Wings pay visit to resurgent Canucks
Tuesday, 10.27.2009 / 7:00 PM
RED WINGS (3-4-2) at CANUCKS (6-5-0)
Season series: This is the first of four meetings between the teams this season. Detroit went 2-0-2 against Vancouver last season and earned a 6-5 win on Dec. 4, 2008, in the last matchup at Joe Louis Arena. Daniel Cleary had two goals in the victory.
Last 10: Vancouver 6-4-0
Big Story: After winning the Stanley Cup in 2008 and coming just one victory short of a repeat in 2009, the Red Wings are off to a slow start this season with only three wins in their first nine games. Of course, the team is now without All-Star forward Marian Hossa, who signed as a free agent with the Chicago Blackhawks, as well as Jiri Hudler, who went to the KHL. Combine that with the loss of injured forward Johan Franzen, and you have yourself an awful lot of goals to replace.
Red Wings: It's still early in the season, but goaltending has been a concern for Detroit. Veteran Chris Osgood has been between the pipes for all three of the team's victories, but he's posted a 3.17 goals-against average. Jimmy Howard, who finally has a legitimate opportunity in Motown, is 0-2 with a 3.31 GAA. Both goalies have a save percentage of less than 90 percent. Howard got the starting nod in the Wings' most recent defeat, a 3-1 decision against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday. Craig Anderson made 48 saves for the Avs.
"We played well but their goalie stood on his head," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "We had a ton of chances, but right now their goaltender is in a zone."
Canucks: After a rough start that featured three consecutive losses, Vancouver has bounced back in a big way and got over the .500 mark on Sunday night with a 2-0 win against the Edmonton Oilers at GM Place. Roberto Luongo stopped all 27 shots he faced and surpassed Kirk McLean as the franchise's all-time leader in shutouts with 21.
"We're really starting to play well systems-wise and defensively," said Luongo, who's allowed six goals in his last five games. "It makes my job a lot easier and I am able to focus on the shooter more and just challenge him and not worry about any of the backdoor stuff."
Who's Hot -- Tomas Holmstrom has picked up the slack in Franzen's absence, as he's tallied five goals (three via the power play) in Detroit's first nine games, while Henrik Zetterberg is 1-9-10. For the Canucks, Henrik Sedin is still averaging a point per game despite the injury to his twin brother, Daniel, as he is 4-8-12 in 11 contests. Mikael Samuelsson, who played in Detroit from 2005-09, has five goals and five assists.
Injury Report -- Besides Franzen -- who isn't due back until after the Olympic break with a torn ACL -- the Wings will also be without defenseman Andreas Lilja, who continues to suffer from post-concussion syndrome.
Canucks forward Daniel Sedin is expected to return in late November from a broken foot suffered on Oct. 7. Pavol Demitra is out indefinitely after undergoing a second surgery on his shoulder, while Sami Salo (knee) and Jannik Hansen (broken fingers) are also out. Rick Rypien (groin) is likely to be a game-time decision and Kyle Wellwood is day-to-day due to a broken toe.
Stat Pack -- Not known for his offense, veteran center Kris Draper has been a pleasant surprise for Detroit. The 38-year-old has a pair of goals and an assist in eight games. He had seven tallies in 79 contests last season.
The Canucks are hoping a quick demotion to Manitoba in the AHL is just what Sergei Shirokov needed to find his game. The Russian winger struggled mightily at the start of the season in Vancouver, as he was a minus-4 in three games. After averaging a point per game over 10 Triple-A contests, Shirokov returned to the Canucks' lineup on Sunday and played a solid two-way game. He had one shot on goal in roughly 13 minutes of ice time.
Puck Drop -- Hard to ever imagine the Red Wings in last place, but they could find themselves at the bottom of the Central Division real soon if they don't overcome this slow start. Detroit, an annual NHL powerhouse, has yet to win on the road (0-3-1) and is just one point ahead of the last-place Nashville Predators.
--Brian Compton, NHL.com