Kukla's Korner

Kukla's Korner Hockey

Red Wings-Canucks set-up: Wings begin Western Canadian swing insisting frustration’s a waste of time

note: this post should have been placed inThe Malik Report and it is too late to move now, rss feeds, Twitter, etc. would be pointing to an error page if I did. -Paul

 

I've got some good news and some bad news.

The bad news first: The Detroit Red Wings kick off a slate of 4 games in 4 Western Canadian cities over 6 nights starting this evening against the Vancouver Canucks (10:30 PM EDT, FSD/TSN/97.1 FM), who possess an 8-3-and-1 record, and have rattled off 4 straight wins, with their most recent coming in the form of a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals.

The Canucks have been receiving stellar scoring from Henrik and Daniel Sedin, as well as Ryan Kesler, and John Tortorella's riding his big dogs so hard that the Hockey News's Ken Campbell wondered whether playing the trio 22+ minutes per night will burn them out early, and in the practice post, the Globe and Mail's David Ebner noted that Roberto Luongo's 7-3-and-1 record is one win short of setting a career best for a historically slow-starting goaltender.

The Red Wings have dropped successive games to Phoenix (5-2), San Jose (1-0 in a shootout), Ottawa (6-1) and New York (3-2 in OT), they're giving up over 30 shots a game, have the second-most giveaways in the league, and they won't have Jonathan Ericsson's services for a couple of weeks as he's recovering from a partially dislocated shoulder, nor those of Johan Franzen, who was running at a point-per-game clip recently, but is out for at least tonight's game and probably longer with an  "unspecified" injury.

After tonight's game, the Wings will leave Vancouver and head to Calgary to play the 5-4-and-2 Flames on Friday night (9:30 PM start), Edmonton to battle the 3-9-and-2 Oilers on Saturday (10 PM start), and they'll conclude a team whose rink they've never visited in the 5-7-and-2 Winnipeg Jets on Monday (8 PM start).

The other bad news? The Wings have historically stumbled in the media glare, and west of Chicago, there's nothing like having to go through Vancouver, Calgary and then deal with a Hockey Night in Canada game in Edmonton.

The good news? This is the team's only Western Canadian swing of the season (they've only "swept" British Columbia and Alberta once, in 2012), and until the team's 4-game road trip to Dallas, Los Angeles, San Jose and Anaheim between January 4th and 12th (Kings and Sharks games starting at 10:30), the Wings have no games that start after 8 PM either EDT or EST...

And after that road trip, no Wings games will start after 8 PM unless the team finds a way to make the Stanley Cup Final.

The other "good news" involves the fact that the vast majority of the U.S. and Canada "fall back" at 2 AM on Sunday, so those of you who will be staying up late tonight and/or this weekend will be able to "sleep in," in theory, anyway.

All of that table-and-scene-setting aside, the Canucks were a little busy attending a charitable event at the Canuck Place on Tuesday, and they're gearing up to retire Pavel Bure's #10 when the Maple Leafs visit on Saturday--and that 7 PM game, the Canucks' first after tonight's affair, will precede the Wings-Oilers Hockey Night in Canada tilt--so a significant portion of Tuesday's chatter didn't necessarily involve line machinations.

As some of you are not fans of embedded Tweets, I'll go with some shorthand and just add the Canucks' practice lines, per the Vancouver Sun's Elliott Pap...

Nux lines at practice Tuesday: twins-Kesler; Higgins-Santo-Burrows; Welsh-Richardson-Kassian; Sestito-Archibald-Weber. #Canucks

And TSN's Farhan Lalji's pair of Tweets spawned a The Malik Report entry from the boss, and it did so for good reason (we will get back to that particular point in a little bit):

Babcock puts Datsyuk & Zetterberg back together today. Ry an Ginger together for #canucks. Looks like we will see top line vs top line Wed

...

Babcock asked how he will handle the #canucks top line with Kesler in the mix: "we'll see who's handling who" #RedWings @NHLonTSN

The within-Vancouver issue of note right now, given that Roberto Luongo's proven that he's competent again, involves whether the Canucks can re-sign Daniel and Henrik Sedin to contract extensions.

Add in the fact that both Ken Holland and Mike Babcock attended Monday night's Canucks-Capitals game--and that today marks the 100-days-and-counting mark to the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi--and that yielded some dread from the Vancouver Province's Tony Gallagher:

You would be inclined to look at the lineup the Vancouver Canucks put out at Rogers Arena Monday night and point out the obvious, which is to say there is absolutely no depth on this team.

And you'd most certainly be accurate. Sure they have some of their top nine forwards out of the lineup in Jannik Hansen, David Booth and perhaps even Jordan Schroeder, but even with all hands on deck they're a couple of forwards short.

So yes, the Canucks have some injuries of note, just like the Wings. It turns out that they're human after all.

Thing is, if you took a moment and looked around the league, you'd quickly realize that even among the better teams in the league, depth of any quality is in massively short supply.

Detroit Red Wings' and Canadian Olympic coach in Sochi Mike Babcock who was at Monday night's game noted the fact there were a lot of teams around the league with the same problem in a private little chat. And when you take a look at the Wings, a team which develops players as well as any in the league -- and is said to have an army of solid prospects, despite its traditional drafting position -- you see what he means. They are led in scoring by their traditional stars Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, both of whom have 12 points so far. Next is Daniel Alfredsson, the youngest of which is Z at 33. After that, their scoring falls off a steep cliff, just like a lot of other teams.

There are simply too few good players to go around, or at least, too few who can make plays at the high level of speed at which the game is now played. The few teams that have a couple more players than the rest are likely to be the ones around when the Cup is being contested at the end, and they know it.

Turn this, "Top-heavy Canucks winning but worry fans, and can they re-sign the Sedins?" into a hurried practice on Tuesday, and you get Gallagher speaking with Daniel Alfredsson about career longevity (Daniel and Henrik are 33 years old, and I'm leaving out all the Canuck-y bluster because Alfredsson's comments, even in context of a game preview, are far more interesting than Gallagher's)...

Alfredsson for one thinks we might see a few more people like him and Selanne, and said he thinks the twins have an excellent chance of pulling off something similar.

“I think ... what happened in ’05 after the lockout, when they took away the hooking and holding and clutching and grabbing, which took a great toll on the hamstrings and took so much out of the groins and hip flexors and stuff, has helped. If the same rules were in play there’s no way I’d be playing now, there’s no question. Today’s game allows you to use speed to get body position and you can play a lot longer with the new rules. If you can stay away from major injuries, you can play until you’re 40.

“I think when you are, from my perspective, looking at them, they prepare themselves, and as you get older if you’ve built a strong base when you were younger you can live off that, you don’t have to work harder in the summer, you just have to work smarter and be smarter about practice during the season and maintaining energy. So I can see them playing a long time as well. There’s a lot of other factors that’s got to fall in place, obviously, motivation mentally that you have the drive to do it again.

Sounds like what Nicklas Lidstrom said motivated him to return...and what motivated him to retire.

“As you get older, of course, you have family and other priorities that become maybe more important at times. You have to find a mix where you feel the drive is there and you push yourself. You can’t just say, ‘I’ll play because I want to play.’ If you don’t put an effort into it, it’s not going to be fun and then you won’t be happy.”

And while the Vancouver Sun's Pap also touched upon the Sedins' statuses in his notebook, offering a little clarification as to why Lotusland is so loony about numbers 22 and 33...

Their agent, J.P. Barry, was in Vancouver on Monday and met with the twins following the Canucks' 3-2 win over Washington. Naturally Henrik was asked Tuesday about the contract talks and J.P's presence.

“No news on that front,” said Henrik with a smile. “I just met him after the game and he's flying to Calgary today. I think he's just going around seeing his guys. Like I've said before, we're not part of the negotiations. We're playing hockey and I'm sure they're going to come to us when they have news for us and they haven't done that yet. So we're going to continue to play hockey.”

Pap also asked Team Canada's 2014 Olympic team coach whether Roberto Luongo and Dan Hamhuis(?) are in an impress-or-bust situation...

"To do it one night against the Wings isn't going to be enough to get it done,” Babcock commented following a Wings' practice at UBC. “You have to do it every night. I thought Hamhuis and Lou were both good (Monday) so good for them. It's all going to play its way out. You guys want to know right away but I don't need to know right away.”

And he asked the Wings about their issues:

After a solid 6-2-0 start to their first season as an Eastern Conference team, the Wings have gone winless in their last four (0-2-2). They have been outscored 14-5 during the swoon and Babcock has no difficulty pointing a finger at the problem.

“We're giving up too many shots and we're not as tight as we should be defensively,” he said. “Anytime you don't execute in your own zone, you spend too much time in your own zone. So, to me, that's a key area of concern that we have to fix. I don't think we're that far away but 'that far away' isn't good enough in our league. It's just not.”

I can't leave this out, even though the quips are little more than twists on the "100 Days to Sochi" spiel:

QUOTABLE: “I think with the way they're playing, you could put almost anybody in there and they'll have success.” – Daniel Alfredsson on possible right wingers for the Sedins on the Swedish Olympic team.

“I will probably not be there with them. I would say Loui Eriksson would be a good choice. Johan Franzen would also be good.” – Henrik Zetterberg on his candidates to skate with the twins in Sochi.

If you want to read the Vancouver Province's Jim Jamieson find that Canucks coach John Tortorella's relatively pleased with forward Zack Kassian's progress, or you're interested to hear the Vancouver Sun's Brad Ziemer tell you about waiver acquisition Ryan Stanton's acclimation to life as a Canuck and chemistry with Kevin Bieksa, knock yourself out.

You may be interested in at least part of the Globe and Mail's David Ebner's article about Roberto Luongo's resurgent play, because he's going to start opposite Jimmy Howard this evening...

After a win on Monday against the visiting Washington Capitals, with Luongo stopping Alex Ovechkin on a penalty shot one minute in, the goalie is 7-3-1 this October. It is, with one October match remaining Wednesday against Detroit, his best record for the month – one loss better than the 7-4-1 he posted in 2006.

“We’ve got one more game left, so let’s not jinx it,” Luongo said with a laugh after the Caps game. (Indeed: Luongo yielded 13 goals in two games to the Red Wings last year.)

It doesn’t hurt that two key figures from the Canadian men’s Olympic hockey team watched Luongo’s strong play – and will again see him Wednesday. Wings head coach Mike Babcock, who will coach Team Canada, and Wings general manager Ken Holland, who is a Team Canada executive, took in Monday night’s match from the media box at Rogers Arena.

Luongo won the starting job on Team Canada for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and hopes to recapture the role for Sochi, Russia, facing competition from Corey Crawford (Chicago Blackhawks) and Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens), as well as Mike Smith (Phoenix Coyotes) and Braden Holtby (Capitals).

...

This year, he has a save percentage of 0.908, fractionally better than his average, and a goals-against average of 2.50, better than his 2.74 in previous Octobers. On both stats, this is his third-best October out of seven in Vancouver, behind his 2006-07 year, when he was stellar from the start, and 2009-10, when he played well but started 6-6.

But the main "draws" on Tuesday were John Tortorella's brief presser, as posted by the Canucks' YouTube channel, with Tortorella being asked approximatley eight billion and twelve questions about the fact that he's got Kesler and the Sedins on the same line...

And the Vancouver Province's Steve Ewen stated the obvious: everybody wants to see how the Sedins and Kesler perform going head-to-head against Datsyuk and Zetterberg:

“It would be fun to see them matched up against each,” [Niklas] Kronwall, the Detroit Red Wings defenceman, said of his team’s top two talents squaring off against the Vancouver Canucks’ red-hot twins. “The crowd would get something to see, for sure.”

There’s a chance that two of the league’s pre-eminent duos could get plenty of face time with one another Wednesday, when Detroit visits Rogers Arena (7:30 p.m., TSN, Team 1040 AM). Vancouver coach John Tortorella has the most control, since he owns last change as the home team, and he’s using the line of Sedins and Ryan Kesler so much that he doesn’t seem the least bit concerned about who they are facing.

Detroit bench boss Mike Babcock had split up Datsyuk and Zetterberg for a time in a bid to get the sagging Red Wings back on track. Babcock had them together, with Todd Bertuzzi, at practice on Tuesday at UBC, although Babcock did offer up the caveat, “We’ll have to see what tomorrow brings,” when asked about his forward units.

The Sedins and Zetterberg and Datsyuk have played against each other in limited doses in the past, in large part because former Canuck coach Alain Vigneault wanted a line centred by Kesler to match up with team’s top unit.

“Obviously, Kesler is a good player, a good skater ... he works hard on the ice,” said Zetterberg. “That’s a good line. I don’t know if we will play against them or one of the other lines. That’s a fun matchup. Every time you play against the Sedins, it’s fun. They’re good players. It’s fun to watch them. It’s fun to play on the same team with them.”

He’s done it all. Zetterberg, like the twins, is a 33-year-old Swede. They go back years, along with Kronwall, a 32-year-old from that country. They were all part of the gold-medal winners at Turin 2006.

Kronwall insisted Tuesday, with a smile, that doesn’t give him an added advantage when he has to step out on the ice versus the Sedins.

“It doesn’t help,” he said. “They seem to find each other out there on the ice no matter what.”

We'll shift our perspectives from those of both the Canucks and the Red Wings to solely Wings-centric stuff via NHL.com's Davis Harper's game preview:

Big story: Detroit and Vancouver are meeting as inter-conference foes for the first time since 1980-81, and the two perennial powers are headed in opposite directions of late. The Red Wings are looking to avoid a fifth straight loss as they open a four-game road swing at Rogers Centre, while Vancouver is looking to close out October with a fifth straight victory.

Red Wings [team scope]: After a promising start to the season, little has come easy for the Red Wings over the past four games. Detroit has gone 0-2-2 with losses to Phoenix, San Jose, Ottawa and, on Saturday, the New York Rangers. The Rangers – suffering from early-season issues of their own – dominated much of the play, and only the outstanding play of goaltender Jimmy Howard (37 saves) kept the Red Wings in it. Derick Brassard scored with 13 seconds to play in overtime to give New York the victory.

...

Canucks [team scope]: The Canucks, to a man, have had no problems doing their jobs. Vancouver has won four in a row and is 6-1-1 over its last eight – seven of which came on the road – grinding out three overtime or shootout victories over that stretch. Back on home ice Monday against the Washington Capitals, the Canucks emerged victorious in yet another one-goal contest. The loaded top line of Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler combined for four points, including the tying and go-ahead goals early in the third period.

...

Who’s hot: Daniel Sedin has three goals and three assists over a four-game point streak. He also has four goals and an assist in his past four against the Red Wings. … Despite the loss to the Rangers, Howard bounced back after being pulled against Ottawa three days earlier for conceding three goals on eight shots. Howard started all five contests over the Wings recent 3-0-2 run against the Canucks.

Injury report: Detroit forward Johan Franzen will miss the game Wednesday with an undisclosed injury. Center Darren Helm is on injured reserve with a partially torn disc in his lower back, along with defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (upper body). … Canucks winger David Booth will miss 1-2 weeks with a lower-body injury. Forwards Dale Weise (lower body), Jannik Hansen (upper body) and Jordan Schroeder (sprained ankle) are all on injured reserve.

STATS LLC has taken over the game previews from the AP (some weird stuff's going on with the AP...They also seem to have shifted much of their hockey photography over to USA Today Images and Getty Images), and they add, well, stats:

The last time Vancouver and Detroit weren't part of the same conference was the days of the Campbell and Wales conferences, with the Canucks in the former and the Red Wings the latter. The Red Wings started 6-2-0 after their move to the Eastern Conference, but those good times haven't lasted as they've gone 0-2-2 since.

...

The Canucks have gone 6-1-1 in their last eight and shown some grit during their season-high winning streak. Vancouver (9-4-1) has earned two of those victories in overtime and one in a shootout.

The Canucks scored two third-period goals in a 3-2 victory over Washington on Monday. Ryan Kesler tallied his fifth goal in four games 2:53 into the final period and Daniel Sedin scored for the third time in four contests 2:08 later in the club's return from a season-high seven-game trip.

...

The Red Wings' longest skid last season was five games Feb. 13-21, and they'll try to avoid matching that during the start to their trek through Canada. Detroit has been outscored 14-5 during its losing streak, giving up 40 shots Saturday.

...

The Red Wings are 3-0-2 in their last five against the Canucks but fell 2-1 in a shootout at Vancouver in the latest meeting April 20. Howard started all five games. Roberto Luongo has given up a combined 13 goals in his last two contests against Detroit.

Daniel Cleary has five goals and five assists in his last 10 games against the Canucks, and Henrik Zetterberg had three goals and two assists in the three matchups last season.

Daniel Sedin has four goals and an assist in his past four games against Detroit.

The best assessment of the state of the Wings came on Monday, but it didn't translate very well to text, despite the beat writers' best intentions.

Thankfully, after Paul posted the one-Tweet Babcockian post, and while I was updating the practice post, some unnamed person at WXYZ transcribed Babcock's comments...

"When I look at our team play, if I came in from the outside and I watched our team play, I'd say, 'they didn't have a coach.'  OK, that hurts my feelings. But, it's the fact. I told the guys that today. We're not organized enough. We're not efficient.

"So, when I go watch a team play and they don't play well, I go, 'I wonder what they're doing out there?'

"So, face-off plays - they're at a stoppage, it's like football. You should be able to execute off a stoppage, shouldn't you? So you gotta know what you're doing.  So, we asked again, 'Do we know what we're doing?'

"'Yeah we know what we're doing.'  Well then we better darn well do it. In the neutral zone and forecheck, do we know what we're doing?  When we walk through it, 'Does everyone know what we're doing?' 'Yeah.' Well then we better start doing it.  When we have the puck in their neutral zone and forecheck, does everyone know where to be and what we're supposed to do? 'Yeah." Well then we have to do it.

"So we can go through our whole game like that. We don't look good enough. So let's work harder, let's work smarter, let's be more efficient. Let's get more prepared and let's pay a price to win.

"And we don't score any goals - at least not that I've seen. So let's not give up 40 shots, let's give up 20 shots, let's continue to score no goals, but let's win 2-1.  How's that? Everyone think that sounds like a plan?"

And then they posted a video of Babcock saying all of that stuff in a 1 minute and seven seconds, sweaty after his afternoon run along the Riverwalk. This is BRILLIANT stuff, so thank you, whoever you are at WXYZ, thank you.

On Tuesday, the Free Press's Helene St. James Tweeted that the Wings had more or less gone back to basics in terms of their line combinations:

#RedWings practice lines: Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Bertuzzi; Cleary-Weiss-Alfredsson; Tatar-Andersson-Abdelkader; Miller-Glendening-Eaves

...

Neither F Johan Franzen nor D Jonathan Ericsson with #RedWings for Vancouver part of trip.

...

Grey line at #redwings practice: Tootoo-Helm-Samuelsson

And she found a more sedate Babcock after prac...Oh, who the hell am I kidding:


Sedin-match-up-stuff aside, St. James found that the Wings and their coach were both less than sedate when discussing their struggles of late:

“When you’re losing, it’s like, what’s going on, everything is wrong,” Daniel Alfredsson said. “If we can get better defensively, we’ll end up with the puck more and not play as much in our own end, which will take some pressure off our goalie. That’s the game plan.”

Coach Mike Babcock had Alfredsson practicing with Stephen Weiss and Daniel Cleary, reuniting Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi. Babcock wasn’t certain that would stick for the game. Whatever the combinations end up being, the emphasis for all is better puck management.

“We’re loose,” Babcock said. “There’s too much room. We’re giving up too many shots, we’re not as tight as we should be defensively, and we haven’t executed good. Any time you don’t execute in your own zone, you spend too much time in your own zone. So to me, that’s a key area of concern that we have to fix as a team. I don’t think we’re that far away, but that far away is not good enough in our league.”

Patrick Eaves is making his season debut, replacing Johan Franzen, who remained in Detroit to nurse an undisclosed injury. Darren Helm, recovered from a sore groin, is aiming to play Saturday and Monday; getting on the ice in Winnipeg would be especially cool for the area native.

“I haven’t played there, I have lots of family and friends there,” Helm said. “It’d be uplifting as well.”

If Helm is activated for Monday's game, the Wings need to move a body and/or salary. That may be this guy:

So yeah, the salary cap is kind of cruel.

Anyway, the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan also noted Alfredsson's remarks...

"We all know in this league how difficult it is to win every night,” forward Daniel Alfredsson said. “When you’re on a hot streak, you want to keep it going as long as possible. When you’re in a tough stretch like we are right now, you have to do everything you can to keep it as short as possible before it gets a bigger and bigger thing.”

Especially in the present day NHL where parity is everywhere.

“Everybody expects to win every night,” Alfredsson said. “You want to make sure to take care of it (ending a losing streak) as quick as possible.”

He asked Henrik Zetterberg to weigh in on battling the Sedins...

“That’s a good line, it’ll be a fun matchup,” Zetterberg said. “Kesler is a good player, a good skater who works hard on the ice. (And) everytime you play against the Sedins, it’s fun to play against them. They (the Sedins) have good chemistry and know each other, and it’s fun to watch them. It’s fun to watch them but sometimes it’s dificult to play against them.”

And he asked Babcock to weigh in regarding someone who may be a Wing for a very short period of time, depending on whatever the *#$%@& is ailing Johan Franzen, when Jonathan Ericsson's ready to return (don't be surprised if the Wings call up a defenseman from Grand Rapids tomorrow as the Griffins have a home game this evening; and I would not be surprised if Ericsson's placed on the IR today--or maybe even the LTIR--given that his $3.25 million salary could clear some cap space if the Wings really believe that he's going to be out until...Let's say November 14th in "real time" starting with the Wings' loss to San Jose last Monday, or, quite conveniently, the Wings' home game against Washington on Friday, November 15th) and when Helm's good to go:

Forward Patrick Eaves (knee, ankle sprain) will make his season debut against Vancouver, likely on a line with Luke Glendening and Drew Miller.

“I’m just going to play like usual, that’s all I can focus on,” Eaves said. “Get in on the forecheck and create havoc and get some shots off.”

Said Babcock: “He knows how to play. He can shoot the puck, good penalty killer. Obviously we need to get better, a lot better, as a team and in order to do that we need the best, most competitive guys in the lineup every night. Once you get in, you have to find a way to stay in.”

The Wings told MLive's Ansar Khan that they have no problem running a 4-games-in-4-cities-over-the-course-of-6-nights gauntlet given the team's 0-2-and-1 record at home of late and poor home record overall (the Wings have lost 4 of their 6 home games!)...

"Right now, home hasn’t been treating us that well,’’ goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “Hopefully, getting out of here, getting on the road will help put these past few games behind us.’’

...

“All the road trips in the beginning of the year are easier,’’ Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “You’re excited to go on the road, you’re playing in different arenas. We’re going to enjoy it, play some good hockey and get some wins.’’

And I'll skip past Niklas Kronwall and Howard talking about the Sedins as this stuff is eyebrow-raising:

The Red Wings haven’t been generating much offense. They have scored only three goals in their past 241 minutes and 45 seconds, the equivalent of slightly more than four full games. They have gotten production from only three forwards (Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk each have 12 points and Daniel Alfredsson has 10).

Johan Franzen, their leading goal-scorer over the past six seasons, won’t play Wednesday due to an injury. He hasn’t skated since Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Rangers but general manager Ken Holland said they hope he’ll be ready for Friday.

So he would have to fly out West? Or did he stay at the team hotel and keep his boogers away from the team? Or was he in a Halloween costume?

“It’s tough when you don’t produce, but in the same way, me and Pav enjoy that pressure,’’ Zetterberg said. “In a lot of ways, playing on a team like this, playing for an organization like this, you always have pressure, that’s why when playoffs come around, we enjoy it even more, the pressure is even higher. I would hate playing on a team or in a city where you don’t get those questions, where you don’t get that that pressure, you just go out and play and no one cares about it.’’

Ahem. The questions, at times I'm not so sure. The care, concern, the passion, well, let me tell you about the last week-and-a-half...

Zetterberg, as usual, is keeping calm through adversity.

“We all know we’re not perfect, sometimes we’ll have a little slump, we won’t be able to score,’’ he said. “In the end we’re going to be fine. We are a good team and we will play like a good team.’’

The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness reported that Babock told a bad joke...

"Have you ever heard that joke, if you can’t win at home you’ve got to go on the road and if can’t win on the road you’ve got to find somewhere else to play,” Babcock said after practice.

And the players embraced the concept of battling back while having to deal with some forced bonding time:

“Adversity is nothing new to NHL players and teams,” Cleary said. “Listen, we’re 6-4-2 and we haven’t played well. We have to get better in every area of the game and that’s just it.”

....

“We’re going to enjoy it, play some good hockey and get some wins,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “Everything that happens just happens and you have to deal with it. There’s no big panic button that is pushed, but we know we got to play better. The only thing we can do is to go out and play good hockey.

“It doesn’t matter what we say, it doesn’t matter how many meetings we have, it doesn’t matter what we’re telling the other guys to do, everyone has to look at themselves and go in and do a better job,” Zetterberg continued. “If we do that we’ll come together and play better hockey as a team.”

I adore this quote, because Kronwall's quoting Babcock:

“Frustration is something that you’re just wasting your energy being,” Niklas Kronwall said. “At the same time everyone in here thinks we’re a hell of a lot better team than what we’re showing right now. We want to get back on track and get back to playing some good hockey. We know it’s in here, now we have to show it.”

The Wings have also had issues with turnovers registering 116 giveaways through 12 games.

“A good road trip is never bad,” Kronwall said. “We’re looking at this as getting back to playing the way that we can and play like we know how to play. We know how to play out there we’re just not showing it out there. I don’t think there’s any point in time where it’s like, ‘Get those guys off ice,’’ Kronwall added. “No question about it. That’s not how we work. You win as a team, you lose a team. We’ve dug ourselves a little bit of a hole and the only way to get out of it is to have all the guys pull together and get going in the right direction. That’s how we’re going to solve this one.”

I sure hope so, because these next four games are going to tell us whether the Red Wings can right themselves, or whether they're going to need some help more significant than Darren Helm and possibly Gustav Nyquist's return to get the S.S. Red Wings back on course. And as you know, I am loath to suggest that personnel moves are necessary given this team's long history of not doing very much to shuffle the deck unless absolutely necessary and/or during early-to-mid July.

 

 

 

Also of Red Wings-related note: With 100 days to go before the Sochi Olympics start, USA Today's Kevin Allen and ESPN's Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside, among others, continue to post player "power rankings" and "rosters" for Team USA, and Jimmy Howard either does or does not make the cut, respectively;

Among Burnside's "100 things you need to know heading into the Sochi Olympics":

9. Which top-end U.S. player could suffer the same fate? Tougher call, but at least one top-end netminder isn't going to make the grade. Our guess Cory Schneider and Jimmy Howard.

...

20. Which Russian NHL star makes the biggest impact during the tournament: Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin? Let's go with the game's most delightful player, Datsyuk.

...

30. So does it mean that Mike Babcock doesn't have an edge having coached Canada to gold in Vancouver? Well, we're not saying that exactly.

...

35. NHL teams that will worry about having so many players in Sochi: Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago.


42. Olympian we will miss in Sochi: Ruslan Salei, the longtime captain of the Belarus national team, who perished along with 43 others in September 2011 when the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team plane crashed shortly after takeoff.

...

60. Coaching matchup we're looking forward to? Mike Babcock of Canada and Dan Bylsma of the U.S. Bylsma played for Babcock in Anaheim and faced him twice in the Stanley Cup finals after becoming head coach in Pittsburgh.

...

98. So what time is it in Sochi? Well, as of this writing, it is eight hours ahead of EDT, but it will be nine hours ahead of Eastern time for the Olympics. Sochi does not recognize daylight saving time.

So George will be getting up at 3 in the morning for those "noon" games starring Team Sweden. Urgh.

99. Predictions? You want predictions? How about this? Russia takes the bronze with a win over Sweden in overtime on a Datsyuk goal.

In the prospect department, in the WHL, Marc McNulty scored his 3rd goal of the season and 7th point registered over the course of 17 games--not bad for an 18-year-old defenseman--in the Prince George Cougars' 6-5 loss to the Vancouver Giants;

And this is why I'm glad that I live in Metro Detroit and not Vancouver. The Red Wings chose to bring Marek Tvrdon into the organization, having allowed Tvrdon to play for his major junior rights-holder, the Vancouver Giants, for his first two post-draft years (Tvrdon's 20, but if you allow players to play for their Major Junior and/or European rights-holders for their first 2 post-draft years, you can wiggle past the, "I thought 20-and-under players could only play for Major Junior/European teams or NHL teams, with no in between?" rule)...

But Tvrdon didn't crack the Grand Rapids Griffins' particularly deep roster, and was assigned to the Toledo Walleye (their Star Wars night is this Saturday) on Monday.

Cue a note of discontent from the Vancouver Province's Steve Ewen...Even though the Vancouver Giants weren't going to keep Tvrdon anyway...

It’s not a huge surprise that Detroit opted that route after Tvrdon played in just one of Grand Rapids’ first 10 games this season. Should he return to Vancouver, the Giants will undoubtedly trade him, and Detroit has no power where he ends up in that regard.

Teams are permitted three overages. The Giants are happy with the trio they have right now — wingers Cain Franson and Tim Traber and defenceman Dalton Thrower. Teams are permitted two Euros. Under new league rules this year, the two the Giants picked up over the summer — forward Andreas Eder and defenceman Dmitry Osipov – can’t be traded. To add Tvrdon, the Giants would have to outright release one of the Euros, as well as trade or release one of the 20 year olds.

What’s more, Giants coach Don Hay had been publicly critical of Tvrdon’s work ethic during his three seasons in Vancouver. And the Giants gave Tvrdon’s No. 17 jersey to prized rookie Tyler Benson at training camp, leaving Tvrdon with No. 15 instead. That’s a pretty good statement about player-team relations.

Being both a Euro and a 20-year-old — a two spotter, in WHL speak — Tvrdon would probably only a draft pick in trade.

Um...So...Boo Detroit for not allowing the Giants to snag a mid-round WHL draft pick?

Speaking of the Walleye, I can only say that this commercial for their "Teddy Bear Toss," uploaded to its YouTube channel, is appropriately awkward...

I'm not sure what Pavel Datsyuk's doing here, but the gearheads among the hockey crowd call this hockey glove abuse:

And finally, take note as I don't often plug myself or offer programmig notes like this: if you are a person who lives in the Eastern, Central, Mountain or Pacific time zones, and if you tend to stop looking at the "game-day" posts after 5 PM EDT, please know that I will be updating posts on this Western Canadian trip well into the evening. If something merits its own post, I will start a new one, but it is highly likely that everything ahead of the "pre-game skate" which usually hits 60 to 90 minutes prior to the game will remain in the game-day post as per usual.

I hope that made sense given that it's 5:10 in the morning and that Tuesday was an exhausting day.

 

Update: So the Red Wings now have gigantic "Kroger" signs near the scoreboard, where the Amway signs used to be. I don't know whether they're a "presenting sponsor," but the banners are there, and as such, it's not surprising to find the Detroit Free Press's Frank Witsil reporting that a pair of Wings alums will be taking part in the grand opening of a big-box-store-sized Kroger in Commerce Township:

Kroger’s largest store in Michigan — 95,000 square feet — is set to open at 8 a.m. Sunday at 2905 Union Lake Road in Commerce Township. The store is scheduled to be open 6 a.m.-midnight every day. Features include onsite wine steward, organic foods, kitchen gadgets, sushi bar.

Sunday: At 8 a.m., the first 500 customers will receive a reusable grocery bag and a $10 gift card. Detroit Red Wing Tomas Holmstrom will sign autographs, 3-4 p.m. Other activities include caricature and balloon artist exhibitions, face painting, performances by a string quartet and guitarists and an ice sculpture demonstration.
...
Nov. 9: Former Detroit Red Wing Ted Lindsay signing autographs and WNIC gives gift cards, 1-3 p.m.

 

 

Update #2: Here's a capsule game preview from the Vancouver Province as of 6 AM:

TONIGHT HOME TO DETROIT RED WINGS

Now that Detroit is in the Eastern Conference, the Canucks will face the Red Wings only twice this season. This will be your only chance to see the Red Wings in Vancouver unless they both go to the Stanley Cup Final. The Red Wings are likely thrilled to be in the East, as their 6-4-2 record is good for fifth in their conference, but would have them in ninth in the West. They're still a dangerous team, however, with both Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg scoring a point per game.
 

Update #3: Hockey's Future's Adam Schnepp penned an article looking at the Wings' pool of prospects from a holistic perspective, and on a position-by-postion basis. Here's part of a much longer article:

Left Wing

Though the Red Wings have good depth across the board at all three forward positions, nowhere is this more apparent than at left wing. Gustav Nyquist is an NHL-ready left winger who is playing in Grand Rapids for two reasons: first, the Red Wings have a roster full of forwards and no space for Nyquist; second, Nyquist would be exposed to being claimed off of waivers should he play any more than two NHL games and then be shuffled between Detroit and their AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids. Nyquist has once again shown his offensive prowess with the Grand Rapids Griffins, netting three goals and five assists in seven games with a plus-one rating. Though he may not join the NHL club in 2013-14, Nyquist is very much still in Detroit's long-term plans.

Anthony Mantha has silenced most critics by not only displaying a more well-rounded game, but by posting an otherworldly stat line. Through the first 15 games of the QMJHL season Mantha has posted 19 goals and 20 assists for a total of 39 points. Mantha's potential was great enough for him to be selected in the first round of the 2013 NHL Draft, but questions about his consistency in part led to him falling to the Red Wings with the 20th overall pick. Mantha has assuaged those fears by posting at least a point in all his games but one so far in 2013-14. The Red Wings organization has noticed this, and in turn, rewarded Mantha with a three-year entry-level contract.

Tomas Tatar can commiserate with Gustav Nyquist, as he too is very familiar with the feeling of being NHL-ready but still playing in the AHL. It is highly likely that Tatar will spend the entirety of the 2013-14 season on the Red Wings' NHL roster, as he is no longer waiver-exempt. Tatar has been a healthy scratch for most of the season, sitting in favor of veterans.

Andreas Athanasiou is continuing to ply his trade for the OHL's Barrie Colts. Athanasiou is playing at a point-per-game pace, recording 13 points in the first 13 games of the season. Also in the OHL is Tyler Bertuzzi, who is currently a member of the Guelph Storm. Bertuzzi has been a pleasant surprise offensively, translating some of the potential the Red Wings saw when they drafted him in the second round of the 2013 NHL Draft into tangible results; Bertuzzi has 15 points in 13 games.

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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