Friday, February 20, 2004

GameDay: vs. St Louis (29-22-7-1 , 66) 7:30 EST

Tonight is the fifth of six games between these two teams this season. The season series is now 2-1-1-0, the Wings with the advantage. The Wings lost 6-5 in the October 29 bout, the ninth game of the season. Since then, the Wings have won 2-1 on November 29, tied 4-4 on December 4, and recently won 2-1 on December 22 versus the underachieving Blues. The Blues are 4-6-0-0 in their last ten, but, most-recently, have won three straight. On Monday, they had a convincing 5-2 victory against the Phoenix Coyotes. In the wake of the Burke deal, the Coyotes are slumping, with Boucher going 3-7-3-1 in his last 14 starts since the historic 5-game shutout streak. Last night, the Blues had a 4-3 overtime win against the Lightning, with Doug Weight scoring the game-winning goal. This win was big for the Blues, who currently trail the Wings by 12 points in the Central Division. And it came against the red-hot Lightning, who, coming into St Louis, had gone 10-1-1-0 in their last 12 before taking the overtime loss. This emotional victory by the Blues gives them some confidence coming into Joe Louis Arena for the second night of a back-to-back. The Blues are floundering in the playoff mix, currently holding the sixth seed, but just one point away from losing a playoff berth. This is the cost of not winning their division, and they will likely have to battle to the very last day of the regular season to even secure a playoff spot. Looking at the overall playoff picture, the Wings are tied for the league lead with Colorado and Philly at 78 points. With a comfortable lead in the Central Division, the Wings need to start pushing for the Western Conference crown in their remaining 22 games. Home ice advantage in a Wings/Colorado series would be a great luxury. Despite the Avs having the best road record in the NHL, Joe Louis Arena is where the Wings love to play in the heat of the playoffs. Manny Legace will get the start again and will be backed up by the Griffins' Marc Lamothe. Dave Lewis said Lamothe may get the nod in the Wings' back-to-back against Edmonton and Vancouver next Monday and Tuesday, but that is looking increasingly unlikely with the Wings' tight race with Colorado for the Western Conference title. Notables: Thursday practice was 45 minutes and very eventful. While running drills, Boyd Devereaux collided with Chelios, and was knocked to the ice. While he had to be helped off to the bench, he returned to complete practice. I'm sure it was a scary moment with Boyd's history of serious concussions. Jason Woolley had an "an executive workout." Sore from a strained back that he suffered Monday night versus the Oilers, he relaxed and got a massage. He likely will not play until next week. And Hasek's bizarre behavior continues. After shocking the Wings with news that his season is over, he has unexpectedly stuck like a leach to the team. Since the announcement, Hasek has watched Wings games in the locker-room lounge or from his suite. He attended a wine-tasting charity event, and has dropped by the locker-room on several occasions. I find this very odd. The Wings, who have watched Steve Yzerman battle through complex knee surgery to return to the ice, likely find Hasek's giving-up as a weak effort to return. He took shots in practice the day of the announcement, and should have at least tried to play in a game before hanging the skates up. And it doesn't help that Hasek is not even on speaking terms with Cujo, the guy the Wings are trying to rally around. Associate coach Barry Smith: "He's not playing, so he still wants to be part of the team. He's not going on the road trip." Good. Hasek is old news, and, as far as I'm concerned, not part of this organization any more. He will never play for the Wings again, and his comeback only threw the team into disarray. So I don't know why the Wings are allowing him to hang out with a team he is not a member of. Word is that GM Ken Holland has said that, if Dom�s presence becomes a distraction, he will address it.


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