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From the Wings side of things

by Mike G. Morreale
Friday, Jan. 2
5:00 pm CT

Well, what an event.

From a Red Wings perspective, it doesn't get any better -- a game at Wrigley Field and a victory against those up-and-coming Chicago Blackhawks.

Hey, I hope Wings defenseman Brett Lebda receives another shot at scoring a goal in Chicago (likely at United Center) in order to celebrate the proper way in front of family and friends.

I'm hoping the League decides to play a game at Wrigley, at least, every five years and, finally, I hope Wings coach Mike Babcock opts for the fedora every New Year's Day from this point forward. Very sharp coach!

Here's the lates release regarding overnight ratings for the big game on New Year's Day.

NEW YORK -- NHL Winter Classic 2009, broadcast New Year's Day on NBC from historic Wrigley Field, earned a 2.9 overnight rating and a 6 share (1-4:15 p.m. ET), the best overnight NHL regular season rating in nearly 13 years (Feb. 3, 1996 on Fox, six-game regional, 3.0/7) and a 12 percent increase over last year's inaugural event (2.6/5, 1-4:45 p.m. ET). The Detroit Red Wings defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 6-4 in the second U.S. outdoor game in NHL history.

"Year one was an extraordinary experience. Year two was the establishment of what promises to be a great tradition," said NBC Sports President Ken Schanzer.

Top 10 Metered Markets:
1. Chicago 11.8/21
2. Detroit 10.5/20
3. Buffalo 10.1/20
4. St. Louis 5.3/10
5. Pittsburgh 4.4/8
6. Denver 4.2/10
7. Providence 3.5/7
8. Indianapolis 3.4/6
9. West Palm Beach 3.3/6
10. Orlando  3.2/5

JAN. 1 -- Happy New Year!
2:34 pm CT

Just 17 seconds after Brian Rafalski had given the Wings a 5-3 advantage, Brett Lebda blasted home a shot from the high slot that, upon review, extended the lead to 6-3. Referee Tim Peel reviewed the blast by Lebda that, at first, was waved off.

Everything in the Wings favor right now as the announced crowd of 40,818 in attendence looks on. Ty Conklin hasn't allowed a goal since late in the first period and the Wings forced starter Huet out of the game in favor of Nikolai Khabibulin with 16:36 remaining in the third.

2:23 pm CT

My god! I just heard Eddie Olczyk's version of 'Take Me Out to The Ballgame' that was obviously taped during a previous Cubs game. That was the worst rendition I've ever heard. I think's Dan Rosen should be given an opportunity. What do you think?

2:09 pm CT

Wings grab first lead, 4-3
That incredible Hakan Andersson find in 1998 -- Pavel Datsyuk -- was at it again.

After taking a feed from Johan Franzen in the neutral zone, the Russian speedster split two defenders with an incredible forward-backhand deke before depositing his 16th of the season between the legs of Huet. The goal gives the Wings their first lead of the game and, without question, any lingering momentum that the Hawks might have had.

The Hawks enter the locker room after two periods frazzled and confused while the Wings are showing why they are the defending Stanley Cup champs. A complete about-face by the Wings from the effort exhibited in the first.

Interesting note in the second -- defenseman Chris Chelios took just one shift, totaling 5 seconds.

1:59 pm CT

There it is -- the Wings even it up 3-3! Jiri Hudler scored his second goal of the game just one second after their power play had expired. Defensemen Brian Rafalski and Dan Cleary assisted on the goal at the 12:43 mark. The Wings are certainly taking it to their Central Division foe right now.

The momentum won't likely change until the Hawks can punch another by Ty Conklin, who really seems to have settled down following a tough opening 20 minutes.

1:50 pm CT

Brett Lebda almost pulled the Wings even on a great opportunity cruising down the slot. His shot was denied by Cristobal Huet. The Wings are really starting to heat up; generating much more chances in the Hawks end. The club is working well and with confidence through the neutral zone. Additionally, there aren't as many defensive zone lapses as there were in the first.

The Hawks and Wings have each generated six shots through 10 minutes of the second period. Huet has come up pretty big on a few of those chances.

At this rate, it won't be long before the game is knotted!

1:36 pm CT

Wings score!
Jiri Hudler just registered the 100th point of his career and 14th goal of the season when he connected early in the second period to pull the Wings within 3-2.

1:15 pm CT

Well, the zambonies are making their way onto the ice as we've come to the end of a pretty eventful first period here at Wrigley Field -- Hawks lead it 3-1.

Left wing Ben Eager connected for his 7th of the season on an great individual effort from behind the Wings net. Eager picked up a feed from Martin Havlat and quickly swept in for a wraparound that just beat Conklin.

The Wings need to make some defensive adjustments and maintain its composure. Allowing the Hawks four power play opportunities is no way to gain the upper hand on your opponent.

Pavel Datsyuk led all Wings in hits in the opening period with 2, but the team was a collective minus-5. Nicklas Lidstrom, making his first start in three games, saw a team-leading 8:44 of ice time. Brian Rafalski was on the ice for 8:18.

1:00 pm CT

Paying the price for penalties
The Wings can't stay out of the box and the League's 21st rated penalty-killing unit is paying the price! The Hawks have already connected for two power play goals on four opportunies. This, after the Wings had successfully denied the Hawks on all six of their power play chances on Tuesday. On Tuesday, Wings goalie Ty Conklin was able to hold the fort, but this afternoon is a different story to the delight of the hometown faithful.

Wings even score
Mikael Samuelsson, who was sidelined for Tuesday's contest with a mild case of the flu, pulls the Wings even, 1-1, when he jams home a shot from the right post off assists from Henrik Zetterberg and Marian Hossa. Hawks goalie Cristobal Huet was a bit out of position on the play.

12:30 pm CT

Wow! Defenseman Brent Seabrook plowed Wings forward Dan Cleary into the Chicago bench; he went head over skates right into the laps of the Hawks along the bench.

Consider the clean hit a makeup for Cleary's first-period hit on Patrick Kane on Tuesday at The Joe. It won't be the only bone-crunching hit of the afternoon.

Cleary checked Kane into the boards at the 7:33 mark of the opening frame on Tuesday and Kane's knee appeared to buckle. The 20-year-old Kane skated off the ice slowly and flexed his knee on the bench before heading into the locker room. He then came out for the second-period warm ups and re-entered the game on the second line change.

12:00 pm CT

Wings starting lineup will be Ty Conklin in goal; Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Chelios on defense; and Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom on the top line.

Words can't describe that opening ceremony but the fighter jets flying high above Wrigley Field was quite a spectacle. Insane atmosphere right now.

The wind is blowing into the face of Ty Conklin, so that may be an issue to consider as the game progesses. There is no sun this afternoon so the glare from the bright rays will not be a problem as it was for afternoon practice on Wednesday.

Temperature at faceoff -- 31.9 degrees.

10:00 a.m. CT

Happy New Year hockey fans!

Getting prepared for the Winter Classic and the fans around the area seem to be pumped and raring to go. I saw just a few Red Wings fans walking through Wrigleyville.

For the Wings, center Pavel Datsyuk leads the team with 41 points, including 15 goals. Wing Marian Hossa is second on the team with 34 points and 17 goals while Brian Rafalski is tops among defenders on the club with 27 points (4 goals).

The Hawks and Wings have faced off on New Year's Day three times with Detroit posting a 3-0 record.

Keep an eye on:

Jiri Hudler needs one point to reach 100 for his NHL career.
Henrik Zetterberg is 3 assists shy of 200 for his NHL career.


6:45 p.m. CT

Nicklas Lidstrom, who has missed the last two games with a sore left ankle, and Mikael Samuelsson, who missed Tuesday's 4-0 victory over the Blackhawks with a case of the flu, were back on the ice praticing with their teammates during the afternoon skate on Wednesday.

Lidstrom is "100 percent sure" he'll play in the Winter Classic on New Year's Day. It appeared as though Samuelsson, who practiced without suffering any major setbacks, was also ready to go.

6:15 p.m. CT

Marian Hossa, born in the Slovac Republic, was all smiles as he sat back on the bench in the visitor's locker room at Wrigley Field and began reminiscing about the good old days.

"When I was little, I lived in this old apartment and we had this little rink outside that we sprayed water on and built up boards all around to play," Hossa said. "Of course, this was something totally different because we're in a huge stadium and it's a different feeling. When you're skating, you can really feel the cold hitting you in the face but it's neat and I know it's going to be a great game."

Hossa is currently second on the team with 34 points, including 17 goals. Not only does Pavel Datsyuk lead the club with 41 points this season, but he also has registered 36 points (10 goals) in 40 career games against the Blackhawks.

In the last 11 meetings, the Wings are 6-4-1 against the Blackhawks and are winners of five of the last six games by a combined score of 27-18. In that time, the Wings' offense has been paced by forwards Jiri Hudler (4 goals, 12 points) and Henrik Zetterberg (5 goals, 11 points).

6:00 p.m. CT

Wings defenseman Chris Chelios, whose entire family is down to enjoy the Winter Classic, admits he'll be hitting the sack early this evening.

"New Year's is ruined but I don't mind it being ruined for this game because we'll have a nice dinner with our families," Chelios said. "Everyone came into town yesterday and they're all excited. So, we won't be heading out to any chilly bar in Detroit."

Chelios also had a message to the fans back in Hockeytown:

"A happy new year to everyone in Detroit. I know you're losing out on a traditional game, but, if you can't make it here, hope you enjoy watching it on your couch."

11:50 a.m. CT

Wings assistant Brad McCrimmon stopped by to chat with a few media members during the Hawks skate.

He's obviously excited about the game. In addition to the possible snow that's looming in the forecast, there also an annoying glare from the sun shining brightly across both benches on the far side of the boards closest to the outfield. McCrimmon informed us he wouldn't be wearing any eye black, as most players were, to assist his sight in the case the sun is out on New Year's Day.

He also admitted a light snowfall wouldn't be the worse thing for the game. McCrimmon's 11-year-old son will be skating with the Wings players and coaches following their practice in the afternoon.

11:30 a.m. CT

While the Blackhawks were preparing for their team picture on the ice at Wrigley, Wings coach Mike Babcock and many of his assistants came out to take in the atmosphere.

It was pretty funny, actually, as Babcock and Brad McCrimmon were looking through the plexi-glass, pointing and grinning ear-to-ear. The boys just love hockey! They were bundled up pretty good too! Those heavy duty Red Wings winter jackets were certainly heavy enough to do the trick.

It'll certainly be something special for the families of each side when they are able to hit the ice with the players following each team's practice session.

10:40 a.m. CT

A cold but relatively calm day here at Wrigley but the joint is certainly jumping.

Final preparations are being made and the Detroit Red Wings are feeling pretty good after an industrious 4-0 victory over the Hawks at The Joe on Tuesday night.

Before they begin gliding on the ice,  however, the Red Wings will have to trudge 175 feet, meandering through the bowels of Wrigley before finally reaching the ice. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, have less than 50 steps to the ice.

I've heard of home ice advantage, but that's ridiculous. Still, it's all a part of the game, which should be pretty thrilling.

Wings coach Mike Babcock has announced that Ty Conklin, fresh off his 36-save shutout on Tuesday, will be his starter between the pipes on Thursday.

I'll find out the status of Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom at their afternoon skate from 1:30-3:30 pm.
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