With a looming road trip to Western Canada coming up, as well as the end of the first month of the season, how about a Three Questions post?
1. Q: Is the constant line changing a sign of Mike Babcock's frustration with a lack of offense?
A: I wouldn't say Babcock is getting frustrated just yet, but at the same time, he clearly isn't pleased.
Since beating the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 on October 17, the Detroit Red Wings have gone 0-2-2 and scored five goals in four games. That's not going to get it done, and as a result, we have seen Babcock constantly shuffling the forward lines.
The first big move was splitting up Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg before Saturday's game against the New York Rangers. That move also resulted in Zetterberg supplanting Johan Franzen at second-line center. Stephen Weiss had been dropped to the third line.
Now, the lines are in flux again as the Wings begin a road trip through Western Canada that begins Wednesday Night in Vancouver. Reports from Helene St. James of The Detroit Free Press indicate that Datsyuk and Zetterberg skated together at practice this morning. Weiss was skating as the second-line center, but The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness reports that he has been demoted to the fourth line on Monday (likely meaning he's in Babcock's dog house).
Also, with Franzen out, Justin Abdelkader has moved back up to second-line winger. Patrick Eaves will return tomorrow night and likely play in the third line. Depending on how everything shakes out at practice tomorrow could determine whether Luke Glendening, who was recalled on Monday, will play tomorrow.
It's also worth noting that Drew Miller (flu) is questionable for Wednesday.
2. Q: What lies ahead on the Western Canada road tip?
A: A trip to Vancouver is up first to play the Canucks. Right now, the Canucks sit in second place in the Pacific Division, and appear to be rolling along under new head coach John Tortorella. This looks like a toss-up game, as the Red Wings have been a nightmare for Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo (see 13 goals allowed in two games last season). Even with the second-best mark in goals scored, the Canucks rank 25th in goals allowed.
The next game against the Calgary Flames is of most concern. The Red Wings were awful against the Flames last season, as they lost all three meetings by a combined score of 12-6, including losses of 5-2 and 3-2 at the Saddledome. Even with noted Wing-killers Jarome Iginla (now in Boston) and Miikka Kiprusoff (retired) out of town, the Flames still have some good players. The good news is that they have cooled off after starting the season 3-0-2.
The Edmonton Oilers are next, and sit dead last in the Pacific Division. Edmonton has battled injuries and can't seem to find steady goaltending.
The trip concludes with a trip to Winnipeg to face the Jets, who are…well…the Jets.
3. Q: With all the injuries that seem to be knocking out goaltenders, should the Wings be concerned?
Injuries have been hitting goaltenders around the NHL pretty hard. Here's a list of those currently out:
- Viktor Fasth (Anaheim)
- Cam Ward (Carolina)
- Anton Khudobin (Carolina)
- Devan Dubnyk (Edmonton)
- Pekka Rinne (Nashville)
- Cory Schneider (New Jersey)
- Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers)
Wings fans should be thankful that neither Jimmy Howard nor Jonas Gustavsson are dealing with injuries, or both for that matter (Carolina is without both of their goaltenders). And at least Howard has only missed a few games with a hand injury, compared to how many Pekka Rinne will miss with a hip infection. (Side note: we send our best wishes to Rinne and hope to see him back on the ice soon).
So to put it all together, I wouldn't be to concerned yet, as Gustavsson performed well while Howard was out.
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