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  • The Red Wings are back on top this week on ESPN’s NHL Power Rankings–well, they’re in the #2 spot…but since the Bruins are ranked #1 and we put an end to their winning streak on Friday, I think it’s a legitimate claim.
  • I am confused by NHL.com’s Super 16 Rankings once again.  Dave Lozo ranks the Wings at #4 behind Boston, Pittsburgh, and the NY Rangers.
  • The Mule took the day off today according to Ansar Khan from Mlive.com, but is expected to play in tomorrow’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning
  • The team visited the Children’s Hospital of Michigan yesterday, as reported by Bill Roose from DetroitRedWings.com
  • Did the Caps give up their coach because their ego is too big? Isaac Smith discusses the difference between them and the Wings on Bleacher Report

Arguable Power Rankings & Some Datsyukian Humor

Winging It In Motown pointed out this morning that after suffering only their first loss of the season on Saturday night, the Detroit Red Wings (5-1-0) are now apparently worse than both the Pittsburgh Penguins (6-2-2) and the Chicago Blackhawks (4-1-2) according to the TSN.CA NHL Power Rankings. However, the ESPN NHL Power Rankings still have the Wings in the #2 spot this week.  ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun added: “Even Caps coach Bruce Boudreau pointed out that Saturday’s loss wasn’t really your typical 7-1 score; Detroit is playing better than that score indicated. Just a blip on the radar and with backup Ty Conklin in goal, to boot.”

If additional proof is needed that the Wings aren’t leaving the top of the rankings anytime soon, listen to Tomas Vokoun, the goalie for the Washington Capitals. Vokoun was named one of the NHL’s 3 stars of the week this week–a well deserved honor.  He has allowed only 6 goals in his last 5 games and has a .944 sv% this season.  David Amber from NHL on the Fly held a phone interview with Vokoun on Monday. Here are the “rapid fire” questions and answers:

Amber: The one guy you don’t want to face in a shoot out?
Vokoun: Pavel Datsyuk

Amber: The most difficult player to have parked in your crease?
Vokoun: Holmstrom

Amber: Starting an NHL team today, who is the one guy you need to have?
Vokoun: I would say Pavel Datsyuk

(Keep in mind these questions weren’t intended to be only about the Red Wings, but the entire NHL…so TSN can suck it)

In other news, Dmitry Chesnokov from Puck Daddy and Dmitry Malinovski, Sovetsky Sport’s correspondent in Detroit, held an interview with the always entertaining Pavel Datsyuk. Here are some highlights/quotes:

*Regarding Lidstrom’s 1500th game:
It is a very big milestone. All I can do is remove my hockey helmet for him. He is such a great player and a great person. You can always rely on him and take him with you on spying missions.”

*Do the Red Wings feel the competition for fans now that the Lions are doing pretty well in the NFL?
“There is no competition. The situation in Detroit is very difficult due to the economic crisis. And I think all of the Detroit teams playing — the Red Wings, the Lions, the Tigers — we are all trying to cheer Detroit fans up, make them a little bit happier in these tough times. And sincere thanks to all the fans who come to our games, who find the time for us.”

*Regarding NHL realignment:
“On one hand, of course it would be great because we would reduce the number of miles we fly considerably. It would be interesting to try ourselves in a different conference. But until the chickens are hatched we can’t really count them. So, people can discuss whatever they want. But nothing is certain at this point. I just hope we won’t be realigned to the KHL.”

*Alex Ovechkin was presented with his own wax figure on Monday at Madame Tussaud’s in Washington DC. Where would it be possible to see a statue of Pavel Datsyuk?
“I don’t think you will see it anywhere. And if you do, it will probably be made of paper. Cardboard paper. I am a cardboard player.”

I’m pretty sure that anyone who has ever seen Pavel Datsyuk with the puck would not describe him as a “cardboard player.” A wax figure wouldn’t do him justice — he definitely deserves a statue… possibly a pyramid.

Nyquist, Bertuzzi & Franzen Power Wings Past Pens

The Detroit Red Wings ended the Pittsburgh Penguins perfect preseason Sunday night, with a 3-2 victory at Joe Louis Arena. Gustav Nyquist lead the way with two goals and an assist. Paired with the sizable duo of Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen, the line was unstoppable, accounting for all three goals tonight.

Nyquist opened the scoring on a rebound just one minute in, with assists from Bertuzzi and Franzen. Paul Martin quickly answered to tie the game with a one-timer just over five minutes in. Franzen got his own rebound and finished a pretty play to give Detroit the 2-1 lead halfway through the first period.

Nyquist scored his second of the night on the PP in the second, and that score would hold until late in the 3rd period. With 50 seconds left, Tyler Kennedy put the Pens within one after a flurry in front of Jimmy Howard. It was originally waved off, but after review was determined to be a goal. Despite a flurry of shots in the final minutes, the Red Wings held on for the 3-2 victory.

With the injury to Jan Mursak, you have to wonder if Nyquist can squeak his way into the fourteenth and final forward position with the Red Wings. His competition did not do much this game. Cory Emmerton took a penalty when the game was tied, Fabian Brunnstrom had 0 shots in over 15 minutes of ice time, and Tomas Tatar was -1. Patrick Eaves also left the game after a blocked shot on a penalty kill. His status is unknown, but could open up another forward position.

Howard was solid, with a few big saves in the 3rd period, when the Penguins outshot Detroit 12-4. Nick Lidstrom was steady as usual, with a +2 rating and over 23 minutes of ice time. Valtteri Fiilppula delivered a big hit and was dangerous for the majority of his 26 shifts. Jiri Hudler drew jeers from the crowd after a couple of turnovers in the 3rd period.

A fun moment occurred during the 2nd intermission. One end of the arena focused their attention to a Super Suite that had left their blinds open. A large television was showing the final inning of the Tigers – Yankees game, which the Tigers held on to win 5-3. The crowd reacted loudly as the final inning unfolded; once mistakenly thinking a replay from the night prior was instead a Yankee’s game tying home run. After minutes of confusion, the final Yankee out was recorded, drawing the loudest cheers from Joe Louis all night. The owner of the suite quickly realized what was happening, and closed the blinds for the remainder of the hockey game.

Click here for full video highlights.

Fresh Faces: Ty Conklin

This edition of Fresh Faces will look at free agent signee Ty Conklin, who is back for his second stint with the Red Wings. The 35 year old veteran will battle Joey MacDonald for the job of backing up starting goaltender Jimmy Howard.

Conklin was born in Arizona but raised in Alaska. He is the only goaltender from Alaska to ever play in the NHL. Upon completion of his career at the University of New Hampshire, Conklin was signed as an undrafted rookie by the Edmonton Oilers. He spent four years in between the NHL and various minor league teams, recording his then best season with Edmonton in 2003-04 with 17 wins.

Conklin was thrust into duty during the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals following an injury to starter Dwayne Roloson. The Oilers went on to blow a three goal lead, and Conklin committed a critical error on the game winning goal with just 30 seconds left. He would sit the remainder of the series, which the Oilers lost in seven games.

Following another unproductive season between two different organizations, many began to wonder if Conklin would ever recover from the 2006 disaster. The Pittsburgh Penguins signed him to a minor league deal in July of 2007. Following an injury to starter Marc-Andre Fleury, Conklin was recalled to the NHL.

It was here when Conklin resurrected his NHL career, winning nine straight starts including the Winter Classic that season. He would finish with a 18-8-5 record and a franchise record .923 save percentage that season. Upon Fleury’s return from injury, Conklin was commended for his leadership in the locker room, and considered a big factor in the Penguins deep playoff run that season. They would eventually lose to his next team, the Detroit Red Wings, in a six game Stanley Cup Final.

Conklin would split time with starter Chris Osgood in the 2008-09 season, recording a career high 25 wins. He was again credited for being a great teammate in the locker room. Conklin is often regarded around the league as a normal guy, which is rare for men of his position.

After serving two years in a backup role in St. Louis, Conklin is excited to be back in Detroit. Considering the injuries to the goaltenders of Motown last season, the team is happy to have depth at the position.

One interesting thing about Ty is the number of premiere games he has appeared in, especially given his history as a backup or minor league goaltender. Conklin has started in more outdoor games than any player: The 2003 Heritage Class (Edmonton) and the 2008 & 2009 Winter Classics (Pittsburgh and Detroit). He also played in the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals and 2009 NHL Premiere in Stockholm Sweden (St. Louis).

The Boys Are Back in Town

Well, kind of.  The Red Wings “Red Team” took on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first preseason game for both teams, which resulted in a disappointing 3-2 loss.  Chris Kunitz got the Pens on the board first, scoring halfway into the first period.  Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall evened the score only two minutes later after being set up by a beautiful pass from the great Pavel Datsyuk.  He makes it all look so easy.  Evgeni Malkin and Matt Niskanen put the bad guys up 3-1 during the 2nd, with Niskanen scoring on the power play.  To me it seemed as if Malkin was on the ice for the entire game, and I haven’t decided whether that was due to his irritatingly skillful play or because the announcers were slurping him all night (get a room, gentlemen).  Things started looking up for the Wings when Jiri Hudler tipped one in at the beginning of the 3rd period, but sadly, tonight’s story had no happy ending.  Although it wasn’t Howard’s best game, I don’t think this is at all an indication of what the season holds for our boy, Jimmy.  Even though that first goal made me shake my head (tsk-tsk), my faith remains.  MacDonald played well during his one period of play and allowed no goals during the third.  Also, I found it hard to judge the newbies just from tonight’s game, but Mursak and Smith were the only ones who really stood out to me. It will be interesting to see how they compare to those on the “White Team.”

Pavel Datsyuk wearing #24

Tonight’s exhibition game was only a taste (and a tease) of Red Wing hockey, but it gave us an opportunity to see who is fighting for a spot on the roster and to fall in love with Datsyuk all over again.  Wearing #24 in memory of his good pal and former Wing, Ruslan Salei, simply reminds us of why he is a four-time recipient of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (given to the player who has exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability).  Tomorrow the Wings take on the Philadelphia Flyers at 7:00 EST in London, Ontario, and on Friday the Wings will take on the Flyers at home at the Joe Louis Arena.

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