This Week’s Games
Wed., Dec. 28 - GRIFFINS at Lake Erie Monsters - 7 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Fri., Dec. 30 - Peoria Rivermen at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., Dec. 31 - Milwaukee Admirals at GRIFFINS - 6 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Last Week’s Result
Wed., Dec. 21 - Abbotsford Heat 4 at GRIFFINS 3 OT - 12-13-2-2, 28 pts. (3rd, North Division)
Back in the Swing: The Griffins played just one game last week, dropping a 4-3 decision in overtime to the Abbotsford Heat on Wednesday before beginning a five-day Christmas break. They will be back in action on Wednesday at 7 p.m. for a critical North Division road game against the Lake Erie Monsters. The Griffins have played the Monsters twice this month, winning a 3-2 game on Dec. 16 before being shut out 3-0 the following night. The team will return home for its first meeting of the season versus the Peoria Rivermen on Friday at 7 p.m. before taking on the Milwaukee Admirals in the annual New Year’s Eve game on Saturday at 6 p.m. to close out 2011.
Climbing the Standings: The Griffins have made up ground in the Western Conference during the month of December, earning points in seven of their nine games this month (and eight of 10 overall) with a 4-2-1-2 record. The team is currently in a three-way tie for third in the North Division with Hamilton and Lake Erie, sitting just three points out of a playoff spot. A successful week could see the Griffins begin 2012 in second place, a spot they haven’t held in the North Division since Nov. 2.
North Division Outlook: The North Division continues to be the tightest division in the AHL, with all five teams separated by just eight points, including three that are tied for third place at 28 points. Toronto’s once comfortable lead in the division has slipped to just five points, as the Marlies have posted a 4-6 record in their past 10 games to give them 36 points on the season. Rochester sits in second place with 31 points, trailed closely by the trio of teams at 28 points. Hamilton has proved to be the hottest of the bunch, riding an AHL-best six-game point streak (4-0-0-2) into this week, while Grand Rapids and Lake Erie will do battle on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Cleveland to continue making up ground in the division. The Griffins will look to improve their division-best 8-3 record against North Division foes.
Promotions Galore: The Griffins are closing out 2011 in style, with a pair of home games to welcome in the New Year. Friday’s contest versus Peoria features dollar beer and hot dogs from 6-8 p.m., while supplies last, as well as other popular Friday promotions, including: College Night, which allows college students 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; and Free Ride Friday, which provides complimentary fare on the Rapid to or from the game by showing your ticket to that night’s game. Saturday’s contest versus Milwaukee is the 15th Annual New Year’s Eve Celebration, featuring giveaways, special jerseys and post-game entertainment. The first 2,000 fans will receive a Griffins team poster, courtesy of Fox Honda. The team will wear jerseys designed by Jason Valenti of Sayre, Penn., who won the Griffins’ annual jersey design contest held over the summer. All jerseys will be signed by the respective Griffins player and auctioned off following the game inside the Fifth Third Vault, with proceeds benefitting GVSU club roller hockey. Post-game activities include West Michigan’s largest indoor fireworks display immediately following the game, and a J&H Family Stores post-game open skate.
You Again: The Griffins will take on the Lake Erie Monsters for the third time this month on Wednesday at 7 p.m., continuing a stretch that sees Grand Rapids play three consecutive road games (from Dec. 16-28) at Lake Erie. The teams have spit the first two contests, with Grand Rapids winning 3-2 on Dec. 16 due in part to two goals by Jamie Johnson. The following night, the Griffins were shut out by the Monsters, with AHL goals against average and save percentage leader Cedrick Desjardins making 37 saves in Lake Erie’s 3-0 victory. The Griffins shut out the Monsters by the same score in the team’s first meeting this season on Nov. 2 in Grand Rapids.
Easy As 1-2-3: Joakim Andersson is set to become the 123rd alumnus of the Griffins to suit up in an NHL game after being recalled by the Red Wings on Tuesday. Andersson sits fifth on the Griffins with 17 points (8-9—17) in 29 games. He is expected to make his NHL debut tonight when the Red Wings host the St. Louis Blues at 7:30 p.m. Andersson will be the sixth Griffins alumnus to make an NHL debut or return this season, joining Grand Rapids teammates Gustav Nyquist, Brendan Smith and Fabian Brunnstrom, as well as current Red Wing Chris Conner and former Griffin Mark Cullen.
Unwelcome Return: Many former Griffins dot the rosters of other AHL teams, but none has been more effective against his former club than Abbotsford’s Krys Kolanos, who recorded 12 points (6-6—12) in 17 games with the Griffins in 2006-07. Kolanos made his season debut against the Griffins on Oct. 28, over 21 months since his last professional game on Jan. 16, 2010, notching three goals and one assist in a 5-1 Abbotsford win. Kolanos followed up his performance with a three-point effort in last Wednesday’s 4-3 overtime victory for the Heat, giving him five goals and two assists in two games against Grand Rapids this season. The Griffins will see him two more times this season, on Jan. 6-7 when the team makes its annual trip to Abbotsford.
Pare’s Place: Francis Pare continues to move up the Griffins’ franchise leaderboard after recording an assist in last week’s 4-3 loss to the Abbotsford Heat, tying him with Jeff Nelson for seventh place in Griffins history with 87 assists. One more assist will tie him for sixth place, where Glen Metropolit sits with 88. The assist also gave him 155 points as a Griffin, breaking a tie with former teammate Jamie Tardif for sixth place all-time. Pare’s next goal will tie him with Matt Ellis for sixth place all-time in goals with 69.
Sidelined: The Griffins continue to be without the services of forward Chris Conner, who was the team’s leading scorer when he was recalled by the Red Wings on Nov. 30. Conner is still third on the team in scoring, despite missing the Griffins’ last nine games, with 23 points (7-16—23) in 20 games. The Livonia, Mich., native has recorded three points (1-2—3) in six games with Detroit, but he broke his hand on Dec. 13 at Pittsburgh. He is expected to return this week.
On the Mend: The Griffins got good news last week when defenseman Travis Ehrhardt returned to practice for the first time following a shoulder injury suffered on Oct. 16 at Rochester. He is expected to return to game action within the next two weeks. The Griffins are also expecting to receive Jan Mursak from Detroit on a conditioning stint this week. Mursak, who logged 86 points (39-47—86) in 184 games with Grand Rapids from 2008-11, hasn’t seen game action this year after breaking his ankle in a Sept. 25 preseason game.
Milestone Watch: Joey MacDonald is one game shy of 200 as a Griffin and 400 as a pro…Jamie Johnson is one game shy of 600 as a pro…Greg Amadio is four games away from 200 as a Griffin…Brent Raedeke is five games from 100 as a Griffin.
Wed., Dec. 28 at Lake Erie Monsters (13-15-1-1) – Quicken Loans 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: 19-13-1-4 Overall, 7-7-1-4 Road. Season Series: 2-1-0-0 Overall, 1-1-0-0 Road. Fourth of six meetings overall, third of three in Lake Erie. NHL Affiliation: Colorado Avalanche. Head Coach: David Quinn (3rd season). Notes: The Griffins and Monsters comprise two of the three teams (Hamilton) that are tied for third place in the North Division…The Monsters have scored an AHL-low 70 goals on the season but sit fifth in the league with a 2.57 goals against average…Goaltender Cedrick Desjardins sits first in the AHL with a 1.61 goals against average and a 0.947 save percentage…Monsters defenseman Tyson Barrie is tied for ninth among AHL defenseman with 17 points (3-14—17) in 30 games…Lake Erie is without several top players, including leading scorer David van der Gulik, Brad Malone and rookie defenseman Stefan Elliott, who are all on recall to the parent Avalanche…Former Griffin Patrick Rissmiller made his season debut for Lake Erie against the Griffins on Dec. 16 and scored against them on Dec. 17.
Fri., Dec. 30 vs. Peoria Rivermen (14-15-2-1) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:45 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 17-20-1-2 Overall, 7-11-1-1 Home. Season Series: First of four meetings overall, first of two in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: St. Louis Blues. Head Coach: Jared Bednar (2nd season). Notes: The Rivermen are led by the Western Conference’s best offense (98 goals for), fourth overall in the AHL…Peoria’s T.J. Hensick is tied for third in league scoring with 37 points (10-27—37) in 32 games, while linemate Brett Sterling is tied for 11th with 29 points (14-15—29)…The Rivermen’s Anthony Peluso sits fourth in the AHL with 104 penalty minutes…Peoria blueliner Cade Fairchild leads the AHL with a plus-20 rating…Rivermen netminder Ben Bishop ranks among AHL goaltending leaders with a 2.31 GAA (11th), 12 wins (4th), 606 saves (3rd) and four shutouts (1st)…Former Griffin and current Peoria defenseman Danny Syvret is tied for fifth among AHL defensemen with 19 points (2-17—19) in 32 games…The Rivermen allow the third-most shots against in the AHL with 33.19, matching up against a Griffins team that averages the fourth most at 33.86…Rivermen head coach Jared Bednar had 21 points (3-18—21) and 220 penalty minutes in 74 games with the Griffins in the 1998-99 season.
Sat., Dec. 31 vs. Milwaukee Admirals (18-8-0-1) – Van Andel Arena – 6 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 96.1 FM at 5:45 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through ESPN961.com. All-Time Series: 55-42-7-5-6 Overall, 31-19-2-1-2 Home. Season Series: 1-1-0-1 Overall, 0-1-0-0 Home. Fourth of four meetings overall, second of two in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Nashville Predators. Head Coach: Ian Herbers (1st season). Notes: The Admirals are currently tied for the Midwest Division lead along with Charlotte at 37 points…The Admirals have allowed the second-fewest goals against in the AHL at 70…Milwaukee goaltender Jeremy Smith is tied for first in the AHL with 15 wins and also ranks among league leaders with a 2.28 GAA (9th) and 1343:15 minutes played (2nd)…Milwaukee is the least penalized team in the AHL, averaging just 12.48 minutes per game…The Admirals have one of the best power plays in the league, ranking fifth with a 20.8 success rate, while their penalty kills ranks 27th at 77.5 percent…Milwaukee’s offense ranks fourth in the AHL with a 3.22 goals-per-game average…Former Griffin Chris Mueller leads the Admirals with 21 points (11-10—21) in 26 games.