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01/24/2005 4:20 PM - Two-Game Set in Edmonton Precedes Clash with Admirals

This Week’s Games

Wed., Jan. 26 - GRIFFINS at Edmonton Road Runners - 9 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM

Thu., Jan. 27 - GRIFFINS at Edmonton Road Runners - 9 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/WHTC 1450 AM

Sat., Jan. 29 - Milwaukee Admirals at GRIFFINS - 7:30 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM

Last Week’s Results
Fri., Jan. 21 - Chicago Wolves 3 at GRIFFINS 6 - 20-17-1-1, 42 pts. (T3rd, West Division)

Sat., Jan. 22 - GRIFFINS at Houston Aeros - Postponed

Sun., Jan. 23 - GRIFFINS 4 at Houston Aeros 3 SO - 21-17-1-1, 44 pts. (4th)

Good Riddance: Following an unprecedented 12-game stretch during which they went 1-10-0-1 and set franchise records for consecutive losses both overall (nine) and at home (seven), the Griffins claimed a 6-3 home win over Chicago on Friday and a 4-3 shootout win at Houston on Sunday. While capturing their first back-to-back victories since Dec. 8-10, the 10 goals were their most in consecutive games since Jan. 10-11, 2004. Despite those recent streaks, the Griffins have reached the season’s midpoint on pace for their sixth straight 40-win season.

Batten Down the Hatches: After a pair of games in Edmonton on Wednesday and Thursday, the Griffins will return to Van Andel Arena this Saturday to play the defending Calder Cup champion Milwaukee Admirals in their only home appearance during a seven-game span. The Admirals, who took a 3-2 win in their prior visit on Jan. 15, currently stand atop the West Division, 14 points ahead of fourth-place Grand Rapids. The Griffins will welcome Detroit Red Wings television analyst Mickey Redmond, who will sign autographs in the banquet room from 6:30-7:20 p.m. and drop the ceremonial puck, courtesy of Kodiak Construction. Fans who bring their own skates can hit the Van Andel Arena ice for 45 minutes after the game during the Max & Erma’s Post-Game Family Fun Skate.

Welcome Back: Left wing Jiri Hudler returned to the Griffins today after spending the last two months in the Czech Republic alongside his ailing father. Due also in part to an injury that sidelined him for four contests, the 21-year-old Hudler has appeared in just 12 of the Griffins’ 40 games this season, averaging a point per game with five goals, seven assists and a plus-five rating. Hudler, who maintained his conditioning by playing for HC Vsetin of the Czech Republic Extraleague during his leave, contributed four points (3-1—4) and four penalty minutes in five games with his native club. He is expected to be in the Griffins’ lineup on Wednesday.

Fearsome Foes: The Griffins’ next seven games will be contested against opponents with a combined 0.657 winning percentage. Following this week’s two-game set in Edmonton, Grand Rapids’ subsequent five foes either stand atop their divisions or sit no more than three points back in second place. Six of those seven games will take place on the road, as the Griffins put their sparkling 12-5-0-1 road mark (0.694) against their opponents’ combined 79-43-4-15 home record (0.628).

Snow Day: An expected five-hour-plus travel day for the Griffins on Saturday turned into a 13-hour gauntlet due to snowstorms in the Midwest, causing just the third postponement in the franchise’s nine-year history. No makeup date has been scheduled. Delays of more than five hours at the Grand Rapids airport turned a scheduled 6:50 a.m. departure into a just-past-noon affair, and the team did not depart Detroit until approximately 5:15 p.m., after having arrived around one o’clock. The Griffins finally landed in Houston at 7 p.m. CST, nearly eight hours later than originally anticipated and just a half hour before the scheduled faceoff time. A blizzard during the team’s third IHL season wiped out both a home game against Orlando on January 2, 1999 and a road game at Chicago the next night.

Oh, Canada: This Wednesday’s game against the Road Runners will mark the Griffins’ first-ever visit to Edmonton, which becomes the sixth Canadian city to host them. During its nine seasons, Grand Rapids has dominated its nemeses from north of the border, compiling records of 44-23-8-0 overall (0.640) and 24-11-2-0 on the road (0.676) against teams from Hamilton, Quebec, St. John’s, Toronto and Winnipeg.

That’s More Like It: The Griffins’ six goals in Friday’s win over Chicago marked their largest offensive output of the season and the most goals allowed by the Wolves’ Kari Lehtonen in his two seasons in North America…Grand Rapids scored four goals on its first 11 shots…After going 0-4 in this season’s first four home games against Chicago, the Griffins broke the Wolves’ five-game regular season winning streak and seven-game overall winning streak at Van Andel Arena…Matt Ellis’ goal just 1:07 into the contest gave the Griffins their first home lead in a span of 421:07, dating back 48 days to Dec. 4, their previous home victory…When Eric Himelfarb scored on the power play at 2:24 of the first period, it marked Grand Rapids’ first two-goal cushion on home ice since Nov. 20.

Shootout Stories: The Griffins improved their shootout records to 4-1 this season and 40-46 all-time with Sunday’s 4-3 triumph at Houston. For the year, Griffins shooters have scored on 10 of their 21 shootout attempts (47.6%), while Joey MacDonald and Drew MacIntyre have turned away 18 of the opposition’s 23 shooters (78.3%). MacDonald stopped all four Aeros attempts last night, while Todd Robinson improved his perfect shootout record to 4-for-4 with his clinching effort.

King Kronwall: Halfway through the 2004-05 campaign, Niklas Kronwall is threatening Griffins records for offensive production by a defenseman. With a team-high 32 points (10-22—32), he already has become just the fourth blueliner in club history to reach 30 points, a plateau previously achieved by only Travis Richards (2000-01, 1998-99 and 1997-98), Aris Brimanis (1998-99) and Sean McCann (1996-97). Kronwall is on pace to break Brimanis’ single-season standard for goals (16) while shattering both Brimanis’ mark for points (37) and Richards’ record for assists (30).

Burning at Both Ends: Following a pair of weekend wins that gave him 52 for his three seasons as a Griffin, Joey MacDonald stands just two victories behind Marc Lamothe and three behind leader Mike Fountain on the franchise’s all-time list. MacDonald, whose 13 career shutouts are already the most in team history, has tied Ian Gordon for second in goaltender games played with 95, eight shy of Lamothe’s standard. He also collected his team-high seventh career assist on Sunday in Houston, giving him a record-tying three on the season.

On a Roll: Eric Himelfarb earned a nomination for the CCM Vector/AHL Player of the Week award after notching three power play goals, a shootout tally and a plus-two rating in the weekend wins…Over his last three starts, Drew MacIntyre has posted one shutout, a 1.68 GAA and a 0.943 save percentage (83-88) but has just a 1-2-0 record to show for it…Danny Groulx has assists in three of the last five games (0-4—4)…Niklas Kronwall has multiple points in two of the last four contests (1-3—4)…Nathan Robinson owns a three-game scoring streak (2-2—4) and has points in four of the last five games (2-3—5)…Brett Lebda scored his first pro goal on Sunday in Houston…Kip Miller has logged three consecutive two-point games and now shows 99 points (38-61—99) in just 85 career games with Grand Rapids…Peter Vandermeer has points in two straight games (1-2—3) and three of the last five contests (1-3—4)…Newcomer Brent Kelly has three assists in the last two contests.

League Leaders: Joey MacDonald ranks among the AHL’s leaders with 16 wins (9th), four shutouts (T4th), a 2.20 GAA (T9th) and a 0.927 save percentage (T9th)…Niklas Kronwall, who leads the Griffins in scoring, ranks first among league blueliners with 32 points and 10 goals, and his 22 assists tie for fifth…Bryan Helmer’s four power play goals tie for fifth among defensemen…Eric Himelfarb, who stands third on the Griffins in scoring, ranks among the AHL’s top rookies with 11 goals (T5th), 23 points (8th), six power play goals (T3rd) and two shorthanded goals (T1st).

M*A*S*H Unit: Tomas Kopecky (23 games), Kory Karlander (15) and Travis Richards (4) have missed a string of games due to various injuries, while Ernie Hartlieb sustained a broken foot in Sunday’s win at Houston.

Congratulations: Right wing Todd Jackson, who collected two assists in 30 games with the Griffins before being assigned to ECHL Toledo last Tuesday, notched his first pro goal on the power play in the Storm’s 4-2 win over Wheeling on Friday. For an encore, he tallied his second goal in Toledo’s 2-1 victory over Dayton on Sunday.

This Week’s Scouting Report

Wed., Jan. 26 at Edmonton Road Runners (21-15-3-5) – Rexall Place – 9 p.m.
Thu., Jan. 27 at Edmonton Road Runners – Rexall Place – 9 p.m.

TV: None. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM (both nights) and WHTC 1450 AM (Thu. only) at 8:59 p.m. Season Series: First and second of four meetings overall, first and second of two in Edmonton. All-Time Series: 2-1-1-0 Overall, 2-0-0-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: Edmonton Oilers. Head Coach: Geoff Ward (2nd season). Road Map: The Road Runners relocated from Toronto during the off-season, making Edmonton both the northernmost and westernmost city to ever host an AHL team…They play at Rexall Place, home to the parent Oilers…The Road Runners rank third in AHL attendance, averaging 8,615…Edmonton is 2-5-1-2 over its last 10 games and 1-5-1-1 in its last eight…The ‘Runners rank 27th in home power play (10.9%) but third overall in penalty killing (88.8%)…Former Griffin Tyler Moss is tied for 14th in the league with a 2.29 GAA.

Sat., Jan. 29 vs. Milwaukee Admirals (27-11-2-2) – Van Andel Arena – 7:30 p.m.
TV: None. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:10 p.m. Season Series: 1-1-0-0 Overall, 0-1-0-0 Home. Third of eight meetings overall, second of four in Grand Rapids. All-Time Series: 32-17-11-0 Overall, 19-7-2-0 Home. NHL Affiliation: Nashville Predators. Head Coach: Claude Noel (2nd season). Ships Ahoy: Each team has claimed a one-goal victory on the other’s ice this season, including Milwaukee’s 3-2 win in Grand Rapids on Jan. 15…The defending Calder Cup champs have opened up a five-point lead atop the West Division over Chicago…Their 14 road wins (14-6-2-1) stand second in the AHL…They average 3.40 goals per game, third on the circuit…The Griffins have won six of the last 10 meetings (6-3-1-0), dating to last season…Simon Gamache (19-36—55) is on pace for a 104-point season.

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