Three Free Agent Try-outs Confirmed

Last week Bruce MacLeod, posted that the Wings would be inviting a handful of veteran defensemen to training camp as free agent try-outs. Specifically mentioned was the rumor that Brent Sopel (formerly of Vancouver, the NY Islanders, Los Angeles, and Vancouver again) would be one of them.

Today, MacLeod confirms that rumor. Three of the invitees are Sopel, Jassen Cullimore, and Aaron Downey.

Over at Abel to Yzerman, Bill posits that Sopel wouldn’t be invited if he weren’t promised a roster spot. Sopel would likely be one of the Wings’ top four defensemen, also taking time on the power play. With a top four of Nick Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall and Brent Sopel, it would look like Andreas Lilja is the odd-man out.

That’s easier said than done, of course.

Rompin’ and Stompin’

The preseason games may not count for much, but they sure can be enjoyable for the fans. Brett Hull scored a hat trick, Derek King added two more, and Curtis Joseph stopped 25 of 27 shots in his first home game in red and white, as the Red Wings continued their preseason dominance with an 8-2 victory over the Dallas Stars.

The Wings scored four goals in the opening period alone, while the Stars had trouble mounting any kind of offense against the Detroit net. On the first play of the game, Henrik Zetterberg‘s shot off a Brett Hull pass was deflected, but came right back to Derek King, who sent the puck fluttering back into the net between the ice and the leg pad of goalie Ron Tugnutt.

Soon thereafter, tough guy Derian Hatcher took a penalty for elbowing. Hull’s first goal of the game came just as the power play ended, before Hatcher could get back to the play. Igor Larionov passed to Luc Robitaille behind the net, and Robitaille sent it out in front where Hull was waiting unseen to slap it in for the 2-0 lead.

Hull scored his second goal just nine seconds into a slashing penalty on Aaron Downey. It was much the same setup as his first goal, the difference being that it was new defenseman Dimitri Bykov who sent the puck behind the net to Robitaille. Again, Hull waited in front of the net with no Dallas players even trying to get rid of him, and again, he snapped the puck in for the goal.

Sean Avery made his presence known he collided with Rob DiMaio, who picked a fight. Avery is certainly not one to turn down a chance to drop the gloves, and DiMaio definitely seemed to get the worse end of the deal, both in the fight and in getting an extra two minute penalty for elbowing.

King scored the Red Wings’ fourth goal, after Kris Draper nimbly evaded a Dallas defender, flew up the right wing side, and snapped a hard pass to King on the left side. King one-timed the shot, and the puck flew past Tugnutt.

The second period continued in much the same way, though the Wings did shut down the production somewhat, and the Stars did try to create a little more pressure. Hull scored his hat trick goal with 10:24 left to play, and the defensively lacking Stars rescued Tugnutt by sending Marty Turco in to take his place. The Stars finally got on the board two minutes later, when Manny Malhotra scored on a neat pass from DiMaio through traffic to the front of the net.

Zetterberg answered for the Wings during a penalty to Malhotra, slapping home a passing play by Sergei Fedorov and Brendan Shanahan.

Hatcher scored another goal for the Stars early in the third period, but a shorthanded goal by Jason Williams and a power play goal by Fedorov ensured that the game would go down as a rout.

The Wings continue their exhibition season Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The two teams are going to meet halfway and play at Hamilton, Ontario.

Blackhawks Strong At Home

In spite of valiant play in the second and third periods, the Red Wings’ six-game road unbeaten streak was snapped Sunday by the Chicago Blackhawks, who won the game 5-4.

Chicago opened the scoring on the power play. While Sergei Fedorov was serving a penalty for slashing, Chicago’s Eric Daze fired on Dominek Hasek. Hasek blocked the shot, but Kyle Calder picked up the rebound and shot it into the net.

The Blackhawks scored again with just under three minutes left in the period. Daze shot the puck from behind the net and banked it off the skate of Michael Nylander, and between Hasek’s legs. As if adding insult to injury, the Blackhawks added another goal barely a minute later. On a two-on-one rush, Igor Korolev was able to get the puck past Nicklas Lidstrom and over Hasek to make the score 3-0.

Chicago’s penalty killing unit, ranked 27th in the NHL, had to go into action early in the second, when Daze was sent to the box for tripping. They were no match for Detroit’s power play. Igor Larionov passed from behind the net to Steve Yzerman, who fired the puck, and Luc Robitaille was on hand to sweep it in behind goalie Jocelyn Thibault.

Despite the energy generated by Robitaille’s goal, Chicago got the next two goals. Steve Thomas scored with a bouncing puck just ten seconds after the end of a Detroit penalty to Hasek (served by Brent Gilchrist) for delay of game by firing the puck over the glass. The next was scored by Aaron Downey with 8:46 left in the second period, and was the first goal of his NHL career.

Down by four goals, the Detroit bench pulled Hasek out of the game and sent in Manny Legace to take his place. Hasek, still recovering from stomach flu, had let in five goals on fifteen shots.

The Red Wings got a 5-on-3 opportunity late in the period. Jaroslav Spacek was given two minutes for delay of game for laying on the puck with 4:02 left to play. Just over a minute later, Tony Amonte was sent to the box for slashing. Larionov scored by shooting the puck from behind the net and banking it off the skate of Alexander Karpotsvev and into the net.

They continued with a 5-on-4 power play, since Amonte’s penalty had not yet ended. This time, Larionov passed to Robitaille behind the net. Robitaille got it out front to Brett Hull, who fired hard and beat Thibault for the goal.

Detroit held Chicago to only three shots against Legace in the third period, but was only able to score once more. With 8:22 left to play, Larionov won an offensive zone faceoff. The puck bounced free to Robitaille, who shot it past Thibault to score his 599th career goal.

The Red Wings controlled the puck for most of the remainder of the game. Even when they pulled Legace to send in the sixth skater, however, they were not able to beat Thibault again.

Chicago, with new coach Brian Sutter, has not lost a home game yet this season. Shots on goal were 29-18 in the Red Wings’ favor.

Detroit will continue their road trip with a game against the Phoenix Coyotes Wednesday night.