This morning's practice was a little lighter than the first two, taking into consideration the guys have 4 games and 4 practices in 5 days and not wanting to burn them out too soon. There was more livity from the players and coaching staff and Coach Nelson warned players of burning out and not having enough left to play a full 60 minutes tonight.
Based on line rushes in practice, Jarrett Meyer, Kurt Etchegary, Jalen Chatfield, and possibly Jerome Verrier will be the healthy scratches while Adam Marsh plays in his first game, Justin Lemcke returns to the lineup after sustaining an injury in game one, and McGlynn may be in if Verrier is out. Marsh has been out with an injury and has finally been cleared to play so he'll see his first tournament action tonight . It looks like the Wings top two lines against Chicago will stay intact, and that's excellent news.
Here are my projected lines based on practice:
Andreas Athanasiou (A) - Dylan Larkin - Anthony Mantha (A)
Tyler Bertuzzi - Tomas Nosek (A) - Evgeny Svechnikov
Adam Marsh - Dominic Turgeon - Zach Nastasiuk
Evan Polei - Conor McGlynn - Nick Betz
Scratches: Kurt Etchegary, Jerome Verrier
Joe Hicketts - Robbie Russo
Ty Stanton - Vili Saarijarvi
Andrew Prochno - Justin Lemcke
Scratches: Jeret Meyer, Jalen Chatfield
Jake Paterson starting
I saw a lot of smiles and playful ribbing from the players, and even the coaches today, keeping mood light amid the very serious drills Coach Nelson ran. Every time I watch Mantha, he seems like he's having more fun and that's bee progressive through development camp and the tournament. I like seeing him smile, laugh, joke around, and enjoy himself and think that's partly a result of him knowing he's performing better and some of the intense pressure he puts on himself letting slightly; it's good for him and I think he plays better when he allows himself to have some fun.
Coach Nelson is a bit more business like than Blashill was, and one of the changes I've noticed is that when he calls players to gather round the whiteboard during drills, the last guy into the scrum had to do a lap around the rink. It's a fun game for the players to not be the last guy in, and today the coaches had a little fun trying to hold players back to make them last in. Tyler Bertuzzi was working with one of the assistant coaches this morning and he kept Bert back so long that he was clearly the last man, and had to do a lap (he did one and a half) and when he finished he was smiling and asked the coach "Did you F me up on purpose?!" It was all in good fun, and everyone got a hearty laugh out of the whole situation.
This practice was intense team drill for maybe 30 minutes, then different groups broke off and did their own drills or played around a little bit. There were faceoff drills at center ice and watching Athanasiou and Larkin go head to head was incredibly entertaining. At one point Larkin ended up face down on the ice and the two had some good natured ribbing to give each other.
If the Wings beat the Dallas Stars tonight, they'll secure their appearance in the Championship game tomorrow night while Dallas needs a regulation win to advance to the Championship game. If the Championship game were held right now, it would be Detroit and Columbus facing off. Here's what the standing currently look like before tonight's game.
A regulation win is worth 3 points, an overtime win worth 2 points, and an overtime loss is worth 1 point. Each team has one final game tonight for positioning for the placing games Tuesday night. When you only have 3 games to jockey for positioning, a single point or loss makes a huge difference. If the Wings were to lose in regulation to Dallas tonight, they'd most likely play in the 3rd place game.
Coach Nelson said the team has put themselves in a good position to win the tournament, but he wants his team to take fewer penalties, keep things simpler, play a full 60 minutes, and generate more offense. They need to come out strong from the start and not rely on Jake Paterson so much to keep them from getting a goal or two behind.
The Wings play the Dallas Stars tonight at 7:00 PM.