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Cole 'feeling good' but status for Saturday unclear - 01-01-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins defenseman Ian Cole took part in what was a very optional practice in Cranberry today.

Cole left last night's game in Detroit after the first period due to an undisclosed injury. He declined to specify the nature of the injury but said he was feeling good when he spoke with media after the practice. His status for Saturday's home game against the Islanders is uncertain. 

In addition to his healthy, Cole discussed his level of play and offered some pretty frank thoughts about Maple Leafs' center Leo Komarov's hit from behind against defenseman Kris Letang Wednesday.

---

How do you feel?

“Feeling good. … It's tough to put it in any particular way. There's so much you can read into any particular phrasing you want to put it. There's some protocol you just have to go through. Leave it at that I guess.”

Your status for Saturday is still uncertain?

"Yeah. I'll go talk to [athletic trainer Chris Stewart] and I think we'll see tomorrow how everything is. Obviously, you want to play every single game. I'll just try to get back in there ASAP."

Management discussed a need for you to elevate earlier this season. Do you think you've done that?

"Yeah. I think it's been going real well the past however many games. It's been going real well. I don't think it was anything that I wasn't feeling it or I was hurt or that I was just … entitled or not working hard. I think that a lot of my reads were right and I think it was very well intentioned. I was trying to do all the right things and I think I had all the right reads for the most part but there was just some fluky stuff going on. Just goals ended up in the net. Pucks going through my [feet] to guys on breakaways. Just a lot of weird stuff going on and obviously I think the only way to go through that is just to work hard and re-address, really get back to the basics as far as like … I'm not going to do too much. I'm just going to like kind of get rid of all the peripheral nonsense and just try to do my job as best I can. I think for the last chunk of games, it's been going really well."

What has changed for you under a new coach?

"I don't think the message or system has really changed all that much coach to coach. I think every team, every coach in the NHL has to play fast, wants to play hard, wants to play really tight defense, really close defense transitioning the puck quickly not giving up much in your own zone. At the same, creating offensively and going offensively and really making stuff happen in the offensive end. So I don't think any of that stuff has changed. I think to a man, everyone tries to do that to the best they can. So I don't think my role has changed. I'm still trying to play quick defensively, keep tight gaps, play hard defensively, transition the puck well and go on offense. So I think in that sense, absolutely nothing has changed."

You were a scratch Dec. 19. Was there any benefit to that?

"Yeah. I think anytime you can kind of step back and re-address … maybe not simplify but kind of get back to the foundation of what you're good at. I think that it's always good. Take a break and step back and clear your mind of all the thoughts, all the peripheral nonsense. I think [it] is always beneficial."

After Komarov hit Letang from behind Wednesday, you appeared to say something to Komarov and invited him to fight. What goes through your head when something like that occurs?

"I don't think anything really goes through your head as far as like, 'Oh this is what I have to do to step up.' I think you're mad. You're looking at teammates, especially in the Komarov case, a guy like [Letang] that has been down that path many times as far as hits from behind, head-first into the boards, a lot of head issues. So you would think that there would be a little more respect or a little more awareness as far as that goes. It's not like that he's a guy that his history isn't known by people. So I think to see his back turned, he's four feet from the boards and you still finish him and put him head-first into the boards. It's not even like he's up against the boards, right? You like kind throw him head-first into the boards. That stuff kind of bothers you as a player, as a teammate.

So I go back to your question, is there anything goes through your head? No. You're just concerned about your teammate. You're [ticked] off and you're like, 'Man, this guy needs to like answer up for what he did.' This guy needs to just kind of have someone go up and be like, 'That's bull [manure].' Pardon my language but that's bull [manure] and that shouldn't be allowed or accepted. If you did that to somebody, you'd be expecting somebody to come up to you. So I think that in terms of players kind of policing themselves – he got a penalty on it so there was something – but a guy needs to kind of needs to answer up for his actions on the ice. Which he chose not to do which is fine."

There isn't a true enforcer on this roster. Is it more of a team-wide duty?

"Yeah, for sure. For sure. I think that we have had really good responses as far as stuff like that. In Toronto, there was another one. There was another scrum. [Center Sidney Crosby] was in there with [Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf]. The past couple of games, if there's anything like that, guys get in there. Guys aren't afraid. You see [left winger Chris Kunitz] get in there many times. [Center Eric Fehr]. All of our defensemen are very capable. You see [Letang], he's not worried about himself. He goes flying in there like a bat out of [heck] if you will. You don't need one guy whose sole job is to go do this. Everyone is capable. Everyone is able and aggressive enough and well intentioned enough to step in and kind of police themselves and I think we've done a pretty good job of that so far."

When Wild right winger Nino Niederreiter hit defensman Olli Maatta into the visiting bench door Nov. 17, you took a slashing penalty against Niederreiter afterwards. Is there a line or limit you need to be careful not to cross?

"Yeah. And obviously, every situation is different, right? If [Letang] goes down and goes out and Olli went down in that case. Maybe it's not the best idea to get in a fight right after that because you're down to four [defensemen] for five minutes and you're putting a lot of strain on the rest of the guys. So with the whole Niederreiter situation, yeah I was trying to maybe goad him into one. Trying to make him answer up a little bit but he obviously wasn't really a fan of that. He just skated away. It kind of bothered me so I gave him a slash. Ill-advised probably, yeah. But it was one of those things that really [ticked] you off, especially when the guy just doesn't feel like he needs to kind of own up to what he did. Obviously you want to do it smartly. You don't want to put your team in a bad situation but at the same time, you want to protect your teammates and kind of make guys own up for what they did. So it's kind of a very fine line but you try to straddle that as best you can."

(Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

 

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Can Duquesne go from losing close to winning close?

Written by Craig Meyer on .

The specifics of “program building” are things that I won’t claim to understand. Like some, I can grasp it from a broad standpoint – stockpiling talent, getting players that fit your system – but a lot of it can ring as jargon that, in some cases, is intentionally vague.

Duquesne fans are more familiar than they’d probably wish to be with the idea of building a program. It’s something Jim Ferry references frequently, but it’s an idea that predates him on The Bluff. Each coach that has been there before him has tried to craft the program in his own image, some with more success than others.

Ferry didn’t take over a program that was a perpetual loser in the traditional sense, the NCAA tournament drought notwithstanding. Ron Everhart finished above .500 in four of his six seasons with the Dukes, including his final season. The decision to fire him was controversial to some – we’re not getting into that here – but Ferry was someone who was going to run the program differently, meaning that there were elements of a rebuild when he took the job (some of which were detailed on this blog earlier this year).

When discussing the direction of a coaching tenure, especially one that began under less-than-ideal circumstances, I’m always led back to something Bobby Bowden told a young Rich Rodriguez, as detailed in John U. Bacon’s excellent book “Three and Out.”

“When you’re trying to build a program, you go through four stages: You lose big, you lose close, you win close and finally you start winning big.”

Bowden, of course, was talking about football, but it’s a statement that I think has a broader meaning, one that can apply to most any college program. There's no specific timeline for how this is all supposed to unfold, but Duquesne is seemingly on that path three years into Ferry's tenure.

A-10 scoring margin

*Statistics are per game, not overall

Last season represented either a hiccup or a troubling turn in the other direction, though, based on non-conference play, it appears to be the former. Duquesne was terrible in Ferry's first season in 2012-13 while improving to below-average but competitive the past two seasons.

Now 13 games into this season, the Dukes have outscored opponents by a combined 99 points, or 7.6 per game. Non-conference play has featured a Duquesne team that is much improved from last season, but, as anyone will tell you, this team's true test will come in A-10 games, which will undoubtedly be tougher than a non-league slate that KenPom currently ranks as the 322nd-toughest among 351 Division I teams.

Winning close games, at least to me, has never seemed like the inherent skill that some try to make it out to be. A team that loses back-to-back one-possession games after going 10-2 in the same kind of games the previous season didn't lose any kind of "clutch gene"; odds are, such a thing never existed, regardless of how much coaches and sports writers harp on it (I will say, though, that older, more experienced teams generally do better in closer games; having talent doesn't hurt, either).

The idea of winning close, though, doesn't focus on individual games. Instead, it's a trend that encompasses all of a team's games and the collective result of them, as shown in the table earlier in the post.

In the past two seasons, Duquesne has been on the verge of being a pretty good team, but, for a variety of reasons, it came up just short in several different games and moments. Whether it can take that next step and start winning some of those tightly-contested games it has previously lost will determine not only the success of this single team, but it will also have a telling say in the direction of this program.

Before you can ever start winning big -- any program's ultimate goal -- you have to be able to win close, making that step from a middling team to something a little greater. For any team, that may be the most difficult step to take and for the Dukes, it's one they should, and may have to, take this season.

 

Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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Empty Netter Assists - Recapping Penguins-Red Wings - 01-01-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-The Post-Gazette's recap from last night's game. “Our [power play] has been good, but when you have the guys the quality we have, you can’t give them too many chances. They’ll make you pay at one point, and that's what [centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin] did.” - Defenseman Kris Letang.

-The Associated Press' recap. - "We've been on the other side of these a couple of times. So to bounce back and get some points to end the year is great." - Crosby on the Penguins' comeback.

-The Detroit Free Press' recap. "Their power play got them back in the game, and our power play didn't get us back in it." - Red Wings captain/left winger Henrik Zetterberg

-MLive.com's recap. - "They came in, they were desperate, probably a little grittier for some reason than us." - Red Wings forward Brad Richards on the Penguins.

-Highlights:

-Crosby was focused:

-Defenseman Brian Dumoulin played a puck up ice:

-Red Wings right winger Gustav Nyquist played a puck through the neutral zone:

-Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek looked as if he was pondering some deep truth about the duality of man. Either that or his helmet came loose:

-Head coach Mike Sullivan speaks:

 

-Goaltender Brian Foster made 16 saves for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a 4-2 home loss to the Syracuse Crunch Thursday. It was Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s third consecutive loss. Defenseman Adam Clendening, currently on a conditioning assignment, had one assist.

-Highlights:

-Forward Anton Zlobin had a goal and an assist for the Wheeling Nailers in a 4-3 overtime home loss to the Brampton Beast.

-Happy 56th birthday to former Penguins left winger Dave Hunter. Acquired early in 1987-88 along with defenseman Paul Coffey and left winger Wayne Van Dorp in a deal which sent defensemen Moe Mantha, Chris Joseph, left winger Craig Simpson and center Dave Hannan to the Oilers, Hunter's Penguins' career amounted to 59 games and 29 points that season. Prior to the 1988-89 offseason, he was transferred back to the Oilers as compensation for the Penguins claiming Hannan off waivers.

-Happy 29th birthday to current Penguins right winger Patric Hornqvist. Acquired along with center Nick Spaling in a deal which sent left winger James Neal to the Predators during the 2014 offseason, Hornqvist has been with the Penguins the past two seasons. In 2014-15, "Horny" played in 64 games and scored 51 points. During the 2015 postseason, he played in five games and netted three points. This season, Hornqvist has appeared in 37 games and has netted 15 points. In 101 career regular season games with the Penguins, Hornqvist has scored 66 points.

-After the Jump: Shane Doan passes Dale Hawerchuk.

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Postgame thoughts - Penguins 5, Red Wings 2 - 12-31-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

 

First things first, head coach Mike Sullivan had no update on defenseman Ian Cole when he spoke with media in Detroit. He left the game after the first period.

After the first period, it certainly seemed like the Penguins would limp into 2016 the way they spent most of 2015. They were trailing on the road in Joe Louis Arena and were being outclassed in the first period of play by the deep and skilled Red Wings.

Then almost from the start of the second period, something clicked and they earned an impressive and much-needed win.

After they botched Wednesday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Maple Leafs, they won a game they probably had no business being in after the first period. 

A huge part of this game was the fact that their star players - the healthy ones at least - were the ones who really drove this win. 

What happened

-The Red Wings opened the scoring at 6:47 of the first period. Center Dylan Larkin raced up the left wing, weaved by defenseman Trevor Daley and sneaked behind the net. He fed a pass from behind the cage through the crease to the left circle. Center Kevin Porter backchecked and got a piece of the puck but left winger Justin Abdelkader was able to settle the puck and lift it by the left leg of goaltender Jeff Zatkoff who was not in position to make a save.

-With defenseman Kris Letang and center Luke Glendening in the penalty box for minor penalties, Detroit made it a 2-0 game at 7:45 by simply going to the net. From the left point, defenseman Alexey Marchenko ripped a wrister. Zatkoff made the initial save as center Gustav Nyquist made slight contact. Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith followed up on the rebound in the left circle and whipped it on net. Zatkoff got a piece of Smith's shot but not enough as it slid into the cage. The Penguins protested and appeared to consider a coaching challenge but there didn't seem to be enough contact by Nyquist to warrant the challenge.

-The Penguins were off to a fast start in the second period. After left winger David Perron drew a hooking penalty by holding DeKeyser's stick, the Penguins had a power play. From center point, defenseman Kris Letang fed a pass to center Evgeni Malkin on the right half wall. Malkin kaboomed a one-timer on net which goaltender Petr Mrazek got a piece of but ended up kicking into his own net with his right skate as right winger Patric Hornqvist battled for position in the crease. The Penguins appeared to have a goal 45 seconds into the period but the Red Wings issued a coaches challenge. Following a lengthy review, the goal was upheld. It was ultimately credited to Hornqvist.

-Special teams success was a theme for the Penguins in the second period. After killing off two Letang penalties, they struck again on the power play. From the center point, Malkin slid a pass to Letang moving up the right wing. Letang worked his way into the right circle. Just as Hornqvist appeared to jam up Mrazek with a moving screen, that allowed Letang to make one last deke to his right and lift a wrister over Mrazek's left leg and into the cage for a goal at the 11:44 mark.

-The Penguins appeared to take a lead with 6:26 left in the second. Letang lobbed a puck from the left point. It glanced off a body or two before center Nick Bonino backhanded toward the net then Hornqvist tried to jam it under Mrazek. A mass of humanity crashed in on Mrazek and Hornqvist but an official waved “no goal” to the protests of the Penguins.

-With approximately four seconds left in play, DeKeyser cross checked Bonino in front of the crease. As a scrum developed, Bonino recovered to his skates and skated towards his bench holding his left arm or shoulder. Bonino returned at the start of the third period however.

-The Penguins had a nice chance to take a lead 3:49 into the third period but Crosby had a two-on-two with Perron. From the right wing, he forced a pass to Perron which DeKeyer broke it up.

-They finally took their first lead of the game at 7:48 of the third. After left winger Chris Kunitz thumped DeKeyser off the puck in the Red Wings right corner, Perron picked it up, skated behind the net and dealt a pass to the slot. Crosby took the pass and fanned on his first shot attempt. He leaned down and lifted his second attempt to the far side past Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson and the blocker of Mrazek.

-They doubled their lead 34 seconds later. After Hornqvist forced a puck to the slot, right winger Phil Kessel backhanded a pass from the slot to the right circle. Malkin gripped and ripped a wrister past Smith and Mrazek's blocker on the far side.

-With 1:40 left in play, the Penguins secured the when Letang airmailed a empty-net goal from his own blue line.

The Penguins

-Kris Letang was Kris Letang. In otherwords, he was really good and really bad at times. Tonight, those things manifested themselves in goals and penalties.

-Zatkoff really rebounded after a rough start. He looked slow in reacting to the pass leading to Abdelkader's goal and probably should have saved Smith's goal. After that, he made most of everything look routine.

-Hornqvist was vintage Hornqvist. He drove the Red Wings' defensemen and Mrazek bonkers with his presence in the crease. He really helped start the comeback.

-The power play was actually dangerous. They shot the puck and put the Red Wings' penalty killers on edge with how they moved it.

-Perron getting involved on the offense was key too. He read Kunitz's forecheck and was in position to set up Crosby's eventual game-winning goal.

-The Penguins' penalty killers shouldn't be overlooked either. They came up with two important kills in the second period.

The Red Wings

If we had to place a vote today, we'd put Larkin at the top of our  ballot for the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year. Coyotes left winger Max Domi might be the only other player we would consider at this point. That said, Larkin just seems like he is used in so many more matchup situations. Tonight, he was one of the Red Wings' best players and was a big part of their fast start. 

-Red Wings starwarts Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were pretty quiet.

-Ditto defenseman Mike Green

-Red Wings right winger Tomas Jurco left the game after the first period due to an undisclosed injury.

Quoteable

-Zatkoff talked about the comeback:

"We started off slow there and we weren't happy with how we played in the first. We knew if we go back to a way we should play, that things should turn around. Fortunately for us, our power play was clicking early on. Then in the third period, a couple of good goals off the forecheck."

-Ditto Sullivan:

"We get down two [goals]. We've been under difficult circumstances. The way we've responded the second and third periods for me, it's exciting because I think it's hard evidence that when we play the right way, we can be a good team. I think when we have, it starts with our attitude and our resilience to the adversity that takes place. This team has been through a fair amount of [it]. To respond that way for me in this type of game speaks volumes for the type of people we have. I think it starts with our leadership. I really think those guys did a great job as far as leading by example."

Sullivan loves him some Hornqvist:

"He's a hard guy not to love. He's a passionate guy. He wears his emotions right on his sleeve. He brings a ton of energy on the bench and I think it's infectious for our group. He loves hockey and he loves to win. He doesn't hide his enthusiasm when we have success, that's for sure."

-Sullivan is fond of Letang as well:

"When Kris is in our lineup and he plays the way he that he played today, you can see the impact that he has on the game. He has the ability to beat forecheckers single-handedly. He has the ability to move the puck because he sees the ice so well which allows our guys to get the puck with motion coming through the neutral zone. I think when he's playing that way, I think he has a huge influence on the type of team we have."

-Sullivan lauded his team's power play:

"I loved the fact that they scored a couple of goals. For me, I think it started with the puck battles. We talked to our guys after the first period and we said that's where our game has to start. We have to win puck battles five on five, on the power play, on the special teams, all over the rink. It's such a big part of winning and losing I think and it's one of those things in a game that it's difficult to quantify. It doesn't show up in any of the statistics. But it's those thankless jobs that help teams win and make you hard to play against. The power play, when you look at the first goal, it starts with a puck battle along the boards and we end up scoring."

-Hornqvist wasn't happy with how his team started the game:

"We have to start in the first period. We can't wait until the second period to start playing hockey. We have to come out as good as the other team and really play hard. If we play like we did in the second and third, we're going to win a lot of games this year … and the next year too."

-Letang explained what was said between the first and second periods:

"Just to bring a better effort. A lack of intensity. The first four shifts of the game, we played really well then they scored those two goals like that to slow us down. We have to keep our head up, that's what we talked about [before the] second and third period."

-Red Wings center Brad Richards was succinct in describing the difference between the teams' power plays:

"They scored two. We didn't score any.”

-Zetterberg went into a little more detail:

"Their power play got them back in the game and our power play didn't get us back in it. We had our chances on the power play but we couldn't really get any goals going."

Mrazek had a funny way of describing the Penguins' approach to the power play:

"They throw everything to the net. Tried to *do chaos* from the net and put it in. We tried to be focus and do things right but they scored two or three goals on the power play."

Richard spoke about the Penguins' mindset entering the game:

“They came in, they were desperate. Probably a little grittier for some reason than us.”

Numbers

-The Penguins had a 37-35 edge in shots on net.

-Hornqvist led the game with six shots.

-Zetterberg and Marchenko led the Red Wings with four shots each.

-Letang led the game with 25:55 of ice time.

-Kronwall led the Red Wings with 24:19 of ice time.

-The Penguins had a 31-30 lead in faceoffs (51 percent).

-Crosby was 15 for 25 (60 percent).

-Zetterberg was 9 for 18 (50 percent).

-Letang and center Matt Cullen each led the game with three blocked shots.

-Ericsson and DeKeyser each led the Red Wings with two blocked shots.

Historically speaking

-Malkin is in some elite company:

Visuals

-Game summary.

-Event summary.

-Highlights:

-Happy New Year.

(Photo: Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

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About the Red Wings - 12-31-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Red Wings.

When and where: 6 p.m., EST, Joe Louis Arena.

TV: Root Sports, Fox Sports Detroit, Sportsnet.

Record: 18-12-7, 43 points. The Red Wings are in foruth place in the Atlantic Division.

Leading Scorer: Left winger Henrik Zetterberg (right), 28 points (6 goals, 22 assists).

Last Game: 4-1 road loss to the Jets Tuesday. Goaltender Petr Mrazek made 10 saves for the Red Wings.

Last Game against the Penguins: 5-1 road win March 15. Left winger Teemu Pulkkinen had two goals for the Red Wings.

Red Wings Player We Would Bet Money On Scoring: Center Brad Richards. In 44 career games against the Penguins, he has 43 points.

Ex-Penguins on the Red Wings: Assistant coach Tony Granato, director of amateur scouting Tyler Wright.

Ex-Red Wings on the Penguins: Center Kevin Porter (Porter was signed to an NHL contract but never played for the Red Wings above the AHL level), general manager Jim Rutherford.

Useless Red Wings Trivia Vaguely Related to the Penguins: Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (2002) is one of three players currently on an NHL roster who were the last overall pick in a draft. The others are Penguins right winger Patric Hornqvist (2005) and Bruins defenseman Zach Trotman (2010).

The last time the Penguins played the Red Wings, this happened: 

-This too:

Probable goaltenders: Jeff Zatkoff (2-4-1, 2.68 GAA, .923 SV%) for the Penguins. Petr Mrazek (xxx, xxx GAA, .xxx SV%) for the Red Wings.

Injuries: For the Penguins, right wingers Beau Bennett ("upper body"), Pascal Dupuis (blood clots) and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion) are on injured reserve. For the Red Wings, Left wingers Drew Miller (jaw), Pulkkinen (shoulder), right winger Johan Franzen (head) and defenseman Kyle Quincey (ankle) are on injured reserve.

Potential lines and defensive pairings: The Penguins did not hold a morning skate. Their primary lines and pairings against the Maple Leafs last night were:

14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 43 Conor Sheary
23 Scott Wilson- 71 Evgeni Malkin - 72 Patric Hornqvist
39 David Perron - 13 Nick Bonino - 81 Phil Kessel
11 Kevin Porter - Matt Cullen - 16 Eric Fehr

58 Kris Letang - 3 Olli Maatta
8
 Brian Dumoulin - 12 Ben Lovejoy

6 Trevor Daley - 28 Ian Cole

-Update: The Penguins announced their lines and pairings as: 

14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 39 David Perron
Matt Cullen71 Evgeni Malkin - 81 Phil Kessel
43 Conor Sheary - 13 Nick Bonino - 72 Patric Hornqvist
11 Kevin Porter -  - 16 Eric Fehr - 61 Sergei Plotnikov

58 Kris Letang - 3 Olli Maatta
8
 Brian Dumoulin - 12 Ben Lovejoy
6 Trevor Daley - 28 Ian Cole

-The Red Wings lines and defensive pairings at today's morning skate were:

8 Justin Abdelkader - 40 Henrik Zetterberg - 71 Dylan Larkin
43 Darren Helm - 13 Pavel Datsyuk - 17 Brad Richards
14 Gustav Nyquist - 15 Riley Sheahan - 21 Tomas Tatar
26 Tomas Jurco - 41 Luke Glendening - 83 Tomas Nosek

55 Niklas Kronwall - 25 Mike Green
52 Jonathan Ericsson - 65 Danny DeKeyser
2 Brendan Smith - 47 Alexey Marchenhko

Notes:

-The Penguins assigned defenseman Adam Clendening to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for conditioning purposes.

-Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson is expected to return after missing five games due to a shoulder injury.

-Red Wings center Darren Helm has played in 399 career games.

-The referees are (No. 11) Kelly Sutherland and (No. 15) Jean Hebert. The linesmen are (No. 50) Scott Cherrey and (No. 74) Lonnie Cameron.

(Photo: Paul Sancya/Associated Press)

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