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November 2006 Griffins Report
Griffins Weather The Storm As Roster Shakes Out...
By Jason Kasiorek

After an inconsistent start on the season, problems in the dressing room and an unstable roster led to a seven game losing streak. Included in that streak were a franchise record 8-1 home loss to Milwaukee, and a 6-1 shelling by Houston. Both, not coincidentally, starts by backup Stefan Liv who was pulled from both before being sent to Toledo (ECHL) to work on his game.

The team dressed thirty-one different players for its' 13 game schedule in November and saw six players recalled to the NHL. Part of the attrition was due to a larger than normal roster going in to the month, which caused problems among the players as to who was going to play. Other problems in the room led to Krys Kolanos being exiled to Switzerland, and some closed door meetings to set things straight.

Injuries both in Grand Rapids and Detroit also caused problems as players were in and out of the lineup. Speedy center Eric Himelfarb missed a couple of weeks, as did rookie blueliner Tom Galvin and veteran Brad Norton. The month finished on a high note as the Griffins posted a convincing win over Chicago, and then started December with a pair of victories over 1st place Rochester.

The Griffins currently stand in 4th place in the Northern Division, one point behind Manitoba and Hamilton for second. Their record is 10-10-2-2, good enough for 8th in the conference. The team's leading scorer Kip Miller is 8th in league scoring with 28 points.

The following is a review for November:

OFFENSE - With the roster in flux, and offense non-existent for a stretch, the lines were juggled quite a bit in November. Miller was the one constant on offense, and whoever was teamed with him usually put up numbers. Kip notched 7 goals and 15 points in 13 games, usually flanked by Josh Langfeld (10-3-7-10), and Keller (7-1-5-6) or Bootland (10-3-1-4). The speedy combo of Oulahen (13-1-1-2), Himelfarb (6-1-3-4), and Brooks (11-3-2-5) was reunited after Eric's return from the injured list, and have started to add some offense to their energy game. Spark plug Matt Ellis (13-1-4-5) centered Hussey (13-3-1-4) and Campbell (7-0-4-4). That left McGrath (12-1-0-1), Barney (12-1-2-3) and Radunske (5-1-0-1) to round out the roster.

DEFENSE - Injuries and recalls took its toll on the Grand Rapids blueline in November. The team used eleven different defensemen, but for the most part the fill-ins played respectably. Syvret and Ericsson stepped up and picked up the slack at both ends of the rink, notching two goal apiece, while maintaining a plus rating defensively. Brad Norton was ineffective in the few games he played before a back injury sent him to the sidelines. Quincey had an up and down month on the ice, and after a call-up to the NHL suffered a concussion that took him out of the lineup. Meech and Smith both played well defensively although smith's misleading -8 was more the result of being pairing with so many inexperienced partners. Rookie Tom Galvin held his own in three games since returning from a shoulder injury.

GOALTENDING - Goaltending was not the main culprit in the team's swan dive, but it certainly could have been better. Howard played .500 hockey, but was not consistently making the big stop when he had to. Backup Liv started two games, but was pulled from both in lopsided losses. He then went to Detroit to back-up former Griffin Joey MacDonald before being sent to Toledo (ECHL) to work on his game.

SPECIAL TEAMS - Special teams were the Griffins Achilles heal last month as the powerplay disappeared, dropping to 19th in the league, 20th at home and 20th on the road clicking for just 15% (21-138). The penalty kill 4th best in the league on the road at 87.5% (7-56) was a stark contrast to the abysmal home penalty kill rated 21st at a lowly 80.6% (18-93).

PLAYER OF THE MONTH - Miller. While the wheels fell off this team, Miller was only part that was consistently producing. Often matched with different linemates from game to game, and even shift to shift, he carried the Griffins offense. There was a lot of speculation as too how much gas the 38 year old had left in the tank, but his doubters have been silenced by his high level of play.

ROOKIE WATCH - Ericsson made huge strides in his game this month as more ice time led to more opportunities. He scored his first two career goals and displayed a physical side, even dropping the gloves. He is very reminiscent of Kronwall in the fact that he doesn't seem to make many mistakes, and when he does, he is so poised he just makes a great play to fix it. Ryan Keller was inserted on a line with Kip Miller for most of the month and put up nearly a point per game in the span while showing off a penchant for finishing his checks. Newcomer Jeff Campbell showed some speed and offensive skill since being signed to a tryout. Evan McGrath had a quiet month offensively and was watching his ice-time dwindle. He needs to step it up a notch, but playing with some regular linemates would probably help. Liv was pulled from two consecutive starts before being demoted to Toledo (ECHL).

CURRENT INJURIES - D Brad Norton - Back... D Kyle Quincey Concussion...

NOTEABLE MOVEMENT - Defenseman Brad Norton Assigned by Detroit (NHL)... D Jon Insana Signed to PTO... D Jason Beckett Released from PTO... D Kyle Quincey Recalled to Detroit (NHL)... RW Josh Langfeld Recalled by Detroit (NHL)... Quincey Assigned by Detroit (NHL)... C Jeff Campbell Signed to PTO... RW Darryl Bootland Recalled to Detroit (NHL)... C Evan McGrath Recalled to Detroit... G Stefan Liv Recalled to Detroit (NHL)... G Logan Koopmans Recalled from Toledo (ECHL)... Bootland, McGrath, Liv assigned by Detroit (NHL)... Koopmans Returned to Toledo (ECHL)... Langfeld Assigned by Detroit (NHL)... D Danny Syvret Recalled by Edmonton (NHL)... Liv Assigned to Toledo (ECHL)... Koopmans Recalled from Toledo (ECHL)... C Krys Kolanos Re-Assigned to Lungnau (Swiss A)...

KEY STATS -Howard is in a six-way tie for third in the AHL in wins with 9... Miller is tied for 4th with 18 assists... Ellis is tied for third with 2 shorthanded goals...

IN THE PIPELINE- Mike Walsh has gotten off to a slow start after being assigned to Toledo scoring 3 goals and 2 assists in 17 games with 10 penalty minutes... Sniper Stephane Goulet, re-assigned to Stockton at the end of October has found the range, scoring his first professional goal and adding 5 more for a 15-6-4-10 line... Goaltender Logan Koopmans has split the season between GR and Toledo, sporting an eye catching 8-3 record with a 91.9% save percentage in the ECHL...

UP NEXT - The Griffins kick off a busy December with back to back games at home against the League leading Rochester Americans. After a week off they will play a home and home against the Marlies, and then look for revenge for an 8-1 drubbing in a home and home against Milwaukee. Road games against Peoria and Milwaukee are followed by a mid-week home contest with Iowa. Then it's on to a home and home with the Rivermen, a road tilt with the Admirals and a Saturday night home game versus Hamilton. The team finishes the month with the Traditional New Years Eve game featuring Rochester.

Click Here for a look at the current roster.