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October 2010 Grand Rapids Griffins Report
Road warriors turn up the heat...
By Jason Kasiorek
November 1, 2010

The Griffins can't seem to buy a win at home, but on the road they have beaten up some good teams and it is just a matter of time before one catches up with the other. Either the team will start playing dominantly at home, or will fall back to earth on the road. Based on the play of emerging players Jan Mursak, Cory Emmerton, Ilari Filppula and Brendan Smith, our bet is on the former. These four players scored at least a point per game while netminder Joey MacDonald ranks among the league leaders between the pipes. Grand Rapids also boasts the loop's number one powerplay and number 6 penalty kill which points to it just being a matter of time before they break out.

GR currently ranks 3rd in the Northern division with 11 points, 1 point out of 1st, this despite playing 3 or 4 games less than the division leaders. They are also 6th in the western conference standings and have the AHL's 5th best winning percentage at 66.7%. The potent offense has produced 30 goals in 9 games (9th) while only giving up 24 (5th) in the same span. The Griffins finished the opening month of the season with 5-2-0-2 record.

The following is a review for October:

OFFENSE - The number one line at this point in the season would have to be Cory Emmerton centering Jan Mursak and Ilari Filppula. This trio has been together as of late and has scored 13 goals and 29 points in 9 games. The second line has struggled in the early going with Sniper Chris Minard goalless on the season and center Jamie Johnson with more penalty minutes (10) than points (6). Riding the right wing most recently Frankie Pare has been dangerous with the man advantage, but not so much at even strength.

The third troika is still looking to gel with Tomas Tatar and Jamie Tardif flanking Joakim Andersson. Tardif has gotten hot as of late, but Tatar is still looking for his first tally of the season, while Andersson has one point in nine games. Rookie Brent Raedeke anchors the fourth line with Jordan Owens on the left side, and either Willie Coetzee or Brandon Straub on the right. This line has provided speed, grit and energy, but has been offensively challenged so far. Much more was expected from Owens especially after a great camp. Coetzee has been in and out of the lineup and doesn't look out of place with the puck, and Straub has provided a physical presence the other games.

October Thumbnails:
Player GPGAPTSPIM+/-ShtsNotes
Jan Mursak 9 6 4 10 4 2 21 Speedy sniper gunning for an NHL recall.
Cory Emmerton 9 3 7 10 8 6 13 Pass master off to a great start showing he can be a scorer.
Ilari Filppula 9 4 5 9 2 1 11 Veteran Finn shows slick skills while adjusting to AHL.
Frankie Pare 9 2 5 7 0 -1 25 Offensive dynamo rebounding from tough season.
Jamie Johnson 9 1 5 6 10 2 14 Scoring center still trying to find his way in GR.
Jamie Tardif 9 3 1 4 8 0 27 The captain got off to a slow start but was rebounding nicely.
Tomas Tatar 9 0 4 4 4 0 10 Last year's surprise rookie off to a tough start.
Chris Minard 9 0 3 3 6 2 18 Streaky sniper trying to dig his way out of epic slump.
Brent Raedeke 9 2 0 2 4 -1 10 Rookie defensive forward showing off a surprising skill set.
Jordan Owens 9 1 0 1 18 -3 8 Banging winger struggling to find consistency and the net.
Joakim Andersson 9 1 0 1 12 -1 11 Skilled center strong play not translating into points.
Willie Coetzee 4 0 1 1 0 0 4 Speedy rookie looking for a spot in the lineup.
Brandon Straub 4 0 0 0 4 -1 2 Converted defenseman looks to be a viable deterrent.

DEFENSE - The Griffins blueline has been in flux for the early part of the season as Coach Fraser rolls players in and out of the lineup to evaluate the nine defenders on his roster. Brendan Smith has been paired lately with Sergei Kolosov for an effective tandem. Smith has been dangerous offensively and able to take more chances with Kolosov staying back. Veteran Derek Meech has been working with steadily improving Travis Ehrhardt to complete the top four in the absence of Doug Janik. This duo has been very effective at both ends of the ice and also boast the top two plus minus rating among the defense. Greg Amadio is the other regular on the backend, playing with Logan Pyett among others. Pyett missed a lot of time with injury this month and is rounding back into form with the steady, stay at home Amadio. Joining him in sick bay was Brian Lashoff who was a little shaky before being felled by a separated shoulder. Janik spent most of the month in Detroit, and Sebastien Piche was mildly impressive in limited action.

October Thumbnails:
Player GPGAPTSPIM+/-ShtsNotes
Brendan Smith 9 4 5 9 19 -1 13 Talented rookie turns heads with offense.
Derek Meech 9 1 6 7 14 7 22 Veteran makes the most of his time in the AHL.
Travis Ehrhardt 5 0 3 3 6 2 4 Rookie playing strong, making a case for playing time.
Doug Janik 2 1 0 1 2 0 8 Good start led to NHL recall.
Logan Pyett 4 1 0 1 2 -2 5 Injuries stunt Pyett's strong start.
Sebastien Piche 3 0 1 1 4 2 0 Talented puck mover finding it hard to regular spot in lineup.
Greg Amadio 9 0 1 1 19 0 3 Stay at home defender fitting in well.
Brian Lashoff 5 0 0 0 0 0 5 Rookie defenseman suffers from shaky start and injury.
Sergei Kolosov 8 0 0 0 13 -3 9 Slimmed down blueliner trying regain his form and roster spot.

GOALTENDING - Joey MacDonald has been stellar in the early going posting a 1.72 GAA and a sterling 92.6% save percentage before being recalled to the NHL. Except for a shaky shootout in his first game, he has been at the top of his game and given his team a chance to win. Thomas McCollum got off to a tough start, getting blitzed his first few games and temporarily losing the starter's role. He righted the ship during MacDonald's absence and looks to be back on track with a 3-1-0-1 record and a 2.96GAA.

SPECIAL TEAMS - The Griffins feature the league's number one powerplay unit, striking for 11 man-advantage goals in 39 chances (28.2%). The road unit has done a lot of the heavy lifting, connecting for a 33.3% success rating (7 for 21).After 4 home games the griffins powerplay is ranked 10th at 22.2% (4 for 18). Cory Emmerton leads the way with 3 goals with man advantage followed by Mursak (2), Filppula, Meech and Smith all have 1 while point man Frankie Pare has 4 assists.

The penalty-killing unit has been good, ranking 6th overall in the league at 88.9% (48 for 54) and turning in three shorthanded goals. The road unit is 2nd in the AHL at 96.9% (31 for 32), but the home unit is an abysmal 24th just 77.3% (17 of 22). Mursak and Emmerton are a regular pairing, as are Tardif-Andersson and Raedeke-Owens. Coach Fraser regularly rolls the defense on this unit.

PLAYER OF THE MONTH - Jan Mursak. While there are several candidates for 2010-11's first player of the month, Mursak earns the nod based on his explosive offense, picking up 10 points in the first 9 games. He uses his speed to drive to the net and unleash an array of wicked shots usually resulting in a quality scoring chance. He has been a factor in almost every game and is showing consistency that he was lacking in the past.

ROOKIE WATCH - The rookie that has had the most impact so far in the season is blue chip blueliner Smith. He has made the transition from dominant college player to star pro look easy, posting a point per game. He has displayed a feisty side, and his defense has been pretty good. Raedeke has played well defensively and showed off some decent skill to go with his skating prowess. Andersson has been an everyday player, but his hard work has not shown up on the score sheet yet. Lashoff missed time with an injury, but was not up to par before going down. Coetzee has played well in spurts, but has a hard time finding a spot in the lineup. Sebastien Piche has gotten a couple of games in but appears to be Toledo bound.

CURRENT INJURIES - D Brian Lashoff - Separated Shoulder - Day-to-day...

NOTABLE MOVEMENT - G Jordan Pearce assigned to Toledo (ECHL)... D Doug Janik recalled by Detroit (NHL)... D/RW Brandon Straub Signed to PTO... RW Kyle Rogers released from PTO... G Joey MacDonald recalled by Detroit (NHL)... G Pearce recalled from Toledo (ECHL)... D Janik assigned to Grand Rapids (AHL)...

KEY STATS - Jan Mursak is tied for 17th in AHL scoring with 10 points in 9 games... Brendan Smith is tied for 4th in defenseman scoring 1 point off the lead with 9 points... Derek Meech is tied for 13th with 7... Smith is tied for 2nd among rookies in scoring, and is the lead scoring rookie blueliner in the AHL... Mursak is tied for 7th with 6 goals... Cory Emmerton is tied for 15th with 7 assists... Emmerton is also tied for 3rd in powerplay goals with 3... Derek Meech and Frankie Pare are tied for 11 in powerplay assists withy 4... Mursak is tied for 1st with 2 shorthanded goals... Brent Raedeke is tied for 4th with 1 shorty... Meech is tied for 5th in plus minus at +7, while Emmerton is tied for 15 at +6... Joey MacDonald is tied for 2nd in the AHL with a 1.72 GAA... Macdonald is also 16th with a .929 save percentage... Thomas McCollum is tied for 17th with 3 wins... MacDonald is tied for 1st with 1 shutout... Mursak is tied for the 7th longest goal-scoring streak in the AHL at 3 games (active)... Emmerton authored the 10th longest assist streak of the season at 4 games... Mursak also had the 7th best point streak, putting up 8 points in a 6 game span...

IN THE PIPELINE - Netminder Jordan Pearce has had a real up and down start to the season, getting blown out in two starts and then winning his other with a shutout. Statistically he also shows a 4.38GAA and .867 save percentage. He was recently recalled to GR replacing Joey MacDonald who was summoned to Detroit.

NHL ALUMNI WATCH - 27 former Griffins have spent time on NHL rosters top start the season. The most recent was Jeremy Williams who was recalled for one game by the Rangers. Current stats as of 11/1/10:

PlayerGP G A PTS PIM +/-
Justin Abdelkader, Detroit 1 0 0 0 0 0
Sean Avery, Rangers 11 1 6 7 27 3
Sheldon Brookbank, Anaheim 12 0 0 0 31 -5
Mark Eaton, NY Islanders 11 0 0 0 4 0
Jonathan Ericsson, Detroit 1 0 0 0 0 0
Valtteri Filppula, Detroit 9 2 4 6 2 4
Aaron Gagnon, Dallas 1 0 0 0 0 0
Darren Helm, Detroit 9 0 2 2 2 -2
Jiri Hudler, Detroit 8 0 3 3 4 -6
Douglas Janik, Detroit 7 0 0 0 7 -2
Chris Kelly, Ottawa 11 2 1 3 6 -3
Jakub Kindl, Detroit 8 0 0 0 8 -4
Tomas Kopecky, Chicago 13 2 7 9 16 -3
Niklas Kronwall, Detroit 9 2 0 2 2 -2
Brett Lebda, Toronto 4 0 0 0 6 -1
Ville Leino, Philadelphia 12 2 8 10 2 4
Chris Neil, Ottawa 11 0 3 3 45 -1
Scott Parse, Los Angeles Injured
Mattias Ritola, Tampa Bay 4 1 1 2 0 -2
Kyle Quincey, Colorado 11 0 0 0 8 -4
Jason Spezza, Ottawa 6 1 4 5 4 1
Danny Syvret, Anaheim 6 1 1 2 4 -3
Todd White, Rangers 6 1 0 1 2 1
Jeremy Williams, Rangers 1 0 0 0 0 0

PlayerGP W-L-T GAA SV%
Jimmy Howard, Detroit 5 4-0-1 2.14 .925
Patrick Lalime, Buffalo 2 0-2-0 4.03 .871
Joey MacDonald, Detroit 0 0-0-0 0.00 .000

UP NEXT - Grand Rapids kicks off November with a pair of home contests against the Manitoba Moose and the Chicago Wolves. Next up is a Sunday afternoon game in Lake Erie, a quick stop back to the Van Andel for the annual noon game, and then off for a pair of contests against the Bulldogs. The road trip continues in Lake Erie and then on to Toronto with a quick weekend series with the Aeros and the Monsters sandwiched in between. The last weekend of the month is packed full with a Friday night game against Rockford, then on to Chicago for a tilt with the wolves before returning to face Peoria.