Opening Night Roster Predictions

The Red Wings came into this preseason with a pretty firm roster, but solid play by a prospect and a tryout, on top of a handful of injuries, have shaken things up a bit. Here are my thoughts on what Detroit’s roster will look like on opening night.

Yeah, I’m starting with the easy one. With Joey MacDonald and Jordan Pearce having been sent down to Grand Rapids today, we already know (not that there was much doubt) that Jimmy Howard and Ty Conklin will be the goaltending tandem. The only interesting thing to come out of this preseason is an extension of last season, that it appears that Pearce has passed Thomas McCollum on the Wings’ depth chart.

With Detroit having eight blueliners signed to one-way deals this year, the preseason wasn’t as much about who would make the team as who wouldn’t. There was talk about Brendan Smith making the team out of camp but a lot would have needed to happen for that to come to pass. Doug Janik is the odd man out, as he’s been sent to Grand Rapids. Like MacDonald, he’ll have to clear waivers to play for the Griffins.

The injury to Mike Commodore makes things a little bit interesting for Detroit’s defense. The Red Wings organization has said he won’t be placed on IR because the team doesn’t play enough games for him to come off when he’s expected to be healthy. This means he takes up a roster spot, so no one will be kept up to replace him. Jakub Kindl wins the sixth defenseman spot by default.

Here’s where the fun is. Detroit came into the preseason with fourteen roster spots available at forward and fourteen forwards signed who would have to clear waivers to go to Grand Rapids. It seemed certain that Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton had the 13th and 14th forward spots locked up with twelve forwards returning from last season’s roster.

Then Mursak got hurt, Fabian Brunnstrom had a productive try-out, and Gustav Nyquist turned heads in his first Detroit training camp.

Emmerton played well enough to keep the spot that was assumed to be his. Solid on faceoffs but not much scoring, just what a spare part is expected to be.

Brunnstrom played well with the puck and scored a handful of goals. It’s almost certain he’ll sign a two-way deal in the next day or so, the question is whether he starts the season with the Red Wings or Griffins.

Nyquist made the case that he could play in the NHL right now. Two goals in Detroit’s exhibition closer today showed that if nothing else did. Unfortunately for him, he isn’t subject to waivers so he can be sent to GR at no cost.

The way I see it, Brunnstrom is a Red Wing on opening night with Nyquist going to the Griffins. Brunnstrom has until January to prove he belongs with Detroit more than Emmerton, with a decision to be made when Mursak comes back.

Edit: Of course, within minutes of me posting this, the Wings announced that Nyquist was sent to GR. That makes it pretty clear that Brunnstrom has the 14th forward spot.

Red Wings Sign Brunnstrom

The Detroit Red Wings have signed forward Fabian Brunnstrom to a contract, the blog The Production Line reports.

Detroit general manager spoke to the media about signing Brunnstrom last week.

“When we talked about a tryout contract, at the same time we talked about if things did go good in the tryout, what it would take to sign him. What they were thinking contract wise, what we were thinking contract wise. We were on the same page. I’m comfortable with what it’s going to take to get a contract done if we choose to sign him.”

Brunnstrom scored three goals in his first four preseason games while playing on a pro tryout contract. Combined with an injury to Jan Mursak, it was enough to earn a roster spot with the Red Wings.

As per team policy, financial terms of the deal were not announced. The contract is for one year and is a two-way deal.

Brunnstrom Scores Twice but Red Wings Fall to Blackhawks, 4-3

Pro tryout Fabian Brunnstrom scored two goals for the Detroit Red Wings Wednesday night but it wasn’t enough for a youth-heavy lineup to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks, as the ‘Hawks rallied for a 4-3 win.

Despite icing a lineup with none of their top players, the Red Wings held a 3-1 lead midway through the game. Two power play goals and a third at even strength would put Chicago past Detroit in the second half of the game.

Patrick Kane, making his first appearance of the preseason, got the Blackhawks on the board with 9:14 left in the first period, taking a drop pass from Jonathan Toews as Toews cut to the net from the right side, then snapping a shot past Detroit goalie Ty Conklin for a power play goal.

Brunnstrom scored his first with 4:25 remaining in the period, tipping a centering pass from Gustav Nyquist past Blackhawks’ netminder Corey Crawford just as a Detroit five-on-three expired.

Drew Miller put the Red Wings up by a goal with 39 seconds left in the opening frame when he was left all alone in front of Crawford. Chris Conner sent a pass from behind the net to Miller who buried it.

Brunnstrom’s second of the night came at 8:08 of the second. Cory Emmerton put the puck on net on a wraparound chance and Brunnstrom was on the doorstep to bury the rebound.

Brent Seabrook blasted a shot past Conklin just 1:28 later on a Chicago power play to make it 3-2.

Only 1:29 into the third Duncan Keith dumped the puck into the Detroit end. Conklin left his net to play it but it bounced off a stanchion and out to Ben Smith, who buried it as Conklin dove to get back into position.

The game’s defining moment came at 5:26 of the final period. As Ben Smith broke in to the Detroit zone, Red Wings’ defender Brendan Smith lined him up for a hit. Ben Smith held up at the last second and Brendan Smith missed his check, driving his shoulder into Ben Smith’s head. Ben Smith was down on the ice for several minutes and Brendan Smith was given a five minute major and ejected.

During the five minute major, Doug Janik was called for interference, giving Chicago a five-on-three. With the two-man advantage, former Red Wing Marian Hossa beat Conklin from the stop of the right faceoff circle to put the Blackhawks out in front at 8:58 of the period.

Conklin finished the night with 20 saves on 24 shots. Crawford stopped 17 of 20 Detroit chances.

The Red Wings went one for two on the night on the power play while the Blackhawks scored on three of their six chances with the extra attacker.

The Wings’ next preseason game is Friday when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Postgame Thoughts: Red Wings @ Blackhawks

Well, let’s do this in two parts.

The Good
Fabian Brunnstrom showed that he wants Jan Mursak‘s spot in the Detroit lineup. Two goals by being in the right place at the right time, keeping his stick on the ice, and having soft hands. Overall, a really strong effort.

Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar want it, too. They were all over the ice. I think either of them could take Mursak’s spot, but it’s Brunnstrom’s to lose because he’ll be harder to send down to Grand Rapids right now, having to clear waivers.

As I tweeted after the game, a youth-heavy Detroit lineup played a pretty solid 60 minutes. I’d go as far as to say that was the best pure effort the Wings have put forth this preseason. Not the results they’ve gotten in some of the games, but better effort.

The Bad
Brendan Smith’s hit on Ben Smith. Brendan Shanahan is going to have something to say about that one.

There needs to be a suspension. It was a clear hit to the head, which is a Very Bad Thing in the NHL right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the rest of the preseason and three games. I could see it being more if Ben Smith has a lingering injury.

That said, I could also see it being less. Ben Smith is breaking in on goal and Brendan Smith lines up his hit. Ben Smith lets up, causing Brendan Smith to miss his intended hit and go straight into Ben Smith’s head. That’s one way of looking at it.

Either way, Brendan Smith screwed that hit up. Was it that he aimed high for a dirty play or that he failed to adjust and missed an intended clean hit? I’d like to think the latter but I don’t like either option. If he was so close to making the NHL, he shouldn’t be missing hit like that. If he’s so dirty, he should be playing a more effective physical game in general.

For curiousity’s sake, I’m looking forward to what punishment will be handed out and can only hope it won’t hurt the Wings too much.

Rosters Released for Red & White Game in Grand Rapids

The Red Wings announced the rosters for their Red & White game in Grand Rapids on Tuesday.

The White Team, featuring Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk clearly has the star power but the Red Team seems to have more depth, not that it matters much in an intra-squad scrimmage.

White Team
Henrik Zetterberg
Pavel Datsyuk
Tomas Holmstrom
Tomas Tatar
Justin Abdelkader
Gustav Nyquist
Andrej Nestrasil
Jamie Johnson
Willie Coetzee
Mitch Callahan
Brent Raedeke
Nick Oslund

Nicklas Lidstrom
Ian White
Garnet Exelby
Logan Pyett
Sebastien Piche
Gleason Fournier

Jimmy Howard
Thomas McCollum

Red Team
Johan Franzen
Valtteri Filppula
Danny Cleary
Jiri Hudler
Joakim Andersson
Todd Bertuzzi
Chris Conner
Louis-Marc Aubry
Francis Pare
Adam Estoclet
Landon Ferraro
Trevor Parkes

Niklas Kronwall
Brad Stuart
Travis Ehrhardt
Bryan Rufenach
Greg Amadio
Brian Lashoff

Ty Conklin
Jordan Pearce

Ansar Khan points out that a number of players are sitting out the match, which has me disappointed. Khan’s list is as follows: Darren Helm, Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller, Fabian Brunnstrom, Ryan Johnson, Jonathan Ericsson, Mike Commodore, Brendan Smith, Jakub Kindl, Doug Janik, Joey MacDonald.

For a game that has been billed as a chance for West Michigan fans to see the Red Wings close to home, it’s odd to me that so many of those Wings are sitting in place of players the fans in GR will see all season.

Postgame Thoughts: Blackhawks @ Red Wings – 9/25

Now that I’ve finally got a chance to put my thoughts down, let’s go back to Detroit’s 4-3 SO win over the Chicago Blackhawks…

Getting the most painful thing out of the way first we go to Jan Mursak‘s injury. He went into the boards right in front of me so I lucked out in not seeing how his leg bent, but you could tell by how he was helped off that it wasn’t a small thing. They’re saying he’ll miss two months (likely starting with a rehab stint in Grand Rapids). You have to think that means Fabian Brunnstrom or Ryan Johnson will make the team in his spot now.

Also painful, the fact that for the second time this preseason, Detroit’s “A” team needed a shootout to beat their opponent’s “B” team. The Wings just shot themselves in the foot too often tonight. It’s not going to work out in their favor when they’re up against a better team.

Tonight it seemed like the Detroit D (the entire team, really, but it was especially noticeable in their own end) was being a little too crafty with their passing. Specifically, using these little touch passes with not enough touch, so the puck didn’t quite get where it was intended to go.

While we’re talking negatives, Ty Conklin didn’t look all that good tonight. The first goal probably shouldn’t have happened, maybe not the second either, and there were two solid Chicago chances that went off the post. That said, he made a great shorthanded stop on Michal Frolik in the second, so it wasn’t like he was awful.

Detroit’s top line of Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen looked really good. Filppula had three points on the night and Zetterberg had the shootout winner but aside from that they were moving the puck well and getting chances.

The pairing of Nicklas Lidstrom and Ian White looks good, too. They seem to have a little chemistry already and White has a shot from the point that I think will fit in well on this team.

Aside from that, there were a few individual plays I really liked.

Gustav Nyquist had a couple rushes where he just jumped through a bunch of defenders to get the puck into the zone. He’s got some speed and can really handle the puck. An example of the latter would be his near-goal in the second period. He came out of a mess of people at the side of the goal with the puck. Either both teams thought the play would be stopped or no one actually saw him get it, ’cause he was all alone but just couldn’t finish.

Cory Emmerton, centering Nyquist and Brunnstrom, is growing on me. I kept watching Brunnstrom, wanting to be impressed, and it seemed like it was Emmerton doing all the work.

Brunnstrom clearly has talent. I can’t say what he’s doing wrong but something isn’t clicking. I think he’s worth a two-way contract as long as he’s kept on a short leash.

Jakub Kindl needs to shoot more. Common refrain from last year hasn’t changed.

That’s all I’ve got for right now. I’ll post a link when I get my photos from the game loaded into the site but I’m updating the multimedia section right now so I might finish that first. In the meantime, here’s my favorite from the night:

Postgame Thoughts: Red Wings @ Penguins

Quick thoughts on tonight’s game…

Detroit looked slower and sloppier. Is that because the team was only half Red Wings, because of rust, or because they got outplayed by Pittsburgh? Probably a combination of all three.

The Datsyuk line looked good early (though I can’t say enough how weird it was to see him in #24) and I liked the jump Fabian Brunnstrom had.

On the blueline, I feel like Exelby played more than Commodore but maybe it’s only for bad reasons that I noticed Exelby. Just made it hard to judge Commodore.

I’m not going to read too much into this one but I will say it’s nice having hockey back.

Red Wings Announce Lineups for Opening Preseason Games

Per Ansar Khan, the Red Wings have revealed their rosters for the first two games of the 2011 exhibition season.

The Red Wings will visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night with the following lines:

Jiri HudlerPavel DatsyukDanny Cleary
Fabian BrunnstromCory EmmertonPatrick Eaves
Drew MillerRyan JohnsonJan Mursak
Tomas TatarChris ConnerTomas Holmstrom

Niklas KronwallBrad Stuart
Brendan SmithMike Commodore
Garnet ExelbyLogan Pyett

Jimmy Howard
Joey MacDonald

On Thursday Detroit will be in London, Ontario, to play the Philadelphia Flyers. Their lineup for that game will be as follows:

Valtteri FilppulaHenrik ZetterbergJohan Franzen
Justin AbdelkaderDarren HelmTodd Bertuzzi
Gustav NyquistJoakim AnderssonWillie Coetzee
Tomas JurcoBrent RaedekeFrancis Pare

Nicklas LidstromIan White
Jonathan EricssonJakub Kindl
Brian LashoffDoug Janik

Ty Conklin
Jordan Pearce

No lineup has been announced for the Wings’ preseason home opener on Friday, where Detroit will host the Flyers.

Red Wings to Bring Brunnstrom to Camp

As a bunch of people have picked up already today, Aftonbladet is reporting that the Red Wings are signing Fabian Brunnstrom to a try-out contract and bringing him to training camp.

Brunnstrom was much sought after three years ago, when he chose to sign an enty-level contract with the Dallas Stars rather than the Red Wings or the Montreal Canadiens, as the Stars could offer him a spot in their opening night lineup.

After scoring a hat trick in his first career game, Brunnstrom “bombed out” (Malik’s words) and spent last season in the AHL, split between the Texas Stars and the Toronto Marlies.

To make the Red Wings, Brunnstrom would have to beat out someone currently in the lineup. More likely an impressive preseason would net him a spot with the Grand Rapids Griffins, with the possibility of being called up later in the year.

Red Wings – Stars Pregame Notes

Aaron Downey returns to the Red Wings lineup tonight as Detroit hosts the Dallas Stars. Downey has spent the entire season thus far with the Grand Rapids Griffins but was called up with Ville Leino today when Brad Stuart was placed on the long-term IR.

Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom also return to the ice, having served their suspensions.

The Wings will be without Henrik Zetterberg, whose back spasms have continued. Downey takes his spot in the lineup instead of Derek Meech being shifted to forward again. Meech joins Leino as a healthy scratch.

Chris Osgood gets another start in the Detroit net.

Marty Turco will go for Dallas, who will be without Mark Parrish (flu) and Fabian Brunnstrom (AHL conditioning stint) in addition to long-term injuries Brenden Morrow and Sergei Zubov.

I’ll be missing the start of this one as I’ve got another 7:30 soccer game. I’ll catch up when I get back.