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GRIFFINS MARCH OUT OF FEBRUARY WITH THREE STRAIGHT WINS

This Week’s Games
Fri., March 2- Rochester Americans at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com

Sat., March 3- Oklahoma City Barons at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com


Sun., March 4 - GRIFFINS at Hamilton Bulldogs - 5 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com

Last Week’s Results
Wed., Feb. 22 - Hamilton Bulldogs 2 at GRIFFINS 4 - 21-21-5-4, 51 pts. (5th, North Division)

Fri., Feb. 24 - Lake Erie Monsters 1 at GRIFFINS 6 - 22-21-5-4, 53 pts. (5th)


Sat., Feb. 25 - GRIFFINS 2 at Toronto Marlies 1 - 23-21-5-4, 55 pts. (T4th)

Clean Sweep: Grand Rapids started last week in fifth place in the North Division and 14th in the Western Conference, but the Griffins quickly jumped to 12th by winning three straight games. Last Wednesday, in Ty Conklin’s first start as a Griffin, the team held the Bulldogs to just one first period shot while firing 15 of their own, and they got out to a 3-0 lead midway through the second frame. Hamilton rallied before the end of the period, but the Griffins held on for a 4-2 victory, aided by a three-point night from Gustav Nyquist. Last Friday, the team hosted the Lake Erie Monsters and rode a Chris Minard hat trick to a 6-1 victory over their division rivals. While the offense had been clicking the previous two games, it was the defense that was on display in a tightly-contested 2-1 road victory over the Toronto Marlies on Saturday. The win helped the Griffins tie a season high with a three-game winning streak and improve to 14-4-1-1 against their own division, including a perfect 4-0 record against the division-leading Marlies.

On Tap: The Griffins will play their fourth three-in-three of the season this weekend, opening up with the fourth of four straight games against North Division opponents by hosting Rochester on Friday at 7 p.m. If they can beat the Amerks, they’d claim a four-game winning streak for the first time since Feb. 27-March 8, 2011. The team will stay home on Saturday to take on Oklahoma City at 7 p.m., in the first of four meetings with the Western Conference-leading Barons during the month of March. The Griffins will close out the weekend with a Sunday visit to Hamilton at 5 p.m. Grand Rapids is 5-1 against Hamilton this season, outscoring the Bulldogs 27-11.

Promotions: Fans who attend Friday’s contest versus Rochester can enjoy $1 hot dogs and $1 domestic drafts from 6-8 p.m., while supplies last. Fans can ride the Rapid to and from the game and enjoy complimentary fare by showing their ticket. Visit ridetherapid.org for schedule information, routes and maps. College students can show their ID 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. Finally, with a ticket in the Griffins WGRD D-Zone, fans can avoid concession lines and get $1 beers and $1 hot dogs served to their seats. Visit griffinshockey.com/dzone to purchase D-Zone tickets. Saturday night’s game versus Oklahoma City is Star Wars Night, presented by Consumers Energy. The 501st Legion returns for another year, with proceeds benefiting the Griffins Youth Foundation. Over 50 costumed characters will be roaming the arena and interacting with fans. In addition to light sabers and Griffins Star Wars-themed pucks and t-shirts behind sold on the concourse, a photo area will be set up on the concourse for fans to get their picture taken with their favorite characters for a small donation. Fans can also bring their skates to the rink and take to the ice after the game for the J&H Family Stores Post-Game Open Skate.

Hats Off to Chris: The AHL on Thursday announced that Griffins left wing Chris Minard has been named the Reebok/AHL Player of the Month for February. Minard registered eight goals and five assists for 13 points and recorded a plus-seven rating in 10 games during February, returning to form after having missed the season’s first 36 games due to a concussion. Minard is the first Grand Rapids player to earn such an honor since April 2001, when Derek King was named the International Hockey League’s player of the month in that circuit’s final season of existence. The veteran forward has 17 points (12-5—17) in 17 games since returning and is second on the team with a plus-nine rating. Minard recorded a hat trick in last Friday’s 6-1 win over the Lake Erie Monsters, recording his second hat trick in five games (13 days) after also doing the deed on Feb. 12 versus San Antonio. That span marks the second-fastest pair of hat tricks in Griffins history, behind Donald MacLean, who notched tricks in consecutive games on Jan. 14-18, 2006. Minard’s three career hat tricks tie him for second all time on the Griffins, matching Kevin Miller and sitting two behind MacLean. Additionally, he became the sixth Griffin to log two or more hat tricks in a single season. Maclean had five in 2005-06, while four others had two: Francis Lemieux (2008-09), Matt Ellis (2006-07), Kevin Miller (1999-00) and Pavol Demitra (1996-97).

Helping Hand
: Griffins center Jamie Johnson has assisted on each of Chris Minard’s past nine goals, earning the primary assist on all but two of those tallies. Johnson’s four assists last Friday versus Lake Erie were the most by a Griffin since Tomas Tatar tied a franchise record with five on Nov. 27, 2010 at Chicago. Johnson (0-4—4) and Minard (3-1—4) each recorded a four-point game, the most by a Griffin since Francis Pare notched four (1-3—4) on Feb. 9, 2011 at Chicago. The pair now hold the Griffins’ season-best in points in a game, after the team saw players enjoy three-point nights on 19 occasions: Gustav Nyquist and Chris Conner (four times each); Minard, Johnson and Fabian Brunnstrom (twice each); and Brent Raedeke, Louis-Marc Aubry, Pare, Tatar and Doug Janik (once each).

Wins for Ty: After being assigned to the Griffins by the Red Wings last Tuesday, Ty Conklin led the team to a perfect 3-0 record last week, allowing just four goals on 67 shots for a 1.34 goals against average and a 0.940 save percentage while earning a nomination for AHL Player of the Week. Conklin is the second goalie in Griffins history to win his first three decisions, joining Mathieu Chouinard, who started 5-0 in 2000-01. The Griffins are riding their first three-game winning streak since Dec. 31-Jan. 7, thanks to Conklin and a defense that has limited the opposition to four goals over a three game span for the first time since Nov. 10-14, 2010.

Elite Company: Only two goaltenders had more NHL experience than Ty Conklin’s 211 NHL games before joining the Griffins: Curtis Joseph (767) and Chris Osgood (568), both of whom played in Grand Rapids on conditioning stints. Joseph (Oct. 24, 2003) and Osgood (Oct. 19, 2005) are among the only five goaltenders who played over 100 NHL games before making their Griffins debut, in addition to Pokey Reddick (Oct. 5, 1996) and Manny Legace (Dec. 30, 2005). With Conklin’s 4-2 victory over Hamilton on Wednesday, all five goaltenders won their Griffins debut, and all but one (Pokey Reddick) won their home debut. Reddick’s home debut was the first home game in franchise history, a 3-1 loss to an Orlando Solar Bears team coached by Curt Fraser on Oct. 11, 1996.

Defense Depleted: The Griffins are currently without two of their top defenders in Brendan Smith and Doug Janik, who were recalled Monday and Tuesday, respectively, by the Red Wings. Smith has been one of the hottest Griffins of late, recording points in 12 of the team’s last 15 games. He leads all Grand Rapids defenseman and is tied for fifth overall on the club with 32 points (10-22—32) in 47 games. Janik is second in that department with 25 points (7-18—25), earning his first call-up to Detroit this season. He leads the Griffins with a plus-16 rating, which places him in a tie for third place among all AHL blueliners. Additionally, the Red Wings shuffled the crease on Monday by reassigning goaltender Jordan Pearce from the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye to the Griffins and Tom McCollum from the Griffins to the Walleye, while Grand Rapids released Dustin Carlson from his professional tryout.

Place in History: Several Griffins have improved their place in the Griffins’ record books over the past few weeks. Left wing Gustav Nyquist, who saw a team-best eight-game point streak end last Friday versus Lake Erie, is enjoying one of the best rookie seasons in franchise history. His next assist will tie him with Glen Metropolit for the Griffins’ single-season rookie record, while his next point will tie him with Justin Abdelkader for second all time among rookies and put him three behind Metropolit for the record. Nyquist has 51 points (17-34—51) in 49 games. Right wing Francis Pare tallied his ninth goal of the season in Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Toronto Marlies, which served as his 73rd goal as a Griffin. The marker moved him out of a fifth-place tie with Darryl Bootland at 72 and into a tie with Derek King in the fourth spot. He is also two shy of tying Kip Miller for third place with 75 goals. Finally, Saturday’s contest at Toronto marked Logan Pyett’s 265th regular season game as a Griffin, moving him past King (264) and into sole possession of 10th place on the team’s all-time list.

March On: Grand Rapids wrapped up February with a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Marlies last Saturday in just its second road game during the month. It was only the second time in franchise history that the team played two road games during a month, the only other time coming in April 1997 (0-1-1). The Griffins will play nine road games during March, tying for the second-most road contests ever in one month. They also played nine road games in January 2002 (4-2-3-0) and March 2007 (2-4-1-2), while playing 10 road games in March 1997 (5-4-1). The team will play 15 games overall during March, tying for the second-busiest month in franchise history. Grand Rapids played 16 games in December 2005, going 9-6-1-0. This will be the 14th time the Griffins will play 15 games, most recently in December 2009, when they went 5-9-0-1. It marks the seventh time in 16 seasons the Griffins will play a 15-game March, the last one coming in 2007, when they went 6-5-1-3.

Milestone Watch: Jamie Johnson tallied his 50th assist as a Griffin in his four-assist performance last Friday versus Lake Erie and skated in his 400th professional game the following night at Toronto…Brian Lashoff played his 100th game as a Griffin last Wednesday versus Hamilton…A pair of Griffins notched career markers in goals in last Friday’s six-goal output over Lake Erie: Chris Minard registered his 150th AHL goal and Chris Conner recorded his 100th as a pro…Doug Janik’s assist last Saturday at Toronto earned him his 200th professional point…Three assists for Tomas Tatar will tie him with Cory Emmerton for 10th all time with 77 career assists…Brendan Smith’s next point will best his AHL rookie total of 32 points…Friday’s victory over the Monsters was Ty Conklin’s 50th AHL win.
Scouting Report

Fri., March 2 vs. Rochester Americans (26-21-6-3) – 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: 30-21-1-1-3 Overall, 18-7-1-0-2 Home. Season Series: 1-2-0-1 Overall, 1-0-0-1 Home. Fifth of six meetings overall, third of three in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Buffalo Sabres. Head Coach: Ron Rolston (1st season). Notes: Rochester is one of four teams in between Grand Rapids and the eighth and final playoff spot. The Griffins trail the Amerks by six points, with three games in hand…Rochester sits 26th in the AHL with a 28.79 shots-per-game average, compared to Grand Rapids’ AHL-best 34.87 average. Rochester also surrenders the seventh-most shots in the league at 31.95…Phil Varone leads the Americans in scoring with 37 points (8-29—37) in 56 games, which ties him for 14th among league rookies…Rochester defenseman T.J. Brennan is tied for second among AHL defensemen with 11 goals…Rochester has struggled on special teams on the road, with a league-worst 11 power play goals away from home, for a 10.2% success rate, compared to a 19.6% power play (8th in the AHL) at home…Former Griffin Evan Rankin has recorded 12 points (7-5—12) in 13 games with Rochester since signing a tryout on Nov. 25. Rankin had a goal and an assist in 10 games with Grand Rapids last season…Rochester goaltender Drew MacIntyre played 37 games for the Griffins between 2004-06…The Griffins have two former Americans: Doug Janik (18-73—91 in 376 games from 2001-06), who is currently on recall to Detroit, and Jamie Johnson (27-44—71 in 80 games in 2009-10).

Sat., March 3 vs. Oklahoma City Barons (35-15-2-3) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 96.1 FM at 6:45 p.m. Web Casts: Video web casts at AHLLive.com, free audio available through ESPN961.com. All-Time Series: 3-3-1-1 Overall, 1-2-0-1 Home. Season Series: 1-3-0-0 Overall, 0-2-0-0 Home. Fifth of eight meetings overall, third of four in Grand Rapids. Head Coach: Todd Nelson (2nd season). Notes: Oklahoma City is second in the AHL and first in the Western Conference with 75 points, seven points better than any other team in the conference…The Barons have two of the top goaltenders in the AHL in Yann Danis (currently with the Edmonton Oilers) and David LeNeveu…The pair are first and second in the league with a 1.98 and 2.13 goals against average, respectively. Danis is fourth in the AHL with 21 wins, second with five shutouts and third with a 0.926 save percentage…The Barons have the second-best penalty killing in the AHL with an 86.3 percent success rate…Oklahoma City has two former Griffins in Ryan Keller, who leads the Barons with 41 points (17-24—41) in 53 games, and Bryan Helmer, who is second among the team’s blueliners with 19 points (1-18—19) in 52 contests…Oklahoma City head coach Todd Nelson became the first player ever signed by the Griffins on July 24, 1996.  The defenseman recorded 67 points (11-56—67) in 236 career games with Grand Rapids from 1996-02.

Sun., March 4 at Hamilton Bulldogs (25-26-1-4) – Copps Coliseum – 5 p.m.

Radio: ESPN 96.1 FM at 4:45 p.m. Web Casts: Video web casts at AHLLive.com, free audio available through ESPN961.com. All-Time Series: 31-29-1-0-3 Overall, 14-16-0-0-1 Road. Season Series: 5-1-0-0 Overall, 2-0-0-0 Road. Seventh of 10 meetings overall, third of five in Hamilton. NHL Affiliation: Montreal Canadiens. Head Coach: Clement Jodoin (1st season). Notes: Hamilton is currently tied with Grand Rapids for fourth place in the North Division, although the Bulldogs have played in three more games…The Bulldogs are led in scoring by Andreas Engqvist, who has 33 points (17-16—33) in 42 games…Hamilton is currently without Aaron Palushaj, who has 31 points (13-18—31) in 31 games, and Blake Geoffrion, who had eight points (2-6—8) in five games with the Bulldogs since being acquired in a trade between Montreal and Nashville last month. Both are currently with the parent Canadiens…The Griffins have shut out the Bulldogs in both meetings at Copps Coliseum this season, winning 3-0 on Oct. 18 and 8-0 on Nov. 11…Griffins goaltender Ty Conklin led Hamilton to within one win of the Calder Cup in 2003, losing in seven games to Houston. Conklin played in 78 games with the Bulldogs from 2001-06, posting a 33-27-11 record.

Griffins Game Rewinds
Feb. 22 - HAM 2 at GR 4
AHLLive Video Highlights
GriffVision Video Interviews
WOOD Radio Highlights:  Conner Goal   Smith Goal   Tatar Goal
Flickr Photo Gallery
Official Game Report

Feb. 24 - LE 1 at GR 6
AHLLive Video Highlights
GriffVision Video Interviews
ESPN Radio Highlights:  Andersson Goal  Janik Goal  Minard 3rd Goal
Flickr Photo Gallery
Official Game Report

Feb. 25 - GR 2 at TOR 1
AHLLive Video Highlights
WOOD Radio Highlights:  Pare Goal   Brunnstrom GWG
Official Game Report


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