on the team with six points (3-3—6) in 11 games…Joakim Andersson had a big night offensively in Detroit’s 8-3 win over Vancouver on Sunday, scoring twice on Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo. Andersson is tied for 10th on the Red Wings with five points (3-2—5) in nine games…Brian Lashoff’s steady play in the NHL was rewarded with a three-year contract extension by the Red Wings on Monday. Lashoff has three points (1-2—3) in 15 games, while averaging 18:54 in ice time.
Walleye Watch: Toledo has lost just twice in regulation in its past 10 contests (5-2-3-0), ranking second in the ECHL’s North Division with a 30-19-3-4 record this season…Willie Coetzee has been heating up of late with 10 points (5-5—10) over his last seven games. He leads the Walleye with 45 points (21-24—45) in 48 games and is third in the ECHL with 211 shots…Reassigned to Toledo by Detroit on Tuesday, Trevor Parkes has six goals in seven career ECHL games and posted four points (2-2—4) in his three-game stint with Toledo earlier this season…Jordan Pearce ranks among the ECHL’s top netminders with a 2.52 goals against average (11th), a 0.909 save percentage, 14 wins (T16th) and two shutouts (T5th). The Walleye will play four games in five days this week, starting with road games against Fort Wayne tonight and Evansville on Thursday, before hosting Evansville on Saturday and Trenton on Sunday.
Fri., March 1 at Milwaukee Admirals (25-22-3-3) – BMO Harris Bradley Center – 8 p.m. EST
Sun., March 3 at Milwaukee Admirals – BMO Harris Bradley Center – 4 p.m. EST
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 7:40 p.m. (Fri.) and ESPN 96.1 FM at 3:40 p.m. (Sun.). Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com (Fri.) and espn961.com (Sun.). All-Time Series: 57-44-7-5-6 Overall, 24-23-5-4-4 Road. Season Series: 1-2-0-1 Overall, 0-0-0-1 Road. Fifth and sixth of eight meetings overall, second and third of four in Milwaukee. NHL Affiliation: Nashville Predators. Head Coach: Dean Evason (1st season). Notes: Taylor Beck leads Milwaukee in scoring with 38 points (11-27—38) in 46 games…Admirals netminder Jeremy Smith is fifth in the league with 2143:09 minutes…Milwaukee has struggled on special teams, owning the second-worst power play (10.8 percent) and tying for the second-worst penalty kill (79.2 percent)…Brad Winchester has 11 points (2-9—11) in 14 games since joining the team last month…Admirals forward Chris Mueller made his professional debut with Grand Rapids in 2007-08, playing two games after finishing his four-year career at Michigan State University…Griffins forward Triston Grant played two seasons in Milwaukee from 2008-10, setting career highs in all categories in 2009-10 with 25 points (12-13—15) and 236 penalty minutes in 74 games.
Sat., March 2 at Peoria Rivermen (23-23-4-3) – Carver Arena – 8:05 p.m. EST
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 7:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 20-24-3-2 Overall, 13-10-0-1. Season Series: 2-2-1-0 Overall, 0-2-0-0 Home. Sixth of 10 meetings overall, third of five in Peoria. NHL Affiliation: St. Louis Blues. Head Coach: Dave Allison (1st season). Notes: T.J. Hensick leads Peoria and is tied for eighth in the league with 46 points (14-32—46) in 53 games…Derek Nesbitt leads Peoria with 18 goals…The Rivermen have the AHL’s worst winning percentage (0.522) when scoring first, with a 10-9-2-2 record…Peoria ranks 27th in the AHL on the power play (12.5 percent) but is tied for 11th with an 84.3 percent penalty kill…The Rivermen are without Adam Cracknell, Andrew Murray, Jaden Schwartz, Ian Cole and Chris Porter, all recalled to the parent Blues…Peoria head coach Dave Allison was the first-ever Griffins head coach, sporting a 70-55-19 record from 1996-98…Griffins defenseman Brennan Evans spent the past two seasons with Peoria, registering 21 points (5-16—21) and 238 penalty minutes.