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A FULL HOUSE


This Week’s Games
Fri., March 23 - GRIFFINS at Manitoba Moose - 8:30 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/B2 Networks

Sat., March 24 - GRIFFINS at Manitoba Moose - 8:30 p.m. - WOOD/B2

Sun., March 25 - GRIFFINS at Toronto Marlies - 5 p.m. - WOOD/B2

Last Week’s Results
Wed., March 14 - Iowa Stars 1 at GRIFFINS 4 - 33-24-5-2, 73 pts. (4th, North Division) 

Fri., March 16 - Manitoba Moose 3 at GRIFFINS 2 SO - 33-24-5-3, 74 pts. (4th) 

Sat., March 17 - Manitoba Moose 3 at GRIFFINS 2 - 33-25-5-3, 74 pts. (4th)
 

Sun., March 18 - GRIFFINS 2 at Milwaukee Admirals 3 OT - 33-25-6-3, 75 pts. (4th)

Down the Stretch: With four weeks remaining in the 2006-07 AHL regular season, the Griffins currently possess the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division. Grand Rapids, which qualified for the postseason in eight of its first 10 seasons, has also moved within three points of Rochester and six of Hamilton in the division race, while holding a three-point cushion over crossover candidate Iowa from the West Division.

Worth Noting: The Griffins have lost three straight games by a 3-2 count (including one SOL and one OTL), marking the first time in franchise history they’ve had the same outcome on the scoreboard in three consecutive games…Sunday’s 3-2 overtime loss at Milwaukee dropped Grand Rapids’ record in the extra session this season to 0-6. In 2005-06, the Griffins could do almost no wrong in O.T., winning their last five regular season decisions to finish 6-1, before going 3-0 in overtime during the playoffs…Grand Rapids, now 1-3-3-0 against Milwaukee this season, has lost 11 of the last 12 meetings (including playoffs) with the Admirals since March 15, 2006…The Griffins’ 3-2 loss to Manitoba on Saturday marked their fourth consecutive one-goal defeat at the hands of the North Division leaders.

Road Trippin’: Grand Rapids has already played 36 home games – second in the AHL behind Norfolk’s 37 – meaning that nine of its final 13 contests will be played on the road, including each of the next three games. That gauntlet is particularly challenging in light of the incredible strength of schedule, as six of those nine games will be hosted by teams that currently stand first (three games) or second (three games) in their divisions.

Home Cooking: Grand Rapids, which owned a 7-9-2-2 record on home ice in late December, has won nine of 12 (9-2-0-1) and 12 of the last 16 games (12-3-0-1) within friendly confines. Fans have noticed, as six of the last 12 home games have been witnessed by crowds in excess of 10,000, including four sellouts. Last Friday’s capacity crowd of 10,834 was the fifth of the season and the 114th all time at Van Andel Arena. Saturday’s count of 10,500 fans gave the Griffins crowds of 10,000-plus on consecutive nights for the first time this season and brought the week’s cumulative attendance to 28,800, marking the largest attendance for a three-game homestand at Van Andel Arena since Jan. 20-22, 2000 (29,393).

Miller Time: With his assist on Saturday against Manitoba, Kip Miller became just the fourth player in Griffins history to reach 200 points. Now showing 202 points (74-128—202) in 192 career games, he trails just Derek King (203), Travis Richards (238) and Michel Picard (380) on the team’s all-time scoring list. His second goal on Sunday at Milwaukee was his 74th as a Griffin, passing King (73) into second place on the franchise’s all-time list. He trails only Michel Picard (158). Miller, who needs two assists to tie King (130) for third all time on the club, had a hand in all four Griffins goals over the last two games. He has points in five of the last seven games (6-3—9), and his 66 points (24-42—66) lead the Griffins and tie for ninth in the AHL.

Fancy Meeting You Here: With the Red Wings on their Western Canada swing, right wing Todd Bertuzzi practiced with the Griffins last Thursday through Saturday as part of his conditioning. Acquired by Detroit in a Feb. 27 trade with Florida, Bertuzzi has not played since undergoing lower back surgery in November. Prior to being sidelined with a herniated disk, he scored seven points (1-6—7) and 13 penalty minutes in seven games with the Panthers, last playing on Oct. 18.

Short Stories: Ben Simon and Ryan Oulahen both scored shorthanded goals in the Griffins’ 4-1 win over Iowa last Wednesday, giving Grand Rapids 20 shorties on the season. They are tied with Hershey for most in the AHL and stand within one of the single-season franchise record set in 1998-99. They’ve scored 11 shorthanded goals in the last 19 games alone, a number that equals or surpasses the season-long haul of 16 other teams. Strangely, over the last 17 games, the Griffins have scored more shorthanded goals (10) than power play goals (9).

Record Within Reach: If the Griffins win seven of their final 13 games they’ll record their eighth-consecutive 40-win season overall and their sixth straight as members of the AHL, tying the league record set by the Cleveland Barons from 1947-53.

Player Plaudits: After scoring one goal in his first 50 games as a Griffin from the 2004-05 season through last Wednesday, Jon Insana lit the lamp in consecutive games against Manitoba over the weekend…Ben Simon has contributed points in five of his nine games (3-4—7) since joining the Griffins…Although he has missed the Griffins’ last six games due to injury, Derek Meech has points in each of his last four appearances (1-3—4) and in 11 of his last 12 games (4-10—14), after recording points in just nine of his first 45 contests (2-10—12). His 26 points (6-20—26) tie Jonathan Ericsson for the lead among Griffins defensemen…Stefan Liv has led the Griffins to points in eight of his last 10 decisions (7-2-1-0).

Scouting Report

Fri., March 23 at Manitoba Moose (39-17-7-4) – MTS Centre – 8:30 p.m.
Sat., March 24 at Manitoba Moose – MTS Centre – 8:30 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 8:10 p.m. both nights. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through griffinshockey.com. Season Series: 2-3-0-1 Overall, 0-2-0-0 Road. Seventh and eighth of eight meetings overall, third and fourth of four in Winnipeg. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 32-17-1-0-5 Overall, 15-10-0-0-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: Vancouver Canucks. Head Coach: Scott Arniel (1st season). Notes: The Moose have an 0.821 winning percentage since Jan. 1, tops in the league. (The Griffins are eighth at 0.629)…Manitoba has won eight straight games and 17 of its last 18 contests…Former Griffin Drew MacIntyre ranks among the AHL’s top goalies with a 2.16 GAA (2nd) and a 0.925 save percentage (T3rd).

Sun., March 25 at Toronto Marlies (26-34-2-4) – Ricoh Coliseum – 5 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 4:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through griffinshockey.com. Season Series: 3-2-0-0 Overall, 2-0-0-0 Road. Sixth of eight meetings overall, third of four in Toronto. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 6-5-0-0-0 Overall, 3-2-0-0-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: Toronto Maple Leafs. Head Coach: Greg Gilbert (1st season). Notes: The Griffins’ 6-3 win on Jan. 27 at Van Andel Arena broke an eight-game series winning streak by the visiting team…Toronto is a 0.500 team on the road but is just 12-20-2-1 at the Ricoh Coliseum…The sixth-place Marlies have won two straight but trail Grand Rapids by 17 points in the chase for a playoff spot.