BY CHRIS ZADOROZNY, Staff Columnist
For the final Low Down on D-Town, there is good news all around for all Detroit teams. The Tigers improved their bullpen, the Pistons schedule was released, the Red Wings started a new winning streak and the Lions improved to 8-5 after beating the Vikings.
Detroit Tigers: The Tigers improved their team over the past week as the Winter Meetings came and went in Dallas, Texas. It was a money throwing party in Dallas as pitcher Mark Buehrle, shortstop Jose Reyes, and closer Heath Bell signed with the Miami Marlins, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim signed All-Star first baseman Albert Pujols and All-Star pitcher C.J. Wilson. The Tigers didn’t spend heavily but they did sign a former World Series winner in reliever Octavio Dotel. He signed a reported $3.5 million contract with a club option for 2013. On the same day that the Tigers announced the Dotel signing, they traded future closer Ryan Perry to the Washington Nationals for reliever Collin Balester.
Detroit Pistons: The Detroit Pistons released their 66-game 2011-2012 schedule, and will begin play on December 26. They will open the season against the Indiana Pacers at Conseco Fieldhouse at 7:00pm. Their home opener is on Wednesday, December 28 against the Cleveland Cavaliers at 7:30pm. The season will end on Thursday, April 26 against the Philadelphia 76ers at home at 8:00pm. Tickets are on sale for all games as are season ticket plans. The only two pre-season games come against the Cleveland Cavaliers, a home and home, with the first game at the Palace of Auburn Hills. It will be on Friday, December 16 at 7:30pm.
In addition to releasing the schedules, the Pistons have changed their lineup a bit. They re-signed small forward Tayshaun Prince to a four-year, $27 million contract. He is the planned starter and leader of the team, although many blogs and columns indicate it was a bad move for the Pistons. They also bought out shooting guard Richard Hamilton, after he spent the last nine seasons with the Pistons. It’s a near fresh start for the Pistons as they look to rebound with a new owner in Tom Gores this season.
Detroit Red Wings: The Red Wings started a new winning streak after falling to the St. Louis Blues last week to finish off a three game road trip, 3-2. Johan Franzen opened up the scoring in the second period with a power play goal, but that was soon followed by another power play goal. Alexander Steen tied the game at one. Then, Blues captain David Backes scored on the power play to take a 2-1 lead, followed by a Patrik Berglund goal and 3-1 Blues lead. Jiri Hudler pulled the Red Wings within a goal late in the third period, but it just wasn’t enough.
The Red Wings regrouped at home, though, against the Phoenix Coyotes, scoring five in the first period in a 5-2 win. Todd Bertuzzi started the scoring with his second of year. Valtteri Filppula netted his ninth goal of the year 53 seconds later, in his first game back after missing two games because of a bad cut on his leg. Tomas Holmstrom scored his fifth of the year on the power play and Darren Helm followed with his fourth of the year 43 seconds later. Finally, Hudler finished the scoring in the first period with a great pass from Henrik Zetterberg to cap off a 5-0 run. The Phoenix Coyotes answered in the second and third period with a goal apiece from Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal.
The Red Wings started their winning streak by soaring past the Winnipeg Jets this past Saturday in a 7-1 rout. The Jets, who are the former Atlanta Thrashers, were on the second of back-to-back games. Bryan Little scored 35 seconds into the game, giving the Jets their only lead. After that it was all Red Wings. Bertuzzi scored his third of the season, and Zetterberg added a goal late in the first period to take a 2-1 lead.
Hudler opened up the scoring in the second period to make it 3-1, and Chris Connor scored his first goal as a Red Wing 40 seconds later. The game was looking out of reach for the Jets as goals began piling up. Filppula, who has been on a scoring tear, put his tenth of the year behind goalie Ondrej Pavelec, and Drew Miller finished the scoring the second with his third of the year. One final goal from Hudler, his second of the game and third in the past two put the score at 7-1, the final.
The Red Wings chased Phoenix goalie Mike Smith after the first four goals on Thursday, and chased Pavelec after six goals. The Red Wings will play arch-rival Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at 7:00pm in Pittsburgh and then travel to Nashville to take on the Predators on Thursday at 8:00pm. The annual New Year’s Eve game is against the St. Louis Blues at 7:00pm, and the Wings will start the New Year at Dallas against the Stars.
Detroit Lions: After committing 22 penalties in two games, the Lions won their eighth game of the year against the Minnesota Vikings, 34-28. It was a blowout in the first half, but the second half was a whole different animal. The Lions had two defensive touchdowns in the game, both in the first half, and barely held on late to improve to 8-5.
Stephen Tulloch scored the first touchdown for the Lions after a sack to Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder. Wide receiver Titus Young caught a 57-yard touchdown pass to increase the lead to 14-0. Soon after, tight end Brandon Pettigrew caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford to take a 21-0 lead. Minnesota did get on the board in the first quarter with a touchdown from tight end Visanthe Shiancoe to cut the lead to within two touchdowns.
Cornerback Alphonso Smith took an interception from Ponder for a 30-yard touchdown in the second quarter. The Vikings answered with a 6-yard touchdown reception from wide receiver Percy Harvin to once again cut the lead to 28-14. Kicker Jason Hanson booted a 30-yard field goal to end the first half, 31-14. It was the most points scored in the first half for the Lions since 1985. The Lions knocked out starter Ponder, which brought in backup Joe Webb, putting the Vikings right back in the game. He had a 65-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 10 points, 31-21. That would be the only scoring play in the third quarter.
Hanson kicked a 26-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, making it seem like the Lions had put this game away. That wasn’t the case, as the Vikings put up a fight for the rest of the game. Running back Toby Gerhart caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Webb to cut the lead to six points with only eight minutes to go. The Vikings had a shot at the end of the game to win it, on the two yard line, but a fumble by Webb and a missed facemask call on the Lions put the game in the win column, keeping their playoff hopes alive.
Their next game is against the Oakland Raiders at 4:05pm on CBS. Happy holidays, merry Christmas, and have a very happy New Year. Go Red Wings and Go Lions!