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January 3, 2004 - Detroit proud at season's midpoint
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Red Wings top Hurricanes, 4-1

Detroit proud at season's midpoint

January 3, 2004

BY NICHOLAS J. COTSONIKA
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

RALEIGH, N.C. -- After three eventful months -- the goaltending soap opera, the injury epidemic, the breakout performances and the like -- the Red Wings are halfway through their regular season.

And with a 4-1 victory over the Hurricanes on Friday night, they have one of the best records in the NHL, 24-12-4-1. They have 53 points, one less than they had at this point last season when they finished with 110 points -- the fourth-most in franchise history.

"Obviously we're proud of it," forward Kris Draper said. "Nothing's bothered this team. That's the one thing we said at training camp: 'There's a lot of veteran hockey players in here, there's some great leadership and it doesn't matter what the situation is, we're just going to go out and play hard and we expect to win.' "

Recapping Game 41 is a little like recapping the first half.

Draper has made great strides offensively, and he scored his 15th and 16th goals of the season -- tying and surpassing his career high. He gave the Wings a 3-0 lead 8:08 into the second period, intercepting a pass at the Detroit blue line, racing ahead of defenseman Aaron Ward and putting the puck in the upper left corner. Then he gave the Wings a 4-1 lead 16:50 into the third, tangling with a defender and the goaltender in front and swiping in the puck.

"It's exciting," Draper said. "I'm as surprised as anyone."

Pavel Datsyuk has emerged as a full-fledged star in his third season, entering the game third in the league in scoring, and he got his 21st goal. He gave the Wings a 1-0 lead 9:06 into the first, scoring from a sharp angle in the right circle on a rush.

Steve Yzerman showed he had overcome radical knee surgery with a great start, then went down with a groin injury, and here he scored his first goal since coming back again. He gave the Wings a 2-0 lead on a power play 10:12 into the first, deflecting a Nicklas Lidstrom point shot in front.

Curtis Joseph went on the trading block when Dominik Hasek came out of retirement in July, had ankle surgery in August, languished in limbo and went down to the minors, and he improved to 7-2-1 since coming back up. He had help from his goal posts a couple of times, but he made 29 saves. He made a great glove save in the third, after Rod Brind'Amour swiped the puck from Chris Chelios and broke in alone. The only goal Joseph allowed was to Kevyn Adams on a shorthanded breakaway with 50 seconds left in the second.

"Good health is key, obviously," Joseph said. "For one thing, my ankle's a lot better. One doctor said it would take until Christmas to feel a lot better."

The Wings -- who have scored 136 goals, most in the league and double Carolina's 68, the least in the league -- so frustrated the Hurricanes that the end got ugly.

Carolina defenseman Bob Boughner went after Detroit forward Brendan Shanahan, and the two took slashing penalties -- plus match penalties for intent to injure, meaning the incident will be reviewed by the league.

"I think an attempt-to-injure match penalty is a little excessive when obviously neither player showed any reaction physically to the slashes that were delivered," Shanahan said.

Boughner declined to comment.

The Wings faced a 6-on-3 situation in the final minute, when the Hurricanes had a two-man advantage and pulled their goaltender. But they survived.

Well, they more than survived. They've more than survived all season. Look at their record.

Said coach Dave Lewis: "It's a tribute to the guys."