01/31/2012 1:04 PM
Last Week’s Results
No Room for Error: The Griffins begin the week sitting in third place in the North Division, just two behind second-place Rochester. The division continues to be very tightly contested, with no one team breaking away from the pack. Since the Griffins jumped from fourth place into a second-place tie with a 5-4 shootout victory over Rockford on Dec. 14, they have not held the same position within their division for more than two consecutive games. Prior to that streak, they were in fourth place for 10 straight games and were no higher than fourth for 16 in a row. Toronto continues to hold the North Division lead with 51 points, trailed by Rochester at 46. With a game in hand, Grand Rapids (44 points) is in a position to catch Rochester and distance itself from Hamilton and Lake Erie, who are tied for fourth place with 43 points, with a two-game home set against the Bulldogs this Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.
North Division Showdown: This week, the Griffins will host the first and second of three games against the Hamilton Bulldogs in the month of February. Grand Rapids has been successful within its own division this season, with a 10-3-1-1 record, including a 3-0 record against the Bulldogs. Hamilton was shut out by the Griffins in the teams’ first two meetings this season, being outscored 11-0 in the process. The Griffins have won five straight and seven of the past eight contests against their North Division rivals, after beating the Bulldogs 5-2 in the most recent matchup between the teams on Nov. 23.
Welcome to the Jumble: Having earned points in four of their last five games (3-1-0-1), the Griffins have climbed back into the Western Conference playoff race, where no team is more than four points out of a playoff spot. Grand Rapids is three points back of eighth-place Peoria, which has played three more games. The Griffins are right in the middle of the race for the eighth spot, trailing three teams (Milwaukee, Rochester and Rockford) while holding a one-point advantage over three others (Texas, Hamilton and Lake Erie).
Promotions: Fans who attend Friday’s game versus Hamilton can enjoy ‘80s Night, reliving the decade with music, dress, contests and videos. The game also features dollar beers and hot dogs from 6-8 p.m., while supplies last, and free transportation on the Rapid to and from the game by showing your ticket. In celebration of Hockey Day in West Michigan on Saturday, over 300 kids and 44 teams will play nearly 140 games at Van Andel Arena from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. during the Griffins’ fifth annual Cross-Ice Jamboree. Thanks to Lake Michigan Credit Union, 2,500 fans will receive a bobblehead of former Griffins defenseman Niklas Kronwall, the first Griffins alumnus to serve as an alternate captain for the Red Wings. The fun continues after the game, with a J&H Family Stores Post-Game Open Skate, the first this season where fans will be joined by select Griffins players. Several players will also be signing autographs from the bench in a Huntington Bank Post-Game Autograph Session.
All-Star Weekend: Gustav Nyquist picked up an assist in the Western Conference’s 8-7 comeback shootout victory in the 2012 AHL All-Star Game on Monday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. The Eastern Conference stormed out to a 6-2 lead in the first period, but the West surrendered just one goal in the final 40 minutes of play and won the shootout 2-0. Nyquist set up a goal by Toronto’s Ryan Hamilton to close out the scoring in the second period and cut the East’s lead to 6-4. Peoria’s Ben Bishop was named the MVP of the game, stopping 10 of 11 third-period shots and all four shootout attempts. Nyquist was joined by a number of former Griffins: Darren Haydar (Chicago), Krys Kolanos (Abbotsford), Chris Mueller (Milwaukee), Clay Wilson (Abbotsford) and Ryan Keller (Oklahoma City). Additionally, former Griffins defenseman and current Oklahoma City head coach Todd Nelson served as the head coach for the Western Conference team.
Rewrite the Books: Several Griffins are enjoying seasons that could place them in the franchise’s record books:
Winning Wednesday: Thanks to the Griffins’ 4-2 win over the Rochester Americans last Wednesday, each fan who was in attendance will receive a free ticket to the next Wednesday game, Feb. 22 versus Hamilton. Tickets can be redeemed at The Zone during business hours (M-F 10-6; Sat. 10-12) and at the box office before the next Wednesday game.
Who’s Hot?: Griffins captain Garnet Exelby has seven points (2-5—7) in his last 10 games. With his two-point game in Saturday’s 5-3 win at Peoria, Exelby tied his AHL-career high with 10 assists and bested career highs with four goals and 14 points…Brendan Smith is on a five-game point streak, totaling three goals and three assists along the way…Jamie Johnson and Gustav Nyquist have five points (2-3—5) in the team’s last five games...Fabian Brunnstrom has recorded eight points (2-6—8) in his last six games…Joakim Andersson has points in six of his last eight games, showing three goals and five assists.
Milestone Watch: Several Griffins achieved personal milestones last week: Brendan Smith played in his 100th pro game last Wednesday versus Rochester and his 100th game as a Griffin on Saturday at Peoria…Fabian Brunnstrom suited up in his 100th AHL game on Friday at Peoria…Francis Pare played in his 263rd game as a Griffin on Saturday, passing Evan McGrath for 10th in franchise history. He will tie Derek King at 264 with his next appearance, and his next goal will tie him with Darryl Bootland for fifth all time with 72…Tom McCollum is two games shy of 100 as a pro, and Brian Lashoff will hit that mark in five games…Joakim Andersson, who eclipsed his rookie point totals with his 23rd point of the year on Friday, is two points away from 50 as a Griffin…Chris Conner is two goal away from 100 as a pro.
Fri., Feb. 3 vs. Hamilton Bulldogs (19-19-1-4) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
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