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Red Wings-Penguins preseason wrap-up and overnight report: loose ends remain, especially on defense

The Chief called 2009 "The Summer of Ken," and going into Friday's game against a Toronto Maple Leafs team that hasn't played since Monday's 3-0 Wings win (7:30 PM EDT on FSD, Sportsnet and 97.1 FM; fear not, the Leafs "went to cottage country"), as well as Saturday's exhibition finale against Boston (5:30 PM EDT on the NHL Network U.S.), I think we might want to call the season we're all about to begin as "The Winter of Babs (and the Cone of Silence)." It sounds better than, "The Season of Mike Babcock" at least.

But I'm not the Chief (much to some of your disdain and much to my, well, comfort). I'm the awkward, anxious but sincere guy who won't shut up. Seems to work for me, and I hope for you.

Anyway...

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Red Wings-Penguins preseason quick take: some good, some bad (and Tatar’s OK)

Please take note that the beat writers report that Tomas Tatar's OK:

The Red Wings lost a very "up and down" game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night, dropping a 2-0 decision, but ahead of Friday and Saturday's back-to-back exhibition finales (in Toronto on Friday, at 7:30 PM EDT on FSD, and in Boston on Saturday, at 5:30 PM, on the NHL Network), there were some positives in the game:

  • Jimmy Howard held the Wings in the game at times, and despite a wonky rebound on the 2-0 goal, he was otherwise immaculate, looking sharper and smarter in the crease (and stopping 15 of 16 second-period shots and 31 of 33 overall);
  • The Wings' penalty-kill remains perfect on the preseason, going 25-for-25;
  • Nick Jensen most certainly aided his cause via a 4-shot, 2-hit, 20:24-played perfromance, leading a Wings defensive corps that wasn't hurting for talent with Danny DeKeyser and Niklas Kronwall in the lineup;
  • While they can't seem to finish, the Nyquist-Zetterberg-Franzen line was nothing less than dynamic. Nyquist led the Wings with 5 shots (and 4 more attempts), Franzen had 4 (with 4 more attempts), Zetterberg went 10-and-7 on faceoffs and had 3 shot attempts and 2 takeaways;

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Red Wings-Penguins preseason pre-game ramble: on Babcock, Alfredsson, Ericsson and Smith

Updated 2x at 6:40 PM: So I had an awful afternoon, whose details of errand-running and dead batteries I will only allude to. As such, the Red Wings-Penguins "morning skate in progress" post is going to hit the wires sometime shortly before tonight's game (7:30 PM on FSD, ROOT Sports, the NHL Network U.S. and 97.1 FM)...

And you and I are going to disagree about some stuff, starting now (maybe I should be blunt more often). I happen to find the fact that the Joe Hicketts Cone Of Media Silence coming down over Mike Babcock's contract negotiations with Ken Holland to be more amusing than anything else. GM Low Expectations himself did a fine job of both doubting that he'd come to a deal with Babcock before pointing out that the two may in fact discuss contract turkey during the season itself, which is something Babcock hasn't suggested before.

Mind you, all of this silence is going to mean that when the Red Wings visit Toronto on Friday, Andy Frost may introduce Mike Babcock as, "The Next Coach of Your TorontoMapleLeafs" (yes, Leaf fans, you pronounce it like one word, take it from a Detroiyiter; the fact that the Leafs haven't played a preseason game since Monday doesn't help the situation, either), and I could hear the Toronto media at large issue a Fangirl SQUEEEEEEEE from the parking lot of my mom's shrink...

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Caught In The Middle

from Sean McIndoe of Grantland,

Some of the teams we’ll be covering today are passing through this section on their way to bigger and better things, while others are tracking in the opposite direction. And a few are in what may well be the worst possible situation an NHL team can find itself in: stuck in no-man’s-land, not really good enough to contend but never quite bad enough to land the sort of high draft pick who could turn into a franchise player. Spend more than a season or two in that zone and it can take a franchise years to recover....

Outlook: The Red Wings are really old. Key contributors like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, and Niklas Kronwall are all well into their thirties, and the team is still mulling the return of 41-year-old Daniel Alfredsson.

The Red Wings are also kind of young. Breakout star Gustav Nyquist leads a group of players that are just entering their prime, giving the Red Wings yet another generation of potential stars. That mix of young and old makes it hard to nail this team down — they could go in a few different directions.

Key number: 18.3 — Nyquist’s shooting percentage last year, which is Steven Stamkos territory. Nyquist certainly has the sort of talent that would lead you to expect him to put up a decent number in this category. But he was just a 6.1 percent shooter in 40 career games before last season, so it seems fair to assume we’ll see a drop this year.

Best case: The old guys stay healthy, the young guys take another step, the normally dependable Jimmy Howard rebounds from an off year, and the Wings return to quasi-contender status.

Worst case: Age and injuries wreak havoc once again, Howard struggles, and Babcock’s status becomes a running sideshow as the Wings finally miss the playoffs for the first time in 25 years.

more on the Wings and other teams in the middle of the pack...

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Don’t Expect A Babcock Contract Deal Before The Season Starts

from Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press,

Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland and head coach Mike Babcock met Tuesday regarding an extension for Babcock, but a deal doesn't appear imminent.

In fact, it might not come to be before the Wings open Oct. 9, which is when Babcock has said he no longer wants to talk about his contract situation.

A caveat to that, though: It means that neither side wants to deal with it publicly, in the media.

continued

added 1:54pm, Below, watch/listen to Doug MacLean on Babcock who was on Sportsnet radio this morning before the Holland announcement.

Scroll to the 6:20 mark of the vid unless you want to hear about the Leafs.

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Red Wings-Penguins preseason game-day updates: Nyquist vs. Crosby; ‘thoughts’ and…things

One note right at the bloody top because it's important: I have no idea whether the Red Wings are going to make cuts after tonight's game.

You would think that as the Griffins play exhibition games (against the Lake Erie Monsters) in Windsor on Friday and Indianapolis on Saturday, the Wings would make cuts; you would also think that the Wings' final two exhibition games in Toronto on Friday and Boston on Saturday will serve as "dress rehearsals," but Babcock been insistent about sticking with two groups to see if there are job-stealers among the A Team and B Team. We will have to wait and see what Babcock says today and tonight.

 

Update 2x at 11:42 AM: The Detroit Red Wings will battle the Pittsburgh Penguins this evening (7:30 PM EDT on FSD/ROOT/NHL Network U.S. and 97.1 FM) in the team's final home exhibition game and 5th of 8 exhibition games overall. The Free Press's Helene St. James has already posted the roster for tonight's game:

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Red Wings early overnight report: on Smith, the Wings’ young defensemen, Alfredsson and Callahan

Updated with stories and well, art from SlapShotgoal...At 1:24 AM: The Red Wings play the Pittsburgh Penguins in their final home exhibition game on Wednesday night (7:30 PM, FSD/97.1 FM [edit: also ROOT and the NHL Network U.S. /end edit]), and according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Jason Mackey, we shouldn't expect to see Robert Bortuzzo, Evgeni Malkin or Olli Maata in tomorrow's game, but Sidney Crosby will play in the game after attending his grandmother's funeral in Nova Scotia.

The Penguins were in town a day early as they dropped a 4-1 decision to the Minnesota Wild on Monday, and I know that Darren Dreger's report about Mike Babcock's contract negotiations received the most comments today (and yes, TSN's Dreger and ESPN's Pierre LeBrun addressed the report in the latest Insider Trading video)...

But there were some stories in the practice post in which Babcock made some telling remarks, and the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted that Babcock issued significant praise in regards to Brendan Smith's performance during last night's 3-0 win over Toronto:

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Talking about (Griffins) assistant coaches

There's no polite way to say this, so I'll say it impolitely (after a day spent doing practice post stuff and prospect catch-up stuff):

Wings fans tend to find the most details about the team's assistant coaches on the days that they're hired and the days that they leave the team for other coaching opportunities. For whatever reason, while the coaches are on the job, they're more or less verboten in terms of interviews, and given both the magnitude of the changes that the Wings underwent this summer (losing both "bench assistants" and the assistant coach working video) as well as the ever-increasing importance of said coaches...

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Red Wings prospect catch-up post: on Hicketts, Nastasiuk, a pair of trades, Jensen and Nestrasil

I'm still updating the practice post--slow day for the beat writers, but the Penguins are apparently already in town ahead of tomorrow night's game (7:30 PM on FSD)--but my first day back after any illness (and this time it was the Training Camp Sinus Bug of Doom, and was it ever one of those, "The one time you don't Purell your hands after shaking hands with somebody, blammo! bugs) involves catching up with the Wings' prospects.

The Grand Rapids Griffins are actually holding training camp in Western Michigan, but their roster is very smalll because the Wings are going with two "teams" at least until tomorrow night's game, if not Friday's in Toronto.

In terms of prospect news, the biggest story obviously involved Joe Hicketts signing with the Wings a week ago Thursday, and the not-so-diminuitive blueliner spoke with the Victoria Times-Colonist's Cleeve Dheensaw about signing with the Wings:

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Dreger: Red Wings’ Holland, Babcock to talk contract turkey shortly

When I tried to make a joke about analytics at training camp, I got an, "I'm sick of talking about it; you're done" from Mike Babcock, and given his most recent comments to the press, I'm guessing that he's going to cut off questions about his contract that way quite shortly. Thankfully TSN's Darren Dreger reports that there's a reason he and Ken Holland have been quiet on the contract front--because the gents apparently plan on negotiating closer to the time period between the end of the exhibition season (Saturday night) and the start of the regular season (Thursday, October 9th):

[Edit: More Dreger: sounds like this is gonna be a get 'er done situation:

/end edit]

Update: The Hockey News's Adam Proteau's addressed Babcock's supposed "lame duck" status:

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About The Malik Report

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.

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