Feb. 18 :: Carpe Dentum. Seize the Teeth.

  

Hot Flashes: Val Filppula will do that to a woman...or man.

Isn’t this posh?  I’ll bet it’s very exclusive, probably need a bunch of pledges just to get in the pool.
Game 4 of our twelve-game pledge drive, and we are approaching the point where we might just have to get a couple of briefcases full of cash to throw at these kids all Hollywood style. Hell, they may wind up with a pool at this rate…     

While the kids are preparing to count their cash, things over here at TPL are a bit hectic. No, not just here on the blog, but it real life as well (Yes, we have real lives.) Petrella’s been grinding away on all of your pledges, Disch has been Horescopping all over Austin, and I’m in the middle of trying to get packed up and moved into a new place by March 1st. Like I said: busy. So what does it all mean?     

Nothing too drastic, really. But as you’ll notice in today’s pregame, we are “streamlining” things a bit for the rest of the regular season and are planning on a revamp of the entire pregame series come playoff time; a “cleanup” of sorts around here (hence the Mrs. Doubtfire theme. Get it? GET IT?!?!)  Of course, all of your suggestions are greatly appreciated and will be thoroughly discussed and dissected at the annual TPL Board of Governors meeting in the coming weeks (I’m not kidding), so let us know if you have some sweet idea on how we can make the pregame even better, while allowing us time to actually, you know, hang out with the family and seduce strange womenz.     

In the meantime, put on those thinking caps and head to the comments section to share your favorite names. Best one goes on the Facebook page, and is also entered into a drawing for a TPL shirt of choiceat the end of the regular season. So give us your best and check out the Facebook page at 7:00 PM Eastern for today’s winner.     

WHAT’S ALL THIS THEN?
Wings. Catz. 7:30pm. Suburbs of Miami.       

NOW WHERE WERE WE?
The last time the Wings and Panthers met up – November 20, 2009– the good guys came out on the wrong end of a 2-1 final in overtime. Scott Clemmensen out-dueled Chris Osgood (SURPRISE!) at the Joe, and the Wings lone goal was off the stick of Pavel Datsyuk. The last time these two met in Florida – November 14, 2008 – the Wings came away with a 3-2 win.         

BEST NAME NOMINEE
Plenty of good choices here, as the Panthers sound like a team built by the Russian mob. Dmitry Kulikov. Radek Dvorak. Evgeny Dadonov. All good choices, but the czar of this class is most definitely Rostislav Olesz.      

THEIR LAST GAMES
:: Detroit was all business in a 6-2 drubbing of the Yzerbolts last night.
:: Florida fell to the Eastern leading Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday, 4-2.     

EXPECTED LINEUP
By special request, the TPL Glossary is ready to jailsex your eyes.
Mulo — Zetterberg — Thunderchief
Scuttles — Datsyuk — Cleary
Draper — Helm — Eaves
Miller — Abdelkader — Holmstrom     

Lidstrom — Stuart
Rafalski — Ericsson
Cirque — Kronwall     

McGillicutty
Howard     

Holy Shit, There’s a Scratch?!
Jakub Kindl     

Injuries
Mike Modano [wrist/March]
Chris Osgood [groin/March]
Valtteri Filppula [knee/week-to-week]     

The TPL Name Game “Three Stars”
Disch: 
Jonathan “It Was A Drive-By FRUITING” Ericsson
Petrella: Jiri “Sink the Sub, Hide the Weasel, Park the Porpoise. A Bit of the Old Humpty Dumpty, Little Jack Horny, the Horizontal Mambo. The Bone Dancer, Rumpleforeskin, Baloney Bop, a Bit of the Old Cunning Linguistics” Hudler
Hollis: Larry “Sorry I’m Late. After All Those Scotches I Had to Piss Like a Racehorse” Murphy
*Now it’s up to you! Think up your best names and throw them in the comments — the best one will be shared for all to enjoy on the TPL Facebook Page*     

TIDBITS
:: Rusty Sleigh returns to the lineup tonight after spending some personal time in California in preparation of welcoming the newest member of the Cirque to the family.
:: How about this for a present? Following his Tuesday return to Grand Rapids, the Red Wings inked Jan Mursak to a two-year deal to keep him in the organization. Good for both the kid and the Wings, as Mursak showed a good bit of potential during his call-up.
:: The Wings have gotten points in their last 16 meetings with the Panthers and are 9-0-5-2 since Dec. 1, 1996. Which means, of course, that I just jinxed them. Regulation loss, AHOY!
:: It should be another “home” game for the Wings tonight. The St. Pete Times Forum was overwhelmingly red and white last night, and with the Panthers practically giving tickets away, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see plenty of Wings support in the seats tonight. Somebody should have just packed Bud Lynch and let him do the in arena announcing.
:: PREDICTION: Wings struggle early and Panthers take advantage, but the good guys hold on for a 4-2 win.
      

WHAT WE LEARNED AGAINST THE LIGHTNING
Suck it, Eastern Conference (again.)

Stevie Aside, This One Was All Business

Apparently, there was a hockey game in Tampa tonight. Apparently, the 2nd place teams in both conferences squared off on a sheet of ice. Apparently, the Red Wings won 6-2 (What up Mr. P!)

That said, none of it really seemed to matter in the run-up to the game. All the talk centered around the Red Wings facing off against Steve Yzerman’s new family, which became incredibly apparent throughout the broadcast, on Twitter and in the media before, during and after the game. Don’t get me wrong: I love Steve Yzerman. I’m thankful for everything he’s done (and continues to do) for the Red Wings organization. I just didn’t give a damn tonight.

While everybody and their brother were nostalgic and reminiscent of the days where #19 led the Winged Wheel, I found myself muttering “How about that Stevie?” and “Fuck you Tampa” every time the Wings scored. It wasn’t because I dislike Yzerman or am harboring bitter bitchiness at him for heading down to Tampa. No, it was because the Wings treated this game exactly the way they needed to, which is exactly the way Yzerman would have wanted them to.

It’s just business, baby.

Two extremes were in play tonight, and I’m not talking about the fan bases. No, on one side there are the Detroit Red Wings: a team that has slumbered through the first part of 2011 in the midst of an absolute war going on around them in the Western Conference. On the other side of the coin are the Tampa Bay Lightning: the best story of the year in the NHL, but a team that finds themselves needing to answer the bell in the face of their “legitimate” status being challenged. Veteran poise vs. youthful exuberance. How many times has that story played out the wrong way for Detroit in the past?

Not tonight though. There’s no doubt both teams were well aware of the Yzerman hoopla surrounding the game, and the way each team handled the extra pressure was evident all night long, save for a five minute stretch in the second period. The Wings shelved the emotion, put on their skates and came to play hockey. It wasn’t pretty at times – neutral zone clogging never really is – but the job got done and the two points were secured. Meanwhile, the Lightning allowed themselves to fall behind early, start to get lulled to sleep, woke up, surged back and then got rocked to sleep in front of a crowd who was never in their corner to begin with. Yes, the Wings did surrender 40 shots. Too many? Probably, but this game was only close when the Wings lost focus and started coasting in the second. Once the challenge was issued, the Wings finally switched on the killer instinct and soundly defeated a team desperately searching for validation.

I’m sure there are those that will argue that the Wings put in the extra effort as a tribute for their former leader. I disagree. If anything, they did it in spite of Yzerman. Not maliciously, mind you, but for the simple fact that ever since their commitment to the task was challenged by Mike Babcock, they’ve responded in spades. Trouncing a friend was just icing on the cake, and the only statement the Wings were looking to make tonight was that even though the upstart Lightning might be having a great season, there’s still a long way to go to become a legitimate threat.

It will be interesting to see where these two teams go from here. The Wings look poised to have a solid March, with a familiar face in Brad Stuart returning tonight and Mike Modano, Chris Osgood, Ruslan Salei and – hopefully – Valtteri Filppula making their way back in the coming days and weeks. The Bolts, on the other hand, are starting a monster stretch of games in their own barn, but are still reeling from a heartbreaking shootout loss to the Eastern leading Philadelphia Flyers, and tonight’s dismantling courtesy of the Wings. Only time will tell what the rest of the season holds for these two teams.

Personally, I’m glad the “Showdown with Stevie” is over with. Too much hype around a guy who doesn’t want it, trying to instill that same belief in a new organization that is beginning to look eerily similar to the one in Detroit. And with their win tonight, the Wings helped their former captain teach his kids the message they need to learn, albeit a bit painfully:

It’s just business, baby.

Photo courtesy of John T. Greilick/Detroit News

Feb. 17 :: I’ll make a pact with you…

Dan Ellis problems...

WITH THE GODS AS OUR WITNESSES, LET US PLEDGE THAT THE WINNER WILL ALLOW THE LOSER ALL THE PROPER FUNERAL RITUALS.
Game 3 of our twelve-game pledge drive, and we’re happy to say we’ve already crossed the threshold raised a year ago.

But we have something special for tonight’s game. One of our very best friends, Mike “@mserven” Serven has very generously thought up a unique pledge. Long story short, if you pledge a dollar amount for if they show Steve Yzerman during the Red Wings/Lightning game (which, obviously, will happen) — he’ll match up (for up to a total of $300). It’s already created a firestorm on Twitter, and you should throw your hat in the ring, too. Should be an easy $600 for the children.

If you’re interested in tossing $5, $10, or $19 at this pledge (which will be matched), @ reply either @mserven or @TPLhockey… or leave a comment on this thread.

WHAT’S ALL THIS THEN?
The Red Wings visit Florida for a back-to-back set. First up, the Lightning on Thursday, 7:30pm

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?
Even though he claims it isn’t about him, this is the first game between Steve Yzerman’s longtime home team and his new one. Any other night of the year, Red Wings fans are pulling for a Lightning victory, simply because The Captain is at the helm. Tonight, however, we’re Red Wings fans all the way — but a tip of the hat goes to the home team’s general manager.

NOW WHERE WERE WE?
Unsurprisingly, it’s been over a year since the Wings played the Lightning. The last game was December 17th, 2009 — a 3-0 shutout victory for Jimmy Howard. The Wings were without Lilja, Franzen, Filppula, Williams, Kronwall, Cleary, Helm, Ericsson — and lost Henrik Zetterberg to injury during the game (thanks, Mattias Ohlund!). Goals were scored by Todd Bertuzzi, Patrick Eaves, and Drew Miller — who Supa’man’d that hoe.

OH, HI AGAIN
Mattias Ritola was claimed off of waivers by the Lightning early this season, but he’s not on the current NHL roster — instead toiling away in their farm system, as opposed to ours. Well played, Yzerman. Well played.

MEMBA ME?!
Drew Miller was waived by Tampa last season, where he was promptly snatched up by the Wings and turned into an extremely valuable fourth line energy guy. You know who else played in Tampa? Jug Danik.

BEST NAME NOMINEE
Not a lot to choose from here, but Johan Harju seems like an early favorite. Dana Tyrell would have been a runaway if Dana wasn’t a girl’s name.

THEIR LAST GAMES
:: Detroit bitch-smacked the Bruins 4-2 on Sunday.
:: Tampa Bay lost 4-3, in a seven round shootout, to the Flyers on Tuesday.

EXPECTED LINEUP
By special request, the TPL Glossary is ready to jailsex your eyes.
Mulo — Zetterberg — Thunderchief
Scuttles — Datsyuk — Cleary
Draper — Helm — Eaves
Miller — Abdelkader — Holmstrom

Lidstrom — Stuart
Rafalski — Ericsson
Cirque — Kronwall

Tiberius
McGillicutty

Holy Shit, There’s a Scratch?!
Jakub “You’re Younger Than I Ever Was” Kindl

Injuries
Mike “Almost Lost This War Because of Your Little Romance” Modano [wrist/March]
Chris “War is Young Men Dying and Old Men Talking, Ignore the Politics” Osgood [groin/March]
Valtteri “I Have Heard Rumors of Your Beauty and, For Once, the Gossip is Right” Filppula [knee/week-to-week]

Honorable Mentions
Todd “Ill-Advised, But Valiant” Bertuzzi
Todd “Careful, Boy, My Mercy Has Limits” Bertuzzi
Todd “Peace is for Women. And the Weak” Bertuzzi
Jiri “May the Gods Keep the Wolves in the Woods and the Women in our Beds” Hudler
Jonathan “I Want to See Him Grow Tall. I Want to See All the Girls Chasing After Him” Ericsson
Jan “IS THERE NO ONE ELSE?” Mursak
Chris “Are the Greeks Tired of Fighting Each Other?” Chelios
Jason “Go Back To Your Ships and Go Home” Williams
Mikael “Make Him Swing and Miss, He’ll Tire” Samuelsson
*If there are any that you think I missed, throw them in the comments — the best one will be shared for all to enjoy on the TPL Facebook Page*

TIDBITS
:: Brad Stuart returns to the lineup after missing fifteen games with a broken jaw.
:: Mike Modano is scheduled to return to the lineup February 26th — a few weeks ahead of early reports. Good on him.
:: Ruslan Salei is scheduled to play in this game unless he’s given a few more personal days to welcome his third child into the world. Once again, congratulations to the family.
:: Former invisible Red Wing and inexplicable power play point man Jason Williams has signed with the Dallas Stars. If I may, “LOL.”
:: Jan Mursak was officially sent back to Grand Rapids on Tuesday, meaning his toe has healed well enough to be in playing shape.
:: This trip to Florida serves as the Red Wings’ annual Fathers Trip — where the players invite their fathers (or other family members) to have the Red Bird Experience. No word on how many of their guests are bringing Shirtuzzis. Take that, Mr. Modano!
:: Just a head’s up, since we’re about ten days away — The Production Line will be your go-to place for Trade Deadline Live Chat, just like last year where much fun was had. Chances of the Wings making a move are resting right around zero, but it’s an exciting day nonetheless.

WHAT WE LEARNED AGAINST THE BRUINS
Suck it, Eastern Conference.

The Pipeline: Petr Mrazek

With all the talent coming up through the Red Wings system, there’s plenty of unique stories, personalities and talents to share, and we here at TPL are doing our part to bring those to you via “The Pipeline.”

The newest installment of “The Pipeline” features Red Wings prospect and current Ottawa 67’s goaltender Petr Mrazek. Behind Mrazek – the 5th round (141st overall) pick of the Red Wings in the 2010 draft – the 67’s currently sit atop the OHL’s Eastern Conference East Division, largely in part to Mrazek’s 2.79 GAA, .922 save percentage and 28 wins. Mrazek will look to move into a tie for the league lead wins this year tonight against the Belleville Bulls, but first took a few minutes to chat with Petrella and Hollis about the transition to the North American game, his connection to the Red Wings and what it will take to elevate his game to the next level.

*A big thanks to Petr Mrazek and the Ottawa 67’s for being so gracious and accommodating.

Part V :: Heading Home with Fewer Shirtuzzis

Read Part I here.
Read Part II here.
Read Part III here.
Read Part IV here.

ON BOARD
We climbed the stairs to Red Bird, and it was clear that the players and management just wanted to put this weekend behind them. There weren’t many smiles to be had, but we were assured that the players would be willing to chat and sign some autographs if we wanted to mingle. Like the rest of the weekend, I didn’t want to disrupt them — and I’m not much for autographs, to be honest. I work in an industry where interacting with quote-unquote celebrities is kind of part of the job description and I’ve gotten used to enjoying their company as regular folks, rather than fawning all over them.

But these were my Red Wings. I’ve never loved anything the way I love the Red Wings. I was lucky to be born into a home where hockey was just kind of part of the deal. My mom has been a massive Red Wings fan from the late sixties, and my dad caught onto the game pretty easily once he arrived from Italy. I don’t remember a time in my life that the Red Wings weren’t important.

Nevertheless, I’m not much of an autograph-seeker — at least for myself — but I knew it was a unique opportunity to take advantage of this kind of access to the players and after urging from the team’s media relations manager Todd Beam, who insisted the guys would be honored to take part in signing an H2H2 shirt, I took a stack of t-shirts into the rear of the plane: one for them to sign… and plenty of others to give them as gifts, to thank them for having me over the weekend and for being generally awesome.

OUTFITTING THE WINGS
Before venturing to the rear of the plane, I thought I’d test the waters. After all, Todd Bertuzzi hadn’t been in a fantastic mood all weekend, and maybe handing him a t-shirt with his face on it wouldn’t go over so well. I showed Mr. Beam first, knowing he’d be honest enough to say something along the lines of “oh, no, he’ll totally kill you in the bathroom.” Instead, he had a chuckle which caught the attention of Ruslan Salei, who wanted to see it…which made Jimmy Howard perk up from across the aisle. I figured, hey, maybe some of these guys will have my back if it doesn’t go over as well with Mr. Bertuzzi.

Most of the guys were watching movies and reading eBooks when I headed back, and I hated to bug them, but every last one of them was gracious and willing to chat for a minute. I explained to everyone individually what we’re doing at H2H2, raising money for Children’s Hospital and accepting pledges, and that this H2H2 Shirt will be a prize that folks hope to win.

As Jimmy Howard was signing the shirt, I told him I had a gift for him and pulled a JIMMAH! t-shirt out of my bag. He lost his mind, absolutely loved it. He laughed about it and said that his wife is going to love it because that’s how she says his name when she’s peeved at him.

Darren Helm is the proud new owner of an Oh, the Helmanity t-shirt.

I had three Curly Fries t-shirts — for the three guys that have gotten us free Arby’s following Operation: Curly Fries. Nick Lidstrom was (SHOCKINGLY) very gracious and gave the idea a bit of a chuckle. I’m not entirely certain Johan Franzen knew what I was talking about as I explained that he had gotten Red Wings fans free curly fries for his massive five-goal performance (because, let’s be honest, if the guys aren’t aware of such things — and it seems like they’re not — it sounds like complete nonsense). Patrick Eaves was legitimately psyched about having a Curly Fries shirt and I hope, like that fan on Saturday morning, that he’s around for a long time. He was one of the more engaging guys on the plane and I enjoyed having a minute to chat with him.

And then I came to Todd Bertuzzi’s row. I had a 2XL Shirtuzzi in my hand, but I was still a little uneasy about what his reaction to a shirt bearing his scowling face might be. When I handed it to him, he unfolded it and half-smirked (I’d be told later that this was a huge victory) and the rest of the players wanted him to show it off. He spun it around and held it up to his chest for the rest of the guys to see, and everyone had a good laugh about it. Mr. Bertuzzi genuinely thanked me, extended his hand for a shake, and promised me he’d wear it in the locker room. I told him I hoped so and that I’d keep an eye on FSD pre-games to see if he does.

After all was said and done, I had the playing roster’s signature on an H2H2 shirt (and if you haven’t seen it, check it out below) that will be available as a prize for the Children’s Hospital Fundraiser. The team was honored to be a part of that and are very proud that their fans are involved in community events like this. Good on you, Hockeytown.

LANDING
As we approached Detroit, everyone was exhausted. It was about 1 in the morning (locally) and here was a plane full of people that had been going non-stop (some, obviously, more strenuously than others) for 48 hours and the promise of one’s own bed seemed to be keeping some of them going. I started to wonder how thrilled the team must be to have to clear the snow off of their cars and still travel a half hour or an hour to their homes.

But, in true rockstar fashion, they wouldn’t have to worry about that first part. After we landed, the plane taxied all the way into a private hangar… where their cars were waiting for them, warm, dry (for the most part), and ready to carry them home. I’m sure it’s obvious by now that these guys know how to live, but that was pretty darn neat to see.

Of course, not every player was comfortable handing their keys over, and a handful of guys walked with us through the building and out to the parking lot. As my dad and I begun to pull out of the lot, I noticed Valtteri Filppula clearing snow off of the back windshield. I say, “do you think we should give him a hand?” but as soon as we pull around near him, he gives a “eh, to hell with it” kind of face and jumps in the driver’s seat.

ONE MORE TIME
On the off-chance that some of them have been reading this series, I want to say it one more time: an incredible thank you to General Manager Ken Holland, Media Relations Manager Todd Beam, Executive Assistant Kathi Wyatt, various members of the Fox Sports family, the Detroit Red Wings players, coaches, personnel, and staff. You gave us an incredible weekend, and know how to run a team full of genuinely wonderful human beings. My dad and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to escort you for a few days.

I just hope we aren’t blacklisted because of the outcomes of the games…

Part IV :: One More Loss and One More Bus

Read Part I here.
Read Part II here.
Read Part III here.

BRIDGESTONE ARENA
We packed up our hotel room and headed down toward the elevators. We were instructed to load our luggage onto the bus so that we could hightail it out of there as soon as the game ended.

The elevator doors open and we hop in, joined by Valtteri Filppula. I mention that we had Ilari on TP:60 and that he was talking shit about little brother…and told me who he thought would win in an arm wrestling match.

“Oh yeah, what’d he say?”

“What do you think he said?”

“He thinks he’s funny.”

The Wings hooked us up with great seats for the Preds game, about twelve rows up in the end where Detroit shot twice. Something I should get off my chest right away: that arena is gorgeous. The city’s pretty awesome, and there’s no doubt they love their Predators. But, like we always see on TV, the arena — and downtown — was dominated by Red Wings fans. Easily 60/40 in red and white, if not more.

The Predators fans may still be learning the ins and outs of the game, but there’s no doubt at all that they love their squad. They had prepared chants, like a European soccer game, and were respectful of fans of the opposite team: something that I can’t say about every arena I’ve visited.

During the first intermission, they had a mini-concert while the Zamboni swept the ice, which is a brilliant idea. Every minute that you’re in Bridgestone Arena, you’re being entertained — another thing other rinks could learn. I’m sure more than a few Detroiters were irked by Alice Cooper (along with Vince Gill) performing in Nashville. They presented him with a Preds jersey after he sang a few tunes, but he didn’t put it on. If you’re asking my opinion (and I know you’re not), I bet the Predators planned to have a Michigander perform AGAINST the Red Wings…and the performer simply didn’t check out the schedule.

BACK TO BACK HEARTBREAKERS
Unlike the Blue Jackets game, it looked like the Red Wings game to play. There was more jump in their step, they were utilizing the drills that Coach Bedard put (a few of) them through in the morning, and they seemed to genuine want to score a goal this time around. But just like the night before, they failed to get anything by a hot netminder. Speaking of which, Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback are both huge. Like… monster huge. We always hear about that, but I’m not sure I appreciated how large they are until I saw them skating in warmups with their teammates next to them.

Once again, I found myself hoping that they could get just one so that they weren’t miserable on the flight back to Detroit. They hadn’t been in the most chipper of moods, and I was looking forward to at least bullshitting with a few of them if they were up for it.

The game ended, another 3-0 loss, and we took our little credentials and headed down the elevator to “event level” and we were directed toward security one more time. Just like in Detroit, Ken Daniels helped out with the wand, as the team completes security screening (and customs, if necessary) before even getting on the bus to head to the private airfields.

The first player out of the locker room to join us by the bus is Jan Mursak, walking with a severe limp and with only one shoe on. We know now that he took a Shea Weber shot off of the toe, and he didn’t look too thrilled about it, obviously in a lot of pain.

Slowly, the team crept onto the bus — once again avoiding eye contact with Coach Babcock. Mr. Holland didn’t look too pleased, either, and why would he be?

Just like the last bus trip, Val Filppula grabs the seat in front of me. Jimmy Howard right behind. Patrick Eaves to my left. Also just like the last bus trip, not too much was said.

The team started wondering what the weather was like back home, and if there was any more snow. Howard says that “Ozzie said we got 8 inches” referring to a text message weather update, which — let’s be honest — is pretty adorable. No one seems eager to return to the weather waiting for them, but you can tell they’re slightly horrified at the idea that our flight might be delayed or canceled. They want no part of staying another night — it’s pretty clear they want to get home, to their own beds, and many of them to families, and just forget this weekend happened and start fresh on Monday.

The bus pulled up to Red Bird I on the runway, and we started to shuffle out. This would be my last hour or so with the team, and I figured if I worked up the nerve to hand Todd a Shirtuzzi… maybe I could salvage a smile out of this group before the weekend ended…

“Good” in the L’Eastern Conference does not equal “Actual Good”

Jimmy Howard's Clint Malarchuk costume didn't go over so well. Also, it's February.

PLEDGE UPDATE
$539.64 earned tonight
$2,491.45 earned to-date.

FINAL SCORE (Hi Dad!)
4-2 Red Wings.

SUMMARY
:: The Wings didn’t start as quickly as they did on Friday night… or maybe it was that the Bruins started faster than they did on Friday night. Whatever the case, our boys found themselves down 1-0 fewer than 90 seconds (TM Emrick) into the game. It may have looked sloppy but Blake Wheeler and/or Tyler Seguin weren’t going to be denied. That possession was straight will (and an inability of certain Red Wings to knock players over), and the goal was a bit of a “how do ya do” to Coach Julien from the second overall draft pick that had spent the last few games in the Lounge.

:: What a game from Todd Bertuzzi. It started in the first period, when he had a mean puck protect from behind the net to the circle with a pair of Bruins hanging off his jock. Ultimately he tossed the puck toward the net, Thomas made the save, and Johan Franzen jammed the loose puck into the net, but the whistle had clearly blown as the refs believe Thomas had the puck under him. One of those unfortunate situations, but you can’t really fault the referees for blowing it dead.

:: It wouldn’t take long for Bertuzzi to get some redemption, as he put the dumbest cross-ice pass this side of Jonathan Ericsson into the back of the Bruins net after showing some excellent patience with the puck on his blade. In the middle frame, Bertuzzi would go down after taking a Nick Lidstrom shot off the knee or thigh, but didn’t miss many (if any) shifts. He’d prove he felt good by converting a Johan Franzen two-on-one pass for his second goal of the afternoon. It was his second two-goal game in a row. Booyah.

:: Not only did Bertuzzi limp off the ice, but Henrik Zetterberg skidded into the boards kind of awkwardly. Luckily, he also made it back onto the ice, no worse for wear. It could have been ugly as he scissored the boards.

:: The two non-Bertuzzi Red Wings goals were both lovely. Datsyuk converts the rebound off of a Rafalski bomb to tie it at two, and the game-winner belongs to Kris Draper who got some space (like old school Draper) and dropped the knee for a wicked (yeah, Boston, we even took “wicked” from you this weekend) snap over the shoulder of Tim Thomas.

:: While we’re on the topic of goaltenders, a hearty well-deserved standing ovation for Jimmy Howard, who played very well for the second game in a row, making saves that an elite tender makes when he has to do something to keep his team in the game. It could have been ugly, but strong goaltending (from both goalies, really) was a legit storyline.

Photo Credit: Carlos Osorio, AP

Feb. 13 :: I hope their first child be a masculine child…

I PLEDGE MY EVER-ENDING LOYALTY
What a great movie. Did you know that the line referred to in the title and just above were botched somethin’ fierce because the actor playing Luca Brasi was petrified to be in the room with Marlon Brando? Coppola liked the authenticity of his nervousness so much… he kept them in the final cut. MOVIES!

Anyway, this is game #2 for the pledge period. We’ve already raised a shade under $2,000 and another six goal performance would be pretty damn awesome. The kids at Children’s Hospital of Michigan think so, too. If you haven’t already made a pledge for the H2H2 Pledge Drive, shoot us a comment or an e-mail and we’ll be happy to add you to the ever-growing list of generous, handsome, well-endowed Wings fans.

GAME-SPECIFIC PLEDGES
:: Each goal tonight is worth a minimum of $20, and as much as $200.
:: A win is worth an extra $70 (minimum) in addition to the goals scored and other props met.
:: There’s still $15 on the board if Jonathan Ericsson fights Zdeno Chara.

WHAT’S ALL THIS THEN?
Matinee time! The Wings play their second of back-to-back games against the Bruins — Sunday afternoon, 12:30pm Eastern, at the Joe.

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?
After cruising to a 6-1 victory on Friday night, we all hope that Detroit can continue to start on time and earn some dough for the kiddies.

OH, HI AGAIN / MEMBA ME?! / BEST NAME NOMINEE
No former Wings, Brad Stuart & Joey MacDonald spent time in Boston, and the BNN belongs to Johnny Boychuk.

EXPECTED LINEUP
By special request, the TPL Glossary is ready to jailsex your eyes.
Mulo — Zetterberg — Thunderchief
Scuttles — Datsyuk — Cleary
Draper — Helm — Eaves
Miller — Abdelkader — Holmstrom

Lidstrom — Kronwall
Rafalski — Ericsson
Cirque — Kindl

Tiberius
McGillicutty

Injuries
Mike “I Believe in America” Modano [wrist/March]
Brad “This One Time I’ll Let You Ask Me About My Affairs” Stuart [jaw/March]
Chris “Never Tell Anyone Outside the Family What You Are Thinking Again” Osgood [groin/March]
Jan “He’s a Good Godson” Mursak [foot/day-to-day]
Valtteri “You’re Beautiful, Beautiful, Just Beautiful” Filppula [knee/week-to-week]

Honorable Mentions
Todd “Don’t Tell Me That You’re Innocent Because It Insults My Intelligence and It Makes Me Very Angry” Bertuzzi
Jiri “Women Are More Dangerous Than Shotguns” Hudler
Patrick “No I Buy You Out, You Don’t Buy Me Out” Eaves
Ken “I Got a Business to Run” Holland
Mike “I Gotta Kick Asses Sometimes to Make it Run Right” Babcock
Marian “I Need a Million Dollars in Cash” Hossa
*If there are any that you think I missed, throw them in the comments — the best one will be shared for all to enjoy on the TPL Facebook Page*

THE FIVE HOLE
1. In the Net: Tuukka Rask didn’t have a strong showing on Friday, and was pulled after two periods. Tim Thomas was expected to start today anyway, and I’m sure playing twenty minutes two days ago won’t contribute to fatigue, but it isn’t an ideal situation and it’s something that the Wings could exploit if they take advantage of some opportunities.
2. Break Coming Up: Detroit’s been playing every other day (approximately) for the first two weeks of February, so having three full days off following this afternoon’s tilt might go a long way in getting back on track. You have to wonder if they’ll show up like they did on Friday to avoid the dreaded bag skate on one of those days…
3. Bettertuzzi: He started the season on fire, and then kind of slumped a bit. He’d only gone 7 games without scoring (which, really, isn’t all that many), but his production has certainly slowed from October and November — so it was awesome to see him net a pair. Let’s hope he keeps that up.
4. From the Point: Six goals from the Red Wings — and zero of them came from the blueline. The Wings found ways to exploit down low and something tells me a good Bruins team will have plugged those holes since Friday. They may have to find new and exciting ways to put pucks in the net. But if the same tricks work, great. I’ll take those, too.
5. Corleone Red Wings: I think it’s pretty clear that Nick Lidstrom is the Michael of this team… is Justin Abdelkader the Sonny (hot shot with a bit of a temper)? Fredo? No brainer… Jonathan Ericsson (OHMIGOD WHAT DO I DO?!). Draper is quintessential Clemenza, Chelios is Tessio. Dan Cleary is Tom Haden. Luca Brasi is nowhere to be found.

WHAT WE LEARNED AGAINST THE BRUINS
Striking early and striking often makes for solid wins.

Wings win, dedicate new wing of Children’s Hospital to Claude Julien

HADUKEN!

PLEDGE UPDATE
$624.21 earned tonight.
$1951.81 earned to-date.

FINAL SCORE (Hi Dad!)
6 – 1 Red Wings.

SUMMARY
:: We’ve all been hoping for a quick start — something that the Red Wings haven’t had in a long, long time. So long, in fact, that there have been pledges made for first period goals scored. Looks like it worked, Hockeytown. The Wings started on time and had one of the best opening frames in recent memory. Todd Bertuzzi scored a minute into the frame (proving that, yes even for pros, the Shirtuzzi works), followed a few shifts later by a Dan Cleary snapper.

:: Mike Babcock hasn’t been pleased with the effort in the last few games, and he skated the boys pretty hard in practice (as hard as you can with this beast of a schedule), and it appears as though the message was received. Jimmy Howard played well, making saves he hasn’t been making in the last few games; guys were getting into the right spots quickly; Patrick Eaves beat out an icing, which is precisely the kind of thing that hasn’t been happening for the Wings, but happening quite often against them.

:: One thing about the first period I didn’t like: with 5.6 seconds left, and the score 2-1, there was a whistle and the puck floated deep in the Wings zone. I didn’t see who it was, but a Bruin tapped it into the net that Howard kind of stopped paying attention to. That shit doesn’t fly at any level of hockey, but it didn’t seem to affect the Red Wings — who are clearly bigger men than I am.

:: That Scuttles goal to start the second period was NASTY. Unbelievable back-hand pass through traffic to a (very deep) wide open Hudler, who Hull-dropped to a knee and roofed that sumbitch. When I was in Nashville at morning skate, Sergei Kostitsyn practice that shot over and over and over again with a coach tossing him pucks as he stood just off the goal line. He hit the net pretty often, and then burned the Wings with it on Saturday night. I wonder if Hudler’s been practicing from that spot. Because that’d be swell.

:: I think Darren Helm listened to The Pipeline with Landon Ferraro this morning, because that breakaway further proved that it’s going to be tough for Parm Jr. to catch him. Even in year three. Darren Helm’s a special kid.

:: The backhand goal that Z pulled off the back doorstep was pretty fancy, too. For whatever reason, things were clicking and the Wings took advantage of an off-night for a L’Eastern Conference team that’s supposed to be good. Problems were compounded for the Northeast leading team, as Todd Bertuzzi (you heard me) got his second of the game off of a Z’burger Special — firing one off Tuukka Rask’s tuchus. I thought for sure that Rask would get the yank after that one, having allowed two different goal flurries, but Claude Julien did the classy thing and waited until the intermission to make the swap so that Tuukka didn’t have to endure anymore Bronx Cheers.

:: On the Homer goal, I’m not sure enough credit will be given to Jiri Hudler (or that enough blame will be given to Patrice Bergeron — who I love as a player). With Scuttles waiting patiently behind the net, Bergeron decided to play the odds, backed off of Holmstrom by about two feet and cheated toward the circle. Hudler saw it, and snapped a fierce pass onto the blade of #96, and he won’t miss from there. That’s reading the play, and it was beautiful.

:: Boston has been getting chippy lately — a lot of fighting and brawling, to the point where Mike Babcock was asked how his team would react if the Bruins wanted to throw hands. His classic Babcock answer was “who are they going to brawl on this team?” and added that the Wings’ punches would be delivered on the ensuing power plays (which is the hockey equivalent of a cocky high schooler thinking everyone hates them because they’re jealous). Just because the mitts don’t hit the ice doesn’t mean this team is soft — I believe they’re one of the toughest in the league because of how difficult it is to separate them from the puck, etc. That wasn’t enough for Brad Marchand, who dropped his gloves and grabbed Patrick Eaves, who looked as confused as the rest of us as to what the hell the young buck was doing. Way to go, clown.

:: Speaking of clowns and toughness, I don’t want people to actually stop with their “MOAR GRIT! TUFFNESS!!11!!” stuff because then I’ll have a harder time recognizing the Neanderthal rejects from the folks who know things about hockey.

:: Long story short, with wins over the Rags and Bears, the Wings are showing up for the Original 6 teams, which bodes well for Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, there are 24 other teams in the league and Detroit needs to play like this against those teams, too.

Photo Credit: Charles Krupa, AP

Feb. 11 :: Every great magic trick consists of three parts…

THE FIRST PART IS CALLED THE PLEDGE
You ready? It’s fancy time here around The Production Line. Tonight is the first official game of the H2H2 Pledge Drive — where our lovely readers and friends can donate a dollar here and a quarter there for Red Wings-inspired events. Last year, our 11 game drive raised over $2,500 for Children’s Hospital of Michigan and we decided we’d do it every year for the rest of time.

If you haven’t already, make us a proposition. We’re willing to do the countin’ and the record-keepin’. All you’ve gotta do is keep up your end of the bargain and donate the total we send you after March 5th’s game.

The drive may not have begun in earnest just yet, but that hasn’t stopped our generous (and handsome) friends and fans from getting in on the action for the last couple of weeks. In fact, as of this morning, we’ve already secured $1327.

Booyah.

GAME-SPECIFIC PLEDGES
Last year, I posted all of the pledges before every game… that’ll be impossible this year, as we have hundreds and hundreds of propositions, which you can check out by click the H2H2 Tab and going to The Pledges. Instead, I’ll tell you what’s on the line for a few of tonight’s props:

:: Every goal is worth at least $18. And that’s an unassisted, even-strength goal by Jakub Kindl.
:: Depending on the player and the scenario, a single goal could bring as much as $170.
:: A win tonight is worth $95 in addition to the goals scored.
:: If Jonathan Ericsson fights Zdeno Chara, it’s worth $15 for the kids. HE DOESN’T EVEN HAVE TO WIN.

WHAT’S ALL THIS THEN?
The Red Wings are in Boston, for the first of back-to-back games with an Original 6 rival. Friday night (HOLLIS’ BIRTHDAY), 7pm.

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?
Our boys in red and white have lost three of four, and have looked awful doing it. Despite being the third highest scoring team in the league, Detroit’s had a rough time putting the puck in the net, scoring only once in the week’s three losses. Oh, by the way, Boston has given up the fewest goals of any team in the NHL and have a goalie that leads every single goaltending stat.

NOW WHERE WERE WE?
Thanks to the NHL’s dumbshit scheduling department, this is the first game between the two old time hockey clubs since November 3rd of 2009, a 2-0 shutout courtesy of (brace yourself) Christopher Osgood.

OH, HI AGAIN
Nobody on the Bruins roster has ever played for the Red Wings, but Tim Thomas (Flint) and Steve Kampfer (Ann Arbor) are from our beautiful state.

MEMBA ME?!
Brad Stuart was part of the package that saw Joe Thornton moving to San Jose from Boston (Stuart would be traded again 15 months later), and Joey MacDonald was claimed off of waivers by the Bruins during his first go-around with the Red Wings, playing 7 games in Beantown before moving to Long Island in the off-season.

BEST NAME NOMINEE
There are few better hockey names today than Johnny Boychuk. That kid was named to be an athlete.

THEIR LAST GAMES
:: Detroit fell to the Predators, 4-1, on Wednesday.
:: Boston played in one of the wilder games of the year on Wednesday, eventually winning 8-6 and compiling 181 penalty minutes against the Canadiens.

EXPECTED LINEUP
By special request, the TPL Glossary is ready to jailsex your eyes.
Mulo — Zetterberg — Thunderchief
Scuttles — Datsyuk — Cleary
Draper — Helm — Eaves
Miller — Abdelkader — Holmstrom

Lidstrom — Kronwall
Rafalski — Ericsson
Cirque — Kindl

Tiberius
McGillicutty

Injuries
Mike “Obsession is a Young Man’s Game” Modano [wrist/March]
Brad “What You’re About to See is Considered Safe” Stuart [jaw/March]
Chris “Exact Science is Not an Exact Science” Osgood [groin/March]
Jan “Society Only Tolerates One Change at a Time” Mursak [foot/day-to-day]
Valtteri “Does He Enjoy Taking His Bows Below the Stage?” Filppula [knee/week-to-week]

Honorable Mentions
Todd “You Went Around the World, You Did Terrible Things. Really Terrible Things. For Nothing” Bertuzzi
Todd “It’s Inhuman to be so Cold” Bertuzzi
Jiri “Simple Maybe, But Not Easy” Hudler
Pavel “The Magician Takes Something Ordinary and Makes it Do Something Extraordinary” Datsyuk
Ruslan “I Seem to Have Outstayed My Welcome in Colorado” Salei
Darren “My Passion is Equal to the Task” Helm
Ville “You Won’t Find it, Because of Course You’re Not Really Looking” Leino
Ansar “How Fast Can You Dig?” Khan
*If there are any that you think I missed, throw them in the comments — the best one will be shared for all to enjoy on the TPL Facebook Page*

THE FIVE HOLE
1. Howard Fresh: After getting pulled on Wednesday, Jimmy Howard re-takes his spot in the crease. Will he wake up a bit, or is it going to be another night that we wonder if he’ll finish?
2. Welcome Homer: His first game back was Wednesday night, but here’s hoping he’ll begin to be that net-front presence we all know he can be, and that the power play is sparked by his return.
3. Datsyuk on the 2’s: A little bit strange to see Pav on line #2, ain’t it? But it fits perfectly with Coach Babcock’s desire to split the Eurotwins up, spread the wealth, and that second line was one of the better ones on the ice on Wednesday.
4. Hollis Birthday: Today is our brother Chris Hollis’ 27th birthday. If you see him at the beard store, wish him a happy happy joy joy. And harass him on Twitter.
5. Ceremonial Coincidence!: It had nothing to do with my choosing this as the pre-game, but Dicky Eklund (another man played by Christian Bale) is dropping the ceremonial puck.

WHAT WE LEARNED AGAINST THE PREDATORS
There’s no stopping the Cirque.