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HUDLER, HOWARD OUTSHINE STARS

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Red-hot Jiri Hudler tallied two goals and an assist and Jimmy Howard made 39 saves in his pro debut to lead the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 6-2 annihilation of the Iowa Stars on Friday at Van Andel Arena.

Rebounding from an early deficit to score six unanswered goals, Grand Rapids solidified its first-place standing in the North Division and tied its best AHL start at 6-2-0-0. The Griffins, who received an emotional boost from Travis Richards’ first appearance since Jan. 9, will continue their homestand on Saturday by hosting the Houston Aeros at 7 p.m.

After Grand Rapids had squandered nearly four minutes of power play time in the early going, Iowa (3-5-0-0) needed just 26 seconds of its own advantage to take the lead, as Mathias Tjarnqvist converted his own rebound from the slot at 5:16.

The Griffins had several near-misses, including a Nick Martens shot off the crossbar and an Eric Manlow blast off the right post, before finally breaking through during a power play at 12:56. Along the right boards just inside the line, Kyle Quincey fired a shot that Manlow deflected past Dan Ellis from the doorstep. Hudler also earned an assist on the play to extend his AHL-high point streak to eight games.

As time wound down in the frame, Grand Rapids grabbed a 2-1 lead when Brett Lebda’s floater from the blueline found the upper left corner of the net with 28.6 seconds remaining.

Stellar defensive work by the Griffins early in the second preserved the one-goal lead, with Martens blocking a shot in front of a wide-open net and Howard making three consecutive stops during a big penalty kill. The effort eventually paid off in the form of a two-goal cushion at 8:38, when Darryl Bootland took control of a giveaway behind the Iowa net and fed a pass to Tomas Kopecky, who beat Ellis with a quick wrister from the slot.

Grand Rapids piled on late in the period for a 5-1 lead at the second break. Hudler wove his way through the Iowa zone and ripped a laser into the upper right corner during a power play at 16:41 for his 100th point as a Griffin, and a Matt Ellis tap-in 16 seconds later cemented the rout.

Hudler added his second of the night on a beautiful deflection at 10:38 of the third, and Iowa’s Loui Eriksson scored during a 5-on-3 advantage with 4:49 remaining for the final margin.

Iowa received 13 power plays on the night, tying a Griffins record for an opponent.

After the game, the Griffins announced that defenseman Brett Lebda was recalled by the Detroit Red Wings.

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