This Week’s Games
Wed., Jan. 15 Chicago Wolves at GRIFFINS 7 p.m. WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Fri., Jan. 17 Abbotsford Heat at GRIFFINS 7 p.m. WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., Jan. 18 Abbotsford Heat at GRIFFINS 7 p.m. ESPN 96.1 / AHLLive.com
Last Week’s Results
Wed., Jan. 8 Rockford IceHogs 2 at GRIFFINS 4 24-9-1-2, 51 pts. (1st, Midwest Division)
Fri., Jan. 10 Iowa Wild 3 at GRIFFINS 2 24-10-1-2, 51 pts. (1st)
Sat., Jan. 11 Iowa Wild 1 at GRIFFINS 4 25-10-1-2, 53 pts. (1st)
A Steady Lead: Since the beginning of 2014, the Griffins have won three out of five games and earned six out of 10 possible points. After losing to the IceHogs 4-2 on the road on Jan. 4, the Griffins flipped the script last Wednesday and defeated their Midwest Division foe, 4-2, to begin a six-game home stretch. Grand Rapids then split decisions with the Iowa Wild last weekend, losing to the Minnesota affiliate 3-2 on Friday, but bouncing back with a 4-1 victory on Saturday. Defenseman Brennan Evans set a new career-high in goals with an empty-netter in Saturday’s game, and right wing Andrej Nestrasil snapped a combined 0-for-36 power play drought between the Griffins and Wild with his power play goal in the same night. Last Saturday’s win also saw goaltender Tom McCollum accomplish a weighty milestone: his 60th victory in a Griffins uniform made him just the third goalie to reach that plateau, joining eventual NHLers Joey MacDonald (109) and Jimmy Howard (90).
Halfway Home: Saturday’s victory against the Iowa Wild at Van Andel Arena was the 38th game for the Griffins this season, marking the halfway point of the 76-game regular season. The win advanced Grand Rapids’ AHL-franchise best record to 25-10-1-2. By comparison, last season’s Calder Cup championship squad was 22-12-2-2 at the turn, and only the team’s 2000-01 IHL edition (29-6-3) had more than the current unit’s 25 wins and 53 points through the first 38 games. Last season, the Griffins held first place over the Midwest Division from game 30 all the way to game 76, claiming the division title at the end of the regular season. Grand Rapids has sat atop the Midwest Division this season since game 11 on Nov. 3.
Wednesday Promotions: Wednesday’s game versus the Chicago Wolves is “Wednesday is Hockey Night”, when fans can show their Griffins ticket at participating Arena District restaurants and bars to enjoy Happy Hour specials before the game and Hockey Night specials afterward. Please visit http://griffinshockey.com/hockeynight/ for more information. Wednesday is also an Amway Winning Wednesday. All fans who were in attendance for the Griffins’ 4-2 win over the Rockford IceHogs on Jan. 8 can redeem their ticket stub for a free ticket to this game. If the Griffins beat the Wolves, every fan in attendance may also redeem their ticket stub for a free ticket to the game on Feb. 5 against Chicago. The box office will be open following the game for redemptions if the Griffins win. Fans may also redeem their stubs at The Zone during business hours (Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m.-2p.m.) and at the box office the night of Nov. 20. Additionally, the first 300 fans to visit the Amway table in Section A will receive a gift. Wednesday is also a Library Day; fans who present their Grand Rapids Public Library card or Kent District Library card at the Van Andel Arena box office on the day of the game or at The Zone anytime during the store’s regular business hours can save $7 off the price of a Lower Level Faceoff ticket (regularly $18 in advance and $20 day of game). Limit four tickets per card per person, subject to availability.
Friday Promotions: Friday’s game versus Abbotsford gives fans the opportunity to enjoy $2 hot dogs and $2 domestic drafts from 6-8 p.m., while supplies last. College students can purchase an upper 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. Every Friday night is also a Griffins D-Zone night, where fans can have $2 beers and $2 hot dogs served directly to their seats and also a Free Ride Friday, permitting any fan to enjoy complimentary fare on the Rapid busses by showing their ticket to that night’s game. Call (616) 774-4585 ext. 2 or visit griffinshockey.com/dzone to order D-Zone tickets, and visit ridetherapid.org for information on bus schedules, routes and maps.
Joakim Andersson Bobblehead Giveaway and Jersey Auction: 2,500 fans attending Saturday’s game will receive a Joakim Andersson bobblehead presented by Nestlé Purina. In addition, fans can participate in a post-game auction of the outdoor game jerseys that were worn by the Griffins at Comerica Park. Saturday night also gives fans the opportunity to redeem Fan 4 Packs. For select games, receive four tickets and $12 in concession cash for a great low price. Valid for games on Jan. 18; Feb. 15 and 22; March 8 and 29; and April 5. Visit griffinshockey.com/f4p or call (616) 774-4585 ext. 2.
Jurco Named to Slovakian Olympic Team: Grand Rapids forward Tomas Jurco last Tuesday was named to the Slovakian Olympic Team that will compete at the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, next month. Jurco is set to become just the fifth player in franchise history to participate in the Olympics while an active Griffin, joining Sergei Kolosov (2010 Belarus), Niklas Kronwall (2006 Sweden), Ole-Kristian Tollefsen (2010 Norway) and Julien Vauclair (2002 Switzerland). Teamed on the Slovakian squad with former Griffins Tomas Kopecky and Tomas Tatar, the 2013 Calder Cup and 2011 Memorial Cup champion will be among a contingent of 11 Griffins alumni competing for seven different nations during the Games.
All-Star Duo: The American Hockey League announced last Thursday that Grand Rapids head coach Jeff Blashill and defenseman Alexey Marchenko have been selected to participate in the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Assante Wealth Management, which will be held Feb. 11-12 at the Mile One Center in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The AHL All-Star Team, a 20-man squad consisting of the league’s top contributors, will battle Färjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League in a two-day competition. The 2014 All-Star Classic will mark the first time that a Swedish Hockey League team has competed in North America. Blashill, 40, will be the first Griffins head coach in 12 years to lead an AHL All-Star Team, following Bruce Cassidy’s participation in the 2002 AHL All-Star Classic. Blashill will be joined by Rob Zettler, head coach of the Syracuse Crunch, whom the Griffins defeated in the 2013 Calder Cup Finals. In 2012-13, his first season as a head coach at the pro level, Blashill led the Griffins to the Calder Cup, marking the first championship in the franchise’s 17-year history. Blashill was named by the Detroit Red Wings as the ninth head coach in Grand Rapids Griffins history on June 25, 2012. Marchenko, 22, is just the third rookie defenseman in Griffins history to be named to the AHL All-Star Team, following in the recent footsteps of Chad Billins (2013), also a member of the 2014 AHL All-Star Team representing Abbotsford, and Brendan Smith (2011). The Moscow, Russia, native has had a storybook inaugural season with the Griffins, tallying 16 points (2-14—16), a plus-15 rating and six penalty minutes through 33 games. On Jan. 4, Marchenko finished with a plus-two rating in his NHL debut with the Detroit Red Wings, becoming the 140th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL.
The Midwest Division: The Griffins (25-10-1-2, 53 pts.) maintain a 10-point lead over the Midwest Division, staying out of range of three teams battling for second place. Currently, the Chicago Wolves (20-13-1-2, 43 pts.) rank second, just one point ahead of the third-place Milwaukee Admirals (18-11-5-1, 42 pts.). The Rockford IceHogs (18-17-3-2, 41 pts.), who rank fourth, are also in contention for high billing in the division. Currently in fifth place, the Iowa Wild (15-16-2-2, 34 pts.) have been clawing for a better spot in the Midwest, posting a 5-3-0-2 record through the last 10 games.
Billins’ Heat Wave: Former Griffin and Calder Cup champion Chad Billins returns to Van Andel Arena for the first time since ending his first professional season with the Griffins last June. Now a member of the Abbotsford Heat, Billins has been burning up the league in terms of scoring, tallying 27 points (7-20—27) in 35 games with Abbotsford, which ranks fourth among league defensemen. On Nov. 5, Billins made his NHL debut with the Calgary Flames in a 5-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild, becoming the 136th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL. Billins tallied his first NHL point and assist in the contest and subsequently recorded another assist in his second NHL appearance in a 3-2 loss at St. Louis. While with Grand Rapids, Billins was a key contributor for the team, chipping in 37 points (10-27—37) during the regular season and 14 points (2-12—14) during the playoffs. Last Thursday, Billins was named to the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic Team along with Griffins defenseman Alexey Marchenko and head coach Jeff Blashill.
Goaltending Legend Returns: Alongside Abbotsford defenseman Chad Billins, former long-time Griffins goaltender Joey MacDonald will roll into Grand Rapids for the first time since his second departure from the Griffins following the 2011-12 season. MacDonald has set a plethora of all-time Griffins goaltending records including: games played (210, 1st); minutes played (11784:31, 1st); goals against average (2.44, 7th); wins (109, 1st); shutouts (20, 1st); and saves (5362, 1st). This season, MacDonald has posted a 4-6 record through 11 appearances with the Heat, coupled with a 2.81 goals against average and a 0.913 save percentage.
Hot Wings: Right wing Tomas Jurco (13-19—32, 1st) and right wing Teemu Pulkkinen (13-17—30, 2nd) have been two of the hottest Griffins this season, consistently ranking first and second among Griffins top scorers. Pulkkinen, a native of Vantaa, Finland, holds the team’s longest point streak this season, earning three goals and seven assists from Nov. 29-Dec. 18. In his second season as a Griffin and third year pro, Pulkkinen posts a plus-17 rating, 20 penalty minutes, two game-winning goals and a 13.3 shooting percentage. In Friday’s 3-2 loss to the Iowa Wild, he enjoyed a two-point night, earning a goal and an assist. Jurco made his NHL debut with Detroit on Dec. 15 versus the Tampa Bay Lightning and scored his first NHL goal and point in his second NHL game on Dec. 17 versus the Anaheim Ducks. The Kosice, Slovakia, native leads the Griffins in game-winning goals with three and has led the team in scoring since Gustav Nyquist earned his full-time roster spot with Detroit. Among Jurco’s 2013-14 accolades include a plus-10 rating, 14 PIM and a 14.3% shooting percentage. Jurco earned a goal and an assist in last Saturday’s 4-1 triumph over the Wild.
McCollum’s Mojo: Backed up by rookie goaltender Jared Coreau, fifth-year pro Tom McCollum has filled the primary role between the pipes for the Griffins over the last month since Petr Mrazek joined the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 11. McCollum ranks eighth in the league for goals against average (2.21) and posts a 15-7-0-1 record, including a 5-0 shutout against the Milwaukee Admirals on Dec. 14, his first of the season. McCollum’s 60th victory in a Griffins uniform last Saturday made him just the third goalie to reach that plateau, joining eventual NHLers Joey MacDonald (109) and Jimmy Howard (90). In addition, his four career shutouts tie Jani Hurme and Martin Prusek for seventh all time. McCollum enjoyed a six-game winning streak from Oct. 4-Nov. 6 to begin the season, tying with Mrazek’s 2012-13 franchise-best goaltending start.
Team Leaders: Tomas Jurco (13-19—32), who returned from the Red Wings on Dec. 30., leads the team in scoring, followed closely by Teemu Pulkkinen (13-17—30). Pulkkinen (plus-17) has played in six more games than Jurco (plus-10). Cory Emmerton (10-18—28) has sole possession of third place, while Mitch Callahan (15-6—21), captain Jeff Hoggan (10-11-21), Gustav Nyquist (15-7—21) and Ryan Sproul (7-14—21) all tie for fourth. Triston Grant leads the team in penalty minutes (71), while Brennan Evans (66) ranks second and Jordin Tootoo (50) ranks third. Emmerton has the highest shooting percentage (16.9%) of any active Griffin.
#140 Returns: The Red Wings on Monday assigned defenseman Alexey Marchenko to the Griffins. Marchenko, 22, has skated in 33 games with the Griffins this season, earning 16 points (2-14—16), six penalty minutes and an AHL rookie-best plus-15 rating. A native of Moscow, Russia, Marchenko was selected last Thursday to participate in the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic. Selected by Detroit in the seventh round (205th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Marchenko made his NHL debut with the Red Wings on Jan. 4 in Dallas, becoming the 140th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL, and finished the game with a plus-two rating. Last season, the 6-foot-2, 212-pound defenseman notched nine points (4-5—9) with CSKA Moscow of the KHL. In 82 career KHL games, Marchenko produced 11 points (4-7—11) and 12 penalty minutes.
Moving to Motown: Detroit on Friday recalled center Riley Sheahan from the Griffins and reassigned forward Trevor Parkes from the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye to their AHL affiliate. Sheahan, 22, has appeared in six games with the Wings this season, recording four points (1-3—4) and a plus-four rating. The St. Catharines, Ontario, native tallied two assists — his first career NHL points — in Detroit’s 5-4 shootout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 21 and earned his first NHL goal on Jan. 11 at Los Angeles. Detroit’s first choice (21st overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Sheahan has recorded 18 points (8-10—18), a plus-one rating and 10 penalty minutes in 28 games with the Griffins this season. Parkes, 22, leads the Walleye in scoring with 34 points (17-17—34) in 27 games this season. Since beginning his professional career in the 2011-12 season, Parkes has split shifts between the Walleye and the Griffins, tallying 68 points (35-33—68) in 50 games with Toledo and 17 points (5-12—17) in 85 games with Grand Rapids. The 6-foot-2, 202-pound forward has skated in six games with the Griffins this season, posting four PIM.
Walleye World: The ECHL’s Toledo Walleye (11-18-3-0) stomped the Wheeling Nailers 7-0 last Sunday night at the Huntington Center. Defenseman Richard Nedomlel notched the game-winning goal just 4:49 into the contest on a feed from forward Trevor Parkes, who was temporarily reassigned to Toledo by Detroit for the game. Parkes and center Louis-Marc Aubry earned goals of their own in the match as well, while Nedomlel capped off a three-point night with two assists. Furthermore, defenseman Max Nicastro assisted on the second goal of the night. Overall, the Walleye rank fifth in the North Division, still 11 points behind the fourth-place Fort Wayne Komets.
Great Skate Winterfest: Griffins fans can enjoy a day full of winter-inspired events, sports demonstrations and family activities starting at noon on Saturday, Jan. 18 as part of the 2013 Great Skate Winterfest, which will run for 34 consecutive hours this Saturday and Sunday at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids. The sixth annual Winterfest will begin at noon on Saturday, leading into the Griffins’ game versus the Abbotsford Heat at 7 p.m. Following the contest, Griffins players will make their way to Rosa Parks Circle for the 12th annual Great Skate, which features at least one player skating with fans for 24 consecutive hours – 10 p.m. on Saturday to 10 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, for a complete list of events, or to make a donation toward Griffins player’s participation, visit griffinshockey.com/greatskate.
Wed., Jan. 15 vs. Chicago Wolves (20-13-1-2) – Van Andel Arena– 7 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 59-43-2-4-2 Overall, 29-18-2-2-2 Home. Season Series: 3-3-0-0 Overall, 1-1-0-0 Home. Seventh of 10 meetings overall, third of five at Van Andel Arena. NHL Affiliation: St. Louis Blues. Head Coach: John Anderson (12th season). Notes: Chicago and Grand Rapids have split the season series so far, with each team taking three games and scoring 15 goals…Chicago ranks second in the Midwest Division, only one point ahead of the Milwaukee Admirals (18-11-5-1, 42 pts.), and posts a forceful 8-1-1-0 record through its last ten games. Chicago ranks fifth in the Western Conference and 12th in the league…The Wolves are currently on a three-game winning streak...Goaltender Jake Allen ranks fifth among league goaltenders with a 2.12 goals against average, 0.924 save percentage and a 15-7-0-2 record. Allen was named to the AHL All-Star Classic team last week and will be competing alongside Griffins defenseman Alexey Marchenko and head coach Jeff Blashill…Chicago’s power play record (11.3%) is the worst in the league, while its penalty killing record (84.8%) ranks seventh overall, just two spots behind Grand Rapids’ 86.0%...The second period yields the most results for the Wolves with 48 goals for and 28 goals against…Center Corey Locke (6-19—25) leads the Wolves in scoring, with right wing Mark Mancari (8-15—23) ranking second and rookie right wing Ty Rattie (12-7—19) ranking third…Rookie defenseman Joel Edmundson has tallied 71 minutes worth of penalties in 32 games while producing one goal and three assists.
Fri., Jan. 17 vs. Abbotsford Heat (24-13-1-1) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Sat., Jan. 18 vs. Abbotsford Heat – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:40 p.m. (Fri.) and ESPN 96.1 (Sat.) at 6:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 7-6-1-2 Overall, 4-2-1-1 Home. Season Series: 0-0-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Home. First and second of four meetings overall, first and second of two at Van Andel Arena. NHL Affiliation: Calgary Flames. Head Coach: Troy G. Ward (3rd season). Notes: The Griffins and Heat will meet only four times this season, and this weekend’s set of games will conclude the Van Andel Arena portion of the series…Grand Rapids and Abbotsford have been contending for first place in the Western Conference for much of the season, despite the Heat recently surrendering their first-place spot in the West Division to the Texas Stars…Abbotsford currently ranks fifth in the league behind Manchester, Springfield, Grand Rapids and Texas…Abbotsford’s power play (23.1%) has been strong this season, ranking third overall, while its penalty killing (76.3%) has suffered, ranking 28th overall…Heat rookie goaltender Joni Ortio ranks 10th among league goaltenders with a 2.30 goals against average and a 16-4-0-0 record, including one shutout this season. Ortio ties with three other netminders for the most wins this season (16)…Markus Granlund (14-12—26, T6th) and Ben Hanowski (11-14—25, T10th) rank among league rookies in scoring…Former Griffin and Calder Cup champion Chad Billins (7-20—27) is now a member of Abbotsford, ranking fourth among league defensemen and first on the team among active scorers…Former Griffins goaltender Joey MacDonald is also a member of the Heat.