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SECOND CITY BLUES



ROSEMONT, Ill. – Making an unusually late season-debut appearance at Allstate Arena, the Grand Rapids Griffins surrendered two early goals and never fully recovered in a 5-2 loss to the archrival Chicago Wolves Friday night.

Billy Tibbetts bested a committed Joey MacDonald to strike first for the Wolves at 3:43 of the first. Nick Naumenko provided the assist on the 17th goal of the year for the team’s third-leading goal-scorer. The Maloney/Doell/Tibbetts line lit the lamp again at 7:29, as Brian Maloney received helpers from his linemates for his 11th and a 2-0 Chicago lead.

Mid-way through the second frame, Kent McDonell plucked a rebound away from red-hot goaltender Tuomas Tarkki to pull the Griffins within one. The sixth-year veteran reached the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his professional career, with dimes from Eric Manlow and Bryan Helmer on the club’s sixth of nine power plays in the game.

The Wolves vaulted back to a two-goal advantage on the strength of a power play tally by Justin Morrison at 15:15 of the period, and added insurance with Derek Mackenzie’s marker in the early stages of the third stanza. Scott Barney added another score for good measure on the man-advantage at 10:13. Chicago finished 2-for-11 on the power play for the night.

Overshadowed in defeat was the AHL-leading 46th goal of the season for Donald MacLean, coming on the power play with assists from Manlow and McDonell at 5:10 of the third. The all-star forward tied the all-time single-season team mark held by Griffins legend Michel Picard – with 17 games remaining in the campaign.

The Comcast Cup standings in this season’s rivalry series between the two clubs now favor Chicago by a 5-3 point margin. The Griffins hold a 1-1-1-0 record against the Wolves in 2005-06, with one game remaining in the four-game set coming up Sunday, March 12 at Allstate Arena at 4 p.m. ET. The inaugural battle features a trophy presentation for the victors, along with a special food delivery by the vanquished team’s mascot for the prevailing players and front office staff.

Grand Rapids next faces the Rochester Americans in a rare Sunday matinee at Van Andel Arena, as MacLean attempts to break the team’s single-season goal-scoring record in a 4 p.m. start. The Griffins are 1-1-0-0 against the Amerks this season, and stand 9 points ahead of the Syracuse Crunch atop the AHL’s North Division.

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