Curtis Joseph made his return to the net against the Columbus Blue Jackets after sitting out two games, and he was more than ready to go. "It's been a week; it feels like it's been three weeks," he told reporters. Whether it was the rest or the determination not to be pulled again, or a combination thereof, Joseph looked like his old, all-star self in net, stopping 33 good shots and letting the Red Wings take a 1-0 win.
It was a very different game from the 6-4 end the Red Wings and Blue Jackets played to just ten nights ago. This time, both teams worked hard to create scoring chances and outwork each others' defense. Columbus looked like a team that should be higher in the standings than it is (they have 29 points for fourth place in the Central Division), and the Red Wings responded to their opponents' enthusiasm with hard play of their own. Joseph and Columbus goalie Marc Denis were both phenomenal, turning aside scoring chances with seeming ease.
Sean Avery, Boyd Devereaux, and Tomas Holmstrom had an excellent game together. Their line did not score, but they did a great job of getting scoring chances and wreaking havoc among the Columbus defenders every time they were out on the ice. Maxim Kuznetsov, paired with Chris Chelios, made himself noticed with solid defensive play for most of the game.
Luc Robitaille "almost" scored a power play goal early in the second period. The puck was under the goaltender's leg pads, but the referee did not call it a goal, no official deemed it worthy of review, and play continued. Later enhanced video replay showed that the puck had actually crossed the goal line, but by then it was too late to go back and allow the goal.
Avery ended the second period with a fight with Duvie Westcott. Westcott was given a game misconduct and thrown out of the game because he didn't have his jersey strapped down properly, which gave him an unfair fighting advantage.
Kris Draper finally got the Red Wings on the board with only 4:27 left to play in the second period. Brendan Shanahan got the puck free along the left boards, then turned fired it at Denis while skating back towards the blue line. Denis bobbled the save, and Draper was in just the right place to slap the rebound into the net for his fourth goal of the season.
The Blue Jackets came on even stronger then. Joseph continued to come up huge, stopping two hard shots by Geoff Sanderson and keeping the lead for Detroit. Columbus got a break with 33 seconds left. Draper was sent to the box for obstruction holding, and the Blue Jackets pulled Denis for another skater and a 6-on-4 advantage. The Red Wings, however, kept control of the puck and didn't even let the Blue Jackets get another shot on net with their manpower advantage.
Final shots on net were 33-28 in favor of Columbus. These two teams will meet again on Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena to finish out their home-and-home series.
Notes: Brendan Shanahan's assist extended his point streak to six games.... Columbus's Andrew Cassels left the game after the second period because of a hyperextended elbow.... Pavel Datsyuk skated before the team practice yesterday with a brace on his knee. The team expects him to return sometime in mid-January.... Steve Yzerman also skated, and took part in three-on-three practice scrimmages. Coach Dave Lewis said that Yzerman looked the best he had since his knee surgery.
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