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January 2011 Grand Rapids Griffins Report
Veterans pick up the slack as playoff hopes fade...
By Jason Kasiorek
February 1, 2011

The Griffins youngsters have been the story of the season so far as the veterans have either underperformed or been pushed to the back page by the exploits of bright lights like Brendan Smith, Tomas Tatar and Jan Mursak. But as we've reached the dog days of the season, the stretch drive, those bright lights have moved on. Tomas Tatar, Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton made their NHL debuts this month, leaving the Griffins for a fair part of the month. Brendan Smith and Brian Lashoff were on the shelf with injury problems and future star Thomas McCollum had been banished to the ECHL to regain his confidence.

This left things up to the veterans to step forward and carry the club in their absence. Chris Minard broke out for 6 goals and 9 points including his first hat trick of the season. Captain Jamie Tardif shook off a concussion to pot eight points in 10 games. Derek Meech stepped up to quarterback the powerplay and provide some Eddie Shore Trophy level play. Greg Amadio reached down deep to carry the patchwork defense and earn a two-year contract extension. The veterans raised the level of play to protect third stringer Jordan Pearce in the net to a .500 in thirteen games for the month.

After 49 games the Griffins find themselves in 6th place in the North Division 9 points behind the leader, the Hamilton Bulldogs. Their 22-21-1-5 record also has them ranked 13th of 15 teams in the Western Conference, 9 points out of the last playoff spot. The 22nd ranked team in the league, Grand Rapids has the 5th best attendance, averaging 6479 per home game. For January, the team turned in a 6-6-0-1 record scoring 31 goals and allowing 40. Overall they are 14th in the league having scored 137 goals on the season while defensively they stand 22nd allowing 151 goals.

The following is a review for January:

OFFENSE - With an all-star assortment in Detroit at times this month, the Griffins really missed the number one line. The Griffins also fought off the injury bug, forcing them at various times to play short forwards, dress defenseman up front, and sign players from the ECHL. The last stretch featured several different line combinations; here are a couple of them. All-Star Ilari Filppula moved to center for a few games, between the suddenly potent Chris Minard and a couple of different right wings, most recently Willie Coetzee. This combo struck for 9 goals and 19 points in January. Line #2 featured Captain Jamie Tardif at center with Jamie Johnson and Frankie Pare on the wings. Tardif missed some games with a concussion, but has carried a hot hand when in the lineup. The three forwards accounted for 6 goals and 11 assists in 13 games. The next trio featured Joakim Andersson centering Jordan Owens and Adam Keefe. These three provided speed and energy as well as a physical presence. The fourth line was the checking line of Brent Raedeke, Brandon Straub and a revolving door of players including Evan Rankin. Raedeke was rewarded for his work by being moved up to a scoring line for a couple of games, and missed a few at the end with a nagging injury.

January Thumbnails:
Player GPGAPTSPIM+/-ShtsNotes
Chris Minard 13 6 3 9 4 -2 34Veteran sniper starting to come alive in second half.
Ilari Filppula 13 3 6 9 2 -3 27Griffins lone All-Star carries the load.
Jamie Tardif 10 3 5 8 19 -1 33Captain keeps hot hand after returning from concussion.
Jordan Owens 13 2 4 6 24 -4 21Checking winger steps up game.
Frankie Pare 13 2 3 5 4 -3 31Dangerous scorer still looking for consistency.
Cory Emmerton 11 0 5 5 2 -6 19Breakout center rewarded with NHL recall.
Tomas Tatar 4 2 2 4 0 3 12Top prospect came back from NHL on fire.
Jamie Johnson 13 1 3 4 6 -5 18Another lost month for struggling veteran.
Adam Keefe 12 2 1 3 41 -2 12Fan favorite returns to rave reviews.
Evan Rankin 10 1 1 2 7 -2 12ECHL'er didn't look out of place as fill-in.
Joakim Andersson 13 0 2 2 2 -2 14Still looking for offense to kick in.
Jan Mursak 2 1 0 1 0 0 8Looked at home in Detroit (NHL).
Brent Raedeke 11 0 1 1 7 2 13Moved up the depth chart due to recalls and injuries.
Willie Coetzee 9 0 1 1 0 -4 18Hard worker assigned to Toledo for playing time.
Brandon Straub 3 0 0 0 0 0 1Sidelined by injury most of the month.

DEFENSE - The blueline continues to be in a state of flux as bodies rotate in and out with partners seldom playing together for more than a couple of shifts. Derek Meech has been the leader of this group playing a solid if unspectacular game. His ability to move the puck and his effortless skating make him stand out most games. Greg Amadio is the opposite of Meech in style but has had just as big of an impact, blocking shots, providing leadership and being a defensive rock at the blueline. Sergei Kolosov and Logan Pyett have improved this month after rough starts to the season. But Pyett especially has a ways to go to recover last season's form. Injuries sidelined a trio of defenders, Doug Janik, Brendan Smith and Brian Lashoff for most of the month. Janik was solid late in the month after returning and Lashoff was effective in his return. Smith still had not returned to the lineup, and his offensive skill has been sorely missed. Sebastien Piche was pressed in to service from Toledo and had a strong start before tailing off and being returned to the ECHL. Travis Ehrhardt found himself playing forward for a fair part of the month and his defensive game suffered from the switch.

January Thumbnails:
Player GPGAPTSPIM+/-ShtsNotes
Derek Meech 13 2 6 8 4 -1 29 Offensive blueliner at the top of his game.
Greg Amadio 13 2 2 4 36 -2 12Stabilizing leader rewarded with 2 year extension.
Doug Janik 5 1 3 4 6 0 22 Veteran defender impressive when not injured.
Logan Pyett 13 1 3 4 10 -1 21Defensive game improving, scoring still AWOL.
Travis Ehrhardt 12 1 1 2 4 -5 18 Emerging swingman had up and down month.
Sergei Kolosov 13 0 1 1 8 -2 13Starting to round into form with extra ice time.
Brendan Smith 4 0 0 0 6 1 6Injuries derailing promising rookie season.
Sebastien Piche 7 0 0 0 9 -6 14Consistency still eluding developing defender.
Brian Lashoff 2 0 0 0 2 0 2Rookie defenseman can't avoid injury bug.

GOALTENDING - Four different netminders suited up for the griffins in January as the organization's depth was tested. Ace starter Joey MacDonald got into five games, going 1-4 with a less than stellar 87.2% save percentage and 3.26 GAA. He spent the majority of the month in the NHL where he posted his first win in two years. Jordan Pearce took over as the number one man in his absence and served notice that he was ready for the job. The fifth man on the depth chart at the start of the season kept up his strong play, posting a 5-2-1 record with a 2.49GAA and a 92.2 save percentage. Thomas McCollum rode the pine in both GR and Detroit as perpetual backup after losing his job in GR earlier in the year. Dov Grumet-Morris was added late in the month on a PTO but did not see any ice time before returning to the ECHL.

SPECIAL TEAMS - The Griffins powerplay has suffered without Smith, Tatar and Mursak among others and now resides closer to the middle of the pack (11th) at 19.2% (41 for 213). The road unit has been the more potent, ranking 7th in the AHL at 19.4% (20 for 103), while the home unit is 12th at 19.1% 21 for 110. Filppula leads the way with 7 man advantage goals, closely followed by Tardif (4), Mursak, Emmerton, Meech, Smith, Minard and Pyett with three each.

The penalty kill has been in free fall most of the year especially at home where it ranks 29th of 30 teams at an abysmal 75.7% (78 of 103). The road unit remains in the top third at 9th with an 85.4% kill efficiency (111 of 130). Overall the penalty kill ranks 21st having killed off 189 of 233 chances (81.1). Tardif and Mursak both have a pair of shorthanded tallies while seven other have at least one, giving Grand Rapids a league leading 11 shorties.

PLAYER OF THE MONTH - Jordan Pearce. Pearce has been the odd man out for two years, farmed out to the ECHL without much thought to make way for more highly regarded prospects. When he finally got his chance earlier this season, he outplayed Thomas McCollum for the backup job in Grand Rapids. This month he took over as starter and turned in some very impressive numbers. He gave up only two goals in 7 of 9 appearances, turning in a 5-2-1 record. If Grand Rapids is to have any hope of making the postseason, Pearce will have to be the man to get them there.

ROOKIE WATCH - This month was a tough one for the first year Griffins as injuries took their toll on the most promising prospects. Smith tried to play through a series of maladies before a bad shoulder shut him down for the month after just four games. Brian Lashoff who only saw action in 2 games in January due to shoulder and ankle injuries joined him on the sidelines. Raedeke missed some time in sickbay as well, but enjoyed some added responsibility and ice time when he was healthy. Willie Coetzee was in and out of the lineup before being assigned to Toledo for more playing time. Only Joakim Andersson played all 13 games, excelling in a defensive presence at all three forward positions.

CURRENT INJURIES - Brendan Smith - Shoulder day-to-day... Raedeke - unknown day-to-dayÉ

NOTABLE MOVEMENT - LW Trent Daavettila signed to PTO... D Sebastien Piche recalled from Toledo (ECHL)... Daavettila released from PTO... RW Evan Rankin signed to PTO... RW Adam Keefe signed to PTO... G Joey MacDonald recalled by Detroit (NHL)... LW Tomas Tatar assigned by Detroit (NHL)... G Thomas McCollum recalled from Toledo (ECHL)... Tatar recalled by Detroit (NHL)... McCollum recalled by Detroit (NHL)... G Dov Grumet-Morris signed to PTO... McCollum assigned by Detroit (NHL)... G Jordan Pearce recalled by Detroit (NHL)... MacDonald assigned by Detroit (NHL)... F Mike Hedden signed to PTO... Hedden released from PTO... C Cory Emmerton recalled by Detroit (NHL)... Keefe released from PTO... Grumet-Morris released from PTO... Tatar assigned by Detroit (NHL)... MacDonald recalled by Detroit (NHL)... Keefe signed to PTO... Pearce assigned by Detroit (NHL)... RW Jan Mursak assigned by Detroit (NHL)... Emmerton assigned by Detroit (NHL)... RW Willie Coetzee assigned to Toledo (ECHL)... Piche assigned to Toledo (ECHL)... Rankin released from PTO... Mursak recalled by Detroit (NHL)...

KEY STATS - Greg Amadio is 6th in Penalty Minutes with 160... Jan Mursak and Jamie Tardif are tied for eighth with two shorthanded goals apiece... Joakim Andersson is tied for 1st with 3 shorthanded assists... Frankie Pare is 4th in first goals with 5... Tardif is tied for 11th with 4... Jordan Owens is tied for 5th with 1 overtime goal... Ilari Filppula, Brent Raedeke and Jan Mursak are tied for 11th with 2 unassisted goals each... Pare and Chris Minard are tied for 4th with empty net goals... Filppula is 5th with 4 shootout goals... Pare is 11th in shots on goal with 146... Tardif is 20th with 133... Filppula is 12th in shooting percentage at 19%... Jordan Pearce is tied for 14th with 2 shootout wins... Brandon Smith is third in rookie defense scoring with 22 points... Derek Meech is 19th in defense scoring with 23 points... Cory Emmerton is tied for the 10th longest assist streak at 6 games (2+9=11)... Mursak is tied for the 8th longest point streak of the season at 8 games (5+5=10)... Smith is 1st in minor penalties among rookies with 28... Tomas Tatar's 7 point game is still tops this season in the AHL... Tatar and teammate Travis Ehrhardt are one and two in single game plus minus from that night at +7 and +6 respectively...

IN THE PIPELINE - Thomas McCollum is the only prospect that has not seen a game in Grand Rapids this month. After losing his job to Pearce, he has spent most of his time between the pipes of the Toledo Walleye (ECHL), or riding the pine in GR and Detroit. McCollum saw action in two games last month splitting two decisions and giving up 6 goals.

NHL ALUMNI WATCH - Jan Mursak, Tomas Tatar, Cory Emmerton and Chris Mueller all made their NHL debuts since the last report. They joined Kris Newbury, Drew MacIntyre and Clay Wilson as former Griffins on NHL rosters last month, bringing the total number this season to 36. Current stats as of 2/1/11:

PlayerGP G A PTS PIM +/-
Justin Abdelkader, Detroit 413 8 11 38 13
Sean Avery, Rangers 53 2 18 20 146 2
Sheldon Brookbank, Anaheim 23 00 0 43 -8
Mark Eaton, NY Islanders 34 0 3 3 8-2
Matt Ellis, Buffalo 8 0 0 0 0-2
Cory Emmerton, Detroit 2 1 0 1 01
Jonathan Ericsson, Detroit 41 3 10 13 52 12
Valtteri Filppula, Detroit 46 12 18 30 14 3
Aaron Gagnon, Dallas 10 0 2 2 0 2
Darren Helm, Detroit 49 6 15 21 8 9
Jiri Hudler, Detroit 44 4 14 18 12 -5
Douglas Janik, Detroit 7 0 0 0 7 -2
Chris Kelly, Ottawa 51 11 9 20 27 -9
Jakub Kindl, Detroit 21 1 0 1 14 0
Tomas Kopecky, Chicago 50 1021 31 42 -10
Niklas Kronwall, Detroit 49 8 16 24 22 1
Brett Lebda, Toronto 22 0 1 1 8 -19
Ville Leino, Philadelphia 51 11 25 36 14 18
Chris Mueller, Nashville 14 0 3 3 2 0
Jan Mursak, Detroit 14 1 0 1 4 -3
Chris Neil, Ottawa 51 2 9 11 136 -9
Kris Newbury, Rangers 8 0 1 1 35 -2
Scott Parse, Los Angeles 5 1 3 4 05
Kyle Quincey, Colorado 21 0 1 1 18 -5
Mattias Ritola, Tampa Bay 24 2 4 6 11-5
Jason Spezza, Ottawa 32 9 11 20 10 -4
Garrett Stafford, Phoenix 2 0 0 0 0 0
Danny Syvret, Anaheim/Philadelphia 6 1 1 2 4 -3
Tomas Tatar, Detroit 9 1 0 1 00
Todd White, Rangers 18 1 1 2 2 -2
Jeremy Williams, Rangers 1 0 0 0 00
Clay Wilson, Florida 2 0 0 0 20

PlayerGP W-L-T GAA SV%
Jimmy Howard, Detroit 37 24-8-3 2.81 .906
Patrick Lalime, Buffalo 7 0-5-0 2.96 .890
Joey MacDonald, Detroit 5 1-2-1 2.53 .903
Drew MacIntyre, Atlanta 0 0-0-0 0.00 .000

UP NEXT - The Griffins play 12 games this month split evenly between the road and home ice. They start out the month in the cozy confines of the Van Andel arena with tilts against the division leading Hamilton Bulldogs and the Milwaukee Admirals. Then it's off to Chicago for a rematch with the rival Wolves before heading to Lake Erie and Rochester. Then its back home where hopefully they can gain some more ground on Hamilton by taking on the Bulldogs and Texas Stars. They then sandwich in an afternoon contest vs. the Marlies in Toronto and then a pair at home against the Rivermen and Monsters. The last weekend finishes on the road with a rematch with lake Erie and the Bulldogs.