No season preview this year. Trying something different. Plus I already said Bill’s is the only one you need.
I stand by that, with one more condition to add to “if they stay healthy”: if they have the will. They have the tools, but even if they stay healthy, nothing is assured. They need to have the will to win, regardless of the personal cost. If they have that and lack health, they still have a chance. If they have both…watch out.
So. With that out of the way, about tonight:
… Not that it matters now, but the Ducks went 3-4-0 in their pre-season. But it’s their 0-0-0 record that matters now: a clean slate the Wings need to dump some poultry blood on.
… The Ducks’ defense has holes these days, but their top six up front are pretty strong. One of those guys is Teemu Selanne, who’s still a guy that can cause problems. Though it’s hard to maintain a healthy oppositional respect for a guy that calls himself a puppy.
… The lineup for Anaheim was posted here earlier this week. Note Cam Fowler is listed, which means the Ducks will be icing a 2010 draft pick, a nice tee-up for Ericsson comparisons and wisecracks.
… Like the Wings, the Ducks aren’t starting the season fully healthy, with Joffrey Lupul, Jason Jaffray and Toni Lydman out, though Lydman is with the team in Detroit.
… Jonas Hiller should be in net tonight.
… I haven’t seen any set lines or pairings for the Ducks, aside from Helene St. James’ guess at the top two forward units:
Honestly, those are the six names that matter most.
… The Wings’ exhibition season record is similarly irrelevant. They too are 0-0-0. Tonight they start the long road to a filled out record that hopefully has a significantly higher number in the first slot than in the other two combined.
… The health of the team isn’t what we’d hoped going in to the season. Eaves and Bertuzzi are both in, but Abdelkader is out with a rib injury and Draper isn’t available due to a groin injury. Both are at the bottom end of the lineup and can be replaced with relative ease, but here’s hoping the injury bug doesn’t start moving higher up the ladder.
… The return of Bertuzzi throws a damper on the idea of Maltby getting a final hurrah in Detroit, and may suggest he’s not leaning toward retirement after all. Unless the Wings didn’t go in for the sentimental crap and just told him, “no free games.”
… Jimmy Howard kicks off his sophomore season tonight and in some ways, doing so against a team with threats like Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan and Selanne on it is a great thing: trial by fire, as they say.
… Speaking of trial by fire: Jonathan Ericsson’s once again being thrown into it by Babcock, who is pairing him with Lidstrom to start the game. Apparently, Jonny’s size and flowing locks are meant to throw off Getzlaf and his bald spot or something.
My thought on the pairing is this: usually, the Wings have to be on the road for us to be treated to an Ericsson/Getzlaf matchup. I think it has strong potential to be painful. Jonny’s ability to jump out of the flames has been lacking for over a season now.
… The upside to Ericsson/Lidstrom is lower minutes for everybody. Rafalski and Stuart will make up the second pairing and Kronwall and Salei will give the third pairing a rough edge. If Jonny’s not completely hopeless, this could work out nicely from a player management perspective.
… Not seeing Maltby tonight is the downside to Bertuzzi’s return. But the positive side is that we get to see the first three lines as they should be for much of the season. Still waiting on the fourth line to congeal, though.
… Thanks to NHL scheduling, the Wings also have to play tomorrow and even more fun is the fact that they have to do it on the road. So focus and effort may be a slight issue as they have to battle a natural instinct to keep something in reserve.
… The Ducks are no longer the dominant team they used to be, but their forward corps and goaltending make them formidable enough that they cannot be taken lightly. The Wings can set a tone on the season with an emphatic win tonight. They can also show that their pre-season meant nothing by flipping the switch from “pre-season cruise” to “regular season full tilt.”
… Note we’ll be watching the game on DVR delay because the Griffins home opener is tonight. And we’re going to that because you can’t DVR an in-person experience. That means no tweeting the game (though I’ll try to tweet from the Van about the goings on).