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STREAKING GRIFFINS TO HOST WOLVES, KASEY KAHNE ON SATURDAY

Final Visit to St. John’s Highlights Hectic Week

This Week’s Games
Tue., Dec. 7 - GRIFFINS at St. John’s Maple Leafs - 6:05 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM

Wed., Dec. 8 - GRIFFINS at St. John’s Maple Leafs - 6:05 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM

Fri., Dec. 10 - GRIFFINS at Cincinnati Mighty Ducks - 7:35 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM

Sat., Dec. 11 - Chicago Wolves at GRIFFINS - 8 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM

Last Week’s Results
Fri., Dec. 3 - GRIFFINS 1 at Milwaukee Admirals 0 - 14-5-1-0, 29 pts. (T1st, West Division)

Sat., Dec. 4 - Utah Grizzlies 1 at GRIFFINS 2 - 15-5-1-0, 31 pts. (T1st)

Torrid Pace Equals First Place: With four straight victories and 10 wins in their last 12 outings, the Griffins have rocketed to the best start in their nine-year history, claiming a share of first place in the West Division. Grand Rapids’ 15 wins (15-5-1-0) are the most ever for the franchise through 21 games, while its 31 points match those posted by the 2000-01 squad (14-3-3). With last Friday’s 1-0 win at Milwaukee, the Griffins moved into a tie with the Admirals atop the standings, erasing what had been a seven-point deficit as recently as Nov. 12.

You Can’t Go Home Again: While the Griffins will endure a 10-hour travel day to St. John’s today and a 12-hour journey west to Cincinnati on Thursday, the two-game set in Newfoundland on Tuesday and Wednesday will be well worth the trip for both Grand Rapids goalies. With the Toronto Maple Leafs set to move their AHL affiliate to their home city next season, this week may mark the last time that either Nova Scotia-born Joey MacDonald or Prince Edward Island native Drew MacIntyre plays a professional game in the Maritime Provinces. The Griffins pulled out a 3-1 win and 3-3 tie in their first-ever visit to “The Rock” last season.

Racing Kahne: After logging nearly 3,400 air miles for the week prior to Friday’s game in Cincinnati, the Griffins will take a short 377-mile flight home on Saturday morning before hosting Chicago at 8 p.m. NASCAR Rookie of the Year Kasey Kahne will be the Griffins’ special guest, signing autographs and meeting fans in the arena banquet room from 7 to 7:50 p.m., before dropping the puck for the ceremonial faceoff. Kahne, 24, ranked 13th in the final 2004 Nextel Cup Series point standings and finished eighth in winnings at nearly $4.8 million. He captured four poles and claimed five second-place finishes, while his 13 top-five finishes ranked fourth on the circuit.

Fearsome Foursome: This week’s schedule marks the third time in the last four weeks that the Griffins will play four games in a five-day span. Grand Rapids fared well in its first two tests, posting identical 3-1-0-0 records from Nov. 16-20 and Nov. 24-28.

Road Warriors: With Friday’s 1-0 victory at Milwaukee, the Griffins set a franchise record with their seventh consecutive road win, breaking the previous standard of six established from Oct. 16-Nov. 27, 1999. The AHL’s only perfect road team at 7-0-0-0, Grand Rapids has more than doubled its previous-best 3-0 road starts from the 2002-03, 2001-02 and 2000-01 seasons. Of the nine games that the Griffins have remaining before Christmas, seven will be played in hostile territory.

Here’s to You, Mr. Robinson: Center Todd Robinson, signed from UHL Muskegon on Nov. 12, has earned the Griffins’ nomination for the CCM Vector/AHL Player of the Week award. He had a goal and an assist last week and has been a huge factor in each of the Griffins’ four straight wins. Robinson assisted on an overtime game-winner (Nov. 27 in Chicago), scored the decisive goal in a shootout (Nov. 28 vs. Cincinnati), tallied the lone goal of a contest (Friday in Milwaukee) and assisted on another game-winning goal (Saturday vs. Utah) in those four outings. He now has seven points (1-6—7) and a plus-one rating in 12 games with the Griffins.

Mac Masonry: When the Grizzlies spoiled Drew MacIntyre’s shutout bid midway through the final frame on Saturday, it dashed a Griffins shutout streak of 114:55 and marked just the second goal allowed by Grand Rapids over a span of 210:15. During the team’s four-game winning streak, Joey MacDonald and MacIntyre have combined to allow just four goals, showing a 0.97 GAA and a 0.965 save percentage (110-114).

Close Calls: Each of the Griffins’ last five wins, along with nine of their last 10 and 11 of their 15 overall, has been by a single goal. Moreover, 13 of the Griffins’ last 16 games and 15 of their 21 contests thus far have been decided by one goal. Grand Rapids is 11-3-1-0 in those games, giving it the most such wins of any AHL team. The franchise records for the most one-goal wins and one-goal decisions are 23 (1999-00) and 43 (1997-98), respectively.

Reinforcements: With Tomas Kopecky rehabbing a broken finger and Jiri Hudler alongside his ailing father in the Czech Republic, the Griffins have looked to the lower minors to fill the voids in their lineup. Nick Parillo, the leading scorer for the ECHL’s Toledo Storm (3-13—16), signed a tryout on Saturday and skated in that night’s 2-1 win over Utah before returning to his club on Sunday. Earlier today, Grand Rapids signed Ernie Hartlieb, a 25-year-old native of Warren, Mich., who has appeared in 89 AHL contests with Worcester and Lowell over the last three seasons, totaling 50 points (21-29—50) and 74 penalty minutes. He spent the 2003-04 campaign with Worcester, tying for fourth on the club with 14 goals and ranking sixth with 35 points despite playing in only 63 games. His five game-winning goals tied for the IceCats’ lead. This season, Hartlieb has contributed 12 points (3-9—12) in 15 contests with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades, while going scoreless in two games with Lowell.

Big Mac: Joey MacDonald made 32 saves in Friday’s 1-0 win at Milwaukee, extending his franchise record with his 13th career shutout. Remarkably, he did not register his first shutout until Jan. 17, 2003, and has collected all 13 in a span of just 68 games played. MacDonald, who is the author of the last nine shutouts recorded by a Griffin, ranks among the AHL’s leaders with 12 wins (3rd), four shutouts (T1st), a 1.78 GAA (6th) and a 0.939 save percentage (T5th).

Little Mac: Rookie Drew MacIntyre made 24 saves against Utah on Saturday to notch his second straight 2-1 win at Van Andel Arena and mark his third strong outing in as many starts at home this season. As a result, his save percentage within friendly confines has improved to 0.931, and his overall numbers now stand at 3-1-0 with a 2.01 GAA and a 0.930 save percentage.

League Leaders: Niklas Kronwall, who leads the Griffins in scoring, ranks first among league blueliners with 20 points and seven goals and is tied for third with a 0.143 shooting percentage…Eric Himelfarb’s 12 points (4-8—12) tie for third on the Griffins and are deadlocked for 11th among AHL rookies. He leads all first-year players and is tied for third overall in the AHL with two shorthanded goals.

Helmer to Pay: After netting just a single goal for the Griffins during the first 10 games, defenseman Bryan Helmer has since proven to be an offensive threat. With points in five of the last seven games (2-4—6), he now shows nine points (4-5—9) in 21 games.

By the Numbers: Where the Griffins rank among the AHL’s 28 teams in various statistical categories:
• Power Play: 21-for-124, 16.9% (10th)
• Penalty Killing: 101-for-111, 91.0% (2nd)
• Penalty Minutes: 19.67 avg. (25th)
• Goals For: 2.62 avg. (14th)
• Goals Against: 1.86 avg. (4th)
• Shots For: 29.05 avg. (22nd)
• Shots Against: 29.38 avg. (12th)
• Attendance: 5,822 avg. (10th)

This Week’s Scouting Report


Tue., Dec. 7 at St. John’s Maple Leafs (14-8-0-1) – Mile One Stadium – 6:05 p.m.
Wed., Dec. 8 at St. John’s Maple Leafs – Mile One Stadium – 6:05 p.m.

TV: None. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 5:59 p.m. each night. Season Series: First and second of four meetings overall, first and second of two in St. John’s. All-Time Series: 3-0-1-0 Overall, 1-0-1-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: Toronto Maple Leafs. Head Coach: Doug Shedden (2nd season). Turning Leafs: St. John’s owns one of the AHL’s best home records at 9-2-0-1…The Leafs average nearly 30 PIM per game, ranking sixth…Their offense is the fourth-most potent in the league, averaging 3.17 goals…Kyle Wellwood is tied for fifth in scoring (13-15—28).

Fri., Dec. 10 at Cincinnati Mighty Ducks (8-14-0-2) – Cincinnati Gardens – 7:35 p.m.
TV: None. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:10 p.m. Season Series: 3-0-0-0 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Road. Fourth of 10 meetings overall, second of five on the road. All-Time Series: 19-6-2-0 Overall, 9-4-0-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Head Coach: Brad Shaw (3rd season). Just Ducky: Each of the Griffins’ three wins over the Ducks this season has been by a one-goal margin…Former NHLer Dan Bylsma, a native of Grand Haven, Mich., is an assistant coach with Cincinnati…The Ducks rank near the bottom of the AHL in both goals scored (2.13, 24th) and goals allowed (3.04, 23rd)…Their power play has converted only 16 of 150 chances (10.7%, 27th).

Sat., Dec. 11 vs. Chicago Wolves (12-8-2-1) – Van Andel Arena – 8 p.m.
TV: None locally. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:40 p.m. Season Series: 2-3-0-0 Overall, 0-3-0-0 Home. Sixth of 10 meetings overall, fourth of five in Grand Rapids. All-Time Series: 33-21-4-1 Overall, 16-9-4-0 Home. NHL Affiliation: Atlanta Thrashers. Head Coach: John Anderson (8th season). Wolf Tracks: The road team has won each of the first five meetings…The Griffins’ 3-2 OT win at Allstate Arena on Nov. 27 broke Chicago’s three-game series winning streak…Dating to last year, the Wolves have won their last six visits to Van Andel Arena…Chicago is 8-3-1-0 in its last 12…Travis Roche is tied for third among AHL defensemen in scoring (6-12—18).


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