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Weekly Plus - Minus 01/27/09
Best and worst performances of the week...
By Jason Kasiorek

With the Griffins prolific offense suddenly off line, the team needed to find a new way to win to keep pace with the league leaders. Goaltenders Jimmy Howard and Daniel Larsson picked up the team and carried it to three victories despite only scoring four regulation goals. The team took out the Marlies 3-2 on Wednesday, than followed up with a pair of shootout victories over Quad City (2-1, and 1-0) over the weekend. Grand Rapids sits one point behind the Manitoba Moose for 1st place in both the North Division and Western Conference and two points behind league leader Hershey in the overall standings. Justin Abelkader led the way offensively with a pair of goals, but the team also got strong offensive performances from Darren Haydar (3 assists), Mattias Ritola (2 assists and a shootout goal) and Ville Leino (1 goal and a shootout goal). Also of note, Howard passed Joey MacDonald as the franchises career saves leader in the 1-0 win on Saturday. Captain Darren Haydar scored his 500th , 501st, and 502nd pro points last week. Jimmy Howard was named AHL Player of the week for his stellar play.

Jakub Kindl and Daniel Larsson represented the team in the AHL all-star game last week turning in some credible performances on the big stage. Kindl finished the game with an assist, but really stoud out in the Skills Competition, helping to score three goals against Lake Erie's Tyler Weiman in the Bud Light Pass and Score contest. Larsson was the netminder of record for PlanetUSA earning the Win, and gave Cory Schneider a run for his money for best goalie. The first year Swede stopped 5 of 6 skaters in the breakaway relay, and made 8 saves in 10 tries against Providence's Johnny Boychuk and former Griffin Danny Syvret in the rapid fire event.

This weeks top three plus and minus performances:

Jimmy Howard
Howard stood tall in both of his starts, but really came up big to win the 1-0 shootout contest against Quad City. He won both of his starts and posted a miserly 0.94 GAA, a .971 save percentage and his third shutout of the season.
Ryan Oulahen
Ryan didn't show up on the scoreboard, but did everything else to help the Griffins win three straight. His work on the penalty kill alone the last few games was instrumental in keeping his team in the game long enough to pull out a W. Oulahen logged some major minutes in the absence of Helm and came up big when needed.
Daniel Larsson
Larsson won his only start of the week in convincing fashion, stopping 34 shots in regulation and then all of the shooters he faced in the shootout. His numbers for the week include a 0.92 GAA and .971 save percentage, and a much needed shootout win.
Injury Bug
The injury bug reared his ugly head, claiming Jonathan Ericsson, Darren Helm and Frankie Pare for significant portions of the week. Mattias Ritola was injured in the last game, and may or may not be back after the All-Star break. This represents a pretty significant chunk of the Griffins offense.
Francis Lemieux
Lemieux Has bounced down the lineup to limited minutes in the fourth line with Gagnin and Downey. A streaky player, Lemieux had little to show for last week, generating only 1 shot on goal, and needs to step up his energy to stay in the lineup.
Aaron Downey
Downey had a few opportunities to set the tone, or re-energize his team, and failed to deliver. He did not look to be in the game at times and had little or no impact as a result. The veteran pugilist needs to provide energy and set a physical tone in the corners if he is to remain in the lineup.