Saturday, March 13, 2004

GameDay: vs. Dallas (35-23-12-0, 82) 3:00 EST

This afternoon is the fourth and final meeting between Dallas and Detroit. The Wings won the first two games with scores of 4-0 on October 24 and 6-2 on November 12, and the teams tied 2-2 on January 26. Manny Legace will get the start today in the Joe. The Wings are on a six-game unbeaten streak, going 5-0-1, with victories over Calgary (2), Philadelphia, Vancouver, Columbus. The Wings tied Tampa Bay 1-1 on Monday night. The Wings are coming off a 4-2 victory over Columbus Thursday night. In that game, Jason Williams scored two goals and Cujo returned to the ice after his absence due to a sprained ankle. He was shaky initially, but it seemed like he got more comfortable by the third period. The Wings will soon clinch the Central Division, and currently lead it by a commanding 15 points, with Nashville back at 77 points. The Wings are second in the league in points, with beyond-red-hot Tampa Bay leading the way with a franchise-record 95 points to the Wings' 92. Tampa Bay was the first team to clinch their division when it clinched the Southeast, and has gone 20-1-2-2 in their last 25 decisions, unbeaten in their last eleven. One loss in 25 is pretty darn good. I haven't really been paying much attention to the Lightning this season, and still can't get it inyo my head that they're first in the league, but we all know that they're for real after the game this past Monday. The Stars are turning up the tempo after a terrible start to their season, and are 8-1-2 in their last eleven decisions. The Stars have had trouble on the road, where they are five games below .500. Dallas is currently a fifth seed in the West, trying to catch San Jose in the Pacific Division. For a team that didn't looked like it was going to make the playoffs in the first half of the season with a struggling Mike Modano, the Stars have really picked up their game as of late. I enjoy playing against and watching the Dallas Stars. They're always a fast-skating team, and like to play a both physical and open ice game versus the Wings. Mike Modano took over as Captain of the Stars after the summertime departure of Derian Hatcher, and has not been himself this season. In 64 games, he has 13 goals, 23 assists, 36 points, and a plus/minus of -18 . Last season, Mike had 28 goals, 57 assists, and 85 points in 79 games, with a plus/minus of +34. For a traditionally great two-way player, who shared runner up for the Selke in 2001 with Joe Sakic, some say Modano has not adjusted well to the demands of being the Captain. Modano on his new role: "It's important, and it's something I want. It's been tough, but I'm working through it. It's a whole new experience, and I think I'll be a better person because of it." To me, Mike Modano is like Joe Sakic, in that I can't find any reason to dislike him and truly enjoy watching him play. I don't like seeing him struggle, and I hope that he gets his game back. After a four-month recovery from his torn ACL, Derian Hatcher is excited to face his old club at the Joe this afternoon. Hatcher, a Star for 12 seasons, only matched up against Dallas during the exhibition season. Derian on today's game: "I'm sure I'll probably be a little nervous, but I am definitely looking forward to it. But I'm more worried about just getting my game going." It'll be interesting to see whether Derian lays a few checks on his old teammates. Injury Update: Kris Draper will be out another three weeks with his torn left rotator cuff, but skated for 15 minutes before practice Friday. This is Derian Hatcher's third game back since returning from a torn ACL, which he suffered October 16 versus Vancouver, the third game of the season. Jason Woolley is still out pretty much indefinitely. With the nature of back injuries, Woolley could feel great in practice one day and then feel terrible the next morning. We saw this sort of setback-cycle with Darren McCarty, who was out for 38 games with bulging discs in his back. The injury occurred in the Wings' 4-3 loss to the Predators on Nov. 8, when McCarty fell awkwardly into the boards. Hopefully Woolley can get back into the mix before the start of the playoffs, because the Wings are going to need his solid defensive play then.


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