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Game Notes: Griffins vs. Wolves - Nov. 26, 2021

Grand Rapids Griffins (7-5-2-1) vs. Chicago Wolves (8-4-1-1)

Game Time: 7 p.m. at Van Andel Arena

Game Day Preview - November 26 vs. Chicago Wolves

Griffins Game #16 * Home Game #8 * AHL Game #233

Season Series: 0-2-1-0 Home Series: 0-2-1-0 Road Series: 0-0-0-0
All-Time Series: 90-73-2-7-3 All-Time Home Series: 44-34-2-5-2 All-Time Road Series: 46-39-0-3-1

Griffins vs. Wolves
Fourth of 12 meetings overall, fourth of six at Van Andel Arena…Grand Rapids has faced Chicago 175 times in the regular season dating back to their IHL days, the second-most of any Griffins opponent (Milwaukee, 195)…The Griffins went 3-7-0-0 against the Wolves a season ago and possess a 19-24-1-1 record against Chicago over the last five years...In the past four seasons, the Griffins are 5-12-1-0 against the Wolves at Van Andel Arena...The last time Grand Rapids held a winning record against the Wolves in West Michigan was in 2016-17 when it went 4-1-0-0...Grand Rapids is winless in the past four games against Chicago and are being outscored 18-4...Both Grand Rapids’ (73.7%, 30th) and Chicago’s (77.1%, 28th) penalty kill percentage rank in the bottom half of the AHL. In addition, the power play for each franchise (Griffins 17.0%, 22nd; Wolves 16.9%, T23rd) also places near the bottom of the circuit…Chicago (21-9-1-2, 45 pts, 0.682) won the Central Division in 2020-21 during the shortened, no-playoffs season...Riley Barber paces the Griffins against Chicago with two goals in three games while Taro Hirose has bagged two helpers against the Wolves...As part of his 11-year pro career, Griffins coach Ben Simon registered 87 points (37-50—87) in 196 games with the Wolves from 2001-03 and 2004-05 and was a part of their first Calder Cup title in 2002.

Last Time Out
The Griffins extended their road point streak to six games (4-0-1-1) with a 6-3 victory at the Milwaukee Admirals on Wednesday. Jonatan Berggren (1-1—2) and Dominik Shine (2-0—2) each totaled a two-point night while Kyle Criscuolo rattled off a season-high three points (1-2—3). Goaltender Calvin Pickard appeared in his eighth straight contest and has now led the Griffins to points in eight consecutive decisions (6-0-2-0). Tyler Spezia bagged his 50th assist as a pro and Brett McKenzie skated in his 150th game as a pro. Turner Elson (1-2—3) extended his point streak to three games and Grand Rapids moved to 17-8 at Panther Arena.

Roster Shake Up
On Wednesday, the Detroit Red Wings recalled defenseman Dan Renouf from the Griffins. In addition, Grand Rapids signed blueliner Blake Hillman to a professional tryout. Renouf has appeared in 11 games this season for the Griffins, totaling two assists and 15 penalty minutes. The Pickering, Ontario, native played in 18 NHL games a season ago with Colorado, logging three helpers and 16 penalty minutes. Hillman joins Grand Rapids from the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. The defenseman has registered 13 points (2-11—13) in 11 games with Toledo this season, which ranks third in the ECHL among blueliners. His 11 assists also pace the league’s defensemen while his plus-10 rating is tied for third. During the 2019-20 season, Hillman suited up in five contests with the Griffins and totaled one assist and four penalty minutes.

Hot Streaks
After a 2-4-0-1 start to the season, the Griffins have posted a 5-1-2-0 record in the past eight games. In addition, Grand Rapids is currently enjoying a six-game road point streak with a 4-0-1-1 ledger.

This Date in Griffins History
2018: Filip Hronek becomes the first player in Griffins history to score an overtime goal in consecutive games, connecting on a one-timer from the left circle to finish off a 3-2 win at Iowa.

Fit for a King
Former Rockford IceHogs coach Derek King was named interim head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 6, joining 11 other former Griffins players or coaches currently behind an NHL bench. He is one of four Griffins alumni serving as a head coach in the NHL.

TeamCoachRoleGriffins Season(s)
AnaheimMike StothersAssistant Coach2007-08 Head Coach
BostonBruce CassidyHead Coach2000-02 Head Coach
BostonChris KellyAssistant Coach2001-02
BuffaloMatt EllisAssistant Coach2003-07
CalgaryCail MacLeanAssistant Coach2000-01
ChicagoDerek KingInterim Head Coach1999-01 / 2002-04 Player / Assistant Coach
ColoradoJared BednarHead Coach1998-99
ColumbusManny LegaceGoaltending Coach2005-06
DallasTodd NelsonAssistant Coach1996-98; 99-00; 01-02 / 2002-03 Assistant Coach / 2015-18 Head Coach
DetroitJeff BlashillHead Coach2012-15 Head Coach
DetroitJeff SalajkoGoaltending Coach2013-16 Goaltending Coach
NY IslandersJohn GrudenAssistant Coach1999-02

Not Your Average Joe
Center Joe Veleno was recalled by Detroit on Nov. 15 for the second time this season. The Kirkland, Quebec, native skated in four games for the Red Wings from Oct. 30-Nov. 6, totaling two points (1-1—2), four penalty minutes and a plus-two rating. On Nov. 18, Veleno notched his second NHL goal of the season with a tally at Vegas. The former first-round draft choice has suited up for 14 games in the NHL and has amassed four points (3-1—4) and eight penalty minutes. Veleno has appeared in seven contests with Grand Rapids this season and registered three goals. The center logged a season-high two goals on Oct. 16 at Milwaukee in a 7-3 defeat.

High-Flying Hirose
After leading the Griffins in assists a year ago with 23, Taro Hirose has picked off right where he left off as he has bagged 12 helpers in the opening 15 games, which is a team high and tied for second in the league. Seven assists have come on the power play, which is good for fourth in the AHL. Hirose saw his six-game point streak (2-7—9) from Oct. 30-Nov. 13 come to an end on Nov. 17 against Chicago. Hirose’s 16 points (4- 12—16) this season pace the Griffins and are tied for seventh in the league.

Calvin’s University
Goaltender Calvin Pickard is off to a fast start, as he has allowed two goals or less in seven of his 12 appearances this season and has led the team to points in eight straight decisions (6-0-2-0). Pickard recorded his first shutout of the season and fourth as a Griffin on Nov. 12 against Manitoba, moving him into a tie for 10th place in franchise history with Jani Hurme, Martin Prusek, and Eddie Pasquale. The 10-year pro currently ranks 12th in the AHL with a 2.30 goals against average while his 0.930 save percentage is tied for sixth. Pickard played in just nine games in North America a season ago due to being assigned to Detroit’s taxi squad for much of the year. The Moncton, New Brunswick, native also spent some time with Vienna in the ICEHL last season, logging six games and a 1.96 goals against average.

Jonny on the Spot
Rookie Jonatan Berggren saw his six-game point streak (3-4—7 from Oct. 30-Nov. 13) come to a close on Nov. 17 against Chicago. The Uppsala, Sweden, native bagged his first AHL goal and two-point (1-1—2) night on Oct. 30, which began a three-game goal scoring streak for the right winger. The forward recorded his first two-goal night in the AHL on Nov. 20 at Texas. The former second-round draft choice notched his 50th pro assist on Nov. 12 against Manitoba and is tied for fifth among league rookies with six goals while his 12 points (6-6—12) are tied for seventh among first-year players. Berggren’s six goals paces the team as the forward has tallied three goals in the past two contests.

Timmy Turner
Veteran Turner Elson has already surpassed his goal count from the 2020-21 season, as he has totaled five goals in the opening 15 games this year. The Edmonton, Alberta, native began the campaign with a goal during the season opener but then was held scoreless in the next four outings. The nine-year pro has cranked it up as of late with three goals in his last six contests. In addition, the left winger has amassed seven points (4-3—7) in his last eight games. Including a current three-game point streak (1-2—3). Elson’s five goals are tied for second on the roster while his 10 points (5-5—10) are tied for fourth.

Return of Riley
Although it was a slow start to this year, Riley Barber rattled off a six-game point streak (4-5—9) from Oct. 30-Nov. 13. His 12 points (5-7—12) this season are tied for second on the roster while his four power play goals are tied for first in the AHL. Barber led the Griffins in goals (20), points (34) and points per game (1.06) a season ago. His scoring pace equaled a 48-goal, 81-point clip in a regular 76-game AHL season. Barber also ranked second in the league for goals, just one shy of Cooper Marody (who played seven more games), and was named a Central Division AHL All-Star. Six game-winning goals tied a career best while his four-game goal streak from Feb. 26 through March 11 also matched a career high. The forward added seven multi-point outings out of 32, including a career-high four points (2-2—4) on May 7 against Chicago. Barber posted a nine-game point streak (8-5—13) from Feb. 5-March 11 that was the longest ever to start a player’s Griffins career as well as the longest from the start of a Griffins season.

Rarified Air
Brian Lashoff’s 526 games played for the Griffins ranks first among active AHL players who have spent their entire AHL career with the same club and seventh in league history among one-team players. Of the players ahead of him on that list, the most recent – and, coincidentally, the record-holder – last played during the 1970-71 season (Bill Needham of the Cleveland Barons, 981 games played). Lashoff overtook Pete Kapusta (Providence Reds 1946-55) for the No. 7 spot on Oct. 27 against Chicago and is now five games behind No. 6 Roger DeJordy (Hershey Bears 1962-70). Lashoff is still 129 games away from breaking the Griffins’ all-time games played record, held by Travis Richards with 655 games (1995-2006).

Power Outage
Following a 2019-20 campaign in which they finished sixth in the AHL’s power play rankings at 20.9%, the Griffins exceeded that mark in 2020-21 with a power play conversion rate of 21.5%, the fifth best on the circuit. This season began just like the past years but the power play has stalled as of late, cashing in on just two of its last 25 opportunities (0.08%). Grand Rapids was held scoreless in 17 consecutive power play chances before it broke the drought on Wednesday with a goal on the man advantage against Milwaukee. Through 15 games the power play is converting on 17.0% of its opportunities, which ranks 22nd in the AHL. The penalty kill has not been any better, placing second to last in the AHL at 73.7%. Through the 15 games this season, the penalty kill has allowed a goal in 11 contests.

AHL Leaderboard Tracker
Riley Barber—Four power play goals are tied for first
Jonatan Berggren—Six goals are tied for fifth among league rookies, 12 points (6-6—12) are tied for seventh among first-year players
Taro Hirose—16 points (4-12—16) are tied for seventh, 12 assists are tied for second, seven power play assists places fourth
Ryan Murphy—Two goals are tied for 15th among blueliners
Wyatt Newpower—30 penalty minutes are first among rookies and tied for sixth among league defensemen
Calvin Pickard—2.30 goals against average ranks 12th, 0.930 save percentage is tied for sixth
Dominik Shine—Leads the league in penalty minutes with 56
Luke Witkowski—39 penalty minutes are second among league blueliners

Milestones
Jon Martin picked up his 50th assist as a pro on Nov. 19 at Texas and Tyler Spezia notched the same milestone on Nov. 24 at Milwaukee. Other upcoming milestones include:
Riley Barber—Four points from 50 as a Griffin
Turner Elson—Four assists from 100 in the AHL, five goals from 50 as a Griffin
Brian Lashoff—Three assists from 100 as a pro
Brett McKenzie—Three goals from 50 as a pro
Tyler Spezia—One game from 150 as a pro
Luke Witkowski—Three points from 50 in the AHL, one assist from 50 as a pro

Photo by Nicolas Carrillo/Griffins

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