Archive for November, 2007

St. James: Osgood to start versus Phoenix

Helene St. James reports that Chris Osgood will get his fourth straight start Saturday night against the Coyotes.

Personally, I’d like to see Dominik Hasek get a chance to get on track, but this gels with Bruce MacLeod’s report of earlier this week in which he reported that Dom would start either Saturday or Tuesday. Hopefully Babcock will stick with that plan, as Hasek needs some reps, even if Osgood is tearing it up.

Also, Kirk Maltby (back) did not skate today, so he will not dress tomorrow. Matt Ellis, having been cleared to play, will return to the lineup and will give the team some added defensive security. He practiced on the fourth line with Aaron Downey and Tomas Kopecky.

And there was much rejoicing: NHL schedule change announced

Via TSN:

The NHL has approved a scheduling format that will have each team play 24 divisional games, 40 in-conference matchups, 15 games against non-conference teams and three wild card games against out of conference teams.

No more Chicago, Columbus, Nashville, and St. Louis eight times in a season, Wings fans! I can hardly believe it, but the League actually listened to the fans.

Wings 4, Lightning 2

Update (2:10 PM): I forgot to mention earlier that Henrik Zetterberg’s home point streak ended at 27 games last night. With the net empty at the end of the third, the team made an obvious push to get him the puck, but he sent his best chance wide. As unfortunate as that was, it’s good to see the Wings winning on secondary scoring, with Tomas Kopecky getting the game-winner rather than someone from the top line. - Matt

The Wings won their only meeting with the Tampa Bay Lightning this season, putting up four goals to the Bolts’ two last night at the Joe. Despite the fact that Tampa managed 23 shots, it seemed to me that the game was one of the more lopsided contests game the Wings have played all season. They dictated play virtually the whole game. Quite frankly, the Lightning were a disappointment.

… Marc Denis was in net for Tampa Bay. He should take the posts out to dinner, as they are the only reason he didn’t get lit up for eight goals instead of four. Two of the post incidents were especially memorable. On the first, Denis was completely down and out with Pavel Datsyuk looking at a wide-open net in a situation similar to his eventual goal. The defenseman must have gotten his stick on the puck at the last second because it’s hard to believe Pavel would shank it that badly, but it clanged off the far post. Later, the prettiest passing play you ever saw ended with a heavy Henrik Zetterberg shot going off the far side post in the other end. That one really hurt because it would have been such a great play to put on the highlight reel.

… At the other end, Chris Osgood was stellar. He had zero chance on either of the Lightning’s two goals and great saves on their few scoring chances. He continues to exude confidence.

… Chris Chelios’ pass to Jiri Hudler on the opening goal was a thing of beauty. Great veteran play by Chelios and nice anticipation by Jiri. The little Czech is looking better all the time.

… Pavel Datsyuk is heating. IwoCPO puts it perfectly at Abel to Yzerman:

And speaking of Datsyuk…stand by. He’s been around long enough for us to recognize the signs and they’re all there. 4 goals and 6 points the last three games and he’s just heating up. Forget the stats and just consider the way he’s controlling play every shift.

He’s been racking up the assists all year, but now the puck is going in for him and he’s looking as sharp as ever. That’s great news for the Wings.

… I give lots of credit to Aaron Downey for choosing to ignore Andre Roy when the Wings were ahead. Roy was trying to get him to go most of the night, but Downey knew it would only serve to get the Lightning fired up at a time in which the Wings were dominating. Keeping Downey was another great decision by the Wings.

… Tomas Kopecky’s goal in the second period came as a complete surprise to me. I knew he had offensive skill, but I never expected to see him break in, shoulder-fake Denis, and roof it like he did. One of the prettier goals of the year so far, even if it was against a sub-par goalie. As much as the team wants him to focus on his defensive game, I hope that goal just the beginning for him.

… Ken Daniels and Mikey Redmond spent the remainder of the night singing Andreas Lilja’s praises following Kopecky’s goal. The big Swede’s pass that let Kopey get in the clear was definitely a great one and evidence that Nick Lidstrom is rubbing off on #3 more than most fans think. I’m starting to appreciate Lilja more and more, and already consider him one of the team’s better penalty killers.

… Mark Hartigan was a complete non-factor in the game. The two highly-knowledgeable Griffins fans that I watched the game with called him a dirty, lazy player. I’m glad he’s been sent back to the Griffins.

… Good to see Dan Cleary get on the board again. As with Kopecky, hopefully he’ll be able to build on the goal.

… All in all, a strong performance by the Wings, who’ll need to keep up the offensive dominance as they head into a game against Ilya Bryzgalov and the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday. While the Coyotes aren’t anything to write home about, but Bryzgalov is a great goalie and one that’ll be harder to beat than Marc Denis.

Links

GameDay: vs. Tampa Bay (10-12-2, 22 Pts)

Update (2:40 PM): The official site has more on Hartigan here. Great quote from Mike Babcock:

“He’s been the best player, according to Jim Nill, and the American League as far as a forward goes. Our other option was to play (Derek) Meech and have seven (defensemen). We thought it was more important to have four lines”

Babcock also says Hartigan will have to learn quickly how to adapt to fourth-line minutes after seeing top six ice in Grand Rapids.

Also, Red Wings TV has this video of comments from Babcock, Hartigan, and “Aaaron” Downey. - Matt

Update (10:57 AM): Looks like Maltby is out tonight, as Bruce MacLeod reports that Mark Hartigan practiced with the team today. Hartigan has 11 goals and 17 points through 20 games in Grand Rapids. He skated between Kopecky and Downey, while Dallas Drake moved up to the third line with Johan Franzen and Dan Cleary. Jiri Hudler skated on Valtteri Filppula’s wing. - Matt

Tonight is the first regular season game between these two teams since December 17th, 2005. The Wings won that meeting, 6-3.

The Lightning are 5-7-1 thus far in November, with the five wins coming all in a row November 7-November 16. An overtime loss to Atlanta on the 19th, however, kicked off a five-game skid in which they’ve only earned that one point. If the scores are any indication (2-1, 4-3, 3-2), the games have been close – except for their most recent game, a 5-1 loss to Chicago last night. They were the unfortunate victims of the return of Martin Havlat to the Blackhawk lineup. The oft-injured Hawk had two goals in his first game since the season opener. The Lightning only managed a goal at 9:52 of the third period.

Vincent Lecavalier leads the team in all three major offensive categories: goals (16), assists (22), and points (38). He leads the league in the latter two, by the way. His linemate Martin St. Louis has 8 goals to go with 22 assists.

The Freep lists Filip Kuba (abdomen) as “probable,” and the St. Petersburg Times lists him as day-to-day. Dan Boyle (wrist) and Tim Tayler (hip) are definitely out. Sadly, Ken Daniels will have maybe one opportunity to make a “Tool Man” crack.

Johan Holmqvist got the start last night, but was yanked after allowing three goals on ten shots. Marc Denis stepped in and allowed two in seven. I can’t seem to find anything on the starter tonight, but it seems like that it will be Denis, as he only played 20 minutes last night.

For the Lightning perspective on things, check out Bolts Blog and Boltsmag.

The Wings improved to 6-4-1 in the month of November with their 5-3 win over Calgary Tuesday night. That and their other win over the Flames this month bookended a nine-game stretch against Central Division teams in which they posted a 4-4-1 record. They won’t play another opponent from their own division until December 10th when they travel to Nashville.

Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk remain the offensive leaders on the team. Hank has 16 goals and 33 points, while Pavel has 19 assists.

The team lost Kris Draper to a knee sprain Tuesday night and will be without his services for 10-14 days. Matt Ellis did not practice yesterday due to headaches, which began a week ago after a heavy hit by Jordin Tootoo of the Predators. Kirk Maltby did not skate yesterday, either, due to a shoulder injury. His status for tonight is unknown at the moment. If he cannot go, the team will either dress Derek Meech as a seventh defenseman or call up a forward from Grand Rapids. Keep on eye on the AHL transaction wire. There is some positive injury news: Tomas Kopecky has been cleared to play after sitting out three games with a shoulder injury.

Chris Osgood will get his third straight start tonight.

For more of the Wings’ perspective, check out Snapshots, Gorilla Crouch, Abel to Yzerman, HockeyTownTodd, Gloveside, Behind the Jersey, No Pun Intended, and Winging It In Motown.

In spite of their recent struggles, the Lightning remain a very dangerous team with a heck of a lot of talent. The Wings cannot take them lightly, especially given the fact that their top shutdown forward, Kris Draper, will not be in the lineup. They’ll have to play tight and smart defense if they want to keep Lecavalier from racking up more points. It’ll be the first Wings game I’ve been able to watch in a week. I hope it’s a good one.

11/27 Injury Update

Update (4:40 PM): It looks like the Wings’ site is ramping up the news updates, even on off days. Nice to see. DetroitRedWings.com’s Bob Roose has more on Draper’s knee injury, including a better description of what happened and on the effect the injury will have on the roster make-up.

Also, a response to this piece by Ryan Dixon of The Hockey News, in which he berates Andreas Lilja for fighting Dion Phaneuf after the latter’s high hit on Jiri Hudler last night. Regardless of the cleanliness of the hit (a somewhat debatable point given the fact that Phaneuf left his feet and used his elbow), Lilja was perfectly within his rights to challenge the Flames defenseman. Like George Malik points out, Phaneuf did not have to accept the challenge and could have easily skated away. Few would have questioned his toughness.

Dixon betrays his true motivations for criticizing Lilja here:

Would the thinking go: “Well, I could give my team a lift by laying somebody out, but is that worth our worst defenseman getting more ice time while I sit in the box for five minutes?”

Dixon’s all wound up because Phaneuf is touted as a star in the League, whereas is Lilja a no-name player who had the gall to challenge him and take him off the ice, away from prospective fans, for a whole five minutes. Mr. Dixon, it’s part of the game and Lilja earned points with his own fanbase for the fight. It’s not all about Phaneuf. It’s too bad for the Flames that it happened in the last 7 minutes, but, again, Phaneuf didn’t have to fight. - Matt

Update (3:22 PM): Red Wings TV has added three post-practice interviews:

- Matt
Bruce MacLeod reports that Kris Draper will be out 10-14 days with a knee sprain. That’s a big hit to the team’s defensive capablities, especially going into the game against the NHL points leader Vincent Lecavalier and Tampa Bay tomorrow night. It’s not the end of the world by any means, given the defensive talent on the roster, but the third line won’t be as effective at shutting the other team down.

… Tomas Kopecky has been cleared to play.

… It looks like the earliest Matt Ellis will be back is Tuesday night in Montreal.

… Kirk Maltby did not practice today and the reason given is a shoulder injury. MacLeod does not know his status for the Tampa Bay game. If he’s not able to go, the team will carry 7 defensemen or call up a forward from Grand Rapids in order to fill in the empty roster spot. Personally, I hope Derek Meech gets to see some ice time, if Maltby needs a night off. The last thing the Griffins need is to lose a forward, however temporarily.

… Apparently, Chris Osgood will start again tomorrow night. It’ll be his third start in a row. Dominik Hasek is slated to start either Saturday or Tuesday. Babcock says the strategy is to play Osgood more in the first half in order to rest Dom for the second half and the playoffs. Okay, I can believe that, but tell me Dom wouldn’t be starting more often if he were tearing it up like Osgood has been.

11/27 Notes

Update (1:10 PM): George Malik has a slick roundup of media and player comments on the game over at Snapshots. - Matt

… So the Wings beat the Flames 5-3 last night. From the little that I saw online (while in class), it looked like a fast-paced game, though that impression may be due to the stop-and-go nature of the video feed. Since I didn’t get to watch the whole thing and therefore cannot comment on it much at all, I have some links for you:

… Aside from the win, the big news coming out of the game is the injury to Kris Draper at 18:40 of the first period. Evidently, he twisted his left knee while behind the net with Owen Nolan. He was able to drive himself to the DMC for an MRI, but Mike Babcock told the media “”We’re a little concerned right now,” though the hope is obviously that it’s nothing major. We’ll probably find out more today.

As the Freep points out, Johan Franzen, the last Red Wing to sprain his knee, missed 10 games. Let’s hope Drapes can make it back sooner than that.

… If you’re looking for the Dion Phaneuf hit on Jiri Hudler, look no further:

Fortunately for him, Jiri gets his head up at the last second there, so he wasn’t totally unprepared. A bit of a high one, but Hudler is one of the shorter guys in the league, so that isn’t so surprising. A spectacular hit, to be sure, though I’m not a fan of the elbow-on-head contact.

… In response to Ian’s question on the gameday post, the “A” is on rotation between Zetterberg, Draper, and Datsyuk.

Also, yes, we’d be screwed if one of the top three goes down. More so if one of the Eurotwins does, but losing Homer would decimate the power play.

Hartnell suspended two games

This isn’t strictly Wings-related, but I had to point it out: all-around goon/punk Scott Hartnell (my fellow Central Division fans know what I’m talking about) has been suspended a mere two games for this vicious hit on Boston’s Andrew Alberts:

I’m sorry, but two games? What a joke. What is it going to take for the NHL to take this stuff seriously? Maybe when some minor league call-up forth-line three-minute-a-game Neanderthal destroys Sidney Crosby’s career. Maybe when Alexander Ovechkin gets decapitated on one of his high-speed rushes. Who knows? Let’s all pray no one gets killed one of these nights.

How long are we fans going to tolerate this crap? The League seems to think that just because a guy like Alberts isn’t an “A-list” superstar that it’s okay to give the perpetrator a slap on the wrist. Is it okay? I don’t think so. I love the game and I love the NHL, but if the League doesn’t take measures to more severely punish players who take liberties with their peers such as Hartnell did, I’ll have a hard time remaining a fan.