Kukla's Korner

Abel to Yzerman

Red Wings-Panthers wrap-up: Wings win game of commensurate difficulty vs sneaky Panthers

The Detroit Red Wings and their fathers/mentors/friends boarded two-and-a-half hour flight back to Detroit on Friday night having accomplished nearly all they’d hoped to achieve during their Fathers’ Trip, including a few days’ worth of familial bonding and a sweep of the NHL’s Florida-based teams, having defeated the contending Lightning 6-2 and following that victory up by staving off the Panthers by a 4-3 tally on Friday night.

While the Panthers might face yet another trade deadline makeover, however, I hope I wasn’t the only Wings fan who thought that Friday night’s game seemed eerily familiar. The Wings seemed to face a roster peppered by players who’d given the Wings fits over the years (including Cory Stillman, Dennis Wideman, Tomas Vokoun, and the Wings-injuring machine that is Bryan Allen) and a team whose general managers had done just enough to build a team that, if its roster was simply left alone and fortified by better goaltending, might very well start calling itself the Phoenix Coyotes of the Eastern Conference thanks to superb coaching and enough skill players to at least give the Wings a good scare when playing puck possession hockey.

That’s not a compliment given in vain—I’m glad that the Wings finally won both Fathers’ Trip games, but the Lightning definitely strutted their contender-in-the-making style on Thursday, and the Panthers are a far, far better team than even they themselves believe.

If there’s a blot on the relatively mistake-free canvas the Wings painted upon over the past two nights, in involves the fact that the Wings managed to squander two 2-goal leads, and in the case of Friday’s 2-goal lead, while the Sun-Sentinel’s Harvey Fialkov believes that the Panthers’ 14th loss over their past 16 games means that the GM Dale Tallon’s more likely to clear the decks before the February 28th trade deadline than ever before, both he and the Miami Herald’s George Richards believe that the Panthers rallied from a 3-1 deficit because of one fan’s faux pas. Someone who may or may not have had too much to drink decided to toss an octopus onto the ice during play, which is as big a no-no as there is in terms of octopus-throwing etiquette, and it fired the Panthers up:

Adding insult to injury was watching one of the several thousand red-clad Red Wings fans keep up their tradition by tossing out a live octopus on the ice with 1:35 left in the second period and Detroit up 3-1, after a disastrous turnover by Rochester call-up Kenndal McArdle set up Pavel Datsyuk for a gift goal. The tatted-up fan was ejected to a huge ovation at a sold-out Bank Atlantic Center, that was without the usual upper-deck Party City tarps.

The incident seemed to energize the Panthers as Weiss singlehandedly ignited a comeback. He led a 2-on-1 break that newcomer Jack Skille couldn’t convert as he collided with backup goalie Joey MacDonald. However, he drew a slash. Five seconds into the delayed penalty Weiss won the draw and defenseman Dennis Wideman ripped his eighth power-play goal through a screen by David Booth to give the Panthers some hope heading into the third period trailing 3-2.

“The key is getting that first goal,’’ Skille said of trailing the Red Wings 2-0 in the first 6:29. “I thought [the octopus] was overboard. It fired us up. You got to take that to heart.’‘

The Panthers have scored seven power-play goals in their past eight games and have killed off 24 consecutive penalties, including all three of Detroit’s.

[Stephen] Weiss, who has been fretting over trade rumors, shrugged off his damaged hand and blasted a slap shot past MacDonald for a 3-3 tie at 9:36 of the third. But the talent-laden Red Wings took less than three minutes to answer with Todd Bertuzzi’s howitzer beating Tomas Vokoun for the winner at 12:28. Bertuzzi, who played seven games for the Panthers in 2006-07 before a back injury led to a trade, scored his first goal just 1:21 into the game.

Weiss had one more crack with 27.8 seconds left, but MacDonald came up with a lightning-quick glove save to secure Detroit’s fourth straight win. Then Wideman and Booth broke sticks on shot attempts in the waning seconds.

The Panthers did believe that they played well against the Wings, as defenseman Mike Weaver told the Miami Herald’s George Richards:

“To be tied late in a game against a team like Detroit, well, you have to be doing something right,’’ defenseman Mike Weaver said. “We just needed that last goal. It shows we have something going on here. We have a great penalty kill, the power play is picking up goals. We have some things to work on, but I like what’s going on. You can sense the turnaround.’’

The Panthers felt, however, that their start was what set them up for failure:

“We gave them a couple chances early, and they stuck it in the net,’’ coach Pete DeBoer said. “You know what you’re dealing with in Detroit. Credit our guys for sticking with it and battling for 60 minutes. We needed a save or a goal at the end and didn’t get one.’’

The Panthers had plenty of scoring chances in the third period, with Weiss tying the score on a shot midway through. Bertuzzi gave Detroit the lead back, and Florida put pressure on at the end but came up short.

In one sequence, with Vokoun on the bench and the net vacant, Florida couldn’t get a puck to the net after Wideman broke his stick on a shot and Cory Stillman whiffed on his. When the Panthers regained control of the puck, Weiss was offsides. At that point, only five seconds remained and the Wings left the Sunshine State a perfect 2-0 after beating the Lightning 6-2 on Thursday.

“We wanted a quick start and didn’t get it, but I think we played our game after that,’’ Mike Weaver said. “Detroit’s a good team. They’re a puck-possession team and overall, we did pretty good. We just didn’t get the result.’’

NHL.com’s recap provides a sort of, “Okay, that’s great, but what happened before the Wings were up 3-1?” narrative when chopped up and re-processed…

[Todd] Bertuzzi’s first goal came just 1:21 into the game when he tipped in Zetterberg’s backhand pass from the side of the net. Cleary made it 2-0 at 6:29 before Florida cut into the lead when Dvorak’s seemingly harmless wrist shot from a sharp angle at 16:53 of the first trickled through MacDonald’s legs.
...
[Pavel] Datsyuk gave Detroit a 3-1 lead at 3:29 of the middle period when he intercepted a pass in the Florida zone, skated in alone on Vokoun, faked a deke and lifted a shot over the goaltender’s glove.
...
Wideman scored a power-play goal with 16.9 seconds left in the [2nd] period after Weiss cleanly won the faceoff back to the point. Wideman skated toward the middle of the ice before firing a slap shot that beat MacDonald through traffic. Weiss tied it at 9:36 of the third with his one-timer from the high slot.
...
Bertuzzi scored his game-winner with 7:32 remaining in regulation when his one-timer off a pass from Johan Franzen caught the far post and went into the net post.

While DeBoer and Bryan Allen (Boo! Way to stick your knee out on Darren Helm! Couldn’t break Henrik Zetterberg’s leg with a slash like you did three years ago!) lamented the Panthers’ missed opportunities in speaking to the Associated Press…

“You can’t get down and give them those opportunities,” Florida defenseman Bryan Allen said. “They’re going to hurt you. You’ve got to give guys credit for coming back and giving a good effort, but at the same time it’s frustrating that we’re not getting the results and the wins and more points. Tough one.”

Todd Bertuzzi, whose stint with the Panthers via the Roberto Luongo trade lasted seven games thanks to back surgery, thanked Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen for setting up his game-winner:

“I’m still capable of scoring,” said the 15th-year veteran, who has scored at least 25 goals five times in his career. “A lot of it has to do with who I’m playing with. We’ve got pretty good chemistry.”
...
“That was a great play in the neutral zone [by Zetterberg] and I had a good opportunity to get a shot off,” Bertuzzi said. “And I was fortunate it went in.”

While Franzen essentially gave Bertuzzi the kind of one-time pass into one’s wheelhouse that yields nothing but an open net for a player to shoot into, it was Henrik Zetterberg’s smart two-line pass that sent Bertuzzi and Franzen in on an odd-man rush, and a surprisingly well-timed pinch by Jonathan Ericsson which distracted the Panthers’ defenders:

As for the “octopus incident,” Wings coach Mike Babcock, who refused to suggest that the Wings did anything other than earn a solid win when he spoke to Fox Sports Detroit’s Trevor Thompson after the game, said this:

“That was a big one,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock joked about the first incident. “I was glad they throw it when we had a good play going. I think the guys we’re covering their faces so they wouldn’t laugh. I just didn’t want anyone to get hurt.”

Despite its disruptive effects, Danny Cleary told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan that the Wings didn’t mind the supposedly game-changing ruckus, save the first cephalopod nearly beaning one of the Wings’ best players:

“The one (octopus) was in play. It almost hit Z (Zetterberg),” said Danny Cleary, who had a goal in Friday’s victory. “The guy (who threw it) was pretty fired up. It was pretty funny. We’ve had a good following here the past couple of nights. It’s nice.”

The Wings are now on a four-game winning streak which they hope to continue despite an absolutely bizarre start on Sunday—the Wings play the Wild in Minnesota at 11:30 AM local time, or 12:30 PM EST as part of NBC’s master TV plan for “Hockey Weekend Across America”—and Bertuzzi believes that the Wings have turned their ship around for good for a simple reason:

We’re concentrating on playing defense and when we do that, we end up scoring goals, too,” said Bertuzzi, who has six goals (three two-goal games) in the last four games. “Just the overall atmosphere, everybody is calmer.”

Babcock was complimentary of DeBoer and the Panthers, however…

“We got off to a good start but from that point on, they did a fine job,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We knew it would be tough. We found a way to get a timely goal out of Bert to get a win.”

And the Panthers actually out-shot the Wings 15 to 11 in the first period and, 10-7 in the 3rd and 32-30 overall, and if you believe the Panthers’ wacky stats crew, Florida supposedly fired another 11 shots into Wings players and 15 wide (while the Wings, who usually fire at least as many shots wide and/or into opponents as they do at the opposition net, supposedly registered 30 shots, fired 9 into Panthers players and only missed the net 3 times), so Joey MacDonald had his work cut out for him, that last-minute blast by Stephen Weiss included:

“They had a few chances there at the end and flew everything at it,” MacDonald said. “He (Weiss) walked into it pretty good. I just stayed out and big and got my glove on it. Turned out to be a key save.”

Overall, the Wings felt relatively satisfied with their play on Thursday night…

“We didn’t play as well as we have but we’re certainly on the right track,” Cleary said. “A game like tonight was a back-to-back but the guys played well and it was good to see Joey Mac get the win.”

And, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James noted, the Wings narrowly missed going home down two more players:

Helm had a scare midway through the second period when he tried to move around Bryan Allen but fell awkwardly after getting kneed in the left leg. Helm missed a couple of shifts, but returned late in the period. MacDonald got upended by Jack Skille minutes later, but also continued to play. “I took a skate in the side of the knee, so it just kind of stung a little bit,” MacDonald said.

I might as well not bite my tongue about one Bryan Allen. He stuck his leg out on Helm on purpose, and he rather famously slashed Henrik Zetterberg on the back of the leg so badly that Zetterberg suffered a chip fracture back when Allen was a Vancouver Canuck.  He’s the kind of player that will hit players in vulnerable positions just because he can, and when Allen’s either your opponent or your teammate over the course of multiple games, you go home down players because the guy doesn’t know when to or simply doesn’t want to hold up. He and Bryan McCabe nearly took out Tomas Vokoun while steering Wings players into the Panthers’ goalie on multiple occasions, which was only mildly ironic given that the Panthers have a reputation for being rough on their own goalies.

Anyway, the Wings and Panthers emerged none the worse for wear, and Babcock reiterated his point about the quality of the Wings’ opponent to St. James:

Mike Babcock, on the challenge the Panthers presented: “I thought they did a real good job. Pete DeBoer’s a real good coach, and they’ve been playing hard all year, and we knew it was going to be tough.” ... MacDonald, on how the game ended: “They had a few chances at the end there. They threw everything at it.”

And while the Wings had a laugh about the octopus-throwing gentleman…

“That was pretty funny,” Cleary said. “I liked it. He was a big dude. We were looking at him. He was fired up. But, you know, go Detroit.”

And Babcock praised the Wings’ home-on-the-road supporters…

“It’s nice to go on the road and have people support you,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Obviously, there are a lot of Canadians down here and a lot of Red Wings fans, so it’s great. There was a huge crowd last night in Tampa, and then another tonight with lots of red and white on.”

The reporters’ focus shifted back to Bertuzzi, who, again, thanked his line mates for helping him score six goals over the course of the past four games:

“I’ve got pretty good chemistry with Z and obviously with Mule,” Bertuzzi said. “I think me and Mule complement each other in the corners, and Z, just his overall game, it’s been beneficial to me.”

Bertuzzi described his game-winner to MLive’s Ansar Khan, who duly noted that Bertuzzi played in game 999 on Friday (per Fox Sports Detroit, the Wings will fly Bertuzzi’s family to Minneapolis for his 1,000th game on Sunday)...

“I tried to step into it as much as I could,” Bertuzzi said. “As Pavel (Datsyuk) would say, little knuckleball in there, pretty lucky it went in.”

And Bertuzzi’s teammates and coach spoke glowingly of their streakiest scorer:

“Good to see him shoot, he doesn’t shoot enough,” teammate Danny Cleary said. “He certainly complements whatever line he’s on. He’s good with the puck, he’s responsible. Nice to see him score.”
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“When Bert’s skating and being physical and hanging onto the puck, it really helps us,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s excited, he’s going to play his 1,000th game (Sunday in Minnesota), going to take his family with us. That’s a special day for him as well.”

Here’s what Bertuzzi recalled about his stay in Florida. I laughed when he said it during FSD’s post-game show:

“The only memory I have is the first game I got four points and then played six more and I was on the shelf (due to back surgery),” Bertuzzi said. “I got a beautiful home and a nice golf membership from it, so I can’t complain too much.”

The Red Wings didn’t deny that they weren’t exactly playing their “A+” game on Friday, but Joey MacDonald didn’t mind as he got into the game and shook the rust off nearly immediately because, well, the Panthers looked like the Nashville Predators or Phoenix Coyotes, and did a pretty solid job of coaxing a slightly tired Wings team into chasing around the puck carrier as they cycled the puck around the perimeter, eventually getting the Wings to over-commit to one or two players and leave another player open in the slot:

“It’s tough when you come in, not playing a whole lot,” MacDonald said. “They throw a lot of pucks at the net, gets you into the game early. At first I was giving up a few rebounds but Nick (Lidstrom) and (Brian Rafalski) and all them were doing a great job boxing them out.”

MacDonald did a good job of shaking off his collision with Skille and sticking it out to help his teammates earn a slightly messy win, but the game’s spotlight was carved neatly into third-of-a-pie pieces thanks to a fantastic performance by Pavel Datsyuk.  Datsyuk registered a goal and an assist, he eclipsed the 20-minute mark for the first time since his injury and even took four faceoffs, winning three of them.

The Wings told Khan en masse that Datsyuk hasn’t skipped a beat despite playing with a still-healing right hand atop his hockey stick:

“Seems like he’s right back into midseason form,” team captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “He just gives us that extra offensive threat that makes it harder to defend. When you have him and (Henrik) Zetterberg’s line going, it makes it harder for opponents to match up against him.”
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“Every game he’s just going to get more comfortable with his hand, but he’s played unbelievable, exactly what we expected when he came back,” forward Kris Draper said. “He does so much for us, in all different situations, and you can see he’s taken it to that level again. When he goes out and is playing the way he’s playing he makes us that much of a tougher team to play against.”

Datsyuk’s new linemates are being rewarded. Danny Cleary has three goals and five assists in the six games he has played with Datsyuk, and Jiri Hudler has two goals and six assists in those same six games.

“Well, it’s Pavel. Anybody who plays with Pavel has good chemistry,” Cleary said. “Try to give him the puck as much as we can and try to get open.”

Said goaltender Jimmy Howard: “He’s a great player, what can you say about him? He can do it all out there.”

You can say that he’s all but resuscitated Hudler’s season, which is pretty damn impressive in itself. The fact that he’s doing everything but winning faceoff after faceoff while gaining his “wind” again. Brad Stuart hasn’t looked out of place, either, and if I may be frank, Justin Abdelkader looked like a lost puppy suffering through a severe sophomore slump until Tomas Holmstrom was assigned to his wing while Holmstrom’s top hand continues to heal and he regains his skating legs. Holmstrom’s given Abdelkader and Drew Miller much more confidence, composure and a bit of an offensive punch.

It won’t be long before Holmstrom finds himself paired up with his usual partner in crime in Datsyuk. Something tells me that when Mike Modano returns next weekend, he’ll be paired with Hudler as the two have fantastic on-ice chemistry (the fact that their good friends doesn’t hurt), with either the healing Valtteri Filppula or Abdelkader on Modano’s other wing.

In the interim, the Wings have three games against difficult opponents in the Wild, Sharks and Stars, all on a game-every-other-night basis, so I hope that Babcock gave the Wings’ players today off to say goodbye to their fathers/mentors/friends and rest up for what is hopefully the second half of the kind of seven-to-ten-game unbeaten streak that Wings fans are accustomed to witnessing from a fully healthy (or nearly so) team. 

The Wings are slowly but surely on their way back to full health, full strength and full flight, and that showed on Friday, if only because the Wings’ offensive potency afforded them the kind of margin for error against an unknown and surprisingly plain old good team that the Wings would not have enjoyed a month ago. If anything, MacDonald also earned the right to make the kinds of “statement” saves in statement games to convince Ken Holland, who’s not too keen on making a trade to begin with, from tinkering with what appears to be at least a solid interim netminding tandem as the Wings head out West for a busy West Coast swing after next Saturday’s game against Buffalo.

So far, much better, and given the state of the Wings’ health and self-confidence a week and a half ago, that 4-1 loss to Nashville seems like a million miles away. Hopefully the Wings will keep it in their back pocket, however, as the Wings streak toward the three-quarters-pole (the Wings have played exactly 70% of their schedule and have 24 games with which to round into playoff form.

Multimedia:

Highlights: NHL.com’s 5-minute highlight clip is narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:

The Wings’ website also highlighted Dan Cleary’s goal…

 

And Pavel Datsyuk’s deke-and-dangle:

 

Post-game:

The Panthers’ website posted a clip of Bryan Allen (BOO!)...

 

Jack Skille…

 

And coach Pete DeBoer discussing the game:

 

Fox Sports Florida posted a 2:21 clip of Bill Lindsay and Craig Minervini discussing the loss, as well as a 2:16 clip of Jack Skille and Bryan Allen (BOO!) discussing the loss;

Fox Sports Detroit posted a 2:44 clip of Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond breaking down the game and a 2:48 clip of Pavel Datsyuk, Mike Babcock and Joey MacDonald discussing the game.

Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 10-image photo gallery;

The Sun-Sentinel posted a 16-image gallery;

The Miami Herald’s 11-image gallery is regrettably Flash-formatted;

NHL.com posted a 25-image gallery;

Yahoo Sports posted a 7-image gallery;

The Panthers’ website posted a 23-image gallery and embedded an image in its website’s recap;

And the Red Wings’ website posted a 22-image gallery and embedded an image in its website’s recap.


Statistics: Shots 32-30 Florida overall, breaking down as 15-11 Florida in the 1st period, 12-7 Detroit in the 2nd period and 10-7 Florida in the 3rd period.

The Panthers went 1-for-4 in 6:05 of PP time; we went 0-for-3 over 6:00 of PP time.

MacDonald stopped 30 of 32; Vokoun stopped 26 of 30.

Our goals:

Bertuzzi (13) from Zetterberg (47) and Rafalski (23);

Cleary (19) from Datsyuk (31) and Hudler (20);

Datsyuk (17), unassisted;

Bertuzzi (14) from Franzen (18) and Zetterberg (48).

The 3 stars: Weiss, Datsyuk and Bertuzzi, per the “South Florida Media.”

Faceoffs 38-30 Florida (44% won by Detroit);

Blocked shots 11-9 Florida;

This is a joke played by the Panthers’ statisticians, given the way the Wings fire shots at or near the net—missed shots 15-3 Florida—and total attempted shots 58-42 Florida;

Hits 27-24 Florida;

Giveaways 6-6;

Takeaways 10-7 Florida.

Individual stats

Faceoffs: Zetterberg went 10-and-12 (45%); Draper went 6-and-5 (55%); Helm went 4-and-7 (36%); Hudler went 2-and-7 (22%); Abdelkader went 4-and-4 (50%); Cleary went 2-and-2 (50%); Datsyuk went 2-and-1 (67%).

Shots: Franzen led the team with 5 shots; Cleary and Helm had 4; Datsyuk and Zetterberg had 3; Miller and Bertuzzi had 2; Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Eaves, Hudler, Rafalski, Draper and Holmstrom had 1 shot.

Blocked shot attempts: The Panthers blocked 2 Kronwall attempts; Lidstrom, Hudler, Rafalski, Draper, Zetterberg, Kronwall and Franzen had single attempts blocked.

Missed shots: Apparently only Lidstrom, Hudler and Holmstrom missed the net. Bull!

Hits: Eaves led the team with 5 hits; Miller and Stuart had 3; Abdelkader, Rafalski and Bertuzzi had 2; Cleary, Salei, Hudler, Helm, Ericsson, Kronwall and Holmstrom had 1.

Giveaways: Bertuzzi had 2 giveaways; Lidstrom, Rafalski, Helm and Holmstrom had 1.

Takeaways: Zetterberg had 2; Abdelkader, Eaves, Salei, Helm and Ericsson had 1.

Blocked shots: Abdelkader blocked 3 shots; Kronwall blocked 2; Lidstrom, Cleary, Datsyuk, Rafalski, Zetterberg and Ericsson blocked 1.

Penalties taken: Ericsson took two minor penalties; Salei and Abdelkader took single minor penalties.

Plus-minus: Abdelkader, Miller, Draper, Kronwall and Holmstrom finished at -1; Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Eaves, Stuart, Hudler and Rafalski finished at +1; Zetterberg, Bertuzzi and Ericsson finished at +2; Franzen finished at +3.

Points: Bertuzzi had 2 goals; Zetterberg had 2 assists; Datsyuk had a goal and an assist; Cleary had a goal; Hudler, Rafalski and Franzen had assists.

Ice time: Lidstrom led the team with 22:16 played; Kronwall played 22:12; Stuart played 20:09;

Datsyuk played 20:17; Rafalski played 19:25; Zetterberg played 19:09;

Ericsson played 18:38; Franzen played 18:17; Salei played 17:37;

Cleary played 16:44; Bertuzzi played 15:34; Eaves played 14:01;

Hudler played 12:44; Helm played 12:39; Draper played 12:07;

Holmstrom played 11:34; Abdelkader played 10:25; Miller played 10:10.

Wings notes:

• According to the Free Press’s Helene St. James, Ruslan Salei returned to the team and lineup having not yet witnessed the birth of his third child (Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond said that it’s a girl), so he’s crossing his fingers that his wife and third child-to-be will time the delivery well:

Defenseman Ruslan Salei returned to the lineup after spending four days at home in Newport Beach, Calif., with his wife. She is due with their third child in early March. “I tell her to hold on till I get there again,” Salei said. The Wings will be in California from Feb. 27 to March 3. “Hopefully, I’ll make it.”

Salei also spoke to MLive’s Ansar Khan...

“I spent a good couple of days with family, it was really ice of (the Red Wings) to let me do that,” Salei said. “I haven’t skated, but I feel good, re-energized, well-rested.”

Who duly noted that the aforementioned Holmstrom-fortified Justin Abdelkader broke a goal-scoring schneid recently:

Justin Abdelkader’s goal during the second period of Thursday’s 6-2 victory in Tampa Bay ended his 40-game goal-scoring drought.

“It’s definitely a relief to get one,” Abdelkader said. “Sometimes you need a break like that to kind of loosen things up so you’re not pressing as much.”

Abdelkader had 19 shots on goal in the six games prior to Friday.

“I’ve been making a concerted effort to shoot the puck more,” he said. “You’ll get bounces. Sometimes the puck finds you, sometimes it doesn’t. Just got to keep shooting and going to the net.”

• The Free Press’s St. James also posted a profile of Dan Cleary, who she says the Wings’ GM believes is the club’s “social director”:

“He does so much for us,” Holland said. “He’s good defensively—he can play either wing, he can play with the skill guys, he can play on a checking line. He’s on the ice to kill penalties. He goes to the net on the power play. He’s like two or three players in one, because he can do so many different things for you.”

Off the ice, Cleary makes sure younger players feel like part of the team, and makes sure they have their picks in for tournaments.

“The basketball pool, the Masters pool, the this pool, the that pool—he runs them,” Holland said. “You need that. You know what, he’s become a Red Wing. He’s working hard on and off the ice. He encourages the kids to hit the gym. He doesn’t mind playing with the young kids, taking them under his wing, so he’s become a real good Red Wing for us.”

For the moment, the

Brad Stuart of the Wings’ forwards

, I mean Wings’ Swiss Army Knife forward is just trying happy that he’s posting points on a regular basis after missing a month with a broken ankle—last season he dealt with a hernia and knee injury, and the year before that, he broke his jaw, so Cleary hasn’t exactly enjoyed a full “career year” season yet:

“It was tough last year trying to do the best I could,” Cleary said. “I knew going into the summer it was an important summer for me, the team counts on me, so I just made sure I was as ready as I could physically, and I just let the rest come as it has.”

And for the moment, Babcock is quite happy with Cleary’s present line mates:

“Him and Pav and Huds have been real good,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I think there’s some real chemistry, it appears like, on that line, and we’ll keep it running for a while.”

• Of more “general interest” note, from the Free Press:

It’s Hockey Weekend Across America, but if you can’t get to Ann Arbor for tonight’s game, you can see the Wolverines host Western Michigan in a CCHA matchup on FSD (7:30). And it’s Hockey Weekend in Canada, well, every weekend. In the first game of the Hockey Night in Canada telecast on CBC, Ottawa plays at Toronto, and in the nightcap at 10, Dallas visits Vancouver.

Also via the Free Press:

Celebrate Hockey Weekend Across America: Check out CCHA action at Yost Arena in Ann Arbor as the Wolverines play Western Michigan at 7:35 p.m. Single-game tickets range from $24 to $30. Go to mgoblue.com or to the arena for tickets.

Meanwhile, the Plymouth Whalers host Windsor in an Ontario Hockey League showdown at 7:05 at Compuware Arena. Fans wearing their youth hockey jerseys can get a special $9 ticket and sign up to win prizes. For more information, go to plymouthwhalers.com.

Windsor beat Plymouth 7-5 in Windsor on Friday;

• As it’s “Hockey Weekend Across America,” Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien took a look at the NBC-aired match-ups on Sunday, the Wings’ bizarre 11:30 AM local time start against Minnesota included:

Detroit Red Wings (road): [T]he Red Wings aren’t that worried about their division mates right now, but instead how they compare to the Canucks.  Detroit has a legitimate shot to take the top spot in the West if Vancouver’s injury woes start to push them down the standings.

Minnesota Wild (home): How much longer will an ultra-loyal fan base show up in droves to support a middling franchise? The Wild continue to test the limits of hockey-mad Minnesota, although they’re at least (foolishly?) spending a lot more money on their roster lately. Mikko Koivu‘s team is stuck in the West muck, so this should be an absolutely crucial contest against a very tough team.

Who’s under the most pressure?: Minnesota.

The Wild sit in 10th place in the Western Conference standings, but they’re only a point out of 8th and they defeated the Anaheim Ducks 5-1 on Friday, breaking a two-game losing streak. The Wild did, however, lose the aforementioned Koivu to a hand injury that will prevent him from playing on Sunday.

• In the developmental hockey vein, the Grand Rapids Griffins lost a 3-2 shootout decision to the Texas Stars on Friday night. The Griffins surrendered a 2-goal lead and were shut down completely by goaltender Richard Bachman in the shootout.

The Griffins’ website notes that the Griffins whiffed on a power play in overtime, and provides a Flickr photo gallery and a slate of YouTube video interviews with Jan Mursak, Jordan Pearce and coach Curt Fraser, and the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema provides a recap as well;

• In the ECHL, Willie Coetzee scored a goal but the Toledo Walleye lost 5-1 to the Cincinnati Cyclones. The Walleye’s website and Toledo Blade provide recaps;

• In Big Rapids, MI, Wings prospect Riley Sheahan registered a goal and an assist as Notre Dame beat Ferris State 3-2;

• In the “tidbits” department, again, former Wing and Wings scout Pat Verbeek, who now works for Steve Yzerman and the Lightning, will take part in a Whalers-versus-Bruins alumni game in Hartford today;

• The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan posted a Saturday NHL notebook:

• Tigers skipper Jim Leyland attended the Red Wings-Lightning game on Thursday, and he had this to say about his experience to MLive’s Steve Kornacki:

eyland and his coaches attended Thursday night’s Detroit Red Wings win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum . “We got the royal treatment and it was unbelievable,” Leyland said. “We had prime rib, shrimp and ribs. We had a ball.”

• And in the free publicity department:

The Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) is proud to announce its schedule for CCHA Championship Weekend in Detroit from March 17-20. With “Four Days, Four Teams, Four Games, Something For Everyone”, fans will have the opportunity to be involved and show support for their favorite CCHA team, as well as enjoy a variety of events and activities surrounding the weekend celebration.

The 2011 CCHA Championship marks the 30th anniversary of the event being held at Joe Louis Arena. The first championship held at The Joe was in 1982 with Michigan State defeating Notre Dame, 4-1.

“Our organization is proud to be affiliated with CCHA,” said Tom Wilson, president of Olympia Entertainment. “When Mike and Marian Ilitch first got involved with the CCHA 30 years ago, little did we know what a spectacular annual event this would become. Today, it’s grown into a series of first-class, hockey-related events for fans of all ages that culminate in the championship game for the country’s most respected collegiate hockey association.”

Four teams will travel to Detroit in hopes of capturing the CCHA Championship, which grants an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. Semifinals will take place at 4:35 and 8:05 p.m. Friday, March 18. The third-place game will be played Saturday, March 19 at 3:35 p.m. followed by the championship game at 7:35 p.m. The semifinal games and the championship game will air live on FOX Sports Detroit PLUS in HD.

“The CCHA has been committed to Detroit for decades,” said Wayne County Executive Robert A. Ficano. “Detroit has unique restaurants, from Greektown to Midtown, not to mention historic cultural attractions, for all to enjoy. We look forward to hosting the teams, their families, and the thousands of fans accompanying them on their long journey to the championship at Joe Louis Arena, and thank the CCHA for their continued commitment to our region.”

CCHA Awards presented by RBC Financial Group (March 17)—The CCHA will host its annual awards show at the beautiful Fox Theater in downtown Detroit at 7:30 p.m. The awards show, renowned as the “Oscars of College Hockey”, celebrate the annual all-conference, scholar-athlete and all-rookie teams, along with the individual honors, including the RBC Financial Group Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Perani Cup winners and the Mike and Marian Ilitch Humanitarian Award. Tickets are on sale to the general public ($15) and may be purchased through the CCHA Office by calling (248) 888-0600.

Warrior CCHA Kids College Classic (March 18-20) – The youth tournament for Squirt and Peewee teams will take place all weekend at the Novi Ice Arena and at Suburban Ice Farmington Hills, with all championship games being held on Sunday at Joe Louis Arena. Six different divisions will be featured in the tournament.

USA Hockey Coaches Symposium (March 18-20) – A USA Hockey Level 4 Coaches Symposium will be held at Compuware World Headquarters in downtown Detroit. CCHA coaches will be on hand for presentations and panel discussions.

Hockey 4 Hunger (March 18-19)—Forgotten Harvest volunteers will be selling CCHA Hockey 4 Hunger t-shirts during the weekend with all proceeds from the sales to benefit Forgotten Harvest. For every dollar donated, Forgotten Harvest is able to provide five meals for our community’s hungriest residents.

CCHA Fan Fest (March 19-20) – The annual Fan Fest, with free admission, will take place at the GM Wintergarden of the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center. The event will include interactive games, a shooting range, CCHA team lockers and uniform displays, CCHA trophy exhibit, a Zamboni display and the CCHA “History Walk.” Following the second semifinal game Friday night, the GM Wintergarden at the Renaissance Center will also be the site of the CCHA Championship Party presented by the Detroit Metro Sports Commission.

Comcast Parade of Champions (March 19) – Players from approximately 40 youth-level championship teams (Michigan Amateur Hockey Association) receive a ticket to Saturday’s games and are introduced on-ice prior to Saturday’s CCHA Championship Game at Joe Louis Arena.

HockeyTown Café / Official CCHA Fan Destination—Fans can enjoy a meal all weekend at the restaurant ESPN2’s Cold Pizza named the No. 2 Sports Bar in America. HockeyTown Café is a Red Wings’ fans paradise, as it is chock-full of hockey memorabilia, and will serve as the official fan destination location for the CCHA Championship. Fans can take advantage of a complimentary shuttle to and from Joe Louis Arena for all four games of the CCHA Championship. Parking is available in the Fox Theatre parking structure located between Woodward and Park.

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Comments

RWBill's avatar

Modano and Hudler paired was an epic dud.  Maybe this time it will be better.

Posted by RWBill from the open bar on The Hasek. on 02/19/11 at 11:03 AM ET

SnLO's avatar

Red Wings fans keep up their tradition by tossing out a live octopus on the ice

Really??? A live octopus??? Nice way to do your job there Mr. Harvey Fialkov of the Sun Sentinel. Ass.

Posted by SnLO from the sub great-white north on 02/19/11 at 11:07 AM ET

RWBill's avatar

Really??? A live octopus??? Nice way to do your job there Mr. Harvey Fialkov of the Sun Sentinel. Ass.

Posted by SnLO from North of RoboCop’s crime-ridden wasteland on 02/19/11 at 08:07 AM ET

I was wondering, as I read that, if the fan had brought the octopus in with a salt water aquarium or something.  I don’t know that octopi can stay alive outside water for several hours until being unleashed late in the game.

I have extremely low expectations for what’s left of the established media and they often fail to even meet them.

Posted by RWBill from the open bar on The Hasek. on 02/19/11 at 12:21 PM ET

Rdwings28's avatar

Here’s my question for you George, great write up by the way, but why oh why didn’t someone go jump Allen after his hit on Helm???? I am getting EXTREMELY tired of teams taking liberties without ANY retaliation. Does this bother anyone else? Miller, Eaves, and two defenseman simply skate away after that piece of crap tried to destroy helm’s season???/ so unacceptable to me. Babcocock called the Trashville game a week and a half ago “awful, beyond ridiculous”. Well, coach, that “no-response” is “awful and beyond ridiculous” to me, and I hope most Wings fans. Thank you and good night, God Bless America, and God bless the Detroit Red Wings.

Posted by Rdwings28 on 02/19/11 at 01:01 PM ET

Baroque's avatar

...why oh why didn’t someone go jump Allen after his hit on Helm????

Probably because it would give Florida a power play in a very close game when the win is more important, and it wouldn’t magically make Helm’s knee any better?

Does this bother anyone else?

No doubt it does, but not me. It doesn’t help anything after the fact, it doesn’t deter anything before the fact, and it doesn’t help a team win - thus it is a waste of time and energy more than anything of value in a hockey sense. It makes some people feel better but is essentially useless in the ways that matter.

Posted by Baroque from Michigan on 02/19/11 at 02:39 PM ET

Jeff  OKWingnut's avatar

Does this bother anyone else?
Posted by Rdwings28 on 02/19/11 at 10:01 AM ET

Yes, to no end.  From the LB:

It is hits like that when I really wish DET had a guy to throw down the gloves

Posted by Jeff OKWingnut from Quest for 12 on 02/18/11 at 08:53 PM ET

Remember earlier in the week, the debate about which Wings team was better?  And the consensus among the players was that it was the 97 team - because they were both talented and gritty as sandpaper.

IMO, that is the ingredient the Wings miss sorely.  Maltby, or Drake.  Someone that just doesn’t put up with the BS. 

PLEASE SOMEONE STAND UP.

Great work George.

Posted by Jeff OKWingnut from Quest for 12 on 02/19/11 at 02:49 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

Abby has the mouth and the ability to drop the gloves…but I’m just not so sure on his size. He also doesn’t have the reputation…yet.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 02/19/11 at 04:18 PM ET

SYF's avatar

“We gave them a couple chances early, and they stuck it in the net,’’ coach Pete DeBoer said. “You know what you’re dealing with in Detroit. Credit our guys for sticking with it and battling for 60 minutes.

DeBoer said, “60 minutes.”  Where have we heard that before and wished for it?

IMO, that is the ingredient the Wings miss sorely.  Maltby, or Drake.  Someone that just doesn’t put up with the BS.

PLEASE SOMEONE STAND UP.

Great work George.

Posted by Jeff OKWingnut from Quest for 12 on 02/19/11 at 11:49 AM ET

Pssst…[Joey Kocur]...pass it down.

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 02/19/11 at 04:21 PM ET

thethirdcoast's avatar

I feel like Detroit has been gifted with some very tough, yet very skilled enforcers over the years.

Take Probert for example. Arguably the toughest guy ever to play in the NHL, he also put up decent scoring numbers for the Red Wings during his time in DET.

Joe “Stonehands” Kocur didn’t put up anything near Probert’s numbers, but I never felt as though he was a liability on the ice for the Wings. He seemed able to skate and pass perfectly fine with the rest of the team. You also have to love a guy that destroyed the younger, larger Donald Brashears and his helmet.

Finally, we have Brendan Shanahan, who was the ultimate expression of the power forward during his time in Detroit. You couldn’t design a better balance of skill, stamina, touch, toughness, clutchness, and attitude if you had 10 years to try. He was simply on a different planet than 99% of the NHL while in DET, and the keystone to ending Detroit’s 42-year drought in the heady days of ‘97.

Posted by thethirdcoast from Algiers, DZ on 02/19/11 at 06:48 PM ET

SYF's avatar

thethirdcoast, my favorite Kocur goal was that roofie he put past Hextall after going back and forth with Maltby in Game 2 of the ‘97 SCFs.  He put that in perfectly and I said, “Showoff.”

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 02/19/11 at 08:48 PM ET

Baroque's avatar

Abby has the mouth and the ability to drop the gloves…but I’m just not so sure on his size. He also doesn’t have the reputation…yet.

Posted by mrfluffy from Cincy on 02/19/11 at 01:18 PM ET

Thing is that if he develops into a solid checking center with a bit (or maybe more than a bit) of a scoring touch, he’ll be important enough on the ice that the last thing the team will want is for him to routinely get involved in fights, risking a broken hand (and the attendant line-up and salary-cap shuffling) or at the least taking him off the ice for five minutes in what is more likely than not a close game, because so many games in the NHL are close.

The only players who can consistently hold onto a roster spot on most teams are decent hockey players, not goons, and decent hockey players are more useful playing hockey instead of sitting in the penalty box cooling off while the game goes on around them. Short-term punching someone in the head for being a cheap-shotting little twerp is very satisfying, but long-term it doesn’t really benefit a team in winning hockey games.

Posted by Baroque from Michigan on 02/19/11 at 09:37 PM ET

PDXWing's avatar

I’m looking forward to seeing Mitchell Callahan as a Wing. From the way it sounds, he’s completely fearless, will stick up for teammates, and is developing into a great player.  He’s not big, but will fight anyone and will grind the opposing team’ into the ground with relentless play.  My impression is that he’ s a very energetic wrecking ball on the ice.  They already signed him to a 3 year entry level contract and he should be a Griffin next year. Classic late-bloomer who ended up being a key role player on the American World Junior team.

Posted by PDXWing on 02/19/11 at 10:09 PM ET

Rdwings28's avatar

I don’t recall. Did Coffey know how to fight?

Posted by Rdwings28 on 02/19/11 at 11:06 PM ET

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Welcome to Abel to Yzerman, a Red Wing blog since 1977.  No other site on the internet has better-researched, fact-laden and better prepared discussions than A2Y.  Re-phrase: we do little research, find facts and stats highly overrated and claim little to no preparation.  There are 19 readers of A2Y. No more, no less. All of them, except maybe one, are juvenile in nature.  Reminding them of that in the comment section will only encourage them to prove that. Your suggestions and critiques are welcome: wphoulihan@gmail.com