Blog: Taking Stockholm

Saturday, 10.03.2009 / 8:10 PM
Dan Rosen  - NHL.com Senior Writer
Time to go home
10.3.09 / 8:10 PM ET

It's late and I'm spent, so I'm calling it a night and ending this blog right here.

By now you know the outcome, a 5-3 win by the Blues, who stunned the Red Wings and the hockey world with a pair of wins here in Stockholm.

My game recap and a story on the bittersweet memories the Wings will have from this trip have both been filed. Be sure to check them out, but I urge you to watch the remaining 13 games tonight.

It'll be a great night of hockey for you all back home in North America. As for me, I have to get up in four hours to head to the airport with a number of NHL employees who are on the 9 a.m. flight back to Newark.

It's been an unbelievable week and a fantastic two games. I hope you enjoyed reading about it every bit as much as I enjoyed bringing you the coverage.

Before I go, I'll leave you with this from Blues coach Andy Murray…

"Having four points is great, but if we could just play an NFL schedule we'd like it right now," Murray said. "We've got a full hockey schedule and there is 80 games left so it's a long year and a lot of things can happen. The bottom line is we know the Detroit Red Wings are going to beat a lot of teams and certainly we've got four points off of them, which is difficult to do. We've gone up one up in the win total where we were last year, when we were 1-5 against them. It's a good statement for our team to find a way to hang in there and win."

Blues lead, 4-3, after 40 minutes
10.3.09 / 4:55 PM ET

For the second straight night, the Blues erased a two-goal deficit. If that wasn't enough, after Niklas Kronwall gave the Red Wings' the lead back, the Blues got goals from Brad Boyes and Patrik Berglund within 13 seconds to erase the 3-2 deficit and take a 4-3 lead.

Neither Boyes' goal or Berglund's goal were ones Jimmy Howard wants to watch again, but at least Berglund's goal came on a blast from the left circle with him all alone on Howard. Boyes' goal was off a shot from the lower right circle that just squirted through Howard.

Jay McClement created the chance for Boyes by winning the puck at the top of the right circle. Boyes cut through and shot from the lower portion of the circle for his goal at 13:24.

Erik Johnson helped create Berglund's goal by banging an up-ice pass off the left wing boards. Berglund darted through the middle, taking the best angle toward the puck, to get in alone on Howard. He wasted no time in blasting the puck by the rookie goalie at 13:37.

Kronwall, the only Stockholm native in the game, scored a power-play goal 7:29 into the period, less than four minutes after Andy McDonald tied the game with a power-play goal of his own at 3:47.

The hitting picked up in the final four minutes. Tkachuk buried Brett Lebda in the corner to Howard's right and the Wings' defenseman was slow to get up. Lebda didn't return to the game and my guess is he might not be back in the third either. I will speculate and say it's a shoulder injury, but I'm not 100 percent.

A little later Brad Stuart gave Alex Steen a nice pop at the left point just inside the Wings' defensive zone. Steen fell like a ton of bricks.

Wings lead 2-1 after eventful first period
10.3.09 / 4:01 PM ET

Tomas Holmstrom scored a disputed goal just 31 seconds into the game and Dan Cleary scored at 2:08 off a wonderful feed from Henrik Zetterberg to give Detroit a very early 2-0 lead. The Blues struck back late with a power-play goal from Keith Tkachuk to make it 2-1 after one.

For a while the Blues weren't helping their cause by playing out of control hockey, but the Wings couldn't capitalize on three power plays even though they sustained pressure throughout.

The Red Wings then got a little undisciplined and committed three of their own infractions within the final 3:38 of the period. They gave the Blues a 5-on-3 for 66 seconds at 17:17 when Kirk Maltby was called for elbowing.

Even though St. Louis couldn't score on the two-man advantage, it did cut the Wings' lead in half with Tkachuk's goal just five seconds after the 5-on-3 ended. Andy McDonald drove to the net from the right side and got the puck in front. It rolled on the goal line and Tkachuk was able to bang it by Howard at 18:27.

As for Detroit's scoring, the teams didn't even make a line change and we had some controversy. Thirty-one seconds into the game, Holmstrom stood in front of Blues goalie Ty Conklin and somehow got a piece of Brian Rafalski's wrist shot from the right point. The puck slid into the net as Holmstrom and Conklin fell to the ice.

The crowd of course went nuts because Holmstrom is a Swede and they're virtually all Wings' fans here save for a few thousand, but the goal had to go to a video review. It was concluded that it was a good goal and the Wings had a 1-0 lead just 31 seconds in.

It didn't take long for the lead to grow.

Cleary, who plays Holstrom's role on Zetterberg's line, scored from in tight after Zetterberg made a nice skilled move behind the net to get the puck on his forehand so he could slid a pass to Cleary standing in front of the left post. Cleary banged it in with one whack 2:08 into the game.

That was a great sign for the Wings, who got nothing out of Zetterberg and his line last night. They all had a role in that goal as Cleary scored it while Zetterberg and Todd Bertuzzi got the assists.

However, the Wings probably should have had a 3-0 lead with all of their power plays.  St. Louis instead scored on the power play and that's why we stand at 2-1 entering the second.

Getting underway here, Sundin drops puck
10.3.09 / 3:12 PM ET

Quick update as we get ready to go here inside the Ericsson Globe, where another pro-Red Wings crowd has packed the place.

First, Bullet, a total hair band, entertained the crowd after warmups while the Zambonis cleaned up the ice. I am talking hair band like mid-1980s style. They weren't terrible, but definitely my colleague Shawn Roarke would have loved them.

The fans here at the Ericsson Globe were treated to a special guest. Stockholm's own Mats Sundin, who just announced his retirement from pro hockey earlier this week, dropped the ceremonial first puck between Nicklas Lidstrom and Alex Steen, two Swedes. Steen is Sundin's former teammate in Toronto.

Needless to say, Sundin, who may be the most popular Swede to ever play hockey (Peter Forsberg is up there, too), got a huge, huge, huge ovation. Before he even came on the ice to drop the puck, the crowd was all standing and going absolutely wild for him.

Sundin had a huge smile on is face as he gave a wave to the crowd. It really was a touching moment for Sundin and his fans, his countrymen and women.

As for game news, Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson IS IN the lineup. The towering young Swede tested his sore left ankle this morning and again in warm-ups and apparently he was good to go after taking a shot off his ankle last night.

It'll be interesting to monitor his ice time. Ericsson is a key man on the Wings back end. He can take some penalty kill time away from Nicklas Lidstrom.

Really, though, does anyone here think Lidstrom can't still play 25-30 minutes a night for 82 games? The guy is super human so this should be a problem tonight.

The Blues are also going with the same lineup, but Ty Conklin is in net. Jimmy Howard is the goalie for the Wings.

Don't be surprised if one of them becomes the story of the night here.

Saturday morning skate update, goalie shuffle
10.3.09 / 8:00 AM ET

We've might have some interesting changes for Game 2 of the 2009 Compuware NHL Premiere-Stockholm, namely in net.

While Blues coach Andy Murray was non-committal on the subject, Ty Conklin was the first goalie off the ice for the Blues this morning giving us a good indication that he will play. Chris Mason stopped 31 of 34 shots last night and was the game's second star.

Jimmy Howard was the first goalie off the ice this morning for the Red Wings, and he confirmed to us that he will indeed be in the nets for Chris Osgood. Howard said he found out this morning that he was getting the nod over Osgood, who stopped 19 of 23 last night.

We can only assume that these changes (presuming we're right on Conklin) are being made for the long-term effects they both will have. The Blues and Wings know they need to get 15-20 wins from their backups and getting them in early shows the coaches believe in them and have a plan for them.

Conklin will also be facing his old team as he was with the Red Wings last season. Howard knows he has a lot to prove to the critics who wonder if he can make it as NHL goalie, and tonight is his first chance to answer some of the questions surrounding him.

It'll be interesting to watch.

Jonathan Ericsson, who left last night's game in the second period after taking a shot off his left ankle, surprised Wings coach Mike Babcock by skating this morning. Ericsson said his ankle feels a lot better today than it did last night, but he's still a game-time decision.

Derek Meech skated extra time, though, and that's a good sign that Ericsson might be able to give it a go.

Babcock also said he had a forward who was a gametime decision, but wouldn't indicate who. I couldn't tell either. Twelve forwards skated this morning and Babcock said the only two that didn't, Pavel Datsyuk and Valterri Filppula, were good to go.

That leads me to believe that his gametime decision might have less to do with an injury and more to do with a lineup adjustment he's contemplating. That would naturally involve Patrick Eaves. However, Eaves also skated extra time with Meech, so I'm not too sure what to think. I guess we'll just have to wait for the game.

The Blues are in an envious position now as they have a chance to take four points off the Red Wings heading back to North America. That would give them a significant leg up on the rest of the Central Division teams, who each still have to play the Wings six times.

Murray will no doubt remind his guys of that throughout the day.

The Blues had what Murray calls a "necessary" today. Most coaches term them "optionals" when discussing morning skates, but Murray said he hates the term because by saying the word optional it implies a player has the right to either play well or play bad.

Instead he uses the word necessary and leaves it up to the players to decide if they need to skate. If they feel it's necessary to get out there, well then they better be out there. Murray also said guys who didn't play the night before or aren't getting a lot of ice time should always find it necessary to skate.

Today, the Blues had Cam Janssen, Alex Pietrangelo, Derek Armstrong, D.J. King (IR), Conklin, Chris Mason and Ben Bishop on the ice. The rest of the team arrived at noon for a meeting.

The only Wings who didn't skate this morning were Datsyuk, Filppula and Brian Rafalski. Don't worry, Rafalski is good to go.

I'm headed out to find some lunch and buy some chocolate for my wife. I'll be back before the game.

Blues close out Wings, 4-3
10.2.09 / 5:40 PM ET

Chris Mason single-handily kept the Wings from tying the score roughly 5:30 into the third period when he made a brilliant save on Johan Franzen after diving across the crease from his right to left.

Pavel Datsyuk made minced meat out of Erik Johnson with a wonderful move. He then dished across to Franzen, whose one-timer was somehow stopped by Mason. Franzen was visibly upset and could be seen talking to himself after failing to capitalize.

The Blues and Wings traded power plays in the final 10:08 with no action resulting from either. The Wings called a timeout with 17 seconds left and put on some pressure, but couldn't score.

I'm headed down to the locker rooms now.

Ericsson not out there
10.2.09 / 5:06 PM ET

Jonathan Ericsson played only 1:03 in the second period and he's not on the bench now in the third. When he came back, he took some twirls on the ice during breaks in action, but apparently wasn't good enough to go.

I guess I was wrong when I said it was a skate problem. It's clearly something physical or else he would have been back by now. Derek Meech is the seventh defenseman, and if Ericsson isn't able to go tomorrow night he will be in the lineup and skating with Brett Lebda.

We'll have more on this later.

Blues jump ahead, 4-3, after 40 minutes
10.2.09 / 4:42 PM ET

Just when things were looking good for the Wings, who held a 3-1 lead, Chris Osgood and their defense got a little shaky midway through the period and the Blues were able to score three unanswered goals within a span of 5:05 to take a 4-3 lead into the second intermission. Paul Kariya had two goals and B.J. Crombeen added the other.

First, with Johan Franzen in the penalty box for high sticking, Kariya's low wrist shot from just inside the top of the left circle beat Osgood on the short side, blocker side at 12:31. Then, Crombeen tied it at 14:39 by cleaning up the loose change in front of Osgood, who couldn't handle the rebound of Jay McClement's shot from inside the left circle. However, no Wings' defenseman thought about blocking out Crombeen.

Finally, Todd Bertuzzi turned the puck over in the neutral zone and eventually the puck got chipped up the ice for Kariya, who broke through a Wings' player (couldn't tell who), gathered the puck just inside the Wings' blue line and skated in alone on Osgood for an easy breakaway goal at 17:36 to make it 4-3.

The Wings took a 3-1 lead at the 7:17 mark when Ville Leino scored on a hard snap shot from inside the left circle with 10 seconds left on Alex Steen's double minor for high sticking.

Until that point, Detroit's power play, the best in the League last season, looked disjointed. However, it was 25 percent last season and, wouldn't you know, it's 25 percent through two periods in Game 1 of this season. However, it also failed to score on a 5-on-3 for 1:36 in the first period, so you take that 25 percent for what it's worth.

After Leino's goal, the Wings buried the Blues in their own end for a while, using their wonderful forecheck and skill to keep the Blues running around a bit. Mason's glove save at 10:22 on Cleary's backhand from the slot kept the deficit at just two.

However, Franzen took a high sticking penalty and the Blues took off.

Ericsson returns from locker room
10.2.09 / 4:03 PM ET

I'm not perfect, so I missed the fact that Jonathan Ericsson went to the locker room with about five minutes left to go in the first period. He did not come out with the team to start the second but he's back now at 2:05 into the second. He must have had a skate issue.

Detroit leads 2-1 after 20 minutes
10.2.09 / 3:46 PM ET

Don't count out the Red Wings' veterans Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby just yet. They are the reasons the Wings have a 2-1 lead entering the first intermission.

Maltby scored a go-ahead goal on a shorthanded breakaway goal at 14:01 and he and Draper combined to assist on Jonathan Ericsson's game-tying goal just over three minutes earlier.

The Blues, though, killed off 1:36 of 5-on-3 time at the end of the period and that might energize them heading into the second.

With Johan Franzen in the box for tripping, Maltby took advantage of a misplay by St. Louis defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo at the right point and was able to streak in for a shorthanded, breakaway goal to give the Red Wings their 2-1 lead.

Colaiacovo couldn't handle the puck with Maltby, who had just come onto the ice, badgering him. Eventually Maltby sprung the puck loose, got around Colaiacovo and was able to go in on Mason all alone. He went to his forehand and roofed the puck over Mason's catching glove.

The Wings actually trailed 1-0 on Jay McClement's goal 7:54 into the game thanks to a powerful play behind Chris Osgood's net by Brad Winchester. He used his body to fend off Justin Abdelkader and then used a T.J. Oshie pick in the Wings' rookie center to get free. Winchester tucked around the left post and found McClement, who came down the middle, was able to one-time it in from just above the crease.

However, less than three minutes later, it was 1-1 thanks to a fantastic burst by Draper, who picked up the puck on the blue line along the right wing boards and skated around McClement, using the ref as a buffer, to get it in on Chris Mason. The Blues' goalie made the save, but the puck was loose in the slot and Swedish defenseman Jonathan Ericsson quickly banged it in at 10:42. Maltby had the secondary assist.

As for the atmosphere, well my seat is up in the corner press box about 15 rows up in the second level. It's a fantastic place to watch a game.

The fans here are wonderful. They sang along to the Swedish anthem, getting louder and louder as it went along and immediately at the start of the game there was a "Let's go Red Wings" chant.

Henrik Zetterberg got a loud ovation when he was announced as a starter. Niklas Kronwall got one, too, but Zetterberg's was much louder.

When Nicklas Lidstrom touched the puck for the first time, there was another loud ovation. You can easily tell who the big guys here are for the Swedish fans. Zetterberg and Lidstrom, no contest.

However, you could hear the Alex Steen cheering section the first time he touched the puck as well. Steen started the Blues off on a rush, but it didn't turn into much.

You can feel the buzz
10.2.09 / 12:42 PM ET

I took the subway over here to the Globe, a route I have become quite familiar with, along with ESPN.com columnist Scott Burnside and both of us commented on how there is a palpable buzz outside the arena.

You can definitely feel it here. There were many folks on our train wearing Red Wings jerseys and we got over here three hours in advance in order to watch most of the Blackhawks-Panthers game.

We met Anders Hedberg, who is scouting in Sweden for the Rangers, and we chatted with him for a while. He, too, sensed the excitement around the arena for the game and was very curious as to what kind of crowd it will be.

Judging by what I saw, it will be, as I already expected, a pro Red Wings crowd.

You know what, it should be.

This is truly Sweden's team and I believe it will be a sea of red inside this arena tonight.

I just took a walk around the glass and the NHL and the Globe staff has done something really cool here. They are feeding the Versus broadcast of the Hawks-Panthers game from Helsinki into the arena and showing it on the videoboard above center ice. Fans were welcome to come in early to watch and there are many pockets of fans that have taken advantage.

I'm back in the press room now after having some meatballs and mashed potatos and we are watching the game in here, too.

We are still more than two hours away from the puck drop, but I'm jazzed up. Finally, I've got a real game to write about.

I'll be keeping up with this blog in between periods so after the first is probably the next time you'll hear from me, unless I feel compelled to write a little bit more prior to the game.

No promises, but I hope all you folks stuck in an office somewhere on a Friday afternoon come back to me and keep clicking refresh. I'll take you through the action.

Updates from the morning skate
10.2.09 / 8:25 AM ET

Excitement is boiling over here. The Red Wings and the Blues are finished talking about what they could be this season. They're ready to find out what they are.

The puck drops here at Ericsson Globe at 9 p.m. local time, 3 p.m. ET.

"I've been doing it a long time and I don't care whether you're coaching pee-wee hockey or professional hockey or wherever you're coaching it's really exciting and you look forward to that first game," Blues coach Andy Murray said after putting his team through the paces this morning. "Just like when you're a kid in the spring you look forward to getting the ball glove out and in the fall in my town you couldn't wait until the little pond behind the school froze because that was the first place that froze in our town. We had natural ice and then you could go to the creek when it froze and then the river. So I get that same excitement every time a season starts."

Here are the expected lines, defensive pairings and starting goalies for tonight:

BLUES

Paul Kariya-Keith Tkachuk-Brad Boyes
Andy McDonald-David Backes-David Perron
Brad Winchester-Patrik Berglund-T.J. Oshie
Alex Steen-Jay McClement-B.J. Crombeen

Barret Jackman-Roman Polak
Darryl Sydor-Erik Johnson
Carlo Colaiacovo-Mike Weaver

Chris Mason

RED WINGS

Tomas Holmstrom-Pavel Datsyuk-Johan Franzen
Todd Bertuzzi-Henrik Zetterberg-Dan Cleary
Ville Leino-Valtteri Filppula-Jason Williams
Kris Draper-Justin Abdelkader-Kirk Maltby

Nicklas Lidstrom-Brian Rafalski
Niklas Kronwall-Brad Stuart
Brett Lebda-Jonathan Ericsson

Chris Osgood

Wings coach Mike Babcock put the Wings through their routine morning skate. It was crisp and fast and relatively quiet.

Meanwhile, Murray was barking at his guys throughout their roughly 35-minute workout this morning. You could see the intensity and their focus as they skated hard and went through a series of drills.

The Blues know the building will likely be against them tonight, but all they care about is two points. That's been the message Murray has been hammering home all week, and pretty much all preseason after the way last season ended.

"If anybody knows how important two points are early in the year it's us because what we had to do at the end of last year most people would have said was impossible," Murray said. "If you'd told us in December what our record had to be in the second half to get into the playoffs and that we had to win 9 out of 10 at the end, we barely made it. So it's all about two points. I don't care if we're playing in Moscow or Souris, Manitoba, where I'm from. And, I don't care who we're playing against. It's about the points."

After holding back all week on telling us who would play on the fourth line tonight, Abdelkader dished to me that he is, in fact, in the lineup and will play center on the line with Draper and Maltby.

Patrick Eaves will be scratched along with defenseman Derek Meech.

"I thought I would go," Abdelkader told NHL.com. "They brought me over here and if they didn't have a plan for me to play they probably would have had me in Grand Rapids."

Babcock said Abdelkader is in because he's had a good camp. Draper and Maltby "get the nod because of history. That's it. Nothing more went into it than that."

As for the Blues, rookie Alex Pietrangelo made the squad but as expected he won't be in the lineup.

Johnson, meanwhile, will get to play in his first NHL game in 544 days. Johnson last played on April 6, 2008. He sat out all of last season with a knee injury and has been itching to go for quite a while.

Each team had to accommodate for the 9 p.m. start, so the morning skates were pushed back an hour each and so are the team meals.

"I'll tell you, though, our body clock is so screwed up I don't think it makes any difference," Babcock said. "This is what a Vancouver game normally is like for us. We go all the way out there, our body wants to go to bed and now we're supposed to get pumped up to play. If we can ever survive to get woken up, then we're usually pretty good. It's no different, but it's the same for them as it is for us. You gotta play the game."

So let's go ahead and do that boys.

Normal day at the office
10.1.09 / 1:02 PM ET

This will be a short entry, but I have to start out with a funny story.

So, last night we get back to our hotel here in Stockholm -- the NHL staff is at the same hotel as the Wings -- around 2 a.m. local time and I head over to the front desk because a FedEx package was supposed to come for me.

I left my glasses at home and since I only have my contacts, I was so scared I would lose one and thus be blind. So, I had my wife FedEx my glasses to me.

Anyway, that's not the funny part (stupid part, yes). So, as I am asking one of the front desk managers if there was a package for me, Andreas Lilja, a Swede mind you, goes over to the other front desk manager and asks, in English, "Is there a package for Lilja?"

Right then, realizing what he's done, Lilja turns around to Niklas Kronwall, another Swede waiting on line, and says, "Why did I just ask that in English? I can't believe I just did that. I'm in Sweden for cryin' out loud."

Kronwall, laughing hysterically, looks at me and says, "You've got to get that in your blog."

So it is done.

Now, onto the news of the day.

Yeah, not much to say.

The only things to really watch for are the line combos and defensive pairings and judging by what I saw, it appears as though Alex Pietrangelo won't play for St. Louis tomorrow night and Justin Abdelkader is the odd forward out for Detroit. Cam Janssen and Derek Armstrong are also likely to be scratched for the Blues.

Pietrangelo skated on a fourth defensive pairing with forward D.J. King, who is on IR. That doesn't bode well for his status tomorrow night, but he said he hasn't heard anything and Andy Murray was non-committal.

Abdelkader stayed on the ice for extra practice along with defenseman Derek Meech and third goalie Daniel Larsson, so that doesn't bode well for him either. However, Mike Babcock said he would wait to make a decision until tomorrow.

I think the decision has already been made on both Pietrangelo and Abdelkader, but I'll have a clearer picture tomorrow.

As for other news, there wasn't any. Quiet day at the rink save for the large contingent of Swedish media in the Red Wings locker room.

Time to bolt out for dinner.

The blog will be doing some heavy lifting tomorrow and I will also have an on-camera spot detailing the news and notes of the morning skates from the Ericsson Globe.

Until then…

Mini-Monster
10.1.09 / 4:47 AM ET

Much to my surprise, the roster sheet I got last night for Farjestad was wrong and, of course, I had no clue. Then again, how in the world was I supposed to know? It's not like I follow that team on a daily basis.

Turns out, I had the goalies all mixed up.

Due to injuries to Farjestad's top two goalies, Henrik Karlsson (shoulder) and Robin Rahm (foot), they started the game with the third goalie, Andro Michel, 19, in net. He normally plays in Sweden's second league, the Allsvenskan, with Bofors.

And, the goalie who played the third period was none other than Johan Gustafsson, 17. Yes, the Mini-Monster if you will. Gustafsson is the younger brother to Toronto rookie Jonas Gustafsson, who was Sweden's best goalie last season while playing for Farjestad.

So, that means FBK's goalies last night were 19 and 17, respectively. And, Michel and Johan Gustafsson have only played in a combined two Swedish Elite League games.

How did I screw this up, you ask? Well, they had Michel and Rahm listed as the goalies and while I knew I had Michel right, they had Johan Gustafsson wearing Rahm's number last night. There were no names on the back of FBK's jerseys, so I was led to believe that it was, in fact, Rahm in net.

I humbly admit my error this morning, though I hardly believe it was my fault. 

Wings finish off FBK, 6-2
09.30.09 / 3:08 PM ET

Niklas Kronwall extended the Wings' lead to 5-1 with Detroit's fourth power-play goal of the night 10:32 into the third period. Henrik Zetterberg won the faceoff to Dan Cleary, who somehow got the puck to Kronwall in the high slot. The Stockholm native shoveled the puck past FBK goalie Robin Rahm.

However, just 14 seconds later, Sanny Lindstrom's slap shot from the top of the right circle beat Wings goalie Jimmy Howard and the place jumped again as FBK cut the deficit to 5-2. The P.A. announcer couldn't even get through announcing Kronwall's goal before Lindstrom scored.

And, to cap it off, Pavel Datsyuk's phenomenal vision showed again. The Russian superstar looked up ice and found Todd Bertuzzi streaking down the middle. He sent the puck flying and it hit Bertuzzi in stride. The hulking forward skated in alone on a breakaway and with a few moves was able to beat Rahm with 2:54 left to make it 6-2.

Before all of that, Howard made yet another spectacular glove save.

With the Wings short a man, Howard robbed Antti Pihlstrom 5:55 into the period. Pihlstrom was alone in front of the net and fired hard, but Howard was in perfect position to make yet another magnificent save.

In giving credit where credit is due, Rahm later made his own excellent glove save on Johan Franzen, who broke in alone on Rahm and deked to his backhand before shooting with about 12:30 to play. Rahm wasn't fooled.

My guess is when I ask Mike Babcock who he thinks his best line was tonight, he's going to say the third line of Valtteri Filppula between Jason Williams and Ville Leino.

Filppula and Williams each had a goal. Leino figured in two of the Wings' goals tonight and Williams also had an assist. They were very good together and individually on special teams.

I'm not sure if there is an answer as to the 12th forward, but I'll ask Babcock anyway. He'll probably just tell me he doesn't know yet, but that's also likely the truth. I don't think Maltby, Eaves or Abdelkader stood out tonight, but they weren't bad either.

Heading downstairs now. The blog is calling it a night.

Blues' Murray on Wings
09.30.09 / 2:40 PM ET

After watching two periods here in Karlstad, Blues coach Andy Murray didn't hesitate when we asked him to give just his general thoughts on the Red Wings right now.

"Best club team in the world," Murray told Taking Stockholm. "They're just good. Nick Lidstrom will play for three years and then Ericsson will take over and be their guy. And, Kronwall is there to take over for Rafalski. They're just good."

What also impresses Murray is how they just seem to find the right guys to fill holes when good players leave. For instance, we brought up the idea of Jason Williams being on the point on the power play with his powerful slap shot.

"That's where (Mikael) Samuelsson played on their power play last year so they put another right-handed shooter back there," Murray said. "They just fill their spots. They lost a big strong winger in (Marian) Hossa so they bring in Bertuzzi. They needed a bit of energy for (Tomas) Kopecky so they brought in Eaves. They just fill their spots.

"They're the best club team in the world, and one of the best national teams in the world (Sweden). We're playing both on Friday night."

Wings lead now at 4-1 after 40 minutes
09.30.09 / 2:24 PM ET

Former Nashville Predator Antti Pihlstrom lit a fire under this crowd with his goal from inside the left circle at the 12:56 mark of the second period. The building rocked and when they announced his name, all the P.A. guy said was "Antti."

The crowd, in unison, all screamed "Pihlstrom."

Pretty cool, but all it really did was cut the Wings' lead down to 4-1.

Brian Rafalski extended the Wings lead to 4-0 with a power-play goal 5:46 into the period. Kent McDonell got called for his second penalty of the night, this time holding, at 5:19 and the Wings didn't give up the puck.

Rafalski fired a harmless slap shot toward the net from the top of the zone and it wound up deflecting past goalie Andro Michel off of Ari Vallin's stick.

FBK got its first power play of the game just eight seconds later when Justin Abdelkader went off for high sticking. Using forwards Valtteri Filppula and Ville Leino as well as Kris Draper and Patrick Eaves, the Wings killed off the power play with ease.

Jimmy Howard came up with another magnificent glove save with just 1:34 left when he robbed Marcus Johansson of a goal. Howard has looked excellent, which should ease some of the concern about Chris Osgood's backup situation.

Howard played great against the Penguins on Sunday night and he's looked even better here. Still, I must say that FBK is playing very well. The Wings are not getting anything easy and Howard has been busy. He faced 10 more shots in the second and now has seen 17 in the game.

Wings lead after first, 3-0
09.30.09 / 1:38 PM ET

The Red Wings still had some train legs at the start of the game, but it didn't take them too long to get going. Jason Williams scored an even strength goal at 6:47 and Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula added power play goals at 15:08 and 18:35, respectively.

Williams ripped home the first goal after getting a tip pass at the blue line from Ville Leino. He skated into the right circle uncontested and uncorked a powerful slap shot that screamed past goalie Andro Michel's blocker.

Zetterberg made it 2-0 when after receiving the puck from Williams, he also skated alone into the right circle and snapped off a shot that beat Michel on the blocker side. Clearly, the Wings quickly identified Michel's weakness.

Filppula's goal, which came with six seconds left on a too many men on the ice penalty for FBK, came off some nifty passing between Niklas Kronwall at the point down to Leino in the left circle. Leino quick found Filppula in the area between the hash marks and the Finnish forward one-timed it home to make it 3-0.

Jimmy Howard faced heat, but he was good in stopping all seven shots he faced.

Howard, though, got lucky when Antti Pihlstrom missed the net after going in on a 2-on-0 with Kent McDonell. Jonathan Ericsson lost his stick when it was a 2-on-1, creating the chance for Pilhstrom early in the period.

Howard made a terrific glove save on Henrik Bjorklund with about seven minutes left to play. He had to go post-to-post to grab it while doing a split. Pihlstrom had another glorious chance a minute later, but again misfired.

The Wings had eight shots on goal.

When did we get to Detroit?
09.30.09 / 1:07 PM ET

What a classy move by Mike Babcock. He has inserted only Swedes in the starting lineup, save for Jimmy Howard. He could have gone six for six with Larsson, but Howard deserves the start.

Lidstrom, Kronwall, Franzen, Holmstrom and Zetterberg all received huge ovations from the packed crowd.

Prior to that, they showed only highlights from the Red Wings, including a few goals from Zetterberg and some crunching hits from Kronwall. And, amazingly, Farjestad was the first team on the ice.

I'm sorry, did we all of a sudden transport back to Joe Louis Arena? This feels like a home game for the Wings. I'm not kidding.

When the Wings came out on the ice, they were cheered loudly by the crowd that still hadn't filled in totally. It wasn't a chilling type of cheer that we are used to hearing in North America, but my gut tells me they are a bit reserved here.

Seriously, though, it was all Wings all the time in the pregame festivities, save for the National anthems. When they sang the Swedish anthem, the entire crowd joined in. It was pretty awesome.

And, they keep shining this spotlight down on the standing room only crowd, which is packed in like sardines. I'm serious, they might have set their attendance record just with that group in there. They are slammed in together, shoulder to shoulder.

Time for the game.

Enjoying the view from the press box
09.30.09 / 12:36 PM ET

I have a perfect seat to watch this game tonight. I'm up in the press box, which is located high above the ice, but not too high and I'm about even with one of the blue lines. You can't get a much better seat to watch and analyze a hockey game.

Lofbergs Lila Arena, which was rebuilt in 2001, is spectacular. The Wings will come out of a tunnel below the standing room only crowd. In fact, here they come to a round of applause from the appreciative crowd, a third of which is already standing or in their seats ready to watch warm-ups.

In fact, Farjestads BK just came out on to the ice and I think the Wings got a bigger cheer.

Since I had some time to kill I walked around the arena before they let the fans in. Not at all to my surprise, I saw a long line of fans outside by the entrance doors. They were clamoring to get in. Remember, Farjestads is expecting record attendance tonight in this barn that seats 8,250.

A few housekeeping notes that shouldn't go unnoticed: Henrik Zetterberg is indeed going to play. It's good to see No. 40 skating with his teammates in warmups. We haven't seen that since Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Andy Murray and two members of his staff just walked into the press box and are seated about eight chairs to my left. I'll try to get some of his thoughts in between the second and third periods like I did with Mike Babcock last night.

The Wings are dressing 20 skaters tonight, which is all they brought when you don't count the IR'd Darren Helm. The only eligible player that is not in the lineup is Chris Osgood, who has ceded his net to Jimmy Howard and Daniel Larsson for the night.

As expected, the top three forward lines go as Franzen-Datsyuk-Holmstrom, Bertuzzi-Zetterberg-Cleary and Leino-Filppula-Williams. Of Kirk Maltby, Justin Abdelkader, Kris Draper and Patrick Eaves, three of them will make up the fourth line Friday night.

The defense pairs are familiar as well: Rafalski-Lidstrom, Stuart-Kronwall, Lebda-Ericsson. Derek Meech is the seventh defenseman with Andreas Lilja sidelined with post-concussion symptoms.

Like the lords watching over the team, Wings GM Ken Holland, President Jim Devellano, Assistant GM Jim Nill, Chief European Scout Hakan Andersson and Director of Hockey Administration Ryan Martin are watching the game from a perch located just above the standing room only crowd and the tunnel leading to the Wings' locker room.

Owner and Secretary-Treasurer Marian Ilitch is somewhere in the building, too.

By the way, the area by the locker room, still not that large, is much more spacious than the Blues had last night in Linkoping.

It appears that Farjestad is dressing it's best lineup, too, meaning Washington Capitals' No. 1 draft pick Marcus Johansson is in the lineup. So, too, is former Nashville Predator Antti Pihlstrom. You can get a look at all of the Farjestads' NHL connections here.

Time for me to go find a hot dog. Keep clicking refresh right here because Taking Stockholm is now Taking Karlstad and I'll be posting blogs after each period.

Wings are a hit
09.30.09 / 10:17 AM ET

We just got off the train, a smooth ride from Stockholm to Karlstad, and immediately it was obvious how well the Wings are received here.

Many scribes like me, as well as cameramen and photographers were waiting at the platform when the train pulled into the station. There also were many fans waiting, as well.

These guys are a big hit for eight obvious reasons. Henrik Zetterberg is surrounded by media right now. It is sort of pointless for me to be over there considering I don't think he is talking in English.

I am right now waiting on a bus that will take us all to the Lofbergs Lila Arena. I am told the game is sold out. In fact, Roger Johannson, the club's sales manager, said he's expecting 8,400-8,500 people for tonight's game, which would be a club record. Johansson told me he could have sold 10,000 more tickets, because the interest is that great.

Personally, I'm very curious to see Washington 2009 first-round pick Marcus Johansson, who plays for Farjestad and grew up idolizing Zetterberg.

I am hoping to chat with him prior to the game.

It appears we are ready to roll out now as the crowd here is dispersing.

Z is ready to go
09.30.2009 / 9:17 AM ET

Henrik Zetterberg told me this morning (very early this morning for you folks back home) following the Wings' pregame skate at the Ericsson Globe that he is ready to play against Farjestads BK tonight (1 pm ET), which was his goal.

Zetterberg has been battling a sore groin since camp openend and did not play in any of Detroit's eight preseason games in North America. While that bothered him, missing tonight's game really would have soured his spirits.

Zetterberg is a former Swedish Elite League star and told me two weeks ago that he really hoped his groin was going to be better because he didn't want to miss any of the Wings' games here in Sweden.

He said he was nervous over the weekend that his groin wasn't responding well but he had two good skates in Stockholm on Monday and Tuesday, giving him the confidence that he could give it a go tonight in Karlstad against Farjestads BK.

The Wings will dress 13 forwards, 7 defensemen and 3 goalies tonight. Coach Mike Babcock can't wait to see the competition because he says jobs are still up for grabs. Mainly, though, Babcock just has to figure out who his 12th forward is going to be and it has come down to a competition between Kirk Maltby, Patrick Eaves and Justin Abdelkader. They will all be on the roster to start the season because Darren Helm is on IR.

Andreas Lilja is making the trip, too, but he is on IR with post concussion symptoms.

We are on the train to Karlstad right now and I will be blogging live from the game, the same way I did yesterday from Linkoping. Blues coach Andy Murray should be at the game and I hope to get some thoughts from him at some point.

Stay tuned.

Blues finish off Linkopings, 6-0
09.29.2009 / 3:18 PM ET

They had to kill off a 5-on-3 for 1:25 early in the third period, but the Blues did and they closed their exhibition season with another shutout, giving them two straight blankings and three straight wins by a combined score of 15-1 heading into the season opener Friday back in Stockholm against Detroit.

T.J. Oshie and Andy McDonald were each in the penalty box 6:07 into the period and Linkopings nearly was able to capitalize, but one shot hit the post and Ben Bishop held his crease well to clear everything else away.

Following the 5-on-3 it did appear, at least from my vantage point here in the press box about even with the St. Louis goal, that Linkopings scored, but the ref immediately waved his arms, signally no goal. I thought it went into the top left corner, but I doubt there is video review here.

Alex Steen made it 6-0 with 8:58 to play and Mike Weaver got the assist.

Babcock likes Blues
09.29.2009 / 2:55 PM ET

As promised, I spoke briefly with Wings coach Mike Babcock after the second period, and boy is he pretty high on the Blues and the Central Division as a whole. Babcock is not one to beat around the bush or feed you a bunch of lies just to be on the right side of the political correctness debate, so you know that what he says he means.

"When you look at their schedule and the way they got their team together early, they should be as ready as any team," Babcock said, noting the Blues have been using their full NHL roster for their last three preseason games, including tonight. "It's not like they're changing their team either. These kids like Oshie, Berglund, Johnson, Perron and Pietrangelo are just kids, too, and they're just getting better and better. I'll also say that Conklin is a good man and that should help them with that solid pair of him and Mason. I like their team a lot."

Of course, you can't talk to Babcock now and not bring up the Olympics, so I asked him if he was scouting Andy McDonald here because McDonald is one of the bubble players for Team Canada. He was at the Olympic orientation camp.

Babcock said he thinks guys like McDonald, Dan Cleary and Derek Roy are ideal depth guys for Canada. My guess is one of the three makes it as the 13th forward.

That's off topic, though. The game is back on.

Blues expand lead to 5-0 after 40 minutes
09.29.2009 / 2:40 PM ET

The second period started a bit slow for my tastes, but the Blues picked up a goal from Patrik Berglund at 9:49 to make it 3-0. Paul Kariya added a pair, including one on the power play, to make it 5-0.

Berglund cleaned up in front after Brad Winchester's shot from the left circle squirted through goalie Christian Engstrand's pads. Berglund had already darted down the middle to the net and was there for the easy rebound. Winchester and T.J. Oshie got the assists.

Kariya's power-play goal came at 12:56 and also from right in front of Engstrand. Brad Boyes, standing just below the left circle, sent the puck to the net and Keith Tkachuk, who was in front, got a stick on it. Kariya, coming from left to right, found the loose puck just above the crease and pushed it across.

Kariya's second goal of the night came just four minutes later at 15:55, but it appeared to go off a Linkopings' defenseman. I couldn't tell who, though, and the replay in here isn't all that great. Kariya was trying to feed the puck to Boyes, who was standing right near the left post. Instead, the pass went off a Linkopings player and Norrena had no chance.

Through two periods, the Blues' have outshot Linkopings, 23-12. Mason made seven saves in the first and Ty Conklin stopped all five shots he faced in the second. I believe we'll see Ben Bishop in the third.

Blues lead Linkopings, 2-0, after first
09.29.2009 / 1:40 PM ET

Fearful of falling to the same fate as the Florida Panthers, who lost to a Finnish team Monday night, the Blues came out flying to take a 2-0 into the first intermission.

David Perron got St. Louis on the board just 1:12 in with a low shot from the right circle that beat goalie Fredrik Norrena. Erik Johnson got the lone assist. Carlo Colaiacovo scored from the hash marks attached to the left circle at 6:28 after B.J. Crombeen fed him a crossing pass from the other hash marks. Alex Steen got the secondary assist.

Jay McClement nearly scored shorthanded at the 12:30 mark, but he lost the puck on a breakaway and after gathering it again he shot it over the net.

The Blues committed two penalties, but killed off both Linkopings power plays. Colaiacovo went off for high sticking at 6:52 and Crombeen was called for tripping at 12:22. Linkopings did not get whistled for a penalty, though David Perron did appear to get tripped on his way to the net from around the right post.

When the Blues weren't killing penalties, they spent a good deal of time buzzing around Norrena.

Since I can't locate a scoreboard that lists the shots on goal, right now I have no clue how many saves Chris Mason has.

What I found to be really interesting here is even when Linkopings got decent pressure and didn't even come close to scoring, the fans all cheered. I'm serious, all they did was play on the perimeter and get a weak shot toward Mason, but the fans all cheered anyway.

You gotta love optimism.

Interesting introduction
09.29.2009 / 1:10 PM ET

The lights are off and there is some pyrotechnic display here, but they just played a rocked out version of Michael Jackson's Beat It. Interesting. Now we've got Metallica's Enter Sandman going and here comes Linkopings. Everybody in the audience is standing and clapping in unison. Must be a tradition here.

The Blues are on their way out now. The clapping has ceased, and do you believe some people even booed. Hey, we've got ourselves a rivalry on our hands here.

For one night at least.

After both anthems were played, Linkopings entire team surrounded goalie Fredrik Norrena, the former goalie in Columbus, for a quick cheer. We just see guys go tap the goalies leg pads in the NHL.

Time for a puck drop.

The beautiful Cloetta Center
09.29.2009 / 12:45 PM ET

We arrived safely in Linkoping and while the Blues took a double-decker bus to the arena, myself and some colleagues hoofed it. OK, it was only a 10-minute walk, and it was nice, too. It's brisk here today, and the fresh air got me going for tonight's game.

This place is spectacular. These fans in Linkoping should be proud of this arena, because it really is beautiful. It seats 8,500 and it opened in 2004. There is also a standing room only area behind one of the goals and I bet that is where most of the noise comes from. And, right above that are two more levels of seating, but one looks like it is for handicap people while the other has just one row.

On the other side there is a restaurant between the lower and upper levels and the lucky fans in there get to eat and watch. You feel right on top of the action here, which is great.

While I was looking around the place, I saw some workers putting together some pyrotechnics for Linkopings' dramatic entrance into the game. Should be chilling.

We were greeted by Linkopings President, Mike Helber, a Michigan alum whose story you can read right here. Mike, a gracious host, said his team has lost three of its first four games in the Swedish Elite League and had a meeting last night around 1 a.m. after arriving home from a game where the coach, Slavomir Lener, told the players they better beat the Blues.

We'll see, Mike. We'll see.

For a look at Linkopings' NHL connections, click here.

By the way, Andy Murray said he knows Lener well from their days coaching in the World Championships. Lener is the former Czech team coach and Murray even said he and Lener once had a run in about style of play. It got kind of ugly, Murray said.

I doubt we'll see anything like that tonight.

Since the area by the Blues locker room is so small -- the corridor leads right out onto the ice -- the players who wanted to kick a soccer ball around had to go outside by where the bus was parked. It was a little early so there weren't that many fans watching, plus the bus was blocking a good part of the action.

The fans, though, are streaming in now and both teams are on the ice for warmups.

While Tyson Strachan and Alex Pietrangelo are not on the ice right now, I'm told Murray's plan is to play everybody tonight. He agreed to this with Lener prior to the game. So, my guess is Strachan and Pietrangelo will dress and come in sometime in the second period.

Stay tuned for that and all the action from the game right here.

Oh, and Wings coaches Mike Babcock and Paul MacLean along with scout Hakan Andersson and a video coordinator all made it. They didn't have their NHL issued Premiere passes, but they got in anyway.

They are all watching from somewhere in the press box. I'll try to get some thoughts from Babcock at some point tonight.

En route to Linkoping
09.29.2009 / 10:15 AM ET

The train is choo-chooing along to Linkoping and I am on board with the Blues and their traveling contingent. In fact, I am in the same car as coach Andy Murray and President John Davidson. Both are taking a midday snooze right now. I imagine the players are doing the same, but I don't want to walk through the cars to find out.

The scenery is gorgeous. And since it's another sunny day here in Sweden, you can really see the countryside well.

We should be arriving in about an hour and I will try to take a stroll around the arena to get a good feel for it. Alex Steen, who has played there, had good reviews of it.

Wings coach Mike Babcock told me last night that he and his staff were planning to drive to Linkoping for the game. I saw the Wings contingent enjoying a nightcap at the hotel last night just before I went upstairs for a much anticipated and necessary night of sleep.

Similarly, Blues coach Andy Murray told us he and his guys will drive to Karlstad tomorrow night to see the Wings play Farjestad BK.

And, of course, it should come as no surprise that some of the execs from each team are taking the time to do some scouting. Wings European scout Hakan Andersson had a game plan all lined up for GM Ken Holland and assistant GM Jim Nill. Meanwhile, Blues execs Al MacInnis and Larry Pleau are looking at 2009 first-round pick David Rundblad. Doug Armstrong and Jarmo Kekalainen also are on scouting trips.

Well, the train is humming along now and we are getting closer. Stay tuned.

Sampling the local culinary delights
09.29.2009 / 7:15 AM ET

I woke up today feeling fresh after trying some unbelievable Swedish meatballs and three kinds of herring (onion, mushroom and mustard) last night. Hey, when in Rome ... err Stockholm ... do as the locals do.

In fact, as I type this I am about to eat a local meal, Pytti Panna, for lunch at Pickwicks Pub, a short walk from the Blues hotel here in downtown.

Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall put me onto the meal. It's diced up potatoes, ham and onions with a fried egg on top and beetroots on the side. I will steer clear of the beetroots, but indulge in the rest.

Earlier today I was at the Globe for the Blues' morning skate. I am traveling with them by train to Linkoping for their game tonight. It should be a two-hour ride.

Anyway, Andy Murray did not like how the team skated this morning. He said they were awful, but let's cut them some slack considering it was the first time they skated on the brand new ice the NHL has made for the Premiere games. The first skate on any ice is bound to be brutal.

I spent some time chatting with Erik Johnson, who is startlingly huge. He confirmed that his body fat dropped from 14.4 percent to 8.8 percent since he last played an NHL game in 2008. A lot will be expected of Johnson this season, but I will have more on that in a story to be filed later.

I also chatted with Barrett Jackman, who also marvels at Johnson's size, strength and speed. Jackman and I talked about tonight's game and how the Blues need to stay within the system on the bigger ice. Jackman, though, said it shouldn't be a problem. He also said the Blues have had a great camp because everyone is buying what Murray and Co. are selling.

By the way, this Pytti Panna is delicious. I highly recommend it.

Also this morning I discussed the Blues' depth up front with Brad Boyes. Needless to say, he is excited.

The Blues have two lines that could be called No. 1: McDonald-Backes-Perron and Kariya-Tkachuk-Boyes. Their third line of Winchester-Berglund-Oshie should be hard to play against and the fourth line (Steen-McClement-Crombeen) has skill.

Boyes said that depth is why the Blues will be able to compete in the Central Division. Of course, it also helps that they think they solved some of their goaltending concerns by bringing Ty Conklin in to back up Chris Mason.
 
St. Louis' defense may still be a work in progress, but it has experience with Jackman, Daryl Sydor and Carlo Colaiacovo, plus the energy that Johnson and Roman Polak bring.

Alex Pietrangelo told me this morning he's still not sure what the plan is for him because nobody has told him. He could stay or go back to juniors. He will find out soon, but he feels good about his game and says that he understands the speed and pace of the NHL now.

So, with lunch done now it's time to end this blog and head over to the train station to meet up with the Blues. Stay tuned, I will have plenty more from here.

Finally, a look at the real Red Wings
09.28.2009 / 1:05 PM ET

With eight preseason games in 12 nights, the Red Wings had no choice but to keep a roster of well over 30 players for the entire portion of their North American exhibition season.

"You play as many games as we do and you can't dress everybody," Wings coach Mike Babcock said, "so that makes for some pretty ugly looking lineups."

Not anymore. While the first three weeks of training camp were partially dedicated to evaluating the young prospects in the system, this last week leading up to Friday's opener is all about getting the NHLers ready to go.

The Wings brought only 25 players with them to Stockholm and only 22 have a legitimate chance of playing in the games against St. Louis. Andreas Lilja (post-concussion syndrome) is on IR and Darren Helm (right shoulder injury) is headed there. Daniel Larsson is here as the emergency third goalie.

Lilja, Helm and Larsson were all on the ice Monday.

"In some ways, when you're practicing against yourself, sometimes the practice is better to evaluate what you're doing than some of these (exhibition) games you are playing," Babcock said. "That's the truth."

The Wings worked on all different situations, including five-on-five, power play and penalty kill. They did some 2-on-1 backchecking drills and some other one-on-one drills. For a team that had just flown overnight and landed only three and a half hours before stepping on the ice, it was a spirited workout.

But, of course, there was a purpose. Isn't that the case with everything this team does?

"We left (Detroit) at a really good time to travel (10 p.m. ET) because you're going to sleep on the flight, which is real positive," Babcock said. "If we didn't practice today they would have napped this afternoon and they would have been up half the night. If they don't sleep 'til 10, everything will be perfect. If they napped today, they were going to have a tough week."

The Wings have a team meal planned for tonight before the players are left to themselves. Count on them hitting the sack hard. I know I will after I grab a bite to eat.

We're all kind of fading now.

Just in time to catch the Blues
09.28.2009 / 9:40 AM ET

Don't read that headline the wrong way. I don't have the blues now, but I did arrive at the Ericsson Globe just in time to catch the Blues before they were all gone after what I'm told was a spirited workout at the attached Hovet Arena.

The Globe's ice won't be ready until Tuesday, so both the Blues and Red Wings are practicing at Hovet today. Hovet is the home ice for Djurgardens of the Swedish Elite League, meaning it has the larger, European-sized ice surface.

Of all people, Patrik Berglund, a Swede, told me he prefers American-sized ice surfaces. Blues goalie Chris Mason said he was surprised at how sharp the Blues looked in practice due to their weary legs and the larger ice.

The Blues got in around 5 p.m. local time Sunday and after checking into their hotel they went out in packs to get some dinner. Berglund said he had to help out some of his teammates with the menu and explain what some of the dishes were.

Some, though, were fairly self explanatory.

"Backs (David Backes) had some Swedish meatballs that were pretty good," Berglund told Taking Stockholm, adding he wasn't sure if the rest of the guys enjoyed what they ordered.

T.J. Oshie said it was a good bonding time to hang out with the boys, but he did admit that he has tried his best to let sleep rule his life since the team took off from Dallas late Saturday night.

"I have probably slept more than I've been awake," Oshie told us.

It makes sense since the Blues flew through the night and then arrived in Stockholm in time to only eat dinner and have a team meeting before it was time for bed again.

I'm still going strong despite getting only about three hours of sleep on our flight over. Luckily, with a good tail wind behind us, our scheduled nine hour flight took just a shade over seven hours.

The Wings will be on the ice soon. I'll have a story and a blog update from that as well.

On our way
09.27.2009 / 8:20 PM ET

The game is over, a 4-1 Wings win, and we are on our way to Stockholm.

I am hoping to catch some good sleep on the plane but still plan on being a little off kilter tomorrow. Either way, the blog will be live and you will hopefully be reading.

Until tomorrow, bon voyage.

Rematch (of some sort) underway
09.27.2009 / 5:45 PM ET

I'm up here in the press box at Joe Louis Arena right now watching 40 players skating in what any home viewer who likes watching hockey without the sound on would just assume is a rematch of the last two Stanley Cup Finals.

In uniform only, folks. In uniform only.

There's nobody in Penguins' white wearing 87, 71 or 55. Nos. 5, 11, 22, 23, 30, 40, 51 and 55 are absent from the Red Wings' roster.

Sidney Crosby is home nursing a sore groin and both Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar are scratched along with Ruslan Fedotenko and Mark Eaton.

Nicklas Lidstrom, Dan Cleary, Brett Lebda, Brad Stuart, Chris Osgood, Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula and Niklas Kronwall are the headliners missing from the Wings' lineup for tonight's game. Also out are Justin Abdelkader and Todd Bertuzzi.

So, like I said, in uniform only.

However, the crowd, which probably fills only half of Joe Louis Arena, is actually quite loud and the action has been interesting and we're only 20 minutes in.

The score is 1-1 on goals first by Pascal Dupuis for the Penguins and then a power-play tally by Johan Franzen, who danced through Pittsburgh's defense as if it were made of mush. He went around Brooks Orpik and beat Matt Cooke to the high slot. Kris Letang never stepped up and bam, Franzen ripped an easy one by Marc-Andre Fleury.

We've even seen a penalty shot, but Jimmy Howard stoned Jordan Staal at 5:53 and just 16 seconds later Franzen scored to make it 1-1.

Interesting to note is the Wings' top line of Johan Franzen, Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom. I'm thinking that could be a line when the season opens Friday in Stockholm with Zetterberg centering Cleary and Bertuzzi as the other scoring line.

Patrick Eaves, Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby make up a line, too, and that could be the Wings' fourth line. Ville Leino and Jason Williams have also seen time together, and they could be centered by Filppula on Friday night against St. Louis at Ericsson Globe.

Killin' time in Hockeytown
09.27.2009 / 11:43 AM ET

So what is an avid sports fan who is in Detroit for only 11 hours supposed to do when he has five  hours to kill before he has to get to the arena to start some real work, if you can call it that?

Plant himself at the famous Hockeytown Cafe, of course.

With TVs and Lions fans all around me, I am dug in, diet coke in hand and wings on the way, for a few hours of NFL action here at this sprawling tribute to Detroit's best team.

My NY Giants will be kicking off soon and I am lucky enough to watch. I will tell you that the Lions are kicking off at the same time at Ford Field, just a block away from here, and I could probably get a ticket on the cheap, but I would rather watch my team play than that team lose, again.

Plus, I have luggage with me and wouldn't know what to do with it. You see my point.

Anyway, my afternoon is set, but I can't stop thinking about what this journey to Sweden will bring.

Come along for the ride with me, but first enjoy your Sunday afternoon, wherever you might be.

Wheels up
09.27.2009 / 8:35 AM ET

The journey begins today.

The alarm went off at 5:40 this morning and, amazingly, I popped out of bed, spry and ready to go. Mind you, this was only two hours after I fell back asleep after rocking my 3 1/2 month old son back to sleep.

I am currently sitting on a plane parked at Terminal A in Newark. I first head off to Detroit where I will meet up with the Red Wings. I will be at the Joe for their game today against Pittsburgh and leaving shortly after for a 10 pm wheels up on my way to Stockholm.

The Blues should be arriving this morning but we don't get in until Monday morning.

I should have some updates between now and then, plus some updates of today's game, a rematch of the Cup Final, albeit without the fanfare we experienced in June.

They're telling me to turn off my blackberry, so away we go. Off to Hockeytown.

Clock is ticking
09.21.2009 / 2:45 PM ET

Exactly one week from today, Taking Stockholm is going to, well, take Stockholm. Although I'm going to be a tourist in a foreign land, I will also use this blog to be your tour guide through the Stockholm edition of the Compuware NHL Premiere.

My esteemed colleague, Shawn P. Roarke, has Helsinki covered in The Finnish Line blog located right here.

The National Hockey League is returning to Sweden's capital city for a second straight season and this time we're bringing what Henrik Zetterberg called Sweden's second national team, the Detroit Red Wings.

With six Swedes expected to play in back-to-back games against the St. Louis Blues, one could argue that the Wings will have a distinct home-ice advantage, at least from the crowd perspective.

While that may give you something to chew on for now, we've got a lot to do before we get down to the business of why we're going to the beautiful Scandinavian city in the first place.

Taking Stockholm makes its debut today from its home office on the 11th floor of the NHL's midtown Manhattan headquarters, but the blog will hit the road on Sunday when it leaves out of Newark Liberty Airport for Detroit, where it will catch up with the Wings.

From Detroit, Taking Stockholm will begin its adventure overseas and through six time zones to the city known as the cultural, economic, political and media capital of Sweden.

A nine hour overnight flight from Detroit to Stockholm-Arlanda Airport will give the blog ample time to rest and think about what lies ahead. It touches down just after 11 a.m. local time Monday and it will, for lack of a better term, hit the ground running.

Taking Stockholm will take you through the daily practices and interactions the Red Wings and Blues have in Sweden. Its first excursion will be to Hovet, a local arena in Stockholm, on the day it arrives to cover both the Blues' and Red Wings' practices.

It will take a train ride on Sept. 29 with the Blues to the southern Swedish city of Linkoping, where St. Louis will play an exhibition game against the local team from the Swedish Elite League.

Taking Stockholm returns to its home base after the game, but the next day gets another choo-choo ride, this time to the sunny city of Karlstad with the Wings. There, Detroit will face Farjestads BK, a legendary team in the Swedish Elite League with its eight championships.

The blog will head to Stockholm Central Station again on Thursday for a public pep rally to get the local fans geared up for the NHL action coming their way over the next two days.

Finally, on Oct. 2 the blog will find itself a cozy spot in the Ericsson Globe, an arena known to the locals simply as Globen, for the first of two main events. The Wings and Blues will play at 9 p.m. local time both Friday and Saturday, which translates to 3 p.m. ET.

A whirlwind week it most definitely will be. Taking Stockholm will put you right in the center of the action, but with a personal touch.

Come along for the ride.


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