|Red Wings Start Playoff Race for Cup Against Flames|
|Written by TheSpread|
|Thursday, 12 April 2007 06:15|
Red Wings Focused on Cup
A No. 1 seed for the third straight season, the Red Wings look to avoid another quick playoff exit as they host the Flames on Thursday night in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series.
Detroit won the Stanley Cup in 2002 as a No. 1 seed, but suffered a first-round defeat in 2003 as a No. 2 and was the top seed last year when it was stunned by Edmonton in the opening round.
Oddsmakers have made Detroit -200 money line (NHL Odds) favorites for todays game, the over/under has been set at 5ev total goals (View NHL Sports Books). Our public betting information shows that 65% of bets for this game have been placed on Detroit -200 (View NHL Bet Percentages).
In 2004, Calgary ousted the Wings, who that year won the first of back-to-back Presidents' Trophies, in the second round in six games.
That upset was a highlight of the Flames' run to the Stanley Cup finals, which they lost to Tampa Bay in seven games. Only six players from that team, however, remain on the Calgary roster.
"We know their style and we know how we need to play against them to be successful," said Flames center Stephane Yelle, who had a goal in a Game 3 win against Detroit in 2004.
Detroit went 50-19-13 this season to finish with 113 points, 11 less than last season when they fell to the eighth-seeded Oilers.
Red Wings center Henrik Zetterberg, who had six goals in that six-game loss, is expected to be in the lineup Thursday after missing the last 19 games with an inflamed disk in his back. His return should be a big boost for Detroit, as he led the Wings with 33 goals and had 68 points despite missing nearly a quarter of the regular season.
"Zetterberg has been skating for three weeks, flying around," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I've been asking our trainer for 2 1/2 weeks, 'How can anyone skate that fast, shoot the puck that good, how come he can't play?' That's why coaches don't make those decisions.
"He's going to play, and he's going to play lots."
Babcock, however, doesn't expect to have Todd Bertuzzi in uniform after the forward missed the regular season finale because of a concussion.
"I don't think he has any chance of playing tomorrow," Babcock said Wednesday. "If he's feeling better, we think he'll have an opportunity to play on Sunday."
Bertuzzi, acquired from Florida at the trade deadline, didn't make his debut with Detroit until March 22. He had been sidelined since October because of a back injury.
The presence of Zetterberg should help to take some of the pressure off Pavel Datsyuk, who signed a seven-year contract extension last week and will be counted on to carry the offensive load for the Red Wings. The fifth-year center led the team with 87 points - 27 goals and 60 assists - and has gotten better each season since making his debut in 2001-02.
Dominik Hasek will make his first playoff appearance with Detroit since leading the Wings to the Cup in 2002. He played with Ottawa in 2005-06 before returning to Detroit this season.
Hasek, 42, is 53-39 with a 2.03 goals-against average in 97 postseason games. He's 8-7-0 with one tie and a 2.19 goals-against average in 16 career contests against the Flames.
This will be Chris Chelios' record-setting 22nd postseason, one more than Ray Bourque. Detroit's 45-year-old defenseman will also become the second-oldest player to appear in the playoffs behind former Red Wings star Gordie Howe, who was 52 when he played with Hartford in 1980.
The Flames dropped their final four games, and didn't wrap up the final West postseason berth until Colorado lost to Nashville on the second-to-last day of the season.
Calgary is again led by forward Jarome Iginla, whose hard-nosed style fits the playoffs perfectly. The 10-year veteran led the Flames with 39 goals and 94 points in 2006-07, and he had five goals and three assists in seven games against Anaheim in Calgary's first-round playoff loss last season.
Iginla leads a Calgary club that was seventh in the NHL with 255 goals, 39 more than last season when it ranked 27th.
"We do have more firepower this season and we know we can score more but when it comes to playoffs, you have to play solid 'D' and that's where we've been inconsistent," Yelle told The Canadian Press.
Kristian Huselius was a big reason why the Flames increased their scoring output in 2006-07. The left wing had a career year in his first full season with Calgary, which acquired him from Florida in December 2005. He was second on the team with 34 goals and had 77 points.
Alex Tanguay was second on the Flames with 81 points (22 goals, 59 assists), and recorded five assists and a team-high six points against Detroit this season.
Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff went 2-1-0 with a 2.49 GAA in four games against the Red Wings in 2006-07. He was 40-24-9 with a 2.46 GAA overall in the season after he won the Vezina Trophy.
The teams split four meetings this season, with each winning twice at home.
by: Gary Roberts - theSpread.com - Email Us
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