GameDay: vs. Columbus (34-33-12, 80 Pts) 7:30 ET

Update (5:51 PM): George Malik has a couple roundup posts worth checking out here and here. - Matt

Update (4:14 PM): George Sipple reports that Kirk Maltby (hamstring) underwent MRI and ultrasound tests today. Apparently, he suffered the injury when he fell awkwardly along the boards and “felt a pop.” That doesn’t sound good.

Sipple asked Ken Holland about a possible return date and was told,

“We haven’t got a clue, other than to say he’s questionable for Game 1 of the playoffs and won’t play the rest of the regular season.”

That’s certainly not good news. Malts isn’t the player he once was, but he still kills penalties well and can be a good energy player, as last night’s game showed. The sooner he’s able to make it back, the better. - Matt

Update (3:00 PM): The Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline has a post-practice update posted here.

Interesting bit:

Oh, and the Red Wings are mad. Won’t be easy tonight.

… — The Wings are honked off following a 6-2 loss in Chicago on Wednesday. “They’re going to be battening down the hatches early in the hockey game,” Hitchcock said. “Their coach (Mike Babcock) is not a happy guy today.”

Good.

Also interesting is this quote from AHL-er Zenon Konopka:

“I’ll be running Chelios tonight. I hope I get an opportunity to really crank a few guys.”

“Zenon”? Seriously? He and Zoltan Mesko should get together and start a club. As for running Chelios, I’d love to see him try.

Portzline also provides the lines for tonight:

Nash — Malhotra — Zherdev
Chimera — Peca — Brule
Murray — MacKenzie — Boll
Lindstrom — Konopka — Pineault

He leaves us with what is apparently an obligatory shot at the city Detroit. You stay classy, Portzline. - Matt

Update ( 1:33 PM): George Malik scouts the Blue Jackets here. - Matt

Update (1:19 PM): Red Wings TV has a video of Abdelkader talking with the media. The network is painfully slow here at school at the moment, so I pass it on without comment, having not watched it. - Matt

Update (12:40 PM): Bruce MacLeod has added more on Abdelkader to his earlier post. He also has some information on other Red Wing prospects.

Of more immediate relevance is the revelation that Maltby has a strained hamstring. No date has been set for his return.

Tomas Holmstrom will not play tonight, but MacLeod says he will “definitely be back in the lineup Sunday.”

Kris Draper will not return before the playoffs.

Brad Stuart told MacLeod that he’s on track to play in Game 1. - Matt

Update (11:56 AM): It looks like right winger Adam Pineault will fill in the TBA spot on the Jackets’ roster. The Dispatch’s Puck-rakers blog reports that Columbus has promoted the Syracuse Crunch forward on an emergency recall. He will be making his NHL debut.

Interesting stat: he is second in the AHL with six shorthanded goals. - Matt

Update (11:38 AM): The injury parade continues: Bruce MacLeod reports that Kirk Maltby is out tonight because of an unspecified injury.

To fill in the empty roster spot, the team has signed former Michigan State standout Justin Abdelkader to a one-game amateur tryout. By accepting, he loses his remaining college eligibility.

Abdelkader, taken 42nd overall in the 2005 entry draft, plays left wing.  My guess is McCarty will take Maltby’s place on the third line and Abdelkader will fill in on the vacated wing on the fourth. The official blog reports that he will wear #8.

The team is trying to sign Abdelkader to a three-year entry level contract and if they are able to do so by Saturday, he will remain with the team throughout the playoffs. With the Griffins’ season all but over, it would make sense to keep the kid around. - Matt

Tonight is the eighth and final game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets this season. The Wings lead the series 4-3 with wins November 9th (4-1), November 18th (5-4 SO), March 19th (3-1), and March 22nd (4-1). The Jackets won the November 24th (3-2 OT), February 15th (5-1), and March 16th (4-3) meetings.

Columbus posted a 4-6-3 record in March. They are coming off a pair of losses to finish the month, beginning with a 2-0 loss at home to Nashville and continuing with a 5-4 shootout loss in Chicago on Sunday. After tonight, they will finish up their season with a home-and-home series against St. Louis.

The Jackets are currently 13th in the West and were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention by the Wings’ March 30th OT win over Nashville.

Columbus is lead offensively by Rich Nash, who has notched 67 points this season. Nikolai Zherdev is #2 in scoring with 60. Nash’s 38 goals are a team best. Zherdev is the only other Jacket to crack 20 goals with 26.

The Jackets have quite the injury list: Fredrik Modin (concussion), David Vyborny (flu), Ole-Kristian Tollefsen (neck surgery), Dan Fritsche (broken hand), Jiri Notovny (thigh contusion), and Dick Tarnstrom (concussion) are listed as out.

Projected lines (via Columbus Dispatch):

Nash-Malholtra-Zherdev
Chimera-Peca-Brule
Murray-McKenzie-Lindstrom
TBA-Konopka-Boll

Projected pairings:

Hejda-Klesla
Hainsey-Rome
Russell-Wilson

Pascal Leclaire, who has missed the last eighth with a concussion, will start tonight, says the Dispatch.

For the Jackets’ perspective, see Light the Lamp, Better on Ice, The Jacket Times, Army of the Ohio, End of the Bench, Neutral Zone Trap, Bethany’s Hockey Rants, and the Bleacher Report Columbus Blue Jackets page.

The Wings are coming off one of their worst performances of the season last night in Chicago. They were disinterested against a highly-motivated Blackhawks team that kept its very slim playoff hopes alive with a 6-2 home win.

Detroit began the game well enough, but their play started to slip when Chris Chelios lost his head and cross-checked Patrick Kane about 7 times while the Hawks were already on the power play. Kane gave Chelios a startled look before responding with a couple slashes. I didn’t blame him. Chelios just inexplicably went berserk. Chelios was sent off for just one of the cross-checks, while the refs gave young Mr. Kane a pass.

The Hawks scored their first goal just after the end of the ensuing 5-on-3 and never looked back.

Dominik Hasek got the hook after allowing three goals on six shots (only one of which was really his fault). The Wings proceded to leave Chis Osgood out to dry and only managed brief periods of pressure throughout the remainder of the game.

The most exciting it got was an Aaron Downey fight and another Downey altercation that didn’t reach full fight status. His efforts to spark his team failed.

I noticed Kirk Maltby last night more than I have in months, maybe years. He was highly involved in the offense (he scored a goal with a purely individual effort) and had looked to be one of the few men in the Winged Wheel motivated to play hard. Two others were Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, who put forth strong efforts but couldn’t do it all. Maybe a Maltby-Zetterberg-Datsyuk line could have salvaged things!

The officiating seemed a little one-sided, but to place any blame on the officials is merely an excuse for the Wings’ pathetic performance. It wasn’t so bad that it couldn’t have been overcome.

The Hawks deserve a lot of credit for taking advantage of the Wings’ lack of concentration.

For a team with little tangible motivation to overexert themselves at this point in the season, last night probably shouldn’t be that surprising. That does not, however, mean it’s not highly disappointing. These final games are useful for the team to fine-tune their game and head into the playoffs on a streak rather than a skid.

There’s also that little matter of first place overall. Is it too much to ask that they gain a single, solitary point in one of final three games of the season? If last night is any indication, it may be.

Henrik Zetterberg scored his team-leading 42nd goal last night. His 91 points are good for second on the team. Pavel Datsyuk leads with 95 and is second in goals with 31. It’d be nice to see him crack 100 points, but that doesn’t seem likely.

The Wings will be without Kris Draper (groin) tonight. He’s likely out until the playoffs.

Brad Stuart (broken finger) also remains out.

Tomas Holmstrom (groin) may return tonight, but it’s more likely he’ll be back Sunday.

Mikael Samuelsson (groin) may play tonight, but since he hasn’t gone through a full practice since March 27th, that seems unlikely.

Probable lines:

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

Probable pairings:

Lidstrom-Rafalski
Kronwall-Chelios
Lebda-Lilja

Dominik Hasek will start tonight. Here’s hoping he’s more solid and has better luck this time around.

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.

I’m just going to go ahead and suggest that a win tonight is essential. They have to get back to their A-game somehow and this is a great opportunity to do so. The Jackets are in something of a skid and ought to be vulnerable. The Wings are missing some key personnel, but have more than enough talent to pull out a win.

The last thing they need is to go into the playoffs on a skid and if they lose tonight, it’ll be that much easier to fall prey the Blackhawks for the sixth time this season on Sunday.

Filed under: 2007-2008, GameDay

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Comments

  1. Brian says:

    Pretty disappointing game. I don't care if it's a comeback, it's still CBJ and this is Game 81 for the Wings. The President's Trophy is kind of a hollow accomplishment when it takes a narrow victory over a bottom-feeder in CBJ and then San Jose is out there 18-0-2 in their last 20 games. I don't think anyone is favoring the Wings in the playoffs anymore outside of Hockeytown – which I guess could turn out to be a good thing for them actually.

    The Capitals game was sick. Ovechkin took a shot off his skate and looked hurt, but still came back and scored goal 65. It didn't help the Lightning that Lecavalier went down, though…

    Should be a good weekend of games. I'm intrigued by the possibility of seeing a shootout decide a playoff berth.

  2. Scott H says:

    Speaking of bottom feeders….SJ lost to LA. WEEEEE!

    We will be fine.

    p.s. Hartigan, tho he got a goal (right place right time), MUST GO NOW!!!!!!!

  3. Scott H says:

    Oh…and Abdelkader looked pretty good for a newbie. Missed a glorious chance, but he brought some energy that seemed to catch.

  4. Matt Saler says:

    Brian,

    It is disappointing that the Wings aren't finishing the regular season on a tear, but I don't remember a season in recent years in which they have.

    Sure, the Jackets aren't a topflight team, but I wouldn't call them a bottom-feeder either. They have talent. It's just been a painfully slow process putting it into a winning package.

    As for San Jose, their run has been impressive, no denying that. However, they had a similar finish to the season last year and they ended up being eliminated by the Wings, who had another of their weak regular season finishes. The fact is, the playoffs are an entirely different game and end-of-the-season momentum only counts for so much.

    The Wings aren't favorites any more anyway. Most people see them as first round chokers and most projections don't have them beyond that point. Last year's run hasn't changed anything in that regard. It doesn't matter if they're favorites because favorites are generally the fashionable choices that don't pan out. See San Jose. For almost a decade, they've been the main pick to break out, but they always, always fall flat.

    Scott,

    Glad to hear it on Abdelkader. From what little I saw, he looks like he'll be a solid addition to the lineup in years to come.

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