Training camp is wrapping up, and the preseason starts for the Red Wings tonight. Yesterday the first round of player cuts were made, with Tyler Bertuzzi (Guelph- OHL), Philippe Hudon (Victoriaville- QMJHL), Zach Nastasiuk (Owen Sound- OHL), Jake Paterson (Saganaw- OHL) and Michal Plutner (Tri-City- WHL) being sent back to their respective junior teams; and Kevin Lynch going to Grand Rapids to prepare for the Griffins training camp.
This morning the remaining players will practice at Centre Ice, with the team facing off against the Penguins tonight in the first preseason game flying out from the Cherry Capital Airport this afternoon. Unfortunately the Red Wings aren't airing this game for out watching pleasure.
The following lines were announced for the game tonight.
This line came out firing on all cylinders on the first day of training camp and didn't stop. Zetterberg (1G, 5A), Datsyuk (1G, 3A), and Abdelkader (3G, 3A) combined for 5 goals and 11 assists over the course of 2 scrimmages and the Red & White game. Zetterberg was the Captain, always working hard and setting the example for everyone else. Datsyuk was himself, wowing and dazzling us with this amazing skills and showing everyone that even superstars practice, work hard, and always look for ways to improve themselves. Justin Abdelkader looks really good. He's embraced his new role on the team and he looks comfortable and competent at it, and my goodness did he remind me an awful lot of Holmstrom in front of the goalie. When the Wings re-signed Cleary, Babcock said his original plan was to put Buckets on the top line, but Abdlekader' performance kept him from doing so. This line is clicking and Zetterberg said after the first day of camp "It's fun to play with Pav and Abby, and hopefully we can stay together for a while." Put that with Datsyuk's piano mover comments last season, and it sounds like these guys really like playing together, and since they're getting results, I say keep them together.
Joakim Andersson looks a little faster, more confident, and really impressed me with what a good 2-way center he's becoming. When he went back to Grand Rapids for their Calder Cup Championship run, he was on fire. He took all the experience and knowledge he gleaned in the NHL and honed it back in the AHL. He looked good in training camp and I think he's got a pretty good grasp on the 3C spot this season with the Wings. Cleary and Samuelsson... What a cheery couple of players to discuss. Samuelsson looked pretty good in camp, and seems to actually be healthy and physically ready to go. Cleary looked like he was trying to earn a spot on the roster, which is good because he is. I think everyone knows that this year, more than others, if you don't earn your spot, someone else will. Competition is good.
The Griffins line should be a fun one to watch. Glendening had the task of centering the training camp line between Samuelsson and Tootoo, which made me feel a little bit bad for him. Since these guys have played together a lot in Grand Rapids, their chemistry and familiarity will hopefully help them make some noise. Tatar is NHL ready (insert overripe joke here), Ferraro is at the point where he's awfully close and needs to play in some NHL games, and Glendening doesn't know the word "can't". This should be a great third line.
Calle Jarnkrok is a damn impressive hockey player, and he gets better every time I see him play. He's so smart on the ice, even without the puck, he just seems to know where he needs to be. He's starting to get the hang of the size and speed of the game over here; and if the amount of progress he's made since those 9 games in Grand Rapids last winter is any indication, I look forward to him becoming a force in the AHL this season. He has immense talent and skill in pretty much every area of his game, yet he's still an incredibly hard worker and very determined. Anthony Mantha has made a progress since the first day of development camp and I think this taste of the NHL will be great for his development and show him what he has to work towards. Jordin Tootoo did not impress me in camp, and in a "friendly" setting, where there's no fighting, hitting, or other things that make up the bulk of Tootoo's game, his hockey skills were noticeably lacking. With all the skilled and talented players we already have, and those coming up through the system, there's just no need to keep Tootoo (and his 1.9M cap hit). He knows he's fighting to stay on the team, and his unimpressive camp performance wasn't for lack of trying, but having to only play hockey exposed just how much he lacks in the "playing hockey" department.
This was the best defense pairing not named Kronwall-Ericsson. Kindl isn't slowing down after earning his contract extension, and DeKeyser looks calmer, smarter, and just solid.
They're the second pairing and there's reason for it. Quincey looked ok most of the time, but Smith still scares me. Sometimes he looks good, and other times he looks like the Brendan Smith of the playoffs. I haven't figure him out, but it looks like he just needs to calm the fuck down sometimes.
This Griffin pairing will be interesting to watch. Evans is a ten year AHL veteran and is also an alternate captain in Grand Rapids. Almqvist played his first full season with the Griffins last year, playing in 68 regular season and 21 playoff games before getting a concussion from a dirty Dick Panik hit int he Calder Cup Finals against the Syracuse Crunch. He's a smart defenseman, but the biggest thing going against him has been his size. At 5'11" 174 pounds, it's tough for him to hold his own against the bigger players, but size can be increased, his skill and smarts are still a great asset. He appears to have fully recovered from the concussion, so it will be interesting to see what he's able to do this season.
Howard & Mrazek
Howard spent the summer working out both on and off the ice, and I can tell. He looks faster, sharper, stronger, and his puck handling has improved. Yeah! For what it's worth, Howard stopped 40/42 shots in 2 scrimmages and the Red & White game in a total of 80 minutes played
Mrazek is the berries (Mike Babcock said so) and he's aMrazing. He has his own style of play and it works for him. During camp he looked like he's improved his positioning and he looks like he's settling down and not using so much energy on extra motion and movement. Mrazek looks good, Howard looks good, this is the goaltending tandem to watch for. For what it's worth, Mrazek stopped 40/44 shots in 2 scrimmages and the Red & White game in a total of 135 minutes played.
The Penguins played their first preseason game last night, and according to Pensburgh they are changing their lineup tonight, so it will probably look something like this.