Wings Deal Kuznetsov, Avery for D-man Schneider

The Detroit Red Wings acquired defenseman Mathieu Schneider from the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, just hours before the NHL’s trade deadline.

Schneider, who scored a goal Monday night in the Kings’ loss to Detroit, came at the cost of young defenseman Maxim Kuznetsov, agitator Sean Avery, a first-round draft pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and a second-round pick in 2004.

Kuznetsov has spent much of the season in and out of the Red Wings lineup, fighting for playing time with Jesse Wallin and Patrick Boileau. His only scoring of the season came in the form of three assists. He also has fifty-four penalty minutes in fifty-three games.

Avery had been playing with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins after being sent down to make roster room for Steve Yzerman.

Schneider has fourteen goals and forty-three points in sixty-five games this season.

Superb Power Plays Contribute to Win

The Red Wings came into tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers wanting to prove themselves. Not only did they want to drive away the bad memories of Tuesday’s game against the Canucks, but they had gone 0-0-1-2 against the Oilers this season. And as usually happens when the Red Wings have something to prove, they proved it, with five power play goals on seven attempts, five successful penalty kills on six attempts, and a 6-2 win over the Oilers.

The Wings had to kill off a penalty for too many men on the ice to start off the game, and they did so easily enough. The Oilers play a “crash the net” style of game, with most of their players down low to try to jam the puck in. Curtis Joseph made some impressive stops, and Detroit was able to clear the puck easily once it came free from the net area.

Just as the Edmonton power play was over, Ales Pisa was trying to bring the puck across his own blue line. He made a pass which hit the skates of Brendan Shanahan, who turned and brought the puck back into the Oilers’ zone. Shanahan made a snappy wrist shot which bounced off the leg pads of goalie Tommy Salo and into the net.

The Red Wings got their first power play of the night with 8:44 left in the first, and Shanahan added his second goal. Sergei Fedorov sent the puck from the right point to Pavel Datsyuk in the high slot, and Datsyuk threaded a pass between two Oilers to Shanahan at the left faceoff circle. Shanahan one-timed the shot into the mostly-empty net.

Detroit had to start off the second period killing off a hooking penalty assessed to Jason Woolley with four seconds left in the first. It was another easy penalty kill, and the Wings got to go back on the power play when Ethan Moreau was sent out a few minutes later. The Red Wings set up their play. Brett Hull sent a pass from the left circle to Woolley at the blue line. Woolley one-timed the shot, and Tomas Holmstrom tipped it past Salo.

Jani Rita got the Oilers on the board just over a minute later by flipping in the rebound from a shot by Steve Staios, but Holmstrom answered with another power play goal, this one off of a wrist shot from the left circle instead of his usual redirections of shots from the front of the net. The Edmonton bench pulled Salo from the game and sent in backup Jussi Markkanen.

Igor Larionov slipped a goal in off a pass by Hull. Big Georges Laraque tried to energize his team by picking a fight with Maxim Kuznetsov“”they’re about the same height, but Laraque outweighs Kuznetsov by quite a bit and has a lot more fighting experience. Kuznetsov held his ground and hung on, and the officials broke the fight up and sent the combatants to the penalty box for five minutes each.

The Red Wings had to do a lot of penalty killing in the third period, including 52 seconds of 5-on-3 when a hooking call to Larionov and a high-sticking double minor to Nicklas Lidstrom overlapped. Again, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and Chris Chelios did an excellent job of protecting their goalie, and the Wings escaped the 5-on-3 and extended 5-on-4 unscathed.

Lidstrom took another penalty later in the period, and this time Todd Marchant did score a power play goal. The Red Wings were ready to put the game away, though, and when Scott Ferguson was given an instigating minor for starting a fight with Maltby, Detroit was ready. Shanahan got the puck just inside his own zone and carried it up the right wing side. He passed across to Larionov keeping up on the left, got the return pass, and wristed in the shot for his 15th career hat trick and 23rd goal of the season.

The final count of shots on net was 38-35 in favor of Detroit. The Red Wings will play their next game Saturday evening, when they will face the Capitals in Washington.

Stacy Roest played his first game of the season, while Sean Avery was a healthy scratch…. Steve Yzerman is expected back within the week, even though he didn’t name a specific game for his return. “I should play relatively soon,” he told reporters on Thursday.

Starting to Roll

“The tide has officially turned!” announced hockey analyst and former Red Wing Larry Murphy, as he watched tonight’s game. Maybe it was the return of Chris Chelios that did the trick. Maybe it was the successful 5-on-3 penalty kill. Or maybe the team suddenly remembered that their best defensive strategy is to spend as much time on offense as possible. Whatever the case, the momentum certainly seems to be swinging back in Detroit’s favor, as they picked up their third straight win, a 6-2 decision over the Atlanta Thrashers.

The Thrashers came out with a lot more energy than the Wings had at the beginning of the game, and they were rewarded with the first goal. Chris Chelios, back in the lineup after missing nine games with a leg injury, attempted to clear the puck from the zone. Tony Hrkac intercepted it at the blue line and centered a pass to Per Svartvadet, who one-timed a shot from the high slot. The puck went up and over Curtis Joseph.

The game’s momentum turned late in the first when Joseph and the Red Wings withstood eight shots during a 3:01 power play that included a 59-second stretch in which Atlanta had a two-man advantage. Pavel Datsyuk had been sent off for hooking first, then Kris Draper was sent out after him. “We wanted to get a good start, but to kill a five-on-three was big for us,” said Joseph. “That was huge for us.”

Detroit wasted no time in unleashing their offense once the second period got underway. Brett Hull put the Wings on the board at 1:16. Henrik Zetterberg sent the pass across at center ice, and Hull carried up the left wing side to shoot on Byron Dafoe just as he crossed the blue line. The puck slid in between the goalie’s legs.

Brendan Shanahan came next. Sergei Fedorov flew into the Thrasher’s zone and got the first shot away, and Kirk Maltby grabbed the rebound and sent in another shot. When Dafoe let that rebound slip away as well, Shanahan pounced on it and slapped it into the net to extend his point streak to four games.

Boyd Devereaux scored the eventual game winner less than two minutes later. Patrick Boileau knocked the puck out of a player tangle in front of Dafoe’s net. Devereaux picked it up and circled behind, then turned and stuffed the puck in between the goalpost and Dafoe’s right skate.

The Thrashers pulled Dafoe after that to send in backup goalie Pasi Nurminen, but they took too long to make the change and were assessed a two minute bench minor penalty. During the resulting Detroit power play, Hull redirected a shot by Nicklas Lidstrom into a wide open net to give his team a 4-1 lead.

Atlanta did narrow the lead to two goals late in the second. Patrick Stefan took a pass from Frantisek Kaberle at center ice, and his speed allowed him to push into the zone, splitting between Chelios and Zetterberg and putting the puck in past Joseph.

Nurminen injured his groin late in the second period, causing the Thrashers to send Dafoe back in to start the third. The Red Wings continued to pressure and keep the Thrashers away from the puck. Midway through the period, Pavel Datsyuk added to the lead. Zetterberg fought for the puck in the right corner, then threaded a pass past two defensemen to Datsyuk, who was wide open in front of the net. Datsyuk’s stick-handling seemed to confuse Dafoe, and the young Russian was able to put the puck in high on Dafoe’s far side.

Joseph was called on to make some big saves as the Thrashers tried to turn up the pressure, and he made them. Stefan looked as if he surely had his second goal of the night, facing a nearly empty net, but Joseph dove across from the other side of the crease to make the stop.

Luc Robitaille‘s power play goal nearly wrapped the game up for the Red Wings. He waited behind the net, received a pass from Igor Larionov, then brought the puck out front and stuffed it past Dafoe.

Shanahan and Sean Avery still had some business to take care of with the Thrashers. Dan Snyder had put a nasty hit on Devereaux earlier in the period, and Avery noted the jersey number and dropped the gloves to fight as soon as he got the chance. Avery and Snyder both took fighting major penalties. Later, Marc Savard bowled over Larionov. Shanahan took exception to this and jumped in to defend his smaller teammate. Shanahan was given a roughing minor, but Savard was given two minutes for roughing and two minutes for charging, letting the Red Wings end the game on a power play.

Detroit outshot Atlanta by a count of 34-28. They’ll need all their regained momentum for their next game: a Tuesday night matchup against the Vancouver Canucks at the Joe.

Determined Flames Burn Bright At Home

The Calgary Flames were ready to break out, after having been shutout by the Red Wings twice already this season, and after suffering an embarrassing 7-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes in their last home game. The Red Wings were perhaps tired after playing the Canucks just last night. They couldn’t quite match the Flames’ hustle, and the Flames managed to win, 4-1.

Calgary began the game by immediately putting Detroit into defensive mode. They carried the play and kept the puck in the Red Wings’ end of the ice most of the time. The Wings’ defense, playing without Chris Chelios for the second straight game, did a good job of meeting the challenge for the most part, but Rob Niedermayer got the Flames on the board 6:47 into the game. Stephane Yelle pushed the puck into the zone and up to Niedermayer, whose shot went high over Curtis Joseph.

Brendan Shanahan and Bob Boughner got into a fight at center ice less than a minute later. Shanahan won the fight, by most accounts, but the fight didn’t give the team much momentum. Sean Avery and Jarome Iginla had some strong words and some pushing and shoving shortly thereafter, but the officials broke that up before it could develop into a real fight and the pair was given incidental roughing minors.

Martin Gelinas increased the Flames’ lead early in the second period. He shoved his way through to the front of the net, and when Chris Drury made the pass, Gelinas flipped it in over Joseph.

The Red Wings began to come into their own after that, taking back control of the game and generating more scoring chances against Roman Turek. They finally got the break they were looking for at the tail end of a power play towards the end of the period. Micki Dupont was in the penalty box for holding, and the Grind Line had come out on the ice to play the last few seconds of the power play and defend against any odd man rushes that might result from Dupont’s escape from the box. Instead, Kris Draper got the puck down deep, Mathieu Dandenault moved in from the right point, and Draper had a clear passing lane. Darren McCarty was screening Turek, and Dandenault was able to one-time Draper’s pass into the net.

The Flames got the game-making break just seconds before the end of the period. Iginla let loose a shot which trickled through Joseph’s leg pads and started to cross the goal line. Pavel Datsyuk scooped the puck away from the net just before it could cross the line completely, and the referee said it was not a goal. It went to video review, and the video goal judge overturned the on-ice ruling to give the Flames a 3-1 lead.

The late, controversial goal took away a lot of the Red Wings’ momentum for the third period, and Calgary basically shut the game down to sit back and play defense for the last twenty minutes. Detroit pulled Joseph from the net for a last-ditch effort to score two goals in a minute and a half, but Dave Lowry sent the puck into the empty net from center ice to put the game away.

The shots on net were fairly even. Calgary had 29, and Detroit had 28. The Red Wings will return home for a short rest before heading east to face the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.

Calgary coach Darryl Sutter sported a painful-looking black eye, the result of being hit in the face by an errant puck during the Flames’ loss to Phoenix…. Flames mascot Harvey the Hound, whose tongue was ripped out and thrown into the crowd by Edmonton coach Craig McTavish when the Oilers and Flames met a few nights ago, was back in action, tongue firmly reattached. He did seem to be avoiding Joey Kocur and the Red Wings’ bench, however.

Robitaille Should be Dealt

Luc Robitaille was mad about his highly-publicized benching in Colorado last week. As a future Hall-of-Famer, he should be mad. Not at Red Wings head coach Dave Lewis for making the call to scratch him in favor of agitator Sean Avery but at himself for his complete inability to put the puck in the net.

Robitaille is a scorer, plain and simple. He’s too slow to backcheck and he doesn’t play defense in any zone. To be a valuable asset he must score goals.

But he isn’t.

Robitaille has four goals in forty-five games this season. Only Igor Larionov (3), Pavel Datsyuk, Jason Williams (3) and Boyd Devereaux (2) have fewer goals among Red Wings forwards.

It’s not that he isn’t getting the chances. Robitaille is fifth in team shooting with 97 shots on goal and his average ice time (14:06) is eighth on a team loaded with talent.

Robitaille has played on lines with some of the game’s best playmakers. He’s been centered by both Sergei Fedorov and Igor Larionov and has played on both wings at times.

Luc has had his chances, but his scoring percentage of 4.1% is worst among Red Wings forwards.

His plight was exemplified with about 6:30 left in Sunday’s match with the Vancouver Canucks. Robitaille was fed a pass as he skated down the left side but he fired the puck high and wide of the gaping net. His only appearance on the score sheet was in the form of a dumb slashing penalty midway through the third period.

Robitaille is not an agitator or a grinder. He is a scorer who’s not scoring.

He is in the final season of a $4 million per year contract with the Red Wings and has said that he wants to finish his career in Detroit.

Kirk Maltby is only being payed $1.25 million and he has as many goals shorthanded as Robitaille has overall.

The Red Wings have veteran leaders already and young players ready to take on more ice time. Barring any injuries, the Red Wings will have at least one forward as a healthy scratch until the return of captain Steve Yzerman, at which point there will be two forwards in the press box.

The Red Wings would be smart to cut loose the dead weight that Robitaille has become and clear up roster room for Devereaux, Williams and Sean Avery. They do not need Robitaille this season and they will not re-sign him this summer.

Because Robitaille is not providing anything for the Red Wings now, he sould provide something for them in the future in the form of draft picks or prospects acquired via trade.

Last year the Philadelphia Flyers highly overpayed for former Red Wing Adam Oates at the trade deadline. As the playoff push comes up this season, the Red Wings might be able to swing a similar deal with an Eastern Conference team.

Philadelphia, Washington, Montreal and the New York Islanders are all rumored to be looking for a scoring winger, perhaps any of them could be sold on the idea that Robitaille just needs a change of scenery.

At the very least, Robitaille should be benched. If at all possible, he should not finish this season as a Red Wing.

Frustration Boils Against Canucks

Dan Cloutier has cause to thank his goalposts – five times over.

That’s how many times the Red Wings had Vancouver’s goalie beaten but rang shots off the posts or crossbar, and that would have given them more than enough goals for a win. Instead, thanks to Cloutier’s luck and a strong game by Vancouver, the Canucks took a 4-1 win.

The Red Wings looked very strong to start the first period. Tomas Holmstrom scored early to take a 1-0 lead. Nicklas Lidstrom sent the lead pass up across the blue line, and Holmstrom fired straight on net. The shot got past Cloutier on his short side.

The Red Wings got a power play shortly thereafter when Marek Malik was sent out for obstruction tripping, and the Canucks basically stood there and watched them pass the puck around. Cloutier had to come up with some good saves to keep the puck out.

The skillful power play was basically the last thing to go well for Detroit. Trent Klatt got the Canucks even with 6:39 left in the period. He brought the puck out from behind the net, with a teammate rushing to join him on the other side for a sort of reverse 2-on-1. Maxim Kuznetsov took away the passing play, but Klatt was in close to the net, and his shot deflected off the stick of Curtis Joseph and in for the goal.

The goal seemed to energize the Canucks, and they took the lead before the period was over. Joseph had stopped the first shot by Markus Naslund, but he was down and the rebound slipped away from him. Bryan Allen was able to sneak in from the left point to the low slot and put the puck high into the net.

Joseph did a fine job in the second period to keep the Red Wings within one. He shone in stopping a breakaway by Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi. Luc Robitaille, back in the lineup after having been a healthy scratch against Colorado, had multiple scoring chances, but the shots would go just wide or bounce off the posts, contributing to the growing frustration of the team.

Chris Chelios and Bertuzzi continued their feud from last year’s playoffs, and their teammates joined them in the fray. Chelios wound up with a double minor for roughing and high-sticking (one was served by Sean Avery), and Kirk Maltby, Naslund, and Bertuzzi each had two minutes for roughing, resulting in a Vancouver power play with just over seven remaining in the second. Sami Salo was able to score by one-timing a pass from Mattias Ohlund. The shot appeared to brush Joseph’s elbow on its way into the net.

A horrible defensive breakdown midway through the third led to the Canucks’ fourth goal. Malik carried the puck right past two Detroit players with Matt Cooke keeping up on his right side, and the last man back, Mathieu Dandenault, lost a skate edge and fell. Malik looked as if he would shoot, but passed across to Cooke, which fooled Joseph and allowed Cooke to put the puck in for the goal.

The Red Wings made an attempt to come back. Holmstrom was hooked down on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot late in the game. He deked well enough to fool Cloutier, but- story of the game- the puck hit the goalpost.

The final count of shots on net was 34-31 in favor of Vancouver. The Red Wings will head out west for a few games after tonight. Their next matchup will be with the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night.

Boyd Devereaux was a healthy scratch to make room for Luc Robitaille in the lineup…. This was Nicklas Lidstrom’s 900th career game…. The Red Wings’ television color commentator, Mickey Redmond, was back in the broadcast booth after undergoing a successful lung operation to remove a malignant tumor. According to doctors, the cancer was completely removed.

Not Playoff-Level Yet, But Fine Hockey Anyway

In spite of what you may have heard, this highly anticipated matchup between the Red Wings and the Colorado Avalanche did not have playoff intensity. (Sorry.) Fans remember the playoffs better than the average hockey analyst does. Even the least of the playoff games has an intensity that even the best of the regular season games cannot possibly match. This game was a treat to see, but it is nothing compared to what we will get in the spring, if all goes well.

That being said, this was a most excellent regular season game. It didn’t matter that the Avs are fighting to make the playoffs at all, while the Wings are playing to stay atop their division and gain points towards the conference lead. The old rivalry was not quite in full swing, but it was definitely there, and will almost certainly escalate as we head down the stretch towards the playoffs. The play was intense by both teams, but the Red Wings stuck to their game plan, avoided most of the defensive lapses that have plagued them lately, and came out with a 4-2 victory over the Avalanche.

Maybe Colorado was a little bit nervous to meet the Wings again, after taking the 7-0 Game Seven loss back in May. Maybe they weren’t. They couldn’t have been pleased when the Wings opened the game the same way they started Game Seven: by scoring a goal on their first shot. The Avalanche failed to clear the puck from their zone, and Darren McCarty picked it up. Adam Foote dropped down to block the shot, but McCarty got the pass away to Kris Draper streaking up the left side. Patrick Roy had been watching McCarty the whole time, and turned his head just in time to see Draper put the puck into the wide open side of the net.

The Avalanche made some scoring attempts at the other end of the rink, but Detroit’s defensive coverage was very good through the whole period. All attackers were covered, many shots were blocked, and Curtis Joseph was given a clear view of most of the shots that did manage to get through.

Mathieu Dandenault opened Detroit’s lead early in the second. He had been given a tripping penalty at the end of the first which carried over. As he stepped back onto the ice, Kirk Maltby sent a strong pass his way, and Dandenault was off on a two-on-one rush. This time Foote did take the passing lane away, but Dandenault simply took the shot, and it sailed past Roy.

The Avalanche came on much harder in the second period, outshooting the Wings by 16-4 (Detroit had a lot of shots blocked or sent wide), forcing Joseph to work hard and show some of the skill he will need if he is to be a playoff goalie in the Western Conference. After a particularly spectacular series of saves by Joseph, Peter Forsberg made what looked like a harmless play, but it wound up in the net. He got the puck from Greg DeVries in the corner, then brought it right up to the side of the net and stuffed it into the tiny space left by Joseph moving his stick just slightly out in front of him.

Dan Hinote evened the game for Colorado early in the third. Dean McAmmond sped across the blue line at center and passed left to Serge Aubin, who centered the puck. Hinote was speeding towards the net, and the puck bounced off his stick and in past Joseph.

A bad line change by the Avalanche led to their undoing. Joe Sakic passed the puck back across the blue line to Foote, but Foote’s replacement had already stepped off the bench, so Foote didn’t play the puck because he didn’t want the team to take a penalty for having too many men on the ice. In the confusion, Brendan Shanahan was able to sneak in and steal the puck. He used a pair of Colorado defensemen as a screen and wristed a hard shot between them and past Roy.

Joseph made a wonderful glove save against Sakic to keep the lead for Detroit with only 2:23 remaining. The Avalanche pulled Roy from the net, but the extra skater did not help them regain control against the Wings. Brett Hull made a strong pass across the width of the rink to Shanahan, and Shanahan put the puck into the empty net to seal the win.

Roy made 19 saves on 22 shots over the night, while Joseph made 36 saves on 38 shots. The Red Wings continue down the road towards the playoffs with a Sunday night game at home against the Northwest Division leaders, the Vancouver Canucks.

Luc Robitaille was a healthy scratch for this game, giving Sean Avery a chance to scrap with the Avalanche…. This was Patrick Roy’s 999th career game. It could have been his 1000th, but he chose not to play in Colorado’s last game. Hmm, could it have something to do with not wanting the possibility of having Brett Hull score goal #700 in that milestone game?

Hawks Avenge 2 OT Losses, Even Season Series

In spite of strong first and third periods by Detroit, the Chicago Blackhawks were determined not to lose their third meeting in eleven nights. They played a solid game, capitalized on some lucky bounces and breaks, and took a 4-1 victory.

The Red Wings had fairly solid control of the first period. Sergei Fedorov escaped on a breakaway attempt shorthanded, but was thwarted by goalie Jocelyn Thibault. Maxim Kuznetsov and Mathieu Dandenault played solid defense, blocking shots and keeping Chicago players’ sticks so tangled up that they couldn’t even get shots on net.

Henrik Zetterberg opened the scoring for Detroit with a power play goal midway through the first. Fedorov made the pass as Zetterberg was crossing the blue line. Zetterberg jumped over a Chicago defenseman who had dropped to block the shot, kept the puck long enough to fool Thibault into going low, then put the puck into the high corner of the net.

The Blackhawks tried to rush back after that, but their scrambling play led them to take a few penalties late in the first and early in the second. They did manage to calm down as the second period got underway, and they capitalized on a failed clearing attempt to tie the game. Chris Chelios made a pass which didn’t cross the blue line, and Kyle Calder picked it up. He passed backwards to Alexei Zhamnov coming up center, and Zhamnov’s shot flew across the goal line before Manny Legace could get his glove on it.

Dandenault took a double minor penalty for holding the stick and unsportsmanlike conduct with 6:40 gone in the period, and the Blackhawks took the lead with a power play goal. Andre Nikolishin brought the puck out from the right boards. His pass took a strange bounce off of Chris Simon and into the net.

Less than a minute later Eric Daze added a goal for his team. He somehow managed to get around the net and stand by the corner uncovered. When the puck trickled through the crease from Mike Eastwood’s deflected shot, Daze was able to flip it in to a wide open corner.

The Red Wings tried to settle the game down and regain control in the third period. They had a number of chances to score, but Thibault was ready for them. The Wings had a good opportunity when Steve Poapst took a penalty for holding with just over five minutes remaining. Unfortunately, the Blackhawks were able to get the puck out at the blue line. Eastwood sent the bouncing puck down the ice to Mark Bell, and Bell got in alone to knock the puck out of the air and into the net to put the game away.

Chicago had 30 shots on net to Detroit’s 27. The Red Wings play their next game tomorrow night, when they travel to Denver for their first meeting of the season with the Colorado Avalanche.

Sean Avery played tonight in place of Igor Larionov, who was scratched so that he could be well-rested for tomorrow night’s game against the Avs.

Burke Backstops Phoenix to 4-1 Win

Ever since goalie Sean Burke returned from a high ankle sprain, the Phoenix Coyotes have been on a roll. The Red Wings were unable to get past Burke and the tight Phoenix defense, so they went down, 4-1.

The Coyotes’ first goal was just a bad break for Detroit. Phoenix shot the puck deep into the Red Wings’ zone, and Curtis Joseph came out of the net to play it. He meant for the puck to go up along the glass and out towards the blue line, but instead it hit Mathieu Dandenault in the corner and bounced out front, where Ramzi Abid was able to fire it into the empty net.

The Wings had plenty of chances to even the score, most notably Sergei Fedorov‘s shorthanded breakaway attempt with just over five minutes left in the first, but Burke kept them off the scoreboard.

It wasn’t until the second period was winding down that Detroit managed to score. Boyd Devereaux and Tomas Holmstrom were behind the net struggling for control of the puck with two Phoenix defenders. Devereaux wrestled it free of the boards and flipped it out front to the third member of the newly named “Spark Line,” Sean Avery. With a quick tap, Avery put the puck behind Burke to even the game at one.

Phoenix regained their lead quickly, however. Daymond Langkow was able to make a centering pass while Dandenault was trying to take him out of the play. Ladislav Nagy had come in unwatched and picked up the loose puck. Joseph saw him and dove across the net to make the save, but Nagy put the puck high into the net.

Defensive lapses on Detroit’s part led to two more Phoenix goals in the third period, even though the Wings outshot the Coyotes by a considerable margin. Nagy was again unwatched just outside his own zone while the Wings tried to score on Burke, and when the puck slipped free into the neutral zone, Nagy was away. Joseph blocked the breakaway shot, but Mike Johnson was trailing the play, and he was able to pick up the rebound and scoop it into the net.

Nagy also set up the final goal, with less than two minutes left to play. He deked around a defenseman at the blue line, then centered a pass to Daymond Langkow. Langkow faked a low shot, then put the puck high just as Joseph was dropping low.

The final count of shots on net was 41-27 in favor of Detroit. The Red Wings will play their next four games on the road over the span of the next week, beginning with a Sunday evening game against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Mathieu Dandenault left the game late in the third period after apparently blocking a shot with his knee. He had trouble getting up and limped off the ice. More information will be posted as it becomes available…. Jesse Wallin played his first game in nine after sitting out with an injured elbow…. Chris Chelios sat out this game with what the team described as a leg injury, although Chelios, who dislikes talking about his injuries, refused to give reporters any specifics. “It’s below the waist,” he said, and left it at that.

Wings to Start 2003 on Top

For many years the Red Wings have had the tradition of playing a home game on New Year’s Eve. This year, that tradition also fulfilled a goal head coach Dave Lewis had set for his team last month: to be alone atop the NHL standings by the end of 2002. The team set to work, outplaying the rest of the NHL to gain a 10-1-4 record through the month of December, capping off the month with a 5-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues did manage to score first, 4:20 into the game. Sean Avery had been sent to the penalty box for slashing, leaving Detroit shorthanded. Pavol Demitra faked a shot from the right point and passed across to Doug Weight. Weight made a pass across the goal crease, and Keith Tkachuk tipped it past Curtis Joseph.

Avery made up for his penalty later on, with 6:48 remaining in the first period. Mathieu Dandenault, playing in his first game back after missing time with an orbital fracture, made a good play to hold the puck in at the St. Louis blue line, then shot the puck towards the net. Avery got his stick on the flying puck to angle it underneath goaltender Brent Johnson.

The Wings-Blues rivalry generally leads to some intense play and not a few penalties, so it should come as no surprise that the first period ended in fights. Tyson Nash was so irritated by Avery that he lost his temper and started the fight, while Reed Low threw a punch at Tomas Holmstrom, who isn’t really one to start a fight, but doesn’t seem to mind finishing one. The combatants were all given roughing minors, and Nash and Holmstrom each picked up an extra ten-minute misconduct.

The Red Wings increased their lead in the second period with two more goals from not-so-likely sources. The first came on the power play, with Low back in the box for high-sticking. Jason Woolley shot the puck on net from the left point, and Darren McCarty tipped it past Johnson to take the lead.

Goal number three came just after a penalty on Corey Stillman had ended, but before Stillman could really get back to the play. Dmitri Bykov shot the puck from the blue line, and Kirk Maltby redirected it past Johnson, who was already sliding the other way.

Brendan Shanahan put the game away with two goals in the third period. The first came 1:59 into the period. He took the pass from Sergei Fedorov and carried into the Blues’ zone, shooting on Johnson just as he crossed the blue line. Johnson had the puck in his glove, but dropped it. It bounced off of his foot and into the net, signalling the end of the game for the young goaltender. Backup Fred Brathwaite came in to take his place.

The change in goalies didn’t make any difference to Shanahan. His second goal came less than five minutes after his first, during a hooking penalty to Christian Laflamme. Fedorov passed along the blue line to Nicklas Lidstrom at the right point. Brathwaite was out of position, angled to stop any possible shots from Lidstrom. Meanwhile, Shanahan was open on the left side, and Lidstrom saw it. The pass came across, and Shanahan one-timed it into the wide-open net.

Joseph made 29 nice saves on 30 shots, for a 96.67% save percentage. Johnson stopped 12 of the 15 he faced, and Brathwaite stopped 5 of 6.

The Red Wings will play their first game of 2003 on Friday against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Pavel Datsyuk and Jesse Wallin are both expected to be cleared to return to the lineup sometime in the next week…. Maltby’s goal was his 10th of the season, passing his total for last season and keeping him right on pace for what could be a 20-goal season…. The Red Wings are scoring almost as many goals as they did last season, but the scoring is much more spread out across the team. Seventeen different players contributed at least one goal during the month of December.