Preseason has officially begun, and the Wings started it off with a home and home of sorts against the Wild. Tuesday's game looked to have more of the rookies on offense and was still a brilliant 6-1 victory, while Thursday's game showed off the new potential defense and ended in a narrow 3-2 loss. I caught both games, one via the free Centre Ice Online trial and the other thanks to FSN's usually excellent support of Detroit sports on television last night and while much of both games was spent chatting with Wild fan Kirsten, I did get a few notes on the teams' performances:
- Wings potential goalie Jimmy Howard, who's been being groomed to take on the top spot for...well how ever many years exactly have we been hearing "future of Red Wings goaltending" now, was a serious bright spot in both games. He played the first half of Tuesday night and the second of Thursday and looked sharper than I've seen him with the Griffins. He lost some weight in the offseason and said in an interview that it was a major help - must be. My faith in his stock will go way up if he keeps performing this way. Howard also claims his goal this year is to make the AHL All Star team - good luck, kid.
- On the topic of goalies, Chris Osgood also looked phenomenal on Tuesday. I'm always a little nervous when he's in net, but his performance the other night, including a magnificent three part save, was enough to dispel that at least for a while. The quasi-tandem (assuming Ozzie gets several more starts than your standard backup thanks to the Wings trying to preserve Hasek's health throughout the season) of he and Hasek should be strong in net for us once again.
- Pavel Datsyuk lit up the scoreboard Tuesday night with a goal and two assists - and so did Johan Franzen with two and one. Henrik Zetterberg, on the other hand, was held off the score sheet Thursday night, but still looked good. Jiri Hudler was given almost twenty minutes of playing time and while he didn't put up any points either, he had a few excellent scoring opportunities and was robbed by Minnesota's Josh Harding - it's easy to tell he's getting better with his long slapshots, both with timing and placement, though it looks like he still likes going right top shelf. Igor Grigorenko is still hanging around, but the commotion around him might be coming to a close if he doesn't step up soon.
- As for defensemen, the question of who will play up in the big leagues this year is still out there. Derek Meech needs to stay if the Wings don't want to risk losing him, but his proclaimed best buddy Kyle Quincey's making a good show as well. The kid had a strong showing during the playoffs last season, and while he looked a little shaky at the start of yesterday's game, he was going strong by the end and finished plus two. Both make the occasional rookie mistake, but neither look out of place on the roster with the veterans. The late training camp addition of Brent Sopel is proving interesting as well - he hasn't been perfect, but his name came up a lot, generally in a good sense, Tuesday night.
- The team's already been hit with the injury bug, though nothing looks too serious so far. Tomas Kopecky (groin), Brian Rafalski (hip-flexor) and Dan Cleary (ribs, though Babcock says none are broken), who was a major offensive force last year, are all on the DTD list - get better, boys!
- My favorite moment from both games was watching Derek Boogaard snag concurrent penalties in the first period, the second of which the announcers claimed was "5 for interference" after he launched himself at some poor Wing rookie. The resulting powerplay gave us two pp goals - the first of which was Chris Chelios unassisted.
They haven't been left alone on the injury front either, though - and there are concerns now that my playoff hero Fernando Pisani might be worse off than anyone thought. Let's hope not.