Alexandre Giroux (left) and Joel Kwiatkowski
This Week’s Games
Tue., Dec. 18 - GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals - 8 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/B2 Networks
Fri., Dec. 21 - Rockford IceHogs at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD/B2
Sat., Dec. 22 - Chicago Wolves at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD/B2
Last Week’s Results
Wed., Dec. 12 - Hamilton Bulldogs 1 at GRIFFINS 2 SO - 11-13-1-2, 25 pts. (4th, North Division)
Fri., Dec. 14 - Hamilton Bulldogs 3 at GRIFFINS 4 SO - 12-13-1-2, 27 pts. (3rd)
Sat., Dec. 15 - Milwaukee Admirals 2 at GRIFFINS 1 - 12-14-1-2, 27 pts. (4th)
Put to the Test: The Griffins concluded their season-high six-game home stand (Dec. 5-15) with a 4-2 mark, raising their record at Van Andel Arena to 5-2-0-1 since their 0-7 start. That run of success will be tested this Friday and Saturday when they host Rockford and Chicago squads – the top teams in the West Division – that boast a combined record of 36-13-3-4 (0.705). On Friday, the first-place IceHogs will try to become the first opponent in Griffins history to sweep a season series of at least four games, as they have two regulation victories and a shootout win thus far. Meanwhile, the Wolves, whose rivalry with Grand Rapids was once among the fiercest outside the NHL, will darken Van Andel Arena’s doorstep on Saturday for only the second time in nearly 13 months. Chicago visited just twice last season, with the Griffins winning 2-1 in overtime on March 31 and 6-4 on Nov. 24, 2006.
Holiday Spirit: A look at this weekend’s promotions: Dec. 21 vs. Rockford – The Griffins will wear their special third jerseys, modeled after the Red Wings’ white road sweaters. Fans can get four tickets and four Wendy’s single combos for just $44 when they purchase the Wendy’s Friday Family Four Pack, available at Star Tickets Plus outlets. Other ticket promotions include Bono’s Pit BBQ Student Night and Library Night. Visit griffinshockey.com for complete details. Dec. 22 vs. Chicago - Fans can visit griffinshockey.com to print a coupon redeemable at the box office for up to four tickets for only $5 (upper bowl) or $10 (lower bowl) each. Fans can also bring their skates and take to the ice after the game for the O’Charley’s Post-Game O’pen Skate, and Griffins players Evan McGrath, Ryan Oulahen and Garrett Stafford will sign autographs for fans after the game from the bench (players subject to change).
Hartigan Returns: Mark Hartigan, who leads the Griffins with 12 goals and ranks third on the team with 22 points, returned from his recall to the Red Wings on Sunday. During Detroit’s 4-3 shootout loss to Edmonton last Thursday, he netted his first goal as a Red Wing on an assist from former Griffins captain Matt Ellis.
Worst of Both Worlds: This week’s opponents present polar-opposite challenges for the Griffins. Chicago (3.78) and Rockford (3.55) stand second and third in the AHL in goals scored, while Milwaukee (2.42) ranks second in goals allowed. For its part, Chicago also maintains a lofty eighth-place standing in goals allowed (2.67).
Graduation Day: Drew MacIntyre became the 88th Griffins alumnus (and 16th goalie) to play in the NHL last Thursday, when he entered in relief of Curtis Sanford in Vancouver’s 5-2 loss at San Jose. MacIntyre, who played 27:18 and stopped nine of 11 shots in a no decision, appeared in 37 games with Grand Rapids from 2004-06, posting a 15-12-0 record with one shutout, a 2.78 GAA and a 0.900 save percentage.
The Season of Joy: After posting a 2-9-0-2 mark during November – the fewest wins they’ve ever earned during a complete month of play (Nov.-March) – the Griffins have suffered just two regulation losses in their eight December games (5-2-1-0), with each defeat coming by a 2-1 margin.
No Soup for You!: Following a career-high six-game winless streak from Nov. 9-21 (0-5-1, 4.28 GAA, 0.863%), Jimmy Howard is 7-3 with two shutouts, a 1.68 GAA and a 0.932 save percentage (233-250) in his last 10 games. During that time, he has dropped his overall GAA by more than a point, going from 3.76 to 2.70. Moreover, during December, he owns a 5-1 mark with two shutouts, a 1.30 GAA and a 0.942% (129-137).
Power Surge: The Griffins have notched a power play goal in 12 of their last 14 games (8-for-41, 19.5%), including a season-high six straight contests. Last Friday, they tied their season high with three power play goals against Hamilton’s then-top-ranked penalty killers.
Rock the Vote: From now until Jan. 6, fans can visit theahl.com to help decide which players will earn a trip to the 2008 AHL All-Star Classic, to be held in Binghamton, N.Y., on Jan. 27-28. The 2008 AHL All-Star Classic Fan Balloting presented by Reebok will determine the starting lineups for both the Canadian and PlanetUSA AHL All-Star teams, and a committee of AHL coaches will help complete the rosters.
Attendance On the Rise: The Griffins’ attendance of 82,517 through 15 home games this season (5,501 avg., ninth in AHL) represents a year-to-date increase of 10.3%, as last season’s team welcomed 74,788 fans through its first 15 games at Van Andel Arena.
Engelhardt Nets AHL Nomination: The Griffins on Monday nominated right wing Brett Engelhardt for the Rbk/AHL Player of the Week award, after he tallied two goals and four points in three games last week. He earned First Star honors by tallying a goal and an assist – all on the power play – in Friday’s 4-3 shootout win over Hamilton, tying the team’s season high for points in a game, then accounted for Grand Rapids’ lone goal in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Milwaukee.
By the Numbers: Since earning only one point in a nine-game stretch (0-8-0-1) from Oct. 28 to Nov. 21, the Griffins have captured points in nine of their last 13 games (7-4-1-1), and they are 6-3-1-0 in their last 10 outings…Grand Rapids’ 50 shots in last Friday’s 4-3 shootout win over Hamilton were the most for the club since firing 54 in a 5-4 shootout victory over Manitoba on Nov. 15, 2005…The Griffins’ scoring differentials this season are even in the first period (26-26), minus-four in the second period (25-29) and minus-eight in the third period (22-30)…Only four of Grand Rapids’ losses this season – and just two of their last 14 – have been by more than two goals…With last week’s pair of shootout wins over Hamilton, the Griffins have evened their record in the skills competition this season at 2-2.
Strange But True: Grand Rapids is 7-12-0-1 when outshooting its opponents and 5-2-1-1 when being out-shot…The Griffins are 5-3-1-0 when recording 29 or fewer shots, but they own a 7-11-0-2 record in games with 30 or more attempts…Grand Rapids is two games over 0.500 on the road (7-5-1-1) and four games under the break-even mark at home (5-9-0-1).
Hockeytown Holiday: The Griffins have introduced their new “Hockeytown Holiday Ticket Package,” a perfect present for West Michigan hockey fans made available for the first time through collaboration with the Detroit Red Wings. The Hockeytown Holiday package includes two tickets to either of three Red Wings games at Joe Louis Arena, along with five Griffins lower-bowl flex tickets that can be redeemed for any Grand Rapids home game during the 2007-08 regular season, for only $99 – a savings of $74 off the regular ticket prices. Fans can choose from one of the following Red Wings home games: Jan. 10 vs. Minnesota, Feb. 1 vs. Colorado or March 15 vs. Nashville. To order the Hockeytown Holiday package or get more information, call (800) 2-HOCKEY or visit http://www.griffinshockey.com/holiday.
Tue., Dec. 18 at Milwaukee Admirals (15-9-1-1) – Bradley Center – 8 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:59 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through griffinshockey.com. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 44-26-7-4-3 Overall, 19-14-5-3-3 Road. Season Series: 1-1-0-0 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Road. Third of eight meetings overall, second of four in Milwaukee. NHL Affiliation: Nashville Predators. Head Coach: Lane Lambert (1st season). Notes: Dating to last season, each of the last five meetings between the Griffins and Admirals has been decided by a single goal, with Grand Rapids holding a 2-1-2-0 mark…The Griffins’ 1-0 win at Milwaukee on Dec. 2 stands as their only regulation victory in the last 15 regular season and playoff meetings against the Admirals…The Ads rank second in the AHL in goals allowed, a paltry 2.42 per game.
Fri., Dec. 21 vs. Rockford IceHogs (17-6-2-4) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:59 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through griffinshockey.com. All-Time/Season Series: 0-2-0-1 Overall, 0-1-0-0 Home. Fourth of four meetings overall, second of two in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Chicago Blackhawks. Head Coach: Mike Haviland (1st season). Notes: With a 3-0 record against Grand Rapids heading into this Friday’s series finale, the IceHogs will try to become the first opponent in Griffins history to sweep a season series of at least four games…Rockford’s games are the highest-scoring in the AHL, averaging 6.58 goals per contest (3.55 GF/3.03 GA)…The ‘Hogs are 7-0-0-3 in their last 10 games…Martin St. Pierre leads the league in scoring with 36 points (12-24—36).
Sat., Dec. 22 vs. Chicago Wolves (19-7-1-0) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through griffinshockey.com. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 40-26-2-2-2 Overall, 20-10-2-1-2 Home. Season Series: First of four meetings overall, first of two in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Atlanta Thrashers. Head Coach: John Anderson (11th season). Notes: John Anderson and Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff are tied for the longest tenure of any AHL or NHL coach with his current team…The Griffins posted a 3-0-1-0 mark at home against Chicago the last two seasons (2005-07)…The Wolves have a host of former Griffins on their team, including Steve Martins, Alexandre Giroux, Joel Kwiatkowski and assistant coach Todd Nelson. All four played together on Grand Rapids’ 2001-02 edition.