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03/07/2005 2:38 PM - Griffins Return Wednesday to Play Three Home Games in Four Nights

This Week’s Games

Mon., March 7 - GRIFFINS at Houston Aeros - 8:05 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM

Wed., March 9 - Manitoba Moose at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM

Fri., March 11 - Manitoba Moose at GRIFFINS - 7:30 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM

Sat., March 12 - Hamilton Bulldogs at GRIFFINS - 7:30 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/WHTC 1450 AM

Last Week’s Results
Wed., March 2 - St. John’s Maple Leafs 3 at GRIFFINS 2 OT - 28-25-2-1, 59 pts. (5th, West Division)

Sat., March 5 - GRIFFINS 3 at Chicago Wolves 2 OT - 29-25-2-1, 61 pts. (5th)

Sun., March 6 - GRIFFINS 0 at Milwaukee Admirals 1 - 29-26-2-1, 61 pts. (5th)

Make it Count: Tonight’s contest against Houston at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul – Grand Rapids’ first-ever visit to the state of Minnesota - stands as the Griffins’ most important game to date. Grand Rapids and Houston are locked in a battle for the fourth and final playoff spot in the West Division, with the Aeros owning a four-point lead over the Griffins through 58 games for each team. Grand Rapids, which has won three straight against the Aeros and has points in four of the five previous meetings (3-1-1-0), will play its third game in as many days, while Houston has been idle since a 3-1 win over Hartford on Friday.

Busy, Busy: The Griffins tonight conclude the sixth of 11 “three-in-threes” that they’ll play this season. To date, they are 10-7-0-0 when playing three games in as many nights, including an impressive 4-1-0-0 record in the third game. This threesome is part of Grand Rapids’ busiest stretch of the season, as the Griffins will total six games in the eight days between last Saturday and this coming Saturday.

Home Cooking: A stretch of three home games in four days this week includes Wednesday and Friday visits by the Manitoba Moose and a Saturday appearance by the Hamilton Bulldogs. For all three games, fans can purchase lower bowl tickets in the south end of the arena (normally $17) at the “Canadian exchange rate” of $10. In addition, fans can register on the concourse to win a trip to Toronto, courtesy of Activa Travel. Friday’s game against Manitoba is B-93 “We Love Our Country Night,” with live music by American Cosmos. As with every Friday home game, fans may purchase a “Subway Family Four Pack,” offering four tickets, four Subway Fresh Meal Deals and parking, for just $44. During Saturday’s contest with Hamilton, the Griffins will pay tribute both to “One-Hit Wonders” and the champions of the Griffins Amateur Hockey League.

Working Overtime: Following Grand Rapids’ 3-2 overtime win at Chicago on Saturday, the Griffins are now 4-2 this season and 20-8 all-time in regular season games decided during overtime. Three of their last five games have been decided during the extra session (2-1). Coming at 24 seconds, Darryl Bootland’s OT goal against the Wolves was the second-fastest in franchise history, surpassed only by Petr Schastlivy’s goal at 0:22 of a 2-1 overtime win at Utah on Dec. 12, 2001.

Seeing Results: The Griffins’ 1-0 loss at Milwaukee on Sunday snapped a five-game point streak (4-0-1-0) that tied a season-opening 5-0 run for their longest this season.

Ireland’s Eyes Are Smiling: In 10 games (5-4-1-0) under head coach Greg Ireland, the Griffins have out shot their opposition by an average of 34.9 to 27.1 (+7.8) and have held a shot advantage in eight of those games (80%). Over their first 48 games, the Griffins held the upper hand only 22 times (46%) and were outgunned by an average of 30.65 to 29.10 (-1.55). Grand Rapids’ shots have increased 5.8 per game and its shots allowed have decreased 3.6 per game under Ireland.

Firing Blanks: The Griffins’ 1-0 loss at Milwaukee yesterday marked the eighth time they’ve been shut out this season, two shy of the club record set in 2001-02. Brian Finley’s 38 saves tied for the third-most ever by an opposing goalie in a shutout effort, behind two other performances from the 2004-05 season: Frederic Cassivi’s 39 saves on Feb. 19 at Cincinnati and Josh Harding’s 40 on Nov. 6 against Houston.

Welcome Back: Kory Karlander (Feb. 25), Ernie Hartlieb (Feb. 25) and Brent Kelly (March 2) recently returned to action after extended injury absences, while Travis Richards (22 games) and Eric Manlow (16) remain on the shelf. Karlander’s return, in particular, foreshadows bright things for the Griffins; they are now 21-8-2-0 (0.710) this season when he plays and 8-18-0-1 (0.315) when he does not.

Special Deliveries: Grand Rapids denied the Admirals on all four of their power play chances on Sunday, breaking a franchise-record streak of 12 consecutive games in which the Griffins had allowed a power play goal. The previous team record of nine was set twice before (most recently, Nov. 23-Dec. 9, 2001). Still, opponents have converted 14 of their last 72 chances (19.4%) against the Griffins…Meanwhile, Grand Rapids has failed to score on its last 24 power play chances, spanning the last four games.

Simply the Best: Last weekend, Joey MacDonald recovered from a case of the flu to become the first goalie in Griffins history to record three wins in as many days. He then rebounded from Wednesday’s overtime loss to St. John’s to make 24 saves in Saturday’s OT win at Chicago, in the process establishing a personal best with his 23rd win of the season. MacDonald ranks as the Griffins’ career leader in games played (112), minutes played (6312:54), wins (59), shutouts (13) and saves (2,899).

Kronwall Sets Record: With an assist on the game-winning goal in Cincinnati on Feb. 27, Niklas Kronwall set a Griffins record for points in a season by a defenseman. His team-leading 39 points (11-28—39) surpass the defensive standard of 37 set by Aris Brimanis in 1998-99. Kronwall now needs just five goals (16 – Brimanis 1998-99) and two assists (30 – Travis Richards 2000-01) to tie the other scoring marks for Griffins blueliners.

Ellis’ Hard Work Paying Off: Following his two-assist game on Saturday versus the Wolves, Matt Ellis has registered points in 10 of the last 14 games (5-8—13). He ranks third on the team with 29 points (12-17—29), nearly double the production of his 2003-04 rookie season (5-10—15 in 64 games).

Rising Rookie: Eric Himelfarb is tied for the Griffins’ lead with 14 goals and ranks second with 31 points, tying for sixth on the team’s single-season rookie scoring list. Himelfarb could challenge the franchise’s rookie record of 22 goals (Kevyn Adams, 1996-97), as he is on pace for 19.

Climbing the Charts: Kip Miller, whose 69 assists and 113 points each place eighth in team history, stands tenth all-time with 44 goals, putting him three behind brother Kevin for ninth place. Miller notched the 100th assist of his AHL career on Saturday in Chicago and needs nine points to hit 1,000 as a pro…Nathan Robinson’s 91 career points are only four shy of tenth-place Mowers…Peter Vandermeer’s next goal will be his 100th as a pro.

League Leaders: Joey MacDonald stands among the league’s top goalies with 2,727 minutes played (3rd), 1,275 saves (5th) and 23 wins (7th)…Niklas Kronwall places among the AHL’s top blueliners with 11 goals (T3rd), 39 points (T3rd) and 28 assists (T8th)…Eric Himelfarb ranks among the AHL’s top rookies with 14 goals (T6th), 31 points (T9th), seven power play goals (T3rd) and two shorthanded goals (T2nd).

By the Numbers: Where the Griffins rank among the AHL’s 28 teams in various statistical categories:
• Power Play: 40-for-294, 13.6% (24th)
• Penalty Killing: 269-for-319, 84.3% (15th)
• Penalty Minutes: 21.26 avg. (25th)
• Goals For: 2.36 avg. (23rd)
• Goals Against: 2.41 avg. (6th)
• Shots For: 29.69 avg. (18th)
• Shots Against: 30.03 avg. (13th)
• Attendance: 6,273 avg. (10th)

This Week’s Scouting Report

Mon., March 7 at Houston Aeros (28-21-6-3) – Xcel Energy Center – 8:05 p.m.

TV: None. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:59 p.m. Season Series: 3-1-1-0 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Road. Sixth of eight meetings overall, second of four on the road. All-Time Series: 25-17-11-0 Overall, 10-9-7-0 Road. NHL Affiliations: Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars. Head Coach: Todd McLellan (4th season). Aero Dynamics: Four of the five meetings between the Griffins and Aeros this season have been decided by a single goal…Joey MacDonald is 3-1-0 versus Houston with one shutout, a 1.23 GAA and a 0.965 save percentage…Grand Rapids has converted only one of 19 power play chances against Houston…Eric Himelfarb (1-4—5) and Darryl Bootland (3-0—3) have led the Griffins’ offense against the Aeros, who’ve been powered by Stephane Veilleux (1-4—5) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard (3-1—4).

Wed., March 9 vs. Manitoba Moose (34-17-2-6) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Fri., March 11 vs. Manitoba Moose – Van Andel Arena – 7:30 p.m.

TV: None. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:59 p.m. (Wed.) and 7:10 p.m. (Fri.). Season Series: 1-1-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Home. Third and fourth of four meetings overall, first and second of two in Grand Rapids. All-Time Series: 24-11-4-0 Overall, 12-4-4-0 Home. NHL Affiliation: Vancouver Canucks. Head Coach: Randy Carlyle (6th season). Moose Tracks: The Moose have lost four straight on the road and five straight overall (0-4-1-0)…Despite its lofty record, Manitoba is 20 points behind first-place Rochester in the North Division…The Griffins lost 2-0 in Winnipeg on Jan. 31 but rebounded the next night to win 5-1…The Moose have outscored their foes 71-46 in the third period…Peter Sarno (13-51—64) ranks seventh in AHL scoring and second in assists.

Sat., March 12 vs. Hamilton Bulldogs (26-24-6-5) – Van Andel Arena – 7:30 p.m.
TV: None. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM / WHTC 1450 AM at 7:10 p.m. Season Series: 0-2-0-0 Overall, 0-1-0-0 Home. Third of four meetings overall, second and final in Grand Rapids. All-Time Series: 7-4-1-0 Overall, 3-2-1-0 Home. NHL Affiliations: Montreal Canadiens, Dallas Stars. Head Coach: Doug Jarvis (2nd season). Dog Eat Dog World: The Griffins will look to avenge a 5-0 home loss suffered against the Bulldogs on New Year’s Eve…Hamilton struck for five more in its 5-2 victory on Jan. 7…The Dogs have won two straight and five of their last seven…Corey Locke ranks among AHL rookie leaders with 34 points (T6th) and 15 goals (T4th)…Tomas Plekanec leads Hamilton with 48 points (22-26—48).

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