Category Archives: Uncategorized

Wings, Mrazek meet in the middle, sort of, to avoid salary arbitration

021116-nhl-Petr-Mrazek-pi-mp.vresize.1200.675.high.45

DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings and Petr Mrazek met in the middle, sort of, and thus were able to avoid an arbitration hearing on Wednesday.

The Wings signed Mrazek to a two-year deal worth $8 million prior to his arbitration hearing which was scheduled for 9 a.m.

Mrazek had asked for $10 million over the next two seasons, while the Wings offered $5.85 million over the same period.

If the Wings had reached arbitration with Mrazek it would have been the first time since they did so with Ray Sheppard in 1995.

In 2009, Detroit did go to arbitration with Jiri Hudler, but that was a unique case. Hudler left to play in Russia before the hearing took place.

Detroit also avoided an arbitration hearing with Danny DeKeyser, who signed a six-year deal worth $30 million on Tuesday.

Mrazek, 24, made $737,500 last season.

He will remain a restricted free agent after the deal expires.

Detroit’s goalie tandem has a combined salary-cap hit of $9.3 million over the next two seasons.

Jimmy Howard is entering his fourth year of a six-year deal that has a salary-cap hit of just under $5.3 million a season.

Mrazek won the starting job from Howard midway through last season when he led the league in goals-against average and save percentage in January (7-1-1, 1.32 goals-against average, .953 save percentage). He then lost the starting job after he struggled the final two months of the regular season, getting pulled five times in a span of 14 starts.

The Wings are now just over $4.2 million over the $73 million NHL salary cap.

They do however have cap relief coming once they place Johan Franzen ($3.95 million), Joe Vitale ($1.16 million) and Teemu Pulkkinen ($612,500) on long-term injured reserve at the start of the season.

The main sticking point appeared to be comparable contracts.

Mrazek has played one full season in the NHL and looking a dollar amount the Frederik Andersen got when he signed a five-year deal worth $5 million a season.

Mrazek is three years away from unrestricted free agent status, while Andersen is one year removed from it.

Andersen is 77-26-12, with a 2.33 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in the regular season. He’s 17-9 in the playoffs, with a 2.34 GAA and .916 save percentage.

Mrazek, who was taken 141st overall in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL draft, has a career record of 46-30-8, with a 2.29 GAA and .920 save percentage in the regular season. He’s 4-6 in the playoffs, with a 1.88 GAA and .931 save percentage.

DeKeyser gets six-year deal worth $30 million to remain with his hometown team

 

05-02-2013-danny-dekeyser-4_3DETROIT >> Detroit Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser realizes how special it is to be able to play for your hometown team.

And he’s going to get to do so for the next six seasons.

On Tuesday, the restricted free agent signed a six-year deal worth $30 million to remain with the Wings.

“Today just kind of makes me realize how lucky I am and how special of an opportunity I have to play here,” DeKeyser said. “It’s just a place I like to play. I don’t want to go anywhere else and I was pretty happy that we were able to work with Kenny (Holland) and get a deal done. So I’m just excited about it.”

DeKeyser, who was born in Detroit, graduated from De La Salle and grew up in Macomb Township.

“Anybody who is from Michigan I’m sure has grown up a big Red Wings fan just like myself,” DeKeyser said. “It’s been great for me to play here.”

DeKeyser had an arbitration meeting hearing scheduled for Thursday.

“It was kind of up in the air for a little bit, but I would say the last week or so is when I kind of figured out that it wasn’t going to arbitration, so as time was kind of winding down toward that date I wasn’t really too concerned about it actually going there.”

DeKeyser, 26, is coming off a two-year contract with a salary-cap hit of $2.187 million.

He had eight goals and 12 assists in 78 games last season and averaged the second most amount of ice time on the team.

“Two years ago I had 31 points and I had some power play time,” DeKeyser said. “This year my point total was down, but led the D in goals, so I thought that was a pretty good accomplishment to do that.

“I didn’t have any power play time this past year so sometimes it’s hard to pick up those extra points when you’re not playing on the power play,” DeKeyser added. “Whether I’m on that or not it doesn’t matter, I’m just going to do my role, five-on-five and penalty kill and if I do get a chance on the power play I’m comfortable playing that as well. I don’t know if I’ll get to 40 or 45 points without playing the power play, but it’s a possibility that’s for sure.”

In 234 career regular season games DeKeyser has 14 goals and 61 assists with plus-minus rating of plus-27. His playoff numbers aren’t great with just a goal, an assist and a minus-8 rating in 19 games.

“I just try to move the puck well, play solid defensively, chip in some points or goals here or there when I can,” DeKeyser said. “Just try to be a good team player and do things that help the team win. Just be a steady defenseman.”

DeKeyser continues a trend of late in the NHL of young, talented players getting long-term deals to remain with the team they started their career with.

“I think it’s such a good fit for both the player and the team,” DeKeyser said. “That’s what you see happening in some of these cases because a player gets comfortable in one spot. Guys don’t like to be bouncing around from team to team. They like to have some stability, so as long as it matches well with the team and the team is happy with how the player has produced and how he has done for the team then if it makes sense for both sides that’s why you see some of these deals happening more often and guys not getting to unrestricted free agency too much.”

Along with locking up DeKeyser, Luke Glendening and Darren Helm to long-term deals this offseason, the Wings added Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott on the first day off free agency to help try and fill the void left by Pavel Datsyuk.

“I definitely think there are some good possibilities for us here,” DeKeyser said. “Losing Pavel hurts. There’s nobody that’s going to be able to replace him. There’s no single guy that can replace him. We got some veteran forwards that have proven in the past can score goals and help out teams. I’m real excited to see what these guys can do and help us out. We have some young guys that will be taking some bigger steps here as well.

“Like I said, losing Pav hurts, but we’re just going to try and move on and do the best that we can without him because that’s the only thing we can do,” DeKeyser continued. “I think we’ll be fine. I think we have the potential to have a really good season.”

DeKeyser, who’s getting married in September prior to training camp, was one of the NHL’s most sought-after free agents coming out of Western Michigan. He chose to join the Wings in March 2013 over a handful of other teams and he quickly became one of their top defensemen.

In three seasons at WMU, DeKeyser, who was undrafted, appeared in 118 games and had 12 goals, 37 assists and 107 penalty minutes.

Penguins’ Oleksy, Wings’ Larkin and other NHLers to skate in all-star game

(MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)

(MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)

If there was any time to have an all-star game for the Eastside Elite Hockey League it was this year.

And that’s just what founder Steve Oleksy of the EEHL is going to do.

“We have a lot of high-end guys this year and I thought it’d be a unique way to draw some attention to the league as well as raise some funds for the Mount Clemens Hockey Club,” Oleksy said. “All the proceeds are going back to the kids in the organization.

“I think it was a win-win situation,” Oleksy continued. “Guys are really excited about it and it gives guys a little something extra to play for in the league.”

The game will take place Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Mount Clemens Ice Arena.

This is the eighth season Oleksy, who was a member of the Stanley Cup winning Pittsburgh Penguins this past season, has run the league.

All eight years it has been run out of Mount Clemens Ice Arena.

“It’s going to be a great event,” Oleksy said. “I would really love to sell the place out. All the guys are really looking forward to it.”

The players selected to represent the EEHL, whose alumni include the likes of Detroit Red Wing Danny DeKeyser, Tampa Bay Lightning Matt Taormina and Vlad Namestnikov, Ottawa Senator Andrew Hammond and Hobey Baker winner Andy Miele, were chosen by a team vote.

Each team collaborated to choose the top three players from the other 11 teams in the league, besides their own, to play in the All-Star game.

“This helped avoid any fights in the locker room,” Oleksy laughed.

Twenty of the EEHL’s top players and four goalies will be picked to participate.

The top vote getters from the EEHL were Garret Ross, Matt DeBlouw, Shawn Szydlowski, Austin Grzenia, Alex Kile, Namestnikov, Oleksy, Thomas Apap, Taylor Fernandez, Brandon Hawkins and Nick Betz.

The goalies will be Charles Williams, Max Milosek, Jake Theut and Andrew Hammond.

Detroit Red Wing Dylan Larkin has also committed to play and a few others are trying to arrange their schedules to do so as well along with a couple of the Red Wing alumni players.

“Guys are really amped up and it’s kind of a cool feeling for me to be the guy to tell them they made the team,” Oleksy said. “They’re really taking is serious so how they have to play better to make it. It’s cool that they feel this way about it.”

Former EEHL player, Cooper Anstett, is flying in from Nashville where he’s embarking on a music career to do an acoustic set. His song, “Move,” is featured in a Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers commercial.

Anstett played in the league last season.

Oleksy wants to elect team captains and conduct a live draft over social media prior to the game.

Four hundred tickets were printed for the event. They’re $10 a person and kids five-and-under will get in free.

Tickets can be picked up at Mount Clemens Ice Arena or by emailing steven@eastsideelitehockey.com where they will be left at will call.

Along with vendor booths setup with products fans can demo, there will be 50-50 raffles and fans can bid on the player-worn jerseys after the game.

Along with an 11-team EEHL men’s division, there’s a four-team women’s division and a four-team Tier II division, which consists of midget and high school aged players.

The women’s division is in its fourth year and this is the second season for Tier II, which Olesky uses as a “call-up system” if a men’s roster needs a player or two.

“I love to watch the guys and the success they have,” Oleksy said. “It’s really fun to be a part of it.”

Goalie Cam Johnson, who’s participating in the league again this season, won a NCAA National Championship with the University of North Dakota this past season.

The league wraps up the first week of August.

 

Send comments to chuck.pleiness@macombdaily.com and visit his blog at redwingsfront.wordpress.com

Wings land their Plan B … Frans Nielsen

20652849-mmmain

DETROIT >> When Steven Stamkos decided to return to Tampa Bay the Detroit Red Wings had to turn to Plan B.

That led them to Frans Nielsen.

Nielsen got a six-year deal at $31.5 million, an average of $5.25 million a season.

Nielsen, 32, was the two-way center the Wings were looking for in free agency.

He’s a left-handed shot.

In 81 games last season, Nielsen had 20 goals and 32 assists. He had a plus-1 rating with 12 penalty minutes while averaging 17:43 in ice time.

In 11 playoff games he had three goals, three assists and was a minus-3 in 21:42 of ice time.

For his career, Nielsen has 119 goals and 230 assists in 606 games. In 24 playoff games, he’s totaled four goals and six assists.

Nielsen is a good playmaker and can play on the power play and penalty kill.

Detroit had a ton of interest in Stamkos but was never given the chance to speak to him.

Stamkos, who took less money (eight-year deal worth $8.5 million a season), would have been the most coveted unrestricted free agent in some time had he hit the market at noon Friday.

Helm gets answers he wanted and re-signs with Wings … five years, $19.25 million

AR-140319659.jpg&maxh=400&maxw=667

DETROIT >> When Darren Helm was cleaning out his locker at the end of the season it sounded like his chances or re-signing were slim.

That all has changed.

Helm, 29, signed a five-year deal worth $19.25 million.

Helm, who’s coming off a four-year deal that had an average cap hit of $2.125, used the free agency interview period that began on Saturday to speak with other teams. He chose however to work on a long-term deal so he could remain in Detroit.

“It was definitely a different year,” Helm said during the Wings’ locker cleanout at Joe Louis Arena. “I think a lot of other guys experienced the same issues. It’s something I’ll have to decide. I know there are a couple guys I need to talk to, (coach Jeff Blashill and general manager Ken Holland), and see where everything is headed and where I see myself fitting into this organization or where they see me fitting into this organization then I’ll have to make some tough decisions.”

Helm had 13 goals and 13 assists in 77 games last season, which is seven points less than he had in 75 games a year ago.

The team approached Helm’s agent during training camp about signing an extension, but he got injured and missed the entire preseason and first four games of the regular season which put talks on the back burner.

That disappointed Helm.

“I’m not sure yet,” Helm said when asked if he wants his role expanded on the team. “There’s lots of different … I don’t’ know what I’m looking for here … it’s just a little tougher bouncing around from line to line.

“Winning is a big part of it,” Helm added. “I want to win. I really don’t mind playing on the bottom lines as long as there’s that respect factor. You get opportunities in different situations. If that looks like that’s the case that I’ll get to play in those situations that I feel that I can play in then I’ll be happy. If not and they tell me right away that’s not going to happen then I may not want to stay.

His former coach, Mike Babcock, once called Helm the best third-line center in the NHL.

He’s a fast skater that can play on a top-six scoring line or versatile enough to play a checking role.

“There are situations where I definitely wasn’t happy this year when I was playing and I wasn’t too happy when those situations arose,” Helm said. “So I want to see why that happened as often as it did and make sure I find a place that it won’t happen often.”

Helm has missed time with numerous injuries, including groin, concussion, forearm, back and knee.

Helm, who was taken in the fifth round (132nd overall) of the 2005 draft, played just seven regular season games in the 2007-08 campaign and then 18 more in the playoffs, playing a key role in the Wings winning the Stanley Cup.

Nielsen, Ladd, others on priority list after Stamkos stays with Tampa Bay

Detroit Red Wings v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game One

TAMPA, FL – APRIL 16: Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Detroit Red Wings during the first period in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Amalie Arena on April 16, 2015 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

DETROIT >> Steven Stamkos isn’t leaving Tampa Bay.

Now the Detroit Red Wings can move onto Plan B when unrestricted free agents can begin signing at noon Friday.

Stamkos signed a maximum eight-year deal for $8.5 million a season to remain with the Lightning. The max length any other team could offer him was seven years, but they could have thrown more money at him.

Neither Stamkos nor his representatives spoke with Wings about the possibility of coming to Detroit.

The next tier of forwards the Wings have interest in include Frans Nielsen, Milan Lucic, Andrew Ladd, Troy Brouwer, Kyle Okposo, Loui Eriksson and Jeff Backes.

“How do I feel going into Friday, July 1, I feel good,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said during a phone interview Wednesday prior to the Stamkos news being announced. “We’ve obviously created some cap space with the trading of (Pavel) Datsyuk.”

On Friday, Detroit traded its first round draft pick (16th overall) and Datsyuk, whose cap hit was $7.5 million, to Arizona for the Coyotes’ 20th and 53rd picks and center Joe Vitale, who will be placed on long-term injured reserve due to a broken orbital bone and concussion.

“If I look at our board we’ve probably got nine or 10 forwards ideally we’d like to sign a couple of forwards over the next week,” Holland said. “Do we get higher end forwards? There’s a star and then there’s probably another five or six good second tier forwards and then there’s a number of NHL forwards, different ages and that bring different things.”

The final tier of forwards includes Darren Helm, who’s expected to test free agency on Friday, Jason Chimera, Dale Weise and Matt Martin.

“Basically Jeff Blashill and I spent all day Monday on the phone in my office, lots of (Tuesday) and a little bit (Wednesday) and in between talking to agents we’re getting a sense for what their clients are thinking and kind of doing our due diligence working our way towards Friday,” Holland said.

The Wings were poised to offer Stamkos a seven-year deal worth $10 million a season or more. Toronto and Buffalo were also expected to aggressively pursue him.

Stamkos would have filled the void left by Datsyuk.

He’s a right-handed sniper that possesses an incredible one-timer and would have come in quite handy on the power play as well as five-on-five play.

In his eight NHL seasons, he has 312 goals – including 60 in 2011-12 – and 562 points in 569 games. Last season, Stamkos had 36 goals and 28 assists in 77 games.

A blood clot near his right collarbone, which required surgery, made him miss all but Tampa Bay’s final playoff game against the eventual Stanley Cup champ Pittsburgh Penguins.

At 26 years old, he would have filled Detroit’s No. 1 center spot and provided a nice one-two punch with Dylan Larkin, who Holland talked after the season about moving to center.

He would have been a perfect piece to add as Detroit readies to open Little Caesars Arena for the 2017-18 season and looks to extend its playoff streak to 26 consecutive seasons.

“We’re trying to work our way through the system,” Holland said. “We set up interviews with many of the players that were going to be on the open market and wanted to make sure we touched base with a lot of the players. We obviously have a priority list and some teams might not even be in this free agency sweepstakes because they’re capped out. We’ll find out through the weekend how it all turns out.”

The Wings have roughly $20 million in cap space with roughly half of that earmarked for resigning their restricted free agents which include Petr Mrazek, Danny DeKeyser, Alexey Marchenko, Teemu Pulkkinen and Ryan Sproul, all of which got qualifying offers on Monday.

Wings again will take ‘best player available’ in draft

DETROIT >> When it comes to the first couple rounds of the NHL draft of late, the Detroit Red Wings have been of the mindset to select the best player available.

And because of that the team is stocked full of prospects at forward.

This year they’re going into the two-day draft, which begins Friday in Buffalo, with the same mindset, but hoping a defenseman falls to them.

“Somewhere along the line we’d like to start to draft a few more defensemen,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said in a phone interview Wednesday. “We’ve had lots of forwards who are on the team or coming up and not as many defensemen. If the best player available that’s there is a forward we’ll take him, but somewhere along the line here we have to start to draft some D.”

Detroit has the 16th overall selection in the first round.

“We’re going to take the best player available,” Holland said.

The last defenseman the Wings took in the first round was Brendan Smith, in 2007 with the 27th overall pick.

Last year they nabbed a defenseman in the third round, Vili Saarijarvi.

The highest they’ve taken a defenseman since Smith was when they had two picks in the second round in 2011 and selected Xavier Ouellet (48th overall) and Ryan Sproul (55th overall).

“We’re expecting one of those or maybe two of them to make our team,” Holland said referring to Ouellet and Sproul. “But behind those two guys and Saarijarvi it’s not like we have a lot coming up on the backend as prospects. I’d like to think that between the first couple of picks one would be a defenseman. I could say all that, but both could be forwards.

“We’re trying to draft and develop to get a group of young players to work their way onto our roster that allow us to be competitive,” Holland added. “What’s competitive? Make the playoffs and go on a playoff run. Fortunately we’ve made the playoffs, but unfortunately we haven’t been able to go on a playoff run the last four or five years.”

Holland added that they’d also be willing to move up or move down in the draft.

“The drafting game when you’re dealing with 18-year-old players is not an exact science,” Holland said. “You see that with (Henrik) Zetterberg in the seventh round and (Pavel) Datsyuk in the sixth round. If their draft was held all over again they’d both be top five players in their draft. But certainly higher in the draft in the first round there’s a little more certainty.

“If somebody slides around 12 or 13, I’ve talked to some teams a little bit above us that we may have some interest in trying to move up,” Holland continued. “If we get to our pick and philosophically we think there are a few players that are close and somebody wants to move up we’ll see.”

The Wings have made a couple trades of late to slide back in rounds and have gotten two top prospects in their system.

“That’s how we got Tyler Bertuzzi and we went back two picks and got Anthony Mantha,” Holland said. “It’s like getting a free player.

“The more spins at the wheel the better it is, but if a player slides and we’re excited and we might have to pay the price to move up,” Holland continued. “Right now I’m working the phones and seeing who’s got interest in moving up and down and we’re telling them what we’re thinking so when the draft unfolds you’re ready to go in either direction.”

Holland: “He’s probably got a good month to make a final decision.”

DETROIT >> The players in the Detroit Red Wings locker room at the time did everything to try and convince Nicklas Lidstrom to stick around for one more season.

It didn’t work.

Now they’ll turn their attention on Pavel Datsyuk.

“Let’s hope it’s not,” Niklas Kronwall said when asked if Thursday was the last time he’d play with Datsyuk in Detroit. “I just hope it’s not. Right now it’s a completely empty feeling. Let’s just hope for everyone’s sake, for the hockey fan and for us and for Detroit, that it’s not.

“I think everybody is going to try to do whatever they can (to convince him to stay),” Kronwall added. “Obviously we’ve got a chance to play with him for a long time and we’d love for that to continue.”

Datsyuk made headlines prior to the start of the playoffs when he said he was not returning to Detroit to fulfill the final year on his contract.

A day later he said he hadn’t officially made a decision on what he’d do next season and he confirmed that after the Wings were knocked out of the playoffs for a second straight year by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“I’m not thinking about two days or how many days (until I decide),” Datsyuk said after the Wings lost Game 5, 1-0 to the Lightning, on Thursday. “I need a little bit (to) cool down and (let) emotions get out and then I start thinking about it more.”

The decision to leave, which he has thought about since lockout shortened 2012 season, would be so he can spend more time with his 13-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, who lives in Russia with his ex-wife, Svetlana.

“Don’t (ask) me a scary question,” Datsyuk said when asked if Game 5 was his final game with the Wings. “I put this question out many times and I don’t start thinking this way. It’s not happy thinking about these questions.”

If Datsyuk, who turns 38 on July 20, does decide not to fulfill the final year of his deal the Wings won’t get any relief for his $7.5 million salary, unless they’re able to unload his contract to a team that needs to reach the salary-cap floor.

“I have to find out about Pavel Datsyuk, that’s going to be priority number one,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said during a phone interview with The Macomb Daily on Saturday. “If he’s coming back then I know we have Pav and if he’s not coming back obviously I have to go through the process of his cap space.”

Datsyuk was held without a point in the five games with Tampa Bay, but did lead the Wings with 18 shots on goal. It was just the second time in his 14 seasons that he was held without a point in the playoffs. The other time was in 2003 when Anaheim swept the Wings.

“I’ve read all the articles,” Holland said. “I’ve had conversations in the past with Pav, but I have to sit down with him here in the next … I don’t think we really need to know until the first of June. He’s probably got a good month to make a final decision.”

Datsyuk, who was drafted in the sixth round (171st overall) in 1998, had 16 goals and 33 assists in 66 games during the regular season.

“I think you know Pavel well enough to know that Pavel will do what Pavel wants to do,” Wing coach Jeff Blashill said. “I’ll sit down and talk with Pav at the end of the year and obviously he’ll meet with Kenny and we’ll see what he decides.”

Datsyuk won the Selke Trophy three years in a row (2008-10) and helped the Wings win the Stanley Cup in 2002 as a rookie and in 2008.

“Pavel is one of the best competitors what will ever be in this league and he was amazing to coach this year, so I hope I get a chance to coach him again next year,” Blashill said. “His work ethic is unreal. He was coming back from injury, if you saw the effort that he put in it’s not secret why he’s been one of the best players in the league. Obviously I hope I get a chance to coach him again.”

Playoff picks: Detroit reaches East final; Caps beat Ducks for Cup

Playoffs Predictions

Eastern Conference

First Round

Detroit over Tampa Bay (six games)

Florida over New York Islanders (five games)

Washington over Philadelphia (five games)

Pittsburgh over New York Rangers (seven games)

Semifinals

Detroit over Florida (seven games)

Washington over Pittsburgh (six games)

Finals

Washington over Detroit (five games)

 

Western Conference

First Round

Dallas over Minnesota (five games)

Chicago over St. Louis (six games)

Anaheim over Nashville (seven games)

Los Angeles over San Jose (six games)

Semifinals

Chicago over Dallas (seven games)

Anaheim over Los Angeles (seven games)

Finals

Anaheim over Chicago (six games)

 

Stanley Cup

Washington over Anaheim (six games)

Three reasons why Wings advance and three reasons why they don’t

DETROIT >> Since moving to the Eastern Conference the Detroit Red Wings have been bounced from the playoffs each of the last two seasons in the first round.

They get a rematch of last year’s opening round series with the Tampa Bay Lighting, which begins Wednesday. The Wings lost the best-of-seven series in seven games.

Here are three reasons why the Wings will advance past the Lighting and three reasons why they won’t.

Why They Advance

  1. Win one for Pav

If this is indeed Pavel Datsyuk’s last season in Detroit it could provide the spark the team needs to try and hand him another Stanley Cup before he returns to Russia. “If this is his final last run let’s make it a good one,” Niklas Kronwall said.

 

  1. Banged up Bolts

Tampa Bay will be without its top forward, Steven Stamkos, and one of its top defensemen, Anton Stralman, in the series. Stamkos had surgery to treat a blood clot near his right collarbone, while Stralman is sidelined with a non-displaced fracture on his left fibula.

Tyler Johnson, who torched the Wings for six goals in last year’s playoffs, is also banged up and will be a game-time decision for Game 1.

 

  1. Bad Brad

Brad Richards knows what it takes to win a Stanley Cup and Wings coach Jeff Blashill will rely on him to help lead Detroit to another.

“There’s no question he’s done that throughout his career,” Blashill said. “He’s got an ability to be calm under pressure so as the pressure increases as the moment gets bigger he stays calm. He knows how to manage his body throughout the year so he’s in a good spot come playoff time. We’ve got him up in the top few lines. We did that on purpose because we think he’s a guy that when the pressure increases he stays calm and continues to make plays.”

Richards won the Cup last season with Chicago and also in 2004 with Tampa Bay.

 

Why They Don’t Advance

  1. Big Ben

Lighting goalie Ben Bishop, who stands 6-foot-7 without skates, has put together a Vezina Trophy candidate season, posting a league-best 2.06 goals-against average to go with a .926 save percentage, which is second best in the league. In helping lead his team to the Stanley Cup finals last year he posted three shutouts and a 2.18 GAA and .921 save percentage.

 

  1. Goals for/Goals against

Of all eight teams that reached the playoffs, the Wings have scored the least amount of goals (211) and have given up the most goals (224). Conversely, the Lightning finished the regular season a plus-26 in goal differential.

 

  1. Drouin the X-Factor

With the loss of Steven Stamkos, the Lighting need to rely on Jonathan Drouin, who has scored a goal in each of his first two games since being recalled on April 7. Drouin, who was suspended by Tampa Bay for failing to report to the minors, was a healthy scratch in 20 of the Lightning’s 26 playoff games a year ago.

 

Pick

Wings win best-of-seven series in six.