The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/08/11 at 12:59 PM ET
Last update at 6:29 PM: Chris Osgood says he’s coming back next season: As the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks prepare to face off tonight in a game that has all sorts of playoff implications (7:30 PM EDT, FSD/CSN Chicago/Versus/WXYT), it’s appropriate that Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom and Hawks captain Jonathan Toews are the finalists for the fan-voting portion of the Mark Messier Leadership Award (so go vote for Nick), and at least for the present moment, this morning’s/afternoon’s practice updates surround the status of Niklas Kronwall, as noted by Yahoo Sports’ Nicjolas J. Cotsonika..
Red Wings D Niklas Kronwall said he has an upper-body injury. Out last two games. “Absolutely” will return for playoffs.
NHL.com’s Dan Rosen...
Nik Kronwall (upper body) will not play for the Wings in either of the next 2 games. He says he will be ready for the playoffs.
Babcock said he’s not at all concerned about Kronwall being ready for the playoffs despite missing the final 5 games of the regular season.
And the Wings’ Twitter account, which included some quips from Wings coach Mike Babcock:
Babcock said he’s not at all concerned about Kronwall being ready for the playoffs despite missing the final 5 games of the regular season.
Babcock: We’d like to play hard, play well and win these next two games.
Babcock: It is a competitive league, but I have found that guys who have some miles on them are better come playoff time.
Babcock confirmed that Kronwall will be ready for Game 1 of the playoffs.
The Windsor Star’s Bob Duff confirmed Kronwall’s status, too:
#redwings Niklas Kronwall (upper body injury) on whether he’ll be ready for playoffs: “Absolutely.”
This morning’s other big story involves Chris Osgood, as noted by MLive’s Ansar Khan...
Detroit Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood isn’t sure if he’ll play again this season, but he doesn’t believe he’s played his final game. Osgood said today that he hopes to play next season.
“I’m coming back next year,’’ Osgood said. “But I’m not thinking about that. I’m thinking about getting ready to play if they need me to play (this season).’‘
Osgood, who is in the final year of his contract, hasn’t played since Jan. 4, a week before having surgery for a sports hernia and groin issues. He said his desire to play next season doesn’t stem from having missed the second half of the season and, potentially, the playoffs.
“That’s overrated, I don’t think of it like that,’’ Osgood said. “I just want to keep playing because I have fun playing. That would be the main reason. And I still know I can. That would be the main reason I would come back.’‘
And the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
Osgood underwent surgery for a sports hernia Jan. 11, but has had such a long, arduous recovery it’s unlikely he’ll be in Sunday when the Wings finish out their season at Chicago. Howard is in tonight when the Wings host the Blackhawks at 7:30 at Joe Louis Arena. Mike Babcock said he hadn’t decided who will play Sunday, but doesn’t consider Osgood to be in the mix. MacDonald never has played in the NHL playoffs, but general manager Ken Holland said the Wings aren’t comfortable going to Osgood if needed because of the long layoff, and probably would look instead to minor leaguer Jordan Pearce if needed.
“I would assume that right now, we’re dressing Jimmy Howard, and he’s playing, and Joey MacDonald is the backup,” Holland said. “If we have injuries along the way and if Chris Osgood feels better and better, if he gets some practices in—it’s obvious we have to make a decision between Chris Osgood and Jordan Pearce. I’d be comfortable, if (Osgood) can practice every day, if he tells me he’s feeling great, if he’s going full-out every day in practice … what’s he practiced, two or three days in a row? This is the National Hockey League. These are the best 600 players in the world, and they’ve been playing hockey every day since the beginning of January. You can’t be out for three months and have two practices and come in and be Chris Osgood, it’s impossible. It’s impossible.”
Asked if he’d contemplated having played his last game, Osgood was emphatic.
“No,” he said. “I’m coming back next year. But I’m not thinking about that right now, I’m thinking about getting ready to play if they need me to play.”
In other injury news, defenseman Niklas Kronwall (upper body) skated for a third straight day and said he’ll for sure be ready when the Wings begin the first round either next Wednesday or Thursday. He’ll end up having missed the last five games of the season.
Update the first: Here’s Dan Rosen’s Kronwall report:
Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said Friday that he will miss the final two games of the regular season as a result of his upper-body injury, but he expects to be back for Game 1 of the playoffs next week. Kronwall already has missed three games and has not skated in a full-contact practice yet. Detroit hosts Chicago on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS) and goes to Chicago to play its regular-season finale Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN).
“Just going day by day right now and we’ll see how it feels in the morning the day after another workout,” said Kronwall, who is planning to take part in at least one full-contact practice before the playoffs begin. “It’s definitely moving in the right direction. Hopefully very soon.”
Detroit coach Mike Babcock said he is not at all concerned about Kronwall being physically ready for the playoffs after missing the final five games of the regular season.
“The big thing with Kronner is keeping Kronner out,” Babcock said. “Kronner, you’ve got to have a leash on him to make him not do the things that could hurt him. He’ll be ready to go Game 1. He’ll have had a chunk of time off, but he’ll have skated good, too.”
Kronwall leads the Red Wings with 129 blocked shots and is third among their defensemen with 37 points.
As for the implications of tonight’s game, NHL.com’s David Kalan covers that ground:
CHICAGO (43-28-9, 95 points) at DETROIT (46-24-10, 102 points)
Where they stand: The Red Wings are third in the Western Conference; the Blackhawks are eighth in the West (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus)
What’s at stake: Detroit already has clinched the Central Division title, but the Wings could leapfrog the Sharks for second in the West, which would guarantee them home-ice advantage through at least the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Hawks won’t necessarily clinch a berth with a win, but they will with at least one point if Dallas loses to Colorado on Friday. If the Stars manage a win, a victory for the Hawks would leave them needing just one point on the final day of the season to secure a spot.
How’s it going: Jonathan Toews’ overtime goal gave Chicago an important win against St. Louis on Wednesday, but the Hawks still have not won in regulation since March 23.
The Wings lost 3-0 to Carolina on Wednesday, but had won their two previous games.
Upcoming: The Blackhawks and Red Wings will end their seasons Sunday in Chicago (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN) when they finish off their current home-and-home set.
Also of brief Wings-related note:
• The Wings’ Twenty Straight website’s playoff moment of the day involves the 2002 Cup win;
• MLive’s Ansar Khan talked about the fact that the Wings can eliminate the Hawks from playoff contention if they sweep this weekend’s slate of games—by putting things simply, noting that the Wings simply don’t care about the implications of tonight and Sunday’s games for anyone but the Detroit Red Wings:
The Red Wings would like to pass San Jose for the second spot in the Western Conference (the Sharks have a one-point lead), head into the postseason with some momentum and snap a three-game losing streak to the Blackhawks.
“I don’ think you look at it like that (knocking out Chicago),” Detroit’s Kris Draper said. “We got two final tune-ups here before it really counts. We’re looking at getting four points. That’s all we want to do.”
Chicago, currently eighth in the West, leads the Dallas Stars by two points. Each team has two games remaining. Dallas plays non-playoff clubs Colorado (Friday) and Minnesota (Sunday) on the road. Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart said he anticipates playoff-type intensity in what should be a good test for his team and fun games to play. This could be a first-round playoff matchup.
“It gives us something to play for,” Stuart said. “We’re trying to get our game in order.”
The Red Wings beat Chicago on the road on Oct. 9 (3-2). Since then Chicago has prevailed by scores of 4-1, 4-1 and 3-2 in overtime.
update the second:
Here’s Babcock’s game-day presser:
Update the third: If you’re interested, ESPN’s doing its “Ultimate Standings” thingy for the NHL today, and the Wings deserve a vote or two in their survey;
• Don’t forget to vote for the U.S.S. Carl Vinson in the Navy’s Carrier March Madness tournament, because you love the Chief;
• The website “AmericaJr” is plain old weird, but the self-declared “#1 website” in Detroit (not by a long shot) sent Jason Rzucidlo to the Detroit Sports Broadcasters’ Association’s luncheon in which Jim Nill, Ryan Martin and Chris Chelios spoke to the media, and Rzucidlo posted videos of the gents’ presser…
And several comments from Chris Chelios:
• In his latest edition of “Jersey Fouls,” Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski notes two Wings-related “fouls.” I’d give the person who had a “Danglesyuk” jersey made a pass for creativity;
• And, more substantially, here’s Chris McCosky’s game-day post from the Detroit News:
The question was put to defenseman Niklas Kronwall Friday morning: Will you be ready for Game 1 of the playoffs?
“Absolutely,” he said. “Definitely.”
Kronwall, who has an upper-body injury, will miss the final five games of the season, including the home-and-home series with the Blackhawks on Friday and Sunday. That means, if the Red Wings begin the playoffs next Wednesday, he will have been out for two full weeks.
“It had been bothering me for some time but right now it’s feeling better every day,” said Kronwall, who has been skating the last three days. “It’s been progressing every day. I hope to have (a full-contact practice) Monday or Tuesday, but we’re just going day by day and seeing how it feels. I’ve been doing more every day, so we’re going in the right direction.”
Coach Mike Babcock said he wasn’t worried about the two-week layoff for Kronwall.
“The big thing with Kronner is keeping Kronner out,” Babcock said. “You’ve got to have a leash on him to make him not do the things that could hurt him. He will be ready for Game 1.”
• Because I also have to post Hawks updates, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Adam L. Jahns reports that Dave Bolland (concussion) may return sooner than later:
For weeks, coach Joel Quenneville’s answer regarding Dave Bolland and his concussion was “status quo.” That’s no longer the case. The pesky center has made considerable progress as he recovers from a concussion suffered March 9 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“[Bolland] is progressing at a different pace than we saw before,” Quenneville said Friday before the Hawks faced the rival Red Wings in a crucial game at Joe Louis Arena.
In fact, Quenneville said Bolland may be skating in Chicago Friday, but was unsure when he spoke to reporters following the Hawks’ morning skate. Bolland has been riding a bike.
“That’s close,” Quenneville said of Bolland skating. “He’s really progressed in the last couple days.”
• And I said I’d post ‘em so I will: Stephen Walkom and Chris Lee will referee tonight’s game, and Steve Miller and Scott Cherrey will be working the lines.
Update the fourth: Here’s Chris Kuc’s game-day update from the Chicago Tribune:
Hours before taking the ice in their biggest game of the season, the Chicago Blackhawks got some good news from coach Joel Quenneville regarding the health of one of the team’s top players. Quenneville said center Dave Bolland, who hasn’t played since suffering a concussion March 9 against the Lightning, “has really progressed the last couple of days.” Bolland could begin skating as soon as Friday in Chicago.
“Bolland is progressing at a different pace than he was before which is encouraging,” Quenneville said following the Hawks’ morning skate at Joe Louis Arena. “In fact, he could be on the ice (Friday). I’m not sure if he’s on (Friday) or not but he could be.”
As for Troy Brouwer, who injured his shoulder against the Canadiens on Tuesday, Quenneville said the winger “is still day-to-day but we like his progress.”
There are several scenarios for the Hawks to clinch a Western Conference playoff berth, depending on how they and the Stars—who face the Avalanche on Friday night—fare. But the main ingredient involves the Hawks coming away with a victory over the rival Red Wings.
“It’s a must-win situation for us,” defenseman Brian Campbell said. “You finally get down to that point where you talk about it so much during the season and this is definitely a must-win for us. We need to take care of business (Friday night) and look forward to Sunday.”
• Here’s Tracey Myers’ update from Comcast Sportsnet Chicago:
Dave Bolland, who’s been out with a concussion, has “progressed at a different pace,” and could be skating today back in Chicago, coach Joel Quenneville said this morning. It’s welcome news for the Blackhawks, who have missed their gritty center since he was injured March 9 against Tampa Bay.
“It’s close. In fact, he could be on the ice today,” Quenneville said. “But he’s really progressed in the last couple of days.”
Quenneville added that Troy Brouwer, who’s listed day-to-day with a right shoulder injury, could also be on the ice soon.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks, who got Patrick Sharp back on Wednesday night, will face a Red Wings team minus Henrik Zetterberg (leg) and Niklas Kronwall (upper body). Regardless of personnel, the Blackhawks know they need this one.
“We have to get points, we control our destiny,” Quenneville said. “It should be an exciting game. We had a great game here (on March 28) and we expect the same (tonight). The last one was anyone’s game, both goalies played great and there were a lot of scoring chances. When everything’s at stake, you expect a hard-fought game.”
• And, per NHL.com’s Brian Hedger:
I do have something from the #Redwings room that pertains to the #Blackhawks, however ... will share that next tweet.
Jimmy Howard was asked about knocking the Hawks out and he jokingly said: “Good question. Do we want to knock Chicago out of the playoffs?”
Howard quickly made it clear he was kidding around, but maybe half serious? Be careful what you ask for, kiddo.
Update 4 and a half: One more from Dan Rosen:
Hawks likely to go with Toews, Sharp and Hossa on top line. Look for Kane and rookie Ben Smith to play outside of Frolik.
• Also, per the Dallas News’s Mike Heika:
Mike Modano says he will retire if Red Wings make it to finals
That’s what The Sporting News is reporting here.
I know the wrist injury took a lot out of him, so I don’t doubt this is true. Still, I’ll tap the brakes on this until Ken Holland gets a chance to decide if he wants to make a pitch to Modano in the summer.
Holland’s been receptive to both bringing Osgood and Modano back, but I think both might have to take slight pay cuts;
• And, per the Detroit News’s Vincent Goodwill, Tom Gores has won the Pistons sweepstakes.
Update #5: Per Khan, here’s what Ken Holland had to say about Osgood...
“We’re going to reassess tomorrow morning what we’re doing on Sunday,’’ Holland said. “I would say now, my take would be he won’t play on Sunday, but it’ll be based on what he tells us (about) how he feels. But even if he played a game, he’s been out three months, this is the Stanley Cup playoffs.’‘
“I would assume right now ... Joey MacDonald is the backup,’’ Holland said. “If we have injuries along the way and Chris Osgood did feel better, then we’ll have to make a decision between Chris Osgood and Joey MacDonald.’‘
Holland said of Osgood, “I’m comfortable if he can practice every day, he tells me he feels great, if he’s going full-out every day in practice.’’ But, he added, “You can’t be out three months and have two practices and come in and be Chris Osgood, it’s impossible. It says Osgood on the back of his jersey, but it’s not Osgood. That’s why Jimmy Howard is No. 1, Joey Mac’s No. 2. The longer we can play, if we get to a point where somebody gets injured, then obviously we’ll make a decision, do we dress Osgood as the backup?’‘
And Niklas Kronwall, who wouldn’t reveal the nature of his injury:
“It’s been bugging me for a bit but it feels better and better every day,’’ Kronwall said.
“Upper body, like they say,’’ Kronwall said.
“The big thing with Kronner is keeping Kronner out. You got to have a leash on him to make him not do the things that could hurt him,’’ Babcock said. “So he’ll be ready to go Game 1. He’ll have had a chunk of time off, but he’ll have skated good.’‘
• Here’s a brief quip from Joel Quenneville via the Hawks’ website…
• And NHL.com’s Brian Hedger posted a fantastic game-day set of storylines, speaking to Jimmy Howard about his status as the Wings’ last line of defense for the second playoff year, with Howard reiterating the fact that he’s going to turn off the TV, stop reading the papers and interweb regarding any criticism based upon his stats or play going forward…
You’ve just got to live in your own little bubble,” Howard said, following Detroit’s morning skate Friday at Joe Louis Arena. “It kind of comes with the job.”
Before Wings coach Mike Babcock gave Howard a full endorsement…
“Jimmy’s been good,” he said. “I think there was a chunk of the year where things didn’t go the way he wanted. Other than that, he was real good at the start and he’s been real good for us now. There’s no question about it. He knows we need him to be good and he’ll be good.”
And Howard says that, this time around, he has no playoff nerves:
“I feel fine,” said Howard, who recently missed two games after suffering a minor shoulder sprain Mar. 26 against Toronto. “I’m looking forward to it. I can’t wait to get past these next two games and get into the first round. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while.”
“I was learning on my feet last year,” Howard said. “It’s one thing to sit here and watch, but it’s another to actually be out there experiencing it. The intensity does pick up and guys are coming to the net a lot harder and there’s a lot more screening going on. You have to be that much more focused to pick up pucks.”
“In this dressing room, the regular season and doing well and everything like that is all great and fine, but in the end we want to win Stanley Cups,” Howard said. “That’s what this organization is all about and that’s what we’re striving for. Let’s be honest here. As much as the fans want it, I want it just as bad. So, I’m going to do whatever it takes to be able to be there at the end and give (us) a chance.”
Hedger also reports that Babcock will continue to keep his lines in a blender, and he spoke to Justin Abdelkader about his 2-goal performance against Nashville last weekend:
“The last month or so, I’ve felt like my game’s really taken another step and I’ve gotten more confidence,” Abdelkader said. “That’s huge in this game—confidence and playing confident. That was nice to help on the scoreboard and get a couple goals in a big game that we needed.”
Update 5 and a half: With all due respect, I’m giving Eric Duhatschek a big “BOO” for suggesting that Nicklas Lidstrom should win the Lady Byng Trophy but not the Norris;
• The Windsor Star’s Bob Duff also posted a game-day update:
Less than a week away from beginning defence of their Stanley Cup championship, the Chicago Blackhawks still don’t know for sure whether they will even get the chance. Precariously clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the National Hockey League’s Western Conference, Chicago will finish its season with a home-and-home set against the Detroit Red Wings, beginning Friday at Joe Louis Arena.
“This is the situation where we’re at,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville of Riverside said. “But I think the guys are up to the challenge. We’ve been playing our best hockey down the stretch.”
Quenneville felt it almost poetic that the season should close with two games against Chicago’s oldest rival. “It really is,” the former Windsor Spitfires captain said. “It’s a big game, and it’s a big game for them as well. We have to get points in these games to control our destiny, so it should be some exciting games.”
Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall (upper body injury) skated Friday morning and insisted he’d be ready in time for the playoffs. “Absolutely,” Kronwall said. “It’s been bugging me for a bit but it feels better and better every day.” Wings coach Mike Babcock confirmed that Kronwall won’t play in either of Detroit’s two remaining regular-season games, chiefly for his own safety. “The big thing with Kronner is keeping Kronner out,” Babcock said. “You’ve got to have a leash on him to make him not do the things that could hurt him, so he’ll be ready to go Game 1.”
The Blackhawks will welcome back injured left-winger Patrick Sharp, the club’s scoring leader with 34 goals and 69 points, for Friday’s game with the Wings. “The energy he brings will really help, and he gives us more options in terms of line combinations,” Quenneville said.
Update the sixth If you aren’t panicking about Henrik Zetterberg’s injury already, the Free Press’s Jamie Samuelssen encourages you to freak out:
Are you worried about Henrik Zetterberg’s injury? The bright side is that it isn’t a major injury to Nicklas Lidstrom nor Pavel Datsyuk. Those two are impossible to replace and would end any hope of advancing in the playoffs. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that’s a completely subjective list and, in some circles, Zetterberg is every bit as valuable as Datsyuk and Lidstrom. And regardless of how you want to rank them, it’s a brutal blow. Coach Mike Babcock quickly went into playoff mode when discussing Zetterberg, saying that he’d definitely miss the two Chicago games this weekend. After that, he’s day-to-day. It’s funny how a player can go from “out” to “day-to-day” so quickly. Such is the case in playoff hockey, where everyone is day-to-day. Lidstrom suffered a ruptured body part in his groin area (still pains me to mention it), and he was day-to-day. It was an injury that would put most ordinary men on the “year-to-year” list.
So with no hard medical evidence nor doctor’s report, we’re forced to read the tea leaves. It sounds like Zetterberg is hurt but maybe not seriously injured. If he had blown out his knee, there would be no way for him to come back. If he suffered a lesser sprain, he can return, but then you wonder about pain threshold and limited mobility. Again, we’re all pretending we’re doctors at this time of year, and none of us has had a look at the MRI. But I thought a telling exchange took place when Zetterberg was asked whether he’d need surgery and whether there was a tear. He responded that he doesn’t need surgery. He conveniently passed over the part of the question asking whether there was a tear. Hmmmm.
So yes, the Zetterberg injury is very, very concerning. You’re not only losing a dynamic forward and a past Conn Smythe winner, you’re also losing one of the most important parts of the team at the most important points in the year. Teams’ identities are cemented in the playoffs, but they’re formed during the season. And it’s pretty clear that the Red Wings’ identity this year is offense. Their goaltending has been average. Their defense, through injuries and ineffective play, has been average. Their offense has been very, very strong. Of the eight teams currently in the Western Conference playoff picture, the Wings rank eighth in goals allowed and second in goals scored.
That could change as these playoffs go along, but if the Wings are to win the West this spring, they’re most likely going to do it by simply outscoring the opposition. (Yes, I know how absurd that sounds. Duh ... outscore the opposition! Don’t we all know what I mean? I hope so.) That’s not normally a recipe for success in the Stanley Cup playoffs. But if you’re going to do that, you absolutely have to be firing on all cylinders offensively. And without your leading scorer, that’s virtually impossible. In other words, with Zetterberg, the Red Wings were going to have a tough time winning the Cup with their defense. Without Zetterberg—wow, those chances seem even bleaker.
And it’s not just the individual loss; it’s also the sum of the parts. With Zetterberg, the power play is better. With Zetterberg, Datsyuk is even more spectacular (if that’s possible). Babcock scoffed Wednesday when he was asked who would take Zetterberg’s place. Nobody’s taking his place. But yes, other guys will have to play more, and other guys will have to contribute more if this thing is going to work. And realistically, that has to happen right away, because you get the feeling that Zetterberg will play in this postseason, but it might not be until the second or third round. And as we know well, none of that is guaranteed unless the Wings play well right out of the gate.
Brutal timing for a great player. And brutal that it comes in a game that was meaningless for the Red Wings but not meaningless for the Hurricanes, which is why a player such as Zetterberg was even out there in the first place. I’ve always felt that Zetterberg was a little underappreciated by the hockey fans in town. Sure, he’s great, but I think some feel that he should be even greater (the Justin Verlander phenomenon). Unfortunately, sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder. And all Wings will appreciate just how important he is during his absence.
• And I’m not going to comment on how stupid and trite—really, ridiculously stupid and trite—I think this observation from Sportsnet’s Mike Brophy • Finally, here’s Dave Burke’s summary of the Wings’ four quarters’ worth of regular season play: First Quarter: Games 1-20 (14-4-2) Second Quarter: Games 21-40(11-6-3 span; 25-10-5 overall) Third Quarter: Games 41-60 (12-7-1 span; 37-17-6 overall) Fourth Quarter: Games 61-80 (9-7-4 span; 46-24-10 overall)
The Red Wings kicked off there season with a win, defeating Anaheim, 4-0, with new addition and Michigan native Mike Modano scoring a goal in his debut. The next night the Wings went to Chicago and defeated the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, 3-2. By the end of October the Wings had gotten off to a hot start out of the gate going 6-2-1, led by Henrik Zetterberg who posted 12 points in that stretch. The power play was also hitting on all cylinders, connecting in eight straight games from Oct. 9-30. In the next 10 games, the Wings went 7-2-1 led by solid goaltending with Jimmy Howard posting all seven wins. Danny Cleary grabbed eight goals in those 10 games to lead the offense. The Wings did get a bit of bad news, when in the end of November, Modano suffered a freak injury when the Blue Jackets’ R.J. Umberger’s skate came up and lacerated his wrist. At the end of 20 games the Wings were in first-place of the Central Division.
The Wings ended November hot with three straight wins and not a single player started the month of December hotter than Pavel Datsyuk, who had 15 points through 13 games. Unfortunately the star forward was lost to a fractured hand later in the month in a 5-4 overtime victory against Vancouver. Chris Osgood recorded his 400th career win in a 4-3 win against Colorado. Needless to say with the Datsyuk injury, others had to pick up the slack and one player who did was Patrick Eaves, who had four goals in four games, including his hat trick on Dec. 29 against the Dallas Stars. The power play was in tip-top shape against Colorado, converting four times, the most goals on the power play in a game this season. The team did suffer a rarity when they were shut out at home by the Los Angeles Kings 5-0, behind an outstanding 51 save performance by Jonathan Quick. In what was a decent 20 game span, the Wings ended the month, and calendar year, nicely with a 3-1 road trip. The Wings did have a minor let down when they were beaten in overtime on there annual New Year’s Eve game to a then surging New York Islanders.
The early part of 2011 started on the road for the Wings, who went 2-1-1 on their trip out west. This span of games saw the Wings on the road quite a bit, but that didn’t seem to hurt power forward Johan Franzen. The big Swedish forward scored five times against the Senators in Ottawa. It was the most goals scored by a Red Wings’ player since Sergei Fedorov did it Dec. 26, 1996. From Jan. 15 to Feb. 2, Franzen scored an incredible eight goals in six games. The team hit a rough patch against division rivals Columbus and Nashville, being shut out in back-to-back games, but got a shot in the arm when Datsyuk came back from injury and scored in his first game back, a 3-2 win against the New York Rangers. By the end of the month, the Wings had pulled off five straight wins in the 20 game span. Of those five games, two were a home-and-home series against fellow Original Six member Boston, a treat to players and fans. Todd Bertuzzi had four goals in those two games to give the Wings the series sweep. He also played in his 1,000th career game and fittingly scored the shoot-out winner against Minnesota on Feb. 20. At the 60 game mark, the Wings still held the Central Division lead.
The start of February and all of March was a mixed bag. The team had a mediocre record, but still held a firm grip on the Central Division. The power play was also humming scoring seven goals in six games at the start of the 20 game span and then after not scoring a power play goal in two straight games, converted in nine straight games between March 12-30. This has been a nice month of milestones. Newly acquired defenseman Ruslan Salei played in his 900th career game Feb. 22; and veteran forward Tomas Holmstrom recorded his 500th career point against Pittsburgh in a 5-4 shootout loss. Backup goalie Joey MacDonald also recorded his second shutout, blanking Columbus, on St. Patrick’s Day. His only other shutout came against the Wings when he was playing for the Islanders. All in all, the team is priming for a long playoff run after securing a playoff spot with a 4-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on April 3.
• Finally, here’s Dave Burke’s summary of the Wings’ four quarters’ worth of regular season play:
First Quarter: Games 1-20 (14-4-2)
Second Quarter: Games 21-40(11-6-3 span; 25-10-5 overall)
Third Quarter: Games 41-60 (12-7-1 span; 37-17-6 overall)
Fourth Quarter: Games 61-80 (9-7-4 span; 46-24-10 overall)
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