Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Red Wings Health in Decline in Dallas

Detroit could potentially suffer yet another setback tonight, as Henrik Zetterberg left this morning's skate with some back soreness. He along with Brian Rafalski, who coincidentally missed the Colorado game two nights ago with a similar problem, will be game-time decisions. Both players are desperately needed in a line-up already missing Mike Modano, Dan Cleary and Pavel Datsyuk.

Preview looks like this:

Looks like the boys will need to be switched on for 60 minutes in this one. I really don't rate Dallas as that good, the Wings have just had two bad games against them so far. I stongly feel their position in the standings will slip before the end of the season, but not enough to miss the playoffs.

One more quick note, it was good to see Hudler score the other night. Hopefully he can build on that and get that confidence back and become that regular contributor we all expect him to be. God knows, especially if Z and Raf are out, someone will need to step it up or there'll be more disappointment in the Big D.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Detroit's Depth Will Be Tested as they Visit Colorado

Lead-Up: The Wings play their second of back-to-back games tonight after defeating the Minnesota Wild 4-1 last night. Prior to that, Detroit had lost 3 of their last 4 games, giving up 4 goals on each occasion.

After riding a 6-game winning streak that began December 10, the Avs have lost their last two prior to the Christmas break. The highest-scoring team in the NHL faltered a little in their meetings with the Los Angeles and Minnesota, managing only one goal in the 120-minute span all at their home, the Pepsi Center. The Avs however, have enjoyed a 3-day break in preparation for tonight's clash with the Red Wings.

More Injury Woes: En route to notching a solid 4-1 win last night in Minnesota, the Red Wings received more bad news from the doctor's office, as the Dan Cleary was revealed to have suffered a broken ankle during the 3rd period of the victory. Cleary joins Pavel Datsyuk and Mike Modano on the Red Wings IR, and will remain there for at least 4 weeks.

In his place will be Jan Mursak, called up from Grand Rapids to make his NHL debut. I can't imagine the excitement he must be experiencing in anticipation of the achievement after spending the last 2 and a half years playing for the Griffins. The Slovenian has notched 10 goals and 13 assists in his 33 AHL games this season.

Less Injury Woes: On the flip-side, the Avs been heavily challenged this season with the most unenviable slew of injuries seen so far. At one stage having up to 10 regulars on IR, the Avs will gladly see the return of both Milan Hejduk and Cody McLeod for this game, slowly getting back to health.

Third Time's the Charm? Red Wings' back-up Chris Osgood makes the start in goal for his third chance at nabbing win #400 for his illustrious career. He vies for the W with Colorado back-up Peter Budaj, who will start in net for the first time since a 6-5 loss in Tampa against Steve Yzerman's Lightning on December 4.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Datsyuk-less Red Wings Face Wild; Game Preview

Game Notes:
- Jakub Kindl will play his first game since Nov. 6, as he fills in for Ruslan Salei. The Wings' brass decided to give Salei an extra day back in California with his family before he returns to the line-up. Rusty has been away from his family all season with his wife pregnant, thus the classy decision to allow him to stay. Another display of why I love this orgnaization.

- Detroit seeks their first win since Datsyuk went down with a hand injury. The first game was a 4-3 loss to St. Louis three nights ago.

- Some hot hands in Detroit include Brian Rafalski (8 assists, last 5 games), Henrik Zetterberg (2 goals, 7 assists, last 5 games) and Nick Lidstrom (5 goals, 1 assist, last 5 games).

- The Wild are riding a 3-game win streak on the back of some hot defense and goaltending. Niklas Backstrom only gave up 1 goal in each of the three wins getting a .970SV% along the way. The opposite has been true for Detroit however, as the Wings have given up 4 goals in each of their last 4 games.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Osgood Seeks #400 Against Blues

Take 2.

After the disaster that befell him against the Stars a few games ago, Chris Osgood gets his second opportunity at reaching the illustrious career milestone of 400 wins. He'll have to get the win however, with a forward line that will be missing its primary component -- Pavel Datsyuk.

Datsyuk was injured in the first period of the Wings' overtime win against the Canucks last night and isn't expected to return for another 4 weeks while he nurses his broken hand. On the bright side, this provides someone with an opportunity to step it up and show they are a top 6 forward. Jiri Hudler, I'm looking at you!

Frankly, Happy Hudler has had a DOG of a season so far (1g, 5a, -7). We've always known he has the skills and the intuition for finding the net, but this season not so much. Why? The only thing I can think, is confidence.

It was a slow start to the season that provided the snowball. That snowball seems to have been growing exponentially to avalanche-like proportions to the point where Hudler seems to be consistently making the wrong decisions with the puck. He's reverted to a "pass-first" mentality which oftentimes, has been his downfall. He also seems to be lingering out of the hotspots he had such a knack for finding in the past. I recall one instance against the Canucks where a big rebound came out to the circle with no defenders around and Hudler skated up from the blueline only to get into a battle for the puck. At that moment I thought, "Two years ago Hudler would've been in position to one-time that one." But sometimes all it takes it one solid game, and all this uncharacteristic play by Hudler will fall by the wayside.

There haven't really been too many hot hands for the Wings of late. Infact, Pavel Datsyuk had been Detroit's most consistent scorer throughout December. But worth mentioning, is the field day Nick Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg had 8 days ago against the Blues. Zetterberg notching up 4 assists with Lidstrom adding an assist to the first ever hat-trick of his incredible career. No doubt the play of this pair will weigh heavily in the minds of the Blues when in their own zone.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Big Test Ahead as Canucks Come to Town

It was expected to be a tumultuous month of December for the Wings, who after only 10 games, have as many regulation losses as they did in the two months to begin the season. The busy schedule seems to have negatively impacted the Wings' defense, who have given up 15 goals in the last 4 games, getting just the one victory from them. The news gets no better however, as next up is the surging Canucks.

Vancouver's fortunes have quite divergent from the Wings', as the 'Nucks have earned an impressive 19 of their last 22 contested points, with Roberto Luongo heating up in net. Their former captain has won 9 of his last 10 letting averaging a measly 1.69GAA in that span. In the past however, the Wings haven't had too much trouble with the widely touted goalie, scoring 3 or more goals on Vancouver in Luongo's last 7 starts against the Red Wings dating back to 2008.

Preventing goal will need to be the biggest concern however for Detroit. The Canucks have been scoring just a touch under 4 goals a game in their last 11 games with balanced scoring across the board not unlike the contribution seen amongst the Red Wings four lines. An obvious priority will be the Sedin twins and the threat they pose each shift.

It's difficult to say where it's all falling apart for the Red Wings. They haven't been flat out awful, they just don't seem to have been able to make things go the way they want. They have at times, imposed their will on situations within games, but it usually ends with no reward. You can't help but feel this change of fortune for Detroit has impacted the confidence of some of the players a little. Still, all it takes is a couple of big games, and the Red Wings are usually most ready for these 'top-of-the-table' showdowns.

Detroit recently relinquished top spot in the Conference to Dallas however remain leader of the Central Division with Vancouver breathing down their neck at third in the West. A win for Detroit will see them leapfrog the Stars back into first, however a win for the Canucks will tie them with Detroit only staying arrears to the Wings because of the 'shootout win' rule.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Battered Core of Chicago Gets a Test in Chi-Town; Wings vs. Hawks

The Blackhawks lost a lot after winning their first Cup in a billion years. Unfortunately for them, tonight that list will include Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, two integral pieces of the incredible "core" everyone kept hearing about.

The good news for the 'Hawks is they get back Fernando Pisani -- a monumental bolstering to the line-up, and possibly the biggest, most intimidating ECHL 4th-liner in history, Ryan Johnson. Babcock should definitely have cause for concern. [/sarcasm]

Seriously, there's no excuse for losing this game. The 'Hawks have a 16-14-3 record. Their roster is not that good anymore. This is a team that just shouldn't be beating the Red Wings. If the Wings stay away from the easy areas and are prepared to put their bodies on the line, they will score a lot of goals and win the game.

Sorry, no more time to make a better preview. I suck right now I know. Go Wings!


Monday, December 13, 2010

Back on Track, Wings vs. Kings

Firstly, sorry it's been so long since my last post. I missed a few game previews and such, it was a really busy weekend for me and things still aren't letting up at this stage. Anyway, the good news is the team play stats will be back pretty soon (save for the +/- because of some major, seemingly insurmountable, issues going from PC to Mac) and WOAW will become a little more interesting.

But the first order of business is the Red Wings.

It was a positive weekend for Red Wings' fans, who saw their best players get it done to push the Winged Wheel back on track. Some brilliant goaltending coupled with some Datsyuk magic, got the Wings the full four points from their back-to-back meetings with Montreal and New Jersey.

Onto the game...

The Kings haven't played too much lately. Since the previous meeting on December 4, the Kings have only played two games while Detroit has played four. The Kings, like Detroit, have split results going 1-0-1, beating Calgary but losing a few nights ago to Minnesota in overtime.

The Kings have shown they are a very good young team. But are they ready to take the next step? They sat atop the Western Conference for a little while earlier this season, but it all came crashing down with a few injuries and some slumping stars. Things seem to be headed in the right direction again, but a victory in Detroit would be a very solid affirmation of that. More than just turning things around though, is the importance of those two measly points.

The Kings sit dead last in a Pacific division race that is... well, it's just ridiculous. The fifth-placed Kings are only 3 points in arrears of co-leaders Anaheim and Dallas, but fortunately have two games in hand on Dallas and several on Anaheim. That division is so tight though, that no team can afford to let up. Each team has its dangers and each one has a very real shot at a strong playoff push.

Detroit, well they have a 5-point break on second-placed Vancouver with equal games played. A loss wouldn't hurt too much, but it's not a healthy habit to be dropping games because you can. Especially in this Conference. If the Pens could amass 12 straight wins in the West I would gladly take my hat off and pay my respects to them. But this season seems to be carrying on the old tradition of imbalance between the quality of the two halves of the League.

Team stats below, enjoy the game!