Tuesday, February 10, 2004

2/10 Notes

Ted Kulfan says in today's Detroit News that the keys to the Wings' playoff hopes are goaltending and health. It is widely thought that if they can resolve those problems, they stand a good chance of at least making the Finals. Well, they now have the goalie situation resolved, with Dominik Hasek done for the year (and, almost definitely, forever). The health aspect is another thing entirely. As of right now, the Wings are short Steve Thomas, Niklas Kronwall and Derian Hatcher. Thomas has a rib injury and is seven to ten days away from returning and Hatcher is slated to return sometime next month from a torn ACL. Kronwall has a broken leg and won't be back until April late April. The Wings have coped with injuries pretty well all season mostly because of their excellent minor league players who have really stepped it up. It will be different in the playoffs, however, and having guys as experienced as Thomas and Hatcher will help the Wings greatly. Kulfan also mentions a need for the team's stars to be consistent and I agree completely. The upcoming playoffs, and the stretch leading up to them, are going to be extremely difficult but now that the Wings have a definite #1 goalie and are getting healthy, they should be able to go much further than last year. Terry Green, also of the Detroit News, has a good piece about the Wings/Avs rivalry and it's revival in the last game after having a quiet couple years. He makes a good point to those of us who were upset at having to wait so long for a game versus Colorado:
Bleeding with tiny television ratings, the NHL now has the benefit of the remaining three meetings likely weighing heavily in the conference standings. Two of the games are scheduled for the Saturday afternoon network TV slots, the first this weekend. That’s when the NHL hopes to attract new bloodthirsty viewers with its brand of mayhem.
It's no coincidence that these games were scheduled after the NFL season ended. They'd have boosted the NHL's ratings even without having a crucial role in deciding the final standings. The Wings were understandably surprised, like just about everyone else, that Adam Foote was not suspended for high sticking Steve Yzerman in the face at the end of regulation during Thursday's game in Colorado. Associate coach Barry Smith said "I’m really amazed after watching the incident and on replay. There was no justification for it. You have to control your stick." Mathieu Schneider, the man who was suspended for two games after accidentally high sticking Boston's Glen Murrary, had this to say:
I don’t think anybody feels like he (Foote) meant it, but at the same time, it’s very similar to my situation. It was a careless use of the stick. They (the league) say they’re going to clamp down on it and they don’t. It’s the way it’s been for a long time in the league. It’s very frustrating."
Unfortunately, Schneider shot down any hopes we might have seeing some kind of retaliation on Saturday by saying "The best retribution is winning." That may be true but I will still be very disappointed if Foote skates away free this weekend. Very disappointed. I've heard some people say Foote wasn't suspended because the League knows there'll be a bloodbath or something on Saturday and they want the ratings such a thing would create. If that's really their reason, there is more wrong with the League than we thought. He should have been suspended no matter what and there is no acceptable excuse as to why he wasn't. Still, the NHL's hopes, if that's what they were, may be unfounded because the Wings may do nothing after all. We'll see By the way, the Captain was expected to skate today after missing yesterday's practice because he was at the dentist getting his teeth fixed. He will play in the game tomorrow night. Some great news for Wings fans (and Canucks fans.....for everyone in the Western Conference for that matter): Colorado defenseman Rob Blake is out indefinitely with a broken leg (probably after blocking a shot but he's not sure when exactly it happened because he kept playing on it). This is terrible news for the Avs, considering the season Blake has been having. He is probably the leading contender for the Norris Trophy and ranks second among defensemen with 40 points. He is a big part of the Avs' offensive rush and will be missed greatly. This gives the Wings a slight edge in the race down the stretch for the #1 spot in the West, that's for sure. John Niyo of the News has a good question-and-answer session with himself about the CBA and the possible lockout. CBC.ca has a great breakdown of the situation as well in their Faceoff 2004 feature.


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