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Posted On Monday, 01.16.2012 / 3:08 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Wings aim for franchise-record 15th straight home win

DETROIT -- It looks like one of those "sure wins" for the Detroit Red Wings when you look at Monday night's matchup against the Buffalo Sabres on paper.

Detroit has won 14 straight games at Joe Louis Arena -- which tied a club record set in 1965 -- and holds a 17-2-1 mark on home ice for the season. The Wings have also outscored their visitors this season by a 62-21 aggregate, with nine wins out of those 14 straight coming by three goals or more.

Buffalo, meanwhile, is just 1-7-2 in its last 10 trips to the Motor City and has lost eight straight games in regulation on the road for the first time in franchise history. The Sabres have also scored the least amount of goals on the road (36) in the entire League -- a paltry average of 1.9 goals a game.

"It's scary isn't it?" Babcock said on Monday morning, when the stark differences in each team's trends home and away were pointed out. "We have a game today. You can look at what you did over the last 15 or what they did … to me that doesn’t make any difference. They're getting prepared. We're getting prepared, and the team that plays the hardest is going to win. The onus on us is to play a real good game here tonight. You've got to find a way to win."

Luckily for Detroit, that hasn't been a big problem once they take the ice at home. It's been a much bigger issue in other rinks, where the Red Wings have a road record of just 11-13-0 so far -- a night-and-day difference that even strikes Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff as odd.

"Anytime you can win 14 in a row in your own building is an amazing feat, because you can get beat by a hot goaltender some nights," Ruff said. "The amazing part is to have that record and then to look at the road record and think, 'How come the road record isn't near as close as the home record?' But a lot of that has to do with getting your matchups and getting your personnel on a consistent basis. When they get their matchups with the personnel they have, they can take advantage of some tough situations."

A year ago, the Wings were better away from Joe Louis Arena than they were inside it. It's completely flip-flopped this season and Babcock just hunches his shoulders when asked for theories on why. Are the Wings actually playing their simpler "road game" on home ice and trying to be too fancy on the road?

"It's a good question and that's what we said about our team last year, when we were great on the road," Babcock said. "This year we're good at home and we don't know why we're not good on the road. I'd like to tell you I have all the answers. I don't. The bottom line … if you play well without the puck, I don't care if that's at home or on the road, you're going to win a lot of games. We've been way better without the puck in our own building than we have been on the road, and to me that's why we’re winning."

Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom took it a step further. He said the Wings get after opponents more and take the action to them more on home ice this season than they do in other rinks. Part of that, he said, has to do with the current home winning streak boosting their confidence when playing in front of the home crowd.

"You always want to have that edge when you're playing at home," Lidstrom said. "Our fans have really been supporting us and been behind us and we've been real aggressive at home. We're going after teams a little bit more than we have on the road."

They ought to be just as hungry to get after the Sabres on Monday night, with the chance to set a record with a 15th straight home win that no other Red Wings team has done before in the 86-year history of the franchise.

"Looking at the teams we've had here in the last couple of decades, we've had some great teams back in the 1990s and early 2000s and we're still able to win 14 straight with the team we have today," Lidstrom said. "It proves we have a good team this time around, too."
Posted On Monday, 01.16.2012 / 2:48 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Sabres, Red Wings

DETROIT -- The League's best team on home ice will take on one of the worst away from its home rink on Monday night when the Detroit Red Wings host the Buffalo Sabres at Joe Louis Arena.

The Red Wings, who tied the franchise record of 14 straight home wins this past weekend, will be looking to set a new franchise record against the Sabres -- who haven't won a road game since Dec. 3 in Nashville.

The Miller brothers -- Buffalo goalie Ryan and Detroit forward Drew -- will also square off as one of the game's other storylines. Ryan Miller is still finding his way back to top form in goal after a concussion knocked him out of action for about three weeks, while the Wings' Drew Miller has worked his way into an every-game role playing left wing on the third line and plenty of penalty-kill minutes.

Detroit is largely healthy, while Buffalo is riddled with injuries -- especially along the blue line. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said after Monday's skate that defenseman Robyn Regehr (upper body) will not play on Monday night and might not play this week, but Andrej Sekera (upper body) is ready to return after missing eight games on the injured reserve.

Buffalo also recalled defenseman TJ Brennan from Rochester of the American Hockey League on Monday and he could draw into the lineup against the Red Wings, as well. No matter who plays, Ruff expects them to be more careful with the puck than they were on Saturday night against the New York Islanders in a 4-2 road loss.

"Our defense is going to have to play better," Ruff said. "We're going to have to make smarter decisions and we have to be better with the puck in the offensive zone, so we get to play there more. I think that will be the key. It all starts with what we do up ice. If we allow them to control play in our end and give them that period of time, by the time we're done defending we're giving them back the puck usually … and that won't work."

Here's a look at how the Sabres and Red Wings might line up on Monday night.

Thomas Vanek - Jochen Hecht - Jason Pominville
Nathan Gerbe - Derek Roy - Drew Stafford
Luke Adam - Ville Leino - Brad Boyes
Cody McCormick - Paul Gaustad - Patrick Kaleta

Brayden McNabb - Tyler Myers
Andrej Sekera/TJ Brennan - Jordan Leopold
Mike Weber - Marc-Andre Gragnani

Ryan Miller
Jhonas Enroth

Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Danny Cleary
Cory Emmerton - Justin Abdelkader - Tomas Holmstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jakub Kindl - Jonathan Ericsson

Jimmy Howard
Ty Conklin
Posted On Sunday, 01.15.2012 / 7:23 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

San Jose's Desjardins scratched in Chicago

CHICAGO – San Jose Sharks rookie center Andrew Desjardins was scratched
Sunday night at the United Center against the Chicago
Blackhawks after taking an illegal hit to the head on Saturday night
in Columbus.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said before the game that Desjardins still
needs to undergo further testing, and that his long-term status might not be
fully determined until the team returns to San Jose on Monday.

“He’s in that stage -- that next-day stage -- where he’s got to come in
and we’ve got to re-evaluate him and get him to take his baseline
test,” McLellan said. “That’s where he is right now.”

Desjardins spoke with San Jose Mercury News reporter David Pollak
after Saturday nights’ game and said he felt fine, but McLellan warned
that, often, the symptoms of a concussion don’t fully start until the
following days after an injury occurs.

Desjardins, whom McLellan was happy with centering the Sharks’ fourth
line, was hit with a headshot by Columbus Blue Jackets rookie Dane
Byers early in the second period and didn’t return. McLellan expressed
his strong objection to the kind of hit that knocked Desjardins out of
the game and said it will be reviewed by the League for a possible
punishment -- on top of Byers’ major penalty and ejection from the game.

“I know it’s going to be reviewed,” McLellan said. “What will come out
of it? I don’t know. They have their guidelines and their protocol for
dealing with it. It’s completely out of our hands right now. Our
concern goes to our player and to making sure that we do everything we
can to make him comfortable and get him healthy.”

As for replacing Desjarding, Tommy Wingels is the answer short-term –
as he replaced Desjardins in the lineup against the Blackhawks –
getting the nod over forward Frazer McLaren. If Desjardins needs to
miss more games, McLellan will mix and match until his young center is
ready to return.

“Desi will still be a very important player for our team,” McLellan
said. “He’s really felt comfortable over the last month in his
environment here. We’ve used him on the penalty kill a lot. He’s
anchored that fourth line for us and they’ve given us good minutes on
a daily basis, so I really feel for him right now because he was just
starting to feel good about being a National Hockey League player.”
Posted On Sunday, 01.15.2012 / 1:37 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Sharks-Blackhawks

Joel Quenneville didn't reveal who would start Sunday night's game against the San Jose Sharks at the United Center (7 p.m. ET), but it wouldn't be a surprise to see Corey Crawford in net after Saturday's strong performance.

Chicago did not hold a morning skate on Sunday, but the answer to starting goalie should be relayed by Quenneville on Sunday afternoon when he meets with the media prior to the game.

Here is a look at how the lineups for the Sharks and Blackhawks might look like:

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Benn Ferriero
Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Andrew Murray

Jason Demers - Brent Burns
Dan Boyle - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Douglas Murray - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

Desjardins took a hit to the head in Saturday night's game against Columbus and might be held out depending on how he feels upon another examination Saturday in Chicago. If he cannot play, look for Tommy Wingels or Frazer McLaren to draw into the starting lineup.

Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Andrew Shaw - Marcus Kruger - Marian Hossa
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - MichaelFrolik
Jimmy Hayes - Jamal Mayers - Andrew Brunette

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
John Scott - Steve Montador

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery
Posted On Sunday, 01.15.2012 / 1:36 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Hawks' Crawford rounding into form

CHICAGO -- If it weren't for Corey Crawford, Saturday's 3-2 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena might've been a lot worse for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Crawford allowed two early goals in the first period, but the Hawks were badly outplayed in those 20 minutes -- outshot 21-4 -- and Crawford was forced to make a number of big stops to thwart good Detroit scoring chances.

Crawford also came up huge in the third period to keep his team down by just one goal on a breakaway by Red Wings forward Drew Miller -- turning his attempt away and paving the way for the Hawks to force overtime (and earn a big standings point) in the final minute of regulation.

Despite allowing the eventual game-winner in overtime on Todd Bertuzzi's snap shot off a rebound in the slot that just fluttered past him, Crawford was at his best in that game and has turned around his season after a slump that had him sitting out for six straight games in December.

After earning the starting job in his first full NHL season a year ago, Crawford is again showing why the Hawks allowed former goalie Antti Niemi -- who backstopped them to the 2010 Stanley Cup title -- to leave via free agency prior to last season.

"He's had a great start to his career," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said last week. "Had a great start last year … all big games for us down the stretch. You like his consistency. You like his size. Technically, his position is strong in each and every situation and he's got some quickness to his game."

He's also got some pretty thick skin. Instead of pouting while veteran backup Ray Emery took over the starting duties for that stint last month, Crawford just quietly worked with Hawks goaltending coach Stephane Waite on getting back into top form.

The work paid off. In nine appearances since the extended time off, Crawford has a 2.44 goals-against average and .921 save percentage -- allowing more than three goals just two times, with both of those four-goal games.

"He's a pro and wants to get better," Quenneville said. "He learns. He's got a nice relationship with Steph. The two of them work well together. Nice start to his career and we expect a lot out of him."
Posted On Saturday, 01.14.2012 / 12:14 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Quenneville saw 'good things' in Carcillo's short stint

CHICAGO -- Daniel Carcillo's season is over, but despite it being cut short by a knee injury his coach felt like he gave the Chicago Blackhawks what they were looking for when they signed him to a one-year contract last summer.

"I thought he had a good year for us," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Saturday morning at Joe Louis Arena. "I thought he did a lot of good things. I thought he gave us a presence and fulfilled a need and a niche for us. He provided some toughness, some emotion."

Carcillo, who earned a seven-game suspension for his hit on Edmonton's Tom Gilbert on Jan. 2, finished his season after just 28 games by scoring 2 goals and adding 9 assists with a plus-10 rating and 82 penalty minutes.

Carcillo came to Chicago with a reputation for toeing the line between acceptable and punishable conduct on and off the ice -- and even started the season with a two-game suspension for an incident between periods of a playoff game last spring.

Carcillo also got slapped with a two-game suspension in late October for a hit on the Carolina Hurricanes' Joni Pitkanen, which wasn't penalized in the game but was deemed an illegal hit after a review by the League.

Carcillo injured his left knee when he hit Gilbert, who was also hurt on the play. Gilbert's body slammed off the end boards and bounced back toward Carcillo's leg.

Carcillo immediately went down and grabbed his knee. He needed help getting off the ice and couldn't put weight on the leg. The Hawks weighed their options on what to do about the knee before announcing on Friday that he needed surgery to repair it and would be out at least six months.

Carcillo came into the season vowing to turn over a new leaf in regard to the questionable tactics and even adapted his game enough to play up on the first two lines with stars like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp.

His role on those lines was to help open up the ice for the fast, skilled forwards and provide some protection against teams trying to take liberties with the Hawks’ top players. He played the role well, with maybe his most memorable moment on Dec. 3 in St. Louis – when he came to the defense of Kane and Toews during a post-whistle scrum.

"We liked how he played," Quenneville said. "He complemented some nice players and did what he had to do."

Quenneville thinks the gritty veteran forward also learned a lesson this season.

"I think he knows his leash is extremely short and (about) being smart about situations," Quenneville said. "But he had a couple (hits) right there on that line and I think he's got to know when to push."

As for getting a season-ending injury after delivering a hit, Quenneville said it was both odd to see and highly disappointing for Carcillo.

"It was a strange hit, no question about it," Quenneville said. "You can only imagine (how upset he is)."
Posted On Saturday, 01.14.2012 / 12:04 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Blackhawks, Red Wings

DETROIT -- Chicago Blackhawks rookie Marcus Kruger (concussion) will get back into the lineup for Saturday afternoon's game against the Detroit Red Wings (12:20 p.m., NBC). Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he won’t likely start him off in the same role he held before getting hurt on Dec. 26 -- when he was centering the second line between Sharp and Hossa.

"He's ready to play," Quenneville said. "We're very happy the way he played with us. We'll see how he's progressing and maybe he'll work his way up (the lineup)."

Corey Crawford will start in goal for the Hawks, while Jimmy Howard will start for Detroit -- which trails Chicago by two points in the Central Division, but could leap to the top spot with a win because of a better points percentage with one less game played.

Here's how the lineups might look like for the Blackhawks and Red Wings:

Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Jimmy Hayes - Dave Bolland - Marian Hossa
Andrew Shaw - Marcus Kruger - Michael Frolik
Bryan Bickell - Jamal Mayers - Andrew Brunette

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Sean O'Donnell - Steve Montador

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery


Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Danny Cleary or Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Jan Mursak
Cory Emmerton - Justin Abdelkader - Tomas Holmstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jakub Kindl - Jonathan Ericsson

Jimmy Howard
Ty Conklin

Bertuzzi is a game-time decision (back/groin). If he plays, Mursak likely will sit and Cleary will go back to RW on the third line.
Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 2:48 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Setoguchi back in lineup after one-game benching

CHICAGO -- After being a healthy scratch against his former team on Tuesday, Minnesota Wild forward Devin Setoguchi will go right back into his spot at left wing of the top line on Thursday night against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Wild coach Mike Yeo decided to sit Setoguchi against the San Jose Sharks in Minnesota's previous game for what's been reported as the former Shark missing a team meeting. That meant he had to watch his new team beat his old team in street clothes at Xcel Energy Center, rather than contributing on the ice.

Setoguchi has 8 goals and 6 assists in 30 games, but also has a minus-7 rating after being dealt to Minnesota by San Jose last summer. He scored 22, 20 and 31 goals in his previous three seasons for the Sharks, but thus far isn't playing up to that kind of production for the Wild.

Yeo, however, expects Setoguchi to give an inspired effort against the Hawks on Thursday night.

"I think he's going to play hard tonight," Yeo said after Minnesota's morning skate at the United Center. "I always like accountability and I always like, even more than that, if you mess up then you come right back and respond. That's what we've done as a team many times this year and he's been a part of that, and I would expect him to do the same tonight."

The Wild are also counting on another solid performance from goalie Josh Harding, who will get the start with Niklas Backstrom still too sick to play. Matt Hackett will be Harding's backup, as the Wild try to duplicate the effort they gave against the Sharks without Setoguchi on the left side of captain Mikko Koivu.

Despite struggling to score goals this season, the Wild managed to beat San Jose starter Antti Niemi four times in regulation and twice in the shootout.

"Last game was a game that we have to try and go out and build off of," Yeo said. "We scored four goals against a team last game that doesn't give up a lot of goals. That doesn't mean we're just going to go out and do that at will now, but if we put in what we did last game we'll give ourselves a good chance."

That doesn't necessarily mean setting up the perfect pass for great scoring chances, either. It means swarming the net, being physical and trying to get the puck past Chicago goalie Ray Emery any way possible.

"We have to keep that type of mentality," Yeo said. "We don't score a ton of pretty goals, but that doesn't mean we can't score goals. We just have to do it the hard way."

Here's what the lineups for Minnesota and Chicago might look like on Thursday night:

Devin Setoguchi - Mikko Koivu - Dany Heatley
Cal Clutterbuck - Matt Cullen - Casey Wellman
Darrell Powe - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
David McIntyre - Warren Peters - Brad Staubitz

Nick Schultz - Jared Spurgeon
Marek Zidlicky - Justin Falk
Clayton Stoner - Greg Zanon

Josh Harding
Matt Hackett


Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Jimmy Hayes - Dave Bolland - Marian Hossa
Bryan Bickell - Jamal Mayers - Ben Smith
Andrew Brunette - Andrew Shaw - Michael Frolik

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Sean O'Donnell - Steve Montador

Ray Emery
Corey Crawford
Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 5:55 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Carcillo may need surgery; Kruger improving

CHICAGO -- Following his team's optional practice on Wednesday, Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said that Daniel Carcillo might undergo surgery to repair what appeared to be a lower-body injury that happened on Jan. 2 against the Edmonton Oilers.

Carcillo was hurt delivering a hit to Oilers defenseman Tom Gilbert behind the Edmonton goal, which was penalized and resulted in a seven-game suspension for the gritty Blackhawks forward -- of which he’s already served four games.

Asked on Wednesday to update Carcillo's health status, Quenneville said: “No update. With Danny there’s a chance he might need surgery.”

Quenneville was then asked whether the surgery might end Carcillo's season if he has it.

"Well, we'll see," Quenneville said. "Whether it's at the discussion stages or where we're at (with it), but it's still out there."

The suspension is Carcillo's third served this season, including a two-game carryover for an incident with an official during last season's playoffs when he was a Philadelphia Flyer plus a second two-game penalty for an illegal hit from behind against Carolina's Joni Pitkanen.

Carcillo also suffered an upper-body injury believed to be related to concussion symptoms in a game on Dec. 14 against the Minnesota Wild that kept him out for six games.

In other Blackhawks-related injury news, rookie center Marcus Kruger continues to make progress in his recovery from what's believed to be a concussion. Kruger, who had been centering the second line between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa before he got hurt, has missed seven straight games.

Sharp has since been injured (upper body/wrist), but Quenneville said Kruger is getting close to returning to play in games. He's been skating on his own and in team-related drills for almost a week.

"I don't think we're looking at (Thursday against the Wild), but maybe more toward the weekend," Quenneville said.

Posted On Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 5:51 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Frolik hopes for offensive spark from shift to center

CHICAGO - The speed is still there and Michael Frolik often uses it defensively while backchecking and putting a halt to opposing attacks.

It's the other end of the rink that has given Frolik some trouble, both this season for the Chicago Blackhawks and in his four-year career as a whole. Frolik has scored five goals and added six assists while playing in 40 games this season, but he has yet to turn that impressive speed and skill combination into a full-on explosion of offense.

Now that star forward Patrick Sharp will miss three to four weeks with an undisclosed upper-body injury, Frolik's role will change - at least initially. After playing the wing for most of this season, Frolik will likely play center on the second line to start Tuesday night's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (8:30 p.m. ET) at the United Center.

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville had rookie Ben Smith on the left wing of Frolik's line and star Marian Hossa on the right side.

"I played here last year a few games at center and it's just a different mind-set a little bit," said Frolik, who was acquired last year in a trade that sent former Hawks speedster Jack Skille to the Florida Panthers. "It's more responsibility down low and for sure it's a good opportunity. We'll see how it goes tonight. Hopefully it's going to be good."

Moving to the middle is going to be a little tougher than playing the wing, too. Frolik will have some faceoff and defensive coverage duties to handle that he didn't have to worry about while playing wing.

"It's more work, but I don't mind it," Frolik said. "You're kind of more (involved in) the game and you get the puck more. You're in the middle, so you get more pucks. I don't really mind it."

Of course, what's not to mind when playing with Hossa - Chicago's leading scorer with 44 points?

Frolik and Hossa are also Slovakian countrymen, so they should also connect verbally on the ice.

"He's one of the best in the League and it's a great opportunity to play with him," Frolik said. "We can talk to each other, too -- same language. It's kind of good. It's great to play with him for sure."
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