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Red Wings-Stars set-up: Slumping Stars present challenge for still-shorthanded Wings

The Detroit Red Wings face off against the Dallas Stars tonight (7:30 PM EST, FSD/FS Southwest/NHL Network/WXYT—and please don’t forget that the Wings are collecting diapers for the Detroit Area Diaper bank tonight) facing a near polar-opposite team to the San Jose Sharks that defeated the Wings on Tuesday: the Stars have lost 5 straight games and 9 of their past 10, punctuated by a 1-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.

While the Wings are worried about the San Jose Sharks (4 points behind Detroit’s 80) and Phoenix Coyotes (5 behind the Wings) catching up and dropping the Wings into third or fourth place in the West, the Stars have gone from nipping at the Wings’ heels to swimming against 9 teams separated by seven or fewer points, a.k.a. the “playoff pack,” and while the Stars added defenseman Alex Goligoski, and, as the Dallas News’s Mike Heika notes, Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Williams to their lineup, they’re without their most valuable player, Brad Richards, who continues to miss time with concussion-related issues heading into tonight’s tilt:

I talked to Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk this morning, and he said he does not expect that Brad Richards will play in a game before Monday’s trade deadline.

Richard is suffering from concussion-like symptoms after getting hit in the jaw Feb. 13, and has not skated since. There are only two games before the trade deadline, and one is tomorrow at Detroit, so the statement makes a lot of sense.

``He hasn’t even practiced, so we’re not just going to throw him in a game,’’ Nieuwendyk said. ``He has to feel good enough to work out, and then he has to feel good enough to practice, and then he has to feel good enough to get on the ice and play in a game. Those are a lot of steps, and we’re not going to rush them. We want Brad to be healthy, and our first concern is him being healthy.’‘’

And while Nieuwendyk doesn’t plan on trading the unrestricted free agent-to-be, he did admit that if a deal blows his socks off, he’ll move his resident superstar before next Monday’s deadline.

Otherwise, the Stars are trying to look on the bright side of life…

``This has been difficult, but it is what it is and we have to fight through it,’’ Nieuwendyk said of a 2-10-1 slump. ``We’re getting some people healthy, and I think you can see the difference that makes. Not only will a player like Jamie Benn or Adam Burish help immediately, they will probably help players like Brenden Morrow or Mike Ribeiro, or Steve Ott or Stephane Robidas or Loui Eriksson get better. You can see that players like that have been pushing very hard, and if we can get back to a little more balance, that’s going to help everyone.’‘

And, as Heika noted, the Stars hope that the returns of the instigators that are Benn and Burish will bolster their fading playoff hopes:

Both suffered fractured orbital bones in fights against Boston Feb. 3 and have been out since. Both have plates in their respective faces, so they should not suffer additional damage. However, Burish will wear a college-style wire cage and Barch will wear a Plexiglas bubble cage. Neither will be fighting (possibly for the rest of the season).
...
My guess is Burish comes back into the lineup and Barch comes back Saturday against Nashville, but we’ll see.

``I’m so excited to be back. It’s the most frustrating thing in the world to be out for any reason, but it’s even more frustrating when the team isn’t winning and you’re not able to do anything about it,’’ said Burish. ``I just want to get out there and help and bring positive energy and have fun. I think we need to go out there and have fun, and hopefully we can do that and get back to our winning ways.’‘

Nicklas Grossman (hip) will not be on the trip.

Kari Lehtonen will start in goal against the Wings.

Lehtonen’s given the Wings fits.

The Stars are talking about staying afloat until their full compliment of players come back, taking as much momentum and positive energy as possible from any injured player’s return, as Stars coach Marc Crawford told Heika:

Adam Burish might be just the medicine the Stars need right now. The versatile forward is a rolling ball of optimism, and his return to the lineup after missing eight games with a fractured orbital bone could provide a huge boost Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings.

“He’s such a spirit guy and we could use any dose of positive feel-good that we can get right now,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford.

Crawford and Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk have built an organization that tries to foster positive energy, and it has been tested during a 2-10-1 slump that has seen the Stars drop from third place in the Western Conference to 11th. However, both the coach and the GM believe the way out of this swamp is with belief in each other and belief in the system.

“You definitely have to be realistic and you have to be diligent in addressing things that are wrong, but I do believe a positive attitude is key to your entire organization,” Nieuwendyk said. “If you look at where we were earlier in the season, positive energy had a lot to do with that. You get on a roll, and you believe in each other and you ride that wave. Those are things we believe in, and things we believe we can get back to.”

Burish told ESPN Dallas’s Mark Stepenski that he’s going to feel a bit rusty, but a player who annoyed the hell out of the Wings when he was a member of the Chicago Blackhawks as itching to pester the Wings as “part of the solution”:

“You just feel helpless, especially when we lose a game. I want to be there with them, I want to be a part of that,” he said. “When you aren’t playing you don’t feel the same. You don’t feel the disappointment as much when you aren’t a part of it. It’s easy to sit up in the stands and be critical of what’s going on. For me, I’d rather be a part of it. I’d rather be a solution, an answer. If it doesn’t work out, I want to be a part of it, too. I want to sit in the locker room and go through what they’re going through and hopefully help figure it out. If you’re not a part of it you feel useless.”

The Stars are also pumped up about the return of forward Jamie Benn from a shoulder injury, as Crawford told DallasStars.com’s Steve Hunt:

“For a guy to miss a month of play and come back and arguably be your best player, that speaks volumes of Jamie. His speed is just so apparent,” Crawford said after Tuesday’s loss. “He was authoritative all night long. I think he’ll continue to get even better and better as we move forward this week. And that’s a real good sign for us as well.”

However, the Dallas head coach wasn’t at all surprised at how well Benn played, especially after being on the sidelines for almost a month.

“He was real good. I guess yes in some ways, I was surprised he was good but in other ways, no,” Crawford said. “He’s been good all year. He’s such a positive, powerful force for us. It was great to see him back in the lineup. It was a real shot in the arm for our group.”

In 47 games this year, Benn has 13 goals and 20 assists for 33 points, solid numbers for the fifth-round pick in the 2007 draft. Against the Devils, he was paired alongside 2011 NHL All-Star Loui Eriksson and rookie Tomas Vincour, a different combination than what he was used to before his injury.

Hunt, who also pens columns for Fox Sports Southwest, sets up tonight’s game as follows:

The last time the Dallas Stars faced Detroit at Joe Louis Arena, it was on December 19, 2010 and things went pretty well as they left Motown with a 4-3 overtime win. Loui Eriksson had the game-winner in the extra frame and also assisted on two more goals while Stars captain Brenden Morrow had a pair of tallies in the win. But 10 days later, these clubs met in Big D and the Red Wings left the American Airlines Center with a 7-3 win after scoring six unanswered to turn the tide of what had been a 3-1 Dallas lead.
...
So far this year, the Stars are 2-0-1 against Detroit. Besides the win in their last trip to the Motor City, they also handed them a 4-1 defeat at the AAC back on October 14, 2010 to spoil the return of ex-Dallas captain Mike Modano to his former club.
...
“Detroit is playing really well right now. We expect a hard game,” Eriksson said. “I thought we played really well last night against New Jersey here. We’re going to have to play the same, get some more chances and try to score a little bit more and I think we’ll get the two points.”

And despite his club’s recent struggles, the man pulling the strings hasn’t changed his simple message to the room.

“It’s a good formula that we’re using, the right formula. Now we’ve got to find a way to improve upon it and we think we can improve upon it by a little bit more adherence in our offensive play, a little bit better execution on our power play, getting a few more shots and crashing the net for a few more rebounds,” Crawford said. “Those are things that we worked on again today. We worked hard on them and our guys are committed to make those improvements.”

ESPN Dallas’s Mark Stepenski penned the following preview...

About the Stars: The Stars lost their fifth straight game and fell to 1-8-1 in their last ten with a 1-0 loss to New Jersey at American Airlines Center Tuesday.

“We did so many things that we wanted to do,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford. “We didn’t give them any outnumbering chances all night, we were good on the forecheck, we created loose pucks, we had goalmouth opportunities with net drive. We just couldn’t put the puck in the back of the net.”
...

Injuries: F Adam Burish (orbital bone) and Krys Barch (orbital bone) are probable. Brad Richards (concussion-like symptoms), D Nicklas Grossman (hip) and F Ray Sawada (shoulder) are out.
...
Series Notes

*This is fourth and final meeting between the two teams.

*The Stars are 2-1-0 in the season series and the Red Wings are 1-1-1.
...
*The Stars are 8-3-0 in their last 11 games against Detroit.

And NHL.com both posted a video preview of the game as this will air on the NHL Network—which means that Center Ice and GameCenter Online subscribers who don’t receive the NHL Network will be blacked out…

As well as a game preview by Brian Hunter:

Season series: Fourth and final meeting of the season between these teams. The Stars took the first two, with Loui Eriksson providing the overtime goal in a 4-3 victory on Dec. 19 in Detroit, but the Red Wings got payback 10 days later, getting a Patrick Eaves hat trick and scoring four unanswered goals in the third period for a 7-3 win in Dallas.
...
Red Wings [Team Scope]: Returning to Joe Louis Arena after sweeping a three-game road trip and running its overall win streak to five straight, Detroit was edged 4-3 Tuesday by a surging San Jose squad. A pair of goals by Danny Cleary erased one-goal deficits for the Red Wings, but Devin Setoguchi went on to score two of his own for the Sharks, and a late Henrik Zetterberg tally wasn’t enough to salvage at least a point.
...
Stat pack: The Stars are 4-for-41 on the power play in going 2-10-1 over the last 13 games. They were 0-for-4 on Tuesday, failing to capitalize on a double minor in the second period. … In the past week, Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi played in his 1,000th NHL game against the Wild and defenseman Ruslan Salei played in his 900th game against the Sharks.

Puck drop: Defenseman Alex Goligoski, obtained from Pittsburgh on Monday for James Neal and Matt Niskanen, arrived in Dallas in time to debut with the team on Tuesday. He played over 23 minutes and took a pair of minor penalties, including the one that led to Palmieri’s goal. With a game under his belt, Goligoski hopes Thursday brings a better team result.

“I think going into Detroit is as good an opportunity as ever to get a good win against a good team in their building, in a tough atmosphere,” Goligoski said. “Those are the kind of things that gets teams going, so I’m looking forward to the opportunity to go in there and win.”

The story that could have been but isn’t, of course, involves Mike Modano.  Modano chose not to return from three torn flexor tendons and nerve damage in his right wrist tonight because he was worried about playing-against-Dallas distractions, and he’ll return against the Sabres on Saturday instead.

Modano spoke to WBBL’s Bill Simonson on the Huge Show late Wednesday afternoon regarding his return…


And he told the Dallas News’s Heika that he’s a bit nervous about how his top hand will react when he does return…

“Practice has been great, I can shoot the puck fine, the only worry is if it gets bent really hard,’’ Modano said. ``I’m really looking forward to getting back out there.’‘
...
``I’m curious how it reacts, because you just never know until you get out there in a game,’’ he said. ``But, really, it has gone pretty well.’‘

The irony of this long ``vacation’’ is that many have believed it is exactly what Modano has needed in recent years. By pushing him to miss half the season, the Red Wings could be getting a very fresh 40-year-old for the final 20 or so games.

``It took me a while to get going to start the season, but I really felt good after 10 or 12 games,’’ said Modano, who has two goals and six assists in 20 games with the Red Wings. ``I’m hoping the same thing happens here.’‘

And as Modano hopes to engage in a long playoff run with the Wings, playing alongside Valtteri Filppula (who may return tonight from a sprained MCL, but is more likely to return on Saturday) and Tomas Holmstrom for the present moment, he’s raving about the Wings as an organization…

``It really is a great organization, and it’s been interesting to watch how they have handled me and some other (injured) players,’’ he said. ``They never panic, they always seem to have an answer for anything that happens. They just are on top of things. I really am looking forward to getting out there in the playoffs with them. There are just so many veterans on this team, and it seems this is what they live for.’‘

And he’s entertaining the possibility of playing for one more season, too:

“`I’ll play the Stars next season,’’ he said.

The Wings as a whole have to deal with the still-revolving door of injuries and players returning from injuries. They begin a five-game road trip which will include facing four teams that are chasing them (the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks and Phoenix Coyotes), and while Modano and Filppula will return in short order, Pavel Datsyuk’s back in form and Brad Stuart—who had braces and rubber bands removed from his still-healing jaw on Wednesday—and Tomas Holmstrom are slowly getting “back to normal,” on Tuesday, the Wings lost Patrick Eaves to an injury that GM Ken Holland described in broad terms when speaking to the Associated Press’s Larry Lage:

The Detroit Red Wings expect forward Patrick Eaves to be out for at least a week.

Red Wings general manager Ken Holland says Eaves injured “everything but his knee” when he led with his right leg on a check against San Jose’s Torrey Mitchell on Tuesday night.
Eaves got up slowly, tried to keep weight off his right leg as he skated slowly off the ice and limped toward the dressing room.

He has 13 goals and 19 points in 52 games this season.

Holland says forward Mike Modano will play Saturday in Buffalo, where forward Valtteri Filppula might also return.

The Wings recalled Jan Mursak from the Grand Rapids Griffins as an interim replacement, and Holland told the Free Press’s George Sipple that the Wings won’t take Eaves on their road trip:

“We’ll leave him home,” Holland said. “He’ll do some rehabbing. Right now, it appears he’s out a minimum of a week. He’s so sore today. He’s real stiff when he walks.”

Holland said athletic trainer Piet Van Zant told him it would be three or four days before Eaves could begin skating again.

“To put (Eaves) on a plane tomorrow to Buffalo and then five hours on a plane to California on Saturday night, when we’re not sure he can even play on that road trip, doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Holland said. “Hopefully, it’s just a lot of bruising.”

Eaves was so sore that the Wings asked John Ogrodnick to sign autographs at the Meijer in Westland on Wednesday so that Eaves didn’t have to leave home.

Filppula sounded like a man who’s all but certain to return on Saturday, not tonight, because he wants to get a few more practices in…

“It was, basically, the first real practice, after I had a few pregame skates,” said Filppula, who expects to wear a brace when he returns. “It felt pretty good. I’m hopeful for Saturday.”

And after Holland spoke to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness about Eaves’ injury…

“If he feels great on Tuesday, we’ll wheel him out (to West Coast),” Holland said. “He’s sore through the groin and lot of parts of the lower body. He’s moving very slowly.”

Pleiness noted Filppula’s comments about his goal of returning on Saturday alongside Modano and Holmstrom (Pleiness says Filppula skated on a line with Holmstrom and Justin Abdelkader, and you can watch Pleiness’s interview with Filppula in the embedded video below)...

“That sounds good,” Filppula said. “But you’ve always got to wait to see how that goes. I really like that line.”

He asked Nicklas Lidstrom to weigh in on Brad Stuart’s performance since returning from his broken jaw:

“He found his groove right away after missing over a month,” Lidstrom said. “He stepped right into it and has been playing well. He’s been playing a lot of minutes. He’s out there killing penalties and being a big body for us out there. That’s what we need. He hasn’t missed a step since he came back.”

The Wings addressed the Stars’ acquisition of Goligoski at a heavy cost—James Neal and Matt Niskanen:

“He must have been a guy they really wanted,” Babcock said. “Anytime you trade pieces like they traded you value a player. He’s a kid that’s a big scorer on the power play as an amateur and now he’s in the (NHL). He’s got good point totals. Only time will tell how it works out for them.”

“I think it gives them help on the backend, but I’m sure they’re going to miss Neal and his 20 goals,” Lidstrom said. “He was a young offensive threat for them.”

As the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan notes, Wings coach Mike Babcock had one gripe on Wednesday, and it involved Johan Franzen:

Since Johan Franzen scored five goals against Ottawa on Feb. 2, he has scored a grand total of … zero. That’s a span of 10 games, keeping Franzen stuck at a team-leading 26 goals.

What coach Mike Babcock would like to see is Franzen get closer to the net, rather than see Franzen on the perimeter.

“He can always shoot the puck,” Babcock said. “The challenge for Mule is we want him on the inside and be big and physical and be at the net.”

Franzen’s at least continued to skate hard and he’s set up or at least been involved in the plays that set up Todd Bertuzzi’s recent goals via nothing less than elegant passes and speed through the neutral zone, he is reverting to that Ray Sheppard-style perimeter sniper who doesn’t want to get involved physically or go to the net, perhaps due to a lack of confidence or just plain old streakiness.

As such, Babcock’s comments to MLive’s Ansar Khan, which I posted on Wednesday afternoon, are worth revisiting:

“The challenge for Mule is we want him on the inside, we want him to be big and physical and be at the net,” Babcock said. “He can always be a shooter. He’ll be able to be a shooter at 40. He’ll be able to glide up and down the wing and get two kids to pass him the puck and he’ll score goals. But if you want to be a dominant power forward, you got to be involved, you got to be on the inside. And when you’re scoring, those things seem to happen naturally. When you’re not scoring, they tend to get away from you. So he’s just in a process of working his way back.”

This is Franzen’s longest goal-scoring drought since he went 11 games without a goal at the start of the 2007-08 season, when he still was a third-line grinder who didn’t log as much ice time. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Franzen said he’s not frustrated. He is confident he’ll break through soon, having scored 116 goals in his past 224 games, including the playoffs.

“I’m probably playing the same. Sometimes it goes in, sometimes it doesn’t,” Franzen said. “Puck’s just not going in. It happens every year, couple, three, four times you go through a run where you don’t score and then all the sudden you start scoring again.”

Franzen, who has been playing on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Todd Bertuzzi, has four assists, a plus-3 rating and 32 shots on goal during this drought.

As I pen this preview, the NHL has yet to post the referees’ assignments for tonight’s game, so I’ll include them in my game-day update.

Also of Red Wings-related note:

• If you’re interested, the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan posted an NHL Notebook;

• The Windsor Star re-posted Bob Duff’s conversation with Ruslan Salei about hitting the 900-games-played mark and his pregnant wife’s imminent due date;

• I also know I keep repeating this, but the Wings’ $9 tickets for March and April go on sale on Saturday at 1 PM at and only at the Joe Louis Arena box office;

• According to the St. Petersburg Times’ Damian Cristodero, the Lightning are still steamed about the number of Wings fans who cheered for the visiting team last Thursday, as suggested by Lightning CEO Tod Leiwicke:

“Quite honestly, I didn’t like last Thursday, and it was beyond the final score,” he said Wednesday. “I have a great respect for the Red Wings and their brand … but I vowed at the end of that game we wouldn’t go through anything like that again.”

• Good news regarding two prospects: Montreal Juniors winger Trevor Parkes registered a goal and three assists in Montreal’s 7-5 win over Acadie-Bathurst, and Mitchell Callahan, who just returned from a concussion, posted an assist in the Kelowna Rockets’ 3-2 shootout win over Medicine Hat;

• ESPN’s Scott Burnside gave Henrik Zetterberg and honorable mention in his latest list of Hart Trophy-worthy players:

• Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings: The classy center has 10 points in his past seven games.

• And this quip from USA Today’s Kevin Allen speaks for itself:

Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan played his 1,099th game with the franchise Wednesday night to become the all-time leader in games played.

Doan is fourth among active NHL players in games played with a single franchise. Detroit Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom (1,472) is first, followed by Detroit’s Kris Draper (1,142) and New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur (1,114).

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Comments

Rdwings28's avatar

G’ MORNIN’ GEORGE

Posted by Rdwings28 on 02/24/11 at 09:28 AM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Thanks, George!  Geez, I hope the Wings get up for this game.  Tonight should be 2 points we can count on.  Unfortunately, that’s when the Wings often have trouble finding the energy they need to win.  So I see this game as a “statement” game.  A win will tell the home crowd that they really have the drive and determination we expect.

LET’S GO RED WINGS !!!!!

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 02/24/11 at 01:54 PM ET

SYF's avatar

• According to the St. Petersburg Times’ Damian Cristodero, the Lightning are still steamed about the number of Wings fans who cheered for the visiting team last Thursday, as suggested by Lightning CEO Tod Leiwicke:

“Quite honestly, I didn’t like last Thursday, and it was beyond the final score,” he said Wednesday. “I have a great respect for the Red Wings and their brand … but I vowed at the end of that game we wouldn’t go through anything like that again.”

It’s the best travelled fan base in pro sports, Leiwicke.  Smile and take it like a drunken prom queen.

Posted by SYF from Zata's Epic Viking Beard on 02/24/11 at 05:13 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

I guess they would rather have done without the money we paid for our tickets?

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 02/24/11 at 06:38 PM ET

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.