Archive for March, 2008

3/31 Injury Update

Update (1:17 PM): According to Ted Kulfan, Tomas Holmstrom has been cleared to play Wednesday in Chicago. So, it wasn’t just Homer’s optimism after all. – Matt

Update (12:11 PM): Ansar Khan has more, including quotes from Holmstrom and Stuart. – Matt

Update (11:38 PM):MacLeod has good news on the Holmstrom front: evidently he’s feeling good enough to play this week. He’s confident he’ll be in the lineup Thursday against Columbus.

Take that with a grain of salt, of course, because it all depends on what the organization wants. It’s probable that they’d prefer he rest. On the other hand, they may want him to get a couple games under his belt before the post-season.

… Dominik Hasek will start Thursday and Sunday. Chris Osgood will start Thursday.

… Mikael Samuelsson (groin) did not skate and no return date has been set.

… MacLeod says Brad Stuart could pass well, but he could not shoot “with any authority.” Stuart said he expects to be back next week, which would put his return at the start of the playoffs. – Matt

Briefly:

… Both Bruce MacLeod and Helene St. James are reporting that Brad Stuart (broken finger) practiced today.

According to MacLeod, he was shooting and passing, which is a definite good sign. He says it’s possible that Stuart could make it back for Game 1, which, by the way, could be as soon as next Thursday, the 10th.

.. Both of them also report that Tomas Holmstrom (abdomen, groin) participated in the skate, which St. James characterizes as “highly optional.”

MacLeod promises to try to have an update on Homer’s status following practice. St. James writes that it’s unlikely he’ll be back before the end of the regular season, which comes Sunday.

Wings 1, Predators 0 (OT)

There isn’t much to say about this one. Both teams played very conservatively down to the end and kept things relatively unexciting. It was good to see the Wings pull out a win in such a tightly-played game.

… Dan Ellis stole the show with a 35-save effort, but Dominik Hasek was very strong as well, finishing with a 22-save shutout. He was aided by the post and crossbar about four times, but made a number of big saves on his own. If that was any indication of how he’ll play in the post-season, the Wings should be in fair shape.

… Johan Franzen still cannot be stopped. Here’s hoping he can keep it up in the post-season.

His game-winner took entirely too long to go into the net, though.

… I so wanted to see Aaron Downey go with Jordin Tootoo. I understand why it didn’t happen, balance of momentum and all that, but it would have been fun to see.

This hit by Dallas Drake on Rich Peverley kicked off a series of three notable hits in about 15 seconds, the next being Dan Hamhuis’ hit on Aaron Downey. Downey went into the empty space between the benches, nearly taking out Larry Murphy.

This hit by Niklas Kronwall on Alexander Radulov was one of the highlights of the game. I love seeing him wreck people like that, but I also cringe at the sight as his injury history automatically comes to mind.

… The win put the Wings within a point of clinching the President’s Trophy. It would have been theirs last night had San Jose lost, but the Coyotes couldn’t pull off the upset. If San Jose loses in regulation or extra time, or the Wings gain a single point in any of their three remaining games, Detroit clinches first place.

… The Canucks leapfrogged Nashville last night after defeating Calgary 6-2 at home. The Predators are now one point out of the playoffs with 87. Edmonton is just two points behind Vancouver with two games remaining.

… The Wings now have a couple days to rest up and prepare to face a Chicago team that’s looking to make an improbable run at the playoffs Wednesday. The Hawks have two games against the Wings sandwiched around a game against the Predators to round out the season.

… In injury news, the Freep reports that the team is waiting to see how Tomas Holmstrom feels after getting the cortisone shot on Friday. Evidently, he felt some pain Saturday, but the jury is still out on his status for the rest of the regular season and the start of the playoffs.

Also, Babcock told Helene St. James that Brad Stuart (broken finger) will be ready to go for the first round. I hope that means Game 1.

GameDay: vs. Nashville (39-31-8-86 Pts) 3:00 ET

The Detroit Red Wings host the Nashville Predators this afternoon in the eighth and final meeting between the two Central Division teams this regular season. The Wings hold a 4-3 edge over the Preds thus far in the series, with wins November 7th (3-2 SO), December 10th (2-1), March 9 (4-3), and March 20th (6-3). The Predators won November 22nd (3-2), February 12th (4-2) and March 15th (3-1).

The Predators are 7-6-0 in March. They have won their last three, beginning with a 2-1 shootout win over Chicago on the 22nd and continuing with a pair of wins over Columbus on the 25th (3-0) and 28th (2-0). Prior to that, they had lost two in a row, first to Washington, then to Detroit.

Nashville is currently in eighth place with 86 points through 78 games. Ninth-place and idle Vancouver also has 86 point through 78 and would move into 8th place with a Nashville regulation or overtime loss if they are able to beat the Flames tonight.  For the Predators, then, this game is especially important.

The Preds’ remaining schedule consists of two games against St. Louis and a finale in Chicago.

Nashville will be without Darcy Hortichuk (knee), Greg de Vries (rib), David Legwand (foot), Steve Sullivan (back), Martin Gelinas (knee), and Jed Ortmeyer (knee).

Dan Ellis will be in net tonight. He has shutout opponents for the last 170:18.

For the Preds’ side of things, see Pred-Joe and On the Forecheck.

The Wings are 9-2-1 in March. They are coming off a 4-3 overtime loss to St. Louis Friday night at home. They staged a thrid period comeback, but couldn’t hold the Blues off in the extra period. Prior to the loss, they had won four in a row. The two regulation losses came together on the 15th and 16th and halted the five-game winning streak with which they began the month.

Detroit occupies first place overall with 109 points in 78 games and has a five-point lead on the San Jose Sharks, who have also played 78. The Sharks can max out at 112 points and 51 wins. Given that they are red-hot lately, that is not outside the realm of possibility. So, the Wings would need at least three more points, two of which must come from a win (112 points, but 52 wins), in order to clinch. Otherwise, a Red Wings win and a Sharks loss will clinch first place for Detroit.

The Wings will be without Mikael Samuelsson (groin) for the second consecutive game.

Tomas Holmstrom (abdomen, groin) remains out, but could be close to returning. He had a cortisone shot Friday and apparently zipped around practice yesterday wearing a no-contact sweater.

Brad Stuart (broken finger) remains out, but is keeping up his conditioning and should be back for the first round.

Darren McCarty will sit today in favor of Aaron Downey. Mark Hartigan also inexplicably remains in the lineup. Over at A2Y, IwoCPO asks a legitimate question: “Answer me this:  if Babcock’s trying to figure out if McCarty’s able to add something to the playoff mix, why is he out today and Hartigan in?”

Projected lines:

Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Cleary
Hudler-Franzen-Filppula
Kopecky-Draper-Maltby
Drake-Hartigan-Downey

Projected pairings:

Lidstrom-Rafalski
Kronwall-Chelios
Lebda-Lilja

Dominik Hasek will start today after sitting out with the flu. Chris Osgood will back him up.

For more of the Wings’ perspective, see Snapshots, Abel to Yzerman, HockeyTownTodd, Behind the Jersey, No Pun Intended, yzerman is god, Detroit Hockey, LetsGoWings, Red Wings Brasil, BR Red Wings, and Winging It In Motown.

The Predators will go into this game knowing that they need a win to keep their grip on eighth place. The Wings go in knowing they can’t let the foot off the pedal with San Jose looking to finish their 12-0-2 month off with a win. They also know that they can’t demonstrate weakness to a likely first round opponent. A win here will be a key moral victory for both teams, so you can expect solid competition this afternoon.

Wings 3, Blues 4 (OT)

ticket.jpg For once, I get to comment on the game from the perspective of actually being there:

… Megan and I got there in time to see warmups, though I spent most of them waiting in line for two $5 slices of pizza. $5 Hot-N-Ready apparently does not apply in the center of Illitch-dom.

… The Joe is old and small. The concourse is crampt and badly lit. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Certainly not one of the newer-style impersonal flashy arenas. There’s nothing like literally rubbing shoulders with fellow Wings fans while surrounded by Red Wings memorabilia everywhere.

…  There was a fairly large crowd already in their seats just after 7:00. Presumably, the big draw was Darren McCarty, who was going through warmups with the rest of his team.

… Semi-scary moment: when leaving the ice, Henrik Zetterberg got up a big head of steam as he headed toward the bench door and made a smooth transition from skating to running as he went through it. Why the heck he didn’t just stop before the door, I don’t know. Sure he’s a professional athlete, but for a split second there, I was envisioning him wiping out horribly.

… When McCarty left the ice, he threw pucks in the crowd and dished out high-fives.

… When they announced the starting lineup, the cheers reached the expected level for all players not named Darren McCarty. At Mac’s name, we gave him a standing ovation.

His first shift was disappointingly uneventful. He finished with 5:03 in TOI and wasn’t very noticeable overall. He did have one glorious scoring chance, though. Had that gone in, the Joe would have exploded into the kind of joyous celebration normally reserved for championships.

… During the first period, I commented to Megan, “This has to qualify as a sellout.” I’d say about 95% of the seats were full and I’m willing to bet the remainder were in the concourse. Of course, the numbers dwindled throughout the game, but for a little while, the Joe looked about as full as it did in the past.

… The Joe doesn’t have one of those crowds that’s incessantly cheering. Brief “Let’s Go Red Wings” chants came up regularly, but generally, the crowd was pretty intent on watching the game. It was certainly demonstrative on any scoring chance, hit, exceptional move, and obvious penalty that happened to take place.

… The Blues surprised me. They weren’t nearly as violent as I was sure they’d be, though they were pretty testy on occasion.

… The Wings’ passing was out of sync all night. The puck was constantly going just out of reach, or bouncing off a stick like the receiver had cement hands.

… After the second, Christy Hammond came by to see us. She handed me the massive packet of stats the teams provide to the media, as well as a packet of press clippings. She was working the game and could be seen in the press box in the second.

… There were a couple of those failed scoring chances that cause physical pain for fans. The most memorable was Johan Franzen’s missed slam dunk. The second I saw Henrik Zetterberg calmly drop the puck off to Franzen, I thought, “Goal.” So did everyone else in the arena. Most of us actually got up and started cheering before the awful truth set in: despite having a half-empty net, he somehow failed to put it in.

Fortunately, he made up for it later with two goals, including one with a similarly empty net. But that missed one still pains me, even today.

Franzen’s second pains me for a different reason: I yelled myself hoarse on that one.

… By the way, on the play leading to Johan’s first, I would have sworn the puck was cleared. Kudos to Brian Rafalski for the effort and many thanks to the linesman for calling it in.

… That was about the only favor the officials did for the Wings last night. They were otherwise flat out awful. Two major blown calls really stood out.

The first was the mugging of Kirk Maltby from behind as he went to clear the puck while on the penalty kill. Both refs were looking right at it and neither thought anything of it. The crowd was pissed.

The second was a nasty slash to the stick of Pavel Datsyuk, just below his high hand. It broke the stick right out of Pavel’s hands. He pointed at it with both hands and called to the official, but no call was made. After the play stopped later, Henrik Zetterberg picked up a piece of the stick and talked to the ref about it.

Earlier in the game, Pavel was called for, ironically enough, slashing on a play that, if it was anything (it wasn’t) should have been called a trip.

… Megan and I both agree: Mark Hartigan had no business being on the ice last night. He was directly responsible for the Blues’ first goal and indirectly so for their second.

On the first, he was trying to make a big hit at center and was caught out of position as the Blues carried in. Then, he floated back into the zone and watched as his man, the Blues’ leading goal-scorer, Brad Boyes, skated into the slot and one-timed a Paul Kariya centering pass through a helpless Chris Osgood. You can see in the replay. Hartigan is completely useless.

On the second, he took a stupid penalty and made the Wings needlessly shorthanded. Zetterberg lost the face-off and the Blues promptly scored, four seconds after the penalty. As Hartigan left the box, I was yelling, “Bench him, Babcock!” Of course, he didn’t. I don’t know what the Wings see in the guy. He brought the Griffins down this season and now he’s bringing the Wings down.

… I thought Tomas Kopecky had a bad game. He looked bewildered with the puck and the Blues took advantage of him a number of times. Maybe a game off would do him some good.

… When I saw Paul Kariya wheeling in the Wings’ zone in overtime, I had an ominous feeling that quickly turned into a sick on as Boyes found the back of the net again.

… Anyone who’s been to the Joe knows how the doors at the main entrance work: everyone who wants to take the crosswalk to the parking garage leaves through the right-side doors and everyone who wants to go down the stairs leaves through the left side doors. A massive traffic jam is thus created as we try to cross over to our side in the 10-15 feet between the doors and the staircase. Fun times.

… All in all, it was a fun experience, though of course we would have liked to have seen a win. It was well-worth the drive from Grand Rapids. Thanks again, Christy!

Links

Highlights

A2Y liveblog

Snapshots wrapup

GameDay: vs. St. Louis (30-34-12, 72 Pts) 7:30 ET

Update (1:10 PM): Ansar Khan reports that Mikael Samuelsson (groin) will likely miss the rest of the regular season.

He also says that Tomas Holmstrom will get a cortisone shot today for his abdomen.

Khan confirms the lines listed below, though I think it’s more likely that Mark Hartigan will be the fourth line center rather than Dallas Drake.  – Matt

Update (12:46 PM): Bruce MacLeod reports that Dominik Hasek (flu) will not play tonight, though he participated in part of practice this morning.

Tomas Holmstrom (abdomen) did not skate today, but the test results came back negative. That’s good news because it means he does not have a hernia. It’s possible he can make it back in time for Game 1, though at the moment, a definitive return date has not been set.

MacLeod also says that Dallas Drake (chest) will return tonight. That will give the Wings’ skill players some more insurance against St. Louis thug tactics. – Matt

Tonight is the second game of an extended home-and-home series between the Detroit Red Wings and the St. Louis Blues. The Wings won the first half of the series, 2-1 on Tuesday. This will be the 8th and final game between these two teams this season. The Wings have won four of the seven games already played.

The Blues have been idle since Tuesday. They may see the return of Andy McDonald (foot) tonight. Martin Rucinsky (back) and Jay McKee (foot) are questionable, and Dan Hinote (side) and Mike Johnson (shoulder) are out.

Manny Legace should be in net tonight.

For the, uh, unique perspective of the average Blues fan, see St. Louis Game Time.

The Wings have also been idle since Tuesday.

Darren McCarty (ribs) is scheduled to make his return to the NHL tonight, after being out of the League for almost a year.  It will be his first game as a Red Wing since the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals. With his return, Aaron Downey is a healthy scratch.

Dallas Drake (chest) may return, but he has to be cleared by the team medical staff first.  The Wings will recognize Drake tonight for playing in his 1,000th NHL game on March 11th.

Valtteri Filppula (knee, groin) is apparently ready to go and is probable for tonight.

Mikael Samuelsson (groin) did not complete practice yesterday. No word on his status yet, but the Wings are likely to be cautious with him. So, he’ll probably sit.

Tomas Holmstrom (abdomen) is out.

Brad Stuart (broken finger) also remains out.

Projected lines (via MacLeod):

Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Cleary
Hudler-Franzen-Filppula
Kopecky-Draper-Maltby
Hartigan-Drake-McCarty

Projected pairings:

Lidstrom-Rafalski
Kronwall-Chelios
Lebda-Lilja

Dominik Hasek (flu) did not practice yesterday, but will play tonight if he can skate this morning. Otherwise, Chris Osgood will start and Jimmy Howard will back him up.

For more of the Wings perspective, see Snapshots, Abel to Yzerman, HockeyTownTodd, Behind the Jersey, No Pun Intended, yzerman is god, Detroit Hockey, LetsGoWings, Red Wings Brasil, BR Red Wings, and Winging It In Motown.

Tonight will be interesting. The return of Darren McCarty should have the Joe rocking and should provide an emotional undercurrent that runs the risk of clashing with the Blues’ more pugilistic tendencies. Mac is likely to face a number of opportunities to stand up for his teammates as the Blues are certain to take liberties with the Wings in this their last opportunity to do so.

Here’s hoping that if this game becomes a power play fest, the Wings tear St. Louis apart.

Again, thanks to Christy Hammond of Behind the Jersey, Megan and I will be at the game.

3/27 Notes

Update (8:01 PM): From the “why make it public?  file: Dave Waddell got the location of Brad Stuarts broken finger from the man himself:

“I have pretty good grip with my other three fingers (on his right hand), so that’s a good sign.”

For those keeping score at home, that’s his top hand, which should mean his return will come earlier than expected since his lower hand does most of the serious gripping. Stuart is confident about being back in time to play in Game 1. Here’s hoping he’s mostly, if not all, healed by then because that hand will have a big target on it now that the whole world knows the location of the injury.

Waddell also has something on the McCarty versus Downey situation. Key quote from Mike Babcock:

“We’re giving Mac an opportunity (tonight), Downs probably won’t be playing (tonight), but that’s just so Mac can get into a game. That’s no reflection on what Downs has been able to do with us.”

Still, both players will be competing for roster spots. George Malik sums it up nicely:

One might see McCarty’s ready-to-play status is healthy competition for Dallas Drake and, to a lesser extent, Jiri Hudler or Tomas Kopecky as a 3rd/4th line presence who can excel on the forecheck instead of a replacement for Downey’s role as a pure “policeman.”

Of course, McCarty’s ability to excel on the forecheck at the NHL level these days has yet to be proven. – Matt

Update (2:14 PM):Ansar Khan reports that Dominik Hasek will not play tomorrow and that Chris Osgood will start.

… He also says that Tomas Holmstrom is supposed to undergo further testing today. Apparently Mike Babcock doesn’t know the results of yesterday’s tests, but told Khan that it’s looking positive. I’ll believe it when I see Homer back in the lineup.

… Khan clarifies MacLeod’s comments on Samuelsson by saying the Swede left practice early. According to Babcock, he’s questionable for tomorrow.

… Dallas Drake told Khan he’s ready to go, but Babcock wouldn’t commit to it.

… Brad Stuart told Khan that he’s optmisitc he’ll be back in time for Game 1.

… Khan also confirms that Aaron Downey will be scratched tomorrow.  – Matt

Update (12:56 PM): MacLeod has more:

…  I don’t know why this didn’t register with me before when I looked at the lines: Mikael Samuelsson did not skate today. MacLeod says it’s because he has “tightness in his groin.” Apparently the team is being cautious, so his status for tomorrow is unknown.

… Dominik Hasek could play tomorrow, depending on how he feels tomorrow morning.

… It looks like Blues fans will be disappointed: Aaron Downey will be a healthy scratch, with Mark Hartigan (unfortunately) getting a spot instead.

… It looks like Valtteri Filppula will be back tomorrow. – Matt

Update (11:52 AM): Just after I publish, I see Bruce MacLeod’s latest:

… Hasek did not practice today, so he must be out tomorrow. Jimmy Howard already made the drive down I-96 and practiced with the team this morning.

… Darren McCarty’s debut is still on.

… Tomas Holmstrom “took a quick twirl,” but didn’t stay any longer than that.

… Valtteri Filppula stayed out there the whole time, though MacLeod casts doubt on his status for tomorrow night by saying “[he] might be back in the lineup soon.”

… Lastly, the line combos from practice:

Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Cleary
Hudler-Franzen-Filppula
Kopecky-Draper-Maltby
Hartigan-Drake-McCarty

Don’t read too much into Drake’s presence on the fourth unit. He practiced Monday as well, but  didn’t play Tuesday. There’s still a chance he could sit out once again.

The defensive pairings haven’t changed:

Lidstrom-Rafalski
Kronwall-Chelios
Lebda-Lilja

 – Matt

… The big news is that Darren McCarty will make his re-debut with the Wings tomorrow night against the Blues. It will be his first game in the Winged Wheel since May 3, 2004, and his first in the NHL in nearly a year. No word yet on who he’ll be skating with, but don’t expect a full-fledged reunion of the Grind Line. He probably won’t be getting third line minutes.

Thanks to Christy Hammond at Behind the Jersey, who was kind enough to give me tickets, Megan and I will be at the game. No pressure Mac, but a repeat of your last home debut would be nice.

… Tim Miller, writing over at Bleacher Report, has a good take on the whole McCarty return. He provides some needed perspective on the situation. Referring to Friday, he writes,

A great game, and a great story, but one that a Red Wings fans should hope ends on April 6th when their top 12 forwards, including Holmstom and Flippula, are deemed healthy enough for the post-season.  The lineup that has driven this team to the President’s Trophy and gives them the best shot at post-season success.

Miller goes on to cite McCarty’s speed problem, his effective disappearance in Calgary, and the fact that he’s returning from a rib injury, which he says is “not a the best injury to have for a grinder.” Indeed.

I’m thrilled to see the success of Mac’s comeback attempt, but I’m keeping my expectations low. I joked about his hat trick above, but I don’t actually believe he can reproduce his AHL performance in the NHL. The question is whether or not he can fill a role on a team that is already very-well rounded. On one hand, I hope he can, but on the other, I’m with Miller. Mac is not going to be the one piece that puts the Wings over the edge because they already have all the pieces. If his addition does nothing more than give them the option of inserting him into the lineup, that’s fine because it’s really all they need.

Helene St. James reports that Dominik Hasek (flu) is on antibiotics. If he can’t practice today, the Wings will recall Jimmy Howard, who they sent back to Grand Rapids yesterday. Here’s hoping the flu bug doesn’t spread any further.

… Barring a setback in today’s skate, Valtteri Filppula (knee, groin) is expected to return tomorrow night. Dallas Drake, on the other hand, is questionable with a bruised sternum.

With Fil and Mac in the lineup and Drake out, the lines should look something like this:

Filppula-Datsyuk-Franzen
Samuelsson-Zetterberg-Cleary
Kopecky-Draper-Maltby
McCarty-Hudler-Downey

… The status of Tomas Holmstrom (abdomen/groin) for the remainder of the season is still unknown. The results of his tests should come out today. It’s not looking like he’ll be back before the end of the regular season.

Ted Kulfan reports that Brad Stuart (broken finger) will start rehabilitation today or tomorrow. The goal is to have him back by Game 1 of the first round.

… The Wings will have an open practice on Saturday. The doors open at 11:00 AM and the skate starts at noon.  If you bring new or used hockey equipment, you get in free. Otherwise, it’s a $5 donation. The money and the equipment will go toward inner-city youth hockey programs.

Ansar Khan has a nice piece on the possible Selke candidacies of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Arguments can be made for both players, who should finishe 1 and 2 in any case. However, I think Datsyuk’s reputation as an offensive forward hurts him. It seems to me that his two-way ability is one of the best-kept secrets in Hockeytown. Zetterberg’s two-way game is well-publicized and has been ever since he entered the League. Datsyuk, on the other hand, is only getting acclaim for his defensive play more recently.

Even I have a hard time imagining Pavel winning the Selke over Hank, but that may just be my homerism for #40 coming through.

…  Over at Abel to Yzerman, IwoCPO suggests the Avs hire Patrick Roy as head coach after they fire Joel Quenneville. That would be … interesting.

… Lastly, I can’t let this pass without comment. The idea that Aaron Downey is a coward or classless is ridiculous. The guy has been the epitome of class all season and, by all accounts, is universally respected in the Wings’ locker room. He has been very smart to pick his fights wisely and so it’s no surprise to me that he turned down King Tuesday night. There’s no law, written or unwritten, that says he has to answer every challenge. Downey’s job is to spark his teammates with big hits and the occassional fight, not to allow himself to be goaded into dropping the gloves.

I’m sorry Blues fans, but if you’re looking for someone to call a coward or classless, look to your own team. Downey is a much better man than, say, Barret Jackman, who was, is, and always will be, a donkey.

If Downey decides to drop the gloves in defense of his character tomorrow night, I fully expect to see him acquit himself well. If he choses to keep his gloves on, I’ll certainly think no less of him.