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.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Power plays created

Drawing penalties is an art. Here are the Red Wings' totals for power-plays created and power-plays given entering tonight's game in Vancouver ...

Zetterberg 6-1 +5
Filppula 4-0 +4
Datsyuk 4-1, +3
Leino 4-1 +3
Williams 3-1 +2
Draper 2-1 +1
Bertuzzi 1-1 0
Cleary 0-1 -1
Holmstrom 3-4 -1
Abdelkader 1-2 -1
Franzen 0-2 -2
Maltby 2-6 -4

Stuart 4-2 +2
Kronwall 5-5 0
Lidstrom 1-1 0
Rafalski 1-1 0
Lebda 1-2 -1
Ericsson 0-1 -1
Meech 0-1 -1

Pretty impressive for Stuart to be a plus-2. The nature of the game is that forwards will be more plus-oriented and defensemen will be more minus-oriented. Add in Stuart's heavy hitting style and kudos for creating four Red Wing power plays while giving away just two.
Zetterberg is his usual dominant self in this stat with six power-plays created, including four in the past three games.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Even-strength effectiveness

Red Wings' goals for and against per 60 minutes of ice time ...

FORWARDS GF-GA (ranked by GF)
May, 4.0-8.1
Maltby, 3.0-1.0
Abdelkader, 3.0-4.0
Zetterberg, 2.8-3.76
Helm, 2.5-3.7
Draper, 2.4-1.6
Cleary, 2.1-3.7
Team, 2.0-3.2
Holmstrom, 1.9-2.5
Datsyuk, 1.8-2.4
Eaves, 1.8-3.5
Bertuzzi, 1.6-3.8
Filppula, 1.5-3.0
Franzen, 1.4-1.4
Leino, 1.0-2.6
Williams, 0.5-3.1

DEFENSEMEN, GF-GA (ranked by GA)
Lidstrom, 2.4-1.6
Stuart, 0.8-1.9
Kronwall, 0.8-2.1
Rafalski, 2.3-2.3
Team, 2.0-3.2
Meech, 1.8-5.4
Ericsson, 3.5-6.5
Lebda, 4.3-7.7

Just a nightmare start for the Wings' third defense pairing. Ericsson was on the ice for four of the five even-strength goals this week; Ledba three. That's 13 even-strength goals against that Ericsson has been on the ice for. Unacceptable. Lebda's rate per 60 minutes is even higher. On the plus side, the Wings can score very well with the third pair on the ice -- Ericsson has been on for 7 goals for, Lebda 5, while Stuart and Kronwall have been on the ice for just 2 apiece -- but it all adds up to the Wings being outscored 13-7 with Ericsson on the ice and 9-5 with Lebda.
Williams has had a good PP start, but horrible ES start. The Wings have been outscored 6-1 with him on the ice and 5-2 with Leino on the ice. The Filppula line was out there for 3 goals against last week and no goals for. The line has looked good, but not produced.
Forget about Helm and Abdelkader and even May's good start offensively. They have to hold down opponents' scoring and they're not. Draper is getting that job done.
So far, even strength has been awful for the Red Wings, who can't score with their second defense pairing on the ice and can't stop opponents from scoring with their third pairing on the ice.

Power-play effectiveness

Red Wings' power-play goals scored per 60 minutes of ice time ...

Cleary, 11.9
Franzen, 10.0
Zetterberg, 9.5
Bertuzzi, 8.4
Team, 8.1
Filppula, 6.8
Holmstrom, 6.4
Datsyuk, 6.1
Leino, 4.1

Stuart, 16.8
Kronwall, 9.9
Williams, 9.5
Team, 8.1
Lidstrom, 6.9
Rafalski, 6.0

The top unit -- Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Holmstrom, Lidstrom and Rafalski -- were on the ice for the only power-play goal scored this week. That's good to see because those five, or at least the four not named Zetterberg, have started slowly. And although the Red Wings' power play has outscored its opposition's, 10-8, Detroit has had more opportunity. So per 60 minutes, Detroit is scoring 8.1 power-play goals, but allowing 9.0.

Short-handed effectiveness

The Red Wings' short-handed goals against per 60 minutes of ice time ...

Helm, 0.0
Maltby, 0.0
Abdelkader, 0.0
Zetterberg, 4.4
Datsyuk, 7.1
Eaves, 8.6
Team, 9.0
Draper, 10.7
Cleary, 11.4
Filppula 17.5

Rafalski, 0.0
Lidstrom, 2.4
Team, 9.0
Kronwall, 9.4
Stuart, 12.7
Ericsson, 12.8

Helm and Abdelkader have combined for just 8:17 of short-handed ice time.
The nightmarish PK start continues for Ericsson, Stuart and Filppula. They started last week at the bottom of this stat and the three of them (plus Cleary) were on the ice for the lone PK goal allowed last week.
Lidstrom on the other hand ... 1 PK goal allowed in 24:57 of ice time. That's a great GA average for even strength. Zetterberg is off to a great start too with 1 GA in 13:36. Maltby hasn't been on the ice for a GA in 9:26 of ice time.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Griffins add Rissmiller

The Grand Rapids Griffins have added another forward from another organization. One day after getting Michael Nylander from the Capitals on a two-week conditioning stint, the Griffins have added Patrick Rissmiller from the Rangers organization.

Neither forward is part of the Red Wings organization.

Rissmiller's assigment to GR is different than Nylander's in that Rissmiller could remain with the Griffins all season. The 30-year-old's pro career includes 182 NHL games and 354 AHL games. Last season, Rismiller played in 2 games with the Rangers and 64 with Hartford.

The Griffins are off to a slow start this season and with their home opener Friday, it's good for them to bolster their roster. But is this a bad sign for the Wings' system depth?

Here's the Griffins' press release ...

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins on Thursday acquired left wing Patrick Rissmiller (RIHS-mihl-uhr) on reassignment by the New York Rangers from the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack.

Rissmiller, 30, has appeared in 182 NHL games with the Rangers and San Jose since 2003, totaling 45 points (18-27—45) and 60 penalty minutes. After playing two full seasons (2006-08) with the Sharks, racking up 15 goals and 39 points in 158 games, he signed with New York in July 2008 and spent the majority of the 2008-09 campaign in Hartford, contributing an AHL career-high 54 points (14-40—54) in 64 games while also going scoreless in two contests with the Rangers.

The 6-4, 215-pound Rissmiller, who notched two assists in six games with the Wolf Pack this season, has skated in 354 games with Hartford and Cleveland during his AHL career, contributing 237 points (78-159—237) and 202 PIM.

“Patrick’s a player that we’ve known pretty well over the years from being in Cleveland,” said Griffins general manager Bob McNamara. “We like his size, he can play center and wing, and he’s put up good numbers in the AHL. We think he’ll be a good fit for us.”

Rissmiller will practice with the Griffins at 10 a.m. Friday and be available to play at 7 p.m. when they host their home opener against the Abbotsford Heat.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nylander to do conditioning stint with Griffins

Is the Red Wings organization a Swede magnet? Michael Nylander of the Washington Capitals will do a two-week conditioning stint with the Grand Rapids Griffins,

The Caps told the Griffins that Nylander needed playing time and they did not want to send him to Hershey and take up ice time from their prospects. He has a no-move clause and Grand Rapids was one of the places he agreed to go to on assignment.

With a 1-4-0-0 start, I'm sure that the injection of talent was appealing for the Griffins, who open their home schedule, Friday.

The Griffins' press release ...

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Washington Capitals on Wednesday assigned center Michael Nylander (NEE-lan-duhr) to the Grand Rapids Griffins for a two-week conditioning stint.

Nylander, 37, has appeared in 920 NHL games for Washington, the New York Rangers, Boston, Chicago, Tampa Bay, Calgary and Hartford during his 19-year career, totaling 679 points (209-470—679) and 468 penalty minutes. The Stockholm, Sweden, native has yet to play this season after totaling 33 points (9-24—33) and 32 PIM in 72 games with the Capitals last season.

Nylander is expected to practice with the Griffins at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Van Andel Arena and be in the lineup on Friday when they host their home opener against the Abbotsford Heat at 7 p.m.

Hit parade

I don't know if you've ever looked at the stat sheets that the NHL has produced for every game since the lockout, but they're full of good stuff. One stat that's fascinating is hits. Not only do they keep who doles out the hits, but they also note who received the hit. Hitter and hittee. Is that English?

A lot of the plays on the game reports aren't tracked. Hits are. But being hit isn't.

So here are the hits taken totals for the Red Wings this season.


Filppula 21
Cleary 21
Abdelkader 15
Leino 11
Datsyuk 11
Holmstrom 10
Maltby 9
Zetterberg 8
Franzen 6
Eaves 3
Bertuzzi 3
Helm 3
Draper 2
Williams 2

Stuart 16
Rafalski 14
Ericsson 12
Kronwall 9
Lidstrom 7
Lebda 6
Meech 1

This is why I love tracking these numbers. I thought from watching the Wings the past four years that this stat would be called the Cleary index. I swear that Cleary puts himself in prone positions more than anyone in the league to make a play, always reaching, leaning. That's a good thing for the team, but a bad thing for his health.

Well, I was surprised that Filppula has been as much of a hit taker as Cleary so far, but the Finn has taken the same number (21) as Cleary.

I would theorize that young players take more hits than old players. Also, styles would dictate how often a player gets hit ... in other words, Cleary will get hit more than Lidstrom regardless of age. And one other theory I have is that tough guys won't get hit as often as their teammates.

As for youth, Abdelkader gets hit a ton. He's taken 15 hits, but that's 16 hits per 60 minutes of ice time. Filppula has taken 21 hits, but that's 10 hits per 60 minutes of ice time. But another youngster, Helm, has taken just 3 hits which is 4.9 hits per 60 minutes.

As for toughness, May has had 29:44 of ice time ... and he still hasn't taken a hit. Bertuzzi has taken just 1.6 hits per 60 minutes of ice time.

Here's a list of individual hits taken, given, total hits and differential ...

FORWARDS, Hits Taken-Hits Given-Total Hits (Diff)
May 0-13-13 (+13)
Draper 2-9-11 (+7)
Bertuzzi 3-9-12 (+6)
Helm 3-8-11 (+5)
Franzen 6-11-17 (+5)
Williams 2-6-8 (+4)
Abdelkader 15-17-32 (+2)
Eaves 3-4-7 (+1)
Maltby 9-9-18 (0)
Zetterberg 8-5-13 (-3)
Holmstrom 10-6-16 (-4)
Datsyuk 11-5-16 (-6)
Cleary 21-12-33 (-9)
Leino 11-2-13 (-9)
Filppula 21-5-26 (-16)

DEFENSEMEN, Hits Taken-Hits Given-Total Hits (Diff)
Stuart 16-25-41 (+9)
Kronwall 9-15-24 (+6)
Meech 1-4-5 (+3)
Lidstrom 7-5-12 (-2)
Ericsson 12-9-21 (-3)
Lebda 6-1-7 (-5)
Rafalski 14-4-18 (-10)

And remember, it's not always better to give than to receive hits. Giving a hit can hurt just as much as getting hit. May has given 13 hits and taken none, but don't think that his body has fewer bruises than Leino who has given 2 and taken 11.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Power plays created and given

After tracking this stat for a decade, I'm still not settled on a name. But there is a consistency and obvious value in players who draw penalties. So, for the time being, let's call the ability to draw a penalty a "power play created" and when a player is whistled for a penalty that leads to a man-advantage a "power play given". PPC and PPG.

Zetterberg, 4-0 +4
Filppula, 3-0 +3
Leino, 3-1 +2
Williams, 3-1 +2
Datsyuk, 2-1 +1
Draper, 2-1 +1
Bertuzzi, 1-1 0
Abdelkader, 1-2 -1
Cleary, 0-1 -1
Holmstrom, 1-2 -1
Franzen, 0-2 -2
Maltby 0-6 -6

Kronwall, 5-4 +1
Stuart, 3-2 +1
Ledba, 1-0 +1
Lidstrom, 1-1 0
Meech, 0-1 -1
Ericsson, 0-1 -1
Rafalski, 0-1 -1

Team, 3-1 +2

The first thing that jumps out is that the Filppula line is a penalty time bomb for the opposition. Filppula, Williams and Leino have created a total of nine Red Wings power plays in seven games. And should they have Kronwall and Stuart on the blue line with them, that total jumps to 17 power plays created in seven games.

Zetterberg heading the forwards list isn't surprising. He and Datsyuk been a power-play magnet for years. I've found over the years that forwards draw penalties in two ways ... either they're very dangerous offensively or big-time pests.

Maltby has hurt the Wings the most in penalties. A decade ago, he and Holmstrom were big penalty drawers. Not so much any more. Of late, Maltby doesn't draw many penalties, so when he gives away six power plays in seven games, that's a big liability. Add to that Maltby had been whistled for three offensive-zone penalties ... the rest of the team combined has three offensive-zone penalties. Coaches hate to see a penalty given when the opposition is three zones away from your net.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Stat packs

Since I haven't been getting to cover the Red Wings on the road this season (management choice, not mine), and actually the home games are hit-and-miss as well, I've got to come up with a way to contribute to (Red Wings) society.

So, I'm going to try to post some statistics regularly.

On Mondays, I'll put up the goals for and against by individual ice time. On Tuesdays, I'll post the power-plays created stat. I've got a couple of others up my sleeve and I'm still figuring out whether to do them weekly or make Wednesdays a rotating stat day.

We'll see how it goes.

Even-strength effectiveness

The Red Wings' goals for and against per 60 minutes of ice time ...

FORWARDS, GF-GA (ranked by GF)
Maltby, 4.3-1.4
Helm, 4.1-6.1
May, 4.0-8.1
Abdelkader, 3.5-4.7
Zetterberg, 2.9-4.1
Eaves, 2.3-4.6
Draper, 2.2-2.2
TEAM, 2.2-3.1
Cleary, 2.0-3.9
Filppula, 1.9-1.9
Holmstrom, 1.7-2.5
Datsyuk, 1.6-2.4
Franzen, 1.4-1.4
Bertuzzi, 1.4-3.4
Leino, 1.3-2.0
Williams, 0.7-2.0

DEFENSEMEN, GF-GA (ranked by GA)
Lidstrom, 3.1-1.5
Rafalski, 2.4-1.9
Stuart, 0.9-2.4
Kronwall, 0.5-2.6
TEAM, 2.2-3.1
Meech, 1.8-5.4
Ericsson, 4.0-5.9
Lebda, 5.4-8.1

Yes, I do believe that the forwards list is upside down. That's the best possible explanation. Frankly, I find it hard to believe the other reasoning ... that the Wings have scored more with Maltby, May and Helm on the ice (a lot more) than they have with Datsyuk, Holmstrom, Cleary and Franzen.
OK, so obviously seven games is a small data base. But kudos to the fourth liners for their offensive contributions. In the past, the Wings' fourth line has been good when it doesn't score and the opponents don't score and bad when it doesn't score and the opponents do score. There was never really a we-score option. This season, they've scored and that's been a big boost. And Maltby's production has been the best among Detroit forwards thus far with the Wings outscoring opponents, 3-1, with him on the ice. Abdelkader, May, Helm and Eaves have been on the ice for goals scored, but also on for too many goals against.
Datsyuk's line obviously needs to pick up the offense. And the third line, Filppula's line, that was so good in preseason has stumbled early. Williams has been on the ice for just one even-strength goal scored in 90:6 of ice time ... that's more than a game and a half.
On defense, Lidstrom is off to a better start than he was last season, much more like he played the previous three post-lockout campaigns.
Kronwall and Stuart have been offensive black holes. You think Williams has had a slow start, the Wings have scored just one goal in 115:12 of Kronwall's even-strength time ... nearly two full games.
It's nice to see Ericsson and Lebda so active offensively, but the defensive cost has been way too high. Ericsson has been on the ice for more than half of Detroit's 17 even-strength goals allowed (nine). Lebda has played just 44:37 of even-strength time, but has been on the ice for six of the 17 team goals allowed. No wonder he's been on the bench.

Power-play effectiveness

The Red Wings' goals for per 60 minutes of ice time ...

Cleary, 16.3
Bertuzzi, 11.5
Zetterberg, 11.0
Filppula, 10.8
TEAM, 10.0
Franzen, 10.0
Holmstrom, 6.6
Datsyuk, 6.1
Leino, 5.3

Stuart, 17.0
Williams, 14.1
Kronwall, 14.1
TEAM, 10.0
Lidstrom, 7.5
Rafalski, 6.0

Nine power-play goals as a team and Cleary's been on the ice for seven of those. Keep throwing Dan over the boards, please. I was wrong about Leino, so far. I thought he would be a better power-play option than Bertuzzi, but big Bert has been more effective so far.
You can toss out Stuart's number because it's one goal for in just 3:32 of ice time. Williams' effectiveness is interesting. Samuelsson was very effective the past two seasons as well. I'm not a big believer in forwards on the power-play point, but I'm changing my mind on that one. The number of short-handed goals allowed is usually so small that the drawback of having a forward defending doesn't become much of a negative. And Kronwall gets a big share of the credit for Williams' effectiveness so far. The pair has worked well together on the PP.

Short-handed effectiveness

The Red Wings' goals against per 60 minutes of ice time ...

Maltby, 0.0
Franzen, 0.0
Zetterberg 5.2
Cleary, 9.3
TEAM, 9.8
Eaves, 10.7
Datsyuk, 10.8
Draper, 13.0
Filppula, 17.3

Rafalski, 0.0
Lidstrom, 3.1
TEAM, 9.8
Kronwall, 11.6
Ericsson, 13.1
Stuart, 13.1

Filppula has been problematic on the penalty-kill, being on the ice for five of the Wings' seven goals allowed. In more ice time, Stuart has been on the ice for six PPGA and Ericsson for four.
On the positive, Lidstrom is having a tremendous PK start to the season with one goal against in 19:18.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Franzen has successful surgery

From the Wings' PR staff ...

Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen today underwent successful surgery to repair the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in his left knee. The procedure was performed by Dr. William Clancy in Birmingham, AL.

The injury occurred during the Wings’ 3-2 victory over Chicago on October 8, in which Franzen scored the game-winning goal. He is expected to be out of the lineup a minimum of four months from the date of the injury.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Franzen out at least four months

This just in from the Red Wings' PR staff ... Johan Franzen suffered a torn ACL in his left knee and is expected to be out at least four months. It happened in last night's win over Chicago.

Obviously horrible news. Franzen can't be replaced in the lineup. Scoring from Ville Leino and Valtteri Filppula becomes more important. Justin Abdelkader could get a call-up. Perhaps Patrick Eaves finally cracks the lineup.

Franzen's absence leaves these holes ... first-line winger, first-PP unit winger, PK forward, net-front, physical forward. No one player in the system is going to do all or even most of those things.

The Wings are decidedly worse team today than yesterday.

Thoughts on Game 3 (3-2 win over Chicago)

-- That was Chris Osgood's best regular-season game in a while. Mike Babcock told Ozzie after the game that he thought the goalie didn't have a game this good in the first half of last season.

-- Did you see the defensive play by Todd Bertuzzi? Leading 2-1 with 3:18 left in the second period, the puck goes over to Radek Smolenak at the side of the net for a slam dunk. But as soon as the puck reaches the fourth-line winger, Bertuzzi's stick is there, sweeping it out of harm's way. Great defensive play.

-- I loved how Ville Leino created a power play in the second period by picking Brian Campbell's pocket. The Wings went up 3-1 on the ensuing power play. I'm not sure why Leino isn't getting power-play time right now. I like him on the second unit better than Bertuzzi. Dan Cleary is there to take the net-front. Zetterberg is the do-all center. Leino would be a nice sniper on that unit. When Bertuzzi was taken off that unit for one shift on the third power play, Babcock put Valtteri Filppula on the ice. I like Leino better than Fil there too.

-- Speaking of power-play units, the first unit finally scored when Franzen tipped in that puck. First PP goal this season they've been on the ice for.

-- On the flip side, did you know that Brad Stuart has been on the ice for all five power play goals that Detroit has allowed? Draper and Filppula and Ericsson have been on the ice for three. Lidstrom has yet to see a power-play goal against.

-- Way to go Brad May. Just like Brendan Shanahan did in 1996, May dropped the gloves in his first game. I like how May fights. He doesn't measure and hold and pick a spot. He throws bombs. Then May stands at the Chicago bench at the end of the first period and tells someone to keep his head up. Priceless. When Kirk Maltby was creamed by Cam Barker on a great check, May came across and challenged him.

Don't think those actions don't help keep the flies off (as Babcock calls it). I get the feeling that every year there's an in-house debate on filling this role. I'm guessing here, but I see Babcock as someone who wants May or Downey or Norton on the roster and Ken Holland as someone who can do without that role being filled.

-- Jonathan Ericsson didn't look good when he was felled by Duncan Keith's power-play shot. I hope he's not out of the lineup with a leg or foot injury.

-- Despite the win, I'm not seeing a change from the first two games as far as controlling play. Too many good scoring opportunities for Chicago. Too many shots allowed by Detroit. It was a good win, but I'm still not seeing Red Wings hockey. I know that no one liked to see a 40-20 advantage in shots on goal and a close game or Detroit loss. But I'd rather see that than trading blows like this. It doesn't bode well for the long term.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chelios signs with AHL Wolves

Chris Chelios is back in Chicago. This time with the AHL's Wolves. The 47-year-old signed to play for the team, set to debut Monday.

Here's the Sportsnet story.

The Wolves earlier signed former Red Wings goalie Manny Legace.

Chelios was a tremendous leader in the Red Wings locker room. His value on the ice diminished in the past two seasons. He was amazing for a 45- and 46-year-old, but he was a weak spot for Detroit. One scout that I sat beside in the press box during the 2008 playoffs told me that he hoped that the Red Wings would play Chelios against his team. The Wings didn't and won that series.

"If you’re playing, you’re a lot more attractive (to an NHL team)," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "He wants to be in the NHL, but Chicago gives him an opportunity in a town he knows real well that gets him going and gets him playing. ... So when someone gets an injury, and they’re going to happen ... it’s an Olympic year, condensed schedule ... Cheli’s a guy who knows how to play, knows how to help your locker room. To me he’ll be a perfect fit for someone.’’

Helm on ice for morning skate

He's not playing tonight, but it's a good sign that Darren Helm is on the ice this morning and taking part in non-contact drills. Helm has been sidelined since training camp with a strained joint at the collar bone/shoulder.

Here are the lines from the morning skate ...



Osgood (starting)

May signed, Abdelkader to GR

The Red Wings signed Brad May to a two-way, one-year contract worth $500,000. May was brought to Detroit on a professional tryout, playing two exhibition games. The 37-year-old veteran winger has played in 1,001 career regular-season NHL games.

Forward Justin Abdelkader was assigned to Grand Rapids, making room for May.

Vice president/general manager Ken Holland said that May will be in the lineup either tonight or Saturday night. The club is waiting on his work visa (May is Canadian) paperwork to clear.

"He’s been in the league about 15 plus years, it’s not any secret what he brings to a team," said Holland. "He obviously brings a dimension of physicality. He has no problem dropping the gloves. He’s a vocal leader on the bench."

"It was pretty interesting," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "We had May in exhibition for a couple of games and no one gets hacked or whacked. When we don’t have him, we get run. We don’t have a team that twists off helmets at stoppages. You get tired of seeing it all the time. It’s just nice when you get someone to look after that stuff."

The question mark on May, who had no contract offers from an NHL team in the summer, was his speed and conditioning.

"Our question was was he able to keep up," said Holland. "In the two exhibition games, we were comfortable that his foot speed was able to keep up. The other thing is his conditioning. We spoke with everyone in Grand Rapids (where May had a tryout) and they were satisfied with his conditioning."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Helm skates

Injured forward Darren Helm skated on his own during today’s practice at Joe Louis Arena. Helm as been inactive since training camp after he strained the joint that connects his right shoulder to his collar bone when he tripped over a stick and went head first into the boards. Helm hasn’t taken part in any contact drills since.

“I asked him today if he was lifting like he was if he felt as strong as in the past and he said, ‘No’ … and that’s the answer right there,” said Babcock.
Helm won’t play in Thursday’s game against Chicago.

Time change

The Red Wings found acclimating themselves to the time difference in Europe was more difficult on the trip to Sweden than on the trip home.

“Going to Sweden was a lot harder than coming back here,” said defenseman Derek Meech. “It was late then when you get there, you have to stay up. Everyone was pretty tired. I guess the key is to sleep on the plane as much as you can.”

Going to Sweden including leaving after a Sunday night preseason game and arriving in Stockholm around lunchtime the next day.

“Going there, it took a while to adjust to the time change,” said forward Justin Abdelkader. “It’s harder to sleep at night. I found myself getting up at 3 or 4 at night and being wide awake. You could feel it the first couple of days you were there.”

Three days after returning from Europe, however, the Red Wings were practicing at Joe Louis Arena showing no ill effects of the trip.

"I thought it would be a lot worse than it has been,” said Leino. “I feel pretty good right now.”

Williams meshes with Finnish linemates

Jason Williams knew how to get his linemates’ attention. In training camp at Traverse City, the Detroit Red Wings’ forward shouted out a few words that didn’t mean a thing to most of his teammates.

But he got the attention of his two Finnish linemates, Ville Leino and Valtteri Filppula.

“He knows the swear words,” said a smiling Leino.

Williams, Leino and Filppula have been the Red Wings’ third line this season. They hail from towns named London (Ont.), Savonlinna and Vantaa, respectively. Two Finns and a Canadian.

Williams, the Canadian, spent the NHL lockout season of 2004-05 playing in Finland’s top professional league as a 24-year-old trying to get more confidence in his game. His experience at Assat Pori was counter-intuitive to what most hockey fans would expect.

North Americans perfected the dump-and-chase style of hockey. Europeans blended their soccer instincts with hockey and developed a puck-possession style.

Williams, however, came from a distinct puck-possession team in the Red Wings and had to learn to dump-and-chase with his Finnish club, one that was weak and finished 10th in the 13-team SM-Liiga.

“The team that I played on wasn’t a great team, so we had to sit back and trap a lot, try to capitalize on the other team’s mistakes,” said Williams. “Here, it’s more puck possession, hold onto it, makes plays.”

Being one of just three non-Finns in a locker room that included 31 players through the season turned out to be a rewarding experience for Williams. He finished fourth in Finland in goals that winter, then used that confidence to produce his first 20-goal NHL season the following year.

“I find that Finnish hockey is a very similar style to the North American style, which was what I was looking for,” said Williams. “There’s hitting, it’s physical and the odd fight every now and then. There’s still not as much fighting as in North American. But they’re very similar in style to us. It’s the closest to a North American style as anywhere.”

Now in his second tour of duty with the Red Wings, Williams finds himself entrenched on a forward line with the only two Finns to ever play in the Detroit organization.

“They’ve been our best line for two games,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “Fil (Filppula) is a good two-way center, can play both sides of the puck. Leino and Williams have the ability to score. Williams can really skate.”

Communication is a key. Planning who’s going to be where, which player has what tendencies.

Leino and Filppula speak only English on the ice or around Williams off the ice. “It’s easier for everyone,” is Filppula’s explanation.

“It takes a few games to get used to each other, knowing where each other are going to be,” said Williams. “But that’s communication. You talk to each other on the bench, in the dressing room. The more you can talk about it and familiarize yourself with where you’re going to be, then you don’t have to think about those things. You just do it. It makes things so much easier.”

Things like that can get lost in translation.

Other things don’t.

“I can swear in Finnish,” said Williams who then joked, “so when those guys mess up out there, I can yell at them in their own language.”

Meech looks like only change

The Red Wings are on the ice now prepping for Thursday's home opener (I'm not going to call it a North American home opener ... just can't) and it looks like the only lineup change will be Derek Meech in for Brett Lebda on the blue line. Patrick Eaves is practicing as the 13th forward.

Draper-Abdelkader-Maltby (Eaves working in)

Ericsson-Meech (Lebda working in)


Nothing changes as far as line combinations either. Scratching Lebda is understandable after his slow start. He had an especially difficult Game 1 in terms of turnovers and being caught taking chances. Hopefully his start to this season won't be as slow as his start to last season was. The Brett Lebda in the final quarter of last season is the one that the Red Wings need now.

Also, Darren Helm is on the ice, skating on his own. He's not taking part in drills. The forward is still recovering from a training camp injury to the joint between his right shoulder and collar bone.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pearce to Toledo

To make room for Daniel Larsson, the Grand Rapids Griffins sent netminder Jordan Pearce to Toledo. Walleye ... I wonder why.

The Griffins' press release ...

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday reassigned Grand Rapids Griffins goaltender Jordan Pearce to the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL.

Pearce, 22, backed up Thomas McCollum during the Griffins’ season-opening 3-1 win in Peoria on Saturday. Upon the completion of stellar career at Notre Dame last spring, the Anchorage, Alaska, native made his American Hockey League debut in Grand Rapids’ 2008-09 regular season finale at Peoria on April 11, 2009, stopping 33 shots in the team’s 5-2 loss.

Yzerman retirement ceremony re-aired

Red Wings DVR alert for tomorrow ... FOX Sports Detroit will re-air the Yzerman banner raising ceremony Wednesday from 8:30-10 p.m.