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.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Will Red Wings have their day in the sun?

CHICAGO -- Mikael Samuelsson's eyes brightened like the mid-day sun. A scorer's dream was the topic of conversation … shooting on an NHL goalie who has sunshine in his eyes and a glare bouncing up off the ice.

"If the goalie has the sun in his eyes, you've got to put it to the net," said Samuelsson. "Seriously, just throw it in there from anywhere."

As predictable as the conditions are at every other NHL game, the conditions for tomorrow's Winter Classic at Wrigley Field (1 p.m., NBC) between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks are a wild card.

The temperature of an NHL sheet of indoor ice is kept at 22 degrees. The building temperature is controlled. Even the pucks are kept in a refrigerator, chilled to the proper temp.

But players became weather watchers after today's practice at Wrigley Field -- the first time that either team has skated in the temporary ice rink that runs from first to third base with center ice being near second base.

"I heard it's supposed to be cloudy," said Detroit's Valtteri Filppula. "That's going to be a factor."

This will be the second annual Winter Classic and the third outdoor NHL game ever.

The forecast for Chicago at game time is 31 degrees with high winds and partly cloudy. If the sun shows itself during the game, it will become a players as much as any who wear the special one-game jerseys.

At 1 p.m. during the Blackhawks' practice, the sun covered two-thirds of the ice, shining right into the spot where Cristobal Huet will stand in net for the Blackhawks in the first period. In addition, the players noted that there was a significant glare reflecting off the ice, making it easy to lose the puck.

"We noticed that at the beginning when we're skating around," said Detroit forward Jiri Hudler. "You lose the puck for a second. It just shows up. But it's ok. You change ends."

The sun, however, was less of a factor as the day of practices went on with shade covering most of the surface by the time that today's contest would be winding down.

"It was tough to see," said Filppula. "It took a while to get used to, especially for the goalies it might be tough. It took a while to get a good focus on the puck. Obviously, that would be a problem."

Ty Conklin will start in net for Detroit, making him the dean of NHL outdoor games. The well-traveled backup has started all three outdoor games -- for Edmonton against Montreal in 2003 and for Pittsburgh in Buffalo last winter.

"I thought the black stuff helped a little bit," said Conklin, who like many players, who eye black like baseball and football players do. "It's different when it goes from the sunlight to the shadows. It makes it a lot more difficult to pick up the puck. But everybody will have to play through it. So, it's really not that big of a deal."

There were also significant chips in the ice during practices. The players, however, were confident that the conditions would improve for today's game because of two reasons: The staff can adjust the ice better after players practice on it; the temperatures will be nearly 10 degrees warmer tomorrow. Colder temperatures lead to chippy ice.

"The ice, let's give it a day," said Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell. "It's tough to tell right now because it's the first time people have skated on it."

The other factor that players noted about practicing outdoors was that cold fingers lead to feeling greater pain when your stick is slashed -- much like a baseball batter getting jammed with an inside pitch.

"You feel it a lot," said Kopecky.

Chelios humor

Although Chicago is his hometown, south-sider Chris Chelios is booed here as he is booed in most enemy rinks.

"I think it's all those north-siders who are booing me," joked Chelios, who turns 47 later this month. "That's the way it is here. You've got the White Sox, the Cubs and that divides the city a little bit. It's all in good fun."

Chelios first went to a Cubs game with his uncle and father in the late-60s when Ron Santo and Billy Williams ruled the north side.

In the summer of 2003, Chelios took rookie Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom to a Cubs game and other north-side stops. Where did he take them?

"Murphy's (Bleachers bar) … Wrigley ... Murphy's again," said Chelios with a laugh. "I think Nick Lidstrom was part of that too. I'll throw him under the bus. That was Henrik's first year in the league. You have to come experience this."

Chelios will play in Winter Classic

Coach Mike Babcock just confirmed what Chris Chelios said after the morning skate ... the 46-year-old Chicago native will be in the lineup tomorrow at Wrigley Field.

Now this creates a lineup dilemma. Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle) said after the skate that he feels good enough to play. So did Mikael Samuelsson (flu).

Babcock wouldn't say who was out of the lineup -- you can assume that Derek Meech won't play -- but he did reveal this ... if Lidstrom plays, the Wings will go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. That means that it will be a regular forward, not a blue-liner, who's the man out to make room for Chelios.

It could be Samuelsson with the flu as an convenient reason. It could be one of the fourth-liners like Tomas Kopecky or Kirk Maltby.

No Cheli?

The Red Wings are going through their morning skate right now and it looks as though Chicago icon Chris Chelios won't play tomorrow if Nicklas Lidstrom is healthy. Chelios is working through drills with Derek Meech on a fourth defense pairing.

Although Chelios isn't among the top six defensemen in the Wings' rotation, not making room for him in a special game in Chicago that is one of 82 regular-season tilts would count as a disappointment to Chelios.

Of course, how Lidstrom's ankle -- which has kept him out of the past two games -- holds up after a skate in frigid weather has yet to be seen.

Also of note, Mikael Samuelsson (flu) was skating. Darren McCarty was on the ice for the team photo, but left before drills began.

Here are the lines at practice ...




UPDATE: Samuelsson said after practice that he felt fine to play tomorrow if Babcock puts him in the lineup.

Huet in net

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville just announced that Cristobal Huet will start in goal for the Blackhawks tomorrow.

UPDATE: Quenneville said that Patrick Kane (leg) will play tomorrow. Kane didn't so as positive.

"I'm going to try tomorrow," said Kane. "I'm going to do my best to treat it as much as I can today. Hopefully, it'll feel fine tomorrow."

Kane, the Blackhawks' leading scorer missed most of the first period of Tuesday's game in Detroit after his skate got caught on a Dan Cleary hit.

Chicago's morning skate at Wrigley Field

This is a very cool setup at Wrigley Field.

-- The big scoreboard in center field is set up to run out-of-town NHL scores. Nice touch.

-- The Chicago players are out there now, wearing eye black with their home area codes in them as a shout-out. Some visors are tinted. Brent Seabrook had on sunglasses.

-- Which brings up the glare. The goal defended by Chicago in the first period will be looking into the sun. And there is quite a glare. It's almost the time of day that the game will be played and the sun covers two-thirds of the ice, stopping at one blue line. The goalie in Chicago's net in the first period will be battling not just the sun peering through the stands, but also the glare bouncing up off the ice. I wonder if the ice will be inconsistent as well with more than half of it in sun and the rest in shade.

-- They have two men kneeling near the entrance to the ice, there to remove cloth skate guards as the players finish their long walk from the locker rooms.

-- That walk from the locker rooms is very, very long. Coach Jim Bedard laughed about it as the Detroit coaches watched the Chicago skate. He compared it to a long maze with stairs and twists and turns, wondering if there was an end ever coming.

-- Patrick Kane was on the ice for the team photo, but didn't take part in drills.

-- They've taped a brick wall effect on the outside of the walls. Nice effect in a ballpark noted for its brickwork. But no ivy.

Thoughts on Game 36 (4-0 win over Chicago)

-- What a shot by Johan Franzen on the game's second goal. He went down on one knee to give himself leverage to tuck the puck in a small space over Nikolai Khabibulin's left shoulder He didn't have more than a square foot at which to shoot. Franzen's proving and reproving that he's an NHL scorer.

-- A few reporters after the game asked Pavel Datsyuk if he'd answer some questions. Datsyuk said "Not today", turned and walked away. The reason this is noteworthy is that Datsyuk only took two steps before turning back around, smiling and letting everyone know it was a joke, which brought on a good laugh. Datsyuk stayed and answered every question. Only in hockey would it seem so unusual that a superstar would blow off the media that it makes the basis for a good joke. That's day-to-day life in other sports.

-- Derek Meech got in 14 shifts thanks to being played on the blue line on the power play. At even strength, Coach Mike Babcock skipped most of Meech's fourth-line forward shifts juggling the third- and fourth-liners.

-- The Blackhawks play a very passive PK, staying deep in a box. I'm not sure that works well against a team as skilled as the Red Wings. They turn time and space into goals.

-- This was the 700th regular-season game between the Blackhawks and Red Wings.

-- With no Mikael Samuelsson (flu) and no Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle), two of Detroit's four PP defensemen were absent. Brad Stuart, Brett Lebda and Derek Meech benefited with more special teams time.

-- After the game, an Alaskan youth hockey team that was in Michigan for a tournament, toured the Detroit locker room. It's fun to hear the oohs and aahs when they point out Datsyuk's and Hossa's lockers. Anchorage native Ty Conklin greeted the team.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Line of the day

Coach Mike Babcock had a good line after the morning skate. He said that with the players' families being allowed to skate at Wrigley Field tomorrow that they had considered having the Red Wings' kids play a game against the Blackhawks' kids. But Chicago coach Joel Quenneville told him that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are the Blackhawks' kids, so the Wings called off the kids game.

Lidstrom out

Nicklas Lidstrom won't be in the lineup tonight against Chicago which means that Chris Chelios will play against his hometown team.

Also, Mikael Samuelsson still is sick and wasn't at the rink this morning. Derek Meech will skate as a fourth-line wing unless Samuelsson's condition improves.

Ty Conklin will start in net with Chris Osgood as the backup.

Tuesday's morning skate

It's an optional this morning for the Red Wings. No Nicklas Lidstrom on the ice. His status for tonight's game against Chicago will be determined later. Chris Osgood was out early doing drills with Dan Cleary and goalie coach Jim Bedard.

Missing this morning are: Datsyuk, Samuelsson, Draper, Lidstrom, Rafalski, Kronwall, Stuart and Babcock.

Derek Meech is skating with a forward's jersey I assume that means that if Lidstrom can't go tonight, then Chelios would be in the lineup.

Monday, December 29, 2008


Claude is one step closer to returning to the NHL. How does the best team in the NHL find room for him?

The team's press release ...

SAN JOSE – San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has signed forward Claude Lemieux to a two-way contract. Per club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“This is simply the next step in the evaluation process with Claude,” said Wilson.
Lemieux must still clear NHL waivers, which would run through Tues., Dec. 30 at Noon PST. Should he clear waivers, Wilson said he would be assigned back to Worcester.

Lemieux was signed to an AHL contract with the Worcester Sharks, San Jose’s top development affiliate in the American Hockey League, on Nov. 25.

In 14 games with Worcester, Lemieux has posted six points (two goals, four assists) and 12 penalty minutes and is +3.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Meech sits while Quincey blossoms

Three months ago, Derek Meech was winning a battle with Kyle Quincey for a roster spot. Two nights ago, Meech was a healthy scratch, watching a game in which Quincey logged significant ice time.

Such are the twists and turns of life as a professional athlete.

After Meech, 24, beat out Quincey, 23, during the preseason, the Red Wings tried to trade Quincey, but couldn't find a taker. When the season opened, Detroit had both young defensemen on the roster, but soon lost Quincey on waivers to the Los Angeles Kings.

Given an opportunity with the Kings, Quincey has blossomed into a quality NHL blue-liner. Over three seasons with Detroit, Quincey got into a total of just 13 games. Saturday night, Quincey played in his 30th game with the Kings.

"It's weird playing here (at Joe Louis Arena) on the other side of the red line," said Quincey.
Quincey is second on the team with more than 22 minutes of ice time per game. He is also the Kings' top scoring defenseman.

"I just feel good for him," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "It goes to show you what can happen when you come to a place and they let you play, you have an opportunity. We had Quincey and (Jonathan) Ericsson and Meech at the start of the year and basically rotated them all through exhibition. Maybe if we had just given one guy the job and not done that, he might have just taken off."

Meech has played well, but has gotten limited opportunity to crack the lineup this season. Meech has been the main replacement part for injured players, getting in nine games as a forward and six as a defenseman.

Such is life on a veteran, talent-laden team like the Red Wings.

"Obviously it comes into your mind once in a while, but it's something that's just out of my control," said Meech. "It shows you where you can get different opportunities if the timing's right. It's all about timing and opportunity and the personnel. Right here, I'm happy to be on one of the best teams in the NHL. I've been with these guys for a long time now. I never ever think the grass would be greener on the other side because usually it's not. I'm happy where I am. Obviously, I want to be in the lineup and I'm working hard every day I come to the rink to get there."

Quincey's performance has made the Kings' front office look good for adding him at no personnel cost. But adding Quincey by trade was an option that the Kings passed on without knowing that the Wings would put him on waivers.

"One of the situations in the league is that when you have a lot of good players, you're trying to keep all your good players," said Babcock. "We were unable to keep Kyle, but the other thing is no one traded for him. That happens to lots of players. You go through waivers once or twice then someone's the smartest team in hockey because they got him."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Not my star

I'm not sure why the scoresheet from Saturday's game lists Ty Conklin as the No. 1 star. I picked the stars and had Dan Cleary as the No. 1 star after he scored the game-winning goal. I believe that he was announced as the first start after the game, taking a twirl.

Not to slam Conklin. Just to get the record straight. I've been getting some e-mails asking why I picked Conklin. The answer is I didn't.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thoughts on Game 32 (6-4 win over LA)

-- Great game for the Filppula line. He, Dan Cleary and Jiri Hudler made the difference for Detroit highlighted by the tying and winning goals.

-- Pavel Datsyuk netted his 150th career goal.

-- Detroit scored six goals in back-to-back games for the first time since doing so Dec. 28 and 31, 2006. The offense is compensating for the defense right now. It looks like it might be firewagon hockey all season long.

-- Nicklas Lidstrom had three assists, passing Larry Robinson on the NHL's all-time scoring list for defensemen. Lidstrom now ranks eighth all-time.

-- The Wings have gone down 1-0 in eight of their last 11 games and have trailed in 12 of their last 13 games. See above note about good offense compensating for bad defense.

-- Former Wing Kyle Quincey was a minus-4, dropping him from plus-3 to minus-1 this season. That's a rough night.

-- I know that Chris Osgood is sick with the flu and has a groin strain and maybe I'm missing something here, but why don't I see him in the usual spot where the backup goalie sits beside the bench. I saw Osgood sitting a bit down the hallway in Thursday's game. Saturday night though, I couldn't spot him at all. Maybe I'm off base, but couple that with Ozzie being unavailable to the media of late and it gets me wondering whether he's not happy. It could just be that Osgood is sick and doesn't need to be right at the bench though.

-- This has been one of my favorite stats to track this season because it shows how much defensemen's points are dependent on power-play time. For most of this season, Andreas Lilja has had as many or more even-strength points than/as Nicklas Lidstrom. When Lilja scored in the first period, it brought him back into a tie in that category with Lidstrom. Of course, Lidstrom went on to finish with three assists and Lilja might not catch him again this season. Here are the Red Wings' defensemen even-strength scoring through this game ...

Rafalski 2-12-14
Lidstrom 2-9-11
Lilja 1-8-9
Lebda 2-5-7
Kronwall 1-6-7
Stuart 1-4-5
Meech 1-1-2
Chelios 0-0-0

Interesting to note that Lebda is tied for the lead in even-strength goals. You would assume that Lidstrom and Rafalski would be ahead of the pack in goal scoring, but not without the power play counting.

Saturday's morning skate

Chris Osgood (groin strain) is not on the ice again this morning with goalie coach Jim Bedard manning one net. Coach Mike Babcock said after the skate that Osgood also has the flu.

Derek Meech is back on the ice after missing Thursday's skate with the flu. Everything else is the same as it was for Thursday's game against San Jose.


Chelios (scratch)
Meech (scratch)

Conklin (starts)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thoughts on Game 31 (6-0 win over San Jose)

-- Now that looked like the Red Wings.

-- I like these lines better than the ones used in the past couple of games. Marian Hossa seems to be more dynamic on Pavel Datsyuk's line. Valtteri Filppula is a darned good third-line enter. Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart seem to be at their best as partners. Of course, it could just be that these lines are more familiar and thus more comfortable to watch. But I do like the balance of these units.

-- Hossa passed at being the first star of the game. Never heard of that before and it speaks to how good of a person that he is and where his priorities are. I didn't even know that players were tapped for the stars before the game was over. But when Hossa was told, he said that he didn't deserve the top star. That's pretty humble .

-- Evgeni Nabokov played bad.

-- Six even-strength goals might be a sign that the Wings are coming around five-on-five. We'll see if this is the start of even-strength play returning to being an advantage.

-- Brett Lebda was back in the lineup for the second straight game after being a healthy scratch in Phoenix. I have no idea how Lebda, Chris Chelios and Derek Meech will be able to get enough games in during the regular season to be ready come playoff time. The rotation would work much better without Chelios, using Meech as a spare defenseman ready to take over if any blue-liner falters. That would also open up cap room for a spare forward. But maybe the point isn't to have Lebda, Chelios and Meech all ready for the playoffs.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ozzie dressing tonight

Waivers. There is a 24-hour period that teams have a chance to make a waiver claim and thus no player can be moved in less than 24 hours (48 on the weekends). So a Red Wing would have to have been put on waivers by midday Wednesday to make a move in time for a backup goalie to be with the team Thursday night. This fact should have been noted in the following entry.


Here's the official word on Ozzie's status ... He will back up Ty Conklin tonight. Ozzie is hampered by a groin injury. He didn't skate this morning as a precaution.

"Because of his situation, we didn't want him to skate this morning," said Coach Mike Babcock. "He's ready to go. We just decided one more day off."

In addition, Derek Meech didn't skate this morning because he had the flu, according to Babcock.

It's possible that Meech got sick the same day that the Wings had to figure out who would be their backup netminder. It's possible. It's difficult not to connect the two happenings knowing that the Wings would have to put someone -- like Meech -- one waivers to clear salary cap space should they need to call up a goalie from Grand Rapids. I'm sure that phones were being worked and the result was Ozzie as backup was the best option.

Osgood would not speak to reporters this morning, which is also unusual.

No Ozzie

The Red Wings have taken the ice for the morning skate and Chris Osgood isn't here. Goalie coach Jim Bedard is manning one of the nets. Osgood missed yesterday's practice with a groin strain. Ty Conklin will start tonight. I'll update with who's going to back up Osgood.

Derek Meech is not on the ice and he might be moved to make salary cap room to call up a goalie.

And the lines are back to where they were a week ago ...


Chelios (healthy scratch)

Conklin (starts)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Home at the Globe

DETROIT -- Niklas Kronwall has been around the world playing hockey. But the thought of playing in the Globe makes him smile.

The Globe is a major arena in Stockholm known as Globen to locals. Reports out of Sweden say that the NHL is considering opening the 2009-10 regular season with a pair of games involving the Detroit Red Wings at the Globe. The NHL opened the 07-08 season in London and the 08-09 season with games in both Stockholm and Prague.

Besides being a premier franchise, the Red Wings would be a natural gate attraction in Stockholm with seven Swedes currently on the roster, five of whom are signed already for next season.

"It'd be once-in-a-lifetime to do that," said Tomas Holmstrom. "It'd be huge. I have lots of friends in Stockholm. It would be a blast."

The logistics wouldn't be easy as it first appears for the Swedish Red Wings. Those who have children would need to start the school year in Detroit, then travel back to Sweden for some exhibition games and the season-opener.

But the chance to play back home as part of an NHL team makes the cross-Atlantic travel worthwhile.

For Kronwall, games at the Globe would be a return to his home rink as a pro in Sweden. Playing four seasons for Djurgardens (1999-2000 through 2002-03), Kronwall played his home games in the world's largest hemispherical building. Built in 1989, the Globe seats more than 14,000 for hockey games.

Back when Kronwall played at the Globe, starting as an 18-year-old through the age of 22, two Swedish elite league teams called it home, Djurgardens and AIK.

"That'd be a cool experience to play there, absolutely," said Kronwall, who grew up 12 miles north of Stockholm. "I never thought it would happen. It'd be one thing to come home and play, but to play with an NHL team would be great. I have my friends and family there. Also, for the guys to see Stockholm would be a cool experience for everyone involved."

Nowadays, the Globe isn't home to any hockey teams. AIK has been relegated to a lower league and doesn't need a major-league building. For Djurgardens, playing next door to the Globe at the 9,000-seat Hovet is more financially desirable.

Although it doesn't have a regular tenant, the Globe is filled with a variety of events during the year. The Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins opened this season at the Globe. The European Volleyball Championships were there this year. So were the 2007 Swedish Idol finals and the 2003 European Men's Basketball Championship.

The NHL would have to work out the details of the event with the Red Wings and their possible opponent, the St. Louis Blues, before Detroit winds up playing at the Globe. But if they wrinkles can be ironed out, then the Swede-laden Red Wings could find themselves with a home game abroad.

"It'd be cool especially because we've got a lot of guys from Sweden," said Brett Lebda. "It'd be a good draw and our guys would be pretty happy about it. The fact that we've got so many Swedes on the team, that would be a good thing."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Probable Colorado lines

From this morning's skate ...



Raycroft (starts)

Raycroft in net

Detroit Coach Mike Babcock said that Andrew Raycroft will likely start for Colorado tonight. Raycroft would be making his first start since Nov. 29 and his fifth start of the season. Peter Budaj has started the last six Avalanche games and 18 of the last 19.

Monday's morning skate

It looks like Chris Chelios is back out of the lineup after his season debut, Saturday, and Brett Lebda is back in after being a healthy scratch. With Chelios back from a broken leg, the Wings now have eight defensemen.

"Meechy's played up front and on the back," said Coach Mike Babcock. "I haven't spent a whole bunch of time (thinking) about it. We don’t tend to rotate our players. The best guys tend to play. And that's what we'll keep going with."

Here's how they are skating this morning ...


Chelios (scratch)
Meech (scratch)

Osgood (starts)

Also of note is that the forward lines are staying the same as Saturday with Datsyuk and Zetterberg together. The defense pairings are back to what they normally are after being shuffled in Phoenix.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Thoughts on Game 29 (5-4 shot win at Phoenix)

-- I don't think I've seen Niklas Kronwall play a worse game. The obvious mistake was Kronwall giving the puck to Lindstrom which turned into Phoenix's third goal and a 3-3 tie. But Kronwall's screen of Chris Osgood on the first Phoenix goal was bad. Why was he so low on that play. And 1:40 into the third period, he let Mikkel Boedker walk around him for a quality scoring opportunity. I'm not sure what's going on with Kronwall.

-- Johan Franzen's short-handed goal in the second period was beautiful. Having the smarts and ability to poke check Boedker, take the puck from the air, outrace everyone down ice and beat the netminder is a big-time play. Franzen, an unrestricted free agent this summer, is becoming a must-have player for next season.

-- I'd like to see a replay that shows the entire ice surface, but it looked like Nicklas Lidstrom was part of the problem with the bad line change that led to Phoenix's first goal. While short-handed, Lidstrom put the puck on net instead of dumping it in the Phoenix zone. Not a bad play, especially with him skipping the puck. But Lidstrom followed the play, watching how Bryzgalov handled the long shot. That's fine too, but because the puck went right to the goalie, it was quickly controlled by the Coyotes and headed back up ice. Lidstrom decided to leave the ice. Shane Doan was at the Detroti blue line alone and with Chris Chelios being the first defenseman over the boards, there was no way of catching him. I'd like to have seen Lidstrom either exit immediately or stay on the ice to check the deep man.

-- Chelios didn't look good, but it was just Game 1. It wasn't his conditioning so much as his decision making. Chelios was caught a couple of times, leading to Phoenix opportunities. It'll be interesting to see how many games Chelios gets in. Brett Lebda and Derek Meech were healthy scratches.

-- Chris Osgood just wins. He hasn't lost in regulation since opening night, meaning that he's gone 17 straight starts with the Wings getting at least one point. It's been a very odd season for Osgood. He gives up a soft goal for the Coyotes' go-ahead fourth goal, letting the puck slip past him. But the Wings win anyways. If Osgood gets his game back, he'll have some dynamite won-lost numbers at season's end because he's been winning some he should have lost.

Ozzie to start Monday

Coach Mike Babcock said after tonight's game that Chris Osgood will start Monday's game against Colorado at Joe Louis Arena. Osgood sat the three games before tonight with Ty Conklin starting.

"I guarantee you, the type of competitor he is, he hasn't been excited to see the other goalie play three games in a row," said Babcock. "Not that he has anything against him, but he doesn't like to see that. We're always trying to get the competitive juices going. Ozzie's a competitor. He's a pro and he's one of the best goalies of all time. We need him to be the goalie he's capable of being and he will be."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

No lineup hints

The Red Wings are on the ice for the pregame skate and no indication if Chris Chelios will make his season debut tonight. All eight defensemen, including Chelios, and all 12 forwards are on the ice. We'll see at game time who's scratched.

UPDATE: Scratches are in ... Brett Lebda and Derek Meech are healthy scratches.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thoughts on Game 27 (4-3 ot win over Calgary)

-- I'm not sure if anyone plays Tomas Holmstrom as physically in front of the net as Mark Giordano. The Flame works it like a basketball center, trying to beat Homer to the spot, then bang away. It was pretty effective. Usually, Homer is allowed to set up, then opponents try to front him or bang from behind. Giordano tried to deny Homer his spot.

-- Three delay of game penalties to Calgary for shooting the puck over the glass. Don't know if I've ever seen that.

-- Wow did Brian Rafalski look bad early when he jumped out on Curtis Glencross, but just allowed the Flame to skate around him and get a prime scoring chance.

-- By his own high standards, Nicklas Lidstrom's game is off. He's getting pinned more in the defensive zone and turning the puck over more down low. Again, these are by Superman's standards. He's still one guy you want on the ice when it matters. He's just not automatic this season.

-- Pavel Datsyuk has been off his game as well, but he did spring to life late in this one. He had a Datsyuk-like pass to Johan Franzen at the net front late that just missed turning into the winning goal. Beautiful pass across the grain that few players could make. Then -- and this is what I love about Datsyuk -- in overtime he reads that Franzen is on the wing feeding Lidstrom the puck, so he heads to the net-front with perfect timing. It looked like Adrian Aucoin was pushing Datsyuk into an even better screen position and the crowd in front led to the winning goal. Earlier in the game, Datsyuk beat everyone back to negate a possible Calgary 2-on-1, using impressive speed. The unique one-on-one moves haven't been as plentiful this year, but you have to love a superstar who plays the entire ice well.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Line dance

Coach Mike Babcock said after the game that he won't use the same starting lines in Dallas, Friday, as he did tonight ... but he's not certain what the lines will be.

"We're not going back," said Babcock. "I can tell you that. I don't know what it's going to be tomorrow, but I'll sleep on it and we'll figure it out."

After practicing with shaken-up lines this week, Babcock started tonight's game with the same old lines that he's been using. After a slow start, the Wings' top three forward lines and top two defense pairings were rearranged in the second and third periods tonight.

No Kiprusoff

It looks like Curtis McElhinney will get a rare, rare, rare start in net for Calgary tonight. Mikka Kiprusoff started all but one of Calgary's first 28 games. McElhinney's only other start was Nov. 8 at Columbus.

Reason for testing different lines in practice

Coach Mike Babcock said after the morning skate that his intention all along was to keep his lines the same as always. He just shuffled the deck at Monday's practice to see how players would react to each other.

"The one thing about it was I had a good opportunity to see how it might be if I decide (to change up the lines)," said Babcock. "The other night in the game, when we needed to change the bingo balls around, I didn't like what we went to. So right there are that time, I said to myself, 'We'll change this up so I can have a look at a few different things.'"

The other night was Saturday's shootout win over Chicago. When Babcock shuffled the deck then, he would up with Tomas Holmstrom on the fourth line with Kris Draper and Derek Meech and Dan Cleary on the top line with Pavel Datsyuk and Marian Hossa. Babcock obviously didn't like the results.

So at practice this week, Babcock put Hossa with Zetterberg and Cleary, Samuelsson with Franzen (at center) and Hudler, Filppula with Datsyuk and Holmstrom.

"You always learn lots," said Babcock. "You learn who wants to play with who by their body English. There's lots of stuff you can learn. ... You can ask a guy and he won't tell you anything. You can just do it, watch and learn a lot."

Babcock said that what he's looking for in a line is this ... "having a net presence on every line, having a shooter on every line and someone who can make a play." Which means that the line of Holmstrom (net-front), Hossa (shooter) and Datsyuk (playmaker) is the template.

Babcock also said that he never considered reuniting Datsyuk and Zetterberg.

"Not once," said Babcock. "I know that works. I can go to that any time."

Lines back to normal

The Wings are on the ice now for the morning skate and they're working out of the line combinations they've used most of the season ...


Meech (healthy scratch)
Chelios (scratch)

Conklin (starts)

The lines had been shuffled during recent practices with Hossa skating with Zetterberg and Cleary. Samuelsson was on a third line with Franzen in the middle. Filppula was up on Datsyuk's line.

I'm not sure why the lines were shuffled for recent practices and put back today. Maybe it was about getting players' attention. Maybe it was just to spice up practice. Maybe it was in preparation for a line shuffling that is still going to happen.

Left-handed compliment

Halfway through the first period of Saturday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wing forward Johan Franzen found himself with the puck deep in Chicago territory wide of the net.

Being a left-handed shot, Franzen carried the puck closer to the net than to the boards. Instead of driving closer to the net or snapping a shot from that angle, Franzen flipped the puck quickly to his backhand and took a shot from a worse angle than he originally had.

The shot didn't get by Chicago goalie Cristobal Huet, but the unusual move did create a rebound opportunity that Henrik Zetterberg just missed converting into a Detroit goal.

The backhand and the deception it creates has become one of Franzen's most dangerous weapons.

"If the goalie's taking his angle on me on the forehand, the quicker I can move it over and snap it on my backhand, the better," said Franzen. "To find a hole is the only way to take it to the backhand because you shoot better with the forehand."

Three of Franzen's 11 goals this season were scored on a back-hand shot. During his dominance of last spring's playoffs, Franzen netted four goals off backhanders among his 13 post-season tallies.

For Franzen, the tradeoff is giving up some of the zip of a forehand shot for a chance at surprising the goalie by changing both shot angle and timing.

"I don't think about it," said Franzen. "Every situation is different. It's about finding a way, finding the net. Every situation is different, especially in this league where the goalies are used to shots coming right away. So if you can hold on for a second and do something different, you can surprise him a little."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thoughts on Game 26 (5-4 sho win over Chicago)

-- The line of Valtteri Filppula, Jiri Hudler and Dan Cleary was flying early, netting two quick goals. Cleary was soon moved up to the Pavel Datsyuk line and the Filppula line wasn't as noticeable without him.

-- Andreas Lilja looked bad on the second Chicago goal that tied the score at 2-2. The interesting part was that when Jonathan Toews came on the ice, Brett Lebda recognized it and darted for the bench with the Wings in Chicago's zone. On came Brad Stuart. Lilja, however, didn't exit. Stuart and Lilja both play the right side despite being left-handed sticks. Lilja was on his off point and moved to the right when Lebda left, despite Stuart being a right point as well. Lilja then pinched in, which created the situation of Toews bearing down on a back-pedaling Dan Cleary. That didn't turn out well.

-- Lilja also looked bad on the third Chicago goal. Detroit is working a strong rotation on the penalty-kill, meaning defensemen will rotate up top if needed. When his partner went high, Lilja didn't rotate from the right to left point despite Pavel Datsyuk being in position to rotate down to the right point. That left Toews wide open to punish Ty Conklin for going down so, so early.

-- Derek Meech didn't get on the ice in the third period. Coach Mike Babcock shortened his bench and shuffled five players on the third and fourth lines.

-- Kris Draper was in the eight-forward rotation in overtime. I'm not sure why. Sure, get him out there for defensive-zone faceoffs, but pull him off right away. Draper was part of the fourth defense pairing with Mikael Samuelsson. Jiri Hudler didn't get on the ice in OT. Neither did Tomas Holmstrom.

-- Pavel Datsyuk had a game-high four hits. The one where he ran over Versteeg in overtime like a freight train was beautiful. The impressive part was Versteeg saw Datsyuk coming and tried a move that didn't come close to derailing Pavel.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Hoodlum near the net

Jiri Hudler has eight goals in the past nine games and his 11 goals this season are the 24th most in the NHL. The fact that the smallest Red Wing ventures into the difficult areas near the opposition net isn't lost on his coach.

"He's never going to be a speedster, but he's very tough intelligent," said Babcock. "A lot of guys won't go near the net. No one's got courage to do that. He's always around the net. Kopey's (Tomas Kopecky) at the net. Homer's (Tomas Holmstrom) at the net. Mule's (Johan Franzen) at the net. (Dan) Cleary's at the net. And the next guy at the net the most for our team is Hudler. That's the facts."

Friday practice update

Kirk Maltby has a bone bruise on his left ankle, the result of an Alexander Edler shot in last night's game. Maltby didn't skate today, but is possible for tomorrow night's game against Chicago. Coach Mike Babcock did say that he thought Maltby "probably won't play tomorrow."

Ty Conklin will start in net tomorrow night. Chris Osgood has been struggling of late. Coach Mike Babcock said that he'd like to see Osgood relax in between starts and not be so hard on himself for his recent performance.

"I'm not concerned one bit as long as he gives himself a break," said Babcock. "He's a real good goalie, knows how to play. Just by his numbers, you know he knows how to win. But to me, he's been way too hard on himself. Letting one goal affect him mindset instead of just don't let it get under you, don't let it get through you, get on with it. That's how simple it is. He's that good.

"What out find out over the years is the guys who go a little bit off are the guys who play the best because they have to battle through it. He's having to battle through. That's life.

"As long as his wife loves him and they didn't shut down his favorite bar in Plymouth, everything should be good."

Also, Darren McCarty didn't skate again and is a ways away from returning from a groin strain. He doesn't have an ETA on his lineup return.

12 of one, dozen of the other

No matter what day it is, who's hurt, what the weather is like ... the Red Wings come in with 12 forwards at practice. Today for example, Tomas Holmstrom is back skating on Pavel Datsyuk's line after missing a couple of weeks with back spasms. But now Kirk Maltby isn't on the ice, so the Wings are working with a dozen forwards once again. Derek Meech must be living right.

Maltby was banged up in last night's win over Vancouver. The most noticable incident came four minutes into the second period when he blocked a shot by Alexander Edler and hobbled off the ice after completing his shift. My guess is that's why Maltby isn't on the ice today.

If you're still curious after that lengthy preamble, here are the lines they're working with this afternoon, prepping for Saturday's game against Chicago ...




With Holmstrom back, Cleary is back down on the third line, which in turn bumps Kopecky down to the fourth line.

Darren McCarty is still off the ice because of back spasms. Chris Chelios is in Grand Rapids on a weekend conditioning stint.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thoughts on Game 25 (6-5 win over Vancouver)

-- Coach Mike Babcock is obviously fed up with his team's goaltending and he should be. Three straight games giving up a goal on the first shot against ... that alone would be bad. But tonight, the fat rebounds, the lack of hugging the post, the soft outside goals. The goaltending is so bad that it makes you forget about how soft the team defense was. If either Conklin or Osgood gets hot, Babcock will ride them.

-- The Wings couldn't hit the mark tonight. They had 26 missed shots as a team.

-- Johan Franzen and Willie Mitchell are sitting on a boiling feud. Mitchell had a late hit on Franzen two seasons ago that sidelined Franzen with a knee injury. These two are going at it every chance they get, every game. Love it.

-- Andreas Lilja had a great pass that Jiri Hudler made a great play on to get a breakaway on Detroit's second goal. The odd thing about Lilja's play was that he was whacked across the face first, splitting open his lip and breaking a tooth. Lilja is one of the very few NHLers who has never worn a mouth guard. No visor either and with an extreme amount of luck, Lilja had never chipped a tooth ... until tonight. Anyways, as he yelled at the ref, Lilja found a loose puck at his feet, which he fired over two lines to Hudler for a go-ahead goal.

-- What a great goal by Derek Meech. He looked like a second-line forward on that play. Wraparounds don't lead to many goals in the NHL. On Detroit, Henrik Zetterberg is the only player who consistently is dangerous on the wrap. It was Meech's first NHL goal. Just as impressive as the play itself was what led up to it. Meech had sat the previous 10 minutes of playing time, which was sandwiched around the second intermission. He was nearly 45 minutes of real time between shifts.

-- Henrik Zetterberg created two more power plays by drawing penalties. He has created 19 power plays in the past 18 games, which is a remarkable rate.

Cheli's place

Interesting quote by Chris Chelios this morning before he headed out to Grand Rapids for a conditioning assignment. When Chelios returns, he'll be one of eight defensemen on the roster. And it sounded today as though he's not expecting to play a lot.

"I knew coming into the season what my situation is," said Chelios. "Not that you wish anybody gets hurt, but if it happens I'll be ready to go."

The trick becomes, how do you keep Chelios and the other D-men game ready for the playoffs.

Starters in net

Tonight's starters in goal are Chris Osgood and Curtis Sanford.

Homer ready and waiting

Tomas Holmstrom stayed out for extra practice this morning, knowing that he wouldn't be in the lineup tonight. Holmstrom said that he feels recovered enough from back spasms to be in the lineup tonight. Coach Mike Babcock, however, said Wednesday that Holmstrom would be held out of tonight's game.

"I could play, I feel good," said Holmstrom. "But it's his (Babcock) decision and (trainer) Piet (Van Zant's) decision. ... It's probably good. I want to play so bad, but maybe it's good to get one more extra day. I would like to be playing."

And if he doesn't play in Saturday's home game?

"You don't want to talk to me Saturday."

Thursday's morning skate

No changes in the Red WIngs' lines for tonight's game against Vancouver ...



Both Tomas Holmstrom (back spasms) and Chris Chelios (broken leg) are practicing. Neither is going to play tonight.

Chelios to GR on Friday

According to the Grand Rapids Griffins PR staff, Chris Chelios will start his conditioning stint in the American Hockey League tomorrow.

Chelios will become the oldest player in AHL history. From the Griffins' press release ...

The future Hall of Famer would also become the oldest player in the 73-year history of the American Hockey League, supplanting former Hershey Bears trainer William “Scotty” Alexander, who was thrown between the pipes in an emergency during the 1953-54 season at the tender age of 45.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wings' first-quarter grades

DETROIT -- There has been no Stanley Cup hangover. No transition pains. No missed stepped.
Through the first quarter of the NHL regular season, the defending champion Detroit Red Wings have gone 16-4-4, putting them alongside San Jose and Boston as the most impressive teams thus far in the young season.

The power play has been marvelous for the Red Wings, leading the league. Goal scoring has not been a problem, especially with the addition of Marian Hossa. The Red Wings are second in the NHL with a 3.42 goals scored per game average.

Keeping goals out of the net has been a problem for the team that allowed the fewest goals against a season ago. The Red Wings rank 19th in the 30-team league in goals allowed per game. An improvement in 5-on-3 goals allowed -- the Red Wings have given up a league-worst six -- will help in this department.

Here are individual grades for performances over the first 24 games. The focus of the grade is overall contribution. Thus if someone plays in just five games -- either because of injury or being scratched -- his grade will be low.

Ty Conklin B:
The new No. 2 goaltender has posted better numbers than the No. 1 netminder. Conklin has fared better than Osgood thus far in goals-against average and save percentage and has matched Osgood in penalty-kill save percentage. That has led to Conklin going from a one-in-three-games starting cycle to a one-in-two.

Chris Osgood B-: Osgood is the playoff goalie, but right now, he's not playing like it. On a team that is strong at every position and in depth, goaltending was the No. 1 concern entering this season and remains so. It's a long way until the playoff opener. Osgood has time to get himself back into the mode where he led the league in playoff goals-against average last spring. Right now though, his goals-against average is double what is was in the playoffs.

Niklas Kronwall B-:
When Kronwall is 11th on the Red Wings in hits per game, something's not right. Last season, Kronwall was fourth on the team, averaging 1.4 hits per game. Then in the playoffs, he stepped that up to 1.9 hits per game. This season, he's averaging just 0.9 hits per game and I don't think it's because his partner, Brad Stuart, is hammering everybody on the ice. Add to that Kronwall has been on the ice for more even-strength goals allowed (21) than any other Wing and it's not a good start. His offensive contributions (13 points) have been good.

Brett Lebda C: Just a nightmare start for Lebda that led to his short-term benching in favor of Derek Meech. At that point, Lebda had been on the ice for nine goals against and no goals for. That's hard to do. He would have gotten a D grade at that point. Since then though, the Wings have outscored opponents, 6-3, with Lebda on the ice. Nice rebound.

Nicklas Lidstrom B+: This isn't grading Lidstrom on his own superhuman curve. Lidstrom has had a slow start period. How's this for a stat that you could have made a million dollars on -- Lidstrom has fewer even-strength points (five) than Andreas Lilja (six). Still, the Red Wings outscored opponents, 23-18, at even strength with Lidstrom on the ice and he is Mr. Everything, being on the top power-play unit, top PK unit, shut-down defense pairing. He might deserve an A- on workload alone. But the defensive mistakes are more frequent than at any other time since the lockout.

Andreas Lilja B: Lilja is playing better than he ever has with the Red Wings and I liked him before. Because of Chris Chelios' broken leg, Lilja has moved up to the top PK unit and done wonderfully. He's been on the ice for just two 5-on-4 goals against. He's second on the team in hits and blocked shots. And when he puts up six points in 24 games after tallying just 12 all of last season … that's as good a quarter-season as you're going to get from Lilja. He has become the No. 5 defenseman after battling with Lebda and Chelios for that spot last season.

Derek Meech C-: Meech won a roster spot by beating out Kyle Quincey. Since then, he has played six games on defense and seven games at forward. His value is his versatility and his ability to move the puck from the back end. Meech is better on the blue line, but that's a crowded position, especially with Chelios due back this week. At forward, he's getting better, but the he's on the ice for more goals allowed per minute played than any other forward.

Brian Rafalski B: Rafalski has had too many defensive-zone mistakes, leading the team with 21 giveaways. He also has the highest combination of shots taken that are blocked or miss the net of any Red Wing. Offensively, Rafalski is the Wings' top scoring defenseman. He has drawn the opposition's top forward line every game and can fill in on the penalty-kill when needed. Still, you'd like to see a little more as the Red Wings' blue line transitions from being Lidstrom's team to Rafalski's.

Brad Stuart B+: This guy is hitting like Kronwall did in the playoffs. To do that and give the opposition only five power plays is a great job. Stuart also doesn't make many defensive-zone gaffes, moving the puck well. The one thing keeping Stuart from being an A is offense. Sure, he's got just two assists, but more importantly, the Wings just don't score much with him on the ice. At even strength, the Wings score about as often with Stuart on the ice as they do with Lilja. Only Lebda has worse offensive team numbers.

Dan Cleary B-:
Missed eight games because of a scratched cornea. Can play on any of the top three lines, center or wing, kill penalties or be on the power play, play on the half-wall or net-front. One surprising stat for Cleary this quarter is that he only drew one opposition penalty while taking six penalties. He's usually stronger in that department.

Pavel Datsyuk A-: Coach Mike Babcock is right. Datsyuk enjoys setting up Marian Hossa much more than he enjoys shooting the puck. He's down about one shot per game -- 0.5 shots on goal and 0.5 shots that are blocked or miss the net. Hopefully, Datsyuk will start pulling the trigger more often. Second to Draper on the team in faceoff winning percentage.

Kris Draper C: The Red Wings were outscored 13-3 at even strength with Draper on the ice, by far the worst on the team in that category. Draper has spent much of the first quarter as a fourth-liner. On the positive side, he remains the team's best and one of the league's best faceoff men. He's also having a great season on the penalty-kill. Opponents have scored just two power-play goals with Draper on the ice and that's in more than 56 minutes of playing time.

Valtteri Filppula B-: I don't know if Filppula will ever translate well into statistics. As one team insider said, he's just a very tough player to go up against. Still, the Wings haven't scored often with Filppula on the ice this season. Only Draper, McCarty, Maltby and Kopecky have been on the ice for fewer goals per minute played than Filppula.

Johan Franzen B+: Here's the biggest problem with Franzen's season -- he's going to cost a lot of money to sign as a free agent next summer. Franzenstein is proving all over again that he can score. He and Hossa and Henrik Zetterberg are the top three goal-scoring options. Franzen and Hossa share the team lead with goals in 10 games …that despite Franzen missing five games with a sprained knee. His defense didn't start great, but is returning to its usual level of excellence.

Tomas Holmstrom A-: You know what happened when Homstrom went out with back spasms? The top power-play unit stopped scoring, getting just one goal in the past six games, despite having Datsyuk and Hossa, Lidstrom and Rafalski. The Red Wings have outscored opponents, 13-5, at even strength with Holmstrom on the ice. The Wings also score more power-play goals per minute with Homer out there than with any other forward.

Marian Hossa A+: What a great, great addition to a championship team. Everyone knows that Hossa leads the Wings in goals and points. He's also defensively committed. The Red Wings have outscored opponents 21-12 at even strength with Hossa on the ice. He's earned a regular shift on the PK. One negative about Hossa … he takes too many offensive zone penalties (team-high four) and has a team-high five more in the neutral zone.

Jiri Hudler B: Hudler is fourth on the team with nine goals. Considering he only gets 12 minutes of ice time per game, that's a pretty lofty status. At first, you'd think Hudler's production was power-play inflated, but it's not. His five even-strength goals are tied for third on the team behind just Hossa and Franzen.

Tomas Kopecky C: Kopecky leads all Detroit forwards in hits (33), which is part of the reason why he is fourth on the team in drawing opposition penalties (seven). So far though, the Slovak hasn't shown much of an offensive game, meaning he's a fourth-liner. The time he spent on a line with Datsyuk and Hossa might have exposed his lack of offense more than bolstered it. He was on the ice for three power-play goals in his short stint on that unit.

Kirk Maltby C+: The downside to Maltby is that when he's on the ice, the Wings don't score much. The upside is that the opposition doesn't either. And that's not a bad fourth-liner. Maltby is 11th among forwards in team even-strength scoring with him on the ice, but he's second to Holmstrom in goals against. He doesn't hit much any more and his agitating doesn't lead to opposition penalties (two drawn).

Darren McCarty C-: Playing only 13 games hurts McCarty's grade. He's a much better player than I ever would have thought he'd be in his second go-round with the Wings. He's an excellent leader. But he's also a black-hole of offense. The Wings have scored just one even-strength goal in McCarty's 68 minutes on the ice.

Mikael Samuelsson B+: I swear Samuelsson doesn't pass well … but he's tied with Datsyuk for the team lead in assists (16). I hate seeing a forward on the blue line on the power play, but Samuelsson has been a major part of the power play's success. No Red Wings has been on the ice for more power-play goals than Samuelsson (18) even though he's seventh on the team in power-play ice time. He started on the third line, but he's back on the second line for good reason. He's good defensively and has an edge to him.

Henrik Zetterberg A: Zetterberg was not put in the prime forward position this season. He doesn't have Hossa to snipe for him and he doesn't have Holmstrom working the net-front. He's had several different linemates, but no matter who's with him, Zetterberg produces. He's second on the team in goals (11) and points (24). Here's a small facet of the game at which Zetterberg is amazing. He went the first seven games without drawing a single power play. In the 17 games since, he has drawn 17 power plays. That's a remarkable team advantage. He had a four-game stretch of 10 power plays drawn.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Penalty plus-minus

Drawing a penalty call on the opposition is a skill. It takes either being a dangerous offensive player who keeps his legs churning or it takes being a pest. Staying out of the penalty box is also a skill.

Here's a look at how many power plays that Red Wings have created (PPC) and give to opponents (PPG) and the difference between the two.

PPC, PPG, +/-

17, 6, +11
9, 2, +7
6, 1, +5
6, 2, +4
1, 0, +1
7, 7, 0
7, 7, 0
2, 2, 0
9, 10, -1
7, 8, -1
4, 5, -1
0, 1, -1
3, 6, -3
1, 6, -5

PPC, PPG, +/-

4, 5, -1
1, 3, -2
0, 2, -2
2, 5, -3
5, 9, -4
3, 7, -4
0, 6, -6

PPC, PPG, +/-

1, 1, 0
0, 0, 0

5, 2, +3

Henrik Zetterberg got on fire in drawing penalties in the 13th game of the season. He went the first seven games without drawing a single power play. In the 17 games since, he has drawn 17 power plays. That's a remarkable team advantage. He had a four-game stretch of 10 power plays drawn.

Pavel Datsyuk is the team leader last season and is faring well again this season.

For how physical he plays, Brad Stuart is great at not taking penalties.

Johan Franzen is the biggest surprise on this list for someone who traditionally draws calls, but hasn't this season. Dan Cleary would be No. 2 on the surprisingly ineffective list.

Since the rule change this season brings the faceoff for any penalty into the offending team's zone, here's a look at how many offensive-zone and neutral-zone penalties have been called on the Red Wings ...

Hossa, 9
Kopecky, 5
Samuelsson, 5
Cleary, 4
Franzen, 4
Draper, 3
Rafalski, 3

Marian Hossa, obviously, is taking too many penalties too far from the Detroit net. He has 10 power plays given and only one on a defensive-zone infraction. Four have come in the offensive zone.

And for his position, Brian Rafalski has a similar problem. He's been whistled for one offensive-zone penalty and two more in the neutral zone with just two penalties coming in the defensive zone. Rafalski has three OZ or NZ penalties ... the rest of the Detroit defensemen combined have the same number.

NHL Network to carry World Juniors

It's about time. The World Juniors is probably the most important annual hockey tournament for North American fans other than the Stanley Cup playoffs. (Notice I said annual. The Olympics and World Cup of Hockey are obviously bigger.) But television coverage of the event ... at least in the U.S. ... is like going back in time to the 70s.

The NHL Network and USA Hockey reached a three-year television agreement and it's about time. All U.S game and all medal-round games will be broadcast.

What would make this much more exciting would be if other qualifying-round games were televised -- Canada vs. Russia, Sweden vs. Finland. But it's a start.

The reason this tournament is important is because you get to see future NHLers on the biggest stage of their pre-NHL careers. Valtteri Filppula was great for Finland in two of these tournaments. Derek Meech and Dion Phaneuf were a dynamic blue-line duo. Kris Draper's dad told me that it was Kris' performance during the World Juniors that made him believe that Kris was going to be an NHL success. Ovechkin, Crosby, Malkin ... this tournament was a stepping stone for all of them as it was for Gretzky, Hasek and Larionov back in the day.

Here's the USA Hockey press release ...

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- USA Hockey announced today a three-year partnership with the NHL Network that includes unprecedented coverage of the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship and also coverage of the upcoming Qwest Tour, featuring the 2009-10 U.S. Women’s National Team.

In each of the next three IIHF World Junior Championships, the NHL Network will provide live television coverage of all U.S. games and all games of the medal round, including all quarterfinal and semifinal games, the bronze-medal game and the gold-medal game.

Under the agreement, the NHL Network will also televise four live games of the Qwest Tour. The broadcasts include Team USA’s contests against Canada scheduled for Oct. 16, 2009, in Spokane, Wash.; Oct. 29, 2009, in Denver, Colo.; and Dec. 30, 2009, in St. Paul, Minn. In addition, the NHL Network will televise the final game of the Tour against Finland on Feb. 4, 2010, in Colorado Springs, Colo., just prior to the February 12 start of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

“We’re extremely pleased to showcase two of our most prominent teams – the U.S. National Junior Team and the U.S. Women’s National Team – on the NHL Network,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. “We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with the NHL Network.”

“Our association with USA Hockey is another building block in making the NHL Network the Home of Hockey,” said John Shannon, executive in charge of programming and production for the NHL Network. “It's great to be part of covering a truly marquee event like the World Junior Hockey Championship, as well as giving more exposure to the women's program as it prepares for the Vancouver Olympics."

Monday, December 1, 2008

Homer a maybe for Thursday

Tomas Holmstrom skated this morning with the Red Wings for the first time since being shelved with back spasms, Nov. 20. Holmstrom said that Thursday's home game is a possibility for his return if all goes well in practices Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Just so I don't pull it again; I just don't want to have a setback," said Holmstrom. "I was skating today. I didn't force the skating, just went out there and got the sweat going. It felt good."

Funny moment happened when Holmstrom was talking with reporters after the practice. The last man off the ice, Chris Chelios, called across the locker room to Holmstrom, questioning why Homer didn't stay out on the ice longer with him. Homer did stay on the ice for 40 minutes, which is a good first day back.

"I have to do media," joked Holmstrom. "That's why I got off the ice."

Chelios didn't buy it.

Monday's morning skate

The Red Wings are on the ice at Joe Louis Arena right now and nothing lineup-wise is different than Saturday night's game in Boston.



Osgood (starts)

Tomas Holmstrom (back spasms) is on the ice and taking part in stretches and non-contact drills. No word yet on when Homer will be back in the lineup.

Darren McCarty (groin) did not skate. Chris Chelios (broken leg) was back on the ice. Chelios' chance for returning to the lineup could be upgraded after Tuesday's practice -- Chelios' first full practice with the team since his preseason injury.