Another Close Win For Wings

The Western Conference rivalry between the Red Wings and the Vancouver Canucks continued in fine form Thursday evening with a fast-paced, intense game culminating in a 3-2 Detroit victory.

The Canucks opened the scoring very early in the game, before most fans at the Joe had even quite settled into their seats. Brendan Morrison won a faceoff in Detroit’s defensive zone. The puck got back to Todd Bertuzzi, who flipped it over to Ed Jovanovski. Jovanovski sent it to Markus Naslund at the right point. Naslund took a few steps towards the net and fired. Bertuzzi had moved over to screen Dominik Hasek, and the puck flew in over Hasek’s glove hand at 1:11.

The Red Wings evened up the game with their first power play chance. Jarkko Ruutu was sent out for hooking, and it only took the power play unit nine seconds to get the goal. Mathieu Schneider passed the puck along the blue line to Nicklas Lidstrom at the left point. Lidstrom skated the puck forward, then saw a tiny passing lane through the mass of bodies in the goal crease. He sent the puck through, and Brendan Shanahan was waiting on the other side with his stick blade on the ice ready to flip the puck into the net behind Dan Cloutier.

Marek Malik regained the lead for the Canucks just three minutes later. He took a pass from Jovanovski, then shot the puck on net from the left point. Hasek was off balance because Jiri Fischer had been shoved up against him, and the puck was able to find its way into the net.

Malik took an interference penalty with only 1:25 left in the period, and this time it took only five seconds for the Red Wings’ power play to score. Steve Yzerman won the draw back to Shanahan, who passed neatly to Lidstrom at the blue line. Lidstrom waited just long enough for Tomas Holmstrom to move in front of Cloutier as a screen, then let fly a hard shot which sailed in over Cloutier’s right shoulder.

The second period was time for Hasek to shine. The Vancouver offense did whatever they could to test him, but he held strong against the 15 shots he faced in the period.

Hasek was aided by his defense, especially during Kris Draper‘s five minute major penalty for boarding. The penalty killers did an excellent job of clearing the puck and making the Canucks chase it all the way to their end of the ice. Hasek made a brilliant double save against two rapid-fire, close range shots by Bertuzzi, in his traditional “slinky-for-a-spine” style. The Red Wings apparently got tired of playing defense on the penalty kill; in fact, almost the whole last minute of the major penalty consisted of shorthanded pressure against Cloutier.

Some fans in the front row received an unexpected surprise early in the third period. Fischer checked Daniel Sedin into the boards behind Hasek””into the boards and right through the glass. A large Sedin-shaped piece of plexiglass fell to the floor at the fans’ feet.

The pause needed for the glass repair took some of the momentum out of the game, and both teams played a little more carefully through the third period. Neither team wanted to be the one to make the mistake that would cost the game. Once again, the Red Wings went right down to the wire before pulling out the game winning goal.

Ray Whitney shot the puck on net from the right half boards. Cloutier made the save, but as he attempted to shove the puck into the corner and out of harm’s way, it was intercepted by Pavel Datsyuk. Datsyuk centered the puck for Whitney, who had moved into the high slot, and Whitney backhanded a shot past Cloutier with 1:06 left to play. The Canucks pulled their goalie for the final minute, seeking overtime, but they simply could not put the puck past Hasek again.

Vancouver outshot Detroit by a count of 38 to 31, giving Hasek a save percentage of .947 and Cloutier a save percentage of .903.

The Red Wings’ next game will be Saturday night when they travel to Pittsburgh to face Mario Lemieux and the Penguins at Mellon Arena.

Brett Hull sat out this game with a sore back, ending a streak of 211 consecutive games played. Jiri Hudler made his first appearance in the regular season lineup to take Hull’s place…. Bertuzzi’s assist on Vancouver’s first goal was his 400th career point…. Derian Hatcher left the game early in the first period and did not return. Team personnel reported that Hatcher sprained his knee and had gone for further tests.

Wings Rout Bruins for First Exhibition Win

After dropping their first two games of the exhibition season, the Red Wings bounced back Wednesday night to defeat the Boston Bruins, 9-0.

Detroit’s special teams led the way as the Wings went 5-for-10 on the power play. The Bruins were unable to convert on any of their five attempts with the man-advantage.

“Guys were conscious about their position and that’s important,” coach Dave Lewis said. “They did the things we practiced and asked them to do, and then things happen.”

By the start of the third period, Detroit had built up enough of a lead that minor leaguers Mark Mowers and Darryl Bootland were used on a power play.

In all, eight different Red Wings scored. Tomas Holmstrom notched two goals. Henrik Zetterberg had three assists. Steve Yzerman notched his first preseason goal and rookie Jiri Hudler scored his third in as many exhibitions.

When asked about his recent success, Hudler said, “I don’t know. I think I play with great players. I think more games, I feel better.”

Of the Red Wings, only Dominik Hasek could be disappointed with the game. The goaltender, who prefers to stay active during a game, saw only twenty shots on goal from the Bruins.

“You try to stay focused the whole game,” Hasek said, “But 7-0 after second period, you know…”

Boston’s Felix Potvin, signed as a free agent this summer after a trade with Detroit fell through when Curtis Joseph elected to have surgery on his ankle, faced thirty Red Wings shots and allowed seven goals in the first half of the game. Andrew Raycroft, who replaced Potvin near the midway point of the second period, allowed two goals on seventeen shots.

The Red Wings are in action again tonight, heading to Washington to face the Capitals. The 7:00 PM game will not be televised or broadcast on radio in the Detroit area. Most Detroit stars will be kept out of the game, but Manny Legace and Chris Chelios are expected to play.

Wings Drop Second Exhibition

The Detroit Red Wings lost their second exhibition game in as many nights on Saturday, falling to the New York Rangers 5-3.

The game saw the return of Dominik Hasek to the Red Wings’ lineup for the first time since Game Five of the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals, when he claimed the NHL’s championship trophy for the first time in his career. It was also free agent signing Derian Hatcher‘s Detroit debut.

The Rangers opened the scoring on the power play at 9:56 of the first period. Defenseman Tom Poti pinched in and picked up the puck as it bounced through the crease, flipping it over a sprawling Hasek for his first goal of the preseason.

The Rangers extended their lead on another power play with only 46 seconds remaining in the period, as Petr Nedved beat Hasek for his first preseason goal.

Detroit rookie Jiri Hudler responded in the second period, putting a bouncing puck past Rangers netminder Jussi Markkanen with 7:08 remaining in the period.

The Rangers extended their lead with a third power play goal. With just 1:59 remaining in the second Nedved scored his second of the game, rifiling a shot over Hasek’s shoulder from right in front of the Detroit goalie.

Detroit bounced back on another Hudler goal just 23 seconds later, and the period ended with the Wings down by a goal.

Tomas Holmstrom pulled Detroit even with the Rangers at 6:24 of the third period while the Wings had the man-advantage but Poti notched his second of the game and the Rangers’ fourth power play goal at 10:41 and New York was up for good.

With fourth-string goalie Joey MacDonald on the bench for the extra attacker, Rangers’ rookie Dominick Moore scored into the empty net to clinch the New York victory.

MacDonald allowed one goal on the two shots he faced after replacing Hasek at the start of the third. Hasek stopped eleven of the fourteen shots he faced in the first two periods. Markkanen stopped twenty-two of the twenty-five shots he faced playing the entire game in the Rangers’ goal.

The Red Wings will next be in action Wednesday when the Boston Bruins visit Joe Louis Arena.

Wings Prepare for Exhibition Opener

The Detroit Red Wings will open their preseason exhibition schedule Friday night as the Washington Capitals come to Joe Louis Arena. The game will be Detroit’s first since the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim eliminated them from the first round of last season’s playoffs.

The Capitals were scheduled to open their exhibition season Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins but that game was postponed as Hurricane Isabel wreaked havoc along the mid-Atlantic coast, including the Washington area.

The Red Wings were in action on Thursday in their annual Red and White Game at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids. The Red team defeated the White team, 2-1, on goals scored by Grand Rapids Griffins Hugo Boisvert and Nathan Robinson. Red Wings prospect Jiri Hudler scored the White team’s lone goal.

Domink Hasek, returning to the Red Wings after a one-year retirement, will not play against the Capitals. Red Wings head coach Dave Lewis said he wanted Hasek to have time to reacclimate himself to Joe Louis Arena and get in a full practice session. Hasek will play Saturday when Detroit hosts the New York Rangers.

Detroit captain Steve Yzerman may also miss time after leaving the Red and White Game early with soreness in his surgically repaired right knee. He was not scheduled to play against Washington but may not be available against the Rangers.

New Red Wings Derian Hatcher and Ray Whitney may make their first appearances wearing the Winged Wheel against the Captials.

Brett Hull will wear #80 throughout the exhibition season in honor of the late Herb Brooks, who coached the 1980 US Olympic hockey team to a gold medal. Brooks died in a car accident in August.

Larionov Signs with New Jersey

Veteran center Igor Larionov signed a one-year deal with the Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils today, reports. Terms of the deal were not announced.

Larionov had turned down a $1 million offer from the Red Wings earlier this summer.

After Joe Nieuwendyk signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, the Devils were left weak at the center position. Larionov, the league’s oldest active player, will help fill that gap.

“I decided I want another year so I can have another chance to win the Cup,” Larionov said Wednesday. “This is my last year.”

Larionov said he would have retired at the end of last season had the Red Wings not been swept in the first round by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

Following the departure of Sergei Fedorov to Anaheim, Larionov was the final member of the famed “Russian Five” unit on the Red Wings roster. The line, featuring Larionov, Fedorov, Vyacheslav Kozlov (now with Atlanta), Vladimir Konstantinov, and Viacheslav Fetisov, was the first all-Russian five-man unit to play together in the NHL when they were brought together with the Red Wings during the 1995-1996 season.

The Red Wings were hesitant to sign Larionov, as they believe that Jason Williams or Jiri Hudler might be able to make the jump to the NHL this season and take the fourth-line spot that was Larionov’s.

Hasek Announces Return

Dominik Hasek officially ended his one-year retirement today, announcing in a conference call with reporters that he will return to the NHL next season.

“I’m looking forward to getting on the ice once again with my teammates,” said Hasek, who retired in 2002 after claiming the Stanley Cup.

Rumors regarding Hasek’s comeback started circulating shortly after the close of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Red Wings added substance to the rumors by announcing they had been in touch with Hasek and by picking up their $8 million option on him for next season.

Hasek didn’t officially make his decision until Monday night, when he notified Red Wings general manager Ken Holland of his intention to return to the NHL.

Hasek’s return leave the Red Wings with two $8 million goaltenders as Curtis Joseph, signed to replace Hasek last spring, has two years remaining on his deal with Detroit. Joseph’s contract includes a no-trade clause, which Hasek’s does not.

“To this point, I have not asked Curtis or his agent to waive his no-trade clause,” Holland said before Hasek’s decision was made. “Once Dom’s final decision is announced, then I will look at our options.”

The Red Wings have indicated that they would be open to trading Hasek instead of Joseph if the offer were right, but they have been shopping Joseph in recent weeks and may ask him to accept a trade.

Monday the Red Wings announced the signing of prospect Jiri Hudler to a three-year contract. Hudler, Detroit’s top pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, is expected to compete for a roster spot in the fall.

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