Archive for February, 2004

GameDay: vs. Philadelphia (33-15-12-6, 84) 7:00 EST

This is the first and only meeting between the Wings and Flyers this season. The Wings are 7-2-1-0 in their last ten decisions. Legace will get the start, his 10th in 12th games. This is Nick Lidstrom’s 1000th game.

The Flyers are coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to the Bruins, making for a 5-3-1-1 record in their last ten decisions. Robert Esche made the start. After the trade for Sean Burke that sent Mike Comrie to Phoenix, Burke has gone 4-3-1-0 in his first eight starts with his new team. Burke will make the start this evening. The Flyers are tied with the Senators for the league lead in points at 84, with the Wings trailing with 83.

The Wings will get to showcase their newly acquired center Robert Lang. He will wear #20 and center a line with Yzerman and Whitney. Lang, who leads the league in points with 74, joined the Wings for practice Saturday. With Hatcher returning shortly, the Wings will really have to work at creating team chemistry with the addition of two superstars in such a short time. I don’t expect Lang to score a hat trick or anything this evening, since he has to get used to the Wings’ style and pace, but I do hope he scores a goal in front of the home crowd at the Joe.

Notables: During the second period of the Leafs/Devils game on Hockey Night in Canada, Al Strachan commented on Brian Burke’s status as President and GM of the Canucks. He said that Burke might be demanding $2 million dollars for his salary next season, and cited rumors as his sources. Strachan said that Burke might not re-signed by the Canucks due to such costs with the imminent lockout. Well, Brian Burke was so incensed by the comments that he came on during Hockey Night’s postgame show and blasted Strachan, saying that Strachan is an irresponsible liar and should not be on CBC. Burke further said that, if he was asking for a salary with a “2” in it, he would immediately resign. Strachan had already left on a flight, and was unavailable for comment.

During that same second period intermission that featured Strachan going out on a limb, Brett Hull was also interviewed from Detroit. He commented on the CBA, saying the players are together on the issue, and on newly acquired center Lang.

Word is that New Jersey Defenseman Brian Rafalski may have a broken right leg after he collided with the right goal post versus the Leafs. He was skating backwards at the start of the third, defending against a rushing Leaf Alexei Ponikarovsky, when Ponikarovsky bumped him towards Brodeur and the Jersey net. Fortunately, Brodeur got out the way. But Rafalski slammed into the post full speed. They are doing further tests on Rafalski’s right leg and knee, but the intensity of the collision makes a broken leg a definite possibility. That would leave the Devils without All-Star defenseman and captain Scott Stevens, out with post-concussion syndrome, and Rafalski.

Bad News on Jeremey Roenick’s status. He had a second MRI on his brain, and the results were disheartening. It showed that Roenick may have circulatory system damage. Commenting from his home in Phoenix: “The doctors told me they didn’t want me to travel. They said they wanted to do an angiogram. I’ve had better days. It’s not good. There is damage in there in a couple of areas and they want to know what kind of damage it is. I heard the word aneurysm and I was pretty disheartened.” Doctors are going to inject dye into his bloodstream to get a better idea of the damage to the brain. Roenick broke his jaw when he was hit in the face by a slapshot against the Rangers Feb. 12.

News out of Stockholm, Sweden is that Colorado Avalanche center Peter Forseberg, who has been out since February 16 with a nagging groin injury, has decided he will play for MoDo, the Swedish Elite League team in Ornskoldsvik, next season. He had played for MoDo for four seasons before starting his NHL career with the Quebec Nordiques in 1995. The newspaper Aftonbladet said that, due to the likelihood of a extended lockout through the 2004-2005 season, Forsberg has committed to play for MoDo. Aftonbladet further said that Forsberg has informed Colorado of his decision, but nobody involved will comment until the playoffs are over.

2/28 Notes

The Free Press’ Drew Sharp calls Ken Holland a pillager today in his column and says those days are likely coming to an end when the CBA expires in September. According to him, the Lang trade is

another move that pushes the NHL toward the precipice of a shutdown. The rich continually stockpile the riches, compelling less-talented teams with lower payrolls to play a sleep-inducing, defense-oriented style to compete.

I agree that the Wings appear to be picking over the remains of the Caps but let’s not forget that Washington was offering up their stars to whoever wanted them. I’d rather be a fan of a team which is trying to win now while still making decent preparations for next year than one which exhibits a fatalistic view towards the league and the future.

Nick Cotsonika has a different angle on the trade. He praises the Wings for what they did with it and has a mostly optimistic view of the future.

This trade did not hand the Wings the Stanley Cup: Other contenders have already made deals or are going to, and history shows that deals like this don’t always translate into immediate playoff success. But the Wings didn’t make this trade just for a short-term stab at Stanley. Fedorov and Igor Larionov are gone, and Yzerman is on his last legs, but the Wings will have Lang, Datsyuk and Kris Draper down the middle for years to come, assuming they sign Draper to a contract extension. Henrik Zetterberg can stay at center or move to wing.

That’s the optimistic part. Here’s the negative: the Wings have many key players who are up for a contract this year. They will most likely have to take a pay cut or leave the team either for another or by going in to retirement. Chris Chelios, Brett Hull, Brendan Shanahan and Steve Yzerman are all guys who fit that last category, though Shanny and Brett could still play. No matter what happens, the Wings will look a lot different next season, whenever it actually happens.

Helen St. James says Lang will probably be with the team this morning for line experiments and that the Wings expect him to be in the lineup on Sunday for the Flyers game. In another article by Ms. St. James, she says the Wings are giving Lang a “reprieve” and would have had him back in August had Holland been able to make a deal with Caps GM George McPhee. As usual, the Caps wanted too much back then and the deal fell through.

From what I’ve read in the newspaper, it looks like Lang is very excited to be a Red Wing and to have a chance to play for the Cup. I’m looking forward to seeing him play and I hope he won’t turn out to be a bust. As long as the Curse of Luc’s #20 doesn’t transfer over to him, he should be fine. Here’s something to think about: The Wings finally have a right handed center that isn’t Steve Yzerman, though he doesn’t have the best face-off percentage (43%, I think).

The Wings will be able to re-unite the “Two Kids and an Old Goat Line” now that they have another center, if they want. I’m very interested to see who Lewis will have playing with Lang.

Lang a Wing

The Wings made a huge commitment to winning the Conference and Cup today when they acquired the Caps’ Robert Lang for prospect Tomas Fleischmann, a first-round pick in 2004 and a fourth-round pick in 2006. Lang is tied with Martin St. Louis for first in the league in scoring with 74 points and is in the second year of a five-year, $25 million contract. Washington’s GM, George McPhee, said this in a prepared statement:

“We could not have asked for more from Robert Lang over the past two seasons, he has been a terrific player for our club and we consider him as the best free-agent signing in the team’s history. We have given Robert a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup while adding a good young player and two valuable draft choices to our organization. We wish Robert and his family all the best.”

I am very happy with this trade since the Wings got Lang for what honestly amounts to very little and now they have arguably the top player available this trading season. The best part of the deal is no one on the regular roster was involved in the trade so the core wasn’t diminished. Lang said earlier this month that he didn’t want to be part of a re-building program in DC and would love to play for Detroit or Dallas, two teams he saw as real Cup-contenders. Now the Wings won’t have to spread their centers so thin, especially Steve Yzerman. He’s decently young (33) too and will hopefully be more than a rent-a-player for the Wings.

It’s a shame that so many teams have to dump their top players this year. I’d feel terrible if the Wings had to trade away Nick Lidstrom for practically nothing which is comparatively what a lot teams have done so far this season.

I’m not all that happy about losing Fleischman but he isn’t Henrik Zetterberg or a player of that caliber and the Wings definitely got the good end of the deal. I’m not too worried about the first round pick because that’s not where the Wings find their gems.

Now the actual trade deadline is going to be relatively boring for Wings fans because I doubt they’ll make any other moves. The Avs will probably counter this move with a blockbuster one of their own, though they have been making a lot of minor deals which may indicate they are going that route this year. Who knows?

There will be a press conference at 4:00 EST at the Joe. I’m not sure if it will be televised or not but it will very likely be on the radio (1270 AM). There is a good chance that Lang will play Sunday though they might hold him back to make sure he knows the system first. Not a pressing need at the moment so there’s no rush.

He wore #20 for Washington but Mark Mowers has that number here. However, Mowers may be sent down now so we could see him wearing that number after all.

Check out Eric McErlain’s take on the trade.

Wings 2, Flames 1

The Wings salvaged their Western Canada trip by beating the Flames 2-1 in Pengrowth Saddledome Arena. The Wings went 1-1-1 on the trip, gaining 3 of 6 possible points. Manny Legace got the start, facing up against arguably the best goaltender in the Western Conference, Miikka Kiprusoff. In a game that lacked much offensive muscle, it came down to Calgary committing turnovers inside their zone.

The Wings called up Grand Rapids Griffin Anders Myrvold this morning to fly in for the game. The Wings signed him in October after a good showing at training camp. He did not get into town in time to practice with the guys before the game today. The 28-year-old Norwegian wore #22, was -1 on the night, and logged 16 shifts and 11:20 minutes of ice time. He had previous NHL experience with Colorado, Boston, and the New York Islanders. The Wings had Dandenault, Fischer, Lidstrom, Myrvold, Rivers, and Schneider in on defense. After pregame worries that the Wings would only have four defensemen dressed, Dandenault decided to play and Myrvold was called up. On the last game of the trip, and the third game in four nights, it’s certainly no time to be shortchanging bodies on defense, so I’m glad the Wings did what they had to do by flying Myrvold in for the game.

In the first period, the Wings and Flames traded chances. Near the 12-minute mark, the Flames had Legace on his back as they passed the puck side-to-side near the crease, but failed to get off a shot with traffic clogging things up. Ray Whitney scored his 11th of the season at 16:36, assisted by Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. The play came off a Flames turnover in their zone, which Pavel quickly turned into a scoring chance. He passed it to Henrik, who fed it across the crease to Whitney for the slam dunk. 1-0 Wings. With a minute left in the period, Holmstrom had a great scoring chance at the side of the net, but Miikka Kiprusoff made a kick save and robbed Homer. Shots in the period were 12-9 Wings.

In the second period, Shanahan almost got into the scoring, but his shot hit Whitney in the crease with Kiprusoff out of position. The kind of luck Hull was having during his long goal-less streak. Steve Thomas notched his 8th of the season at 15:47, assisted by Brett Hull and Pavel Datsyuk. On the play, another Flames turnover inside the zone created a Wings’ scoring chance as Datsyuk again created a scoring chance with the loose puck. 2-0 Wings. At 17:11, Jamie Rivers got into a bit of trouble after turning the puck over in the Wings zone, as he was later called for slashing Shean Donovan. The Wings didn’t play very well this period, as they were outshot 15-5 by Calgary.

In the third period, Chuck Kobasew scored for the Flames at 12:09, assisted by Jordan Leopold and Josh Green. On the play, a point shot beat Legace as he was arguably interfered with by a Flame, but the play went uncalled despite Manny’s argument to Mick McGeough. 2-1 Wings. With 5 minutes left in the game, a Flames’ offensive surge left Manny on his back in the crease, two or three Flames players in the crease, and Pavel Datsyuk gloving the puck into Manny’s pads to get a whistle. They were tense remaining minutes, as the Wings were outplayed for the second straight period. It was basically 20 minutes of Flames offense this period, as shots were 17-5 Flames in the third. At 19:34, Steve Yzerman was called for high-sticking, with Kiprusoff pulled. It was a phantom call in my opinion, as both teams were playing with reckless abandon at this point. At the time Yzerman was called, three or four players were on the ice or whacking away at each other. So I don’t know how veteran ref Mick McGeough picked out the Captain out of that huge scrum. Final shots 41-22 Calgary, but, more importantly, final score 2-1 Wings.

The Calgary Flames wore their ugly home jerseys tonight, with the black flaming “C” logo on the front. I have no problem with their away jersey, which is white and has a flaming-orange colored “C” (a modernization of their old sweater, with the “C” a little more rounded and curvy). But to have a logo that is supposed to signify fire be black is beyond me. Have the Flames burned out or something? I guess I’m just getting tired of all the new, “hip” jerseys teams are producing for the fans’ excitement, especially the alternates and modernizations of old sweaters. Hands down, the best jerseys in the league are still the winged-wheel, Boston “B”, and Chicago Blackhawk, all Original Six clubs.

For a team like the Flames, making the playoffs means breaking even. But coach Darryl Suter always demands hard work from his teams, and this year is especially true. The Flames have a limited payroll, and trade deadline acquisitions are out of the question for them. The Flames haven’t made the playoffs since 1996, and last won a Cup in 1989 with ex-Wing Mike Vernon. This season, the Flames have a good shot at ending their playoff drought, and advancing a round or two, even. This is because they depend on hard work rather than having the biggest names, something the New York Rangers need to read up on as they fizzle away.

Notables:Whitney has two goals, six assists in his last four games….Thomas’ goal was his first in 10 games….Marc Lamothe backed up Manny tonight….Pavel Datsyuk had two assists tonight, making for his 19th multi-point effort of the season….Datsyuk and Hull are 36-34 in assists….Chelios was a scratch with a bruised left shoulder, and Woolley continues to have an aching back….Shanahan has one goal in 22 games, comparable to Brett Hull’s highly publicized goal drought that ended against the Kings January 22, in a 5-4 win. It was Brett’s first goal in 21 games (since Dec. 8 versus the Kings). Yet Shanahan has been pretty much ignored by media scrutiny during his drought, something that bothers me. Lewis needs to hound Brendan. Bowman put Shanny in his dog house in times like this, and bad-mouthed Brendan to the media. I don’t even know if coach Lewis has a dog house….the Blues tied the Avs 2-2 in the Pepsi Center tonight.

FSN Goofs:It was a rough first period for the crew. As they were trying to introduce Anders Myrvold, the frame froze and left a jumble of images. Then they forgot to cue color-commentator Larry Murphy’s mic for the first 30 seconds of play, and all I heard from the ex-Wing was a muffled attempt at a monologue. The FSN crew forgot to put up the game clock for the first 7:34 of play. And, finally, gasp, Ken Daniels called Henrik Zetterberg “Whitney” on an offside call at 14:14. The difference in numbers is one (#40 and #41). And I’m done spouting on the boys from FSN….

(Editor: Here are the lines from the game, courtesy GWB)
Thomas-Datsyuk-Hull
Whitney-Zetterberg-Shanahan
Maltby-Draper-Yzerman
Holmstrom-Mowers-McCarty
Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Whitney

Rivers-Dandenault
Lidstrom-Schneider
Rivers-Myrvold(#22)
Fischer-Dandenault
Lidstrom-Dandenault
Schneider-Myrvold

4 on 4-
Shanahan-Zetterberg
Datsyuk-Hull
Whitney-Yzerman

Lidstrom-Dandenault
Lidstrom-Schneider
Fischer-Dandenault

PP-
Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull
Shanahan-Yzerman-Holmstrom

Whitney-Lidstrom
Schneider-Draper

PK-
Maltby-Draper
Shanahan-Yzerman
Whitney-Datysuk
Whitney-Zetterberg

Lidstrom-Schneider
Fischer-Dandenault

6 on 4PK-
Maltby-Draper

Lidstrom-Schneider

Net-
Manny Legace

GameDay: vs. Calgary (31-23-5-3, 70) 9:00 EST

With a terrible start to their Western Canada trip, gaining 1 of 4 possible points versus Edmonton and Vancouver, and Wings will try to scrounge up two points tonight as they face the ever-struggling Flames. Legace will get the start.

Under the leadership of Jarome Iginla, the Flames currently hold the sixth seed in the West and are third in the tough Northwest Division. They are 6-6-1-0 in their last 13 games. Goaltending phenom Miikka Kiprusoff is expected to start tonight. He is 15-5-2 in 23 games, and leads the NHL in both goals against average and save percentage, with a 1.49 and .940. In November, the Sharks traded Kiprusoff to the Flames for a 2005 second-round draft pick because they already had Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala. But that trade is looking more interesting by the day, as the Sharks hold the third seed in the West with a lead in the Pacific Division over Dallas. If the seeds hold for both the Flames and Sharks, the third seed meets the sixth seed first round, so we could see Kiprusoff going against his old team in the Sharks.

Most recently, the Flames struggled on a road trip, going 2-3. On Tuesday, they beat Colorado 2-0, with Kiprusoff getting the shutout, his second of the season, fifth of his career. Reflecting the turbulent playoff race, the Flames’ Martin Gelinas: “The win was big for us. We went from eighth to fifth with this win.” They have since dropped to sixth.

Notables: Glen Sather resigned as New York Rangers coach, and Tom Renney stepped in as interim coach effective Feb. 25. Joel Quenneville was fired as St Louis Blues coach, and Mike Kitchen replaced him effective Feb. 24. Bob Francis was fired as Phoenix Coyotes coach, and Rick Bowness is the interim coach effective Feb. 24. While the Coyotes and Rangers are unlikely to make the playoffs and will likely dump contracts very soon, the Blues are 2 points out of the playoffs, trailing division rival Nashville for the eighth seed at 69 points. I am surprised that the Blues made such a move, but it is likely in hopes that such a shakeup fires the team up. Quenneville is a good coach, and will be picked up in the offseason. Under Quenneville, the Blues won the Presidents’ Trophy in the 1999-2000 season. They always were a good division rival of the Wings, letting us beat them up for an easy playoff round win many a time. But in all seriousness, I think that Quenneville deserves a tap of the stick for his efforts down in St Louis.

The Wings may play with only four defenseman tonight. On Tuesday versus the Canucks, Chris Chelios hurt his left shoulder after 245-pound Todd Bertuzzi fell on it in the second. Mathieu Dandenault has a bruised right wrist after blocking a shot in the third. He played the rest of the game on adrenaline, but may not be able to play tonight. He can barely hold his stick. Woolley has been unable to play the past four games with his bad back. If needed, Kirk Maltby could jump back and play defense.

Assistant captain and forward Brendan Shahanan has only one goal in his past 21 games. Coach Lewis comments: “I wish he could score more. He’s on every power play. You’d like to see him pop the odd one in. But he’s had some chances, and I’m hoping for him to break out.”

Daniel Sedin 4, Wings 2

On the second night of a back-to-back, the Wings were outhustled in a 4-2 loss to the struggling Vancouver Canucks. Daniel Sedin had 4 goals for the Canucks, with leading scorer and captain Markus Naslund out with a concussion. Legace got the start.

In the first period, both teams came out flying. Daniel Sedin opened the scoring at 12:33, assisted by Marek Malik and Nolan Baumgartner. On the play, Sedin skillfully redirected a point shot from way out on the left side of the net. 1-0 Canucks. Henrik Zetterberg followed with a power play goal at 17:26, assisted by Brett Hull and Ray Whitney. On the play, Whitney fed the puck toward the net, Hull redirected it to Henrik, who poked it up over Dan Cloutier. 1-1 tie. After reading my pregame article, Darren McCarty decided that Bryan Allen had to pay for what he did to Hatcher and Zetterberg. McCarty dropped the gloves with Allen after a scrum in the corner, and got in a few punches to remind Allen that you can’t dish it without taking some of it too. It was a short fight, maybe 15 seconds, but, for a Wings team that has lately lacked physical presence, it was refreshing to see Mac delivering some cowboy justice. I also loved seeing Zetterberg score against Allen and the Canucks. Shots in the period were 15-12 Wings.

In the second period, the pace of play was a bit slower than in the first. Kris Draper scored a power play goal at 6:36, assisted by Mathieu Schneider and Steve Yzerman. On the play, Drapes got his 24th of the season on a point shot that beat Cloutier because of Tomas Holmstrom’s presence in front of the net. Another factor that contributed to the goal was that the puck bounced off Bryan Allen in his attempt to block the shot. 2-1 Wings. Daniel Sedin scored at 9:43, assisted by Marek Malik and Nolan Baumgartner. On the play, Baumgartner had a breakaway on Legace, was stoned, but the rebound was controlled by Malik behind the net and fed out to an open Sedin, who one-timed it into the net. Definitely not Legace’s fault, but rather the Wings defense, which failed to cover a trailing Sedin on the break. 2-2 tie. Shots in the period were 10-7 Wings.

With 4 minutes left in the second, Chelios was hurt on a scramble near the left circle. On the play, Cheli fell to the ice going after a loose puck, and became the bottom of the pile as 240 lb Todd Bertuzzi and Kris Draper were tripped up. The result was Chelios on the ice in agony, holding his left arm and then his shoulder. As the Canucks fans had booed Cheli every time he touched the puck throughout the game, some classless pigs found it appropriate to boo Chris as he lay on the ice injured. Chelios went to the locker room, and the diagnosis is that he has a bruised left shoulder. Hopefully, that’s all it is and he’ll be back for Thursday’s game against the Flames.

And with 30 seconds left in the second, Nicklas Lidstrom let off a blast from center ice and almost beat a shaky Dan Cloutier. The play was eerily reminiscent of the center-ice goal by Nicklas Lidstrom with 25 seconds remaining in the second in Game 3 versus the Canucks. It was the first round 2002 playoffs, and, after that Game 3 gaffe, Cloutier was haunted to the tune of four consecutive wins by the Wings, a 4-2 series win.

In the third period, the Wings let the game slip away as the Canucks took over in shots with a commanding 14-5 margin in their favor. Daniel Sedin scored at 13:02, assisted by his twin Henrik Sedin and Todd Bertuzzi. On the play, Daniel Sedin made a pretty move on his off-wing, and roofed the puck on the backhand on a partial breakaway on Legace. The hats rained down on the ice, with young up-and-coming Daniel Sedin notching a hat trick. 3-2 Canucks. The Wings mounted a late effort to get the equalizer. But I knew things were bad when, at around two minutes remaining, Brett Hull made a back-pass to the blue line in hopes of a point shot and nobody was freikin’ there. Some scholars on the Wings bench had decided that that was the best time for a line change, so the Wings had three guys in and no defenseman covering the blue line. That’s about as sloppy as it gets, especially at such a crucial point in the game. But I guess that’s the kind of stuff you see when your team has played two nights in a row. It’s also fair to mention that the Wings were playing with 5 defenseman with Cheli out, so I’m sure the guys were winded. At 19:26, with Legace pulled and the Wings desperately trying to hold the puck in the Vancouver zone, Daniel Sedin put the nail in the coffin with an empty net goal, his fourth of the game, assisted by Brendan Morrison. 4-2 Canucks. Final shots 33-30 Canucks.

It was a disappointing result for the Wings, ending a four game unbeaten streak. And it was the second night in a row that the Wings were outplayed by the home team. The Wings have picked up 1 of a possible 4 points so far on this short Western Canada trip, ending Thursday night at Calgary.

Notables: Pavel Datsyuk and Brendan Shanahan have gone 8 games each without scoring a goal….It was startling to hear Ken Daniels call the name “Fedorov,” but I soon realized Sergei’s brother, Fedor Fedorov, was a Canuck. And in a first intermission interview with John Keating, Fedor was extremely rude and curt, giving 3 word answers and looking away from the camera like he wanted out of there. I guess apples don’t fall very far from the Fedorov family tree….Hull trails Datsyuk 34-33 for the team lead in assists….Shanahan and Fischer did a great job matching up to the physical play of Bertuzzi and Morrison, especially in the third….the Wings converted on their first two power play chances, which is impressive considering Vancouver’s top-ranked penalty kill….Cujo joined the Wings in the morning skate, but Marc Lamothe dressed as backup tonight.

FSN Goofs: It was a late night game, so it was hard to notice any pixelation problems because it was likely me nodding off. But I did catch road color-commentator Larry Murphy making up a word. When talking about Draper’s second period goal, he said the puck “redeflected” off Allen in front, sort of a combination of redirected and deflected. Ok, I’m fishing for something. The FSN crew did a good job tonight!!

(Editor: Here are the lines from the game, courtesy GWB)
Thomas-Draper-McCarty
Whitney-Datsyuk-Hull
Maltby-Draper-Yzerman
Shanahan-Zetterberg-Holmstrom
Thomas-Mowers-McCarty
Maltby-Draper-McCarty

Fischer-Chelios
Lidstrom-Schneider
Rivers-Dandenault
Schneider-Dandenault
Lidstrom-Fischer
Fischer-Dandenault

PP-
Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull
Shanahan-Yzerman-Holmstrom

Whitney-Lidstrom
Schneider-Draper

PK-
Maltby-Draper
Shanahan-Zetterberg
Zetterberg-Datsyuk

Lidstrom-Chelios
Lidstrom-Dandenault
Fischer-dandenault
Lidstrom-Schneider
Fischer-Rivers

6 on 5- Legace pulled-
Shanahan-Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull

Lidstrom-Fischer

Net-
Manny Legace

GameDay: vs. Vancouver (32-19-7-4, 75) 10:00 EST

After a good effort from Marc Lamothe last night in Edmonton, Manny Legace will return to net for his sixth start in seven games at the GM Place in Vancouver. This is the second of back-to-back games on the Wings’ short West trip.

The Wings have a commanding lead in the Central Division, with Nashville and St Louis trailing by 12 and 14 points, respectively. The Wings are 7-1-2-0 in their last ten games, and are tied for first the in the league with Ottawa at 81 points.

Vancouver is struggling as of late. The Canucks trail their rival Avalanche in the Northwest by 5 points, and have been without their captain and leading scorer Markus Naslund for the past week after a crushing open-ice check by the Avs’ Steve Moore. It left Canucks coach Marc Crawford livid in the post-game interviews:

“He got a pretty nasty hit. It could have been an obstruction call, it could have been an elbow, but instead they call absolutely nothing. It mystifies me why this happens in this league. They talk about players not having respect for players. How about the officials? Should they not have respect for the leading scorer in the league? It was a cheap shot by a young kid on a captain, and we get no call. That’s ridiculous.”

Since the 1-0 win over the Avs last Monday that left Naslund hospitalized, the Canucks have lost two straight against Minnesota 6-2 Thursday and Edmonton 4-3 OT Saturday. The Canucks are currently the fourth seed in the West, and, if the playoffs started today, would be facing the red hot Dallas Stars in the first round. The Canucks are 3-5-0-2 in their last ten games.

Public enemy #1 tonight is Vancouver defenseman Bryan Allen, who is responsible for two costly injuries on the Wings. Thursday October 16, the third game of the Wings’ season, Allen got into a minor collision with Derian Hatcher that left the Wings’ newly signed defenseman out up until now with a torn ACL. And on Monday November 3, he broke Henrik Zetterberg’s leg on a dirty slash. Allen, who had no goal or assist that night, was voted one of the three stars of the game. So the same Vancouver Canuck people who cry out in misery in the wake of Naslund’s injury probably voted blood-hungry Allen in as one of the stars of the game for breaking the opposition’s leg. So I have no sympathy for those people. I look for some payback in this Tuesday night matchup against the Canucks. Hopefully the Wings have their legs after last night. The Edmonton game was boring when it came to offense, and the Wings really had to skate hard just to get a few shots on net.