Red Beats White 5-3, Questions Linger Before Preseason

TRAVERSE CITY, MI - SEPTEMBER 11: Brendan Smith  of the Detroit Red Wings turns up ice with the puck during NHL Prospects Tournament on Saturday, September 11, 2010 at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

The Red Wings put the final touches on training camp today, holding their annual Red/White scrimmage up in Traverse City. With a packed house and full radio/streaming video broadcast, the Wings battled amongst themselves to decide who gets bragging rights in the locker room and who gets to pick up the first road trip dinner bill. The game was split into two 25 minute periods, and yours truly took in the action thanks to the great live feed from FOX Detroit. Here’s a few (HA!) thoughts from the scrimmage to tide you over until the Wings do battle with the Penguins tomorrow night in Pittsburgh.

First Period Thoughts

  • Brendan Smith was all over the place and was definitely out there trying to earn himself some games with the big club at some point this season. He scored the opening goal on Jimmah, and had two more excellent scoring chances, including one where he pinched in on a two-on-one and forced Howard to make an tough save. He blazed all over the ice and showed some physicality as well. The best part? He was defensively responsible for the most part. Very impressive and easily the most impressive player in the first period.
  • Cory Emmerton also looked strong, generating a pair of scoring chances that he wasn’t able to convert on. From the sounds of things, Emmerton has really stepped up his play during this training camp and could finally be ready to emerge as a legitimate AHL scoring threat.
  • Not a bad period from Jimmah, but not a great one either. Looked like he was having some trouble dealing with the screens out front, which was a problem we heard about throughout most of camp. Smith’s goal was through some legs, which causes a little discomfort in terms of Jimmah’s ability to play through the screens, but I’m sure Bedard and Co. will be quick to correct during film review. In terms of lateral movement, Howard looked solid, keeping movements to a relative minimum and corralling most of the rebounds he gave up.
  • If I had to pick the better looking goaltender in the first period, it would have to be Chris Osgood, who looked sharp for most of the opening 25 minutes, despite giving up a soft goal to Jan Mursak. Granted, the puck was a fluky redirection over the shoulder of Ozzie, but it’s still one of those goals that probably gets added to the “wish he could have it back” list.
  • If he can stay healthy, Ruslan Salei looks like he has the potential to be one of the most underrated signings of the Wings offseason. He’s exactly what Jonathan Ericsson needs in terms of a defensive partner: responsible, cool, calm, collected and physical. Very solid first period for Salei. Ericsson’s performance, however, was best summed up by this Ken Kal comment during the broadcast: “Ericsson looked like he tripped over the blue line there.” Confidence: We haz it.
  • Nick Lidstrom looked like his usual composed self in the opening frame, although he did get traffic-coned on a good rush bb Valtteri Filppula. I know there was concern about his positioning in one-on-one situations late last season and his effort against Filppula wasn’t very inspiring. That said, it is ONLY camp so let’s hope that gets worked out during the exhibition season and the first few weeks of regular season play. Otherwise, always good to see TPH playing his smooth, confident game in the Winged Wheel.
  • Lots of Dan Cleary mentions in the first period as he seemed to be healthy and all over the ice with a ton of energy. Not alot of mentions for linemates Mike Modano and Jiri Hudler however.

Second Period Thoughts

  • I thought about covering off on all of the positives of the second period before getting to the ugly, but let’s just swallow the pill and get this over with. The story of the second period has to be the absolutely ATROCIOUS play of Ericsson. I can’t think of any instances where he did a single thing right in the period. He and Stuart stood around pretty lackadaisically and watched Jordan Owens out-hustle them en route to an unassisted goal to kick things off, only to serve up and incredibly futile encore of turnovers and poor decisions. Ericsson capped off his gawd-awful second period by attempting a Bertuzzi-esque spinning pass directly in front of his own goaltender, which was easily stolen by Darren Helm for the game-icing goal one second later. All Rig could do was throw up his hands in his trademarked “exasperated” reaction and stare at the ceiling.  Rig also struggled with his decision making around the blue line, especially when he got some time on the power play with Stuart and essentially forced his own teammate to cough up the puck because he chose to play the puck along the blue line (in the face of strong pressure) instead of alleviating and dumping down low. On a scale of 1 to 10, this period was a -589 for Ericsson. (I’m not done with Ericsson just yet…but let’s take a break.)
  • Cleary’s first-period effort continued on into the second frame, where he scored a very nice goal against Thomas McCollum after putting a sweet move on Lidstrom (gulp). If you really think about it, having a healthy Dan Cleary is essentially like adding another free agent to a team that sorely missed his 100% presence last year.
  • Good to see Jakub Kindl get himself on the scoresheet, especially since his tally came on the power play. It came from a great setup pass off the stick of Salei (!) except somehow the Traverse City crew opted to give assists to Mursak and Maltby again. Sara Schropp (@thetinnishflash) confirms via twitter that the goal announcements in TC might not have been the most accurate.
  • For those of you that were worried that none of the “stars” were scoring goals, Henrik Zetterberg picked up what you were putting down when he tallied the game-winner for the red team. Assists? TPL HERO Doug Janik and (who else) Pavel Datsyuk.
  • Pray to God we don’t see McCollum or Joey MacDonald on the big club at any point this year. Six goals allowed between them.

Final Thoughts/Rig Bashing:Part Deux

Yes, it’s only a scrimmage and yes, we’ll start to learn much more about this team as they kick off preseason play tomorrow in Pittsburgh, but there was definitely enough good and bad in today’s game to start the discussion firestorm around the Wings. Personally, I thought both sides played with alot of jump, and it was good to see the defenses for both teams play more aggressively and take some chances at the offensive zones. Even Brian Rafalski was pinching in and looking for rebounds, which is fine as long as someone is back deep to save the bacon. The fast tempo and quick plays may just be a symptom of having so much youth on the ice, but it was sure fun to watch.

The viable goaltending options both looked pretty darn good in the first period, despite some shaky moments from Jimmah and the fluky goal over Osgood’s shoulder. They made some excellent saves and both looked comfortable in the crease and making saves. I thought Osgood outplayed Howard a bit, although it wasn’t by much. At any rate, having a pair of competent and confident guys between the pipes is never a bad thing. We’ll know more as the preseason progresses, but felt good about what these guys put out there today.

But as I said, there was enough bad to go with the good and the majority of that lies on the Wings blue line. If you put a gun to my head and asked who looked the best out there on defense for the Wings today, I would have to go with Brendan Smith, even though he still needs to be more responsible on the back-end. Didn’t hear much of Brian Rafalski or Niklas Kronwall’s names being mentioned out there today, so not much to go on there. We’ve already discussed the potential issues with Lidstrom’s game, but he’s getting the hall pass for a few weeks to ramp things up and he will fine. Probably the most solid in terms of responsible defensive play was Salei, although he still had a few mistakes that will need to be ironed out. Stuart was underwhelming, at best, and looked absolutely stupid on the Owens goal. Kindl actually played a smart game and minimized his mistakes pretty well, but he’s slotted to be the #7 defenseman on the roster. Which brings us back to The Rig.

Disclaimer: As I said, it is VERY EARLY in the preseason and alot can happen, so take all of this with a grain of salt. Cool? Good. Continue…

Petrella’s told me time and again that he just doesn’t get what folks see in Jonathan Ericsson and it took me awhile to start to come around on what he was saying. Maybe I too has drank the Ericsson kool-aid after that playoff performance in ’09, but I really thought the kid might emerge into a viable NHL defenseman. No more. Like I said, it’s early, but it’s very clear to anyone who watched today’s scrimmage that Ericsson not only failed to make progress in his game this offseason, he very likely REGRESSED in terms of his play. His lack of awareness on the ice was glaring today, well before he watched Owens beat him to a goal or before he handed Helm a freebie on one of the worst turnovers I have ever seen. Offensive upside you say? The only way Ericsson is worth the defensive cost he assumes out there is if he turns into a 20-30 goal scorer from the blue line, and THAT AIN’T HAPPENING.

Yes, I hear all of you saying “give him a chance to break out of it” and I agree with that sentiment. But there is absolutely no way Ericsson gets an entire season to show the improvement we’ve been waiting on for almost two years now. If he’s still struggling to play basic, fundamental defensive hockey by the All Star break, he will lose his job. What he has in NHL game experience, he lacks in talent and finesse and I fully expect Jakub Kindl to take Ericsson to the brink this season and eventually unseat him for his #6 spot in the Wings starting lineup. Raise your hand if this would break your heart (Sorry TPL Mom.) My hand is not raised.

We’ll know more once the preseason gets going, so for now, here’s how the stats and scoring broke down. As mentioned earlier, take the scoring report with a grain of salt.


  • Red: 33 (15-18)
  • White: 18 (11-7)

Red Goals

  • Brendan Smith (1) from Mattais Ritola (1)
  • Jordan Owens (1) unassisted
  • Jamie Tardif (1) from Joakim Andersson (1)
  • Henrik Zetterberg (1) from Doug Janik (1) and Pavel Datsyuk (1)
  • Darren Helm (1) unassisted

White Goals

  • Jan Mursak (1) from Brad Stuart (1) and Kirk Maltby (1)
  • Dan Cleary (1) from Trevor Parkes (1) and Logan Pyatt (1)
  • Jakub Kindl (PP) (1)  from (apparently) Jan Mursak (1) and Kirk Maltby (2)
    • SALEI FOR AN ASSIST! START THE MOVEM…right. It’s only a scrimmage.

Training Camp Notes

Training Camp comes to an end today, as the Detroit Red Wings prepare for the grind of pre-season, which begins tomorrow against the most heinous Pittsburgh Penguins.

The traditional Red-White game will take place today at noon, and can be viewed via this stream.

The Wings made their first round of training camp cuts on Monday — sending all but one of the junior-eligible players back to their respective clubs. The lone man standing, and one of two guys who may be signed to a contract,  is Trevor Parkes — an undrafted nineteen year old winger from Montreal Juniors of the QMJHL. Despite being somewhat hindered by a back injury, he’s been — by all accounts — impressive enough to warrant consideration for a contract. The Red Wings have made a habit of signing “bonus draft picks” in the last few years, which is how guys like Willie Coetzee and Brian Lashoff found their ways into the system.

Thanks to George James Malik, we’ve been able to read incredibly thorough reports from each day of training camp — and it sounds like another junior-eligible kid turned some heads. Defenseman Marc Zanetti, a defenseman with the Ottawa 67’s of the O, is the other guy that is in the running to put pen to paper — per GJM. Sounds like he’s a solid kid, standing over 6 feet, weighing in the 200’s and doesn’t mind dropping the mitts. Remember that name — methinks he’ll be inked.

The only player under contract that was cut was Mitchell Callahan, and he returns to the Kelowna Rockets to kick some asses. Red Wings drat picks Louis-Marc Aubry, Landon Ferraro, Brooks Macek, Andrej Nestrasil, Gleason Fournier, and Petr Mrazek also punched their tickets for Canadian Juniors.

Red Wing draft pick-turned-free agent tryout Stephen Johnston was also released, most likely ending his time on the Wings radar.

The other free agent tryouts that were released were Darren Archibald, Alex Cord, Antonin “Best Name Nominee In The Making” Honejsek, and injured Brendan Kichton — who broke some fingers on the first day of camp.

Speaking of players on tryouts, only three remain in camp. Aaron Downey, the once-Wing, remains on the roster, as does the aforementioned Trevor Parkes and Grand Rapids Griffin signee Greg Amadio. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Downey sign an AHL-only contract, with the potential to be elevated to a two-way deal later in the season. But that’s just me talkin’.

Possibly the most intriguing thing to watch this pre-season is the battle for icetime for the bottom half of the roster. With the top six (nay…top nine) fully etched in stone, the battle for fourth line minutes comes down to Darren Helm, Patrick Eaves, Justin Abdelkader, Drew Miller, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Mattias Ritola, and — to a much lesser extent — prospects like Cory Emmerton and Jan Mursak.

Kris Draper has injured his groin and likely won’t see much action in the coming weeks. He’s not going anywhere, because he — ya know — has a No-Trade Clause, but he is by no means guaranteed a spot in the lineup each night.

Kirk Maltby has a two-way deal and is very likely to begin the season in Grand Rapids. That said, it sounds like he’s one of the most consistent and confident guys in this group.

Frankly, it’s going to come down to Drew Miller vs. Mattias Ritola — and we all know it. By the way things have played out, Miller likely has the inside track: he’s been impressive, including scoring two goals in yesterday’s scrimmage, while Ritola has been — by many accounts — invisible. Mike Babcock was sure to say that the battles don’t begin until tomorrow, but it’s hard not to think that Miller has a leg up heading into the games, especially considering he’d likely be picked up off of waivers and Ritola could possibly sneak down, thanks to his inexperience at the NHL level. Never underestimate the other 29 clubs desire to shaft the Wings, however.

Speaking of waivers, Derek Meech has looked — according to Malik — completely uninspired and resigned to the fact that he’s no longer in the Wings plans.

Uncle Mike stated that Osgood will play two periods tomorrow, and that he and Howard will each start three of the eight pre-season games, leaving two to be split between Joey MacDonald and Thomas McCollum. For what it’s worth, Babcock has stated that MacDonald will be the emergency call-up, not McCollum, this season.

Lilja to Try-Out with San Jose

DETROIT - MAY 06: Jamie McGinn #64 of the San Jose Sharks tries to get around Andreas Lilja #3 of the Detroit Red Wings during Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 6, 2010 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Just spoke with Andreas Lilja’s agent, Todd Diamond, who notified me that Lilja will be taking a try-out with the San Jose Sharks. For those holding out hope that Lilja would appear at Wings training camp this week – despite not being on the bus this morning – well, that proverbial train has left the station. For San Jose.

TPL will keep you updated as more information comes available.

Lilja’s Agent Denies Interest In Red Wings Tryout

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 23: Andreas Lilja #3 of the Detroit Red Wings awaits a face off in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Phoenix Coyotes during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Arena on April 23, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Red Wings defeated the Coyotes 4-1 to take a 3-2 series lead. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Just a quick update on the Andreas Lilja “try-out” discussion that arose today following reports that Red Wings GM Ken Holland has left the door open for Lilja to attend Wings training camp in Traverse City. While Lilja never came out and said he was definitely going to attend camp and take the Wings up on their offer, some of his comments earlier today made it seem as if the free agent defenseman was at least considering making the trip with his former teammates tomorrow.  Not so says agent Todd Diamond:

“False reports….if we accept a try-out offer it will likely be with another club.”

One way or another, this will all be settled tomorrow morning when the Wings bus rolls out at 8:00 AM, with or without Lilja.

Final Cuts

With last night’s win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Red Wings ended their North American exhibition season. They play one more pre-season game against Farjestads on Wednesday, in Sweden, before opening the regular season with a pair of games against the Blues in Stockholm.

Immediately following the Penguins game, the final cuts were made and the team that will be traveling to Sweden was set.

With the injuries to Andreas Lilja and Darren Helm, a spot was available for Justin Abdelkader to slide into. Lilja has been added to long-term injured reserve, and Darren Helm is on short-term injured reserve. Both will travel with the team, neither will play.

In addition to the goaltending duo of Chris Osgood and Jimmy Howard, the Red Wings are allowed to bring a third goaltender overseas, in case of an emergency. It’s my understanding that Daniel Larsson will not count against the cap, or the roster limit, and may only be activated if another roster player has been deactivated – which, presumably, would be the injured goaltender necessitating Larsson.


Your 2009-10 Detroit Red Wings:

Johan Franzen — Pavel Datsyuk — Tomas Holmstrom
Todd Bertuzzi — Henrik Zetterberg — Dan Cleary
Ville Leino — Valtteri Filppula — Jason Williams
Kris Draper — Darren Helm (+)/Justin Abdelkader — Patrick Eaves
Kirk Maltby

Nicklas Lidstrom — Brian Rafalski
Niklas Kronwall — Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson — Andreas Lilja(+)/Brett Lebda
Derek Meech

Chris Osgood
Jimmy Howard
[Daniel Larsson]

Ryan Oulahen, Dick Axelsson, Cory Emmerton, and Gleason Fournier remain with the team in name only, as you’re not allowed to “cut” or demote injured players. Expect the first three to be assigned to the Griffins as soon as they’re able to be, with Fournier headed back to Rimouski of the Q.
In related news, all the players that were put on waivers cleared and have been assigned to Grand Rapids. Those players were defensemen Andy Delmore and Doug Janik, along with forwards Evan McGrath, Jeremy Williams, and Kris Newbury. Congratulations to McGrath and Williams on going through waivers for the first time!
It remains to be see what will become of Tomas Tatar for this season. The newly signed 18-year-old may play in Grand Rapids, or be assigned to the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL, where everyone expects him to blow the roof off of Juniors.
As it stands, the Griffins look a little something like this:
Mattias Ritola — Justin Abdelkader (DET) — Jeremy Williams
Kris Newbury — Evan McGrath — Johan Ryno/Tomas Tatar
Dick Axelsson — Francis Pare — John Vigilante (GR ONLY)
Jamie Tardiff — Cory Emmerton (+) — Jan Mursak/Ryan Oulahen
[Walsh-GR ONLY]
Jakub Kindl — Doug Janik
Andy Delmore — Sergei Kolosov
Logan Pyett — Sebastien Piche
Travis Ehrhardt/[DaCosta/Peterson-GR ONLY]
Larsson (DET)
**Brad May will be joining the team on a professional tryout soon. A decision will be made about offering him a contract when the Red Wings return to North America.

Well, that was fast…

Just as I posted about the recent Red Wings cuts, more were announced.

Kris Newbury – recent Toronto Maple Leafs signee has been placed on waivers with the intention of sending him to Grand Rapids.
Jeremy Williams – ditto. Even the Maple Leafs part.
Evan McGrath – placed on waivers with the intention of sending him to Grand Rapids.
Andy Delmore – placed on waivers with the intention of sending him to Grand Rapids.
Doug Janik – placed on waivers with the intention of sending him to Grand Rapids.
Johan Ryno – assigned to Grand Rapids.
Cory Emmerton – assigned to Grand Rapids.
Logan Pyett – assigned to Grand Rapids.

This is what it looks like:

Johan Franzen — Pavel Datsyuk — Tomas Holmstrom
Todd Bertuzzi — Henrik Zetterberg (+) — Dan Cleary
Ville Leino — Valtteri Filppula — Jason Williams
Kris Draper — Darren Helm (+) — Patrick Eaves
Kirk Maltby — Justin Abdelkader — *Brad May
Mattias Ritola — Francis Pare — Jan Mursak
Dick Axelsson — Ryan Oulahen (+)
Nicklas Lidstrom — Brian Rafalski
Niklas Kronwall — Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson — Andreas Lilja (+)
Brett Lebda — Derek Meech
Jakub Kindl
Chris Osgood
Jimmy Howard
Daniel Larsson
Thomas McCollum

More Cuts

Yesterday, the Red Wings made their second round of training camp cuts, assigning five players to Grand Rapids, and releases three others from their tryouts. Today, the club continued their sweep by assigning a sixth player to the Griffins, leaving the total number of players in training camp (including injured players and new tryout Brad May) at 41.

The players the Red Wings sent West were as follows:

Tomas Tatar — an 18-year-old draft pick that turned heads at prospect camp, and main camp. He was signed to a contract way ahead of what the Red Wings usually do with their prospects, but in signing with the big club, he was able to void his contract in Slovakia. Thus, the Wings have more control over his development, by either sticking him in Grand Rapids – or allowing him to play Junior with the Plymouth Whalers, who own his OHL rights.

Sergei Kolosov — a second-year pro that many were hoping would become call-up material this season, playing behind Jakub Kindl in Grand Rapids. He only got into one pre-season game with the Wings, so perhaps they feel he’s a bit further away than the fans had hoped.

Jamie Tardif — became an immediate fan favorite, scoring a goal in the pre-season opener and also dropping the gloves in the winning effort. He got into one more exhibition game, but the fact is he’s got a long climb up the depth chart to even begin thinking about being called up by the Red Wings. That’s not to say that he’ll never get there, but he’s certainly got a long journey ahead of him.

Sebastien Piche — a defenseman who was signed late last season, and didn’t get into any pre-season games. He was a big scorer (for a blueliner) in Junior, and one would hope he gets a good chance to play important minutes for the Griffs.

Travis Ehrhardt — signed as a free agent after the prospect tournament, he – like Piche – did not get into any exhibition games, and will benefit greatly by playing in Grand Rapids – assuming he gets into the lineup.

Dan Cloutier — the infamous goaltender played his half-game admirably, surprising many. He didn’t earn a contract with the Red Wings, but he should feel good about his effort and we wish him well. Although, Kris at Snipe Snipe Dangle Dangle thinks this is all part of Kenny Holland’s master plan. I think she’s giving away too much of the plan, but hey…

John Vigilante — the coolest name left at camp was also released from his tryout. He’s already on contract with the Grand Rapids Griffins, so the former Plymouth Whaler will be nearby.

Francis Lemieux — he’s been a Griffin in the recent past, was in Red Wings training camp as a tryout, and still does not have a contract, though I wouldn’t rule out pen-to-paper with the Griffins soon.

Jordan Pearce — the former Notre Dame goaltender didn’t get into any pre-season action, and looks to have lost the battle to be the Griffins backup to Thomas McCollum. He’s been sent to Grand Rapids for now, but may find himself in Toledo in a few weeks.

The players remaining in camp are:

Johan Franzen — Pavel Datsyuk — Tomas Holmstrom
Todd Bertuzzi — Henrik Zetterberg (+) — Dan Cleary
Ville Leino — Valtteri Filppula — Jason Williams
Kris Draper — Darren Helm (+) — Patrick Eaves
Kirk Maltby — Justin Abdelkader — *Brad May
Kris Newbury — Johan Ryno — Jeremy Williams
Mattias Ritola — Cory Emmerton — Jan Mursak
Dick Axelsson — Evan McGrath — Francis Pare
Ryan Oulahen (+)

Nicklas Lidstrom — Brian Rafalski
Niklas Kronwall — Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson — Andreas Lilja (+)
Brett Lebda — Derek Meech
Jakub Kindl — Andy Delmore
Doug Janik — Logan Pyett

Chris Osgood
Jimmy Howard
Daniel Larsson
Thomas McCollum

Dollars to donuts, the next players to go are going to be Logan Pyett, Jan Mursak, Dick Axelsson and Frankie Pare. You heard it here first!

Photo Credit: Scott Galvin, U-M Photo Services

Red Wings lineup for Pre-Season Game 6

Friday night, the Red Wings will take on the Maple Leafs in the first half of a home-and-home. They’ll be icing mostly regulars, with a complement of call-ups. Or, as Red Wings fans call it, February.

The expected lineup:

Johan Franzen — Pavel Datsyuk — Tomas Holmstrom
Todd Bertuzzi — Valtteri Filppula — Dan Cleary
Kris Draper — Justin Abdelkader — Mattias Ritola
Brad May — Kris Newbury — Francis Pare

Nicklas Lidstrom — Brian Rafalski
Niklas Kronwall — Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson — Brett Lebda

Chris Osgood
Jimmy Howard


1. That back-end and goaltending tandem looks an awful lot like what you should expect on October 2nd.

2. Justin Abdelkader is officially the Red Wings Pre-Season Iron Man – having suited up for all six.

3. Recent try-out addition Brad May will be in the lineup right away, and might make things interesting.

4. Dan Cleary makes his return to the lineup after catching the groin injury bug last week.

5. There are seven players who – after this game – will not have suited up for the Red Wings, yet remain on the roster. Most of those are due to injury (Zetterberg, Lilja, Helm, Oulahen), but Sebastien Piche, Dick Axelsson and Jordan Pearce might just be getting the snub.

6. Doug Janik has played in one pre-season game. What’s that about? Ditto Jan Mursak, Logan Pyett, and Evan McGrath.

7. Of the “regulars,” only Jonathan Ericsson has dressed more than four times – presumably to get him in the groove and ready to play 82. The Red Wings playing in four are Nick Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Derek Meech, Brett Lebda, Brian Rafalski, Kris Draper, Johan Franzen, and Tomas Holmstrom.

8. Playing the fewest: Cleary, Kirk Maltby, and Jason Williams – all with 2. Cleary and Williams have battled injuries, should we assume Kirk Maltby has as well, or is he getting ready for his slot in the 13-hole?

9. Aside from Justin Abdelkader, who has dressed in all of the games so far, Kris Newbury and Mattias Ritola lead the call-up brigade, with five games each.

Lineup for Pre-Season Game #4

Dan Cloutier is expected to split duties with Daniel Larsson tonight against the Rangers, leaving four players still on the roster who have yet to suit up in an exhibition game (Pearce, Axelsson, Piche, Kolosov). I’m beginning to wonder if these guys are injured because for what other reason would surefire Griffins Kolosov and Axelsson be held out?

The expected lineup, per Khan:

Johan Franzen — Pavel Datsyuk — Tomas Holmstrom
Ville Leino — Valtteri Filppula — Mattias Ritola
Johan Ryno — Cory Emmerton — Kirk Maltby
Kris Newbury — Justin Abdelkader — Tomas Tatar

Kronwall — Stuart
Meech — Ericsson
Kindl — Delmore

Larsson / Cloutier

Tatar gets a second straight look, with Kindl and Abdelkader going four-for-four in the pre-season so far.

Red Wings sign Tatar and Coetzee

Early favorite for a nickname: Tots

It was a busy day for the Red Wings, first announcing that they had signed 2009 second round pick Tomas Tatar, followed by inking training camp tryout Willie Coetzee.

Tatar had a wonderful prospect camp, followed by a strong main camp. Ansar Khan broke the news:

The Red Wings have agreed to terms on a three-year contract with forward Tomas Tatar, their second pick in this year’s entry draft.

Tatar, 18, had a terrific prospects tournament and training camp and will continue to practice with the team, likely getting into a preseason game or two, before the Red Wings decide where to put him this season.

Since the Wings drafted him 60th overall, Tatar has been vocal about his desire to stay in North America this season, despite having another year on a contract from Zvolen of the Slovak Extraliga. Evidently, that contract contained an out clause, allowing his to void the final year if he were to sign an NHL contract.

Earlier in the summer, he was drafted by the Kitchener Rangers in the OHL Import Draft before being traded to the Plymouth Whalers. His new contract gives the Red Wings control of his immediate destiny: if he performs well enough to warrant going pro right away, he’ll be a Griffin. If the Wings decide he could benefit from being a triple-digit point producer in Juniors, they’ll tuck him away in Plymouth. If he was to be sent to the OHL before playing in ten games, the clock on his contract will not begin ticking. The deal is for three years.

Red Wings General Manager/Demigod Ken Holland has said Tatar definitely has a chance to play with the Griffins this season. Per the Detroit News:

“We want him to play in North America,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “He had an out in his contract in Slovakia if he signs a contract over here. We think we can do a better job of controlling his development over here. Grand Rapids (AHL) or Plymouth (OHL) are the two options. We’re going to give him every opportunity to earn a spot in Grand Rapids.”

Later in the day, it was learned that Willie Coetzee was also signed to a three-year, entry level deal. Teammates with Red Wings draft pick Landon Ferraro, Coetzee was invited to prospect camp, and stuck around for a few days in regular camp. But, the Wings obviously liked what they saw, and made sure Willie put pen to paper.

The Red Deer Scene, the same publication that broke the “Coetzee to Wings Camp” story in July, has the news:

After an impressive prospects tournament, Coetzee was off to main camp, along with Rebels teammate Landon Ferraro.

How did he fare? Well after today, the answer is pretty obvious. The undrafted product of Maple Ridge B.C. is the proud owner of a brand new three year entry level NHL contract.

Coetzee is probably not headed to Grand Rapids, and will benefit from another season or two in Juniors. His contract will not begin until he begins playing for the Griffins.

Photo Credit: Dave Reginek, Getty Images