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January 2010 Grand Rapids Griffins Report
Griffins back to the drawing board in wake of epic losing streak...
By Jason Kasiorek
February 1, 2009

Everything that could go wrong for Grand Rapids has gone wrong lately, leaving the Red Wings' AHL affiliate looking for answers. A combination of bad goaltending, poor defense, a scoring slump, injuries, abysmal special teams and unhappy players have all conspired to leave the Griffins within one point of the AHL's basement. The organization feels that they are still within striking distance of the last playoff spot, and can still get it together to make a run on the postseason. They are running out of time, however, if that is true.

The return of Justin Abdelkader has already paid some dividends, as his grit and leadership were apparent from his first shift over the weekend. The team also had some addition by subtraction with Michael Nylander and Frankie Lemieux, both unhappy with their roles, being moved out at the end of the month. Several other veterans (Williams and McGrath to name a few) should be looking over their shoulders as their poor play could lead to a new address before the clear day deadline. The goaltending carousel doesn't look quite as shaky with Daniel Larsson turning in a couple of strong performances at the end of the month. In addition, the continued emergence of young players like Logan Pyett, Frankie Pare, Tomas Tatar and Jan Mursak continue to raise hope.

With 48 games in the ledger this season, the Griffins stand in last place in both the North division and Western Conference with a record of 21-26-0-1. The club is also 27th of 29 overall with a whopping 43 points, one point out of the basement. They have scored 143 goals in that span, the eighth best offense in the league, but have allowed 164; only three teams gave up more. January saw the team post a 3-10 record while being outscored 31-50 by their opponents, giving up just shy of 4 goals per game on average. Grand Rapids also enjoys the 4th best attendance in the AHL at 6,574 fans per game, averaged over 27 home games.

The following is a review for January:

OFFENSE - The Griffins scoring took a nosedive in January falling from over 3 goals a game to just 27 goals in 13 contests. The most consistent line was Patrick Rissmiller centering Tatar and Mursak. This trio struck for eight goals and six assists in 13 games in January. Mattias Ritola has been the normal second line left winger, flanking first Nylander and then Abdelkader, and most recently Jeremy Williams. The third line the last few games has been Kris Newbury centering John Vigilante and Pare. The fourth line has featured Cory Emmerton centering Jamie Tardif, Francis Lemieux and Evan McGrath.

January Thumbnails:
Player GPGAPTSPIM+/-ShtsNotes
Francis Pare 13 3 4 7 6 4 23Diminutive scorer keeps up his hot hand.
Francis Lemieux 11 2 5 7 8 2 20Enigmatic speedster leaves for Vienna.
Jan Mursak 13 5 0 5 7 0 21Slovenian sharpshooter keeps finding the back of the net.
Patrick Rissmiller 13 1 4 5 6 -4 20Capable vet a good tutor for the younger players
Cory Emmerton 11 1 4 5 8 -3 11Defensive game improving, still waiting for offense to ignite.
Mattias Ritola 9 2 2 4 12 -2 22Puck magician builds on strong showing in Detroit.
Tomas Tatar 10 2 2 4 0 -1 16Super-rookie has trouble finding his groove after WJC.
Jamie Tardif 11 2 1 3 26 -3 11Leadership skills being tested by skid.
John Vigilante 13 2 1 3 13 -4 21Defensive forward gets an A for effort.
Kris Newbury 9 1 2 3 8 -3 13Team needs fiery leader to step up his game.
Evan McGrath 10 1 2 3 11 -3 14Consistency and results elude skilled center.
Michael Nylander 11 1 2 3 8 -4 17Experiment is over as forward banished to Finland.
Jeremy Williams 11 1 2 3 0 -4 30Much more expected from veteran sniper.
Justin Abdelkader 2 0 0 0 9 -1 4Young gun victim of numbers game in NHL.

DEFENSE - After a very fluid stretch, things finally straightened out in terms of personnel on the back end. The results unfortunately were not very positive on the ice. Logan Pyett kept his spot in the top four, playing with Sergei Kolosov for a while and then switching to balance out Jakub Kindl. When Doug Janik returned from Detroit, he was partnered with Kolosov to form a nice shutdown pairing. Andy Delmore skated with rookie Travis Ehrhardt for the last few weeks in a fairly effective tandem. Enforcer Paul Crosty found himself on the wing for a few games and then in the press box as he has not been as effective as of late.

January Thumbnails:
Player GPGAPTSPIM+/-ShtsNotes
Logan Pyett 13 3 3 6 11 -5 30 Second year man steps up.
Andy Delmore 13 0 5 5 10 -1 34January up and down month for veteran rearguard.
Jakub Kindl 12 1 2 3 2 -4 23Speedy skater regresses again.
Travis Ehrhardt 8 0 2 2 4 0 8Rookie blueliner picks up play as regular.
Doug Janik8 112 6 -5 16Steady vet adjusts after prolonged NHL stint.
Sergei Kolosov9 0 1 1 9 -1 8 Hulking defender regains form after return from injury.
Paul Crosty 8 0 0 0 14 -4 3 Policeman finding himself on the outside looking in.

GOALTENDING - All three of the Griffins' goaltenders had sub-par months to put it politely. Part of the reason was the team's lack of commitment to defense in front of them, but the men between the pipes were far from solid on their own. Daniel Larsson had an abysmal 2 and 6 record in 9 appearances with a 3.40GAA and .887 save percentage. The former AHL All-Star has played better his last 4 games, but still was unable to steal a win for his team. His backup's in January played musical chairs, with Thomas McCollum getting a trip to the ECHL after an 8 game winless streak including his only two appearances of the month. He was replaced by Jordan Pearce who didn't fare much better with a 1-2 record in 4 appearances. His 3.82 GAA and .875 save percentage were the worst numbers of the three.

SPECIAL TEAMS - It should be no surprise with this club's record that the special teams are less than special. In fact, the Griffins are dead last in Penalty Killing on the road, killing off 65 of 93 powerplays for a 69.9% rating. They rank 28th overall at 77.9%, buoyed by a decent home PK unit at 84.3% (97 of 115). Pare, Ritola, Vigilante and Emmerton are regulars up front while Pyett, Janik and Kolosov are on the blueline.

The powerplay broke down last month along with everything else, dropping from 3rd (20%) in the AHL to 20th at 16% (31 for 194). Both the home and road units fell 10 places, the home going from 7th to 17th (17% - 19 for 112), and the road slipping from 9th to 19th at 14.6% (12 for 82). With all the potential big guns in this lineup, this is hard to fathom. Williams leads the way with 7 goals with the man advantage followed by Tardif (5), Ritola (4) and Rissmiller (4). Logan Pyett leads defenseman with a pair of powerplay goals and a pair of shorty's amongst his 7 tallies.

PLAYER OF THE MONTH - Logan Pyett. The sophomore blueliner has continued to improve at a steady pace, playing in all situations for Grand Rapids. He met the challenge of being a go-to guy on defense during the absence of Kolosov and Janik, and has not given the spot back since their return. His calling card offensive game has come online and he is joining the rush with authority. The only Griffin to score more goals then Pyett in January was Jan Mursak. He still has a lot of work before he becomes NHL ready, but now the question is when, not if.

ROOKIE WATCH - The struggles of McCollum and Pearce have already been documented, with both splitting time between the AHL and ECHL in January. Tomas Tatar's production tailed off a little, but he was still an effective player and getting dangerous scoring chances. Ehrhardt stepped up and improved his play to take the 6th spot on the blueline away from Crosty.

CURRENT INJURIES - C Ryan Oulahen, Hip - March...

NOTABLE MOVEMENT - G Jordan Pearce recalled from Toledo (ECHL)... G Thomas McCollum assigned to Toledo (ECHL)... C Kris Newbury Suspended 3 games by AHL... C Trent Daavettila Signed to PTO... LW Mike Walsh released from PTO... RW David Rohlfs released from PTO... D Johan Kroll signed to PTO... LW Tomas Tatar re-assigned from Slovakian Jr Team... C Daavettila Released from PTO... LW Mattias Ritola assigned by Detroit (NHL)... D Tom Galvin released from PTO... LW Dick Axelsson assigned to Farjestad (SEL)... D Doug Janik assigned by Detroit (NHL)... D Kroll released from TPO... D Ryan Stokes released from TPO... G Pearce assigned to Toledo (ECHL)... G McCollum recalled from Toledo (ECHL)... C Michael Nylander assigned to Jokerit (FIN) by Washington (NHL)... LW Frankie Lemieux released from SPC... C Justin Abdelkader assigned by Detroit (NHL)...

KEY STATS - Jan Mursak is tied for 16th in the AHL with 18 goals... Francis Pare is tied for 17th at +16... Kris Newbury is 15th and Paul Crosty 17th in penalty minutes with 125 and 123 respectively... Logan Pyett is tied for 8th with 2 shorthanded goals... Jan Mursak and Jeremy Williams are tied for third with 5 first goals... Mursak is tied for 8th with 3 insurance goals... Mursak, Cory Emmerton and Tomas Tatar are tied for fifth with 2 empty net goals... Mursak is also tied for the 5th longest goal streak at 5 games... Tatar is 12th with a four game scoring streak... Newbury is tied for 2nd with a 7 game assist streak... Daniel Larsson is tied for 18th with 13 wins... Larsson is second in losses with 15...

IN THE PIPELINE - Sebastien Piche continues to develop his game in the ECHL where he has proven to be an asset with the man advantage. The puck moving defenseman notched a pair of powerplay goals and added four assists in 11 games last month, but was -4. Jordan Pearce spent most of the month in Grand Rapids, but got lit up for 12 goals in two games after returning to Toledo. McCollum had a four game stint with the Walleye finishing with a 2-1 record in 4 appearances and an 4.48 GAA with a 86.4% save percentage.

NHL ALUMNI WATCH - Chris Kelly of the Ottawa Senators is the leading scorer so far this season among Griffins' alumni with 10 goals and 25 points on the season. Current stats as of 02/2/10:

PlayerGP G A PTS PIM +/-
Justin Abdelkader, Detroit5033 6 35 -11
Sean Avery, Rangers51 6 15 21 111 -2
Sheldon Brookbank, Anaheim40 0 9 9 49 10
Pavol Demitra, Vancouver6 0 1 1 0 0
Mark Eaton, Pittsburgh54 3 9 12 18 9
Matt Ellis, Buffalo46 2 5 7 4 4
Jonathan Ericsson, Detroit41 3 7 10 24 -12
Valtteri Filppula, Detroit 29 4 14 18 14 -4
Aaron Gagnon, Dallas 1 0 0 0 0 0
Alexandre Giroux, Washington9 1 2 3 4 3
Darren Helm, Detroit48 8 8 16 14 -1
Shane Hnidy, Minnesota 53 2 10 12 60 -1
Douglas Janik, Detroit 13 0 2 2 18 -3
Ryan Keller, Ottawa 6 0 0 0 0 -1
Chris Kelly, Ottawa 56 10 15 25 28 -5
Jakub Kindl, Detroit 3 0 0 0 0 -1
Tomas Kopecky, Detroit 52 4 7 11 20 -4
Niklas Kronwall, Detroit 25 5 8 13 22 0
Brett Lebda, Detroit 51 1 5 6 22 -7
Ville Leino, Detroit 42 4 3 7 6 -10
Derek Meech, Detroit 36 1 3 4 13 -9
Glen Metropolit, Montreal 50 10 11 21 20 0
Chris Neil, Ottawa42 6 8 14 132 1
Kris Newbury, Detroit 4 1 0 1 4 1
Scott Parse, Los Angeles44 8 11 19 20 9
Kyle Quincey, Colorado 54 4 17 21 51 5
Mattias Ritola, Detroit 5 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Spezza, Ottawa 34 9 14 23 10 -1
Danny Syvret, Philadelphia21 2 2 4 12 1
Todd White, Atlanta 47 4 15 19 20 -15
Jason Williams, Detroit 17 3 5 8 4 -6

PlayerGP W-L-T GAA SV%
Jimmy Howard, Detroit 37 19-11-6 2.25 .928
Patrick Lalime, Buffalo 9 3-2-2 3.11 .902
Daniel Larsson, Detroit 0 0-0-0 0.00 .000
Joey MacDonald, Toronto 6 1-4-0 3.20 .892

UP NEXT - The Griffins have a busy month in February starting out in Rockford against the IceHogs who have had their number this season. Then its home to battle for the division basement with the Toronto Marlies and a game vs the Houston Aeros. The boys then pack up the bus and head out on a four game southern road trip with games in Texas, a pair in Houston and a battle in Rockford, IL. GR starts the second half of the month with a long home stand, playing host to the Hamilton Bulldogs, Peoria Rivermen, Texas Stars and San Antonio Rampage. They finish up the last weekend with three games in three days on the road starting in Rochester and finishing up with a pair against Lake Erie.