On Jersey Number Retirements

The Red Wings announced yesterday that they will retire the #4 of Leonard “Red” Kelly prior to their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 1, 2019.

Kelly won four Stanley Cups as a defenseman with the Red Wings in the early 1950s, was the team’s captain later in the decade, and then was traded to the Maple Leafs during the 1959-60 season (as punishment for disclosing that he had played on a broken ankle, something Detroit general manager Jack Adams was keeping secret).  He switched to playing center with Toronto and won four more Stanley Cups.

After retiring in 1967, Kelly was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969.  The Maple Leafs honored his number on October 4, 2006, and fully retired it on October 15, 2016, in a celebration of the team’s 100th anniversary.


Retiring Red Kelly’s number makes sense but I still can’t shake a cynical feeling about it.

It’s an honor that should have happened in the early 1990s.  The Red Wings retired Ted Lindsay‘s #7 and Alex Delvecchio‘s #10 in 1991, Terry Sawchuk’s #1 in 1994, and Sid Abel’s #12 in 1995.  Kelly would have fit perfectly into that group as the core of the team’s early 1950s Stanley Cup Championships.  That his number wasn’t raised to the rafters then seemed to show that it wouldn’t be.

Since then we’ve seen Steve Yzerman‘s #19 and Nicklas Lidstrom‘s #5 raised, with much pomp and circumstance leading up to the events.  The dates were announced before the start of the season and ticket packages were sold around them.

So to see Kelly’s number retired now, with the announcement tucked into a pregame press availability, gives me a bad vibe.  It feels to me like a ploy to get people to come down to a game between a bad team and a very good team.

That said, as I Tweeted last night, the timing makes more sense than the Wings usually give to jersey retirements.  Toronto is the perfect opponent to raise Kelly’s number against, while history shows the team preferring to do so against a lesser draw on a weeknight to boost their ticket sales.  So if there’s a reason to give the team the benefit of the doubt, it’s that.

Whatever the reason, a deserving number is going to the rafters, righting the wrong of it not having been up there already.


But if I’m talking about wrongs, I have to mention Larry Aurie.  The franchise’s first star player, Aurie led the Red Wings in their early days, including when the team was known as the Cougars and the Falcons.

Jack Adams thought enough of Aurie that his #6 was retired in 1939, when Aurie hung up his skates.  It was later brought back into circulation so that Aurie’s cousin, Cummy Burton, could wear it, then put back into retirement.

Gordie Howe‘s #9 later joined Aurie’s #6 as unavailable, but in old arenas like The Olympia, teams rarely raised numbers to the rafters.

That changed with the team’s move to Joe Louis Arena and Mike and Marian Ilitch buying the team from the Norris family.  Howe’s #9 was the first number given a banner.  Ted Lindsay, Alex Delvecchio, Terry Sawchuk, and Sid Abel would follow.  Aurie did not.

At some point, the team’s story became that the core of the 1950s Cup Championship teams were all Hall of Famers and that only those in the HHOF would get banners.  Aurie never made it to the Hall, so his number would be retired but not honored.

Then the 2000-01 NHL Guide and Record Book came out, with Aurie’s #6 no longer listed among the team’s retired numbers.  Suddenly it was not only not honored but not even retired at all.

Despite this seeming lost of status, #6 was not assigned between 2000 and 2010, when Mike Modano signed with Detroit.  Modano – unable to get his usual #9 due to it’s retirement for Howe – asked about #6.

“I wanted No. 6, but they told me about Larry Aurie,” said Modano, referring to Aurie, who played between 1927-39, and had his number retired by former Wings owner James Norris.

“I thought it would be easy to just flip 9 to 6,” Modano said. “I would have loved 6, but maybe 90.”

If the all-time leading American scorer can’t have the number, that sure sounds to me like it’s retired.

They may not have raised banners to celebrate that in the 1930s, but we do now, and it’s time for Aurie’s number to have that honor.


And then there’s Sergei Fedorov.

There was buzz over the summer that Fedorov’s #91 might be retired this season, something that didn’t come to happen.  Chris Ilitch commented on that when Kelly’s number retirement was announced.

“Obviously Sergei was an outstanding Red Wing. He was a big part of bringing three Stanley Cups to Detroit. He’s in the Hockey Hall of Fame,” Ilitch answered. “The subject of number retirement, it’s an important subject, it deserves a lot of conversation, a lot of thought. We’re continuously evaluating that with our organization. Related to 91 and 40 (Henrik Zetterberg), let’s see what the future holds.”

It wasn’t what Ilitch said, though, that really explained where Fedorov stands with the organization.  That was Jim Devellano.

“There are other things that I’m not going to get into,” Devellano said. “Do you realize that he wanted out of the Red Wings (organization) on two occasions? Are you familiar with that? Did you know he turned the owners down on a 5-year, $50 million contract? Did you know he signed an offer sheet with the Carolina Hurricanes and we had to match with a $24 million signing bonus?”

What this makes clear is that this is an organization that holds grudges.

You buy a team, you get to run it how you want, and that means you don’t have to honor any players you don’t want to.  We’ve seen that with Aurie (for whatever reason) and we’ll see that with Fedorov.  We’ll probably see it with Pavel Datsyuk.

2018 Prospects Tournament Jersey Number Notes

The Red Wings released their roster for the 2018 Prospects Tournament in Traverse City today, which means we have new jersey numbers to over-analyze.

As always, the Red Wings’ official stance is that camp numbers are meaningless, so this all needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  But – as I always say – there are a lot of times that we can read something that hasn’t officially been announced from these choices.

There are only six players who appeared at the Red Wings’ development camp in June who will return with different numbers.

Kaden Fulcher, who has worn a slew of numbers in various camps with the Red Wings, switches from the #60 he had at development camp to the #36 that was worn by Filip Larsson.  Meanwhile free agent tryout Justin Fazio, a late addition in June, goes from #30 to #68.

Those are easy to read nothing into as the Red Wings generally assign #36, #38, and #68 to their prospect goalies.

Grand Rapids Griffins signing Jordan Topping takes the #53 that had been worn by Kaspar Kotkansalo, which probably just means that Kotkansalo won’t be in Traverse City this year and doesn’t need that number.

Free agent invitee Nicolas Guay switches from #20 to the #76 last worn by Chase Pearson.  I think this means that one of the Wings’ Grand Rapids-bound summer signings will wear #20 in camp (or on a call-up) but I don’t know which one.

Finally, there’s David Pope and Christopher Ehn.  Pope lost his #11 to Filip Zadina for development camp this year and wore #45 there but will wear #58 (worn by Griffins forward Luke Esposito last year).  Ehn had worn #45 at last year’s development camp and will now wear the #70 that Jack Adams wore in June.

Both players switching numbers seems to clear the way for goalie Jonathan Bernier to wear his usual #45.  Bernier was originally listed on the Detroit roster with that number but currently does not have a number assigned.

Speaking of July 1 signings, it looks like Thomas Vanek will wear his usual #26 this time around with the Wings.  That’s the number he’s listed with on the team roster but he wore #62 last time around as #26 was taken by Tomas Jurco.  Vanek’s former #62 was worn by Trevor Hamilton in development camp and Hamilton will keep it for the prospects tournament, so it doesn’t look like Vanek needs it.

2018 Development Camp Jersey Number Notes

The Red Wings released the rosters for their annual development camp today and, as per usual, there are some interesting jersey numbers in the set.

This is where I have to note that summer jersey numbers (specifically development camp and the prospects tournament) don’t usually mean much, but sometimes they’re a sign of number changes or

Of this year’s draft picks, Filip Zadina gets #11 and Joe Veleno gets #90, their usual numbers.  Ben Street had been assigned #11 last season but never wore it and David Pope had worn it in development camp but is now assigned #45.  Veleno’s #90 was worn in development camp last season by Keith Petruzelli, who is now assigned #80.

Jonatan Berggren has been assigned the #15 that used to belong to Riley Sheahan.  Speaking of players traded away last season, Dennis Cholowski will be wearing the #21 of Tomas Tatar after having previously worn #95, #2, and #53.  Meanwhile, free agent signee Patrik Rybar will wear the #34 formerly worn by Petr Mrazek.

Ryan O’Reilly is the only remaining 2018 draftee to be assigned a “normal” jersey number, with his usual #71 flipped to the #17 of David Booth.  I still expect Tyler Bertuzzi to take that number once the main camp rolls around.

Jared McIsaac, Alec Regula, and Seth Barton – Detroit’s trio of blueline draftees from last weekend – have been assigned #63, #94, and #95, respectively.  Jordan Sambrook wore both #63 and #95 last summer but will not be at this camp while Kaspar Kotkansalo had worn #94.  Kotkansalo will wear the #53 vacated by Cholowski.

The two goalies the Red Wings picked on Saturday – Jesper Eliasson and Victor Brattstrom – will wear #31 and #68, respectively.  The Wings regularly switch their prospect goalie jersey numbers up, as seen by now-departed Matej Machovsky wearing both of those numbers at different points last summer.

Wrapping recent draft picks up, Otto Kivenmaki has been assigned #84, the number Reilly Webb wore at development camp last year before switching to his current #50.

Mattias Elfstrom, a 2016 draft pick, switches from #56 to #37.  Jack Adams switches from #74 to #70, with Cole Fraser taking #74 after previously wearing the #85 now assigned to free agent tryout Luke Morgan.

With Eric Tangradi having claimed #26 during the Wings’ main camp last fall, Chase Pearson switches to #76.  Similarly, having lost his #48 to Givani Smith, Gustav Lindstrom switches to #54.

Defenseman Malte Setkov goes from #86 to #79, with Alfons Malmstrom taking the #86, having lost his #4 to Dylan McIlrath.  Meanwhile Patrick Holway completes a swap with Filip Hronek – Hronek took Holway’s #24 last summer with Holway taking the #87 Hronek switched from this summer.

Rounding things out are the goalies, which (as I mentioned) are always somewhat chaotic.  After wearing #36 in development camp last summer and #68 in main camp, Kaden Fulcher will wear #60 this time around, with Filip Larsson (who’d previously worn #68) taking #36.  Joren van Pottelberg is the only goalie keeping his previous number, as he wore Tom McCollum‘s #38 in development camp last year.

The full roster is as follows:

Forwards

Num. Name
70 Jack Adams
15 Jonatan Berggren
82 Colt Conrad
37 Mattias Elfstrom
64 Zach Gallant
67 Brady Gilmour
89 Pavel Gogolev
92 Maxim Golod
20 Nicolas Guay
78 Taro Hirose
84 Otto Kivenmaki
85 Luke Morgan
17 Ryan O’Reilly
76 Chase Pearson
45 David Pope
27 Michael Rasmussen
88 Ryan Savage
48 Givani Smith
90 Joe Veleno
75 Sebastian Vidmar
81 Trevor Yates
46 Lane Zablocki
11 Filip Zadina

Defensemen

Num. Name
95 Seth Barton
21 Dennis Cholowski
73 Marcus Crawford
74 Cole Fraser
62 Trevor Hamilton
87 Patrick Holway
53 Kasper Kotkansalo
54 Gustav Lindstrom
86 Alfons Malmstrom
63 Jared McIsaac
94 Alec Regula
79 Malte Setkov
50 Reilly Webb

Goalies

Num. Name
68 Victor Brattstrom
31 Jesper Eliasson
60 Kaden Fulcher
36 Filip Larsson
80 Keith Petruzzelli
34 Patrik Rybar
38 Joren van Pottelberghe

Development Camp Jersey Number Stuff

I’ve been told time and time again that jersey numbers at the Red Wings’ development camp are meaningless but we’ve seen hints of pending changes there in the past.  For example, Philippe Hudon being assigned the #63 that had been worn by Joakim Andersson was the first sign of Andersson’s switch to #18 back in 2013.

That said, of late there have been many cases of assigned numbers being handed out for the development camp, especially goalie numbers.  A previously-assigned number being given out at camp doesn’t mean the player who had it is switching, it’s just worth looking out for.

This year the Red Wings didn’t release a roster that included player numbers but George Malik noted them in his first write-up from camp.

I predicted last week that Ryan Sproul might be changing his number.  With new draftee Gustav Lindstrom wearing #48, that could be a sign.  Of course, I thought Sproul might take #4, which is now assigned to Alfons Malmstrom.

Malmstrom wore #88 in camp last season, which is assigned to free agent signee Libor Sulak this time around.  Sulak’s usual number is #88 so it would appear that he wanted that number and would wear it if he makes the Wings’ roster.

Somewhat unexpectedly, 2017 first-rounder Michael Rasmussen is wearing the #37 that had been assigned to Evgeny Svechnikov.  Svechnikov also wore #37 in his first full season with the Grand Rapids Griffins before switching to #77.  Dan Renouf had been assigned #77 but is not in camp, so we don’t know if Rasmussen getting #37 while #77 is unassigned means Svechnikov is switching to #77 again.

Also somewhat oddly, Dylan Sadowy kept the #44 he got after Steve Ott took his usual #29 rather than switching back, with #29 going unassigned.

Aside from that, there are some relatively normal number shifts.

Dennis Cholowski switched from #95 to the #2 vacated by Brendan Smith, with Jordan Sambrook going from #94 to #95 (which he wore for the prospects tournament last fall).  Patrick Holway went from #4 to #24.  Mattias Elfstrom went from #82 to #56.  Chase Pearson took Tomas Jurco‘s #26 instead of #92 while David Pope got Daniel Cleary‘s #11 instead of #90 (which went to goalie Keith Petruzelli).

As I mentioned, the goalie numbers almost never matter, but there were changes there, too.  Filip Larsson went from #31 to #68, with Chase Perry going from #68 to #30 and Matej Machovsky going from #30 to #31, which is still assigned to Jared Coreau.  Meanwhile Joren van Pottelberghe went from #50 to #38, which will probably be assigned to Tom McCollum by the time the main camp comes around, as he wore it in his initial stint with Detroit.

What’s all that mean?  Probably not much.  I still think Sproul is changing and now I wouldn’t be surprised if Svechnikov is as well.  Numbers for Trevor Daley and Luke Witkowski probably aren’t reflected here as the roster was set before they signed (although I have a second prediction of Witkowski taking #28 and Vili Saarijarvi switching to #17).


Update – 7/9, 11:30 AM: The Red Wings tweeted out a roster with jersey numbers included in advance of today’s scrimmage.  It includes confirmation of Axel Holmstrom‘s #96 being assigned to Michael Pastujov and I think I know what to read into this now.

Evgeny Svechnikov, Axel Holmstrom, and Joe Hicketts (among others) were all expected to attend development camp until the Grand Rapids Griffins made their Calder Cup run.  The players wearing their numbers were all late additions to the development camp roster.  I’d be willing to bet the jerseys were already made up so they just swapped the names.


For the record, here’s the full list of numbers:

Forwards

Num. Name
74 Jack Adams
79 Oliver Castleman*
45 Christopher Ehn
56 Mattias Elfstrom
70 Luke Esposito+
73 Zach Gallant
76 Brady Gilmour
82 Isaac Johnson*
78 Sean Josling*
80 Luke Kutkevicius*
17 Tommy Marchin*
96 Michael Pastujov*
26 Chase Pearson
11 David Pope
37 Michael Rasmussen
44 Dylan Sadowy
63 Dominik Shine+
32 Graham Slaggert*
81 Givani Smith
47 Brett Supinski*
67 Lane Zablocki

Defensemen

Num. Name
2 Dennis Cholowski
92 Tomas Dvorak*
27 Mitch Eliot*
75 Evan Fiala*
85 Cole Fraser
24 Patrick Holway
87 Filip Hronek
94 Kasper Kotkansalo
97 Adam Larkin*
48 Gustav Lindstrom
4 Alfons Malmstrom
58 Patrick McCarron+
53 Alex Peters*
28 Vili Saarijarvi
95 Jordan Sambrook
86 Malte Setkov
88 Libor Sulak
84 Reilly Webb

Goalies

Num. Name
36 Kaden Fulcher*
68 Filip Larsson
31 Matej Machovsky
30 Chase Perry
90 Keith Petruzzelli
38 Joren van Pottelberghe

Babcock Named Jack Adams Award Finalist

Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock was named a 2014 finalist for the Jack Adams Award on Tuesday.

The award, presented to the coach who “contributed the most to his team’s success,” is voted on by members of the NHL Broadcasters’ Association.

Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche were the other finalists.

Babcock led the Red Wings to their 23rd consecutive playoff appearance and a 39-28-15 record despite the long-term losses of forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. The team faced a franchise-record 421 man-games lost due to injury and was forced to use 38 different players in the regular season. Nine Red Wings players made their NHL debut in filling in on the depleted lineup.

It is the second time Babcock has been named a finalist for the award after placing third in voting in 2008.

Cooper’s Lightning finished second in the Atlantic Division with a 46-27-9 record in his first full season behind the bench. Their youth-heavy roster featured eight rookies who played in forty games or more and spent much of the year without star forward and eventual captain Steven Stamkos.

Former Detroit nemisis Roy helped the Avalanche to a 52-22-8 record in his first year behind the bench. Colorado became the first team since the NHL absorbed four WHA teams in 1979 to go from a finish in the bottom three to the top three in the league in a single season.

The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards show on Tuesday, June 24.

Three Red Wings’ coaches have won the Jack Adams Award: Scotty Bowman (1996), Jacques Demers (1987, 1988), and Bobby Kromm (1978).

Postgame: Sabres @ Red Wings – 4/4

Two points are two points but, man, that was uglier than it needed to be.

Playing against the worst team in the league who also played last night and didn’t even get into Detroit until 4:00 AM, you could expect the Red Wings to take a 3-0 lead early. Unfortunately, given Detroit’s penchant for giving up leads, you could also expect them to let the Sabres back in it, which they did as Buffalo cut it to 3-2 by the midway point of the third period. The Sabres had all the momentum late but couldn’t get a shot on net on their final shift as the Red Wings held on for the win.

Coupled with Columbus’ late loss to Chicago, that gives Detroit a three point lead for the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. They’re up four on ninth-place Toronto with a game in hand. New Jersey is six back, Washington seven, and Carolina is all-but-eliminated at nine back.

Montreal is up tomorrow night, coming off a 7-4 win in Ottawa.

With the win, Red Wings’ head coach Mike Babcock moved into a tie with Jack Adams for first place all-time in wins among Detroit coaches with 413. Babcock reached that mark in 265 fewer games.

Postgame: Red Wings @ Maple Leafs – 3/29

Well, with the late penalty the Red Wings certainly didn’t make it easy on themselves, but for once a one-goal lead heading into the third period didn’t herald a collapse as they actually padded the lead for a 4-2 win in Toronto.

With his first career hat trick, Darren Helm is easily the game’s number one star and top story. I joke a lot about how he can’t finish (in fact, he was stoned on a breakaway just seconds before scoring his first goal of the night off a steal and feed from Joakim Andersson) but his backhand was good tonight, accounting for his first and third goals. The second was a right-place-right-time deflection of a Jakub Kindl shot that actually broke his stick.

Second star of the night I’m going with Jimmy Howard. He made some fantastic stops to keep his team both in it and out front, depending on the time. I know he’s played a ton lately but with how crucial points are right now and how well he’s been playing, I think you have to give him the nod again tomorrow.

Third star normally would be Gustav Nyquist with a goal in seven of the last eight games. Instead I’m looking at Brendan Smith. How different is this game if he doesn’t clear the puck off the goal line on that goofy-ass play when Nyquist sent it back to Howard and it slipped through him? Three or four months ago, Smith watches that go in because he’s not paying enough attention to make the jump in that he did tonight.

Huge two points, as the Wings retain the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed. Columbus beat Carolina in OT and Washington fell to Boston so the four-way tie has become a two-way tie and the Blue Jackets have the tiebreaker against Detroit.

Not to be forgotten (though I’ve been harping about it on Twitter so that’s not likely), the win gives Mike Babcock 410 regular season wins as head coach of Detroit, tying him for second-most overall with Scotty Bowman, just three back of Jack Adams for first.

Assorted Monday Notes

I don’t usually do daily notebook-style posts but there were a few items of note worth mentioning today.

Roster Moves
After demoting center Landon Ferraro to the Grand Rapids Griffins overnight last night, the Red Wings called up forward Mitch Callahan today. It’s still unclear whether or not Callahan will play on Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. If he does, he’ll be the first Red Wing to wear number 57.

The Wings also assigned defenseman Max Nicastro to the Griffins from the Toledo Walleye and the Griffins signed Detroit prospect MarcMcNulty to a try-out contract.

Nyquist Named First Star
The NHL named Detroit forward Gustav Nyquist its first star of the week. Nyquist scored six goals and added an assist as the Red Wings went 3-0-1 over the week.

Babcock Approaching Record
Detroit head coach Mike Babcock is approaching a record and I’m not seeing anyone making note of it. Babcock currently sits at 409 regular-season wins as head coach of the Red Wings, only one behind Scotty Bowman‘s 410 for second-most in franchise history. Jack Adams sits at first overall with 413. With five more wins, Babcock becomes the all-time winningest coach in Detroit history.

On Dr. Jack Finley’s Hockeytown Doc

I was recently asked to take a look at Dr. John Finley’s new book, Hockeytown Doc – A Half-Century of Red Wings Stories from Howe to Yzerman.  By coincidence, the request came on the heels of posting my thoughts on Tal Pinchevsky’s Breakaway: From Behind the Iron Curtain to the NHL – The Untold Story of Hockey’s Great Escapes.  I’m not looking to get into the business of book reviews but with no NHL games, I’m already reading more.

Over at Winging it in Motown, J.J. posted his thoughts on Friday but I’ve deliberately not read what he wrote, so our opinions may have some overlap.

Dr. Finley has assembled 23 chapters of anecdotes and personal thoughts formed over fifty years on the Red Wings’ medical staff.  His viewpoint from three rows behind the bench and inside the dressing room is unique.

It’s that perspective that makes the book worthwhile.  Some of these stories are things we’ve heard before.  His chapter on the Russian Five, for example, has a lot of overlap with Breakaway.  However, there were parts of those familiar stories that were new, things that only he could tell.

My personal favorite chapter was “Spring Fling,” in which he tells stories of the team party he and his family hosted every year.  A party so appreciated that, as Dr. Finley says, Bob Probert once asked to be invited back even if he was traded away from the Wings.

Another thing that struck me was how similarly former Red Wings’ czar Jack Adams and current team Vice President Jimmy Devellano were described.  This probably shouldn’t be a surprise, given Adams’ attempts at union-busting and Devellano’s recent “cattle” comment but it wasn’t until reading Dr. Finley’s words that the idea really clicked for me.

I do have some nit-picks about the book.  As a collection of 23 relatively-independent chapters, there’s a decent amount of repetition.  The roles of certain people are described multiple times, for example.  We’re told that Original Six-era dressing rooms were made up of “benches above which were hooks” several times.  Additionally, I caught at least one mistake in a player’s name, with Kris Draper being called Chris Draper.

As I said, those are nit-picks, the only things I could find wrong in an otherwise well-crafted piece of storytelling.

If you missed Dr. Finley’s signing at Hockeytown Authentics on Saturday, he has two more appearances scheduled in the coming weeks.  On October 14 he’ll be at the Kroger in Bloomfield Hills and on October 28 he’ll be at the Kroger in Troy.

Red Wings – Coyotes: Series Preview

It’s been a long regular season, an odd regular season for most Red Wings fans, but here we are on the opening day of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Six weeks ago the Red Wings were out of the playoffs. Today they’re the Western Conference’s fifth seed, with a record better than six of the eight playoff teams in the Eastern Conference (and only a point back of the New Jersey Devils). That jump came courtesy of a 16-3-2 run after the Olympic Break, including a stretch of twelve games in which they earned at least a point.

The Wings come into the playoffs on a roll but in an unfamiliar position. They haven’t started a postseason run on the road since 1991, when they were the Norris Division’s third seed facing the second-seeded St. Louis Blues. They lost that series, 4-3.

Detroit hasn’t been the lower-seeded team in any series since the 2000 Western Conference Semifinals, when the fourth-seeded Wings lost to the third-seeded Colorado Avalanche in five games.

Additionally, the Red Wings haven’t headed into a playoff riding a rookie goalie since 1994, when Chris Osgood took over for Bob Essensa as Detroit fell to the San Jose Sharks, 4-3, in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

While six weeks ago no one knew if the Red Wings would be in the playoffs today, a year ago no one knew if the Phoenix Coyotes would even exist right now.

The Coyotes are the NHL’s Cinderella story, finishing fourth in the Western Conference despite a year of ownership by the league itself after the team declared bankruptcy last spring.

Wayne Gretzky was replaced as head coach by Dave Tippett, the favorite to win the Jack Adams Trophy as the league’s best coach. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov had a Vezina Trophy-worthy season.

The Red Wings were unbeaten in regulation against the Coyotes this season, going 2-0-2. However all four of those games came while Detroit was battling injuries and before Phoenix added veteran depth at the trade deadline.

Detroit has added forwards Justin Abdelkader and Brad May back to their roster but head coach Mike Babcock won’t be making any lineup changes for tonight’s Game One, choosing to ride a winning lineup.

Phoenix, meanwhile, is expected to start the series without former Red Wing Robert Lang, out with an upper-body injury.

Game time tonight is 10:00 on FSD and Versus.