Blogs > Red Wings Corner

Up-to-the minute updates and insights from the Red Wings locker room at home and on the road. By Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Red Wings shut out for first time this season

DETROIT -- "Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind …"
Just a couple of hours before the good people of Detroit rang in the new year with those lyrics, the Red Wings were wishing that one particular old acquaintance had never been brought to mind on this New Year's Eve.
Manny Legace -- a Red Wing for six seasons, who was part of the 2002 championship team -- shut out Detroit, Monday night, leading the St. Louis Blues to a 2-0 victory.
"The years I was here, the fans were just phenomenal to me and the press was good to me," said Legace, who left Detroit as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2006. "I made a lot of good friends here. We spend the summers here. I know all the guys over there. They're always ribbing me and stuff like that. It's fun to play against them."
How unusual is it for the Red Wings to be shut out?
This was just the second time that the Red Wings have been blanked in the past three seasons with Legace sharing in the other with Blues teammate Curtis Sanford, Feb. 8. Thus a streak of 65 shutout-less games was ended. The last time that the Red Wings were shut out at home was Jan. 7, 2004, by Boston's Andrew Raycroft, meaning that a streak of 120 home games without being shut out was ended last night. And the last time that St. Louis shut out the Red Wings in Detroit was Jan. 11, 1993, with Guy Hebert in net.
Not only hadn't the Red Wings been shut out this season, they hadn't gone the first two periods without a goal in their previous 39 games.
Detroit's power play alone has scored in 29 of the first 39 games this season, averaging more than a goal a game.
"Mule (Johan Franzen) had some good chances; Huds (Jiri Hudler) had some chances," said Detroit's Kris Draper. "But I don't think we had sustained chances for enough of the game to win. It's over. It's done with. We have to regroup here. We have Dallas coming in (Wednesday) that's playing great hockey right now, so we've got to make sure we get right at it."
Hudler had a partial breakaway (Ryan Johnson was on his back) with 8:05 left in the game, but his attempt was stopped by Legace.
"Hit me right in the chest, thank goodness," said the netminder with a grin.
For Legace, the game included a portion of redemption after being in net five days earlier at home for a 5-0 loss to the Red Wings.
"You have to bring your A game or they're going to bury you," said Legace. "They showed us that the day after Christmas."
The outcome of the game turned on a slap shot from the blue line by rookie defenseman Erik Johnson. He let his shot fly six minutes into the third period. The puck found its way through Valtteri Filppula up high and David Backes and Pavel Datsyuk down low before sailing past a screened Dominik Hasek.
That was the lone goal in the contest until Lee Stempniak removed all doubt with 21.2 seconds on the game clock.
"The previous game we won handily," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "Tonight, they were better than us. They competed hard and won more of the races."
The loss also ended a four-game winning streak for the Red Wings, who are now 16-3-2 in their past 21 games. Detroit was undefeated in its previous 10 home games, going 9-0-1 since losing to Chicago, Nov. 17.
Hasek, who stopped 21 shots, was 7-0-1 in his previous eight games.
Detroit maintains the top spot in the NHL's overall standings, but is 6-7-2 against Central Division competition. The Red Wings are 23-1-1 against all other foes.

Contract talks

Both Chris Osgood and Andreas Lilja said Monday that there is no news on their contract talks. Both have reportedly been offered multi-year deals (Osgood, three years, Lilja two years). Neither has signed, however.
Osgood said that he would like to play at least three more years for three reasons -- win another Stanley Cup, reach 400 wins, top Terry Sawchuk's career win total with the Red Wings (352). Osgood has two Cups, 353 career wins and 269 career wins with the Red Wings.
Osgood said that talks started two or three weeks ago.
"We aren't really talking numbers or years, we're just talking just for the sake of talking," said Osgood. "I haven't talked to my agent since before Christmas."
As for parlaying his stellar season into a starting position with another team, Osgood said: "Do you want to take a chance and go to a team that's not very good, that's down in the standings, is terrible defensively and get shelled for another two years. I wouldn't think that would be an option I'd take right now. It would be interesting, but I don't know if it would get that far."

Monday morning skate update

The Red Wings are on the ice right now and here's a quick injury update. Tomas Holmstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Kirk Maltby are skating as a fifth line all wearing grey sweaters. (The four forward lines wear either red or white sweaters in practice.) Here's how the line combinations look right now for tonight's game against St. Louis.

POST-PRACTICE UPDATE: Zetterberg, Holmstrom and Maltby will not play tonight. Zetterberg is the closest to returning, perhaps being ready for Wednesday's home game. Holmstrom is the next closest to returning, but could be out this entire week. Maltby has been out so long that he must first get healthy and then get back up to game speed.

Cleary-Datsyuk-Filppula
Hudler-Franzen-Samuelsson
Kopecky-Draper-Drake
Ellis-Hartigan-Downey

Lidstrom-Rafalski
Kronwall-Lilja
Lebda-Chelios

Hasek (starts)
Osgood

Meech (healthy scratch)

Old enough to know better

How old am I, son?
Well, your dad is old enough to remember when those goofy helmets that Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek now wear were the most advanced technology in noggin' protection for NHL goalies.
I'm old enough to remember when a hard piece of fiberglass or plastic or whatever the heck those Jason-like masks were made of and those few strips of padding were all the rag in goaliewear.
I'm old enough to have gotten one of those hard masks as a gift from my grandmother. How cool is that for a grandmother? And I'm old enough to have played street hockey in the middle of August wearing that stupid mask in net. There was no need. We played with a tennis ball that stung, but didn't do damage. But I wore that mask -- sweat dripping from underneath -- the whole game because it was so cool.
I'm old enough to remember Ken Dryden's mask before it was a big red-white-and-blue bulls-eye looking thing. I remember when Dryden had a mask that was just asymmetrical strips of hard protection that looked like they were glued together by a drunkard at 3 a.m. That mask looked more like an exhibit from The Human Body than hockey gear. I believe a Dixie Cup would have served Dryden better.
Son, I'm old enough to have seen Jacques Plante and Gump Worsley play net with masks. I was young enough then to scratch my head when my father told me that it wasn't that long ago that gentlemen like Plante and Worsley faced Bobby Hull 's shot without anything protecting their faces. I still find that hard to believe.
Most of all, son, I'm old enough to remember when goalies stood up, when their heads were above the crossbar more often than just during commercial breaks.
So you see, son, I'm old enough to know that the biggest change in hockey in the past few decades and the biggest problem that hockey has to solve is the way that goalies play the game.
Watch Gilles Gilbert on a classic Bruins game on the NHL Network or Classic Sports. Watch a tape of "Slap Shot" -- a movie that should be watched at least once a year -- and notice how the Chiefs' goalie makes kick saves. Yes, I said kick saves, meaning that goalies used to kick the puck away with their feet while remaining upright.
Gilbert looks mighty odd to someone your age, but that was acceptable goaltending back when I was your age. In fact, going down was discouraged by both common practice and common sense.
All goalies nowadays stop the puck while on their knees or heading in that direction. And that's a much, much, much more effective way to play net than the method used when I was your age.
Back then, it would have been suicide to butterfly as much as modern goalies do. Your head would be ripped off.
And along the way, some bright guy figured out that all shots start on the ice. So if you get close enough to the shooter's stick and get right down on the ice, there's no way that the shooter can get the puck up over the goalie.
So here's the problem. Goalies stop more shots than ever.
I've heard the talk about making nets bigger. I'm old enough to think that no one in their right mind would even consider doing something as drastic as that. I've seen more power plays created with tighter calls on penalties. I've seen coaching staffs expanded and strategies perfected. I've seen neutral-zone traps blamed for all that is bad and wrongly so. (Teams have always had the option of sending one man or no men in on the forecheck, but it wasn't called a trap.)
But none of it matters.
Hand the shooters steroids if you want. Put a lively puck in the game. Make goalies wear pads that are three inches narrower. Let the players use lacrosse sticks to fling the puck at the net. Let them use Howitzers.
It won't matter.
Shooters are so, so much better now than when I was young. The puck comes from every angle like a shooting gallery. There are enough power plays and enough technology on the side of offense.
Offense will never increase until someone figures out how to counter butterfly goaltending. That's what's taken away the scoring.
Those new helmets are great because goalies need to be protected from shots that hard better than ever before.
But those helmets also protect their goals-against average.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Lidstrom signs for two more years

Christmas presents don't get much better than this. Here's a press release from the Red Wings today ...

RED WINGS AGREE TO TERMS WITH LIDSTROM THROUGH 2009-10

Detroit, MI…Detroit Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland announced the club has agreed to terms with defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom on a two-year contract. The contract will keep Lidstrom in a Wings jersey through the 2009-2010 season. In maintaining club policy, additional terms of the contract are not available.

“Nick has been the best defenseman in the world for several years”, said Holland. “He’s a great captain and role model who does everything right both on and off the ice. We’re proud to have him continue as a Red Wing for another two years.”

Monday, December 24, 2007

Hartigan reassigned

After a one-game call-up, forward Mark Hartigan was reassigned to Grand Rapids, Sunday. That means that either Henrik Zetterberg (back spasms) or Tomas Holmstrom (bone bruise in knee) will be on the ice for Wednesday's game in St. Louis ... or Hartigan will be called up on short notice for a fourth time this season.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Nice on ice

Detroit Red Wings assistant coach Paul MacLean looked around the corner in the visitors' locker room in the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. MacLean's default expression is a smile with wide eyes, leaving the impression that he's always got something up his sleeve.
MacLean smiled and called out gruffly, "Sammy. Could you come over here?"
The Red Wings had just beaten the Minnesota Wild, 4-1, with the only goal scored on them being an own-goal. The players were happy. They collectively exhaled knowing that they were soon to board the team plane home, then get their first three-day break in the past four months.
Mikael Samuelsson -- known to everyone on the team as Sammy -- was still on the clock. He excused himself from his conversation with reporters and did what his coach asked.
One moment after Samuelson followed MacLean around the corner to the area in which the players changed clothes; laughter could be heard coming from several players.
Then Samuelsson came back around the corner. Every spot on his face was covered deep in saving cream from hairline to chin.
"I knew this was going to happen," said Samuelsson.
The next person to walk around the corner was Kris Draper, who sported a wide grin. Five minutes earlier, Draper had gotten Johan Franzen with the same trick of placing a shaving-cream laden towel in the face.
"Two in one day," said Draper. "That's impressive.
Draper is the Red Wings' resident birthday celebrator. And birthdays are always celebrated with shaving cream in the face.
Samuelsson and Franzen share a Dec. 23 birthday, but Draper had to get them one day early because the team wouldn't be together that day.
Now here's the importance of shaving cream in hockey … The Red Wings get along.
That's no small thing. We've all worked in environments in which people get along and those in which people do not. Everyone is more productive in a happy workplace.
Admittedly, this is a chicken-egg notion. Are the Red Wings a good team because they get along? Or are the Red Wings getting along because they are doing so well?
Spending time in the locker room, I'll tell you that it's the former. These are good people.
You'll read about some hockey teams having fights in practice and how that's good for their spirit. It's not. A person battles much harder for someone he likes than someone he dislikes. You won't see fights happening with these Red Wings.
On other teams, you might see someone of Pavel Datsyuk's stature rumble or balk at playing wing rather than center.
On other teams, you might see someone as accomplished as Chris Chelios upset at playing a defense-only role. Or see someone who's as gifted of a leader as Chelios -- the man is putting the NHLPA back in order -- wondering aloud why he's not wearing a 'C' or 'A' on his jersey.
On other teams, you might see someone who has performed as well as Chris Osgood -- leading the league in goals-against average, 15 wins in his 18 starts -- complain when he's sitting the bench three games in a row.
On other teams, you might see a promising young scorer like Jiri Hudler discouraged by spending so much time on the fourth line.
Instead, you see shaving cream covered faces, team bowling parties and jokes.
This isn't to say that there aren't disagreements, pettiness and indifference in the Detroit locker room.
This is to say that niceness isn't akin to softness. This is to say that Leo Durocher had it all wrong. Nice guys can finish first. Just look at the NHL standings the past three years.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Bruises happen

I found this to be a funny take on playing net-front by Dan Cleary. With Tomas Holmstrom sidelined with a bruised bone in his knee, Cleary has to pick up more net-front duty.
Unlike Holmstrom, Cleary doesn't wear any padding on the backs of his legs or lower back. Cleary has tried wearing the protection, but isn't comfortable with it when he's not at the front of the net.
"Tommy does; I definitely should," said Cleary. "I just can't get comfortable with it. I tried. Bruises happen."

Zetterberg out

The biggest news from Saturday's morning skate is that Henrik Zetterberg won't play tonight because of back spasms. With Tomas Holmstrom back in Detroit with a bone bruise in his right knee, Mark Hartigan has been called up to give the Red Wings 12 forwards. Hartigan wasn't at the morning skate.
Zetterberg will rest his back over the Christmas break and see how he feels on the other side.
"I'm not too worried," said Zetterberg. "There's been a lot of games played. I feel a little bad today. Hopefully, I get three days off, I'll feel a little better after Christmas. Of course I want to play tonight, but if you think, be a little smart, you get a few days off and hopefully it won't get worse. ... Today was the first time it was bad enough to not go out there. We decided not to play. It's been pretty good lately. Overall for the year, it's been good and bad days, but overall it's been good."
Holmstrom's MRI showed no ligament damage. The bone bruise, however, will keep him sidelined until at least next Wednesday. His status for that game is unknown.
"It's not good, but it's not damaged," coach Mike Babcock said of Holmstrom's knee. "It's a bone bruise. He should be fine."
So the line will be shaken up with Pavel Datsyuk centering the top line with Valtteri Filppula and Dan Cleary.
Here's a look at the probably line combinations ...

DETROIT
Filppula-Datsyuk-Cleary
Hudler-Franzen-Samuelsson
Kopecky-Ddraper-Drake
Ellis-Hartigan-Downey
Lidstrom-Rafalski
Kronwall-Lilja
Lebda-Chelios
Hasek (starts)
Osgood
Meech (healthy scratch)

MINNESOTA
Voros-Demitra-Gaborik
Rolston-Belanger-Bouchard
Veilleux-Moore-Radivojevic
Parrish-Sheppard-Foy
Schultz-Johnsson
Skoula-Hill
Carney-Burns
Harding (starts)
Backstrom

Friday, December 21, 2007

Shoot first, ask questions later

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- There's more to adapting to North American lifestyle than just learning the language and the cuisine of fast food.
There's also the size of the hockey rinks.
Europeans play hockey on a significantly bigger ice surface than those in North America. There's much more room between the faceoff circles and the boards. For a Finn like Red Wing Valtteri Filppula, the overall game is changes greatly when you cross the Atlantic Ocean.
"Rink size is the No. 1 thing," said Filppula. "The first year over here, I learned a lot in the AHL getting used to the size of the rink."
Filppula is still adjusting his game.
Coming over from Finland two years ago, Filppula was a standout in the American Hockey League. Last winter, he was an NHL rookie, a playoff regular on the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
This year, Filppula is the second-line center on the team with the best record in the NHL.
"That's a huge jump," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "When he figures out that when you shoot the puck, you have a better chance to score, he's going to be that much better. … He's kind of like (Pavel) Datsyuk. Datsyuk initially wouldn't shoot the puck ever."
Part of any European's instinct to hold onto the puck is the difference in rink size. There are many spots in the offensive zone of a European rink from where shooting the puck is nothing more than giving up possession.
There is also more north-south skating in the NHL than in Europe, where wider rinks allow for more east-west work with the puck.
The rinks are different enough that when Red Wing prospect Jonathan Ericsson participated in his first training-camp drill after arriving from Sweden, he skated backwards right into the side boards.
"Here, you come over the blue line and you start to have a really good chance to score," said Filppula. "Over in Europe, you're still quite far away. Here you can be at the hash marks and you almost touch the boards. In Europe, you're still a long way away. There's not a lot of shots from those angles. Especially the goalies notice it. The shots come a little different from different angles."
Babcock has been preaching for more shots from the entire team, even though the Red Wings lead the league in shots on goal. He has mentioned several times that Filppula is one of the players who most needs to pull the trigger more often.
Although Filppula's shots on goal per game are up from last season, so is his ice time. The sophomore's shots per minute played is slightly lower than a year ago.
"For me, I tend to look for better chances, but I should shoot from further away and get better chances for a rebound," said Filppula. "That's something I have to do better. You have to shoot to be scoring a lot. A lot of teams really pack it in their end, so there's not much room. You've got to shoot and go get the rebound."
The 23-year-old Finn has three goals in Detroit's last four games, entering Saturday's contest in Minnesota. One of those goals, however was a pass that deflected in off a defender.
Although his shots are not more numerous, Filppula's results have been more plentiful. The center has nine goals through 35 games after scoring 10 goals in 79 games last winter.

Homer update

Tomas Holmstrom flew back to Detroit today instead of traveling to Minnesota with the Red Wings. He'll have an MRI done on the right knee Saturday morning that was injured during Thursday's game in St. Louis. Results of the MRI should be known later Saturday.
Holmstrom's knee was swollen, Friday, and he felt discomfort.
"We don't think it's significant," said general manager Ken Holland.
Holmstrom will not be in the lineup Saturday. Aaron Downey will return to the ice after two games as a healthy scratch, unless a roster move is made.
After Saturday's game, the Red Wings are off until next Wednesday.

Thoughts on Game 35 (3-2 loss in St. Louis)

-- Odd flow to the game. St. Louis started out with an extreme 5-man trap between the blue lines. Detroit popped in two goals against that to take the lead, drawing the Blues out of the trap ... which is when the Blues won the game.
-- David Backes was clearly interfering with Chris Osgood on the winning goal. Referees miss calls and will miss more. But in a season in which Tomas Holmstrom has been haunted by calls on such plays, it's worth noting that Backes got away with one. At the game, you could see it coming. Backes didn't zip into the crease. He slowly backed down. Surprising no-call.
-- Holmstrom (knee) looked hurt as in he might be out for a while. Just a guess, but it didn't look good. The team had no official word after the game.
-- What a bad game for Andreas Lilja. The tying goal was scored with Niklas Kronwall in the box for hauling down Paul Kariya ... a play Kronwall had to make to cover for Lilja's big-time defensive-zone giveaway. Then Lilja is in the box ... for an offensive-zone interference to boot ... on the winning goal.
-- Kris Draper had two early offensive-zone penalties. Not good.
-- On the flip side (no pun), Valtteri Filppula drew two St. Louis penalties.
-- Did you know that Detroit has been shut out only once since the lockout? That's 199 regular-season games. The only one came last season (Feb. 8) in St. Louis. Manny Legace and Curtis Sanford shared time in net.
-- The Blues tried to get their top line (centered by Andy McDonald) on the ice against Filppula's line whenever possible. That's going to happen a lot on the road.
-- Despite the loss, I kind of liked this game. First, it was more entertaining than most games. Second, the Red Wings were challenged, which is what they need for playoff prep. Third, I liked how Johan Franzen, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and the others got chippy and pretty physical. Datsyuk sent Keith Tkachuk flying towards the boards at one point. And Dallas Drake answered the call despite having broken his cheekbone earlier in the season.
And in the end, a seventh regulation loss in Game 35 isn't worth worrying about.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Homer's status unclear

Coach Mike Babcock after Thursday's game on Tomas Holmstrom's right knee injury ...
"We're optimistic that it's not a big deal, but we're not sure until we have our people get a look at it."

Thursday's morning skate

-- Kris Draper will be back in the lineup tonight in St. Louis, despite having been told earlier this week that he wouldn't play back-to-back nights coming back from a strained knee.
"That was the one thing that mentally I didn't want," said Draper. "I didn't want to play a game and have to sit one out, then wait a couple of days to play. This is good. Get right back into it."
Aaron Downey will be a healthy scratch for the second straight night.
-- Chris Chelios skated this morning, but will get the night off just for rest purposes. Derek Meech will be in the lineup tonight.

Probable line combinations ...
DETROIT
Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom
Hudler-Filppula-Samuelsson
Franzen-Draper-Cleary
Ellis-Kopecky-Drake

Lidstrom-Rafalski
Kronwall-Lilja
Meech-Lebda

Osgood (starts)
Hasek

Chelios (healthy scratch)
Downey (healthy scratch)

ST. LOUIS
Kariya-McDonald-Boyes
Rucinsky-Tkachuk-Mayers
Stempniak-McClement-Backes
Perron-R. Johnson-Hinote

Salvador-Brewer
McKee-Jackman
Backman-E. Johnson

Legace (starts)
Toivonen

Monday, December 17, 2007

Monday morning skate

Dominik Hasek will start in net tonight against the Washington Capitals.
Tomas Holmstrom skated with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk and felt fine. Mark Hartigan was sent back to Grand Rapids after Saturday night's game.
Kris Draper skated again. Coach Mike Babcock said that Draper might be back in the lineup Wednesday at home or Thursday in St. Louis.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Homer to return Monday

Forward Tomas Holmstrom (knee) said after Saturday's morning skate that he would be back in the lineup for Monday's home game against Washington. Kris Draper (knee) said that he hopes to get into one or two games before Christmas.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mono sidelines Emmerton

Red Wing prospect Cory Emmerton won't play for Canada at the World Juniors after being diagnosed with mono. Emmerton, the team's top draft pick last summer, was one of 37 players trying out for 22 roster spots at a training camp in Calgary.

http://www.tsn.ca/canadian_hockey/news_story/?ID=225049&hubname=canadian_hockey

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Terrible Twos

One of the most notable things about Detroit's success this season has been how often the team has held opponents to two or fewer goals and how rarely opponents have held Detroit to two or fewer goals.
That cutoff is important because teams' winnings percentages when scoring one or two goals doesn't vary much. The mark of success is avoiding being in such situations.
Right now, the Red Wings have been held to two or fewer goals for in just 20 percent of their games ... a figure that resembles the high-scoring 80s. At the same time, Detroit is holding opponents to two or fewer goals in 67 percent of its games. With 20 such stingy game, the Red Wings have already topped the season total for both the 1988-89 and 1989-90 seasons.

Here's an historical look at the Red Wings and two or fewer goals ...

Two or fewer goals scored
Season... Frequency... Percentage of Games
1987-88... 16... 20.00
1988-89... 21... 26.25
1989-90... 24... 30.00
1990-91... 30... 37.50
1991-92... 20... 25.00
1992-93... 18... 21.43
1993-94... 18... 21.43
1994-95... 10... 20.83
1995-96... 17... 20.73
1996-97... 35... 42.68
1997-98... 31... 37.80
1998-99... 35... 42.68
1999-00... 27... 32.93
2000-01... 31... 37.80
2001-02... 27... 32.93
2002-03... 29... 35.37
2003-04... 30... 36.59
2005-06... 23... 28.05
2006-07... 32... 39.02
2007-08... 6... 20.00

Two or fewer goals allowed
Season... Frequency... Percentage of Games
1987-88... 28... 35.00
1988-89... 18... 22.50
1989-90... 18... 22.50
1990-91... 21... 26.25
1991-92... 24... 30.00
1992-93... 30... 35.71
1993-94... 28... 33.33
1994-95... 29... 60.42
1995-96... 56... 68.29
1996-97... 46... 56.10
1997-98... 43... 52.44
1998-99... 49... 59.76
1999-00... 42... 51.22
2000-01... 47... 57.32
2001-02... 48... 58.54
2002-03... 46... 56.10
2003-04... 55... 67.07
2005-06... 40... 48.78
2006-07... 43... 52.44
2007-08... 20... 66.67

This year's numbers most closely resemble those of the 62-win 1995-96 campaign.

Notes from Wednesday's practice

-- Tomas Holmstrom has a sore knee and won't play Thursday against Edmonton. Holmstrom didn't skate or workout for the past two days to rest his knee. The injury happened during Sunday's game against Carolina and he played with some pain Monday in Nashville.
With Holmstrom not on the ice, these were Wednesday's practice lines ...
Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Samuelsson
Hudler-Filppula-Kopecky
Cleary-Franzen-Drake
Draper-Ellis-Downey
Coach Mike Babcock wouldn't say if he was going to keep Samuelsson on the top line or not tomorrow.
-- Mark Hartigan will be called up. Although Draper practiced on the fourth line (his knee allowed him to do all of the drills), he won't be back in the lineup until after Christmas.
-- Dominik Hasek gets the start tomorrow ... his fourth start in the past five games. Chris Osgood will start Saturday's game against Florida.
-- Kirk Maltby (back) didn't practice again. He saw a specialist Tuesday and was cleared of any significant injury. Maltby was given an epidural to ease the inflammation.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Wings' prospects on the move

DETROIT -- In the past week, two Detroit Red Wing prospects were sent from one junior team to another, three reported for Canada's World Junior Championships tryout camp, one headed to Europe for the World Juniors B tournament and three more were named to play in another international tournament.
And that all added up to good news for the Red Wings as an organization.
"Pressure situations, winning environments … that's what you want," said Detroit vice president and assistant general manager Jim Nill. "You're playing against the best in the world in high-pressure situations. It's the best type of development you can get."
On Sunday, forward Jan Mursak, ranked sixth among Detroit prospects by redwingscentral.com, was traded in the Ontario Hockey League, going from Saginaw to Belleville. The trade does not affect Mursak's status with the Red Wings. He has a contract with Detroit through 2011.
In Belleville, Mursak will be a teammate of former Detroit draft pick Shawn Matthias, whose rights were traded last March to Florida for Todd Bertuzzi.
Four days before Mursak was traded, forward Cory Emmerton ranked fourth among Detroit prospects, was sent from Kingston to Brampton for five draft picks and two players.
Both Mursak and Emmerton improved their chances of participating in OHL playoffs and Memorial Cup with their moves and that pleases Red Wing management.
"They're going to good teams," said Nill. "Both of their teams were not going to make the playoffs. So teams are trying to build themselves up for the playoffs so they're going after some of the better players who are available. Emmerton went for five draft picks and two players. That's a big, big trade. It shows that they're valuable players."
Emmerton was originally selected by Kingston in the fifth round of the OHL draft. He brought two second-rounders, one third-rounder, a fifth-rounder and a sixth-rounder back to Kingston in the trade in addition to two players.
Emmerton is currently in Calgary along with two other Detroit prospects -- defensemen Logan Pyett (Regina) and Brendan Smith (University of Wisconsin freshman) -- as part of 37 players trying to make the 22-man Team Canada roster for the World Junior Championships held later this month in the Czech Republic. Smith, the Red Wings' top draft pick this summer, is ranked fifth among Detroit prospects by redwingscentral.com. Pyett is ranked 13th.
Emmerton is well positioned, starting camp on a line with the top two scorers in the OHL, Oshawa teammates John Tavares and Brett MacLean.
Pyett has an advantage in that he (along with Emmerton) played for Canada in the spring in a junior challenge series against Russia.
Another Detroit prospect, forward Joakim Andersson (ranked 12th in the organization and the team's second draft pick this summer), has already made the Swedish roster for that tournament.
Mursak is on his way to Latvia to play in the World Junior Championships B tournament for Slovenia.
In addition, Daniel Larsson (goalie ranked 17th among Detroit prospects) and Anton Axelsson (forward ranked 20th) were named to Sweden's entry in the Channel One Cup in Russia. Another Detroit prospect, defenseman Miroslav Blatak will play for the Czech Republic in that tournament.

Thoughts on Game 30 (2-1 win in Nashville)

-- Valtteri Filppula irst successful penalty shot for the Red Wings since 1995 when Igor Larionov scored on Artus Irbe. Detroit was 0-for-10 between successful penalty shots.
-- Pavel Datsyuk had a great faceoff night, winning 15-of-22 (68 percent).
-- Aaron Downey was whistled for interference ... after Tomas Kopecky's goal. How can you interfere after a goal? I didn't get to ask Downey after the game what the officials told him. I'll have to remember to ask Downey this week.
-- This was the second straight road game that coach Mike Babcock went with Nicklas Lidstrom-Andreas Lilja and Niklas Kronwall-Brian Rafalski pairings on defense. But he doesn't at home. There must be a matchup that he's getting out of that switch with the other team having last change. I have to figure that one out.
-- It's also the second straight road game that Babcock has split up Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
-- Datsyuk has been on the ice for nine even-strength Detroit goals in the last five games.
-- Chris Mason sat the bench for Nashville, but he wasn't supposed to. Mason was quite sick with the flu and a third goalie was sent for but didn't arrive in time for the game.
-- Funny quote from Chris Osgood about David Legwand pushing into him on Nashville's goals ... "He slid into me but he said Nick (Lidstrom) pushed him. I find that hard to believe because Nick never does anything wrong like that. I know that. That happens. He was driving the net and trying to score. He just slid off his stick. He didn't mean to do it, but still."
-- This was just the sixth time this season that Detroit was held to two goals or fewer. That's 20 percent of the Wings' games. Last season, Detroit was held to two or fewer goals in 39 percent of its games.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Back-to-back

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- All playing fields are not level in professional sports. At least all ice surfaces aren't level in the NHL.
With schedules that spread out three games on average each week, teams have different lead-ins to their head-to-head matchups. The most striking contrast is when one team enters a game having played the night before in another city while its opponent is rested.
Tonight's game in Nashville will be the third time this season that the Detroit Red Wings played on a second consecutive night.
Detroit entered the game with a 0-2-0 record in such contests with a 21-4-2 mark in all other games. Last season, the Red Wings were 4-7-4 in the tail end of back-to-back games and 46-12-9 in all other games.
"Not a lot of players like it," said Detroit's Jiri Hudler of back-to-back games. "When you get that first good shift in though, you feel OK. A couple of shots, start skating, you're ready to go."
Detroit has 14 sets of back-to-back games this season. All 14 include travel between games with none being back-to-back games at Joe Louis Arena.
Detroit has already caught nine opponents on their second game in two nights. Those teams have gone 2-3-0 against the Red Wings with one of those wins coming in a game in which Detroit was also playing its second game in two nights.
This season, Detroit will catch nine opponents on the tail end of back-to-back games, five fewer couplets than the Red Wings have.
"You don't have the same amount of energy, but it's more in your head, I think," said Red Wing Johan Franzen. "You tell yourself that you're feeling good and you're going to play OK."
Some players like Franzen ease up a little in the morning skate the day of a second consecutive game to conserve energy. Others like Brett Lebda shy away from changing their routine.
"I know some guys do, but. I try not to," said Lebda. "I don't mind it. You get in a little rhythm. Sometimes when you get a few days off, it's not the same, especially when you're on a winning streak. Playing back-to-back … you don't want to do it all the time, but I think once in a while is good. Going back-to-back with one at home then one on the road, that's tough. If you have back-to-back at home, it's a little easier."
Lebda played in a different sort of schedule rhythm in college where groups of games were contested on the weekend with weekdays left mostly for practices.
College players, who get in about 35 games per season, have to adjust to professional schedules, especially in the minor leagues. Teams like Grand Rapids not only play during the week, but on occasion will play three games in three nights.
"The first year I was in Grand Rapids, I hit a wall about Game 40 or 50," said Lebda. "Just playing every other day (in the pros) and especially playing three (games) in three (days) in the minors … that's the toughest. I think playing that first year helped me prepare for here more than college helped me to make the next step. Here, you've just got to be ready every day."

Monday's morning skate

-- The Red Wings have added to the titles of Ken Holland and Jim Nill and brought in another executive, Steve Violetta. Holland is now an executive vice president as well as general manager. Nill adds a vice president title to his assistant general manager rank. Violetta comes into the fold from Nashville as senior vice president of business affairs.
-- Optional skate this morning for the Red Wings with less than half the team taking the ice.
Probable lines for tonight's game ...
Detroit
Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom
Hudler-Filppula-Samuelsson
Cleary-Franzen-Drake
Kopecky-Ellis-Downey
Lidstrom-Rafalski
Kronwall-Lilja
Lebda-Chelios
Osgood (starts)
Hasek
Meech (healthy scratch)
Nashville
Erat-Arnott-Dumont
Gelinas-Legwand-Radulov
Smithson-Bonk-Ortmeyer
Hordichuk-Fiddler-Tootoo
Hamhuis-deVries
Zanon-Weber
Suter-Zidlicky
Mason
Ellis

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Thoughts on Game 29 (5-2 win over Carolina)

-- With Carolina not using a fourth line, Tomas Kopecky, Aaron Downey and Matt Ellis were out of the mix for the Red Wings. Downey had one second-period shift lasting 1:12. Ellis had two second-period shifts for four minutes of total ice time. In that one shift, however, Downey was credited with a team-high three hits.
-- Pavel Datsyuk is being used at the start of opposition power plays when the faceoff is in the Detroit zone. Datsyuk takes the faceoff (with Dan Cleary on the ice in case Datsyuk is waved out) and if he wins it, leaves the ice so that Dallas Drake can jump on. Datsyuk went 3-1 on such draws, a remarkable performance against Rod Brind'Amour.
-- Fraser native Chad LaRose looked like he was off his game in his first NHL regular-season appearance at Joe Louis Arena.
-- Jiri Hudler started the season with one assist in eight games, but has 19 points in the 21 games since, including seven goals.
-- Dominik Hasek is 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average since watching six of seven games. His slump is over.
-- Detroit has a power-play goal in each of its last 11 games. The last time the Red Wings had a streak that long was an 11-gamer from March 1-23, 2006. The last time Detroit had a longer streak was a 15-gamer from Dec. 31, 2005-Jan. 30, 2006.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Friday's morning skate

Kirk Maltby (back) didn't skate this morning and won't play tonight against Minnesota. Kris Draper (knee) skated on his own and for a short time with the other Red Wings. Draper will not play tonight either. Today was his first time on the ice since straining his knee.

Hasek starts again

DETROIT -- Dominik Hasek had to wait 12 days between his last two starts.
When the Detroit Red Wings host the Minnesota Wild tonight, Hasek will get his second start in as many games, a sign that the team's No. 1 netminder entering the season is bouncing back into form.
"Even though I haven't played in the last two weeks, I felt great in practices," said Hasek. "I knew I'd come back and I'd be ready. It's great to feel the game situations and see the puck in the game because games are always different. I hope I can play some games in a row and I will feel even better."
Hasek backed up Chris Osgood for six of the seven games prior to his win in Montreal, Tuesday.
Part of the reason is that Hasek has faltered, going 5-5-1 with an .864 save percentage before his start in Montreal. Hasek went three and a half weeks between his last two wins.
And part of the reason is that Osgood has shined, going 13-1-1 with a .924 save percentage. While Osgood has held opponents to two or fewer goals in 12 of his 15 starts, Hasek has managed just six of 12 starts with two or fewer goals allowed.
Hasek, however, looked fine in Montreal, Tuesday, allowing just one goal. Coach Mike Babcock named Hasek the starter for Friday's game after Wednesday's practice.
"Obviously to have two guys who have a history in the league and feel confident about themselves is real important for our team," said Babcock, whose team sits atop the NHL's overall standings. "We're going back with Dom (Friday) against Minny. The guy who's playing the best is going to play."
With nine games in the next 16 days, the Red Wings will have plenty of work to share.
"It's good to play lots this time of year actually," said Osgood. "You get through October and November and it starts to drag a little bit. Playing a lot of games will good for us, get us into a groove."
The switching back and forth between starting goaltenders hasn't strained the pair's relationship.
"Ozzie, he proved a lot through his whole career," said Hasek. "Especially this year, when he was on the ice, he either played a very good game or a great game. He really deserved to play lots of games. I had no regrets for myself when I didn't play last week."
"This isn't a soap opera here," said Osgood. "Our relationship never changes regardless of who's playing or not. We're here to win. That's the bottom line. Our relationship isn't affected by who's playing tomorrow or who's playing the next game. We talk the same, do everything the same as we always have."

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thursday practice update

-- Kirk Maltby (back) didn't skate for the third consecutive day and will not play in Friday's home game against Minnesota.
-- Dominik Hasek will start in net Friday. Coach Mike Babcock said with a glut of games coming up, Hasek and Chris Osgood will likely rotate starts.
-- Kris Draper (knee) will skate tomorrow for the first time since injuring his knee. Draper will take the ice by himself, wearing a brace, before the team's morning skate.

No Maltby

Again, no Kirk Maltby (back) at practice this morning. That's three straight days he hasn't been able to work out with the team since practicing in Montreal, Monday. This makes it unlikely that Maltby will play in Friday's home game against Minnesota.
Kris Draper (knee) also didn't practice and isn't expected back for another week.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Cheli and Montreal embrace

The good people of Montreal know hockey. And they also know that a player cannot play forever, even if his name is Chris Chelios.
So when the Detroit Red Wings finished beating the host Canadiens, Tuesday night, that the local media gave Chelios the game's third star had as much to do with what happened 20 years ago as with what happened two nights ago.
At 45, Chelios might not have many more games left to play in Montreal. He might not have any. With the newly adopted schedule calling for the Red Wings to play a home-and-home series with just three Eastern Conference teams next season, the chance that Detroit will have a game in Montreal next winter is 60 percent.
So giving Chelios the third star in Tuesday's 4-1 Detroit victory was a way to give the legend a way to take a curtain call in front of the fans who cheered for him for seven years.
"It's pretty tough to say goodbye," said Chelios, who mentioned after the game that he was planning a post-game curtain call before hearing his name called as a game star. "Hopefully, that's not it. But I appreciate the ovation before and after the game. My family and my parents thank them from the bottom of my heart."
Before the game, Chelios was part of a celebration of the rivalry between Montreal and Detroit. Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay were called out to center ice as old game highlights played. Jean Beliveau and Dickie Moore came out as well.
Chelios received a loud ovation from the Montreal fans, second only to Beliveau. Chelios started his NHL career in Montreal, winning a Stanley Cup in 1986. He then became part of the downfall of hockey's most famous franchise, being traded in 1990 for Denis Savard.
Savard now coaches in the NHL. Chelios is in his 17th season since leaving Montreal.
"We're a big believer in Detroit that you put people out to pasture too soon," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "The world says you turn 65 and retire. That's not what happens in Detroit. You just keep on playing as long as you make a contribution."
Babcock, however, couldn't resist poking fun at Chelios, who is a year older than his coach. Babcock smiled at the thought of Chelios standing with Beliveau, Howe and Lindsay.
"For him to actually be in his age group for once with those guys out there was nice," said Babcock.
On the same day that Pittsburgh waived 39-year-old Mark Recchi, the fans of Montreal got to pay tribute to Chelios, the man who seems to be cheating time.
The majority of the sold-out crowd was still around even though their team had just been dominated by the Red Wings.
("Cheli had good celebration before the game … We want to keep Cheli happy," said Pavel Datsyuk of the victory.)
When Chelios came out as the third star, the people cheered loudly. Chelios waved. He looked like a man who given a chance to say a sincere thank you.
"I think after all this time, whatever was left there has turned to like now. I can't thank the people enough for being so classy, so gracious," said Chelios. "I couldn't have been any luckier as a young player entering the league with a team like Montreal and just being groomed, taught how to approach it and take care of myself and to represent this game as well as I can."

Emmerton part of OHL trade

Forward Cory Emmerton, Detroit's top draft pick in 2006, was traded from Kingston to Brampton in the Ontario Hockey League, Wednesday. The move puts Emmerton -- an invitee to Team Canada's World Junior Championships training camp -- now has a better chance at competing in the OHL playoffs.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Thoughts on Game 27 (4-1 win in Montreal)

-- Detroit's special teams have been great of late. The Wings have a power-play goal in nine straight games. On the penalty-kill, this was the third straight game that the Red Wings have not allowed a goal and the sixth time in the past nine games. The Wings have outscored their opponents 13-5 on special teams over the past nine games.
-- Dominik Hasek looked fine. Unless he backslides, he's the playoff goalie.
"It's nice to get a winning feeling back, be on the ice," said Hasek, who hasn't had a win in 25 days. "It's something I was missing for the last … I don't know, maybe three weeks since I won my last game. That's a long time. I'm glad to play the game again and win even though it wasn't much work."
-- For more than half of this game, coach Mike Babcock split apart the Heavenly Twins, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Although Datsyuk is much hotter than Zetterberg and the Wings' second leading goal-scorer, Tomas Homlstrom, played on Datsyuk's wing ... the Canadiens matched up their top defense and forwards against Zetterberg's line. It's as if the Habs were playing with a two-month old scouting report.
-- I like how Babcock uses his personnel on special teams like a baseball manager would a closer. If the Wings are short-handed and there's just 15 seconds left to kill, Babcock will throw Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Chelios over the boards even though that will mix up his defense pairings for the next couple of minutes. Babcock wants to lock up the penalty-kill, like bringing in a sure-thing closer.
-- It's difficult to believe that there's another player better than Datsyuk. The last Red Wing I've seen play at this level on both ends was Sergei Fedorov in 1993-94.
"He can do anything," said Hasek of Datsyuk. "I don't think his game has any weaknesses if I look at him. He can shoot slap shot, wrist shot, backhand shots, he can play great defense. Overall, he's a strong player. … He's one of the top three in the NHL, that's my feeling, on both sides of the ice."

Babcock's ties with McGill

MONTREAL -- A swatch of Montreal was with the Detroit Red Wings, Tuesday night, as they played the Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
Bench boss Mike Babcock donned his McGill University tie -- a crimson red neckpiece -- last night. Babcock was captain and team MVP as a player at the downtown Montreal college -- one of Canada's oldest and the Canadian college with the highest entering GPA. He played for the McGill Redmen from 1983-87.
"Being at McGill University was a great growing experience for me," said Babcock. "It was a phenomenal spot. I came here and 20 and left four years later. It had a world of impact on me. There were good people who helped me out along the way."
After the Red Wings practiced in a suburban facility, Monday, Babcock headed to McGill to watch the Redmen practice at their home, McConnell Arena.
"I went to the McGill bookstore," said Babcock. "It was the first thing I did after we were done practicing. I bought three McGill sweatshirts for my kids. I got tired of them wearing the University of Saskatchewan stuff my wife gets them."
After one year of playing professional hockey in Britain, Babcock's playing days were done. One year after leaving McGill, Babcock was hired as head coach at Red Deer College in Alberta. He spent three seasons there before going to the Western Hockey League, then the American Hockey League and then the Anaheim Ducks.
Babcock wore his McGill tie twice before as Red Wings coach, producing a 2-0-0 with that neckware.
Despite being an NHL coach for the past five seasons, this is just Babcock's second game in Montreal during that span. His only other trip to this city was Oct. 29, 2002, with the Anaheim Ducks.
And the result of that game? A tie.

Tuesday morning skate notes

-- Neither Kirk Maltby (back) nor Kris Draper (knee) will play tonight in Montreal. Draper didn't make the trip with the team. Maltby is here, but wasn't able to skate this morning.
-- Coach Mike Babcock was evasive when asked if he was going to split up Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg saying that he doesn't even know what line he's going to start tonight.
"I'm just going to do what I do every night, whatever allows us to be successful," said Babcock. "They'll play together on the power play for sure and whatever matchup works good for us, whether it be Pavel at center and Hank at center … we go back and forth during the game all the time. We'll see what happens."
-- The Montreal media was speculating that Michael Ryder might be a healthy scratch tonight. The two-time 30-goal scorer has three goals in 26 games this season.
-- Carey Price will start in net for the Habs. Christobal Huet hurt his groin in Montreal's last game and won't dress tonight. Jaroslav Halak, the 22-year-old Slovak who went 10-6-0 for Montreal last winter, was called up from Hamilton to back up Price.
-- Montreal's probable lines ...
Higgins-Koivu-Streit
Kostitsyn-Plekanec-Kovalev
Latendresse-Chipchura-Dandenault
Begin-Smolinski-Ryder
Markov-Brisbois
Bouillon-Gorges
Hamrlik-Komisarek
Price (starts)
Halak

Friday, November 30, 2007

Ellis ready to go Saturday

Matt Ellis will be back in the lineup tomorrow night against Phoenix after being out with headaches since the Thanksgiving Day game in Nashville. Mark Hartigan was returned to Grand Rapids after a one-day call-up.
Ellis skated on a line with Tomas Kopecky and Aaron Downey on the wings at Friday's practice.
Kirk Maltby didn't skate for a third consecutive day and probably won't play Saturday. Maltby is out with a back injury.
Chris Osgood will start in net tomorrow, his sixth start in the past seven games. Dominik Hasek will start Tuesday in Montreal.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hartigan demotion

Coach Mike Babcock said after Thursday's win over Tampa Bay that Mark Hartigan would be sent back down to Grand Rapids and that Matt Ellis (concussion) "will be cleared" to play. That means that either Ellis or Kirk Maltby (shoulder) will be back in the lineup for Saturday's game against Phoenix.

Hartigan called up

Mark Hartigan is on the ice for this morning's skate, being called up from Grand Rapids yesterday. Hartigan flew in from Toronto (the Griffins played the Marlies yesterday afternoon) this morning. Kirk Maltby (shoulder) didn't skate for the second consecutive day and won't be in the lineup tonight. Matt Ellis had his first practice with the team since suffering a concussion last Thursday. Ellis might return to the lineup next Tuesday at the earliest.

Lines from this morning's skate ...
Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom
Hudler-Filppula-Samuelsson
Drake-Franzen-Cleary
Kopecky-Hartigan-Downey

In 20 games with Grand Rapids this season, Hartigan had 11 goals and 17 points and was a minus-7. Hartigan has 79 games of NHL experience with Columbus, Atlanta and Anaheim.
Coach Mike Babcock said that assistant general manager Jim Nill tabbed Hartigan as Grand Rapids' top forward thus far. Babcock said that Hartigan's challenge in the NHL is to realize he's not a top-six forward and to produce defensively, on faceoffs and in battles.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wednesday night update

No return call on whether the Wings will call up a forward from Grand Rapids. Perhaps Kirk Maltby (shoulder) will be ready to play Thursday.

Practice update

-- Chris Osgood will start again Thursday. Coach Mike Babcock said after Wednesday's practice that Dominik Hasek will start either Saturday or next Tuesday in Montreal. Which game has yet to be determined.
"While Ozzie's hot, we'd be crazy not to play him," said coach Mike Babcock. "We thought we were going to play Ozzie more this year. It just happened that when Ozzie got playing good, we're going to ride the hot hand. There's no question in our minds what Dom can do. This is kind of like a Roger Clemens contract. He's starting in the second half."
-- Kris Draper's knee sprain will keep him out of the lineup for 10 days to two weeks. Today, he could just ice the knee and sit in the sauna.
"It was harmless," said Draper of the play on which he was injured. "That's the frustrating thing. … I don't know if I just kind of fell on it awkward and there was a twist, something like that. I've been hit a lot worse and been in a lot more vulnerable positions and didn't have anything happen."
Babcock points out the line match-up advantage that the Red Wings have with Draper in the lineup that will be lost against a team like Tampa Bay, Thursday, that has Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis on one line and Brad Richards on another.
"It's not just the penalty-kill," said Babcock. "It's our team. He's a real good faceoff guy. When I play Z and Pav head-to-head with the other guy's top unit, if I don't have them available I've always got Draper. I always have two (lines). Suddenly, you have to do it differently."
-- Kirk Maltby (shoulder) didn't practice. His status is unknown for Thursday. Since the beginning of the 2001-02 season, Maltby has missed just three regular-season games. He has played in 430 of a possible 433 games during the five-plus season span. Maltby has appeared in 187 consecutive games.
"He's had a bit of soreness in his upper body," said Babcock. "I think he'll be fine. Malts hasn't missed one practice since I've been here. If he missed a practice, that's a bit concerning. (Athletic trainer) Piet (Van Zant) doesn't think it's a big deal."
-- Tomas Kopecky (shoulder) has been cleared to play Thursday.
-- If Maltby is unavailable, the Red Wings' current roster has 11 healthy forwards. Babcock said that in that case, the team will either call up a forward or skate with seven defensemen Thursday. Derek Meech practiced up front Wednesday.
-- Matt Ellis (headache) might be available for Tuesday's game in Montreal, according to Babcock. Ellis skated for the first time in nearly a week, taking the ice on his own before practice.
-- Dallas Drake will debut a half-visor Thursday and is thrilled about not having to wear a full shield.

Wednesday practice

No surprise, but Kris Draper (sprained knee) isn't on the ice as practice starts Wednesday. Neither is Matt Ellis (headache). Kirk Maltby isn't on the ice either for an unknown reason.
With the lack of forwards, Derek Meech is practicing up front.
Here are the practice lines ...
Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom
Hudler-Filppula-Samuelsson
Cleary-Franzen-Meech
Drake-Kopecky-Downey
Lidstrom-Rafalski
Kronwall-Lilja
Lebda-Chelios

More to come.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Penalties Drawn

Found a web site that tracks penalties drawn. Thank goodness.
http://forechecker.blogspot.com/
Here are the figures through Sunday. Datsyuk and Zetterberg rank quite high in the league.
DETROIT
Player, Penalties Drawn, Penalties Taken, Penalty Diff.
Forwards
Datsyuk, 15, 2, +13
Zetterberg, 17, 5, +12
Cleary, 8, 3, +5
Drake, 5, 2, +3
Samuelsson, 3, 1, +2
Franzen, 6, 5, +1
Filppula, 4, 3, +1
Hudler, 3, 3, 0
Kopecky, 1, 2, -1
Downey, 2, 3, -1
Ellis, 2, 4, -2
Maltby, 6, 8, -2
Holmstrom, 12, 16, -4
Draper, 7, 14, -7
Defense
Chelios, 2, 5, -3
Rafalski, 1, 5, -4
Lebda, 4, 8, -4
Kronwall, 2, 7, -5
Lidstrom, 0, 6, -6
Lilja, 3, 13, -10
Goalies
Osgood, 1, 0, +1
Hasek, 1, 2, -1

NHL
Forwards

Ovechkin, Wash, 21, 3, +18
Crosby, Pit, 24, 9, +15
Gomez, NYR, 16, 2, +14
Datsyuk, Det, 15, 2, +13
Zetterberg, Det, 17, 5, +12
Defense
Hamhuis, Nash, 7, 3, +4
Finger, Color, 5, 1, +4
Corvo, Ott, 7, 4, +3
Campoli, NYI, 5, 2, +3
Enstrom, Atl, 7, 4, +3
Goalies
Luongo, Van, 4, 0, +4
Legace, StL, 4, 0, +4
Roloson, Edm, 4, 0, +4

Notes from Tuesday's morning skate

-- Matt Ellis (headache) didn't practice but did work out off-ice. Tomas Kopecky (shoulder) participated in the entire practice. Neither has been cleared to play tonight. So here are the lines that Detroit practiced with ...
Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom
Franzen-Filppula-Samuelsson
Cleary-Draper-Maltby
Drake-Hudler-Downey
Lidstrom-Rafalski
Kronwall-Lilja
Lebda-Chelios
Osgood (starts)
Hasek
Meech (healthy scratch)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ozzie to start Tuesday

Coach Mike Babcock said after today's practice that Chris Osgood will be in net against the Calgary Flames, Tuesday night, at Joe Louis Arena. It will be the second consecutive start and fourth in the past five games for Osgood, who is 10-1-1 this season with a league-best 1.66 goals-against average. He's fifth in the NHL with a .930 save percentage.
"The thing about it is you've got to get wins," said Babcock. "When you've got one guy playing well, you've got to play him. ... I didn't think (Hasek) was bad last game, he just didn't win. Ozzie's getting us points, so he gets us the opportunity.
"It's always been to my understanding (that) it's about the team. That's the approach we take with everybody. Dom's been around 100 years. He knows this. He also knows how good he is. I just watched him in practice and he was excellent. The next time he gets an opportunity, he'll be good."
With Dominik Hasek brought in as the starting goalie a year ago, Osgood starting back-to-back games has been a rarity. Before four games ago, the only time that Osgood previously started back-to-back games when Hasek was healthy was the final two games of last season.
This season, however, Hasek is on a three-game losing streak. His numbers -- 5-5-1, 2.90 goals-against average, .864 save percentage -- are much weaker than Osgood's.
"I know I haven't played well, but I feel very good in practice and I feel healthy and that's most important right now," said Hasek. "I was in at the beginning of the year and I didn't play well. Ozzie played great game a few times, most of the time. Right now, I believe when I get back I can play on the highest level again. Then I can play more games in a row, then I will feel even better. ... I have no problem with it.
"Of course I'll be glad to play more games in a row. It makes it easier for me. But this is the way it is."

Ellis not at practice

It's been called a headache by coach Mike Babcock, but perhaps it's more. Matt Ellis isn't on the ice for practice this morning and hasn't skated with the team since leaving Thursday's game in Nashville.
Tomas Kopecky (shoulder) is on the ice, but is taking part in just selected drills.

(Post-practice update: Neither Ellis nor Kopecky has been cleared yet to play Tuesday. When asked if Ellis has a concussion, Babcock answered, "I've never been told that. Obviously, he's not feeling as good as he should be. So we'll be cautious." Kopecky said that he has minor pain and feels ready to play.)

Today's lines ...
Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom
Franzen-Filppula-Samuelsson
Cleary-Draper-Maltby
Drake-Hudler-Downey
Kopecky

Lidstrom-Rafalski
Kronwall-Lilja
Lebda-Chelios
Meech

Osgood (will start Tuesday)
Hasek

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thoughts on Game 23 (3-2 shootout loss in Columbus)

-- Coach Mike Babcock split up Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to start the game, moving Valtteri Filppula to Datsyuk's wing and putting Zetterberg between Johan Franzen and Mikael Samuelsson. He said afterwards he did so because Detroit was too much of a one-line team in Nashville and the pounding taken by a top line is too great through a long season.
By the start of the second period, Detroit was down 2-0. Datsyuk was on the ice for both even-strength goals against. He hadn't been on the ice for an even-strength goal against in eight games.
The Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Tomas Holmstrom unit was reunited for the first power play and scored in eight seconds. Babcock left them together for the ensuing faceoff and they scored in five seconds. They stayed together the rest of the game.
-- Aaron Downey's two fights marked the first time a Red Wing had two fighting majors in a game since Darryl Bootland did so, Nov. 20, 2003, in Columbus. The last time that the entire team had two fighting majors in a game was Oct. 18, 2006, in Anaheim when Brad Norton and Franzen had majors. Franzen didn't get his gloves off or throw a punch, but still got five minutes.
The highlight of Downey's fights came midway through the bout with Jared Boll. Downey desperately pleaded with the linesmen not to intervene, waving them off.
"I was just getting warmed up at that point," said Downey. "It was a good, spirited fight. He can't be hitting guys like Nick Lidstrom and our skill guys. Bottom line. The example has to be set."
-- This game had so many highlights. Chris Osgood's reach-back save with his stick on Rich Nash -- and then Ozzie pushing the rebound away with his glove hand as he sprawled on the ice was magnificent. Then Andreas Lilja dove and blocked a Nikolai Zherdev shot that was headed for an open net.
"It was like street hockey back there," said Osgood. "Guys were diving around. Snow was flying."
-- Babcock was not happy with the Red Wings' performance.
"There is such a fine line in this league now, if you're not going to have your whole team show up, you're not going to win," said Babcock. "It was the first time in a long, long time that we didn't have enough people ready to play and ready to compete. That's unacceptable and that's un-Red Wing like."
-- Andreas Lilja had a remarkable game. The save on Zherdev was his best moment. But he was excellent on the penalty-kill as well. Lilja blocked six shots, matching the team total for Columbus. He has 37 blocks this season to lead Detroit.

Fastest ever

When Tomas Holmstrom and Pavel Datsyuk scored five seconds apart in the second period in Columbus, tonight, they broke a franchise record first set 71 years ago. Syd Howe and Larry Aurie held the old mark of seven seconds, set on Nov.5, 1936, against Toronto.
That seven-second mark was matched on Nov, 25, 1987, when Jeff Sharples and Gerard Gallant scored against Winnipeg.
The NHL record for fastest two goals by one team is three seconds set by Jim Dowd and Richard Park of Minnesota, Jan. 21, 2004.

Ryno packs bags

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Grand Rapids Griffins have lost a second top Detroit Red Wings' forward prospect in the past month.
Johan Ryno, a 21-year-old 6-foot-5 forward, will leave North America Sunday to return to Sweden with the blessing of the Red Wings. A month ago, Igor Grigorenko opted to go home to Russia rather than accept an assignment to Grand Rapids.
"If a player doesn't want to be here, doesn't think he's ready to be here, in our minds … he's a 21-year-old kid, a 21-year-old boy," said Detroit general manager Ken Holland. "He might as well go back and hope he's a player at 24, 25. It's hard to make the NHL when you're 22, 23. We've agreed to go along with what the player and agent want."
The NHL's collective bargaining agreement changed two years ago, forcing teams to either sign their European prospects after two years or lose their rights. In the old CBA, teams could keep NHL rights to a European player indefinitely.
Ryno was signed by the Red Wings this past summer when several other prospects were allowed to drift out of the system. The big winger had a strong training camp in Traverse City and was assigned to Grand Rapids.
With the Griffins, Ryno has three goals and seven points in 12 games. His plus-3 is second on the team. He has 20 shots on goal, which ranks just eighth among Griffins forwards. Ryno has been scratched five games.
Ryno is ranked No. 11 among the Red Wings' prospects by redwingscentral.com.
Ryno and his agent have called Detroit assistant general manager Jim Nill several times over the past 10 days, asking to be allowed to play the rest of the season in Sweden citing both on- and off-ice lack of comfort in North America.
"Some players mature a little earlier than others," said Holland. "It's been a struggle in Grand Rapids. We've got a lot of kids there. He's been in the lineup, out of the lineup. We've liked what we've seen of him. It's been the inconsistent play that a lot of young players have.
"From our end of things, there's really no guarantee that he's going to go back to Sweden and play regularly there. It's not like he was an established player over in Sweden. But ultimately, the player feels very very very strongly that he wants to go home. If a player doesn't want to be here, ultimately we agree with the player."
Ryno is long on potential and short on experience. Detroit's director of European scouting, Hakan Andersson, rated Ryno as having tremendous up-side during September training camp.
Ryno, however, has had injuries and has played at lower levels of the professional game. This past summer was the first in which he has been healthy enough to train fully to prepare for the regular season.
Last winter, he played 29 of his 43 games in Sweden's top professional level. Before that, he played either second- or third-tier or junior hockey.
"Ideally, we'd like him to stay, but sometimes Europeans … some are ready early and some need more time to mature," said Holland. "It's an individual basis. The rules have changed. In the old CBA, you drafted a European, you basically owned their rights for the rest of their life. You could leave them there like we did with (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg until they were mature and were fairly dominant players on their team and league."

Notes from Saturday's morning skate

-- Tomas Kopecky and Matt Ellis will not play tonight. Ellis is back home in Detroit after experiencing headaches from a hit in the Nashville game, Thursday. Kopecky has a shoulder injury and isn't practicing on the ice, but is with the team and doing off-ice workouts. Coach Mike Babcock said that both might be available for Tuesday's home game. Kopecky said that he'd be ready either Tuesday or Thursday.
-- With those two forwards out, the fourth line tonight will be Dallas Drake, Jiri Hudler and Aaron Downey. Hudler will play center for the first time since coming to North America.

Tonight's probable lines ...

DETROIT
Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom
Franzen-Filppula-Samuelsson
Cleary-Draper-Malty
Drake-Hudler-Downey
Lidstrom-Rafalski
Kronwall-Lilja
Lebda-Chelios
Osgood (starts)
Hasek
Meech (healthy scratch)

COLUMBUS
Nash-Peca-Zherdev
Chimera-Malholtra-Boll
Glencross-Fedorov-Fritsche
Shelley-Novotny-Vyborny
Hejda-Foote
Hainsey-Klesla
Tollefsen-Westcott
Leclaire
Norrena

Prospect Johan Ryno to leave GR, head home to Sweden

Detroit prospect Johan Ryno will leave the Grand Rapids Griffins tomorrow, opting to play in his native Sweden.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thoughts on Game 21 (3-0 win vs. St. Louis)

-- The second line, Valtteri Filppula, Johan Franzen and Mikael Samuelsson, had its best game of the season. The three were flying and being physical. Franzen was especially difficult to play against. At least one of those guys deserved to be one of the game's three stars.
-- Pavel Datsyuk's defense deserves more respect than it gets. Picking Bryce Salvador's pocket from behind was brilliant. He's also one of the best at defensive rebounding. There's a stat we need.
-- Franzen has knocked Filppula off the second power-play unit up front and Samuelsson has knocked Brett Lebda aside on the blue line.
-- Dominik Hasek has complained that the lack of shots makes it difficult to play net for the Red Wings. Chris Osgood doesn't seem to be bothered by it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No hire yet

A report in the Tennessean that the Red Wings have hired a new vice president of business affairs is premature, according to a source inside the Red Wings. The position is a new one for the Red Wings and interviews have been conducted. No one has been hired yet.
The Tennessean reported that Steve Violetta, the Predators' vice president of business affairs, has been hired. Violetta is a Detroit native.

http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071121/SPORTS02/71121041/1028

Kopecky hurt

Tomas Kopecky suffered a shoulder injury during the second period, tonight, and will not return to the game. Kopecky hurt himself when he reached up with his right arm for a high puck and slammed into the boards. He said that the hurt continued to increase as he played, so it was decided that he would skip the third period of a 3-0 game.
Kopecky said that doctors initially thought it to be a problem in the muscle, which could just require a short rest. He'll test the arm in Nashville, Thursday. Coach Mike Babcock said that Kopecky is day-to-day and likely will not play Thursday.

Probable lines

For tonight's home game against St. Louis.

Detroit
Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom
Franzen-Filppula-Samuelsson
Cleary-Draper-Maltby
Hudler-Kopecky-Drake
Lidstrom-Rafalski
Kronwall-Lilja
Lebda-Chelios
Osgood (starts)
Hasek
Ellis (healthy scratch)
Downey (healthy scratch)
Meech (healthy scratch)

St. Louis
Kariya-Tkachuk-Boyes
Stempniak-Weight-Perron
Rucinsky-R.Johnson-Mayers
Hinote-McClement-M.Johnson
Salvador-Brewer
Wagner-Backman
Jackman-E.Johnson
Legace
Toivonen

Red Wings work on PK

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings spent a portion of their Tuesday practice at Joe Louis Arena, working on one of their few weaknesses in a 14-5-1 season -- 5-on-3 penalty killing.
You could call the two-man advantage a hidden statistic because all power plays are dumped into the same grouping, be they a 5-on-4 or 5-on-3. But the difference between the two is significant.
Teams have a much greater rate of scoring on a 5-on-3 than a 5-on-4, scoring more than four times more often with a two-man advantage than a one-man advantage -- a league average of 25.1 goals per 60 minutes compared to 5.9 goals per 60 minutes.
"Everybody's expecting a goal when it's 5-on-3," said Detroit's Valtteri Filppula. "That's why every time you kill a 5-on-3, it gives you an extra boost."
The Red Wings are ranked 11th in the NHL in penalty killing. But if you break that down into types of PK situations, the Red Wings' efficiency becomes polarized.
Down one man, the Red Wings are seventh in the league in terms of goals allowed per 60 minutes (4.1). Down two men, however, the Red Wings rank 29th in the league in goals allowed per 60 minutes (47.9), are 27th in time on ice (7.5 minutes) and 30th in goals allowed (six).
Six goals against -- two more than the next worst total -- might not sound like much, but that's 12 percent of the total goals allowed by Detroit this season.
So yesterday, the Red Wings worked on positioning while defending 5-on-3s and rotation.
"You have to try to be in shooting lanes," said Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom. "When there's a shot, you have to have all three players come down and help out with the rebound. When you're two men down, someone's going to be open all the time. It takes a lot from your goalie and your guys on the ice to be willing to block shots and fill shooting lanes."
Lidstrom, Chris Chelios are the two defensemen that coach Mike Babcock wants on the ice when down two men with Andreas Lilja also seeing significant ice time. Kris Draper or Henrik Zetterberg usually mans the one forward spot.
With the many whistles that have formed a soundtrack for the post-lockout NHL, 5-on-3 hockey has become a more prominent part of the game than it was five years ago.
"Post-lockout, I think the referees aren't afraid to call it whenever it's a penalty," said Lidstrom. "Even if it might be a stick coming up with a little bit of a hook, they're going to call it. I think they've been pretty consistent about it. They've been told by the league to call everything. You know even if you're down a player, you can't take any liberties. I think it's good that they're being consistent."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ozzie starts again Wednesday

Coach Mike Babcock said after today's practice at Joe Louis Arena that Chris Osgood will start in net, Wednesday, against the St. Louis Blues. Dominik Hasek will get the nod for Thursday's game in Nashville.
"He (Osgood) is playing good ... simple," said Babcock. "To me, he's earned the right. Dom has another practice with Jimmy (goalie coach Jim Bedard) to get his game to where he wants and he'll be going the next night in Nash(ville)."
This is the second consecutive start for Osgood.
Other notes from practice ...
-- Matt Ellis and Aaron Downey were the odd forwards out. Downey worked in with the fourth line of Jiri Hudler, Tomas Kopecky and Dallas Drake. Ellis worked in with the second line of Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula and Mikael Samuelsson.
-- The Wings spent one segment of practice on 5-on-3 defense.
-- Samuelsson tweaked something in his leg, going down to the ice for a few seconds, but didn't miss a drill.

Goals per 60 minutes

One of my favorite stats is how a team performs (goals for/against) with an individual on the ice in either even-strength, power-play or short-handed situations. Each player leaves a fingerprint. With Kirk Maltby on the ice, the Red Wings don't score often, but don't give up many goals.
Here are how the Red Wings have fared through 20 games. The numbers represent goals for and against per 60 minutes of ice time.

Even Strength
Red Wings 2.9-1.7
Forwards GF-GA
Ellis 4.4-1.8
Datsyuk 4.0-1.2
Zetterberg 3.8-1.5
Holmstrom 3.7-1.4
Hudler 3.6-2.3
Cleary 3.5-2.3
Kopecky 3.4-1.3
Samuelsson 2.9-2.0
Filppula 2.2-1.7
Draper 2.1-2.1
Maltby 2.0-1.5
Downey 1.6-0.0
Drake 0.7-5.1
Franzen 0.0-1.2
Defensemen
Lidstrom 4.2-1.0
Kronwall 3.2-2.5
Lebda 3.0-1.5
Rafalski 2.9-1.2
Chelios 2.1-1.6
Lilja 1.9-3.0
Meech 1.1-2.1

Power Play
Red Wings 8.4-
Forwards
Holmstrom 11.3-2.7
Zetterberg 10.4-2.6
Datsyuk 10.0-2.5
Samuelsson 7.8-1.6
Hudler 6.2-2.5
Cleary 4.5-1.1
Filppula 4.3-2.9
Defensemen
Rafalski 9.6-1.8
Lebda 8.1-1.6
Lidstrom 7.9-2.8
Kronwall 6.4-3.8

Short-Handed
Red Wings -6.1
Forwards
Cleary 1.1-3.2
Filppula 0-3.6
Franzen 0-4.1
Drake 0-4.2
Datsyuk 0-5.1
Maltby 0-5.2
Draper 0.9-5.6 (2 5-on-3s)
Zetterberg 0-8.0 (4 5-on-3s)
Defensemen
Rafalski 0-1.3
Lilja 1.0-4.9 (3 5-on-3s)
Kronwall 1.7-6.7 (1 5-on-3)
Lidstrom 0-7.2 (4 5-on-3s)
Chelios 0-7.6 (4 5-on-3s)

Note that 5-on-3s count the same as 5-on-4s and shouldn't. I'll find a way to extract individual ice time in the future. Those players with 5-on-3s against should rank higher than they currently do.

How does Detroit compare with other teams in GF-GA per 60 minutes? Here's a very cool chart from behindthenet.com ...
http://www.behindthenet.ca/2007/team_data3.php

Monday, November 19, 2007

First-quarter grades

DETROIT -- Chicago is not the Detroit Red Wings' kind of town. It might be a toddlin' town, but it's not a town that easy to get a win.
That has been the only bad news for the Red Wings in a big-picture sense during the first quarter of the NHL season.
Through their first 20 games, the Red Wings' 14-5-1 record is best in the Western Conference and trails only the Ottawa Senators in the overall standings. Although the Red Wings are 0-3-1 against Chicago, they're 13-2-1 against the rest of the league with a power play that ranks sixth overall (22.1 percent) and a penalty-kill unit that ranks 11th (83.6 percent).
The Red Wings are on track to reach the playoffs for the 17th consecutive season and win their seventh consecutive Central Division title, providing that Chicago doesn't start beating the rest of the league as often as it beats the Red Wings.
Within that team consistency, however, are several individual swings that have marked the first quarter of the season as unique.
Here are individual grades for performances over the first 20 games. The focus of the grade is overall contribution. Thus if someone plays in just five games -- either because of injury or being scratched -- his grade will be low.

Goalies
Dominik Hasek C-: A .859 save percentage? A 5-4-1 record with this team? Either Hasek is in a lengthy slump of age has caught up to him. He's coughing up more rebounds than usual. How's this for an odd stat … although he has split time with Chris Osgood, Hasek has been in net for all five goal allowed by Detroit while on the power play. (One other occurred with Detroit's goalie pulled.) Hasek has a .737 save percentage with Detroit on the power play.
Chris Osgood A: Osgood is clearly the better goalie right now. But with Hasek in line to be the playoff goalie, Osgood is part of a goalie rotation. Osgood finally had his 20-game streak without a regulation loss snapped, but still finished the first quarter with a 9-1-0 record and a .931 save percentage. He's one of the top netminders in the league through 20 games.

Defensemen
Chris Chelios B:
Chelios no longer hits … he's 14th among Detroit regulars with just a dozen. He gives the puck away too often (tops among defensemen with 14). But that's about all that you can put on the minus side of his ledger. Chelios is still above average at even strength, often being bumped up to the second blue-line pairing when Andreas Lilja falters. And he's wonderful on the penalty kill.
Niklas Kronwall C: Foremost, Kronwall had just one injury (groin) that caused him to miss four games. That's good by Kronwall standards. The offensive contributions, however, aren't there (one goal, five points). Kronwall is versatile, being one of only five Wings to log more than two minutes per game of both power-play and short-handed time. (Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Henrik Zetterberg and Dan Cleary are the others.) But the even-strength pairing with Lilja isn't working. Kronwall has been on the ice for 10 even-strength goals against. Only Lilja has been on for more.
Brett Lebda B-: In three years, Lebda has gone from surprise NHLer to an every-game player. At even strength, the Red Wings have outscored opponents 14-7 with Lebda on the ice. A member of the second power-play unit, the Red Wings have scored as many goals per 60 minutes of ice time with Lebda (8.1) as they have with Lidstrom (7.8).
Nicklas Lidstrom A+: With point-a-game production and a team-best plus-14, Lidstrom is off to a better start than he has the past couple of years, begging the question: Do they need to create a higher honor than the Norris Trophy? Detroit has outscored opponents 25-6 at even strength with Lidstrom on the ice, which translates to a 4-1 score per 60 minutes. Here's a freak stat for Lidstrom … while he's been on the ice for only six even-strength goals against, he's been on the power play for five short-handed goals against. There's a small area to work on.
Andreas Lilja C-: Lilja didn't deserve the fan criticism he received the past two seasons. This season, however, Lilja is off to a bad start. Detroit has been outscored 14-9 with Lilja on the ice at even strength, which isn't easy to do on this team. Those 14 goals against are four more than the next highest Red Wing, his partner, Kronwall. On the plus side, Lilja does lead the team in hits (40) and blocked shots (29). And he might be the team's best penalty killer at defense. Lilja has been on the ice for just two 5-on-4 goals against. (Lidstrom has been on for eight, Chelios for eight and Kronwall for three.)
Derek Meech C-: After being a healthy scratch in the first 11 games, Meech got into six of the last nine games and fared well. Meech has been coddled, getting less than 10 minutes of ice time in five of his six games and totaling just 15 seconds of special teams time. But Meech has shown that he can move the pass via pass or skating and is a very good positional player. He's an NHLer, which was the question entering the seasons.
Brian Rafalski B+: Rafalski has contributed nicely offensively with 17 points with 11 coming on the power play. He's fourth on the team with a plus-7 and he eats up ice time, which was imperative when Kronwall was injured. He has been on the ice for 16 of the team's 21 power-play goals. But Rafalski has shown defensive shortcomings with occasional turnovers. He also seems to be weaker in transition defense than in defensive-zone coverage, getting burned on challenges.

Forwards
Dan Cleary B+:
Cleary hasn't drawn much notice, but he should. You'd stump many with these questions: Who's third on the Red Wings in goals scored (Cleary with six); who's sixth in scoring (Cleary with 11 points; and who is the only Red Wing other than Lidstrom with at least 53 minutes of ice time on both the power play and penalty-kill (Cleary)? He and Kris Draper have been the top two penalty killers up front. Opponents average just 3.2 power-play goals per 60 minutes with Cleary on the ice compared with 6.1 goals against for the Red Wings as a team.
Pavel Datsyuk A+: The best one-on-one player in the world. About the only shortcoming to Datsyuk's first quarter is that he scored just four goals. But he's the sort of player who can turn a game around with a goal like he did in Columbus, Sunday. Datsyuk leads the league in takeaways (33) -- a category he led the league in last season. He's also Detroit's top shot-blocking forward (10). No Detroit forward has been on the ice for fewer even-strength goals against per 60 minutes (1.2) than Datsyuk. At the same time, no regular has been on the ice for more even-strength goals scored per 60 minutes (4.0). Datsyuk also leads the Red Wings in penalties drawn.
Aaron Downey C+: Downey has done nothing wrong. He just hasn't been given a lot of opportunity. In his nine games, Downey is a plus-1. He has played the role of policeman well, taking on Kyle McLaren and Rob Davison. Downey is also a rah-rah guy whose locker room humor keeps his teammates smiling. In 37:27 of even-strength ice time, he has yet to be on the ice for an opposition goal.
Dallas Drake D: The grade is not for alliteration's sake. Drake has had a nightmare start to the season. The worst part was being run head-first into the boards by McLaren (see Downey), fracturing Drake's cheekbone. After a very good preseason, Drake's regular-season start saw him tally no goals and one assist in the 14 games when he wasn't injured or a healthy scratch. On top of that, Drake is a team-worst minus-6 … the Red Wings have been outscored 7-1 at even strength with him on the ice.
Kris Draper B: Draper had a Cy Young start to his season with a 5-0 scoring line through seven games. Draper hasn't scored a goal since then, but has four assists in the past 13 games. His penalty killing is even better than it was last winter. Despite being on the ice for loads of 5-on-3 penalty killing time, opponents on a power play still score at the rate of just 5.6 goals per 60 minutes with Draper on the ice. (The team average is 6.1 goals against per 60 minutes.)
Matt Ellis B-: Ellis was a last-day addition to the roster at the end of training camp with he and Downey being the 22nd and 23rd roster spots settled. Now, it's difficult to imagine Ellis playing anywhere else. The rookie has two goals, four points and is a plus-3 in his 12 games. The most impressive thing about Ellis' play is that the Red Wings have been able to score at even strength with him. A good fourth line doesn't score often, but doesn't allow many goals against. That was Josh Langfeld last season. That's Aaron Downey this season. But with Ellis on the ice, the Red Wings are outscoring opponents 4.4-1.8 per 60 minutes. That's more goals per minute than with any other player on the ice.
Valtteri Filppula B-: Filppula has been getting knocked down and around more often this year than last. The young Finn with smarts and talent has been given significant opportunities this season, but hasn't cashed in yet. Filppula has centered the second line for most of the season (he started as the third-line center) and has the sixth most ice time among forwards. But his offense -- three goals, seven points, plus-2 -- is not that far ahead of lesser used forwards like Kirk Maltby and Ellis. Right now, the Wings' attack with Filppula on the ice (2.2 goals per 60 minutes of even-strength time) is similar to that with Draper and Maltby on the ice. The team needs that to rise to what Robert Lang produced last season.
Johan Franzen C-: Franzen has had a similar start to that of Drake, but with a better defensive record. The Mule was sidelined by a knee injury then a severe gash to his forehead. In his 10 games, not only is Franzen without a goal or assist, the Red Wings are without a goal in his 102 minutes of even-strength ice time. On the flip side, Franzen has been on the ice for only two goals against and Game 20 was the first in which the opposition scored a power-play goal with Franzen on the ice.
Tomas Holmstrom A: It's tempting to knock Holmstrom's grade down to an A- because of all of the penalties he has taken (team worst 14 minor penalties). But how do you penalize a guy (no pun intended) for referees' mistakes? Holmstrom has been the victim of several poor goalie interference calls. As it stands, Holmstrom is second on the team with 11 goals. His career has gone from fourth-line time to a point-a-game first-liner. As for the power play, 17 of Detroit's 21 goals have come with Holmstrom on the ice. If puck control is the Red Wings' signature, Homer's net-front play comes a close second.
Jiri Hudler B+: Hudler has clearly become the Red Wings' most dangerous offensive forward outside of the top line. Bounced between the fourth and second lines, given power-play remnants of the second unit, Hudler has produced five goals and 10 points and is a plus-2 in 20 games. Hudler not only knows how to put the puck in the net, but where to be on the ice offensively and defensively. The only downside to his season has been that he's been on the ice for seven even-strength goals allowed (and 11 goals for), which is a higher rate than the team average and worse rate than Hudler had last season.
Tomas Kopecky B-: First off, you've got to love the fight that Kopecky had in Chicago … designed to get the Wings jump started. His first NHL fight puts Kopecky third on the Wings this season behind Drake (three) and Downey (two). The young Slovak gets no special-teams time and his ice time per game is lower than that of anyone other than Ellis and Downey. But he's figured a way to contribute. Kopecky can bang a little and when he gets the puck in the offensive zone, he's dangerous. The Red Wings have outscored opponents at even strength 7-3 with Kopecky on the ice.
Kirk Maltby B-: Maltby is having a better season that a year ago. First off, he's a plus-2. Last season, Maltby was a team-worst minus-9. The season before, he was a team-worst minus-9. Two seasons ago, Maltby was a team-best plus-24. Go figure. The biggest reason for Maltby's improved plus-minus this season is on the offensive end. For two years, the Red Wings haven't been able to score with Maltby on the ice. This season, Detroit averages 2.0 goals per 60 even-strength minutes with Maltby out there with the team average being 2.9. That might not sound like much, but for a defensive forward, that's enough.
Mikael Samuelsson B: Samuelsson's stats have snuck up on us all. The big Swede has missed four games, but is sixth on the team with 11 points. Samuelsson has been in and out of the second power-play unit, playing both up front and on the point. His best trait is that he can get a shot on goal from anywhere and make it dangerous. On a team full of passers and grinders, that's important. Only Zetterberg gets off more shots.
Henrik Zetterberg A+: Zetterberg's phenomenal start has drawn raves internationally. Who am I to disagree? He's become a remarkable scorer with points in 19 of the 20 games. He leads the team with 14 goals and 30 points and is a plus-9 to boot. There was a time when Zetterberg would rather pass than shoot. Now, he rivals Brendan Shanahan for turning games into shooting galleries. Zetterberg doesn't have a flaw in his game, including defensive presence and being good in the faceoff circle. Zetterberg is second on the team to Datsyuk in takeaways (16). He's the Wings' first legitimate MVP candidate in years.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thoughts on Game 20 (5-4 shootout win in Columbus)

-- Brian Rafalski isn't defending well in transition. He's fine in defensive-zone coverage, but forwards get around him too easily on the rush.
-- Tomas Holmstrom is back to playing net-front like a goalie. Thank goodness. He was either the screen or deflection on the first three Red Wing goals.
-- Andreas Lilja had a rough night. He was in the penalty box for Columbus' second and third goals and on the ice for the fourth. In the third period, he was demoted to the third defense pairing along with Brett Lebda. Chris Chelios was bumped up to play with Niklas Kronwall.
-- This was the most shots allowed (40) by the Red Wings this season. The previous high was 30.
-- Goofy benches in Columbus with a gap near one end. Three defensemen sit on a short bench and the fourth sits on the long bench with the forwards.
-- Loved seeing Pavel Datsyuk's enthusiasm when he scored the tying goal late in the third.

Downey's double play

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It was a double play worthy of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance. But Aaron Downey did it all by himself.
Late in the first period of the Detroit Red Wings' 5-4 shootout victory in Columbus, Sunday, Downey found himself hurtling towards the Blue Jackets' net after contact with a defender.
So Downey did what any self-respecting four-line mucker would do … he collided with goalie Pascal Leclaire, then gave the netminder a shot to the mask with his left hand that went undetected. That led to Leclaire punching Downey with his glove, then Jody Shelley punching Downey, then Shelley pushing the Columbus net off its moorings.
When the sequence was done, Columbus had two penalties -- Leclaire for roughing and Shelley for delay of game -- and Detroit had none.
On one play, Downey drew two penalties. On the ensuing power plays, Detroit scored two goals to take a 2-1 first-period lead.
"It was an opportunity," said Downey. "I tried to shove it on my backhand and I went into the net. There was just a little opportunity to give Leclaire a little jab with my left hand. I think that really bothered him a little bit. He hit me with his blocker. I think Jody Shelley saw me hit him, so Shelley he lost it. He came in and sucker-punched me. As soon as Shelley hit me a second time, I knew there'd be a second penalty. I just tried to keep my composure and get back to the bench.
"Drawing penalties is one thing I've done good over the years. I want to show that I can keep doing that here. It's kind of a chess game out there. The game nowadays is who makes mistakes."
It was also redemption for Downey who was called for goaltender interference earlier in the first period. That infraction led to the Blue Jackets taking a 1-0 lead.
"It's not a very good feeling when you get a penalty, they score and you're going across the ice," said Downey. "You seriously think about packing it in and heading home. It's got to be the longest skate of your life."
That was part of a long night for Leclaire, who faced 35 shots and saw his record drop to 8-4-1. Midway through the second period, Leclaire was pulled for 3:07 to get a lecture from coach Ken Hitchcock on the bench.
"He told me to calm down," said Leclaire. "Maybe I was a little back in my net. Sometimes it happens and you don't realize it. They created a lot of traffic, so maybe that was the tendency."

Wings lineup in Columbus

Looks like these will be the lines ...

Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom
Franzen-Filppula-Samuelsson
Cleary-Draper-Malbty
Hudler-Kopecky-Downey

Lidstrom-Rafalski
Kronwall-Lilja
Lebda-Chelios

Osgood (starts)
Hasek

Ellis (healthy scratch)
Drake (healthy scratch)
Meech (health scratch)

Ozzie gets the start

Chris Osgood will start tonight in Columbus. Pascal Leclaire will be in net for the Blue Jackets.
Also, there are 13 forwards on the ice for the pregame skate, including Aaron Downey. Dallas Drake and Derek Meech are not on the ice for the warmup. Chris Chelios is back in the lineup after a one-game rest.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Blogs are fine by me

My name is Bruce. And I too am a blogaholic.
I prefer to not give you my last name because frankly, I'm afraid of the ridicule. Many of my media brethren look down upon those of us who like to take a quick swig of blog right after dinner or mix a little blogs in with our morning coffee as a morning pick-me-up.
I started reading blogs a couple of years ago and it's gotten to the point that I can't remember the last day that I made it through without tasting at least one blog.
My peers look at bloggers as non-journalists … and believe it or not, that's a slam. They point out that very few bloggers have primary information, instead being so removed from the dressing room that they act as collection houses of information first posted by beat reporters. Commentary thus becomes the only unique part of the blog. My beat-writer peers fear that their blogs will have fewer hits (yes, we speak the language) because that information can be found on other sites.
Sometimes, however, beat writers sound about as up-to-date as the beat generation.
Personally, I read blogs daily. There's lots of good stuff there and lots of garbage, kind of like movies or TV shows or newspapers.
The vast majority of blogs are done by people who aren't beat writers or in the media or journalists. I'm not sure why journalists feel the need to inform the world of this. I know it. My friends who aren't journalists know it. It's pretty obvious and it's an unreadable blog if someone is passing themselves off as something they are not.
Blogs are a collection house of information and links to primary sources. Nothing wrong with that, in fact that allows me to get more done with my time on the Internet than if I never read blogs.
And blogs do offer commentary and that's a good thing too. I've read dozens of newspaper columns this year about the Red Wings from columnists who haven't been to many -- if any -- of the games. I'm not sure what the difference is.
Journalists slamming bloggers is actually a variation of the slam that journalists loath … athletes slamming journalists. It's about a lack of training. Journalists, like me, give grades to athletes every season, often multiple times within one season. Who am I to grade Pavel Datsyuk or Dominik Hasek? I have no training in hockey other than a handful of lackadaisical house-league coaches and many, many, many hours of watching games on television. Now I've been given training in libel, crediting sources and grammar, but they pay me to grade professional athletes. In fact, my bosses require it of me.
Most bloggers don't have journalistic training, but them collecting internet information is no more a reach than me dissecting Brett Lebda's game.
I also think that there's been a lot of discussion about bloggers without clear definition. Blogs are not forums. Some of the comments by trained journalists are obviously made about forum posts -- comments left by readers of blogs -- but read as though they're comments made about blogs. Wild speculation and banter about stuff like what happened to Joel Zumaya's arm often appear in forum posts -- often anonymous -- are rarely in blogs. To hang bloggers for forum posts is like hanging a journalist for a letter to the editor.
I have another reason to enjoy blogs. As do most beat writers, I have a blog myself. Unlike most beat writers, I see a direct connection between seeing my blog referenced in other blogs and hits on my site. Blogging is a community that sells its own wonderfully just by starting and continuing discussions.
When I see a reference to my blog on another blog, I don't think that steals my thunder. I see it as hundreds of people clicking on a link, finding my blog.
I hate to admit it, but I'm addicted to those hits.
My name is Bruce and I'm a blogaholic. And since I'm not looking for a cure, what am I doing here?