Saturday, March 20, 2004

GameDay: @ LA (28-22-16-7, 79) 10:30 EST

Overview Tonight is the fourth and final game between these two teams this season. The Wings have won all three previous games, with two scores of 3-2 and one score of 5-4. That first win was the season opener, by the way. After going 7-0-1, the Wings have gone 0-1-1 and two of their last three games have been poor efforts, though they only lost one of them. They are coming off a 1-1 tie with the Coyotes, a game which was not a poor effort by any stretch and one in which they were arguably robbed of that all-important second point in a tight race with Colorado for the #1 spot in the Western Conference. It was the first match in a five-game, eight-day road trip that will take them to Anaheim, San Jose and Colorado after tonight's game in LA. The Kings will look to avoid losing three straight tonight in an effort to stay in the playoff race. They are #9 right now, just one point behind Nashville for the 8th spot and two behind St. Louis for the 7th. They are coming off a 5-3 loss to San Jose on Thursday, the second of back-to-back losses and the third in four games for the Kings. They are just 1-2 on a five-game home stretch. History is in their favor, however, since the Wings have not swept a season series with the Kings since the '69-70 season. Hopefully that will change tonight. This is yet another must-win game for the Wings who are just four points ahead a surging Colorado team in a very tight race for the top spot in the West. They cannot afford any slip-ups this late in the season, especially since they did not get that second point Thursday night and considering the Avs' considerable strength. If they want home ice later on, they have to continue winning now, injuries or no injuries. And speaking of injuries Curtis Joseph aggravated his ankle Thursday night when Phoenix's Daniel Cleary fell on him but he didn't let it bother him for long. "It just burns for a little while, but that's going to be part of it, I think. After a minute or so, it stops burning...," he said yesterday. Not all that encouraging in a way but at least he's playing through the pain, unlike some goalies we know. I'm not sure what Lewis will do tonight since Manny is playing so well but it's obvious Joseph needs to get some serious playing time before the post-season. Derian Hatcher likely will not return tonight. Apparently, the injury wasn't quite as benign as was announced. He and the trainers have determined it must have been a mild shoulder separation and since it is still weak, he will sit out tonight's game. He has already missed one game due to the injury and may come back tomorrow night in Anaheim if it feels any better. For the first time since cracking a rib on Match 8th, Robert Lang skated with the team. He said
"It's still the same. It's just that you want to do the things you're able to do. Just easing into it. The progress is there. I just want to be careful not to push it too hard and go back to two weeks again. Just kind of baby steps. Do a little bit more every day and see how it goes."
Lewis on Pavel Pavel Datsyuk made his return after missing six games on Thursday, logging a little more than 19 minutes, taking four shots, winning nine of 16 faceoffs and being a minus-1. Head coach noticed the same thing I did: "His passing, his decision-making ... just a little off." That is to be expected after missing six games and especially since he rushed himself back. Lewis spoke, I think, for every Wings fan on the planet when he said "But it's sure great to have him back in the lineup." Rusty or not, it was great to see Pavel play again. We'll likely see the old Datsyuk tonight after having that one game to warm up and get back in the swing of things. Not Wings-related If you haven't read Greg Wyshynski's The Joy of Bashing Hockey Fans yet, you have to. It's a great article. Thanks to VanCanOpEd for the link. Read it now. ESPN Freep


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