More lineup tweaks for Wings
4.16.2010 / 9:36 PM ET
Another change for the Wings: Looking for more zip out of their bottom two lines, coach Mike Babcock made a second juggle to the trios for Game 2, flip-flopping right wingers Drew Miller and Mike Eaves
Eaves will skate with Dan Cleary and Darren Helm, while Eaves joins veteran Kris Draper and center Jason Abdelkader, seeing his first action in the series to bring a more physical look.
No changes for the Coyotes, so with Jimmy Howard in goal for Detroit and Ilya Bryzgalov for Phoenix, here is how the lines look tonight:
Wings look to get physical
4.16.2010 / 7:36 PM ET
Making no bones about the lack of physical play from his third and fourth lines in the final two periods of Detroit's Game 1 loss to Phoenix, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock decided to send his message in several forms.
The obvious move was to replacing fourth-line forward Jason Williams with young wrecking ball Justin Abdelkader in the lineup for Friday's Game 2. But since Detroit's fourth line often makes only cameo appearances, the move was more motivational than tactical -- although you can expect Abdelkader to throw his weight around when he gets the chance, since he finished third on the team in hits despite playing only 50 games.
More important to Babcock, the rest of the Wings need more of a sense of urgency when it comes to pressuring the Phoenix defense, which accounted for two goals and five points in the Coyotes 3-2 win in Game 1.
"Our bottom-six forwards in the last game had no physical play, had no grind time," he said. "We weren't hard enough on their defense. We've got to be harder to play against. We'd like to bang some bodies."
The Coyotes did plenty of that in Game 1 -- they were credited with 40 hits, 16 of them by veterans Shane Doan (nine) and Ed Jovanovski (seven). The Coyotes open themselves up to be beaten down the ice if they get caught out of position, but Doan think the Coyotes found a comfort zone in the final two periods that they will try to revive.
"When they are playing well they can get through you with a lot of speed, and when we are playing well, we make it tough on teams to get down the ice," Doan said. "When we get the puck where it needs to be and pressure with the forecheck, we're a tough team to deal with. I think we can play a lot better than we did in Game 1, and that has everyone excited. There is definitely another level."
The Coyotes will stick with the same lineup in Game 1. But defenseman Sami Lepisto struggled on both ends of the ice and will be under the microscope. As the series wears on, Phoenix may turn to veteran James Vandermeer for a steadier presence and a bigger, more physical player to combat Detroit's crease crashers, especially Tomas Holmstrom.
Notes: The Coyotes scored three power-play goals for only the third time this season in Game 1. But it was the first time the Red Wing penalty killers had allowed three in a game since they opened the season in Sweden and allowed three to St. Louis on Oct. 3. … How big a game is this for the Coyotes? The Winnipeg/Phoenix franchise has only won two playoff series in its history - 1985 and 1987. The franchise has only led 2-0 in a playoff series twice, in - you guessed it, 1985 and 1987. … Phoenix has to keep the game to a manageable level scoring-wise. The Red Wings have won 49 straight playoff games in which they have scored at least four goals.
Lidstrom keeps rolling along
4.16.2010 / 6:46 PM ET
There are more pressing matters Friday night, like squaring the series with Phoenix and going back to Detroit with home-ice advantage. But for Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom, the historical significance of the game wasn't lost.
When the puck is dropped tonight, Lidstrom will be playing in his 236th NHL postseason game -- the equivalent of almost three entire regular seasons' worth of playoff action. He will move past Mark Messier Lidstrom into sole possession of second place among skaters on the all-time NHL postseason list.
Only Lidstrom's former teammate Chris Chelios - still at it at age 48, but not in the playoffs this year - has more among skaters with 266, through a deep postseason run by the Wings this spring could cut that lead in half.
Lidstrom, who will turn 40 in two weeks, has been a playoff participant in all 18 of his NHL seasons -- all wearing the Winged Wheel. Of the 564 playoff games Detroit has played, Lidstrom has suited up for more than 40 percent.
"It's something I'm very proud about," said Lidstrom, who has collected four Stanley Cups during a brilliant career that is destined to end with enshrinement in the Hockey Hall of Fame. "I never thought about doing something like that when I came into the League.
Not bad for a guy taken No. 53 in the 1989 draft out of Sweden. Along the way Lidstrom has collected six Norris Trophies and a Conn Smythe award to go with his jewelry collection.
"It's the kind of record you can't attain on your own," he said. "I've been fortunate to be on quite a few successful teams that have gone deep into the playoffs and the last 15 years have been particularly successful. I'm very proud of the record."
Goalie Patrick Roy played in 247 career postseason games between the pipes -- and Lidstrom could catch and pass him with a third straight run to the Stanley Cup Final.
Holmstrom a headache for opponents
4.14.2010 / 7:40 PM ET
Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom claims he doesn't get inside the crease when he sets up camp smack-dab in front of enemy goaltenders.
But there is no denying he gets inside the heads of his opponents.
After the Coyotes completed their normal drills Monday in preparation for Wednesday's playoff opener against Detroit, a new one was added in his "honor." With one Coyote standing in front of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to simulate Holmstrom's M.O., another pounded slap shots from the outside while Bryzgalov fought through for a clear view.
Even at the age of 37, Holmstrom is still the best at what he does – turn himself into a human speed bump with a hockey stick – in the NHL. He wears extra padding and protection to withstand that slashes from goalies and punishment from enemy defensemen so well, that teams have gone to Plan B – simply conceding the priceless real estate to him and concentrating on keeping the puck away from his deflection wheelhouse.
"I think there's (defensemen) out there who think they might actually get to him," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said during last year's first-round series with Columbus. "That's just not possible."
The Coyotes figure to mix and match their approaches against Holmstrom, who had 24 goals this season and an effect on numerous others.
"There are different philosophies on how to play Tomas," said Coyotes defenseman Mathieu Schneider, who spent two seasons as Holmstrom's teammate in Detroit. "Some teams leave him alone and they try to box out in front of him. Other teams get in his face and try to move him. At the end of the day, he's going to be there. There are copycats in the league, but no one does what he does quite like him."
Holmstrom knows that every new playoff series is its own dynamic when it comes to his style – both in how opponents defend him and how referees choose to call his tightrope act with the crease.
"The longer we go in the playoffs, it seems like the more (the officials) allow around the net," he said. "It's not in my hands. I play the same way. Their goalie (Bryzgalov) is a big guy, so he's harder to screen because he can look over your shoulder. You have to look and see where he's looking and try to block it out."
Schneider, brought in to give the Phoenix power play a lift, is a healthy scratch for Game 1. Phoenix coach Dave Tippett talked about the importance of matching the skill and speed of Detroit and will go with young Sami Lepisto as the sixth defenseman, even though the Coyotes finished the season on an 0-for-20 power-play drought
Tippett said center Robert Lang, who missed the last 20 games with a lower-body injury, is a "game-time decision," although he's not expected to play in Game 1.
Phoenix left wing Petr Prucha was skating with normal linemates and fellow Czechs Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. Prucha has 13 goals this season, but only two in the last 32 games and the last two games of the regular season saw him scratched once and banished to the fourth line in another.
Game 1 primer
4.14.2010 / 12:00 PM ET
Detroit at Phoenix: 10:00 pm ET -- The teams split their four meetings during the 2009-10 season, though both Phoenix victories came in overtime…Three of the four were one-goal games – including the Coyotes’ wild 5-4 victory at Detroit on Jan. 26 in Phoenix’ only national televised game of the season. The Coyotes rallied from a 4-2 deficit in that game to score twice in the final 1:30 of regulation before captain Shane Doan won it in overtime.
Cinderella vs. Godzilla: It's hard to imagine a bigger disparity in playoff experience than this series. The Wings are taking part in their 19th consecutive postseason; the Coyotes are in for the first time since 2002. Detroit's roster includes a core of players who've been part of all four Cup-winners since 1997; the Coyotes' franchise has never gotten past the second round and GM Don Maloney didn't hire Dave Tippett as coach until the final week of the preseason. But the Coyotes were solid in one-goal games (29-6-7) avoided major losing streaks all season and don't figure to be cowed by the Wings' aura of success.