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January 2013 Grand Rapids Griffins Report
Griffins keep on scoring and won't be intimidated...
By Jason Kasiorek
February 1, 2013

As the Rockford IceHogs found out, the Grand Rapids Griffins will not be intimidated. A mid-month tilt between the two teams produced an AHL season high number of penalty minutes and suspensions brought on by the IceHogs thuggery and a resulting bench clearing brawl. The Griffins definitely came out on the losing end of a lot of the violence, but the players that remained regrouped and finished an 11 goal thumping on Rockford to take the win. The scoring surge gave Grand Rapids 42 goals in 12 games in January making them one of the highest scoring teams in the league.

The Griffins stumbled a bit in January with a 6-5-0-1 record, but managed to keep their hold on first place in the Midwest division. With a 24-14-2-2 record on the season Grand Rapids counts 52 points, which leaves them in 8th place in the AHL. They are currently 2nd in the western conference where they are seeded as the division leader. The team continues to be among the league leaders in scoring, sitting in the 5th place at 3.24 goals per game. Defensively they continue to struggle, falling 10 places to 17th with a 2.83 goals against average per game. The Griffins also enjoy the 6th best average attendance in the AHL at 7051 per game. The team has similar records at home (12-9-2-1) and on the road (12-5-0-1).

The following is a review for January:

OFFENSE - The injury to Joakim Andersson paved the way for Riley Sheahan to have an opportunity to see time as the number one center. His emergence in that role led to coach Blashill splitting up his top trio into two dangerous lines. Andersson continued to center Gustav Nyquist, with surging Landon Ferraro being moved up on the other wing for a potent trio that accounted for 30 points (12-18). Sheahan kept Tomas Tatar on one side and added sniper Frankie Pare on the other and the potent troika added 25 points (12-13). The third line featured captain Jeff Hoggan and the suddenly hot Mitchell Callahan centered by Luke Glendening. All three of these players enjoyed a big month as they combined for 25 points of their own (10-15). The fourth line as of late had Brent Raedeke between Triston Grant and Tomas Jurco and remained in flux. Louis-Marc Aubry saw time on the bottom two-lines before drawing a six game suspension. Andrej Nestrasil and Trevor Parkes also saw time filling in for injured players.

January Thumbnails:
Player GPGAPTSPIM+/-ShtsNotes
Riley Sheahan 12 6 5 11 7 6 23Red-hot rookie continues climb.
Landon Ferraro 12 6 5 11 6 -4 30Versatile speedster keeps hot hand.
Gustav Nyquist 12 4 7 11 6 3 30Scorer quietly puts up points.
Jeff Hoggan 12 3 7 10 9 0 27Captain brings A game when needed.
Tomas Tatar12 3 7 10 21 4 44Strong sniper a scoring threat.
Joakim Andersson 5 2 6 8 2 -2 11Returns from injury with a bang.
Luke Glendening12 2 6 8 19 0 19Freshman forward continues to impress.
Mitchell Callahan 12 5 2 7 7 0 34Defensive ace turns up the offense.
Frankie Pare 5 2 1 3 15 2 9Slick shooter misses time with injury.
Tomas Jurco11 2 1 3 0 -1 12Finding new life on the 4th line.
Brent Raedeke 10 1 1 2 8 -2 11Defensive forward reprieved from ECHL stint.
Andrej Nestrasil3 0 1 1 2 0 0Stocky winger still trying to stick in AHL.
Trevor Parkes 5 0 1 1 17 2 4Feisty winger impressive in spot duty.
Louis-Marc Aubry 9 0 1 1 12 -1 14Hulking forward suspended for 6 games.
Triston Grant 11 0 1 1 46 -1 7Enforcer suffers through tough month.

DEFENSE - The Griffins defense underwent a big change last month as the team lost Brendan Smith and Brian Lashoff to the Red Wings. The situation was further hampered when Max Nicastro went down with a knee injury expected to keep him out of the lineup for several weeks. Coach Blashill reshuffled the deck and came up with new tandems to whether the storm. Veteran Nathan Paetsch was tried with rookie Adam Almquist, while Chad Billins kept up his strong play alongside solid stay at home man Brennan Evans. That left Gleason Fournier on the third pairing and a revolving cast of fill-in's as the team looked for the right piece. Erik Spady and Mark Mitera were auditioned and released and the team recently signed former New York Islander Brett Skinner to a tryout.

January Thumbnails:
Player GPGAPTSPIM+/-ShtsNotes
Nathan Paetsch12 2 6 8 4 0 20Offensive defender elevates game.
Adam Almquist 12 2 2 4 10 5 22 Diminutive defenseman makes most of ice time.
Chad Billins 12 1 3 4 8 0 21 Smooth rookie rises to occasion and larger role.
Brendan Smith 2 0 4 4 2 3 5 Top prospect officially graduates to NHL.
Brennan Evans 12 0 3 3 28 0 9Veteran leader brings consistency.
Gleason Fournier 8 1 1 2 17 -3 8Powerplay specialist starts to look comfortable.
Max Nicastro 4 0 1 1 5 1 4Rugged rookie felled by knee injury.
Brian Lashoff 7 0 0 0 17 1 6Steady defender rewarded with NHL debut.

GOALTENDING - Petr Mrazek had a rough start to the new year both on the scoreboard and on the ice. The rookie posted a 3-4-0-1 record with an uncharacteristically high 2.90 GAA and 89% save percentage. He also got a rude welcome to the pro ranks when he came out to help teammate Gleason Fournier behind the net and was knocked down by former Griffin Wade Brookbank and then given a beatdown by IceHogs' goalie Carter Hutton who sped the length of the ice and attacked him. Backup Thomas McCollum turned in a 3-1 record despite a 3.34 GAA and 86.8% save percentage. He was also recalled to Detroit to backup Jimmy Howard while Gustavsson recovers from a groin injury. This necessitated the recall of exiled Jordan Pearce from Toledo. Pearce didn't see any game time in January, instead riding the pine as Mrazek's backup.

SPECIAL TEAMS - The Griffins potent scoring can be partially traced back to the AHL's 7th ranked powerplay (19.8%). At home that unit slips a bit to 12th, connecting on 18.3% of its chances (19 for 104), but on the road the team boasts the 3rd best man advantage unit scoring at a 21.7% clip (18 for 83). Gustav Nyquist leads the way with 15 points on the powerplay (5g-10a) followed closely by Ferraro - 14 (6-8), Tatar - 13 (6-7), Andersson - 12 (3-9), Billins - 12 (1-11) and the recently departed Smith - 10 (3-7). Riley Sheahan also has 5 powerplay goals and Adam Almquist has 4.

The penalty killing remains a work in process. Grand Rapids improved marginally at home moving from 21st (81.2%) to 20th (81.9%), but fell 10 spots on the road moving from 83.3% to 79.5%. Overall the team fell two spots dropping from 82% to 80.9%. Landon Ferraro leads the league in shorthanded scoring with 3 goals and 3 assists, while frequent partner Riley Sheahan leads all rookies in shorthanded scoring with two shorthanded goals and 3 points. Nathan Paetsch and Trevor Parkes also have shorthanded tallies on the season.

PLAYER OF THE MONTH - Defense & Offense - Riley Sheahan and Mitch Callahan - This month I have chosen two players who get things done at both ends of the ice to share the offensive and defensive player of the month awards. Riley Sheahan took his game up another notch last month, scoring 6 goals and 11 points in 12 games with a team high +6. He showed he could play as the team's number one center and on the number one penalty-killing tandem with equal aplomb. The freshman center has answered questions about his offensive prowess and has served notice that he is ready for an NHL audition. Mitch Callahan has already garner compliments on this site about his game makeover this season. His strong defensive play and forechecking have been big components on the Griffins. The only thing that had been missing was offense, and it is missing no more. The speedy winger was rewarded for his hard work with 5 goals and 7 points in the last stretch including his first pro hat trick. If he can keep this up he will draw looks from Detroit soon enough.

CURRENT INJURIES - Max Nicastro - Knee - 3-4 weeks...

NOTABLE MOVEMENT - RW Andrej Nestrasil recalled from Toledo (ECHL)... D Gleason Fournier recalled from Toledo (ECHL)... D Max Nicastro recalled from Toledo (ECHL)... D Brian Lashoff recalled by Detroit (NHL)... D Brendan Smith recalled by Detroit (NHL)... RW Mike Knuble signed to PTO... G Thomas McCollum recalled by Detroit (NHL)... G Jordan Pearce recalled from Toledo (ECHL)... RW Gustav Nyquist recalled by Detroit (NHL)... D Erik Spady signed to PTO... RW Gustav Nyquist assigned by Detroit (NHL)... LW Trevor Parkes assigned to Toledo (ECHL)... Spady released from PTO... Nestrasil assigned to Toledo (ECHL)... Knuble released from PTO... D Mark Mitera signed to PTO... Mitera released from PTO... LW Trevor Parkes recalled from Toledo (ECHL)... D Brett Skinner signed to PTO...

KEY STATS - Gustav Nyquist is fourth in AHL scoring with 40 points... Tomas Tatar is tied for 12th with 36... Chad Billins is tied for 18th in Defense scoring with 21 points... Riley Sheahan is 18th in rookie scoring with 23 points... Landon Ferraro and Tatar are tied for 14th in goal scoring with 16 goals... Nyquist is tied for 6th with 26 assists... Ferraro and Tatar are tied for 17th with 6 powerplay goals apiece... Ferraro is 2nd in the AHL with 3 shorthanded goals... Sheahan is tied for 4th in shorties with 2... Joakim Andersson is 2nd in the AHL with 5 game winning goals... Tatar is tied for 10th with 4... Triston Grant is 18th with 108 penalty minutes... Sheahan is tied for 16th in plus minus at +13... Billins is on top of the AHL leaderboard in shootouts with 3 goals in 3 chances on the season... Ferraro leads the league in shorthanded assists with 3... Tatar is fourth in the AHL with 141 shots... Nyquist is 16th with 121... Petr Mrazek is 16th in GAA at 2.42... Mrazek is tied for 11th with 14 wins... The young netminder is also fourth in the shootout with a 72.7% success rating (6 goals on 22 attempts)... Tatar is tied for the ninth longest goals scoring streak this season at 4 games... Nyquist is tied for the ninth longest point streak in the AHL this season at 8 games...

IN THE PIPELINE - Netminder Jordan Pearce split the month between Toledo and Grand Rapids, getting into five games for the Walleye. He was impressive in those five games, posting a 3-1-1 record with a miserly 1.65 GAA and 94% save percentage. He surrendered one goal or less in four of the games including a shutout, his second of the season. Winger Willie Coetzee struggled through a tough month offensively. Named to play in the ECHL all-star game, Coetzee went cold in January, going scoreless in 7 of 11 games despite racking up 55 shots on goal. Andrej Nestrasil spent most of the month in Grand Rapids, but still managed to ring up a 4 game scoring streak that saw him score 6 points. The second year forward continues to improve and his next step is to show he belongs in the AHL. Trevor Parkes was sent down to get some playing time at the end of the month and scored four points in his first two games. The feisty winger also had 14 shots on goal.

NHL ALUMNI WATCH - With the NHL lockout finally over, 24 former Griffins have played in the NHL this season. The latest alumnus is defenseman Brian Lashoff who was recalled for his NHL debut by the Detroit Red Wings. The lanky blueliner scored a goal in his first game. Current stats as of 2/1/13:

PlayerGP G A PTS PIM +/-
Justin Abdelkader, Detroit 60 0 0 5 -2
Sheldon Brookbank, Chicago 4 00 0 2 -2
Matt Ellis, Buffalo 4 0 0 0 00
Cory Emmerton, Detroit 6 0 0 0 00
Jonathan Ericsson, Detroit 3 0 0 0 2 -1
Valtteri Filppula, Detroit 6 2 3 5 0 3
Darren Helm, Detroit 1 0 0 0 2 0
Jiri Hudler, Detroit 1 0 1 1 0 0
Chris Kelly, Boston 6 0 1 1 4 -3
Jakub Kindl, Detroit 2 0 0 0 4 1
Mike Knuble, Philadelphia 3 0 1 1 2 0
Tomas Kopecky, Florida 6 11 2 14 -4
Niklas Kronwall, Detroit 6 0 5 5 16 -1
Brian Lashoff, Detroit 4 1 0 1 2 -2
Andreas Lilja, Philadelphia 1 0 0 0 0 -1
Chris Mueller, Nashville 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jan Mursak, Detroit 1 0 0 0 2 0
Chris Neil, Ottawa 7 2 1 3 22 4
Kris Newbury, Rangers 1 0 0 0 7 0
Gustav Nyquist, Detroit 1 0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Quincey, Detroit 6 0 0 0 6 1
Jason Spezza, Ottawa 5 2 3 5 2 3
Brendan Smith, Detroit 6 0 1 1 2 3

PlayerGP W-L-T GAA SV%
Jimmy Howard, Detroit 6 3-2-1 2.77 .907

UP NEXT - The Griffins start the month on the road with a game in Hamilton before returning home to host the Abbotsford Heat and Houston Aeros. The team then heads to Oklahoma City for a pair of high scoring contests with the always-entertaining Barons. Next up is a weekend at home featuring the Lake Erie Monsters and Charlotte Checkers before traveling to Rockford, IL for another rough and tumble game against the truculent IceHogs. The team ends the month at home with a pair of games with the San Antonio Rampage.