Pregame: Lightning @ Red Wings – 11/15

The Red Wings look to bounce back from their 5-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday as they host the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight.

Tyler Bertuzzi exits the Detroit lineup, having been sent back to the Grand Rapids Griffins.  Drew Miller re-takes his spot on the fourth line with Bertuzzi gone.

On defense, Ryan Sproul swaps in for Niklas Kronwall, who is taking a few days off to rest his knees.

Petr Mrazek gets the start in goal for the Red Wings.

Game time is 7:30 PM on FSD.


Stupid Stat of the Day
The Red Wings haven’t won a game on November 15th in regulation since 2000.

Pregame: Howard Starts as Wings Host Canucks

Jimmy Howard will get another start in net for Detroit tonight as the Red Wings host the Vancouver Canucks.

It will be the sixth start of the season for the NHL’s save-percentage and GAA leader, and it’s looking like Petr Mrazek‘s hold on the starting role is tenuous at best.

No line changes are expected, meaning Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul are out on the blue line and Drew Miller is a healthy scratch up front.

Stupid Stat of the Day
The Red Wings won in Philadelphia for the first time since 1997 on Tuesday.  The last time that they won in Philadelphia and then came home for their next game and won that was 1970.  That post-Flyers home game?  The Red Wings hosted the Canucks.

Game time is 7:30 PM on FSD.

On Hope and Excitement, and Lack Thereof

I’m not excited for the start of the Red Wings season.

I’m not saying that I won’t watch the opener tomorrow or I won’t be at the Joe for the home opener on Monday.  I just wouldn’t feel an absence in my life if those games weren’t happening.

I’m also not saying that I don’t care what happens with the team.  Quite the opposite.

At the end of last season, even with the Wings bowing out so early in the playoffs, there was hope.  General Manager Ken Holland spoke about giving opportunity to the team’s prospects, about revamping the defense, about ways to make the team better.

In June Pavel Datsyuk left but Holland managed to unload his contract.  It came at a high cost but was necessary given what the team was trying to do.  There was still hope.  I still had hope

As free agency approached, the Red Wings had money to spend and roster spots to fill, as well as prospects like Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi and Tomas Nosek ready to challenge for a role.

Then the Wings brought back Drew Miller, the penalty-killing specialist who missed most of the season with a pair of injuries.

Then the Wings brought back bottom-six forward Darren Helm on a five year deal.

On July 1st, the Red Wings signed Frans Nielsen to replace Datsyuk and Thomas Vanek to replace the soon-to-retire Brad Richards and Steve Ott…  For some reason.

Suddenly those open roster spots were filled and the hole in the team’s defense hadn’t been addressed.  Holland reassured us that the glut of forwards gave him pieces to use in trade for a defender.

Training camp approached and there was no trade.  News broke that Jacob Trouba, Michigan-native and right-shooting defenseman, exactly what the Wings were coveting, was demanding a trade.  But those pieces that Holland had assembled wouldn’t be enough.  So there was no fix for the blueline and there was no battle for forward spots.  Athanasiou beat out Teemu Pulkkinen – waived off to Minnesota – but it was for the 13th forward spot, relegated to the press box.

This season’s roster is last season’s roster.  From opening night to the end of the season to today, Johan Franzen became Pavel Datsyuk who is now Frans Nielsen.  Brad Richards became Thomas Vanek.  Landon Ferraro was replaced by Darren Helm – re-signed due to a need for speed.  Drew Miller became Joakim Andersson who became Drew Miller again.  Teemu Pulkkinen became Andreas Athanasiou who became Steve Ott – despite that supposed need for speed.  Jakub Kindl and Kyle Quincey became Alexey Marchenko and Xavier Ouellet.

The team that backed into the playoffs and only made it there because they got help from the Ottawa Senators on the last day of the season is much the same as the team that begins this season.

I expect this team to miss the playoffs.  I expected that this would be a losing season last May.  But in May, I had hope that this losing season would feature learning experiences for the next generation of Red Wings.  Instead, they’re going to lose with the same guys that lost last year.

So I’ll watch and I’ll root for the Wings, but I’m not getting my hopes up.  I’m not getting excited.

Revisiting the Myth of “Playing the Kids”

It was a summer that saw the Red Wings swing and miss on a free agent signing that would have filled a massive hole in their roster.  The team’s blueline corps was looking ineffective.  Fans were clamoring to see more of the exciting forward prospects in the system but there was no room for them on the roster.

It was 2012.

I wrote then about how the team needed defense but instead had a glut of forwards.  Unlike then, now there’s actually talk of swapping some of the forward depth for defensive help.  Maybe they can actually do that, but no trade they do for a defenseman is going to clear up the logjam they have at forward.

On April 21, as the Red Wings closed out their season in Tampa with a loss to the Lightning, they had 14 forwards on the roster.  Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen were healthy scratches.  Andreas Athanasiou was in the lineup.  So were the since-departed Pavel Datsyuk, Brad Richards, and Joakim Andersson.

Red Wings’ brass implied that there would be a battle for roster spots up front in the aftermath of another early playoff exit.  With two top-six forwards and a fourth-liner gone, there would seemingly be plenty of opportunity.

Then, when free agency opened on July 1, the Red Wings signed two top-six forwards and a fourth-liner.

Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader, Dylan Larkin, and Frans Nielsen are locked in as four of the top six forwards.  One of Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar might be traded but probably not both, so there’s five.  Darren Helm or Tomas Vanek likely makes the sixth, with the other dropping to the third line with Riley Sheahan.  Your fourth line is the returning Drew Miller, the extended Luke Glendening, and the recently-signed Steve Ott.

That’s one roster spot on the third line open.  Athanasiou.  Pulkkinen.  Jurco.  Anthony Mantha.  Tyler Bertuzzi.  Tomas Nosek.  Martin Frk and Mitch Callahan have to clear waivers.  Hell, throw Eric Tangradi and Louis-Marc Aubry in the mix.  That’s ten players (okay, realistically five to seven) fighting for one roster spot.  That’s not even mentioning Dylan Sadowy or Evgeny Svechnikov.  That is not opportunity.

Opportunity would have been letting Helm walk.  Letting Miller go.  Not signing Ott.  Not extending Glendening.

Vanek takes the second line spot.  The third line is Sheahan with Mantha and Pulkkinen or Jurco.  The fourth line is Athanasiou with Bertuzzi and whichever of Pulkkinen or Jurco that’s not on the third line.  Some combination of Glendening (who, without that extension, isn’t as cemented into the lineup), Nosek, Frk, and Tangradi provide your depth/healthy scratches.


Let’s go back to the trade for a defenseman plan.  This is not going to be a fantasy hockey quantity-for-quality deal.  No one is going to take Jurco and Pulkkinen and Frk for a top-pairing blueliner.  This theoretical deal starts with Nyquist or Tatar.  Maybe another prospect forward gets included but more likely Ryan Sproul or Xavier Ouellet or Nick Jensen.

That deal would help solve the Wings’ defensive problems but it does not suddenly clear up the logjam at forward as well.

Kronwall, Miller Out with Knee Injuries

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Tuesday that defenseman Niklas Kronwall will miss two to four weeks with a knee injury.

Kronwall missed the Red Wings’ annual Toast of Hockeytown event on Monday night and had his knee scoped on Tuesday morning. The surgery was timed to take advantage of the NHL’s upcoming All-Star break, such that it’s possible that he will only miss four games.

Playing in all 45 games for Detroit so far this season, Kronwall has three goals and 14 assists for 17 points. He’s also a -10 on the year.

Additionally, the team announced that forward Drew Miller will miss four to six months after having reconstructive surgery on his ACL.

Originally it was thought that Miller would miss a matter of weeks with a torn meniscus. More damage than expected was found, however, requiring significantly more repair.

In a penalty killing specialist role, Miller has a goal and assist in 28 games.

This likely spells the end of Miller’s tenure with the Red Wings, as his contract is up at the end of the season.

Red Wings Call Up Ouellet, Nosek

In advance of the National Hockey League’s holiday roster freeze, the Detroit Red Wings called up defenseman Xavier Ouellet and forward Tomas Nosek from the Grand Rapids Griffins on Saturday night.

To make room for the call-ups, forwards Drew Miller and Teemu Pulkkinen were placed on injured reserve. The pair have been out since suffering injuries during Detroit’s 5-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on December 3.

Ouellet was the Red Wings’ second round selection (48th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He has two goals and ten assists for the Griffins this season, appearing in 25 games. In 25 career NHL games, he has two goals and one assist.

Nosek, signed as an unrestricted free agent out of the Czech Republic prior to last season, has yet to make his NHL debut. He’s scored two goals and added five assists in 25 games this season for Grand Rapids. He has 13 goals and 28 assists for 41 points in 80 career AHL games.

Both players will be available for Detroit’s Sunday matchup with the Calgary Flames.

Miller, Pulkkinen Out At Least Six Weeks

Detroit general manager Ken Holland announced on Friday that both Drew Miller and Teemu Pulkkinen are each expected to miss at least six weeks due to injuries suffered in the Red Wings’ 5-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.

Pulkkinen dislocated his shoulder while being boarded by the Coyotes’ Martin Hanzal and could be out up to eight weeks. Hanzal received a two-minute minor on the play.

Miller suffered a broken jaw from a hit by Klas Dahlbeck. Dahlbeck was not penalized.

With the pair out, Tomas Jurco and Joakim Andersson will rejoin the Red Wings’ lineup for their Saturday matchup against the Nashville Predators. Holland said that the Wings would call up at least one forward prior to Detroit’s stretch of three games in four nights next week.

Red Wings Rout Coyotes for 5-1 Win

The Detroit Red Wings earned a point in their ninth consecutive game Thursday night with a 5-1 victory over the visiting Arizona Coyotes.

Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard stopped 26 of the 27 shots he faced to earn the win – his fourth in a row – and five different players scored for the Red Wings.

The game could have been very different, as the Coyotes thought they had opened the scoring just 1:22 in. Klas Dahlbeck scored on a play that Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill challenged. Video review revealed that Connor Murphy was offside and the goal was wiped out.

Instead, it was Justin Abdelkader‘s goal with 7:30 left in the opening frame that got things started. Detroit rookie Dylan Larkin forced a turnover behind the Arizona net and chased it up the side boards, then worked the puck to Abdelkader in front of the net for a backhander past goalie Mike Smith.

Niklas Kronwall made it 2-0 with 42 seconds left in the period on a blast from the slot off a feed from Tomas Tatar. Just 18 seconds later, Gustav Nyquist bounced a shot from the neutral zone past Smith to give the Red Wings a 3-0 lead.

The period would end with Kyle Chipchura laying a hard hit on Brendan Smith. Smith replied with a slash to Chipchura, then the two fought.

Arizona got on the board at 5:52 of the middle frame. Jordan Martinook snapped a shot from the inside edge of the right faceoff circle through traffic and past Howard off a feed from behind the net by Steve Downie.

Danny DeKeyser replied for the Red Wings just 1:26 later with a blast from the blue line past Anders Lindback, who replaced Smith in the Coyotes’ net to start the second period.

Darren Helm would round out the game’s scoring with his first of the season. Lindback lost the puck behind the net and it came out to Helm, who put it in before Lindback could get into position.

Lindback finished the night with 26 saves on 28 shots while Smith stopped 13 of 16 chances he faced.

The Red Wings lost both Teemu Pulkkinen and Drew Miller to injury in the first period. Pulkkinen was boarded by Martin Hanzal and Miller took a shoulder to the head from Dahlbeck.

Pregame: Sharks @ Red Wings – 11/13

Pavel Datsyuk returns to the Detroit lineup tonight as the Red Wings host the San Jose Sharks. Datsyuk has missed all 15 games this season recovering from offseason ankle surgery. He’ll slot in on the top line with Henrik Zetterberg and – fresh off his seven year contract extension – Justin Abdelkader. The full forward lines are as follows:

Abdelkader – Zetterberg – Datsyuk
Tomas TatarDylan LarkinGustav Nyquist
Riley SheahanAndreas AthanasiouTeemu Pulkkinen
Drew MillerLuke GlendeningDarren Helm

Jimmy Howard gets the start in goal for the Red Wings against Martin Jones.

Stupid stat of the day: This is Detroit’s ninth Friday the 13th game all-time. The Red Wings are 4-3-1 in the previous eight.

Game time is 7:30 PM on FSD.

Pregame: Red Wings @ Flames – 10/23

Riding a three-game losing streak, the Red Wings will shake up their lines as they visit the Calgary Flames tonight.

Part of that shakeup is due to a back injury for Brad Richards, who will miss the final two games of Detroit’s road trip through Western Canada. With Richards out and Pavel Datsyuk not yet back from injury, rookie Dylan Larkin will switch from wing to center the team’s second line.

The expected lines are as follows:

Justin AbdelkaderHenrik ZetterbergGustav Nyquist
Tomas Tatar – Dylan Larkin – Teemu Pulkkinen
Darren HelmRiley SheahanLuke Glendening
Drew MillerJoakim AnderssonLandon Ferraro

Niklas KronwallMike Green
Kyle QuinceyDanny DeKeyser
Brendan SmithJonathan Ericsson

On defense, all three pairs are changed up, with Brendan Smith swapping in for Jakub Kindl in an effort to both spark offense and plug a porous blue line. Kindl joins Tomas Jurco as a healthy scratch.

Jimmy Howard gets the start in net for the Red Wings. Petr Mrazek will get the nod to close out the trip in Vancouver.

Game time is 9:00 PM on FSD.