|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)|
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.
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|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)|
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.”
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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?”
|For the second straight year, Jimmy Howard is the first NHL goalie to 30 wins, doing so Jan. 23. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
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.
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|Henrik Zetterberg is led off the ice by linesman Brian Mach (78) after the Wings' center received a game-misconduct for an accidental play resulted in an injury to a Columbus player. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
“Never been called, that was my first,” said Zetterberg, of the phone call from Brendan Shanahan, the league’s headmaster of discipline. “I’m glad that it was Shanny.”
The call from his former Wings' teammate was more of a fact-finding mission to get Zetterberg’s side of Saturday’s story when he earned the first game-misconduct of his career, stemming from a incident when Columbus defenseman Nikita Nikitin fall awkwardly into the end board in the third period.
According to the Blue Jackets’ Twitter account, Nikitin is expected to miss at least two games with a knee injury.
As both players raced for the puck in the corner, Zetterberg had his left hand on Nikitin's back, but replay clearly shows that the fall was accidental.
“I didn’t think that I touched him that hard and I guess he went down mainly on his own,” Zetterberg said. “It looked bad, but I’m glad that I didn’t end up with any suspension.”
After the initial call, Zetterberg had to wait for the league’s decision and Shanahan’s fallow-up call.
“He asked my side of the story and I guess he called Nikita, too,” Zetterberg said. “He needed to hear my side of the story and then I guess they sit down and discuss it and make a decision.”
|Brett Lebda (23) played five seasons with the Red Wings, including the 2008 Stanley Cup run. He's now in Columbus trying to re-establish his NHL career with the Blue Jackets. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
“This is where I learned everything, just playing alongside Nick and Cheli all those years,” said Lebda, now a defenseman with the Columbus Bleu Jackets. “It was just an opportunity that I will cherish forever. … It was an unbelievable time here.”
Saturday morning, Lebda was back at Joe Louis Arena for just the second time since he left the Wings’ organization for a lucrative contract with Toronto following the 2009-10 season.
Now with the Blue Jackets – his fourth NHL franchise in seven years – Lebda was signed from Springfield on Thursday, and still hasn’t made his season debut. He did not play Saturday against his former teammates.
“The goal from the beginning of the year was to get back in the league,” Lebda said. “I went down and played in the American League for awhile, I got a good opportunity there so I’m excited to be back now.
“They seem to have a great group of guys here and I’m looking forward to getting to know them over the next few days. We go on the road here for a bit. I’ll get to know everyone and get my feet wet.”
In 26 games in Springfield, Lebda has made the most of his first minor-league experience in five years, collecting a goal and nine assists for the Falcons.
“It was tough. At the same time that’s what was presented to me at the time,” said Lebda, who is trying to re-establish his NHL career. “It was tough to take, but you’ve got to swallow your pride and work as hard as you can to try and get back here.
“I got a good opportunity (in the minors), played a ton of minutes and I think that’s going to help me coming back here.”
Ironically, Lebda last skated in an NHL game with the Leafs in a 4-2 loss at Detroit last March. In 376 career games, he has 19 goals, 53 assists and a plus-17 rating.
“If you ask anyone in the league if they like to watch another team the answer would be Detroit,” said, Lebda, who still maintains a home in metro Detroit. “They play the game the right way and they play it hard. Even when they lose guys like Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby they find guys like Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader to kind of take over that role.”
|Nicklas Lidstrom will be the subject of an upcoming episode of 'NHL 36', which will first air on Wednesday, Jan. 25. (Photo by Getty Images)|
No, the bevy of cameras and boom microphones descended on Hockeytown to follow captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who is slated to be the subject of any upcoming episode of the NHL’s all-access series called ‘NHL 36’.
For the next two days, the production crew has exclusive access to Lidstrom, driving to and from Joe Louis Arena with the seven-time Norris Trophy winner and spending time with him and his family at their Northville home. The crew will even be onboard Red Bird III later this evening when the team travels to Dallas its Tuesday night game against the Stars.
Filming began early Monday as Lidstrom prepared to drive down I-96 to the morning skate at JLA. While the skate was optional, the crew got plenty of footage of Lidstrom as he opted to ride a stationary bike instead.
Asked if the cameraman joined him for a bike ride, Lidstrom laughed, saying, “No, he wouldn’t. There were a lot of bikes free, a lot available, but he wouldn’t jump on.”
The crew did jump in team meetings and will give viewers an unprecedented view of the team as they discuss strategy and prepare for an opponent.
“They were in a lot of our meetings, they were in our penalty killing meeting just to see what that’s like,” Lidstrom said. “It just started this morning so we haven’t done a whole lot, but it’s different. It’s different having someone follow you the whole time no matter what you do, whether you’re in here, or like today I rode a bike instead of going on the ice. I did some stretching and we had our meeting, so it’s just a matter of getting used to it.”
Lidstrom is the third player to have the peering eyes of NHL Original Productions flowing his every move. The production crew has already filmed Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Boston’s Patrice Bergeron.
The Lidstrom episode will air on the NBC Sports Network on Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 6:30 p.m. EST. It will re-air multiple times, including Jan. 26 (5:30 p.m.), Jan. 27 (9 a.m.) and Jan. 29 (7:30 p.m.).
|Jimmy Howard makes one of his 23 saves while earning his 100th career win in Thursday's 3-2 shoot-out win over Phoenix. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
First, the Red Wings’ goalie learned that he had indeed been selected to play in his first NHL All-Star Game, which takes place later this month in Ottawa. Then he celebrated that news by collecting career win No. 100 a few hours later at Joe Louis Arena.
“It doesn't get any better than that. What a great day. It's been awesome,” said Howard, who stopped 23 shots in a 3-2 shoot-out win over Phoenix. “I think the highlight of my day was probably when I woke-up from my nap and my little guy had a T-shirt on that said, 'My Daddy Rocks.’ ”
Howard has been a solid rock of confidence for the Wings all season. Despite leading the league with 25 wins, Howard has stepped up in crucial moments to make outstanding saves all season.
“A goalie's only as good as the team in front of him,” he said. “I'm very lucky to be able to play behind these guys, play behind a great team, I think that's why I've been able to progress at my own rate and coming into this season I felt like I could take more on my plate and be more of a game-changer for the guys.”
Howard is the fourth fastest Wings’ goalie to reach 100 NHL wins, doing so in 171 career games, behind Chris Osgood (158), Manny Legace (163) and hall-of-famer Terry Sawchuk (165).
In all, nine goalies have compiled at least 100 wins in a Wings’ uniform, including Harry Lumley (317), Roger Crozier (163), Tim Cheveldae (128), Greg Stefan (115), and Dominik Hasek (114).
Not to be outdone, but Thursday’s outcome also produced milestones for coach Mike Babcock and forward Danny Cleary, who collected his 200th career assist on Johan Franzen’s third-period goal.
Babcock became the third fastest coach – and 27th overall – in league history to 400 career wins. And Saturday, Babcock will become the 37th league coach to reach 700 career games coached.
“It's no different than Howie for wins or Cleary with assists,” said Babcock of his milestone night. “They're marks you think about later in life and you look at and can be proud of. It's hard to even coach long enough in this league to get 400 wins and to be in that company of those with you.”
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Last August, the Red Wings’ forward emerged victorious in Operation: Bobblehead – an online voting initiative set-up by the team’s marketing department to determine which six players would have their likeness emblazoned on a 6 ½-inch polyresin figurine this season.
“I think my daughter is pretty happy, and she’s getting to the game early to snag one,” said Cleary, who garnered 90 percent of the vote submitted via DetroitRedWings.com and Facebook.
While it wasn’t as contentious as a Mitt Romney-Newt Gingrich Republican debate, Cleary and teammate Todd Bertuzzi (who won a later vote and will have his own bobblehead night Feb. 23) had a spirited rivalry in the offseason, trading calls and messages as both men tried to leapfrog the other in the Internet polls. Watch Cleary’s campaign vote to the right.
“We had a lot of fun with it, it’s pretty neat,” Cleary said. “I’ve already seen it, so it’s a good keepsake to have.”
Asked if he’s now reached a new standard in celebrity with tonight’s bobblehead debut, Cleary chuckled, and said, “I don’t know, maybe. I think it’s a fun little idea. I think it’s something that we’ll look back on and it will be pretty cool. I think the biggest thing would be for kids, they love that stuff.”
The first 7,500 fans at tonight's Red Wings game will receive the Cleary bobblehead, courtesy of RAM truck.
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It took nearly half of the season for the Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks to finally meet head-to-head for the first time on the 2011-12 calendar.
But as the second half of the season gets underway Tuesday in New York, it’s easy for the Wings to overlook the Islanders – Tuesday’s opponent – and look ahead to the remaining four Central Division clashes with the Blackhawks, who pay a visit to Joe Louis Arena this Saturday afternoon.
It was only a few months ago that some pundits heaped piles of dirt on the grave when the Wings muddled through a 0-5-1 dead stretch. Yet with their stunning overtime comeback win Sunday at United Center, the Wings shook the dirt off and jumped into virtual three-way first-place tie with Chicago and St. Louis for the division lead.
Since losing a sixth straight on Nov. 3, Detroit has had an incredible resurgence, posting a 21-9-0 mark and ascending to the second-best record in the Western Conference, just two-points behind front-running Vancouver.
For the sixth time in the Mike Babcock era, the Wings have compiled 53-points, or more, in the first half of a season. The only time the Wings didn’t meet that first-half points standard was 2009-10 – the only time they finished out of first-place in the division in 11 seasons.
The Wings have rallied around a retooled top forward line with center Pavel Daystuk surrounded by wingers Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi, and they’ve benefited from the sharp contributions of Jimmy Howard, who is having a career year and leads all NHL goalies with 24 wins.
Certainly, the Wings have had some hiccups with ugly losses at Washington and Columbus, as well as a pre-Christmas collapse at Nashville. But when backup Ty Conklin does what he did Sunday – stopping 29 shots, including a penalty shot by Blackhawks rookie Jimmy Hayes – confidence can begin to swell in the locker room, particularly down the home stretch of the season.
With a look toward the final months of the regular-season, the last 13 weeks provide a friendly path for the Wings, who have 18 road games remaining, and just half of those in time zones that are two or three hours behind Detroit. That means 32 games will be played in the Eastern or Central Time Zones, making travel simpler for the players and start times more agreeable to weary-eyed fans.
The Wings also get 13 games left against some teams that have struggled in the first-half of the season and are currently either at .500 or below it in the standings, including games against Montreal, Edmonton, Anaheim, and four more with Columbus, who dismissed its coach Monday.
League general managers like to use 95-points as the barometer for teams making the playoffs. The Wings, Blackhawks and Blues need 42 points to reach the magic number. While the Central Division trio, along with Vancouver and San Jose seem distant for the playoffs, that leaves seven teams – Nashville, Minnesota, Colorado, Calgary, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix – to battle for the final three berths.
And against these foes seeking a playoff berth, the Wings are 10-5-1 this season while out-scoring them, 55-34.
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