Week 2: October 9-15

Sure, the Red Wings can beat a St. Louis team which added a new goalie and lost two all-star defensemen, but what does that mean?

Detroit had a light first week this season with only two back-to-back games, the same way they started out the 2003-2004 season. That year, they quickly beat the Los Angeles Kings and the Ottawa Senators for a 2-0-0-0 start. They have won the season opener for six straight seasons, and have finished the regular season in the top five of the Western Conference for a long time. There isn’t much you can take from the first two games, but here are a few notes:

The new guys are contributing already. Mikael Samuelsson and Brett Lebda have more points than Kris Draper and Nicklas Lidstrom. Jason Williams isn’t new, but he’ll get more ice time this year and had three assists on Thursday.

There should not be a goalie controversy. Manny Legace has proven himself as a great goalie no matter how often he plays, and you can bet on Chris Osgood to win 30 games every year if healthy. Jim Howard might get in a game or two this month, but he looked good in preseason and is well liked so far by the other goalies.

Draper and Kirk Maltby will have to go above and beyond what they’ve normally done as defensive forwards. The Wings were shorthanded 11 times in Thursday’s game at St. Louis, and these two are the best penalty killers on the team.

With the signing of Jason Woolley, the Wings can make the decision to either rest the veterans Chris Chelios and Lidstrom a bit or take time away from youngsters Lebda and Jiri Fischer. These players are all going to have to adjust with the penalties being called, and a deep defensive core will help.

This Week’s Matchups:

October 9 vs. Calgary – Steve Yzerman may not play, but you can be sure Darren McCarty will. He won’t take it easy on his former team, but claims his heart is still wearing red. Many are picking Calgary to once again win the Western Conference, so this should be a good game. (Update: Detroit wins 6-3)

October 10 vs. Vancouver – Finally knocking Colorado off the top of the Northwest Division, Vancouver remains dangerous. Like Detroit, they’ve had good regular seasons and that doesn’t appear to be in jeopardy. They usually give the Wings a hard-fought game; the teams split four games last season.

October 13 at Los Angeles – The Kings may have lost the biggest offensive output of any team in the off-season, parting ways with Zigmund Palffy, Jozef Stumpel, Jason Allison and Martin Straka. To counter, they did sign Pavol Demitra and Jeremy Roenick. If the Kings want any chance of making the playoffs, goalies Mathieu Garon and Jason Labarbera have to immediately make an impact. Lababera won his first game, stopping 27 of 29 shots against Phoenix.

October 15 at Phoenix – Call it the sequel to the Wings’ Red vs. White game in training camp. Lots of familiar faces are in Phoenix now: Brett Hull, Curtis Joseph, Boyd Devereaux and assistant coach Barry Smith. Speaking of coaches, Wayne Gretzky is still in the spotlight – not for what he has done, but what he can do. There have been reports of the players being intimidated by the presense of The Great One, which may explain their 0-2 start. The Coyotes are re-tooling quickly, acquiring Geoff Sanderson from the Blue Jackets in a five-player deal.

Wings Sign Woolley, Send Lebda to Griffins

The Detroit Red Wings announced the signing of defenseman Jason Woolley on Saturday. The contract is for one year, with financial terms not announced.

To make room for Woolley on their roster, the Red Wings assigned Brett Lebda, who scored a goal and added an assist in Detroit’s first two games, to the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League.

Woolley played for the Red Wings for two years before going unsigned at the start of this season, which will be the 15th of his career. During his time in Detroit, he scored 42 points and played in 117 games.

“We’re very happy to have Jason return to the Red Wings,” Detroit general manager Ken Holland said. “He’s a veteran defenceman who handles the puck very well and should excel with the new rule changes in the NHL.”

Wings Hold Off Blues’ Comeback, Win 4-3

Red Wings goalie Manny Legace stretched out across the crease and stopped a flurry of shots from the St. Louis Blues in the closing seconds of Thursday’s game, helping the Red Wings preserve a one-goal lead and earn a 4-3 victory in the second half of the home-and-home series between the two teams.

Detroit had taken a 4-1 lead into the third period when Doug Weight pulled the Blues within two at 5:06 of the period. With St. Louis on the power play and Weight in the slot, he deflected a shot from the blue line past Legace.

Just 1:02 later, Dean McAmmond picked off a pass by Mathieu Schneider in the neutral zone, skated down the boards, and rifled a shot from the right circle over Legace’s glove, pulling the Blues within a goal.

St. Louis had opened the game’s scoring with a goal by Andy Roach 8:29 into the game. Roach took a centering pass from Weight at the side of the crease and banged the puck into the net for a power play goal.

The Red Wings scored the next four goals, starting with 6:34 remaining in the first period when Robert Lang fired a wrist shot from the top of the right circle over St. Louis netminder Patrick Lalime‘s shoulder.

Mikael Samuelsson gave Detroit the lead with a power play goal 2:28 later. Samuelsson attempted a centering pass to Tomas Holmstrom in the crease but Blues defenseman Eric Weinrich deflected the puck into his own net.

The Red Wings got two quick goals late in second period, as well.

Jiri Fischer scored his first goal of the season, jumping up on a rush into the St. Louis zone and taking a pass in his feet from Holmstrom. He quickly controlled the puck and wristed a shot off the inside of the far goalpost with 3:50 left in the period.

Just 2:07 later, former Blue Brendan Shanahan scored the eventual game-winner with the Wings on the power play. Jason Williams, who had three assists on the night, one-timed a long shot at Lalime and Shanahan picked up the rebound at the edge of the crease. He lifted a shot into the net to give Detroit a 4-1 lead.

Legace stopped twenty-three of the twenty-six shots he faced in net for Detroit, while Lalime made twenty-three saves on twenty-seven shots for St. Louis.

The Red Wings are now off until Sunday, when they host former Red Wing Darren McCarty and the Calgary Flames.

Game On!: Wings Down Blues to Usher in “New” NHL

The National Hockey League returned to Hockeytown Wednesday night as the Detroit Red Wings earned a 5-1 victory over the Central Division rival St. Louis Blues.

The Red Wings got on the scoreboard early with a goal by Pavel Datsuyk. Just 1:35 into the game, Pavel Datsyuk took a pass from Henrik Zetterberg that deflected off the skate of a defender and one-timed it between the pads of St. Louis netminder Patrick Lalime.

Mathieu Schneider put Detroit up by two at 7:04 of the first. Schneider got the puck from Datsyuk on the far side of the right circle and one-timed a shot over Lalime’s left shoulder.

St. Louis tried to mount a comeback 4:12 later. On a rush, Eric Brewer took a pass from Petr Cajanek and broke in through the slot alone. After a quick fake, he put the puck over Detroit goalie Manny Legace‘s glove to make the game 2-1.

The Red Wings would control the rest of the game, scoring three times in the second period.

Mikael Samuelsson scored his first goal as a Red Wing 2:40 into the middle frame. Dan Cleary knocked a St. Louis player off the puck and Samuelsson picked it up, whipping it past Lalime from near the top of the right circle.

Brett Lebda, playing in his first career NHL game, scored the first goal of his career to give Detroit a 4-2 lead with 7:54 remaining in the period. Lalime got a piece of his shot from the right circle but not enough to keep it out of the net. It was, however, enough to take Lalime out of the net, as he was replaced by Reinhard Divis.

Cleary, continuing his strong play of the night, tested Divis early, stealing the puck behind the net and coming out front for a wraparound chance. His backhand shot blocked into the air, Cleary knifed the rising puck behind Divis. The shot was wide and wouldn’t have counted as a goal anyway, as it was played with a high stick.

Robert Lang, possibly the Red Wings’ most forgotten star, scored the game’s final goal, putting in his own rebound after a flurry of shots from around the net.

There was no scoring in the third period but the game did start to get chippy.

Keith Tkachuk layed out Datsyuk, a hit with which Brendan Shanahan took exception and the two engaged in a shoving match. Minutes later, Jamal Mayers challenged Shanahan and the two threw down their gloves. Mayers got some early hits in but Shanahan landed punches late and scored the takedown. Shanahan also earned a game misconduct, allegedly for trying to extend the fight as the officials were breaking it up.

At the end of the night, the Red Wings were one-for-seven on the power play and Legace stopped 13 of 14 shots. The Blues were scoreless on their six powerplay chances while Lalime made twenty saves on twenty-four shots and Divis stopped twelve of the thirteen chances he faced.

The two teams will meet again Thursday night in St. Louis.

Changes: A New NHL, but Wings Remain Similar

With all the opinions on how this NHL season will go, someone has to be right.

You know the words “a new NHL” actually mean something when people are talking about how far the Pittsburgh Penguins will advance in the playoffs, or how the Nashville Predators are the real threat to take the Central Division.

Things are bound to change, but every season brings a few surprises. While the same teams were looked at as Cup contenders each year, there were others that shocked the world once, but not again. No one gave Carolina a shot before 2002, and they don’t get much respect now, despite making the Cup Final that year. Each team is going to see some changes in this new NHL. So, what stays the same in Detroit and what changes?

The roster looks a lot like it has in the past. Detroit may be the measuring stick for any team in the future trying to keep a core together. At the center is Steve Yzerman, as he has been for two decades. Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Tomas Holmstrom and Brendan Shanahan remain from the 1997 championship team at forward, with six-time Norris nominated (and three-time winner) Nicklas Lidstrom on defense.

Chris Osgood remembers that 1997 team, and he’s back in Detroit after spending a few years in New York and St. Louis. Including Ozzie, Detroit has ten players that have been with the team since before 2000. Manny Legace saw Osgood leave and return, and the two will have a healthy fight to become the number one guy. Relative newcomers Robert Lang, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are the guys who will be looked at to score goals this season. Gone from the long-time roster are Darren McCarty and Mathieu Dandenault, along with a few salary eaters (Dominik Hasek, Curtis Joseph, Brett Hull).

Players that will have to produce when they get their chances include Jason Williams, Johan Franzen, Mark Mowers and Dan Cleary.

If the officials call the game by the book, the defense needs to be ready. While Lidstrom is nearly perfect at his position, Jiri Fischer is still learning and may rack up the penalty minutes. This means the Red Wings are relying on a few older veterans to hold down the fort.

The play of Mathieu Schneider, Chris Chelios and possibly Jamie Rivers and Andreas Lilja will be the true test of this Wings squad. Niklas Kronwall again will miss most of the season, meaning the Wings may even look at some inexperienced defenders, as tight cap space may limit them from testing the free agent market or making a big trade.

A new trio now leads the Wings behind the bench: Coach Mike Babcock and his assistants Paul MacLean and Todd McLellan are all fairly familiar faces. Babcock coached the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim that knocked out the Wings in 2003, and MacLean played for the Red Wings. Interestingly enough, McLellan coached the Houston Aeros past the Grand Rapids Griffins in the 2003 Calder Cup playoffs. These three should lay down the law, making sure the Wings never get too comfortable trying to play their old style.

This Week’s Matchups

October 5 vs St. Louis – Chris Osgood won’t get a chance to open the season against his former team, so it looks like Manny Legace will get the start. The Blues now have Patrick Lalime in front of the net, but not Al MacInnis or Chris Pronger. If the Wings can come out hard and fast, they might be able to exploit the Blues’ young defense which is now led by Eric Brewer.

October 6 at St. Louis – The Blues and Wings get two of their eight meetings over with in a hurry. The Blues home opener may see Reinhard Divis and Jim Howard in the nets. St. Louis is the younger team, and they’ll be excited to open the Savvis Center. A split series with both teams winning their home opener is not out of the question.

Games this week: 2
vs. Western Conference: 2
vs. Central Division: 2
Home: 1
Road: 1

Datsyuk Scores as Wings Close Preseason With Loss

Pavel Datsyuk, playing in only his second game of the preseason after remaining unsigned through training camp, scored the Red Wings’ only goal Saturday night as Detroit closed out its exhibition schedule with a 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

With 2:35 remaining in the second period, Datsyuk one-timed a pass from Jason Williams by Toronto goalie Mikael Tellqvist.

The Maple Leafs contribuited the rest of the game’s scoring, with a first period goal by Jeff O’Neill, a second period goal by Mariusz Czerkawski, and third period goals by Andrew Wozniewski and Nik Antropov.

Detroit netminder Jim Howard stopped 25 of the 29 shots he faced while Tellqvist made 29 saves on 30 shots.

The Red Wings will next be in action when they open the regular season on Wednesday, hosting the St. Louis Blues.

Wings Fall to Leafs in Datsyuk’s Return

Pavel Datsyuk played his first game of the exhibition season for the Detroit Red Wings on Friday but his presence enough wasn’t enough to lift the team to a win over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs. Datsyuk was held without a point and the Red Wings lost, 4-3.

Detroit head coach Mike Babcock complained that the team didn’t go to the net enough while on the power play.

“I thought we made some nice passes but didn’t attack the net. We made one more pretty play, one more cute play, all night long, instead of doing what we had been doing, and in the end that came back to bite us.”

The Red Wings had twelve power plays but only converted on two of them, both while skating with a two-man advantage.

The Leafs got two power play goals late in the first period, with defenseman Chris Chelios in the penalty box. Mats Sundin scored with 2:19 remaining and Toronto skating 5-on-3. Maple Leaf newcomer Jeff O’Neill scored just under one minute later, at 1:20.

Brendan Shanahan scored Detroit’s first goal of the game 6:05 into the second, one of the Red Wings’ power play goals. Matt Stajan responded with a shorthanded goal for Toronto just 3:42 later.

Matheiu Schenider notched the Red Wings’ second goal on the power play with 7:49 remaining in the game’s middle frame but Detroit couldn’t pull even.

The Maple Leafs lone third period goal came from Carlo Colaiacovo at 8:58, while Kirk Maltby scored for Detroit with 5:05 remaining.

O’Neill scored the only goal of the shootout.

The two teams will meet again Saturday in Toronto.

Kronwall Out 4-6 Months

The Detroit Red Wings got the news that they had hoped not to hear on Friday: Defenseman Niklas Kronwall will miss four to six months of the upcoming season, shelved due to a knee injury.

“He’s got a partially torn MCL, he’s got a torn ACL,” Detroit general manager Ken Holland said.

Kronwall suffered the injury Tuesday night against Colorado. After getting an MRI in Detroit on Wednesday, things didn’t look good. He saw knee specialist Dr. William G. Clancy in Aspen, CO, on Friday and the diagnosis was confirmed.

Kronwall will ungergo surgery once the swelling has gone down – in two to three weeks. His earliest predicted return date is February 1 but it could be as late as April 1.

Staffan Kronwall, Niklas’ brother, stated “I know him so well, and I know he is going to come back.”

The Red Wings will look to replace him with Andy Delmore, Jamie Rivers or Brett Lebda.