Wednesday, March 03, 2004

GameDay: vs. Calgary (33-24-5-3, 74) 7:00 EST

This is the third of four games this season between the Flames and Wings. The Wings lead the season series, winning the only two matches, 3-0 and most-recently 2-1. However, this will be a test for the Wings, since the Flames are rallying to keep their playoff spot under the leadership Jarome Iginla. The Flames are 7-4-0-0 in their last 11 games, with phenom goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff taking over. Calgary is currently the sixth seed in the West, but only 3 points separate seeds five through eight, so they're in for a tight race through game 82. The Wings lead the league in points with 85, but four Eastern Conference teams are tied at 84, namely Toronto, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, and Ottawa. The real log-jam is in the Northeast Division, with Toronto and Ottawa tied at 84 for all-important division lead. As it stands, 5 of 6 Canadian teams are on pace to make the playoffs, with only Edmonton out of the picture in the current standings. The Wings are luckily in the noncompetitive Central Division, leading Nashville by 11 and St Louis by 17. Now is the time for the Wings to pull ahead of the Avs, who are 3-5-1-1 in their last ten decisions and are struggling in the Pepsi Center. The Wings lead the Avs by 3 points (Wings 85, Avs 82). Legace will get the start, with Cujo sitting out still with his sprained right ankle. Derian Hatcher, who tore his ACL in the third game of the season, is set to return either March 8 (Tampa Bay) or March 11 (Columbus). I can't wait to see Hatch out there commanding the blue line in the winged-wheel!! Jason Woolley is still out with his version "McCarty" back. Chris Chelios is listed as doubtful to get in the action tonight, still sore after Bertuzzi fell on his shoulder. A recent CAT scan only revealed limited damage to muscle and tissue, but the sheer weight of Bertuzzi at 245 pounds is enough reason for the pain to still be lingering. In some bad news regarding one of the best Wings players this season, Kris Draper was hurt in today's practice on a fluke play. He injured his shoulder in a shooting drill. Somehow his stick got caught up in Curtis Joseph's stick, and he fell hard to the ice. He required assistance leaving the ice and is doubtful for tonight's game. Recent News as of 6:00 pm: Kris Draper will be out four weeks after suffering a partially torn rotator cuff. His stick was actually tangled up in Cujo's mask, not stick as previously stated. Cujo: "His stick clipped my mask, and I think he tweaked his shoulder ... strange. I was skating in that direction, and I didn't think he was going to get another pass and he did. He one-timed it, and I put on the brakes, I think. His stick clipped my mask and I think he came down funny on it." This is a terrible break for the Wings and Draper, who has had a career best season in scoring. This might force GM Ken Holland to get back in the trade-deadline mix. The Oilers acquired Petr Nedved and Jussi Markkanen from the Rangers in exchange for Dwight Helminen, a second round pick, and Stephen Valiquette. I look for Leech and Lindros to be moved soon as well. Notables: Big news out of Montreal is that the Habs acquired forward Alexei Kovalev from the floundering Rangers in exchange for prospect Josef Balej and a 2004 second-round pick. The Rangers will be dumping many more salaries in these final weeks of the season, their seventh straight playoff miss. The Habs will likely make the playoffs as a seventh or eighth seed in the East. This very well may be the definition of a rent-a-player, with Kovalev making $6.6 million this year before becoming an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Kovalev has 13 goals and 42 points in 66 games. But his best years were with the Pens and Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. In a revelation, Rangers assistant GM Don Maloney finally realized that performance banks not only on skill but team chemistry: "He's a good player, but for whatever reason -- whether it was the chemistry or the mix -- it just didn't work." It took the Rangers long enough to figure that one out. The Washington Capitals just traded Sergei Gonchar to the Bruins in exchange for defenseman Shaone Morrisonn and two draft choices. They were so close to moving the high-scoring defenseman Tuesday night that he sat out their 1-0 loss to the Florida Panthers. Gonchar will be a free agent in the offseason, as this is the final year of a four-year deal that has landed him $13.95 million. Gonchar leads all NHL defensemen in scoring (7 goals, 42 assists) through 49 games-played. The Bruins are having a press conference at 2:30 p.m. The Blues have a playoff streak of 24 straight seasons, but that is in definite jeopardy this season. Their latest 4-2 loss to the Flames might prove costly. The Blues are four points out of the playoffs, but more importantly six back from Calgary. After the surprising firing of Joel Quenneville, the Blues have not responded to what was supposed to be a shock-and-awe execution. They have seven goals in their last six games, carrying a 0-5-1-0 record. Under Coach Kitchen, who was an assistant coach before the firing of Quenneville, the Blues are 0-3-1-0. Martin St. Louis is one of the few players who will ever come close to the Great One in the record books. St Louis became the first player to win NHL player of the month in consecutive months since Gretzky in 1986-87. Martin won in January, and, recently announced, February. Enjoy this one, Martin, because not many can say they've matched or broken a Gretzky record. The New York Post article that says Joel Quenneville might replace Tony Granato as head coach of the Avs is wrong. The Avs are going to stick with Granato, who was hired as Avs assistant coach June 18, 2002, and just later promoted to the head coach December 18, 2002, after the controversial firing of Bob Hartley. I can't imagine anyone being hired an NHL head coach just after six months of assistant coaching experience. Just look to Barry Smith, who has coach associate coach for the Wings for ten seasons, and before that was with the Sabres and Pens. One piece of trivia is that Smith started his coaching career as head coach at Elmira College, in New York, in 1975, and happened to get a Masters Degree in education during his stay there. There have been some tensions in the Avs locker room lately, most notably between Selanne and Granato, and it's much easier to ax a novice head coach for such issues than trade away skilled players. So Granato better straighten the situation out.


Post a Comment

Bookmark this post On the Wings

Search this site

<< Home

[Powered by Blogger]