Saturday, May 01, 2004

Game 5: vs. Calgary, 3:00 ET

Today is the fifth game in this Western Conference Semifinals series between the Wings and the Flames. The teams have traded wins. Calgary won Game 1, 2-1 in overtime, the Wings won Game 2, 5-2 , Calgary won Game 3, 3-2, and the Wings won Game 4, 4-2. The series is tied 2-2. With the win in Game 4, the Wings earned back home-ice advantage. The series is now essentially a best-of-three series, with two of the three possible games in Joe Louis Arena. The Wings need to take advantage of home ice in Game 5, and put a stranglehold on the Flames. History is on the Wings' side with best-of-three's against Calgary. In 1978, the Wings defeated the Flames (then based in Atlanta) 2-0 in the Preliminary Round of that playoff season. Read up on past playoff formats and the Atlanta Flames. Some trivia is that ESPN announcer Bill Clement was on the Flames, as was Dick Redmond, Mickey Redmond's brother. Injury Update There has been serious speculation that Brett Hull is injured. The future Hall-of-Famer has skipped several recent practices, and CBC reported Thursday night that Hull is taking pain-killing injections and has been seen walking with a limp. It is unclear what the injury is, but the reports lead me to believe it's a "lower-body" injury. Chris Chelios, who missed Games 3 and 4, is likely a game-time decision for this afternoon's game. Oleg Saprykin hit Cheli hard into the boards near the end of the second period of Game 2. He left the ice holding his right arm. Forward Jason Williams has been out with a "lower-body" injury, which we now know is a groin injury. He had had problems with it during the regular season, and aggravated it during the playoffs. As for the Flames, Rhett Warrener's status is unknown for Game 5. He was a scratch in Games 3 and 4, after Yzerman's stick clipped him dangerously near his eyes. He is listed as day-to-day. Nieminen Suspended The league has rightfully responded to Flames forward Ville Nieminen's last second run on Cujo in Game 4 with a one game suspension. With the score 4-2 Wings and four seconds left in the game, Nieminen charged Cujo from between the circles and elbowed him in the head, throwing him into the net. He was given a 5-minute charging penalty and a 10-minute game misconduct. Fights ensued, and the refs escorted Nieminen off the ice as McCarty and other Wings attempted to exact revenge. It was a good move by the league to suspend Nieminen for Game 5, so the focus of the game is not revenge but playoff hockey. It's good to know that Nieminen's Cheshire Cat smile is going to be watching the game from a press box or the Flames locker room. It also means that Darryl Sutter will have to juggle his lines a bit, as the line of Nieminen, Shean Donovan, and Marcus Nilson was effective for the Flames in Game 4. Nieminen BSing an excuse for the incident:
"I was going behind the net and - I don't know - my arm kind of got stuck. I didn't hit him too bad....I was going for a loose puck behind the net, and I guess I was a little bit too close to the goalie."
Hull's Corner? With the future of Don Cherry in "Coach's Corner" uncertain, the CBC is looking for possible candidates to fill his unfillable shoes on Hockey Night in Canada. Brett Hull has been on the second-intermission "Satellite Hotstove" several times this season, and it is quite possible that he will be asked to move to the first intermission "Coach's Corner" if Cherry is not brought back. Hull comments on the possibility:
"They asked, and I'm getting down to the end of my career. Sooner or later here, I'm going to have to do something. I'm trying to make some inroads, to maybe see if it's something I enjoy or if I'm any good at it. I'm just sort of sticking my toes in the water."
While I don't think that Hull will bash French-Canadians and Europeans, and be as politically-incorrect as Cherry, I think he'd be a good fit. Hull has always been known as a second head coach on his teams, and he has a colorful personality. With this in mind, "Coach's Corner" would never be the same without the "Coach," Don Cherry. The guy has a passion for the game and Canada. When Hockey Night in Canada ratings are analyzed, there's a spike in viewers during the first intermission that far exceeds time slots for the rest of the game, and that's for a good reason. One reason, in fact. Also, I don't see how Brett Hull, Team USA member in the Olympics, can preach to Canadian hockey fans on CBC like Cherry.


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