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.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Not much room for Zetterberg and Hossa

The press conference was in mid-flight. Henrik Zetterberg was at the podium being praised by Ken Holland as being like Steve Yzerman. In these parts, there aren't many higher compliments for a hockey player. Mike Ilitch was smiling at the thought of committing $73 million to Zetterberg.

The press conference came an hour after the Red Wings' practice ended Wednesday. Most always, the Olympia Room -- where the conference took place -- is vacant during the daytime, making it the perfect short-cut for players as they turn right from the locker room, cut through the vacant party room and out into the Joe Louis Arena parking lot.

So as Zetterberg talked at the podium, as Yzerman spoke and Holland explained and questions were posed and photos were taken, some of the Red Wings made their way through the Olympia Room not realizing that this was one day their short-cut would be populated.

The players' path was 10 to 20 feet away from the press conference area, over by the tables set up with hors d'oeuvres for the media.

Most Red Wings made their way through, not stopping, not wanting to interrupt in any way. Some like Chris Osgood and Kirk Maltby stood for a bit in the background, taking in the question-and-answer session. Andreas Lilja stopped and smiled, trying to make Zetterberg crack up. (By the way, players universally adore to catch a teammate doing a television interview, walk up behind the camera and try to make them laugh in any way possible. If you watch a Red Wing on television start to smile for no apparent reason, odds are that Lilja or Kris Draper or Jiri Hudler or some other teammate has just pushed the right button off camera.)

As Zetterberg talked about his new contract, Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky made their way through the shortcut. Neither of the tall Slovaks who have known each other since their school days (Kopecky was a classmate of Hossa's younger brother Marcel) stopped, which was the most common reaction by the players.

But the duality of the situation was remarkable.

Zetterberg's seven-month negotiations were over. He was being hailed as a cornerstone of the franchise for years to come.

Hossa's negotiations were just starting in earnest, now that the club knows how much money is left after Zetterberg's signing. Hossa is still looked at as an outsider, a rare rental player in the Red Wings organization.

This isn't to say that the scene wasn't a good one or wasn't valid or natural. It was just a fetching snapshot of two brilliant players in vastly different positions off the ice.

Hossa and Zetterberg are two of the best forwards in hockey. Any club would be thrilled to have either one.

Yet Detroit has the enviable problem of having both of them plus Pavel Datsyuk and the Gordian Knot of how to fit all of them under the salary cap for years to come.

Off the ice, Hossa and Zetterberg are two of the best people you'll meet in hockey. Zetterberg deserves every cent that he makes in this contract. In my opinion, he's either underpaid or a bargain - depending on which side of the management-worker fence you sit - and has been for years.

Hossa, however, is a remarkable fellow as well. Wearing a grey ski cap and a plain coat and he made his way towards the arena exit, Hossa is as good of a teammate and employee as Zetterberg.
But Zetterberg is a legacy in Detroit. Drafted here, he blossomed here and it's difficult for fan or front-office employee to even think of parting with any player that they've discovered.

Hossa came into the league in Ottawa and had the misfortune of being good enough to counterbalance a trade for Dany Heatley after Heatley need to leave Atlanta to distance himself from the tragedy of a teammate dying in a car that he was driving.

Since then, Hossa has been transient. He starred in Atlanta, but that was Ilya Kovalchuk's team. He was traded to Pittsburgh for a few months, but roots didn't grow there.

Marian Hossa fits perfectly in Detroit. He fits in a locker room full of Mr. Congeniality candidates. His style of play -- a big goal-scoring winger who focuses on defense -- is exactly what this team was lacking.

Marian Hossa's next contract will be a long-term one. He wants to settle in one place. He wants exactly what Henrik Zetterberg got earlier this week. And he'd love to settle in Detroit.
But there's a good chance that won't happen. Not here, at least.

Hossa is at the wrong time -- in the salary-cap era -- and the wrong place -- a team loaded with high-end signings that leave little cap space.

There's a good chance that the snapshot at Wednesday's press conference will become an avatar for what will be the future … Zetterberg sitting with Holland and Ilitch and Yzerman, Hossa heading to the exit.

Traveling man

The biggest adjustment to North American hockey for Finn Ville Leino hasn't been the size of the ice surface or the north-south style of play. For Leino, the biggest adjustment has been the travel in the American Hockey League.

By his estimation, the longest road trip in Finland is four hours. The shortest for Grand Rapids is three hours. Many minor-league trips are made by bus. That aspect of the game is much easier to deal with at the NHL level.

"It's been ok," said Leino. "I'm getting used to the hockey more every day. I think it's even harder to play there (than in the NHL). You travel a lot and have to recover from the games. It's been a rough time. It's been good for me."

Friday, January 30, 2009

Abdelkader up, Downey down

Forward Justin Abdelkader has been called up from Grand Rapids and Aaron Downey has been sent back down. Here's the press release from Grand Rapids ...

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Detroit Red Wings on Friday recalled center Justin Abdelkader from the Grand Rapids Griffins and assigned right wing Aaron Downey to their American Hockey League affiliate.

Abdelkader is expected to see his first NHL action of the season on Saturday alongside former Griffins teammate Ville Leino, when the Red Wings visit Washington for a 12:30 p.m. start. The Muskegon, Mich., native and former Michigan State star made his NHL debut in two late-season games with Detroit last spring, before remaining with the club as a “black ace” throughout its run to the Stanley Cup.

Thoughts on Game 48 (4-2 loss to Dallas)

-- You'd better believe that Marty Turco was aware of his winless string at Joe Louis Arena. Before this game, he had 12 career starts at the Joe and was 0-8-2. So after he finally won in Detroit, Turco said after the game, "I told all the boys after, "Thanks. It's been a long time.'" Despite the win, Turco didn't play great in my opinion. This matchup has always been good for the Wings. I don't know if there has been a playoff opponent over the past 10 years that I have more confidence against than Dallas.

-- This was the fist time this season that the Wings trailed 4-0 in a game.

-- I thought the most impressive thing that the Stars did was shut the game down in the third period. Seven total shots on goal, four by Detroit and three by Dallas. Teams shouldn't be able to do that to the Wings.

-- Did you know that this was Marian Hossa's first power-play goal at home? I didn't until I was told. Not a flaw in the big Slovak's game, just a statistical oddity.

-- Turco passed Cesar Maniago as the Stars' career leader in goaltender minutes played during the second period of this game. If you have to go back to a player that I watched as a kid like Maniago, you know you're going way back.

-- Jiri Hudler took a Chris Chelios slap shot on the ankle halfway through the third period. Hudler didn't miss a shift and hopefully he'll have no lingering effects. Insert your own joke here about the power of Chelios' shot.

-- I like how Tomas Kopecky played. Nice screen on the Andreas Lilja goal. I think Babcock rewarded him with ice time. Kopecky had five third-period shifts. His linemates, Kirk Maltby and Aaron Downey, had one shift apiece in the third.

-- That was a bad, bad call on the Nicklas Lidstrom goal by referee Dan O'Halloran. Not only had Tomas Holmstrom been tripped by Turco, he was then pushed back into the goalie by defenseman Trevor Daley. And it looked as though this all happened after the puck went past. Turco's flop at the end sealed it for me that it should have been a goal.

-- The Wings had their third line and third defense pairing on the ice often against Mike Modano's line. This is the end of the line in Modano's career.

-- Valtteri Filppula needs to bury three goals in a week. No wait. The Wings need Filppula to bury three goals in a week.

-- When will Niklas Kronwall snap out of it? He was a plus-1, but he gave the puck away and he's not hitting. Hopefully he'll be the same playoff performer that he was a year ago -- brilliant.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Downey in, Leino sits

Aaron Downey will be in the lineup tonight against Dallas. Ville Leino will sit tonight, then make his NHL debut Saturday in Washington.

Downey back, Leino called up

Aaron Downey and Ville Leino are on the ice for the morning skate. Both have been recalled from Grand Rapids and Brad Stuart has been put on long-term injured reserve. Stuart will miss at least 10 games on IR.

After spending last season with the Red Wings, Downey has played all of this season in Grand Rapids. Coach Mike Babcock foreshadowed the move yesterday, talking about how Downey would "keep the flies off" in the short-term, keeping teams from trying to intimidate the Red Wings' skill players.

Downey, 34, has six points and 71 penalty minutes in 44 games with the Griffins. He appeared in 56 games with the Red Wings last winter.

Leino signed with the Wings this past summer after starring in the Finnish Elite League. he has spent all season in Grand Rapids before his call-up.

Leino, 25, is second on the Griffins with 37 points in 44 games.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

One more deal before July

General Manager Ken Holland just said in the press conference to announce Henrik Zetterberg's 12-year deal that he can probably sign one more player before July 1. Some of that has to do with league rules on contract "tagging" and not knowing what next year's salary cap is for certain. Holland said that he's operating under the scenario that the cap will remain about the same ($56.7 million) or "a little less" or "a little more". If the cap max goes up, then the Red Wings are very happy. If the cap max goes down, then Zetterberg's deal still leaves them room with which to work.

The one player that will be signed appears to be either Johan Franzen or Marian Hossa. Holland specifically named those two players and their agents as being in current negotiations with the club. Which one will be signed comes down to the best hockey value, according to Holland. That doesn't mean cheapest price. A $6 million Hossa could be deemed a better value than a $4 million Franzen.

Holland gave a time frame of four-six weeks for the next possible signing with negotiations being shut down after that through the end of the playoffs.

Hossa said today that he's not at all interested in a one-year deal, which is expected. I assume that Franzen feels the same.

Agents might factor into this equation. Franzen's last deal didn't come quickly and there was a point when the player thought that he was going to have to find a spot in Europe. Hossa's deal came easily. In fact, Hossa and his agent handed it to Holland on a silver platter. But that was likely a one-time scenario. Hossa can't keep playing on one-year deals and leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table for his own sanity's sake.

Everything right now is speculation. We'll get a good indication what the team will look like next season in the next month and a half. I'd be inclined to think that if Hossa doesn't sign before then, he would be open to other teams' offers in the summer. I feel for Hossa, who is just as deserving as Zetterberg of a long-term deal in Detroit, but fate placed him behind Zetterberg in line for that payday.

As Holland said at the press conference, this team can't stay together because of the salary cap. But with Zetterberg's signing, we know one key piece will be back.

Lidstrom and Pavel to play

Both Nicklas Lidstrom (elbow) and Pavel Datsyuk (hip) will be back in the lineup, Thursday. Both players had to sit out Tuesday's game in Columbus because they did not make it to the all-star weekend ... a suspension handed out by Commissioner Gary Bettman.

Babcock joked that they'll both be in the lineup "unless we get another call from the league."

Back with Ozzie

Coach Mike Babcock said that Chris Osgood will start in net, tomorrow.

Z and Stuart out Thursday

Coach Mike Babcock said after today's practice that Henrik Zetterberg (back) and Brad Stuart (ribs) won't play Thursday against the Dallas Stars. Zetterberg's absence should be short-term.

"We'll be overcautious," said Babcock. "We just felt that a couple of years ago when we didn't do it that way that it came back to bite us. We're just going to get it looked after. ... A little bit of spasming going on. But no one's concerned."

Babcock then was asked about Zetterberg's new long-term contract.

"I think that's probably the problem with his back … he was taking that money to the bank," joked Babcock.

Stuart could be missing for weeks. Babcock estimated today that the defenseman could be out for around 10 games and thus might be put on long-term injured reserve.

"Stuey's out for a chunk of time now," said Babcock. "We don't know for sure if he'll go on long-term IR. He's probably around that time frame. That might be something we can do so we can look at (Jonathan) Ericsson, (Darren) Helm, (Ville) Leino, that group of guys. It's real important that we do that if we're going to use them at playoff time. We need to have a good look at them and see if they're NHL playoff ready or not."

Interesting that Babcock is thinking about post-season lineup options and that's obviously a good thing. He then named another player who could be called up without being specifically asked about him ... Aaron Downey.

"The other thing is Downs has been a good soldier down there too," said Babcock. "Teams run around when we come to their building so that would keep the flies off for a while and let everyone breathe."

Although Downey surely frustrated the coach by being out of position at times during practices, I get the feeling that Babcock likes that role filled on his roster.

Salary cap estimations

So TSN is reporting that Zetterberg's deal is less of a cap hit than initially expected. Booth Newspapers and TSN are both listing the deal as being for 12 years worth slightly more than $72 million. Although that's the most total money that the Red Wings have ever paid for one player's contract (that would change if Hank's deal was ever bought out), it's still an amazing bargain and one that other GMs will likely be jealous of.

A cap hit of slightly more than $6 million for Zetterberg is remarkable. Had he gone free agent, you could expect Zetterberg to get $8-10 million for a shorter deal.

So where does this leave the Red Wings?

Before the Zetterberg deal, the Wings had 14 players under contract for next season -- six forwards, seven defensemen and one goalie -- for a total of $41.1667 million. Let's pencil Zetterberg in at $6.1 million for a cap hit to err on the cautious side. (I still can't believe they got him that cheap.) That puts the Wings at $47.567 million with 15 players signed.

Here's the position list that the team still needs to sign ... one backup goalie, no defensemen, four forwards. That's a minimum because it brings the roster size to just 22 players - one short of the maximum -- the number that the team is carrying this winter.

Let's plug in the same cap maximum as this season -- $56.7 million. With Z under contract, the Wings have a total of $9.133 million to sign those five players. You can pencil in $750,000 or so for a backup goalie. If you plug in $800,000, the Wings have $8.333 million remaining for four forwards.

Although seven defensemen currently on the team are under contract, there will still have to be decisions made next fall. Jonathan Ericsson will likely make the roster. Chris Chelios could retire. To make room for Ericsson, let's plug in his $900,000 salary. That means that either Derek Meech will be gone or he'll be kept in the role of eighth D/spare forward. Either way, let's plug in $483,333 for Meech's salary or an 11th forward.

So that brings the cap room left to $6.950 million and the team would still need to sign three forwards. Of course, this is assuming no cap reduction and no cap raise.

Take out $500,000 for a minimum-wage forward and that $6.450 million to squeeze in a couple of difference-makers. Jiri Hudler and Johan Franzen could conceivably sign for that as a combined figure, especially with Zetterberg coming in so low. If Marian Hossa signs for just over $6 million, the Wings would have to jettison hopes of signing Hudler and Franzen.

And in all of this, Mikael Samuelsson hasn't been mentioned. He's going to come in at least around $1.2 million. So if Franzen signs for a lot, Samuelsson could be the other signee if Hudler can't fit under the cap.

Who knows how this will play out. There are other options such as trades and buying out current contracts. My guess is that Franzen will be the next option. (Trust me, I'd love for the numbers to work out to keep Hossa.) With Valtteri Filppula at $3 million, Dan Cleary at $2.8 million and Niklas Kronwall at $3 million, perhaps the team could get Franzen in at an approximate cap hit of $3 million. That would leave $3.95 million to sign both Hudler and Samuelsson (or comparable players), which could happen.

If the Wings go the Hossa route, without a guaranteed cap increase, it looks like they'd have to get him for $1 million pay decrease, then sign two minimum-wage forwards.


It has been a while between posts for me. For anyone who checks this blog regularly -- God bless you -- I'm sorry. I hate when I check my favorite sites and find nothing new, so I understand the frustration.

Because of significant layoffs in December at my newspaper, my job duties have changed slightly. I still have the Red Wings beat, but that beat doesn't include travel (hopefully just for the regular season) and hasn't included much practice coverage. The need for staffing in the office is undeniable.

So the posts might not come as frequently as before, but they will come more often than they have in the past couple of weeks.

I'm not as involved with the Red Wings, but there are a few upsides for me personally. I've renewed my friendship with the snack machine in the office. That's helping the local economy immensely. And I've become much better at Guitar Hero. At this pace, I'll be able to move past the easy level in two or three years.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Zetterberg signing announcement

The Red Wings will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. tomorrow presumably to announce a long-term contract signing by Henrik Zetterberg. With Zetterberg locked in for what could be a long-term deal (10 years) for a cap hit in the $7 million range, general manager Ken Holland can now turn his attention to the team's other potential free agents -- Marian Hossa, Johan Franzen, Jiri Hudler, Mikael Samuelsson among others.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Gaining ground

Courtesy of Greg Innis, here are the franchises with the most victories in NHL history (through Jan. 8) ...

1. Montreal 3,004
2. Boston 2,699
3. Toronto 2,551
4. Detroit 2,549

As you can see, the Red Wings aren't far behind Toronto for third. With the way things have gone over the past decade for both franchises, once Detroit passes Toronto, the Wings could put some distance between the two teams.

The list looks as you'd guess except for Boston. Given the Bruins' less-than-stellar history, I'm surprised they're the No. 2 team.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

PK troubles

Entering tonight's game against Dallas, the Red Wings rank first in the NHL in penalty killing at home (87.8 percent) and last in the league in road PK (73.4 percent). Detroit has allowed 25 PP goals in 20 road games. (Combine that with the 27 PP goals and one short-handed goal scored on the road and there have been 53 special-teams goals in Detroit's 20 road games.)

The PK road problems brought this comment from Coach Mike Babcock this morning "There's always things you have to improve. That's one thing we have to get a lot better at. You can't win at playoff time with penalty killing like ours."

Babcock pointed to the 1-of-7 short-handed faceoff performance that the Red Wings had at the Winter Classic. That played a part in Chicago scoring three power-play goals. "We gave up six goals in two nights," said Babcock. "Not one of them you'd say, 'Gee I wish a guy would stand here.' You'd say, 'Why didn't we win the faceoff and shoot it down or why don't we have it on our forehand and shoot it out.' ... So we're the best faceoff team in the league … it doesn't add up to me."

The faceoff difference was obvious in Chicago. (Detroit was 1-of-7, not 1-of-8 as Babcock said.) But when Detroit gave up three power-play goals in Colorado, Dec. 27, the Red Wings were 7-of-11 on short-handed draws. And in Minnesota, Jan. 3, Detroit was 4-of-7 on short-handed draws.

There are some faceoff issues, but there are other problems too.

Dallas morning skate

It looks like Marty Turco will be in net for Dallas tonight. It will be Turco's 10th consecutive start. He's gone 6-2-1 in the previous nine.

Thursday's morning skate

Optional skate for the Red Wings. Valtteri Filppula (hip) will play against the Dallas Stars tonight. Chris Chelios and Derek Meech will be healthy scratches, meaning that Andreas Lilja returns to the lineup after a one-game absence. Chris Osgood will start in net.

Winter Classic viewership

The Winter Classic had more television viewers than last year's version in Buffalo. Here's one thing I found interesting. There were three markets that were just about double any other market in the overnight ratings. Two are obvious -- Detroit and Chicago. Buffalo, however, was just as impressive. I wonder why. Are they that hockey crazy in Buffalo? Is it because they hosted last year's classic?

Top 10 Metered Markets:
1. Chicago 11.8/21
2. Detroit 10.5/20
3. Buffalo 10.1/20
4. St. Louis 5.3/10
5. Pittsburgh 4.4/8
6. Denver 4.2/10
7. Providence 3.5/7
8. Indianapolis 3.4/6
9. West Palm Beach 3.3/6
10. Orlando 3.2/5

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Stars are out

Two Red Wings were among the 15 Western Conference non-starters named today for the NHL all-star game. Nicklas Lidstrom will play in his 10th consecutive and 11th career all-star game, and Pavel Datsyuk, set to make his third appearance.

In addition, prospects Jakub Kindl and Daniel Larsson were selected to play for the PlanetUSA team in the AHL all-star game. Kindl was chosen as a starter by fan balloting. He ranks seventh among AHL defensemen with 22 points in 36 games.

Kindl, 21, is the sixth Grand Rapids defenseman in eight years to be selected to play in the AHL All-Star Classic, joining Jonathan Ericsson (2008), Derek Meech (2007), Niklas Kronwall (2004-05), Travis Richards (2004) and John Gruden (2002).

Larsson, 22, is in his first season in North America after being named the Swedish Elite League’s top goaltender and rookie of the year for 2007-08. He has a 12-4-1 record through 19 games and ranks among the AHL’s leaders with four shutouts (T1st), a 0.924 save percentage (4th), a 2.30 goals against average (T4th) and 12 wins (T9th).

Of note is that neither defenseman Jonathan Ericsson nor goalie Jimmy Howard were selected. Both Red Wings prospects were AHL all-stars last season. Ericsson and Howard were beaten out for PlanetUSA spots by Larsson and Kindl.

And totally off the path ... the AHL all-star teams are Team Canada and Team PlanetUSA. Isn't Canada part of the planet? Did I miss something? Wouldn't Team EuropeUSA be more appropriate?

Kopecky follows brother's progress at World Juniors

History doesn't always repeat. But sometimes we do get reminders of what once was.

During an off day for the Detroit Red Wings two weeks ago, Tomas Kopecky drove up to Kitchener, Ont., to watch an exhibition game between Slovakia and the Czech Republic, a tune-up for both sides for the recently completed World Junior Championships.

Kopecky watched the game for more than just the interest in his homeland, Slovakia, and its hockey program. It was also a rare chance for Tomas Kopecky to connect with his only sibling, Peter Kopecky -- a 19-year-old forward on Team Slovakia.

Seven years Peter's elder, Tomas is one of 12 Red Wings who played in the most prestigious youth tournament in the world -- it brings together the top under-20 players from the top hockey nations.

In fact, Kopecky played in three World Juniors. In Detroit's locker room, only Jiri Hudler of the Czech Republic can match that. (Marian Hossa, Niklas Kronwall, Valtteri Filppula, Henrik Zetterberg and Brian Rafalski each played in two World Juniors. Nicklas Lidstrom, Derek Meech, Brad Stuart, Chris Chelios and Kris Draper each played in one.)

"I know how it is," Kopecky told his younger brother. "If you want to talk, text me, call me."

Peter Kopecky did ok for himself. He was part of a Slovak squad that upset the United States in last Friday's quarterfinal before losing to Sweden in the semifinals and Russia in the consolation final. Slovakia's fourth-place finish was that small nation's second best showing ever at this tournament, trailing on its 1999 bronze medal performance.

"I was talking to him on the phone," said Tomas Kopecky. "I watched every chance I got. That game against the U.S. in the quarterfinal was unbelievable."

Tomas' World Juniors experiences ranged from battling against the Ukraine to avoid relegation to the World Juniors B tournament as a 17-year-old -- Slovakia won and remained in the A pool -- to being a 19-year-old on a team that went undefeated in round-robin play only to be upset by Switzerland in the quarterfinals.

"It was a great experience for me," said Kopecky. "First year, I was just 17. It was my first big international hockey. First year, I was wide-eyed, walking around. The last year, that for me was the best experience. We had a really good team, finished first in our pool."

The World Juniors is a scout's paradise. Some of the tournament players were old enough to be drafted the summer before while others were part of the upcoming draft class. This winter's tournament was a chance to see a first-round pick from 2008 like Columbus' Nikita Filatov (Russia) go up against potential first-rounders in 2009 like Johan Tavares of Canada and Victor Hedman of Sweden.

The tournament rosters are a who's-who of future NHLers. Columbus' starting goalie at Joe Louis Arena, Tuesday, was Steve Mason, who was in net for Canada's 2008 gold-medal victory.
Playing in the World Juniors as a 17-year-old was part of what got Tomas Kopecky drafted by the Red Wings in the second round of 2000.

"It's great for young guys to compare yourself (to other junior stars); It's an eye-opener," said Kopecky. "Every time you play for your country, it's huge. All the people back home -- friends, family -- are watching. It helped me. When you come off the World Juniors, you carry a little confidence back to your team."

Thoughts on Game 39 (3-0 win over CBJ)

-- Ty Conklin played pretty good for an indoor game. That save on Mike (Picka) Peca in the first period was brilliant although Peca certainly took his time and worse, shot it back into Conklin. What impressed me most about the save was that Peca elevated the puck. It's much easier to slide along the ice and make a save than knock it out of the air. And the kick save on Derek Dorsett in the second was sweet too.

-- I bet that if someone like George Plimpton was to do a Paper Lion story about going to training camp with the Lions this fall, the writer would make the team this time. Sorry, wrong blog.

-- Not to be negative, but the Detroit penalty-kill is still allowing a lot of chances. CBJ has a bad power play and didn't capitalize. That first CBJ power play in the first period should have resulted in a goal.

-- Marian Hossa ended his seven-game goalless drought. Pavel Datsyuk has nine goals in his past nine games.

-- Merry Christmas (Russian Christmas) to Datsyuk today. He had a goal and two assists against CBJ last night on Christmas Eve and joked that Conklin "gave me nice present … a shutout."

-- Chris Chelios has the all-time regular-season win record now, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Here's his win breakdown by team Detroit 351, Chicago 309, Montreal 220. So who would have thought back in 1999 when the Wings dealt a 24-year-old Anders Eriksson for a 37-year-old Chris Chelios that Chelios would last longer in the NHL than Eriksson (who's with Quad Cities of the AHL this season). And who would have thought that after joining the Wings at age 37 that Chelios would go on to have a bigger piece of his career with Detroit than he did with Chicago or Montreal.

-- I picked the three stars last night and had Hossa as the third star. On second thought, Tomas Holmstrom could have been a better third star, being a key part in both of Detroit's first two goals. No do-overs though.

-- First time seeing CBJ goalie Steve Mason in person. He's very very good. Only 20, this kid could be one of the premier netminders in the league for a long time. Here's a big compliment from Mike Babcock after the game "He's huge and obviously very talented. When you're that big, you don't have to move that much. He made it very difficult for us. As their team improves and he gets some experience, that's the kind of goaltender you want. That's front-line goaltending."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Mr. W

The next game that the Detroit Red Wings win with Chris Chelios in the lineup will give the veteran blue-liner the NHL's all-time record for regular-season wins, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Entering tonight's game against Columbus, Chelios has been on the ice for 879 wins, which ties him for first with Scott Stevens. Chelios, however, has played 15 fewer games than Stevens (1620-1635). Third on the all-time list is Mark Messier with 864 wins in 1,756 regular-season games.

879 wins, 1,621 games

879 wins, 1,635 games

864 wins, 1,756 games

Tuesday's morning skate

The Red Wings had an optional this morning with about half of the team on the ice. For tonight's game against Columbus, Ty Conklin will start in net for the eighth time in the past nine games and 11th time in the past 14. Chris Chelios and Brett Lebda are back in the lineup after both were scratches in the previous game. They'll be the third defense pairing. That means that Andreas Lilja and Derek Meech will be healthy scratches.

Of Lilja, Coach Mike Babcock said: "He's played very, very, very well for us."

With eight defensemen, Babcock is going to have his hands full getting all eight or seven of them playoff ready.

Columbus had a full skate this morning. Steve Mason will make his eighth straight start in net. Here are possible Columbus lines ...



Mason (starts)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Thoughts on Game 37 (Winter Classic)

-- Wonderfully done by all. I can't imagine the league having a better Winter Classic than this one. The stage was beautiful. (Sorry, I'm an old ballpark fan.) But more than that, this game was good. Make that great through two periods. The Seabrook hit that put Cleary in the Chicago bench, leading to a too many men on the ice penalty? Fun to watch. The scrums and shoving? Keeps me watching. Datsyuk's goal? Jaw dropping. Loved the skill. Loved the rough stuff. Great show by two good teams when the league needed them to entertain.

-- It was odd to see the fans in the lower deck standing throughout to get a better sight line and the upper-deck fans seated.

-- Here's my problem with the NHL's definition of a game-winning goal. There's no way in hell that Datsyuk's goal shouldn't have been the game-winner. It put Detroit up for good at 4-3. The Wings went on to win 6-4. But the NHL calls Brian Rafalski's goal the winner because it put Detroit up 5-3 and it won, 6-4. Rubbish. Duncan Keith scores a meaningless goal with 10 seconds left and that makes Rafalski's goal more meaningful? Garbage. Rafalski's goal was big. But Datsyuk's was the game-winner. The NHL stats won't show that though. There's no way that Rafalski's goal was more clutch -- which is what GWG is supposed to measure -- than Datsyuk's. Sorry for the rant, but people who like old ballparks tend to be stat fans too.

-- On the ice, Chris Chelios has become not a spare part, but a meaningless part on this team. Now that Andreas Lilja has taken over Chelios' penalty-kill duties, Chelios doesn't have much left. Off the ice, Chelios has a ton to offer this team. But playing 1:57 in this game highlights that Chelios isn't going to be used. In a season when the Wings carry one player less than the 23-man limit because they're so close to the salary cap, carrying another player who doesn't have a role strains the roster. That said, I have no way to gauge Chelios' contributions off the ice. It might well be worth the Wings' while to keep him on the roster. Besides, it would be very un-Red Wings-like to not keep Chelios.

-- In the first period, I thought that Zetterberg's line with Hossa and Hudler was under-performing given a favorable matchup against the line of Ladd, Burish and Havlat. That thought left quickly in the second period.

Old-time hockey

The fedora hats worn by Red Wings coaches were thought of by equipment manager Paul Boyer as a tribute to the hats worn by legendary hockey coaches like Toe Blake. "Toe Blake and old-time hockey," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "We needed something on our head, we thought. We didn't realize the benches were going to be quite as warm as they were. I probably didn't need it."

Home with a goal

Defenseman Brett Lebda grew up in Buffalo Grove, just outside of Chicago. His return to Wrigley Field included a goal.

"I don't go to many (White) Sox games," said Lebda. "I love the Cubs, grew up on the Cubs and still go to a lot of games during the summer."

For Lebda, yesterday's game was like a moment from the movie "Field Of Dreams", crossing over the line between fan and player at a ballpark.

"Just coming out of that dugout and seeing the sight, it was pretty cool," said Lebda. "You're usually on the other side of the fence there sitting in the stands. And just to be out there and playing in a hockey game in Wrigley Field was a pretty neat experience."

The veteran and the rookie

CHICAGO -- Ty Conklin has played in 128 regular-season NHL games. Three of those, he has been the starting goalie in outdoor games -- the only three regular-season outdoor games in NHL history.

Chris Chelios has played in 1,619 regular-season NHL games. This afternoon, he played his first NHL game on an outdoor rink, getting to skate on baseball field that he has visited as a fan 200 times by his own estimate, Wrigley Field.

The 46-year-old veteran was an outdoor rookie today. The 32-year-old journeyman was the veteran.

"In 25 years, I haven't missed too much," said Chelios. "This happened to come along when it did. It's kind of like the all-star game when I played in Chicago (in 1991 in Chelios' first season with the Blackhawks). I just happened to be in the right place at the right time."

Chelios would normally have been a healthy scratch for this game. A spare defenseman in the Detroit lineup, Chelios skated as the seventh defenseman. Detroit has dressed six defensemen in every game this season, but yesterday's.

To make room for Chelios, fourth-line forward Tomas Kopecky was scratched, making this the first game that he has missed this season.

Chelios was in the starting lineup on the blue line beside Nicklas Lidstrom, then went back to a support role, finishing the game with 1:57 of ice time.

But for a 46-year-old who grew up watching Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins play baseball on this field, it was 1:57 that will always be remembered.

"It was a great event," said Chelios. "The history behind the building and everyone having a chance to be a part of that was great."

Conklin, a career backup goalie playing with his fifth team in seven NHL seasons, was also in the right place at the right time to become the only NHLer to skate in all three outdoor games.

Conklin started the game for Edmonton in 2003 against the Montreal Canadiens and for Pittsburgh in Buffalo last Jan. 1. Both times, injuries to the No. 1 goalie gave Conklin the opportunity.

This time, Chris Osgood was still recovering from a groin strain, giving Conklin another start outdoors.

"Each one has their special little things that are different then the others," said Conklin. "I consider myself pretty lucky. There's not a guy in this league who wouldn't want to play in these games. I've had the opportunity to play in three of them. I've had a great time in all three of them."

Today's game started with a temperature of 31.9 degrees. That made playing conditions much different than Conklin's first outdoor game in Edmonton that had a game-time temperature of -4 degrees.

"It wasn't nearly as cold as the Edmonton game," said Conklin. "It got colder as the game went on. It was a little colder than in Buffalo last year. I don't think anyone was complaining."

Kopecky scratched

Tomas Kopecky is the odd man out of the lineup today for the Winter Classic. With Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle) returning from a two-game absence and Chicago icon Chris Chelios in the lineup, the Red Wings are going with seven defensemen and just 11 forwards. This will be the first game that Kopecky has missed this season.

Going with seven defensemen is obviously a way to get both Chicago guys, Chelios and Brett Lebda, in the lineup. But it's also a tribute to Andreas Lilja that he has become the type of player you don't want out of the lineup even for one game.