Blogs > Red Wings Corner

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

Monday, October 27, 2008

Light week for posts

As has been for the four seasons that I've been on the Red Wings beat, I'm not traveling to the West Coast during the regular season. Just to give you a heads-up that I won't be doing the usual lineup and breaking news posts. But I will try to keep the blog breathing with odds and ends and the occasional musing.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

OK, so Leino wasn't called up

Apparently the Grand Rapids PR staff sent out a press release too quickly. Ville Leino wasn't recalled from the Griffins by Detroit. He won't be with the team in Los Angeles tomorrow night. The move was even posted on the American Hockey League site this morning before being taken down.

My guess is that the Red Wings are planning on calling up Leino, talked with Grand Rapids about doing so, but have to wait for certain procedures to be finished before putting Johan Franzen on long-term injured reserve. Without the LTIR, there isn't salary cap room to fit Leino on the Detroit roster.

So, the Red Wings now have 12 healthy forwards including Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty.

Leino called up from GR

With Franzen out for a month, the Red Wings bolstered their forward corps by calling up Ville Leino from Grand Rapids. Leino was impressive in the preseason. Signed as a free agent this summer, Leino was the Finnish elite league's player of the year. Very skilled. Puck follows him around the ice. Leino could be used as a top-six forward or he could go on the third line with countryman Valtteri Filppula if Coach Mike Babcock decides to put Dan Cleary or Jiri Hudler up on Henrik Zetterberg's line.

Here's the press release from the Griffins' PR staff ...

The Detroit Red Wings on Sunday recalled left wing Ville Leino from the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League.

Leino, the 2007-08 player of the year in the Finnish Elite League, has enjoyed a strong start to his first season in North America, leading Grand Rapids with four goals while placing second on the club with six points and a plus-three rating (tied). In addition, he has accounted for both of the Griffins’ game-winning goals this season, and his 0.500 shooting percentage (4-for-8) is tied for first in the AHL.

During the preseason, Leino tallied six points (3-3—6) in eight games for Detroit. Should he make his regular season debut with the Red Wings in Los Angeles on Monday, he will become the 96th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL.

Thoughts on Game 8 (6-5 shootout win in Chicago)

Sorry for the delay. Had internet issues.

-- Johan Franzen is out for a month because of a weird collision with Brent Sopel. Usually a knee-on-knee is a hit made when a puck-carrier dodges a defender. Sopel was just heading to the bench from the far side of the neutral zone. Franzen was cherry picking near the red line as his teammates gathered the puck in the defensive zone.

Someone was wrong on this play. Franzen wouldn't talk much after the game. He limped out of the locker room, but even then I'm too slow to catch him. Franzen was polite and did say that he'd have to wait for today's tests before he knew what his status was.

My first thought is that Sopel didn't see Franzen and he caused the hit. Franzen was following the puck, which wasn't in Sopel's direction. Sopel was looking right at the bench with Franzen in front of him. I haven't watched the tape yet, but it appeared live that Sopel was on a collision course and Franzen saw him at the last second and swerved with just their legs hitting.

Franzen was in the flow of the game. Sopel was darting horizontally across the ice, an out-of-the-ordinary path.

-- Last night was the largest regular-season home crowd in Blackhawks' history. And that building had great atmosphere ... well not great like Chicago Stadium, but great for the United Center.

-- Ty Conklin looked very good in the shootout and for most of the game. His mistake came on Chicago's second goal when defenseman Aaron Johnson slipped a wrist shot through his five-hole. Both Conklin and Coach Mike Babcock called that a soft goal that gave Chicago a lift.

-- Jiri Hudler's goal that sent the game into overtime was a remarkable bit of alertness and quick hands. Mikael Samuelsson missed a wide open net and the reaction is to look for the puck to rebound towards the slot. But Hudler got his stick quickly behind the net to retrieve the puck, then quickly got the puck around the post to his backhand to slip it in.

-- Totally irrelevant, but the Red Wings' team plane had to divert from LAX last night and land in Orange County because of fog. That caused them to finally get to their team hotel at approximately 5 a.m. Pacific Time (8 a.m. Eastern). Today's an off day though.

-- Not from just this game, but this season Brett Lebda has yet to be on the ice for a Detroit even-strength goal scored. he's been on the ice for 7 even-strength goals allowed.

Franzen out 3-4 weeks with knee sprain

According to TSN ...

UPDATE: General manager Ken Holland confirms that an MRI has already been done on Franzen, revealing that there was no damage to his MCL from the collision with Brent Sopel in Saturday night's game.

"At this point, it appears as a sprain," said Holland.

Holland said that no decision has been made on adding to the Detroit roster in Franzen's absence. He said that a decision will likely be made on Monday.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Lilja back in lineup, McCarty to debut

Andreas Lilja said that he'll be in the lineup tonight against Chicago. Lilja missed two games after having an appendectomy. It's likely that Derek Meech will be a healthy scratch to make room for Lilja.

Darren McCarty said that he'll be in the lineup for his first game of the season after starting on injured reserve with a groin strain. If McCarty plays, I don't know which forward will be scratched. It was an optional skate this morning with 10 players and neither Mike Babcock or his two assistants.

Possible lines for tonight without the team showing its hand in practice ...



Conklin (starts)

Blackhawks' Saturday morning skate

Defenseman Brent Sopel will be back in the lineup tonight after being a healthy scratch, Wednesday. Sopel was a free-agent tryout with the Red Wings in the 2007 preseason.

Nikolai Khabibulin will start in net for the second straight game. This will be his fifth start of the season with Cristobal Huet getting three starts.

Possible forward lines for tonight ...


Friday, October 24, 2008

Original Six era not worth reliving

Even the name is egocentric and false. So why do hockey fans in Detroit point to the Original Six era as the ideal to which the NHL should return?

We need to see more Original Six teams play the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. There are too many games against division foes and not enough against the other teams. The new way of scheduling in the NHL is wrong.

No. Not really.

I think that the Original Six ideal has morphed into something that it never was, namely the heyday of the NHL. The Original Six was an era in which the NHL was popular in Detroit, Chicago, New York and Boston. That's the map for American based fandom for the NHL. Believe it or not, the NHL is more popular nationally now that it ever was during the Original Six era.

Let's look at the Original Six without the rose-colored glasses:

-- It wasn't original. At least not as far as number of teams or teams themselves in the NHL. The league existed for 25 years before the Brooklyn Americans -- yes, the Brooklyn Americans -- dropped out to leave the NHL with the Original Six. The league has lasted for 41 seasons since the Original Six era ended. The Original Six era lasted just 25 seasons. You want original? Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. That's the original NHL.

-- The Original Six era was an extremely polarized circuit in terms of success. Detroit, Montreal and Toronto were good. Boston, New York and Chicago were not. (Maybe that's why we pine for those days in Detroit. Then again, the Red Wings are the NHL's royalty right now.) In those 25 Original Six seasons, Montreal (10), Toronto (nine) and Detroit (five) won 24 Stanley Cups. Only Chicago (1961) broke the big three's hold on the title. Montreal, Detroit and Toronto missed the playoffs a combined eight times in those 25 years. Boston, Chicago and New York missed the playoffs 42 times. Maybe it should have been called the Half Good/Half Bad era of the NHL.

-- The Original Six era was repetitive. Very very very very very repetitive. Detroit fans argue that they see Nashville too many times (eight in each of the past three seasons and six this season), Columbus too many times, St. Louis too many times. Well, the Original Six was all about seeing teams too many times.

And come playoff time in the Original Six, the Red Wings were usually playing either Montreal or Toronto. In their 38 Original Six era playoff series, the Red Wings played the two Canadian franchises 24 times. From 1948-61, the Red Wings played 16 of 19 playoff series against either Montreal or Toronto.

The Red Wings played every team in the old NHL 14 times per season. That makes eight games a year seem like the teams are just getting to know each other.

Here's a sample of the Red Wings' schedule from Feb., 1954: Friday night, home vs. Boston; Sunday afternoon, in Boston; Monday night, in Boston. That's pretty boring.

And with 50 years having passed, we like to look at that as a star-studded era when you could watch teams over and over.

Here's a look at the 1953-54 Boston roster: Ed Sandford; Fleming Mackell; Johnny Peirson; Dave Creighton; Joe Klukay. Those were the Bruins' top five scorers that season, by the way. The Maple Leafs' top five scorers were Tod Sloan, Sid Smith, Ted Kennedy, George Armstrong and Tim Horton. The Rangers' top five were Paul Ronty, Don Raleigh, Wally Hergesheimer, Camille Henry and Nick Mickoski.

And just so you don't think I'm hiding the big names, here are Montreal's top five scorers: Rocket Richard; Boom Boom Geoffrion; Bert Olmstead; Ken Mosdell; and Doug Harvey. Gerry McNeil was the Habs' No. 1 goalie. Some great names on Montreal's list, but that's a lot of shift you'd be watching without seeing Richard or Geoffrion or Harvey.

I've never understood the local cry for more Original Six matchups. Chicago played the Red Wings eight times per season over the past three years, but no one seemed to care. The Rangers were in town last week, but that didn't have much buzz.

A love of playing the Maple Leafs seems to be masked as affection for old-time scheduling.

So schedule the Red Wings and Maple Leafs more often. Go with the 84-game schedule that the Detroit management has been pushing for which guarantees a home-and-home with every other franchise. Heck, you could even lop off a few more conference games and have some designated rivalry games, getting four games between Detroit and Toronto every season.

But stop waving the Original Six flag. That was an era where the standings were predictable and you saw the same teams over and over again.

The Original Six era has been dead for more than 40 years. Let it rest.

Lilja hopes for Saturday return

Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily reports that defenseman Andreas Lilja (appendectomy) skate this morning and thinks he has a shot at being back in the lineup in Chicago, Saturday.

Wings to wear unique jersey in outdoor game

Here's the press release ...

The NHL Winter Classic 2009 jerseys will be unveiled during the broadcast of the game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, Oct. 25. WGN-TV and FSN Detroit will broadcast the game, which begins at 7:30 p.m. CT (8:30pm ET) and marks the first time the two clubs will meet this season. The Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings each will wear a unique, one-time-only jersey while playing in the NHL Winter Classic 2009 at Chicago’s historic Wrigley Field on New Year’s Day.

... What the heck. As long as you're trying to sell the sport, why not sell a few jerseys too.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thoughts on Game 6 (4-3 win at St. Louis)

-- The Blues often chose to put the Patrik Berglund line on the ice against the Pavel Datsyuk line early in this game. With Berglund being a rookie, David Perron a second-year player and Paul Kariya a defensive liability, you wouldn't think that would be a prime matchup for Coach Andy Murray. But the threesome did quite well against Datsyuk, Marian Hossa and Tomas Holmstrom. Murray changed his forward lines in the second period and the matchup ended, but it worked for a short while.

-- St. Louis goes with five forwards on its first power play, using Kariya and Lee Stempniak on the points. I'm not sure when the last time that a team did that for any length of time. It is unusual, but it's working for the Blues. Does anyone else remember Scotty Bowman in the late 70s using two defensemen at the net on the power play and two forwards on the points?

-- OK. The most controversial thing I've said in the past year was that Ty Conklin overplayed his angles in his first game as a Red Wing. As far as controversy goes, I'm pretty weak. Now I'm in a spot where it's difficult to say that Conklin played great in his second game -- which he did -- because I don't want to seem as though I'm caving to pressure. So I won't say how impressive Conklin was, how spot-on he was with his angles, how quick he looked. But maybe I can say that Conklin could have been a few inches further out challenging Brad Boyes on his goal. There. Dancing with controversy once more.

-- Tomas Holmstrom is playing as well as he ever has. Such a difference from last year's goals-being-waved-off start. Is Homer playing ever so slightly further out from the crease than before?

-- Pavel Datsyuk has to be the best player in hockey right now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lidstrom plays against former teammate's son

ST. LOUIS -- When six-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom skated against Blues' rookie Patrik Berglund, tonight, it marked a first in the hockey career of the Red Wings' captain.

In Berglund, Lidstrom found himself up against the son of a former teammate.

"That hasn't happened before," said Lidstrom, 38.

Berglund, five games into his NHL career, is a 20-year-old center who was a first-round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2006.

Berglund was born in Vasteras, Sweden, in the summer before Nicklas Lidstrom started his professional career as an 18-year-old with his hometown team, Vasteras. Berglund's father, Anders, was a high-scoring center for Vasteras.

Anders Berglund and Lidstrom were teammates for three seasons. Patrik Berglund was a toddler whose playground was often the locker room, spending time at the rink on days when his mother was working at the hospital.

"I was in the locker room a lot when I was little," said Patrik Berglund. "I don't think (Lidstrom) remembers me from then. But I ran around the locker room a lot."

Now, Patrik Berglund is a 6-foot-4, 210-pound second-line center in the NHL, feeling his way out as a professional much as Lidstrom did 20 years ago.

"(Lidstrom) was just 18, but he was already playing as the superstar he is right now," Anders Berglund told the Belleville News-Democrat. "We played together for two years, especially on the power play. I loved to play with him, he never lost a puck."

Patrik Berglund and Lidstrom saw each other a couple of times over this past summer after Berglund finished his third season with Vasteras.

"He's really big back home, but he's a lot bigger here," said Patrik Berglund. "He's been here for 17 years. He's really famous back home. Everyone knows who Nicklas Lidstrom is, but it's on different levels."

And did the younger Berglund quiz his father's former teammate about hockey?

"He's very quiet," said Berglund. "I'm a forward, He's a D-man. I don't know if he'd have too many things to say to me about that."

Zetterberg back in the lineup

Everything went well for Henrik Zetterberg at the morning skate, so he'll play tonight against St. Louis. Here are the Detroit line combinations ...



Conklin (starts)

Look for the defense pairings to shuffle as the game goes on, as they did against the Rangers. Lidstrom and Rafalski will likely stay together whenever the McDonald line is out, but could split at other times.

Blues' morning skate

Lee Stempniak might make his return from injury tonight after missing the past four Blues' games. If so, here are what the top three lines will likely look like ...


Jay McClement will center a fourth line that's up in the air right now personnel wise.
UPDATE: Fourth line will be Porter-McClement-Hinote.

The Blues have the top power play in the NHL (40.9%) and might go with five forwards if Stempniak plays. Coach Andy Murray has used Stempniak and Kariya on the points with McDonald, Boyes and Tkachuk up front on the first unit.

Manny Legace will make his fourth consecutive start. He'll likely split the Blues' back-to-back games, Friday/Saturday, with rookie Ben Bishop. When Bishop plays, he'll become the tallest goalie in NHL history at 6-foot-7. Meaningless, but what the heck.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Helm to GR

Darren Helm has been assigned to Grand Rapids. That means that either Henrik Zetterberg (groin) or Darren McCarty (groin) will play tomorrow night in St. Louis.

Zetterberg said that he'll test himself at the morning skate Wednesday and decide after that. McCarty is still on injured reserve, but is eligible to come off that list when he's healthy. McCarty will come off IR and play if Zetterberg can't go tomorrow, according to general manager Ken Holland.

This also means that McCarty will stick with Detroit until another player needs to be added to the active roster -- such as Chris Chelios (leg) coming off injured reserve. By that time, perhaps McCarty will be sent to GR or perhaps he'll stay to fill in for another injured forward. For now, McCarty is the 13th forward.

McCarty clears waivers

Darren McCarty is still a Red Wing. For now, at least.

The veteran forward cleared waivers, but whether he'll stay in Detroit or head to Grand Rapids soon has yet to be decided. For now, McCarty is about to head to St. Louis with the Red Wings.

McCarty, who is on a two-way contract (pays different rates in the NHL and AHL), can remain in Detroit or be sent to Grand Rapids. He is cleared of having to go through waivers for the next month. The Red Wings now don't have to wait the 24-hour waiver period to make a roster move if needed.

"Obviously I want to be part of this team, this organization," said McCarty. "If it's playing here, supporting here, playing in Grand Rapids ... whatever needs to be done, I'll do it. That's been my attitude since Day 1 -- being part of this organization, first and foremost."

Zetterberg a maybe for Wednesday

Henrik Zetterberg (groin) had a full practice today without holding back and said he felt good afterwards. He'll test his strained groin again in the morning skate tomorrow and then make the decision if he can play in Wednesday's game in St. Louis. Zetterberg said that if the game was Thursday, he'd definitely be in the lineup.

The Red Wings practice with Zetterberg centering the second line, today, preparing for him being in the lineup. Just in case, both Darren Helm and Darren McCarty will make the trip to St. Louis.

UPDATE: Helm has been assigned to Grand Rapids.

Conklin to start tomorrow

Coach Mike Babcock said that Ty Conklin will get the start in goal, Wednesday, in St. Louis. Somewhat odd timing with back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday. You'd guess that Conklin would start one of the back-to-back games and Chris Osgood would go the other two, but that's not the plan.

Lilja has appendectomy

Andreas Lilja is having an appendectomy today and won't be with the team in St. Louis. The defenseman could return to the lineup as early as Friday, according to coach Mike Babcock, but that does seem like a very speedy recovery.

Brad Stuart (bruised knee) said that he's definitely back in the lineup tomorrow night and will be back partnered with Niklas Kronwall. Derek Meech will remain in the lineup and partner with his former Grand Rapids teammate Brett Lebda as the third defense pairing.

Tuesday's practice

The Red Wings are practicing right now as though Henrik Zetterberg (groin) and Brad Stuart (bruised knee) will be ready to play in Wednesday's game in St. Louis. But Andreas Lilja is absent. More on that when I find out.

And Darren McCarty, who was put on waivers yesterday, is on the ice.

Here are the lines they're working out of ...




Note that Derek Meech is in Lilja's spot on the right side with Brett Lebda. Also, Mikael Samuelsson is still on the second line with Jiri Hudler on the third line.

Second team in TO area?

Story in the Globe & Mail raises the possibility of a second NHL team in the Toronto area either by expansion or moving an existing franchise. Please do it. Please put hockey teams in hockey markets.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Newest model

Darren McCarty will appear in the November issue of the magazine, "Inked." The Red Wing was photographed at Joe Louis Arena for a short item about tattoos.

McCarty went with Bob Probert to Chicago in 1993 to get his first tattoo. He's gotten several since and has plans for four more tattoos when he gets the time to have them done.

"For me it's an art; It means something," said McCarty. "I couldn't just look in a magazine (for a design). It has to be something with meaning, something original."

Among McCarty's tattoos are a piano that his grandmother used to play, a remembrance of a former bandmate who died of heart disease and initials and designs for his children.

Zetterberg out, Stuart a maybe

Henrik Zetterberg (groin strain) is out for Saturday's home game against the Rangers while there is still a possibility that Brad Stuart (bruised knee) could play. Stuart didn't practice today, but said that his status for tomorrow's game will depend on how his knee reacts to Saturday's morning skate.

Stuart left last night's game in the third period after taking a Sami Salo shot on the inside portion of his knee where there is little protection.

Stuart had tests done today, which revealed no major damage to his knee.

"It feels a lot better today than I expected it to feel," said Stuart. "So that's a good thing."

If Stuart can't play tomorrow night, Derek Meech will see his first game action of the season after being a healthy scratch in all four games. Meech practiced today alongside Niklas Kronwall.

Zetterberg's return won't come before next Wednesday's game in St. Louis, if then. A groin injury could keep him out longer than that.

"I don't imagine he's on the radar screen yet," said Coach Mike Babcock.

Darren Helm, who was called up from Grand Rapids yesterday, remains with the team, centering the fourth line at practice.

Friday's practice

The Red Wings are on the ice now without Henrik Zetterberg or Brad Stuart. Zetterberg has a groin strain that caused him to miss Thursday's game against Vancouver. Stuart was felled by a Sami Samlo shot (struck him on the inside of the knee) and left the arena last night on crutches.

There are 18 healthy skaters on the ice right now plus Darren McCarty, who's on injured reserve with a groin strain.

Here's the line combinations they're working out of ...

McCarty (subbing on fourth line)


So for now, Derek Meech is being inserted into Stuart's spot alongside Niklas Kronwall, rather than breaking apart the third tandem of Andreas Lilja and Brett Lebda.

The forward lines are the same as the ones that started Thursday's game.

Thoughts on Game 4 (4-3 OT loss to Vancouver)

-- Worse than the outcome is what happened to Brad Stuart. The Detroit defenseman was hit in the left knee (where there's little padding) by a Sami Salo shot. We'll find out Friday what Stuart's injury prognosis is, but he left Joe Louis Arena, Thursday night, on crutches. He didn't look like someone who would be playing in Saturday's game.

-- The home-road difference in the Red Wings' play has been notable. Two games at home, 32 giveaways. Two games on the road, six giveaways.

-- Pavel Datsyuk's line was a force against the Henrik Sedin line. Darren Helm's fourth line was pretty good. But Detroit's second and third lines weren't productive. It was Kris Draper's line that was most often matched up against the Ryan Kesler line, a line that scored three goals for the Canucks.

-- The first power-play unit has scored every one of Detroit's power-play goals this season.

-- The Stuart-Niklas Kronwall defense pair hasn't been good thus far. Detroit has allowed nine even-strength goals this season. Either Kronwall or Stuart has been on the ice for seven of those goals. They've both been on the ice for five of the nine goals allowed. From my vantage point, Kronwall is off to a slower start than Stuart.

-- Datsyuk won 16 of 24 faceoffs.

-- I'm sure that when Johan Franzen and Willie Mitchell roughed each other up that Mitchell's late hit on Franzen two seasons ago (that left Franzen sidelined with a knee injury) was brought up.

-- For the second straight game, Jiri Hudler and Mikael Samuelsson were switched on the second and third lines midway through the game.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Helm recalled, Zetterberg out

With Henrik Zetterberg out with a groin strain, the Red Wings recalled Darren Helm from Grand Rapids to play against Vancouver tonight. Zetterberg is day-to-day.

Helm got the call instead of Ville Leino in part because Helm fits under the salary cap and Leino does not.

As I said yesterday, it's likely that the lines will be shuffled (see Wednesday practice notes) with Valtteri Filppula centering the second line, Kris Draper centering the third line and Helm centering the fourth line.


Also, goalie Jimmy Howard (broken finger) was cleared to play and shipped to Grand Rapids.

Not a bad start for Brunnstrom

OK ... maybe Fabian Brunnstrom is that good. The Swedish free agent played his first NHL game tonight and netted a hat trick, including the winning goal in Dallas' 6-4 win over Nashville. Brunnstrom was a highly sought-after unrestricted free agent last spring, who narrowed his choices down to Dallas, Detroit and Montreal. He had a verbal agreement before that with Vancouver, but when the Canucks changed their management, Brunnstrom went shopping.

How rare is a hat trick in an NHL debut? The only other players to accomplish thatwere Alex Smart (1943) and Real Cloutier (1979).

Not a bad night for Brunnstrom -- someone who was working in a Swedish Burger King a few years ago while playing low-level professional hockey.

OK, so Brunnstrom isn't the next Bobby Orr ... or whatever you'd want to call a Swedish free agent superstar forward. But after tonight, it looks like he's definitely equipped to succeed in this league. And maybe he would have been a nice fit on a second line with Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Shoot Huds, shoot

Coach Mike Babcock explained earlier today that his problem with Jiri Hudler's performance so far this season is that he isn't shooting enough. Thus the switch to the third line.

"One of the things is when Huds plays with those guys (Zetterberg, Franzen), all he does is pass them the puck," said Babcock. "He's always deferring to Z (Zetterberg), deferring to Franzen. I think he's a good offensive player. I want him to shoot the puck. If he plays with Fil (Filppula) and Cleary, he'll shoot the puck."

Babcock's right. Hudler isn't shooting much.

With three shots on goal in the first three games, Hudler is ahead of only fourth-liners Kirk Maltby (two shots) and Kris Draper (one shot) in that category. And it's not as though Hudler's shots just aren't hitting the net. In addition to his three SOG, Hudler has had just one shot that missed the net and one other that was blocked.

I have been impressed by Hudler's passing ability and his hockey sense. But if it's shooting that he's been asked to do, Hudler hasn't performed well by that measure.

At the same time, Samuelsson's north-south style is what Babcock hopes will spark the Zetterberg line.

"Sammy's a big, strong guy who can really skate and make plays," said Babcock. "He'll get them to go more straight ahead than side to side."


Despite being 2-1-0 and having won the Stanley Cup and President's Trophy last season and adding Marian Hossa and Ty Conklin to an already stacked lineup, Coach Mike Babcock said that the Red Wings are just one of the pack chasing the NHL elite.

"It's pretty apparent to me when you look at the league right now, San Jose and the Rangers are the class of the league," said Babcock. "They're both 4-0 or 5-0 or something like that. They must be the class of the league. The rest of us are catching up."


Zetterberg's status

Henrik Zetterberg left practice early today with a slight groin strain. He's a maybe for Thursday's game against Vancouver.

"That's what happens when the coach gives them a day off," joked coach Mike Babcock, whose team visited the White House yesterday. "It won't happen again this year."

The team is going to wait to see how Zetterberg's injury is tomorrow morning before making a decision on how to fill his spot if he can't play. My guess is that Zetterberg won't be in the lineup tomorrow. Groin strains that cause you to leave a practice don't usually heal overnight. Add in that Babcock totally shuffled the second, third and fourth lines at practice as though to prepare for a game without Zetterberg.

Darren McCarty isn't eligible to come off the injured reserve yet. Should the Red Wings need to call up a player from Grand Rapids, the Griffins are at home. A player could get the call in the morning and be in Detroit ready to play at night. Perhaps a more likely option is that Derek Meech could play forward on a fill-in basis as he did last season.

Babcock said that if Zetterberg plays, he'll have Johan Franzen and Mikael Samuelsson as linemates. Babcock said that he doesn't like how Jiri Hudler becomes pass-oriented on Zetterberg's line and expects Hudler to shoot more on a line with Valtteri Filppula and Dan Cleary.

If Zetterberg isn't ready to play, then the Red Wings will likely go will line similar to the ones used in practice today with Filppula taking Z's spot and the third and fourth lines being shuffled ...


Wednesday morning practice

The Red Wings are on the ice now at Joe Louis Arena. Henrik Zetterberg isn't on the ice. These are the lines they're working with ...



Obviously those are a lot of shakeups up front if this is the way the Wings are going to line up against Vancouver tomorrow. We'll see after practice what Babcock's plans are and what Zetterberg's status is or for that matter whether McCarty is close to returning.

Babcock wasn't pleased with the play of Samuelsson and Hudler, thus far and switched them on the second and third lines in the third period of Monday's game in Carolina.

Obviously Zetterberg will be on the first or second line when he's on the ice. But perhaps they're not expecting Z to play Thursday. When a player is just absent from a practice, they'll plug that hole rather than shuffle all the lines around. For example, they could have put McCarty on the second line for practice with Franzen in the middle.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Red Wings' opposites form attractive blue-line pair

They grew up eight times zones apart. One speaks more softly than any other player in the Detroit Red Wings' locker room; the other speaks clearly and directly using a second language. One was an NHL regular at 19; the other didn't finish his first full NHL season until he was 25. They both shoot left-handed, but one prefers the right point; the other prefers the left. One has spent his entire North American career in the Red Wings' organization; the other played for five teams in the previous three seasons.

Niklas Kronwall -- the direct-speaking, late blooming, lifetime Wing who prefers the left point -- and Brad Stuart -- the soft-spoken, high draft pick who bounced around the league -- don't have a lot in common.

One that the Red Wings' second defense pairing share is hockey sense.

"We see the game similar," said Kronwall.

That sounds simple for two professionals in the same system under the same coaching staff, but it isn't all that common. And having defense partners who aren't in sync can lead to some long shifts on the ice.

"You never really know how you're going to work with somebody until you try it," said Stuart. "It's very important. I've played with guys that just didn't work. You both find yourselves out of position. You kind of never know what the other guy's going to do or what they expect you to do. For me, it's very important to have someone you're on the same page with."

Kronwall and Stuart were partnered through most of the Stanley Cup playoff run last spring and were Detroit's top plus-minus defensemen. This season, the two have been together all three Red Wing games, Kronwall on the left point, Stuart on the right.

Part of their success comes from their physical play. Although Kronwall might deliver the most highlight reel bodychecks among Red Wings, it's a testament to Stuart's hitting that coach Mike Babcock labels the tandem thusly: "One's a puck-mover (Kronwall) and one's physical."

"The big thing is they're just good match-up (defensive) players," said Babcock. "They can move the puck. They can play physical."

Stuart has played with other hard-hitting partners in his well-traveled career, partnering with Robyn Regehr in Calgary.

In Kronwall, Stuart has found of the better partnerships in his career.

"I don't think there's a formula that certain guys have to play together," said Stuart. "He's smart, moves the puck well, skates well. I don't know … we just seem to complement each other well. Obviously we communicate on the ice, but a lot of times we can make plays without having to do that just knowing what each other is going to do."

Mating Kronwall with a defensive-minded partner helps in times when the Swede goes for big hits at the offensive blue line or joins the attack.

"He's always making it easy for me being in the right spot all the time, bailing me out if I jump too soon or if I get turned upside down," said Kronwall. "He makes it easy, talks a lot."

And how does someone from Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, and someone from Djurgarden, Sweden, communicate?

"I'm trying to learn Swedish," joked Stuart.

"He doesn't know it yet," said Kronwall. "We're working on it."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Thoughts on Game 3 (3-1 win in Carolina)

-- Second-liner Jiri Hudler and third-liner Mikael Samuelsson were flip-flopped in the third period of tonight's win in Carolina. After the game, Coach Mike Babcock said that the move was because he wasn't happy with either forward's performance. Babcock also said that he might keep the two switched for Thursday's game against the Rangers or he might move Dan Cleary up to the second line in Hudler's place.

"I don't know if I liked what's going on with either one of them, so I just flipped them around," said Babcock. "I don't know what I'm going to do. I like the Hossa-Homer-Datsyuk line. Haven't been as crazy about Z's line since exhibition. … maybe put Cleary there. … I've got something to do tomorrow morning."

-- Babcock also said that he's planning to play his top forwards, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, about two minutes less per game than he did a year ago.

"We're not getting our big guys' (ice time) up too much," said Babcock. "It's going to take them a little while to get adjusted. Z and Pav are used to playing 21 minutes (per game). They'll probably play two minutes less (per game). That way, we can share the minutes and we'll have better energy overall. Just because of the depth of our team this year, I think that's the best way for our team to be physical, to be fast over a long period of time."

-- Babcock dished out this compliment about the Hurricanes: "They're as good a transition team as we played in a while."

-- Ty Conklin got the job done, allowing just one goal. But he really overplayed most everything and was out of position several times.

-- The Hurricanes' PK unit did them in, allowing two goals on the first two full Detroit power plays. It took the Red Wings a total of 64 seconds to score the two power-play goals.

-- Carolina never has game-day morning skates as every other NHL team does. It doesn't mean much, but it's an interesting tidbit.


From the Grand Rapids' PR staff ... Aaron Downey and Darren Helm will join their former Detroit Red Wings teammates on Tuesday for the team’s visit to the White House. President George W. Bush will honor the 2008 Stanley Cup Champions during a ceremony in the East Room at 2:30 p.m.

Hurricanes' penalty-kill

Watch what the Red Wings' power play does in tonight's game in Carolina. The table is set for Detroit to break through with the man-advantage after getting one goal in its first eight opportunities this season.

The Hurricanes don't have a good penalty-kill. They've allowed four goals in 13 opportunities this season (69% kill rate). Last season, the 'Canes were 26th in the 30-team NHL on the PK, allowing 75 goals (79% kill rate).

Carolina's top penalty-killers are defensemen Niclas Wallin and Tim Gleason and forwards Chad LaRose (a native of Fraser), rookie Brandon Sutter, Ryan Bayda and Eric Staal.

The Red Wings will stick with the same PP units they've used the first two games ...



McCarty takes step forward

Darren McCarty (groin) was back at practice this morning in Raleigh, N.C. -- the first time that he worked out with the Red Wings since late in the preseason. This green light from the medical staff means that he's one green light away from returning to game action. McCarty said that he didn't go all out and that everything felt fine after his first on-ice test.

"It's nice to be back on the ice with the guys," said McCarty. "Obviously, I can still feel something there (groin strain), but there's progress being made. This is the next step to being back. ... I was happy with some things I did. It was just not try to get everything back in one day. It was just sort of building into it. It was something that you feel it, but it didn't feel like it regressed."

Quincey claimed off waivers by Kings

Defenseman Kyle Quincey, 23, was claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Kings, today. Quincey was put on waivers to give the salary cap-crunched Red Wings flexibility in case they needed to make an immediate roster move, so they wouldn't be delayed by the waiver period (24 hours during the week, 48 hours on the weekend).

General manager Ken Holland said that the Red Wings don't have immediate plans to add a player to their roster. Without Quincey, the Wings still don't have enough cap room to fit a higher salaried played like Jonathan Ericsson or Ville Leino under the cap. There is enough room, however, for Darren McCarty, who practiced for the first time today since being sidelined with a groin strain, or for a lower salaried minor-leaguer.

"I'm not going to call somebody up just to sit in the press box," said Holland. "We may as well play the games and see if we have anybody get hurt."

Holland said that he wasn't surprised by the Kings' claim: "We expected. We talked to five, six teams in the past week that had some interest. Thought we were close on one front to a deal that fell through."

"I'm happy for Kyle," added Holland. "He's been patient with us acquiring Brad Stuart, the development of Brett Lebda, the development of Jonathan Ericsson. We like Derek Meech. Can't keep everybody."

Quincey was on the RBC Center ice this morning for the Red Wings' practice. At the end, he was called over to the side of the ice where Holland told him about the Kings' waiver claim.

"Hopefully I get a chance to play and start my career," said Quincey. "It's hard to leave all the good guys here. It's like a family here. It's always great when you're winning."

Quincey came to the Red Wings as their fourth-round draft pick in 2003, Detroit's second pick that summer behind goalie Jimmy Howard.

After being drafted, Quincey went back to his Ontario Hockey League team, the London Knights, but was traded three games into the 2003-04 season to the Mississauga IceDogs. At Mississauga, Quincey became friends with teammate Patrick O'Sullivan and worked out with him every off-season. The two are now Kings teammates.

Quincey played 13 regular-season games for the Red Wings spread out over three seasons. He matched that total of 13 games in the 2007 playoffs -- the highlight of Quincey's stay in Detroit. With Niklas Kronwall and Brett Lebda injured (and Mathieu Schneider soon to go down with an injury), Quincey was inserted into the Red Wings' playoff run and performed well.

He was with the Red Wings last spring throughout the Stanley Cup run as one of the team's prospect call-ups, but didn't play any games.

Red Wings' morning skate

In Raleigh, North Carolina ...

Everyone's on the ice right now and skating in the same combinations used in the first two games.



Conklin (starts)

Meech (scratch)
Quincey (scratch)

Darren McCarty (groin), who's on injured reserve, is on the ice practicing.

The Hurricanes had an optional skate earlier.

The only unusual thing at the Red Wings' skate was the lights going out in the RBC Center early in the practice. Someone immediately shouted "Lockout". The auxiliary lights came on less than five minute4s later.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


With a victory over the Red Wings tomorrow night, Carolina coach Peter Laviolette can move into sole possession of second place on the all-time wins list for American-born NHL coaches. Laviolette moved into a tie with Bob Johnson with his 234th career victory, Saturday.

Conklin takes flight

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Some of the Detroit Red Wings golf to relax in the offseason. Some hunt and some prefer fishing.

Ty Conklin flies.

Detroit's new goalie -- signed as a free agent, July 1 -- is a licensed pilot who takes his Piper Super Cub up during the offseason.

"It's relaxing for me," said Conklin. "I love it."

Tomorrow night against the Carolina Hurricanes (2-0-0), Conklin will get his first start of the season in net after backing up Chris Osgood in the Red Wings' (1-1-0) first two games. In the summertime, however, Conklin trades his helmet and mask for headphones, skating across clouds instead of ice. With floats attached, Conklin will land his plane on water.

The 32-year-old began training to be a pilot seven years ago. During the NHL lockout winter of 2004-05, Conklin became a licensed pilot.

"When I get time in the summer, when I get three or four hours which is rare, I go up and poke around," said Conklin. "Just a lot of little trips. Go up and waste gas. I do that instead of golfing or whatever."

Conklin's aviation bug is one part geographic and one part familial.

Born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, Conklin grew up in the state with the most pilots per capita. According to Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association statistics (through 2007), Alaska leads the nation in licensed private pilots per capita by a healthy margin. Alaska has 47 private pilots per 10,000 residents. The second highest rate is Montana at 18 pilots. Michigan ranks 27th with seven private pilots per 10,000 residents -- the national average excluding Alaska.

"It's very common there, especially if you like the outdoors," said Conklin. "Just getting from place to place is done in planes more there."

In fact, it was aviation that brought the Conklins to Alaska. Ty's grandfather was a military pilot who went to work for the Federal Aviation Administration when he left the service. The FAA stationed him in Alaska.

Conklin left Alaska to finish his high school in Minnesota, then to play junior hockey in Wisconsin and collegiate hockey in New Hampshire. But the Alaska flying bug stayed with him.

"It's very safe," said Conklin. "When people understand that planes were meant to be up there in the air, they feel safer."

And if you enjoy it enough, you can feel calmer than you would on a golf course.

"I flew a friend back to Wisconsin last summer," said Conklin. "We flew right past downtown Chicago about a half-mile out. It was early in the morning. Nothing really going on. No commercial stuff really. The airways were quiet. Air traffic control was talking to us. It was a pretty cool flight."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Conklin's debut

Mike Babcock said after Saturday's win in Ottawa at that Ty Conklin would make his Red Wing debut Monday in Carolina. Chris Osgood started the first two games in net.

Thoughts on Game 2 (3-2 win in Ottawa)

-- Marian Hossa is not finishing. Hopefully, he's being streaky or just adjusting. He's played well in every area -- defense, creating chances -- but he's not finishing chances.

-- Ottawa looked at the Zetterberg line as Detroit's most dangerous, putting its top checking forward (Antoine Vermette) and shut-down defense pairing (Chris Philips and Anton Volchenkov) against Z's line. The Datsyuk line dominated the Jason Spezza line early, but didn't maintain that advantage throughout the game. If you asked me beforehand if the Datsyuk line would be held scoreless against the Spezza line, I wouldn't have believed it.

-- Martin Gerber looked bad. The winning goal was a deflection off Filip Kuba's stick, but the first two goals were both softies.

-- Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Holmstrom were reunited for a power-play shift in the third period to spark the team. No goal, but I wonder if Coach Babcock will be tempted to reunite the trio at even strength if the offense is sluggish.

-- Dan Cleary played a much better game. Had a lot of jump.

-- Johan Franzen scored two goals, including the winner, but he didn't get a lot of praise from Babcock afterwards. "I didn't think the Mule played like he did in exhibition in the first two games," said Babcock. "The Mule's got to understand the reason he's so good is that he's so big and physical. So he's got to be big and physical and the rest of the stuff will come."

Quincey on waivers

The Red Wings put reserve defenseman Kyle Quincey on waivers today. General manager Ken Holland said the reason was to give the club flexibility in case it needed to make a roster move, much as the team did with Aaron Downey last season.

"If we get a goalie hurt tonight, we can't bring one up for Monday," said Holland.

Waivers last 24 hours during the week and 48 hours on the weekend, stalling player movement both ways for those not waiver exempt. If Quincey clears waivers, he'll be pre-approved to be sent to Grand Rapids for the next month, without any time needed for approval of such a move.

Round numbers

The Red Wings' defense pairing of Brett Lebda and Andreas Lilja will have twin milestones, tonight. Lilja will play in his 400th career NHL game. Lebda will skate in his 200th.

"Already?" said Lebda, 26. "Doesn't seem like it. That went fast."

Hossa back where he started

KANATA, Ont. -- Six-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom was in the visitors' locker room at Scotiabank Place after the Detroit Red Wings' morning skate, Saturday. So was Selke Trophy winner Pavel Datsyuk. Conn Smythe Trophy winner Henrik Zetterberg was in the room as well.

But the player with the biggest crowd around his locker stall after practice was Marian Hossa. Back in the place where he began his NHL career, Hossa drew an audience of a dozen members of the Canadian media.

This is where Hossa played his first NHL game as an 18-year-old, having been drafted 12th overall by the Senators in 1997 after playing one season with Portland of the Western Hockey League. He was on a team with Daniel Alfredsson and Alexei Yashin.

"I was a young guy, didn't know what to expect," said Hossa, who first played for Ottawa one year after leaving his native Slovakia. "It was good for me to be here in the beginning."

Hossa went on to play six full seasons in Ottawa, averaging 35 goals per year over the final five seasons.

"I always like it here," said Hossa. "It was my beginnings here, so I have great memories for Ottawa. Everything I went through here was fun, the fans especially were great."

At the age of 25, however, Hossa was traded with defenseman Greg deVries for Atlanta's Dany Heatley. The deal's genesis was Heatley's request for a new environment after being in a car accident that killed his Thrasher teammate, Dan Snyder.

Since the trade, Hossa has produced like a player in his prime, averaging 37 goals per season over the past three seasons, including a 100-point campaign. Part of Hossa's success has come at the expense of his former team with the big Slovak getting 18 points in 11 games against the Senators, entering Saturday night's game.

After the local reporters had asked all of their questions, Hossa had a few queries of his own. The new Red Wing made sure to ask about the health of his former Ottawa teammate, Alfredsson, who had knee arthroscopic knee surgery Friday.

It has been nearly four years since Hossa last wore a Senators jersey, but the connection between player and first pro team is rarely lost.

Red Wings' morning skate

Lineup looks like it's the same as it was for Thursday's opener ...



Osgood (starts)

Meech (scratch)
Quincey (scratch)

Ottawa's morning skate

Martin Gerber will get the start tonight with Alex Auld backing him up. The pair split the work in Ottawa's two games in Sweden last weekend.

It was an optional for the Sens this morning with several players like Dany Heatley not on the ice. With Daniel Alfredsson out, Jarkku Ruutu should be up on the top line with Jason Spezza and Heatley.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Joey Mac in net

Checking the scores tonight and it's good to see Joey MacDonald got the start for the Islanders in their season-opener in New Jersey. MacDonald once was a Red Wings' prospect, who was lost on waivers to Boston two seasons ago. It's tough not to root for a good person like Joey, who was a key part of that highly successful Grand Rapids team that included Jiri Hudler, Valtteri Filppula, Derek Meech, Tomas Kopecky and Matt Ellis. Tonight is the 28-year-old MacDonald's 18th NHL game.

The Islanders' No. 1 goalie, Rick DiPietro, has already had surgery on both hips -- one during this offseason -- and a knee operation. DiPietro, who also has a history of concussions, was limited to one preseason appearance.


The Red Wings will meet President Bush at the White House Tuesday. The ceremony is schedule for 2:45 p.m. Of course, the Wings were the winners of the Stanley Cup and Presidents' Trophy ... no not that president.

Alfredsson won't play against Wings

According to TSN, knee surgery will keep the Senators' captain, Daniel Alfredsson out for the next two weeks at least.

Turnover factory

The Chris Osgood and Dan Cleary turnovers were spectacular in Thursday's 3-2 loss to Toronto, both leading directly to Maple Leaf goals. But the Red Wings were turning the puck over at an alarming rate.

In the end, Detroit had 19 giveaways. What was remarkable was the balance of miscues across the roster. Of the 19 Red Wings who played, 14 had at least one giveaway, including the netminder. But no one Red Wing had more than two giveaways. The only Red Wings without a giveaway were Andreas Lilja, Kirk Maltby, Marian Hossa, Tomas Kopecky and Johan Franzen.

Only once last season did the Red Wings have more than last night's 19 giveaways -- 20 in a 3-0 win in Los Angeles. Last season, the Red Wings averaged just 8.3 giveaways per game. In the 82-game slate, Detroit only reached double-digits in giveaways 32 times.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Power-play juggling act

DETROIT -- The math doesn't work unless you divide by two and even then, it's not a perfect equation.

The Detroit Red Wings are blessed with enough offensive talent that fitting everyone in on the power play becomes a juggling act. Forwards such as Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Marian Hossa and Tomas Holmstrom have been first-unit power play players for the past few years. But with three forward spots per power-play unit, how does everyone get enough ice time?

"You don't," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock.

The solution is this -- keep the first two forward lines intact as the forwards for the first two power-play units, keep the lines' ice time to a minimum and let competition determine everything.

Datsyuk, Holmstrom and Hossa will form one power-play forward line with Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski at defense. Zetterberg, Jiri Hudler and Johan Franzen will be the other unit with Niklas Kronwall and Mikael Samuelsson on the blue line.

That leaves players like Dan Cleary and Valtteri Filppula out of the man-advantage mix, at least for now.

"I made it very clear in our power play meeting today that when the puck gets dumped down the ice after 45 seconds, you're off," said Babcock. "The group that goes first is the group that's doing the best. There's competition for that ice time. They all know that. Dan Cleary and Filppula aren't on the power play … they're very good power-play guys. We'll see how things shake out. You bring it and you get to go out some more. You don't, someone else will go out for you."

Very similar to Babcock's complaint in the Stanley Cup final that the power-play units were trying to do too much, making their shifts too long. Get the stopwatch out tonight.

Schenn's NHL debut

While the Red Wings are a team that tries to protect all its assets, even if it means sending youngster like Darren Helm down to Grand Rapids, the Maple Leafs are a team that is throwing an 18-year-old Luke Schenn in the lineup tonight on its top defense pairing with Tomas Kaberle.

The fifth overall pick in this summer's draft, Schenn might stay with the Maple Leafs all season, or he might be sent back to his junior team, the Kelowna Rockets, before his NHL career goes beyond nine regular-season games. (If a junior-eligible player plays nine or fewer NHL games, the clock on his NHL career doesn't start.)

"I'm definitely very excited," said Schenn after the morning skate. "It's something you work your whole life for, to get in the NHL. I'm excited. It's a dream come true. ... They're the defending champs and they've got a good team over there. I've got to keep things simple and hopefully I'll get more comfortable after I get a couple of shifts under my belt."

And what does a coach say to an 18-year-old who's going up against the defending Cup champions?

"Nothing," said Ron Wilson. "Just play a game, another game. Just the first step in what will be a great career. He's just got to relax and play. He's going to be nervous, no doubt. But as soon as he gets involved, he'll forget about all that."

Spy games

Former Red Wings coach Johnny Wilson watched as his nephew, Ron Wilson worked his new team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, through this morning's skate. Ron Wilson had a pretty good take on his family's connection to the Red Wings. (Both Johnny and Ron's father, Larry, coached Detroit.)

"The Red Wings accuse (Johnny) of being a spy," said Ron Wilson with a smile. "But I realized I haven't won too many in this building. So he might be spying on me ... a double-agent."

Morning skate Game 1 vs. Toronto

The Red Wings are warming up, just about to start their morning skate at Joe Louis Arena. The good news is that Tomas Holmstrom, who said yesterday that his injured foot was feeling much better, is on the ice. With Homer in the lineup, the Red Wings are at full health other than Chris Chelios (leg). Holmstrom was hobbled after blocking a shot in Sunday's preseason finale and missed Tuesday's practice. He returned to the ice, Wednesday.

Here are the lines they're working out of right now ...


Meech-Quincey (scratches)

Osgood (starts)

Toronto will be on the ice in an hour, but here are the probable lines for the Maple Leafs ...


Van Ryn-Frogren

Toskala (starts)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Power play time

With so many offensive studs like Marian Hossa, Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom and Henrik Zetterberg up front, I've wondered how coach Mike Babcock will distribute that talent on the power play.

They're working on the power play right now at practice and here are the two units ...



So, it looks like the top two forward lines will remain intact as the top two PP lines. On defense, Mikael Samuelsson will be on the point on the second unit as he did much of last season.

Holmstrom on the ice

This morning's practice is underway and the good news is that Tomas Holmstrom is skating with the team. Holmstrom missed yesterday's practice with a banged-up foot -- the result of blocking a shot in Sunday's preseason finale.

All active roster players are on the ice.




That should be the lineup for tomorrow's opener with Quincey and Meech scratched.

Also of note is that Quincey is back on the ice after not practicing yesterday. The team might be trying to trade the young defenseman to make cap space for Chris Chelios when he returns from his leg injury.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Will McCarty stay long-term?

Interesting quote from general manager Ken Holland: "Ultimately at some point in time, once (Darren) McCarty and Chris Chelios come off (injured reserve), we're going to have to make some moves. We're going to cap out. ... Do we do something here in the next day or two or do we wait?"

When Holland mentioned players coming off the LTIR, he named McCarty and Chelios. There are three on LTIR. Howard will definitely be sent to Grand Rapids when he's healthy. Chelios will definitely stay in Detroit when healthy. Holland grouped McCarty with Chelios, not with Howard.

Sounds like Mac might be in the team's long-range plans.

Leino and Ericsson sent down, Quincey here for now

Ken Holland just said that the Red Wings have assigned Ville Leino and Jonathan Ericsson to Grand Rapids.

Earlier in the day, the Red Wings sent Darren Helm to Grand Rapids and put Aaron Downey on waivers.

Darren McCarty (groin), Chris Chelios (leg) and Jimmy Howard (finger) will all start the season on injured reserve.

That leaves the Red Wings with an active roster of 22, including Derek Meech and Kyle Quincey. The latter's status is uncertain. Quincey was told not to practice today and there have been reports that he might be traded. But the Red Wings can enter the season with their roster the way it is currently set.

"We're talking (to other teams about trading Quincey)," said general manager Ken Hollad. "Right now, on the short term, we can keep our players. ... Ultimately at some point in time, once McCarty and Chris Chelios come off, we're going to have to make some moves. We're going to cap out. ... Do we do something here in the next day or two or do we wait?"

Detroit has 12 healthy forwards, eight healthy defensemen including Quincey and two healthy goalies.

In terms of salary cap, the current roster fits under the $56.7 million maximum. Unofficially, the Red Wings are at $56.199 million in salary with Quincey. Take Quincey out of the team would be at $55.674, giving the Wings $1.026 million of room.

Holmstrom injury

Tomas Holmstrom didn't practice this morning because his foot is hurting after blocking a shot in Sunday's preseason game. The tests on Holmstrom's foot showed no fracture, but he had a difficult time walking on it this morning. Coach Mike Babcock was asked if he's worried that Holmstrom won't be able to play in Thursday's season-opener ...

"I don't think so knowing Tommy, but we'll see," said Babcock.

Also, goalie Jimmy Howard, who has an injured finger on his blocker hand, took the ice late in this morning's practice for a workout.

Life on the bubble

Kyle Quincey said that he's not sure what the future holds for him other than he has a 1:30 p.m. meeting with the Red Wings' brass. The defenseman was told not to skate at this morning's practice. He is healthy. There are reports that Quincey is being shopped around the league.

"I wish I knew something else," said Quincey. "I'm just ready for a new challenge or if I stay here, I'm ready for that challenge. I don't know anything."

Ville Leino and Jonathan Ericsson -- two more bubble players -- did practice this morning, but both said they don't know where they'll be after the 3 p.m. roster deadline tomorrow. Ericsson said that if he had to guess, he'd be in Grand Rapids.

Darren McCarty does know that he'll be in Detroit past tomorrow's roster deadline. But he doesn't know when his groin will be well enough to allow him to skate. McCarty will start the season on injured reserve. After he comes off that list, McCarty is hopeful about his chances of making the roster.

"I'm still in the mix," said McCarty.

General manager Ken Holland will hold a 2 p.m. press conference today.

Downey's reaction

Forward Aaron Downey was put on 24-hour waivers. Here's a few things he said as he left JLA this morning ...

"If I've got to go down to Grand Rapids, I go down to Grand Rapids. Whatever happens, happens."
"Business is business. I know I had a good camp."
"I feel like I'm a top-five enforcer in the game."

Downey on waivers, Helm to GR

UPDATE: According to Ken Holland, Darren Helm has been sent to Grand Rapids and Aaron Downey has been put on waivers to be reassigned.

Darren McCarty has a groin injury and will start the regular season in Detroit on injured reserve.

Kyle Quincey is not on the ice and not on waivers. The team has until 3 p.m. Wednesday to finalize its regular-season roster. The team is likely shopping Quincey around for trade.


There's no official roster announcement yet, but here's who's on the ice right now for this morning's practice ...




Obviously that's more dollars on the ice than fits under the cap. But the exclusion of Kyle Quincey, Aaron Downey, Darren McCarty and Darren Helm are of note.
Tomas Holmstrom is not on the ice. He missed some action late in the preseason with a banged up knee, but he did play in Sunday's preseason finale.

I'll post more when I find out.

Howard cap hit

Just to highlight a point already made about Jimmy Howard -- he will count against the Red Wings' salary cap, but not at full rate.

Howard, who was slated to go to Grand Rapids, will remain with the Red Wings until he's ready to return from a broken finger. Injured players cannot be sent down. It's a CBA feature that stops teams from cheating the cap by hiding injured players, who do count against the cap unless they're put on long-term injured reserve.

Howard's cap hit will be on a pro-rated basis (days with the Red Wings last winter) and it shouldn't be large enough to bump a player to Grand Rapids. Howard played just four games last season. He will, however, count against the 23-man roster limit.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Kopecky hoping for good health this season

DETROIT -- Tomas Kopecky hustled on the backcheck as he had done so many other times. It's a big part of why he was … at the age of 26 … finally an established NHL regular. As Kopecky leaned forward for the hit just inside the Detroit Red Wings' blue line, his target -- Columbus forward Manny Malhotra -- went down.

It's a moment that Kopecky prefers not to think about, but can't avoid.

The result of the meeting of Kopecky's leg on Malhotra's body was a buckling that shred the ACL and MCL in the Slovak's left knee.

"I thought about it in the playoffs every day," said Kopecky. "Every day I wondered what I would have done different. I went to hit him and … you know, it's always one of those things you don't want to see. In the playoffs, I was thinking about it a lot. Now, it's over and I don't want to think about it."

That injury happened 77 games into Kopecky's 2007-08 season and shelved him for the entire playoffs. One year earlier, Kopecky missed more than half of the regular season and most of the playoffs with a broken collarbone.

Last year's knee injury, however, left him in street clothes watching his friends win a Stanley Cup. He snuck onto the ice of Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena in skates to take a twirl with the trophy -- his first time on skates after the injury.

It wasn't until two months after that night in Pittsburgh, that Kopecky started skating in earnest back home in Trencin, Slovakia. Beginning in August, Kopecky worked out on and off the ice, but wasn't able to take part in any battle drills as he had always done in the off-season, working out with fellow Slovaks like Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik and Zdeno Chara.

"I think it was more of a mental thing," said Kopecky. :I thought I couldn't push myself to the limit. It was difficult. I was just fooling around."

It wasn't until Kopecky arrived in Detroit at the beginning of September and began skating with his Red Wings teammates at Joe Louis Arena that he got both a verbal and mental green light.

"When doctors told me I could push it more and more, that gave me the confidence," said Kopecky. "Trainers told me I could go all out. I was waiting for that, to get that stone off my heart."

After he had his surgery on Apr. 22, Kopecky was told that it would take 4-6 months for him to return.

The 6-foot-3 forward is still more than two weeks away from the outer limit of that prognosis. But Kopecky is at full speed, having been a full participant at training camp and playing in five of nine preseason games.

That first exhibition game became a relief for Kopecky, who's slated to be a fourth-line winger alongside Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby this winter. That game was also a small flashback to what happened late last season.

Midway through the game, Kopecky hustled on the backcheck as he had done so many times. He made contact with Montreal rookie Mathieu Carle, but this time, it was Carle was ill-fated.
Caught looking at his just-released pass, Carle was hit by Kopecky's shoulder in his head. The Canadien dropped to the ice unconscious and had to leave the game.

Carle's injury wasn't nearly as severe as Kopecky's injury of a year ago. The rookie returned to Joe Louis Arena after hospital tests early enough to join his teammates on their flight home.

But it was a reminder of what could happen on something as nondescript as a backcheck.
"I'm pretty happy the first game is over," said Kopecky. "Hopefully I'm just going to get better and better each game. I have high hopes for this year. My main goal is to stay healthy the whole year."

Leino's last audition

DETROIT -- If history repeats, Ville Leino will be a happy hockey player.

Three years ago, Dan Cleary was tested with a heavy preseason workload before making the Detroit Red Wings' roster as a free agent tryout. Sunday night, Leino played in his eighth preseason game -- a high on a Red Wings team that played nine exhibition contests.

Leino hopes his production -- three goals, three assists and a plus-3 -- earns him one of Detroit's final roster spots up for grabs.

"We've tried to wear him out," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "We did that a few years back with Cleary, tried to kill Cleary. You're trying to find out how mentally tough a guy is and how bad he wants to be a Red Wing. He's had a real good camp and we'll just have to make some decisions."

Of course last fall, Igor Grigorenko played in a team-high eight preseason games before being demoted to Grand Rapids. So history isn't all in Leino's favor.

Leino, who turned 25 today, signed as a free agent this past summer.

"Every day was a new," said Leino. "I didn't know when I was going to play. It was a lot of games. … but I enjoyed playing in them."

Leino's competition at forward was lessened by four after Sunday's game when the Red Wings assigned four prospects to Grand Rapids -- forwards Justin Abdelkader, Cory Emmerton, Jan Mursak and Mattias Ritola. Abdelkader, Emmerton and Mursak are starting their first full season as pros. Ritola was a rookie last winter.

That leaves 29 players on the Detroit roster. All teams must have rosters of 23 or fewer active players by 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Still battling for roster spots at forward are Leino, Darren Helm, Darren McCarty and Aaron Downey and at defense are Jonathan Ericsson, Derek Meech and Kyle Quincey.

Helm, who played in 18 playoff games last spring including the Stanley Cup final, had three assists and was a plus-1 in six preseason games. McCarty had one assists and was a plus-2 in four exhibition games and Downey had no points and was an even.

Leino's six points were third on the Red Wings this preseason, trailing Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen.

"The puck just follows him (Leino) around," said Babcock. "He has the ability to hang onto the puck like Pav (Datsyuk) and these guys. He doesn't skate like Pav though."

Final preseason stats

Red Wings
9 GP, 6-1-2 record, 28GF, 15 GA

Forwards GP, G-A-Pt, +/-, PIM, SOG
Zetterberg 4, 4-4-8, +7, 2, 20
Franzen 5, 5-2-7, +8, 6, 19
Leino 8, 3-3-6, +3, 0, 14
Hudler 5, 0-6-6, +6, 4, 7
Samuelsson 5, 3-2-5, -2, 4, 13
Cleary 4, 3-0-3, +3, 0, 14
Emmerton 6, 1-2-3, +4, 4, 8
Filppula 6, 1-2-3, -1, 0, 7
Helm 6, 0-3-3,+1, 0, 15
Abdelkader 5, 1-1-2, +1, 4, 11
Hossa 4, 0-2-2, 0, 4, 9
Holmstrom 4, 1-0-1, 0, 6, 6
Mursak 5, 1-0-1, +2, 4, 3
Datsyuk 2 0-1-1, +1, 0, 7
Haydar 3, 0-1-1, +1, 0, 4
McCarty 4, 0-1-1, +2, 7, 6
Lemieux 1, 0-0-0, 0, 0, 0
Tardif 1, 0-0-0, 0, 0, 1
McGrath 2, 0-0-0, 0, 4, 1
Oulahen 2, 0-0-0, 0, 0, 4
Downey 5, 0-0-0, 0, 6, 1
Draper 5, 0-0-0, -3, 8, 6
Maltby 5, 0-0-0, -2, 6, 7
Ritola 5, 0-0-0, +1, 2, 7
Kopecky 5, 0-0-0, -4, 6, 14

Defensemen GP, G-A-Pt, +/-, PIM, SOG
Lidstrom 4, 1-6-7, +5, 2, 4
Kronwall 5, 1-2-3, +3, 2, 8
Stuart 5, 1-1-2, +3, 0, 9
Meech 6, 1-1-2, +2, 2, 7
Rafalski 5, 0-2-2, +5, 2, 7
Lebda 5, 1-0-1, -2, 0, 9
Ericsson 6 0-1-1, +1, 2, 11
Lilja 6 0-1-1, +3, 11, 7
Kindl 1, 0-0-0, 0, 0, 1
Pyett 1, 0-0-0, +1, 0, 1
Atherton 1, 0-0-0, 0, 0, 1
Chelios 3, 0-0-0, -1, 2, 2
Quincey 5, 0-0-0, 0, 9, 8

Goalies GP, Min, GAA, W-L-OT, Sv%
Howard 2, 100, 1.20, 0-0-2, .947
Osgood 4, 211, 1.42, 3-0-0, .938
Conklin 4, 199, 1.81, 2-1-0, .914
Larsson 1, 29, 4.14, 1-0-0, .895

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Red Wings cut four

After tonight's preseason win over Buffalo, the Red Wings assigned four prospects to Grand Rapids -- forwards Justin Abdelkader, Cory Emmerton, Jan Mursak and Mattias Ritola.

Abdelkader, Emmerton and Mursak are starting their first full season as pros. Ritola was a rookie last winter.

That leaves 29 players on the Detroit roster. All teams must have rosters of 23 or fewer active players by 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Still battling for roster spots are forwards Ville Leino, Darren Helm, Darren McCarty and Aaron Downey, defensemen Jonathan Ericsson, Derek Meech and Kyle Quincey.

Also, goalie Jimmy Howard, who was slated to go to Grand Rapids, will remain with the Red Wings until he's ready to return from a broken finger. He will count against the salary cap, but on a pro-rated basis (days with the Red Wings last winter). Howard's cap hit shouldn't be large enough to bump a player to Grand Rapids, but he will count against the 23-man roster limit.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Cap crunching

With Chris Chelios being injured (broken tibia) and off the Red Wings' cap for approximately one month, guessing what Detroit's opening-night roster will look like took a little twist. What we thought were the cap numbers heading into the season will be delayed until Chelios' $750,000 cap hit kicks in when he's removed from LTIR.

There are a few things to keep in mind about this procedure ...

-- Who's kept on the roster isn't strictly about who's the best player. It's a blend between performance and franchise asset protection. The Red Wings want to keep all their players if possible and the top-end talent is great enough that they can afford to make some roster depth decisions not based on performance.

-- The starting point seems to be defense. General manager Ken Holland has said that with Chelios out, the Red Wings will start the season with either seven or eight healthy defensemen.

-- Up front, the performance pecking order right now seems to be 1 Darren Helm, 2 Ville Leino, 3 Darren McCarty, 4 Aaron Downey. That's gathered from what Holland and coach Mike Babcock have said.

-- Although the roster max is 23, Holland has said that the Red Wings will carry 21-23 players because of cap issues.

When you put the cap numbers on paper, there really aren't a ton of options. With 12 forwards, 6 defensemen and 2 goalies, the Wings are at approx. $55.190 million in cap hit. That's 20 players.

Add any one of these three defensemen -- Derek Meech $483,333, Kyle Quincey $525,000 or Jonathan Ericsson $900,000 -- and the with the remaining cap space, you can fit just one more salary. (Except for the Ericsson and Leino ($875,000) combination, which puts the team over the limit.)

The problem with keeping Ericsson is two-fold. You can keep Meech or Quincey and fit Chelios ($750,000 back under the cap when he returns. But Ericsson and Chelios don't fit. And Ericsson can go to Grand Rapids without being exposed to waivers. Meech and Quincey cannot, so you risk losing one of those two at the start of the season. If it was all about performance, Ericsson could easily be with the Red Wings at season's start and Quincey could easily be in Grand Rapids, but this is asset protection. I'd speculate that Ericsson is going to Grand Rapids.

With Ericsson gone, either Meech or Quincey is definitely staying in Detroit. Meech has clearly outperformed Quincey. So let's say that Meech is definitely staying.

Helm and Leino can go to Grand Rapids without being exposed to waivers. McCarty would need to clear, but I don't think that the team is worried about that threat.

Add in the fact that Leino has the highest salary among the bubble forward and needs to adjust to pro hockey in North America and that he's behind Helm in performance and you can conclude that Leino will be sent to Grand Rapids.

So here's who's vying for the final roster spot ... Quincey, Helm and McCarty.

To protect all assets, you'd keep Quincey and send Helm down. But I'm guessing that Helm is kept and Quincey gets demoted. First of all, Quincey would be sent to Grand Rapids in a month when Chelios is activated. So keeping him now isn't much asset protection.

Second, with forwards Pavel Datsyuk (groin) and Tomas Holmstrom (knee) hurting, the Wings might need Helm on Thursday, making this discussion irrelevant. Even if everyone's healthy for Thursday, one injury will cause the Wings to call Helm up and demote Quincey.

So, call it a hunch based on 10 levels of speculation, a house build on sand. But I'd look for Meech and Helm -- the Winnipeg mafia -- to make the roster, Wednesday. That would be a 22-player active roster with Chelios on LTIR.

Of course, one trade would change everything.

Praise for Emmerton

Coach Mike Babcock had high words for prospect Cory Emmerton about his play in Friday's preseason game against Toronto ...

"Plays with patience to be in the right spot. I thought we had the big line and we had him. I don't think we had anyone else up front tonight."

Emmerton is slated to start his professional career this season with Grand Rapids.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Chelios out 4-6 weeks

General manager Ken Holland just confirmed that Chris Chelios has a fractured right tibia (shinbone). Chelios has been told by doctors that he cannot put weight on his right leg for at least three weeks. After three weeks, he'll have another MRI to determine the injury's progress in healing.

Chelios blocked a shot in Tuesday's preseason game in Montreal and left the ice after hobbling back to the bench. He was on crutches, Wednesday, but that day's CT scan showed no fracture. An MRI done today revealed the break.

Chelios is eligible to be put on the long-term injury report, which is a way to exempt his salary from the Red Wings' cap figure. (If a player is out short-term, his salary counts against the cap.) Chelios won't be put on the list until next Wed. (Oct. 8) -- the date that regular-season rosters are finalized and teams must fit under the $56.7 million salary cap.

Chelios' status will impact the Red Wings' roster decisions to a degree in that his salary won't come onto the cap for a few weeks.

The Red Wings will trim their current roster to a number near 30 (they'll keep some players to cover for Chelios and Pavel Datsyuk, who's out with a groin strain) tomorrow morning.

"We have some tough decisions," said Holland. "When we signed Marian Hossa in the summer, and I'm glad we did, when we signed Val Filppula, we knew we'd be up against the cap."

Holland said that the Red Wings will enter the regular season with a roster of 21-23 healthy players. He also said that they'll likely carry eight defensemen, but he doesn't know at this point if that mean seven healthy D-men plus Chelios or eight healthy D-men plus Chelios.

"You guys have to speculate on who'll be on our roster," said Holland. "But we can't tell you much. We don't even know ourselves right now."

Broken bone?

TSN is reporting that what was first thought to be a deep bruise in the leg of Chris Chelios is actually a broken bone. That means that the shot blocked by the 46-year-old in Tuesday's preseason game in Montreal could keep him out for six weeks.