Detroit Red Wings GameDay: @ Vancouver Canucks

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Detroit Red Wings GameDay: @ Vancouver Canucks

Update (5:17 PM): Helene St. James reports that Chris Chelios (right leg) could miss up to a week with what the team is calling a "chip on the fibula." Chelios told the media that his leg is swollen:

It’s mostly the swelling that’s basically prohibiting me from using the muscle in that leg.

Piet Van Zant said that the nature of the injury is such that the team cannot be sure how long he'll be out, but it does not seem likely he'll return before the March 1st game against San Jose. 

Also, it looks like Aaron Downey is okay after all, as Ansar Khan reports that Garrett Stafford and Jimmy Howard will constitute the only lineup changes tonight.

Both beat writers report that the team has officially offered Darren McCarty a contract for the league-minimum. If he accepts, he'd earn about $100,000 for the rest of the season. Khan says he'd stay in Grand Rapids on a two-week conditioning stint. After that, presumably, the team would waive him to keep him in GR, as they appear to have no intention of bringing him to Detroit during the regular season. - Matt

Update (4:02 PM): George Malik's scouts the Canucks here.

News to me: Markus Naslund (groin) missed practice yesterday and may not be able to go tonight. That would be a definite plus for the Wings. - Matt

Update (3:02 PM): George Malik has a great roundup of the Flames game here. - Matt

Update (2:44 PM): The guys at Red Wings Brasil have captured the spirit of the moment. I can't read Portuguese, but the headline speaks for itself.

This is reminiscent of the 03-04 season, where the Wings were without nine regulars at one point. - Matt

Tonight is the fourth and final meeting between the Detroit Red Wings and the Vancouver Canucks this season. The Wings lead the series 3-0, with wins October 24th (3-2), October 28th (3-2), and January 17th (3-2 SO).

The Canucks improved to 5-1-3 in February with a 3-2 shootout win over Nashville on Thursday night. They began the month with a pair of shootout losses, 4-3 in Florida on the 1st and 3-2 in Dallas on the 5th. They won their February 7th meeting in Atlanta, 2-1, but lost two nights later to the Avalanche at home, 6-2. They beat the Blackhawks 3-2 in a shootout the night after losing to the Avs, and lost to Northwest Division rival Minnesota, 5-4 in a shootout, on the 14th. Since then, they've won three straight, including a 4-2 decision over Edmonton and a 3-2 OT decision over the Wild on Tuesday.

The Canucks' 70 points are good for third in the Northwest Division and 8th in the Conference. They are just three points behind Minnesota for the Division lead, however, and would vault to third place in the West  if they take that lead. This is a possible first round matchup.

The Sedin brother leads the team in points, with Henrik's 62 putting him in first and Daniel's 60 putting him in second. Daniel's 26 goals are team-leading, while Markus Naslund is not far behind with 22. Ryan Kesler (14), Taylor Pyatt (13) and Henrik Sedin (12) are the only other Canucks to crack the 10-goal mark.

Vancouver will be without Aaron Miller (foot), Lukas Krajicek (shoulder), and Brendan Morrison (wrist).

Roberto Luongo should get the start tonight.

For the Canucks' perspective, see Canucks and BeyondCanucks Fangirl, The Canucks Genome Project Blog, Canucks Hockey BlogOrland KurtenblogStick in RinkWaiting for Stanley, and  Yet Another Canucks Blog.

Detroit fell to 4-6-1 in February with a 1-0 loss to the Calgary Flames last night in Alberta. Despite the loss, it was an impressive game for the Wings, who played most of it with only five defensemen, three of whom were rookies. Chris Chelios went down in the first period after blocking a shot with the back of his right leg and, despite an incredible pain threshold, he was unable to return.

The Wings' young blueline performed admirably, however, with the only hiccup coming when Kyle Quincey turned the puck over the Alex Tanguay behind the Detroit end. Tanguay threw the puck out front and it rode up Pavel Datsyuk's stick, hit Brett Lebda's shoulder, and found its way into the net for the only goal of the game.

The Wings spent the first and second periods looking like they just wanted to survive the game with no more injuries, but in the third period, they really took it to the Flames offensively. Were it not for about three shots ringing off the post at various points in the game, the Wings would have won.

The Flames did their best Anaheim impression as they played as rough a game as any the Wings have been in all season. Dion Phaneuf's vicious hit to Tomas Kopecky's head was the pinnacle of the night's nasty physicality, but Jarome Iginla made a nice showing of classlessness with a childish crosscheck/two-handed slash on Mikael Samuelsson late in the second period. I hear all the vaunted language of respect that is constantly used to describe Iginla and I'd like to believe it. It's just that every time I see him play, I find reason to respect him less.

Aside from Chelios' injury, there were at least three other injury scares last night: just as Megan, Sarah, and I were talking about how the injuries seemed exclusive to the defense, Kopecky went down on the Phaneuf hit. Impossibly, he came back seemingly none the worse for the wear. Chris Osgood appeared to hurt his shoulder while diving across the net at one point and favored it for quite a while. Aaron Downey took an elbow the face while chasing a Flames defender around the back of their net. He looked pretty out of it as he got up and skated to the bench. I believe he only played one shift after that.

The Wings will be young again tonight, as Chris Chelios (leg) will not play. Garrett Stafford has been called up from Grand Rapids to take his place in the lineup.  Stafford has 18 assists and 25 points through 47 games this season. Don't let his -2 status put you off: only a couple Griffins are in the positives this season due to poor team defense. He wears #7 in GR, but he obviously cannot wear that in Detroit. Maybe he'll go for #77. Bruce MacLeod points out that Stafford will be making his NHL debut.

Niklas Kronwall (clavicle) is close to returning, but the Wings aren't taking any chances. Derek Meech will fill in for the 12th time since Kronwall's injury.

Brian Rafalski (groin) will not be back this trip. Kyle Quincey will fill in for the third game in a row.

Nick Lidstrom (knee sprain), of course, remains out. They're now saying he could be back as early as two weeks. I'll believe it when I see it. With no injured defensemen returning, Jonathan Ericsson will get his second NHL game under his belt. He looked like a veteran last night and  will hopefully continue to do so tonight.

Dan Cleary (broken jaw) will miss his sixth consecutive game. I suspect we'll see Mark Hartigan tonight, as Aaron Downey was evidently not capable of finishing the game last night. Five shifts and 3:14 in TOI is low even for him.

Projected lines:

Franzen-Datsyuk-Holmstrom
Filppula-Zetterberg-Samuelsson
Drake-Draper-Maltby
Hartigan-Hudler-Kopecky

Projected pairings:

Ericsson-Lebda
Meech-Lilja
Quincey-Stafford

Jimmy Howard will start tonight.

For more of the Wings' perspective, see Snapshots, Abel to Yzerman, HockeyTownTodd, Behind the Jersey, No Pun Intended, Red Wings Nation, yzerman is god, Detroit Hockey, LetsGoWings, Red Wings Brasil, and Winging It In Motown. OklahomaWingNut’s GDT is here.

The Wings weathered the storm pretty well last night, but they face a tough task in Vancouver. The Canucks are on a roll and as much trouble as the Wings had with Miikka Kiprusoff last night, they're likely to have more with Roberto Luongo.  I would say that this will be a stiff test of the endurance of the young defensemen, but Quincey, Ericsson, and Stafford are used to the AHL practice of playing three games in three night, so it may not be as big a deal as you'd think. Obviously this is an entirely different level of play, but my confidence in the blueline is pretty high after last night. 

The offense is going to have to find a way to be more productive tonight. They looked somewhat disjointed last night and that's not going to fly against Luongo. 

The Wings can do this. 

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