Knockoff Neale's Notes: Holland at 2C, Hiller Practices & A Chat with J.J. from Kansas

Dave Sandford

Jen's out of town this weekend, so I'm in charge of making sure the site doesn't burn down. With that in mind here are my Knockoff Neale's Notes.

First up, the Ducks Practice Report tells us that Peter Holland skated with Teemu and Bobby Ryan today in Detroit while Patrick Maroon took up a spot on the fourth line and Jonas Hiller participated in his second full practice since pulling himself from the game against Dallas on Friday.

I'm still scratching my head a bit over yesterday's roster moves. Holland coming up in place of Rakell makes sense, and even more so if the Bobby at Center experiment is over, but what took so long? But more importantly, why the hell was Emerson Etem sent down!? I haven't heard a single bad thing about the kid since he was called up. I guess I can live with it as long as Maroon replaces Brad Staubitz in the lineup tomorrow night, but it would still be nice for Bob Murray to break the cone of silence once in a while to explain these things.

Speaking of tomorrow night, it's possible that Hiller could be backing up Viktor Fasth in Detroit. Yesterday he elaborated, somewhat, on the injury with Eric Stephens. It's good to hear that Hiller's time out of the lineup was essentially one notch above a precaution, for two reasons. First, It's luxurious to have the ability to go to the 1B (1A?) goalie rather than riding Hiller as hard as they did last season. But also it's good to know that Boudreau is willing to give his players rest (and they're willing to take it) in the condensed schedule. It's better to have him sit for two games now than try to push it and end up being out for ten games later on, especially the way Fasth has been playing.

Also from Stephens, here's some even better news, unless you're Ben Lovejoy, in which case, thanks for reading Benny:

As we ramp up to the Detroit game tomorrow night, Jen had her now customary sit down with the opposition. This time it was J.J. from Kansas, Editor of Winging it in Motown. J.J. also had some questions for Jen and we'll link to those when they're posted.

Jen: How confident are Red Wings fans in Jimmy Howard's ability to be their franchise goaltender?

JJ: That's a mixed bag. Howard is a good goalie, but he's not elite. He's not ever going to be good enough for some fans to want, but the franchise doesn't live and die by their goaltender. I'd be a lot more angry about an iffy performance against the Blues on Wednesday if the team didn't put up 7 shots in the final 41 minutes of play in front of him. If he can't hack it, we've always got young stud Petr Mrazek ready to jump into the NHL full-time with both guns blazing and then we can see what kind of crazy results you can get from doing that with a 21-year old goaltender.

Jen: What are the expectations for Damien Brunner and your thoughts on him thus far into his NHL career?

JJ: The expectation that he could be a legitimate top-six scorer were tempered early by the concerns over the Ville Leino career-with-Detroit arc. We were hoping he'd be good enough in his transition to the NHL to fit in. He's had a couple of games where he's made some sub-NHL level decisions, but as a winger whose primary job is to score goals, we've got absolutely no complaints about him to this point. His shot is dangerous and his willingness to shoot has been lacking on Zetterberg's wing for a couple seasons now.

Jen: I look at the Red Wings loss of Lidstrom like the Ducks loss of Selanne (whenever that is). Aside from the obvious change to the defense, how else has the team and franchise changed because of his departure? Does the team's current position in the standings reflect how big of a hole has been left by Nicky's retirement or is it due to other issues?

JJ: The Wings had needs before Nick Lidstrom left, but they're certainly not as good without him. Losing this generation's best D-man probably bumped the Red Wings from a solid contender to a mid-tier contender as far as personnel is concerned, but the problems the Wings have had on defense don't all necessarily stream from problems with the blueliners. The forwards have made some absolutely awful mistakes which have at times exposed Detroit's defense for what it is without Lidstrom: less than perfect. In the locker room, the leadership seems to have transitioned easily to Zetterberg and Kronwall, who were already the more-vocal guys behind the scenes anyway. All-in-all, I don't think the standings reflect too much of anything about NHL teams at this point. The Wings are injured as all get-out and nobody had a long enough training camp to be ready for what was coming. We're still a couple of weeks away from tough-decision time as far as the roster goes.

Finally, in the original spirit of Neale's Notes I have one random thought to offer. The Detroit Red Wings drive me F***ING INSANE. They always have and they always will. Tomorrow is no exception.

The pattern that I've seen with the Ducks this season is that they play their absolute best in important/seemingly difficult games (i.e. shootout loss to San Jose and Tuesday night in Chicago). This leads me to believe that they'll be ready to rock at the mere sight of the winged wheel tomorrow night.

That combined with the fact that the Wings aren't exactly the juggernaut that they have been for the last 20 years or so, gives me a confidence about this game that I haven't felt going into a Ducks/Wings game since Game Six of the WCF in 2007. But that confidence is uneasy because if I'm feeling it, then maybe the Ducks are too and they won't have the fear in the pit of their stomachs that they apparently need to play a solid 60 minutes these days. Then that thought brings me back to being nervous and the whole vicious cycle starts again.

God damned Red Wings drive me nuts!

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