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Griffins And Bulldogs In Fight To The Finish

March 30, 2009 - American Hockey League (AHL) - Grand Rapids Griffins News Release

A Dog-Eat-Dog World: With first-place Manitoba's magic number for clinching the North Division down to just two points, the most likely Calder Cup Playoff scenario has Grand Rapids and Hamilton facing off in the North Division Semifinals. The second-place Griffins lead the third-place Bulldogs by four points in the race for home-ice advantage with just five games left for each team, but the 'Dogs currently own the important wins tiebreaker (44 to 42). With three meetings of the clubs still remaining before the end of the regular season, including two crucial clashes in Hamilton this Friday and Saturday, the Griffins and Bulldogs could play as many as 10 of their next 12 contests against each other (should their anticipated playoff series go seven games).

By the Numbers: The Griffins' magic number for clinching over Hamilton is seven points, while the Bulldogs' figure for clinching over Grand Rapids is 15 points.

Missing in Action: A total of seven regulars missed the Griffins' Sunday contest in Philadelphia due to either injury or recall. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson has missed Grand Rapids' last 13 games while with the Red Wings, while fellow blueliner Garrett Stafford was summoned by Dallas after Saturday's game. Meanwhile, the Griffins are missing five forwards who have been sidelined with various injuries. Ryan Oulahen is out indefinitely after sustaining a dislocated left hip on Friday in Norfolk, while Jamie Tardif (11 games), Aaron Downey (seven), Mattias Ritola (six) and Ville Leino (four) have already missed significant time.

See Lord Stanley's Cup: The Griffins will host Hamilton in their regular season home finale on Friday, April 10, a game that could determine home-ice advantage in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. All ticketed fans can see the most famous trophy in sports, the Stanley Cup, in the arena banquet room from 6-6:50 p.m. and 7:20-8:45 p.m., as the Griffins anticipate their fourth consecutive sellout to cap off their greatest season for attendance in eight years. Approximately 500 tickets remain for the game.

Familiar Spot/New Leader: The Griffins clinched their 10th playoff berth in 13 seasons and secured at least third place in the North Division thanks to Friday's 2-1 win at Norfolk. Jimmy Howard made a career-high 47 saves to earn his 89th victory in a Griffins uniform, passing current New York Islander Joey MacDonald to become the winningest goalie in franchise history. Howard had already passed MacDonald to assume supremacy in three other categories this season: goalie games played (182 to 164), minutes played (10422:13 to 9208:13) and saves (4722 to 4251).

Fifth Century?: Grand Rapids needs to earn four points in its final five games to reach 100 points for the fifth time in franchise history (115 in 2005-06, 113 in 2000-01, 111 in 1999-00 and 106 in 2002-03).

Test of Strength: Five games into their franchise-record eight-game road trip, the Griffins show a 2-3 record. The gauntlet will conclude with their 11th and final 3-in-3 of this season this weekend, as they travel to Hamilton (Fri./Sat.) and Rochester (Sun.). Grand Rapids is now 18-10-0-2 (0.633) this season when playing three times in as many nights, including a 6-4 mark in the third game.

AHL Player of the Week Nominee: The Griffins today nominated center Cory Emmerton for the Reebok/AHL Player of the Week award, after he contributed three goals in four games last week. He lit the lamp in Wednesday's loss at Wilkes-Barre, scored the game-winner and was named Second Star in Friday's win at Norfolk, then scored the team's lone goal on Sunday in Philly.

Lightning Strikes Twice: On Feb. 8 at Toronto, Tim Stapleton (4 goals) and Andre Deveaux became the first Griffins opponents to tally hat tricks in the same game, a feat that was duplicated on Saturday by Philadelphia's Rob Sirianni and Jonathan Matsumoto.

Youth Not Wasted on Young: Justin Abdelkader (22-27-49), Francis Pare (22-24-46) and Cory Emmerton (10-25-35) have become the most prolific trio of Griffins rookies ever, as they currently rank second, fourth and 10th in single-season scoring among all first-year players in franchise history. Abdelkader is six points shy of Glen Metropolit's rookie scoring record (20-35-55 in 1997-98), while both he and Pare have matched Kevyn Adams' (1996-97) rookie standard for goals.

Climbing the Charts: Darren Haydar already ranks among the Griffins' all-time best season-single performers with 75 points (9th), 14 power play goals (4th) and nine first goals (T2nd). He needs just one goal to become the first Griffin in three seasons to score 30 in a single campaign, and just one assist to tie for the tenth-highest single-season total in team history (47)...Darren Helm also places among the team's all-time best with three shorthanded goals (T5th) and four unassisted goals (T4th)...Should he maintain it, Francis Pare's 0.182 shooting percentage would finish as the fifth-highest single-season mark in team history...Daniel Larsson's 22 wins tie for eighth place on the Griffins' single-season list, while his five shutouts tie for sixth...Jimmy Howard's 1,088 saves are the tenth-highest total for a Grand Rapids netminder.

Who's Hot?: Despite going pointless in consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 31-Jan. 2, Darren Haydar has points in 15 of the last 19 games (9-16-25), 22 of the last 27 contests (13-23-35), 27 of the last 34 outings (15-27-42) and 32 of the last 40 games (16-33-49)...After scoring his 17th goal of the campaign on Saturday, Evan McGrath is one tally shy of matching his AHL career high (2007-08), having already set personal bests in assists (30) and points (47)...Prior to sitting out the last four games due to injury, Ville Leino notched eight points (4-4-8) in nine appearances upon returning from a 13-game stint in Detroit...Francis Pare (1-4-5), Francis Lemieux (1-3-4) and Aaron Gagnon (1-2-3) each have points in three of the last five contests.

Take Me to Your Leaders: Several Griffins rank among the AHL's individual leaders: Darren Haydar - 5th points (75), T8th goals (29), T10th assists (46), 4th power play points (37), T7th power play goals (14), T11th power play assists (23); Justin Abdelkader - T6th rookie points (49), T5th rookie goals (22), 10th rookies assists (27), 6th rookie shots (184); Cory Emmerton - T18th rookie assists (25), T2nd among rookies in shootout-winning goals (2); Francis Pare - T12th rookie points (46), T5th rookie goals (22), T14th overall and 4th among rookies in shooting percentage (0.182), 18th overall and 4th rookie plus/minus (+20); Garrett Stafford - T6th defenseman points (42), T6th defenseman goals (11); Jimmy Howard - T16th wins (20), 17th GAA (2.49), T13th save percentage (0.916), T14th shutouts (3); and Daniel Larsson - 12th wins (22), T2nd shutouts (5).

Milestones: Darren Haydar scored his 200th professional goal during Wednesday's loss to the Penguins and is just one tally shy of 200 in the AHL...Jason Jozsa appeared in his 400th game as a pro on Saturday in Philadelphia.

NHL Alumni Report: On March 24, Jonathan Ericsson netted his second NHL goal and first of the season by getting the Wings on the board at 11:15 of the third period during their 3-2 win at Edmonton. Since his recall on March 2, Ericsson has tallied three points (1-2-3) and six PIM through 13 games with the Red Wings, while showing a plus-two rating with an average ice time of 16:39...Garrett Stafford was recalled by Dallas on Sunday and will be available to play in the Stars' road games tonight in Phoenix and Tuesday in Los Angeles, his hometown...On Friday, former Griffins goaltender Joey MacDonald (2002-07) made 42 saves to record his first NHL shutout, blanking his old team, the Detroit Red Wings, in the New York Islander's return to Joe Louis Arena.

Here's the Situation: The Griffins have not lost in regulation when entering the third period with the lead (31-0-3-3). Only Lowell (22-0-0-2) and Milwaukee (26-0-1-2) can say the same...Grand Rapids is 30-9-3-4 when scoring first and has managed a 0.500 record (12-12-3-2) when allowing the first goal.

Low on Iron(men): Ryan Oulahen had been the only Griffin to appear in each game this season prior to suffering a dislocated hip on Friday. As a result, this will be the team's first season since 2000-01 and its first AHL campaign to not have any Griffin play in every regular season game.

Banner Year for Attendance: With the Griffins having sold out each of their last three home games (five total this season), the anticipated sellout for their April 10 home finale will give them four consecutive sellouts for the first time in more than 10 years (Dec. 31, 1998-Jan. 29, 1999) and a season-ending attendance of 297,905 (7,448 avg.), their highest since drawing 328,919 during the 2000-01 season. Grand Rapids has already achieved a third straight season of increased attendance for the first time in franchise history, and it will finish with its largest percentage increase ever from one season to the next (8.0%, or exactly 22,000 more fans than last season).

Take Pride: The Griffins' 2-1 shootout win over Toronto on March 20 gave them 90 points for the first time since the 2005-06 campaign and marked the eighth time in 13 seasons they've reached that milestone...On March 21, Grand Rapids hit the 40-win mark for the first time since 2005-06 and the ninth time overall.

Give Peace a Chance: The Griffins are the only team in the AHL with fewer than 1,000 penalty minutes (881), as well as the only team whose opponents have accumulated fewer than 1,000 PIM (958).

Scouting Report

Fri., April 3 at Hamilton Bulldogs (44-27-4-0) - Copps Coliseum - 7:30 p.m.

Sat., April 4 at Hamilton Bulldogs - Copps Coliseum - 7 p.m.

TV: Cable 14 (Hamilton) at 7:30 p.m. (Fri. only). Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 7:05 p.m. (Fri.) and 6:35 p.m. (Sat.). Web Casts: Video web cast ($6 at and audio web cast (free at available through All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 20-20-1-0-2 Overall, 9-12-0-0-0 Road. Season Series: 2-1-0-0 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Road. Fourth and fifth of six meetings overall, second and third of three in Hamilton. NHL Affiliation: Montreal Canadiens. Head Coach: Ron Wilson (1st season). Notes: The Griffins are just 3-9 in their last 12 visits to Copps Coliseum - after going 6-3 in their first nine trips to the Steel City - but they took a 3-1 win over the Bulldogs in the season's only prior visit on Jan. 14...Hamilton's Marc Denis (2.48 GAA) and GR's Jimmy Howard (2.49 GAA) sit 16th and 17th in the AHL's goalie rankings...The Bulldogs boast four of the league's top 18 rookie scorers in Ben Maxwell (21-32-53, 3rd), David Desharnais (19-31-50, T4th), Brock Trotter (15-28-43, T16th) and Yannick Weber (14-27-41, 18th)...The Griffins (3.24 goals per game) and Bulldogs (3.23) rank 3-4 in scoring average.

Sun., April 5 at Rochester Americans (26-40-0-8) - Blue Cross Arena - 6:05 p.m.

Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 5:35 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast ($6 at and audio web cast (free at available through All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 21-15-1-1-1 Overall, 8-10-0-1-0 Road. Season Series: 4-0-0-1 Overall, 2-0-0-0 Road. Sixth of six meetings overall, third of three in Rochester. NHL Affiliation: Florida Panthers. Head Coach: Benoit Groulx (1st season). Notes: Grand Rapids has outscored Rochester 21-9 this season, including 8-1 in two wins at Blue Cross Arena...Despite owning the AHL's second-worst record in terms of wins (26), points (60) or percentage (0.405), the Amerks boast the league's 13th-ranked netminder in Mike Brodeur (2.45)...Rochester ranks 28th in power play (13.0), penalty killing (79.2) and goals against (3.28 avg.), and 29th in goals scored (2.28)...Former Griffin Randall Gelech has 14 points (6-8-14) in 50 games for the Americans...GR's Evan McGrath leads all players with seven points (1-6-7) in the series.

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