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Former Marlies energizing Grand Rapids

by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com

The jealousy was mild and passed quickly, Jeremy Williams said.

On July 1, Williams was a little envious that his buddy and former Toronto Marlies teammate Kris Newbury had signed a deal with the Detroit Red Wings.

A day or two later, Williams was over it.

What happened? The Red Wings signed Williams, too.

"If Detroit is interested in you, it’s a great compliment," Williams said. "I guess you could say I was jealous of him that first day. Then, the next day, my agent called and said Detroit was interested."

The signings didn’t start out to be a package deal, but they sure wound up that way. And the pair’s production in Grand Rapids shows why it was a sly move to keep them together. The forwards helped spark the Griffins to a recent nine-game winning streak and are the heart of the team’s offense. Newbury, a center, paces Grand Rapids with 12 points (3-9) while Williams, a right wing, is right behind with 10 (8-2).

If the two players were going to start fresh at this point in their careers, they figured they might as well do it in a big way.

The Toronto organization was the only one each had known as pros. Newbury, 27, started there in 2003-04 while Williams, 25, broke in full time a year later. Both decided, independently of each other, that it was time to try another organization.

"I knew the day was coming, a change would be good for me. They were bringing in young college guys, giving them an opportunity," Newbury said.

"It was definitely hard. You are comfortable after playing somewhere for five years," Williams said. "It was tough to say goodbye, but at the same time it’s a good thing."

The two transferred that comfort zone to Grand Rapids, especially when they put their familiarity to good use on the power play. Newbury is the disher off the half boards, while Williams doesn’t have to be asked twice to rip away. Away from the rink, they live in the same apartment building.

"It definitely made the transition a lot easier. You don’t want to come to a new team with 22 faces you’ve never met before," Newbury said. "I was coming into new territory. Me and Jeremy found our ways around."

The players feel right at home in the team’s inner circle now, a natural by-product for newcomers who skate in and tear up the score sheet. The immediate payoff for Grand Rapids has been handsome. Williams is optimistic that a bigger one awaits everyone.

"I’m extremely happy with this organization," he said. "It’s opened my eyes a lot. The main thing as a player is you want to win all the time. You want to win championships."

Lindsay Kramer, the AHL correspondent for NHL.com, profiles an up-and-coming player each Monday during the season, and his AHL notebook appears each Thursday on NHL.com. Read today’s complete column here.