The Malik Report
Of Red Wings-related note this evening:
1. Here's the Red Wings' Game-Day Preview video, which includes appearances by Jonathan Ericsson, coach Jeff Blashill and captain Henrik Zetterberg:
2. The Grand Rapids Griffins are in San Antonio to battle the Rampage tonight, and they posted a game-day preview video as well:
Updated 9x at 3:14 PM: The Detroit Red Wings held an optional morning skate ahead of tonight's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning (7:30 PM on FSD/Sun/Sportsnet Ontario and Pacific/Yahoo Sports/97.1 FM).
The beat writers reported that Jimmy Howard would start opposite Ben Bishop, and that there would be "no changes" to the Wings' lineup, so Detroit's player personnel should look something like this, per MLive's Ansar Khan...
And TampaBayLightning.com's Bryan Burns reports that the Filppula and Callahan-less Lightning will dress the following lineup:
From the Free Press's Helene St. James, as the Wings' morning skate wraps up (no changes for Detroit, Callahan and Filppula out for Tampa, Bishop vs. Howard in the nets), the Lightning spoke very respectfully of the Red Wings' playoff streak and the team's attempts to extend said streak:
"I don't know if that makes them even more dangerous, that they are on the brink of another playoff spot right now, obviously with that consecutive streak," [steven] Stamkos said after the morning skate. "If you look at their group, they have a great mix of veteran guys and some great young talent that's come in this year and played extremely well. We've had tight games with them all year."
The Wings are 2-1 against the Lightning this season. They took Tampa Bay to a seven-game playoff series last spring, one that Stamkos called "arguably our closest and toughest series, with the exception of Chicago.
"They had a big comeback win in Florida. They are feeling good about their game. We have to be a team that comes out and matches their effort level."
The Flyers beat the New York Islanders on Monday, edging back within a point of the Wings for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers play again tonight, at Columbus, and still retain a game in hand on the Wings.
Tampa coach Jon Cooper said the Wings "are a veteran team, and they have made the playoffs 24 straight seasons for a reason. They are four lines deep. There is no room out there. They play well defensively. They are hard games to play."
St. James continues, and there is one worrisome stat about tonight's game:
Updated 2x with "No changes" from Blashill @ 11:54 AM:
The Red Wings face a near must-win situation as they prepare to face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning this evening (7:30 PM EDT on FSD/Sun/Sportsnet Ontario and West/Yahoo Stream/97.1 FM);
The Lightning hope to push the Wings 6 points behind them in the Atlantic Division standings while tying the Florida Pantheres for the division lead; the Red Wings want to stay ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers in the Wild Card race, and the Wings will be watching the scoreboard as Philly tangles with Columbus tonight.
The Lightning preceded the Wings onto the ice at Amalie Arena, as noted by TampaBayLightning.com's Bryan Burns...
Valtteri Filppula is on the ice for morning skate and wearing a grey jersey. #TBLightning
Don't see Ryan Callahan (lower-body injury) out there for morning skate. #TBLightning
from Ansar Khan of Mlive,
"If you go back to (Luke) Glendening's goal in Columbus (Thursday), that was a net-presence goal, where it goes off him and in," Red Wings coach Blashill said. "You could say those are ugly goals; those are probably the kind of goals we haven't scored enough of, so against Ben Bishop and any other goalie in the league we're going to have to make sure we have great net presence and get pucks to the net."
In the Red Wings' 5-3 victory over Florida, Tomas Tatar, at the net front, deflected in a shot by Brad Richards and Glendening did likewise on a shot by Dylan Larkin, which resulted in the game-winning goal. Justin Abdelkader was also at the net, where he is often parked, on Pavel Datsyuk's power-play goal with 10.1 seconds to play in the second period.
"It is important to be in front of the goalie," Henrik Zetterberg said. "It's nice to see that the puck goes in when you're standing there. We were doing a decent job on it before -- Glenny and Abby and (Anthony) Mantha. Some guys were spending a lot of time in front but they haven't gotten rewarded like they did (Saturday)."
Said Abdelkader: "A lot of times you're not going to score on the first shot, so you've got to have that net-front presence and make it hard on them to see the puck or to be able to play it."
more Wings talk...
The Red Wings really, really, really need to win Tuesday's against the Tampa Bay Lightning (7:30 PM EDT on FSD/Sun/Sportsnet Ontario and West/97.1 FM).
With the Philadelphia Flyers defeating the New York Islanders on Monday, Philly sits a point behind the Wings with a game in hand--a game that will be played when the Flyers head to Columbus on Tuesday evening--and now the Islanders sit within reach at 2 points ahead of the Wings in the Wild Card Standings race.
The Lightning represent a "four-point" game for the Wings as Detroit could close to within 2 points of the Lightning in the Atlantic standings (see below) with a win.
If the Wings lose, however, Tampa will be pretty close to an un-catchable 6 points ahead of Detroit, though the Lightning would be far closer to their goal of closing in upon the Panthers for the Atlantic title:
Petr Mrazek's healthy enough to back up Jimmy Howard tomorrow, so the Red Wings have to send Jared Coreau back to Grand Rapids--or in this case, San Antonio, Texas, where the Griffins play the Rampage tomorrow. At least Jared got a Florida vacation for his trouble:
Updated 3x at 4:53 PM: The Red Wings practiced in Tampa Bay on Monday, preparing for Tuesday's showdown with the Lightning, and there was good news: Petr Mrazek has recovered from his 103-degree fever, and while he's not going to start on Tuesday (Jimmy Howard will oppose Ben Bishop), Mrazek may be well enough to back Howard up as the Wings attempt to dent Bishop and the Lightning.
"Jimmy's been huge for us here last two games, really come in and played with a lot of poise and making the big saves and playing the puck with confidence," Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "It's nice for us to see that we have two good goalies that are ready to play when they get the call."
Howard is 3-2-1 in his past seven appearances, with a 2.15 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. He experienced a rough stretch from early December to mid-February, when he went 0-5-4.
Red Wings fans keep asking me what will happen with Vili Saarijarvi, the top prospect who skated with the Flint Firebirds this past season, and the answer is pretty simple: the Red Wings, Saarijarvi's agent and Saarijarvi himself will reevaluate his situation and decide whether he wants to stay in Flint or play somewhere else (most likely during or after a short stint watching the Grand Rapids Griffins as an amateur try-out; he could ask for a trade to another OHL team, he could go back to the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers, or he could do something else).
Saarijarvi's Firebirds do face a somewhat uncertain future as well, as Sportsnet's Damien Cox reports:
The Flint Firebirds have concluded their tumultuous season, and now we’ll see what happens next.
The OHL no longer seems to be able to work with suspended owner Rolf Nilsen, who also owns the arena the team plays out of, but also wants the team to stay put.
“As a league, we’re really pleased with the market,” said OHL boss David Branch. “There’s no reason to see the team move.”
After bringing in OHL executive Joe Birch to manage the club after Nilsen tried for the second time this season to fire head coach John Gruden and his staff, Branch tabbed former Toronto Maple Leaf player development coach Paul Dennis to conduct exit interviews with all Flint players and their parents. The father of star forward Will Bitten has already been quoted publicly as saying his son won’t return to the team next season if Nilsen is still the owner.
Meanwhile, the OHL priority selection draft is April 9, and major agents are already telling the Firebirds not to draft their players, with the situation unlikely to be resolved by then. Given Flint’s controversial water problems – the players actually don’t live in an area impacted by that – many parents would be reticent to send their boys there.
“We’re not oblivious to all the feelings out there,” said Branch.
Flint owns the third and fifth picks in the draft.
Cox continues, discussing other topics, and the players a) live in Grand
Ledge Blanc, MI, which doesn't use Flint water, and b) the rink actually had its water tested for a local Flint news channel and found out it was OK to use.
Update: Speaking of the Firebirds, from the team:
Updated 3x at 2:45 PM: Howard starts Tuesday: The Red Wings took to the ice at Amalie Arena around 1:45 PM, preparing for Tuesday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning...
DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose delivered good news...
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.