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, October 29, 2007

Penalties Drawn

A stat I've posted for the past couple of seasons, here's an early look at the Red Wings and penalties drawn (without coincidentals) ...
Datsyuk 9
Holmstrom 8
Zetterberg 8
Draper 5
Drake 4
Filppula 3
Cleary 3
Ellis 2
Kopecky 2
Lilja 2
Hudler 2
Maltby 2
Chelios 1
Downey 1
Franzen 1
Kronwall 1
Lebda 1
Samuelsson 1

How does that compare with the others in the league? Thanks to the NHL's new play-by-play format that includes penalties drawn, here's a look at the league leaders (through Sunday) by position ...
Crosby, Pit, 12
Cammalleri, LA, 11
Gomez, NYR, 11
Kopitar, LA, 11
Ovechkin, Wash, 11
Thornton, SJ 11
Afinogenov, Buf, 9
Brind'Amour, Car, 9
Datsyuk, Det, 9
Malone, Pit, 9
Ruutu, Chi, 9

Phaneuf, Cal, 9
Green, Wash, 6
Komisarek, Mon, 6
O'Donnell, Ana, 6
Aucoin, Cal, 5

Fleury, Pit, 3
Legace, StL, 3
9 tied, 2

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Kronwall out

A groin injury kept Niklas Kronwall off the ice for the final eight minutes of Friday's win over San Jose and it will keep him out of tonight's lineup in Vancouver. That means the season debut for Derek Meech, who will partner with Chris Chelios. Brett Lebda and Andreas Lilja will be a tandem.

Horace Greeley

I will not be with the team on its current western trip. Had Horace Greeley been my publisher, perhaps this young man would have headed west.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Grigorenko heads home to Russia

Igor Grigorenko is no longer a Detroit Red Wing. The team assigned him to Grand Rapids after Friday's win over San Jose and Grigorenko refused to report as is his contractual right. Grigorenko's contract has an out-clause allowing him to play in Europe if he stays longer than three weeks in the minor leagues ... and he's already spent three weeks in Grand Rapids.
Grigorenko will play in the Russian Superleague with Ufa Salavat Yulayev and the Red Wings will maintain his rights. The Russian, who doesn't speak English, shook hands with teammates after Friday's game, nodding his goodbyes.
It was Dominik Hasek's sore hip that finally forced the Red Wings' hand. The team brought Jimmy Howard up from Grand Rapids to back up Chris Osgood. Hasek, however, is close to returning to the lineup and will travel with the team on its three-game swing through western Canada. To make room for Howard, Dallas Drake was put on injured reserve. Grigorenko's assignment to Grand Rapids likely means that Drake will be activated for Sunday's game in Vancouver.
Both Matt Ellis and Aaron Downey have pleased Red Wings' management with their play over the past weeks. The decision was made to keep both and risk losing Grigorenko.
As is, when Drake returns either Ellis or Downey will become a healthy scratch.
Grigorenko could return to the Red Wings next season. He will become a restricted free agent this summer. After Friday's game both sides expressed interest in trying again next fall.
But that sounds more like two sides both trying to make it a nice goodbye rather than looking for another hello.

Plan in goal

What's going to happen with the Red Wings' netminders in the three-game trip to western Canada? Even they don't know.
Dominik Hasek has an irritated hip, but he'll be on the trip. Chris Osgood was going to start Sunday in Vancouver even before the news of Hasek's injury. Now Jimmy Howard is in the mix as well.
"Dom could be back by Vancouver (Sunday)," said Osgood. "I was going to play (against San Jose) anyways. After this, we don't know who's going to play what games."
"Obviously they'll take their time with Dom and make sure he's 100 percent before he comes back," said Howard. "If I get a chance to play, I've got to be ready and just have fun."

Fit as a first-liner

Red Wing Aaron Downey gets less than four minutes of ice time per game, but the veteran has learned to be prepared for more.
"I remember back in Dallas, I was just keeping myself in good enough shape to play six or seven minutes," said Downey. "Then one night, I got plugged in on the top line with (Mike) Modano and (Bill) Guerin. I think I needed and IV after the first period. That taught me a lesson."

Markov lands in Russia

Kukla's Korner reports that former Red Wing defenseman Danny Markov has signed with Dynamo Moscow of the Russian Superleague.

Draper signs for three years

Kris Draper has signed a three-year contract extension that will be a $1.583 million cap hit per season, according to TSN. Draper, 36, would have been an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Quick draw artists

DETROIT -- Time might be money. But faceoffs are time.
"If you can win faceoffs, they have to get the puck from you, they have to get puck possession," said Detroit Red Wing center Kris Draper. "It can take 15, 20 seconds off a top line's shift just by winning a draw. … To me, a faceoff's a lot more than just starting play. You can put a top line on its heels for 15, 20 seconds."
And in a sport where a line gets on and off the ice in a minute or less, that's a big chunk of time.
So when you watch the Red Wings host the San Jose Sharks tonight (7:30 p.m., FSN), you'll be watching the two best faceoff teams in the NHL, featuring the two best faceoff men in the league this season. San Jose leads the league at 56.1 percent. Detroit is next at 55.6 percent and finished among the top three teams in the NHL in the previous three seasons.
"The bottom line is it is a game of possession," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "You'd like to have the puck more than the other team. It's a one-on-one battle you'd like to win. It's skill and it's important."
Make that one part skill, one part experience.
Players will tell you that one key to winning faceoffs is knowing your opponent. And you don't get that without having battled in the circle for years.
San Jose center Joe Thornton leads the NHL (100 minimum faceoffs) this season with a 66.2 winning percentage. Detroit's Kris Draper is second at 61.2 percent.
In four of Thornton's first five full NHL seasons, however, he was under 50 percent on faceoffs. And when he moved from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference in the middle of the 2005-06 season, his faceoff work slipped while he learned new opponents, dropping after his move from Boston to San Jose.
In the first four years after the league started tracking faceoffs (1998-99 was the first season), Draper only once had a winning percentage above 56.5. In the past four seasons, Draper hasn't been below that mark once.
Ask Draper if he's a better faceoff man now than when he entered the league.
"Oh yah," laughed Draper. "Experience matters a lot. Tendencies against other guys, exactly what they're going to do. Now more than ever, we practice a lot of faceoffs after practice and pregame skates."
Draper will likely take most of his draws against Patrick Marleau. Henrik Zetterberg's line will likely go against Thornton's if Babcock gets his matchup.
Both San Jose and Detroit have good depth in the faceoff circle. Zetterberg is winning at 57.4 percent and Pavel Datsyuk is at 53.4 percent. Behind Thornton on San Jose are Marleau (54.2), Torrey Mitchell (52.2) and Joe Pavelski (52.2).
And going against good faceoff men lends itself to using more weapons than just experience.
"I've been called a cheater before in the faceoff circle," said Draper. "My job is to go out there and win as many draws as I can, especially in the last couple of minutes when we're protecting a lead."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hasek dinged up, Howard recalled by Wings

Jimmy Howard will be with the Red Wings Friday and Chris Osgood will start in net against San Jose. Dominik Hasek is listed as day-to-day with a sore hip. Dallas Drake was put on injured reserve retroactive to one week ago, meaning that he can come off the IR any day.

Press release from the Griffins ...

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Detroit Red Wings announced today the recall of goaltender Jimmy Howard from the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League.

In four games played this season, Howard shows a 3-1-0 record with a 3.00 GAA and a 0.902 save percentage. With a 29-save performance on Oct. 11, he became just the fourth Griffins goalie to earn 50 career wins (Joey MacDonald 87, 2002-06; Marc Lamothe 54, 2002-04; Mike Fountain 55, 1999-01).

Howard will be available for action Friday when Detroit hosts the San Jose Sharks at 7:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on FSN Detroit.

Notes from Thursday's practice

-- Nicklas Lidstrom said that the report in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that he's close to signing a two-year contract extension is false. Lidstrom said after Thursday's practice that "Nothing's happened. I haven't even talked to Ken (Holland) yet." There isn't cause for concern. Lidstrom wants to sign with the Wings. There just isn't a deal coming this week.
-- Dallas Drake (fractured cheekbone) experimented with his second face guard today and still wasn't satisfied. After trying a full visor on Wednesday, Drake used a half visor that had a half-cage attached underneath to offer full face protection. The half visor was further away from his face than the full shield as well. Breathing was easier with this equipment. The cage on the bottom, however, made it difficult for Drake to find the puck at his feet. "Can't see anything down there," said Drake.
-- Johan Franzen (MCL) is progressing. Although Thursday's practice didn't have contact, he said that he's ready for contact drills ... something he wasn't ready for earlier this week.
-- Igor Grigorenko practiced as a spare forward again.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Thoughts on Game 10 (3-2 win over Vancouver)

-- Tomas Kopecky had a wonderful game, being physical, creating chances. He was the main reason why Matt Ellis scored, taking out Roberto Luongo. It didn't take long in the game for Kopecky to supplant Jiri Hudler on the second line. Kopecky wound up with 12:40 of ice time and Hudler had 5:08.
I picked the three stars in the game and really wanted to get Kopecky in there. Had the Wings won by two or three goals, I could have gone with three Wings stars and Kopecky would have been one of them.
-- Good for Matt Ellis. If he can keep contributing, then he's narrowing the decision that will have to be made in a week or so. When a roster spot needs to be freed for Johan Franzen's return from his MCL injury, it looks like either Aaron Downey or Igor Grigorenko will go. If the decision were made today, it would be Grigorenko to exit.
-- I saw Derek Meech in the locker room. I just wanted you all to know that he was still alive.
-- If the Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Holmstrom line isn't the best in the NHL, I'm shocked.
-- Valtteri Filppula looked better. Same MO though ... creating opportunities and not finishing.
-- Pavel Datsyuk drew his team-high ninth power play.
-- Holmstrom scored two goals and was called for goaltender interference. Is that the new Holmstrom hat trick? UPDATE -- One reader posted a much better Homer hat trick ... one goal, one interference penalty and one goal waved off.

Idle Hasek

DETROIT -- There's one kind of goaltender that every hockey coach desires … an inactive goalie.
Don't let the other team shoot. Don't let the other team score.
The Detroit Red Wings outshot the Vancouver Canucks, 39-15, Wednesday, in taking a 3-2 victory at Joe Louis Arena. The season-low total of shots allowed was the fifth time in 10 games that the Red Wings have allowed 21 or fewer shots on goal.
And that makes everyone in Hockeytown happy except for one lonesome soul.
"You don't like to play games like that because you feel like you cannot get into the game," said Detroit netminder Dominik Hasek, who had time during the game to come up with a humorous slant on his evening. "During timeouts, I took the puck and looked at the puck. I don't see the puck too much in front of me, so I just put the puck in front of the crease and just looked at it. 'Be sure you stop it the next time you see it'."
One thing that Hasek never saw last night was a Vancouver lead. The Canucks had three power plays in the first 17 minutes of play, but were outshot 2-1 by Detroit during those six minutes.
Then with 2:26 on the first-period clock, Matt Ellis scored his second goal in three games, giving him a four-game point streak and Detroit a 1-0 lead. Ellis set up shop for a high screen with Tomas Kopecky cutting to the net down low. Mikael Samuelsson fed the puck to Ellis, who had defenseman Lukas Krajicek on his back. At the same time, Kopecky, Alexandre Burrows and goalie Roberto Luongo all got to the same spot at the same time with the trio sliding away from the net together. Ellis sent a turnaround shot that went just inside the post.
"The points are a bonus," said Ellis. "As long as the team's winning, I'm just having fun playing hockey."
Then 2:23 into the second period, Tomas Holmstrom scored a power-play goal to double the Red Wings' advantage. Holmstrom deflected Brian Rafalski's shot past Luongo.
At that point, Detroit held a 14-4 advantage in shots on goal. Hasek spent most of his energy applauding the two goals.
Vancouver scored 3:10 after Holmstrom's goal on the Canucks' fifth shot of the game. Matt Cooke's shot from the high slot deflected off Kris Draper's stick and in.
But before the second period was through, Detroit retook a two-goal lead.
Pavel Datsyuk stymied Vancouver defenseman Willie Mitchell as he rounded behind the net. The puck kicked loose to Henrik Zetterberg, who sent a pass across the crease to Holmstrom for a slam dunk.
"They make it easy for me," Holmstrom said of his linemates Datsyuk and Zetterberg. "I'm playing with probably the two best players in the NHL. They hold onto the puck and I know sooner or later the puck is coming at me."
That goal tied Holmstrom with Zetterberg for the team lead with seven. Another category that Holmstrom leads the team in this season is goalie interference, being called for his fifth such infraction in the first period.
Vancouver drew to within 3-2 1:47 into the third period when Daniel Sedin beat Dan Cleary to a loose puck and flipped it up over Hasek for a power-play marker.
That, however, was as close as the Canucks could get.
"All I can say it was one of the games where you don't see too much action in front of you, not too many saves," said Hasek. "However, they scored two goals and the game was close until the very end. … I know I can play a little better, but I won the game and that's the most important."
The Red Wings are 7-2-1 and host San Jose, Friday night.

Wednesday's morning skate

Dallas Drake was back on the ice for the first time since fracturing his cheekbone. Drake is wearing a full visor like he wore back in his college days. He's out at least the next two games, but Drake says that he feels ready to play right now. He said that his next doctor's appointment will have as much to do with inspecting his facial protection as examining his cheek.
The Red Wings skated with the same lines they used in the second half of Saturday's game in Phoenix ...
Hasek (starts)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tuesday practice notes

-- Igor Grigorenko had his first regular-season practice with Red Wings. Grigorenko worked in with the fourth line during drills. But the majority of time was spent on full-ice power-play scrimmages and Grigorenko didn't get on the ice.
"He's probably in better shape than he was," said coach Mike Babcock. "We'll see. We'll keep watching him. ... The best 20 guys get to play (in the games). We're in a winning business. If he's one of them, great. If not, no problem."
-- The Wings practiced with the same lines they used in their most recent game with Jiri Hudler on Valtteri Filppula's second line and Tomas Kopecky on Matt Ellis' fourth line. Johan Franzen worked in with the first line and Derek Meech worked in with the defensemen.
-- Dominik Hasek will play goal Wednesday against Vancouver.
-- The San Jose Sharks will be coming into Friday's game at Joe Louis Arena fresh off a three-day team trip to Banff, Alberta. The Sharks' most recent game was Monday in nearby Calgary.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The return of Grigorenko

DETROIT -- Johan Franzen moved one step closer to rejoining the Detroit Red Wings' lineup, Monday. On the same day, he was put on the injured reserve list.
That contradiction happened because Igor Grigorenko forced the team's hand and is coming back to Detroit, being put on the active roster. Grigorenko, who spent the past three weeks with Grand Rapids tallying zero points and two penalty minutes in five games, is forcing the Red Wings' hand. The Russian has an out-clause in his contract stating that if he spends more than three weeks in the minors (which he already has done), he can return to Europe.
Detroit management wanted Grigorenko to extend his stay in Grand Rapids, but he said that he'd return to Russia instead. So he's back in Detroit so that the franchise can protect its investment.
Franzen, who has missed the past seven games with an MCL injury, practiced with the team, Monday, at City Arena, engaging in every drill, but purposefully avoiding contact. But putting Franzen on injured reserve frees up one of the 23 active roster spots for Grigorenko.
Grigorenko was Detroit's first draft pick in 2001. Two years later, he played on a line at the World Championships with Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk. Shortly after that tournament, Grigorenko was involved in a car accident that broke his leg. While in the hospital, he nearly died of a fat embolism in lung.
"If Detroit has patience and Igor has patience, I think he can be a star here," said Grigorenko's agent, Mark Lapush. "If he wasn't a good player, they wouldn't call him up after three weeks. They'd say 'Go home to Russia.'"
Grigorenko was taking English language classes in Grand Rapids. He also made contact with a Pennsylvania-based skating instructor who works with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and intends to work with him in the offseason.
"He was in Grand Rapids for conditioning," said Lapush. "Even Scotty Bowman said 'This guy's hands and head are NHL.' Igor was disappointed that he didn't get more ice time (in Grand Rapids). He's very hungry, but he wasn't too effective in Grand Rapids. I told him that he was there for five games. If he was playing there the whole season, he would have gotten more ice time."
What to do with Grigorenko in Detroit is another matter. He showed signs in the preseason of potential, but didn't have good speed.
"Everything here's on an at-earn basis," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "We'll see if he has enough pace to fit in."
Babcock praised the play of both Matt Ellis and Aaron Downey -- the two lowest on the Red Wings' forward totem pole.
When Franzen comes back and if Dallas Drake isn't put on injured reserve -- Drake was ruled out of the next two games with a broken cheekbone -- then the team will have to make a roster move, trimming one forward.
"I told Igor, 'When you go to Detroit, no one's going to give you 20 minutes (of ice time),'" said Lapush. "'But whatever time they give you, play 1,000 percent.' He knows he can play there. He played seven exhibition games. He knows he can play at this level."
THIS AND THAT: The Red Wings practiced with the same line combinations that they used in the second half of their most recent game (Saturday in Phoenix). Jiri Hudler skated on the second line with Valtteri Filppula and Mikael Samuelsson. Ellis, Downey and Tomas Kopecky formed the fourth line. Franzen worked in with the first line on drills. … The team worked on 4-on-4 play, scrimmaging that way at practice. Babcock told the team before the drill, "We give up more chances 4-on-4 relatively speaking than we do on our penalty-kill."

Drake out at least two games

His fractured cheekbone will keep Dallas Drake out of at least the next two games -- Wednesday and Friday at Joe Louis Arena.

Grigorenko joins the Red Wings

Igor Grigorenko didn't want to be in Grand Rapids any more.
So Grigorenko, who has an out clause in his contract that allows him to return to Russia if he's in the minors for more than three weeks, refused to remain in Grand Rapids any longer and has thus been recalled by the Red Wings. He's in Detroit now, on the team's active roster and will practice with the club Tuesday.
Red Wings management asked Grigorenko to remain in Grand Rapids beyond the three weeks, but he refused and would have returned to Russia instead.
In his three-week, five-game stay in Grand Rapids, Grigorenko tallied zero points and two penalty minutes.
When asked where Grigorenko fits in the lineup plans, coach Mike Babcock answered: "That's a good question. Everything here's on an at-earn basis. We'll see if he has enough pace to fit in."
To make room on the roster, the Red Wings put Johan Franzen (MCL) on injured reserve. Franzen, however, moved closer to being able to return to the lineup, practicing with the Red Wings at City Arena, Monday. Franzen participated in all drills except a four-on-four scrimmage that involved contact.
When Franzen is ready to come off IR, then the Red Wings will have to bump a forward from their roster. The list of players most likely to be cut includes Grigorenko, Aaron Downey and Matt Ellis. Both Ellis and Downey were praised by Babcock for their play on the team's recent four-game western trip.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Thoughts on Game 9 (5-2 win in Phoenix)

-- Kris Draper was always a great faceoff man. Now he's superb. He's in the Rod Brind'Amour category. He had two offensive-zone faceoffs against Phoenix in a row ... both were won clean straight onto the defenseman's stick. (The first resulted in a shot that was deflected out over the glass, thus the second faceoff.) It was as if there wasn't another center in the circle.
-- It didn't take long for Jiri Hudler and Tomas Kopecky to switch roles. Hudler started the game on the fourth line, but was back on the second line by the second period. That said, Kopecky, Aaron Downey and Matt Ellis were very effective over the second half of the game. They kept the puck down low in the Phoenix zone.
-- The Red Wings took three offensive-zone penalties. Two were by Tomas Holmstrom, who said after the game that he's going to start to work a foot or so higher (further from the net) than he has been.
-- Valtteri Filppula has had a lousy start to the season. He got plenty of chances in Phoenix though and that's good news/bad news. He's got to bury one. At least on his two breakaways, he looked much better on the second, getting a good shot off. On the first, Filppula looked confused, sending a shot quite wide of the mark.
-- Phoenix drew a lousy crowd for a Saturday night game against the Wings. The franchise is still upping prices for Detroit games (compared with the rest of the league) and that's about the silliest marketing I've ever seen. If you can't draw and you've got one opponent that creates good crowds, don't milk it for more than a full house.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Drake out; Sammy in

Dallas Drake has a fractured cheekbone -- caused by the Kyle McLaren hit early in Thursday's game in San Jose -- and has flown home to Detroit. Drake will be examined by doctors Monday to determine his status. He won't be with the team for Saturday's game in Phoenix.
The Red Wings will have a dozen forwards in the lineup, however, with Mikael Samuelsson returning to action from a groin injury that kept him out of the first three games of this western road trip.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Red Wings and good causes

From the Red Wings' community relations staff ...

The Red Wings support of two October community initiatives will continue this Monday, when Dallas Drake and Brian Rafalski sign autographs for the team’s smoke detector collection and the first Breast Cancer Awareness Night. Drake and Rafalski will appear from 6-8 p.m. at Hockeytown Authentics in Troy.
Fans who donate a new smoke detector with batteries will receive one autograph from Drake. Together with local fire departments and law enforcement agencies, all detectors will be donated to low-income residents throughout Metro Detroit. The signing will conclude this year’s smoke detector collection which also took place at three home games earlier this month when fans generously donated 800 detectors. Spokesman Henrik Zetterberg will match the total of all detectors collected with a personal donation.
Rafalski will sign autographs for fans who make a monetary donation to the Red Wings Breast Cancer Awareness Program (minimum donation of $5 requested). The team will host its first Breast Cancer Awareness Night on Friday, October 26 when the Wings take on the San Jose Sharks. All proceeds will benefit local families battling breast cancer.
Wristbands for Monday’s autograph signing will be issued at Hockeytown Authentics beginning at 10 a.m. October 22. A maximum of 500 wristbands will be handed out prior to 6 p.m. For more information, please call Hockeytown Authentics at (248) 680-0965. Hockeytown Authentics is located at 1845 E. Big Beaver on the Northwest corner of Big Beaver and John R in Troy.
Single-game tickets for home games in October, November and December are currently on sale. The $9 ticket for games in November will go on sale at 10 a.m. this Saturday, October 20 at the Joe Louis Arena Box Office. Additionally, season tickets starting at just $22 per seat are available in six, 12, 22 and 41-game packages.

Who: Detroit Red Wings Dallas Drake & Brian Rafalski

What: Autograph Signing For Charity

When: 6-8 p.m. Monday, October 22, 2007

Where: Hockeytown Authentics in Troy

Why: To collect smoke detectors and monetary donations for the Red Wings
Breast Cancer Awareness Night

Down and out

Monday's loss in Anaheim was the first time this season that the Red Wings have trailed after 10, 20 or 30 minutes of play. In other words, the Wings have positioned themselves well for victory through the first seven games ... make that the first six of seven games.
Even when behind early, however, Babcock's boys have fared well over the past two seasons. Here are the Wings' records in games in which they've trailed early ...

Down 1 after 10 minutes
05-06 9-2-0 11 games 1.64 ppg
06-07 6-5-2 13 games 1.08 ppg
07-08 0-1-0

Down 2 after 10 minutes
05-06 0-4-0 4 games 0.00 ppg
06-07 0-1-0
07-08 0-0-0

Down 1 after 20 minutes
05-06 8-5-0 13 games 1.23 ppg
06-07 9-4-3 16 games 1.31 ppg
07-08 0-1-0

Down 2 after 20 minutes
05-06 2-3-0 5 games 0.80 ppg
06-07 2-1-1 4 games 1.25 ppg
07-08 0-0-0

Down 3 after 20 minutes
05-06 0-0-0
06-07 0-2-0
07-08 0-0-0

Down 1 after 30 minutes
05-06 8-6-0 14 games 1.14 ppg
06-07 7-4-2 13 games 1.23 ppg
07-08 0-0-0

Down 2 after 30 minutes
05-06 1-3-0 4 games 0.50 ppg
06-07 3-2-1 6 games 1.17 ppg
07-08 0-1-0

Down 3 after 30 minutes
05-06 0-0-0
06-07 0-5-0
07-08 0-0-0

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rejoining team in Phoenix

The paper isn't sending me to the first three games of this road trip, L.A., Anaheim and San Jose. I'll be back with the team in Phoenix.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Empty seats hard not to notice

DETROIT -- The players do notice. In fact, they talked about it in training camp, expecting as much.
When the Detroit Red Wings take the ice like they did for for three games this week, the swatches of empty seats in the Joe Louis Arena stands leave an impression on the players. All four home games this season have had 3-4,000 empty seats.
"I noticed it standing on the blue line (for the national anthem)," said Detroit's Dan Cleary. "Not much you can do. Try to give them a good, honest effort and try to win games. Hopefully, we'll get some more people out. We have great fans. Every year I've been here, they've been enthusiastic. … It's early. Things can change."
What has changed is the attendance of Red Wing games. By the end of the last regular season, Detroit had built a 452-game streak of sellouts. The most recent non-sellout was Dec. 10, 1996.
Then all nine of last year's home playoff games fell short of being sellouts. After last night, you can add three regular-season non-sellouts to make the Red Wings' current non-sellout streak 12 games.
Because of the playoffs last season, the players suspected that this season would open with more vacant seats as well.
"It's something we were aware of," said Dominik Hasek. "We were talking about it during training camp, so we expected that maybe some games wouldn't be sold out. All I can say is it's very disappointing. You like to play in front of 20-plus thousand people. It's a better feeling. Unfortunately, this is the way it is. Like I said, we have to do the best we can do on the ice and hope we can see at least on the weekends 20,000 people.
"When you see the season-opener not being sold out, it's a bad sign. Now that the baseball season is over, we can hope that some people can find a way to Joe Louis Arena. We can't expect on weeknights for the arena to be sold out, but I hope maybe on weekends."
The home-opener this season was against the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Anaheim Ducks … the same team that eliminated Detroit from the playoffs a year ago. If that game didn't sell out, mid-week contests against Calgary aren't likely to pack the Joe.
"The way I look at things, it doesn't matter what the conditions are around you, you make the best of things," said coach Mike Babcock. "Our job here as a team is to play hard, to win enough games so that the people want to come and support us. It doesn't matter whether you're in Canada or Southern California, the more games that you win, the more that people want to come. You've got to create a buzz by winning."

Thoughts on Game 5 (4-2 loss to Chicago)

-- Tomas Kopecky had his best game. He created a few scoring chances, including making the hit that freed the puck on Kris Draper's goal. By the second half of the third period, coach Mike Babcock was going with three lines ... he had Kopecky skating with Draper and Dan Cleary and Dallas Drake on the bench.
-- After the game, Babcock called Draper his best forward. He was right. When asked about the play of Valtteri Filppula, Babcock answered that the whole team didn't play well. Not a good sign for Fil.
-- The Blackhawks at times went with five forwards on the power play with Jason Williams and Yannic Perreault on the blue line. That led to more Detroit chances than Chicago chances though. I've never been a fan of the forward on the power-play blue line. Does anyone remember Scotty Bowman using two defensemen in front of the net in the late 70s? He'd station Larry Robinson and Serge Savard right in the goalie's face and that worked pretty well.
-- Good for Robert Lang. I'm still don't want him on the Red Wings, but good for him to have a couple of big goals already.
-- So many empty seats. I've said it before, but the economy isn't the No. 1 reason. (It's a big reason, but everyone is overplaying it.) The buzz is gone for this team in Detroit. People have become acclimated to the success. Funny how attendance just dropped over a cliff instead of dwindling. When we look back at this era though, think of how highly we'll regard this group of players ... Nicklas Lidstrom, one of the top five defensemen ever, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg in their primes, Chris Chelios putting on a shot, Dominik Hasek, one of the top five goalie ever.
-- Andreas Lilja's penalty for slashing Rene Bourque's stick that set up the winning goal was obviously not a slash. Bourque's stick just snapped. The penalty that I didn't like Lilja taking was midway through the second period when he moved Draper's loose stick, sending it into Johanson. The goofy thing about that was that Draper was right behind Lilja and about to pick up his stick. So he denied his teammate and got a penalty in one motion.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Wings lose to 'Hawks again

DETROIT -- The outcome of a hockey game can be as delicate as the shaft of a modern hockey stick.
The Detroit Red Wings had a two-goal lead over the Chicago Blackhawks, Friday, at Joe Louis Arena and controlled the flow of play through most of the first two periods. But a Chicago rally was capped by a power-play goal that gave the Blackhawks a 3-2 victory.
It was a power play that happened because Rene Bourque's stick snapped when Andreas Lilja laid his stick overtop of Bourque's. Lilja was called for slashing.
"His stick must have been broken before," said Lilja. "I just went to move it."
Five seconds shy of the penalty being killed, former Red Wing Robert Lang sent a shot from the boards and hit goalie Dominik Hasek in the head, then shoulder, then danced over the netminder for the winning goal.
Lang scored the tying goal six nights earlier in Chicago when the Blackhawks (2-2-0) took a shootout victory from the Red Wings (3-1-1). Last night was Lang's first game as a visitor at Joe Louis Arena since 2004.
"It was strange sitting on the other bench, but besides that I think the first game (against Detroit) got that out of me," said Lang. "I thought this game was a normal game."
Blackhawk down doesn't have much meaning in hockey. At least not against the Red Wings.
For the second time in six nights, the Red Wings held a two-goal lead over Chicago late in the second period only to wind up losing.
Henrik Zetterberg and Kris Draper scored before the game was 10 minutes old. Zetterberg deflected the puck in off defenseman Brent Sopel's skate as he tried to feed Pavel Datsyuk for a back-door slam. Draper wristed a shot from up high that trickled through goalie Nikolai Khabibulin's legs. It was Draper's third consecutive game with a goal.
Halfway through the game, the Red Wings held a 19-9 advantage in shots on goal.
"I thought we started the game (well) and played 13 minutes and then I didn't think we played after that," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "We lost puck races and puck battles. That's part of the reason you take penalties because you're second too much."
Chicago started this season without a goal in its first 15 power plays. It was the 16th man-advantage, however, that got the Blackhawks rolling in Detroit.
With Jiri Hudler in the penalty box for holding Bourque's stick in the offensive zone on a Detroit power play, Patrick Sharp swooped down on a rebound and banged it past Hasek.
That goal came with 2:27 left in the second period and cut Detroit's lead to 2-1.
One minute later, the Blackhawks tied the score when Brent Seabrook sent a shot through a screen in front of Hasek.
"We outplayed them for 40 minutes and then maybe felt comfortable," said Hasek. "They scored two quick goals. I don't know how it happened. All of a sudden, it's 2-0, then the game's 2-2."
The Red Wings outshot the Blackhawks, 13-9, in the third period, but Lang's goal with 10:41 to play was the only one of the stanza.
It came on Chicago's eighth power play of the game. Detroit finished with just five such opportunities. One Chicago power play negated a Tomas Holmstrom first-period goal that would have given Detroit a 3-0 lead. Holmstrom was called for pushing defenseman Andrei Zyuzin aside before banging the puck in.
"Obviously, you can't take penalties and we took a whole bunch of them," said Babcock, whose team had just four regulation losses at home all of last season. "The bottom line is any time you're going to the (penalty) box as we were tonight, you're not using enough people and you're using all your energy to kill penalties. Coming into the game, our specialty teams had been good, but we gave up two goals."

Probable lines for Game 5 vs. Chicago

At the morning skate, Andreas Lilja was back with Niklas Kronwall.
Hasek (starts)

The Blackhawks have moved Adam Burish up from the fourth line to the first and dropped down Jason Williams. The two youngsters, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will be on the same line.
(not certain about defense pairings)

Meech bides his time

Coach Mike Babcock said after Friday's morning skate that he will not go out of his way to get defenseman Derek Meech into a game soon. Meech, the team's seventh blue-liner, hasn't played in any of the first four games and will be a healthy scratch tonight.
"Meecher's getting better each and every day," said Babcock. "When he gets in, it will be on an earned basis or because someone else has given him the opportunity. I'm not concerned about his development at all. Every day at practice, he's gotten more confident, quicker. ... I don't think it's hard for Meech at all right now because I think his eyes are wide open."

Downey cleared to play

Forward Aaron Downey got his work visa today. although tonight's game against Chicago is the first that he's eligible to play in, Downey will be a healthy scratch.
"It's a typical role for me," said Downey. "Whenever I'm called upon, I'll go out there and do a great job. And when I'm not called upon, I'll be in here (locker room) doing a great job with the young guys doing a great job."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rafalski in Finland

DETROIT -- Brian Rafalski stepped forward to counter at McDonald's and ordered a hamburger … in pretty good Finnish.
The worker behind the counter in the Helsinki fast food restaurant looked at the native of Allen Park and said, "What?" in pretty good English.
"I looked at my buddy and said, 'Did I say that right?'" remembered Rafalski. "He said, 'I understood you.' I tried to learn the language, but it seemed like everyone in Helsinki spoke English anyways."
The language wasn't the easiest to learn.
Even a Finn like Valtteri Filppula admits that Finnish "sounds pretty foreign to most people" and is "difficult to learn."
But Rafalski hadn't traveled all the way to Finland to learn a new language. Undrafted by NHL teams after four successful seasons at the University of Wisconsin -- he was named the WCHA defenseman of the year in 1995 -- Rafalski began his professional career with one season in Sweden followed by three in Finland.
Rafalski had three standout seasons in Finland, tallying 36 points and 15 goals in 30 playoff games.
He went over to Europe to find a career in hockey. While there, the NHL found him. Rafalski was signed by the New Jersey Devils in 1999. Two Stanley Cups and seven full NHL seasons later, his professional path has come full circle back to Detroit.
"I was trying to make a living by playing in Europe," said Rafalski. "I was making decent money over there. It was something I'd be happy doing if I never made it to the NHL. I established myself pretty well over there. But when the NHL came calling, I decided to take a shot. It worked out pretty well."
While Rafalski was making a living in Finland, he was also getting a good preparation for life in the NHL.
Among his teammates in Helsinki in 1997-98 were future NHLers like Olli Jokinen, Kimmo Timonen, Jarkko Ruutu, Niklas Backtrom and Tim Thomas. That team that season had 17 players who would eventually play in the NHL, including Rafalski.
"We were really good," said Rafalski, who played close to 80 games that season, including regular season, playoffs and tournaments. "Our team was known for being physical. That was one of our traits. … The biggest thing was getting to play against good players, putting myself in a position where I was getting a lot of minutes, power play, penalty kill, everything."
There is a Brian Rafalski jersey in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, but it's not one with the New Jersey Devils' logo. Rafalski's Helsinki jersey is part of the hall's European game display.
Rafalski never did become as fluent in Finnish as he has in hockey.
Movies were in English with Finnish subtitles. So were many television shows. Hockey orders shouted by coaches became Rafalski's best-understood Finnish.
Now he's back in Detroit at age 34. Allen Park isn't far from Joe Louis Arena. Nor is Southfield Christian High School where he played soccer.
In a locker room full of Europeans, Rafalski is now the native, no longer the foreigner.
"You make yourself available to do whatever you can to help and the team has a great support structure," said Rafalski. "But you know what … most of these guys have been here longer than I have."

Downey's paperwork

Aaron Downey said that he's still waiting for his work visa to clear. Downey, a Canadian, cannot play in a game without a visa, but can practice and travel with the team.

Goalie rotation

Coach Mike Babcock said after Thursday's practice that Dominik Hasek will start Friday's game against Chicago at Joe Louis Arena and Chris Osgood will start Sunday's game in Los Angeles.
Hasek missed a start Wednesday because of pain above his knee after taking a shot in Monday's game that hit an unprotected area of his leg.
"It (Thursday) was my first practice after two days (in which) I could work hard," said Hasek. "I didn't feel any problems to go up and down quickly, make second or third saves. Tomorrow, it will be even better. But even today I felt great."

Thoughts on Game 3 (4-2 win over Calgary)

-- Andreas Lilja was in the doghouse after getting caught up ice on Kristian Huselius' first goal. Coach Mike Babcock preached to the media after Game 3 that defensemen shouldn't pinch in the neutral zone, they need to gap-up. If he's saying that to us, you know that the message to the players is much, much louder and clearer. So when Lilja gets caught in Game 4, he gets moved to the third defense pairing with Brett Lebda at the start of the second period. Lilja's ice time in the first period was 7:54. In the second and third periods combined, his ice time was 7:58.
-- It doesn't make sense to me, but perhaps the Wings are better with one dominant line. At least it's worth exploring this time of year.
-- It seems like Valtteri Filppula is getting hit more and shoved around more than he did last season.
-- I'd like to know why Henrik Zetterberg is at center and Pavel Datsyuk is on wing when they play together. Just any hockey-based reason. I'm not saying it's not the right thing, but no one will say why it's that way. Babcock says the players decide. The players shrug. Datsyuk often says he has some mystery wrist ailment. Personally, I think that Zetterberg is just very good at paper-rock-scissors.
-- Niklas Kronwall's hit on Craig Conroy halfway through the first period sent a charge through the crowd as if it were a game-winning goal in the playoffs.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Big line sparks Wings

DETROIT -- Whether Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom play together as a line is neither here nor there to Detroit Red Wings' opponents. That those three Red Wings are playing at all is the problem.
Zetterberg scored the game's first goal, Wednesday, and Holmstrom added his fourth goal in four games to help the Red Wings to a 4-2 victory over the Calgary Flames at Joe Louis Arena. The three Detroit power plays were created by penalties drawn by Zetterberg (two) or Datsyuk. Detroit scored on two of those opportunities.
Of Detroit's 13 goals in the team's 3-0-1 start to the season, either Zetterberg, Datsyuk or Holmstrom has had a hand in nine.
"Pav, Hank and Homer … they're on another planet right now the way they're playing," said Detroit Kris Draper. "They are so good. Every time they go out there, they're creating something. And they're doing it in both ends of the rink. Those guys are playing some unbelievable hockey right now."
The trio has played all four games this season as Detroit's top power-play unit. They've spent the past two games together as the team's top forward line with Zetterberg moving in to replace the injured Johan Franzen (sprained MCL).
Last night, it was Datsyuk, who created the opportunity that turned into the game's first goal with 8:08 gone by. Datsyuk fooled Calgary's Mikka Kiprusoff, picking off the goalie's pass and dropping a pass that Zetterberg one-timed for a 1-0 lead.
Datsyuk was the set-up man again for Detroit's second goal, sending a pass into the slot that went off defenseman Cory Sarich's skate to Holmstrom. The Swede back-handed the puck past Kiprusoff. Holmstrom has one goal in each of Detroit's four games, matching his career-high goal scoring streak that he set Nov. 3-9, 2005.
"They're good," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock of his top line. "We're real fortunate to have them obviously. Z and Pav and both real good centermen and Pav's a good winger too. Homer creates so much space for them by going to the net on a continual basis. They can play with such tempo that they make it hard on the opposition."
Kristian Huselius countered both of the Zetterberg line's goals to leave the score tied 2-2 early in the second period.
Huselius' first marker happened after Detroit defenseman Andreas Lilja was caught up ice, creating a 2-on-1. That odd-man rush turned into a breakaway when Brett Lebda overplayed the pass. Huselius scored on a deke to his backhand.
Huselius' second goal came after picking off Niklas Kronwall's defensive-zone pass. Huselius skated in alone and tucked the puck past Chris Osgood on the short side.
Before the second period was finished, however, the Red Wings had the lead for good. Draper netted his second goal of the season, deflecting a Lilja slap shot on a delayed penalty.
Detroit added an insurance marker with 4:27 left in the third period. Mikael Samuelsson wristed a power-play shot through a Dan Cleary screen for his second goal of the season.
Osgood had originally been scheduled to make his season debut this Sunday in Los Angeles, but was pressed into service when Dominik Hasek's knee still felt pain, yesterday, after being bruised by a shot in Monday's game.
"I thought he really battled for us," said Babcock of Osgood. "And that's why he can be here. He's been here a long time. He doesn't have nerves about it. He just goes out and plays and he's a real pro about it. He's a great support guy for Dom in that he knows what his job is."
Osgood made 19 saves, not including a slap shot by Adrian Aucoin that rang off the post halfway through the third period -- a shot that could have tied the score at 3-3. Osgood made a strong save with 2:22 to play, stopping Huselius as he banged away at a loose puck.
"I played some exhibition games, but the pace of the regular season is different," said Osgood. "Next game hopefully I'll play a lot better. It was a matter of battling and getting the win."

Ozzie gets the start

Lingering pain above Dominik Hasek's knee means that Chris Osgood will get his first start of the season tonight against Calgary. Hasek took a shot in Monday's game that snuck in above his pads and he knelt. Hasek will back up Osgood and can play tonight if needed.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Wings ride special teams

DETROIT -- Can they be called special teams if they're not special?
Last season, the Detroit Red Wings' special teams were more like not-so-special teams. The power play ranked 21st in the NHL, a depth that the franchise hasn't been at since 1982-83. The penalty-kill ranked seventh, but had to recover from a very slow start. The penalty-kill went from 79 percent efficiency in the first quarter to 88 percent in the second half of the season. The power play operated at 11 percent over the first quarter and finished at 17 percent.
This year, however, special is back.
Five of the Red Wings' nine goals this season were scored by the power play. Only two goals have been scored by opposition special teams including one short-handed marker.
"It's important to get off to a good start," said Detroit's Dan Cleary. "With good special teams, you can win games coming from behind, control the lead, change momentum. … Success now in the NHL, special teams has to be high. We were great two years ago in both departments. Last year we slipped a little, especially on the power play."
Entering Wednesday's game against Calgary (7:30 p.m., FSN), the Red Wings rank sixth in the league in power-play efficiency (26 percent) and seventh on the penalty-kill (92 percent).
Wednesday's opponent, the Flames, presents a challenge for the Red Wings' penalty-kill. Calgary's power play has been even hotter than the Wings', scoring at a 27 percent rate. Defensemen Adrian Aucoin and Dion Phaneuf man the points and Jarome Iginla makes himself a fixture in front of the net.
"The Calgary Flames have one of the best power plays in the league at this point statistically, so we're going to have to be real good," said Babcock. "Both Aucoin and Phaneuf on the back can really shoot the puck."
Despite the strong power play, Calgary is off to a 0-1-1 start thanks in part to a porous penalty-kill that ranks 28th in the league.
The Flames are averaging 2.5 power-play goals allowed per game. Combine that with Detroit's effective power play and Calgary could be in trouble if it takes penalties Wednesday.

Euro Twins together or apart?

Coach Mike Babcock said after Tuesday's practice that he would wait until game-time, Wednesday, to decide whether to put Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on the same line. The pair practiced together Tuesday as the team worked with the same lines used in Monday's win over Edmonton.
"Whatever leads you to winning is the best way," said Babcock. "So if you're on a roll and they're playing together, then that's great. If it's not and they're shutting you down because you've got one unit, that's not as good. We'd like them not to play together, but I like winning."

Other practice notes ...
-- The Red Wings skated at City Arena because Joe Louis Arena was being used by the WWE set-up crew for a Tuesday night wrestling event.
-- Kris Draper got Henrik Zetterberg with a shaving cream pie in the face as the Swede entered the Joe Louis Arena locker room after practice. Tuesday was Zetterberg's 27th birthday and Draper is notorious for getting his teammates on their birthdays.
-- The Wings spent a lot of time practicing dump-ins and forechecks.

Dom's knee is sore

Goalie Dominik Hasek said after Tuesday's practice that a spot just above his left knee is painful from taking a shot there during the Edmonton game. Hasek participated in the full practice.
"It's only a bruise, but a little painful," said Hasek. "I'll see how it feels (Wednesday). It hit me right above my kneecap. … It wasn't a hard shot, but it caught me in the right spot. It's painful today."
Hasek pointed to a spot above his pads that when he kneels has a small unprotected spot. Why there's an unpadded spot on a goalie's legs ... your guess is as good as mine.
If Hasek can't start Wednesday against Calgary, Chris Osgood will be in net.
Coach Mike Babcock said that he wasn't aware of any injury to Hasek.

Thoughts on Game 3 (4-2 win over Edmonton)

-- The Wings got some production at even strength finally, but even then it wasn't balanced. Entering the game, Detroit had been outscored 3-1 at even strength, but on special teams had outscored opponents 4-2. Against Edmonton, Detroit mustered three even-strength goals.
The problem still lies in the lower lines though. All four even-strength goals this season have come from the top two lines. Lines 3 and 4 have been outscored 2-0 at even strength.
-- The Detroit power play looks better than last season, outscoring opponents 5-1.
-- Chris Chelios is just plain fun to watch. It's not just the goal. I love seeing him pinch in the offensive zone. He does it more than any other defenseman on the team and his timing is spot on 95 percent of the time.
-- I think the economy is overrated as a reason for the poor ticket sales (by the Red Wings' own standards). Obviously the economy hurts sales. So does the fact that the Tigers were a hot ticket the past two seasons.
But it's almost like a successful TV show that runs its course. The team is great, but there isn't much buzz around town. It's not a hot ticket, people aren't tuning in. Hey, the economy didn't get bad over the summer. It was bad last year. It was bad the year before and the year before that. Tickets still sold.
I think it's more about human nature and the difficulty of remaining popular entertainment for more than a decade.
-- No Dallas Drake fight. Disappointing.
-- Brett Lebda skates forewards like most players skate backwards, wiggling side to side. It works well.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Red Wings overcome mistakes

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings' locker room was not a quiet place. Not between the second and third periods of their 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers, Monday, at Joe Louis Arena.
A defensive gaffe led to an Edmonton goal with 9.5 seconds on the second-period clock. What had been a 3-1 Detroit lead was now a one-goal game.
Andreas Lilja gambled, pinching in the neutral zone. The puck got deep into the Detroit zone where Brett Lebda and Kris Draper double-teamed an Oiler, leaving Andrew Cogliano -- who last season was third in scoring at the University of Michigan -- open for a back-door slam.
How upset was the coaching staff?
"Let's just say we're not going to do that any more," said coach Mike Babcock.
The goal was a déjà vu moment for the Red Wings, who led Chicago 3-1 in their previous game before a neutral-zone pinch led to one goal.
"We gave up one exactly like that in Chicago where the 'D' pinches up in the neutral zone," said Babcock. "We have a rule here … the 'D' doesn't pinch up, he gaps up (closes the gap with an opponent, but doesn't let him pass). … You just put yourself in a bad spot. It makes no sense. It got them back in the game … a game that I thought territorially was going our way."
That Saturday game in Chicago eventually went to a shootout. The Red Wings fared better last night, making that late second-period goal the last goal they surrendered.
Edmonton had the only two power plays of the third period, but the Oilers managed just two shots combined. The only goal of the third came with 32.9 seconds on the clock. Henrik Zetterberg outworked a pair of Oilers along the boards in Detroit's zone, sending a pass to Pavel Datsyuk between the faceoff circles. Datsyuk skated the puck to the red line before dumping it over to Kris Draper for an empty-net goal.
That made for a quiet locker room after the game -- something that the players much prefer to a coach's wrath.
Detroit (2-0-1) opened the scoring 6:51 into the game with its first 5-on-5 goal of the young season.
Mikael Samuelsson made Edmonton goalie Dwayne Roloson look bad when he found a short-side gap on a wraparound.
The Red Wings doubled their advantage with 5:50 left in the first period at the very second that a penalty to Dustin Penner expired. Chris Chelios, who drew the penalty, dropped down low and banged three times at a loose puck before finally putting it past Roloson. The goal was the first for Chelios in 77 games with his previous marker coming Apr. 8, 2006.
Edmonton netted its first goal just 19 seconds later when former Michigan State star Shawn Horcoff found himself alone in the slot for a one-timer that beat Dominik Hasek. On the play, first Lidstrom then Brian Rafalski followed their marks into the corner and Dan Cleary was late in getting to Horcoff.
"We're playing well offensively," said Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom. "Defensively, we can do a better job, sort it out better. That's something we can work on."
The Red Wings took a 3-1 lead 27 seconds into the second period when Tomas Holmstrom scored a power-play goal. He has one such goal in each of Detroit's three games.
The play started with a Lidstrom slap shot that was deflected in the high slot by Zetterberg. Holmstrom deflected it again down low, the put in the rebound of Roloson's save.
"Pretty evident is we're not scoring the way we're going to," said Babcock. "We had lots of opportunities … numerous, numerous opportunities … and didn't finish. We just got to keep working and finding a way to win. … We need some 5-on-5 scoring."

Morning quotes

Part of the reason for putting Filppula on Datsyuk's line tonight is that they played together in the post-season ...

Babcock: "What made me decide is they played well together in the playoffs."

The lineup change gives Matt Ellis his first chance this season after getting a taste wtih the Red Wings last winter.

Ellis: "You never want to see one of your teammates go down, but that's part of the game. It's something as professional athletes we have to deal with.
I'll keep things simple and play my game."
"Last year by being here and playing some games, it definitely laid a foundation for me to come in and to know what to expect at this level. It also helps with the nerves and composure."

Franzen on being hurt: "It's not the start I was hoping for, I can tell you that. Playing a game and a half and being out. I'd rather take it now than at the end of the season."

Filppula moves up to top line

With Johan Franzen out for the next few weeks with a sprained MCL, Valtteri Filppula will skate on Pavel Datsyuk's wing for tonight's game against Edmonton. Matt Ellis moves into the lineup, centering a line. Here's a look at the probable lines for Detroit ...



Hasek (starts)

And the probable Edmonton lines ...



Sunday, October 7, 2007

Franzen out 3-4 weeks

Johan Franzen has a Grade 2 sprain of the MCL (medial collateral ligament) in his right knee. Franzen's leg was injured during the second period of Saturday night's shootout loss in Chicago. Tuomo Ruutu was tripped by Pavel Datsyuk and fell on Franzen's leg.
The injury will keep Franzen out of the lineup for 3-4 weeks.
Detroit is carrying two spare forwards on its roster ... Aaron Downey and Matt Ellis. One will be inserted in the lineup for Monday's home game, but isn't likely to assume Franzen's role on the top line. A third-line player -- Dan Cleary, Valtteri Filppula or Kris Draper -- could be bumped up to Datsyuk's top line with Ellis or Downey skating on the third or fourth line. It's less likely that someone from the fourth line will go up to the first or that the second line centered by Henrik Zetterberg will be broken up.
Coach Mike Babcock's plan will likely be revealed at Monday's morning skate.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Wings lose in shootout

CHICAGO -- Deserts aren't the only homes for mirages. The Detroit Red Wings saw a beautiful mirage, Saturday night, on the ice of the United Center.
Shortly after thinking that they saw a victory, the Red Wings were staring at the reality of a 4-3 shootout loss.
Leading the host Blackhawks by two goals early in the third period, the Red Wings thought that they saw the goal that would put their victory on ice. On the power play, Tomas Holmstrom banged the puck in, but referee Dan Marouelli blew the play dead with an inadvertent whistle.
Later on the same power play, Blackhawk James Wisniewski scored a short-handed marker -- off a 2-on-1 feed from Kevyn Adams -- to draw Chicago within 3-2.
Then with 3:40 left in regulation time, former Red Wing Robert Lang snapped a wrist shot over goalie Dominik Hasek's glove for a 3-3 tie. Detroit had squandered a 3-1 third-period lead.
In the shootout, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Jiri Hudler were stymied by Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. Rookie Patrick Kane scored on one of two Chicago shots.
"We were looking pretty good there … Went ahead 4-1 and thought we had the game won, but we didn't get that one," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "It was one of those games all night long where I didn't think we were as good as we could be and yet we had every opportunity to win the game and we let it slip away."
Detroit rode its power play for the second straight game, scoring two with the man-advantage. That gives the Red Wings four power-play goals in their two games this season. Last season, it took the Red Wings seven games to score four power-play goals, going 0-for-11 with the man-advantage in their first two games.
Five minutes into the game came Brian Rafalski's first goal as a Red Wings -- a slap shot through a Holmstrom screen. Nicklas Lidstrom scored on a 4-on-4 early in the second period to double Detroit's advantage.
Five minutes later, Red Wing Johan Franzen limped off the ice with an injured right knee. Franzen closed on Chicago's Tuomo Ruutu as he carried the puck. Ruutu, however, was tripped from behind by Datsyuk, falling on Franzen's leg and buckling the Red Wing's knee.
Franzen did not return to the game. The extent of his injury will be determined by an MRI today.
Franzen was limping slightly after the game and compared the injury to one to his left knee last season that happened on a late hit by Willie Mitchell. That injury -- labeled more serious than this one by Franzen -- kept him out of nine games.
"I had almost the same kind of thing last year ... (but) that was worse," said Franzen. "It's OK right now. It hurts a little bit right now, but I've got pain-killers."
Ruutu scored the Blackhawks' first goal in two games this season halfway through the second period to draw Chicago within 2-1.
One minute later, however, Holmstrom scored on Detroit's fifth power play of the game, deflecting Rafalski's slap shot in.
That wound up being just a prelude for Chicago's two-goal third-period rally and then Kane's shootout winner.
"I went down, closed my five-hole and he made a move to the backhand," said Hasek of the shootout goal. "What can I say?"
Wisniewski got into a fight with Detroit's Dallas Drake 5:10 into the game. It was Drake's second fight in two games this season. The Red Wings had a total of 16 fighting majors as a team in the past two seasons combined.
Detroit returns home for three home games, starting with a Monday game against the Edmonton Oilers.

Franzen to have MRI Sunday

Johan Franzen left Saturday's game in Chicago with an injured right knee after Tuomo Ruutu fell on him. Franzen will have an MRI Sunday to determine the extent of the injury.
After the game, Franzen was limping slightly. He compared the injury to what happened to his left knee last season when Willie Mitchell knocked him out with a late hit. That injury (to his left knee) kept Franzen out of nine games last season.
"I had almost the same kind of thing last year ... (but) that was worse," said Franzen. "It's OK right now. It hurts a little bit right now, but I've got pain-killers."

Sopel talks about leaving the Wings

CHICAGO -- The locker room door says Blackhawks, but there's a definite Red Wing feel inside.
Robert Lang sits along one of the three walls of lockers. Martin Lapointe is a handful of stalls away from Jason Williams. And Brent Sopel ...
Well, Sopel was kind of a Red Wing. The defenseman went through Detroit's training camp as a free-agent tryout this fall. He was with the team for its first eight preseason games before signing a contract with the Blackhawks.
Standing in the middle of Chicago's locker room before playing his kind-of-ex-team, the Red Wings, Saturday, Sopel was both apologetic and amused by the unusual situation.
Sopel traveled with the Red Wings to Toronto nine days ago for the final preseason game. Before boarding the team plane, Sopel received a contract offer from Chicago. (Detroit had already offered him a contract.)
After the plane landed and the team traveled by bus to the Air Canada Center, Sopel and his agent decided to sign with Chicago, but were unable to contact Detroit general manager Ken Holland by phone.
Sopel didn't dress for the game and left the building before it was over.
"There was a lot of miscommunication, a lot of missed phone calls, a lot of things that happened that obviously I didn't want to happen," said Sopel. "It was one of those circumstances. After we landed in Toronto, we tried to get ahold of Kenny Holland to discuss the situation that was going on. Couldn't get ahold of him for a long time. Finally when we did, it was just before game time."
By coincidence, Sopel's wife and children were spending that day at a water park in Niagara Falls, Ont., before heading to Detroit. Sopel rented a car in Toronto, drove an hour on the Queen Elizabeth Way to spend the night with his family. Sopel flew out of Buffalo the next day to Detroit to retrieve his belonging.
Sopel is a top-four defenseman in Chicago, getting more than 21 minutes of ice time in the Blackhawks' first game. That status helped sway him to choose Chicago over Detroit.
"Obviously, (the Red Wings) are pretty deep top three, four guys (on defense)," said Sopel. "I probably wouldn't have been there where I wanted, where I think I could play on a normal night to contribute. That definitely played a role in things."

Lineups for Game 2 at Chicago

Probables ...
Hasek (starts)
Khabibulin (starts)

Downey clears waivers

Aaron Downey cleared waivers, Saturday. The forward was exposed to waivers to give the team the ability to make roster moves quickly if needed. Downey will stay with the Wings (he practiced today in Chicago) and is available to play and on the roster. The waivers more or less make him pre-approved to be moved if necessary in the next 30 days or 10 games.
The Red Wings play five games in the next nine days. Two days must pass for a player to clear waivers, so there was the possibility that an injury could have caused problems. If a goalie had gotten hurt, there wouldn't have been time for a player to clear waivers and be sent down to make room for another player to come to Detroit. The Red Wings are at the roster maximum of 23 players.
As usual, Downey was the ultimate teammate when asked about being put on waivers ...
"I've been on waivers before, hoping someone would pick me up. This time, I was hoping someone wouldn't. Such a great group of guys here. I love being a Red Wings.
"I've been living in the moment for 13 years now. The game's not new to me, the role I play. When I first started (in the East Coast league), I was on 24-hour contracts. I'll just take this day and enjoy it, be thankful that I've got a job.
"The Lord willing, they'll keep me here all year."
Coach Mike Babcock ...
"We want him to be a part of our organization.
"You have to be able to replace people. If you have an injury … we just felt we had to do this."

Havlat's status won't be determined for a week

Chicago coach Denis Savard said that Martin Havlat, who is out of tonight's game against the Red Wings with an injured shoulder, isn't skating, isn't lifting weights. His only workout right now is the bicycle. Havlat's status won't be determined for another week. Havlat was a winger on Robert Lang's line in Game 1 before being injured.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Time of possession

I've always wondered about the Red Wings and time of possession. Their game is obviously puck possession, so would that be a telling stat?
I clocked Game 1 with a stopwatch. The ground rules were ... one team or the other had possession at all times ... possession was determined similar to delayed penalties, you can touch the puck but control is the key.
So in a game against Anaheim where the Wings outshot the Ducks 42-15, here's how time of possession broke down ...
1st P 9:37
2nd P 11:29
3rd P 10:47
OT 3:20
Regulation 31:53
Reg + OT 35:15
1st P 10:23
2nd P 8:31
3rd P 9:13
OT 1:40
Regulation 28:07
Reg + OT 29:45

Dominant in overtime, but not in regulation. Hopefully, I'll be able to track more games this way during the season. Right now, I'm wondering if the TOP (time of possession) is going to turn out to be a better indicator than SOG (shots on goal). These numbers are more indicative of a 2-2 game than the SOG were.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Thoughts on Game 1

-- Notice how Babcock rotated his defensemen on the power play? He's trying to use just three blue-liners, starting with Lidstrom and Rafalski, then keeping one of them on with Kronwall, then the other with Kronwall. That's a good threesome if he can manage their time. If he needs to go with a fourth, it's either going to be Lebda or Samuelsson.
-- Corey Perry refused to take his helmet off in his fight with Drake, which was a weenie move if I've ever seen one. Perry had a beef with Drake, saying that the new Red Wings knocked him out with a hit two years ago. Drake doesn't remember the hit, but said that it probably happened. (Now that's funny.) So when Perry asked for the fight, you could see Drake motioning to his helmet as they dropped their gloves. Drake doesn't wear a visor, Perry does. The players' code says that if visored players want to fight, they should take their helmet off and Drake was offering to do the same. Drake's hand slammed into the visor a few times with punches. Next time Corey Perry asks for a fight, hopefully he'll brush up on the honor code beforehand.
-- The 42-15 advantage in shots on goal was legit. The Red Wings outchanced, outplayed and outworked the Ducks.
-- Detroit's penalty-kill pairings in order ... Filppula-Draper, Maltby-Drake, Cleary-Zetterberg with Lidstrom-Chelios and Kronwall-Lilja next. That means that Datsyuk won't get much PK time (he's the seventh forward) unless something changes.
-- Rafalski drew good reviews, but it was disturbing to see Ryan Getzlaf victimize him twice in the last shift of overtime. Getzlaf got around Rafalski for a shot with 25.0 seconds left. Then Getzlaf picked Rafalski's pocket at the Anaheim blue line. Zetterberg's backcheck negated a breakaway with 7.5 seconds left. Can't make mistakes in those key moments.
-- Any team that uses Todd Bertuzzi as its first shootout shooter is in trouble.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Thumbs down on new jerseys

DETROIT -- More T-shirts and more wristbands do not make the Detroit Red Wings more of anything but bothered.
The reason for the additional wardrobe is the addition of a new jersey by the NHL this season. The players have worn the jerseys throughout the preseason, but Wednesday's season-opener was the regular-season debut of the new, sleeker Reebok jerseys.
So far, the jerseys are as popular with NHL players as the new basketballs were with NBA players last season.
What the players are finding to be a problem is that the jerseys are designed to repel water.
That sounds like a good thing, but turns out to be more bother than benefit. Sweat no longer goes from the players' bodies through the jersey. It runs down players' arms and legs, making shirts, gloves and even skates soaked by the end of each period.
"The jersey does its job," said Detroit's Matt Ellis. "It takes the moisture away, but it feels like it's funneling moisture into certain areas. I know a lot of guys are expressing concern over that."
Ellis now wears wrist bands … something that he has never done before. Red Wing Tomas Holmstrom now changes his undershirt and socks after every period.
"Everything gets wetter … Skates are soaked," said Holmstrom. "The jerseys are really tight, around the arms tight. Arms, elbows … tight."
Pavel Datsyuk joked that he gets around tightness by wearing larger sized jerseys.
When introduced by the league at last season's all-star game, the jerseys were billed as being lighter and sleeker, thus helping player performance.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock takes a more philosophic view of the new jerseys.
"These are the uniforms we have and these are the ones we're going to play with," said Babcock. "The logo on the front is as beautiful as I've ever seen."

Probable lines Game 1 vs. Anaheim

Hasek (starts)

Bryzgalov (starts)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Selling hockey in Hockeytown

The NHL is trying its darndest to expand its fan base, opening it season with a pair of games in London, England, last weekend.
But can the league sell hockey in Hockeytown?
Of course Detroit is a vibrant hockey market. But it's also becoming a poster child for the faltering business fortunes of the NHL.
When the Detroit Red Wings open their season tonight (7 p.m., Versus) at Joe Louis Arena, the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks will be their opponent. The same Ducks who knocked the Red Wings out of the Western Conference final in six games last spring.
This matchup is a ticket-seller's dream.
But tickets are still available for the game. And it's very likely that the Red Wings' season-opener will not be a sellout.
To put that into perspective, the last regular-season home game at Joe Louis Arena that was not a sellout was on Dec. 10, 1996. That's a 396-game streak that will end if something remarkable doesn't happen before tonight's opening faceoff.
Even more telling is that the Red Wings didn't sell out any of their nine home playoff games last spring. The first game of the playoffs ended Detroit's streak of 452 consecutive sellouts -- regular season and playoff.
This much is clear … the NHL has greater problems than selling hockey in England. Not that the league shouldn't play a game or two abroad. There was nothing lost (other than sleep for players) and a lot of potential gain.
But swatches of empty seats in Hockeytown are big red flags. During a broadcast of Hockey Central on Toronto's Fan 590-AM this summer, former player Nick Kypreos called the lack of ticket buyers in Detroit alarming for the NHL. Kypreos is right.
There are reasons why those seats aren't selling in Detroit right now. Obviously the Michigan economy hurts ticket sales greatly.
But bad times didn't arrive in Michigan just this year.
Ticket sellers have had a long time to adjust the Red Wings' prices to the local economy. Instead, the team has gone with the philosophy of ticket prices being set to what price will sell.
That's not a bad way to do business and I'm sure the coffers have been full downtown for many years.
But there is proactive and there is reactive. The Red Wings find themselves tonight reminded that they are chasing rather than leading.
Ticket prices were slashed to $9 in the upper corners, which is a smart thing to do. Interestingly enough, it's not the highest priced seats, nor the lowest priced seats that have been the toughest to sell leading into this season. It has been the upper-bowl $44 seats -- priced for the middle class.
If this season-opener doesn't sell out, it's unlikely that there will be many sellouts this season. Toronto doesn't come to town. Sidney Crosby doesn't come to town.
And isn't it odd to talk about selling tickets to Red Wings games based on opponents and ticket prices.
The team has done its job. No team had more regular-season points than the Red Wings did last winter and only two teams went further in the playoffs. No team had more regular-season points than the Red Wings did the year before.
In fact, you can't find a 15-year period of success like the Red Wings are currently riding if you look through the entire history of the Pistons, Tigers or Lions.
The Red Wings should be selling out based on their on-ice success. That success initially led to easy ticket sales and inflated prices.
That period was officially over in the playoffs. Now the same people who had to turn people away at the ticket window have to figure a way to draw people in.
The franchise has been slow to react, but this game's not over. It'll be fun to watch the Red Wings try to become more fan friendly over the next few years.

Giggy on the ice

Goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who missed the Ducks' two games in London, England, is on the ice right now, taking part in Anaheim's full practice at Joe Louis Arena. Jonas Hiller and Ilja Bryzgalov are also both taking part in the practice.

Downey to sign this afternoon

Forward Aaron Downey said after this morning's practice at Joe Louis Arena that he was going to sign the two-way contract, this afternoon, that the Red Wings offered him. In the meantime, Downey's locker stall remains the only one that doesn't have his name on his name plate. Downey's reads "Red Wings 20".
There were no absences from practice today.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Red Wings finalize roster

DETROIT -- Aaron Downey, Matt Ellis and Derek Meech were the last three Red Wings off the ice after Monday's practice at Joe Louis Arena, following a tradition in hockey among newcomers.
But that extra work is fine with Downey, Ellis and Meech. The three were informed before Monday's practice that they had made the Red Wings' season-opening roster of 23 players.
Downey started taking his equipment off in the locker room and spotted five reporters standing nearby.
"OK, which one of you wants to interview me first?" said Downey very loudly.
Ellis and Meech smiled.
"I was born on a farm and I …" joked Downey.
Ellis and Meech laughed out loud.
"His attitude is why he's here," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock of Downey. "He sticks up for his teammates, gives us something we don't have in the organization."
Not since last October, at least. Downey being offered a two-way contract, Monday, parallels the Red Wings keeping Brad Norton last October. Norton had four of the Wings' 10 fighting majors last season and did that in just six games before being demoted to Grand Rapids.
Downey and Meech sticking with the Red Wings meant that Igor Grigorenko was sent to Grand Rapids, ending the most interesting roster battle of the preseason. Forward Mark Hartigan was put on waivers with the purpose of sending him to Grand Rapids as well.
Grigorenko, 24, is a skilled forward who has shined in the Russian Super League. His preseason play, however, was no more than adequate as he adjusted to life on and off the ice in North America.
What also makes Grigorenko's status interesting is that his contract has a clause that allows him to opt out of his Detroit deal if he's in the minor leagues for more than three weeks.
"We really like him," said Babcock. "We want him to play for our NHL team. We've got to find a way for him to be the best player he can be as quickly as possible. There are a couple of options. One, he could stay here and practice and not get in (the lineup). The one we like better is him actually playing and then getting back here, getting his pace and his game. It's no good just sitting here. Now he's got to get his mind wrapped around that and embrace being (in Grand Rapids) or else you don't get better. Otherwise it's just a waste of time."
Meech was labeled as the Red Wings' seventh defenseman (six dress for most games) by management over the weekend, but he wasn't told officially until yesterday. The 23-year-old spent four games with Detroit last year and was an American Hockey League all-star with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
"Last year, I played a bigger role in Grand Rapids that I settled into and I had a good season," said Meech. "This year, I was determined to stay here (in Detroit) all year. Right now, I'm on the right track, but I'm on edge all the time. I don't want to get comfortable."
Ellis, 26, captained the Griffins last winter and played in 16 games with the Red Wings. The father of a 7-month-old, Ellis toiled in the minors for the past four seasons.
"You never know for sure until you hear it," said Ellis. "I figured (Monday) morning would be the day to find out for sure. Over breakfast, (I) kind of had those feelings in the stomach not knowing what to expect."
Downey came to training camp as a free-agent tryout with seven seasons of NHL experience. Downey, Jassen Cullimore and Brent Sopel were the three veterans brought in the by Red Wings as tryouts. Cullimore was an early cut. Sopel was offered a contract, but signed with the Chicago Blackhawks last Friday.
Downey came to the rink Monday morning and was offered a two-way contract, meaning that he would be paid a lower salary if he was demoted to Grand Rapids. Downey is the only Red Wing with the reputation as a fighter, having 35 regular-season fighting majors in his career.
"A two-way deal gives them a little more flexibility in case some time down the road things don't work out," said Downey. "Being around the game a long time now, I understand the situation. But it's an opportunity and it's a tremendous feeling now. … This is the Detroit Red Wings. To be able to make this hockey team is a special feeling."

Player reactions to making the team

"A two-way deal gives them a little more flexibility in case some time down the road things don't work out. Being around the game a long time now, I understand the situation. But it's an opportunity and it's a tremendous feeling now."
"I'm going to call my dad this afternoon first, then we'll call back Kenny (Holland). … A chance to play for a team like this is an amazing feeling rather than a team like someone at the bottom of the league. … This is the Detroit Red Wings. To be able to make this hockey team is a special feeling."

"It's pretty unbelievable. (Sunday) I was hearing things from family and friends, but I didn't know. Today, I got the word. It's pretty exciting."
"They called me and said congrats. But I was, 'Glad you guys know, but I haven't heard it yet.'"
"I get to call my dad now and tell him."
"Last year, I played a bigger role in Grand Rapids that I settled into and I had a good season. This year, I was determined to stay here (in Detroit) all year. Right now, I'm on the right track, but I'm on edge all the time. I don't want to get comfortable."

"You never know for sure until you hear it."
"I figured this morning would be the day to find out for sure. Over breakfast, (I) kind of had those feelings in the stomach not knowing what to expect."
"I'm going to make a couple of calls right now to let my wife know and my parents know. I'm sure I'll be on the phone a lot today."
"Mentally this year has been a little bit easier for me. I was one step closer to earning a position here than I had been in the previous years. By being around this locker room and being around these guys last year, it took the initial nerves and tightness away. I was just able to come in and be part of things and be comfortable and confident."
"It's a little different this year having a wife and baby involved. It's my first time going through this with a family."

Season-opening roster




Babcock on final roster

On Quincey
"He'll start out in Grand Rapids just because he's hurt. … When he gets healthy, the fact is that he's still a kid and he's got to get himself playing before he comes back. Is he going to come back for sure? That's up to him."

On Hartigan
"We like what we saw. We just didn't feel that he edged out the other people that we had."

On Downey
"He's going to be on the team. … We'll see what he can bring us."
"He sticks up for his teammates, gives us something we don't have in the organization. But his attitude is why he's here."

On Ellis
"Ellis is a real safe guy. We think he's improved. He's a big guy. We like his attitude. We like that about Downey too. We think they bring a lot of positive to our team as far as good people, work ethic, commitment to the guys."

On Meech
"Give him credit. He's done a good job here. He's a lot more confident than he was last year. Meech can move the puck. He was an American League all-star last year. Ideally, he can continue to develop."

On Grigorenko
"We really like him. We want him to play for our NHL team. We've got to find a way for him to be the best player he can be as quickly as possible. There are a couple of options. One, he could stay here and practice and not get in (the lineup). The one we like better is him actually playing and then getting back here, getting his pace and his game. It's no good just sitting here. Now he's got to get his mind wrapped around that and embrace being (in Grand Rapids) or else you don't get better. Otherwise it's just a waste of time."
If he stayed with Detroit ... "Not going to get him on the ice."
Grigs not being able to speak English ... "That's one of the biggest problems. When you're trying to communicate to him that you're trying to help him, he just thinks he's getting demoted. It's to our benefit when you've got a player who could be a real good NHL player, you've got to find him. … Now try to explain that to him. You've got his agent translating, but any time they're translating, they're translating, not you. I'm always a little leery of that."
"He's going to play hockey in Grand Rapids. Everyone knows what skate is. Everyone knows what work is. Everyone knows how to ride the bike. It doesn't matter what language."

Roster set

Derek Meech is the seventh defenseman.
Matt Ellis is on the roster and moving his wife and child to Detroit this week.
Aaron Downey has been offered a two-way contract that he says he'll likely accept. If he does, he'll start the season in Detroit.
Mark Hartigan has been put on waivers with the intent of being assigned to Grand Rapids.
Igor Grigorenko has been assigned to Grand Rapids.
Kyle Quincey is on injured reserve, but will go to Grand Rapids to work out. When he's ready to play (Quincey believes that will be in two and a half weeks), he'll start in Grand Rapids.

Another note from Monday's practice is that Chris Chelios skated early on his own, then left for the William Wirtz funeral in Chicago.

Early look at lineup?

The Red Wings' practice has just started. The team hasn't announced its final roster cuts, but on the ice right now are Aaron Downey and Matt Ellis as part of a full team skate. No Igor Grigorneko. No Mark Hartigan.
If this means what it looks like, then Grigorenko and Hartigan are starting the season in Grand Rapids. It also means that the Red Wings will start the season with 14 forwards, keeping Downey and Ellis. Downey's emergence mirrors the success of Brad Norton out of training camp last year. Norton made the squad as an enforcer, which is Downey's specialty. Norton lasted six games before being demoted to the Grand Rapids Griffins for the remainder of the season. Grigorenko has a clause in his contract that if he spends more than three weeks in the minors, he can opt out of his Detroit deal and return to Russia.
Chris Chelios is the only other player not on the ice.