Thursday, March 11, 2004

GameDay: @ Columbus (20-37-8-4, 52) 7:00 EST

Overview Tonight is the fourth of six games this season between these two Central Division teams. The Wings won the first two games with scores of 4-1 October 22 and 5-1 November 19 but were shut out the next night in the third game, 3-0. The Wings had won four in a row before skating to a 1-1 tie with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night. Derian Hatcher made his return that night and Manny Legace saved the game with a stellar 37-save performance. Tomas Holmstrom scored for the Wings. They lead the Western Conference by one point over the Colorado Avalanche with 90 but are tied for second place overall with Philadelphia. The Lightning lead the league with 93 points. The Blue Jackets are on a three-game losing streak. They lost 4-1 to Carolina on Monday night with their only goal coming from league-leader Rick Nash (37). They are 1-for-11 on the power play over their previous two games. Columbus is one point out of last place in the Conference but have ten more points than the worst team overall, Pittsburgh with 52. On paper, this looks like an easy win for the Wings but it never seems to turn out that way. The Jackets always get up for these games and make it hard for the Wings to put them away quickly. The Wings will need to be disciplined at both ends of the ice tonight and play like the far superior team they are. A win is expected here but, as we all know, this don't always go as expected. Injury Report Curtis Joseph is slated to start tonight for the Wings. He sprained his ankle a month ago when San Jose's Jonathan Cheechoo lost an edge before sliding into him when he was out of the net and he hasn't played since. Backup Manny Legace went 8-2-1 in this absence and made a very strong impression with his fine play. Head coach Dave Lewis wants Joseph to start around nine of the last 14 games of the season and if he doesn't perform like he did back in December and January, they may play Legace in the playoffs instead. Jason Williams will play tonight in place of newly-acquired and newly-injured Robert Lang, who suffered a broken rib during the first period Monday night. Williams has not played since January 19th and is understandably excited about playing. He is a player many hoped would break out this season but he has instead been disappointing. Hopefully he'll take advantage of this time and get some points. Pavel Datsyuk is not expected back for another week or so but I've heard he could come back any time. The Wings are apparently trying to give him rest in an effort to get him ready for the playoffs. He'd hit a wall anyway offensively and I think the break will be good for him as much as I'd like him back now. Jason Woolley is still waiting to get results from the test done on his back and won't skate for a few more days no matter what they are. I've really missed Woolley the past few weeks. It feels like he's been out forever and after the great year he's had, it's a shame he hasn't been able to play for a while. Kris Draper may return to the ice later this week for some light conditioning. He has a torn rotator cuff and is at least three weeks away from playing. The Wings are really going to miss Draper's defensive capabilities down the stretch, maybe even more than his new-found offensive abilities. The Wings will only have 20 players on the bench tonight which is the roster floor allowed by the League. They will probably call up a player or two from Grand Rapids for the two home games this weekend against Dallas and Nashville. Ken Holland will hold a press conference within a week to talk about the Hasek situation and answer questions that have arisen since Dom announced he was finished for the season on February 10th.


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