DETROIT--The halfway point in the Red Wings regular season occurs Friday in Carolina. Regardless of what happens until then, the Wings are satisfied with what has transpired thus far.
Were pleased, General Manager Ken Holland said. Were in position for the Presidents Trophy (best record) and were right with the best teams in the Western Conference. With all the key people weve had out, its been difficult. But the expectations are passed on from the veterans on this team to the new people who come in.
The Wings had 10 regulars out of the lineup in early December, including two full lines of forwards.
The goalie situation has been scrambled. If Curtis Joseph starts Wednesday against Atlanta, as expected, that means Joseph, Manny Legace and Dominik Hasek each will have 14 games played, mainly because of injuries to each of them.
Through it all, Dave Lewis and his coaching staff have molded a team thats been extremely competitive after an early-season slump.
The character of this team is really something, defenseman Mathieu Schneider said.
The second half promises to be interesting:
* The Wings are in first in the Western Conference. But they have played five more games than St. Louis, which is in second place in the Central Division and third in the conference.
* Will Hasek get healthy and stabilize the goaltending situation? The Wings would like to trade Joseph, but might not be able to if Haseks groin problems persist.
* Two long, grinding trips remain to the West Coast.
* Personnel decisions will have to be made when injured veterans are healthy, players such as Derian Hatcher, Chris Chelios, Steve Thomas and Darren McCarty.
We will need to make decisions, but theyre good decisions to make, Holland said. We know we have depth.
So with an eye toward the second half, The News takes one look back and hands out midseason grades:
Curtis Joseph: About a month ago he was an unwanted third goalie. Today, hes a key reason the Wings are playing well. He had a couple of poor starts early, probably because of infrequent ice time. You have to respect him for his professional attitude. Grade: B+.
Manny Legace: Its still remarkable how Legace is able to play so well despite the inconsistent manner in which he is used. Hes still trying to convince the Wings hes a potential No. 1 goalie. Grade: B+.
Dominik Hasek: The groin injury is a big concern. Can he be healthy and productive soon, and show the Wings hes ready for a long playoff haul? When healthy, Hasek has shown flashes that hes close to what he was. Grade: B+.
Pavel Datsyuk: He has been the teams best player. The Wings were hoping hed just pick up some of Sergei Fedorovs production. Instead, Datsyuk is among the league leaders in points. He rarely has a bad game. Grade: A.
Brett Hull: How does Hull keep doing it? At 39, hes still very dangerous in prime scoring spots on the ice. Playing with Datsyuk helps, but Hulls 21 assists are an indication of his deft passing touch, as well. Grade: A.
Kris Draper: He is a goal away from tying his career-high (15), and continues to be a key factor in the checking game. Offensively, Draper is looking more confident than ever. Grade: A.
Brendan Shanahan: When the rash of injuries hit, Shanahan was among the core of veterans who kept the team afloat. Mark him down for his usual 30 goals and 100 penalty minutes this season. Hes still a top-tier power forward. Grade: A-.
Steve Yzerman: In training camp, there was reason to doubt Yzerman could contribute at all this season. But he has 11 goals, and during the first month of the season, he was among the leagues best forwards. He has slumped recently, possibly because of a groin injury: Grade: B.
Kirk Maltby: Maybe a few more goals would be nice, but thats nitpicking. Hes got 13 assists, and hes had a good plus-minus number all season. He continues to be a valuable part of the checking line. Grade: B.
Ray Whitney: A groin strain limited Whitney to 24 games. When hes in the lineup, he has a knack for producing key offense. Grade: B-.
Tomas Holmstrom: Also limited to 24 games, with a separated right shoulder. Holmstroms strength remains his contribution on the power play. Grade: C+.
Mark Mowers: Called up from Grand Rapids when the injuries hit, Mowers has played smart at both ends of the rink and has provided unexpected offense (nine points in 21 games). It would be surprising to see him go back to the minors. Grade: B-.
Henrik Zetterberg: Hes back now, but has played only 18 games. It was enough to show that his rookie season was no fluke. Grade: Incomplete.
Boyd Devereaux: He still hasnt met the expectations the Wings had for him. He will be in a battle for ice time when Thomas and McCarty get healthy. Grade: C-.
Jason Williams: He isnt getting much ice time these days, but he is getting more comfortable in a defensive role when that is valued over any offense. Williams also will be in a fight for ice time when everyone is healthy. Grade: C-.
Darren McCarty: Played 14 games before slamming into the boards, which triggered bulging discs in his back. Grade: Incomplete.
Steve Thomas: Thomas showed that he was a smart free-agent pickup (six goals in 14 games) before going down with a knee injury. He gave the Wings a much-needed spark. Grade: Incomplete.
Mathieu Schneider: Schneider might be the best defenseman in the league right now, better than even his teammate, Nicklas Lidstrom. If he continues to play this well at both ends of the ice, Schneider easily will be a Norris Trophy finalist. Grade: A.
Nicklas Lidstrom: The offensive numbers are a little lower than usual (four goals, 18 points) for this point in the season. And he has had a few more defensive lapses than usual. But Lidstrom still is among the top defensemen in the league. Grade: A-.
Jason Woolley: He has surpassed expectations, by far. Woolley was the seventh defenseman when the season started. Three games later, he was in the lineup when Derian Hatcher went down with a knee injury. Woolley is among the league leaders in plus-minus, and his 13 assists is evidence of his superior passing. Grade: A-.
Jiri Fischer: Missing last season seems to have set Fischer back a bit, as he is lacking consistency. He is working on regaining the confidence he played with two seasons ago. Grade: C-.
Chris Chelios: Until his knee injury, Chelios, 41, was playing important minutes and was a leader on and off the ice. His age does show on some nights, though. Grade: B-.
Mathieu Dandenault: One of the most underrated players on the team. The coaches use him on defense, on wing and killing penalties. His versatility has been invaluable during all the injuries. Grade: B.
Jamie Rivers: He has played only 15 games, but he has been a good addition. Grade: Incomplete.
Derian Hatcher: What he does in the playoffs is all Wings fans will remember this season. Grade: Incomplete.
Dave Lewis, Barry Smith, Joe Kocur: Theyve done a remarkable job despite changing lineups seemingly on a daily basis. Grade: A.
Ken Holland, Jim Nill: Somehow, they keep finding gems, such as Thomas and Mowers this season, and Schneider at the trade deadline last season. They have a knack for finding talent that fits in well here. Amazingly, Joseph has turned out to be one of the Wings most valuable players. Grade: A.