Griffins Face Marlies and IceHogs to Continue Seven-Game Homestand
Ring in the New Year : The Griffins will continue their season-high seven-game homestand this week and will conclude 2012 with three games in four nights. Grand Rapids, which has won three straight and earned at least a point in nine of its last 13 games at Van Andel Arena (8-4-1-0), will host the Toronto Marlies for back-to-back contests on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., before hosting its 16th annual New Year's Eve game on Monday versus the Rockford IceHogs at 6 p.m., which wraps up the busiest home month of the season. The Griffins have played seven of December's 10 home games, posting 5-2 record in those contests along with a 6-3 record overall during the month. The club will wrap up its seven-game homestand and a 15-game stretch comprised of 13 home games with the first game of 2013 - Jan. 4 versus Oklahoma City.
Thrice as Nice : Grand Rapids entered last week facing three home games in four nights after not having scored a goal in two games the week prior (Dec. 14 vs. Peoria and Dec. 16 at Toronto). East Grand Rapids native Luke Glendening, who became the first-ever Greater Grand Rapids native to skate for the Griffins, ended the team's shutout streak of 123:39 by scoring his first AHL goal during his first shift on his first shot en route to being named the First Star of the game. The Griffins also got goals from Jeff Hoggan, Joakim Andersson and Francis Pare in a 4-2 victory over the Rochester Americans last Wednesday. Grand Rapids faced the top goaltending tandem in the AHL on Friday night and skated to a 5-1 victory - its largest margin of victory this season - after a two-goal night from Riley Sheahan and a 29-save effort from Petr Mrazek . Mrazek handed the keys to Tom McCollum on Saturday night, and the netminder helped the Griffins down the Wolves 2-1 in overtime with 31 saves in a victory capped off by an overtime goal from Brian Lashoff .
Turn Down the Heat : The Abbotsford Heat skated into Van Andel Arena on Friday night ranking first in the AHL in goals against, giving up just 1.96 goals per game in addition to having the top goaltending tandem in the league in Barry Brust (who entered the night with an AHL-best 1.16 GAA and 0.955 save percentage) and Danny Taylor (who was second with a 1.81 GAA and fourth with a 0.929 save percentage). After a scoreless first period, the Griffins got a pair of goals from Joakim Andersson and Riley Sheahan in the second period, which was enough for Brust to be pulled in favor of Taylor for the third. The home team didn't let off the gas, as Francis Pare and Sheahan tallied power play goals and Gustav Nyquist hit an empty netter to seal the 5-1 win. Petr Mrazek's shutout was spoiled with 3:12 to play in the contest, but he made 29 saves as the Griffins defeated the North Division-leading Heat.
Final 2012 Promos : Friday's contest versus Toronto includes several fan-favorite promotions, including Dollar Beers and Hot Dogs and College Night, which allows college students to purchase an upper bowl ticket for $13 (or $11 in advance at The Zone) and stop by the McFadden's concourse table to receive a free pass to the post-game party at McFadden's. Every Friday night is also a Griffins WGRD D-Zone night, where fans can have $1 beers and $1 hot dogs served directly to their seats, and Free Ride Friday, permitting any fan to enjoy complimentary fare on the Rapid busses by showing their ticket to that night's game. Call (616) 774-4585 ext. 2 or visit griffinshockey.com/dzone to order D-Zone tickets, and visit ridetherapid.org for information on bus schedules, routes and maps. Monday's game versus Rockford marks the team's 16th Annual New Year's Eve Celebration, presented by Fox Honda. Fans who stick around after the game can enjoy West Michigan's largest post-game indoor fireworks show before heading down to the ice for a J&H Family Stores Post-Game Open Skate. Fans can receive a great value if they purchase a Fan 4 Pack. Visit griffinshockey.com/f4p to receive four tickets and $12 in concession cash for a low price. Additionally, the Griffins will don special jerseys that will be auctioned off in the Fifth Third Bank Vault following the game to benefit Grand Valley State University's club roller hockey team.
Red Wings Legends Night : Saturday's rematch versus the Marlies marks "Red Wings Legends Night," as the Griffins will host a pair of Detroit Red Wings alumni and Stanley Cup champions in Kris Draper and Joe Kocur . Boasting a combined seven Stanley Cup rings, Draper and Kocur will sign autographs and meet fans inside Van Andel Arena from 5:45-7:15 p.m., serving as a prelude to the game. Additionally, 1,200 fans will receive a Scotty Bowman bobblehead. Bowman holds the NHL record for most wins as a coach (1,244) and most Stanley Cups (9), having won five with the Montreal Canadiens (1973, 1976-1979), three with the Red Wings (1997, 1998, 2002), one with the Pittsburgh Penguins (1992) and three in various front office capacities (1991 with Pittsburgh, 2008 with Detroit and 2010 with Chicago). Finally, fans can take advantage of the Griffins' new Popcorn Pack and enjoy $16 in total ticket savings and unlimited popcorn refills when they purchase four or more Griffins tickets with the Saturday Night Popcorn Pack. Visit griffinshockey.com/popcorn for more information and for a list of valid package game dates.
Grand Debut : Last Monday, the Griffins recalled forward Luke Glendening from the ECHL's Toledo Walleye. The East Grand Rapids native made his Griffins debut against the Rochester Americans on Wednesday at Van Andel Arena, making him the only player from Greater Grand Rapids to play for the team. Glendening made a quick impression on the club, scoring the game's first goal (his first AHL goal/point) on his first shot during his first shift just 2:49 into the first period, helping the Griffins to a 4-2 win and being named the game's First Star. The 23-year-old winger, who signed a one-year contract with Grand Rapids on June 19, stands fourth on Toledo with 21 points (14-7-21) in 27 games. A former captain at the University of Michigan, he led the Walleye at the time of his recall and was tied for eighth in the ECHL in both goals (14) and plus minus (+13). Glendening made his AHL debut last season by playing three games with the Providence Bruins.
Classic Coach : With one of the top offenses in the AHL and a strong goaltending tandem, several Griffins will certainly merit consideration for the 2013 Dunkin' Donuts AHL All-Star Classic, which will be held in Providence, R.I., on Jan. 27-28. However, the team's representative(s) may not be limited to just players, as head coach Jeff Blashill is in contention for a spot on the Western Conference's bench for next month's event. The head coach of the team with the best winning percentage in each conference after games on Dec. 31 will be named that conference's head coach for the All-Star Classic, in addition to one head coach from each conference being selected by league president David Andrews. Blashill's Griffins currently have the third-best winning percentage (0.630) in the conference, trailing Charlotte's Jeff Daniels (0.650), Toronto's Dallas Eakins (0.643) and just ahead of Abbotsford's Troy G. Ward (0.621) and Texas' Willie Desjardins (0.607). A potential spot on the bench for Blashill would mark the first time in 11 years that a Griffins coach appeared at the event, since Bruce Cassidy and assistant coach Gene Reilly represented PlanetUSA at the 2002 All-Star Classic after helping the Griffins to the AHL's best record leading into the event.
Wolf Tamer : Tom McCollum improved to 7-4-1 this season on Saturday and helped the Griffins to a 2-1 overtime victory over the Chicago Wolves behind 31 saves. McCollum has been a major factor in the team's perfect 4-0 record against Chicago this season, posting a 3-0 mark, a 0.98 goals against average and a 0.964 save percentage in three appearances against the Wolves, including a 20-save shutout on Dec. 7, his 23rd birthday.
NYE Bash? : Monday's contest versus Rockford marks the first meeting between the Griffins and IceHogs since a tightly-contested and penalty-filled game in Grand Rapids on Dec. 9. The Griffins claimed a 4-2 victory that night, which helped the team jump Rockford and back into first place in the Midwest Division, a position they have held at least a share of every day since. The rivals combined for 132 penalty minutes on the night - 77 of which were assessed to the Griffins - including six fighting majors, six misconducts and eight roughing calls. It still ranks as the sixth-highest total in the AHL this season and was the highest for Grand Rapids since a franchise-record 112 on Nov. 24, 2010 at Toronto. The teams will meet on New Year's Eve for the final meeting of the season in Grand Rapids, as the Griffins will visit Rockford four times before the end of the regular season. Rockford currently ranks first in the Western Conference and fourth in the league in penalty minutes per game at 23.83, while Grand Rapids averages the 10th fewest (16.3).
Overtime Heroics : Brian Lashoff tallied the Griffins' overtime goal on Saturday versus Chicago, slipping a pass from Adam Almquist between the legs of Matt Climie to help the Griffins win their third straight game. With the goal, Lashoff moved into a class of just eight players who have recorded multiple overtime winners in the Griffins' 17-year history. Jiri Hudler has a franchise-record four overtime goals, and Kevin Miller (3) is the only other player with more than two. Lashoff is now tied Rob Collins, Bryan Helmer, Doug Janik, Donald MacLean and Kip Miller for third place in franchise history with two overtime tallies. The third-year pro went 350 days between game-winners, as his first overtime goal came on Jan. 7 at Abbotsford. Additionally, the goal improved Grand Rapids to 5-0-1-1 post-regulation this season, with an extra time winning percentage (0.714) that ranks fourth in the AHL. Only Norfolk (5-0-1-0, 0.833), St. John's (4-0-0-1, 0.800) and Adirondack (3-0-1-0, 0.750) have been better.
Pack Your Bags : The Griffins' season-high seven-game homestand will continue with three more home games this week, but the team will see seven of its first nine games of 2013 played on the road. Grand Rapids (along with Manchester) has played the fewest road games in the league (11), but it boasts the fourth-best record away from home at 8-3, which included a six-game road winning streak from Nov. 3-Dec. 7 that ranks as the second longest in the AHL this season. The Griffins' road winning percentage of 0.727 trails only Charlotte (10-2-0-2, 0.786), Syracuse (12-3-0-2, 0.765) and Springfield (10-3-1-0, 0.750).
Trio to Toledo : The Detroit Red Wings on Thursday reassigned forwards Andrej Nestrasil and Brent Raedeke and defenseman Max Nicastro from the Griffins to the ECHL's Toledo Walleye. Nestrasil was recalled on Dec. 17 and skated in all three games last week but did not record a point. He shows 24 points (7-17-24) in 27 games with Toledo this season, including an eight-game point streak (1-10-11) - the second-longest active streak in the ECHL. Raedeke has spent his entire professional career with Grand Rapids, recording 38 points (20-18-38) in 147 games. He joins the Walleye after notching four points (1-3-4) in 14 games with the Griffins this season. Nicastro has suited up in eight games as a first year pro, tallying one goal with Grand Rapids on Nov. 16 at Lake Erie and one with Toledo on Nov. 30 versus Kalamazoo. He recorded his first ECHL goal in his first game, scoring the game-tying tally with .1 seconds left in a 4-3 overtime win for the Walleye.
Amway Winning Wednesday : All fans who were in attendance for the Griffins' 4-2 win over the Rochester Americans last Wednesday can redeem their ticket stub for a free ticket to the Griffins' next Wednesday game, Jan. 23 vs. Oklahoma City. Tickets can be redeemed at The Zone during business hours (M-F 10-6; Sat. 10-2) and at the box office the night of Jan. 23.
All-Time Griffins : Several Griffins players have climbed several spots on the franchise's all-time leaderboards this season...Tom McCollum passed Daniel Larsson for fifth-place among Griffins goaltenders with 94 games played, having already passed his former teammate in minutes (4992:07) and saves (2,224). McCollum now ranks fourth all time with 5203:12 minutes played and 2,268 saves, trailing only Joey MacDonald, Jimmy Howard and Marc Lamothe in those categories...Tomas Tatar is tied with Kip Miller at 75 goals and can move into fourth place in Griffins history with his next tally. Tatar also ranks seventh with 95 assists and 170 points, is tied for fifth with 12 game-winning goals and places seventh with 564 shots, having passed Darryl Bootland (550) in that department last week. Francis Pare is the Griffins' active leading scorer after passing Miller (208) in points this month. He ranks among the team's all-time leaders with 322 games played (3rd), 91 goals (2nd), 122 assists (5th), 213 points (4th), 12 game-winning goals (T5th) and 755 shots (5th).
Milestones : Tomas Tatar is four points from 200 as a pro, four assists from 100 in the AHL, one goal from passing Kip Miller for fourth-place all time and three goals from tying Jamie Tardif for third place...Joakim Andersson is one goal from 50 as a pro and two games from 300 in his pro career...Brennan Evans notched his 1,400th penalty minute in the AHL on Friday versus Abbotsford...Tom McCollum is one win shy of tying Pokey Reddick for seventh in franchise history with 35 victories and one game played away from tying Ian Gordon (95) for fourth all time...Adam Almquist is three points shy of 50 as a pro.
Walleye Watch : The Toledo Walleye dropped both of their games last week and currently sit second in the North Division, trailing the Cincinnati Cyclones by three points. Willie Coetzee saw his five-game goal streak end on Friday at Greenville, but he still leads the Walleye with 26 points (14-12-26) in 28 contests. Returning from Grand Rapids after being reassigned by Detroit on Thursday, Andrej Nestrasil still sits second on Toledo with 24 points (7-17-24) in 27 games, including an active eight-game scoring streak. Jordan Pearce ranks among the ECHL's top netminders with a 2.53 goals against average (8th), a 0.906 save percentage (14th) and eight wins (T17th). In addition to Nestrasil, Brent Raedeke and Max Nicastro were also reassigned to Toledo by Detroit. The Walleye play four games in five days this week, hosting Fort Wayne on Thursday, visiting Cincinnati on Friday and Kalamazoo on Saturday, and returning home to face Fort Wayne again on Monday.
Fri., Dec. 28 vs. Toronto Marlies (18-9-1-1) - Van Andel Arena - 7 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 29 vs. Toronto Marlies - Van Andel Arena - 7 p.m.
Radio : WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 2:40 p.m. Web Casts : Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series : 27-22-2-1 Overall, 15-9-1-0 Home. 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. NHL Affiliation : Toronto Maple Leafs. Head Coach : Dallas Eakins (5th season). Notes : Toronto has posted an 8-1-1 record over its last 10 games and has an AHL-best six game unbeaten streak (5-0-1-0), which has helped it vault into first place in the North Division...Marlies forward Keith Aucoin leads the team and places third in the AHL with 31 points (7-24-31) in 28 games. Aucoin is the AHL's active leading scorer and 10th in league history with 808 points (230-578-808) in 701 games...Toronto defenseman Mike Kostka is tied for ninth in the league and for second among defensemen with 28 points (6-22-28) in 29 games...Marlies goaltender Ben Scrivens ranks among AHL leaders with a 2.37 goals against average (11th) and 12 wins (T3rd) in 19 games. The club has also gotten strong goaltending from Jussi Rynnas, who has three shutouts in his six appearances (4-1-1, 1.94 GAA, 0.939), including a 5-0 decision over Grand Rapids on Dec. 16...Toronto defenseman Paul Ranger has a six-game point streak, which ties for the longest in the AHL. Ranger, playing professional hockey for the first time since 2009-10, has 16 points (4-12-16) and is tied for eighth in the league with a plus-13 rating...The Marlies have the AHL's third best offense, averaging 3.41 goals per game...Griffins defenseman Brennan Evans had eight points (1-7-8) and 199 penalty minutes with Toronto in 2009-10...Toronto assistant coach Derek King is the Griffins' fifth all-time leading scorer, having racked up 203 points (73-130-203) in 264 games from 1999-01 and 2002-04.
Mon., Dec. 31 vs. Rockford IceHogs (15-13-1-1) - Van Andel Arena - 6 p.m.
TV : 23 Weather Now (WIFR-DT 23.2 Rockford) at 6 p.m. Radio : WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 5:50 p.m. Web Casts : Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series : 10-13-3-3 Overall, 8-6-1-1 Home. Season Series: 2-0-1-0 Overall, 2-0-1-0 Home. Fourth of eight meetings overall, fourth of four in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation : Chicago Blackhawks. Head Coach : Ted Dent (2nd season). Notes : Martin St. Pierre leads Rockford in scoring and is tied for 18th in the league with 26 points (12-14-26) in 30 games...Only Houston's Matt Hackett and Rochester's David Leggio have played more minutes than Rockford's Carter Hutton, who ranks third in the AHL with 1,343:09...IceHogs defenseman Adam Clendening is ties for eighth among AHL rookies and for sixth among defensemen with 21 points (4-17-21) in 27 games...Rockford is third in the league in penalty minutes with 715 penalty minutes...The IceHogs have the fifth-best power play in the AHL at 20 percent and the ninth-best offense, averaging 3.17 goals per game...Rockford left wing Wade Brookbank was the 56th Griffins alum to skate in the NHL. Brookbank led Grand Rapids with 337 penalty minutes during the 2000-01 season, the fourth-highest single season total in franchise history...Rockford defenseman Brett Lebda was the 70th Griffins alum to graduate to the NHL. Lebda had 31 points (6-25-31) in 111 games with Grand Rapids from 2003-06 and won a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2008.
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