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Griffins vs. Marlies Series Preview

May 8, 2013 - American Hockey League (AHL) Grand Rapids Griffins

#2 TORONTO MARLIES vs. #3 GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 2013 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs * Western Conference Semifinals * Best of Seven

Game 1 - Fri., May 10 - GRIFFINS at Marlies - 7 p.m. Game 2 - Sat., May 11 - GRIFFINS at Marlies - 3 p.m. Game 3 - Wed., May 15 - Marlies at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. (season ticket Game D) Game 4 - Fri., May 17 - Marlies at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. (Game E) *Game 5 - Sat., May 18 - Marlies at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. (Game F) *Game 6 - Tue., May 21 - GRIFFINS at Marlies - 7 p.m. *Game 7 - Wed., May 22 - GRIFFINS at Marlies - 7 p.m. * If necessary. All times Eastern and subject to change. All games on Newsradio WOOD 106.9 FM & 1300 AM.

The Lowdown: The Midwest Division champion Griffins advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals after dispatching the Houston Aeros in a tightly-contested five-game series. After missing out on their first chance to close out the series at home during Game 4, Grand Rapids finished the series with a dominating 7-0 win at Van Andel Arena. The Marlies will begin the seven-game series with more than a week of rest, having swept their first-round series against Rochester with a 3-2 overtime victory on May 1. The third-seeded Griffins finished with just one less win (42) and four fewer points (92) than the second-seeded Marlies, who captured their second straight North Division title. Toronto advanced to the Calder Cup Finals in 2012 by defeating Rochester, Abbotsford and Oklahoma City, but it was swept by Norfolk in the championship series.

Last Time Around: Grand Rapids and Toronto will square off in the playoffs for the second time, as the Griffins defeated the Marlies 4-1 in the 2006 North Division Semifinals. Game 1 of that series was the second-longest in franchise history, as Jiri Hudler scored at 2:21 of triple overtime on the Griffins' franchise-record 63rd shot to give the team a 6-5 victory. Grand Rapids ended the series with a 2-1 double-overtime victory in Game 5 at Ricoh Coliseum, as Matt Ellis scored just 11 seconds into the fifth period to lead the Griffins over their then-division rivals and sweep all three games in Toronto

Check the History Books: The Griffins and Marlies have had 54 regular season meetings during Toronto's eight years in the AHL, with the Griffins showing a 28-23-2-1 record. The four regular season meetings this year marked the lowest total ever between the two clubs, as they had met at least six times every season since 2005-06 as members of the North Division, where the Griffins played until relocating to the Midwest Division this season. Each team won a pair of games against the other in the season series, but Toronto took points in all four contests, as both Griffins victories came in a shootout. Grand Rapids is 16-10-1-0 all time against Toronto at Van Andel Arena and 12-13-1-1 at Ricoh Coliseum.

History Will Be Made: The Griffins matched a 44-year old record during their 7-0 victory over Houston in Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. The win equaled the AHL's largest margin of victory ever in a winner-take-all game, matching an 8-1 win by the Quebec Aces over the Providence Reds in the 1969 semifinals. Additionally, the seven-goal margin set Griffins records for largest in a playoff shutout and a home playoff game. The Griffins closed out Houston's AHL tenure with its first series win since 2009. Petr Mrazek, who made 24 saves in the victory, became the first Griffins goalie in 10 years to record a playoff shutout (Marc Lamothe, May 2, 2003 at Chicago) and was the first rookie goaltender in franchise history to blank an opponent in the playoffs.

Playoff Facts and Figures: After defeating Houston 3-2 in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, the Griffins are now 2-3 all time in best-of-five series. The 7-0 win over Houston in the decisive Game 5 on May 4 improved the Griffins to 2-4 in a "winner-take-all" scenario, 7-10 when facing elimination (4-5 on home ice), and 9-11 (3-7 at home) when their opponent is facing elimination. It also marked the first time since Game 7 of the 2006 North Division Finals against Manitoba that Grand Rapids closed out a series on home ice. The Griffins have now won nine of their 19 total playoff series with a combined 48-49 record. They have never lost a best-of-seven series after winning Game 1 (4-0), and they are 3-7 when losing Game 1. Grand Rapids' active leading playoff scorer is Francis Pare, who is tied for 30th all time with seven points (3-4-7) in 13 games. Others active players in the top 50 include Jan Mursak (T34th, 1-5-6 in 18 GP), Tomas Tatar (T50th, 3-1-4 in 5 GP), Luke Glendening (T50th, 2-2-4 in 5 GP) and Nathan Paetsch (T50th, 0-4-4 in 5 GP).

The Underdog: The Griffins enjoyed home ice advantage in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against Houston, but their matchup in the semifinals against Toronto marks the fourth time in their last five playoff series that they are the lower-seeded team. Grand Rapids has won just one playoff series - the 2009 North Division Semifinals against Hamilton - as the lower seed.

Get Your Tickets: Tickets for Griffins playoff home games - Game D (series Game 3), Game E (series Game 4) and Game F (series Game 5) - are now on sale for $33, $27, $23, $19, $17 and $15 (additional $2 per ticket on day of game), reflecting a league-wide increase of $1 over regular season prices. Playoff tickets may be purchased in person at The Zone at Van Andel Arena and all Star Tickets locations, by phone at (800) 585-3737, or through griffinshockey.com.

Playoff Promotions: In celebration of the team's return to the Calder Cup Playoffs, the Griffins have adapted their popular Friday promotion and are offering $2 beers and $2 hot dogs for all home playoff games, including Fridays, from the time doors open until one hour after the start of the game, as well as "Free Ride to the Playoffs," allowing fans to ride The Rapid busses to and from any postseason game with complimentary fare by showing their ticket to the game. Fans can also purchase a Playoff 4-Pack to receive four or more tickets to a playoff game of their choice to save $3 off of day-of-game pricing per ticket at griffinshockey.com/tickets/specials.

Renewing Acquaintances: While Toronto had the upper hand in the season series, taking points in all four games against the Griffins, the club that hits the ice for the Western Conference Semifinals will have a much different look. Grand Rapids and Toronto last met at Van Andel Arena on Dec. 29, less than a month before the end of the NHL lockout. Eleven of the 26 players who skated for the Marlies in the four-game season series are not with the team in the postseason: Joe Colborne, Mark Fraser, Matt Frattin, Jake Gardiner, Ryan Hamilton, Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov, Mike Kostka and Ben Scrivens are all with the parent Maple Leafs, Keith Aucoin was claimed on waivers by the New York Islanders, and Nicolas Deschamps was traded to Washington (currently with Hershey). Among the players added by Toronto following the teams' final meeting are Tim Connolly and Mike Komisarek, who boast a combined 1,216 games of NHL experience.

Keep Your Friends Close: Another new face on the Toronto roster is former Griffins netminder Drew MacIntyre. MacIntyre, who started the season with HC Lev Praha in the KHL, returned to North America with the ECHL's Reading Royals and earned a professional tryout with the Hershey Bears (but did not play) before signing another tryout with the Marlies on Feb. 12. By the end of the month, the Marlies had signed him for the rest of the season, and the parent Maple Leafs rewarded him with an NHL contract on April 2 and even called him up to practice for several days following the Marlies' first-round series sweep of Rochester. The 29-year-old netminder, who appeared in 37 games for Grand Rapids from 2004-06, has a 15-5-1 record against the Griffins since departing for the Manitoba Moose in the 2006-07 season, including a 4-0 record in his last five appearances and a 9-2 record since the start of the 2008-09 season. MacIntyre was also the Moose's netminder during the team's seven-game playoff victory over Grand Rapids in 2007, during which he posted a 1.65 GAA and 0.942 save percentage against his former club. Ironically, he is the Griffins' all-time playoff leader in GAA (1.62) and save percentage (0.940).

The Other Side: Toronto netminder Drew MacIntyre was between the pipes for the Griffins during their wins in Games 4 and 5 (the double-OT series clincher) in Toronto during the 2006 North Division Semifinals, finishing the series against the Marlies with a 2-0 record, a 1.28 GAA and a 0.961 save percentage. He stopped 33 of 35 in a 3-2 win in Game 4 at the Air Canada Centre, then turned aside 41 of 42 shots - including all 29 from the second period on - in a 2-1 2OT win in Game 5 at Ricoh Coliseum.

The Wait is Over: The Griffins' crowd of 4,683 for Game 3 against Houston - in the Griffins' first home playoff game since May 6, 2009 - was the team's largest for the first home game of a playoff season since 2002, when 5,023 fans saw Grand Rapids defeat Chicago in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

Shots Fired: After their first-round series with Houston, the Griffins boasted an AHL-best plus-71 shot differential, outshooting the Aeros 192-121 in the five-game series. Grand Rapids had at least 34 shots in each game, surpassing 40 on two occasions. Despite the 38.4 shot-per-game average - less than one shot behind AHL-leading Syracuse (39.33) - the Griffins ran into hot goaltending. Going into Game 5, Aeros starter Mike Condon's save percentage of 0.950 was second on the club to the recalled Darcy Kuemper at 0.957. But the shot advantage finally paid off in Game 5, as the Griffins tallied seven times on 41 attempts. Awaiting the Griffins in the second round are the Marlies, who advanced past Rochester despite being outshot by 30 in the three-game series (98-68) while averaging an AHL postseason-low 22.67 per game.

Between the Pipes: With his start in Game 1 at Houston, Petr Mrazek became the second rookie goalie to start the Griffins' first game of a playoff season, joining Jimmy Howard in 2006. He also became the third rookie netminder to start any playoff game for Grand Rapids, along with Howard and Mathieu Chouinard (2001).

Twice as Nice: Twelve Griffins who skated in Game 1 at Houston were suiting up for their first-ever AHL playoff game, where the Griffins were shutout by Houston 3-0. However, it didn't take the team long to adjust to postseason hockey, as it stormed out to a 3-0 lead during Game 2. Two of those goals were scored by first-year pro Tomas Jurco, making him the fourth rookie in franchise history to score two goals in a playoff game, joining Justin Abdelkader (2-1-3 on April 18, 2009 at Hamilton), Rob Collins (2-1-3 on April 28, 2003 versus Chicago) and Petr Schastlivy (2-0-2 on May 20, 2000 at Cincinnati).

Short Order: The Griffins' lone goal in the team's 4-1 loss to Houston in Game 4 came off the stick of Luke Glendening, who became the eighth player in franchise history to record a shorthanded goal in the postseason. The Grand Rapids, Mich., native joins a group that includes Jakub Kindl (2009), Matt Ellis (2007), Hugo Boisvert (2003), Stacy Roest (2003), Sean Gagnon (2001), Derek King (2001) and Yves Sarault (2000) as the only rookie to do so. Grand Rapids scored 11 shorthanded goals in the regular season, tying for fourth in the AHL.

Working 9-5: Grand Rapids' first-round matchup against Houston was the lone AHL Conference Quarterfinal series to not feature an overtime game. The Griffins are 10-8 in playoff overtimes overall, with a 5-7 mark at Van Andel Arena and a 5-1 mark away from home. They are 6-7 in single overtime, 3-0 in double overtime and 1-1 in triple overtime, with their lone win in that category coming April 21, 2006 in Game 1 of the North Division Semifinals against Toronto.

End of an Era: The Griffins have had a long history with the Aeros, one of just three active teams to have played against Grand Rapids in the IHL prior to joining the AHL in 2001-02. In 17 seasons, the Griffins showed a regular season record of 40-32-6-3-7 (W-L-T-OTL-SOL) against the Aeros, including a 21-16-2-1-4 mark at Van Andel Arena and 19-18-4-2-3 at the Toyota Center and Compaq Center. The Griffins' 7-0 win in Game 5 marked the final meeting between the clubs, as Houston will move to Des Moines next season to become the Iowa Wild.

Playoff Leaders: After their first-round series with Houston, the Griffins had several players that ranked among the AHL's Calder Cup Playoff scoring leaders. Tomas Tatar, Luke Glendening and Nathan Paetsch tied for the team lead with four points during the series, which ranked 15th in the AHL. Tatar's team-best three goals tied for fourth in the league, while Glendening tied for third among rookies in points and Paetsch for first among defensemen. Petr Mrazek ranked among the top netminders with a 1.83 goals against average (6th), a 0.924 save percentage (8th), three wins (T1st) and one shutout (T1st). Glendening and Jan Mursak tied for seventh in the league with a plus-four rating.

Welcome Return: This season marked several returns for the Griffins, including their first appearance in the postseason since 2008-09. Additionally, the team captured their first division title since 2005-06, when it finished first in the league. For capturing the Midwest Division crown, the Griffins earned the N.R. (Bud) Poile Trophy, an honor they earned as Western Conference champions in 2005-06 and, before that, as West Division champions in 2001-02. The 92 points accumulated by the Griffins were their seventh-highest total in their 17 seasons.

Who's Next?: The winner of this series will advance to the Western Conference Finals to face either conference champion Texas (43-22-5-6), which defeated Milwaukee 3-1 in the first round, or Oklahoma City (40-25-2-9), which won back-to-back games in Charlotte by a combined 14-3 score to rally from a 2-1 series deficit. The Griffins split the season series against both Texas and Oklahoma City, posting a 2-2 record against both clubs, while the Marlies were 1-1 against the Stars and 2-0 against the Barons.

Playoff Roster: The following 28 players are eligible to suit up for the Griffins in the postseason: goaltenders Tom McCollum, Petr Mrazek and Jordan Pearce; defensemen Adam Almquist, Chad Billins, Brennan Evans, Gleason Fournier, Max Nicastro, Xavier Ouellet, Nathan Paetsch, Brett Skinner and Ryan Sproul; and forwards Louis-Marc Aubry, Mitch Callahan, Willie Coetzee, Landon Ferraro, Luke Glendening, Triston Grant, Jeff Hoggan, Tomas Jurco, Jan Mursak, Andrej Nestrasil, Francis Pare, Trevor Parkes, Teemu Pulkkinen, Brent Raedeke, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar. Additionally, if assigned by the Red Wings, defenseman Brian Lashoff and forwards Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist will be eligible for Calder Cup Playoff action.

Bench Bosses: Jeff Blashill led the Griffins back to the playoffs during his first season behind the team's bench, helping the team to a 42-win season. He also became the sixth consecutive bench boss to win his first playoff series with the Griffins, a run that dates back to Guy Charron in the 2000 IHL Playoffs. Blashill previously led the USHL's Indiana Ice to a Clark Cup championship in his first-ever season as a head coach at any level in 2009. He also led the CCHA's Western Michigan Broncos to the CCHA championship game for the first time since 1986 in his lone season as the Broncos' bench boss in 2011. He helped Detroit extend their postseason streak to 21 seasons as an assistant coach in 2011-12, but the Red Wings fell in five games to Nashville...Dallas Eakins is in his fourth season as the Marlies' head coach after leading his club to the Calder Cup Finals in 2012, where it was swept by Norfolk. Eakins has spent his entire coaching career with the same organization, starting as an assistant with the Marlies in 2005-06 and spending three years in various capacities for the parent Maple Leafs before taking his current job in 2009-10. Eakins' playing career saw him capture two championships with the Chicago Wolves in two different leagues: the 2000 Turner Cup (IHL) and the 2002 Calder Cup. During his 16 professional seasons, Eakins spent time with eight NHL teams (Calgary, Florida, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Phoenix, St. Louis, Toronto and Winnipeg), nine AHL teams (Baltimore Skipjacks, Binghamton Rangers, Chicago Wolves, Manitoba Moose, Moncton Hawks, Beast of New Haven, Springfield Falcons, St. John's Maple Leafs and Worcester IceCats) and two IHL clubs (Chicago Wolves and Cincinnati Cyclones).

The Stories: The clash between Grand Rapids and Toronto presents numerous storylines: - Two of the most accomplished postseason performers in Griffins history are now with the Marlies organization. Toronto goalie Drew MacIntyre ranks as Grand Rapids' all-time leader in both goals against average (1.62) and save percentage (0.940) by virtue of his five appearances during the 2006 playoffs, while Marlies assistant coach Derek King recorded more playoff goals (16), assists (25) points (41) and power play goals (7) than any player in Griffins history. In addition, King's 46 playoff games (from 2000-04) rank second all time on the club; - Griffins assistant coach Jim Paek, who helped guide the team to that 2006 series win over Toronto during his first season with Grand Rapids, was raised in Toronto after being born in Seoul, South Korea; - Two Grand Rapids defensemen have vivid hockey memories of Hogtown. Brennan Evans notched eight points (1-7-8) and 199 penalty minutes in 79 games with the Marlies in 2009-10, while Nathan Paetsch scored his first NHL goal in Toronto (Jean-Sebastien Aubin) on March 3, 2007 as a member of the Buffalo Sabres; - Toronto forward Kenny Ryan is a native of the Detroit suburb of Franklin, while three Griffins hail from Ontario: forwards Trevor Parkes (Fort Erie) and Riley Sheahan (St. Catharines) and defenseman Ryan Sproul (Mississauga); - Three Griffins - Sproul (2010-13 Sault Ste. Marie), goalie Tom McCollum (2006-09 Guelph, 2009 Brampton) and forward Jan Mursak (2007-08 Belleville) -- played junior hockey in Canada's most populous province, while four members of the Marlies played collegiate or junior hockey in the Great Lakes State: forwards Will Acton (2007-11 Lake Superior State) and Jamie Devane (2008-12 Plymouth) and defensemen Mike Komisarek (2000-02 Michigan) and Simon Gysbers (2006-10 Lake Superior State); - The Griffins did not face a Canadian playoff foe during their first nine seasons (12 series), but the Marlies will be their sixth opponent from north of the border in eight postseason series over the last eight years.

2012-13 Griffins vs. Marlies

Griffins Records: 2-2-0-0 Overall, 1-1-0-0 in Grand Rapids, 1-1-0-0 in Toronto Marlies Records: 2-0-0-2 Overall, 1-0-0-1 in Grand Rapids, 1-0-0-1 in Toronto

Oct. 21 - Griffins 4, Marlies 3 SO - Ricoh Coliseum After starting the season on a franchise-record three-game winless streak (0-2-0-1), the Griffins picked up their first victory of the season on the road. Gustav Nyquist tallied twice in regulation and once in the shootout, while Chad Billins picked up his first three professional points - all assists. Grand Rapids trailed 3-1 after Korbinian Holzer's first of the season at 11:13 of the second period, but Tomas Tatar and Nyquist scored to force extra time. After a scoreless overtime, Tomas Jurco, Brendan Smith and Nyquist converted on all three of the Griffins' shootout attempts, while Tom McCollum steered aside the three attempts that he faced.

Dec. 16 - Marlies 5, Griffins 0 - Ricoh Coliseum Coming off a 3-0 loss to Peoria just two days prior, the Griffins suffered what turned out to be their worst loss of the season, and they were blanked in consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 17-19, 2010. The Marlies' 5-0 victory also ended a season-best six-game road winning streak, which nearly matched the team's franchise record of seven. Keith Aucoin, who would be claimed on waivers by the NY Islanders just over a month later, tallied twice for Toronto and became the 11th player in AHL history to reach 800 points. Nazem Kadri, Nicolas Deschamps and Ryan Hamilton also scored for the Marlies, who got 31 saves from Jussi Rynnas for one of his team-leading three shutouts.

Dec. 28 - Griffins 3, Marlies 2 SO - Van Andel Arena The Griffins improved to 4-0 in the fourth game of their season-high seven-game homestand with their second shootout victory of the season over Toronto. The Marlies' Will Acton scored just 6:54 into the opening frame, giving the visitors a lead they would hold until Brendan Smith tallied his fifth of the season at 8:05 of the second period. Riley Sheahan gave the Griffins a lead early in the third period, but Matt Frattin scored on a penalty shot midway through the period to force overtime. Gustav Nyquist beat Ben Scrivens on a highlight-reel spin-o-rama in the third round of the shootout, but Joe Colborne beat Petr Mrazek to keep the competition going. After Mrazek stopped Spencer Abbott in the following round, Francis Pare converted on his attempt to give the Griffins the victory.

Dec. 29 - Marlies 3, Griffins 1 - Van Andel Arena In a game that was originally scheduled to be played at Comerica Park in Detroit as part of the Red Wings' Hockeytown Winter Festival, the Griffins jumped out to an early lead when Gustav Nyquist lit the lamp just 52 seconds into the game. Luck turned the Marlies' way in the second period, as a strange turn of events saw Tom McCollum race towards the Griffins bench on what seemed to be a delayed penalty to the Marlies, as it appeared the referee's arm was raised when teammate Tomas Tatar had possession of the puck. However, Toronto took control of the puck and Carter Ashton scored on the vacated net to even the score at one, as the penalty had actually been assessed to Grand Rapids. Toronto captain Ryan Hamilton would give his team a lead 44 seconds into the third period before adding an empty net goal at 19:31.

Regular Season Series Notes: Seven of the 10 Marlies to score a goal against the Griffins this season are not on the team's roster to begin the Western Conference Semifinals (Will Acton, Carter Ashton and Korbinian Holzer are the only ones remaining)...Ryan Hamilton led Toronto during the season series with four points (3-1-4), which was matched by Gustav Nyquist for Grand Rapids...The Griffins scored fewer goals against Toronto (8) than any other team they faced more than twice this season...Jussi Rynnas was 2-0-1 against the Griffins, posting a 1.30 goals against average and a 0.956 save percentage in three appearances...Grand Rapids' 5-0 loss to Toronto on Dec. 16 was its largest margin of defeat all season...Keith Aucoin's first goal on Dec. 16 came just 20 seconds into the second period, the quickest goal against the Griffins from the start of a period this season...In addition to ending the Griffins' season-high six-game road winning streak on Dec. 19, Toronto ended the first of three season-high four-game home winning streaks on Dec. 29...The Griffins' power play was 4-for-23 (17.4% against Toronto), and their penalty killing was 17-for-19 (89.5%)...Matt Frattin's penalty shot goal against the Griffins on Dec. 28 was one of just two the team allowed during the season (San Antonio's Jon Rheault scored on Feb. 24)...Grand Rapids converted on five-of-eight shootout attempts (62.5% against the Marlies), contributing to their 17-of-46 mark on the season, a percentage (37%) that tied for fourth in the AHL.

Tale of the Tape: Here's how the two rivals stacked up in key categories during the regular season:

Grand Rapids Toronto

Overall Record 42-26-4-4, 92 pts. (1st Midwest/7th AHL) 43-23-3-7, 96 pts. (1st North, 6th AHL)

Home Record 21-12-3-2, 47 pts. (T9th) 26-8-1-3, 56 pts (1st)

Road Record 21-14-1-2, 45 pts. (T6th) 17-15-2-4, 40 pts. (T15th)

Power Play 60-for-325, 18.5% (T8th) 61-for-373, 16.4% (19th)

Penalty Killing 244-for-304, 80.3% (29th) 265-for-319, 83.1% (15th)

Penalty Minutes 16.04 avg. (16th) 15.71 avg. (17th)

Goals For 3.08 avg. (T7th) 3.12 avg. (4th)

Goals Against 2.70 avg. (13th) 2.62 avg. (T7th)

Shots For 30.67 avg. (9th) 28.71 avg. (24th)

Shots Against 27.86 avg. (T5th) 27.63 avg. (4th)

Team Leaders

Games Played Billins/Evans/Hoggan (76) Jerry D'Amigo (70)

Goals Landon Ferraro (24) Ryan Hamilton (30)

Assists Gustav Nyquist (37) Colborne/Zigomanis/Kostka (28)

Points Nyquist (60) Hamilton (48)

Plus/Minus Jan Mursak (+15) Paul Ranger (+16)

Penalty Minutes Triston Grant (196) Mark Fraser (114)

Power Play Goals Nyquist (9) Hamilton/Joe Colborne (7)

Shorthanded Goals Ferraro (3) Hamilton (3)

Game-Winning Goals Tomas Tatar/Joakim Andersson (5) Hamilton (5)

Wins Petr Mrazek (23) Ben Scrivens (14)

Shutouts Tom McCollum (2) Jussi Rynnas (3)

Goals Against Avg. Mrazek (2.33) Drew MacIntyre (1.83)

Save Percentage Mrazek (0.916) MacIntyre (0.931)

Tell Me What It Takes: The Griffins' quest to advance in the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs is headlined by a handful of players who have won championships in their careers, starting with captain Jeff Hoggan, who captured a Calder Cup with Houston in 2003. Two of the team's rookies enjoyed championships seasons last year: Chad Billins, who helped Ferris State capture the CCHA regular season championship en route to an appearance in the NCAA national title game, and Tomas Jurco, who won his second straight QMJHL President's Cup with Saint John last spring after winning the CHL Memorial Cup in 2011. Brennan Evans joins Jurco as the team's other Memorial Cup winner, winning the WHL's Ed Chynoweth Cup and Memorial Cup in 2002 with the Kootenay Ice. Brett Skinner won back-to-back NCAA championships with Denver as a sophomore and junior in 2004 and 2005. Other cup winners include Mitch Callahan (WHL Chynoweth Cup - 2009 Kelowna) and Adam Almquist (SEL Championship - 2010 HV 71), as well as both of the team's coaches: Jim Paek (Stanley Cup - 1991 and 1992 Pittsburgh, IHL Turner Cup - 1989 Muskegon and 1999 Houston) and Jeff Blashill (USHL Clark Cup - 2009 in his debut season as a head coach).

Oh Captain, My Captain: One of the hottest Griffins over the second half of the season was captain and former Calder Cup-winner Jeff Hoggan. After recording 14 points (5-9-14) in the team's first 38 games - leading up to the NHL season starting on Jan. 19 - Hoggan rattled off 31 points (15-16-31) in the final 38 games, including 14 (7-7-14) over the team's final 14 contests (March 22-April 21). It marked the fourth time in his 11 years as a pro that he reached the 20-goal plateau, as he finished fourth on the team with 45 points (20-25-45) in 76 games. Hoggan also boasts the most AHL playoff experience on the team at 43 games.

It's Been Awhile: Four players on the playoff roster were on the team when the Griffins last made the playoffs in 2009. Two of those players are with the parent Red Wings as of the start of the second round in Joakim Andersson (1-2-3 in 10 GP) and Brian Lashoff (1-4-5 in 8 GP), who both skated for Grand Rapids on amateur tryouts during that postseason before joining the team full-time in 2010-11. The only two players remaining from the team's playoff run in 2009 are Jan Mursak and Francis Pare.

Experience Counts: Only nine players on the Griffins roster had AHL postseason experience prior to the team's first round playoff series against Houston. In addition to the four players who skated during the 2009 Calder Cup Playoff run (Joakim Andersson, Brian Lashoff, Jan Mursak and Francis Pare), Brennan Evans (0-1-1 in 14 GP), Triston Grant (1-5-6 in 35 GP), Jeff Hoggan (8-10-18 in 38 GP), Nathan Paetsch (2-2-4 in 25 GP) and Brett Skinner (0-8-8 in 28 GP) had playoff experience at this level. Nine players have professional postseason experience at other levels: Adam Almquist (1-11-12 in 21 GP, Sweden), Andersson (2-3-5 in 22 GP, Sweden), Evans (2 GP, NHL), Hoggan (2 GP, Germany), Gustav Nyquist (4 GP, NHL), Paetsch (1 GP, NHL; 2 GP, Germany), Teemu Pulkkinen (2-5-7 in 13 GP, Finland), Skinner (6 GP, Sweden) and Tomas Tatar (5-3-8 in 13 GP, Slovakia). The Griffins also have five players who recently saw ECHL playoff action with the Toledo Walleye: Willie Coetzee, Andrej Nestrasil, Max Nicastro, Trevor Parkes and Jordan Pearce.

In the Show: Sixteen former Griffins have appeared in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season. Notably, Gustav Nyquist, a member of the 2013 AHL First All-Star Team, made history in Detroit's first-round playoff series against Anaheim as the first rookie in NHL history to record his first two playoff points in overtime. He is also the first rookie in Red Wings history to register two overtime points in one playoff year. Nyquist scored the overtime winner in Game 2 on May 2 and assisted on Damien Brunner's winner (along with Joakim Andersson) to knot the series at two on May 6. (Stats through NHL playoff games of May 7).

Player NHL Club GP G A PTS +/- PIM

Brendan Smith Detroit 4 1 1 2 -1 0

Gustav Nyquist Detroit 4 1 1 2 2 0

Kyle Quincey Detroit 4 0 2 2 -1 2

Joakim Andersson Detroit 4 0 2 2 0 6

Chris Neil Ottawa 4 0 2 2 3 17

Mark Eaton Pittsburgh 4 0 2 2 -1 0

Justin Abdelkader Detroit 3 1 0 1 1 15

Jakub Kindl Detroit 4 0 1 1 0 2

Valtteri Filppula Detroit 4 0 1 1 -2 4

Kris Newbury NY Rangers 1 0 0 0 0 0

Brian Lashoff Detroit 2 0 0 0 0 0

Chris Kelly Boston 3 0 0 0 0 5

Niklas Kronwall Detroit 4 0 0 0 -3 0

Jonathan Ericsson Detroit 4 0 0 0 -1 0

Cory Emmerton Detroit 4 0 0 0 -2 0

Goalie NHL Club GP W L SO GAA SPCT

Jimmy Howard Detroit 4 2 2 0 2.82 0.900

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