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February 2011 Grand Rapids Griffins Report
Offense ignites in chase for last playoff spot...
By Jason Kasiorek
March 1, 2011

With time ticking down on their hunt for the last playoff spot in the conference, the Griffins are getting a chance to see who will step up and raise their level of play. In the process they are also getting some big contributions from up and down the lineup. Look no further than Jordan Pearce who served notice that he was the man in Grand Rapids, with a solid month between the pipes. Ilari Filppula added 12 assists in as many games to the attack, and Captain Jamie Tardif was scoring at a point per game pace. Defenseman Logan Pyett scored the first hat trick ever by a Griffins blueliner, and Tomas Tatar took another step towards full time NHL employment with some inspired play and dazzling scoring.

The Griffins currently reside in the North Division basement 7 points out of the last playoff spot. They are just over .500 after 61 games, sporting a 27-25-1-9 record for 63 points which leaves them 14th of 15 teams in the conference and 24 of 30 in the AHL. Offensively they are 13th having scored 175 but defensively their 189 goals against leave them 21st. February saw the team post a 5-4-0-3 record in 12 games while scoring the same number of goals they gave up 38. The Griffins are the most penalized team in the north division with 1193 penalty minutes, second in the conference, and tied for 5th in the AHL. Grand Rapids is 5th in league attendance through 32 games, averaging 6756 per game.

The following is a review for February:

OFFENSE - The Griffins had the luxury of three lines scoring at the same time for most of the month, notching 38 in 12 games. The first line featured speedy sniper Tomas Tatar on the left side of playmaking center Ilari Filppula and slick skater Jan Mursak. This line put together 8 goals and 21 assist last month with a combined +18 rating. Cory Emmerton centered the second line between sniper Jamie Tardif and a variety of wingers, most recently Frankie Pare. This trio struck for 13 goals and 17 assists with 105 shots on goal in just 12 games. The third line featured a pare of veterans starting to come on, Chris Minard and Jamie Johnson with either Pare or Jordan Owens on the right side. The troika accounted for 9 goals and 6 assists in February. Rounding out the fourth line were rambunctious Adam Keefe on the right with Joakim Andersson and either Brandon Straub or Brent Raedeke.

February Thumbnails:
Player GPGAPTSPIM+/-ShtsNotes
Ilari Filppula 12 2 12 14 8 6 15Scoring surge carries skilled forward into AHL top ten.
Jamie Tardif 12 7 6 13 7 0 45Surly sniper ups the ante looking for NHL recall.
Tomas Tatar 12 6 5 11 8 6 34NHL Audition ignites offensive game.
Frankie Pare 12 3 6 9 9 3 33Slick scorer making the most of his chances.
Cory Emmerton 12 3 5 8 0 1 27Top two-way man getting it done at both ends.
Chris Minard 12 4 3 7 4 3 39Battling back from forgettable first half.
Jamie Johnson 12 4 3 7 4 2 26Starting to find some chemistry with Pare.
Jan Mursak 7 0 4 4 4 6 13Bounced between leagues last month.
Joakim Andersson 12 0 3 3 2 -1 18Responsible forward logging a ton of ice time.
Brent Raedeke 9 1 1 2 4 -2 6Still getting used to the grind of the pro game.
Adam Keefe 11 1 1 2 30 1 8Energy forward earned a regular spot in the lineup.
Jordan Owens 11 1 0 1 15 -3 28Elusive winger looks capable of so much more.
Brandon Straub 10 0 1 1 28 -5 5Effective play on the 4th line for physical forward.

DEFENSE - The defensive corps took a beating again last month with several players out of the lineup with injuries. Hulking Sergei Kolosov, who was just starting to round into form, blew out a knee and was lost for the season. Greg Amadio missed half the month with a bad ankle, and the only two blueliner's to play every game were Logan Pyett and Doug Janik. Towards the end of the month Gritty veteran Janik was paired with recovering Rookie sensation Brendan Smith. Smooth skater Derek Meech was paired with glue guy Greg Amadio, and the third pairing was Brian Lashoff with Pyett. Travis Ehrhardt, the story of the first half with his inspired play, had a tough month and found himself on the outside looking in. Sebastien Piche, Jon Landry and Jason Lepine were all Toledo (ECHL) players who filled in during the month.,

February Thumbnails:
Player GPGAPTSPIM+/-ShtsNotes
Logan Pyett 12 4 4 8 2 11 23Scored first Griffins defenseman Hat Trick
Derek Meech 11 1 4 5 4 5 28 Smooth veteran anchors backline.
Doug Janik 12 0 5 5 18 5 17 Defensive leader does great work with rookies.
Brendan Smith 9 1 3 4 36 -2 18Struggling to regain form after injury plagued season.
Travis Ehrhardt 7 0 0 0 4 -4 5 Brutal month for up and comer.
Sergei Kolosov 1 0 0 0 0 0 0Shelved for the season with a knee injury.
Greg Amadio 6 0 0 0 19 1 6Stay at home defender is heart and soul leader.
Brian Lashoff 11 0 0 0 6 -5 10Another tough month for rookie blueliner.

GOALTENDING - Jordan Pearce again carried the load in February appearing in 11 of 12 games with a 4-3-0-3 record. He nailed down his spot as #1 goalie last month with a 2.72 goals against average on a team that let in 3.17 per game and a miserly 91.2% save percentage. He has played well enough for the team to win any game he has been in and has probably earned another contract with the organization, delaying medical school another couple of years.

His batterymate for the first part of the month Thomas McCollum is unfortunately at the other end of the arc. The former first round draft choice struggled through parts of three games to record a 3.96 GAA and an 85% save percentage before being dispatched to Toledo (ECHL) to find his game. Joey MacDonald remains on recall to the parent Red Wings and his return to Grand Rapids is questionable.

SPECIAL TEAMS - Special Teams continue to be the Griffins Achilles heal, dropping to the bottom of the pack as the season goes along. The powerplay fell from 11th to 13th at 18.3% (48 for 262) while also rising up to 10th in shorthanded goals allowed with 5. The road unit is ranked 12th at 18.2% (22 for 121), while the home unit has fallen to 15th at 18.4% (26 for 141). Tardif is the teams top powerplay goal scorer with 8, but he is closely followed by Filppula at 7. Rounding out the top performers are Emmerton and Minard with 4 each and Tatar, Mursak, Meech, Smith and Pyett with 3 apiece.

The team has a real good news/bad news situation when it comes to the penalty killing. The good news is that the road unit is ranked 8th in the league, killing off 86% of the man advantage situations they have faced (141 of 164). The bad news continues to be the home unit which is ranked 29th at 75.8% (97 of 128). This leaves the team ranked 20th overall at 81.5% (238 of 292). The team has made up for it a little however, by scoring 12 shorthanded goals, good enough for first in the league. Mursak and Tardif have two shorties apiece, while 8 other Griffins have one (Keefe, Raedeke, Ehrhardt, Owens, Pyett, Smith, Meech and Filppula).

PLAYER OF THE MONTH - Ilari Filppula and Jamie Tardif. It was bound to happen sooner or later but this month, has co-players of the month in Ilari Filppula and Jamie Tardif. They both stepped up their play to a new level last month and are both doing their best to get noticed for their first NHL recalls. Filppula put up 2 goals and 12 assists in just 12 games shouldering a large part of the offense. He is an incredible playmaker, able to find teammates anywhere on the ice, and is developing into a legitimate gamebreaker at the AHL level. The captain has turned up his offense notching 7 goals and 6 assists in 12 games and has set a new career high with 22 goals on the season. He does it all at both ends of the ice and his increased scoring is making him a real option to get a look at the next level.

ROOKIE WATCH - Pearce had the biggest impact among rookie last month, locking down the starter's job and seeing action in 11 out of 12 games. Smith returned from a series of injuries, but was trying to find his game again along with fellow rookie Lashoff. Joakim Andersson continues to see a lot of ice time, playing a solid two-way game despite not ringing up points. Raedeke was in and out of the lineup in February but was effective on the fourth line when he played.

CURRENT INJURIES - Sergei Kolosov - Knee - indefinite...

NOTABLE MOVEMENT - RW Jan Mursak recalled by Detroit (NHL)... D Jon Landry signed to PTO... Landry released from PTO... D Sebastien Piche recalled from Toledo (ECHL)... D Jason Lepine signed to PTO... Lepine released from PTO... Piche assigned to Toledo (ECHL)... Mursak assigned by Detroit (NHL)... G Thomas McCollum assigned to Toledo (ECHL)... G Jimmy Spratt signed to PTO... Mursak recalled by Detroit (NHL)... Mursak assigned by Detroit (NHL)...

KEY STATS - Jamie Tardif is tied for 11 in league scoring with 22 goals... Ilari Filppula is 16th in assists with 32... Filppula is also tied for 10th with 50 points... Jan Mursak and Tardif are tied for 10th with 2 shorthanded goals apiece... Tardif and Frankie Pare are tied for 8th with 5 first goals... Chris Minard is tied for 5th in insurance goals with 4... Greg Amadio is 9th in the league with 179 penalty minutes... Tomas Tatar is 7th in the AHL in plus/minus at +20... Derek Meech is tied for 17th at +16... Joakim Andersson is 2nd with 3 shorthanded assists... Pare and Tardif are 10th and 11th in shots on goal with 179 and 178 respectively... Jordan Pearce is 17th in the AHL with a .912 save percentage... Filppula is currently on the second longest active assist streak with 10 helpers in his last 6 games... Brendan Smith is 1st in minor penalties among rookies with 36... Tatar also holds the single game season high marks of 7 points and +7, while Travis Ehrhardt is 2nd in single game plus minus at +6... Tatar also has the second highest single game assist mark this season at 5... Logan Pyett and Brendan Smith are tied for 12th in defenseman goal scoring with 9 apiece, one ahead of teammate Derek Meech with 8, good enough for a piece of 21st... Ilari Filppula is 15th in shooting percentage at 18.2%... Jordan Owens is tied for 7th with 1 overtime goal... Filppula is tied for 4th with 3 unassisted goals... Chris Minard and Tomas Tatar are tied for first with 3 empty net goals... Frankie Pare and Ilari Filppula are tied for 9th with 2 apiece... Filppula is tied for 6th with 5 shootout goals...

IN THE PIPELINE - McCollum saw action in four games for Toledo after languishing on the bench in Grand Rapids. He turned in very similar numbers in both leagues, posting a 1-3 record with a 3.93GAA and 87.0% save percentage. Blueliner Sebastien Piche returned from the AHL on fire, notching 2 goals and 6 assists in 10 games with a +7 defensive rating and 29 shots on goal. Junior scoring whiz Willie Coetzee is taking advantage of a regular spot in the lineup in the ECHL and chipped in 4 goals, 3 assists and 45 shots in 13 games last month.

NHL ALUMNI WATCH - Jason Williams and Patrick Rissmiller became the latest Griffins Alumni to grace an NHL roster this season. Current stats as of 3/1/11:

PlayerGP G A PTS PIM +/-
Justin Abdelkader, Detroit 554 9 13 50 10
Sean Avery, Rangers 64 2 20 22 158 -2
Sheldon Brookbank, Anaheim 25 00 0 48 -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 55 3 11 14 71 12
Valtteri Filppula, Detroit 52 12 19 31 16 1
Aaron Gagnon, Dallas 19 0 2 2 0 -3
Darren Helm, Detroit 63 8 18 26 12 9
Jiri Hudler, Detroit 58 8 24 32 22 -1
Douglas Janik, Detroit 7 0 0 0 7 -2
Chris Kelly, Ottawa/Boston 61 12 12 24 29 -10
Jakub Kindl, Detroit 31 1 2 3 26 0
Tomas Kopecky, Chicago 62 1224 36 46 -10
Niklas Kronwall, Detroit 63 10 20 30 30 8
Brett Lebda, Toronto 30 1 2 3 14 -12
Ville Leino, Philadelphia 61 14 28 42 16 19
Chris Mueller, Nashville 15 0 3 3 2 0
Jan Mursak, Detroit 18 1 0 1 4 -3
Chris Neil, Ottawa 60 3 9 12 157 -11
Kris Newbury, Rangers 10 0 1 1 35 -1
Scott Parse, Los Angeles 5 1 3 4 05
Kyle Quincey, Colorado 21 0 1 1 18 -5
Patrick Rissmiller, Atlanta 1 0 0 0 0 -1
Mattias Ritola, Tampa Bay 24 2 4 6 11-5
Jason Spezza, Ottawa 42 12 20 32 20 -9
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
Jason Williams, Dallas 8 0 2 2 22
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 48 31-12-3 2.82 .907
Patrick Lalime, Buffalo 7 0-5-0 2.96 .890
Joey MacDonald, Detroit 9 3-3-1 2.39 .914
Drew MacIntyre, Atlanta 0 0-0-0 0.00 .000

UP NEXT - March rolls in with a pair of contests at home against former Griffin Patrick Rissmiller and the Rochester Americans. Then it's off to Peoria, a double shot of Oklahoma City and then a tilt in San Antonio against the Rampage before returning home again. Grand Rapids gets a rematch with Oklahoma City on another winning Wednesday promotion before facing pivotal games against the Lake Erie Monsters, Rochester Americans, Rockford IceHogs and Toronto Marlies. They finish the month on the road with a pair of contests in Texas against the Stars.