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POSTED ON Tuesday, 11.22.2011 / 3:58 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Niklas Kronwall is currently tied with Nicklas Lidstrom for second among NHL defensemen in goal-scoring this season. (Photo by Getty Images)
As the Red Wings near the end of the first quarter of the season, four defensemen have accounted for 34 percent of the team’s goals, which shouldn’t come as a mystery considering that nearly a third of the shots have been generated from the blue line.

Still, how have the Wings’ blue-liners had so much success to this point?

“Sometimes things like that just happen,” said Niklas Kornwall, who has six goals and is tied with Nicklas Lidstrom for second in goals among NHL defensemen. “I think that's something we would like to do on a more regular basis, and not just chip in here and there. Anytime you can spread out your offense it can only do your team good. We've had some success in the past with some goals from the D-men but everything starts from a solid overall game. Lately we've been doing OK.”

In some ways, the offense from the defensive corps has been a blessing, especially since Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have experienced uncharacteristically slow starts to the season with four goals each.

“We know when we're playing good and we know what we're doing right,” said Zetterberg, referring to himself and his Euro Twin. “We just have to figure why we're playing bad and just do better.”

Lidstrom, Kronwall, Ian White and Brad Stuart have scored a combined 18 of the Wings’ 53 goals. White and Stuart have three goals each. The team continues to lead the league in shots per game (35.2) while the defense is registering 10.3 of those shots taken.

But the most impressive first-quarter performance, Lidstrom said, just might be the all-around job that Kronwall has done.

“He's just so sound defensively, playing against the top lines, and he has some offensive skills too, whether it's knowing when to jump up into the play or moving the puck on the power play,” Lidstrom said. “It's great to see he's been rewarded by getting some points and scoring goals for us.

“And we have Stewie chipping in. … Anytime you can get the defense involved in the offense it can only help your team.”

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POSTED ON Saturday, 11.19.2011 / 4:02 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

The NHL's float that Larry Murphy will ride on during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade next Thursday in New York City.
LOS ANGELES – Red Wings broadcaster Larry Murphy has been in some pretty big parades during his hockey career. But none that’s widely celebrated at the next one he’ll participate in – The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade next Thursday in New York City.

“I’ve been in a couple of parades, a couple of good ones down Woodward Avenue that I enjoyed,” said Murphy who won four Stanley Cup rings, including a pair with the Wings in 1997 and ’98. “But besides that I’ve never done a parade. I’m looking forward to it, there’s no bigger parade, and I’m flattered that the league asked me to do it.”

The NHL asked Murphy and former Boston forward Cam Neely if they would ride along on the league’s new float that will help promote the Thanksgiving Showdown game the following afternoon between the Wings and Bruins at 1 p.m. EST on NBC and TSN.
 
It was a no-brainer for Murphy, who’s a big kid at heart anyway.

“I’m just worried about making sure that I don’t fall off the float, I mean that’s goal No. 1,” he said. “I want to stay on it for the whole ride.”

The float depicts an autumn scene near a frozen pond turned into a makeshift hockey rink that features a scoreboard, a 25-foot tall turkey as a goalie, and a perch for watching the 8-10 youth skaters doing their thing on the synthetic ice.

“Being there for that part of the year, just being part of that huge event, it’s going to be spectacular,” Murphy said. “You look at big events throughout the year, and that’s one of them.”

Besides the thrill of the parade, Murphy, who claims to have been a very good boy this year, a chance to meet Jolly Old St. Nick is a bonus.

“I’m hoping to meet him,” Murphy said. “I mean it’s an opportunity, and there are a couple of things that I want for Christmas, so hopefully I’ll be able to corner him at some point.”

 
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POSTED ON Friday, 11.18.2011 / 9:30 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Smith made his debut Thursday, skating more than 19-minutes in the Wings 5-2 loss to the Sharks. (Getty Images)
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Looks like rookie defenseman Brendan Smith will play in the second game of his career, while veteran forward Todd Bertuzzi hopes to get back into the lineup when the Red Wings face the Los Angeles Kings Saturday afternoon at Staples Center.

“Smith's playing,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I liked him a lot, what I don't want him to do is be careful. He knows he belongs. He's just got to eliminate some mistakes. But he's like all kids, he's going to make some mistakes.”

Smith had a solid performance in making his NHL debut Thursday – a 5-2 loss to San Jose. He logged more than 19-minutes of ice-time, including two-minutes on the power play. The one mistake he made was on a giveaway deep in the Wings’ zone that led to the Sharks’ third goal of the game.
 
Still, Thursday’s game provided a look into Smith’s bright NHL future as a dominant two-way defenseman.

“I thought he played well, skated well,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom. “He's got that good shot. Played well with the puck, too.”

Shortly after the Wings’ practice here Friday at the Toyota Sports Center, Smith alerted his 6,300-followers on Twitter, writing, “As of right now looks like I will get another kick at the can in tomorrow's game. Excited to try to get my first NHL win/point.”

As for Bertuzzi, his status for Saturday’s game isn’t as cut and dried. He was placed on short-term injured reserved last Sunday, and has missed the last six games with vertigo-like symptoms which began as a sinus infection.

Babcock said that Bertuzzi will be a game-time decision Saturday. However, if Bertuzzi has anything to say about it, he’ll either play Saturday afternoon or Sunday evening at Anaheim.

“I felt a lot better today. We'll see how it is tonight,” he said. “I didn't come all the way here without thinking there was a chance (to play). Got to see how I feel in the morning.”

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 11.16.2011 / 6:36 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

That did not take long at all.

In just one day, the Red Wings sold all 23 special commemorative jerseys that paid homage to their former teammates and coach that perished in tragic plane crash that killed all onboard, including every member of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team last September in Russia.

The jerseys were those worn by the Red Wings in their Oct. 7 season-opening win over Ottawa at Joe Louis Arena. And Wings' fans stepped up by once again showing their incredible generosity and continued support for these families and the organization.

All 23 red jerseys in the set were sold out by Wednesday afternoon, raising more than $15,000 for the families of the former Wings.

Each jersey has an arm patch containing the initials BM*RS*SL in red letters along with a blue stripe. Red and blue are the Lokomotiv team colors. Recognized on the patch are the initials of Brad McCrimmon, an assistant coach from 2008-11 and defenseman from 1990-93; Ruslan Salei, a defenseman with Detroit last season; and goalie Stefan Liv, who was drafted by the Wings in 2000 and was a prospect until 2007.

Each jersey also contains a unique tag imprinted on the inside with game date and opponent as well as the words “Love For Lokomotiv”, guaranteeing that the jersey is a part of the Wings’ one-time opening night set. Each purchaser also received a photograph from the Oct. 7 depicting the player wearing the jersey.



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POSTED ON Wednesday, 11.16.2011 / 2:06 AM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Brendan Smith is anxious to make his NHL debut. But will it come this week in California? That's the $64,000 question. (Photo by Rena Laverty)
After Tuesday’s morning skate at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, defenseman Brendan Smith characterized the last two days with the Red Wings as an audition.

“Kind of like training camp, show what I got,” Smith said before the Wings’ 2-1 loss to the Blues.

With the injury to defenseman Ian White (fractured cheekbone) last weekend, Smith was recalled from Grand Rapids, which was an ideal time for him to serve the last of an eight-game NHL suspension, which he did Tuesday night.

The question before the Wings set-off on a seven-day trip Monday afternoon was would Smith stay with the team for the duration, or would he be returned at some point to the Griffins?

The question was answered Tuesday night, well, sort of.

Without knowing how Niklas Kronwall will fare from a first-period hit-from-behind that he took from the Blues’ Chris Stewart, Smith’s presence is insurance should Kronwall not be able to play Thursday in San Jose.

Coach Mike Babcock told the media immediately following Tuesday’s game that he “had a few minutes to think” about Smith’s travel itinerary.

Well moments later, Smith boarded Red Bird III and was California-bound with the rest of the Wings. Detroit also plays Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles, and Sunday evening in Anaheim.
 
It’s no guarantee that Smith will make his NHL debut in the next three games, nor is it assured that he will be with the team for the rest of the seven-day trip. But at least the suspension is over, he said, and he can begin concentrating on making his debut.

“Finally, to get this out of the way, I can get my sights set to maybe playing an NHL game, my first game,” Smith said. “But we'll see how that goes.

“I'm excited that I'm still coming up and seeing some of the boys. It's been a long time, just bag skating here after the stuff and doing the fundamental stuff instead of getting my sights set on playing my first NHL game.”
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 4:59 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

ST. LOUISTodd Bertuzzi did not participate in Tuesday’s morning skate at Scottrade Center. The Wings’ forward has been battling a sinus infection and vertigo-like symptoms that have forced him to sit out the last four games.

Until this current illness, Bertuzzi had played in 197 out of a possible 198 games – regular-season and playoffs – since coming back to the Wings in 2009-10. Only captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who hasn't missed a game since then, has played more.

Bertuzzi has skated just once – last Thursday for half of practice – since Nov. 3. The dizziness and loss of balance has also limited any off-ice workouts that he can do, though he did manage to squeeze in some off-ice work the last two days.

“The medication is starting to kick in,” Bertuzzi said, Tuesday. “Hopefully within the next little while I can try to start skating and take it from there.

“I haven't missed games in a while. It's not fun missing games, but you can't go out there and play at 50-60 percent. What good are you? Kind of take a step back and get myself healthy and start over.”
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POSTED ON Monday, 11.14.2011 / 7:34 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Brendan Smith is happy to finally serve the last of his eight-games suspension, which he will do Tuesday in St. Louis. (Photo by Bill Roose)
Once completed, Brendan Smith’s eight-game suspension levied by the NHL for his illegal hit to the head of Chicago forward Ben Smith in an exhibition game in late September will have taken a lengthy 48 days to serve.

“It feels like I’m getting out of prison, finally,” Smith told reporters following Monday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena.

The Red Wings’ defensive prospect hasn’t played a single second of regular-season hockey in the NHL, but he was recalled from Grand Rapids Monday after Ian White suffered a fractured cheekbone last Saturday evening.

Smith traveled with the Wings to St. Louis where they will face the Blues at Scottrade Center Tuesday night. However, Smith will sit out the game – the last of his league sentence.

“I’m glad to get this last one out of the way, it’s seems forever,” said Smith, who leads the Griffins’ defensemen with five assists in 11 games. “It’s good to get this last one done. I thought it might be until after Christmas, so this is good to get it out of the way.”

Besides White, the Wings also practiced without defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who is expected to play against the Blues.

Without White, who is expected to miss between 3-7 games, Jonathan Ericsson has been moved up to the top defensive pairing where he will play on the right side of Nicklas Lidstrom. The two have played sparingly together on special teams, but not a lot at even-strength.

“I feel a little bit more comfortable on the left side because I have more forehand inside, but I've been playing right side with Nick on the penalty kill the first 15 games,” said Ericsson, who has an assist and a plus-3 rating. “I'm a little used to it in the defensive zone. I'm sure I'm going to get used to it.”

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POSTED ON Saturday, 11.12.2011 / 6:25 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Jan Mursak is proving to be a pretty fast healer.

Originally thought to be sidelined with a fractured left ankle until after Christmas, the rookie forward is hoping to be back sooner.

“I think sometime around there (Christmas), maybe a week earlier,” said Mursak, who was injured in an exhibition game against Chicago in September. “It's looking pretty good right now and we'll see how it goes.”

While surgery wasn’t required, Mursak was in a cast up to his knee, which was removed two weeks earlier than expected. From the cast, he was wearing an immobilizing boot.

“It's going pretty good. Every day it's a lot better and I can do more stuff,” he said. “There's still certain things I can't do. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks it gets better and I can get back on the ice and start skating.”

Besides breaking the ankle, Mursak had some ligaments damaged in the incident. While there’s been some atrophy in the ankle, the 23-year-old Mursak is confident that he’s bounce back well.

“I don't think it will affect my speed. It's just an ankle,” he said. “The speed doesn't come really from the ankle it comes from your thighs and legs. So I don't worry about that stuff.”

Even though he isn’t skating yet, Mursak is still doing whatever off-ice condition that he can do, within limits, of course.

“I do almost everything except running or jumping,” he said. “It takes time to stretch that ankle because it's so stiff. We'll see in the next few weeks how it goes. … I still can't put much weight on my toes but it's getting better every day. I can do more and more stuff, so it's good.”

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POSTED ON Friday, 11.11.2011 / 6:12 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Danny Cleary is the 62nd player in Red Wings' history to wear No. 11. Former Wings Shawn Burr (11 seasons) and Mathieu Dandenault (9 seasons) are the only ones to wear it longer. (Getty Images)
Some people believe that the No. 1 signifies a new beginning. And doubling and tripling it can only mean far better luck.

That’s why today – 11/11/2011 – is such a big deal for numerologists, who say that people are fascinated with repetitive numbers because are brains are hardwired to be pattern-matching machines.

However, Danny Cleary, one of four repetitive number-wearing Red Wings on the current roster, isn’t necessarily a believer.

“I never really thought about it,” said Cleary, who at the urging of his wife, Jelena, chose No. 11 when he signed with the Wings as a free agent seven years ago.

The Wings’ other double-number wearers are defensemen Mike Commodore (22) and Niklas Kronwall (55), and forward Todd Bertuzzi (44).

Would Cleary be a convert if he kept with the theme tonight and racked up 11 points against Edmonton at Joe Louis Arena? As a matter of fact, if he were so fortunate, he’d top Darryl Sittler’s 35-plus year old NHL record set when the Maple Leafs’ captain scored six goals with four assists in Toronto’s 11-4 win over Boston.

“Can you imagine?” said Cleary, laughing. “Hopefully it brings good luck.”

However, we’re pretty certain that Cleary would be fine if he managed to duplicate his two-goal performance in the Wings’ 6-2 win over Edmonton last Nov. 11.

Cleary is the 62nd player to don No. 11 in Wings’ history, and just the sixth to wear it for more than five seasons, joining forwards Shawn Burr (1984-95), Mathieu Dandenault (1995-04), Marty Pavelich (1951-57), Eddie Wares (1937-43), and Walt McKechnie (1974-77, 1981-83).

He ranks fourth in all-time franchise scoring among No. 11 wearers with 211 points, trailing only Pavelich (252), McKechnie (256) and Burr (362).


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POSTED ON Friday, 11.11.2011 / 12:20 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Mike Babcock said Friday morning that Henrik Zetterberg is a game-time decision with a "middle-body" injury. (Getty Images)
Mike Babcock said that forward Henrik Zetterberg will be a game-time decision when the Red Wings host the Northwest Division-leading Edmonton Oilers tonight at Joe Louis Arena.

Zetterberg was at Friday’s morning skate, but left the ice early, and was not available to the media afterwards.

“I think (Z) is in but I'm not 100 percent sure,” Babcock said. “It’s not an upper body, it's not a lower body, it's a middle body. How's that? I don't know if it's anything.”

If Zetterberg isn’t available for tonight’s game, Babcock anticipates moving Valtteri Filppula to center with Johan Franzen on left wing and either Jiri Hudler or Fabian Brunnstrom on the right side.

“We’ll see what happens,” Babcock said. “Like I said, I’m going to spend the afternoon figuring it out.”

Asked if it was up to Zetterberg on whether he plays or not, Babcock said, “It’s always up to the player if he plays. I mean if he’s feeling good he’ll be playing, if he’s not feeling good he won’t be playing.”

Forward Patrick Eaves will return to the lineup after missing the last three games with a sore lower back. Still looking for his first point of the season, he’ll skate on the fourth line with rookie center Cory Emmerton and forward Drew Miller.

“He’s in tonight because of the penalty-kill,” said Babcock, referring to Eaves. “Our penalty-kill’s got to be better. We think our structure has been better than our results. We don’t think we’re giving up that much, but it’s in our net all of the time. We want to be a great penalty-kill team, and Patty Eaves is a good penalty-killer.”

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