Pregame: Avalanche @ Red Wings – 3/6

I’ll be heading down to Detroit for Lidstrom Night shortly so I figured I’d throw together a whole bunch of stupid notes leading into it…

The Red Wings are 3-2 all-time on nights that they formally retire a player’s number. They lost, 3-2, when Gordie Howe‘s number was retired. It was a 6-4 win twenty years later when Alex Delvecchio and Ted Lindsay were honored. In the only other March 6th jersey retirement, they dropped a 3-2 decision as Terry Sawchuk‘s banner was raised. When Sid Abel’s number went up, they won, 4-2. Most recently, they won, 2-1, for Steve Yzerman Night.

The only players in the Detroit lineup tonight who dressed for Yzerman Night are Niklas Kronwall and Johan Franzen.

Daniel Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson and Henrik Zetterberg all played on Yzerman Night but are out of the lineup now.

Pavel Datsyuk is the only player to have been hurt for both ceremonies.

This is only the second jersey retirement in team history to come after the NHL’s trade deadline. The other was Abel’s during the lockout-shortened 1995 season.

Ceremony time is 6:30 PM on FSD. Game time is 8:00 PM.

Andersson Switching to Number 18

The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness broke the news today that Red Wings forward Joakim Andersson will be switching his jersey number from #63 to the #18 he wore in Sweden and with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

“It looks like it,” Andersson said when asked if he was switching numbers. “They haven’t talked about it with me, but I had the No. 18 in Grand Rapids and in Sweden as well, so it looks like they’ve changed it.”

The change was telegraphed at the Red Wings’ summer development camp, when Philippe Hudon was assigned #63.

Tomas Tatar‘s #21 was also assigned at development camp, having been given to Luke Glendening. Tatar had requested #90 earlier in the summer and it appeared he would be changing but that number ended up being given to free agent signing Stephen Weiss, whose usual #9 is retired in Detroit for Gordie Howe. Instead, Tatar will keep #21 and Glendening will take the #41 of Landon Ferraro, who switches to the #29 he has worn with the Griffins.

Pregame: Blackhawks @ Red Wings – 3/31

It’s Easter Sunday and Gordie Howe‘s 85th birthday and the Red Wings host the Chicago Blackhawks in an afternoon matchup.

In honor of Mr. Hockey’s birthday, all Detroit players will take the pre-game skate in #9 Howe jerseys, with a commemorative patch above the tip of the winged wheel crest and the player’s actual number on the opposite side (which will make for a crowded space if the C and A are kept for Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and Kronwall).

The Wings may have Mikael Samuelsson back in the lineup. In that case, Gustav Nyquist will likely be out and reassigned to Grand Rapids as Detroit would need to open up a roster spot for Samuelsson. Even with that move, there are 13 forwards in the lineup so a to-be-determined healthy scratch is expected.

On defense, the lineup is known. With Kent Huskins off to Philadelphia and Carlo Colaiacovo with the Griffins on a rehab stint, newcomer Danny DeKeyser is the lone scratch. DeKeyser is expected to make his pro debut on Thursday on the road against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Jimmy Howard gets the start in goal for Detroit.

Stupid stat time: Detroit is 12-14-5 all-time on Howe’s birthday.

Bonus stupid stat: Detroit is 13-14-4 all-time on Easter Sunday.

Game time is 12:30 PM on NBC, which means Eddie Olczyk will be covering his home team against their bitter rivals for a national audience.

On Unretiring Jersey Numbers

I’ve had my head in code all week so I’m getting to this a little late but I wanted to take the time to say a few words anyway.

On Wednesday night, Jamie Samuelsen posted to his blog at the Freep that maybe certain numbers currently retired by Detroit-area sports teams should be unretired to allow new players to honor those who the numbers were retired for in the first place.  Yesterday, Michael Petrella over at TPL touched on it as well.

Personally, I’m against unretiring numbers unless the number never should have been retired in the first place (subjective, I know).  Sometimes teams do stupid things and there should be an option of undoing that.  I hate the fact that the Minnesota Wild have #1 retired in honor of their fans, for example, and would love to see a player go there and wear it.

As much as I’ve complained about what goes in the rafters at the Joe, the Red Wings have a higher standard for jersey retirement.  Maybe too high, as Larry Aurie’s #6 isn’t up there and should be.  As such, I can’t see any reason for one of the Wings’ six (or seven once you include Aurie) retired numbers being returned to use.

Samuelsen asks of a hyothetical question from his six-year-old son…

But if I have a hard time explaining to Josh why the second baseman doesn’t actually stand on second base, I’ll have a much harder time explaining the theory behind a retired number. Wouldn’t I?

And I say that’s your opportunity to teach your team’s rich history.  You explain that there was a player so important to the team that his number has been reserved for him forever.  New players wearing an past great’s number doesn’t teach that

That said, I have a specific case where I think the Red Wings should open up a currently-unavailable number for use again, and given what this week is I expect it to be unpopular.

I think that when Tomas Holmstrom eventually retires as the last of his remaining teammates, Vladimir Konstantinov‘s #16 should be returned to circulation.  Not handed out to some rookie at training camp, but available if an established player came to the team and wanted it.

Konstantinov’s injury was tragic and clearly inspired his teammates on their 1998 Stanley Cup run, but he’s not Gordie Howe or Ted Lindsay or Terry Sawchuk or Alex Delvecchio or Sid Abel or Steve Yzerman or Larry Aurie.

If tragedy is enough to inspire a permanent number retirement, why is Brendan Smith wearing #2 in Detroit?  Jiri Fischer may have a better life than Konstantinov but his career ended just as suddenly, with the added impact of coming in the middle of a game.

Coming the week of the fifteenth anniversary of the car crash that ended Konstantinov’s career, it feels wrong to suggest that the Wings’ honor him less.  That said, I’ve always felt like his number being held out of circulation was more about keeping him a part of the team he was pulled away from.

When Holmstrom retires – whether this year or next – the last remnant of that team will be gone.  It’ll be time to make #16 available again.

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.

Howard Blanks Ducks as Red Wings Win Opener

Jimmy Howard made 21 saves Friday night, stopping every shot he faced as the Detroit Red Wings opened their season with a 4-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks.

It was the fourth shutout of Howard’s career.

It was one of several stories of the game. In addition to the shutout, Michigan native Mike Modano scored in his first game with Detroit. If that weren’t enough, Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk picked up a goal, and assist and a fight for a Gordie Howe Hat-Trick.

Modano’s goal came at 5:35 of the first period. Jiri Hudler and Brad Stuart worked the puck along the left wing boards and got it to Dan Cleary in the slot. Cleary fought off two defenders to get the puck back to Modano, who rifled a shot past Anaheim netminder Jonas Hiller.

The goal came 24 seconds after Johan Franzen had opened the game’s scoring. Franzen and Valtteri Filppula worked the puck on the right side of the ice before Franzen snapped it past Hiller from an acute angle.

Datsyuk scored his goal at 5:29 of the second period. Henrik Zetterberg fired a shot from the top of the right circle intentionally wide of the net and Datsyuk was there to redirect it past Hiller to make it 3-0.

Dan Cleary scored the game’s final goal on a controversial play with 3:05 left in the second. He drove to the net to bang home the rebound of a Datsyuk shot, only for him to crash into the goal, carrying the puck with him.

Video review concluded that the puck cross the goal line before Cleary fully knocked the net off its moorings, overruling the on-ice call of no-goal.

The game got chippy in the third period. With Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf already being called for slashing, he continued roughing Zetterberg. Datsyuk and Corey Perry entered the scrum and ended up pairing off for just Datsyuk’s second career fight.

George Parros tried to fight Dan Cleary several minutes later, then Sheldon Brookbank and Brad Stuart fought in the game’s closing minutes.

The Ducks ended up with 32 penalty minutes in the third for a game total of 46 while the Red Wings had 14 penalty minutes in the final period for a total of 26.

Neither team scored a power play goal in the game, with Detroit getting six tries with the extra attacker – including an extended five-on-three – and Anaheim getting one.

Hiller finished the night with 39 saves on 43 Detroit shots.

The Red Wings now travel to Chicago for the Blackhawks’ home opener on Saturday. Faceoff is expected to be 9:00 after the banner-raising ceremony for Chicago’s 2010 Stanley Cup Championship.

Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson left the game in the second period with back spasms. He did not return and will be replaced in the lineup by Jakub Kindl for Saturday’s game.

Red Wings – Ducks Postgame Notes

Well that was a great way to start the season. The Red Wings looked solid all game. They did make some mistakes but nothing glaring, of course the outcome helps gloss over any negatives.

Fantastic to see Mike Modano scoring in his return home. That was a great play all around, from Jiri Hudler and Brad Stuart along the boards to Dan Cleary in the middle to Modano finishing. Cleary took a bit of a beating to make that happen and Modano finished like we all know he can. It’d’ve been the story of the game in a lot of games but this was a bit wild.

Since I go on and on every time I think the Wings are robbed of a goal I’ve gotta bring up Cleary’s replay-aided tally from the second period.

At first, I thought this was a good goal because I thought the rule was that the goal could be knocked off its pegs as long as it didn’t affect the puck. If the puck is going in the middle of the net but the goal is off at the side, the goal being off doesn’t change that the puck is going to the right place.

Turns out, I had the rule wrong, it’s not quite as subjective. The goal can be up but not off its pegs. Personally, I thought the overhead replay FSD kept showing proved that it was off the pegs but maybe there was an angle Toronto got that showed it was still barely on. I can believe it was but it would have to have been very close. As I said during the game, I’m surprised that one counted.

Jimmy Howard opens the season with a shutout. He didn’t have to be spectacular but he was solid when he was needed. The 21 shots he faced weren’t the 43 that Jonas Hiller saw at the other end of the ice but that’s how the Wings play. Howard’s going to need to be able to make the stops when he’s not seeing a lot of action. He stopped them all tonight and you can’t ask for more than that.

On a night when a hometown hero comes back and scores a goal for his local team and a young goalie gets a shutout, you know something big happened when neither of those is the top item of the night.

Gordie Howe Hat-Trick. Pavel Datsyuk. There’s a part of me that doesn’t believe it.

It’s a little funny, my dad was over to watch the game and he hasn’t really paid a lot of attention to the Red Wings in the last couple years. I was explaining how Datsyuk’s gotten more physical and doesn’t back down as much, then this happens. It’s great to see Pavel stand up for himself but at the same time it’s a bit terrifying.

My dad and I were discussing the role of the enforcer because of it. He says that the Wings still need a fighter to keep their stars safe. He used Brad May as an example (proving that he wasn’t completely ignoring last season). It’s the traditional idea, May would “keep the flies off” by being a kind of nuclear deterrent. You attack our stars and you’ll answer to our fighter.

The way I see it, there are two problems with that. The first is that May didn’t get in a single “useful” fight last year, they were all the typical choreographed fights that do absolutely nothing. The second is that Anaheim dresses George Parros on a nightly basis. May wouldn’t have fought Perry tonight, he would have fought Parros, at which point we can just refer to my first point.

Someone needed to take on Perry (and Getzlaf, for that matter). Fighters go after fighters, Perry is an agitator. That means either another agitator would have to fight Perry or Datsyuk would have to stand up for himself. Datsyuk took care of it.

Of course, there’s a third option that I’ve been pushing for for years but I know will never happen. The refs can call the after-the-whistle B.S. so it never gets to that point. There are those who say that’s part of the game, I don’t agree with them, the NHL does agree with them right now.

A fantastic night all around and a great way to kick off the season. There’s 81 more of those to go so we shouldn’t take too much from it but it’s a good start.

Red Wings Confirm Chelios Won’t Return

The Detroit Red Wings officially announced on Monday that defenseman Chris Chelios will not return to the team next season.

“It was kind of understood last summer, after Cheli signed, that the 2008-09 season would be the last one for Cheli as a Red Wing,” said Red Wings GM Ken Holland. “He wants to play another season and I believe he can still play.”

Chelios, 47, played ten seasons for the Red Wings, joining the team from the Chicago Blackhawks at the 1999 trade deadline. The three-time Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s best defenseman is the second-oldest active player in NHL history behind Gordie Howe. His 25 seasons played are tied for most in NHL history with Howe and Mark Messier.

Franzen Gives Red Wings OT Win over Predators

Johan Franzen scored his sixth game-winning goal in the last twelve games with 1:39 left in overtime on Sunday, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a 1-0 win over the Nashville Predators.

Franzen’s goal came off the rebound of a Henrik Zetterberg chance and slipped past the sprawling Dan Ellis.

Dominik Hasek stopped 22 Nashville shots to earn the shutout for Detroit.

On the day that the Red Wings celebrated legend Gordie Howe‘s 80th brithday, Franzen’s sixth game-winning goal of the month broke the record previously held by Howe.

Ellis stopped 35 shots before allowing the goal that ended his franchise-best shutout streak.

Red Wings Beat Canadiens in Original Six Matchup

On a night when their Original Six rivalry was honored with a pre-game ceremony, the Detroit Red Wings defeated the Montreal Canadiens, 4-1.

Former Canadiens Jean Beliveau, Dickie Moore, Jean-Guy Talbot, Stephane Richer, and Claude Lemieux and former Red Wings Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Alex Delvecchio, Marcel Pronovost, and Marcel Dionne were all on hand for the ceremony. Current Red Wing and former Canadien Chris Chelios also participated.

The game began with scoring chances by each team but neither would get on the board until there was only 3:20 left in the first period.

After a giveaway in the Montreal zone, Pavel Datsyuk grabbed the puck and outwaited a Canadien defenseman, freezing him and putting a shot between his legs, slipping it between the pads of goalie Carey Price to give the Red Wings a 1-0 lead.

Christopher Higgins evened the game up at 4:15 of the second on a broken play. Saku Koivu‘s shot from the left circle defected to Higgins off the skate of Aaron Downey. From the bottom of the circle, Higgins lifted a shot over goalie Dominik Hasek.

Datsyuk put the Wings out in front again with 8:58 remaining in the middle period, scoring on a wrister from the top of the right circle.

Niklas Kronwall extended the Detroit lead just 2:37 later, scoring on a fluttering shot from the blue line that may have been deflected on its way to the net.

Henrik Zetterberg wrapped up the game’s scoring on the power play with 6:10 remaining in the game, beating Price with a quick wrister from the high slot.

Price made 30 saves on 34 shots against and Hasek stopped 14 of 15.

Zetterberg’s goal was the lone power play goal for either team. The Red Wings had three chances with the extra attacker and Montreal had five.

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