Dec. 21st :: God. I hate that whale.

The bigger they are, the harder they dive.

WHEN AND WHERE?
Oh god, someone left me the keys to the pregame. Let’s do this and hope I don’t light anything on fire while everyone else is away.

Red Wings vs. Canuckles, 10:00 PM Eastern. Game is on FSD, and TSN for you north of the border.

WHERE WERE WE?
:: Detroit grabbed a 3-2 win in Edmonton.
:: The Canucks stomped on the Wild, 4-0, on Monday.
:: This is the second time we’re seeing the Canucks this season. We beat them at home 2-0 on October 13th, which was the 3rd game of our 5 game winning streak at the beginning of the season.

BEST NAME NOMINEE
I’m giving it to Steven Pinizzotto. That word would be a backbreaker if it was allowed in Words With Friends.

‘MEMBA ME?
Todd Bertuzzi used to play for the Canucks, which I’m sure we’re all aware of by now.

OH, HI AGAIN
Now that Samuelsson has been traded to the Panthers (ah-hahahaha), there are no former Wings on the Canucks.

THE LINEUP (Assumed since St. James reported no changes)
Franzen :: Datsyuk :: Bertuzzi
Filppula :: Zetterberg :: Hudler
Cleary :: Helm :: Abdelkader
Miller :: Emmerton :: Holmstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom :: Ian White
Brad Stuart :: Niklas Kronwall
Jakub Kindl :: Riggy Shitbox

Tiberius Howard
Ty Conkblock

SCRATCHES
Eaves [face]
Conner [hand]
Mursak [left ankle]
Commodore [commode’ing]

The TPL Name Game “Three Stars”
Just like last season, submit your nickname suggestions (follow the theme!), and we’ll use our Facebook page to allow people to vote for the best… the winner gets a free TPL t-shirt!
PETRELLA:  Time Crisisin’
STEVIE: Mike “A million dollars? Randolph let’s free him!” Commodore
HOLLIS:  Postgamin’
DISCH: Horsecoppin’

5 HOLE
:: After a scrambly pair of periods from the Wings, they managed to pull off a win thanks to a shot by Miller. They’ve travelled halfway across Canada (gosh, Canada is big), and hopefully they’re rested enough and Babcock has been intimidating enough that they’ll be neater in tonight’s game.
:: Both teams have similar records right now. Wings are 21-10-1, Canucks are 20-11-2. Both teams have a two win streak going, and the Canucks are only one point and two spots behind the Wings in the west.

::Everyone is considering this game a test, not only the fans, but Howard and the rest of the team as well. With such similar stats, and a team that can be nigh dangerous with puck possession, it should be an intense game, and potentially a fun one if the referees decide to actually do their damn job.
:: The third and fourth lines have been producing, which is great. Our second line also put up a goal last game, and I’d really like to see one of the guys on the first line pot one or two or four this game.

INSPIRATION

Free Willy Trailer

Just Like They “Drew” It Up: Wings Win 3-2

He lost a bet to Murph...

FINAL SCORE (Hi Mr. P!)
3-2 Red Wings

THE RUNDOWN
It sure as hell wasn’t pretty, which makes the ending even more fitting. The Captain unleashes a blast, Miller re-directs it and Dan Cleary winds up on his ass on the ice. That’s the kind of Red Wings hockey I like to see. I’m willing to look past the slow, sluggish play in the first two periods and realize that the Wings gutted out a tough road win against a team looking to avoid a four game skid, which is most definitely not something to sneeze at. Perhaps more refreshing, though, was to see the Wings really buy in to the coaching system, even when their legs weren’t answering the bell. They stayed patient and trusted the game the coaches called for, and it paid off late in the third with Salt n’ Peppa’s crippling changeup from Lidstrom’s stick. I mentioned it before the game, but playing in Edmonton gets me on edge. Tonight was no different, which is why I’m happy to see the guys get on the bus and take their pair of points straight out of Edmonton.

It’s late, so we’ll eschew the bullets and get right to the good stuff.

HORSECOP OF THE GAME
Drew Miller. He’s been kryptonite to the Oil so far this year, scoring the game winner in each of the first two meetings. Really loving his play and his work ethic right now, and homeboy is earning every dollar the Wings are paying him. Awesome stuff.

RIGGY SHITBOX OF THE GAME
The Rig. Gets caught pinching to spring that hippie Ryan Jones on the first goal, and then takes a penalty that leads to a power play goal for Edmonton right before the end of the second. Just an all around waste of space tonight (SURPRISE!).

Dec. 19 :: You Look for Oil?

Tacos In Edmonton: Bad Idea

WHEN AND WHERE?
Oh hey there. Nice to see you again. You may remember me as one of the folks who writes things around here. How are things? Good? Excellent. Let’s get to it.

Red Wings and Oil, 9:30 PM Eastern. FSD has you covered.

WHERE WERE WE?
:: Detroit crushed the Kings on Saturday, 8-2.
:: The Oil lost 3-2 to the Sharks on Saturday, and have lost eight of their last ten.
:: This is the second of four meetings between these two Western Conference foes, with Detroit posting the 3-0 shutout in Motown on November 11th. Drew Miller, Niklas Kronwall and Valtteri Filppula were your goal scorers.

BEST NAME NOMINEE
Magnus Paajarvi took home the crown in the first meeting this season, so we’ll give it to Petrella’s evil twin, Lennart Petrell this time around.

‘MEMBA ME?
No former Wings on the Oil.

OH, HI AGAIN
Ty Conklin and Dan Cleary have both spent time with Edmonton. So has Chris Minard, but, whatever.

THE LINEUP (Assumed)
Franzen :: Datsyuk :: Bertuzzi
Filppula :: Zetterberg :: Hudler
Cleary :: Helm :: Abdelkader
Miller :: Emmerton :: Holmstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom :: Ian White
Brad Stuart :: Niklas Kronwall
Jakub Kindl :: Riggy Shitbox

Tiberius Howard
Ty Conkblock

SCRATCHES
Eaves [face]
Conner [hand]
Mursak [left ankle]
Commodore [commode’ing]

The TPL Name Game “Three Stars”
Just like last season, submit your nickname suggestions (follow the theme!), and we’ll use our Facebook page to allow people to vote for the best… the winner gets a free TPL t-shirt!
PETRELLA: Mike “I Have A Competition In Me. I Want No One Else to Succeed. I Hate Most People” Babcock
STEVIE: Illari “You’re Not the Chosen Brother” Filppula
HOLLIS: Pavel “That Was One Goddamn Helluva Show” Datsyuk
DISCH: Fabian “I’d Like You to Tell Me That You Are, and Have Been, A False Prophet” Brunnstrom

5 HOLE
:: It’s the first trip up to Edmonton this year for the Wings, which is a place that always gives me the heebie-jeebies. I don’t know what it is, but playing in Edmonton and Calgary always makes me uneasy. Chalk it up to playoff matchups over the last ten years, but there’s something about playing in the cold loneliness of Canada that makes me tie my shoes a little tighter. That said, the Wings have run off seven straight against Edmonton, so perhaps I’m just getting worked up over nothing.
:: Remember when Edmonton was the toast of the Western Conference last month? Yea, not so much anymore. They’re now tied with the Dive for last place in the Northwest Division and have sagged all the way to 12th in the conference.
:: What up Todd Bertuzzi? Five game point streak and an assist in four straight. After a sluggish start, it’s nice to see Bert get it cranked up a bit.
:: JIMMAH goes for his 20th win of the season between the pipes tonight. Get some.
:: Match-up trouble tonight? Jordan Eberle. Five goals and five assists in his last 10 games. Somebody cover him.
:: BONUS: BRAD WATSON ALERT! Our old friend in stripes is on the ice tonight. (No, I’ll never get over my infatuation with his screw-up against Anaheim in the playoffs.)

TP:60 — Episode 22

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Don’t forget, you can keep up-to-date on all of the latest TP:60 happenings – including previews for upcoming shows – at the TP:60 Home Page. Miss an episode? Just want more TP:60 awesomeness? The TP:60 Archive has you covered.

One more episode before the Holidays, and we deliver an early Chrismahanukwanzaa present:

  • Call-up :: Hollis was en route back to Seattle and Petrella was back in the captain’s chair. Did someone say Technical Difficulties? Fret not, Disch and Stevie are there to pick up the pieces.
  • The Pipeline: Mitch Callahan :: A great chat with a great kid, the Griffins tough guy shares some stories from the road and gets the full TPL treatment.
  • Your Mustache Sucks, Too :: We offered Mitch (@emcy1five) a change to respond to Brendan Smith’s comments on the last episode about Callahan’s mustache. Turns out Smith is a super model, so he knows what’s hot.
  • Fan Moment :: What an awesome chat with a talented and promising young man, Nick Barnowski (@NickBarnowski). He tells us about his time in the Wings locker room, making friends with some of the guys, and shares some college plans. Make sure you follow his blog at www.nickonsportsblog.com.
  • Thirty Good Minutes :: Sarah Lindenau (@lindy72) of The Left Wing Lock swings by for a kick-ass chat about the prospects, the likelihood of a Wings deal, and whether or not this team is on Championship track.

As always, send your questions, comments and feedback to contact@theproductionline.us. Looking to subscribe to the show? iTunes has you covered.

WELL I’LL BE: Preds Solve Wings

FINAL SCORE (Hi Dad!)
4-3 Predators

THE RUNDOWN
Son of a bitch. Strong game from the Wings, poor third period, wheels popped off, and we’re left feeling like “we’re holding our ankles, biting a pencil” to borrow a Disch phrase.

BULLETS OF IMPORTANCE

  • Tomas Holmstrom started the scoring off, netting his sixth of the season. All six of those goals have been on the power play, tying him for fifth in the League in PPGs. Suck it, Claude Giroux.
  • Nashville tied the game about halfway through the first with a sick two-on-one play that Jimmy Howard NEARLY stifled. The first save was a thing of beauty, but the rebound bounced right to the perfect spot and Legwand was able to bury the second chance.
  • Zetterberg and Lidstrom gave the Wings a nice 3-1 cushion, but a Nashville flurry at the end of the second period nearly tied it up. They made good on one, failed to make good on two… and then the third period happened. Two unanswered goals and it was chicken dinner. Except it’s Tennessee so it was probably some sort of fricassee.

BULLETS OF LESS IMPORTANCE

  • Who else enjoyed the hell out of Pavel Datsyuk cleanly rocking Shea Weber, who is approximately nine inches and 193 pounds larger than Dats? It was an especially physical first period and I can’t imagine a single person disliking it.
  • OFFSIDES?! BOOOOOOO! What’s offsides? /annoying whistle sound/. Sometimes I get sad when I think that other teams’ fans could be so mentally challenged. But then I remember they’re south of the Masy Dixy and that they probably can’t work the computer box anyway, so they’ll never know I said that. It’s like the Amish. It’s easy to make fun of them because how are they going to know? One big difference, though: at least the Amish can build a barn without violating the sheep that will soon occupy it.

LOSS CANDY
For those who like the womenz, may I present Gia Allemand who was on some show called Bachelor Pad, Google tells me:

For those who like the fellas, I DARE YOU to tell me that Gia’s castmate William Holman isn’t a DEAD RINGER for our very own Rob Discher if Rob Discher stopped going to the gym. I DARE YOU:

Wing vs. Wing 2012 Calendar

The reason I’ve been M.I.A. (other than finals week stuff) is because I’m putting together a calendar for 2012! The theme is Wing vs. Wing, and each month features our favorite Wings players battling each other. Ever wonder who would win a staring contest? Who is better with the ladies? You’ll find out in this calendar.

I’m taking preorders right here at my Big Cartel store, ending tomorrow. Go get it!

Here’s a TPL exclusive sneak peek at one of the months:

12/15 :: Pretty Little Thing Lemme Light Your Candle Cuz Mama I’m Sure Hard to Handle Now

HEY THERE, HERE I AM
The Wings crash into Smashville, and you can catch the game on FSD and FS-Tennessee which will be taking a break from their usual programming: noodling, NASCAR, punkin’ chunkin’, oil prospectin’, wife beating, Bible reading, and the Racism Olympiad.

The shiny black disc drops when the little hand is on the eight, y’all.

TAKE MY HAND, DON’T BE AFRAID
:: Detroit put a spanking on Pittsburgh, 4-1, on Tuesday evening for their third win in a row, and tenth in the last twelve.
:: Nashtucky squeaked one out against the Flames, 2-1, also on Tuesday.
:: This will be the second meeting of the season between the Central Division foes. The first was on November 26th — a 4-1 victory for the Red Wings on the strength of goals by Dan Cleary, Henrik Zetterberg, and a pair from Val Filppula. You may remember it as the game that Patrick Eaves took some rubber to his beautiful, beautiful kisser.

MR. PITIFUL
Anders Lindback is the best name nominee (displacing Francis BOOYAH!), the backup goaltender for the Predators, and was also the guy whose face melts off in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I KNOW YOU GOT ANOTHER MAN…
No one in Nashville has ties to the Red Wings, but David Legwand is a native Detroiter.

…BUT I CAN LOVE YOU BETTER THAN HIM
Likewise, no one in Detroit has ties to the Predators. At least until next season when Shea Weber is blasting pucks through nets in red and white. And no, not Team Canada, suckas!

BOYS WILL COME A DIME BY THE DOZEN
Todd Bertuzzi :: Pavel Datsyuk :: Johan Franzen
Jiri Hudler :: Valtteri Filppula :: Henrik Zetterberg
Dan Cleary :: Darren Helm :: Justin Abdelkader
Tomas Holmstrom :: Cory Emmerton :: Drew Miller

Nicklas Lidstrom :: Ian White
Brad Stuart :: Niklas Kronwall
Jakub Kindl :: Jonathan Ericsson

Jimmy Howard
Ty Conklin

THAT AIN’T NOTHIN’ BUT DRUG STORE LOVIN’
Jan Mursak [left ankle – two weeks]
Patrick Eaves [jaw – over a month]
Mike Commodore
Tomas Tatar

The TPL Name Game “Three Stars”
Just like last season, submit your nickname suggestions (follow the theme!), and we’ll use our Facebook page to allow people to vote for the best… the winner gets a free TPL t-shirt!
PETRELLA: Jiri “When I Get Done Throwin’ It On You, You’ve Got To Come Back For More” Hudler
HOLLIS: House Huntin’
DISCH: Brad “Try a Little Tenderness” Stuart
STEVIE: Calendar Makin’

FIVE HOLE
:: J.T. Howard in the nets again after rocking a stellar campaign against the Penguins. The League leader in wins will go for #19 tonight and is on pace for 51 if he continues to start and win at the same rate as he is now. The record is 48.
:: In a move that has gone larger unnoticed, Jonathan Ericsson was dropped to the third defensive pairing, joining Jakub Kindl. Some are hypothesizing it’s to reunite Stuart and Kronwall, but I’d like to pose another theory: Jonathan Ericsson fucking sucks and everyone else is finally noticing.
:: Continuing a theme we’re tracking… of the twelve forwards in the lineup as of last game: ELEVEN have scored at least once in the last three games. The only straggler? Justin Abdelkader — who has gone twelve without potting one. Just so we’re clear, that’s amazing.
:: In a flip-flop of an earlier-season storyline: the defense has cooled off nearly completely. After being responsible for more than 50% of the teams’ goals in the early going, it’s been five games since ANY blueliner got on the board (Jakub Kindl). The goal-less streak for the six: Kindl (5), Ericsson (6), White (9), Stuart (10), Kronwall (11), and — finally — Nick Lidstrom (16)
:: In what can be called a “shocking” development, Chris Conner was placed on short-term injured reserve with a fractured hand sustained in the Penguins game. There’s a second unnamed player who may not be able to go tonight, with an undisclosed injury, and as a result, Tomas Tatar was called up from the Griffins. If said player can play, Tatar will be returned to Grand Rapids.

MUSICAL INSPIRATION

You Are the LIVING End!

Continuing the pre-game theme...

FINAL SCORE (Hi Dad!)
4-1 Red Wings

THE RUNDOWN
I watched the game after I got home from a game of my own, so everyone’s already read all the good news. Malkin and Staal DID suit up, which is great news because playing a team without their top three centers isn’t satisfying. When you beat a team, you want to beat the team, not whatever’s left of it. Still, no Crosby — and that’s bad news — but the Wings controlled this game and one man wouldn’t have made a difference in the end… even when that one man is Sidney Crosby.

At the high school game I was coaching, the game was on in the lobby. We didn’t allow the team to watch the game — instead asking them get prepared in the locker room. One of the guys walked by me as I glanced at the screen and said “how come you get to watch the Penguins game?” and my answer for him was “first of all, it’s the Red Wings game, they just happen to be playing the Penguins. Go get dressed.”

QUICK BULLETS

  • Congratulations to Nick Barnowski (@nickbarnowski), who won yesterday’s TP:60 First Goal contest. We’ve made contact and we hope to have him on the next episode of the show (which is scheduled to drop on Friday). You can check out his blog and get acquainted right here.
  • About halfway through the first period, Jason Williams carried the puck into the Wings’ zone and was met by Jonathan Ericsson. The two of them jousted momentarily, and I could have sworn time ceased to exist and my TV screen looked like Atari had frozen. If ever there was a zero-sum moment in our great game, that was it. The play ended when the puck got bored and went for a walk.
  • The Penguins got on the board first — and with 4.5 seconds left in the first period. That’s one of those goals that shouldn’t be scored and that the Red Wings have a tendency to allow… they take their foot off the gas and feel they can coast into the locker room. What a shitty attitude to have, and it cost them. Brad Stuart couldn’t have played it any differently and no one on the planet stops that nasty, filthy, disgusting shot from Geno.
  • Someone said something in the room in between the first and second, because the Wings were in this mode for the rest of the game:

  • Pavel Datsyuk got the goal scoring underway for the good guys, converting off of a Todd Bertuzzi pass. That backhand shot was absolutely gross. What a shot.
  • The second Red Wings goal occurred while Pittsburgh sports channel Root was on commercial break somehow. Way to go, clowns!
  • Former Penguins Chris Conner led the rush on the third Wings’ goal, passing right through the slot to Dan Cleary. I tell you what… Conner’s making a damn good case for himself to stick in this lineup. When Mursak and Eaves are healthy, it’s going to be interesting, because Conner has to have usurped Emmerton’s spot by now, and he may very well have played well enough to secure a third line spot — not just a fourth line spot. Stay tuned…

HORSECOP OF THE GAME
Jimmy Howard. The man is a goddamn beast. He’s allowed only 19 goals in his last 11 games. LOLWUT

RIGGY SHITBOX OF THE GAME
Jiri Hudler managed to go -1 in a 4-1 win. He also took two penalties. Have a seat, you midget perv you.

12/13 :: She Thought that Mindy Lived with “Mark”

The Penguins 2011-12 Motto: "We work hard, we play hard."

WHY DID YOU BRING ME TO A GAY STEEL MILL?
My boys travel into the town I now call home to take on the least rapey of all Steeltown sports clubs. I live less than 7 miles from the old Igloo (which is being slowly dismantled each day) and the new arena, The Anvil CONSOL Energy Center. The puck drops at 7pm Eastern and the game can be seen on Fox Sports Detroit and something called “Root.”

I’ve only lived here for a few months, and it’s been good to me. I sincerely enjoy it and coaching high school hockey, and folks are batshit insane for their sports teams. And by sports teams, I mean Steelers. They probably don’t know there’s a Penguins game tonight, but they’ll totally care when football is over. It’s a pretty neat town with some kick-ass geography, but no one can drive worth a damn and you’re forced to endure crap like this at the grocery store:

NO REFUNDS! FORCE MAJEURE! READ THE BACK OF YOUR TICKET
:: Detroit put a hurting on Winnipeg, 7-1, on Saturday. Haha you skank.
:: Pittsburgh beat the Islanders, 6-3, on Saturday.
:: The Wings and Pens have played a billion times in the last few seasons. The most recent was March 21st last season, a 5-4 shootout loss in Detroit. Jimmy Howard started, but was pulled in favor of Joey MacDonald when it was 4-0 Pens. The Wings were without Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Jiri Hudler, and Chris Osgood. They were without Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Good Guy Goals were scored by Cleary, Zetterberg, Filppula, and Mike Modano — who scored his second-to-last goal in the NHL.

COME ON, CANTALOUPE!
As you may recall, we have a little bit of a contest going. Whoever correctly guesses the first Red Wing to pot one will have the opportunity to join us on this week’s TP:60. I won’t be watching live (I’ll be behind the bench for a game, too), so I won’t be able to congratulate the lucky winner in real time. Feel free to check out the post and keep tabs at home!

THEY RUINED ALL OF OUR BEST NAMES LIKE BRUCE AND LANCE AND JULIAN
The Penguins’ entrant into the Best Name contest is one Zbynek Michalek, who spent last season in Phoenix. It’s a pretty fair bet that when you have four consonants in a row, you’re going to get this nomination — even when one is “sometimes y.”

HI-C AND FLUFFERNUTTERS!
Three players in the Red Wings system spent some time in Pittsburgh. Backup goaltender/toilet unclogger Ty Conklin spent 07-08 with the Pens. Diminutive winger Chris Conner bounced back and forth between Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre between 2009 and 2011. Currently concussed Griffin Chris Minard played 35 games for the Penguins.

ONLY TWO TYPES OF GUYS WERE HAWAIIAN SHIRTS: BIG FAT PARTY ANIMALS AND GAY GUYS
I’M WILLI VANILLI THE PENGUIN, I SHAKE UNTIL I’M BLUE. MY HEAD IS SHOT AND MY FEET ARE OLD, HA-HE-ACHOO!  Backup goaltender Brent Johnson is from my hometown of Farmington. He’s Sid Abel’s grandson and was drafted 27 picks before the Red Wings selected a Seattle Thunderbirds center named “Tyler Perry.” No, I’m serious. No word on whether or not TBS has offered the hockey player eleventy majillion dollars to make horrible, HORRIBLE, ethnic comedies.

TRAGICALLY LUDICROUS. LUDICROUSLY TRAGIC. LIKE WHEN A CLOWN DIES
After only eight games played since being injured just after New Years, Sidney Crosby has shut it down again. In the immediate Red Wings-related world, that’s good news — but in the greater scheme of things, it’s horrible, horrible news. I know it’s not kosher to admire the young man, but that kid is fantastic — not only personally as a hockey player, but he’s great for the game and missing more time is bad news for everyone. We wish him a speedy recovery in hopes that he can be 100% Crosby in no time.

J&R WHISKEY LIQUOR LADS
Todd Bertuzzi :: Pavel Datsyuk :: Johan Franzen
Jiri Hudler :: Valtteri Filppula :: Henrik Zetterberg
Dan Cleary :: Darren Helm :: Chris Conner
Tomas Holmstrom :: Justin Abdelkader :: Drew Miller

Nicklas Lidstrom :: Ian White
Jonathan Ericsson :: Niklas Kronwall
Jakub Kindl :: Brad Stuart

Jimmy Howard
Ty Conklin

ZZZZZZZZZZAP
Jan Mursak [left ankle – two weeks]
Patrick Eaves [jaw – over a month]
Mike Commodore
Cory Emmerton

The TPL Name Game “Three Stars”
Just like last season, submit your nickname suggestions (follow the theme!), and we’ll use our Facebook page to allow people to vote for the best… the winner gets a free TPL t-shirt!
PETRELLA: Jonathan “HOT STUFF COMIN’ THROUGH!” Ericsson
HOLLIS: AWOL
DISCH: Jiri “You’ll Thank Me On Your Wedding Night” Hudler
STEVIE: Jiri “Ahhh, That’ll Make Your Bull Run” Hudler

STAND STILL THERE’S A SPARK IN YOUR HAIR!
:: Jimmy Howard is on tap to start his fourth straight game (and 21st of the last 22 Red Wings games). He leads the NHL in wins (17) and will face off against #2 in wins, Marc-Andre Fleury. Tiberius has only allowed 44 goals all season, which is the same number allowed by Henrik Lunqvist (three fewer games), Roberto Luongo (six fewer games), and Martin Broduer (EIGHT fewer games).
:: In the 7-1 drubbing of the Jets, only four players failed to get a point: Tomas Holmstrom, Jakub Kindl, Justin Abdelkader, and — WAIT FOR IT — Johnny Shitbox. He did manage to be a +3, but that’s a bullshit stat that only matters if you’re actively involved in things, and the only thing Ericsson’s ever involved in is passing poorly and taking ill-timed penalties. Look for more of the same tonight against a vastly superior Penguins team (compared to the Jets, that is. It’s still the Eastern Conference, which — we’ve learned several times — is straight-up booty).
:: Jiri Hudler has four goals in the last three games. Flip has seven in nine games, including goals in two straight. Bertuzzi also has goals in back-to-back games. The longest goalless droughts among forwards (in the lineup) are Justin Abdelkader (10 games), Pavel Datsyuk (4 games), and Dan Cleary (3 games). Every other forward on the roster — including Chris Conner and the rest of the fourth line — has scored in the last three games.
:: Speaking of Chris Conner, he’ll have a chance to face some old foes tonight. He’s looked really strong in his five games in Detroit (which is more than Smith [3], Nyquist [1], and MacDonald [0] played — combined — during their call-ups; one more than Mike Commodore has played; and the same number Fabian Brunnstrom has played). He’s quick, he’s gritty (as much as he can be weighing as much as Ikea furniture), and he’s not afraid to get to the dirty areas of the ice. I’m a big fan of the little guy, but I’m not sure he’ll be around when Jan Mursak and Patrick Eaves are healthy enough to rejoin the lineup.
:: From the “Fun With Numbers” Department: Johan Franzen is the NHL’s co-leader in game-winning goals (5). Pittsburgh’s top GWG scorer is Pascal Dupuis with 3 (possibly aided by his spicy mustard, I’ll get back to you).

CINEMATIC INSPIRATION

In which the Red Wings trade for a goalie…

As the realignment talk was fading last Monday night, and we were all still reeling from the Ty Conklin Show that helped to derail the Wings’ seven-game winning streak, I read a post by Sarah Lindenau at her blog The Left Wing Lock regarding the goaltending situation. The gist: it might be time to look into upgrading the spot behind Howard. As much as we all dig Joey MacDonald, wouldn’t it be swell to have a really viable second option when Howard needs a break? Especially considering that the team may have lost all confidence in Ty Conklin (as evidenced by 17 games going by without #29 starting, and getting him into less than 15% of the teams’ minutes).

I posed what I thought was a pretty casual question on Twitter: “What do you think it would take to pry Michael Leighton away from the Flyers/Phantoms?” To my surprise, Travis Hughes, the honcho at Broad Street Hockey, answered. And answered well (more on that in a minute).

And the wheels began to turn. What if the Red Wings had lost confidence in Conklin (after all, Babcock started Howard 17 games in a row, and Conks’ last three starts have all been dumpster fires)? What if the Red Wings were looking to improve their goaltending in the short term? What if the Red Wings used some of that cap space to improve on a position that really could use it, since Jimmy Howard can’t play all 82?

The way I see it, there are very few options. Teams may be willing to shed a netminder in the final year of his deal, and would certainly be more willing to send a goaltender to the opposite conference. Instead of waiting until the trade deadline, when prices will be high and Jimmah will be run into the Earth, why not pull the trigger right now?

Any acquisition of a goaltender would likely see Ty Conklin be waived, thus removing his $750,000 cap hit. Any cap hit that was acquired would be pro-rated, since the season is already more than a quarter done.

MICHAEL LEIGHTON
Philadelphia Flyers, 30-years-old, in the final year of a two-year deal worth $3.1M ($1.55M cap hit)

In the final year of his prior deal, Leighton played 7 games for the Hurricanes, 27 games for the Flyers and an additional 14 (impressive) outings in the playoffs. Since signing his new two-year deal in 2010, he’s played three total games and has found himself banished to the AHL’s Adirondack Phantoms. I talked to Travis Hughes of Broad Street Hockey about the Red Wings acquiring Leighton:

The Production Line: Since signing his two-year deal, he’s spent most of the time in Adirondack. It’s pretty clear that Bobrovsky and Bryzgalov are the goaltenders in Philadelphia. Can Leighton be had right now?

Travis Hughes: The Phantoms are great with him in net. But with his salary and the depth behind him, he could [definitely] be had.

TPL: What would it take, via trade, to acquire Leighton?

Hughes: Couple hundred bucks. In all seriousness, it wouldn’t take much. A mid-round draft pick, if that.

TPL: How likely is it that Philadelphia would make a move — even one that doesn’t directly affect the current NHL roster?

Hughes: I’m sure Leights would love that. He’s been a pretty great team player, but there’s no doubt he’d rather be anywhere but in the AHL.

__________________________________________________________________________

SCOTT CLEMMENSEN
Florida Panthers, 34-years-old, in the final year of a three-year deal worth $3.6M ($1.2M cap hit)

On July 1st, the Panthers signed Jose Theodore having read the writing on the wall that Vokoun was going to test the market and see if he could find his way onto a team with (what he considered to be) a better chance at winning. After two strong seasons as the Cats’ backup, Scott Clemmensen didn’t have a chance to battle for the starter’s position, having sustained an injury in the pre-season. Add bluechip prospect Jacob Markstrom to the mix, and Clemmensen is in a tricky situation with just a few months remaining on his contract. I talked with Donny Rivette from Litter Box Cats about prying Clemmensen loose:

The Production Line: The Panthers are a team possessed this season. The emergence of Jacob Markstrom (who has played twice as many games as Clemmensen) may have made Clemmensen expendable. However, would the team make a move considering their leading the division? In other words, is the 3-0 Clemmensen available?

Donny: He’s certainly playing himself into a nice situation for all parties. Sunday’s meltdown at MSG was just that: a meltdown on behalf of the entire roster, with the sole exception of Clemmer. Called upon in a relief role to start the third period, he slammed the door on a positively buzzing Rangers squad, making 11 saves. He’s been nothing short of amazing in his four appearances: 3-0-1, a shutout, and 105 stops on 114 shots. All the more incredible considering the (entirely justifiable) hype regarding Markstrom, who continues to proverbially find his way in the AHL. Dude’s a pro by any measure. That said, is he available? Anyone is, of course, but it’s the contract status that speaks loudest here: he’ll be a UFA in July, while starter Jose Theodore (by all accounts brought in to “groom” Markstrom) is signed through another season. The math is pretty simple here, even for me. Short answer? Clemmer’s gone by 3 p.m. ET on February 27 if Florida falters in retaining a “strong” position (read: first in the Southeast) for the postseason.

TPL: What would it take, via trade, to acquire Clemmensen if someone were to come knocking on the door? Because what the Panthers really need is more former Red Wings.

Donny: Dale Tallon already took care of this aspect by trading for Mikael Samuelsson (a former Panther and Wing), so check that box off. What’s a 34 year-old career backup worth to a club like Tampa Bay, for whom age in net appears to have no Earthly restrictions? Actually, that’s not too ridiculous a concept, as Florida has only one(!) game remaining against their divisional pals from the Left Coast, in one of those bizarre schedule flukes. Hard to imagine Panthers management not seeking draft picks to use as currency in return.

TPL: The last time we were trade partners, the Panthers shoved Todd Bertuzzi onto the Wings after only playing 7 games in Sunrise. Bertuzzi wasn’t a fit for the Panthers and has (FINALLY) begun to contribute on the Red Wings. Meanwhile, Shawn Matthias is a promising young player (who has four times as many goals as Bertuzzi). Who won that trade — and would it affect future trades between the teams?

Donny: Last question first: During Berto’s first stint with Detroit? Florida won off-ice, by virtue of having acquired a highly-touted second-round asset, though Detroit won on-ice by gaining a gritty veteran prior to the postseason. Come to think of it, one for one, the Cats are still “winning” it, as Matty has earned himself a permanent spot on the roster – and having (so far) passed the Tallon smell test, which hasn’t been kind to many now-former Panthers. The Bertuzzi acquisition, ultimately Mike Keenan’s signature move in Sunrise, was one of those interesting yet baffling NHL “do ya remember” plotlines that never seem to completely dry up. The Iron Mike/Roberto Luongo canyon was split wide open when Keenan took the netminder to arbitration a year earlier, resulting in the epic deal with Vancouver consummated on the eve of the 2006 Entry Draft. Bad blood all around, and Jacques Martin was left with quite a mess…which continued to linger far after his own departure. But enough of the history lesson: Matthias is a young-though-rapidly-maturing center who seems the perfect fit with Florida in a third- or fourth-line role. Think Greg Campbell but better earlier. Does the Bertuzzi/Matty deal cause headaches for either the Wings or Panthers? Doubtful, as we’re approaching the fifth anniversary. The Cats’ management team is 100% turned over since that that trade, and it’s seriously difficult to fathom future dealings between the clubs kicking off with the mention of a mostly forgotten veteran-for-prospect swap.

In the end (as in, today) it’s all worked out rather well for both organizations, as the Red Wings (ultimately) got the winger they desired, while the Panthers are enjoying the development of an asset they coveted. Call it a happy draw.

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ALEX AULD
Ottawa Senators, 30-years-old, signed a one-year deal worth $1M.

Auld has played for four teams since the beginning of the 2009-10 season — and eight teams over a relatively short NHL career. Each of the last four years, he’s earned a flat million. Now in his second stint with the Senators, he’s only gotten into a handful of games behind starter Craig Andersson. With “goalie of the future” Robin Lehner looking like he may be an NHLer right now, I asked Graeme Nichols of The 6th Sens about Auld’s availability:

The Production Line: The Senators are in the playoff hunt, so how likely are they to make a move AT ALL? Would Alex Auld be a guy that would be available since Robin Lehner seems to be NHL-ready, or would they be loath to shake up the current NHL roster?

Graeme Nichols: Yes, god bless Gary Bettman and NHL parity – the gratuitous farce that is the current NHL point system that rewards teams that lose in overtime or the post-game skills competition.

Predicting what Bryan Murray’s going to do by the NHL trade deadline is always difficult. He keeps you on your toes. Over the past few years, he has essentially covered all of his bases. He has done the shakeup when a complacent core needed a kick in the ass – trading Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves to the Carolina Hurricanes for Mike Commodore and Cory Stillman. He has stocked up on veteran talent to make a playoff push by moving future assets for Matt Cullen and Andy Sutton. (Note: In Sutton’s case, I’m using the word ‘talent’ liberally.) Even when the team is out of it, Murray has shown that he’s not afraid to trade high draft picks for packages involving Chris Campoli and an unrestricted Mike Comrie. By the same token, last season marked the final straw and Murray showed that he could efficiently go the rebuild route. At this point, I think the only deadline philosophy that he hasn’t done is stand pat and I can’t see him doing that when he fetch some return on awesome one-year stopgap talents like Alex Auld.

TPL: What would it take, via trade, to acquire Auld if someone were to come knocking on the door?

Nichols: The moon. I’m not even being facetious. I’ll just take one of those frameable declaration of ownership papers that you can purchase off of a website that sells property on the moon for $19.99.

TPL: The Wings and Sens aren’t necessarily traditional trade partners, though they did make nice-nice at the Draft in June, with Detroit swapping their 24th overall pick (which became Matt Puempel) for the 35th (Tomas Jurco) and 48th (Xavier Ouellet). In 1996, there was an alleged deal completed involving our beloved Stevie Yzerman (which you guys explored on the site) — fair to assume that moving Auld wouldn’t have that same impact, yes?

Nichols: You may be selling Auld short. Don’t the Red Wings have a reputation for taking marginal goaltending talents and turning them into fringe Hall of Fame candidates?

Touche, Graeme.

Photo Credits: Leighton, Getty Images; Auld, Andre Ringuette, NHLI, Getty Images; Clemmensen, Ronald Martinez, Getty Images