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POSTED ON Friday, 02.10.2012 / 2:56 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Red Wings goalie Ty Conklin is a licensed private pilot, who flies a Super Cub, two-seat airplane, similar to this one.
Joey MacDonald used Thursday’s off-day to retrieve some things from Grand Rapids, including his enormous red Ford F-250, which the “Boys in the Parking Lot” affectionately refer to as Red Bird III.

But the Red Wing’ third string goaltender first needed to drum up transportation to the westside of the state. And that’s where backup goalie Ty Conklin entered the picture.

A licensed private pilot, Conks offered Joey Mac a lift, err, flight, to get his gear.

“It was good, he was awesome,” said MacDonald, of Conklin’s piloting skills. “I had to go there and he was flying anyways, so he offered to take me over.”

Flying out of Oakland/Troy Airport, the goalies took to the Wild Blue Yonder on an unusually picturesque February day in Michigan.

“It was enjoyable, a smooth ride on a clear day, you could see everything,” MacDonald said of the flight, which took 35-40 minutes from wheels up to wheels down.

Last Friday, MacDonald traveled from Grand Rapids to Edmonton – via a connector through Toronto – when he was called up by the Wings after Jimmy Howard fractured his right index finger in a shoot-out win at Vancouver.

Doctors told Howard that it would be 4-6 weeks before his finger healed, though he’s hoping to return to the Wings’ lineup a lot sooner. Still, MacDonald gives the Wings a chance to win every night. In three games, he’s posted a 1-1-1 record with a 1.83 goals-against average.

Clearly, goalies are adventurous types – anyone who stands in front of a 100-m.p.h. slap shot must be, right? – and after flying for the first time with Conklin at the controls, MacDonald said he’s entertaining thoughts of perhaps enrolling in flight school.
 
“I definitely would consider doing something like that,” MacDonald said. “I’ve always been interested in it, and I love flying. It’s fun and when you get to enjoy something like that it’s a nice hobby. … It was interesting to see what Ty has to do to fly something like that.

“He’s great, one of the best pilots, ever.”


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POSTED ON Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 3:51 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Red Wings forward Danny Cleary has been bothered by a painful left knee for months, but the level of discomfort is too great. He'll have the knee drained this week. (Photo by Getty Images)
With the Baker’s cyst causing far too much pain and discomfort to continue playing, Danny Cleary will go ahead and having his left knee drained this week.

“His knee is acting up and it’s been an on-going issue,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said during Thursday’s news conference at Comerica Park to announce next season’s Winter Classic. “He’s going to get it drained and he’s probably out for tomorrow and probably out for Sunday, and then we’ll see Monday how he feels. I don’t think it’s anything long-term.”

With eyes on breaking the NHL record for most consecutive home victories, the Wings, who are two wins from catching the 1929-30 Boston Bruins and 1976 Philadelphia Flyers, will host Anaheim on Friday and the Flyers on Sunday evening.
 
Cleary left Wednesday’s 4-2 win over Edmonton following a body-check by Oilers forward Ben Eager. The third-period hit sent Cleary awkwardly into the door to the Wings’ bench. Cleary picked up an assist in the win, his sixth point in the last six games.

Rookie forward Jan Mursak is expected to take Cleary’s place on the third line along side Darren Helm and Drew Miller. Mursak has two assists in three games since returning to the lineup. He suffered a fractured ankle in a preseason game in September.

Cleary is one of six players to have played in all 55 games this season. He has 11 goals and 16 assists with a plus-12 rating.
 
“We were hoping that we could get to the schedule where we have a few less games, but ultimately he couldn’t wait anymore,” Holland said. “But it’s OK, we have to get him healthy and it’s an opportunity for Jan Mursak.

“When Jan Mursak’s gone in there he’s done a good job, so we think we have some pretty good depth.”

Holland also said there’s no news on forward Patrick Eaves, who has been on the injured reserved list since he suffered a broken jaw against Nashville on Nov. 26.

“I think he’s doing better but obviously not well enough to practice,” Holland said. “He got a slap shot right in the head and he’s had concussion-like symptoms so obviously we’re going to be real conservative with him.”

Meanwhile, the Wings have been impressed by the job that rookie Cory Emmerton has done in Eaves’ absence. Emmerton scored his six goal of the season Wednesday.

“Emmerton is all of a sudden, with the injury to (Patrick) Eaves, gotten in every day and he’s done a nice job,” Holland said. “Now it’s time for Jan Mursak.”


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POSTED ON Monday, 02.06.2012 / 6:12 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Joey MacDonald gets his first start with the Red Wings in 11 months when he faces the Phoenix Coyotes tonight at Jobing.com Arena. (Photo by Getty Images)
GLENDALE, Arizona –There’s nothing worse for a third-string goaltender then getting called up and sitting at the end of an NHL bench for 60-minutes – maybe more – in a backup role.

Fortunately for Joey MacDonald his wait was significantly less as he entered last Saturday’s game at the start of the second period at Edmonton. He' get his first NHL start of the season Monday when the Red Wings wrap-up a four-game road trip with a game against the Phoenix Coyotes. 

“Whenever you come up and get a chance to play in a couple of games right away, that's what you want,” said MacDonald, who relieved Ty Conklin after the Oilers raced to a 3-1 lead. “You don't want to be sitting around and watching. You want to get right in there.

“I think last game was a great example, get right in there and give the team a chance to win. Same thing tonight, just hold the fort. You know these guys are going to come out hard.”

Tonight’s game at Phoenix will mark MacDonald’s first NHL start since last March, when the Wings dropped a 10-3 decision to the St. Louis Blues.

It's also the first time that the soon-to-be 32-year-old goaltender (his birthday is Tuesday) has ever faced the Coyotes. 

Last July, MacDonald signed a two-year contract to remain in the organization with the hopes of getting a shot to return to the NHL.

“That's why I signed here, it's an opportunity to take advantage of it,” he said. “I didn't sign to be down in Grand Rapids. You got to keep working hard wherever you are and when you get the opportunity take advantage of it.”

With All-Star goalie Jimmy Howard possibly on the shelf for two weeks with a fractured right index finger, MacDonald wants to show that he can be a suitable alternative in the meantime.

The journeyman goaltender is in his second stint with the Wings. Last season he appeared in 15 games and posted a 5-5-3 record with a 2.58 goals-against average.

On Saturday, he helped keep the Wings in the game against the speedy Oilers, who cruised to a 3-1 lead. The Wings managed to storm back to take a 4-3 lead, before the Oilers tied the game, forcing overtime and eventually a shoot-out where the home team won.

“When you get an opportunity to play, even if it's down in Grand Rapids, you get in a groove,” MacDonald said. “Playing eight or 10 in a row down there, you can come here and jump into a game right away, makes it a little easier.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill
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POSTED ON Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 4:19 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

EDMONTON, Alberta
– Despite having a broken right index finger, goalie Jimmy Howard was on the ice with his Red Wings’ teammates at Rexall Place Saturday morning.

Howard, who suffered the fracture early in the third period of Thursday’s win at Vancouver, said that he will likely miss more than two games – the original prediction – but less than two weeks.

“I really haven’t been told, but the doctors in Vancouver told me four to six (weeks) before it’s healed,” Howard said. “When they told me four to six, I thought, ‘There’s no chance that I’m, you, know, going to be out four to six. Just two weeks sounded good.”

In the meantime, Ty Conklin will be the Wings' starter beginning Saturday against the Oilers, a team that he has a 4-2-0 overall record with a 3.02 goal-against average and a .900 saver percentage. It's been nearly three years since Conklin last played at Rexall when he led the Wings to a 3-2 victory on March 24, 2009.

If Howard is out for two weeks that means he could likely miss seven games with an eye on returning for the home game against the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 19.

More will be known of Howard’s return once he sees team doctors Tuesday when the Wings return to Detroit following their current four-game road trip out west, which concludes Monday in Phoenix.

Wings equipment manager Paul Boyer fabricated a three-inch notch from the top of the stick’s paddle in hopes to make it easier to grip for Howard, who said he’s played before with broken digits.

“As you can see with my stick (there’s) a piece notched out so I’m able to hold on with (middle and ring) fingers,” Howard said. “I didn’t even take any shots today, so I don’t know how it will feel with the vibrations of the shots.”

Howard said he wants to return as soon as he’s comfortable and pain-free.

“I think the only danger is that it’s not going to heal, I think that’s the only danger,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any danger of injuring myself any further.

“I’m guessing that it’s two weeks. It’s really optimistic that it’s just two games. “Hopefully I can be back as soon as possible.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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POSTED ON Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 1:17 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Jimmy Howard shows his broken right index finger to the media Friday morning at Rexall Place. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)
EDMONTON, Alberta – Friday morning as Jimmy Howard spent in his hotel room in downtown Edmonton, he was awakened by a pulsating in his right index finger.

“It woke me up around 7 a.m. and felt like it (finger) was going pop off,” Howard said.

Howard suffered the fracture early in the third period of Thursday’s 4-3 shoot-out win at Vancouver. He said it occurred when the Canucks’ Max Lapierre fired a low shot that got underneath Howard’s blocker.

“Lapierre spun and shot it, missed my blocker and caught me right on the finger,” he said. “It is broken and we’ll see here. Won’t play the rest of the road trip and we’ll go home and see our doctors there and get their opinion.”

Immediately following the win, Howard had an X-ray taken at Rogers Arena, which showed a “clean break,” he said. “I’ve played with broken fingers before, so I’ll have to fool around with my sticks and cut some notches out of them.”

Backup goalie Ty Conklin will get the start against the Oilers at Rexall Place tonight. Meanwhile, Joey MacDonald has been recalled from Grand Rapids and will be Conklin’s backup tonight.

Conklin has played in 10 games this season – all on the road – while posting a 3-5-0 record with a 3.02 goal-against average. This will be Conklin’s first start at Rexall in nearly three years, since leading the Wings to a 3-2 win on March 24, 2009.

“This is a good opportunity, he gets a chance and he’s ready to go, so let’s get at it,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ve got to play real well like we always try to do and if we get do that we’ll give Conks a chance to be good.”



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POSTED ON Friday, 02.03.2012 / 8:53 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

STRATHCONA, AlbertaPavel Datsyuk’s teammates often marvel at the things that the Red Wings’ center does on ice. But Friday afternoon, the All-Star may have top himself.

The Wings used a day off in the middle of their four-game road trip, spending a fun afternoon playing broomball on an outdoor rink at the Strathcona Athletic Park, about 25-minutes south of Edmonton.

Played on a regulation ice hockey rink, players hit a ball – a little smaller than a soccer ball – around the ice with a stick called a “broom,” with wooden shaft and a rubber-molded triangular head similar in shape to that of a regular household broom. Player usually wear special rubberized shoes for traction, but Wings’ players and coaches used regular athletic shoes, which made for a few comedic moments as guys slipped their way through the games.

But not Datsyuk, who flawlessly crisscrossed the ice surface, often in a sprint while helping Team Emmerton claim the tourney championship.

“He’s amazing,” said Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom, as he watched the Russian star navigate the ice. “He must have something on the bottom of those shoes that grip the ice.”

Friday’s competition was the second such event that the Wings have done this season.  In October, players and coaches took target practice at the Canton Police Department’s gun range.

The Wings gathered at Rexall Place Friday morning for a team meeting, then assigned four of the younger players – Jakub Kindl, Cory Emmerton, Jan Mursak and Justin Abdelkader – as captains, who “drafted” players for the four teams before making the bus trip to the outdoor facility.

However, unlike last weekend’s All-Star game, Datsyuk was not drafted first overall, and Lidstrom went in the third-round. Kindl used the first overall pick to select fellow former NHL first-rounder Niklas Kronwall.

The Wings were originally scheduled to practice at an outdoor rink in Edmonton Friday in advance of Saturday’s game against the Oilers at Rexall Place. But coach Mike Babcock made the decision to ditch practice for broomball.

“I thought, ‘What the heck,’ so I told Pete (Bill Peters) last night, ‘Let’s do broomball,’ ” Babcock said. “So Pete phoned his buddy and got it all organized.”

SEE MORE PHOTOS: Red Wings Broomball Tournament

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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POSTED ON Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 2:32 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Danny Cleary, who had a cyst rupture behind his knee Wednesday, will be back in the Red Wings' lineup Thursday vs. Vancouver. (Photo by Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, British Columbia Danny Cleary is out of the hospital and back in the Red Wings’ lineup in time for tonight’s Western Conference showdown with the Canucks at Rogers Arena.

Cleary has had a cyst behind his knee that has been an issue for the last two months, and on Wednesday it landed him in a Vancouver hospital after it ruptured, causing fluid to drain in his calf, he said.

“We were worried about a blood clot, that's why I went to the hospital,” Cleary said. “It's swollen, at some point I got to get it drained, but the time is not now.”

Cleary played in Tuesday night’s 3-1 victory at Calgary, even assisting on Drew Miller’s third-period goal. But by Wednesday morning, the pain had gotten so bad that he went to the hospital.

Cleary, along with Pavel Datsyuk and Jimmy Howard were given the day off from practice on Wednesday. While coach Mike Babcock joked after Wednesday’s practice that he told Datsyuk and Howard to stay away from the rink and rest, Babcock said that Cleary, “Had something with his leg and gave him a day off. Nothing major at all. Just a little swelling.”

Cleary identified the cyst as a Baker’s cyst, which is swelling in the back of the knee joint usually brought on by arthritis or torn cartilage.

“It's got a lot of fluid in there, knee is sore, there's a lot of fluid,” he said.

Cleary, who has an assist in each of the last two games, has 10 goals and 13 assists in 51 games this season.

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill


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POSTED ON Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 7:13 AM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Mike Commodore did more than fight Calgary's Tim Jackman Tuesday night. The Red Wings' defenseman also had two hits and three blocked shots. (Photo by Getty Images)
CALGARY, Alberta – Earlier this season, defenseman Mike Commodore offered a challenge, but the Flames’ Tim Jackman chose not to reciprocate.

At the time, it was Commodore’s first game-action in well over a month and when Jackman didn’t oblige his request, the Red Wings’ defenseman wasn’t overly disappointed.

“It just didn’t happen,” Commodore said at the time. “And that’s fine because I had enough on my plate, to be honest, I probably would have lasted about four-seconds and been exhausted.”

It was a different story Tuesday night when Commodore again extended an invitation to Calgary’s tough guy in the Wings' 3-1 victory at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

This time the two squared off deep in the Wings’ zone with the fight lasting 13-times longer than Commodore thought a December bout with Jackman would have lasted. And though he received a small cut along the left eyebrow, Commodore provide the energy which is expected of him from the Wings’ coaching staff.

“It just happened to work out,” said Commodore, about his second fight as a Red Wing. “I wouldn’t say that the game was chippy or anything like that, but it sometimes works out like that where you run into each other. It was fine.”

At 6-foot-4, Commodore has been in the lineup in five of the last six games, and 12 of the last 18, giving the Wings a physical presence on the blue line in that sixth defensive spot, that coach Mike Babcock says is still up for grabs between Commodore and Jakub Kindl.

Besides the five-minute major Tuesday night, Commodore also had a game-high three blocked shots with two hits, including a big first-period hip check on Jackman, which probably helped pave the way for their later fight.

“Obviously anytime a guy steps up for his team you really appreciate that and that’s a positive thing,” Babcock said. “He worked hard, so we’re just looking for someone to grab that job and hold on to it, because you don’t want to be going in and out on a nightly basis.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 9:19 AM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

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Jimmy Howard had quite the jam-packed, event-filled weekend at the NHL’s All-Star game in Ottawa.

First, the Red Wings’ goaltender had the privilege of being at his first All-Star extravaganza with his wife, Rachel, and three-month-old son, James Russell IV by his side for all of the hoopla.

Then from Thursday’s player draft to Saturday’s skills competition, where he was paired against Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick in the fastest-skating goalies category and beyond, Howard had a blast.

“I almost went down on that first turn and I said, ‘forget about this,’ ” said Howard, who wore a helmet-cam to capture the on-ice action. “I didn’t want to be the guy to take out those tires.”

And after winning a spirited game of rock, paper, scissors against Montreal goalie Carey Price to determine the Team Chara starter for Sunday’s marquee game, Howard enjoyed his one-period of work, even stopping the league’s leading goal-scorer on a penalty shot.
“It’s par for the course, I mean, why not?” said Howard of stopping Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos.

And yes, why not? After all, Howard has already faced three penalty shots this season – four if you include Sunday’s. And he even faced one in his NHL debut against the Kings’ Joe Corvo on Nov. 28, 2005.

“The first NHL game, the first All-Star game,” he said with a laugh. “That seems that they’ve always happened.”

Penalty shot aside, Howard said the whole process was pretty cool. And while he was glad for the opportunity, one particular skills event provide the Wings’ goalie with a glimpse inside his world.

“The hardest shot just because I got to see how crazy I am,” Howard said. “When you have some of these guys who look like they’re barely even firing it and it’s over 100 (miles per hour), I’m just shaking my head and wondering why do I even stand in front of these guys?”



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POSTED ON Wednesday, 01.25.2012 / 2:38 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

For the second straight year, Jimmy Howard is the first NHL goalie to 30 wins, doing so Jan. 23. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
For the second straight season, he’s the first NHL goalie to reach 30 wins. But this season it’s even more remarkable considering that the Red Wings began the year with an uncharacteristic 5-5-1 record.

Now, Jimmy Howard (30-10-1) is on a pace to become the first-ever to win 50 games, which would top the current NHL mark set by New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur (48) in 2006-07.

However, wins between now and early April will be far more critical for the Wings in this new world Western Conference than in seasons past.

“I’m just calm and patient out there and when you have a good team in front of you that makes my job a lot easier,” said Howard, who boasts a 1.96 goals-against average with five shutouts this season. “We’re paying attention to details in our own zone. Guys are sacrificing their bodies, blocking shots. … As a goalie, when you see that it fires you up that much more.”

Regardless of the outcome tonight in Montreal, the Wings will enter All-Star weekend with the league’s best record, which currently stands at 33-15-1 for 67 points. But the Wings are also in the league’s toughest division with St. Louis, Chicago and Nashville all within three-points of catching Detroit in the Central standings.

With the Western race likely to go to the wire, the Wings need Howard to continue to shine, especially against his divisional goaltending contemporaries, like, Nashville’s Pekka Rinne and the two-headed monsters in St. Louis (Brian Elliott/Jaroslav Halak) and Chicago (Corey Crawford/Ray Emery).

Sixty percent of the season is in the rearview mirror, but with 33 games remaining on the schedule, the Wings still have 10 divisional contests left to play, including three each against Nashville, Chicago and Columbus.

The Wings are 9-5-0 against their Central rivals with eight games decided by one goal, so it’s conceivable that goaltending will be a crucial element down the stretch.

But Howard’s teammates have plenty of confidence in the third-year starter, who along with center Pavel Datsyuk, will represent the Wings at the All-Star game this weekend in Ottawa.

“He’s so comfortable in net and calm. It helps us to play better,” center Henrik Zetterberg said. “We know he will be there for us. He will win games for us even if we're not playing at our top level we know we have a chance at winning.”

Howard has kept the Wings in games all season, but lately, with three of the last five home games going to overtime or shoot-outs, he’s been a big influence. And during the club’s 17-game home winning streak, he’s been miraculous while posting a 1.41 GAA with a .945 save percentage and four shutouts.

“Over a period of time it is because he's more consistent,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “But he played good right out the get-go, too. He's always had the ability; the ability to do it every night is a different thing. Now he's very confident, soft, when the puck hits him it sticks to him. He makes saves you don't even think are saves anymore. You don't think about it as much. He's become a good goaltender in the league. Now he's got to do it for 15 years, it's the measure.”

Howard knows that he must also do it on the road, where he is 10-8-2 with a 2.42 GAA this season.

“We have to find a way to play on the road like we do at home,” said Howard, who is 20-2-1 with a 1.59 GAA at home. “At The Joe, nothing seems to rattle us. We keep our composure. Even when we get a little bit lost out there we come right back to the game plan and find ways to win.”

If Howard stays consistent at home, and ups his game on the road, he’ll definitely be a Vezina Trophy finalist while joining Terry Sawchuk, Roger Crozier and Dominik Hasek as the only Wings’ goalies to post 40-plus win seasons.

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill



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