Saying Goodbye to the Joe

I don’t know if last night is what I expected from the last game at Joe Louis Arena.  I don’t know what I should have expected, either.

It was always going to be hard.  You want to hold on to every last thing.  You want to hold on to every last thing.

I was taking photos of every third-period faceoff, in case it was the arena’s last faceoff.  Some people I was with made sure to buy beer at the last “last call” at the Joe.  There was the last “Livin’ on a Prayer” and the last “Don’t Stop Believing” and the last goal (Riley Sheahan, because of course) and the last penalty and the last zamboni ride and there were probably lasts that I didn’t even register.  I touched on that a bit on my way out last night.

It’s the lasts that will stick with me.

The atmosphere was fun.  I’ve seen people compare it to a playoff game and I can see why, ’cause the crowd was lively, but it really wasn’t a playoff atmosphere at all.  There was no anxiety.  We knew the game didn’t matter.

I think the post-game ceremony was oddly appropriate.

It was awkward.  There was a 45-minute gap between the game and the ceremony, leaving the crowd wondering what was going on.  Microphones didn’t work.  The whole thing took place on seemingly-dingy red carpets.

The alumni present were an eclectic mix.  Sergei Fedorov and Brendan Shanahan and Pavel Datsyuk were absent; the Grind Line and Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom were there; and then there were Andreas Lilja and Fredrik Olausson and Boyd Devereaux.

Then everyone raised their sticks to the air and there were fireworks and it just kind of ended.  If fireworks can ever be anti-climatic, that was it.

As I said, oddly appropriate.

Then it was time to leave for the last time.  The last of the lasts.  And that was the hardest.

Circling the concourse, we took one last look in from several sections.  Stared up at the banners.  Thought about where we were sitting for different games we’d been to.

Then it was time to go.

Red Wings – Ducks Pregame Notes

Former Red Wing Andreas Lilja returns to Detroit tonight with his new team, the Anaheim Ducks.

Lilja hadn’t signed with the Ducks last time these two teams met, in the season opener on October 8. I’m sure no one needs reminding of what happened then but just for the record: Pavel Datsyuk. Gordie Howe Hat Trick.

Todd Bertuzzi will be a game-time decision, having injured his foot blocking a shot on Thursday against the Flames. He didn’t skate yesterday but thinks he’ll be ready tonight. If he can’t go, Justin Abdelkader will crack the Wings’ lineup, returning from his rib injury.

Abdelkader could be in the lineup anyway if the Red Wings opt to go with a more physical look to their fourth line to counter the Ducks’ aggressiveness but no changes are expected.

Jimmy Howard gets the start in goal.

Bertuzzi Re-Ups with Red Wings

Todd Bertuzzi has agreed to a two-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings, the team announced on Wednesday.

The contract is reportedly worth $3.875 million for an annual cap hit of $1.9375 million. That’s a raise of over $400,000 from the $1.5 million he earned for the 2009-10 season.

With Bertuzzi signed, the Red Wings have retained each of their targeted unrestricted free agents. Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom signed new deals with the team earlier this month while Jason Williams and Brett Lebda aren’t expected to return to Detroit. Andreas Lilja and Kirk Maltby could return but were not stated to be high priorities for Red Wings’ general manager Ken Holland.

Holland will now focus on the team’s restricted free agents. That list includes Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, Drew Miller, Patrick Eaves, and Derek Meech.

Game Six Postgame Notes: Part One

I’ll rant more later but a couple initial thoughts…

Andreas Lilja and Jonathan Ericsson were out for a lot of the game’s final minutes. Combined with Jimmy Howard being left in makes me think Mike Babcock was not going for the win. That kind of p*sses me off.

I’ve heard from a Coyotes fan after every Phoenix win so far, don’t disappoint me now, guys.

Highly disappointed in the Detroit effort today. Absolutely offensive.

Quick Goals Give Red Wings Win over Blue Jackets

The Detroit Red Wings rallied from a 2-1 deficit Wednesday night with three goals in a 1:16 span en route to a 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The win, combined with the Phoenix Coyotes’ defeat of the Nashville Predators, puts the Red Wings in fifth place in the Western Conference with two games remaining in the season.

Tomas Holmstrom scored two power play goals and Danny Cleary added an even-strength tally that proved to be the game-winner.

Holmstrom’s first goal came 8:05 into the third, when a Henrik Zetterberg shot deflected past Columbus goalie Steve Mason off of Holmstrom’s skate.

His second came 40 seconds later, tipping Nicklas Lidstrom‘s one-timer from the high slot past Mason.

Cleary scored just 36 seconds later, snapping a shot from the slot past Mason into the top of the net.

Mike Blunden pulled the Jackets to back within a goal with 9:47 left in the third, weaving between defenseman Jonathan Ericsson and Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard to slide the puck in the open side of the net.

The Blue Jackets could not tie things back up, however, even with Mason pulled for an extra attacker in the game’s final minute.

The Red Wings had opened the game’s scoring just 2:32 into the first period, when Niklas Kronwall whipped a shot past Mason from the high slot off of a backhand feed from Todd Bertuzzi.

R.J. Umberger tied the game at 8:58 of the first, capitalizing on a rare giveaway by Lidstrom to jump into the Detroit zone and roof a chance over Howard.

Samuel Pahlsson took advantage of another turnover, spinning to fling a shot past Howard from the left faceoff circle after Andreas Lilja failed to control the puck.

The Red Wings finished the night two-for-five on the power play while Columbus went scoreless on one power play attempt.

Howard made 21 saves on 24 Columbus shots. Mason stopped 31 of 35 shots faced.

The two teams will meet again in Columbus on Friday.

Columbus was without captain Rick Nash, out with neck and back stiffness… Eaves and Kris Russell fought late in the first period.

Red Wings – Blue Jackets: Pregame Notes and Playoff Positioning

The Red Wings make their final home appearance of the regular season tonight as they host the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first game of a home-and-home matchup. The Wings will not return home until Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals, though their opponent has yet to be determined.

Andreas Lilja will jump back into the Detroit lineup, joining Jonathan Ericsson on the third defensive pairing. Jimmy Howard returns to the crease after Chris Osgood got the start on Sunday in Philadelphia.

Columbus could be without captain and leading scorer Rick Nash. He will be a gametime decision.

The Western Conference playoff teams are decided at this point but their spots are all up in the air.

The San Jose Sharks sit in first place but are only two points up on the Chicago Blackhawks, with the ‘Hawks having a game in hand.

The Vancouver Canucks are locked into the third spot, unable to catch Chicago or San Jose but having clinched the Northwest Division.

The Phoenix Coyotes sit fourth with 102 points. If Phoenix wins any of their three remaining games they’ll clinch that spot, otherwise they could be caught by the Nashville Predators or Los Angeles Kings. Detroit could tie them in points but would have fewer wins.

Nashville sits four points back of Phoenix with two games left. The Predators could finish anywhere from fourth to eighth, as the Kings, Red Wings, and Colorado Avalanche can all surpass them in the right circumstances.

Los Angeles is in the same boat as Nashville, able to finish from fourth to eighth. The Red Wings can drop to eighth but only move up to fifth, same as the Avalanche.

Power Play Goal Lifts Red Wings over Avalanche

Nicklas Lidstrom scored a power play goal with 9:03 remaining in regulation Monday night, carrying the Detroit Red Wings to a 3-2 win over the host Colorado Avalanche.

Pavel Datsyuk set up the game winner. He carried the puck off the right wing boards and gave it to Tomas Holmstrom down low before getting it back to cut across the slot. Drawing the defense and goalie Craig Anderson to him, Datsyuk dropped the puck to Lidstrom for a blast into the open side of the net.

The goal put Detroit back in front after they had lost a two-goal lead in the second period.

T.J. Galiardi scored at 8:29 of the second, driving the net and banging the puck past Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard.

Chris Stewart tied the game 2:45 later, beating Howard from an acute angle on the left wing.

The Red Wings had opened the scoring with a pair of first period goals.

Holmstrom took a centering feed from Datsyuk and beat Anderson stick-side to put Detroit on the board at 6:06 of the period.

Johan Franzen added a power play goal with 7:20 left in the frame, faking Anderson into dropping down before roofing a shot from the right side of the net over him.

Franzen appeared to give Detroit a three-goal lead early in the second period but the goal was waived off by referee Kerry Fraser, who determined that Holmstrom had interfered with Anderson on the play.

Detroit’s two power play goals came on four chances with the extra attacker. Colorado was scoreless on two power plays.

Howard finished the night with 22 saves on 24 Colorado shots. Anderson made 27 saves on 30 chances.

Detroit defenseman Andreas Lilja played in his first game in 366 days, returning from post-concussion symptoms… Red Wings defender Brian Rafalski was in the Detroit lineup despite having played the day before in the Olympic gold medal game.

Red Wings – Avalanche Pregame Notes

The National Hockey League returns to action following the Olympic Break tonight as the Detroit Red Wings visit the Colorado Avalanche.

Colorado forward Paul Stastny, Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski and Detroit head coach Mike Babcock were all active yesterday, with Babcock’s Team Canada downing a Team USA squad featuring Stastny and Rafalski in the Gold Medal Game.

Andreas Lilja will make his first appearance of the season on the Red Wings’ blue line, having been cleared to play after suffering post-concussion symptoms for nearly a year. His last game was 366 days ago, February 28, 2009.

I’d been thinking that Lilja’s return combined with Rafalski having played three games in five days would lead to Rafalski sitting this one out but I’m not seeing any news on that front. I actually haven’t come across any lineup notes.

The Red Wings are as healthy as they’ve been all season, with Kirk Maltby the only injured player. With Maltby out and Brad May having been sent to Grand Rapids, the Red Wings will dress all 12 healthy forwards. Two defensemen will be scratched, with one of them possibly being dealt for a depth forward before Wednesday’s trade deadline.

Maltby Out for Season, Lilja Cleared to Play

Salary cap woes for the Detroit Red Wings disappeared on Wednesday as veteran forward Kirk Maltby opted for season-ending surgery on his injured right shoulder.

The Red Wings will place Maltby on long-term injured reserve, freeing up $750,00 in cap space. Combined with Brad May being sent to Grand Rapids, the Wings have cleared enough room to activate now-healthy defenseman Andreas Lilja.

Lilja will be available to the Red Wings on Monday when they visit the Colorado Avalanche. It will be exactly one year and one day since he last played in the NHL, having suffered from post-concussion symptoms since a fight with Nashville’s Shea Weber on February 28, 2009.

Maltby’s recovery period is expected to be four to six weeks, meaning he could return for the playoffs, should the Red Wings make the postseason.

Red Wings Roster Moves Recapped

The recap of the Red Wings’ recent roster moves, heading into tonight’s game against Ottawa…

Brad May has cleared waivers and has been given ten days to decide whether to report to Grand Rapids or retire. He’s done as a Wing, at least until the playoffs, and his $500,000 cap hit comes off the books.

Kirk Maltby could be done for the season but hasn’t decided yet. He’s been battling a shoulder injury that requires surgery. If he decides to have the surgery he’ll be out for two months – the rest of the regular season. Putting Maltby on long-term injured reserve would save the Red Wings $700,000, which when added to the savings from waiving May is enough to bring back Andreas Lilja.

Lilja did not play in the last game of his rehab stint with the Griffins on Friday, having been called to Detroit. He remains on LTIR but is likely to be cleared to play sometime during the Olympic break.

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