It appears that the Detroit Red Wings are out of the hunt for free agent defenseman Willie Mitchell. The team announced today that they’ve reached a one-year deal with free agent defenseman Ruslan Salei. Much like Willie Mitchell, Ruslan Salei is a tough customer and a veteran player coming off an injury-laden season himself missing most of last season thanks to a back injury. When he is playing, however, he’s a shot-blocking defense-first defenseman playing about 20 minutes a game while adding snarl to the lineup. What’s different than Willie Mitchell is that the Wings are getting Salei at a good cost, $750,000 plus a possible $350,000 in bonuses.
Salei spent most of his career with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim after being a first round pick (9th overall) for them in 1996. While you won’t see Ruslan Salei much on the score sheet picking up goals and assists (he’s got 194 career points in 842 games played) you will see him mix things up physically as he’s earned 1,017 penalty minutes throughout his NHL career. Salei has also been the stalwart member of Belarus’ national team playing in the Olympics three times (2010, 2002, 1998).
Salei figures to be Jonathan Ericsson’s defensive partner on the third pair to start the year in Detroit as Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart fill out the other two defensive pairs. Salei gives head coach Mike Babcock and experienced veteran to use in the spot as well as opposed to Derek Meech, Jakub Kindl or rookie Brendan Smith.
That first day of training camp might be interesting for Ruslan Salei if Mike Modano has a long memory about things. Salei crushed Modano with a ruthless hit from behind years ago as a member of the Mighty Ducks that lead to a huge brawl. Lets hope that bygones are bygones for these two cagey veterans.
“Costly victories” may have been one of the themes of Saturday night, as some teams paired impressive wins with worrisome injuries.
The good news is that, in each case, it appears that the early word is optimistic about those players (Tyler Seguin got stitched up in the Stars’ win, for example).
The Anaheim Ducks are reportedly readying to recall Anton Khudobin on Sunday after John Gibson suffered an upper-body injury during a collision with Chicago Blackhawks forward Richard Panik.
Again, so far the hope/expectation is that this might not be a major issue:
The pessimistic take would be to wonder “Uh oh, is the Ducks goalie carousel starting again?”
Frederik Andersen has seen some runs as Anaheim’s No. 1 guy, so maybe this issue is a reminder that the Ducks may be better off keeping both Gibson and Andersen around … at least while they can.
For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”
They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:
- Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
- This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
- By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.
Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).
Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.
Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.
The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.
(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)
Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)
You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:
It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.
Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:
Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).
If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.
You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.
The pain goes beyond that … literally so.
For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.
(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)
The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.
Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.