Off and Running

If it’s late night at home in Detroit, if it’s October, if the Wings are scoring on penalty kills as easily as on power plays, it must be Game One of the regular season, and we must be in San Jose. In a game strangely reminiscent of last year’s season opener in San Jose, the Red Wings got Dave Lewis off to a good start in his tenure as head coach with a 6-3 victory over the Sharks.

The Red Wings could have gotten into penalty trouble in the first period, as the Sharks were awarded four consecutive power plays, including a high-sticking double minor to Max Kuznetsov. Fortunately for Detroit, Kirk Maltby was on the penalty kill. Maltby scored two shorthanded goals on the Sharks’ first two power plays. His first resulted from a badly placed pass from Jeff Jillson to Mike Rathje in the San Jose zone. Maltby intercepted the puck, skated towards the net, and put the puck high over goalie Mikka Kiprusoff.

Maltby’s second shorthanded goal came from an interception by Kris Draper in the Red Wings’ zone. Draper got the puck and took off up the right wing side, with Maltby keeping up on the left and only one San Jose defenseman to get in the way. Draper passed across to Maltby. Maltby looked as if he would pass back, but instead drew the defender and the goalie towards him before putting the puck into the net again.

The Sharks got on the board with a goal by Vincent Damphousse while they were at five-on-three. With Chris Chelios and Brendan Shanahan both in the box, the three skaters and Curtis Joseph did well for most of their time, but just before the five-on-three would have ended, Damphousse picked up a rebound of a Mike Ricci shot and fired a quick shot which slid between Joseph’s leg pads.

Tomas Holmstrom gave the Wings their own power play goal before the period was over. Pavel Datsyuk won the draw in the Sharks’ zone, Nick Lidstrom received the pass and took a shot from the blue line, and Holmstrom, at the front of the net as usual, tipped the puck to redirect it past Kiprusoff.

The scoring continued in the second period, although the penalties let up. Fedorov got away on a one-on-one, used the Sharks’ defenseman as a screen, and zinged a wrist shot between the skater’s legs and right through Kiprusoff, just 30 seconds into the period. Damphousse brought San Jose back within two points ten minutes later by being in exactly the right place to receive Owen Nolan’s cross-crease pass and slap it past Joseph before the goaltender could slide back across the net. Fedorov was allowed to break loose on another one-on-one, this time against Rathje. The shot deflected off Rathje’s stick, fluttered high into the air, and dropped right over Kiprusoff’s shoulder. Finally, Lidstrom scored his second goal on a three-on-one rush. He picked up the rebound from his first shot and tapped it past Kiprusoff.

The Sharks started the third period on a power play, from an interference call on Jiri Fischer from the end of the second period, and with a new goalie in net. Rookie backup Vesa Toskala came in to replace the beleaguered Kiprusoff. Rathje scored on a one-time shot from a pass by Damphousse almost right away, but the Sharks were unable to follow up the momentum from their third goal, and the game ended 6-3. Toskala was tested by the Wings, most notably by Datsyuk and by Brett Hull, but he held up to the challenge and stopped all twelve of the shots he faced in the period.

The Red Wings will continue their West Coast road trip by heading further south to face the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.

The usual starting goalie for the Sharks, Evgeni Nabokov, did not play tonight because he has not yet signed a contract for this season…. The Red Wings extended their winning streak in season openers to four seasons, currently the longest streak in the NHL.

NHL Kicks Off Season in Carolina, Colorado and LA

The National Hockey League kicked off its 2002-2003 season on Wednesday with three games. The Carolina Hurricanes hosted the New York Rangers, the Dallas Stars visited the Colorado Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings hosted the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Kings’ game against Phoenix featured ceremonies leading up to the retirement of Wayne Gretzky‘s number. Gretzky’s former teammates and coaches were on hand as the banner bearing his #99 was unveiled in the rafters of the Staples Center.

It marked the third time that Gretzky’s number had been retired. The NHL removed it from use during the 1999 All-Star Game and the Edmonton Oilers, Gretzky’s first NHL team, followed suit later.

Also in honor of Gretzky, the Kings wore their old-style jerseys during their 4-1 win over Gretzky-owned Phoenix. The white, sliver and black jerseys were originally worn from 1988-1998 and were the only style of Kings jersey Gretzky wore.

In the other games of the night, Colorado honored their franchise’s eight straight division championship, a streak reaching back to their last season as the Quebec Nordiques, before battling to a 1-1 tie with Dallas. Stars’ netminder Marty Turco made forty saves in the effort.

The revamped New York Rangers downed the defending Eastern Conference Champion Carolina Hurricanes, 4-1. Rangers captain Mark Messier scored twice and new acquisitions Bobby Holik and Darius Kasparaitis were held pointless.

Wings Make Final Cuts

Detroit Red Wings head coach Dave Lewis made the final set of Detroit’s roster cuts following last night’s exhibition game against Chicago. As expected, Stacy Roest remained with the Red Wings while Derek King was sent to the Grand Rapids Griffins and former Red Wings Doug Brown, attempting a comeback after spending a year out of hockey, was cut.

Roest is likely to join King in Grand Rapids when Boyd Devereaux returns to the Red Wings’ roster. Devereaux is currently nursing a broken thumb suffered in the first exhibition game of the season.

“I have the utmost respect for Doug as a player, as a former Red Wing,” Lewis said of the difficult decision to tell Brown and King that they had not made the roster. “Derek King is a quality person and he’s a smart hockey player.”

“I’m proud of the effort and how far I’ve come in the last 20 or 30 days,” Brown said. “I’ve enjoyed this training camp, and management gave me an opportunity in the exhibition games to show that I can play.”

King will report to the Griffins this week. Once there he will have the role of a player/coach.

Former Red Wings goaltender Kevin Hodson claimed a roster spot on the Tampa Bay Lightning. He will back up starting netminder Nikolai Khabibulin after being out of the NHL last year.

Cujo Ready And Set

Curtis Joseph stopped thirty-five of thirty-six shots, and Nick Lidstrom posted a shorthanded goal, but a slow-to-start Red Wings offense couldn’t quite get past the Chicago Blackhawks. The two teams ended the pre-season with a 1-1 tie at Joe Louis Arena.

The Blackhawks held the Red Wings to only four shots on goal in the entire first period, in spite of a four minute Detroit power play resulting from a double penalty to Alexei Zhamnov for interference and slashing. Curtis Joseph, meanwhile, was brilliant in his net, stopping all twelve of the shots Chicago sent at him in the first period.

The Red Wings managed to generate some more offensive effort in the second period, but were still outshot by the Blackhawks. The first goal of the game came towards the end of the period when the Wings were shorthanded. Sergei Fedorov got the puck down the ice and carried it around the Chicago net and into the left corner. When four of the Blackhawks went towards him, Fedorov dropped a pass back to Nick Lidstrom coming up in the high slot. A quick one-time shot right past rookie goaltender Michael Leighton, and the Wings were in the lead.

Chicago tied the game back up early in the third period. Nathan Dempsey shot the puck towards the net. The shot was blocked, but the puck went back to Dempsey, so he angled it behind the net to Steve Sullivan. Sullivan’s quick shot hit Joseph on the back of the leg and went into the net before anyone could stop it.

The game headed to overtime, but the teams couldn’t break the tie.

The Red Wings begin the regular season with a West Coast road trip. They open against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night before continuing on to Los Angeles and Anaheim.

The players seem to be glad the preseason is coming to an end. “This camp seemed like it was long for whatever reason,” said Kris Draper before the game. “We’ve got one more game left — let’s go play it and the bottom line is, remain healthy.”… Defenseman Patrick Boileau was sent to the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday, leaving only two more cuts to be made to get the roster down to twenty-three players. The likely cuts will be either Derek King, Stacy Roest, or Doug Brown. Coach Dave Lewis planned to make his decision after tonight’s game.

No Wings Lost in Waiver Draft

The Detroit Red Wings escaped Friday’s Waiver Draft without losing any of the seven players they had left unprotected. They also declined to make any selections in the Draft.

Detroit made defensemen Patrick Boileau and Eddy Campbell, forwards Derek King, Mark Mowers, Michel Picard and Stacy Roest, and goaltender Marc Lamothe available to the other twenty-nine NHL teams by leaving them off their Protected List. Each team may only protect twenty players.

Six players changed teams through this year’s Waiver Draft. The Atlanta Thrashers selected defenseman Stephane Robidas from the Montreal Canadiens. Mathieu Biron, another defenseman, was claimed by the Columbus Blue Jackets from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Right wing Petr Tenkrat was picked by the Florida Panthers from the Nashville Predators’ roster. Nashville then selected defenseman Francis Bouillon from the Canadiens. The New York Rangers added some depth at forward by claiming right wing Ronald Petrovicky from the Calgary Flames. Defenseman Rick Berry, part of the Dariius Kasparaitis trade last season, was claimed by the Washington Capitals from the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Last season the Red Wings lost goaltender Chris Osgood to the New York Islanders via the Waiver Draft.

All-Star Game Returns to East-West Format

The National Hockey League announced today that the 2003 NHL All-Star Game, hosted by the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Florida, will be the first to use the Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference since that format was abandoned in 1997. The NHL had used the North America vs. the Rest of the World format from 1998 to 2002.

“We’re moving away from North America versus the world,” commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday. “We think it worked well, particularly in the Olympic years, but we think in terms of fan identification with players in the game, it makes sense to go back to a more traditional format.”

With NHL players not expected to participate in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy, there is no longer a need for the NHL to showcase talent on a national level.

The North American team won three of their five games over the World team, in 1998, 1999 and 2001. The World team claimed victory last year in Los Angeles and in 2000.

The Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference format was in place for only three years after the Eastern and Western Conferences replaced the Prince of Wales and Clarence Campbell Conferences. The Eastern Conference won all three of those games.

This season’s All-Star Game will take place on February 2, 2003.

Avs Acquire Morris

The Colorado Avalanche boosted their defense Tuesday, acquiring young defenseman Derek Morris from the Calgary Flames in a multiplayer deal involving clutch performer Chris Drury.

The Avalanche sent Drury and fellow forward Stephane Yelle to the Flames for Morris and veteran forwards Jeff Shantz and Dean McAmmond.

Morris was Calgary’s highest-scoring defenseman with thirty assists and a total of thirty-four points in only sixty-one games.

Drury scored twenty-one goals and notched twenty-five assists for the Avalanche last season. He had three game-winning goals in Colorado’s playoff run. Yelle had five goals and twelve assists.

Shantz played only forty games last season due to injury. He started his ten-year career with the Chicago Blackhawks and was traded to Calgary in 1998.

McAmmond joins his fifth NHL team, having played for Edmonton, Chicago and Philadelphia before joining Calgary last season. His twenty-one goals and thirty assists were good for third in Flames’ team scoring.

Morris will fill the void in the Avalanche defense left by the departure of Darius Kasparaitis, who signed this summer with the New York Rangers. He joins Rob Blake and Adam Foote as the strength of the Colorado blue line.

Colorado defenseman Lance Pitlick announced his retirement today.