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Giroux named 2008-09 AHL most valuable player

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that left wing Alexandre Giroux of the Hershey Bears has been named the winner of the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL’s most valuable player for the 2008-09 season, as voted by coaches, players and members of the media in each of the league’s 29 cities.

Named a 2008-09 First Team AHL All-Star last week, Giroux has played 66 games this season and scored 57 goals, the sixth-highest total ever in the AHL and the most by a Hershey Bear in the 71-year history of the franchise. In addition to his historic goal output, Giroux has set career highs in assists (37) and points (94), tying him with teammate Keith Aucoin for the overall AHL scoring lead heading into the final weekend of the regular season. He is also tied for the league lead with 21 power-play goals and sits one off the league lead with eight game-winning goals, and he ranks fifth among AHL forwards with his plus-24 rating.

Giroux broke one of the AHL’s most impressive records by scoring a goal in 15 consecutive games, bettering the league mark of 14 previously held by future Hockey Hall of Famer Brett Hull. Giroux scored 22 goals in those 15 games, a streak that was interrupted by five separate NHL recalls by the parent Washington Capitals. It was also part of a run in which Giroux tallied a point in 23 consecutive games, the longest such streak in the AHL this season. Giroux, who was voted to the starting lineup for the 2009 AHL All-Star Classic, has had 12 multiple-goal games this year, including a four-goal effort on Jan. 4 at Worcester.

A native of Quebec City, Giroux has recorded 255 goals and 211 assists for 466 points in 564 career AHL games entering the weekend. His one goal and one assist in 12 games with Washington this season give him six points (3g, 3a) in 22 career NHL contests.

Giroux becomes the fifth Hershey player ever to win the Les Cunningham Award, joining George Sullivan (1954), Mike Nykoluk (1967), Tim Tookey (1987) and Jean-Francois Labbe (1997). The award, which was first presented in 1948, honors the late Les Cunningham, a 2009 AHL Hall of Fame inductee who was a five-time league All-Star and three-time Calder Cup champion with the original Cleveland Barons. Other previous winners include Carl Liscombe (1948, ’49), Johnny Bower (1956, ’57, ’58), Fred Glover (1960, ’62, ’64), Gilles Villemure (1969, ’70), Doug Gibson (1975, ’77), Pelle Lindbergh (1981), Ross Yates (1983), Paul Gardner (1985, ’86), Jody Gage (1988), John Anderson (1992), Derek Armstrong (2001), Jason Ward (2003), Jason LaBarbera (2004), Jason Spezza (2005), Darren Haydar (2007) and Jason Krog (2008).

Currently in its 73rd season of play, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 85 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and more than 50 million fans have attended AHL games across North America over the past eight years. Sixteen clubs will continue to vie for the league’s coveted championship trophy when the 2009 Calder Cup Playoffs get underway next week.