Wednesday, March 15, 2006

GameDay: vs. Anaheim (31-20-12, 74 Pts) 7:30 ET

The Wings will finish up their regular season series with Anaheim tonight with their fourth game against the Ducks this year. Detroit has won two of the three games between the two teams, with the first coming on October 21st (3-2) and the latest on March 1st (2-0). Their only loss to the Ducks this season came on November 25th, a 3-1 decision on the first game of a West Coast road trip. The Wings have won their last three since dropping their first home game after the Olympic Break to Phoenix last Tuesday. The rebounded from that loss with a commanding 7-3 win over LA two nights later and then rolled over Chicago twice, 6-4 on Saturday and 5-3 on Sunday. The Sunday game had such highlights as Cory Cross' first goal as a Red Wing and Pavel Datsyuk's breakaway goal on Nikolai Khabibulin (.mpg), which resulted in the Russian goalie's second yanking in two nights. The Red Wing penalty kill was a perfect 7-for-7 over the two Chicago games, a nice improvement over allowing two power play goals three straight games. Still, they have allowed 15 goals in their last four games, as the News points out. Despite the fact that they have won three of those games, that is something they cannot do in the playoffs if they want to survive. And they know it. Tonight's game is the last of a three-game homestand. The Wings will head to Western Canada for back-to-back games this weekend and will hope to have better luck there than they have so far this season. Chris Osgood will get start his second consecutive game tonight, the Freep reports. Babcock, who has not been impressed with Legace's most recent outings, is sitting his declared playoff goaltender, who'll start on Saturday in Edmonton. The Freep article has an important quote from Steve Yzerman on Legace:
"He's gotta play well. He doesn't have to stand on his head or anything. Everybody's got certain expectations and responsibilities and the starting goaltender has to play well, and if that's going to be Manny, he's got to elevate his play over the next 20 games.

"You know, he says he wants to be the No. 1 guy. Let's see what you can do. He's getting that opportunity. It's a great chance for him to really make a huge step forward in his career." (hat tip A2Y)

The Captain doesn't often call players out in the media so this is significant. Hopefully it'll motivate Manny to get where he needs to be for the playoffs. The Ducks are just two points back of both the 7th and 8th seeds (with 4 and 3 more games, respectively, to play) and are a possible first round opponent for the Wings. They too have won their last three, beating two of their Pacific Division rivals, San Jose (5-4 OT) and Phoenix (5-3 and 5-2) after losing to Columbus on the 5th. They have been riding the five-game point streak of Teemu Selanne, who leads the team with 61 points and is profiled by the Freep's Helene St. James here. Tonight's game kicks off a four-game road trip for the Ducks, who will face Chicago, Columbus and Dallas after leaving Detroit. Expect JS Giguere in net tonight. Ilya Bryzgalov started Sunday but it was the second of back-to-back games and Giguere was getting a rest. It would be nice for the Wings to make a statement defensively tonight. If Chris Osgood isn't fired up about the chance to outshine Manny Legace, he isn't the competitor he used to be. I expect him to have a good game.


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