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March 2007 Griffins Report
Youth Movement part of newest roster shuffle...
By Jason Kasiorek
April 1, 2007

If the job of an AHL team is to produce players for its NHL parent, then the Griffins are right on the mark. The downside of that is with seven players from this year's team in the NHL last month, Grand Rapids was forced to look outside the organization for help. Camp tryout Jamie Tardif was the first brought in, and after posting 8 goals and 5 assists in his first 16 games, was signed for the rest of the year. At one point Tardif was playing right wing on the Griffins number one line with emerging center Ryan Oulahen and former Western Michigan University Bronco Jeff Campbell.

Rugged Adam Keefe was acquired from Manitoba and played to generally positive reviews before being lost for the season with a hand injury. First year winger Mike Walsh was called up from Toledo (ECHL) and given a five game audition. Most recently it was Hobey Baker finalist Scott Parse signing an ATO and contributing 3 points in his first 3 games.

The Griffins limped through March with a 6-5-1-3 record holding on to 4th place in the Northern Division, 6 points behind Rochester for 3rd. They moved into the seventh seed in the conference by one point over Iowa with a 35-27-6-5 record.

The following is a review for March:

OFFENSE - With another month of roster turnover, the only real consistency was the fact that the lines were in a constant state of flux. The de facto number one line for much of the month consisted of Oulahen (15-2-4-6-10) centering Campbell (15-2-5-7-2) and Tardif (15-7-3-10-14), the only three forwards to see action in all 15 games in March. This line carried the offense during a stretch last month when seven of the team's top ten scorers were out of the lineup. Matt Ellis (6-2-1-3-4) and Darryl Bootland (8-1-1-2-14) spent most of the month in Detroit while the rest missed at two games. Kip Miller (13-7-4-11-6) lead the team in scoring and Parse (3-1-2-3-2) showed promise in the few games he played.

The rest of the Griffins offense was pretty hit and miss with Matt Hussey falling into another slump (11-1-3-4-4). Eric Himelfarb (13-2-1-3-16) was filling in as the second line center with a variety of wingers including Tony Voce (13-2-3-5-23) and Ben Simon (13-3-3-6-20). Evan McGrath (13-1-3-4-8), Keefe (13-0-3-3-66), Jonas Johansson (8-1-1-2-8) and Walsh (5-0-0-0-0) rounded out the offense.

DEFENSE - Dan Smith (15-1-4-5-18) picked up the pace again last month, posting a team high +10 and scoring his first goal of the season. With Ace defenseman Derek Meech (6-1-4-5-2) out with an injury and versatile Danny Syvret (3-0-1-1-0) in Edmonton, the door was open wide for a younger player to step up, and Jon Insana (13-3-1-4-8) did not disappoint. Insana got some extra ice playing with Smith and potted his first three goals of the season while posting an impressive +7. Tom Galvin (12-0-1-1-8) continued his strong play but partner Jonathan Ericsson's (15-0-4-4-14) level of play has fallen off after such a great start to the season. Kyle Quincey (14-0-5-5-24) has been trying to regain his early season form, but has played well enough to earn a job in Detroit for the rest of the season. Brad Norton (13-0-1-1-35) is a liability on the ice most of the time between his constant turnovers and knack for bad penalties. He may provide a veteran presence, but he doesn't really provide much of a physical one.

GOALTENDING - Stefan Liv posted a 3-3-0-1 record last month with a 2.79 GAA. While definitely improving, Liv still struggles with inconsistency, posting a brilliant performance and then following with a stinker. He has gotten better technically and the crowd is not afraid to see him between the pipes anymore. Jimmy Howard had perhaps his best month of the season, earning points in all but 2 games with a 3-2-1-2 record. Howard only had one stinker, being pulled after giving up 5 goals to Omaha. He really looks to have found his rhythm and has turned in a consistent effort as of late.

SPECIAL TEAMS - Grand Rapid's power play has hit rock bottom and now officially has nowhere to go but up. Rated a league worst 12.7%, this unit has scored 51 goals in 402 chances with the man advantage. Kip Miller leads the way with 10 goals, closely followed by Ellis with 9. Luckily the penalty kill has been good this season, especially at home where it is the 10th ranked unit (35 for 223) at 84.3%. The Griffins lead the AHL in shorthanded goals with 22, making the PK a double-edged threat. Ellis, Himelfarb, Meech and Simon rank among the league leaders in shorties.

PLAYER OF THE MONTH - Tardif. The organization thought they saw something in the young winger from the Peterborough Petes as evidenced by his invitation to camp. But unfortunately for Jamie it took him another few months to get the opportunity to prove it. The talented young rookie had 7 goals and 3 assists in March and worked his way onto the top line for a while.

ROOKIE WATCH - With all of the call-ups and injuries, the rookie list keeps growing. Leading the way are Tardif, Campbell, and Parse, who provided an integral part of the offense in March. Galvin made the clear day roster as the seventh defenseman, but he has been a regular all season. McGrath has played at a higher level since returning from the ECHL, but doesn't have much to show for it. Ericsson appears to have run out of steam, tailing off in the last month since returning from injury. Liv continued his adjustment to the North American game, improving enough to garner consideration come playoff time. Cleve Kinley and Mike Walsh were given brief auditions but neither made much of an impact.

CURRENT INJURIES - RW Adam Keefe - hand - 4-6 Weeks... LW Ben Simon - Shoulder - Indefinite...

NOTEABLE MOVEMENT - D Jim Jackson released from PTO... LW Matt Hussey recalled by Detroit (NHL)... G Jimmy Howard recalled by Detroit (NHL)... RW Darryl Bootland recalled by Detroit (NHL)... G Logan Koopmans recalled from Toledo (ECHL)... LW Mike Walsh recalled from Toledo (ECHL)... Howard assigned by Detroit (NHL)... Hussey Assigned by Detroit (NHL)... Koopmans assigned to Toledo (ECHL)... Walsh Assigned to Toledo (ECHL)... D Cleve Kinley Signed to ATO by Grand Rapids (AHL)... Bootland assigned by Detroit (NHL)... C Matt Ellis assigned by Detroit (NHL)... D Jon Insana released from PTO... Insana signed SPC with Grand Rapids (AHL)... D Danny Syvret assigned by Edmonton (NHL)... C Mattias Ritola signed to ATO by Grand Rapids (AHL)... RW Scott Parse signed to ATO by Grand Rapids (AHL)... D Kyle Quincey recalled by Detroit (NHL)... Syvret recalled by Edmonton (NHL)...

KEY STATS - Howard is tied for 4th in the AHL in Shutouts with 5... Howard and Liv are also 7th in Shoot-out Wins with 3... Ellis tied for first with 5 shorthanded goals and Himelfarb is tied for 3rd with 4... Meech and Simon are right behind them tied for 13th with 3... Miller is 16th in league scoring with 68 points and 11th in assists with 43... Ericsson is tied for 8th among rookie defenseman scoring with 27 points... Bootland is tied for 6th with 6 game-winners... Ellis is tied for 13th with 5... Booter is also 11th in penalty minutes with 199... Keefe is 14th with 188...

IN THE PIPELINE - Wayward winger Brock Radunske has landed on his feet in Stockton. After starting the year with Grand Rapids and not earning a full time slot, Radunske spent a few weeks in Europe before returning to the ECHL. He put up 15-13-16-29 totals and was selected player of the week by the league. First year pro Stephane Goulet had his best numbers as a pro last month (16-5-5-10), but they were still much less than was expected from him. Goaltender Logan Koopmans has finally returned from an injury that sidelined him since early December. He went 5-3-1 in the 10 games he saw in March with a 3.01 GAA and 1 shutout. Reports in the Toledo Blade suggest Koopmans is contemplating retirement at the end of the season when his contract runs out.

UP NEXT - As Grand Rapids winds down the last 7 games of the schedule, they find themselves with a tough schedule, mostly away from the comfortable confines of Van Andel Arena. They start the month in Syracuse, travel home for a Friday night contest against the Marlies, and then face a bitter rematch in Chicago with the Wolves. This is followed by two games in Hamilton before returning the favor and hosting them in the home finale. The Griffins close out the regular season in Toronto with a Sunday afternoon contest.