Griffins Face Test from South Division
This Week's Games
Wed., Feb. 6 - Houston Aeros at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Fri., Feb. 8 - GRIFFINS at Oklahoma City Barons - 8 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., Feb. 9 - GRIFFINS at Oklahoma City Barons - 8 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Last Week's Results
Fri., Feb. 1 GRIFFINS 5 at Hamilton Bulldogs 1 25-14-2-2, 54 pts. (1st, Midwest Division)
Sat., Feb. 2 Abbotsford Heat 0 at GRIFFINS 1 26-14-2-2, 56 pts. (1st)
Week in Review : The Griffins resumed their regular season schedule following the AHL All-Star break with back-to-back games last weekend. Friday saw the team make its first visit of the season to Hamilton, where it defeated the Bulldogs 5-1. Gustav Nyquist opened the scoring just 1:22 into the contest, and Tomas Tatar doubled the lead with 11 seconds left in the first. Frederic St-Denis scored for Hamilton in the second period, but Tatar completed his hat trick, and Luke Glendening provided additional insurance to seal the win. Petr Mrazek, who made 21 saves against the Bulldogs, stole the show the following night versus Abbotsford, recording his first professional shutout behind 32 saves. Adam Almquist scored the game's only goal and laid out for a critical shot block in the game's dying seconds to preserve a 1-0 win for Grand Rapids over the North Division-leading Heat.
On Tap : Grand Rapids will finish a stretch of five games in nine days to open the month of February with three games in four nights this week. The Griffins will host Houston for the third time in 13 days (Jan. 25-Feb. 6) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. before making its first and only trip of the season to Oklahoma City to battle the Barons on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. EST. After finishing up the busy stretch, the Griffins will play just two games over the next 12 days (Feb. 10-21) when they host Lake Erie on Feb. 15 and Charlotte on Feb. 17.
One to Remember : The professional career of the Petr Mrazek is still very young, but the Ostrava, Czech Republic, native will likely remember last week for a long time. Last Monday, the Griffins netminder appeared in the AHL All-Star Classic in Providence, R.I., and was credited with the win for his third period efforts. He went on to surrender just one goal in two weekend games, posting a combined 0.50 goals against average and a 0.981 save percentage in Friday's 5-1 win over Hamilton and Saturday's 1-0 victory over Abbotsford - his first professional shutout. To cap it all off, Mrazek was recalled by Detroit for the first time on Monday and was named CCM/AHL Player of the Week for his efforts. The 20-year-old goaltender could make his NHL debut this week, as the Red Wings play three games in four days. Detroit visits St. Louis on Thursday at 8 p.m. EST and hosts Edmonton on Saturday at 2 p.m. and Los Angeles on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Mrazek's AHL honor is the second for a Griffin in the span of three weeks (Joakim Andersson earned the award for Jan. 20) - and just the fourth ever for a Grand Rapids goalie. The three other backstops to win AHL Player of the Week are Jimmy Howard (Jan. 25, 2009 and March 20, 2006), Joey MacDonald (Feb. 16, 2004) and Marc Lamothe (Nov. 18, 2002).
Winning Wednesday : All fans who were in attendance for the Griffins' 5-4 win over the Oklahoma City Barons on Jan. 23 can redeem their ticket stub for a free ticket to this Wednesday's game versus Houston. 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 the game. If the Griffins beat the Aeros, all fans in attendance will receive a free ticket to the next Wednesday game, March 13 vs. Chicago. The box office will be open after the game for redemptions. Additionally, the first 300 fans to visit the Amway table in Section A will receive a gift. Every Wednesday home game through March allows Griffins fans to take advantage of Wednesday is Hockey Night specials at 17 Arena District restaurants and bars -- including Peppino's Sports Grille, home of the Griffins' Wednesday post-game parties with the players -- to enjoy Happy Hour specials before the game and Hockey Night specials afterward. Visit griffinshockey.com/hockeynight for a list of participating establishments. Fans can present their Grand Rapids Public Library card or Kent District Library card at the Van Andel Arena box office on the day of the game or at The Zone anytime during the store's regular business hours to save $7 off the price of a Lower Level Faceoff ticket (regularly $18 in advance and $20 day of game). Limit four tickets per card per person, subject to availability. Finally, children with Griff's Reading Goals bookmarks who have completed the required three hours of reading can redeem their bookmark for two free upper level tickets to this game.
Hats Off : Only Michel Picard and Francis Pare have scored more goals for the Griffins than Tomas Tatar, but it took Tatar 247 games with the Griffins and 311 as a pro to record his first career hat trick. Tatar has 83 career goals with Grand Rapids (and 96 professional goals) after notching three on Friday at Hamilton, receiving first star honors in the 5-1 victory. It also marked the 53rd hat trick in the Griffins' 17-year history and second in a five-game stretch, after Mitch Callahan did the deed on Jan. 19 at Rockford. Tatar could see his first NHL action since the 2010-11 season after being recalled by the Red Wings on Monday, as he's slated to make his season debut on Tuesday when Detroit hosts Calgary at 7:30 p.m.
Well Done, Old Friend : After 449 professional games, former Griffins captain Jamie Tardif made his NHL debut when his Boston Bruins visited the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. Tardif, who became the Griffins' 128th graduate to the NHL, logged 5:03 of ice time and helped the team to a 1-0 win over Toronto. The Welland, Ontario, native skated for the Griffins from 2006-11 and ranks among the franchise's all-time leaders with 316 games played (4th), 78 goals (4th), 154 points (8th), 22 power play goals (7th), five shorthanded goals (T5th) and 832 shots (3rd). Tardif is currently tied for second in the AHL in goals and leads Providence with 30 points (21-9-30) in 39 games.
Comeback Kings : Although they never trailed in either of last week's games, the Griffins have proven this season to be among the league's best when playing from behind. They currently hold the league's best winning percentage (0.750) when trailing after one period of play, boasting a 7-2-0-1 record overall. For comparison, only two other teams have a winning percentage of .500 or better when trailing after 20 minutes: Charlotte (8-6-1-1, 0.563) and Portland (7-7-0-1, 0.500). Additionally, the Griffins have the AHL's second-best winning percentage when trailing after two periods of play. Grand Rapids, which has trailed after 40 minutes a league-low nine times, is 3-6 (0.333) in that situation, trailing only Worcester (6-13-0-4, 0.348).
The 100 Club : With the first of his two assists during Friday's 5-1 win over Hamilton, Joakim Andersson became the 26th player in franchise history to reach 100 points, doing so in 187 games to become the 15th-quickest to the milestone. The Munkedal, Sweden, native became the second Griffin this season to join the three-digit point club, after Gustav Nyquist became the fifth-fastest on Jan. 17 at Charlotte (102 games). After his hat trick on Friday, Tomas Tatar, the 12th-fastest Griffin to 100 points (147 games), may be the next to reach a points milestone, currently 14 points away from becoming the sixth player in franchise history to 200 points. If he can do it in less than 12 games, he will become the third-fastest to the milestone (ahead of Derek King at 250 GP); otherwise, he could beat out teammate Francis Pare (307) to become the fourth quickest.
OKC Bound : The Griffins will play back-to-back games in Oklahoma City on Friday and Saturday and try to improve on their 13-5-0-1 road record, which ranks as the third-best road winning percentage (0.711) in the AHL. Only Syracuse (16-5-0-2, 0.739) and Springfield (15-5-2-0, 0.727) have posted better records away from home. The team will finish the month with four of five at home (Feb. 15-24), which leads into a season-high 11 road games in March.
Skinner Signed : The Griffins on Thursday signed defenseman Brett Skinner to a professional tryout. Skinner, 29, has skated in 27 games with the CHL's Allen Americans this season and ranks fourth on the team with 37 points (7-30-37). Vancouver's third choice (68th overall) in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Skinner is in his eighth professional season, having recorded 159 points (24-135-159) in 329 AHL contests with Manitoba, Portland, Omaha, Providence, Bridgeport, Chicago and Lake Erie. He also played in 11 NHL games with the NY Islanders in 2008-09. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound native of Brandon, Manitoba, spent the 2011-12 season with three different teams in Europe: Iserlohn (Germany), Tappara (Finland) and MODO (Sweden). Skinner made his Griffins debut in the team's 5-1 win over Hamilton on Friday.
From Skates to Sleds : Next Tuesday, fans can watch the Griffins play a spirited game of sled hockey with and against the Grand Rapids Sled Wings, a talented team of physically challenged children and young adults sponsored by the Griffins Youth Foundation, in partnership with the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. Now in its eighth year, the event is held at Griff's Icehouse at Belknap Park (30 Coldbrook NE), and admission is $5 per person or $20 per family. The fun starts at 6 p.m., where fans can try out a sled on the ice (with a $1 donation) and get autographs from Griffins players before the sled hockey game starts at 7 p.m.
League Leaders : Gustav Nyquist is tied for fourth in the AHL with 43 points (15-28-43) in 44 games...Tomas Tatar is tied for seventh in league scoring with 39 points (19-20-39) in 44 games and ranks eighth in goals and fourth in shots (147)...Landon Ferraro leads the AHL with six shorthanded points (3-3-6)...Petr Mrazek sits ninth in the AHL with a 2.26 goals against average and is tied for sixth with 16 wins...Chad Billins is tied for 13th among AHL defensemen with 23 points (2-21-23) in 44 games and is tied for the league lead with a perfect shootout percentage (3-for-3) and two shootout-winning goals.
Milestone Tracker : Louis-Marc Aubry, who will serve the sixth and final game of his suspension on Wednesday, is two games shy of 100 as a pro, all with the Griffins...Tomas Tatar is four goals away from 100 as a pro...Triston Grant is two penalty minutes shy of 1,400 as a pro...Tom McCollum will become the fourth Griffins goaltender to play in 100 games with his next appearance.
Walleye Watch : No ECHL team has been hotter than the Toledo Walleye, who had used a league-best five game winning streak to move within two points of the top spot in the league's North Division. Toledo is 26-17-0-4 (56 pts.) after winning three games in three nights last week. Andrej Nestrasil leads the Walleye with 40 points (10-30-40) in 37 games and was held pointless on Saturday for just the second time in 18 games (Nov. 30-present). Willie Coetzee missed the team's last two games but ranks second on the club with 37 points (18-19-37) in 43 games. The Walleye will begin a four-game road trip with stops in Greenville on Thursday and South Carolina on Saturday.
Wed., Feb. 6 vs. Houston Aeros (22-17-4-3) - Van Andel Arena - 7 p.m.
Radio : WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:40 p.m. Web Casts : Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series : 37-34-6-3-7 Overall, 20-16-2-1-4 Home. Season Series : 1-2-0-0 Overall, 0-2-0-0 Home. Fourth of six meetings overall, third of three in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation : Minnesota Wild. Head Coach : John Torchetti (2nd season). Notes : Jason Zucker leads the Aeros and is tied for eighth in the AHL with 39 points (18-21-39) in 42 games. He also leads the AHL with 162 shots and is tied with Texas' Matt Fraser for the league lead with 10 power play tallies...Houston goaltender Matt Hackett is tied for third in the AHL with 16 losses and ranks third with 1965:53 minutes...Both Hackett and Darcy Kuemper have been strong against the Griffins this season. Hackett is 0-0-1 with a 0.93 GAA and 0.969 save percentage, while Kuemper is 2-0 with a 1.00 GAA and a 0.968 save percentage...Including Zucker (2nd), the Aeros have three of the AHL's top 20 rookie scorers: Johan Larsson (12-13-25) and Charlie Coyle (14-10-24), who was just recalled by Minnesota...The Aeros are tied for eighth in the AHL with a 19.1 percent power play efficiency but rank 28th with a 79.4 percent penalty kill...Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan won a Calder Cup with Houston in 2003 and recorded 47 points (27-20-47) in 142 games with the Aeros from 2002-04.
Fri., Feb. 8 at Oklahoma City Barons (21-18-2-4) - Cox Convention Center - 8 p.m. EST
Sat., Feb. 9 at Oklahoma City Barons - Cox Convention Center - 8 p.m. EST
Radio : WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 7:40 p.m. each night. Web Casts : Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series : 8-4-1-1 Overall, 3-2-1-0 Road. Season Series : 2-0-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Third and fourth of four meetings overall, first and second of two in Oklahoma City. NHL Affiliation : Edmonton Oilers. Head Coach : Todd Nelson (3rd season). Notes : The Barons have struggled since the NHL lockout ended, sporting a 3-5-1-1 record in their last 10 games...Oklahoma City's Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz still rank first and second in the AHL in scoring...The Barons' top six scorers are all currently with the parent Oilers...In the absence of their top offensive players, Oklahoma City has been getting regular contributions from Toni Rajala (4-4-8 in 10 games) and former NHL 50-goal scorer Jonathan Cheechoo (1-6-7 in five games)...The Barons hold the league's best power play (23.7 percent) and worst penalty kill (76.6 percent)...Oklahoma City is tied for sixth in the AHL with an average of 3.11 goals per game but rank 30th with an average of 3.29 goals against...Griffins forward Triston Grant had 15 points (11-4-15) and 163 penalty minutes in 53 games with the Barons last season...Oklahoma City head coach Todd Nelson became the first player ever signed by the Griffins on July 24, 1996. The defenseman recorded 67 points (11-56-67) in 236 career games with Grand Rapids from 1996-02.
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