This Week’s Games
Fri., Jan. 4 - GRIFFINS at Hamilton Bulldogs - 7:30 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/B2 Networks
Sat., Jan. 5 - GRIFFINS at Syracuse Crunch - 7:30 p.m. - WOOD/B2
Last Week’s Results
Wed., Dec. 26 - GRIFFINS 1 at Lake Erie Monsters 2 SO - 13-15-2-3, 31 pts. (4th, North Division)
Thu., Dec. 27 - GRIFFINS 0 at Toronto Marlies 2 - 13-16-2-3, 31 pts. (4th)
Sat., Dec. 29 - Milwaukee Admirals 2 at GRIFFINS 4 - 14-16-2-3, 33 pts. (4th)
Mon., Dec. 31 - Hamilton Bulldogs 1 at GRIFFINS 0 - 14-17-2-3, 33 pts. (4th)
Big Week: With just six points separating third through fifth places in the AHL’s North Division, the fourth-place Griffins are preparing for road games this weekend against each of their closest competitors in the standings. On Friday, Grand Rapids will visit fifth-place Hamilton, which trails the Griffins by just three points. On Saturday, the Griffins will play the role of the pursuer, going to Syracuse to battle the third-place Crunch, whom Grand Rapids trails by three points.
Bad News, Good News: The Griffins, who have been shut out in two of their last three outings, should receive a big boost from the addition of three players to their lineup this weekend. Two of their top three scorers, Mark Hartigan (reassigned by Detroit on Jan. 1) and Mark Cullen (injured), have both missed the last five games – during which the Griffins went 1-2-1-1 – but are expected to play on Friday. Meanwhile, the blue line welcomes back Derek Meech on a two-week conditioning assignment from the Red Wings. Meech has recorded six shots and averaged 9:01 in ice time during nine games with the Red Wings this season. Detroit’s seventh choice, 229th overall, in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, he ranks fifth all-time among Griffins defensemen with 63 points (16-47—63) in 224 games from 2004-07. In 2006-07, Meech earned a spot on the Canadian AHL All-Star team and tied for first among Grand Rapids’ blueliners with a career-high 29 points (6-23—29) in 67 games.
Howard’s Heroics: Griffins goalie Jimmy Howard on Wednesday was named the Rbk X-Pulse/AHL Goaltender of the Month for December, after posting the best numbers of his career for a calendar month with a 1.72 GAA and a 0.939 save percentage. He surpassed his accomplishments from March 2006, when he was named AHL Goaltender of the Month for the first time with a 1.80 GAA and a 0.936%. Detroit’s first pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Howard had a 7-5-1 record with two shutouts during the final month of 2007, leading the Griffins to points in nine of his 13 December appearances. He allowed two or fewer goals in 10 of his 13 starts, while the Griffins totaled only eight goals in his six non-wins. The Syracuse, N.Y., native is 12-13-2 through 27 games, showing a 2.54 GAA and a 0.914% while ranking among the AHL’s leaders with 1,630 minutes played (4th), 730 saves (5th), two shutouts (T5th) and 12 wins (T9th)….Following a career-high six-game winless streak from Nov. 9-21 (0-5-1, 4.28 GAA, 0.863%), Howard is 9-7-1 with two shutouts, a 1.85 GAA and a 0.935 save percentage (461-493) in his last 17 games. During that time, he has dropped his overall GAA by well over a point, going from 3.76 to 2.54.
A Winning Year: The Griffins concluded the 2007 calendar year with record of 36-34-4-6 (0.513).
Reversals of Fortune: Grand Rapids has posted a 7-3-1-1 record at Van Andel Arena since losing its first seven home games in regulation. Conversely, since their impressive 5-0 road start, the Griffins are just 2-7-1-2 in their last 12 games away from home.
Finishing Strong: Last Saturday, Grand Rapids scored three unanswered goals in the third period to rally and beat the Milwaukee Admirals 4-2. Since suffering a third-period scoring differential of minus-14 (14-28) entering the Dec. 1 game in Houston, the Griffins hold a plus-10 mark (15-5) in the final frames of their last 15 games. For the season, they’ve now been out-scored 33-29 over the final 20 minutes.
Close Calls: Nine (3-4-1-1) of the Griffins’ last 11 games and 12 (5-4-2-1) of their last 15 contests have been decided by a single goal.
Working Overtime: Four of the Griffins’ last seven home games and five of their last 10 games overall have extended past regulation time, with Grand Rapids showing three shootout wins, a shootout loss and an overtime loss…The Griffins are 4-5-1-1 in their last 11 games but have just one regulation win during that period…Grand Rapids is 3-3 in shootouts this season, with the Dec. 26 loss at Lake Erie breaking its three-game winning streak in the skills competition…Evan McGrath’s perfect record in the shootout ended that night, as he failed to score for the first time this season, falling to 3-for-4.
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 went 7-5-2-1 during December, with only one of their defeats suffered by a margin of more than one goal (2-0 loss at Toronto on Dec. 27).
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 13 of their last 20 games (9-7-2-2)…Only five of Grand Rapids’ losses this season – and just three of their last 19 – have been by more than two goals…Since scoring a power play goal in six consecutive games from Dec. 5-15 (8-for-41, 19.5%), the Griffins have gone just 1-for-34 (2.9%) over their last seven games.
Strange But True: Grand Rapids is 9-13-0-1 when out-shooting its opponents and 5-4-2-2 when being out-shot…The Griffins are 5-4-1-0 when recording 29 or fewer shots, but they own a 9-13-1-3 record in games with 30 or more attempts…Grand Rapids is 0.500 on the road (7-7-1-2) and three games under the break-even mark at home (7-10-1-1).
Rock the Vote: Through this Sunday, 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.
Red Wings Jersey Auction: Twenty-three autographed, game-issued Detroit Red Wings jerseys are being made available for public bidding throughout the 2007-08 season through exclusive auctions that begin at griffinshockey.com and conclude after select Griffins home games. Online bidding, which begins at $250 per jersey, will establish the starting bids for silent auctions that will take place on the arena concourse during Griffins games. Subsequently, the highest bids from the silent auctions will serve as the starting bids for live post-game auctions. Now online are the Tomas Kopecky, Kirk Maltby and Derek Meech jerseys, with the silent and live auctions set for Jan. 18, and the Dallas Drake, Dominik Hasek, Tomas Holmstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Nicklas Lidstrom and Andreas Lilja jerseys, with silent and live auctions set for Jan. 26,. Proceeds from the auctions will benefit the Griffins Youth Foundation. For more information and a complete auction schedule, visit http://griffinshockey.com/fanzone/auctions.
Fri., Jan. 4 at Hamilton Bulldogs (12-14-1-5) – Copps Coliseum – 7:30 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:10 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through griffinshockey.com. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 18-16-1-0-2 Overall, 8-9-0-0-0 Road. Season Series: 3-2-0-0 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Road. Sixth of eight meetings overall, second of four in Hamilton. NHL Affiliation: Montreal Canadiens. Head Coach: Don Lever (3rd season). Notes: The defending Calder Cup champions stand in fifth place in the North Division, three points behind Grand Rapids with four games in hand…The Griffins took a 5-3 decision on Oct. 24 in their only prior visit to Copps Coliseum this season…Hamilton’s Sergei Kostitsyn is tied for seventh in AHL rookie scoring with 22 points (6-16—22)…The Dogs rank second in the AHL in penalty killing at 86.9%.
Sat., Jan. 5 at Syracuse Crunch (17-19-1-1) – 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 griffinshockey.com. All-Time Series: 12-4-0-0 Overall, 5-2-0-0 Road. Season Series: 1-1-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Third of four meetings overall, first of two in Syracuse. NHL Affiliation: Columbus Blue Jackets. Head Coach: Ross Yates (2nd season). Notes: The Griffins trail Syracuse by three points in the race for third place in the North Division, with two games in hand…Grand Rapids’ Mark Hartigan played parts of four seasons with the Crunch (2003-07), departing as that franchise’s all-time leader in goals (107), power play goals (47) and game-winning goals (18) in a Jan. 26, 2007 trade to Anaheim. Saturday will be Hartigan’s first-ever game in Syracuse as a member of the visiting team…The Crunch own the league’s third-ranked power play (20.7%) and seventh-ranked penalty kill (85.4%)…In terms of AHL scoring, Syracuse players are tied for sixth overall (Joakim Lindstrom, 15-23—38), fourth among rookies (Derick Brassard, 5-18—23) and seventh among defensemen (former Griffin Clay Wilson, 6-16—22).