POSTED ON Friday, 03.16.2012 / 6:02 PM
|Coach Mike Babcock is hopeful that the return of Pavel Datsyuk will help jump-start the Red Wings' offense. (Photo by Getty Images)|
“We’ve talked about these teams that are desperate teams,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “You know it’s interesting, from where I sit as a coach, I don’t know who could be more desperate than us. I don’t even begin to understand that. If you’re playing well and everything is going good, maybe they could be more desperate. But if you’re a group like we are right now and you’re trying to get your game back, to me, there’s no one who should be more desperate than us.”
There’s no need to look beyond the current health situation to understand the Wings’ desperation. Since Feb. 20, when Pavel Datsyuk underwent knee surgery, nine of his teammates have missed time with injury or illness. The latest is forward Johan Franzen (back spasms), who may miss sidelined for Saturday’s game against the Sharks at HP Pavilion.
While Datsyuk’s return is good news, losing Franzen is more adversity that the Wings don’t need as they try to tune-up for a long playoff run this spring. Without Datsyuk, the Wings have posted a 3-7-1 record and the power play has suffered mightily, garnering three goals in the last 44 attempts.
Because injuries have forced the Wings to juggle lines, thus messing with continuity and chemistry, Babcock would like to see his team get back to the basics.
“I went to the (Sharks) game last night and Nashville scored a power-play goal on a simple down and in, threw it in,” he said. “San Jose shot the puck, had a man in the middle and tipped and came right to a guy and they shot it right into the net. No different than a lot of the things we’re doing, but the puck’s not going into the net for us, so that’s usually confidence, and we just have to keep plugging away and working. Obviously, Pavel back would really help.”
The Sharks, like the other two teams on this California trip, are on the outside looking in at the playoffs. But if the Wings learned anything in back-to-back losses at Los Angeles and Anaheim this week – by a combined 9-2 score – it’s that they can’t look past the Sharks.
“They’re like every team,” Babcock said, of the Sharks. “Right now, in their last three games they’ve worked real hard, they’ve limited the other team’s opportunity, they’ve gotten the pucks to the net, their power play is relentless on retrieval, they get the puck back. They’ve got a good team.
“It should be a heck of a hockey game. They’ve got points in three straight with five (points) out of a possible six points.”
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POSTED ON Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 2:52 AM
|Sen. John McCain and his former presidential running mate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin displays a Red Wings jersey given to her as a gift during a campaign event at the Freedom Hill Ampitheatre in Sterling Heights, Michigan in Sept. 2008. (Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)|
She also is seen wearing Colorado Avalanche and New York Rangers jerseys. But the better of the three sweaters, clearly, is the Wings’ jersey which also received the most air time in the made-for-cable movie.
Palin, who coined herself as “America’s Hockey Mom”, was given hockey jerseys as gifts wherever she appeared along the campaign trial as she traveled the U.S. in her bid for the White House as the Republican vice-presidential nominee.
Palin received a Wings jersey before she and GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain addressed a rally at Freedom Hill in Sterling Heights, Michigan on Sept. 5, 2008 (see photo).
But it’s in the movie “Game Change” that Moore – as Palin – wears a red Wings jersey during a debate rehearsal outside on Sen. MacCain’s Arizona estate.
However, the eye-popping moment occurs when the scene switches to a different camera angle which reveals a No. 40 on the back of the jersey.
Now since there’s no name on the back of the jersey (at least in the movie), and the six Wings players, including Henrik Zetterberg, to ever represent the number aren’t American, it’s easy to surmise that the Wings' latest star is the intended honoree, and not Bill Ranford, Mark Major, Jason York, Gord Kruppke or Rogie Vachon, who all wore the number prior to Zetterberg.
“Of course, it’s Z, he’s a rock star,” said goalie Jimmy Howard, one of four Americans on the current Wings’ roster.
It’s not known if the jersey that Palin received on the sun-shiny afternoon had a number on it, or why the movie’s costume directors made the decision to include the number. We may never know the answer, but it sure was fun to see the love for Zetterberg, whether it was intended or not.
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.12.2012 / 9:45 PM
|Nicklas Lidstrom hopes to return to the Red Wings' lineup soon and rejoin his defensive partner Ian White. (Photo by Getty Images)|
The level of frustration is understandable, especially since Nicklas Lidstrom and injuries are rarely used in the same sentence. But the ankle injury is forcing Lidstrom to go somewhere he’s never gone.
“I didn't think it was going to take this long,” Lidstrom said of his sore right ankle. “I thought I was going to be back earlier. It's been lingering, it hasn't been getting any better, so it's getting a little bit frustrating.”
The seven-time Norris Trophy winner was injured when he was struck by a puck on the outside of the ankle on Feb. 25. The play was innocent enough, when Colorado’s Jan Hedja rimmed a center ice shot around the back of the Wings’ net. But the puck took an odd bounce, clipping the Wings’ star defenseman high on the right boot.
On Monday, Lidstrom tried to skate in full gear for the first time in nearly 2 ½ weeks, but the soreness crept in pretty quickly forcing him off the ice before the Wings’ practice got underway at the Toyota Sports Center.
“I tried it a few days ago. It was better today, I could do a few laps but still not where I want it to be to be able to play a game or practice with the guys,” he said. “It's day-by-day right now. Just have to wait and see, hopefully it gets better every day.”
Wings coach Mike Babcock has already counted Lidstrom out for the next two games – Tuesday at Los Angeles and Wednesday at Anaheim – meaning the 41-year-old will have missed nine games – counting the Montreal game when he had the flu – which, unfortunately, is a single-season personal low for him.
The longest stretch that Lidstrom has missed in any one season is six games after he fell awkwardly on his knee following a body check – oddly enough against the Avalanche – in February 2008. Until this season, six was also the most games he ever missed in a season.
Tuesday’s game will be the 42nd game, including Stanley Cup playoffs, which Lidstrom has missed in his 20-season career. And one of those was to serve an NHL suspension for not fulfilling an obligation at the 2009 All-Star Game.
The ankle continues to be problem and sometimes walking has been a source of discomfort. But the biggest obstacle seems to be with the pressure caused by the boot once the laces are tied, Lidstrom said.
However, he is optimistic of a possible return during this trip with an eye on San Jose Saturday in the final game of the Wings’ three-game swing through California.
“You want to get a skate or two good skates in before you're able to play again," Lidstrom said. “I'm hoping to play quite a few games before the playoffs. It'll help to get back into game-shape again and in the long run you hope the rest will help, everyone that's out right now, to help us get a long run in the playoffs.”
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POSTED ON Friday, 03.09.2012 / 5:14 PM
|Jimmy Howard believes that he'll be back sooner from his groin injury than Todd Bertuzzi (R) will be from his groin injury. (Photo by Getty Images)|
“Everything’s feeling back to normal,” said Howard, who was on the ice prior to the team’s morning skate at Joe Louis Arena.
Howard hasn’t played since leaving last Sunday’s game after the first period against Chicago. On Monday, an ultrasound was performed, but tests were negative.
Howard’s rosy optimism Friday was in far contrast from his low-key hopes of a quick recovery when he first suffered the injury.
“I think we nipped it in the bud pretty quickly there,” Howard said. “We were able to get treatment right away. That’s probably saved us some time.”
The plan is for Howard to go to Nashville with the Wings and participate in Saturday’s morning skate at Bridgestone Arena. If all works out, a return to the lineup could come as early as Tuesday in Los Angeles, Howard said.
“I feel a lot better. It’s getting better every single day,” he said. “Skated yesterday, skated today, took some shots. Hopefully, tomorrow, I’ll share a net. Then practice Monday in L.A.
“We just want to take all the precautions and make sure everything is healed up, with it being so close to playoffs.”
Meanwhile, Todd Bertuzzi practiced Friday morning, but based on how he felt, the veteran forward said he may miss more games after Friday’s home game with the Los Angeles Kings.
“It's still not as strong as I want it to be,” said Bertuzzi, who will miss his second straight game Friday.
Asked if Saturday’s game in Nashville was a possibility, Bertuzzi said, “I don't know. I got to see how it is, still got to do some stuff with the trainers. But if that (skate) was any indication then I need a little bit more (time) than that.”
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 03.07.2012 / 3:57 PM
Kronwall drew plenty of attention from the Flyers and their fans when midway through the second period he delivered a shoulder check that caught Voracek squarely in the head.
As a dazed Voracek lay on the ice – blood dripping from his mouth and his rigid arms momentarily motionless over his head – the Wells Fargo Center crowd fell quiet. The hit knocked Voracek out of the game and caused tempers to percolate between the teams.
Following Tuesday’s game, Kronwall said that he felt the hit was legal like many of his other trademark collisions this season against Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky, Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler and Flyers’ Daniel Briere.
It’s hard to imagine Brendan Shanahan, the league’s vice president of player safety, levying supplementary discipline against Kronwall since he didn’t leave his feet to deliver the hit. And while the head was the first point of contact, Voracek appeared to be slumped forward at the time of the collision.
According to the league official, Voracek’s head might have been seen as the principal point of contact, but only because it was the initial point of contact, and not due to Kronwall targeting the head but in the nature that Voracek approached the Wings’ defenseman.
There still remain some hits in the league where a player’s head – by nature of the way the player receiving the hit – dips, ducks, turns or moves just prior to contact with a legal check.
Kronwall did not leave his feet or lift an elbow, and he was not assessed a penalty for the hit, which according to the league was the correct call on the ice.
There have been no fewer than 17 players on a growing list of Kronwall victims that includes Dany Heatley, Teemu Selanne, Evander Kane, Radek Bonk, Vinny Prospal, Tim Jackman, and Ryan Clowe, who has been crushed on two separate occasions by the 6-foot, 190-pound blue liner.
Then there’s the gigantic hit that turned Kronwall’s name into a verb when he knocked out Chicago’s Martin Havlat during Game 3 of the 2009 Western Conference finals.
On Wednesday, the Philadelphia Daily News called Kronwall’s hit on Voracek one of the “most gruesome hits in recent Flyers memory”, ranking it with Scott Stevens’ colossal brain-jarring shot on Eric Lindros in the 2000 Eastern Conference finals.
It’s tough, if not completely off base, to compare Kronwall to Stevens, after all, Kronwall has never been suspended in his 7 ½-plus season career.
Instead of trying to find fault in Kronwall’s hits, when will opposing forwards learn to protect themselves and skate with their head up when he’s on the ice? Instead of reactively running at Kronwall after he’s already blown-up a guy, perhaps forwards need to be smarter about retrieving pucks along the half wall in their own zone.
Kronwall’s motive seems to be the same with every big hit: The opposition rims the puck around the boards and a forward tries to gather in the pass for a breakout of the defensive zone. But it’s usually when the forward looks down at his feet for the puck, and he’s pounded by an anticipating Kronwall who slides down from the point to drop a big, clean hit.
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.05.2012 / 3:14 PM
|Ken Daniels called a Wings' game from ice level before he ever did in Philadelphia. But he and analysis Mickey Redmond will finally cross the City of Brotherly Love off the list this Tuesday. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
We’re not sure how many other broadcasters – short of Hall of Fame voices Budd Lynch and Bruce Martyn – have called 1,000 Wings’ games either on radio or television, but it’s probably safe to assume that those gentlemen called games from every arena in the league during their extraordinary careers.
So how is it that in his 13-plus seasons with the organization, Daniels and his broadcast partner, analysis Mickey Redmond, will finally call their first Wings’ game together from the City of Brotherly Love on Tuesday night?
“Over the years the networks have grabbed so many games,” said Daniels, who can finally claim to have called a Wings' game from all 30 NHL cities. “You have to go back before Versus even, when Fox was doing games, too.”
Tuesday will be just the seventh time that the Wings have traveled to Philadelphia for a regular-season game since the 1997-98 season, which also happens to be the year that our friends from the Great White North gave us the silky smooth articulator.
With five of the last six games played on either Saturdays or Sundays, it’s certainly easy to see why the broadcast networks would have liked the Wings-Flyers matchup for so many years. It didn’t hurt either that Detroit and Philadelphia played for the 1997 Stanley Cup and were widely considered Cup contenders throughout the next decade.
And while Tuesday will be the fourth time that Daniels has ever called a game in Philly – he’s broadcast from there for Versus and CBC – the 7 p.m. game will be Redmond’s first since his playing days ended more than 37 years ago.
Asked if he thought it peculiar that he’s never called a game with his longtime TV partner, Redmond shook his head, and said, “I don’t think so because in this world nothing is odd anymore. It’s so odd that it’s normal with the unbalanced schedule.”
Both Daniels and Redmond are especially thankful to be calling this particular Wings-Flyers contest, if for nothing else, the pre-game ceremony which promises to be very emotional.
The Flyers’ organization plans to retire Mark Howe’s No. 2 before the game, which Fox Sports Detroit will carry in its entirety.
The entire Howe family, including its patriarch, Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, will be in attendance at Wells Fargo Center. Also expected to attend, is Maureen McCrimmon, the widow of the late Brad McCrimmon, and the couple’s two children.
Mark Howe and McCrimmon were defensive partners and friends during their Philadelphia playing days, and again for a short time in Detroit in the early 90s.
“Just knowing that they were best friends, it’s really neat,” Daniels said. “I know that Mark wants Maureen to be there for Brad and that’s pretty cool.”
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POSTED ON Friday, 03.02.2012 / 1:48 PM
|Nicklas Lidstrom shortly after he was struck in the ankle by Jan Hedja's dump-in shot in the second period of last Saturday's game. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
But this time as he pressed his heels and the back of his body against the half wall deep in the Red Wings’ zone the rim-around shot by Colorado defenseman Jan Hejda took a bad bounce and struck Lidstrom on the outside of the right ankle.
The unfortunate play will cost Lidstrom a few more games as he’ll miss Friday night’s contest against the Minnesota Wild and Sunday afternoon against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Lidstrom was injured following a neutral zone face-off won by the Avalanche when Hejda blasted a shot from center ice around the left boards and behind the Wings’ net with 15:09 left in the second period.
“It just hit me in that right spot, even though the skate is protected it's still going to hurt if you're hit right in that spot,” Lidstrom said. “I got hit a few weeks ago on the inside. That was different, not as bad, not as sore as this one is.”
Lidstrom only managed to finish Saturday’s game because he didn’t remove his skates during the intermission, which he’s done consistently throughout his 20-season career. Had he taken off his right skate he wouldn’t have gotten it back on, Lidstrom said.
But now Lidstrom is becoming a little concerned that the ankle could be more problematic than first thought.
“It's been almost a week now and it's still sore," he said. "I was hoping it was going to be a couple of days and maybe miss one game and then be back at it. It's been lingering longer than I thought.
“I'll take the weekend off and then re-evaluate on Monday and see how it is. It's been longer than I thought it was going to be, so we just have to wait it out see how it feels on Monday.”
The 41-year-old legend drove to the Detroit Medical Center, where he had X-rays, immediately after Saturday’s game. He had another X-ray taken on Monday, but both reports were negative. Lidstrom did not play in Tuesday's 5-2 win at Columbus.
Lidstrom’s diagnosis is a deep bone bruise, which until late this week, prevented him from putting a skate boot on without much pain. The swelling as subsided enough that he can at least put a skate on, but not without a level of discomfort.
“It was just too sore once I tied the skate. It was too sore to push off,” Lidstrom said. “When you're skating you kind of push off with your toes and I just couldn't push off. Just from putting the skate on, it's too sore to even push off, so there's no need to go on the ice when I can't push off.
“I'm not going to do anything with the foot for a few days and hopefully it'll settle down and we'll try it out on Monday again.”
If Lidstrom does come back for a 21st season next fall, he said that he would entertain thoughts of wearing the clear-plastic guards over his skate boots that more and more defensemen are wearing.
“It's something I'll take into consideration, he said.
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POSTED ON Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 2:55 PM
|Henrik Zetterberg talks to Herman Liv, the five-year-old son of former Red Wings prospect Stefan Liv, who died in a Russian plane crash last year. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)|
But in the meantime, he’s getting a kick out of having houseguests, including the two young sons of his former Grand Rapids teammate, Stefan Liv, who died last September in the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash in Russia.
“Now we have some kids in the house it's hard to play around with those guys,” said Ericsson, who suffered a fractured left wrist last Saturday. “Carrying them around I usually have one in each arm. Now I can't really do much with either of them.”
Acting as a chaperone, Ericsson was in the Wings’ locker room Thursday introducing his teammates to five-year-old Herman Liv. His three-year-old brother Harry and their mom, Anna, did not attend Thursday’s practice.
“The kids are fine, they’re too young, I think, but for Anna her days are up and down, of course. So it’s nice for them to think of something else for once.”
Ericsson’s injury occurred as the Wings were killing off a Colorado power play at the start of the second period. Brad Stuart was attempting to clear the puck when Ericsson stepped into the path of the high-rising puck.
“It was kind of coming at my face and that's the reason I brought up my arm,” said Ericsson, who was hit on the outside of the left wrist. “I’m hoping 4-5 weeks, that's what they say. It could go faster it could go slower.”
The injury was unavoidable and had nothing to do with the length of his gloves, which clearly didn’t protect him Saturday night.
“When you put your hand like this,” Ericsson said, holding his hand up to cover his face, “it opens everything up.”
The fracture makes it difficult to grip a stick and the rotational movement of Ericsson’s forearm is adversely affected.
“They did another x-ray two days again,” he said. “There's a break just on the tip on the (out) side almost all the way out there. There were a few cracks too around (the wrist).”
Ericsson hopes to regain skating as soon as he can tie his own skates.
“I'll start skating pretty soon, maybe tomorrow. We'll see,” he said. “It's all to get my legs working because I can't do anything with the stick.”
POSTED ON Wednesday, 02.29.2012 / 3:36 PM
|Mark Howe spent 10 NHL seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers. Now the Red Wings' director of pro scouting will have his Flyers No. 2 retired in a pre-game ceremony next week. (Getty Images Archives)|
And why wouldn’t it?
By reaching the pinnacle of an NHL player’s career with his enshrinement into the Hockey Hall of Fame this season, Howe joined the elite of his profession. That experience, coupled with his dad’s attendance at the ceremony, was the crème de la crème.
So when Philadelphia owner Ed Snider called Howe and asked the former defenseman if he was fine with having his black-and-orange No. 2 raised to the rafters at the Wells Fargo Center, Howe said, “Sure.”
But next Tuesday’s ceremony was nearly nixed by the league, which apparently prohibits pre-game events on the ice once the calendar flips to March.
“Ed told me that the league told him ‘no’, but they really wanted to do this with the Red Wings in town,” said Howe, the Wings’ director of pro scouting.
As a courtesy, the Flyers put in a call to the Wings’ front office just to double-check if they were OK with honoring the former player, which they both share in common.
Of course, the Wings didn’t have any objection to seeing history when Gordie and Mark Howe becomes just the second father-son tandem in any professional sport to both have their numbers retired. Bobby and Brett Hull were the first father and son to have their jersey numbers retired.
Howe, 56, played for three NHL clubs, including the Wings from 1992-95. But it was his 10 seasons in Philadelphia where Howe made a name for himself. All told, Howe amassed 1,246 career points in 22 professional seasons. His 742 NHL points ranks 13th among Hall of Fame defensemen.
Howe is the 62nd NHL defensemen to enter the Hall, and just the second American-born blue liner – joining New York Rangers great Brian Leetch – to be enshrined. And Howe’s number will be retired six-days shy of the 40th anniversary commemorating the night when his famous father’s No. 9 became the first digit so honored by the Wings’ franchise.
“It’ll be a special night, for sure,” Mark Howe said.
POSTED ON Wednesday, 02.29.2012 / 11:33 AM
|Coach Mike Babcock and his former assistant Todd McLellan worked together in Detroit for three seasons. (Photo by Dave Sandford)|
The former Red Wings’ assistant continues to deal with concussion-like symptoms after he was accidentally struck in the head with a stick during Sunday’s game in Minnesota.
To make matters worse, the Sharks lost to the Wild, finishing a dismal nine-game road trip with a 2-6-1 record. Then the team’s charter plane experienced mechanical problems leaving the Sharks in Minnesota for an additional day.
“Well, I haven’t been hit in the head with a stick on the bench – except for a few stitches to the face in practice,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said this week. “But the time we went off the runway in St. Louis was probably the worst time as flights go, but I really haven’t had an experience like that.”
McLellan was hurt on a freak play in the second period of Sunday's 4-3 loss. He was accidentally clubbed by the stick of Wild defenseman Marco Scandella, who had been checked into the Sharks' bench by Jamie McGinn.
In the moments after McLellan went down, no one seemed to know what occurred. A frightening scene ensued as a stretcher was wheeled across the ice to the Sharks’ bench.
McLellan is the latest NHL coach to suffer an upper-body injury, joining Edmonton’s Tom Renney and Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff on the injury list.
Renney was concussed earlier this month when he was struck in the head by a puck during a practice. He missed eight games before coaching last Saturday against Phoenix. Ruff broke ribs when he was sent flying by defenseman Jordan Leopold during a practice.
The Sharks had led the Western Conference in points, earning McLellan a coaching assignment in last month's All-Star game in Ottawa. But now the Sharks are clinging to their playoff lives as Phoenix, Colorado and Dallas are all giving them a serious run.
Still experiencing headaches, McLellan missed Tuesday’s home game against Philadelphia.
“Todd continues to make progress in his recovery from the stick incident in Minnesota on Sunday evening but is still experiencing concussion-like symptoms,” Sharks GM Doug Wilson said in a statement posted on the team’s website. “Thus, he will not be behind the bench until cleared by doctors to resume his coaching duties.”
Assistant coaches Matt Shaw and Jay Woodcroft lead the team in McLellan’s absence Tuesday.
“Our main concern at this point is for Todd’s full and complete recovery,” concluded Wilson in his statement.
In Nov. 2007, the Wings were forced to spend an additional night in St. Louis after the right rear wheels of their plane inadvertently crossed into a soggy grass area next to the tarmac and sank in mud. McLellan was on that flight, too.