Wednesday, March 31, 2004

GameDay: @ Columbus (24-43-8-4, 60) 7:00 EST

Tonight is the fifth of six meetings between the Wings and Blue Jackets this season. The season series is 3-1 in favor of Detroit. October 22, the Wings beat the Jackets 4-1 in the Joe. Manny Legace got the start, and Shanahan had three assists. November 19, the Wings beat the Jackets 5-1 in the Joe. Again, Legace got the start, and Brett Hull had two goals. The next night, the Wings lost to the Jackets 3-0 in Nationwide Arena. It had to be a tough game for Manny Legace, who started the second night of the home-and-home. Mark Denis notched the shutout. Most recently, the Wings beat the Jackets 4-2 in Nationwide Arena on March 11. Curtis Joseph got the start, and Jason Williams had two goals. The Wings are coming off a 5-3 win over Minnesota in the Joe. Manny Legace got the start, and Ray Whitney had two assists. For a game that the Wings� coaching staff feared could be a downer after back-to-back games against the Avalanche over the weekend, the Wings really showed up strong and gave a solid effort. The Wings lead the NHL with 105 points to Tampa Bay�s 104. And the Western Conference crown is nearly locked up, with the Wings needing only one point in three games to secure home ice advantage through at least the Conference Finals. The Wings are 6-3-1-0 in their last ten decisions. The Jackets are coming off a 6-0 butt kicking courtesy of the Buffalo Sabres, who are fighting desperately, but likely in vain, for a playoff spot. The Jackets, on the other hand, are the fourth worst team in the league, only better than Chicago, Washington, and Pittsburgh. The Jackets are 4-6-0-0 in their last ten decisions. Manny Legace will get the start. Kris Draper and Robert Lang are expected to return tonight. Coach Lewis says that they will play no more than a dozen minutes each, and will sit out the second of back-to-back tomorrow versus the Blues. Goaltending Analysis: News on Cujo is that he is out for the remainder of the season. This sounded terrible to me at first, until I regained my composure and realized that this amounts to three games. The thing that bothers me is that the Wings were optimistic that Cujo would be able to start in one of those games, so hopefully nothing has changed as to the extent of the ankle injury. My hope is that Cujo will be able to play through the pain, but I have a bad feeling that it's not going to happen. He hasn't been able to play through the pain thusfar, and, unless the adrenaline of the playoffs turns his ankle numb, not much will change. I do not doubt Cujo's competitive spirit, just that his physical ailment will weigh him down. He's taking cortisone shots to ease the pain, and will skate without equipment during the next couple days. This ankle has bothered Curtis all season, and it's pretty much a sure thing that he's going to have surgery on it this summer to repair the damaged cartilage. Last summer, just before training camp started in September, Cujo came out of the closet, per se, with news that he had an ankle issue. He then had surgery on Aug. 19 to remove bone chips from the ankle. During the regular reason, he has "tweaked" and twisted the ankle to the point that we are here, at game #80, with Cujo sidelined. His status is pretty much day-to-day, and I doubt that the Wings will try to set a definite return date. As for the starting goaltender in game 1 of the first round, Lewis says that "on Saturday, I'll know for sure." He has also said that it would not make sense to start Cujo if he didn't get into the action in these last games. Either way, Manny Legace has a sound approach to the situation:
"I'm thinking that I'm starting Game 1. I have to be prepared to go, so that is going to be my mind-set -- that I'm going to play Game 1. If I don't, I would accept it -- I mean, they've seen what Cujo can do. They've never seen me do anything in the playoffs. But it would be a letdown."
That's definitely the right attitude for the situation. Play your hardest, and leave the politics of who plays to the managers of the team. Here's a great article about everything Manny has gone through this season, as a Wing and on a personal level.


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