The Malik Report
by George Malik on 10/04/13 at 10:55 AM ET
Updated 14x at 2:39 PM: The Detroit Red Wings hope to spoil the Carolina Hurricanes' home opener this evening (7 PM EDT, FSD/FS Carolinas/97.1, preceded by a Wings season preview at 6 on FSD), and while we wait for the Red Wings to hit the ice in Raleigh, a few stories popped up between the overnight report and this morning's skate:
First and foremost, the Hurricanes posted a slate of game notes, and Dave Jackson and Jan Hebert are scheduled to ref tonight's game, with Bryan Mach and Andy McElman working the lines...
North Carolina Public Radio station WUNC's Will Michaels posted something of a game preview...
Caniacs are heading back to the PNC Arena to start a new hockey season. The Carolina Hurricanes' opening game is Friday night in Raleigh against the Detroit Red Wings.
The 'Canes are coming off a disappointing season last year in which they led their division early, but suffered injuries and ended up losing 19 of their final 23 games. Coach Kirk Muller says his team is ready to start over, and he expects the Red Wings to live up to their reputation as a powerhouse club.
"Their identity is that they're a really good skating club and they don't give you any time. They don't beat themselves. They're going to come in and play that type of game with high tempo puck possession, so it's important that our guys go out and do the same," Muller says.
"I think the key is that we just go out and play. I think we had enough time to cover everything. It's going to be a work-in-progress to keep working on things, but we had some healthy guys come back and that's been good."
Muller says he hopes to capitalize more on power plays. The Hurricanes scored less than 15 percent of the time when they had an advantage on the ice last year. The opening weekend also includes a home game on Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Cardiac Cane's Wes Hermann posted a prospective Hurricanes lineup...
*Lines from yesterday’s practice
Tlusty – E. Staal – Semin
Dwyer – J. Staal – Gerbe
Skinner – Nash – Dvorak
Lindhom – Sutter – Bowman
Faulk – Sekera
Bellemore – Hainsey
Harrison – Faulk
And WRAL's Mike Maniscalco framed the Canes' season-opener in the context of the Canes' summertime moves:
General Manager Jim Rutherford stressed at the exit meetings this summer that his team needed to improve on defense, and he didn’t waste much time trying to do that.
At the NHL Draft, the team acquired Andrej Sekera from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for offensive-minded Jamie McBain. On the first day of free agency, the team signed goalie Anton Khudobin to back up Cam Ward and then added Mike Komisarek to bulk up the blue line.
The organization announced the loss of Joni Pitkanen due to a heel injury, but quickly followed that news with the signing of steady veteran Ron Hainsey.
There was not a major addition to the forward ranks, which puts aded pressure on the top line of Eric Staal, Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty to duplicate the production that made the trio one of the top lines in the NHL last season.
Semin missed a majority of camp with a wrist injury and Tlusty was slowed at the start of camp with an ‘upper body’ concern, but that line should be able to keep up with the pace set a year ago.
Nathan Gerbe was the surprise of camp, earning a spot on the second line. Gerbe signed as a free agent on a two-way deal and made the most of his opportunity and in the preseason. He's now part of a potent line with Jordan Staal and Patrick Dwyer.
The consistent Dwyer and fiery Gerbe seem to be the compliment for Jordan Staal’s game that the coaching staff was looking for last season.
CarolinaHurricanes.com's Michael Smith offers lineup notes from the Canes' morning skate as well:
For whatever reason, the Detroit Free Press didn't post its sports stories until 5 AM, so here's the Free Press's Helene St. James on the Wings' desire to cut down on penalties...
The Wings head into Carolina tonight with a penalty kill of 100% after debuting at 7-for-7. Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson each logged nearly 6 minutes killing penalties Wednesday while dispatching Buffalo, 2-1, and three other Wings topped 4 minutes.
The worst stretches — or finest — were after Ericsson was called for closing his hand on the puck and Cory Emmerton for shooting the puck over the glass, which set up lengthy 5-on-3s. The Sabres got just two shots on net during their total of 2:22 of two-man power plays.
“We should put these guys away right away,” Johan Franzen said Thursday. “There’s no reason giving them life — well, they didn’t get any life, but they could have gotten some.”
Other Detroit calls included goaltender interference on Daniel Cleary for bumping Ryan Miller after he had come out of his crease. The call came as the puck went into Buffalo’s net. By the end of the second period, the Wings had been shorthanded for 11:36.
“We were in the box way too much,” coach Mike Babcock said. “You know at the start of the year they’re going to call it tight. Covering the puck with the hand, shooting it out are two for sure. I thought Danny Cleary’s penalty for bumping the goalie was no goal, but no penalty. We’ve got to clean that up.”
In the alumni department, Greatest Hockey Legends' Joe Pelletier told a Gordie Howe tale...
A lot of hockey fans know that Gordie Howe suffered a fractured skull early in his career, yet obviously overcame to have arguably the greatest career in hockey history. As scary as that incident was, apparently that was not Gordie's closest brush with death.
Emile Francis, the long time manager/coach of the New York Rangers grew up not far away from the Howe family, and he often got together with Gordie and his brother Vic in the summer. They liked to play baseball. Here's how Francis tells the story, thanks to the 1968 edition of Sport Review's Pro Hockey magazine:
"A couple of years after he started playing pro hockey, Gordie bought his parents a home in Saskatoon right across the street from the ball park. I'll never forget the day we were coming in to play a game about the same time Gordie and his brother, Vic, were returning from a hunting trip.
"Gordie was driving and Vic was sitting behind him with a shotgun between his knees. They must have suddenly hit a bump because the gun went off. Vic didn't know it was loaded. It tore a hole in the roof of the car, missing the back of Gordie's head by inches."
Scary stuff. Thankfully no one was hurt.
And "up the road" from Raleigh--by a significant distance--the Grand Rapids Griffins open their defense of their Calder Cup title this evening against the Rochester Americans, and Michigan Hockey's Pat Evans penned a Griffins season preview...
[T]he Griffins will be counting on a different Red Wings prospect to lead the team up front this season, as Tatar has started the season with the Red Wings, and Gustav Nyquist has started with the Griffins. Nyquist, 24, was a casualty of roster limitations and one vs. two-way contracts; he was the only player competing for time in Detroit that could be sent to Grand Rapids without needing to clear waivers. In 2011-12, Nyquist set a Griffins’ franchise record for points as a rookie, as he recorded 22 goals and 36 assists for 58 points.
Goaltending stud Petr Mrazek, who went 38-25 last season (including the playoffs) is expected to be in Grand Rapids at some point this season, even though he is currently serving as Jimmy Howard’s back-up in Detroit. During last year’s regular season, Mrazek held opponents to a 2.33 goals-against average. Until Mrazek returns, the goaltending duties will be on former Red Wings’ first-round pick Tom McCollum and Northern Michigan product Jared Coreau. The rumor mill suggested that McCollum would not be returning to the organization this summer, before the New York native inked a deal with the Griffins, and not the Red Wings.
Shortly after the Calder Cup was hoisted, the Red Wings announced they had signed Grand Rapids-native Luke Glendening to a two-way contract, but with load of forwards in Detroit, Glendening likely will log a lot of ice time in his hometown. Glendening provides a solid defensive presence and smart play. He nearly matched his regular season totals of eight goals and 18 assists in 51 games in the playoffs with six goals and 10 assists.
The veteran backbones of the Griffins were re-signed shortly after Glendening’s announcement. Captain Jeff Hoggan, Brennan Evans, Triston Grant and Nathan Paestch all were signed to AHL contracts for this season.
“We are excited to have this core group of veterans back for the 2013-14 season,” Blashill said in a statement at the time of the signings. “This group was an integral part of our Calder Cup championship team. Their daily work ethic, attention to detail, selflessness and competitiveness created a culture of success in our locker room.”
The team also returns a hoard of players key to the Calder Cup run still under contract with the Red Wings, including Adam Almquist, Teemu Pulkkinen, Willie Coetzee (currently injured), Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco, Louis-Marc Aubry and Landon Ferraro (currently injured).
A few players who could also make an impact for the Griffins this season are defensemen Max Nicastro, Gleason Fournier and Nick Jensen, and forwards David McIntyre, Andrej Nestrasil, Martin Frk, Calle Jarnkrok and Trevor Parks. The Griffins also recently added former UM center Kevin Lynch.
The entire Griffins coaching staff – Blashill and assistants Jim Paek and Spiros Anastas – return. In the offseason, the three coaches led the Red Wings’ prospects to their first-ever NHL Prospects Tournament championship.
For the record, the Amerks will be captained by former Wings farmhand Matt Ellis, and the Rochester Democrat and Chroncle's Kevin Oklobjiza notes that former Griffin Jamie Tardif's in the Amerks' lineup as well.
Here come the Wings' morning skate updates...
Read: Samuelsson in, Tatar out.
Update #2: As suspected...
Update #2.5: NHL.com's John Kreiser penned a short game preview...
Detroit Red Wings at Carolina Hurricanes -- Detroit plays its first road game after beating Buffalo 2-1 at home on Wednesday, a game in which the Red Wings outshot the Sabres 34-20. Daniel Alfredsson said he would be ready to play after getting Thursday off. Alfredsson, who had groin problems during the preseason, called the maintenance day "the reality of being 40." The Hurricanes open their 16th season in North Carolina looking to advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009. They'll get an early boost from the schedule; five of their first seven games are at home.
And the Wings rank fourth in Corey Masisak's "Super 16" set of power rankings:
3. Detroit Red Wings (1-0-0): This is an aggressive ranking, but if the NHL gave out a fifth-place medal each season, the Red Wings, who pushed the eventual champions to seven games in the second round, certainly earned such an honor in 2012-13. The travel is going to be easier, the defense corps is going to be a year older and a few of the young players up front are going to have a chance to make more of an impact.
One key for the Wings could be how well free-agent Stephen Weiss settles in on the second line. Daniel Alfredsson was a marquee signing, but Weiss might be the key one. Weiss should allow coach Mike Babcock to play Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg together (with Justin Abdelkader), but will he be an upgrade over Valtteri Filppula?
It could be an interesting case of where other factors (role, overall talent on the team, etc.) make up the difference in the raw numbers. Here's a chart with Corsi for percentage (with rank on their respective teams) and quality of competition for both players the past four seasons (stats compiled on advanced stats sites run by David Johnson and Gabe Desjardins):
Stephen Weiss (past 4 seasons) Valtteri Filppula (past 4 seasons)
Year CF% (200+ min) QUALCOMP (10+ GP) Year CF% (200+ min) QUALCOMP (10+ GP)
2012-13 41.9 (19th of 19) 2nd 2012-13 55.5 (T4th of 20) 1st
2011-12 48.9 (15th of 26) 2nd 2011-12 52.1 (17th of 19) 7th
2010-11 50.0 (12th of 20) 5th 2010-11 50.2 (T19th of 21) 10th
2009-10 47.8 (4th of 19) 2nd 2009-10 52.5 (12th of 23) 7th
One takeaway from that data is Filppula was really good in 2012-13, even if the stats on the back of his hockey card (nine goals, 17 points in 41 games) won't show it. He also gradually earned playing time against tougher competition.
The Red Wings also are a much better puck-possession team. Weiss could face easier competition now that he won't be centering the No. 1 line, and it should be noted his 2012-13 season was cut short by injury. If Weiss is able to match Filppula's production, or better it, then the other improvements Detroit made, combined with the development of the club's younger players, can make the Red Wings a title contender.
Update #3: Here's CarolinaHurricanes.com's Michael Smith's game-day update:
Detroit, now a member of the eight-team Atlantic Division, comes to Raleigh already having topped the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Wednesday night.
“They’ve been good for a very long time. We’re going to have to limit our mistakes,” [Jordan] Staal said. “If we play the way we can, I think we’ll be just fine.”
“We’re going to play a team tonight that we respect, and a team that’s not going to beat themselves. We’ve got to do the same as them,” [Kirk] Muller said. “We can’t go out and beat ourselves. We have to play a smart, disciplined game against these guys.”
The Canes had a trio of players return to good health this week, and they’ll all be in the lineup tonight. Lindholm will center the fourth line, Jeff Skinner will slot in on the third-line wing with Riley Nash and newly-signed Radek Dvorak and Alexander Semin will appear in his usual right-wing position on the first line. The lineup gives the Hurricanes four balanced lines of attack, something they’ll need against a deep Detroit squad.
This marks the first meeting between the two teams since March 24, 2012, a 5-4 win for the Wings in Detroit. Carolina holds a 3-2 record in the last five meetings between the two teams in Raleigh; the Wings and Canes last met in North Carolina on April 6, 2011, a 3-0 victory for Cam Ward (who made 42 saves) and the Hurricanes. Tonight marks the first time Carolina will face Detroit in their season opener.
As the clock ticks closer to puck drop in the 2013-14 regular season, [Elias] Lindholm said the key to a successful debut is simple.
“I’ll try to play my game and have fun. That’s what’s most important: to have fun,” he said. “This is what you dream about, and now you’re here, so enjoy the moment and have fun.”
If you want to watch a 17-minute video from the Canes' morning skate, enjoy:
Update #3.5: Very cute:
The Griffins open the season in New York, the state where the team finished last season with the Calder Cup trophy. However, this time the Griffins bused to Rochester, not Syracuse, for tonight’s 7 p.m. opener. The Griffins play in Toronto on Saturday.
Tom McCollum will start in goal, Blashill said, with newcomer Jared Coreau to start against Toronto. Petr Mrazek, last year’s starter, remains in Detroit as Jimmy Howard’s backup.
The top line to start will be center Calle Jarnkrok flanked by Tomas Jurco and Gustav Nyquist, Blashill said. The second line with be center Luke Glendening with Jeff Hoggan and Teemu Pulkkinen. Blashill was uncertain Friday on the other two lines with one more forward expected to be moved.
Forward Landon Ferraro, third on the team in scoring last year (24-23-47) is expected out another week with a foot injury.
Unlike the lockout last year, which provided little player movement and a relatively calm camp, the Griffins’ roster this preseason has been a revolving door with Detroit. Mrazek, for one, has been shuffled between locations twice the past two weeks. That has also made it difficult for Blashill to decide on his power play and penalty kill teams.
Nyquist is not expected to remain in Grand Rapids for long, while Mrazek is expected back in Grand Rapids once Jonas Gustavsson is healthy.
Defensively, Blashill has been impressed with Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul, although Ouellet spent much of camp in Detroit. Another expected to anchor the blueline is Adam Almquist, who also got an extended look in Detroit.
Update #5: I hate mixing team coverage, but the Boston Herald's Stephen Harris offers the following from Friday's Bruins practice:
The Bruins, who played okay but not great in their season-opening 3-1 win vs. Tampa last night, are looking forward to the Garden visit by the Detroit Red Wings tomorrow night. The Wings, of course, have moved this year into the Eastern Conference -- making life a bit tougher for the Bruins and each other club in the East.
"They're an elite team (and) they always have been," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after the team's 45-minute skate at the Garden this morning.
"You have to look, for example, at their third line. When you have guys like (Dan) Cleary and (Todd) Bertuzzi on your third line, you've got some pretty good depth. They're a good, experienced team. They're a smart team and they play a good, smart game.They will certainly bring a bigger challenge for all the teams in our conference. This is a team that's at the top of the league almost every year. They don't win the Stanley Cup year, but they're always a contender."
Julien spoke about how the Wings have sought fast and highly-skilled players, many from Sweden or other European countries. But he noted that as much as the Wings try to play a high-level, puck-possession style of hockey, they also emulate some of the grittier attributes of a team like the Bruins.
"I've worked with Babs (Detroit coach Mike Babcock) and (spent time) in the summer chatting," said Julien. "They're trying to do some of the same things as us. As much as we envy them, there are a lot of things they envy from us. I don't think we should have an inferiority complex here."
Update #6: MLive's Ansar Khan's filed a game-day update. Khan reports that the Wings are very wary of a rested Hurricanes team preparing for their home opener:
“They play an aggressive style, especially at home,’’ [Daniel] Alfredsson said. “Being their home opener, I expect them to come out hard, be aggressive on their forecheck and pinching their (defense), so we’re going to have to be moving the puck well early on. If we can be good at executing in our own end we’ll be able to take advantage.’’
Said [Stephen] Weiss: “They’re a fast club, they have some forwards who can move. The key against them is usually the first 5-10 minutes of the game. They come out really hard and try to get on top of you early. So if we’re good in the first 5-10 minutes it’ll bode well for us the rest of the night.’’
Detroit hasn’t played Carolina since March 24, 2012 (5-4 win at Joe Louis Arena). The Red Wings’ last visit to Carolina resulted in a 3-0 loss to Cam Ward on April 6, 2011. Ward starts tonight.
This will be the Red Wings’ first game against Carolina since it acquired center Jordan Staal from Pittsburgh and signed free-agent right wing Alexander Semin, formerly of Washington, last season. Jordan joins his brother Eric, giving the Hurricanes a strong 1-2 punch at center.
“Jordan is very smart player overall, good in the faceoff circle, kills penalties, plays on the power play, big body,’’ Alfredsson said. “Eric is more dynamic with his speed and offensive abilities. He creates a lot of chances for himself and his linemates. They’re two guys that carry one line each. Turn the puck over and they’re going to create a lot of chances.’’
Eric Staal centers a line with Jiri Tlusty and Semin. Jordan Staal centers Nathan Gerbe and Gord Dwyer.
“I thought Tlusty played real well in exhibition,’’ Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I know Eric real well, he’s a good player, and then you add Semin into the mix. He’s a world-class talent. He can pass the puck and shoot the puck, big body. It’s a good group.’’
Update #7: NHL.com's Kurt Dusterberg posted a game-day update...
While the Detroit Red Wings already have played a game -- a 2-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday -- the Carolina Hurricanes will be among the final teams to begin the regular season when the puck drops Friday here at PNC Arena.
The Hurricanes will have plenty to prove, coming off a 13th-place finish in the Eastern Conference last season. Carolina coach Kirk Muller said his team is itching to start after a week-long layoff since the final preseason game.
"These guys are programmed to practice one or two days, then play a game," Muller said. "Once the season started [for other teams] and they were watching games, you could see them getting a little anxious. It's nice that it's finally here and they're mentally prepared for a big season."
And a prospective Hurricanes lineup:
Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Alexander Semin
Nathan Gerbe - Jordan Staal - Patrick Dwyer
Jeff Skinner - Riley Nash - Radek Dvorak
Drayson Bowman - Elias Lindholm - Kevin Westgarth
Andrej Sekera - Justin Faulk
Jay Harrison - Ryan Murphy
Brett Bellemore - Ron Hainsey
Scratched: Brett Sutter, Mike Komisarek
Injured: Tuomo Ruutu, Tim Gleason
Udpate #8: Here's the Free Press's Helene St. James' game-day entry:
The Hurricanes are led by the Staal brothers, centers Eric and Jordan and goaltender Cam Ward. The defense is missing its biggest name, as Joni Pitkanen is sidelined by a broken heel.
Former Florida Panther Stephen Weiss said the key to the Staal brothers is that "you've got to work to earn your ice against them and be aware of them defensively."
The Wings haven't been here since April 6, 2011, thanks to formerly being in the Western Conference. So until there's more familiarity, there's outsourcing.
"You go through exhibition games and tendencies we know from the past, and then we go to our pro scouts, who know the players real well," coach Mike Babcock said after the morning skate. "We think we've got a pretty good handle on them. But until you've gone head-to-head, you don't really know. So you watch the morning skate and see who they're playing with and get prepared."
The Wings have Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader as their answer to Carolina's top grouping of Eric Staal centering Jiri Tlusty and Alexander Semin. "Semin is a world-class talent," Babcock said. "He can really pass the puck and shoot the puck, and he's a big body. It's a good group."
Jimmy Howard is starting in goal for Detroit.
She also posted a game-day video in which Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss talk about the Hurricanes:
Update #9: In the Q and A department, from ESPN's Pierre LeBrun's chat...
CJ (West Virginia): As a lifelong fan of the Wings, how long do you think it will take for the new lines to gel and for the PP to start clicking?
Pierre LeBrun: I mean, the second line didn't get together for the first time until the second-last pre-season game so you have to give them some time. I like the Wings a lot, the Alfredsson/Weiss aditions and a full year of DeKesyer... good looking team _ as always
Graham (Michigan): Seeing Brett Hull dropping the puck last night got me reminiscing on the 2002 Wings. Is that the greatest team of all time or at least greatest roster of all time? They had 9 for sure hall of farmers (Hasek, Hull, Robatille, Lidstrom, Yzerman, Shanahan, Larionov, Fedorov and Chelios) and one likely HoF player in Datsyuk. They had one of the all time great 4th lines with Draper, Maltby and McCarty and one of the greatest net front players and most annoying players to play against in Holmstrom. Not to mention they were coached by Scotty. What do you think, was this the GOAT? If not, who is?
Pierre LeBrun: I covered that 2002 Stanley Cup finals. Loaded, so loaded. Those were the pre-cap days indeed !
And, from the Score's Dave Lozo's "Bag Skate," here comes sarcasm:
Will the Red Wings dominate the East?
DJ from NJ
Yes. I know a 2-1 win at home against the Sabres is a moral loss, but they controlled the play and only Ryan Miller and bunch of dumb Wings penalties kept that from being 7-1. The Red Wings should win every single game they play against the Eastern Conference, even games started by Jonas Gustavsson.
The only thing that could stop the Wings is boredom. The reason why they are such an elite team is because they played in an elite conference. Playing against the best of the best so often brings out the best in teams. Sometimes teams rise to the level of their competition, but sometimes they play down to the opposition.
If you play the Panthers, Sabres and Lightning enough times, you could fall into a trap of believing you can operate at 80 percent and still win. That could bite you against teams like the Penguins and Bruins.
So really, the only thing that can stop the Red Wings is if they fall asleep during a game. So the Eastern Conference offers the same challenge to the Wings that listening to a Radiohead album offers to the world.
Update #10: Here's the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's game-day report:
The way Mikael Samuelsson fell flat onto the ice, it couldn’t been scripted any better. As the Red Wings were walking onto the ice at PNC Arena for their Friday morning skate, Samuelsson forgot to take off his soakers and as he stepped, fell onto the ice to the thunderous catcalls and cheers of teammates.
"Just wanted to get a laugh out of them," said Samuelsson, unconvincingly. "At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it."
There was a smile and laughter to his answer, something Samuelsson was missing last season because of numerous injuries. The fact Samuelsson made it through training camp without any injuries, then scored the Red Wings' first goal of the season on opening night gives him optimism going forward.
"So far, so good," Samuelsson said. "But it's only one game. You need to be healthy in this game. You need to be healthy, or you have no business in this league. You have to play. It's a long season but it's good to be healthy. It feels good to be part of the team."
The Red Wings feel Samuelsson can be an asset if he stays healthy. He still has one of the hardest shots on the team, he has size and plays with a bit of an edge to his game, along with a veteran's presence, that can be of help. But Samuelsson has to find a way to stay in the lineup.
"The reality is he didn't play last year," coach Mike Babcock said, noting Samuelsson's four games in the regular season and five in the playoffs. "He's been away for a couple of years prior to that (having left via free agency). We need him to be an impact player."
Samuelsson is in a battle for playing time with several forwards who could be forced out once Darren Helm (back) and Patrick Eaves (knee, ankle sprain) return from the long-term injured list.
"They're battling for jobs," Babcock said. "Getting off to a good start is important for those guys."
Update #11: More from Boston, from WEEI's DJ Bean:
“I think they’re an elite team,” Claude Julien said Friday. “They always have been, and you have to look at, for example, their third line. When you’ve got a guy like [Daniel] Cleary and [Todd] Bertuzzi on a third line, you know you’ve got some pretty good depth. They’re a good, experienced team.
“They’re a smart team, they play a good, smart game. That will certainly bring an even bigger challenge for all the teams in our conference right now to add them in them. It’s not like it’s a new franchise coming in and breaking the bottom, but it’s a team that’s at the top of the league almost every year. I think it’s good for our game. I think it’s good for our fans to see those teams a little bit more, and an Original Six team is always welcome in the cities that have seen those teams for years.”
While the Red Wings’ presence in the division certainly doesn’t make things easier for the Bruins, the best part about it from a hockey standpoint might be the fact that it also brings two members of the Selke fraternity against one another in Pavel Datsyuk and Patrice Bergeron in what should be some fascinating hockey to watch.
“Obviously he’s a very smart player and tough to play against,” Bergeron said of Datsyuk. “I think it’s going to be a good challenge to play Detroit and a good challenge to play him and his line.”
Datsyuk is a three-time winner of the award, which is given to the best two-way forward in the league annually. Bergeron won it in 2011-12 and just narrowly lost out on winning it again last season.
When Zdeno Chara had the first pick in the All-Star Game fantasy draft two seasons ago, he chose Datsyuk, saying “I just really admire, personally, the way he plays.”
Datsyuk scored this goal against the B’s earlier that season, and he played a big part of the Red Wing’s 8-2 preseason drubbing of the B’s this preseason with Bergeron still out of the lineup.
“Two great two-way players,” Julien said of Datsyuk and Bergeron. “You saw Datsyuk in action here the one night when we didn’t have Patrice in the lineup, and you could see the type of damage that he could do. There’s no doubt that he’s an elite player, but we’re fortunate to have Patrice, who we feel is an elite player as well.”
Update #12: From Triangle Sportsnet's Peter Koutroumpis:
Update #13: The Hurricanes' website posted a game-day clip in which Eric Staal, Ryan Murphy and Red Wings coach Mike Babcock speak:
Update #14: The Wings posted an "Alumni Showdown" teaser:
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