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02/27/2006 4:59 PM - 41-15-1-4 Record Ties Team’s Best Through 61 Games

This Week’s Games
Wed., March 1 - Cleveland Barons at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/B2 Networks

Fri., March 3 - GRIFFINS at Chicago Wolves - 8:30 p.m. – WOOD

Sun., March 5 - Rochester Americans at GRIFFINS - 4 p.m. - WOOD/B2

Last Week’s Results

Wed., Feb. 22 - GRIFFINS 4 at Rochester Americans 0 - 39-14-1-4, 83 pts. (1st, North Division)

Fri., Feb. 24 - GRIFFINS 2 at Philadelphia Phantoms 4 - 39-15-1-4, 83 pts. (1st)

Sat., Feb. 25 - GRIFFINS 5 at Syracuse Crunch 4 SO - 40-15-1-4, 85 pts. (1st)

Sun., Feb. 26 - GRIFFINS 4 at Hershey Bears 3 - 41-15-1-4, 87 pts. (1st)

Welcome Home: After earning three wins last week during an exhausting 1,900-mile, four-games-in-five-nights road trip, the Griffins return to Van Andel Arena this week in possession of an incredible 41-15-1-4 record that ties for the best 61-game mark in franchise history (41-15-5 in 2000-01). Grand Rapids will host Cleveland on Wednesday and Rochester on Sunday – the Griffins’ first Sunday home game of the season – around a Friday visit to Chicago. In a scheduling oddity, the Griffins will enjoy the next two Saturdays off (March 4 and 11), their only idle Saturdays of the season outside of Christmas Eve.

Honor Roll: The Griffins lead the AHL with 41 wins (tied) and 87 points, already matching last season’s victory total and surpassing their 2004-05 point total (86) with 19 games remaining. Grand Rapids, which has increased its lead atop the North Division to nine points over Syracuse and 12 over Manitoba, boasts a record that is five wins and nine points better at this point than its 1999-2000 edition (36-19-6) that eventually advanced to the IHL Turner Cup finals.

Where No Team Has Gone Before: The Griffins’ shootout win at Syracuse on Saturday was their 40th victory of the season, marking 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). For more perspective, consider:

  • Storied franchises such as Manitoba and Providence have never posted consecutive 40-win campaigns;
  • Syracuse (12th season) and Wilkes-Barre (7th season) are still aiming for their first 40-win seasons;
  • In 67 previous seasons, Hershey reached 40 wins only 10 times;
  • No other AHL team has an active streak longer than three seasons (Chicago and Manchester);
  • Only six NHL teams have earned 40+ wins in seven or more consecutive seasons: Montreal (13 from 1970-71 to 1982-83), Boston (12 from 1968-69 to 1979-80), New Jersey (8 from 1996-97 to 2003-04), Philadelphia (8 from 1973-74 to 1980-81), Detroit (7 from 1997-98 to 2003-04), and Edmonton (7 from 1981-82 to 1987-88).

    Kopecky Gets the Call: Tomas Kopecky on Sunday received his first call-up to the Red Wings, becoming the tenth player this season to make the trip from Grand Rapids to Detroit. If, as expected, he makes his NHL debut on Tuesday in San Jose, he will become the 79th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL.

    Golden Boy: Niklas Kronwall on Sunday became the first Griffins alumnus to win an Olympic medal, earning gold thanks to Sweden’s 3-2 win over Finland. Kronwall enjoyed a brief but wildly successful tournament since leaving the Griffins and arriving in Turin early last week. Sunday, he scored a brilliant power play goal at 13:24 of the second period to break a 1-1 tie and give Sweden its first lead of the game, adding to the assist he earned in Friday’s 7-3 semifinal win over the Czech Republic. In two games, Kronwall logged two points, a plus-two rating and eight penalty minutes.

    Big Mac: Donald MacLean continues his assault on the Griffins’ record book, as his league-high 44 goals now stand just two shy of the franchise record established by Michel Picard in 1996-97. MacLean’s 19-game point streak (21-11—32), which came to an end last Wednesday in Rochester, was the longest in Griffins history and the longest in the AHL this season, and he ranks among the league leaders with 65 points (7th), a team-record 17 power play goals (3rd) and six game-winners (T3rd). He has registered points in 22 of the last 23 games (24-12—36) and 29 of the last 31 contests (32-16—48), and he has 43 goals in his last 50 contests.

    Updating the Chase: During the AHL’s previous 69 seasons, only 94 players eclipsed the 100-point plateau and just 45 reached the 50-goal milestone. Griffins forwards Jiri Hudler and Donald MacLean, respectively, could join those exclusive clubs. Hudler’s 76 points put him on track for 99, two shy of the franchise mark set by Michel Picard in 1996-97. MacLean’s league-high 44 goals give him a 57-goal pace, a total that would crush Picard’s team record (46 in 1996-97) and tie for sixth in AHL history. He is attempting to become the first Griffin to lead his league in goals and the first AHL player to score 50 since Hartford’s Brad Smyth (50) in 2000-01.

    Own the Road: Despite seeing an eight-game road point streak (7-0-0-1) snapped with Friday’s loss at Philadelphia – the Griffins’ only regulation road loss since Jan. 4 at Hamilton (4-1) – Grand Rapids has still earned points in 12 of its last 14 road contests (11-2-0-1), helping the team to the AHL’s third-best road mark overall (20-10-0-1).

    Three-Peated Success: The Griffins completed their eighth and final three-in-three of the season over the weekend. They posted an impressive 17-5-0-2 record during those tests, including a sparkling 6-0-0-2 mark in the third game.

    Shootout Stories: The Griffins’ win on Saturday improved their shootout record this season to 5-4, after having suffered losses in their last two shootout decisions…After Tomas Kopecky scored in the opening round, Valtteri Filppula clinched the victory in round five, improving to 6-for-9 on the year. Seven times this season, Filppula has been slotted as the Griffins’ fifth shooter; four times he’s given Grand Rapids a victory with a goal, and twice he’s extended the shootout to sudden death…Jimmy Howard denied all four Crunch shooters he faced, improving his shootout record to 3-2.

    Spread the Wealth: The Griffins already have the most 40-point scorers (10) and 20-assist men (11) of any team in franchise history, obliterating the previous highs of six (2000-01 and 1999-00) and eight (four times, most recently 2003-04), respectively. They are just the second squad to boast a 40-goal scorer, and their 10 players with at least 30 points apiece tie the record set in 2000-01.

    Natural Born Killers: When Manitoba’s Lee Goren scored a power play goal at 12:29 of the second period on Feb. 18, it ended the Griffins’ streak of 40 straight opponent power plays killed, five shy of the franchise record. Grand Rapids has killed off 70 of its last 74 (94.6%) shorthanded situations, along with 78-of-83 (94.0%) opponent chances over the last 13 games. In the process, the Griffins have raised their season-long success rate from 80.4% to 82.6%, a figure that now ties for 15th in the AHL.

    No Average Joe: Joey MacDonald has reverted to his old form following a slow start caused by his rehabilitation from injury. After posting a 5-4-1 record, a 3.87 GAA and a 0.877 save percentage through New Year’s Eve, he has since gone 11-4-1 with a 2.29 GAA, a 0.922 save percentage and two shutouts. During February alone, he was 5-2-1 with a 2.24 GAA, a 0.926 save percentage and two shutouts, and his recent seven-game winning streak (Jan. 21-Feb. 11) was a personal-best, falling one shy of Mike Fountain’s team record.

    Who’s Hot?: Tomas Kopecky has points in two of his last three games (2-1—3), and he notched the winning shootout tally in Syracuse on Saturday…Kent McDonell has assists in three of the last four outings (0-4—4)…Bryan Helmer has points in nine of 13 games (1-11—12) and 15 of 20 games (2-19—21)…Matt Ellis has goals in three of the last five games (3-1—4)…Jiri Hudler owns a four-game point streak (3-2—5) and has points in six of eight games (4-7—11)…Jimmy Howard has led the team to points in 12 of his last 13 decisions (10 wins, one overtime loss, one shootout loss).

    League Leaders: Jiri Hudler: 29 goals (T7th), 47 assists (3rd), 76 points (3rd) and five game-winning goals (T6th); Donald MacLean: 44 goals (1st), 65 points (7th), 17 power play goals (3rd) and six game-winning goals (T3rd); Eric Manlow: 39 assists (T10th) and 55 points (T17th); Valtteri Filppula: 36 assists (T16th); Tomas Kopecky: Plus-16 rating (T13th); Kent McDonell: 13 power play goals (T12th) and five game-winning goals (T6th); Matt Ellis: two shorthanded goals (T11th); Nate DiCasmirro: Plus-21 rating (3rd); Bryan Helmer: Plus-20 rating (4th) and 41 points (7th among defensemen); Darryl Bootland: 271 penalty minutes (2nd); Joey MacDonald: 16 wins (T12th) and two shutouts (T10th); Jimmy Howard: 14 wins (T17th).

    This Week in Griffins History: Feb. 27: Griffins tie a team mark with their tenth straight win at Van Andel Arena, a 4-2 triumph over Chicago that extends their record unbeaten streak at home to 16 games (13-0-3-0) (2004). Feb. 28: Joey MacDonald breaks Ian Gordon’s team record with his ninth straight road win, a 3-2 decision at San Antonio (2003). March 1: Griffins build a 4-0 lead in the first 22 minutes before holding on for a 4-3 win over Orlando (1997). March 2: With their tenth win in the last 11 games, a 3-2 decision over Rochester, the Griffins pass Houston into first place in the Western Conference standings. Prior to the beginning of their torrid streak on Feb. 12, Grand Rapids had trailed the Aeros by nine points (2003). March 3: Griffins G.M. Bob McNamara assumes the team’s head coaching reins prior to a 4-3 shootout loss to Manitoba. He finishes with an 8-6-6 record over the last 20 games of the season (1998). March 4: Griffins don the old Grand Rapids Owls’ uniforms in a 3-1 loss to the Cleveland Lumberjacks. The `Jacks also opted for the “turn back the clock” look, as they dressed in Cincinnati Mohawks garb (1999). March 5: Griffins’ 3-1 win at Houston marks their 86th regular season triumph under head coach Danton Cole, moving him past Guy Charron into second place on the franchise’s all-time list (2004).

    Scouting Report

    Wed., March 1 vs. Cleveland Barons (22-36-2-2) – 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 Season Series: 5-1-0-0 Overall, 2-1-0-0 Home. Seventh of 10 meetings overall, fourth of five in Grand Rapids. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 18-9-0-0-1 Overall, 10-4-0-0-0 Home. NHL Affiliation: San Jose Sharks. Head Coach: Roy Sommer (5th season). Spy Glass: The Griffins set, tied or extended 11 team records in their 9-2 win at Cleveland on Feb. 16, including most goals in a road game…Grand Rapids leads the league in goals scored (243) while Cleveland has allowed the most (230)…The Griffins own a 31-15 scoring edge in the season series…Cleveland, 2-12-1-1 since Jan. 17, lost 8-0 at Chicago on Saturday.

    Fri., March 3 at Chicago Wolves (22-25-3-6) – Allstate Arena – 8:30 p.m.
    Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 8:10 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through Season Series: 1-0-1-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Third of four meetings overall, first of two in Rosemont. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 37-23-2-2-2 Overall, 19-13-0-1-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: Atlanta Thrashers. Head Coach: John Anderson (9th season). Hungry Like the Wolf: The Griffins will make their first visit to Allstate Arena since taking a 4-3 win on March 19, 2005…Grand Rapids won four of five road meetings last season…Former Griffin Kip Miller (2000-02;04-05), tied for fifth on the franchise’s all-time scoring list with 136 points (50-86—136), ranks second on the Wolves with 37 points (11-26—37)…Chicago sits in sixth place in the West Division, eight points out of a playoff spot, putting its streak of 11 straight playoff appearances in jeopardy.

    Sun., March 5 vs. Rochester Americans (26-27-1-2) – Van Andel Arena – 4 p.m.
    Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 3:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through Season Series: 1-1-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Home. Third of six meetings overall, first of three in Grand Rapids. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 7-6-1-0-0 Overall, 3-2-1-0-0 Home. NHL Affiliation: Buffalo Sabres. Head Coach: Randy Cunneyworth (6th season). American Pride: The Amerks’ current 0-6-0-1 slide – coming on the heels of a five-game winning streak – has dropped them 11 points out of a playoff spot…Joey MacDonald made 33 saves last Wednesday in Rochester to record his second shutout of the season (4-0)…The Americans’ power play ranks third in the AHL at 20.1%.

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