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Notebook: Early wake-up call for Ritola

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – It’s been quite the last two days for Mattias Ritola, the Red Wings’ rookie forward, who celebrated his 21st birthday a day earlier.

With Aaron Downey at home feeling a bit under the weather, the Red Wings reached out to their Grand Rapids affiliate for an emergency call-up.

“I got the call about 9:20 this morning, so I hit the road,” said Ritola, who skated six shifts in the Wings’ 3-1 loss to Nashville on Saturday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena.

Ritola arrived at the arena with an hour and a half to spare before game time.

“I was in a rush,” he said, “but I got here about 11:15 so it was no big deal.”

Originally thought to be going back to Grand Rapids immediately following the Wings’ game, he made the trip to Columbus for the Wings’ game Sunday afternoon at Nationwide Arena.

In more than four-minutes of ice time, Ritola, who has six goals and 16 assists this season with the Griffins, had one shot on goal Saturday.

“It’s a big thrill for me,” Ritola said. “The game is pretty quick, but it feels like if you can get a couple of games that you can learn it pretty fast. Still, it’s a fast game.”

In his last six Grand Rapids games, Ritola has shined, scoring twice with three assists, which accounts for nearly a quarter of his 21 points this season. His plus-15 rating also leads the Griffins.

In September, Ritola scored a power-play goal in the Wings' 3-2 preseason win over Tampa Bay. In that game, he was cut under the right eye by a puck in the first period and did not return.

Downey is the third Red Wings’ player to miss a game this week with the flu, joining defensemen Brett Lebda and Andreas Lilja.

GOAL LINE STAND: The save of the game might have occurred midway through the first period.
Shea Weber cut in on net and pushed a seemingly harmless shot toward Wings goalie Chris Osgood. As a scrum ensued, the puck squirted under Osgood and headed toward the goal line with some pretty good speed. Luckily for the Wings, as Osgood went down, he inadvertently made a save with the top knob of his stick.

Moments later, the Wings got another break when Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter drilled the bottom portion of the right post with a shot from the point.

PERSONAL BEST: With his game-tying tally in the first period, defenseman Niklas Kronwall established a personal best for goals in a season.

Kronwall’s sixth goal of the season surpassed his previous best when he scored five goals for Djurgardens of the Swedish Elite League in 2002-03. Johan Franzen and Mikael Samuelsson assisted on Kronwall’s first goal since Jan. 19 and San Jose.

“I just brought it up and gave it out and went to the net then Mule made an unbelievable play and I had an open net to put it in,” he said. “We needed a goal and we needed it before the intermission.”

Through 55 games, Kronwall has NHL career-highs for goals, assists (26) and points (32).

MONSTER HIT: Jiri Hudler was whacked midway through the second period with a crushing open-ice ht by Dan Hamhuis. It took a few moments, but the Red Wings’ center eventually skated off the ice under his own power.

The hit looked worse then it was for Hudler (5-10, 182-pounds), who gives up three-inches in height and about 20-pounds to the Predators’ defenseman. Hamhuis was the Nashville culprit who’s hit last Sunday on Dominik Hasek injured the Wings’ goalie, who has missed three games with a sore lower back.

Hudler was cut in the mouth by a high-stick that earned Nashville defenseman Greg Zanon a four-minute penalty.

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