The week began with an absolute stinker against the Buffalo Sabres, who have transformed their game and become the mirror image of what Detroit is supposed to play like. Coincidentally, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff is an assistant coach to Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on Team Canada in the upcoming Olympics. Perhaps Babcock has revealed too much of the Red Wings system at Team Canada meetings.
The Sabres dominated the faceoff dots winning 62% of the draws and then played keep away from Detroit for most of the night with an effective puck possession game. The Sabres who lead the league in shots on goal per game, much like Detroit has for years, then outshot Detroit 37-25, and outscored them 6-2. Buffalo had struggled offensively and were winning because goalie Ryan Miller, from East Lansing, had been stingy since the start of the season. Unfortunately for Detroit the Sabres offensive struggles came to an abrupt end on Tuesday. Perhaps Ruff can repay the favor of taking the Red Wings system by providing secrets to beating Miller, who is a candidate to play goal for Team USA, to Team Canada, and by default the Red Wings. Then the coaches can call it even.
The Los Angeles Kings came into Detroit riding a modest hot streak, winning four of their last five games, and their top line of Ryan Smyth, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams had combined for 25 points in six games. The Kings were also getting solid goaltending on nights when the offense struggled. Detroit's team defense, that was scorched in Buffalo, delivered a gem, limiting the Kings top line to just one goal, and two points. Chris Osgood rebounded from his dud in Buffalo and was the game's second star stopping 24 shots. The highlight of night and the week was Nicklas Lidstrom's second assist of the game which was his 1,000th NHL point. He is just the eighth defenseman in league history to reach the milestone.
"It feels great and it's something I'm proud of to reach that milestone, with the other players that are in there with 1,000 points, especially the defensemen," said Lidstrom.
"He's obviously is a spectacular player and he has been for a long long time, and you have to be really healthy and you have to be fortunate to play on a good team, and then you have to be an absolute star," said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on Lidstrom's milestone. "For a d-man to reach that milestone is very very special."
And then there was Saturday against the Avalanche. The Red Wings were definitely two different teams in this game. They opened a 2-0 lead through two periods and had outshot the Avalanche 23-13, hardly allowing them to touch the puck. The Avalanche started the third period by killing off a double minor and then took it to the Red Wings the rest of the way. They scored three straight goals to take the lead capitalizing on turnovers (Red Wings lead the NHL with 91 turnovers) and a terrible line change. Valtteri Filppula scored to give Detroit the lead again but the they were unable to hold on as Colorado scored late to force overtime and finally a shootout which was decided when Milan Hejduk beat Osgood with the exact same move to the backhand that Marek Svatos beat Osgood with on the previous shot.
"I just felt it was one of those games that you have everything going your way, you should bury them," said Babcock. "We didn't bury them, we let them stay in the game, and instead of putting a knife in them, and it came back to haunt us. It's a point that we let get away that we should never let it at home."
Justin Abdelkader scored his first regular season goal in the NHL against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday. He scored two goals in the playoffs last season. In off-ice news, Pavel Datsyuk was out of the lineup against Los Angeles and Colorado with an upper body injury, but is expected to return to the lineup on Thursday night against Phoenix. Johan Franzen underwent successful surgery on the ACL in his left knee and will be out of the lineup at least four months. Andreas Lilja, on long-term injured reserve, continues to suffer headaches and is not close to returning to the lineup.
Red Wings leaders
Filppula and Tomas Holmstrom had two goals each last week, Henrik Zetterberg had four assists and five points. Todd Bertuzzi elevated his play and was named the second star in the games against Los Angeles and Colorado.
Red Wings three Stars of the week
First Star - Zetterberg - Having missed most of training camp with a sore groin, Zetterberg is slowly catching uyp to his teammates in terms of conditioning and it is reflected in his production with one goal and four assists in three games.
Second Star - Filppula - He has been the Red Wings player on most nights so far this season playing a complete game providing offense and defense. No one has drawn more praise from Babcock for their play than Filppula this season.
Third Star - Bertuzzi - Bertuzzi has responded well to playing on a line Zetterberg and has also drawn praise from Babcock for his improved play.
The Red Wings begin a two week road trip with a visit to the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night and Colorado on Saturday. The Coyotes played the Red Wings tough last season losing at home in a shootout, and twice at Joe Louis, once in overtime and the other on a last minute goal on a controversial penalty call. The Avalanche have already upset the Red Wings this year.
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