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.

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 ...

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 ...

More to come.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Penalties Drawn

Found a web site that tracks penalties drawn. Thank goodness.
Here are the figures through Sunday. Datsyuk and Zetterberg rank quite high in the league.
Player, Penalties Drawn, Penalties Taken, Penalty Diff.
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
Chelios, 2, 5, -3
Rafalski, 1, 5, -4
Lebda, 4, 8, -4
Kronwall, 2, 7, -5
Lidstrom, 0, 6, -6
Lilja, 3, 13, -10
Osgood, 1, 0, +1
Hasek, 1, 2, -1


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
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
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 ...
Osgood (starts)
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 ...


Osgood (will start Tuesday)

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
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 ...

Osgood (starts)
Meech (healthy scratch)


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.

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.

Osgood (starts)
Ellis (healthy scratch)
Downey (healthy scratch)
Meech (healthy scratch)

St. Louis

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
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-
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
Rafalski 9.6-1.8
Lebda 8.1-1.6
Lidstrom 7.9-2.8
Kronwall 6.4-3.8

Red Wings -6.1
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)
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 ...

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.

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.

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.

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 ...



Osgood (starts)

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?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Osgood sick

Chris Osgood didn't practice Friday, out with the flu. Dominik Hasek will start Saturday night. Whether Osgood will be well enough to back up Hasek will be determined either later tonight or tomorrow morning.
In order to call up goalie Jimmy Howard from Grand Rapids, one of two things must happen. The Red Wings are at the roster maximum of 23, so to add a player, the team has to either put a player (like Osgood) on injured reserve, or send Aaron Downey down to the minors. Downey has already cleared waivers and could be demoted immediately. Any other current Red Wing would have to have to wait 24 hours to clear waivers before being cleared to be reassigned.
Also of note from Friday's practice, Johan Franzen skated with the fourth line and Jiri Hudler skated on the second line.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Don't change anything in net

Doing nothing is quite often the best thing to do.
Trust me. I know all about doing nothing. I consider myself an expert in the field. If you need references, my boss and my mother will be happy to provide those.
But I'm here to tell you that nothing often beats something in the doing department, especially when something can take you farther in the wrong direction. Is that clear?
Here's a timely example: The Detroit Red Wings' No. 1 goalie is playing like a No. 2 goalie while the No. 2 goalie is playing like a No. 1 goalie.
Chris Osgood is hot.
Osgood is second in the NHL among goalies who have played in nine games with a 1.58 goals-against average. He has a sparkling .931 save percentage and he wins, posting an 8-1-0 record.
More than the numbers, you can see the confidence Osgood has when he plays. He's quick, he's challenging and even when he makes a mistake he's still in good enough position for the puck to hit him.
Dominik Hasek is not hot. He's 21st in the league with a 2.76 goals-against average. Worse than that, Hasek's .869 save percentage is by far the lowest in the league among goalies with at least seven games played. He's 5-3-1 on a team that has lost just one time without him in net.
Hasek described his play after Tuesday's loss in St. Louis as "not being able to get in the game." He doesn't see action for minutes, then lets in a quickie … which is another way to say that he's playing like a No. 2 goalie. Osgood plays behind the same tight defense and manages just fine.
Tuesday's game was a good example of the difference between the two netminders. Hasek was pulled after allowing four goals, including two off big rebounds. Osgood came in and looked a lot sharper.
All of that said, it would seem obvious that the correct thing to do would be to make a change, to play Osgood more often and give the Red Wings a better chance to win.
But not doing anything right now would be better than doing something like making a change.
Osgood and Hasek have been splitting the workload. Keep doing that, even giving Dominik a few more starts than his partner.
The Red Wings are going to make the playoffs. You don't need to ride a hot goalie to get there.
And when they get to the playoffs, no matter what happens performance-wise in the regular season, Dominik Hasek will be the starting goalie.
So between now and then, the Red Wings have two missions to accomplish with their goaltending.
First, get Hasek back into top form. That will only happen if you keep throwing Hasek in the net even after games in which he allows four goals in one period. He has five months to work it all out.
Second, keep Osgood playing at such a high level. I said Hasek would start the playoffs. You never know what will happen in the playoffs and having Osgood is an advantage that Detroit has over most teams. But there are five months between now and the playoffs and it's going to be very difficult for Osgood to keep performing as he has been. There's not need to overwork Osgood, just keep him fresh.
In other words, the worst thing in the world for the Red Wings' goalies would be to treat Osgood as the dominant netminder right now.
Coach Mike Babcock has often said that Detroit doesn't need Hasek to set any record for games played. The Red Wings just need him to win 16 games in the spring. And they have 64 games to get Hasek playoff ready.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wings lose second straight

ST. LOUIS -- What killed the Detroit Red Wings, Tuesday night, was a lack of killer instinct.
Leading by two goals through one period and still holding a lead with the game more than half over, the Red Wings then had their worst period of the season and dropped a 4-3 decision to the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center.
St. Louis scored four second-period goals on five shots in a 10:42 span to take a 4-2 lead. Detroit had eight shots on goal during that span, including a Dan Cleary breakaway and a Jiri Hudler point-blank one-timer, but couldn't muster another goal until there was just 4:47 left in the game.
"It's disappointing," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "You're up 2-0 and you've got everything under control and you're getting chance after chance after chance and fail to have the killer instinct to put the game away. When it was 2-1, (St. Louis goalie Manny) Legace made big saves. We had numerous guys in alone on him. We failed to execute and put it in the back of the net."
The loss stands out as an anomaly in the Red Wings' young season.
It was the first game in which Henrik Zetterberg failed to register a point, ending his streak of 17 straight games.
"It had to end some time," said Zetterberg. "Unfortunately, it did when we lost."
It was the first time this season that Detroit (13-4-1) lost for the second straight game. It was the first time this season that Detroit has allowed four goals in a period and just the third time that the Red Wings have allowed four goals in a game.
It was the second straight game that Detroit has gone into the second period down two goals. The Red Wings are 2-11-0 over the past four seasons when trailing by two goals through two periods.
Perhaps the biggest anomaly was goalie Dominik Hasek being pulled 35:51 into the game after allowing the fourth goal. It was the first time this season that a Red Wing goalie has been lifted from a game.
"To me this is a team thing, not a Dom thing," said Babcock. "We needed to change something."
Hasek allowed four goals on seven second-period shots. The Blues managed to get just 16 shots on goal in the contest.
"Any time you give up four goals on seven shots, it doesn't look good," said Hasek. "I'm disappointed. Two goals on power plays, a breakaway, a nice shot … I have to look at the replay and see what I did wrong."
The first St. Louis goal came with both Cleary and Kris Draper in the penalty box. Keith Tkachuk whacked a rebound past Hasek to cut Detroit's lead to 2-1 5:09 into the second period.
With 6:46 on the second-period clock, rookie David Perron snuck behind Chris Chelios and scored on a breakaway. A minute later, Perron had his second goal of the night when he swept in the rebound of a power-play shot from the point.
Perron has four goals in his eight NHL games. He was drafted 27th overall this summer by the Blues, one pick before the Red Wings took defenseman Brendan Smith with their first pick.
With 4:09 left in the second period, St. Louis took a 4-2 lead when Jamal Mayers beat Hasek with a slap shot from the faceoff circle that went in high blocker side just inside the post and crossbar.
"We just couldn't stop them in that second period," said Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom. "We made some bad decisions that cost us."
Detroit took the lead 4:30 into the game when Pavel Datsyuk skipped a wrist shot from the blue line that bounced past Legace.
The Red Wings doubled their advantage in the first period when Cleary scored his sixth goal of the season on a good looking play. In the slot with his back to the net, Cleary lifted a backhand shot over Legace's glove when the goalie went down to his knees.
Valtteri Filppula scored the Red Wings' third goal, one-timing a pass from Hudler as he came off the bench and down the pipe.
That, however, wasn't enough to overcome earlier mistakes and missed opportunities.
"We made too many mental mistakes, costly mistakes where all of a sudden the guy is home free," said Babcock. "We don't normally do that."

Cheli in a pinch

Sometimes, blue means go.
At the opposition blue line, Chris Chelios would rather pinch in than back peddle if the opposition has any difficulty getting the puck out of its own zone. He pinches more than any other Detroit Red Wing defenseman and uses the strategy to create havoc.
"It's a lot better to play in their end than in our own end, especially since you can't hook or hold up," said Chelios. "You create a lot of turnovers at their blue line. Even if the puck gets out of the zone, at least we're in a position to come back rather than backing up to the red line."
That requires coordination with Chelios' defense partner, often Brett Lebda over the past three seasons.
Lebda will back below the blue line and cheat over towards Chelios when he senses his partner is going to pinch in. That positioning allows Lebda to better pick up a loose puck or in a worst-case scenario position himself to defend against an opposition rush.
"I love it when he does it," said Lebda. "Even if he pinches down and the puck squirts loose, he's not going to let the puck and the guy by. I can come over and pick up any loose pucks. He's really good at reading the situation on when to go and when not to go. I love it because it lets us play in the offensive zone more.
"I've learned now over the past few years how to back him up and read him and play closer to him. He would tell me, 'Get over, get over.' I'm starting to see what he means."
Although pinching requires a veteran's wisdom, it's difficult to determine whether Chelios pinches more now than earlier in his career. Twenty years ago, Chelios played a much different role on the ice than nowadays. Back then, Chelios was more of a puck-carrier, someone relied on to score 15 goals and tally 60 or more points in a season.
"I had the puck a lot more in Montreal, so it's hard to say," said Chelios. I like to play tight, depend on my partner. In the past, I've had defensive partners, so when I did pinch, they'd be back. Now I play with Lebs, so I'm a little more cautious because he's the one that's supposed to be going up the ice."
And after so many games together, Lebda has a read on Chelios … expect the unexpected.
"He's Cheli … You never know what he's going to do," said Lebda.

Lilja a healthy scratch

Lilja is scratched for tonight's game. Derek Meech will play.

Good students, poor play

More from coach Mike Babcock about last Saturday's practice not being a good one leading into Sunday's loss in Chicago ...
"Zetterberg calls it the joy factor. … There's a lot of fun. Our guys are laughing and abusing each other and fooling around. The day before in practice, we went out and no one was bugging each other. They were paying attention and we weren't executing. I know right away when they're attentive that something's going on. Usually, they're goofing off, having fun. There was no energy. Just because the schedule says we should be all right, we're not."
So the team traveled to St. Louis and had Monday off. All of the players and coaches got together to bowl -- Jiri Hudler had high score and Kirk Maltby was second. Then it was back on the ice for Tuesday's morning skate and hopefully a more energetic performance than two nights ago.
As for bowling, the inexperienced Hudler came up with four consecutive strikes, smiling while recounting his 183 game this morning. Maltby missed his spare in the ninth then left three pins in the 10th. "Sometimes when you don't know what you're doing, that's when you succeed," said Maltby about Hudler.

Sammy out of the lineup

Mikael Samuelsson will not play in tonight's game in St. Louis. He returned home to be with his wife, Sandra, and newborn daughter, Stina, who arrived shortly after midnight early Tuesday morning.
Matt Ellis will be in the lineup tonight, centering the fourth line with Tomas Kopecky and Dallas Drake on the wings. Jiri Hudler moves up to the second line to play with Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen.

Here are the probable lines for tonight ...


Hasek (starts)

Meech (healthy scratch)
Downey (healthy scratch)

St. Louis


Legace (starts)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Penalties drawn

Here's the weekly listing of penalties drawn (power plays created by individual players). Also, I've found another blog that tracks this stat as well ... . If he continues to spreadsheet this data, I might stop and just link to his. Way too much work to track this stuff.

Red Wings
Player-Penalites Drawn-Penalties Committed-Diff.
Datsyuk 13 2 +11
Zetterberg 12 4 +8
Holmstrom 8 13 -5
Draper 5 11 -6
Drake 4 2 +2
Franzen 4 2 +2
Cleary 3 2 +1
Filppula 3 2 +1
Hudler 3 2 +1
Kopecky 3 2 +1
Maltby 3 5 -2
Lilja 3 11 -8
Samuelsson 2 1 +1
Ellis 2 3 -1
Chelios 2 4 -2
Lebda 2 7 -5
Hasek 1 0 +1
Osgood 1 0 +1
Downey 1 1 0
Rafalski 1 3 -2
Kronwall 1 7 -6
Lidstrom 0 5 -5

Tonight's Opponent St. Louis
Boyes 8 2 +6
Kariya 5 2 +3
King 5 2 +3
Tkachuk 5 3 +2
Legace 4 0 +4
Weight 4 2 +2
Rucinsky 4 3 +1
Wagner 4 3 +1
Backes 3 4 -1
Jackman 3 4 -1
Stempniak 3 6 -3
Johnson 2 1 +1
Salvador 2 3 -1
McKee 2 4 -2
Backman 2 5 -3
Brewer 2 5 -3
McClement 1 0 +1
Mayers 1 2 -1
Walker 1 2 -1
Hinote 1 3 -2
Dupont 0 1 -1

League Leaders
Crosby, Pit, 20 7 +13
Ovechkin, Wash, 14 3 +11
Nash, CBJ, 14 7 +7
Datsyuk, Det, 13 2 +11
Kopitar, LA, 13 2 +11
Gomez, NYR, 13 2 +11
Malone, Pit, 13 9 +4
Phaneuf, Cal, 14 12 +2
Hamhuis, Nash, 6 1 +5
Green, Wash, 7 6 +1
O'Donnell, Ana, 7 6 +1
Komisarek, Mon, 6 9 -3
Legace, StL, 4 0 +4
Toskala, Tor, 3 0 +3
Fleury, Pit, 3 0 +3
Mason, Nash, 3 0 +3
Brodeur, NJ, 3 0 +3
Roloson, Edm, 3 0 +3
Tellqvist, Pho, 3 1 +2

Thoughts on Game 17 (3-2 loss in Chicago)

-- Remember "You must wrestle Kane" from professional wrestling? That's going to be the theme for the Red Wings against Chicago this season. Detroit's 13-1-0 against the rest of the NHL and 0-2-1 against the Blackhawks. "You must play against Kane" ... then out walks this 5-9 kid with curly hair and a face that looks like someone's little brother and everyone screams in fear. Could the Blackhawks at least try to make this kid look slightly tough before he goes out and kicks butt? Pavel Datsyuk looks like he could pile drive Kane, which at this point in time I'd like to see. What does a pile driver get? A five-minute major?
-- All those jokes aside, Denis Savard matched up the Kane-Toews-Ruutu line up against the Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom line last night and I think that's a bad move on Chicago's part. Whenever you're at home and your line matchup winds up the same as if you were on the road against a team, you've got to think again. Mike Babcock would gladly throw the Zetterberg line over the boards every time that Toews' line is on. Kane did score and so did Toews, but both were power-play goals. The Toews line didn't outperform the Zetterberg line on a bad night for the Wings' top unit. They won the game, but you'd think that the Blackhawks would try to protect their two teen-agers -- playing in their 17th and 15th NHL games -- more than to throw them out against the NHL's top line (there I said it).
-- Tomas Holmstrom is going about his job differently and I think it's less effective. Normally, Holmstrom plays net-front like a goalie. Last night, he set up much more perpendicular to the goalie with his stick to the side. He's also setting up at times to the right of the net along the goal line. That's where he was when he jammed that goal in against Columbus, Friday. He set up there a couple of times again, Sunday. I'd prefer to see the goalie-like Holmstrom back on every single possession. I understand that the referee's calls might be forcing a change, but I hope not.
-- Nothing to do with last night's game, but my favorite quote from the weekend was from Babcock when asked about Jiri Hudler's role. "I'd like him to score goals," said Babcock. "I don't know what role you call that."
-- How did Andreas Lilja lose/break his stick so often?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Goalie rotation?

With Chris Osgood getting the start in Chicago Sunday and Dominik Hasek going Tuesday in St. Louis ... are we now in the midst of a goalie rotation forced by Osgood's play? Or is this just a way of easing Hasek back?
If Hasek isn't 100 percent, then why is he playing? And if he is 100 percent, then why isn't he starting when the games aren't back-to-back. The current rotation is very un-Babcock-like.

Thoughts on Game 16 (4-1 win over Columbus)

-- Valtteri Filppula is off the power play with Johan Franzen, Dan Cleary and Jiri Hudler forming the second unit. Filppula and Hudler are opposites with one getting prime PP time and the other a prime even-strength assignment. Mike Babcock compared Hudler to Tomas Holmstrom early in his career -- a fourth-liner who gets lots of PP time. Babcock also had a good line when asked what role he sees Hudler playing: "I want him to score. I don't know what that role is called exactly."
-- Franzen's visor didn't last long. Hopefully his Franzenstein gash won't get whacked.
-- I've seen enough of Mo Cheese after 2 million repeats of the same performance.
-- Dan Cleary wasn't given the first goal (deflection of a Brett Lebda shot) until after the game. I picked the three stars and would have given Cleary the first star (he got the second) had that change been made earlier. Sorry Dan.
-- Please stop booing Sergei Fedorov. You have every right to do so ... but it's ignorant and petty.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Downey clears waivers

Aaron Downey cleared waivers, Friday. He will remain with the Red Wings. This gives the team a 30-day or 10-game window during which it can make a roster move (involving Downey) that won't require the waiting period of waivers. General manager Ken Holland likes that flexibility with the team at the roster maximum of 23, including just two goalies.

Kopecky and Drake back in the lineup

From Friday's morning skate ...
Tomas Kopecky and Dallas Drake return to the lineup for tonight with Aaron Downey and Matt Ellis being healthy scratches. Kopecky and Drake sat out Wednesday's game as healthy scratches.
On the blue line, Niklas Kronwall is back with Andreas Lilja as the second defense pairing after Kronwall missed the past four games with a groin injury. Derek Meech will be a healthy scratch and Brett Lebda and Chris Chelios will once again be the third blue-line pairing.



Hasek (starting)

Meech (healthy scratch)
Ellis (healthy scratch)
Downey (healthy scratch)

Downey on waivers again

Forward Aaron Downey was put on waivers again to give the Red Wings roster flexibility. The same thing happened 30 days ago and Downey wasn't picked up by any other NHL team. With the team at the roster maximum of 23 and every player healthy, putting Downey on waivers and keeping him allows the Red Wings to make an immediate move if necessary without having to wait for someone to clear waivers. It's a preapproval of sorts. Downey has until noon today to clear waivers or be claimed by another team.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Datsyuk: Passing fancy

DETROIT -- Pavel Datsyuk doesn't like noise. He doesn't like yelling and he doesn't like hockey sticks smacked like beaver tails on the ice. Not while the game is on.
Johan Franzen found that out early. After a shift on Datsyuk's line, the Russian made sure to speak with Franzen on the Detroit Red Wings' bench.
"Don't yell," said Datsyuk quietly. "'I know where you are."
Franzen smiled thinking about it. He is in his third season in the NHL, played in Sweden's elite league and in international competitions, but he hasn't had many linemates who claim to see everything on the ice and then back it up with their play.
"He's sick," said Franzen, using English slang as a compliment. "You think that he doesn't see you, but he knows exactly where you are. And he hates when you yell for the puck. Hates it. He wants the other team to forget about you and then he gets you the puck."
Pavel Datsyuk is an admitted pass-aholic. He would much rather pass than shoot, rather stick-handle than set up for a one-timer.
And that's just fine by the Red Wings because Datsyuk has developed a good shot that he will use. Since 2003-04, only Henrik Zetterberg has scored more goals for the Red Wings than Datsyuk (87).
Lost in Zetterberg's remarkable opening -- he has a franchise record 15-game point streak from season's start and leads the NHL in scoring -- is that his linemate, Datsyuk, has helped turned the Swede into a sniper.
Entering Thursday night's games, Datsyuk was third in the NHL with 14 assists in 15 games.
"I like passing," said Datsyuk. "When somebody scores in an open net after my pass is the best. If somebody says, 'Would you rather score or have somebody score off your pass?' … I'd say pass."
Datsyuk's shot needed work when he started in the NHL.
Now in his sixth season in the league, Datsyuk has improved greatly in that department. His teammates have teased him in the locker room about wicked high slap shots that he unleashes in practice and on occasion in games.
"When I played in Russia, I practiced more passing," said Datsyuk. "I passed a lot more than shoot. I didn't have a strong shot. I didn't have much sting on my slap shot. Now I do. My slap shot needed more work.
"We have bigger rinks (in Russia). Everybody tries to be closer to the net to shoot it. Here, every shot is danger. In Russia, you can have the best shot and it's still not dangerous. It's a different style over there."
Aside from being a bigger part of the Russian game, passing is also a natural inclination for Datsyuk. The forward spends significant time after practices working on skills like saucer passes and games of keep-away.
"People who don't play hockey probably don't even see 20 percent of the small things he does," said Franzen of Datsyuk. "He knows all the tricks. Hitting the other guy's stick so he can't get the puck. It looks so easy, but it's not. You don't want to play against him."

Kronwall back in lineup

Defenseman Niklas Kronwall (groin) will be back in the lineup against Columbus, Friday, meaning that Derek Meech will most likely return to being a healthy scratch after four straight games in the lineup. Whether Dallas Drake and Tomas Kopecky -- healthy scratches at forward Wedneday -- will be back in the lineup will be seen at Friday's morning skate.

Thoughts on Game 15 (3-2 shootout win vs. Nashville)

-- Pavel Datsyuk is the most fun player to watch in the NHL. For me, he's the most watchable player of the past 20 years. Amazing control and athleticism and hockey sense.
-- When you're team has someone like Jiri Hudler filling a role as a fourth-liner and second PP unit guy and producing three goals in four games, you've got a superb team.
-- Derek Meech is one of the top six defensemen on this team right now. It might be time for him to bump Brett Lebda on occasion although that's not likely to happen.
-- Wow is Chris Osgood playing well. But it's not time to debate whether he should supplant Dominik Hasek. Osgood has stepped in wonderfully in November. But the playoffs are a long way away. Hopefully, the Red Wings will have Ozzie playing like this in the spring to give them options.
-- It's remarkable that Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg haven't been better shootout performers thus far in their careers. Datsyuk was at 44 percent entering last night and Zetterberg was at 33 percent.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Hudler on fourth line tonight

Jiri Hudler has been working in with the second and third lines, but at this morning's skate, he was on the fourth line centered by Matt Ellis with Aaron Downey on the other wing. Dallas Drake worked in on that line. Tomas Kopecky looks like a healthy scratch as well, working in on the first line during the skate.
Here's an early look at what might be the Wings' lines tonight against Nashville ...
Osgood (starts)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Penalties drawn

Here are Detroit's penalties drawn to date. To clarify, penalties drawn are given to a player when he is the victim of an infraction that leads to an opponent being penalized. Thus Pavel Datsyuk was hooked, slashed, tripped 10 times this season leading to 10 Detroit power plays. ...
Datsyuk 10
Zetterberg 9
Holmstrom 8
Draper 5
Drake 4
Kopecky 3
Cleary 3
Filppula 3
Ellis 2
Hudler 2
Lebda 2
Lilja 2
Maltby 2
Samuelsson 2
Chelios 1
Downey 1
Franzen 1
Kronwall 1

And Wednesday's opponent, Nashville ...
Legwand 8
Radulov 5
Bonk 4
Dumont 4
Tootoo 4
Hamhuis 4
Erat 3
Arnott 3
Gelinas 3
Mason 3
Ortmeyer 3
Zanon 3
Suter 2
Fiddler 2
Smithson 2
DeVries 2
Koistinen 2
Nichol 1

And the NHL leaders by position ...
Crosby, Pit, 14
Gomez, NYR, 12
Kopitar, LA, 12
Cammalleri, LA, 11
Ovechkin, Wash, 11
Thornton, SJ, 11
Brind'Amour, Car, 10
Datsyuk, Det, 10
Kane, Chi, 10
Kesler, Van, 10
Malone, Pit, 10
Nash, CBJ, 10
Phaneuf, Cal, 12
O'Donnell, Ana, 7
Green, Wash, 7
Komisarek, Mon, 6
Aucoin, Cal, 5
Chara, Bos, 5
Brodeur, NJ, 3
Fleury, Pit, 3
Legace, StL, 3
Mason, Nash, 3
Tellqvist, Pho, 3

Notes from Tuesday's practice

-- Chris Osgood will start in net against Nashville Wednesday with Dominik Hasek backing him up. Hasek (hip) practiced again Tuesday and felt fine. He'll get the start in Friday's game.
-- Niklas Kronwall (groin) took part in the drills at Tuesday's practice, but left the ice during the 5-on-5 scrimmages. He won't play Wednesday.
-- Jiri Hudler worked on with the first and second lines on drills. With Johan Franzen working in on the second power-play unit at practice again, there's a possibility that Hudler could be scratched.
-- Tomas Kopecky worked in with the fourth line. Dallas Drake, Matt Ellis and Aaron Downey started all drills as the fourth line for the third straight practice.
-- The team's father/mentor trip will be Jan. 18-24 on a trip that includes games in San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim.
-- Lines from practice ...

Monday, November 5, 2007

Meech bides his time

DETROIT -- There are two similarities between Derek Meech's rookie season with the Detroit Red Wings and his first season playing major junior hockey in Red Deer, Alberta.
As a newcomer to each level, Meech found himself in the middle of a locker room of winners. As a 16-year-old, Meech was part of a Red Deer Rebel team that had the best record in the Western Hockey League (54-12-3-3). On that squad were future NHLers like Colby Armstrong, Jim Vandermeer, Martin Erat and Kyle Wanvig. Future Stanley Cup champion Cam Ward even got into one game in net as a 17-year-old.
As an NHL rookie, Meech is part of a Red Wings team that has started with an 11-2-1 record. He sits a couple of locker stalls over from Nicklas Lidstrom and a few doors down from there is Chris Chelios. Meech can look across the room at Dominik Hasek, the league's leading scorer, Henrik Zetterberg, and the circuit's top assist man, Pavel Datsyuk.
"I'd rather be here than anywhere else in the world," said Meech. "I have nothing to complain about."
But he does have an adjustment to make, which is the second similarity. Meech went on to become a star in junior hockey. He then made a seamless adjustment to the professional game, becoming an American Hockey League all-star last season.
But this season is a lot like Meech's first season in juniors, trying to find a spot in the lineup whenever and wherever possible.
With defenseman Niklas Kronwall likely to miss Wednesday's game against Nashville (7:30 p.m., FSN) with a lingering groin pull, Meech will get into his fourth game of the season. Being the seventh defenseman in a six-deep lineup has left Meech sitting out 10 games so far.
"I think you've got to treat game days like game days, whether you're playing or not," said Meech. "I treat it the same way just to keep mentally sharp, keep the cobwebs away. Eat the pregame meal at the same time, keep everything in the routine the same as when I'm playing. It's very hard watching the game. You just wish you were out there. During games, I work out to keep the intensity up."
Meech had a four-game callup last season to give him an inkling of the NHL level of play. One year before his rookie season in juniors, Meech got into five games with Red Deer.
When Meech started his first full season in Red Deer, he found himself the odd man out on the blue line, just like this year. That led to Meech being inserted into the lineup frequently as a forward when an opening arose.
"I have been thrown at forward in junior just to get me in the lineup," said Meech. "The first half of the year, I'd go from forward to 'D' wherever they needed me. I just ran around, hit everything I saw. I loved it.
"That year, the team we had was … I don't know if I can say similar to this team because this team is second to none. But the situation was that we were top of the league and I was working my way in and out of the lineup."

Notes from Monday's practice

-- Niklas Kronwall didn't practice. His groin injury didn't bother him after Saturday's skate, but did feel bad Sunday. He won't be in the lineup Wednesday.
-- Dominik Hasek (hip) said that he felt fine again. Coach Mike Babcock said that he'll wait to see how Hasek feels after Tuesday's practice to decide who starts in net Wednesday.
-- A lot of Monday's practice was spent on special teams. With Kronwall absent, Mikael Samuelsson was on the second power-play unit point alongside Brett Lebda. Johan Franzen worked in with the second unit up front along with Jiri Hudler, Dan Cleary and Valtteri Filppula.
-- Lebda was paired with Andreas Lilja. Derek Meech and Chris Chelios were the third blue-line tandem. Hudler worked in with the Henrik Zetterberg line. Tomas Kopecky, Dallas Drake, Matt Ellis and Aaron Downey took turns on the fourth line.
-- One portion of the practice was working on 2-on-2s and 3-on-2s with the defensemen staying up on the forwards as tight as could be. So tight that many, many blue-liners were burned.
-- Jimmy Howard is back in Grand Rapids.
-- Sunday's game in Chicago will be on local TV in the Windy City.
-- Line combinations ...

Selling the NHL the right way

I don't know if you've heard, but the NHL has a PR problem. It's true.
People across the United States perceive hockey as a secondary sport just because in terms of public interest, it is a secondary sport.
In some states, they refuse to call hockey one of the four big sports. In the hockey-loving states, we praise the sport saying that hockey used to be one of the four big sports. It's true.
Television ratings could win a limbo contest. Game attendance could take second placed. It's true.
Some people say that they cannot follow the puck on television. OK, this one is not true. If you can't figure out why all those other guys are chasing around one guy, hitting him with body checks, then you're not clear on the concept of the game. And while we're at it, the next time that you watch a baseball game on television (I know it'll be a while, but try to remember this), point every time that you see the baseball. Actually see the ball, not know that someone has it in his glove. You'll be surprised at how little airtime a baseball gets on television. But somehow viewers are able to figure out what's going on with the ball when they're shown an outfielder running and looking up.
Hockey is a regional game with some appeal nationwide. But the NHL is refusing to put any more franchises in Canada insisting on places like Kansas City and Las Vegas to grow the sport. You've been wronged, Hamilton. It's true.
Amid all that bad news, we journalists know that there is just one way to pull this league out of its plummet. And that's with half-truths and outright balderdash. Slant everyone's view and call it PR.
And since I make my living off of the great sport of hockey, I feel obliged to try to help the cause with a few catchy PR slogans. Not one of them mentions jerseys being 14 percent lighter. Feel free to use any that you see fit, Mr. Bettman.
-- "Fire Bettman."
Not sure if you want to use this one, Mr. Bettman, but having a commissioner who isn't focused on growing a sport in non-traditional areas would help a great deal right now. Hamilton would have sold out every game. And I'm not sure that someone watching on television in Los Angeles really cares whether he's watching a game in Nashville or Hamilton. Nothing lost. Lots to gain.
-- "Bare-knuckle fighting … there's your ultimate fighting."
Fighting majors are up in the NHL. Fighting sells. The league is trying to sell the sport as non-barbaric in hopes of drawing new viewers. It's not working. Let's try to draw in the pro-barbarians as new viewers. Pro-barbarians have money too.
-- "Jeff Gordon vs. Al Sobotka … on ice. My money's on Al."
Any reference to NASCAR is a good reference. Tie yourself to a winner.
-- "The NHL is more environmentally friendly than NASCAR. Zambonis get better gas mileage than stock cars."
Still riding that long NASCAR coattail.
-- "Baseball is boring."
It never hurts to slam competition that is struggling.
-- "Let's see how accurate of a shot Tiger Woods is after Chris Pronger lays him out."
-- "Figure skaters hit like … figure skaters."
You used to be able to use the phrase "hit like Swedes", but now Swedes hit hard. Sad but true, figure skating is tough television competition for the NHL.
-- "NBA refs have a gambling scandal. We're trying to put a team in Vegas."
The nation loves Las Vegas. I know this goes against the whole pro-Hamilton thing, but Vegas sells. And what better union of Vegas and professional team sports than with hockey? No one can figure out hockey odds.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Wings get some down time after West Coast trip

DETROIT -- It's the same time in Stockholm right now as it is in Bratislava. And that's the same time as it is in Paris and Rome and Berlin and Amsterdam and Prague and Zurich and Oslo and Madrid and Warsaw. Traveling through Europe doesn't include many time-zone changes.
But the Detroit Red Wings -- a team that includes a dozen European players -- have to deal with traveling through four time zones as part of their job. And right now, it's time to take a break.
Having just completed their second western trip in the past three weeks, the Red Wings are in the middle of five straight days with no games. The players are being given Sunday off after practicing at City Arena, this morning. (Joe Louis Arena was being set up for a So You Think You Can Dance show.) Detroit's next game is Wednesday (7:30 p.m., FSN) at Joe Louis Arena.
"There's no time difference back home," said Tomas Kopecky of Slovakia. "This is pretty unique, especially being in Detroit we have to go out west so many times."
Swede Andreas Lilja used the opportunity to send a barb in the direction of countryman Tomas Holmstrom, noted free spirit in the Detroit locker room: "There aren't any time changes in Sweden, but there should be at least one hour between me and Homer."
The Red Wings have two more three-game western trips that include contests in the Pacific Time Zone. That doesn't include trips to Phoenix, Colorado and Dallas.
Whether it's easier to travel west and play a game or head home and play is a matter of personal preference among Red Wings.
"I think it's hard sometimes to come back," said Lilja. "You get home and you can't sleep at night because you're on a different schedule. Out there, you feel like you have to go to bed. You're on the road and just there for the games."
The last time that the Red Wings went to the West Coast this season, they had three days off before their next game at Joe Louis Arena. That break helped the team take a 3-2 victory in its first game back home, according to coach Mike Babcock.
Playing well upon returning home from the West Coast was a problem in the past for the Red Wings. Two seasons ago, Detroit went 1-3-0 in their first games back with the lone win coming in overtime. In each of those four games, the Red Wings scored just two regulation-time goals.
What made those games stand out was that Detroit's record that season was 57-13-8 in its other 78 games.
But the team has adjusted its scheduling to allow for more down time after coming home from the West Coast. In 2005-06, the Wings had just one day in between three trips east and two days off on the other trip.
Last season, Detroit went 3-0-1 in the first games back from the West Coast and added two three-day breaks to its schedule. This season, Detroit has breaks of two, three, five and six days after trips to the West Coast.
The days off before returning home might have made the trip west more difficult for some players than the trip east.
"It's a little bit harder to go out there," said Kopecky. "When you come back home, you get a couple of days to adjust. When you go out there, we usually fly in the day before the game. First day (after traveling) is always harder, but you've got to deal with it."

Notes from Saturday's practice

-- Jimmy Howard practiced with the Red Wings Saturday morning at City Arena. (So You Think You Can Dance was using Joe Louis Arena.) Coach Mike Babcock said that Howard remains temporarily with the team despite having been assigned to Grand Rapids because of league rules. I'll try to get clarification on that from Ken Holland later. Howard said that he didn't know when he'd be going down to Grand Rapids, but the call should come soon.
Babcock said that Dominik Hasek (hip) will definitely be ready for Wednesday's home game. Hasek and Chris Osgood took all the reps in net during practice with Howard just working on agility drills.
"Howard's just with us because of the rules or something," said Babcock. "Neither goalie would let him in the net this morning, so that's a good sign. He'll be out of here shortly. I don't know what the rules are. We'll get him down as quickly as we can."
-- Johan Franzen (facial laceration) skated and said that he'd be in the lineup Wednesday. Franzen will play on the second line with Valtteri Filppula at center and Mikael Samuelsson on the other wing. Jiri Hudler worked in with that line at practice, but Babcock plans on moving Hudler to the fourth line.
"It's going to be Franzen, Fil and Sammy. Huds might play up there some time," said Babcock. "Huds is going to be on our second power play and he's going to play with whoever (at even strength). That's how I perceive things coming. That's how I saw things at the start."
Not sure which start he's talking about. At the start of training camp and the regular season, the plan was a second line of Hudler, Zetterberg and Samuelsson and a first line of Franzen, Datsyuk and Holmstrom. Obviously the success of the team with Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Holmstrom as a unit has changed those plans.
"It will be with whoever else is in that fourth unit or with those guys (second line)," said Babcock. "The thing about it is after penalty killing and power plays, it all moves around anyhow."
-- Niklas Kronwall (groin) skated and said he'd be fine for Wednesday.
-- Line combinations from practice ...

Friday, November 2, 2007

Howard sent to GR

From the Red Wings' PR dept. ...
The Detroit Red Wings today announced forward Igor Grigorenko has been assigned to UFA of the Russian Super League. Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard has been re-assigned to the Wings AHL affiliate the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Grigorenko, 24, was selected by the Red Wings in the second round (62nd overall) of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. Grigorenko was (0-0-0) in five games with the Griffins.

Howard, Detroit’s second round selection (64th overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, has a record of (3-1-0) along with a 3.00 goals against average and .902 save percentage in four games with the Griffins this season.