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, February 29, 2008

Thoughts on Game 66 (3-2 loss to San Jose)

-- The odd thing about the goal off the rebound off the netting was obvious if you were at the game. The players relaxed. Players who have seen pucks deflected thousands of times in their careers didn't see the puck, but knew that it wasn't in play. The key was the lack of sound. There was no sound of the puck touching the glass. Odd play. It's not often you see something that you haven't seen before.
-- In their 1-8-2 slump, the Red Wings have gone seven of 11 games without scoring an even-strength goal. They've been outscored 25-8 at even strength over that span.
-- Brad Stuart looked fine in his debut. I liked how he went for the body. He needs a quick schooling in Detroit hockey, however. Getting the puck out of the defensive zone, Stuart would throw the puck behind the net and around rather than make a quick pass into the slot as the Red Wings do.
-- Jonathan Ericsson isn't shy about shooting the puck.
-- The makeshift blue line had a three-man rotation on the penalty-kill with Niklas Kronwall, Andreas Lilja and Brad Stuart. On the power play, it was Kronwall and Mikael Samuelsson on the first unit and Stuart and Derek Meech on the second unit.

Griffins' clear day roster

The Grand Rapids Griffins announced their clear day roster, today. That's the list of 22 players who can play for the Griffins in the playoffs.
What's of interest to Red Wing fans is which players are on and off that list because it gives a good indication of Detroit's view of those players' role this spring.
Forward Mark Hartigan is not on the clear day roster. He has also been told by Detroit management to get an apartment here (which he already has) all of which means that he's with the Red Wings for the duration.
Darren McCarty is on the clear day roster, meaning that Detroit thinks there's a good possibility that he'll be in Grand Rapids come playoff time. There are only 22 spots available on the clear day roster, none to waste.
Darren McCarty is on the clear day roster, meaning that Detroit thinks there's a good possibility that he'll be in Grand Rapids come playoff time.

Here's the entire clear day roster for Grand Rapids ...
Adam Berkhoel
Jimmy Howard
Jonathan Ericsson
Tom Galvin
Jon Insana
Jason Jozsa
Jakub Kindl
Cleve Kinley
Kyle Quincey
Garrett Stafford
Carl Corazzini
Mark Cullen
Josef Fojtik
Randall Gelech
Darren Helm
Francis Lemieux
Darren McCarty
Evan McGrath
Ryan Oulahen
Tyler Redenbach
Mattias Ritola
Jamie Tardif

Friday morning skate notes

-- Either Mark Hartigan or Aaron Downey will be the scratch up front tonight. Coach Mike Babcock said that he'll wait until after the pregame skate to decide.
-- Sunday's starter in net hasn't been decided either. Babcock said that who starts from here on out is "up to Dom" meaning how Dominik Hasek plays will dictate the goalie schedule. Hasek is making his first start since returning from a hip flexor injury. Hasek said that the hip flexor impedes his ability to go up and down.
-- Brad Stuart and Niklas Kronwall will match up against the Joe Thornton line as will center Henrik Zetterberg.
-- Derek Meech will be on the ice as much as possible when Pavel Datsyuk's line is out to make sure that the puck moved forward quickly.
-- Defenseman Brian Rafalski (groin) took part in the entire morning skate but will not play tonight.

Leap year day

The Red Wings are 5-2-0 all-time on games played Feb. 29 and haven't lost one on this date since 1964, according to Red Wings statistician Greg Innis.
1940 Detroit 1 at Toronto 3
1964 Detroit 1 at Boston 2
1968 N.Y. R 2 at Detroit 4
1972 Vancouver 2 at Detroit 8
1992 St. Louis 2 at Detroit 3
1996 Islanders 1 at Detroit 5
2004 Philadelphia 2 at Detroit 4

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Stuart gets to know his new teammates

DETROIT -- Brad Stuart made his first move on the ice of Joe Louis Arena.
The Detroit Red Wings were flared out in circles around the center-ice logo, set to begin their early practice stretching exercises, today. One player -- usually a veteran like Kris Draper or Dan Cleary -- will go to the center and lead the stretches.
On his first day with his new team, Brad Stuart slid across the ice, stopping on the winged wheel logo.
His new teammates hooted and hollered and banged their sticks on the ice. Stuart grinned.
"For the most part, you just want to sit back for a little bit and work in slowly," said Stuart, who was acquired in a trade with Los Angeles, Tuesday. "I'm not a talkative guy. It'll take a little while. I'm just going to take my time. You introduce yourself to everybody. You go around and make sure you know all the trainers and the coaching staff. It always takes a little while to remember everybody's name, but that's how it is. You just start there."
Stuart has experience as the new guy in the locker room. The Red Wings are his fifth team in the past three seasons, having been traded in the midst of each of the past three seasons.
This time though, Stuart is in a sea of new faces. His only teammate experience with any current Red Wing was a four-game cup-of-tea with the San Jose Sharks that Mikael Samuelsson had in 2000-01. (Stuart was the Sharks' first-round draft pick in 1998. Samuelsson was the team's fifth-rounder. The Sharks also drafted Jonathan Cheechoo in the second round that summer.)
"It's a fairly new locker room for me," said Stuart. "The last couple of times I've been traded, I've known a few guys, but this time I don't really. It's a little bit different, but everybody's been good."
One player to whom a defenseman like Stuart needs no introduction is Tomas Holmstrom, who makes opposition defensemen and goaltenders miserable with his net-front play.
"That'll be a plus for sure," said Stuart of being Holmstrom's teammate. "He's one of those guys who you know where he'll be and it's tough to deal with him. In saying that, I'll know where he's going be now as a teammate and I've just got to get those shots through. I've seen what happens numerous times when shots get through."
Stuart's role with the Red Wings will be as a physical defenseman who can play on either the power play or penalty-kill. At Thursday's practice, he was paired with Niklas Kronwall and played on the penalty-kill.
"I'm not looking to do anything special, just fit in and figure out my role over the next couple of weeks and get prepared for the push to the playoffs," said Stuart.
Stuart will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
"He's a big physical guy who can skate and move the puck," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "We're excited to have him and hope he's going to be a Wing for a long time."

Kronwall ready to go, Quincey sent down

More notes from Thursday's practice ...
-- Niklas Kronwall (shoulder) will play Friday against the San Jose Sharks. It will be Kronwall's first game since Jan. 30.
-- Kyle Quincey was sent down to Grand Rapids after practice. That means that the six defensemen Friday will likely be ...
-- Chris Chelios surprised even his coach by participating in the full practice. He was supposed to just take part in conditioning drills.
"We had too many D out there," said Mike Babcock. "Haven't said that in a while."
-- Dan Cleary (broken jaw) was at the rink for the first time since getting injured in Toronto. Cleary said that he lost 15 pounds and has only been able to eat soft pastas and soups. He's hoping to play in the final three games of the regular season. Cleary said that he's looking at Sunday or Monday as a return date for skating.
-- Dominik Hasek will start Friday's game.
-- Nicklas Lidstrom (sprained MCL) didn't skate, but did lifting exercises that involved his legs.
-- Broadcaster Mickey Redmond will return to the booth for tomorrow's game after having surgery on his lungs.

Thursday's practice

On the ice for Thursday's practice at Joe Louis Arena (an unusual 3 p.m.) are Chris Chelios, Niklas Kronwall and Brian Rafalski. So is newcomer Brad Stuart, meaning nine defensemen (no Nicklas Lidstrom) are at practice.
Stuart led the Red Wings' stretching exercises (one player does each practice) to hoots and hollers from his new teammates.

MID-PRACTICE UPDATE: Rafalski left the ice when drills started. Obviously his groin is still limiting him. Here are the defense pairings for the drills ...

Also, the team is working on a lot of special teams play. Here's what D-men are getting reps in what situation ...
Power Play

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Stafford sent back to Grand Rapids

Defenseman Garrett Stafford was returned to the Grand Rapdis Griffins, today. Brad Stuart will presumably be available for Friday's home game. And somebody -- anybody -- has to be getting healthy soon among Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall. Chris Chelios and Brian Rafalski.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Howard assigned to GR, Hasek ready

The Red Wings assigned Jimmy Howard to Grand Rapids, today, meaning that Dominik Hasek (hip flexor) is ready to play again. Howard was called up Feb. 11 and in four games went 0-2-0 with a 2.13 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage, showing that he has No. 1 potential in the NHL.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Wings ink McCarty to one-year deal, stays in GR

From the Red Wings' press release ...

Detroit Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland today announced the club has signed right wing Darren McCarty to a one-year contract. In keeping with club policy, additional terms of the deal were not available. McCarty has been assigned to Grand Rapids on a 14-day conditioning loan.
“Darren has earned this opportunity,” said Holland. “He’s made great strides in the past several months and we wanted to give him the chance to continue in hopes he can contribute to the Red Wings once again.”
McCarty began his return to the NHL by signing with the Flint Generals of the International Hockey League on Jan. 8, 2008. He played six games with the Generals tallying three goals and three assist for six points along with 30 penalty minutes. McCarty moved up to the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Wings primary American Hockey League affiliate, on February 1st where he has tallied seven points (4-3--7) and 19 PIM in nine games.
McCarty’s last NHL game was April 8, 2007 – the final game of the regular season for the Calgary Flames. Prior to that contest, McCarty missed over three months with a back injury. He spent two seasons with the Flames, appearing in 99 games for Calgary.
McCarty began his NHL career when he was drafted by Detroit in the second round (46th overall) of the 1992 NHL Entry Draft. He played 11 seasons for the Wings, helping the team capture three Stanley Cup Championships (1997, 1998 & 2002).

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Red Wings call up Stafford

The Detroit Red Wings on Saturday recalled defenseman Garrett Stafford from the Grand Rapids Griffins, who in turn signed defenseman Russ Moyer to a professional tryout. Stafford, 28, is in his first season with Grand Rapids after three with the Cleveland Barons and one with the Worcester Sharks. The University of New Hampshire graduate will be making his NHL debut.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Griffins on TV

The Grand Rapids Griffins' home game against the Manitoba Moose this Saturday, Feb. 23 will be televised live throughout Michigan at 7 p.m. on Comcast Local.

Ellis a King

Rookie Matt Ellis was claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Kings, Thursday. Matt is as good of a person as you'll meet in any line of work. Here's hoping that Matt gets some solid ice time out there and a chance to stick in the league.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ellis on waivers

Forward Matt Ellis was put on waivers by the Red Wings, Wednesday, according to general manager Ken Holland. The other NHL teams have until noon, Thursday, to claim him. After that point, the Red Wings can assign Ellis to Grand Rapids, if they desire.
Thus the need for Mark Hartigan, who was called up from the Griffins, Wednesday.
Holland also said that if the Red Wings extend a contract offer to Darren McCarty, it will come at the end of this week. If they do so before the Tuesday trade deadline, the Red Wings will have the option of keeping McCarty in Grand Rapids on a conditioning assignment.

New-look Wings

Be careful what you ask for.
If you desired to see a Detroit Red Wings team that looks different as Tuesday's NHL trade deadline approaches, you got it. Unfortunately the different look that the Red Wings will be sporting is a lineup that doesn't include Nicklas Lidstrom.
The team learned today that Lidstrom has a sprained MCL in his right knee, an injury that will likely keep the five-time Norris Trophy winner out for three weeks.
"It could have been a lot worse, a lot more damage to the knee the way I went down," said Lidstrom, who was wearing a brace on his right knee as he spoke with reporters, Wednesday.
Lidstrom was hit hard by Colorado's Ian Laperriere, Monday. Laperriere's forearm caught Lidstrom on the chin and knocked the Detroit captain's head back against the boards. Lidstrom was unable to remain upright after the hit and had to be helped off the ice.
"I've been hit before, but his elbow came up and my head hit the glass," said Lidstrom. "I don't think I've been hit like that, maybe once or twice like that before. Not too often. I've been hit really hard, but not the way I went into the boards."
One test showed that he had no sign of being concusses, according to Lidstrom, who said that he will undergo more baseline testing this week to verify that initial finding.
Lidstrom leads the NHL in plus-minus (plus-39) and tops all defensemen in scoring with 57 points in 62 games.
"What do you say about this guy?" said Kris Draper. "He's the heart and soul of this hockey club."
What makes a Lidstrom-less Red Wings so unusual is that the defenseman has been extremely durable throughout his career. Before this injury, Lidstrom missed just 22 of a possible 1,260 games since joining the Red Wings in 1991. A lot of those games were rest days spotted in at the end of the season.
Lidstrom's only long-term injury before this was a five-game absence with back spasms in 1995. Lidstrom, who won't travel with the team on its three-game Canadian road trip, will miss 9-11 games if he's out for three weeks.
Lidstrom said that he will wear a knee brace for the first few weeks after he returns. He'll only do upper-body workouts over the next few days, resting his knee.
"In my opinion, he's the best player in the league," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "Any time you lose a player like that, it's going to be difficult to replace, especially with the other guys we've got missing."
The other guys are Detroit's No. 2 and 3 defensemen, Brian Rafalski and Niklas Kronwall. Rafalski has a groin injury and missed the past three games. Kronwall has a shoulder injury and has been out the past 10 games.
Rafalski took part in the first part of Wednesday's practice, but left the ice before most of the drills to protect his groin. Kronwall went through the full practice and couple play in Friday's game in Calgary (9 p.m., FSN) or Saturday's game in Vancouver (10 p.m., FSN).
"It feels good; The last couple of days have been really good," said Kronwall. "Obviously, I hope for Friday, but they might have a different agenda. Like I said before, we don't want to take any chances."
In case Kronwall isn't ready to go, the Red Wings recalled defenseman Jonathan Ericsson from Grand Rapids, Wednesday. Ericsson joined goalie Jimmy Howard as the Griffins' two representatives at the American Hockey League all-star game this season.
Ericsson, the last player taken in the 2002 draft, is the No. 2-ranked prospect in the Detroit system (behind Howard) by
Forward Mark Hartigan was also recalled from Grand Rapids, Wednesday, for the fourth time this season. Matt Ellis was put on waivers, today. Other NHL teams have until noon Thursday to claim him. After that, the Red Wings can reassign him to Grand Rapids.
To make room for Ericsson and Hartigan, Rafalski and goalie Dominik Hasek (hip flexor) were placed on injured reserve.

McCarty's a minor leaguer

One thing to keep in mind about Darren McCarty possibly being offered a contract by the Red Wings ... that doesn't mean that he'll be playing for the Red Wings. Evan McGrath is under contract with the Red Wings. So is Jakub Kindl. And Darren Helm.
If McCarty gets a contract, and he'll need one to continue playing for Grand Rapids past his pro tryout stay, he will still need to be recalled by the Red Wings before he returns to the NHL. That's no small step.

Lidstrom out three weeks

Nicklas Lidstrom will miss three weeks with a sprained MCL in his right knee. In addition, he has taken one test that has shown no signs of a concussion and he will be taking another to verify that.
Niklas Kronwall (shoulder) is a possibility for playing Friday night, but he still has to compete in more battle drills at practice tomorrow. Brian Rafalski (groin) is definitely out of the lineup for this weekend.
In case Kronwall isn't able to make it back, the Red Wings will recall Jonathan Ericsson from Grand Rapids for their trip to Western Canada. If Kronwall is still shelved, then Ericsson will make his NHL debut Friday.

UPDATE: Forward Mark Hartigan has also been recalled from Grand Rapids. To make room for Hartigan and Ericsson, Dominik Hasek (hip flexor) and Rafalski have been put on injured reserve.

My mistake

My previous post said that Nicklas Lidstrom is expected to play Friday ... he is not expected to play. In fact, he's out for three weeks.

Practice update

Brian Rafalski has left the ice at practice, meaning that he's taking it easy on his strained groin. So, perhaps he's not so close to returning.
Niklas Kronwall (shoulder), however, is taking part in all of the drills.

Rafalski practicing

The Red Wings are thin, thin, thin on the blue line right now, so the fact that Brian Rafalski (groin) is taking part in the team practice right now is a good sign. Perhaps he'll be ready for Friday's game and a roster move won't be necessary. Niklas Kronwall (shoulder) is also taking part in today's practice.
Nicklas Lidstrom (knee) is not on the ice and is not expected to play Friday.
Goalie Dominik Hasek (hip flexor) is not on the ice for today's practice.

Filppula on the ice

Valtteri Filppula is on the ice at Joe Louis Arena right now, practicing with the rest of the Red Wings. That means that the intriguing facebook find posted on Behind The Jersey -- a Filppula facebook page saying that he had been traded to Atlanta -- isn't valid.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Waiting for word on Lidstrom

As a Red Wings fan, tonight will be one of the two worst nights of my life.
The other was in high school when I had to wait until the next day to get a yes or no from Mindy Sue about going to the prom with me. OK, so that's not a Red Wings fan moment, but it was a lousy night of anticipation and I was a Red Wings fan then too.
Tonight will be spent as most Red Wings fans will, wondering what tomorrow morning's MRI would reveal about Nicklas Lidstrom's ailing right knee. Lidstrom was knocked woozy, Monday in Denver, when Avalanche forward Ian Laperriere ran the Detroit captain hard into the boards. Laperriere's forearm landed on Lidstrom's jaw and the defenseman bounced back off the boards.
(That was a dirty hit, by the way. Any time a player gets a forearms up on another player's jaw and slams him against the boards, it's dirty. It might have been accidental, but Laperriere sure didn't act like it was.)
At first, it seemed as though a concussion was the biggest concern because Lidstrom couldn't stand up on skates. But he never lost consciousness and he hasn't had headaches since the incident, both good signs that he wasn't concussed.
The concern today, however, is Lidstrom's right knee, which was damaged when he crumpled to the ice after the hit. The knee kept Lidstrom out of the rest of the game and likely out of the Red Wings' games' on Friday and Saturday.
Coach Mike Babcock tossed out numbers like 7-10 days after Monday's game.
Seven to 10 days? Those are not good words to Red Wings fans' ears. Niklas Kronwall is out for 7-10 days with a shoulder injury that's lasted for 20 days. Henrik Zetterberg had a 7-10 label on him with his strained back late last season. That one lasted 19 games … games not days.
The initial reports have been that Lidstrom has a minor sprain to the MCL and that the team was more worried about a possible concussion.
So this morning will be good news … right? Tell me so.
You might think that I'm being overly dramatic calling last night one of the worst ever for a Red Wings fan. Compared with losing in the Stanley Cup playoffs, how bad can this be?
Well, losing playoff series is something that's going to happen. Nicklas Lidstrom being hurt isn't supposed to happen.
Seriously, it's not. Nicklas Lidstrom is the mechanical man, a modern-day Charlie Gehringer. He just performs at a high level over and over and over again. I think I saw Lidstrom go down to one knee once on the ice and that was a shocker. He popped right back up though.
Nicklas Lidstrom could get shot -- bullet, not flu -- and he wouldn't miss a game. He could be electrocuted and start the next game. At least so we all thought.
He did miss that one game with the flu back in 1996. And there were those few games with back spasms in 1995 … no wait, Lidstrom is indestructible. He is.
So all we had last night were initial medical reports and quotes from Lidstrom on the team website that he's feeling OK.
All of which is nice, but doesn't make for a good night's sleep, considering that there's an outside chance that today could be the first of many for the Red Wings without Lidstrom.
Hopefully, Brian Rafalski will be back from his groin injury this weekend. Because without Rafalski, Lidstrom and Kronwall, the Red Wings are missing their top three defensemen.
And if you're wondering, that night of waiting for Mindy Sue's answer was the best part of it all. I wasn't smart enough back then to see that "No" coming from a mile away.
Hopefully the only no that comes out of tomorrow morning's MRI is "No, Lidstrom won't be sidelined for long."

New backup goalie in Grand Rapids

From the Griffins' PR staff today ...
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League on Tuesday acquired goaltender Dan Turple on loan from the Atlanta Thrashers and released Cody Rudkowsky from his pro tryout.
Turple, 23, has appeared in 24 games with the ECHL’s Gwinnett Gladiators this season, showing a 12-9-3 record with a 3.14 goals against average and a 0.904 save percentage. Atlanta’s sixth choice, 186th overall, in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Turple is a second-year pro from Hamilton, Ontario, who played with current Griffins Jakub Kindl and Evan McGrath while with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League. In 2005-06, he capped off his amateur career with the Rangers by leading the OHL in GAA (2.25), shutouts (7) and save percentage (0.924).
Turple is expected to back up Adam Berkhoel tonight when the Griffins host the San Antonio Rampage and former coach Greg Ireland at 7 p.m.

Turple has been at the Red Wings' prospects tournament. He's a very tall goalie, who was on and off in Traverse City. As the release says, he was on the same OHL squad as Kindl and McGrath.

Lidstrom to be evaluated Wednesday morning

The team handed this story to their web site and no one else. I'm sure the other beat writers are as unhappy about this as I am, but it's the Red Wings' right to do so.

Thoughts on Game 62 (4-0 win in Colorado)

-- Ian Laperriere's hit on Nicklas Lidstrom was a bad one because he lifted up with his forearm/elbow. The check would have been good if he hadn't had the blow to the head.
Here are a few comments on the check from the Red Wings ...
"Looked like a forearm to me," said Aaron Downey. "Looked like it was scripted out of the WWE. We can't be running the superstars in our league. If you want to have a good clean hit, have a good clean hit. When the elbows are up when you hit a five-time Norris Trophy winner, arguably one of the best defensemen to ever play the game, it's a joke."
"I think it was an obvious elbow to the head," said Henrik Zetterberg. "It was a lack of respect by him."
"He's going to be fine," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "I don't know if he's going to be out a week or 10 days or what. He's got something mild in the inside of his knee. I don't know what the technical term is, but it just means that he's not playing right away."
-- With the team's top three defensemen out, ice time totals were very unusual for the Red Wings. Derek Meech led the team and Brett Lebda was second.
-- Chris Osgood looks like he's back. After being pulled from his previous two starts, Osgood played a very sound positional game.
-- Tell me that Aaron Downey isn't a good fit for this team.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Lidstrom not returning to game

The announcement was just made in the press box at the Pepsi Center that Nicklas Lidstrom suffered a knee injury and will not return to the game. Lidstrom was nailed into the boards by Ian Laperriere 6:10 into tonight's game.
Team spokesman John Hahn said that the initial report was that Lidstrom's injury wasn't serious, but he was being held out the rest of the game as a precaution.
POST-GAME UPDATE: Coach Mike Babcock said that the extent of Lidstrom's injury isn't known yet, but that he might be out a week to 10 days.
"He's going to be fine," said Babcock of Lidstrom. "I don't know if he's going to be out a week or 10 days or what. He's got something mild in the inside of his knee. I don't know what the technical term is, but it just means that he's not playing right away."

It looked as though Laperriere's forearm caught Lidstrom on the jaw and knocked the Detroit captain woozy.
Obviously if Lidstrom misses any time, it will be a huge loss for the Red Wings, who are already without their No. 2 defenseman, Brian Rafalski (groin), and No. 3 defenseman, Niklas Kronwall (shoulder). Lidstrom has won five Norris Trophies and is a strong candidate for a sixth this season.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Thoughts on Game 61 (1-0 loss in Dallas)

-- How bad have the Red Wings been at even strength? They've gone four full games without an even-strength goal scored. Before this stretch, Detroit was held without an even-strength goal just four times in its first 57 games.
Detroit has gone 190-minutes, 43-seconds of even-strength time without a goal. Before their current four-game drought, the Red Wings averaged 2.91 goals scored per 60 minutes of even-strength time. (That extrapolates to nine goals in a 190:43 span.)
-- One thin spot that's exposed by the recent injuries is on the blue line on penalty kills. With Niklas Kronwall and Brian Rafalski out, the Red Wings are trying to rotate three defensemen -- Nicklas Lidstrom, Andreas Lilja and Chris Chelios -- on the kill as best as possible. Instead of changing two D, only one will go off at a time. Kyle Quincey did get 2:12 of short-handed time as the fourth D.
-- This was just the seventh game this season in which the Red Wings were outshot.

Rafalski likely out Monday

Defenseman Brian Rafalski (groin) didn't practice in Dallas, Sunday, and thus is labeled by coach Mike Babcock as unlikely to play in Monday's game in Denver.
"I don't think so," said Babcock about Rafalski playing. "It's too big of a risk here."

Monday's starter up in the air

Coach Mike Babcock said after Sunday's loss in Dallas that he wasn't sure whether Jimmy Howard or Chris Osgood would start Monday night in Denver. Babcock said that he still had to speak with his coaches and watch the game again.
Howard had a 30-save performance in his first start in two years, allowing just one goal in a 1-0 loss. Osgood has been pulled in both of his last two starts. In his past four games, he's 0-4-0 with a 5.73 goals-against average and a .754 save percentage.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Howard to start in Dallas

Jimmy Howard will start in net, Sunday afternoon, in Dallas with Chris Osgood backing him up. Dominik Hasek (hip flexor) won't make the two-game road trip that includes a Monday contest in Denver.
Defenseman Brian Rafalski (groin) doesn't think he'll be able to play Sunday, but will test his injury to see if it's possible. Niklas Kronwall is out for the both game of the trip, according to The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness.
Kyle Quincey remains with the Red Wings.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Rafalski out

A strained groin will keep defenseman Brian Rafalski out of the lineup Friday against Columbus. Detroit has called up Kyle Quincey to replace Rafalski in the lineup, according to Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily who was at today's practice.
Also, defenseman Niklas Kronwall (strained shoulder) said that he's hoping for a return to the lineup on Sunday in Dallas.

Punch line

Pavel Datsyuk's sense of humor doesn't always come out in articles and TV interviews. But he is one clever guy.
I asked him once about his on-ice vision, trying to find out how many of the other nine players he is aware of when he's passing.
"When you have the puck, how many people do you see?"
Without smiling, Datsyuk answered, "18,000"
He was joking ... wasn't he?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Red Wings lower playoff ticket prices

Here's the PR release ...

The Detroit Red Wings today announced that the price of every ticket in every round of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs has been reduced by up to 43% over last year’s playoffs. In addition to the roll back in pricing, the Wings are offering several additional premium benefits for season ticket holders including preferred pricing, a “Pay As The Wings Play” payment plan and a guarantee not to raise prices for the 2008-09 season.

“We asked our season ticket holders what they wanted,” said Red Wings Senior Vice President of Business Operations Steve Violetta. “They spoke. We listened, and acted.

“Our team’s on-ice performance has our fans very excited about the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs,” continued Violetta. “We’re confident they will be equally happy with our new reduced prices, payment option and season ticket holder benefits.”

Everyone is going to save as individual game prices have been reduced between 17% and 37% over 2007 playoff prices for the first round alone, depending upon seat location. And season ticket holders will save even more as they will enjoy preferred pricing that has first round prices reduced 24% to 43%.

Playoff ticket brochures were mailed to season ticket holders today and include all the details on the new pricing and payment plans. The new pricing represents a significant reduction across the board from last year’s playoff pricing. As an example, regular season $44 seats will rise only $10 to $54 per seat.

Another great new offering is a “Pay As The Wings Play” payment plan which eliminates the need to pay for the entire playoffs up front. With this new plan, season ticket holders will only be charged for home games that are guaranteed to be played. For example, fans will initially only be charged for the first two games of the opening round. They won’t be charged for an additional first round game until a third home game is determined necessary. This new billing system will continue throughout all playoff rounds through the Stanley Cup Finals.

As an additional bonus to ticket holders who join in by March 3, the Wings are offering to lock in next year’s regular season tickets at the same price as this year – guaranteeing a league-best seventh consecutive year without an increase in ticket prices. To take advantage of the preferred pricing and “Pay As The Wings Play” offers and reserve their season tickets, fans need only place a $250 deposit for upper bowl seats and a $500 deposit on lower bowl locations.

Regular Season $22
1st round $36-$40 ($63)
2nd round $50-$55 ($72)
2rd round $70-$75 ($99)
SC final $90-$95 ($135)

Regular Season $44
1st round $54-$60 ($81)
2nd round $60-$70 ($90)
3rd round $90-$100 ($135)
SC final $170-$190 ($203)

Regular Season $54
1st round $68-$75 ($99)
2nd round $80-$90 ($108)
3rd round $125-$140 ($158)
SC final $210-$230 ($270)

Regular Season $76
1st round $95-$105 ($126)
2nd round $120-$130 ($135)
3rd round $180-$200 ($225)
SC final $300-$350 ($405)

Regular Season $85
1st round $110-$120 ($144)
2nd round $135-$150 ($153)
3rd round $195-$215 ($270)
SC final $315-$395 ($450)

For each Round, the first price listed is the Preferred Season Ticket Holder Pricing; The second price listed is the individual game gate pricing. Last year’s pricing is in parenthesis.

The deadline for current season ticket holders to reserve their playoff tickets is March 3. The general public who wish to become season ticket holders and guarantee this year’s playoff tickets and next year’s regular season pricing can place their order beginning February 25. Individual tickets for the first round of the playoffs will go on sale to the general public March 21.

“The lower pricing, payment plans and guaranteed pricing are all part of our continuing efforts to create value and make this a great time to be a Red Wings season ticket holder,” concluded Violetta. “There’s nothing like being in The Joe for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.”

Ozzie will start again Friday

Coach Mike Babcock said that Chris Osgood will start again in the Red Wings' next game, Friday, at Joe Louie Arena.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Line combinations in Nashville

Matt Ellis will be back in the Red Wings' lineup tonight in Nashville. Here's a look at probable line combinations ...

Osgood (starts)
Downey (healthy scratch)


Monday, February 11, 2008

Good news

This just in from the Red Wings' PR department ...

Mickey Redmond's surgery today was successful. The doctors were confident they removed the entire tumor. He is resting in his hospital room and should return home sometime this weekend.

Third-quarter grades

DETROIT -- It wasn't the big picture so much as the details that were cause for concern for the Detroit Red Wings in their third quarter of the regular season.
Staked to a large lead in the overall standings because of a tremendous first half (30-8-3), the Red Wings faltered only slightly over their next 17 games (11-4-2) and remain ahead of the pack. In fact, Detroit's 1.41 points per game in the third quarter mirrored a successful first quarter (1.45 points per game with a 1.62 points per game second quarter).
But the devil of the third quarter was in the details.
Detroit's defense remained sound, giving up 2.2 goals per game in the third quarter, which matches the season-long average. The offense and special teams, however, were bad. After scoring 3.5 goals per game in the first half of the season, Detroit managed just 2.8 goals per game in the third quarter.
The power play dropped from 23 percent in the first half to 13 percent in the third quarter while the penalty-kill dropped from 86 percent in the first half to 75 percent in the third quarter. Put it together and the Red Wings were outscored 13-8 in power-play goals in the third quarter.
The biggest cause for concern, however, came in injuries. Near the end of the third quarter, forward Dan Cleary's jaw was broken by a shot and he likely won't return until the playoffs. Cleary was the team's second leading goal scorer when he was sidelined. Earlier in the quarter, defenseman Niklas Kronwall was shelved with a shoulder injury. Then yesterday, the team recalled goalie Jimmy Howard to give Dominik Hasek's hip flexor inflamation a rest.
All of which is bad news in Hockeytown. The good news is that there's one more quarter of the regular season to get the roster healthy, special teams performing and the offense scoring once again.
Here are individual grades for the third quarter (the past 17 games). The grade is for performance in the quarter only. Previous quarters' grades are also listed.
Dominik Hasek: Although he never lost the No. 1 role, Hasek was finally the best goalie on the team in the third quarter. Hasek went 7-1-1 with a 1.55 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage in the quarter, all much better than Chris Osgood's statistics. Hasek has let in a few softies, but the Wings are 14-3-2 with him in net over the past half of the season. A (C- first, A- second)
Chris Osgood: You're not going to read here that Osgood played in the all-star game, signed a new contract and then stopped performing. That's a lame attempt at logic. The three events are coincidence. Osgood had a marvelous first half of the season and tailed off in the third quarter (4-3-2, 2.81 goals-against average, .891 save percentage). That means he's human, not greedy. Ozzie's still having a top-shelf season. B- (A first, A+ second)
Chris Chelios: This might not sound like much, but it's impressive. Chelios doesn't take many penalties any more. The man used to put up 200 minutes just on name alone. In the third quarter, he had just one minor penalty. He's got 20 penalty minutes for the entire season and his penalties drawn to penalties taken ratio is the best among Detroit defensemen. In 16 games this quarter, he was a plus-4, but was also a major component on a faulty penalty-kill. B- (B first, B second)
Niklas Kronwall: Kronwall would have gotten an A for this quarter had he not missed the last six games with a shoulder injury. As it was, his contributions in 11 games trailed only Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski on the blue line. Kronwall had three goals and six points, was a plus-5 and was first among blue-liners in takeaways (19) and second in hits (14). B+ (C first, A- second)
Brett Lebda: Lebda has filled in for Kronwall on the second power-play unit, but there hasn't been much success for that unit of late. The high point of the quarter for Lebda was an overtime goal in Minnesota. That was one of two points (plus-2) in 16 games. Lebda did play a lot of the quarter with a painful left wrist. C+ (B- first, B- second)
Nicklas Lidstrom: The league-wide media is finally tabbing Lidstrom as an MVP candidate. Detroit's players and coaches are pushing for the honor. In the third quarter, Lidstrom had 17 points, including three goals, in 17 games. He was third on the team with a plus-12. And he even threw more hits (nine) than Lebda, Chelios or Brian Rafalski. A+ (A+ first, A+ second)
Andreas Lilja: Took a step back from his standout second quarter. Lilja was low among Detroit defensemen with a minus-2 in 17 games. He was also part of a poor penalty-kill performance this quarter. On the plus side, Lilja led the defense corps in hits (25) and blocked shots (25) for the third straight quarter. B (C- first, A- second)
Derek Meech: After playing in nine games and being a minus-2 in the first half of the season, Meech got into eight games this quarter and was a plus-1. Kronwall's injury has given Meech his opportunity and it's much needed. Meech is still more cautious than he was as an AHLer. But he's slowly coming out of his shell. C (C- first, D+ second)
Brian Rafalski: Here's the odd stat of the quarter … Rafalski was third on the team in goals (four) behind only Henrik Zetterberg and Dan Cleary. Rafalski was also a plus-9 (second only to Lidstrom on the blue line). A- (B+ first, A- second)
Dan Cleary: Amazingly bad timing for Cleary to go down for eight weeks with a broken jaw. Fittingly for the guy who works so hard, he was injured right in front of the net, in the line of duty. Before the injury, Cleary had a remarkable quarter with seven goals and 14 points in 16 games. He was also a plus-10 and filled a bigger variety of roles than anyone on the team. A (B+ first, A- second)
Pavel Datsyuk: Datsyuk had a substantial dropoff in goal production, netting just three in the third quarter. Still, he was a plus-13 (second only to Zetterberg) and had 17 points in 17 games. A- (A+ first, A+ second)
Aaron Downey: Downey got into 10 out of the past 17 games and gets limited ice time. When he does get in, however, he's been active physically and isn't prone to mistakes. Occasionally gets a little turned around in transition defense. C (C+ first, B- second)
Dallas Drake: Got into 10 games this quarter, but was a minus-1 and had just one point. Finished the quarter playing center on the fourth line. C- (D first, B- second)
Kris Draper: Draper had the second-lowest plus-minus on the team for the quarter at minus-3. He had two goals, but no assists in the quarter. He's still a dynamo in the faceoff circle and a horse on the penalty-kill. C+ (B first, B- second)
Matt Ellis: Ellis has slipped behind Downey and is the 14th forward. He only got into five games this quarter. D+ (B- first, C- second)
Valtteri Filppula: Jiri Hudler drew a lot of attention for not producing offensively in this quarter, but Filppula actually had fewer points (four in 17 games). He did match up well against some top-six forwards and was a plus-4. B- (B- first, A- second)
Johan Franzen: The Mule has been consistent this season, producing four goals (third on the team) and seven points this quarter. Franzen is also showing a wonderfully testy side, including standing over Chris Pronger and cross checking him. B (C- first, A- second)
Tomas Holmstrom: Produced just three goals and five points, but was a plus-7 this quarter. His play in front of the net will be even more important now that Cleary is out with injury. B (A first, B second)
Jiri Hudler: One goal scored in 16 games is the reason that Hudler got his first healthy scratch of the season. He wasn't alone, however, in lack of offensive production this quarter. He was still a plus-2 despite not being directly involved in much offense. B- (B+ first, A- second)
Tomas Kopecky: Here's a stat to impress your friends. Who led the Red Wings in hits over the past 17 games? Kopecky with 27. He shows nice offensive flashes at times. If he could ever convert that into goals, he'd be a top-six forward. B (B- first, B second)
Kirk Maltby: In 15 games this quarter, Maltby had no points and was a team-low minus-4. He still get under opponents' skin, but not as often as he used to. C- (B- first, D second)
Mikael Samuelsson: Sammy takes some heat about not producing offense, but he trailed only Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Cleary this quarter for points by a forward with nine. He was also a plus-4 and does a good job of agitating. B+ (B first, B+ second)
Henrik Zetterberg: With eight goals, 18 points and a plus-14 in 15 games, Zetterberg was clearly the team's top player this quarter. It's a small facet of his game, but he's the only Red Wing who can score on a wrap-around. Not many forwards in the league use it as a weapon. A+ (A+ first, A second)

Hasek sidelined, Howard recalled

Dominik Hasek is out day-to-day with minor inflamation of his hip flexor. The Red Wings recalled Jimmy Howard from the Grand Rapids Griffins and put defenseman Niklas Kronwall (shoulder) on injured reserve (retroactive to Jan. 30) to make roster room.
Chris Osgood will get his second consecutive start, Tuesday, in Nashville (8 p.m., FSN) with Howard backing him up.
Howard has appeared in 39 games this year for the Griffins, compiling a 17-19-2 record with a 2.61 GAA and .914 save percentage. He was named the AHL Goaltender of the Month for December when he posted a 1.72 GAA, .939 save percentage, two shutouts and allowed two or fewer goals in 10 of 13 games played.
The timing is interesting. Coach Mike Babcock said earlier this season that he would rotate Osgood and Hasek until the 60-game mark. Tomorrow night's game in Nashville is Game 59.
It looked like everything was in place for Hasek to be the playoff goalie. He was playing better, Osgood was playing worse than earlier in the season.
The team is saying that Hasek's shelving is precautionary and he could be back for Sunday's game in Dallas. If he only misses a few days, Hasek should still be the playoff goalie. If this injury, however, lingers or affects his performance ... then Osgood will be the spring starter.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Homer's oddity

As you know by know, Tomas Holmstrom's net-front work caused another Detroit goal to be disallowed, Sunday. This one -- a Nicklas Lidstrom slap shot -- would have tied the score with Anaheim with 40.7 seconds left in the third period. The call was made by referee Dan O'Halloran.
Holmstrom was clearly outside of the crease ... but here's my theory on the matter. Other than the fact that Holmstrom's clearly being targeted because he's the league's best net-front man, his technique is fooling the officials.
Holmstrom starts in the crease, but when the shooter starts his backswing, Holmstrom kicks his feet forward out of the crease. He does that even when his feet start out of the crease, almost as an insurance policy.
It's brilliant and effective. Holmstrom's backside is still holding its spot in front of the goalie. But the technique is apparently beyond the officials.

Anyways, here are a few quotes on the key play of Sunday's 3-2 loss ...

"It seems like I'm a marked man," said Holmstrom. "I can't have any errors around the net. I've got to be at least a foot from the line (crease)."

"I just saw the replay once and it looked to be a good goal," said Lidstrom. "He (the referee) said that he had his feet inside the paint and he was bothering the goalie. I didn't see it that way when I shot it and looked at the replay."

"It's a tough call," said Jean-Sebastien Giguere. "A lot of times they don't call that. That took a lot of guts to call that, but it was the right call. The replay showed he had his skate in the crease and it prevented me from doing what I've got to do. It's not a popular call, except for the goalie, but it was the right call."

"For some reason, we seem to end up on the short end of the stick on those sometimes … Maybe it's because of Homer's reputation for being in front of the net," said Chris Osgood. "Homer was standing his ground. He was in his position before Nick had even taken the shot. It was just one of those where you shake your head. It was 100 percent a goal. It's not even debatable really. If you look at the replay, Homer's not even in the crease. … Yah, they're up against each other, but that happens all the time."

Redmond surgery

Mickey Redmond, the club’s popular television commentator, will undergo surgery, Monday, to have a small tumor on his lung removed. The tumor was found during a recent routine examination which Redmond undergoes periodically following his successful surgery for lung cancer in January, 2003.
The physicians treating Redmond reported that the tumor was discovered early and they anticipate that he will fully recover from the surgery. Redmond will return to the broadcast booth for the Red Wings’ game against St. Louis, March 5.
Fans who would like to write well-wishes to Mickey are asked to use the following address: Joe Louis Arena, 600 Civic Center Drive, Detroit, MI 48226.

Cleary out 6-8 weeks

TSN reports that Dan Cleary will miss 6-8 weeks with his fractured jaw. Cleary had surgery on his jaw Saturday night. His jaw will be wired shut for two weeks. Cleary was caught in the face by a Mikael Samuelsson shot in the first period of Saturday's game. Eight weeks would bring Cleary back at the start of the playoffs.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Thoughts on Game 57 (3-2 overtime loss in Toronto)

-- The Red Wings are not playing well by their standards. The good news is that they have 20 games to get back to form.
-- Dominik Hasek looked bad on all three goals. Darcy Tucker's first-period goal did deflect off Nicklas Lidstrom, but the deflection happened very very far out. Hasek had more than enough time to react. In addition, he was caught leaving the near post early, cheating.
On the second goal, Mats Sundin was just trying to center a pass, but Hasek stuck his leg out to redirect the puck into his own net.
On the overtime winner, Hasek overplayed a non-shot, winding up on his back for seconds. When he got up, he didn't have his stick and was scored on shortly thereafter.
-- Jiri Hudler was a healthy scratch. He didn't sit out because of any injury. Coach Mike Babcock was sending a message that one point in 10 games isn't acceptable.
-- The Wings' top line of Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom didn't have a strong outing.
-- Aaron Downey looked very good in his limited time (6:47), frequently going out of his way to jostle Tucker.

Cleary won't be in lineup Sunday

Dan Cleary left Saturday's game in Toronto after being struck on the side of the face by a Mikael Samuelsson one-timer. Cleary suffered a "non-displaced fracture" of the jaw, according to coach Mike Babcock, who said that the Toronto medical staff examined him.
"I don't know exactly what that means," said Babcock. "I don't have a timeline or anything like that. We'll find out when we get back. Our doctors will have a better idea."

Hudler scratched

Jiri Hudler is a scratch for this afternoon's game in Toronto. The winger hurt his shoulder in Thursday's loss to Los Angeles, but Hudler was a healthy scratch Saturday. This will be the first game that Hudler has missed this season. In his place, Aaron Downey will play for the first time in four games.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Cap going up again?

The Toronto Star reports that the NHL salary cap might go up by $3 million next season. That's, of course, good news for fans of the Red Wings -- one of the few teams that will spend every bit of $53 million if allowed.

McCarty on TV

For those of you with Comcast ... Comcast Local's monthly Grand Rapids Griffins game will be televised this Saturday (7:30 p.m. vs. Lake Erie Monsters). McCarty should be playing for the Griffins.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Shot in the arm

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- At the very moment that their fates went in opposite directions, Dan Cleary and Niklas Backstrom shared something.
"I don't know who was more surprised, me or Backstrom," said Cleary, scratching his head in the Detroit Red Wings locker room after a 3-2 overtime victory over the Minnesota Wild, Tuesday.
The person who wasn't surprised was Detroit coach Mike Babcock. Earlier in the day, Babcock was preaching to reporters how his team had to shoot the puck more often. He walked through the locker room, saw Mikael Samuelsson being interviewed and joked, "Sammy's going to shoot more. We've got the whole thing figured out."
It was shooting -- shooting for shooting's sake -- that turned around the game last night.
Cleary found himself with the puck deep in Minnesota territory, one step away from the goal line, his back nearly touching the side boards. At the same time, the Red Wings' backs were against the proverbial wall. There was just 1:20 left on the third-period clock and Detroit, which had been outplayed in the first two periods, was trailing, 2-1.
Cleary turned and sent a wrist shot from as bad an angle as you can be on the ice without being behind the net. The puck went through players. It caught a part of Backstrom as he butterflied and snuck through the goalie's pads.
Backstrom stopped and stared. Cleary stopped and stared. The score was tied at 2-2.
"The coaching staff always stresses to us to shoot the puck from every angle," said Cleary. "I'm trying to shoot more this year. It was just a lucky bounce that it went in."
Backstrom had stopped 35 of the first 36 shots he faced in the game. The final two he saw, however, got past him.
After Cleary's goal came Brett Lebda's winning goal 1:37 into overtime -- Lebda's first goal since Nov. 18, ending a 33-game drought.
"It's been too long," said a smiling Lebda. "You don't like to go that long without a goal. It's good to get one and the most important thing is we got two points."
Cleary started the sequence by pressuring Minnesota defenseman Nick Schultz, forcing a turnover. Cleary then got the puck to Henrik Zetterberg, who carried it below the goal line, spun and found Lebda cutting down for a back-door dunk.
It was the 10th time this season that the Red Wings were tied after regulation. But it was the first time that the game was decided in the four-on-four overtime.
"We're fortunate to win the game like that," said goalie Dominik Hasek, who made 24 saves to get his fifth consecutive win. "They were a better team for 40 minutes, but in the third period we started to compete on a higher level. … We were shooting puck. If you shoot the puck, sometimes you score a lucky goal. That's what happened with about one minute left."
The victory was Detroit's eighth in a row. The Red Wings will try to tie the franchise record of nine straight -- done seven times, the most recent of which was earlier this season -- Thursday at Joe Louis Arena.
"They wanted to measure up," said Babcock of the Northwest Division leading Wild. "I read the papers. They played like that intensity wise in the first two periods. We played like a team that was just playing another game."
Although outshot 13-8 in the first period, Detroit scored the game's first goal when Johan Franzen put back the rebound of a Tomas Kopecky shot. Then, however, Brian Rolston walked out from the corner on the power play and stuffed the puck in and Pavol Demitra blasted a 2-on-1 shot high to give the Wild a 2-1 lead 26 minutes into the game.
Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire called it the best first period his team has played this season. He thought through two periods that his team was on its way to its best game of the year.
"We've got to shoot the puck," said Babcock. "We didn't shoot it at all at the beginning. We'd go around the back of the net, go around the back of the net and hang onto it. You've got to shoot the puck for it to go in. On our first goal, Kopey (Kopecky) passed the puck off his pads and it went in. That's the way you've got to play hockey."

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Kronwall update

Defenseman Niklas Kronwall participated in the entire morning skate, today, at the Xcel Energy Center. That's another step forward for Kronwall, who skated for the first time one day before since injuring his shoulder last week.
But his return will not come this week.
"Every time you interview Kronner, he's going to tell you how good he feels," said coach Mike Babcock. "This is going to be longer than he thinks. We'd like him back tomorrow, but it's probably not likely. Get freshened up. Get ready to go."

Lineups for tonight's game in Minny



Hasek (starts)

Downey (healthy scratch)
Ellis (healthy scratch)




Monday, February 4, 2008

Monday practice lines

From Monday's skate before the team flies out for Minnesota ...




Mixed news on Kronwall

The good news is that defenseman Niklas Kronwall skated today for the first time since spraining his shoulder last week. And Kronwall will travel with the team to Minnesota to skate some more.
The bad news is that after looking at new MRIs yesterday, team doctors have told Kronwall he'll be out longer than the original prediction of 10 days.
"It'll probably be a little bit longer than 10 days," said Kronwall. "We'll just have to go from how the rehab goes and how it feels on the ice, try to think positive and go from there. ... Obviously you don't want to do anything stupid to re-injure it and miss more games."

Simply the best?

It became noticeable this weekend that the Red Wings as an organization are pushing for Nicklas Lidstrom to win the MVP. Bravo.
Coach Mike Babcock mentioned to as many Boston reporters as would listen that he considers Lidstrom to be the best player in the league. Henrik Zetterberg has said that he considers Lidstrom to be the best of the best. Ken Holland, Jim Nill and others are on record that Lidstrom should definitely be in the MVP mix.
(POST MONDAY PRACTICE UPDATE ... Babcock on Lidstrom: "the Hart Trophy winner. I don't know if people know that, but he should be."
Whether it's planned or not, it's a smart thing by the organization to push for a single candidate. Across the league, Zetterberg will draw support for post-season honors. So will Pavel Datsyuk.
It would be easy to see a scenario where the Red Wings dominate the regular-season standings and their top three players all receive significant MVP consideration. That would mean that none of the three would win.
I've seen it at every level from high school up to pros, if a team has two or three excellent players, voters want to be directed to one. By season's end, the hockey writers should know that Lidstrom is the Red Wings' leading MVP candidate. And that should help his chances significantly.
There are other factors working against Lidstrom. Only two defensemen have won the MVP in the past 50 years -- Bobby Orr and Chris Pronger. There's the age factor, meaning that voters have a hard time figuring that a player who wasn't an MVP finalist at 28 or 30 is one at 37. There's the steady play opposed to highlight-reel performances.
But if Lidstrom continues to lead the NHL in defense scoring and plus-minus and if the Red Wings continue to dominate, he has to be one of the three finalists for the hart Trophy.

McCarty signs with Grand Rapids

It's a done deal. Former Red Wing Darren McCarty got the go-ahead from the NHL and has signed with the Grand Rapids Griffins on a professional tryout. The Griffins' PR staff said that McCarty will practice this morning at 10 a.m. and play his first American Hockey League game since 1993 in Cleveland, Friday.

Yzerman to guide Team Canada again

For the second straight year, Steve Yzerman will put together Canada's entry in the World Championships, held this spring in Halifax. Not a bad experience for a hockey exec.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Is 63 possible?

Victory after victory after victory, there's still one team that the Detroit Red Wings cannot put behind them in the points race.
The Red Wings won their 40th game of the season, Saturday, coming in just their 54th outing. Their rate of success is phenomenal and has them 17 points ahead of the second-best team in the Western Conference (through Saturday) and 16 points ahead of the second-best team overall. That's tremendous separation when you consider that the deviation between any two teams that are second through 30th in the standings is two points except for a four-point gap between the 28th and 29th place teams.
But even this late into the season and even after seven consecutive victories, the team that the Red Wings cannot shake is the Detroit Red Wings … the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings.
That squad set an NHL record with 62 wins.
This year's squad is dominating the present, but is just able to keep pace with the past.
This year's Red Wings have won their past seven games. Four victories ago, the team caught up with the 1995-96 team's pace. (Early in this season, the Red Wings were ahead of that pace, but a loss in Game 46 finally saw them drop behind.)
Each of the past three victories has matched the strides of the team from a dozen years ago. Both teams had 40-10-4 records through 54 games.
"There are similarities," said Kris Draper, who along with Chris Osgood, Nicklas Lidstrom and Kirk Maltby were members of both the current and 1995-96 Detroit teams. "The come-from-behind victories, finding ways to win hockey games. I think that's something that's the same."
Draper stops talking for a moment and smiles. Draper was just 24 for most of that 62-win season. Maltby and Osgood were 23. Lidstrom was the old man at 25.
"Obviously it was a long time ago, '96," said Draper, who then slips out of conversation and into the interview-speak of the veteran, making sure to praise teammates and maintain humility. "I know the one thing that you think of when you're walking out of the rink is that we didn't necessarily from start to finish outwork a team or deserve to win, but great goaltending gave us every opportunity to win."
That 1995-96 team, however, did something that was historic. Although it wound up losing to Colorado in the Western Conference final, winning Stanley Cups the following two seasons with near identical rosters helped solidify its legacy of greatness.
How often did the Red Wings win a dozen years ago? As dominant as the current Red Wings are, they'll need 22 victories in their final 28 games just to equal that 62-win total.
It's a thought, however, that has a veteran like Osgood yielding to youthful thoughts.
"Let's see what we do in the next 15 games," said Osgood. "It's doable, but it's going to be real difficult just because all the teams are bunched up. Points are so important to them. They're going to be going all out every night. It's going to be tough."
One trait possessed by the current Red Wings that if continued gives them a shot at matching the 62-win mark is the ability to win difficult games.
Three nights ago, the Red Wings won a game turned into shut-down defense-first by Colorado that was scoreless for 57 minutes. In Boston two nights ago, the Bruins clogged the neutral zone, got ahead early and still couldn't beat the Red Wings on home ice after Detroit had played 600 miles away the night before while the Bruins were lounging in their living rooms.
"We're learning how to play down and dirty games," said Osgood. "The last few years, we would have had a 50-50 chance to win a game like this. … This year, we win 2-1 or 3-1 or 3-2. We wouldn't have won those last year or the year before. We don't panic. We stay focused. We don't care who scores. We can win in more ways this year than I've ever seen before."
In coach Mike Babcock's first season in Detroit (2005-06), the Red Wings won 58 games. Babcock remarked how that squad seemed to win on good night or on bad, just showing up seemed to lead to victories. This winter, Babcock has noted that it's difficult to believe that this team wins more often than that team did.
And wins are the currency with which Babcock determines all value.
"We're not the people who said that winning in the regular season isn't important," said Babcock. "Anybody who tells you that is full of it. Winning every night's important. That's what you do. That's why you play. You try to be the best that you can be. I don't know what the stats are over the past 10 years, but there's no way you've got as good a chance if you crawl into the playoffs as if you're the best team. There's no way. It can't be possible."

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Thoughts on Game 54 (3-1 win in Boston)

-- For one period, the Bruins' top line (centered by Marc Savard) outplayed the Red Wings' top line (centered by Henrik Zetterberg), pinning Detroit in its own zone for several long stretches. That flip-flopped in the second and third periods.
-- Derek Meech had a good game. He joined the rush at the right time once to create a 3-on-1.
-- I believe that was Tomas Holmstrom's fifth time being called for goaltender interference.
-- Pavel Datsyuk blew a streak when he scored the winning goal. He had assisted on the previous six Detroit goals and seven of the team's previous eight.
-- Datsyuk's sense of humor came out again after the game. Asked if the team is better with he and Zetterberg playing on the same line or not, he answered, "We're better if we both don't play." When a reporter came by after that and asked Datsyuk to repeat his answer, he said, "No I can't. If I repeat it different, then the other guy gets mad."
Datsyuk's serious answer to playing with or without Zetterberg on the line was, "I don't know what's better, but it's a lot more fun with him."
-- Coach Mike Babcock seemed a little bit irritated when the first question after the game centered on the Red Wings' slow start. "What more can you expect from us," answered Babcock, who pointed to the victory.
-- I think the Red Wings use the second half of the regular season just to warm up for the playoffs. Babcock will test his lines by having a different one match up against a top scoring threat. Tonight, the Wings did nothing to get the Zetterberg line away from Zdeno Chara (who played a very tough game). Absolutely nothing. I think they revel in that sort of matchup as a way to get in shape for the post-season.

Boston musings

-- It's difficult not to stare up in the arena when you should be staring down. All those Bruins' retired numbers ... 10, I believe. All those Celtic championship banners. Did you know that Larry Bird habitually looked at Bobby Orr's retired No. 4 before every Celtics home game? I believe it was one part superstition and one part focusing on excellence.
-- It's my first time ever in Boston and naturally, I got lost walking back from lunch. My hotel's near the arena, so I just asked for directions there. The man asked, "Are you from Detroit? Too bad you don't have Yzerman any more."
These people love hockey. They've never said that to me in Phoenix or Nashville.
"Yah ... and too bad you guys don't have Ray Bourque."
That was all I could come up with. The man just looked at me like I was nuts, so obviously I didn't return the proper greeting.
Could have been worse though. My backup was "Too bad you don't have Dit Clapper" which sounds like I'm wishing some sort of disease on the guy.

Notes from Saturday's morning skate

-- Coach Mike Babcock said that he was waiting to see who Boston is going to dress before deciding whether to keep Aaron Downey in the lineup or not. Babcock also said that Dallas Drake will return after a one-game absence, so if Downey remains in the lineup, it's likely that either Tomas Kopecky or Kirk Maltby will be a healthy scratch.
PREGAME UPDATE: Right now, it looks like Downey and Drake in the lineup with Maltby out. That could change after the pregame skate though.
-- The Red Wings will likely start with Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski back together on the blue line. Rafalski spent most of Friday's game partnered with Andreas Lilja and Lidstrom spent a lot of time with Brett Lebda. Babcock said splitting up his top pair worked better against Colorado than Boston.
-- Chris Osgood gets the start in net tonight.
-- The morning skate was optional with the team arriving in Boston at 1:30 a.m. Only a handful of players took to the ice.
-- For the first time in a while, the Red Wings will have no Super Bowl party. Chris Chelios pointed the finger at Nicklas Lidstrom, saying it's the responsibility of the captain. In the team pool, Derek Meech and Matt Ellis had the Giants through the playoffs. The tandem of Jiri Hudler and Kris Draper have the Patriots.

New design

A big thanks to Ricki Purdy at my newspaper for redesigning this blog for me.