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And Then There Were 23

There were a lot of happenings with the Red Wings yesterday, as the roster has finally been pared down to the 23 men that will take to the ice Friday night against the Ducks. As expected, there were few surprises, and if you've paid any attention to training camp and the games during this neverending preseason, you probably had a really good idea as to who was on the team, and who was headed down to Grand Rapids or just plain out of town. To me, the preseason felt like I was watching a game of musical chairs, except 22 guys spent the entire game sitting in their pre-determined seats, and I watched 2 guys run around and around, only to see one guy fall down and basically give the other guy the chair. Join me after the jump where I'll explain further and take a look at your 2010-11 Detroit Red Wings

Heading into training camp, the Wings were pretty much set in terms of 13 of their 14 forward spots, all 7 defenseman spots, and both goalies. The only battle for an actual job seemed to be between Mattias Ritola and Drew Miller for that coveted last forward spot, and based on their play this preseason, Miller won that hands down. Ritola was waived today, and immediately snatched up by Steve Yzerman in Tampa Bay, meaning that Ritola will be taking his talents down to Disney World to play along side Steve Stamkos. Look, can we be honest with each other for a second? This is not a big deal. Ritola will be at best a second line player in a few years, and if he was unable to even come close to beating out Miller for that last forward job, then I say good luck to him in Tampa. I have nothing personal against the guy; I just do not feel that he gives the Wings a better chance at winning right now than Miller does.

In other forward news, Derek Meech and Kirk Maltby were waived today, and as of this writing had not been claimed by any team. Now, for Meech, this is the second time in less than a month that he has been waived, and it's extremely likely that he will not be claimed again. In all likelihood, he'll be in Grand Rapids to start the season, but could be called up due to injuries. However, if you read our BOLD predictions post, you'll know that I expect Meech to be a regular on an NHL team by the end of the year, and I stand by that. The bigger news is Maltby being sent down. Maltby's legacy and importance to the team have been better articulated elsewhere, and you'll get a preview of that later today in our Quick Hits section. The only thing I can say is that the Wings may have enjoyed success without Maltby, but his impact and importance to the team have always been understated, and only the most passionate and loyal of fans truly understand how he contributed to the team's success over the years. What he brought to the team could not be measured in terms of points, and you couldn't look at the scoresheet to see what impact he had on the game the night before. However, I truly believe that without Maltby on the team, the Wings do not get to the level they have been on for the last 15 years. I honestly hope that Maltby clears waivers and gets to Grand Rapids, because I think he is going to be a positive force on the Griffins, and when the Wings embark on their playoff quest for #12, he'll be up with the team ready to do whatever he can to get the Wings to their goal. 

On defense, there was never a battle for a spot with the Wings; the battle has been for that coveted 6th defenseman spot. Right now, it appears that Jonathan Ericsson, despite being anywhere from mediocre to the worst player on the ice during preseason, has the inside track, as it's being reported in various places that he is going to start the season paired with Nicklas Lidstrom. After I picked myself off the floor, I thought that if anyone is going to be able to cover up Ericsson's mistakes, it's Lidstrom. Personally, I think Jakub Kindl has done more than enough to warrant a look early in the season when the games count, and I hope that if he does get in the lineup, he plays well, because my heart can't take another season of Ericsson's mental mistakes; I had to live through the "Lilja is awful" years once, and I'm not about to re-live that again. I'm not really going to get into the goalies, because it's been well-known for the entire pre-season that Jimmy Howard is the Wings' starting goaltender, and Chris Osgood will be backing him up. Don't be fooled by their numbers in the pre-season; both goalies acquitted themselves very well.

So, here's how your 2010-11 Detroit Red Wings are going to look Friday night. As always, lines are subject to change, but I think these are the combinations we are going to see for most of the season (barring injuries).

Henrik Zetterberg - Pavel Datsyuk - Tomas Holmstrom
Todd Bertuzzi - Valtteri Filppula - Johan Franzen
Dan Cleary - Mike Modano - Jiri Hudler

Darren Helm - Justin Abdelkader - Patrick Eaves
Alternates: Kris Draper, Drew Miller

Nicklas Lidstrom - Niklas Kronwall
Brian Rafalski - Brad Stuart
Ruslan Salei - Jonathan Ericsson
Alternate: Jakub Kindl

Jimmy Howard
Backup: Chris Osgood

Good gravy, when you type it out and look at that lineup, it just makes you giddy, doesn't it? Name another team in the NHL that can roll 4 lines like that game in and game out. That defensive corps is as good as anyone out there. And as long as Jimmy doesn't have an Andrew Raycroft-like crash, he'll keep the Wings in games they shouldn't be, and lead them to victory when the team in front of him is playing like they can. I can hardly wait, and it all kicks off Friday.