Morning Skate: So it begins

The 2010-2011 Red Wings drop the puck on a new season tonight against the Anaheim Ducks. Of course, we're getting things started here too in terms of the season so let's shake off the figurative rust and get going.

  • 153 days ago, the Red Wings season ended against the San Jose Sharks in a quick five game series. But today ushers in a new season for the Red Wings and their fans as the franchise looks to claim the 12th Stanley Cup in the history of the team. 
  • Jimmy Howard will start in net tonight for the Red Wings. This isn't much of a surprise as Howard carried the workload during the season last year. Neither goalie looked particularly impressive in the preseason but then again, it's just the preseason and it doesn't matter really. Howard will need to start the season strong and tonight's game is a chance to do that.
  • Scores from last night: Carolina 4-Minnesota 3, Toronto 3-Montreal 2, Philadelphia 3-Pittsburgh 2, Colorado 4-Chicago 3, Edmonton 4-Calgary 0. A Nelson Muntz sized "HA-HA!" goes out to Calgary. 
  • Check back around 2 pm ET for a pretty sweet unveiling here on WIM. 
  • Justin Abdelkader is out of tonight's line-up and with Todd Bertuzzi questionable (back) and Kris Draper out (groin), coach Mike Babcock has apparently entertained the thought of re-inserting Kirk Maltby into the line-up. I wonder if this is some sort of repayment for what seemed like a timely injury for Maltby last year that put him on the IR and gave the Wings room to bring players back. No? Alright, fine. 
  • Speaking of Bertuzzi, it may just be me but it looks like he's really starting to fit in with the team in the locker room and as far as the "identity" of the team goes. Last year, it seemed his teammates began to embrace him more and more as a crucial part of the team. I think dropping the gloves against Brooks Orpik following the knee to Franzen showed even more that he is trying to establish himself as a good teammate.
  • Speaking of Maltby, he might be leaning towards retirement instead of spending the season in Grand Rapids. As a fan, I'm not sure what I want out of this situation. I don't want Maltby to retire but I also don't want him to spend the year in Grand Rapids. It's a tough decision for him to make but I'm sure that fans will respect the route that he chooses. 
  • The rest of the previewing including match-ups to watch after the jump

  • The big story in Detroit during the offseason was the return of Mike Modano to his hometown team. Modano had a whole separate superstar and iconic career in Minnesota/Dallas but after an odd move by the GM to let Modano walk. Ken Holland and Co. offered Modano a contract and he accepted to join the Red Wings as a third line center. Modano should bring some good skills to this team and may even have a semi-resurgence in his production. Plus, any time you can bring another franchise's equivalent of Gordie Howe or Steve Yzerman on board is pretty good in my book.
  • Along those same lines, Ruslan Salei makes his regular season debut in Detroit tonight. It looks like Salei will be paired with Niklas Kronwall. This could be a VERY talented third pairing as Salei has looked pretty good in preseason and Kronwall has been getting better each year in Detroit. I also think this gives the Red Wings one of the best sets of defenseman from top to bottom in the league. 
  • Ah, Jiri Hudler. How we've missed thee. Hudler makes his first meaningful game appearance since the final game of the 2nd Red Wings-Penguins Cup battle. Hudler brings back good passing and puck control to go with some sweet shootout success (as Graham noted here). I think he'll be an excellent re-installment to the Red Wings line-up and will provide some clutch moments this year. 
  • The line I'll be watching a lot tonight is the line of Johan Franzen-Valtteri Filppula-Todd Bertuzzi (assuming Bertuzzi plays). I think this line could be very dangerous this year and I think it will be a break out year for Franzen and more importantly Filppula. Bertuzzi was quietly a big contributor to Franzen's muletrick in game 4 against the Sharks and I think there might be some good things going between this trio of players.
  • Key match-up to watch when Anaheim has the puck: I think the biggest thing to watch tonight is the way the Lidstrom-Ericsson pairing fairs. Will playing alongside Nicklas Lidstrom help Jonathan Ericsson's play? Or will he drag Lidstrom down with him? If Ericsson is allowed to play physically (and actually uses that monster-sized body) then it may work out well but if he's tentative and out of position...yikes.
  • Key match-up to watch when Detroit has the puck: I think this one is pretty clear. If the Circus Line of Holmstrom-Datsyuk-Zetterberg can get things going early this year the rest of the league is going to be in for a world of hurt. They looked great during the preseason and tonight's game will be a good early test. 
  • Expected lines, via Ansar Khan
    Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom
    Franzen-Filppula-Bertuzzi
    Hudler-Modano-Cleary
    Miller-Helm-Eaves
    Lidstrom-Ericsson
    Stuart-Rafalski
    Kronwall-Salei
    Again, check back at 2 pm ET for the unveiling of something here on WIM.
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