Chicago will be closing out a five game home stand for the Griffins. They play tonight against Omaha and on Friday against the Bulldogs. They are currently on a four game winning streak. A tough team this year, the Griffins are at the top of their division with 46 points and are considered by many to be a favorite to witn the North Division and the Western Conference this year. The Grifs have a team balanced between some veterans and some youngsters new to the AHL.
The Grifs also sport the best AHL home power play, scoring on 27.6 percent of power plays at home, 21.2 percent overall. They’ll also be playing with among the worst pks, with 18.8 percent of them falling, ranked 21st in the AHL. Of course, they play the Wolves, who have an away power play that is even worse, 12.6 percent succeeding, 13.1 overall, ranked 23rd in the league. And, the Griffins have no worries with their 8th ranked shootout percentage against the Wolves. If it should come to that, the Wolves remain on the bottom of the league for shootout wins
Greg Ireland is the new head coach of the Griffins. The former assistant coach is on a one year contract extension. The Griffins have seemed to win in spurts, including a 12 game win over the final five weeks of the 2004-5 season and the off and on streaks of this month. His defensive strategies have led to a franchise low 166 goals, 2.08 GAA, during his tenure last year. Aside from hockey, the coach has a love for lacrosse, coaching several Canadian junior and midget teams to national championships, as well as working with youths in Michigan.
Jim Paek backs Ireland as the assistant coach. The first Korean to play in the NHL and win a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Paek has also won two Turner Cups. Prior to working with the Griffins, Paek was head coach of the Orlando Seals.
The game Saturday will feature what is billed as the largest indoor fireworks display in Western Michigan and an intermission spectacle by the Red Panda Acrobats.
Jimmy Howard and Drew MacIntyre hold the pipes for the Griffins, with a 91.2 and a 90.8 save percentage, respectively. They have almost identical GAA’s of 2.52 and 2.53 making their saves and GAA very similar to Brian Finley’s. MacIntyre played for Sherbrooke in the 2002-03 season, ending with a 2.75 GAA and 31-24-5 record in the regular season. Last year with Grand Rapids he had a 2.69 GAA. Howard has seen some NHL bench time this season. If he gets called up it could be Joey MacDonald in the pipes. MacDonald is saving 87.7 percent of shots with a GAA of 3.87, somewhat worse than Jani Hurme.
Jiri Hudler is in competition to lead the league in scoring with 41 points so far, 17 of those are goals. Eric Manlow follows him with 34 points, 12 goals, and +8, then Valtteri Filppula with 30 points and 12 goals. Filppula played with Jockerit Helsinki for the past two seasons, scoring 30 points in the last season. This is his first season with the AHL. He is commuting between Detroit and GR this year.
D men Kyle Quincey, with 18 points and Bryan Helmer with 17 points are among the top 20 AHL defensemen. Quincey played with Mississauga last season where he scored 46 points in regular season play.
Meanwhile Darryl Bootland is third in league penalty minutes at 164. He follows Josh Gratton of the Phantoms, 165 and Dennis Bonvie of the Penguins with 176. Kent McDonell, lags way behind, with a 78 Pim so far. Bootland, who once spent a lot of time commuting between Grand Rapids and Toledo, scored 34 points with the Griffins last year. Nevertheless, it’s hard to see another NHL try for Darryl, who is probably going to play in the AHL for the remainder of his professional career.
Nate Dicasmiro leads the Grifs in +/- with 10, followed by Greg Amadio at +9 and Travis Richards and Manlow +8.
Ryan Oulahen was a captain of the Brampton team last season. He scored 58 points there. Directly from the Griffins web site:
"Voted “Most Underrated Player” and “Hardest Worker,” and shared “Best Penalty Killer” honors in the OHL Eastern Conference Coaches’ Poll…Finished second in “Best Defensive Forward” and third in “Best on Faceoffs”voting.”He’ll be someone to watch grow.
Derek Meech played for Red Deer until this year, and has experienced several Memorial Cup runs with that team. Eric Himelfarb moved from Sarnia to Barrie finally spending the 2003-4 season in Kingston, where he scored 107 points. He only played seven games in the Griffins that season, earning another five points. Last season he scored 43 points and 19 goals with the Griffins.
Brad Bonello worked his way around the OHL before ending his time there with Ottawa where he had 66 points in his 2004-5 season. Clay Wilson played college hockey at Michigan Tech and two short seasons with the Muskegon Fury. With 10 points in 15 games he has more going now then anytime in the past. Something is finally clicking with the young guy.
Todd Jackson played in Maine in the 2003-4 season, with the Griffins for part of the next season and also Toledo. He clearly had some ice time in Toledo where he scored 25 points in 35 games last season. He is still spending time commuting between Toledo and Grand Rapids.
Nick Martens played with Michigan for the last several seasons. He hasn’t seen a lot of ice time with the Griffins and hasn’t really shown much in his amateur career to recommend it now.
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