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THE PUCK DROPS FRIDAY

Season Opener Friday at San Antonio; Home Opener Oct. 14 vs. Omaha

This Week’s Games

Fri., Oct. 6 - GRIFFINS at San Antonio Rampage - 8 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/B2 Networks
Sat., Oct. 7 - GRIFFINS at Houston Aeros - 8:35 p.m. - WOOD/B2

Remember the Alamo: This weekend’s trip to San Antonio and Houston kicks off season no. 11 for the Griffins, the AHL’s 2005-06 regular season champions. Grand Rapids – which is entering its sixth AHL campaign, its fifth season as the primary affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, and its first year as a partial affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers – will play its first three games on the road. The Griffins will then host the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights in their home opener next Saturday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. at Van Andel Arena.

Strange Meeting You Here: During tomorrow’s opener in San Antonio, the Griffins will face-off against two of their three AHL All-Stars from last season in reigning league MVP Donald MacLean and defenseman Bryan Helmer (the third, Jiri Hudler, is now with the Detroit Red Wings). Another member of Grand Rapids’ 2005-06 team, defenseman Nick Martens, is also on the Rampage’s season-opening roster.
 
For Starters: Grand Rapids is 8-2 all time both in season openers and road openers. The Griffins have won their last three season openers and – incredibly – their last seven road debuts.

Get Your Tickets: Tickets for all 40 Griffins regular season home games can be purchased in person at The Zone at Van Andel Arena and all Star Tickets Plus locations (including Meijer stores), by phone through Star Tickets Plus at  800-585-3737, or via the web at griffinshockey.com. Full season tickets, five-, 10- and 20-game value plans, and group ticket packages are available through the Griffins office at (800) 2-HOCKEY.

At the Helm: Griffins general manager Bob McNamara begins his 11th season with the club, Greg Ireland starts his second full season as head coach and fourth overall with Grand Rapids, and assistant coach Jim Paek returns for his second season. Ireland’s cumulative record of 72-33-2-5 (0.674) as head coach gives him the highest winning percentage in team history and puts him within striking distance of the franchise’s career leader in coaching victories, Danton Cole (116).

Take Me to Your Leaders: Matt Ellis, who last season became the seventh – and youngest – captain in franchise history at the age of 24, will sport the “C” once again this year. Third-year defenseman Derek Meech and 10-year pro Dan Smith will serve as the alternate captains.

Graduation Celebration: Five players who ended the 2005-06 season with the Griffins are starting the 2006-07 campaign on the Detroit Red Wings’ roster: forwards Valtteri Filppula, Jiri Hudler and Tomas Kopecky, defenseman Brett Lebda, and goaltender Joey MacDonald. Once MacDonald plays his first regular season game for Detroit, he will become the 81st alumnus in Griffins history to play in the NHL. Red Wings Niklas Kronwall and Jason Williams are also Grand Rapids graduates.

Almost Like Being There: In conjunction with B2 Networks and the AHL, live video broadcasts of nearly every Griffins game this season will once again be offered through a link at griffinshockey.com. Any fan with a high-speed internet connection will be able to watch the action for just $6 while listening to Bob Kaser’s play-by-play.

Game On, AHL Style: As the American Hockey League begins its 71st season, the Griffins commence their second campaign as members of the North Division alongside Hamilton, Manitoba, Rochester, Syracuse and Toronto. The roster of AHL teams remains at 27, with the addition of the Lowell Devils and Worcester Sharks and the departure of the Cleveland Barons and Lowell Lock Monsters. The league has adopted several new rules for the 2006-07 season, most notably the mandatory use of approved protective visors by all players; the home team having the option of shooting first or second in a shootout; and the maximum allowed curvature of a player’s stick increasing from half an inch to three-quarters of an inch.

Detroit Exports: Fourteen Red Wings-contracted players are on the Griffins’ 23-man roster, including forwards Darryl Bootland, Brendan Brooks, Matt Ellis, Eric Himelfarb, Matt Hussey, Krystofer Kolanos, Josh Langfeld, Evan McGrath and Ryan Oulahen; defensemen Derek Meech, Kyle Quincey and Dan Smith; and goaltenders Jimmy Howard and Stefan Liv.

Striking Oil: The Griffins and four other AHL teams have partial affiliations with the Edmonton Oilers for the 2006-07 season. Grand Rapids currently has three players on its roster as a result of this partnership, including forwards Stephane Goulet and Brock Radunske and defenseman Dan Syvret.

Signed and Sealed: Six players on the current roster are under contract to the Griffins, including forwards Scott Barney, Kip Miller and Ryan Keller (all standard player contracts), and defensemen Jason Beckett, Tom Galvin and Nick Naumenko (all pro tryouts).

In the Wings: Rookie defenseman Jonathan Ericsson and flashy Finnish forward Valtteri Filppula, who scored 20 goals and 70 points for the Griffins last season, are each expected to be assigned to Grand Rapids by the Red Wings in the coming weeks after rehabbing injuries sustained during Detroit’s preseason.

Welcome Back: Eight players from the Griffins’ 2005-06 edition return this season: forwards Darryl Bootland, Matt Ellis, Eric Himelfarb, Ryan Keller and Ryan Oulahen; defensemen Derek Meech and Kyle Quincey; and goaltender Jimmy Howard. In addition, forward Kip Miller is back for his fourth Griffins stint and his first since 2004-05, while his former Grand Rapids linemate, Josh Langfeld, rejoins the team with which he made his pro debut in 2001-02.

Fresh Faces: Tom Galvin (UHL Muskegon), Stephane Goulet (QMJHL Moncton), Evan McGrath (OHL Kitchener) and Brock Radunske (ECHL Greenville) are AHL rookies, joining newcomers Scott Barney (AHL Chicago), Jason Beckett (DNP), Brendan Brooks (AHL Peoria), Matt Hussey (AHL Wilkes-Barre), Krystofer Kolanos (AHL Wilkes-Barre), Stefan Liv (Jonkoping, Sweden), Nick Naumenko (AHL Chicago), Dan Smith (AHL Hamilton) and Dan Syvret (AHL Hamilton) on the Griffins’ roster.

Tell Me What It Takes: Eight players and coaches for the Griffins have won major championships in North America at the pro, college or major junior level, including assistant coach Jim Paek (NHL Stanley Cup – 1991 and 1992 Pittsburgh, IHL Turner Cup – 1989 Muskegon and 1999 Houston), Krystofer Kolanos (NCAA Championship – 2001 Boston College), Josh Langfeld (NCAA Championship – 1998 Michigan), Evan McGrath (CHL Memorial Cup – 2003 Kitchener), Derek Meech (CHL Memorial Cup – 2001 Red Deer), Kip Miller (IHL Turner Cup – 1995 Denver), Dan Smith (AHL Calder Cup – 1997 Hershey) and Dan Syvret (CHL Memorial Cup – 2005 London).

Do You Feel a Draft?: Nineteen of the Griffins’ 23 players were once selected in the NHL Entry Draft, from Krystofer Kolanos (#19 overall by Phoenix in 2000) to Matt Hussey (#254 by Pittsburgh in 1998).

NHL Experience: Ten Griffins have combined to play 774 games in the National Hockey League, including 110 contests last season: Kip Miller (449/0), Krystofer Kolanos (115/15), Josh Langfeld (108/57), Scott Barney (27/3), Darryl Bootland (22/0), Dan Smith (22/7), Matt Hussey (16/13), Dan Syvret (10/10), Jimmy Howard (4/4) and Kyle Quincey (1/1).

Veteran Roll Call: Excluding goaltenders, AHL clubs may not dress more than five skaters with more than 260 games of experience in the NHL, AHL, IHL or European Elite leagues. The Griffins currently have five designated veterans in Matt Hussey, Josh Langfeld, Kip Miller, Nick Naumenko and Dan Smith.

Twice Blessed: The only Griffins player born outside North America, Stefan Liv makes his debut on the continent after playing the last six seasons in the Swedish Elite League. Detroit’s third choice (102nd overall) in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, he was a member of Sweden’s gold medal-winning teams at both the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy and the 2006 IIHF World Championship in Latvia. Liv, a native of Gdynia, Poland, was adopted at a young age and grew up in Sweden.

One For the Ages: The average age of the Griffins is 25.5 years, one and a half years older than the 2005-06 squad. Kip Miller (37 years, three months) leads the way as one of just two players over 30 (Nick Naumenko). Sixteen players are 26 or younger, with Evan McGrath (20 years, eight months) checking in as the youngest.

Count on Us: During their collegiate days, Josh Langfeld and Krystofer Kolanos each scored an overtime goal in the championship game to give their school an NCAA title. In 1998, Langfeld and Michigan dispatched Boston College with 2:09 left in overtime, while in 2001, Kolanos and the B.C. Eagles defeated North Dakota on a goal 4:43 into the extra session.

Where Are They Now?: Seventeen players from last year’s playoff roster now find themselves in other locales, including Detroit (Valtteri Filppula, Jiri Hudler, Tomas Kopecky, Brett Lebda and Joey MacDonald), AHL San Antonio (Bryan Helmer, Donald MacLean and Nick Martens), AHL Hamilton (Eric Manlow), AHL Iowa (Greg Amadio), AHL Manitoba (Drew MacIntyre), AHL Portland (Clay Wilson), AHL Providence (Nate DiCasmirro) and Germany’s Bremerhaven (Alfie Michaud). In addition, original Griffins defenseman Travis Richards retired in June after playing 10 seasons with the club.

2005-06 Year in Review: The Griffins flirted with AHL honors, records and superlatives throughout the 2005-06 season:
•    The Griffins won their first AHL regular season crown (Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy) by virtue of their best-ever record of 55-20-1-4. Their team-record 55 wins were the third-most by a team in AHL history, trailing only 98-99 Providence (56) and 92-93 Binghamton (57).
•    After defeating a pair of AHL head coaches – Manitoba’s Alain Vigneault and Toronto’s Paul Maurice – who would subsequently be tabbed as the bench bosses for their NHL parent clubs, the Griffins lost four straight to Milwaukee in the Western Conference Finals.
•    Donald MacLean’s team-record and league-high 56 goals tied for eighth in AHL history. He became the first player in franchise history to earn league MVP honors.
•    Grand Rapids’ 323 goals and 120 power play goals, both by far the most in franchise history (279 and 67), were also the most in the AHL since 96-97 Philadelphia (325) and 93-94 St. John’s (120), respectively. The 120 power play goals were four shy of the league record.
•    Darryl Bootland established a franchise mark with 390 penalty minutes. He also contributed 27 goals, becoming the ninth player in AHL history and the first in 11 years to post 20 goals and 300 PIM in the same season.
•    Grand Rapids registered a franchise-record 11-game winning streak during March, a run that helped goaltender Jimmy Howard become the team’s first player to be named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team.
•    The Griffins earned their seventh consecutive 40-win campaign overall and their fifth straight as members of the AHL. No team in the 70-year history of the AHL has ever posted seven straight 40-win seasons. The Cleveland Barons rattled off a record six straight from 1947-48 to 1952-53, while the Griffins’ five in a row as AHL members tie for second in league history, matching the Rochester Americans (1973-74 to 1977-78), Maine Mariners (1977-78 to 1981-82) and Adirondack Red Wings (1985-86 to 1989-90).
•    The Griffins combined with the Detroit Red Wings to become the first AHL/NHL affiliates in 29 years to capture their respective regular season championships.
•    As both individuals and a team, the Griffins set or tied nearly 70 franchise records during the 2005-06 regular season.

Scouting Report

Fri., Oct. 6 at San Antonio Rampage (23-50-3-4 in 2005-06) – AT&T Center – 8 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:10 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through griffinshockey.com. Season Series: First of four meetings overall, first of two in San Antonio. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 22-9-1-0-0 Overall, 12-4-0-0-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: Phoenix Coyotes. Head Coach: Pat Conacher (2nd season). Notes: The Griffins went 4-0 against the Rampage last season, winning twice in San Antonio…Grand Rapids has won six straight games in the Alamo City, with its last loss coming in the 2003-04 season finale…The Rampage have three members of the 2005-06 Griffins on their roster, including Donald MacLean, Bryan Helmer and Nick Martens…San Antonio has also added former AHL All-Stars Philippe Sauve (G) and Travis Roche (D) in its bid to earn a playoff berth for the first time since 2002-03.

Sat., Oct. 7 at Houston Aeros (50-24-3-3 in 2005-06) – Toyota Center – 8:35 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 8:10 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through griffinshockey.com. Season Series: First of four meetings overall, first of two in Houston. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 27-21-6-1-5 Overall, 12-12-4-0-3 Road. NHL Affiliation: Minnesota Wild. Head Coach: Rob Daum (2nd season). Notes: After meeting three times in the season’s first six games, the Griffins and Aeros will clash just once more, Nov. 26 in Houston…Grand Rapids had a 0.500 or better record last season against every team except Houston (1-2-0-1)…Perennial all-star blueliner Curtis Murphy returns to the Aeros, along with goaltender Josh Harding (29-8-0 last season) and sniper Roman Voloshenko, who burned the Griffins for four goals on Oct. 21, 2005.

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