Thoughts on Red Wings-Blackhawks Game 4 and more
The Blackhawks are talking tough after the Game 3 hit on Martin Havlat
Will Chicago's Cristobal Huet-for-Nik Khabibulin switch in goal pay off?
Chuck Fletcher as the new Minnesotia general manager makes complete sense
Game 4 between the Detroit Red Wings at Chicago Blackhawks has taken on all kinds of nuances -- some not so subtle. Martin Havlat won't play after being mashed by Nicklas Kronwall. Tough hit, tough call and now tough talk as in Blackhawk defenseman Brian Campbell responded to questions of retribution by saying, "I can't imagine that every check won't be finished on him" (Kronwall). OK, so it is hardly the bounty threats of yesteryear, but it does add a little spice.
Of more import is that Cristobal Huet will go in goal for the Blackhawks after Nik Khabibulin vanished during the second intermission, reportedly succumbing to the nebulous "lower body injury." This after surrendering three goals in the last five minutes of the second period to make a 3-0 lead a 3-3 game heading into the third. For a goalie to come out in that situation he had better be pretty hurt. Huet hasn't played in forever and even though he got through the third period -- the Blackhawks defended vigilantly, yielding only six shots against -- and saw his team win in overtime, this is a tough spot to be put in, especially with the high-flying Red Wings as the opponent.
For the defending champs, Kris Draper -- who just returned to the lineup -- is out again and Justin Abdelkader will replace him. Pavel Datsyuk missed Game 3 with a bad foot and didn't skate Saturday due to swelling. His replacement last game was Ville Leino making his NHL playoff debut. If Datsyuk is idled again, the Wings will have Abdelkader, Leino, Darren Helm and Jonathan Ericsson all in the lineup. All four played the majority of the season for Grand Rapids of the AHL, but Helm -- who was part of last spring's championship team -- and Ericsson both figure to be part of the Red Wings roster full-time come October.
But that is in the future. In the here and now, I suspect that if the boot fits, Leino sits... and Datsyuk plays.
* Chuck Fletcher as the new GM in Minnesota makes complete sense. Not only has Fletcher put in his time at every necessary level, from director of hockey administration through assistant GM with stops in Florida, Anaheim and Pittsburgh, but he also has an outstanding reputation. That Pens GM Ray Shero served as David Poile's Assistant GM while in Nashville, and former Preds owner Craig Leopold now owns the Wild and respects Poile's work, the link of recommendation for Fletcher was a closed loop.
That logic makes sense, but is probably tough to explain to Paul Fenton, Poile's current assistant, who reportedly also interviewed for the Wild position.
* Since we're talking Poile and Shero, they are set to meet during the Stanley Cup Final along with USA Hockey selection committee brethren Brian Burke, Paul Holmgren, Dean Lombardi and Don Waddell. The topic will be the 2010 Team USA camp invitees, who as Burke put it, "won't include some familiar names of the past." That means the run of representation by the noteworthy core group -- a group that included Chris Chelios, Mike Modano, Jeremy Roenick and Keith Tkachuk, who are all still active, along with Brian Leetch, Mike Richter and Tony Amonte -- has concluded.
Rumor has it that Roenick is silently miffed and looking to go on talk radio to rant and rave and accuse the selection committee of having a bias against geriatric hockey players.
* Meanwhile, the search for a new head coach in officially under way in Calgary with the surprise firing of Mike Keenan. Now, that Flames' GM Daryl Sutter let Keenan go isn't the surprise. That he waited three weeks after the Chicago Blackhawks eliminated his banged-up club in the first round is a bit curious. The natural conclusion here is that brother Brent, who is home pondering his coaching future with a year left on his deal with the New Jersey Devils, will step behind the bench for the Flames. Don't bet on it. I wouldn't be surprised if B. Sutter takes the year off from coaching at the NHL level altogether.
Maybe D. Sutter takes on a dual role for a season and then B. Sutter finally does coach the Flames a year from now.
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