Monthly Archives: April 2013

Holland thrilled for Nill; Draper, Martin possible replacements for him

Jim Nill paid his dues.

And it all paid off for him Monday.

After spending 15 years as an assistant general manager in Detroit, Nill was named the GM of the Dallas Stars.

“Obviously, it’s a huge loss but I’m thrilled for Jimmy,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “He’s paid his dues. He’s waited for an opportunity. I think at the end of the day you look at Steve Yzerman, Don Waddell, Paul MacLean, Todd McLellan, part of the reason we’ve been able to have success is we’ve been able to have people here that have made us better. They then had an opportunity to go elsewhere to fulfill professional dreams they couldn’t fill here.”

Nill, who had been in the Wings’ organization for 19 years, signed a five-year deal with the Stars.

“When you’ve committed as long a time as Jim has and helped us have the success, he’s deserved the opportunity, if he wants to go elsewhere, he deserves the opportunity to go,” Holland said. “It’s a general manager’s position, he gets to run his own team. Absolutely it’s a big loss but we’ve had lots of big losses. Ultimately, it’s somebody else’s opportunity. We got to find a way to develop people. We’ll figure something out in the next month or two how we go forward.”

Yzerman is the GM in Tampa Bay, while MacLean (Ottawa) and McLellan (San Jose) are both head coaches.

“Over the last six or seven years every time there’s been a job opening the team has called to ask for permission,” Holland said. “Every time they’d call I go to him and say the call has come. He negotiated for a long time a contract that didn’t allow him to go and he was OK with it. But the last go round he negotiated an out clause which told me he was more open to leaving.

“At the end of the day, his kids are older,” Holland added. “When your kids are younger you want to have stability.”

Nill turned down the Montreal GM job last summer because of family reasons. He’s also interviewed for GM jobs with Calgary and Toronto.

Holland would like to have his replacement in place by the NHL Entry Draft, June 29.

Holland mentioned Ryan Martin, the team’s assistant general manager of hockey administration, and Kris Draper, who’s a special advisor.

“We’ve got some people internally that can pick up some of the responsibility that he had,” Holland said.

Quote of the day … Wings coach Mike Babcock

Wings coach Mike Babcock about returning to Anaheim where he began his NHL head coaching career.

“I lived here, I like coming here. It’s a nice rink, it’s warm. 4 1/2 hours to come here (from Detroit). I talked to (former assistant) Paul MacLean yesterday – how far is Ottawa from Montreal – I think they can actually take the city bus. It’s a big difference. That’s the biggest negative in coming. The biggest plus is it’s beautiful out there and we like coming and we have lots of fun when we’re here.”

Wings coach Mike Babcock: “If we don’t get DeKeyser we don’t make the playoffs.”

DETROIT – The biggest question mark heading into this season for the Detroit Red Wings was their depth along the blue line.

After the loss of Nicklaus Lidstrom (retirement) and Brad Stuart (trade), coupled with their inability to sign a top notch defenseman this offseason and the injuries they faced at the start, the Wings patched things together to where now the blue line is one of their strengths.

“We’ve really improved drastically in that area, probably the most improved part of our team,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock, whose squad faces Anaheim in the first round of the playoff Tuesday night. “With (Jimmy Howard) playing the way he is and the D able to get the puck going, we’re spending a lot less time in our zone. That allows you to be much better up front.”

And everything seemed to come together on the blue line when Detroit was able to land Danny DeKeyser.

“He really has done a good job for us,” Babcock said. “We liked him all along when we were recruiting him. We had no idea that when he came to the National Hockey League he’d be able to do the things he’s done for us. Basically, it’s allowed us to move the puck better, to get back and get pucks. If you improve your D zone play, it improves your offense and makes you a much quicker team. Obviously, we had deep growth amongst the group we had already and we added him, it made us all that much better.”

The Wings beat out a number of teams to get the services of the prized free agent defenseman out of Western Michigan.

“I’m really impressed,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “I didn’t know much about him before he arrived. Coming from college hockey to playing at this level and the way he’s been playing is impressive and we’re happy for him and hopefully it’ll continue.”

DeKeyser, a De La Salle graduate, made his NHL appearance on April 5 in Colorado and has not left the lineup while others, Ian White, Brendan Smith, Kyle Quincey, Carlo Colaiacovo and Brian Lashoff, have been a healthy scratch a time or two during that stretch.

“I think we’ve done a real good job to rebuild our D on the fly here,” Babcock said. “We’ve had great growth on the back end. Getting DeKeyser to come has made a huge difference to our team. If we don’t’ get (him) we don’t make the playoffs.”

DeKeyser, who is still waiting on his first NHL goal, had one assist, 15 shots on goal and was a plus-4 over those 11 games.

“He’s been solid,” Smith said. “It’s been quite impressive actually coming right out of college and stepping in and playing a lot of minutes. We’re really impressed with him and happy that he can help our team as much as he has. We’ve needed that speed on the back end and he’s got a lot of speed and a great reach and a great first pass. He’s been really good for us.”

DeKeyser is averaging about 18 minutes of ice time.

“It seems like he’s been around for a while the way he’s been playing,” Smith said. “I’m impressed. I think a lot of people are impressed. I know the coaches are. We all knew he was a good player. Anytime you grab a player who’s so highly touted who was undrafted and there are 20-plus teams going after him, like Justin Schultz was last year, you see there’s a lot of talent, but you don’t know how he’s going to defend when he gets a chance to play. Obviously, he’s done it. He’s been awesome. Hopefully he can keep it up because we need him more than ever now.”

Wings have been in ‘playoff mode’ which will help them with Ducks … Pick: Detroit in 6

DETROIT – If the Detroit Red Wings could have picked an opening round opponent, Anaheim would have been their top choice over Chicago.

And with how the Wings played down the stretch it’s the Ducks they got, with the series beginning Tuesday night in Anaheim.

Detroit won its final four games of the regular season to climb from the eighth seed, and a date with the Blackhawks, to the seventh seed in the Western Conference to extend its consecutive trips to the playoffs to 22.

“It was playoff mode (down the stretch) and that’s what we enjoy playing the most,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “You want to play games that are really important and that mean a lot and we got a taste of it before the playoffs. I think it was good for our group to go through that and I think it’ll help us in this postseason.”

After dropping the first meeting this year with the Ducks, who scored two goals in the opening two minutes of the third period in the victory, the Wings won the next two meetings, both in Anaheim.

“We played these guys pretty well this year,” said forward Justin Abdelkader, who had a hat trick in one of the wins. “We’re looking forward to going out to California. It’s always nice going out there and hopefully we can get a couple of games. It will be a good matchup for us. They’re a good team. They’ve played well all year.”

The 10 points that separated the teams in the standings doesn’t matter to Detroit, especially seeing what the L.A. Kings did last season by winning the Stanley Cup as an eighth seed.

“I think the parity is so close in the West and in the NHL, it’s so close,” defenseman Kyle Quincey said. “Any team can beat any team and we’re just happy to be in the race right now. The way we’re playing right now, we like our chances. We just hope to keep playing like we’re playing.”

Western Conference

(1) Chicago vs. (8) Minnesota: The Blackhawks began the season by going 24 straight games without a regulation loss. The Wild struggled down the stretch and were the last team to qualify for the postseason. Pick: Chicago in 4.

(2) Anaheim vs. (7) Detroit: The Wings have been playing playoff type hockey down the stretch, while the Ducks have struggled, going 8-9-2 in their last 19 after starting the year 22-3-4. Pick: Detroit in 6.

(3) Vancouver vs. (6) San Jose: The big question is goaltending for the Canucks and if Cory Schneider can play well enough to keep Roberto Luongo on the bench. The Sharks swept the season series as two points separated these two teams in the standings. Pick: San Jose in 6.

(4) St. Louis vs. (5) Los Angeles: Goalie Brian Elliott got hot at the right time for the Blues going 11-2-0 over the last 13 games. The Kings have won eight in a row against St. Louis dating back to last year’s run to the Stanley Cup. Pick: St. Louis in 7.

Eastern Conference

(1) Pittsburgh vs. (8) N.Y. Islanders: Even if Sidney Crosby can’t go in the opening round, the moves the Penguins made prior to the trade deadline easily makes them the favorite in this series and also to come out of the East. The Islanders are in the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. Pick: Pittsburgh in 5.

(2) Montreal vs. (7) Ottawa: The Canadiens struggled mightily down the stretch. The Senators got a huge lift on the blue line when Erik Karlsson returned from a 70-percent tear of his Achilles tendon. Pick: Montreal in 6.

(3) Washington vs. (6) N.Y. Rangers: Could be the best matchup in the opening round. The Capitals went 15-2-2 down the stretch, led by Alex Ovechkin, who scored 19 of his 32 goals in that span. The Rangers are also red hot, going 10-3-1 in April. Pick: Washington in 6.

(4) Boston vs. (8) Toronto: Their four meetings this season were close, with three decided by one goal, one was in a shootout, and another was a two-goal game. The Bruins won three of the four. The Leafs are in the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Pick: Boston in 5.

Wings vs. Ducks, complete series dates and times

Here are the dates for the first round Western Conference series between the Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks.

Games 1 and 2 will be in Anaheim on Tuesday (10:30 p.m.) and Thursday (10 p.m.). Both NBSN.

Games 3 and 4 at Joe Louis Arena are Saturday (7:30 p.m.) and Monday (8 p.m.). Game 3 on NBSN. Game 4 on CNBC.

If necessary.

Game 5, at Anaheim, May 8, 10 p.m.

Game 6, at Detroit, May 10, TBD

Game 7, at Anaheim, May 12, TBD

Fox Sports Detroit’s TV schedule has not been announced yet.

Wings vs. Ducks series dates, first four games

Here are the dates for the first round Western Conference series between the Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks.

Games 1 and 2 will be in Anaheim on Tuesday (10:30 p.m.) and Thursday (10 p.m.)

Games 3 and 4 at Joe Louis Arena are Saturday (7:30 p.m.) and Monday (8 p.m.)

Wings coach Mike Babcock: “The guys that got us here are getting in Game 1.”

ROMULUS — Wings coach Mike Babcock said he’ll go with the same lineup for Game 1 that has won four straight to finish off the regular season.

“They’re not getting in,” Babcock said of the injured guys that are healthy enough to return to the lineup. “The guys that got us here are getting in Game 1 and we’ll adjust after Game 1. I already told them that they’re not in, get themselves ready and be there to support the guys and help the team. But for Game 1 those guys that got us here are getting a chance to play.”

Forwards Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson have been cleared to return to action.

Defensemen Carlo Colaiacovo, Ian White and Brian Lashoff will continue to be healthy scratches.

Forward Darren Helm is also on the trip, but has yet to be cleared to return.

Forward Drew Miller (broken hand) is also the trip.

Wings know seeds don’t matter in postseason as they head in on a roll

ROMULUS – Unlike last season, the Detroit Red Wings enter this year’s playoffs on a roll.

How they played down the stretch was out of necessity since they were fighting for their playoff lives.

“Well, I think the urgency was definitely there,” goalie Jimmy Howard said Sunday evening before boarding a chartered flight to Anaheim. “Everyone realized what was on the line. Now that we’ve gotten into the playoffs we’re feeling good about ourselves and we just got to have that work over to the playoffs.”

The Wings closed the regular season on a four-game winning streak that catapulted them from outside of the postseason to the seventh seed in the Western Conference and a first-round meeting with the Anaheim Ducks that could start as early as Tuesday.

“I think the key thing was there was no panic in our dressing room when things weren’t exactly going as we planned, but we just stuck to it,” Howard said.

Last year, Detroit closed out the regular season 2-3-1 over its last six and 4-7-3 over its last 14.

The Wings were eliminated in the first round of the playoff last season in five games by Nashville.

“It’s good to see that we’re playing our best hockey when we have to and hopefully it keeps going,” defenseman Kyle Quincey said. “It’s good to see the boys scoring and the defense coming together and Jimmy’s playing great and I think everything is firing at the same time.”

The Wings are in the playoffs for a 22nd consecutive season, which is the longest active in the four major sports, but it was a struggle in this lockout shortened season.

“I hear a lot that, ‘they’re the Red Wings and they’ll just get in,’” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Well that’s just crazy. We wear the same uniform, but we’re way different than that.

“Of all the years I’ve been here this is the biggest growth we’ve ever had in one year by any team by miles,” Babcock added. “I like where we’re at. We’re in a good situation.”

And they’ve seen much too often that seeds really don’t matter at this time of the year.

That was taken to a whole new level last season by the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings were the eighth seed and went on to win the Stanley Cup.

“I think we’ve had a chip on our shoulders the whole year, especially with people counting us out and that our D corps was too young and not good enough,” defenseman Brendan Smith said. “As for the seed, you get into the playoffs and anything can go. Look at L.A. last year. They were the eighth seed and pretty much worked everybody. It was unbelievable how they went in and swept teams. Everybody is so good in this league now that anything can happen. We’re going to keep that same chip on our shoulders. It’s do or die hockey right now.”

Since the NHL began seeding playoff teams 1 through 8 in each conference in 1994, the No. 7 seed has defeated the No. 2 seed in the first round 16 times in 36 series.

“Well we are the seventh seed,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We haven’t won as many games as Chicago has. But then there are other teams that aren’t in the playoffs that would have a good chance at going all the way. You just have to play the best hockey that you can. You have to be lucky and healthy and if you get all those components together you will have a shot.”

In 2003, Anaheim, which was coached by Babcock at the time, swept the Wings.

“We’ll see,” Zetterberg said. “We’re in the postseason. You can talk about how we are or if we’re underdogs or not. We made it to the postseason and we haven’t really done anything yet. We’re looking forward to challenge of facing Anaheim and just taking it game by game.”

Zetterberg helped carry Wings to a 22nd consecutive trip to playoffs

DETROIT – Captain Henrik Zetterberg wasn’t going to let the Detroit Red Wings consecutive trips to the postseason end on his watch.

The team’s newest captain had 10 points over the Wings’ season-best, season-ending, four-game winning streak to extend the Wings’ visits to the playoffs for a 22nd consecutive season, which is the longest active in the four major sports.

“I think everyone did,” said Zetterberg when asked if he didn’t want the streak to end under his watch. “No one wanted to be a part of that, not making playoffs. A lot of guys have been here for a long time and we just wanted to give it another run here.”

The Wings’ streak began in 1991.

“We want to play in the postseason,” Zetterberg said. “It doesn’t matter if we had been there 22 times or 21 times or three times in a row, we want to play playoff hockey.”

“Nobody wants to be a part of a streak like that breaking,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “It’s good to keep that going and hopefully we can do some damage in the playoffs.”

Zetterberg, who was named captain prior to the start of the season to replace Nicklaus Lidstrom, had two goals in Detroit’s 3-0 win over Dallas to clinch the seventh seed in the Western Conference.

“This time of year it seems his game gets better and better,” goalie Jimmy Howard said. “He knows how to throw the team on his back and go to work.

“The urgency was there, we knew what was at stake,” Howard added. “We’ve been playing playoff hockey for a while and for us to come into the last week and get the job done was really special. I feel great for Z.”

Zetterberg has two goals and eight assists over his last 10 games.

“This is why he’s captain,” linemate Pavel Datsyuk said. “He just played hard the whole season. When we needed, he stepped in and pulled the team.”

Being reunited with Datsyuk on a line, along with Justin Abdelkader, has also helped down the stretch.

“I don’t think Z is an emerging leader, he’s been a leader for a long time and Nick (Lidstrom) would tell you the same thing,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s one of those guys who knows how to compete.

“A lot of people think it’s Pavel and Z are about skill, (but) you saw (Saturday) how heavy they played and how determined they are,” Babcock continued. “The best athletes, the best in any profession, are beyond determined and passionate about what they do and those guys set the example for our team and don’t let us off the hook.”

Datsyuk assisted on all three goals Saturday had has two goals and six assists in the last three games.

“We got better as the year went on,” Zetterberg said. “One thing we did all year was we work hard, we had a lot of new faces and guys that really hadn’t played in the situation. We got better as the year went on, the special teams got better and that helps winning games.”

The Wings outscored their final four opponents, 15-3, giving them 56 points and a matchup with the Anaheim Ducks, which could began as early as Tuesday.

“We’ve gotten better,” Babcock said. “I’ve said it all along and you guys don’t believe me but we’ve continually gotten better. We feel that strongly as a group. We’ve gotten better defensively. We’ve finally got a way to play to allow the guys to be successful.”

The Wings were in a dogfight with Minnesota, Columbus and Dallas to grab one of the two remaining playoff spots in the Western Conference when the week began.

“That was the thought going into this final week, we knew we had to pull off a lot of wins just to be able to get in,” Kronwall said. “With Pav and Hank, maybe the two best players in the game right now and Howie coming up big for us, we were able to pull this off.”

Wings in with one point; secure seventh seed with win

For the Detroit Red Wings it’s simple tonight, get at least one point in Dallas and they’ll earn a spot in the playoffs for a 22nd consecutive season.

“So far so good,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said after Thursday’s 5-2 win over Nashville that moved them in the seventh seed. “We got one more big one to go. We put ourselves in a good situation. Hopefully, we can take care of business on Saturday.”

Not only are the Wings (54 points) in control of just reaching playoffs they also hold the cards to be the seventh seed.

A win over Dallas secures the seventh seed for Detroit and a first-round date against Anaheim.

Minnesota, who plays at Colorado, and Columbus, which hosts Nashville, are the other two teams vying for the final two spots in the Western Conference.

Detroit is in the playoffs by earning a last a point against Dallas.

The Wings are also in if they lose in regulation as long as Minnesota (53 points) loses in regulation or Columbus (53 points) loses either in regulation, overtime or a shootout.

The only way the Wings don’t reach the postseason is if they lose in regulation and Minnesota and Colorado both earn two points.

“You need to win to know we stay in the game,” forward Valtteri Filppula said. “I think we’re just trying to focus on our own game.”

If Detroit loses and both Minnesota and Columbus each earn just one point, the Wings and Wild are in because they hold tiebreakers over the Blue Jackets.

The Wild are in if they get two points against the Avalanche. They’re also in if Columbus doesn’t pick up more points than they do.

Columbus has a bit of a tougher road because of the first tiebreaker (regulation and overtime wins). The Blue Jackets have just 18, while Detroit and Minnesota each have 21.

Columbus clinches a spot with a win over Nashville and either a Detroit loss in regulation or a Wild loss in regulation, overtime or a shootout.

Detroit and Columbus both start at 7 p.m., while Minnesota drops the puck 30 minutes after.

“The first step is to get into the playoffs, but if we get in we feel we have a great team,” forward Gustav Nyquist. “(Jimmy Howard) is playing unbelievable. The veterans are carrying us right now. That’s what we need. So we like our team and hopefully we’ll get into the playoffs.”

The longest active NHL playoff streaks:
(Including this season)
x-1. Detroit (21 seasons)
2. San Jose (9 seasons)
3. Pittsburgh (7 seasons)
4. Boston (6 seasons)
4. Washington (6 seasons)
x-With chance to extend it.

The longest NHL playoff streaks of all-time:
1. Boston (29 seasons from 1967-68 to 1995-96)
2. Chicago (28 seasons from 1969-70 to 1996-97)
3. St. Louis (25 seasons from 1979-80 to 2003-04)
4. Montreal (24 seasons from 1970-71 to 1993-94)
5. Detroit (21 seasons from 1990-91 to current)
5. Montreal (21 seasons from 1948-49 to 1968-69)

The longest current playoff streaks in the other major sports:
NBA: San Antonio Spurs (16 seasons)
NFL: Baltimore Ravens (5 seasons)
MLB: New York Yankees (4 seasons)