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12/04/2006 4:18 PM - Grand Rapids Tightens North Division Race with Sweep of Rochester

This Week’s Games
Fri., Dec. 8 - Toronto Marlies at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/B2 Networks

Sat., Dec. 9 - GRIFFINS at Toronto Marlies - 4 p.m. - Comcast Local/WOOD/B2

Last Week’s Results
Wed., Nov. 29 - Hamilton Bulldogs 3 at GRIFFINS 2 SO - 8-10-2-2, 20 pts. (4th, North Division)
Fri., Dec. 1 - Rochester Americans 2 at GRIFFINS 4 - 9-10-2-2, 22 pts. (4th)

Sat., Dec. 2 - Rochester Americans 1 at GRIFFINS 4 - 10-10-2-2, 24 pts. (4th)

Back on Track: Grand Rapids completed a weekend sweep of the AHL’s top team on Saturday at Van Andel Arena, earning a 4-1 win over the Rochester Americans on the heels of Friday’s 4-2 triumph. The Griffins, who’ve clawed back to the 0.500 mark by going 4-1-0-1 in their last six games – their best run of the season – handed the Amerks their first consecutive losses of the season and became the only team to beat them twice thus far. While still in fourth place in the North Division, the Griffins stand just one point behind the second-place deadlock of Hamilton and Manitoba.

Sled Hockey Tilt: The Griffins will face off against the Grand Rapids Sled Wings in a sled hockey game on Tuesday at Griff’s IceHouse at Belknap Park (30 Coldbrook NE). This unique, friendly competition will pit the entire Griffins roster against the Sled Wings, a team of physically challenged youth sponsored by the Grand Rapids Griffins Youth Foundation in partnership with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. Festivities will begin at 5 p.m., when fans can try out a sled on the ice for a $1 donation to the Sled Wings program and take part in an autograph session with Griffins players. The sled hockey game will take place from 6-7:30 p.m. Admission is $3 per person (free to children 2 and under) at the door. All proceeds from the evening, including a silent auction of sports memorabilia and a 50/50 raffle, will benefit the Sled Wings program. Autographed items available through the auction will include a Steve Yzerman jersey and photos of Gordie Howe and Bobby Orr (subject to change).

Marlies Up Next: Another key week is on tap for the Griffins as they face a home-and-home set against the Toronto Marlies, who trail Grand Rapids by just two points in the North Division race. For Friday’s meeting at Van Andel Arena, all college and high school students can purchase a lower bowl ticket for only $10 with a valid student ID, and the Wendy’s Friday Family Four Pack offers four small single combos and four Griffins tickets for $44.

High Marks for Howard: Goaltender Jimmy Howard enjoyed his best week of the season, making 38 saves in Wednesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to Hamilton before backstopping the Griffins’ consecutive victories over league-leading Rochester by allowing only three goals on 57 shots. He went 2-0-1 with a 1.63 GAA and a 0.948 save percentage, improving to 4-0-1 in his last five decisions. Howard’s win on Saturday was the 36th of his Griffins career, moving him past Pokey Reddick (35) into fifth place on the franchise’s all-time list.

Give ‘Em the Boot: For the first time in his career, Darryl Bootland has registered goals in five of six games (5-0—5). His current three-game goal-scoring streak ties his personal best, and his marker on Friday against the Americans made him just the eighth player in franchise history to score 60 goals. In addition, Bootland needs three penalty minutes to become the first Griffin to reach 1,000.

Just Like Old Times: Kip Miller’s assist of Darryl Bootland’s goal on Saturday marked the 1,100th point of his pro career. At the ripe young age of 37, he is enjoying yet another stellar season in a Griffins uniform, tying for seventh in the AHL scoring race with 28 points (10-18—28). Averaging 1.17 points per game – above his team-record career average of 1.09 – Miller is on pace to enjoy a 93-point campaign, which would rank third on the Griffins’ single-season chart. His assist last Wednesday versus Hamilton made him just the fifth player in Griffins history to record 100 assists, and his first assist on Friday was his 700th as a pro. Miller needs just two goals for 400 as a pro.

Welcome Back: The Griffins and ECHL’s Toledo Storm swapped goalies today, with Stefan Liv rejoining Grand Rapids and Logan Koopmans returning to Toledo. Liv, 1-5-1 with a 3.66 GAA and a 0.878 save percentage in seven games with the Griffins, went 1-1-1 with the Storm last week, posting a 2.29 GAA and a 0.936 save percentage…Defenseman Danny Syvret, recalled by Edmonton last Monday, was reassigned to the Griffins on Friday, but weather-related delays prevented him from arriving in Grand Rapids in time for the game. After not playing in either of the Oilers’ games during his recall, he netted the game-winner in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Rochester. He has four goals this season after being blanked in 72 games with Hamilton and Edmonton in 2005-06.

For the Record: Hamilton’s 21 shots during the first period last Wednesday tied a Grand Rapids record for the most allowed in a home period. The mark was set three times previously, most recently against Milwaukee on Dec. 4, 1999 when the Griffins were members of the International Hockey League. Jimmy Howard, meanwhile, equaled his own franchise mark for saves (20) in a home period, established Oct. 28, 2005 versus Iowa.

Special Situations: After scoring on the power play in nine of the season’s first 11 games (13-for-75, 17.3%), the Griffins have tallied with the advantage in just five of their last 13 contests (8-for-63, 12.7%)…Grand Rapids’ opponents had scored a power play goal in 11 consecutive games (18-for-76, 23.7%) – one shy of the franchise record – before Hamilton went scoreless in six attempts last Wednesday. After stifling five Rochester opportunities over the weekend, the Griffins have held three straight opponents without a power play goal for the first time this season.

Odds n’ Ends: Eric Himelfarb’s three-point effort (1-2—3) in Saturday’s win over Rochester matched his career best (Oct. 19, 2005 at SAN)…Grand Rapids is 9-2 when leading after two periods, 1-3-0-2 when tied and 0-5-2-0 when trailing…The Griffins posted a 12-5 record last season in games decided after regulation (6-1 in overtime, 6-4 in shootouts). So far this season, they are 1-4 (0-2 OT, 1-2 SO)…Grand Rapids’ scoring differentials by period are plus-three in the first (23-20), plus-six in the second (28-22) and minus-12 in the third (18-30)…The Griffins are averaging 3.67 goals per game against the Amerks and 2.81 goals against the rest of the league, which itself has averaged just 2.39 goals against Rochester’s second-ranked defense.

Scouting Report

Fri., Dec. 8 vs. Toronto Marlies (9-11-2-2) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 9 at Toronto Marlies – Ricoh Coliseum – 4 p.m.

TV: Comcast Local at TBA (Sat. only). Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:59 p.m. (Fri.) and 3:40 p.m. (Sat.). Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through Season Series: 1-1-0-0 Overall, 0-1-0-0 Home, 1-0-0-0 Road. Third and fourth of eight meetings overall, second of four in Grand Rapids, second of four in Toronto. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 4-4-0-0-0 Overall, 2-2-0-0-0 Home, 2-2-0-0-0 Road. NHL Affiliation: Toronto Maple Leafs. Head Coach: Greg Gilbert (1st season). Notes: Including the 2006 playoffs, the visiting team has won the last six clashes between the Griffins and Marlies, including four Grand Rapids victories at Ricoh Coliseum…Former Red Wing Boyd Devereaux has seven points (3-4—7) in 21 games for the Marlies…Justin Pogge earned his first pro win by making 49 saves in a 4-0 blanking of the Griffins on Oct. 27, setting a record for the most saves made by an opposing goalie in a shutout of Grand Rapids. He authored the first opponent whitewash in a regular season contest at Van Andel Arena since March 18, 2005 (0-2 vs. EDM, Tyler Moss).

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