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GRIFFINS ON VERGE OF PLAYOFF BERTH HEADING INTO MIDWEST THREE-IN-THREE

This Week’s Games
Fri., March 28    GRIFFINS at Rockford IceHogs    8 p.m.    ESPN 96.1 / AHLLive.com
Sat., March 29    Rockford IceHogs at GRIFFINS    7 p.m.    WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sun., March 30    GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals    6 p.m.    WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com

Last Week’s Results
Fri., March 21    GRIFFINS 4 at Iowa Wild 1    40-18-2-4, 86 pts. (1st, Midwest Division)
Sat., March 22    GRIFFINS 3 at Iowa Wild 2    41-18-2-4, 88 pts. (1st)
Sun., March 23    GRIFFINS 2 at Chicago Wolves 6    41-19-2-4, 88 pts. (1st)

A Matter of Clinches: After collecting four of six possible points last week, the Griffins maintain a six-point lead atop the Midwest Division and sit third overall in the AHL. On Friday, Grand Rapids toppled the Iowa Wild, 4-1, at Wells Fargo Arena with Mitch Callahan earning the game-winning tally just 1:43 into the second period. The Griffins remained in Iowa for a rematch against the Wild on Saturday, when the team earned a 3-2 victory after fighting back from a two-goal deficit. Iowa beat Petr Mrazek twice in the first period (4:40, 9:39) before Ryan Sproul, Nathan Paetsch and Callahan all chipped in goals to earn the victory. It was the team’s fourth consecutive victory, as well as Callahan’s second game-winning goal in a row. The Griffins’ streak would end at four on Sunday, however, when they were defeated by the Chicago Wolves 6-2 at Allstate Arena. The Wolves racked up five unanswered goals before Teemu Pulkkinen and Callahan briefly chipped away at Chicago’s lead. After allowing the first three goals of the game, Mrazek was pulled in favor of Tom McCollum, but the relief effort was not enough to displace the Griffins’ division rival. The Griffins, who are two points away from clinching a playoff berth, could reach that feat as early as this Friday, when they face the Rockford IceHogs on the road at 8 p.m. EDT. Grand Rapids hasn’t clinched a playoff spot in March since 2009 (March 27) and hasn’t qualified for the playoffs in consecutive years since 2006 and 2007.

Petr Mrazek Bobblehead Giveaway: On Saturday, 2,500 fans will receive a Petr Mrazek bobblehead, presented by Michigan Office Solutions. Don’t forget to bring your skates to the rink and take to the ice for the post-game open skate. The final open skate of the season will be on April 18. 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 March 29 and April 5. Visit griffinshockey.com/f4p or call (616) 774-4585 ext. 2.

Midwest Race: Grand Rapids (41-19-2-4, 88 pts.) leads the Midwest Division heading into its final 10 games of the season, six points ahead of the second-place Chicago Wolves (37-19-5-3, 82 pts.). The Milwaukee Admirals (30-21-6-7, 73 pts.) rank third, while the Rockford IceHogs (31-25-5-4, 71 pts.) rank fourth. The Iowa Wild (25-28-6-4, 60 pts.) rank fifth in the division and last in the Western Conference. Grand Rapids has netted the most goals (211), while allowing only 162 goals against, which is good enough for second behind the Wolves’ 157 GA.
 
Team Leaders: Right wing Teemu Pulkkinen (27-25—52) leads the Griffins in scoring and registers a plus-18 rating through 61 games. Defenseman Adam Almquist (4-42—46), who ranks third in scoring among league defensemen, ranks second on the team, followed by right wing Mitch Callahan (25-15—40). Three of the Griffins’ top six scorers (Callahan, Calle Jarnkrok and Tomas Jurco) are not active on the roster. Callahan and Jurco are both with the Detroit Red Wings, while Jarnkrok was traded to the Nashville Predators by Detroit on March 5. Brennan Evans (103) leads the team in penalty minutes, but left wing Triston Grant (96) is within range of Evans’ team-high.

Shooting for 90: The Griffins’ next victory would give the team 90 points in consecutive seasons (92 last season) for the first time since a run of five straight 90-point seasons from 1999-04. In addition, Jeff Blashill would become the third head coach in Griffins history to lead the team to 90 points in consecutive seasons, joining Bruce Cassidy (2000-02) and Danton Cole (2002-04), both of whom also did it during their first two seasons at the helm.

Nyquist’s Tear: Detroit’s Gustav Nyquist, who began his season in Grand Rapids, was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week after leading all NHL players with six goals and tying for the league lead with seven points to help the Red Wings (33-24-14, 80 pts.) earn seven of a possible eight points and move into the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. He opened last week with two goals in a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 18. Nyquist followed that performance up with two points (1-1—2), including the primary assist on Daniel Alfredsson’s last-second overtime winner, in a 5-4 triumph over the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 20. He then scored his fifth game-winning goal of the season in a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on March 22 and capped the week with two points (2-0—2), his fourth multi-goal game of the season, in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Wild on March 23. The 24-year-old native of Halmstad, Sweden, has 40 pts. (23-17—40) in 46 games this season, including eight points (7-1—8) during a five-game goal/point streak and a league-leading 18 goals in 23 games since Jan. 20.

Mean Streaks: Mitch Callahan, who was recalled by Detroit yesterday, and Andrej Nestrasil are both on five-game point streaks from March 14-23, their longest such streaks of the season. Petr Mrazek had an eight-game winning streak (Feb. 22-March 22) snapped with the team’s 6-2 loss to the Chicago Wolves on Sunday. He was only one game shy of tying his season-high winning streak of nine games (Nov. 8–Dec. 7).

Nestrasil’s Frenzy: Center Andrej Nestrasil has tallied seven points (four goals, three assists) in the last five games, his longest point streak of the season. Nestrasil potted four goals in three consecutive games (March 14-21), tying with Teemu Pulkkinen (twice, MR: Feb. 26-March 1) and Cory Emmerton (Nov. 30-Dec. 18) for the longest goal streak this season. From Feb. 21-March 23, Nestrasil has tallied 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 15 games. In all, the Prague, Czech Republic, native has earned 27 points (11-16—27) and 20 penalty minutes in 60 games during his 2013-14 campaign.  Comparitively, Nestrasil tallied only 10 points (6-4—10) in 50 career regular season game with Grand Rapids from 2011-13.

Marchenko Out: The Griffins’ 2014 AHL All-Star defenseman Alexey Marchenko suffered an ankle injury in a game against the Milwaukee Admirals on Feb. 23. Marchenko had surgery for a severe high ankle sprain and is expected to be out for the remainder of the regular season.

NHL Graduates: From March 14-21, three more Griffins graduated to the NHL. Teemu Pulkkinen (#141, 3/14/14 DET vs. EDM) and Landon Ferraro (#142, 3/18/14 DET vs. TOR) debuted with the Detroit Red Wings, and Calle Jarnkrok (#143 NSH at CGY) made his debut with the Predators after being traded to Nashville on March 5. So far this season, nine Griffins alumni have made their NHL debuts (Luke Glendening, Xavier Ouellet, Adam Almquist, Chad Billins, Tomas Jurco, Alexey Marchenko, Pulkkinen, Ferraro and Jarnkrok). If Mitch Callahan plays in tonight’s game versus the Columbus Blue Jackets, he will become the 144th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL and the eighth Griffins player to make his NHL debut with Detroit this season, joining forwards Glendening, Jurco, Pulkkinen and Ferraro and defensemen Ouellet, Almquist and Marchenko. Callahan would also become the first California native to be both drafted by and play for Detroit.

Bolstered Defense: The Detroit Red Wings on Monday reassigned defenseman Max Nicastro from the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye to the Griffins. In addition, the Griffins signed defenseman Marc McNulty to an amateur tryout. Nicastro, 24, has skated in 58 games with the Walleye this season, garnering 16 points (0-16—16) and 28 PIM. A native of Thousand Oaks, Calif., Nicastro appeared in 25 games with Grand Rapids last season, posting three points (1-2—3) and 10 PIM. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound defenseman was Detroit’s third choice (91st overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. McNulty, 18, recently wrapped up his third season with the WHL’s Prince George Cougars, notching 42 points (17-25—42) and 115 PIM in 67 games. From 2011-14, the 6-foot-6, 193-pound defenseman earned 57 points (25-32—57) in 140 career games with the Cougars. McNulty was Detroit’s sixth choice (169th overall) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

Campbell Signed to ATO: The Griffins on March 17 signed forward Colin Campbell to an amateur tryout. The 22-year-old Campbell, who also signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Detroit Red Wings, has spent the last four seasons with the WCHA’s Lake Superior State Lakers, registering 64 points (27-37—64) and 64 penalty minutes in 119 games. A native of Pickering, Ontario, Campbell ranked second on the Lakers this season with 29 points (14-15—29) in 36 games, bouncing back from a junior season in which he missed 30 games while recovering from surgery. The 6-foot-1, 203-pound forward led the Lakers in goals (14) and game-winning goals (three). Since joining the Griffins, Campbell has appeared in three games and registered four shots on goal.

Walleye World: The ECHL’s Toledo Walleye (19-38-3-2) defeated the Gwinnett Gladiators, 4-1, last Saturday, but fell to the Gladiators, 5-4, in a shootout on Sunday. Goaltender Jared Coreau stopped 24 of 28 shots in Sunday’s contest on his way to earning a point for the team. Walleye head coach Nick Vittuci stepped down from his position on Feb. 25, making way for interim head coach Dan Watson. Trevor Parkes (17-17—34), who is currently with the Griffins, ranks second on the team in scoring, while forward Travis Novak (10-20—30) ranks third, and Alden Hirschfeld (9-20—29) ranks fourth. Both Novak and Hirschfeld are currently signed to professional tryouts with Grand Rapids. Toledo (43 pts.) ranks fifth in the North Division, 25 points behind the fourth-place Evansville IceMen.

Scouting Report

Fri., March 28 at Rockford IceHogs (31-25-5-4) – BMO Harris Bank Center – 8 p.m.
Sat., March 29 vs. Rockford IceHogs – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.

Radio: ESPN 96.1 (Fri.) at 7:40 p.m. and WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM (Sat.) at 6:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 19-16-3-4 Overall, 6-10-2-3 Road, 13-6-1-1 Home. Season Series: 6-1-0-1 Overall, 2-1-0-1 Road, 4-0-0-0 Home. Ninth and 10th of 10 meetings overall, five of five at both BMO Harris Bank Center and Van Andel Arena. NHL Affiliation: Chicago Blackhawks. Head Coach: Ted Dent (3rd season). Notes: The IceHogs rank fourth in the Midwest Division, seventh in the Western Conference and 16th overall…Rockford posts a 4-4-1-1 record through its last 10 games, holding on to the seventh-place Western Conference playoff spot. If the regular season were to end today, the Griffins would face the IceHogs in the first round of the playoffs. This weekend’s set of games against Rockford will be a preview of Grand Rapids’ potential playoff path…Defenseman Adam Clendening (8-42—50) ranks first on the team in scoring, second among league defensemen and 20th overall. Clendening ties with Adam Almquist for the third-highest amount of assists tallied in the AHL…Left wing Jeremy Morin (24-23—47) ranks second on the team in scoring, while brotherly duo Terry Broadhurst (15-21—36) and Alex Broadhurst (12-24—36) tie for third place…Rockford’s penalty-killing record (72.9%) ranks last in the league.

Sun., March 30 at Milwaukee Admirals (30-21-6-7) – BMO Harris Bradley Center – 6 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 5:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 65-49-7-5-7 Overall, 28-26-5-4-5 Road. Season Series: 6-3-0-0 Overall, 2-2-0-0 Road. 10th of 10 meetings overall, fifth of five in Milwaukee. NHL Affiliation: Nashville Predators. Head Coach: Dean Evason (2nd season). Notes: Sunday’s game against the Milwaukee Admirals may be the first time that the Griffins squad will face Calle Jarnkrok as an opponent. He was traded to the Nashville Predators on March 5 and is currently with the Admirals’ parent club...The Admirals rank third in the Midwest Division, sixth in the Western Conference and 14th overall…Milwaukee currently owns the sixth- place Western Conference playoff spot, just two points ahead of the Rockford IceHogs… Jordin Tootoo was a member of the Admirals from 2004-06, when he tallied 49 points (23-26—49) in 100 games…Milwaukee is on a two-game point streak and has produced a 7-2-0-1 record through its last 10 contests…Both Miikka Salomaki (17-26—43, 9th) and Colton Sissons (24-17—41, T11th) rank among the league’s top-scoring rookies…Jarnkrok (18-25—43) and Salomaki tie for the points lead on the Admirals, with Sissons ranking third…Michael Liambas (241) and Mathieu Tousignant (158) are Milwaukee’s leading brawlers, respectively ranking first and second on the team in penalty minutes.


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