Friday, March 05, 2004

GameDay: vs. Vancouver (35-19-8-4, 82) 7:30 EST

This is the fourth and final meeting between the Wings and Canucks this season. Previous results were a 3-2 October 16 win that left Derian Hatcher with a torn ACL, a 5-1 November 3 loss that left Henrik Zetterberg with a broken leg, and a most-recent 4-2 February 24 loss in which Daniel Sedin scored all four goals for the Canucks. So the season series is on the line tonight for the Wings, looking to even up the series to 2 wins apiece tonight when the two teams meet in the Joe. The Wings are in part of a scheduling anomaly that gives them 7 home games in eight games. One of the best home-ice teams in the league, the Wings need to take advantage of this situation and build a lead on the Avs as well as look to take the President's Trophy. The Wings are 9-2-1-0 and the Canucks are 5-4-1-2 in their last twelve decisions. Vancouver is coming off an emotional 5-5 tie to the Avs Wednesday night. After trailing by two goals three times, the Canucks stormed back in the third to secure the tie. The game featured a Peter Worrell/Wade Brookbank fight, as well as 46 minutes in penalty calls. The Wings are coming off a 2-1 win over the Flames Wednesday night, which left Dandenault and Draper out a month each and Datsyuk out two weeks with a sprained ankle. The Wings hold first place in the league with 87 points, with Colorado, San Jose, and Vancouver trailing by 4, 4, and 5 points, respectively, in the West. The situation in the East in strange, with Tampa Bay (1), Toronto (2), and Philadelphia (3) all tied at 86 points each, and Ottawa and Boston trailing with 84 each. This could make for a last day of the season flip in the East standings. And yes, the "(1)" next to Tampa Bay means they are currently first in the Eastern Conference standings. Legace will get the start tonight, backed-up by Marc Lamothe. 27-year-old Dan Cloutier should be the Canucks' netminder tonight, unless he gets cold feet remembering all the times the Wings have dominated him. Wednesday was a surreal experience for any Red Wings fan, as we had two of our guys suddenly out for a month, and a third in the hospital for x-rays and further analysis. As I periodically refreshed's NHL homepage throughout the day, it seemed like every time I did it there was a new trade or new Wings injury. It all started around noon, when I caught the story of Draper going down in practice. Little news was out as to the extent of the injury until that evening, but it sounded like a nasty fall. It also reminded me of the Wings' January 22nd 5-4 win over the Kings, when Niklas Kronvall broke his leg in the pregame skates while skating backwards and catching a rut in the ice. Another fluke that bites the Red Wings roster. I was unable to watch the 2-1 win over the Flames that night, as I had a major physics lab report due the next morning. But I was sickened as I followed the game via's boxscores to see two of our guys injured. The Wings lost their second player in 12 hours when defenseman Mathieu Dandenault broke his right foot after getting hit by a point shot from Flame Robyn Regehr late in the first period. And, when Wings fans were practically in tears after learning Draper and Dandenault were both going to be out for a month apiece, we learned of our leading scorer Pavel Datsyuk going to the hospital for x-rays on his leg postgame after a first period collision. Although he had played the remainder of the game and joined the team for workouts the next day, there was still a concern about the injury. And news is just coming in on the extent of Pavel's injury. is reporting that Pavel Datsyuk will be out two weeks with a sprained ankle. I hate to say it, but I almost feel numb to the news with the Wings' recent rash of injuries and season-long plague of them. I'm just glad it's not any more serious than that, and he'll be back in 10 to 14 days, way before the start of the playoffs. It's just a relief that it isn't a broken leg. That had me very worried and sleepless Wednesday night. Notables: Chris Chelios is going to return soon after injuring his left shoulder, the result of 245 pound Todd Bertuzzi falling on top of it in the Wings 4-2 loss to Vancouver February 24. And, Derian Hatcher, coming back from a torn ACL in his right knee, should lace up for a game in the next week. Jason Woolley is still suffering from a back injury, which hopefully doesn't keep him out as long as McCarty's back injury did. He hopes to start skating next week. As for Cujo, he will backup Legace Monday against Tampa Bay, and should play by the end of that week. GM Ken Holland surprisingly said that the latest round of injuries don't change his approach to the trade-deadline. He will try to upgrade the roster, but only in return for B-level prospects and mid-round draft picks: "You can never have enough depth. But at the same time, I'm trying to protect the 2008 team. I don't want to use all our assets on this year's team. I'm not prepared to pay a price to get players who are just going to sit in the stands as insurance policies." Holland is also negotiating for bust goaltender Dominik Hasek to give the Wings some relief from his $6-million salary, since he promised us a full season and we only got 14 games played. The Quitinator (formerly known as the Dominator) made the decision February 10 that he was going to quit the team but still go to Wings team functions. Hopefully Holland gets Illitch's money back and the Wings buy Hasek a complimentary one-way ticket back to the Czech Republic.


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