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Off Day Odds and Ends

This really seems like the longest we’ve gone without a game in quite some time, doesn’t it?

1. Darren Helm and Tomas Holmstrom have both been back on the ice for practice with the rest of the team. Ansar Khan of MLive reported on Twitter that they’re both confirmed out for sure for Saturday’s game at Toronto. Both Homer and Helmer think they’ll be ready for Sunday’s game at Chicago, but Mike Babcock was non-committal.

2. Jakub Kindl will be back in the lineup against the Maple Leafs. Mike Commodore will likely be the defenseman removed from the lineup.

3. I suppose congratulations are in order for the six players who won the fan vote to be the “starters” for the NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa on January 29th. That would be forwards Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek, and Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators, defenseman Erik Karlsson, also of Ottawa, defensman Dion Phaneuf of the Leafs, and goaltender Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins. Thomas has a 1.90 goals against average (currently 3rd in league) and a .940 save percentage (currently second in league). Those are all-star numbers by anyone’s standards. The other guys… well. The voting was done completely by internet, with close to 24 million votes cast. The NHL has not released the I.P. addresses of the votes to tally how many of them came from computers in Ottawa running vote-vote-vote shell scripts. And seriously, there are no starters from the entire Western Conference?

The rest of the All-Stars will be named by the NHL and that list will be released on January 12th.

4. More heartfelt congratulations are in order for Gustav Nyquist, the only Grand Rapids Griffin (even though he’s currently on the Wings’ roster) named to the AHL All-Star Game.

5. Congratulations are also in order for the “Vote For Jimmy” write-in campaign to get Jimmy Howard named as an All-Star starter. He wound up in 6th place among all goalies with 192,685 votes, which, for a write-in, is pretty impressive. I would be pretty shocked if the League didn’t invite him when the list comes out next week.

But here’s my confession: I never once voted for Jimmy to go to the All-Star Game. I think he absolutely deserves to go. I think I get more and more impressed by him every time I see him play. At this point in the season he’s been without a doubt the team MVP and he’d be on my shortlist for Vezina Trophy candidates. But doesn’t he deserve a few days off? He’s started 34 of the Wings’ 39 games this season. The All-Star Game is really just a meaningless exhibition. Granted, 6 total goalies will be at the game and each will only play one period, but it seems like it would be better for the team in the long run if he could just take a small break. The long grind of February and March games is looming, with hopefully a long playoff run beyond that. A short break could be a useful thing.

6. Speaking of Jimmy Howard, his next win will be the 100th of his career.

7. The Red Wings-related Twitter feeds (at least the unofficial ones) were practically exploding Wednesday afternoon with news that the NHL had “confirmed” that the 2013 Winter Classic would be between the Wings and Leafs at Michigan Stadium. As the day wore on, it turned out that the only source for this was an AM sports station out of San Francisco. It seems highly likely that Detroit will indeed get to host the Classic next year. (Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports called this the second-worst kept secret of this year’s Classic.) The Leafs would certainly be a possible opponent, even though no Canadian team has yet played in the Classic. The “rule” has been that the Heritage Classic is for Canadian teams and the Winter Classic is for U.S. teams. This isn’t set in stone by any means, and Wings-Leafs would be a huge draw for the Original Six nostalgia factor. Probably the biggest thing to hammer out would be the venue. The Big House can seat 100,000 people, which means more revenue– however, that revenue would have to be shared with the University of Michigan. Comerica Park, on the other hand… Mike Illitch already owns it. No profit sharing needed. Also given that Illitch is and has always been a supporter of the city of Detroit itself, I think he’d push really hard to have the game in downtown Detroit instead of in Ann Arbor. (Also, I’m not sure that former Spartans Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader could play a game in the Big House without getting twitchy and unhappy. Just sayin’.)

Will I be at the Winter Classic? Me, the Florida native who still has to bundle up like a southerner to go outside in winter? The one who spends the entirety of January, February, and the first half of March daydreaming of spring? The one who actually perks up and feels revived on those 90 degree July days with 98% humidity?

Yeah, probably.

It’s Red Wings hockey. And I’m a fan. It’s what I do.

(Just make sure I have some thermal undies and my down-filled parka.)

Game Preview: Red Wings at Predators, 8:00 PM

It’s been a wild day in the Red Wing regions of Twitter. Early this morning, Tomas Tatar (@Trto90) tweeted to the world, “Called up.:) #RedWings”. It was early enough that my first thought was, “Hey, cool, it will be good to get the kid in an NHL game!” It took me a few minutes (keep in mind I am not and have never been a coffee drinker) to think, “Wait a minute… who’s injured?!?”

As it turns out, Chris Conner fractured his hand in the Pittsburgh game the other night and is expected to be out for a couple of weeks. But Cory Emmerton will be taking his place in the lineup. So why the need for Tatar?

It’s time for another… Mike Babcock Mystery.

It seems one of our other forwards (who is absolutely not Pavel Datsyuk, Ken Holland assured reporters, in spite of an awkward looking fall Pavel took in the Pittsburgh game) is kind of banged up. This forward, who is not Datsyuk and is not Conner and is not Emmerton, may or may not be able to play tonight. If he can’t go, Tatar will be in. It’s a game time decision– both Tatar and the Mystery Player will take the pregame warm-up.

The team is certainly playing its cards close with this mystery. Ansar Khan of MLive reported that during the morning skate, Jiri Hudler spent extra time stretching and talking to team trainers while the rest of the group was skating, but that might just mean that Niklas Kronwall and Jakub Kindl made Hudler ride to Nashville in Red Bird Three’s overhead compartment instead of letting him sit in a seat. Even my TOP SECRET SOURCE (okay, it’s John Keating of Fox Sports Detroit, @JohnKeatingFSD on Twitter) had no clues or speculation on who the banged up forward might be.

The top two lines (Bertuzzi-Datsyuk-Franzen and Filppula-Zetterberg-Hudler) were left intact at the morning skate. Drew Miller was promoted to the third line to play with Darren Helm and Danny Cleary, and Emmerton will go on the fourth line with Justin Abdelkader and Tomas Holmstrom. The defense pairings remain the same and Jimmy Howard will be starting in net.

On the Nashville side of the equation, starting goaltender Pekka Rinne is coming of his third consecutive win. Rinne is looking to continue rebuilding his confidence, having previously lost seven consecutive starts. Blake Geoffrion and Jonathon Blum will not be in tonight’s lineup, as they have been recently sent to Nashville’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee. “They’re really first-year players and they haven’t gotten as much traction as they had last year,” coach Barry Trotz said. “The whole idea is getting them playing so they can come back and get some traction in our lineup, so they’re not just struggling all year.”

Nashville’s Tuesday win over the Calgary Flames came in large part because they shot the lights out against goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, coming up with a season high of 45. (I swear to you, one day I will be able to correctly spell “Miikka” without looking it up first.) Look for the Preds to attempt the same against Howard. The Wings full puck possession skills will be needed against this Nashville group which is gaining in confidence.

Time to play keep-away with the puck!

Let’s go, Red Wings! *clap clap clapclapclap*

Patrick Eaves update # 2: surgery required

It seems Patrick Eaves will need surgery to repair his busted jaw after all, per the Detroit Free Press. General manager Ken Holland expects Eaves to be out 6 to 8 weeks, although this is based on the timeline of how long it took past players with broken jaws to get back in the lineup, not on any official word from doctors. (Danny Cleary and Brad Stuart have both had broken jaws in recent seasons.)

Keep in mind that with a broken jaw, the healing bone is not the only concern. The player also has difficulty consuming nutrition enough to keep up with his usual physical training regimen, so Eaves’s conditioning is likely to slip a little while he heals.

Get well soon, Patrick. I hope your GIANT DOG Nurse Reuben takes good care of you while you’re out!

Patrick Eaves Update

Ansar Khan of MLive has reported that Patrick Eaves has been diagnosed with a fractured jaw. No word yet on whether or not the jaw will require surgical repair, and no timeline has been set for Eaves to return. It’s likely that the reason he fell when he was hit last night was partly from pain and partly from dizziness– a hard hit that close to the ear could easily cause a shakeup in the inner ear fluid, leading to temporary balance issues.

The good news here is that there’s no mention of concussion. I’m sure it’s small comfort to Eaves and his poor aching jaw at this point, but it could have been so much worse.

White set to return, Brunnstrom reassigned, Smith staying up

The Red Wings on Tuesday reassigned Fabian Brunnstrom to the Grand Rapids Griffins. This is to clear a roster spot for Ian White to return Wednesday against  Calgary, having healed from the fractured orbital bone he obtained by blocking a shot with his face to prevent a goal on November 12th against Dallas. (Constantly I am amazed by the abuse these guys put their bodies through!)

White plans on wearing a protective visor for at least awhile after the injury, but isn’t sure if he’ll continue wearing it permanently. “I’ll have to think about it. I’ll wear it for at least the rest of the season. Who knows if it would have even stopped the puck,” he told reporters.

Brunnstrom does not have to clear waivers to be reassigned as he last cleared less than 30 days ago.

The interesting speculation here actually surrounds defenseman Brendan Smith. Smith has thoroughly impressed coach Mike Babcock in the three games he’s spent up with the big club, and coach just isn’t ready to send the rookie back to  the Griffins yet. Smith, in fact, was sure he was being sent back until Babs told him during today’s press conference not to pack his bags just yet. Babcock isn’t quite ready to say  that Smith will play for sure against the Flames, but chances are good that we will see him on the ice for at least one more game, given current rumors of Jakub Kindl having a sore shoulder.

That sore shoulder for Kindl– I’d be willing to bet it’s a bit of an exaggeration. The injury was supposedly sustained against Dallas, but Kindl has played in each of the subsequent games and hasn’t missed any practice time. I expect the truth is somewhere in between “can’t play” and “he’s faking it”– one of those “I could play if it were the playoffs” sort of injuries.

I have to say, I approve. Being able to let Kindl rest a nagging injury is a nice luxury to have, and getting Smith more ice time with the Wings will be good for his development as well. If he were going to be benched, I’d say it would be better for him to be getting loads of ice time in Grand Rapids, but if he’s actually playing and getting the chance to learn and refine his hockey sense while helping out the team, I’m all for keeping him up. He’s one to watch on the blue line as the season develops, that’s for sure.