Monthly Archives: April 2010

Hudler returns

According to reports, Jiri Hudler’s agent is expected to announce today that the former Red Wing will rejoin the team after spending one season with the Russian Kontinental Hockey League.

Hudler, who left last summer after the Wings fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals, scored 19 goals and had 35 assists with the Moscow Dynamo this past season.

He was released from his contract, which had one year remaining, after the Dynamo folded at the end of the season.

Hudler was awarded a two-year deal worth $2.875 million per season during an arbitration hearing after he had already decided to leave for the KHL.

The contract terms are still valid.

Hudler, 26, played five seasons in Detroit and helped lead the Wings to the Stanley Cup in 2008. In 255 games he has 52 goals and 75 assists with the Wings.

No changes

The Wings will go with the game lineup they’ve used since Game 2 of the series with Phoenix.

Mike Babcock will also continue to flip-flop Tomas Holmstrom and Dan Cleary between the first and fourth lines, depending on the matchups.

Three reasons

The Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks will be meeting for the fourth time in the postseason.

The Wings have won the last two meetings in the playoffs, both of which have come in the conference semifinals.

Here’s a look at three reasons why the Wings advance to the Western Conference finals and three reasons why the Sharks end Detroit’s bid for a third straight trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Three Reasons Why Wings Advance

1. Pavel factor

It looks as if Pavel Datsyuk is on the verge of becoming a top producer in the postseason.

After scoring just one goal in 16 playoff games a year ago, Datsyuk already has five this season in just seven games. He was the catalyst that got things going for Detroit in Game 7 in Phoenix, netting the Wings’ first two goals of the game.

2. Shark bait

Unlike the Wings’ stars rising to the occasion, San Jose’s top two guys, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, are complete busts come playoff time. And the pair even become statistically worse when they face the Wings in the postseason.

Each of them have played six games in the playoffs against Detroit. Thornton has a goal and four assists over those six games, while Marleau has yet to register a point.

3. Home-ice advantage?

We all know you forget about what happened during the regular season once the playoffs roll around. But it’s still hard to hide the fact that the Wings won both regular season meetings in San Jose this year, both in pretty convincing fashion and both times with the No. 1 goalies between the pipes.

The Wings outscored the Sharks on their home sheet of ice this year, 8-3.

Three Reasons Why Sharks Advance

1. I know you

If there’s one advantage the Sharks have this postseason, it may be in coach Todd McLellan.

McLellan spent three seasons under Mike Babcock in Detroit where he won a Stanley Cup and helped lead the Wings’ the Presidents’ Trophy twice.

McLellan knows the Wings players better than any coach they’ve faced over their last two runs to the Stanley Cup finals. He could exploit some weaknesses in a long series.

2. They’re due

This is the ninth time the Sharks have advanced a conference semifinal. Only once have they moved past that round and into the conference final. That happened prior to the NHL lockout, but they fell to Calgary in six games.

And I’m sure the sting of last year’s ouster in the first round by rival Anaheim after winning the Presidents’ Trophy is fresh on San Jose’s mind.

3. Time travel

If there’s one team that can say they’re fatigued from all the postseason plane trips, it’s the Detroit Red Wings.

In the first round of the playoffs, the Wings made five long-distance flights – a pair of round-trips to Phoenix and then a one-way flight – equaling 8,425 miles. And if their semifinal series with the Sharks goes seven games their logged flight mileage could reach 10,350.

That’s a lot of traveling for a lot of hockey players that have played a lot of hockey over these last three seasons.

Tonight will also be Detroit’s 71st playoff game since 2007.

Pick: Detroit in 6.

Western Conference breakdown

Here’s a breakdown and picks for the Western Conference semifinals of the NHL playoffs.

Western Conference

No. 1 San Jose vs. No. 5 Detroit

The rested Sharks have to be shaking their collective heads after watching what the Wings did in Game 7 to the Phoenix Coyotes to advance. The Wings’ superstars shined and got their team through to the next round.

However, after a slow start in its series with Colorado, San Jose got playing like a No. 1 seed to win the final three games against the Avalanche to move on. The Sharks are getting some great postseason goaltending for once, but their top players aren’t producing like they should.

Pick: Detroit in 6.

No. 2 Chicago vs. No. 3 Vancouver

The free agent signing of former Red Wing Mikael Samuelsson has paid off huge for the Canucks thus far in the playoffs. Samuelsson leads the league with seven goals, one more than former teammate Henrik Zetterberg, and is tied for second in points.

Another former Wing, Marian Hossa, has not fared so well in the playoffs. Hossa has just one goal, albeit a big one in overtime of Game 5 against Nashville after serving a five-minute boarding penalty at the end of regulation.

This series could come down to special teams. Vancouver had no answer for Los Angeles’ power play in the first round, allowing 10 goals on 26 shorthanded chances. Chicago’s penalty kill is third best this playoffs, giving up just one goal on 27 opportunities.

Pick: Chicago in 7.

Series dates and times

Game 1: Thursday at San Jose, 9 p.m.(Versus)

Game 2: Sunday at San Jose, 8 p.m. (Versus)

Game 3: Tuesday at Detroit, 7:30 p.m. (FSN)

Game 4: Thursday, May 6 at Detroit, 7:30 p.m. (FSN)

x-Game 5: Saturday, May 8 at San Jose, 10 p.m. (FSN)

x-Game 6: Monday, May 10 at Detroit, 7:30 p.m. (FSN)

x-Game 7: Wednesday, May 12 at San Jose, TBD (FSN)

x- if necessary

If they advance …

If the Wings do beat Phoenix tonight, they’ll have a very, very short time to prepare of their Western Conference semifinal series with the San Jose Sharks.

Game 1 of that series would be Thursday night.

The HP Pavilion is booked for concerts on Friday and Saturday.

Game 2 would be Sunday.

Game time

Game 7 of the Wings quarterfinal series with the Phoenix will be played at 10 p.m. on Tuesday.

The league was waiting to announce a time until after the outcome of the Vancouver/Los Angeles game Sunday night. The Canucks’ victory ended that series meaning the Wings/Coyotes game will be the only game played that night.