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Sooo hot, want to touch the heiny

Detroit Red Wings (15-7-1) vs. Buffalo Sabres (13-10-1)

I had hoped for there to be a Spartan overload on the ice tonight, but as of now, the chances are low.  Spartan alum Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller will be in the Red Wings lineup tonight, but Ryan Miller, the Sabres’ star goalie, will start on the bench.  Ryan has been out since November 12th after suffering a concussion on a hit by Boston’s Milan Lucic.  The last time the two teams played, Ryan Miller started in goal and his brother Drew was a healthy scratch.  Another former Spartan, rookie Corey Tropp, has played 10 games for Buffalo this season but was reassigned to the Rochester Americans on Monday.

Feelin hot, hot, hot:

  • The Red Wings have won 10 of their last 12 games
  • Pavel Datsyuk has 10 points in the last 6 games
  • Valtteri Filppula has 6 points in the last 4 games — as long as he continues to shoot, he’ll continue to score. (i love you)
  • Jimmy Howard is 14-5-1 and leads the league in wins

Other Notes: 

  • Chris Conner was called up from Grand Rapids yesterday and will play on a line with Cleary and Helm
  • Emmerton and Commodore are healthy scratches, Eaves has his mouth wired shut
  • Jimmy Howard will start in goal for the Red Wings
  • Jhonas Enroth (8-4-1) will start in goal for the Buffalo Sabres

Game starts at 7:30 and will be aired on the NHL network and Fox Sports Detroit (shwing). Let’s make it 7 in a row…Go Wings!

2 points for Ericsson: I’ll drink to that

Jonathan Ericsson had a 2-point game in the Detroit Red Wings’ 6th straight win tonight.  The Detroit Red Wings outshot the Tampa Bay Lightning 35-23 and won 64% of the faceoffs.  Pavel Datsyuk won 71% of his faceoffs and earned himself 2 points as well–that’s 6 points in the last 4 games for the great one.  Jimmy Howard made some fabulous saves throughout the game and especially in the 3rd–upping the confusion regarding his absence on the All-Star ballot.  Feel free to write him in.

Tonight was also Steve Yzerman’s first visit to the Joe as the GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning.  The Red Wings paid their respects to the longtime Captain with a tear jerking tribute during the 1st period:

1st Period Highlights:

  • Wings outshot TBL 18-8 (that’s what I’m talkin bout)
  • Datsyuk wowed us with his 7th goal of the season at 4:58 (assisted by Bertuzzi and Franzen)
  • Jonathan Ericsson shocked RW fans everywhere by scoring his first goal of the season (11:04, assist to Fil) Mazel tov!!!!!!

2nd Period Highlights:

  • The Lightning outshot the Wings 6-5
  • With Ericsson in the box, Martin St. Louis got a PPG to get his team back in the game (9:35, assisted by Purcell and Bergeron)
  • Steven Stamkos tied the game with just 0:14 left in the period (assists to Gilroy and Lecavalier) — he scores goals? Weird.
  • Pierre McGuire used the word “toughly” and then quickly recanted saying it wasn’t a word. It actually is a word…and Pierre actually was an English major #funfact

3rd Period Highlights:

  • The Wings stepped it up and outshot the Lightning 12-9
  • Brewer did the only thing he could do to prevent Datsyuk from scoring on a breakaway — hooked him. Holmer put the Wings up 3-2 only 9 seconds later—after all 5 RWs touched the puck (4:22, assists to Lidstrom and Datsyuk)
  • Darren Helm sealed the deal at 14:13, giving the Wings a 2-goal lead (assisted by Kindl and Ericsson)

Notes: Commodore and Emmerton were scratched, Eaves out 6-8 weeks after having surgery on his jaw

The Wings will head to Buffalo to prep for their 7:30 game on Friday night

Franzen Fries

The Detroit Red Wings won their second game in a row last night, taking down the Colorado Avalanche 5-2. I know I’m stating the obvious, but damn–it’s much more fun to watch when we win. It’s also fun to get free curly fries at Arby’s after a Wing gets a hat trick…soo thanks Franzen. Don’t forget to go get yours! The Red Wings now have a combined 10 goals in the last two games after scoring only 6 goals in the 6 games prior. Very impressive. Jimmy Howard stopped 24 of 26 shots and definitely made some nice saves. Eaves sat out again due to his sore back and Bertuzzi is still ill. Commodore was scratched.

1st Period Highlights:

  • Captain Nicklas Lidstrom showed the haters (once again) that he isn’t too old for the league—or overrated. It’s hard to believe that anyone with ANY knowledge of hockey whatsoever could possibly believe that. He put the Wings ahead 1-0 half way through the period (8:54, assisted by…no one)
2nd Period Highlights:
  • What appeared to be Valtteri Filppula’s 3rd goal of the season was later credited to Johan Franzen, giving the Red Wings a two goal lead on the power play (2:36, assisted by Fil and Hudler)
  • Johan Franzen scored his second goal of the evening on another Red Wings power play just a few minutes later (6:53, assists to Kronwall and Fil)
  • Landeskog put one in for the Avalanche when Jonathan Ericsson was in the box for hooking (8:18, assisted by Matt Duchene and former Red Wing Kyle Quincey)
  • Colorado’s Ryan O’Reily had some great hand/eye coordination and as Mickey Redmond put it, “spoiled the party” for Pavel Datsyuk, on what could have potentially been the sickest goal of the season.
3rd Period Highlights:
  • Fabian Brunnstrom had a breakaway halfway through the period and was so close to scoring his first goal as a Red Wing! You’ll get em next time, buddy.
  • Dan Cleary finally looked like himself again and scored a beauty off his own rebound (14:46, assisted by Pavel Datsyuk and Jakub Kindl)
  • Milan Hejduk made it a two goal game while Pavel Datsyuk was in the box (16:55, assists to Wilson and Johnson
  • Johan Franzen scored his 3rd goal of the night on an empty net with 0:32 left in the game. It wasn’t just any old empty netter…it was pure awesomeness. He now leads the Red Wings in goal scoring for the season (8).
WTF?
  • Datsyuk played 22:49 and Zetterberg played for 19:24 and each only had 2 shots on goal—that’s gotta change. They are also -4 and -1, respectively.
  • Ericsson.
  • Datsyuk got called for hooking at the end of the 3rd period allowing the Avalanche a power play goal 8 seconds later. Datsyuk isn’t in the box too often and is definitely needed for the PK
The Wings take on the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night at 7:30 pm at the Joe Louis Arena

Fresh Faces: Mike Commodore

Today’s edition will focus on another free agent defensemen who signed this summer, Mike Commodore. The 31 year old Alberta native is looking to resurrect his NHL career by joining one of the deepest and most talented defensive units in the league. While much remains to be settled in the preseason, Commodore is projected to compete with the young and talented Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith for the sixth and final spot in the defensive rotation. His signing, a one year, $1 million contract, provides the team with some added depth and playoff experience on the back end, while still leaving salary cap cushion for a late season move if necessary.

After being drafted by the New Jersey Devils (42nd overall, 1999), Commodore spent time between the American and National Hockey Leagues with a few organizations. Despite playing effectively in 20 playoff games for Calgary in their 2004 playoff run, Commodore was dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes before the 2005-06 season.  Commodore had arguably his best season, playing in 72 games with a +12 and leading the team in penalty minutes.  Commodore was again steady in a long playoff run, and became a fan favorite on the way to the Carolina’s first Stanley Cup.

Mike Commodore is an easy player to spot

In 2008, Commodore was traded again, this time to the Ottawa Senators in a deal that involved future Red Wings forward Patrick Eaves.  Following that season, he signed with Columbus, and was a big part in helping the team reach their first playoff series (a 4 game sweep at the hands of the Red Wings).

Following two years of injuries and setbacks, Commodore was optioned back to the AHL last season. He’s hoping to again assume an everyday role with a NHL club. Given the injuries that have plagued the Red Wings defensemen over the past two seasons, the deal makes a lot of sense.

One interesting storyline associated with this signing was Commodore’s bad history with Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock. When Commodore was a young prospect in Anaheim, Coach Babcock had issues with his conditioning. Commodore was never given a shot to play for the Mighty Ducks, and spoke very candidly about his displeasure for his former coach in an interview two years ago. While both parties have dismissed the incident, it will be interesting to see how the outspoken defensemen will react if he does not find himself consistently in the lineup.

Commodore, who boasts 645 career penalty minutes in 454 NHL games, should add a physical element to the Wings defense.  He is not afraid to drop the gloves, standing at 6’4″ and 230lbs and seems to fit Ken Holland’s vision of creating a physical defensive unit for opposing forwards.  Despite weeks of internet speculation on the possibility of Commodore wearing the number 64, a reference that makes video game fanatics nation wide type “lolz”, the defensemen will skate with the #22 jersey this season.

We’ll be back soon with another edition of Fresh Faces! Check out our past article on newcomer Ian White.

Wings Defense Evolving Into A Physical Unit

The change has been evident over the past half decade or so in Hockeytown. A franchise that once favored speed at the blue line has evolved into a physical unit.

In my opinion, the transition began in 2007-08. The Wings opened the season with a formidable blue line including aging Chris Chelios (a young 45 years of age that season), Nick Lidstrom, Brett Lebda, Andreas Lilja, Nicklas Kronwall and Brian Rafalski. While possibly the best passing and puck possessing defensive unit in the league, opposing forwards did not have much to worry about when entering the attacking zone. Outside of the young Kronwall – who was playing in just his 2nd full NHL season – this group was more likely to use their stick than their body to thwart oncoming attackers.

Ken Holland then made the move that I believe resulted in the Wings next Stanley Cup. Giving up only two draft picks (neither of whom would ever play for the Kings) the Red Wings acquired hard hitting Brad Stuart from Los Angeles in late Feburary.  He made sure opponents knew from Day 1 that things had changed in Motown.

Paired with Kronwall, the two formed a physical presence that manhandled opposing forwards throughout the playoffs.  Stuart took Pens forward Sidney Crosby off the ice with a devastating blow in the decisive Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Today’s group of defenseman features more than just a pair of hard hitters. Recently acquired Ian White & Mike Commodore have replaced the likes of Rafalski and Ruslan Salei (who tragically passed in a plane crash in Russia last week). Both should compliment the physical style of Stuart and Kronwall.

Add captain Lidstrom, fellow Swede Jonathan Ericsson, and young talent Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith, and the Wings have a diverse, deep, and well rounded unit heading into this season.

Reviewing The Cap Situation

The Red Wings made a few big splashes this summer, resigning captain and veteran defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, key forwards Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller, as well as signing free agent Ian White, previously of the San Jose Sharks.

The Wings find themselves in an unusal position this summer, with plenty of cap room. $5,845,456 to be exact (according to CapGeek.com). With the signing of role players Mike Commodore and Ty Conklin, the roster looks set. Newcomers Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton – both of whom are out of minor league options – are poised to start the season in Detroit.

So will Ken Holland make one more move to bolster his already potent attack. Wings fans have asked for the team to unload Czech forward Jiri Hudler, who is coming off a disappointing season in which he struggled to crack the lineup in the playoffs. But the reality is few teams can accommodate his near $3 million dollar cap rate and give up a piece of value in return.  With the free agent forward market stripped, it appears the Wings will hope the 27 year old can bounce back and become the productive scorer he once was in Detroit.

The other name rumored in trade talks has been Valtteri Filppula, but the Wings would expect a top 6 forward back in return. His low salary may be intriguing to teams – like Buffalo and Washington – who find themselves over the cap limit.  The NHL season opens in just 30 days, so it should be an interesting month ahead for fans around the league.

CapGeek.com :: It’s a numbers game :: NHL Salary Cap Calculator.