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Griffs prep for three in three nights

Wednesday, 10.24.2012 / 2:55 PM / Preview
By Kyle Kujawa  - Griffins Public Relations Manager

The Griffins will play the first of this season’s nine three-in-threes this weekend, hosting the Charlotte Checkers on Friday and Rockford IceHogs on Saturday (both games at 7 p.m.) before making their first visit of the season to Chicago to battle the Wolves on Sunday at 5 p.m. EDT. Grand Rapids will play a three-in-three in back-to-back weekends, as it visits San Antonio, Texas and Houston on consecutive days next weekend (Nov. 2-4).

Live by the Sword: A strong penalty kill was the story of the Griffins’ opening weekend, as the unit killed 12 of 13 power plays and scored a league-high two shorthanded goals. Special teams also played a factor in the team’s 4-3 shootout victory over Toronto on Sunday. The penalty kill denied all six Marlies power plays, including two brief 5-on-3 advantages. The Griffins’ power play capitalized on two opportunities in the second period, as Gustav Nyquist scored his first goal of the season to cut a two-goal deficit in half and Tomas Tatar scored late in the second period to bring Grand Rapids within one heading into the third. Nyquist scored again to tie the game in the third period, and was one of three Griffins to score in the shootout to give the team its first win of the season, and Jeff Blashill his first win as the Griffins’ head coach.

Die by the Sword: While special teams drove the Griffins to Sunday’s win, it proved to be the opposite in the team’s 2012-13 road opener at Rochester on Friday. Grand Rapids got out to a two-goal lead but surrendered four unanswered goals to the Americans, including three straight power play goals. The Amerks’ power play was 3-for-5 in their 4-3 victory, while the Griffins’ power play did not capitalize on any of its four opportunities.

Weekend Promotions: Fans attending this Friday’s game versus Charlotte can enjoy $1 hot dogs and $1 domestic drafts from 6-8 p.m., while supplies last. Fans can also ride the Rapid busses to and from any Friday game and enjoy complimentary fare by showing their ticket to the game. Visit ridetherapid.org for schedule information, routes and maps. College students can show their ID 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 a Griffins WGRD D-Zone night, which allows fans to have $1 beers and $1 hot dogs served directly to their seats. Call (616) 774-4585 ext. 2 or visit griffinshockey.com/dzone for D-Zone tickets. The first 1,500 fans through the turnstiles before Saturday’s contest versus Rockford will receive a Griffins 2012-13 team calendar, courtesy of Delta Imports. Fans are also encouraged to participate in the team’s Halloween costume contest. Members of the Griffins’ game day staff will patrol the stands and concourse and select the best-dressed fans for a contest that will be held at ice level during the second intermission. The winner will be determined by a round of applause. Finally, for every home game this season is a Military Night. Current members of our military can purchase up to four upper bowl tickets for $13 each (or $11 in advance at The Zone) with a valid military ID. The offer also extends to veterans who present a VA ID or discharge papers.

We Interrupt this Broadcast: This Friday’s home game versus the Charlotte Checkers will air live on Fox Sports Detroit at 7 p.m. The game will be called by the award-winning broadcast team of Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond, who have worked Detroit Red Wings games together on Fox Sports Detroit for 15 seasons. Additionally, the game will be carried on SiriusXM NHL Network Radio (Sirius 207, XM 92), which will air live AHL hockey games nearly every night during the NHL lockout. The current broadcast schedule is available here.

Close Calls: The Griffins are one of just three teams in the AHL, along with Hershey and Milwaukee, to have each of their games decided by one goal. The Griffins lost their season opener to Milwaukee on Oct. 12 (3-2) and picked up a point against Hamilton the following night (3-2 SOL) before splitting decisions last weekend against Rochester (4-3 L) and Toronto (4-3 SOW). Additionally, all four Griffins games this season have featured comebacks after two-goal leads. The Griffins had early 2-0 leads in their losses to Milwaukee and Rochester, and they came back from two-goal deficits in their shootout loss to Hamilton and win against Toronto.

Feels Like the First Time: Griffins forward Tomas Jurco opened the scoring in Friday’s 4-3 loss to Rochester, beating the Amerks’ David Leggio off a centering feed from Trevor Parkes for his first goal and point as a pro. The high-scoring right winger tallied 68 points (30-38—68) in 48 games with the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs in 2011-12 and added another 29 (13-16—29) in 16 postseason contests. Jurco helped Saint John to three consecutive appearances in the QMJHL finals, earning back-to-back championships and a CHL Memorial Cup title in 2011. The Kosice, Slovakia, native also scored on his first professional shootout attempt to help the Griffins beat the Toronto Marlies 4-3 on Sunday.

Three Cheers: Rookie defenseman and Marysville, Mich., native Chad Billins also picked up his first professional point last weekend, doing so in style with three assists during Sunday’s 4-3 win over Toronto. Billins recorded helpers on the team’s two power play goals by Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar and also helped to set up Nyquist’s second of the game that knotted the game at three and sent it to overtime. Billins’ three-point night was the third by any Griffins defenseman over the last three seasons, joining Logan Pyett (3-0—3 on February 27, 2011) and Doug Janik (1-2—3 on November 11, 2011). He also holds a share of the team scoring lead along with Landon Ferraro, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Nathan Paetsch and is tied for third among AHL rookie blueliners.

Shootout Specialist: Through four games, Jordan Pearce and Tom McCollum have evenly split the Griffins’ goaltending duties, with two starts each. Both of McCollum’s starts have gone into a shootout – a 4-3 shootout loss to Hamilton on Oct. 13 and a 4-3 victory over Toronto on Sunday. The fourth-year pro has stopped six of seven (0.857) opponents in the shootout this season, tying him with Chicago’s Eddie Lack for fourth in the AHL in shootout save percentage. The number also matches McCollum’s shootout save percentage from 2011-12, which was the fourth-highest in the league and second-highest in Griffins franchise history, trailing Drew MacIntyre’s 0.875 mark during the 2005-06 season.

Mr. 300: When he steps on the ice for Friday’s contest versus the Charlotte Checkers, Francis Pare will become the sixth player in franchise history to reach 300 games. Pare, who also ranks second all time in goals (81), sixth in assists (113) and fifth in points (194), has spent his entire five-year professional career with Grand Rapids and finished in the Griffins’ top-five scoring leaders in each of his first four seasons with the team. Pare will join Travis Richards (655), Michel Picard (364), Jamie Tardif (316), Derek Meech (304) and Ryan Oulahen (302) as the only Griffins in the 300 club.

Walleye Watch: Several familiar faces continue to perform well for the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye, who are off to a 2-1 start. Petr Mrazek took his first pro loss on Saturday night when Toledo fell to the Kalamazoo Wings 4-2, despite making 36 saves on 40 shots. Mrazek is 11th in the league with a 0.932 save percentage after his first two professional games. Willie Coetzee is tied for third on Toledo with three points (2-1—3) in three games. Coetzee tallied a goal and a game-high 11 shots on Saturday night. He currently leads the league with 26 shots on goal – twice as many shots as Terry Broadhurst, who is second on Toledo with 13, and 10 shots more than any other player in the ECHL who has played fewer than four games. Andrej Nestrasil also has three points (1-2—3) in three games after recording a three-point night in the Walleye’s season-opener versus Kalamazoo.

Scouting Report

Fri., Oct. 26 vs. Charlotte Checkers (3-1-0-1) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Detroit at 7 p.m. Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:40 p.m. and SiriusXM NHL Network Radio (Siriux 207, XM 92) at 7 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 0-4-0-0 Overall, 0-2-0-0 Home. Season Series: First of four meetings overall, first of two in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Carolina Hurricanes. Head Coach: Jeff Daniels (3rd season). Notes: Charlotte swept Grand Rapids in the teams’ first-ever season series in 2011-12 … The Checkers finished ninth overall in the Western Conference last season with a 38-29-3-6 record … Charlotte has one of the AHL’s top power plays through two weeks, ranking sixth in the league at 28 percent, due in part to forward Drayson Bowman, who has a league-leading three of Charlotte’s seven power play goals … Checkers forward Jerome Samson is tied for the AHL lead with 21 shots … Charlotte’s Justin Faulk leads the team’s defensemen with five points (0-5—5) in four games. Faulk was a member of the NHL All-Rookie Team in 2011-12 as a first-year pro … Eleven Checkers skaters and both goaltenders (Dan Ellis and Justin Peters) saw time in the NHL during the 2011-12 season. Ellis (Anaheim), defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani (Buffalo/Vancouver) and forward Tim Wallace (NY Islanders/Tampa Bay) played more games in the NHL than the AHL … Zach Boychuk leads Charlotte in scoring with six points (3-3—6) in five games.

Sat., Oct. 27 vs. Rockford IceHogs (1-3-0-1) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
TV: 23 Weather Now (WIFR-DT 23.2 Rockford). Radio: WBFX 101.3 FM at 6:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through 101thefoxrocks.com. All-Time Series: 8-13-2-3 Overall, 6-6-0-1 Home. Season Series: First of eight meetings overall, first of four in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Chicago Blackhawks. Head Coach: Ted Dent (2nd season). Notes: Grand Rapids was 1-2-0-1 in four meetings against Rockford in 2011-12 … The IceHogs finished fifth in the Midwest Division last season with a 35-32-2-7 record…Ten IceHogs saw time in the NHL last season, including six who appeared in playoff games with the parent Blackhawks … Rockford defenseman Nick Leddy and forward Marcus Kruger spent the entire 2011-12 season in the NHL. Kruger is tied for the IceHogs’ lead in scoring with five points (2-3—5) in five games, along with veteran Martin St. Pierre (1-4—5) … 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.

Sun., Oct. 28 at Chicago Wolves (4-1-0-0) – Allstate Arena – 5 p.m.
TV: The U Too (WCIU-DT 26.2 Chicago). Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 4:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 49-39-2-4-2 Overall, 24-23-0-2-0 Road. Season Series: First of eight meetings overall, first of four in Chicago. NHL Affiliation: Vancouver Canucks. Head Coach: Scott Arniel (1st season). Notes: Chicago won the Midwest Division in 2011-12 with a 42-27-4-3 record but lost to San Antonio in the Western Conference quarterfinals … The Wolves are 3-0 at home this season … Chicago has struggled on special teams this year, with a power play that sits 30th in the AHL at four percent and a penalty kill that ranks 24th at 72.7 percent … Chicago is led in scoring by Zack Kassian with four points (3-1—4) in five games … Former Griffin Darren Haydar is second among active AHL players (behind Toronto’s Keith Aucoin) and 22nd in league history with 731 points (272-459—731) in 709 games. Haydar led the Griffins with 80 points (31-49—80) in 2008-09.

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