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11/22/2004 10:11 PM - Grand Rapids Hosts Chicago and Cincinnati After West Coast Visit

This Week’s Games

*Wed., Nov. 24 - GRIFFINS at Cincinnati Mighty Ducks - 10:30 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/WHTC 1450 AM

Fri., Nov. 26 - Chicago Wolves at GRIFFINS - 7:30 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/WHTC 1450 AM

Sat., Nov. 27 - GRIFFINS at Chicago Wolves - 8 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM

Sun., Nov. 28 - Cincinnati Mighty Ducks at GRIFFINS - 4 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM

* at Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim (Calif.)

Last Week’s Results
Tue., Nov. 16 - Cincinnati Mighty Ducks 1 at GRIFFINS 2 - 8-3-1-0, 17 pts. (3rd, West Division)

Thu., Nov. 18 - Chicago Wolves 6 at GRIFFINS 2 - 8-4-1-0, 17 pts. (3rd)

Fri., Nov. 19 - GRIFFINS 3 at Cleveland Barons 2 - 9-4-1-0, 19 pts. (3rd)

Sat., Nov. 20 - Cleveland Barons 0 at GRIFFINS 5 - 10-4-1-0, 21 pts. (3rd)

A Flying Start: After claiming five wins in their last six games, the Griffins boast a 10-4-1-0 record, giving them the sixth-highest winning percentage (0.700) in the AHL. The 10 wins and 21 points each tie for the second-most ever garnered by the Griffins through 15 games, trailing just the 2000-01 squad that began the final IHL campaign with an 11-2-2 mark. Grand Rapids, which played four games in five days last week, will face an identical challenge beginning Wednesday against Cincinnati.

Goin’ Back to Cali: The Griffins will visit California for the first time in more than five years on Wednesday, when they face the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim. Game time is 10:30 p.m. EST. The Thanksgiving Eve sojourn, staged on the home ice of Cincinnati’s NHL affiliate, will mark the Griffins’ first game in either California or the Pacific Time Zone since their 1999-2000 season in the International Hockey League. In its last visit to the Golden State, Grand Rapids defeated the Long Beach Ice Dogs 5-3 on Oct. 16, 1999 at the Long Beach Arena. The Griffins totaled seven games in the Pacific Time Zone during their days in the IHL, showing records of 1-3-0 in Long Beach (1996-2000) and 2-1-0 in Las Vegas (1996-99) versus the Thunder.

Teddy Bear Toss: This Friday’s game against Chicago will feature the Griffins’ annual Teddy Bear Toss. Fans are encouraged to bring a stuffed animal to throw onto the ice after Grand Rapids scores its first goal. The toys will be collected and given to the Hug-a-Bear program for distribution to kids in need. Fans can purchase the “Subway Family Four Pack,” which offers four tickets, four Subway Fresh Meal Deals and parking, for just $44, and families can enjoy live music, games and activities on the arena concourse as part of the Friday Fun Fest.

Family Fun: Sunday’s 4 p.m. game versus Cincinnati marks the season’s first “D&W Family Sunday.” For each Sunday home game, fans who present a D&W receipt for $20 or more at the arena box office or The Zone can receive a special buy-one, get-one-free offer on a $13 upper bowl ticket (one ticket per receipt). All fans who bring their skates can hit the ice for 45 minutes during the Max & Erma’s Post-Game Family Fun Skate With WSNX.

Back on the Road Again: Following a franchise-record nine-game, 24-day homestand that ended Thursday, the Griffins on Friday played their first road contest since Oct. 24, a span of 26 days. With that night’s 3-2 win at Cleveland, Grand Rapids remained the AHL’s only perfect road team at 4-0-0-0. Of the 15 games that the Griffins will play before Christmas, 10 will be played in hostile territory.

Cole Captures Century: Griffins coach Danton Cole, who earlier this season set franchise records for career wins and games coached, became the first bench boss in team history to earn his 100th regular season victory last Tuesday (2-1 over Cincinnati). His all-time record as Grand Rapids’ head coach currently stands at 102-54-17-2 (0.637).

Big Mac: Joey MacDonald made 33 saves in Saturday’s 5-0 win over Cleveland, extending his franchise record with his 12th career shutout. Remarkably, he did not register his first shutout until Jan. 17, 2003, and has collected all 12 in a span of just 64 games played. MacDonald, who is the author of the last eight shutouts recorded by a Griffin, ranks among the AHL’s leaders with nine wins (3rd), three shutouts (T2nd), a 1.67 GAA (3rd) and a 0.942 save percentage (3rd).

Rally Caps: When the Griffins rallied with two third-period goals in Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Cincinnati, it marked just their second come-from-behind win over a span of 31 games in which they had trailed after two periods. All-time, Grand Rapids is 43-177-28 when facing a deficit after 40 minutes.

Persistence Pays: Two of the Griffins’ wins last week, as well as five of their 10 victories this season, have been of the come-from-behind variety.

Close Calls: Prior to Thursday’s four-goal loss to Chicago (6-2), a margin that equaled the cumulative margin of the Griffins’ four previous defeats this season, Grand Rapids had been involved in seven consecutive one-goal games. To date, eight of the Griffins’ last 10 games and 10 of their 15 contests overall have been decided by a single goal. The franchise record for most one-goal decisions is 43, set during a 1997-98 season that included a record 11 straight one-goal decisions from Feb. 28-Mar. 21, 1998 (3 W, 1 SOW, 2 L, 5 SOL).

Best Wishes: Jiri Hudler, who ranks second on the Griffins with 12 points (5-7—12), has missed the last four games after departing for the Czech Republic on Tuesday to be with his ailing father. Hudler is expected to return to Grand Rapids tonight.

League Leaders: Niklas Kronwall, one of just three defensemen around the league who currently leads his team in scoring, ranks first among AHL blueliners with five goals and 15 points (tied). He earned a nomination for the CCM Vector/AHL Player of the Week award after posting four points (1-3—4) and a plus-3 rating in four games last week, including a three-point effort (1-2—3) in Saturday’s whitewash of Cleveland…Eric Himelfarb’s 11 points (4-7—11) rank third on the Griffins and tie for seventh among AHL rookies. He leads all first-year players with two shorthanded goals.

Hot Hands: Nine different Griffins scored goals in the four games last week, highlighted by two-goal performances from both Eric Manlow (Fri. at CLE) and Matt Ellis (Sat. vs. CLE). Manlow (2-2—4), Eric Himelfarb (2-2—4), Niklas Kronwall (1-3—4) and Nathan Robinson (1-3—4) led the points parade.

So Long: The Griffins have released center Bryan Lundbohm (to CHL Fort Worth on Sunday) and right wing Ryan Barnes (to UHL Kalamazoo today). Lundbohm went scoreless in three games last week after making his Grand Rapids debut on Thursday. Barnes, who scored a goal on Nov. 13 versus San Antonio, has played seven games over two stints with the Griffins this season, collecting 12 penalty minutes.

By the Numbers: Where the Griffins rank among the AHL’s 28 teams in various statistical categories:
• Power Play: 13-for-88, 14.8% (T14th)
• Penalty Killing: 75-for-84, 89.3% (5th)
• Penalty Minutes: 22.13 avg. (21st)
• Goals For: 2.80 avg. (13th)
• Goals Against: 1.93 avg. (4th)
• Shots For: 29.27 avg. (20th)
• Shots Against: 29.87 avg. (12th)
• Attendance: 5,720 avg. (10th)

This Week’s Scouting Report

Wed., Nov. 24 at Cincinnati Mighty Ducks (6-10-0-0) – Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim – 10:30 p.m.
Sun., Nov. 28 vs. Cincinnati Mighty Ducks – Van Andel Arena – 4 p.m.

TV: None. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM/WHTC 1450 AM at 10:10 p.m. (Wed.); WOOD 1300 AM at 3:40 p.m. (Sun.) Season Series: 1-0-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road, 1-0-0-0 Home. Second and third of 10 meetings overall, first of five on the road, second of five in Grand Rapids. All-Time Series: 17-6-2-0 Overall, 8-4-0-0 Road, 9-2-2-0 Home. NHL Affiliation: Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Head Coach: Brad Shaw (3rd season). Just Ducky: Former NHLer Dan Bylsma, a native of Grand Haven, Mich., is an assistant coach with Cincinnati…Top prospect Ilya Bryzgalov is 5-6 with a 2.84 GAA and a 0.902 save percentage…Familiar faces on the Ducks’ roster include former Griffins defenseman Sheldon Brookbank and former Ferris State standout Chris Kunitz…Stanislav Chistov leads the Ducks with five goals, while right wing Joffrey Lupul paces the club with 11 points (2-9—11)…Following a 5-2 start, Cincinnati has gone 1-8, including a recent seven-game skid.

Fri., Nov. 26 vs. Chicago Wolves (6-6-1-1) – Van Andel Arena – 7:30 p.m.
Sat., Nov. 27 at Chicago Wolves – Allstate Arena – 8 p.m.

TV: None locally. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM/WHTC 1450 AM at 7:10 p.m. (Fri.); WOOD 1300 AM at 7:40 p.m. (Sat.). Season Series: 1-2-0-0 Overall, 0-2-0-0 Home, 1-0-0-0 Road. Fourth and fifth of 10 meetings overall, third of five in Grand Rapids, second of five in Chicago. All-Time Series: 32-20-4-1 Overall, 16-8-4-0 Home, 16-12-0-1 Road. NHL Affiliation: Atlanta Thrashers. Head Coach: John Anderson (8th season). Wolf Tracks: Including the 2004 playoffs, the Wolves have won eight of the last nine against the Griffins, including five straight at Van Andel Arena…Chicago’s only two road wins this season (2-4-1-1) have come at the Griffins’ expense, 2-1 on Oct. 29 and 6-2 last Thursday…Steve Maltais leads the pack with eight goals and 17 points, while top prospect Kari Lehtonen is 6-6-1 with a 2.65 GAA and a 0.917 save percentage.

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