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02/20/2006 10:39 AM - Four-in-Five Set Ends With Two Games Against Second-Place Clubs

This Week’s Games

Wed., Feb. 22 - GRIFFINS at Rochester Americans - 7:05 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/B2 Networks

Fri., Feb. 24 - GRIFFINS at Philadelphia Phantoms - 7:05 p.m. - WOOD/B2

Sat., Feb. 25 - GRIFFINS at Syracuse Crunch - 7:30 p.m. - WOOD/B2

Sun., Feb. 26 - GRIFFINS at Hershey Bears - 5 p.m. - WOOD/B2

Last Week’s Results
Tue., Feb. 14 - Manitoba Moose 5 at GRIFFINS 3 - 37-13-1-3, 78 pts. (1st, North Division)

Thu., Feb. 16 - GRIFFINS 9 at Cleveland Barons 2 – 38-13-1-3, 80 pts. (1st)

Fri., Feb. 17 - Hamilton Bulldogs 3 at GRIFFINS 2 - 38-14-1-3, 80 pts. (1st)

Sat., Feb. 18 - Manitoba Moose 3 at GRIFFINS 2 SO - 38-14-1-4, 81 pts. (1st)

Road Warriors: The Griffins, first place in the North Division with an eight-point lead over Syracuse, get back on the road this week for four games in five nights. After visits to Rochester and Philadelphia, the 1,900-mile gauntlet – including 1,500 miles on a bus – will conclude with contests against second-place clubs Syracuse and Hershey, finishing up the Griffins’ eighth and final 3-in-3 of the season. Grand Rapids has fared well this season when playing three games in as many nights, posting a 15-4-0-2 record, including a sparkling 5-0-0-2 mark in the third game.

Make Yourself at Home: Grand Rapids has earned points in each of its last seven road games (6-0-0-1) and in nine of its last 10 road contests (8-1-0-1), helping the team to the AHL’s third-best road mark overall (17-9-0-1).

Study in Contrasts: The Griffins lost their only previous meeting this year against Rochester, a 4-1 loss at Blue Cross Arena on Dec. 16 that marked their third straight road loss to the Amerks since 2003 and dropped their all-time record in Rochester to 3-4. By contrast, Grand Rapids is a combined 6-0 this season – including 1-0 on the road – against Philadelphia (1-0), Syracuse (4-0) and Hershey (1-0). Amazingly, the Griffins have never lost on the road against the Phantoms (3-0), Crunch (3-0, including a 4-3 win on Dec. 18) or Bears (2-0).

Pack ‘Em In: Saturday’s crowd of 10,834 at Van Andel Arena was the Griffins’ sixth sellout in 30 home games this season, their most since selling-out eight times in 1999-00.

Seventh Heaven: Despite Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss to Manitoba, Grand Rapids clinched its seventh consecutive winning season and its ninth winning record in its 10 campaigns overall. At 38-14-1-4, the Griffins are 24 games over 0.500 with 23 games remaining.

Big Mac: Donald MacLean continued his assault on the Griffins’ record book last week. He netted five goals in four games to push his league-leading total to 41, five shy of the franchise record established by Michel Picard in 1996-97. MacLean’s 19-game point streak (21-11—32) is the longest in Griffins history and the longest in the AHL this season, and he ranks among the league leaders with 61 points (T6th) and a team-record 15 power play goals (T2nd). He has registered points in 26 of the last 27 games (29-15—44) and has 40 goals in his last 46 contests.

Spread the Wealth: The Griffins already have the most 40-point scorers (7) and 20-assist men (11) of any team in franchise history, surpassing the previous highs of six (2000-01 and 1999-00) and eight (four times, most recently 2003-04), respectively. They are just the second squad to boast a 40-goal scorer, and their 10 players with at least 30 points apiece tie the record set in 2000-01.

Updating the Chase: During the AHL’s previous 69 seasons, only 94 players eclipsed the 100-point plateau and just 45 reached the 50-goal milestone. Griffins forwards Jiri Hudler and Donald MacLean, respectively, could join those exclusive clubs. Hudler’s 71 points put him on track for 99, two shy of the franchise mark set by Michel Picard in 1996-97. MacLean’s league-high 41 goals give him a 57-goal pace, a total that would crush Picard’s team record (46 in 1996-97) and tie for sixth in AHL history. He is attempting to become the first Griffin to lead his league in goals.

Natural Born Killers: When Manitoba’s Lee Goren scored a power play goal at 12:29 of the second period on Saturday, it ended the Griffins’ streak of 40 straight opponent power plays killed five shy of the franchise record. Grand Rapids, which denied the Moose on their other seven chances, have killed off 53 of their last 55 (96.4%) shorthanded situations.

A Night to Remember: In Thursday’s 9-2 annihilation of Cleveland, the Griffins set, tied or extended 11 franchise records, including:
  • Jiri Hudler equaled Chris Bala’s five-assist performance (Jan. 10, 2002 at Chicago);
  • Tomas Kopecky became just the second Griffin to net three goals in a single period (Petr Schastlivy, Nov. 17, 2001 vs. Milwaukee) and the first to record a natural hat trick in one frame;
  • The Griffins’ five power play goals tied the record set twice previously this season, and their nine goals were their most ever in a regular season road game (eight twice, most recently in an 8-0 win at Cleveland on April 1, 2001).

    That’s More Like It: The Griffins’ 5-for-8 power play performance on Thursday at Cleveland brought an end to a rare 0-for-18 skid with the advantage. Immediately preceding that drought, Grand Rapids’ top-ranked unit enjoyed an incredible 9-for-14 stretch (64.3%).

    No Average Joe: Joey MacDonald has reverted to his old form following a slow start caused by his rehabilitation from injury. After posting a 5-4-1 record, a 3.87 GAA and a 0.877 save percentage through New Year’s Eve, he has since gone 9-3-1 with a 2.36 GAA, a 0.915 save percentage and one shutout. His recent seven-game winning streak (Jan. 21-Feb. 11) was a personal-best, falling one shy of Mike Fountain’s team record.

    Who’s Hot?: Clay Wilson has points in seven of the last 12 games (2-9—11) and 11 of the last 19 contests (2-15—17)…Eric Manlow has points in 11 of the last 16 games (3-10—13)…Nate DiCasmirro has points in eight of 11 games (4-6—10)…Bryan Helmer has points in seven of nine games (1-9—10) and 13 of 16 games (2-17—19)…Jimmy Howard had led the team to points in 11 straight decisions (nine wins, one overtime loss, one shootout loss) before suffering the loss to Hamilton on Friday.

    Faster, Higher, Stronger: Defenseman Niklas Kronwall’s conditioning assignment with the Griffins ended today, when he departed for Turin, Italy, to join the taxi squad for Team Sweden at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. Kronwall, 25, was assigned to the Griffins on Feb. 11 and played his lone game with the club that night, helping Grand Rapids to a 4-2 win over Peoria. Following a mandated one-week break for the Olympics, he was expected to resume play for the Griffins this week but was instead summoned by his homeland’s team. The AHL’s outstanding defenseman and a First-Team All-Star as a member of the 2004-05 Griffins, Kronwall was expected to be a top-four defenseman for Detroit this season. However, he suffered a knee injury in training camp that sidelined him through the end of January. Now working his way back into form, he has contributed three assists in three games since his return to the Red Wings on Feb. 1. Kronwall was one of six Griffins alumni originally selected by their native countries to take part in the Olympics. Five of the 12 participating nations have a former Griffin on their active roster: Germany (Michael Hackert), Kazakhstan (Konstantin Shafranov), Latvia (Aigars Cipruss), Slovakia (Pavol Demitra) and Switzerland (Julien Vauclair). A seventh Griffins alum, Jason Spezza, is an alternate for Team Canada. The men’s ice hockey preliminary round concludes on Tuesday. Quarterfinals on Feb. 22 and semifinals on Feb. 24 will lead up to the Bronze Medal Game on Feb. 25 and the Gold Medal Game on Feb. 26.

    This Week in Griffins History: Feb. 20: Grand Rapids extends its record unbeaten streak at home to 13 games with a 2-1 overtime win versus Hamilton. Joey MacDonald’s record shutout streak on home ice ends at 242:18, when he surrenders a goal to the Bulldogs’ Alexander Perezhogin at 7:37 of the third period (2004). Feb. 21: A 2-1 victory over Milwaukee makes it a 14-game unbeaten streak for the Griffins on home ice (2004). Feb. 22: Griffins wear their blue road uniforms for the first time ever at Van Andel Arena in a 3-2 win over Quebec (1997). Feb. 23: Kip Miller scores a goal for the sixth consecutive game, tying Pavol Demitra’s franchise record in a 5-3 loss to Milwaukee (2001). Feb. 24: A franchise-record nine players light the lamp in a 9-1 annihilation of Utah at Van Andel Arena, marking the Griffins' largest margin of victory ever on home ice. Feb. 25: Joey MacDonald secures his franchise-record 56th win, a 4-2 triumph over Milwaukee (2005). Feb. 26: Three nights after crushing Houston 6-0 on the road, the Griffins take a 7-4 win at Allstate Arena, marking the first time in franchise history that they tallied six or more goals in back-to-back road affairs (2003).

    Scouting Report

    Wed., Feb. 22 at Rochester Americans (26-24-1-2) – Blue Cross Arena – 7:05 p.m.

    Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:59 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through Season Series: 0-1-0-0 Overall, 0-1-0-0 Road. Second of six meetings overall, second of three in Rochester. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 6-6-1-0-0 Overall, 3-4-0-0-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: Buffalo Sabres. Head Coach: Randy Cunneyworth (6th season). American Pride: Since taking a 7-1 win at Rochester on Feb. 16, 2003, the Griffins have lost their last three visits to Blue Cross Arena by a combined 10-4 score…The Amerks are winless in four straight (0-3-0-1) on the heels of a five-game winning streak…Rochester has lost two straight at home, where it is just one game over 0.500 for the season (12-11-1-1)…The Americans sit in fifth place in the North Division, six points out of the final playoff spot.

    Fri., Feb. 24 at Philadelphia Phantoms (20-27-1-7) – Wachovia Spectrum – 7:05 p.m.
    Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:59 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through Season Series: 1-0-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Second and final meeting overall, first and only in Philadelphia. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 5-2-0-0-0 Overall, 3-0-0-0-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: Philadelphia Flyers. Head Coach: John Stevens (6th season). Ghost of a Chance: Philly is winless in its last three (0-1-0-2)…The Griffins stand first in the AHL in both power play goals (86) and percentage (22.2%), while the Phantoms rank last in each category (42 and 11.8%)…Grand Rapids took a 4-0 home win against Philly on Feb. 10…The Phantoms’ 1,612 penalty minutes are the most in the league…Philly swept Chicago in the 2005 Calder Cup finals but currently is tied for fifth in the East Division, 13 points out of a playoff spot.

    Sat., Feb. 25 at Syracuse Crunch (35-18-2-1) – Onondaga County War Memorial – 7:30 p.m.
    Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:10 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through Season Series: 4-0-0-0 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Road. Fifth of six meetings overall, second of three in Syracuse. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 7-1-0-0-0 Overall, 3-0-0-0-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: Columbus Blue Jackets. Head Coach: Gary Agnew (6th season). Feel the Crunch: Syracuse has won seven straight to take over second place in the North Division from Manitoba…The Crunch have won six straight at home, where they are 9-1-1-0 since a 4-3 loss to the Griffins on Dec. 18…Mike Ayers, who played one game for Grand Rapids late last season, is 10-3 with three shutouts, a 2.21 GAA and a 0.929% for Syracuse…The Crunch, 17-5-1-0 at home, are 31-11-2-1 overall since Nov. 11…The Griffins have won seven of eight meetings in the all-time series.

    Sun., Feb. 26 at Hershey Bears (33-15-2-7) – Giant Center – 5 p.m.
    Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 4:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through Season Series: 1-0-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Second and final meeting overall, first and only in Hershey. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 5-0-0-0-0 Overall, 2-0-0-0-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: Washington Capitals. Head Coach: Bruce Boudreau (1st season). Bear Necessities: The Griffins are a perfect 5-0 all time against Hershey, including a 6-4 win at Van Andel Arena on Dec. 22…The Bears, winners of two straight, are 20-7-0-2 at the Giant Center…Tomas Fleischmann, who ranks second on the Bears with 43 points (20-23—43), was the Red Wings’ second selection in the 2002 draft, between top pick Jiri Hudler and Valtteri Filppula. He joined the Capitals organization as part of the Robert Lang trade (Feb. 27, 2004).

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