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LORD STANLEY'S SWEET 16


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Sixteen former Grand Rapids Griffins players are set to experience the Stanley Cup Final, thanks to the Detroit Red Wings’ 4-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Monday night and their 4-2 series victory in the Western Conference Final. 

Among those Grand Rapids alumni are 15 members of the Red Wings. Eight have already seen action during the playoffs, including young NHL stars such as Niklas Kronwall, Jiri Hudler and Valtteri Filppula, and four spent time with the Griffins in 2007-08, including Darren McCarty, Darren Helm, Mark Hartigan and Derek Meech.

Detroit will face the Pittsburgh Penguins for the right to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup, starting with Saturday’s Game 1 at Joe Louis Arena. The Penguins, who defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 in the Eastern Conference Final, have one former Griffin on their team in defenseman Mark Eaton, who is currently on injured reserve.

Three players have gone on to win a Stanley Cup after playing for the Griffins: Carolina’s Kevyn Adams in 2006, and Tampa Bay’s Dmitry Afanasenkov and Darren Rumble in 2004. Following are brief capsules of the current Red Wings who will try to join that illustrious list.

D Niklas KronwallNow: The fearsome hitter leads all NHL defensemen with 12 points (0-12—12) during the playoffs, placing him fifth on the Red Wings and tying him for 17th overall in the NHL in scoring. His team-high 12 assists tie for third in the league, while his plus-seven rating ties for seventh; Then: Scored 66 points (15-51—66) in 102 games with the Griffins from 2003-06, ranking fourth all time in scoring among Grand Rapids defensemen. Named the AHL’s Outstanding Defenseman and a First Team All-Star in 2004-05, when he led the Griffins in scoring and set a single-season franchise record (since broken) for points by a blueliner with 53. Selected to play in the AHL All-Star Classic in both 2004 and 2005.

F Jiri HudlerNow: Ranks fourth on the Red Wings and is tied for 15th in the NHL with 13 points (4-9—13) in 16 playoff games. His nine postseason assists tie for third on Detroit and 11th in the league; Then: Scored 179 points (65-114—179) in 185 games with the Griffins from 2003-06. Ranks among the team’s all-time leaders with 65 goals (6th), 114 assists (5th), 179 points (5th), 19 power play goals (7th), 13 game-winning goals (T3rd) and four overtime goals (1st). Holds franchise records for assists in a season (60 in 2005-06), assists in a game (5, tied), assists in a period (3, tied) and points in a period (4). Named an AHL Second Team All-Star in 2005-06. Played in the AHL All-Star Classic in both 2004 and 2006. Named the AHL’s Player of the Week on Oct. 17, 2005.

C Valtteri FilppulaNow: Has seven points (3-4—7) in 16 playoff games with the Red Wings; Then: Scored 74 points (22-52—74) in 77 games with the Griffins from 2005-07. Ranks among the team’s all-time leaders with a 0.159 shooting percentage (6th). Holds the franchise record for longest assist streak (8 games). Played in the 2006 AHL All-Star Classic. Named the AHL’s Player of the Week on Nov. 21, 2005.

C Darren HelmNow: The Red Wings won nine straight playoff games after he entered the lineup and are 10-2 overall since that time. He scored his first NHL goal in Game 2 against Dallas, and his two points (1-1—2) tie for 11th among NHL rookies in the postseason; Then: Led Grand Rapids rookies with 16 goals, 15 assists (tied) and 31 points in 67 games during the 2007-08 season, tying for the ninth-highest scoring total by a first-year Griffin.

D Brett LebdaNow: Has two assists in 13 playoff games with the Red Wings; Then: Scored 31 points (6-25—31) in 111 games for the Griffins from 2003-06.

C Mark HartiganNow: Appeared in the Red Wings’ first four playoff games, tallying one assist; Then: Scored 42 points (23-19—42) in 48 games with the Griffins in 2007-08, ranking as the team’s top goal scorer and point producer as of his final recall to Detroit on Feb. 20. He ultimately finished second in goals and fourth in points.

RW Darren McCarty Now: Has two points (1-1—2) in 15 postseason games with the Red Wings; Then: Scored 10 points (5-5—10) in 13 games with the Griffins in 2007-08. During his Van Andel Arena debut on Feb. 15, he tallied his second career hat trick and first four-point game.

G Chris Osgood Now: Owns a 10-2 mark during the postseason and ranks among the NHL’s leaders with a 1.60 goals against average (1st), 10 wins (T2nd), a 0.931 save percentage (3rd) and one shutout (T3rd); Then: Appeared in three games during a conditioning stint with the 2005-06 Griffins, going 2-1 with a 3.34 GAA and a 0.882 save percentage.

D Derek MeechNow: Has been a healthy scratch for every Red Wings playoff game; Then: Scored 65 points (17-48—65) in 230 games with the Griffins from 2004-08, placing fifth all time in scoring among Grand Rapids defensemen. Ranks among the team’s all-time leaders with 230 games played (10th). Played in the 2007 AHL All-Star Classic. Named the Griffins’ AHL Man of the Year for 2006-07.

LW Tomas KopeckyNow: On injured reserve (knee); Then: Scored 138 points (63-75—138) in 243 games with the Griffins from 2002-06. Ranks among the team’s all-time leaders with 243 games played (7th), 63 goals (7th), 75 assists (T9th) and 138 points (8th). Holds franchise records for goals in a period (3, tied) and assists in a period (3, tied). Named the AHL’s Rookie of the Month for Feb. 2003.

In addition, five former Griffins are serving as “black aces” with the Red Wings, including goaltender Jimmy Howard, defensemen Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl and Kyle Quincey, and forward Mattias Ritola. Grand Rapids head coach Mike Stothers, assistant coach Jim Paek and equipment manager Brad Thompson also continue to assist Detroit’s hockey operations staff.

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