The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/30/11 at 05:34 PM ET
Updated 6x with Wings talking about the Winter Classic and the 24/7 phenomenon at 7:31 PM: As the Detroit Red Wings prepare to face off against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight (8:30 PM EST, FSD Plus/CSN Chicago/WXYT),Wings coach Mike Babcock has chosen to slide Justin Abdelkader into the injured Darren Helm’s (groin) third line centre’s spot, and as such, the Free Press’s Helene St. James reports that the Wings will ice a fourth “kid line” of Gustav Nyquist, Cory Emmerton and Joakim Andersson tonight:
With Helm out, the lines have been adjusted as follows:
Helm said he “felt it after the St. Louis game, but I didn’t think it was anything major. And then the day off (Wednesday), I didn’t do anything, really, to provoke it or feel it. Then in practice, it just slowly started coming on.”
Because he’s just sore, Helm said he hasn’t had any tests, so the team isn’t concerned about it being serious. Groin injuries rarely take fewer than 10 days to heal, though, in Helm’s case, he’s young and hasn’t had one before.
While he recovers, the Wings will use, at least tonight, an usual grouping. Gustav Nyquist will play in just his second NHL game, as will Joakim Andersson. That makes Cory Emmerton—with all of 28 games under his belt—the veteran of the line.
“They’re good hockey players, so I’ll just try to calm them down for the first couple of shifts,” Emmerton said. “But I mean, I’m still young, so I still try to do the same thing for myself. It’s a weird feeling, but I think we’ll be fine. We’ll have some enthusiasm, some energy. As long as we play responsibly, I think we’ll be fine.”
Emmerton told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan that as the “senior” member of the line, he understands that he must help steady his charges against the Blackhawks’ push:
“It’s a weird feeling,” Emmerton said. “I’m the oldest guy and with the most games played. We’ll be fine. We’ll have some enthusiasm and energy and as long as we play responsibly, we’ll be fine. It’s a tough building to play in and it’s important to just play low key and the first couple of shifts, to get our legs under us.”
Justin Abdelkader will center the third line, between Danny Cleary and Drew Miller.
Nyquist, one of the Wings’ prized prospects, played one game earlier in the season but was immediately sent back to the minors. Coach Mike Babcock felt Nyquist was tight that game and never got comfortable. Nyquist is anxious to get another opportunity to show what he’s capable of.
“I’m very excited, it’s a new opportunity for me,” Nyquist said. “I kind of know what to expect. It was a great experience to get that first game in. It was a little different and I was a little nervous but I got into the game a little bit more. But again, it was a great experience.”
Babcock offered a snicker-worthy comment about the line to MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“The league’s been saying we’re too old for a long time, we’re trying to change it up all in one night,’’ Babcock said after the morning skate. “I want them to get the puck deep, I want them to forecheck and wear out the Hawks’ D.’‘
The Blackhawks will counter with a fourth line consisting of veterans Andrew Brunette and Jamal Mayers, and rookie Jimmy Hayes, just called up from Rockford (AHL) and set to make his NHL debut.
“The Hawks have the most explosive forward group in the league, have the most upside talent. That’s a good measuring stick for you,’’ Babcock said. “What they’ve done is with Brunnette, Mayers and Hayes, that’s going to be a good fourth line, so it’s a great fourth line for our kids to play against and find out how good they are.’‘
Babcock hopes that Nyquist, recalled from the Grand Rapids Griffins on Thursday, fares better than he did in his lone NHL game, Nov. 1 vs. Minnesota.
“He wasn’t good at all, he had stage fright,’’ Babcock said. “He was outstanding in exhibition, he was comfortable when we brought him up, (but) it didn’t go for him. When he was nervous, I was nervous. He didn’t play as good and I didn’t get him out there, so didn’t really get an opportunity.’‘
Nyquist, the Griffins’ leading scorer, said “I kind of know more what to expect. ... It (his first NHL game) was a little different, and obviously I was a little nervous. There was a lot of penalties in that game, it was tough to get into.’‘
It sounds like the Wings will take things very easy with both Helm and Tomas Holmstrom, who are more likely to return for the second week of January (after the Wings’ Tuesday game in Dallas and a Friday-Saturday back-to-back slate against Toronto and Chicago) than the first:
“I don’t think it’s a big problem, but it’s a problem,’’ Babcock said of Helm. “You know how groin is, every time I say there’s no problem it’s 10 days.’‘
Also: I am really sorry about being absent for the past two days. My mother works at a nursing home and it would figure that as she had to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, she brought home the latest and greatest bug going around. The aunt, mom and I are all boogery and feel awful, but I felt that 40 hours was way too long to be absent, so while I wasn’t well enough to do a game preview this morning, I’m gonna push and get back to work now. I will try to post some catch-up stuff in bullet point style in this post. Sh*t happens and given that I’ve been back for a little over a month, I’ll take two days’ worth of down time over anything worse.
Update 0.5: According to the Wings’ website, Brad Meier and Ian Walsh will referee tonight’s game, with Brad Kovachik and Mark Shewchyk working the lines.
Here are some game-day updates from Ansar Khan’s Twitter account…
Wings skating with all rookie line: nyquist-emmerton-andersson
Wings skating with these lines: 93-13-44, 51-40-26, 11-8-20, 14-48-63; 5-18, 55-23, 52-22; 35
Patrick Kane on Lidstrom: “You hope he retires. I’m kind of sick of playing against him. He’s an unbelievable player.’‘
Babcock: “I’m a big believer that’s why Mr. Bettman changed the schedule, so Nick wouldn’t have to travel as far and he’d play longer.’‘
@kingof4string @DetroitRedWings No, [Helm] had 20 stitches in lip previously, that’s fine to play with. He had groin pull in practice Thurs.
@LordUmBongo Babcock was joking. Wishful thinking, hoping Nick comes back. He added, “That’s a rumor I started, go ahead and run with it.’‘
And some more from the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
Wings will be fielding all-rookie fourth line of Andersson-Emmerton-Nyquist against Blackhawks
Babcock on his rookie line: “The league’s been saying we’re too old for a long time. We’re trying to change it up, all in one night.”
Good & funny Kane on Lidstrom: “Hopefully he retires one of these years. I’m sick of playing against him. He hasn’t slowed down at all.”
More Kane on Lidstrom: Called him “top 5, top 3, top 1” to go against, says Lidstrom looks like he has “five, six years left in him.”
Update #1: NHL.com’s Brian Hedger sets up tonight’s game as follows:
Friday night’s game at the United Center (8:30 p.m.) will be the first of six meetings between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, who find themselves at or near the top of the Western Conference standings.
The Wings come to the Windy City off an exciting 3-2 come-from-behind victory against another Central Division rival, the St. Louis Blues, on Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit, however, has just a 9-10-0 record on the road this season and will be facing a team in the Blackhawks that have only dropped one game in regulation at home in the month of December.
That was a tough 2-0 loss at the United Center to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday – a game in which goalies on both teams dominated the highlights. The Hawks’ offense will have to solve another top goalie in Jimmy Howard on Friday night.
The Blackhawks will get gritty forward Daniel Carcillo back from an upper-body injury that kept him out for six games, while rookie center Marcus Kruger will miss a second straight game with an upper-body injury believed to be related to a concussion.
Hawks defenseman Steve Montador missed practices on Tuesday and Thursday, but played against the Kings on Wednesday and hasn’t been ruled out for Friday night’s game against the Wings prior to the morning skate.
The Red Wings will be without two regulars in its lineup, as Tomas Holmstrom and Darren Helm are both sidelined with groin injuries. They will be replaced by rookie center Gustav Nyquist and rookie forward Joakim Andersson—a pair of talented Swedish youngsters.
I get to be pissy about Hedger’s suggestion that the Hawks have eclipsed the Wings, however:
The Hawks have one of the best young core groups of stars in the League. They’ve already claimed the NHL’s ultimate prize. And now, they’ve got their eyes fixated on doing it again. Only this time, they wouldn’t mind going through the Wings.
You see, it’s no longer good enough for the Blackhawks to just match or beat the Red Wings in the regular-season series – something they’ve done three of the past four seasons for a 14-9-3 mark against Detroit. Chicago has simply come too far from the years when Detroit fans would far outnumber Hawks fans at the Madhouse on Madison.
“Ever since I’ve been here, we’ve maybe beat them in the regular season and obviously lost (to them) in the (2009) playoffs, but we’ve never really dominated them or got the chance to say that we’re officially a better team than them,” said 23-year old Patrick Kane, who scored the winning goal in overtime of Game 6 in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final but dreams of ending the Wings’ season someday. “Even though we’ve had some ups against them in the regular season, we’ve never beaten them in the playoffs. So, it’s always fun to keep proving ourselves in games like (Friday).”
The past nine months seem like it’s been even longer for the Hawks and Wings – who’ve usually faced each other once or twice by this point in the season. The last time they met in the regular season, in April, Detroit nearly ended Chicago’s Stanley Cup title defense short of the playoffs on the season’s final day. The Wings also spoiled the Hawks’ home opener last season, when the 2010 Cup banner was raised to the rafters before the game. In between those two wins, Detroit dropped four straight to the Hawks – which was fitting for where this rivalry stands.
The Hawks might be the younger version of the Wings, but the guys with the Winged Wheel on their chests still haven’t lost to Chicago in the postseason for many years. It’s the last remaining hurdle for the Hawks and they’re eager to try clearing it again.
“That’s one way to look at it,” Sharp said. “I look back to the first year we had that playoff run (in 2009). We had such a good run and then we run into Detroit and they knock us out. That’s a bitter taste, not only to lose but to lose against our rival. We were able to win a Cup, but I think playing the Wings in a playoff series would be a lot of fun.”
Until then, games like Friday night’s will have to suffice.
Daniel Carcillo - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Viktor Stalberg - Patrick Kane - Patrick Sharp
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Michael Frolik
Andrew Brunette - Jamal Mayers - Jimmy Hayes
Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Nicklas Hjalmarsson
Sean O’Donnell - Steve Montador
• ESPN Chicago’s Tracey Myers offers a straight-up personnel update:
Corey Crawford will start his fourth consecutive game and Daniel Carcillo will be back in the lineup as the Chicago Blackhawks host the Detroit Red Wings tonight at the United Center.
This is the first time this season the two Central Division foes have met; the Wings have won two in a row and four of their last six, while the Blackhawks have lost just three home games this season.
Steve Montador, who did not practice yesterday, skated this morning and will play tonight.
• Here’s ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers’ morning skate report, duly noting that the Wings and Hawks play six times over the season’s remaining 44-or-so games for each club:
“Every team I’ve been on since I’ve been in the league, you prepared for a tough game against Detroit, regardless of who I was playing for,” defenseman Steve Montador said. “Mix that in with the situation we’re both in now. Both teams are fighting for the division. It’s really exciting.”
“You feed off [Hawks fans] too,” Wings forward Henrik Zetterbeg said. “Doesn’t matter they’re cheering for the other team. You hear the atmosphere and get fired up.”
Zetterbeg and teammate Pavel Datsyuk can give headaches to the best defensemen in the league.
“They’re about as dynamic as individuals you can find on one team,” Montador said.
“I think the Hawks have the most explosive forward group in the league,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “They have the most upside in talent.”
“This is right where we need something,” [Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville] said. “Everything is going to be at stake tonight. It’ll be good measuring for us.”
“We haven’t seen them this year,” Zetterbeg said. “We’re fired up. It’s always fun to play in this arena. You play better the louder the arena is.”
Rogers posted a video interview with Niklas Hjalmarsson as well;
• the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc states the obvious in his morning skate report:
The Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings went through their paces during their respective morning skates Friday at the United Center in preparation for their first meeting of the season.
The teams haven’t faced each other since the final meeting of the 2010-11 regular season and this is the latest they’ve met for the first time in a campaign since the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season when they first faced off Jan. 20. In a full season, this is the latest the Original Six rivals have met since Dec. 30, 1928.
The game is the first of three meetings in the next 16 days and could have a bearing on the Central Division and Western Conference standings. The Hawks lead the Central with 50 points and Detroit is right behind with 47 with a game in hand.
“It’s a good challenge and a good test for us,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said Friday morning. “If you look at big games and you look back on our shcedule, this is right when we need something where everything’s going to be at stake.”
Corey Crawford will start in goal for the Hawks and be opposed by Jimmy Howard.
The Chicago Daily Herald’s Tim Sassone says that Patrick Kane is eager to snap a scoring slump:
Kane has 1 goal in his last nine games and just 2 in the last 18. He had 2 goals in 12 games after he had gone back to playing right wing.
“There’s been a lot of stress on trying to get me going here over the past week or so,” Kane said following Friday’s morning skate. “It’s something I’m worried about, something I’m trying to figure out and maybe get hot for the rest of the season.”
Kane has only 9 goals for the season, well behind team leaders Jonathan Toews (20), Patrick Sharp (19) and Marian Hossa (16).
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville has had Kane for three seasons now and knows what his star forward goes through when he’s not scoring and thinks just getting one somehow would be the best cure.
“I think everybody wants to score, especially top guys,” Quenneville said. “Maybe just getting it on net and second opportunities off that, whether it’s one-timers or the quickness of his release. Getting one should help his confidence in the scoring area.”
Certainly one of Quenneville’s reasons for putting Kane back at center was to get him going again offensively.
“We like that option so let’s go back to it and see how he does,” Quenneville said.
• And the pre-game storylines from Chicago go like this:
1. Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times noted that the Wings and Hawks respect each other;
3. Double ditto, says the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc;
Catchy-uppy part 1: In the prospect department:
A) In Grand Rapids...The Griffins lost 6-5 in overtime to the Lake Erie Monsters on Wednesday. The Griffins’ and Monsters’ websites provide recaps, as [edit: do the Cleveland Plain-Dealer’s Dennis Manoloff and] the Grand Rapids Press‘s Michael Zuidema.
The Griffins posted this, too:
B) At the World Junior Championships:
II. On Thursday, the IIHF’s Andrew Podnieks had to file the obligatory “the CHL is ravaging European junior leagues and ruining the careers of players who should be left at home” (even if their respective countries have no junior hockey programs)! article.
The NHL also posted a handy-dandy NHL-drafted player stat tracker.
Update #3: From the Wings’ press:
[edit: make that Joakim Andersson] becoming the first Wing to wear a number in the 60’s;
As the Free Press’s James Jahnke noted, the Wings officially sent Jan Mursak down to Grand Rapids for a 2-week conditioning stint;
And Drew Miller spoke to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness about the importance of winning the Central Division battles the Wings have on their plate (two down, two to go).
B. On Thursday...MLive’s Ansar Khan spoke to Pavel Datsyuk about his resurgent scoring of late;
• The Detroit Free Press’s Carlos Monarrez and the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan noted that Jimmy Howard has finally evolved into a top-flight NHL goalie, and most of that evolution has to do with what happens between Howard’s ears;
• DetroitRedWings.com’s Zack Crawford profiled University of Michigan defenseman Mike Chiasson, who’s former Wings defenseman Steve Chiasson’s son;
• The Wings announced their third, well, I’ll let Zack Crawford explain it:
This season the Detroit Red Wings and Fifth Third Bank are teaming up for the third year of the S.H.O.T.S. initiative (Students Helping Others Through Service), a program that encourages high school students in Southeast Michigan to volunteer their time and energy to self-generated community service projects.
Since the beginning of October, students who attend schools in the Genesee, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Shiawassee, Washtenaw or Wayne counties have been eligible to register a team of up to six participants, then plan and complete a service project within their community.
The projects are judged on a monthly basis and, as an incentive, each month’s winning team receives a pizza party and tickets to a Red Wings game. In March, a grand prize will be awarded to the best overall project and will include up to six tablet PCs, recognition at Joe Louis Arena during the game on March 24 and a $530 donation to their school on behalf of Fifth Third Bank to support future outreach.
The panel that judges the projects includes Ken Kal, the “Voice of the Red Wings”; Trevor Thompson of Fox Sports Detroit; Pat Kaputo of 97.1 “The Ticket”; Dr. Darrius from 97.9 WJLB and executives from Fifth Third Bank and the Detroit Red Wings.
• DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose took note of the fact that the Wings and Hawks will meet pretty regularly (twice) over the next 10 days;
• Everybody was confused as to why the Wings recalled Gustav Nyquist from the AHL until, as the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness noted, Darren Helm pulled his groin during Thursday’s practice, and won’t play tonight or tomorrow as a result. Wings GM Ken Holland also spoke to MLive’s Ansar Khan about the move.
He and Tomas Holmstrom will be reevaluated on Monday, and MLive’s Ansar Khan reported that Holmstrom’s probably a good two weeks out as he has a small tear, but Chris Conner may return sooner from a broken hand.
Holmstrom also spoke to the Free Press’s Anthony Fenech about his progress;
• And the Kalamazoo Gazette’s David Drew got a scoop of scoops. Most of the time the Wings’ assistant coaches are strictly off limits to the press, but he was able to speak to former Western Michigan University coach and now-Wings assistant coach Jeff Blashill about adjusting to the NHL.
C. This morning...The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan, MLive’s Ansar Khan (twice!), the Free Press’s Anthony Fenech and the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness previewed tonight’s match-up with the Blackhawks through the Wings’ eyes;
• The Free Press reports that Scotty Bowman will receive the Order of Canada;
• And Fox Sports Detroit posted its Christmas edition of “Wingspan” in four parts.
Update #4: Also of Red Wings-related note:
• Paul already posted SI’s Adrian Dater’s suggestion that the Colorado Avalanche should host the Red Wings in a Winter Classic sooner than later, but I’m iffy on the concept of the Wings being a “good soldier” to the NHL and having a hosted Winter Classic date be pushed back for another half decade;
• SI did, however, give Jimmy Howard a compliment in naming him one of the year’s breakout players:
Jimmy Howard Detroit Red Wings: Howard’s climb to stardom has been slow and steady since Detroit took him in the second round of the 2003 NHL Draft. Now in his third full NHL season, and second full campaign as the Red Wings’ No. 1 netminder, the 2010 Calder finalist has gone from solid if unspectacular to an early 2011-12 Vezina Trophy favorite with his 22-8-1, 1.95 GAA, .927 save pct. start.
• He may be gone for a bit, but Tomas Holmstrom fans, this is your wallpaper;
• Very cool, per The 700 Level’s Nick Menta, noting this from the Philadelphia Flyers regarding their alumni game against the Rangers tomorrow:
#Flyers Alumni will honor the late Brad McCrimmon by wearing a No. 10 patch on the shoulder of their jerseys at the Alumni game tomorrow.
The Windsor Star’s Bob Duff says even some players on the Under-17 team playing at the World Under-17 Junior Hockey Challenge were affected by the crash which claimed Lokomotiv Yaroslavl’s players and coaches;
• In happier alumni news, MI NBC News reports that the Saginaw Spirit defeated the Windsor Spitfires 3-1 with one Larry Murphy in attendance to sign autographs;
• Scary news: the Sault Star’s Peter Ruicci reports that Wings prospect Ryan Sproul suffered a broken jaw:
[H]oles on defence can be like craters. They aren’t easily patched, something the Hounds are likely to find out over the next 6-8 weeks. That’s the time frame the second-year rearguard is expected to miss after suffering a fractured jaw, late in Wednesday’s 6-3 win over Sarnia here.
The 18-year-old Sproul was hit in the face by a deflected puck with 3:52 to go in the third period and left the ice immediately. A CT Scan was performed at Sault Area Hospital, where Sproul spent the night.
His parents, Phil and Paulette, just happened to be in attendance at the game. Thursday morning, they drove their son back to the family’s Mississauga home, where he was to see an oral surgeon later that day. Though unavailable for comment, on his Twitter account Thursday morning Sproul said: “Slept in the hospital last night, left at 5 a.m. to drive 7 hours home and go right to surgery.”
Hounds athletic therapist Richard Rotenberg said the fracture was “pretty common” and likely either a plate would be inserted into the jaw, or the jaw would be wired to provide stability. Either way, it’s a terrible break (please pardon the pun) for a kid who was playing some outstanding hockey.
Owner of a booming shot, Sproul is also a wonderful skater who’s improved defensively this season. And he plays a key role on the Hounds power play. A second-round draft choice of the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings this year, Sproul has 10 goals and 16 assists in 37 games. The six-foot-three, 190-pounder is also a team-leading plus-17.
Here’s today’s update on Sproul, per Ruicci:
Hounds defenceman Ryan Sproul, who’s at home in Mississauga, had a plate surgically inserted into his fractured jaw Thursday. The second-year man, who’s expected to miss 6-8 weeks, was injured when hit by a deflected puck late in Wednesday’s contest against Sarnia.
“As far as we know, everything went as smoothly with the surgery as could be hoped for,” Hounds athletic therapist Richard Rotenberg said Friday. “Ryan isn’t able to talk or eat, but he’s resting comfortably.”
Once the pain subsides, Rotenberg said the 18-year-old Sproul would likely be able to move his jaw, allowing him to insert a straw into his mouth. He’ll consume his meals through a straw for roughly the next four weeks. Rotenberg said it’s expected Sproul will lose about 10 pounds during that time.
“But once he can eat regularly and begin working out, he’ll put that weight back on in about a week,” Rotenberg added.
• Also in the junior hockey department, Tomas Jurco told the Calgary Sun’s Scott Fisher that the Slovak WJC team understands that it has to earn its respect;
• If it matters, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford reports that the Blues hold no ill will toward Johan Franzen for injuring Blues defenseman Kris Russell on a clean hip-to-hip hit;
• I don’t know what to make of the Globe and Mail’s Bruce Dowbiggin’s take on Donald Fehr’s presence as it relates to collective bargaining between the NHL and NHLPA;
• I dig the PostMedia News’s Dave Washburn’s lead-off quote for the best sports quips of 2011:
``It’s a hard league, as much parity as I’ve ever seen in the league. I liked it better when we were better than everyone else.’’ - Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock.
• And the Edmonton Journal’s Joanne Ireland spoke to Jiri Fischer about helping coach the Czech WJC team instead of playing hockey:
“I think I’m always going to miss the game—until I’m not able to perform,” Fischer said Wednesday before the Czechs faced Canada. “I’m 31. That’s the Detroit average [age for defenceman]. Miss it all the time. But it has been a little bit easier getting into coaching on top of being in player development. That’s a lot of one-on-one mentoring, coaching, passing on experience and helping players. Obviously here, working with the full squad, is a different challenge.”
Fischer, a first-round pick in 1998, said his health is good, but not good enough for him to return—something he is slowly starting to accept. An imposing defenceman, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound native of Horovice registered 60 points and 295 penalty minutes in 305 career games with the Wings. He has a Stanley Cup from 2002 and a gold medal from the 2005 world championship. But he never at the world junior tournament. In 2000, the year the Czechs won gold, he was a 19-year-old rookie with the Red Wings and head coach Scotty Bowman would not release him to the national team.
“I had played over 50 games that year. There had been talk about whether or not I was going, then Scotty made a decision,” Fischer said. “It worked out.”
The Wings have five players in this tournament—Finnish forward Teemu Pulkkinen, Slovakian forwards Tomas Juro and Marek Tvrdon, Swedish defenceman Mattias Backman and Czech goalie Petr Mrazek—so Fischer is watching all the games with interest.
“Going from playing to the front office, I learned how to view different issues that are going on with players and what worked for me, doesn’t necessarily work for everybody else. Now, thanks to coaching, I understand better why coaches think the way they do in certain situations, and how they manage players in certain situations.”
During the worlds, Fischer is tutoring the defensive concepts both in even strength situations and on special teams.
“I never got to play in the world juniors at this age so I don’t have any experience in this tournament, but I’m sharing as much as I can ... [from] preparation to on-ice things like finding the healthy urgency but not panicking. Guys have to get used to being on the big stage if they want to be successful. I love it.”
Update #5: Okay, let’s see here…
• ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun believes the Rich Winter linking Ales Hemsky to the Wings rumor;
• Nicklas Lidstrom was named Puck Daddy’s fourth-best player of the year…
4. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings: Lidstrom didn’t do anything new in 2011. He simply remained the best defenseman on the planet at the ripe old age of 41, leading the Detroit Red Wings to yet another great season and winning the Norris trophy for the seventh time.
And then he returned for another season, and he looks like he could play a few more. Lidstrom has 23 points through his first 36 games, good for eighth in league scoring among defensemen. We’re all in agreement he’s a robot, right?
• Not surprisingly, the Windsor Star reports that the various teams playing in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge are visiting the Wings’ practices;
• And I’m going to second the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ron Cook’s suggestion that the Penguins are better off without Jaromir Jagr, and, given his massive ego, I think it’s better that Jags didn’t sign with the Wings, either. Given Cook and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Dejean Kovacevic’s tales of Jagr’s egotism and downright childish behavior while dealing with the press and even while scoring a goal and adding an assist in the Flyers’ 4-2 win...
The Wings are way, way, way better off without having to bring Red Bird II along with Red Bird III on every road trip simply to accommodate a 40-year-old’s hubris.
Update #6: One more from NHL.com’s Brian Hedger, who spoke to the Wings and Hawks about the 2009 Winter Classic in retrospect:
“For me, the most special part was the skate the day before—when you got to have your family on the ice,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock, who accompanied his old-school baseball-style jacket that day with a memorable black cowboy hat. “It doesn’t get any better than that. The game was spectacular and Wrigley Field and all of that, but that part was nice.”
The game was, too, with a lot of offense and a little bit of everything for fans of both teams. The year before, it snowed in Buffalo for the inaugural Winter Classic—which gave the game between the Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins a shiny atmosphere that garnered a lot of attention nationally and helped propel the Winter Classic into an annual showcase event. It didn’t snow for the game between the Hawks and Wings, but players from both teams had no complaints about the weather or ice conditions on their day in the Winter Classic spotlight. The whole experience even won over Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who had some concerns coming into the game.
“I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical,” he said. “I thought it was going to be freezing and that it wasn’t going to be that much fun, but as soon as you got out there you just had a blast. Even skating around in practice the day before was awesome. We were so lucky, too, with the weather. It was perfect.”
Back then, there was plenty of pre-game hype for the matchup but HBO’s “24/7” documentary series wasn’t a part of it. HBO didn’t enter the fun until last season’s game in Pittsburgh, earning rave reviews immediately for their behind-the-scenes depictions.
Thinking back on it, Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg joked that it’s probably a good thing HBO wasn’t involved in filming the lead-up to that Winter Classic in the Windy City—mainly because of his own team’s low-key style off the ice. Thus, he’s not sure how appealing “24/7” would be if the Wings wind up in a future Winter Classic game.
“We’ve been talking about it and we’d probably be the most boring team they’ve had on there,” Zetterberg told NHL.com on Friday. “We’ll see what happens.”
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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.