The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/31/12 at 04:28 PM ET
Updated 5x with a few more tidbits at 6:24 PM: The Red Wings won’t take the ice to prepare for tonight’s game against the Calgary Flames (9 PM EST, FSD Plus/Sportsnet West/WXYT’s AM station only) until after I’m out of the office an hour from now, but the Calgary Sun’s Randy Sportak is posting updates from the Flames’ “morning skate”...
#Flames Jarome Iginla first one on the ice for the morning skate. Hits it early with Michael Cammalleri before everyone else.
Iginla and Cammalleri with the game-day routine of passing to each other just inside the circle and firing pucks in the net. One-timers next
Flames lines: Tanguay-Backlund-Iginla; Comeau-Jokinen-Cammalleri; Bouma-Jones-Stempniak; Kostopoulos-Stajan-Jackman
Flames defence: Butler-Bouwmeester; Giordano-Hannan; Brodie-Sarich. Looks like Babchuk the lone healthy scratch. Kiprusoff in goal.
The Calgary Herald’s Scott Cruickshank reports that the Flames are tweaking their power play as well:
#Flames PP unit—Giordano only D, with Iginla, Jokinen, Tanguay, Cammalleri.
Also, from the Flames...
Will you be at the game tonight? If so, come early as the #Flames will honour a lost friend/teammate, Brad McCrimmon ~ http://t.co/0hmb6i9V
#Flames players will wear this jersey during warm-up tonight in honour of Brad McCrimmon ~ bit.ly/xnlCQ2 twitpic.com/8e1mhs
#Flames players will wear this jersey during warm-up tonight in honour of Brad McCrimmon twitpic.com/8e1np9
[edit/update: FSD is reporting that it will air the pre-game ceremony]
As for the Detroit Red Wings’ game-day updates, Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating’s setting the table for tonight’s game…
48 degrees F in Calgary on Jan 30. Crazy. #RedWings-Flames tomorrow night on FSD+.
Former Wolverine, Mike Camelleri, now with Calgary, after trade from MTL. Wings-Flames tonight @ 8:30 on FSD. http://t.co/impZ1IDJ
Flames have distinction. Have beaten Wings 2 of 3. Handed Wings last loss at home- Nov 3. Plenty for which to play in 1st gm after break.
Let’s not tell Keating that we may hit 55 degrees today in Detroit…
In terms of Wings-related news in of the non-Twitter variety, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun picked on Wings fans for “complaining” about the team’s road record in his “rant” answers…
tj703: The Red Wings road play is getting beyond old at this point. Twice now in the last month they have decided when one of the super stars couldn’t play against Eastern Conference bottom feeders that they should all take the night off. It is embarrassing to watch a group of proud pros give no effort whatsoever. We have been spoiled in Detroit for a long time, but for this team to be sub .500 on the road at this point in the season is inexcusable. It is great they want to play hard against the big teams, but two points is two points. The effort in Montreal and Long Island this past month was disappointing. The Cup parade won’t be happening in Detroit unless they can figure out a way to play outside the Joe, they are eventually going to lose a home game and right now that streak is hiding a very average team once the wheels go up on the plane when it leaves Detroit.
My take: Well, I guess beginning the post All-Star break in first place of the Western Conference isn’t good enough for you. Yes, Detroit’s 13-14-0 road record isn’t impressive, but neither is Chicago’s (10-9-2) nor St. Louis (8-10-3), two divisional rivals battling the Wings for the conference lead. I have confidence the Wings will turn that trend around in the second half. I wouldn’t overreact to it. Another important factor to note is that only Calgary (28 games) has played more road games than Detroit’s 27 at this point in the Western Conference, so the Wings will spend a bit more time at home anyway in the stretch run.
And the Flint Journal’s Brendan Savage spoke to the Wings themselves about their road record:
“We know we have to have a lot better road record than we have,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said Monday before boarding the plane to head west. “We have to start playing better. It might help starting off (after the All-Star break) on the road and having a few games. It would have been nice to open up at home but we have a week-long trip coming up here so we might as well do it right away. This is going to be a pretty hectic schedule in the next week or so.”
Is it ever. Tonight’s game is the first of four in seven days in four cities. After playing Calgary, the Red Wings will visit Vancouver on Thursday and Edmonton on Saturday before finishing the trip Monday in Phoenix. The good news is that with the exception of goaltender Jimmy Howard and forward Pavel Datsyuk, who played in Sunday’s All-Star Game in Ottawa, the rest of the players will have had five full days off before facing the Flames.
“We just want to get back to playing games again and take our road game to a new level,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Everyone will be refreshed and ready to go. If we knew what the difference was, it would be a lot easier to fix. It just comes down to hard work and doing it as a five-man unit out there each shift.”
The Red Wings are coming off one of their worst performances of the season, a 7-2 drubbing last Wednesday in Montreal. But prior to that, Detroit had won seven in a row to match its longest winning streak of the season. And they’re still riding a 17-game winning streak at Joe Louis Arena, where they’re 20-2-1 this season. That translates to a tidy .891 winning percentage at home.
“It seems like we definitely play with a lot more urgency at home,” Danny Cleary said. “We play more disciplined. We play faster. We’re a team that’s capable of doing it on the road. We keep talking about it. We have an experienced team. We’ve got good match ups. That’s not an issue. And we’ve got a good goalie. We’ve had at least two or three road games that have been very uncharacteristic for us. Obviously, Montreal was terrible. Our record speaks for itself on the road. We haven’t been good enough. For us to stay at the top we definitely have to get a better road record. Here’s a good chance for us, four games against four teams that are battling, too.”
“One good thing about losing the last game before you go in (to the break), you’ve got lots of time to think about it,” [Wings coach Mike Babcock] said. “Overall, the whole team has to be a better hockey club on the road. You can’t hide from that.”
As for other items of Red Wings-related note: Via RedWingsFeed, Michigan Hockey’s Michael Caples points us toward several Twitter updates from the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff regarding the Winter Classic (which will be formally announced as a Wings-Leafs game at Michigan Stadium, to be preceded by extensive use of Comerica Park as a secondary facility, in late 2012 and early 2013 sometime next week):
#AHL source says that a Grand Rapids Griffins vs. Toronto Marlies outdoor game at Comerica Park will be part of next year’s Winter Classic.
#OHL doubleheader and #NCAA GLI tourney also slated for CoPa as part of festivities. All will be made official at press conf. next week.
Michigan high school games at CoPa as well. Figures to be a 2-week long festival in Hockeytown. #2013WinterClassic
That counts as a whole olive tree instead of an olive branch to the Ilitches, which is more than fair.
In the prospect department, Grand Rapids Griffins forward Gustav Nyquist registered an assist during the AHL All-Star Game on Monday night, and he spoke to Peter J. Wallner about the experience…
“There was a lot of skill out there.” Nyquist said. “We picked up the pace after the first period and it turned out to be a pretty fun game.”
Nyquist, Detroit’s third choice in the 2008 draft, has 12 goals and 28 assists in 39 games with the Griffins this season. He also appeared in five games with the Red Wings from late December into early January. He was the Griffins’ lone representative at the game.
“I’m not going to put a grade on how I did or anything, but it was a fun time,” Nyquist said, who had about four or five shifts each period. “It was great to play with these guys.”
The Griffins return to practice Thursday in preparation for the second half, which starts with a five-game homestand 7 p.m. Friday against Hamilton.
And RedWingsCentral’s Matthew Wuest spoke to Wings super-scout Hakan Andersson regarding the progress made by a dark horse prospect in HV71 Jonkoping defenseman Adam Almqvist, who Wuest reports is somewhat buried down a very deep HV71 defense’s depth chart…
“They have two real high-profile defensemen on that team who they pay a lot more money to, so Adam, somehow, doesn’t get to step forward and do the stuff we feel he can do,” said Red Wings director of European scouting Hakan Andersson. “He’s taken a back seat on the power play, and I think he can be a go-to guy on the power play.”
The Red Wings drafted the 5-foot-10, 174-pound blueliner in the seventh round, 210th overall, in 2009 in the hopes he would one day emerge as a Brian Rafalski or a Tobias Enstrom. Tremendous hockey sense, vision and playmaking are known as his best assets. After a phenomenal J-20 SuperElit career — 70 points in just 56 games over his final two seasons — he cracked the SEL midway through 2009-10 and has steadily developed since.
While he hasn’t blossomed offensively — aside from leading all SEL defensemen in playoff scoring in 2010 en route to a championship — he has made great strides defensively. He has a career plus-46 in his 119 SEL games, including a league-leading plus-20 last season.
“That tells you, even though he’s not big, he plays a good defensive game in terms of thinking and using his stick,” Andersson said.
Andersson said Red Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer recently saw Almqvist play and that the former NHLer feels (Almqvist) has “some of the best hockey sense in the whole organization.”
If the situation with HV-71 doesn’t change in the off-season, a move to the American Hockey League with the Grand Rapids Griffins for 2012-13 might be beneficial for Almqvist.
“Just for the fact that he needs to be challenged more,” Andersson said. “If you put him in Grand Rapids, and say this is our power-play man, you can find out what he can do.”
Wuest also reports that Andersson likes what he saw from Tomas Jurco (more consistent), Marek Tvrdon (getting there) and Teemu Pulkkinen (“poor man’s Brett Hull”) at the World Juniors…
If you feel like waxing nostalgic, MLive’s Josh Slaghter suggests that the Wings made three of the best trades in Detroit sports history...
9. Larry Murphy, Detroit Red Wings: In 1997, Detroit acquired Murphy from Toronto for future considerations. Having won Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992, Murphy helped the Red Wings win two in 1997 and 1998. Murphy had 11 playoff points in that first Cup run with Detroit and then 11 goals and 52 points the next season while being paired with a young Nicklas Lidstrom. Murphy was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004 and is the fifth leading scorer all time among defenseman (1,216 points).
6. Chris Chelios, Detroit Red Wings: Detroit traded for the 37-year-old Chelios in 1999 by sending Anders Eriksson and two first-round draft picks to Chicago. Chelios played in Detroit for nine more seasons and helped the Red Wings win two Stanley Cups. Chelios retired after 26 seasons in the NHL as a three-time Norris Trophy winner and holding the record for most postseaon games played (266). He also represented the United States four times in the Winter Olympics.
1. Brendan Shanahan, Detroit Red Wings: Two games into the 1996-97 season, Shanahan was traded to Detroit with Brian Glynn by Hartford for forward Keith Primeau, defenseman Paul Coffey and a first-round draft pick. Shanahan had 87 points in his first season with the Red Wings and helped Detroit capture its first Stanley Cup since 1955. The Red Wings repeated as champions in 1998 and also won another Cup with Shanahan in 2002. In nine seasons in Detroit, Shanahan played in five NHL All-Star games, had 309 goals and scored 30 or more goals seven times. Shanahan finished with 656 career goals. (And who could forget him in “Me, Myself & Irene”? OK, everybody.)
Regarding the All-Star Game, CBS Detroit posted a very spiffy gallery of Pavel Datsyuk and Jimmy Howard taking part in the event, via RedWingsFeed, Dmitry Chesnokov posted a picture of Datsyuk and Evgeni Malkin hamming it up in the locker room, and per a request from Bugsy, here’s a column from the CBC’s Tim Wharnsby which includes some seriously gushy player comments regarding one Pavel Datsyuk:
“He’s a great competitor and a guy who always plays hard,” Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla said. “He’s extremely skilled. He’s not dirty, yet he’s a fierce competitor. He’s one of the hardest guys to knock off the puck or knock off his skates. You wouldn’t know it when you see him in the dressing room. But he’s strong, and with all that skill, that combination makes him one of the best players.”
Another attribute his fellow all-stars admire is Datsyuk’s ability to steal the puck and his eye-hand coordination to knock down passes. When current Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa, also considered one of the game’s best two-way players, was a teammate of Datsyuk’s in Detroit, the two would often play a must-see game of keep away against one another.
“He’s just one of those players who is special, especially he is sick defensively,” Hossa said. “I think he’s the best in the world at stealing the puck. To watch him is fun. Sometimes when you have the puck and he steals it from you, you just have to laugh because of how easy he made it look.”
The 33-year-old Datsyuk is a four-time Lady Byng Trophy winner, three-time Selke Trophy recipient and a two-time Stanley Cup champion. But he still remains hungry. His Red Wings sit first overall in the standings and he entered the all-star break third in the NHL scoring race.
“Am I playing some of my best hockey? I hope not,” Datsyuk said. “I think I’m playing somewhere in the middle. I hope to have more energy in my game. I have another level as I get older and get more experience. I can be better and I will.”
Iginla remarked that one of the reasons Datsyuk is so popular among the other players around the league is because he is so humble. His modest ways stem from his early days playing in Russia. Datsyuk was considered too light at 145 pounds, but he caught the eye of Red Wings scout Hakan Andersson, who was watching defenceman Dmitri Kalinin in a game in Russia. The Buffalo Sabres wound up taking Kalinin with the 18th overall selection in the 1998 NHL entry draft. The Red Wings waited until the sixth round (171st overall) to grab Datysuk. He made an immediate impact for the Red Wings and won a Stanley Cup in his first NHL season in 2001-02. A decade later, Datysuk still has the fire to be among the game’s elite.
“When you win one Cup or any awards you get so hungry you want to win every year,” he said. “But when you miss a year not winning you get more hungry. You want to do better. You think it’s yours and you try to get it back again.”
Damn straight, Pavel.
I very regrettably have to scoot to an appointment, but I’ll be back sometime between 3 and 4 to update this post with game-day news from the Wings’ press corps.
Update: Not super news from the Wings’ skate from the Free Press’s Helene St. James Jimmy Howard’s starting, but Tomas Holmstrom is out with a “lower-body injury”:
“I’m looking forward to getting back at it,” goalie Jimmy Howard said. “We’re coming upon the home stretch here, and we’ve got to find a way to fix our game on the road. We’ve been very dominant at home, but to be able to go far in the playoffs, we’ve got to a lot better on the road. The last 32 games here, there’s a big emphasis on playing a lot better on the road—keep it a little bit more tight-checking out there, not as loose as we have been playing.”
The Wings will have to make do tonight without power-play specialist Tomas Holmstrom, who is nursing a pair of swollen knees following Sunvisc injections Thursday to alleviate pain. Holmstrom was able to skate this morning—he stayed out for a good hour—and said he should be ready to play Thursday, when the Wings take on the Vancouver Canucks.With Holmstrom out, both Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton are in. The expected lines are:
On defense, it’s another opportunity for Mike Commodore to stake a claim on the sixth spot. He’s in, and Jakub Kindl is out. Jimmy Howard is in goal. The Flames sit in the 11th spot in the Western Conference, just three points out of the playoff picture—much the same spot the Habs were in when they humbled the NHL-leading Wings.
“We’ve got to get started again,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Any way you look at it, any momentum you had is now gone. There’s a whole bunch of teams battling, and I always find the teams that are in the clump right outside the playoffs are the toughest now down the stretch.We’ve just got to play well. We haven’t been as good a team as we want to be down the road—we’ve given up too many goals, and we don’t start on time on a regular basis. So we’ve got to fix that. We understand it. I’ve talked about it, and now we’ve got to do something about it.”
The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan confirms that Holmstrom’s out because he’s received a mid-season reinforcement for the synthetic gel designed to lubricate his knees…
Tomas Holmstrom will sit out Tuesday night’s game against the Calgary Flames with sore knees. Holmstrom had an injection Thursday on both knees and it left them sore for the weekend. He was unable to skate Monday night after the Red Wings landed in Calgary and took part in a practice but was on the ice for Tuesday’s morning skate. He’s hopeful of playing Thursday in Vancouver.
“It’s a big difference from yesterday to today,” Holmstrom said. “It blows up (after getting the shots), but it settles down. It (pain in the knees) started to bother me before the break. This was the only window (in the schedule), we had four or five days off (during the break).”
Forwards Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton are both in the Wings lineup — they have been alternating — with Holmstrom unavailable.
Coach Mike Babcock said Jimmy Howard will start in net, and Mike Commodore will be on defense (with Jakub Kindl sitting).
As does MLive’s Ansar Khan:
Holmstrom said he hopes to play Thursday in Vancouver. He wasn’t able to skate Monday evening with the team in Calgary, in its first practice following the All-Star break, but skated hard today.
“I did injections on Thursday, it takes a while to settle in,’’ Holmstrom said. “I got this bad reaction, my knee blows up.’‘
Holmstrom had the Synvisc injections before training camp, too. He said they’re good for 5-6 months. The All-Star break was a good time to get the next injections, he said, because it takes 5-6 days to recover.
“I started feeling pain in my knee (last couple of weeks) and I know it’s going to get worse and worse, I need to shoot it in,’’ Holmstrom said. “I’ve had that reaction last three times, it just blows up on me. But it settles down after 5-6 days. If it was a playoff game (tonight) I could play.’‘
Holmstrom’s absence will be felt on the power play, which has struggled the past 19 games (6 for 54, 11 percent). Seven of Holmstrom’s eight goals have come on the power play.
Jan Mursak will replace Holmstrom in the lineup. He has appeared in only two games since returning on Jan. 12 from a broken ankle.
Update #2: From the Flames’ perspective….
Here’s CalgaryFlames.com’s Torrie Petersen’s game-day report (FYI: If Miikka Kiprusoff wins tonight, he’ll tie Mike Vernon as Calgary’s most-winning netminder):
Tonight marks the final meeting between the Flames and the Red Wings this year. Calgary holds a 2-1 edge in the season series and if they want to close it out with a victory, they know they have to play extremely well in their own end.
“We have to play good defence,” Olli Jokinen said. “If you look at their lineup, they’re probably the best team in the League right now. They have a lot of skill out there.”
Head coach Brent Sutter credits his club’s intelligent play against Detroit for their success and noted they will have to stick within the system if they want to end the year with three wins against the Wings.
“You’ve got to have your game at a high level when you play them. Obviously they have got a lot of very good hockey players on their team and when you play them, you’ve got to play a real good, strong disciplined game. A real strong team game.”
The Flames enter tonight’s contest just three points out of a playoff spot and play a ton of home games over the next couple of months. They have gone 8-2-0 in their last 10 outings at the Scotiabank Saddledome and their prowess on home ice can go a long way when it comes to climbing back into the postseason picture.
“We can’t look too far ahead,” Jokinen acknowledged. “We’ve just got to focus on tonight and try to get two points. We have a lot of home games coming up. We’re pretty comfortable and confident at home. We’ve just got to find a way to get two points. Every game is like a playoff game for us right now.”
Jokinen reiterated his points of emphasis to the Calgary Herald’s Scott Cruickshank...
“We have to play good defence,” said Jokinen, whose club faces the visiting Detroit Red Wings at 7 p.m. “If you look at their lineup, they’re probably the best team in the league right now. They have a lot of skill out there. We have to have the mindset of winning the hockey game 1-0 . . . how crazy that sounds against a team like Detroit. Everyone talks about scoring — how we don’t score enough. But it all starts . . . we’ve got to be really good, really sharp, in our end. It could be a similar game to San Jose (last week’s 1-0 loss on home ice). It’s a crucial time right now. We have to be willing to win the games 1-0, 2-1. It’s going to be low-scoring games.”
Believe it or not, the Flames have beaten the high-flying Wings in two of three games this season.
“It’s fun,” said LW Alex Tanguay. “You look at their lineup — they certainly have scoring on their first two lines, they have depth, their goaltending has been outstanding since the start of the year. And their defence . . . any defence that has Nicklas Lidstrom is usually very good. It’s certainly going to be very interesting for us. We’re looking forward to the challenge. We’re going to work extremely hard.”
Pre-game tonight, there will be a tribute to the late Brad McCrimmon. On the Flames helmets are commemorative stickers — 4 Brad.
“I know Brad very well,” said coach Brent Sutter. “It’s a great tribute we’re doing here tonight. It’s a great thing. He’s obviously missed a lot. Brad was a man who was always willing to help. He was always a guy that was concerned . . . wanting to know how everybody was, how everyone was doing. He always kept humour . . . he was an exciting guy. Obviously, it’s a sad loss.”
And the Calgary Sun’s Randy Sportak spoke to Jarome Iginla about getting back to work:
After his hiatus for the NHL all-star break, Flames captain Jarome Iginla was the first player to hit the ice for the morning skate.
Iginla and Michael Cammalleri renewed a tradition we saw plenty of during Cammalleri’s first stint in Calgary. They’d hit the ice some 15 minutes before everybody else, sit up a bucket of pucks just inside the top of each circle and feed each other passes. In turn, both players would fire pucks into the empty net. Hey, it worked back in 2008-09 when Cammalleri netted 39 goals and Iginla potted 35 and added 54 assists.
“I’m excited to get back and get going. It’s a nice break to get going for the stretch drive,” Iginla said.
It’s certainly no easy start out of the break for the Flames, facing the league-leading Red Wings tonight and then the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday. However, the Flames have won two of three against the Wings already this season and have a chance to win a season series with Detroit for the first time in a decade.
“Part of our success has been being able to be physical and disciplined,” Iginla said. “I think the gap from the top teams to the middle of the pack has definitely become a lot tighter. We believe as good as they are, we can beat them.”
Regarding the McCrimmon ceremony, the Flames’ Twitter account posted a picture of the stickers the Flames will wear on their helmets tonight, and the Free Press’s Helene St. James reports that the Wings made sure to include McCrimmon’s family in the event by flying them out to Calgary:
The Flames will pay tribute to former Wings assistant coach Brad McCrimmon before tonight’s game. McCrimmon was a key part of the Flames’ 1989 run to the Stanley Cup. He died in a plane crash Sept. 7, 2011, in Russia. Few around the NHL didn’t feel the loss. “He was really good with the young guys,” Flames captain Jarome Iginla said. “He was ahead of his time in the importance of being in shape, or at least he was pushing us to get better when we were younger.”
McCrimmon’s son, Liam, was out with the Wings during their morning skate. His wife and their daughter will be at tonight’s game, as well as McCrimmon’s parents and brother. “Beast was a huge part of the Stanley Cup win here in Calgary,” Babcock said. “He was a player well-known out west forever and was a real good coach, built relationships. ... That’s how we think of him, as a man who it is unfortunate wasn’t around to see his kids grow up.”
In the multimedia department, Sportsnet’s Roger Millions filed a game-day preview which only works in Canada, and the Flames’ website posted two game-day clips/previews, a clip of the Flames’ players’ comments….
Flames coach Brent Sutter’s comments…
Wings player comments…
Update #3: Also of Wings-related note this afternoon:
• Per the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
Howard said he got cool autographed stuff for 3-month-old son at ASG. Won’t give it to him yet “because he’ll just put it in his mouth.”
• DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose spoke to Howard about his All-Star experiences as well:
Jimmy Howard had quite the jam-packed, event-filled weekend at the NHL’s All-Star game in Ottawa. First, the Red Wings’ goaltender had the privilege of being at his first All-Star extravaganza with his wife, Rachel, and three-month-old son, James Russell IV by his side for all of the hoopla. Then from Thursday’s player draft to Saturday’s skills competition, where he was paired against Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick in the fastest-skating goalies category and beyond, Howard had a blast.
“I almost went down on that first turn and I said, ‘forget about this,’ ” said Howard, who wore a helmet-cam to capture the on-ice action. “I didn’t want to be the guy to take out those tires.”
And after winning a spirited game of rock, paper, scissors against Montreal goalie Carey Price to determine the Team Chara starter for Sunday’s marquee game, Howard enjoyed his one-period of work, even stopping the league’s leading goal-scorer on a penalty shot.
“It’s par for the course, I mean, why not?” said Howard of stopping Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos.
And yes, why not? After all, Howard has already faced three penalty shots this season – four if you include Sunday’s. And he even faced one in his NHL debut against the Kings’ Joe Corvo on Nov. 28, 2005.
“The first NHL game, the first All-Star game,” he said with a laugh. “That seems that they’ve always happened.”
• NHL.com’s Aaron Vickers filed a Wings game-day post on NHL.com’s “At the Rink” blog…
“We have to get started again,” Babcock said, whose Red Wings have a league-best 67 points heading into tonight’s action with the Calgary Flames. “Any way you look at it, any momentum you had is now gone. There’s a bunch of teams battling. The teams that are in the clump right outside the playoffs are the toughest down the stretch.”
That doesn’t mean Babcock has a slough of adjustments he wants his team to make.
“Not a whole bunch of (changes),” Babcock said. “Obviously you’re always trying to make your team better. In saying that, there’s no question about it we have to be a better team. There’s lots of improvement for this group, we understand that, now let’s play the games.”
If there’s any question his team feels the same way, veteran Todd Bertuzzi said the message came through loud and clear.
“It’s tight in the West, every point is important,” Bertuzzi said. “I don’t think we have time to feel out. I think we’re pretty much ready.”
• In the trade department, piling on Ken Holland’s comments to the Globe and Mail’s Alan Maki, ESPN’s Craig Custance mentioned that Teemu Selanne might still want out of Anaheim if the Ducks can’t rally, and he suggested that the Wings are watching the Montreal Canadiens in his Insider blog...
The Canadiens won two consecutive games heading into the break and currently sit eight points out of the final playoff spot. Pierre LeBrun reported that GM Pierre Gauthier isn’t quite ready to deal yet, but if he does Travis Moen will be a player who draws interest. According to LeBrun, the Canucks and Red Wings are among those watching Moen closely. Like Tampa, Montreal has a home-heavy schedule coming out of the break, starting with the Buffalo Sabres at home Tuesday.
Other potential unrestricted free agents who could be shopped once Gauthier is ready include Hal Gill, Chris Campoli and Andrei Kostitsyn.
And during a chat, Custance offered the following...
R.D. (Parts unknown): What route do you think the Wings go at the Deadline? Big (Parise), Medium (Ruutu, Hemsky) or small (Moen)?
Craig Custance: Put me down for one medium and one small.
• If it makes you feel any better, ESPN’s Barry Melrose had this to say about the Wings...
John Skinner (Michigan): Hey Barry, what are the Wings chances in the west do you think?
Barry Melrose: If they can continue to play the way they are, they’re as good as anybody. Howard is superb. Datsyuk is as good as anyone in the NHL. They’ve gotten a lot of use out of their 3-4 lines. They’re as good as any in the NHL.
• In the prospect department, I think Hockey’s Future’s Brandon Peleshok is a little harsh in deeming the Wings’ 2007 draft haul a “bust” because only Brendan Smith and Joakim Andersson appear to have NHL futures given that the wings only had 5 picks—and especially given that the Wings hope that every NHL draft will net them one or two NHL’ers out of their 7 picks:
Brendan Smith, D, St. Michael’s Buzzers (OPJHL) - 1st round, 27th overall
NHL Games Played: 3
Electing to go the college route, Brendan Smith’s freshman year at Wisconsin started off very well, as he played at a near point-per-game pace before being sidelined with a back injury. While he returned late in the year, he could not find his early season form. The 2008-09 season did not fare much better for Smith, as off-ice incidents and a wrist injury affected his play. He wound up scoring 23 points through 31 games, but would not show his true potential until his next season. Smith blew up during his junior year, scoring 15 goals and 37 assists for 52 points through 42 games. That was good enough to lead all NCAA defensemen and earn him a spot as a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker award.
Passing on a fourth year of college hockey, Smith made the jump to the AHL in the 2010-11 season. It was a rather successful campaign, as he was able to put up 32 points through 63 games with the Griffins. He was impressive enough to be named to the AHL’s all-rookie team, and would have played in the All-Star game if not for a shoulder injury he sustained.
This season he started the season off with a five game suspension for a hit he threw during a pre-season game against the Chicago Blackhawks. After putting the incident past him, Smith was able to refocus and get back to playing his game. He currently leads all Griffins defenders with 23 points through 37 games, often playing alongside AHL veteran Doug Janik.
During a three game call-up with the Red Wings, Smith looked comfortable and not out of place in the slightest. He put up two assists playing next to Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall, while playing a simple and error-free game. Smith could become a regular on Detroit’s blue line as soon as next season, projecting as a top four defender for the team sometime in the future.
Joakim Andersson, C, Frolunda HC (SEL) - 3rd round, 88th overall
NHL Games Played: 4
During his four seasons in Sweden, Joakim Andersson’s offensive numbers never really jumped off the page. He was often loaned to teams in lower-tier leagues, where he was able to find some offensive success there. What likely kept the Red Wings hopeful was his play during WJC tournaments. In his last two years playing in the U-20, Andersson had two goals and 10 assists for 12 points in 12 games. He finished out his career in the SEL with Frolunda, scoring just 18 points through 55 games.
Making the jump over to the AHL has been a mostly positive move for Andersson. The 2010-11 season, his rookie campaign, was a bit of an adjustment period for him. While he only amassed 22 points through 79 games with the team, he also showed that he could be counted on in high-pressure defensive situations.
Currently, Andersson has brought his game to the next level. In addition to being the team’s best defensive player and top penalty killer, he has found his scoring touch on a line with Gustav Nyquist. In just 40 games with Grand Rapids he has already surpassed his previous point total (25) and received a four game call-up from the Red Wings. All signs lead to Andersson shoring up Detroit’s center depth in the near future, possibly competing for a roster spot as soon as next season.
• In the prospect department, more directly: here’s the Grand Rapids Griffins’ weekly press release:
This Week’s Games: Fri., Feb. 3 - Hamilton Bulldogs at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Sat., Feb. 4 - Hamilton Bulldogs at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
No Room for Error: The Griffins begin the week sitting in third place in the North Division, just two behind second-place Rochester. The division continues to be very tightly contested, with no one team breaking away from the pack. Since the Griffins jumped from fourth place into a second-place tie with a 5-4 shootout victory over Rockford on Dec. 14, they have not held the same position within their division for more than two consecutive games. Prior to that streak, they were in fourth place for 10 straight games and were no higher than fourth for 16 in a row. Toronto continues to hold the North Division lead with 51 points, trailed by Rochester at 46. With a game in hand, Grand Rapids (44 points) is in a position to catch Rochester and distance itself from Hamilton and Lake Erie, who are tied for fourth place with 43 points, with a two-game home set against the Bulldogs this Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.
North Division Showdown: This week, the Griffins will host the first and second of three games against the Hamilton Bulldogs in the month of February. Grand Rapids has been successful within its own division this season, with a 10-3-1-1 record, including a 3-0 record against the Bulldogs. Hamilton was shut out by the Griffins in the teams’ first two meetings this season, being outscored 11-0 in the process. The Griffins have won five straight and seven of the past eight contests against their North Division rivals, after beating the Bulldogs 5-2 in the most recent matchup between the teams on Nov. 23.
Welcome to the Jumble: Having earned points in four of their last five games (3-1-0-1), the Griffins have climbed back into the Western Conference playoff race, where no team is more than four points out of a playoff spot. Grand Rapids is three points back of eighth-place Peoria, which has played three more games. The Griffins are right in the middle of the race for the eighth spot, trailing three teams (Milwaukee, Rochester and Rockford) while holding a one-point advantage over three others (Texas, Hamilton and Lake Erie).
Promotions: Fans who attend Friday’s game versus Hamilton can enjoy ‘80s Night, reliving the decade with music, dress, contests and videos. The game also features dollar beers and hot dogs from 6-8 p.m., while supplies last, and free transportation on the Rapid to and from the game by showing your ticket. In celebration of Hockey Day in West Michigan on Saturday, over 300 kids and 44 teams will play nearly 140 games at Van Andel Arena from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. during the Griffins’ fifth annual Cross-Ice Jamboree. Thanks to Lake Michigan Credit Union, 2,500 fans will receive a bobblehead of former Griffins defenseman Niklas Kronwall, the first Griffins alumnus to serve as an alternate captain for the Red Wings. The fun continues after the game, with a J&H Family Stores Post-Game Open Skate, the first this season where fans will be joined by select Griffins players. Several players will also be signing autographs from the bench in a Huntington Bank Post-Game Autograph Session.
• And in promotional news, 97.1 The Ticket will be hosting “Sports Fest” at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi, MI on February 18th, and Chris Osgood, Ted Lindsay and Dino Ciccarelli will represent the Wings.
Update #4: Of course the Chicago Blackhawks’ press corps is still blaming Jiri Hudler for breaking Patrick Sharp’s wrist. Sharp will play through the injury;
• In other marginally Wings-related news, the Calgary Sun’s Randy Sportak reports that tonight marks the 1-year anniversary of the Flames’ trading of Dion Phaneuf to Toronto (thanks for Ian White, Calgary/Carolina/San Jose);
• And quote from CBS Detroit:
RW Jiri Hudler scored both of Detroit’s goals, in the third period, after his team had fallen behind 6-0, in a 7-2 loss at Montreal. Hudler has 15 goals, tying him with Valtteri Filppula for second on the team, behind Johan Franzen’s 19. It has been a big bounce-back season for the more determined Hudler, who scored only 10 goals in 2010-11.
Yes, folks, if Hudler continues to play consistently, has a solid playoff run and is willing to stay for a reasonable wage, the Wings will keep him;
• Shifting gears, here’s ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun’s take on tonight’s game...
Of course, once the puck drops, this is a big game for the Flames, who begin the stretch run three points out of a playoff spot in a race with Minnesota, Colorado, Dallas and Phoenix all vying for that eighth and final spot in the Western Conference. The Flames have played the most road games (28) of any team in the West, so a friendlier schedule over the final two and a half months should help their chances.
• No, HabsAddict.com’s Brian Willey, Jim Nill will not become the Montreal Canadiens’ next GM;
• The Detroit News posted a bit more about the Detroit Firefighters versus Police game which Darren McCarty took part in;
• And if you find yourself in Kamloops, British Columbia tomorrow, per the Kamloops News:
Gordie Howe, Mr. Hockey himself, and the Grey Cup will be at Interior Savings Centre on Wednesday as the Kamloops Blazers play host to the Spokane Chiefs.
According to a news release from the Blazers, “A select number of fans will have the opportunity to meet Gordie and have their photo taken with the hockey legend. Also, a select number of season-ticket holders will have the chance to spend the game in the Blazers suite with Gordie.”
For an opportunity to meet Howe, go to blazerhockey.com, click on the Schedule tab and then on Meet Gordie Howe. Winners will be announced during the first intermission.
Howe also will take part in a ceremonial faceoff.
Geroy Simon, Angus Reid and J.R. Larose of the Grey Cup-champion B.C. Lions, who hold their training camp in Kamloops, are scheduled to be in attendance. They also are to have the Grey Cup at the Tournament Capital Centre on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
Update #5: Here’s DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose’s article about Holmstrom:
Last Thursday, Holmstrom received a injection in each knee made from a natural substance that lubricate and cushion knee joints. The medicine should provide up to six months of osteoarthritis pain relief, but a side-effect has him sidelined.
“It takes a while to settle in,” said Holmstrom, referring to the injected medication. “I got this bad reaction, my knee blows up. Yesterday I couldn’t skate and today I could skate.”
Despite his long history of having bad knees, Holmstrom has been an absolute workhorse for the Wings this season, solidifying the club’s fourth line while scoring eight goals with 10 assists in 43 games. He missed five games with a groin injury that he suffered at Nashville on Dec. 27. Other than that, Holmstrom has logged more than 12-minutes of ice-time per game, including 3:10 of power play ice-time, which is just second on the team to Nicklas Lidstrom.
Holmstrom is also just five games away from perhaps becoming known as the poster boy for playing in 1,000 of the toughest career games in league history. After all, there aren’t many players who have lasted as long in this league and absorbed as much physical abuse that he has taken over the course of his career as a net-front presence. On occasion, Holmstrom has had to combat the physical toll through an injected painkiller called Synvisc-One. He also had the injections prior to training camp last September. But the side-effects are something the Wings’ forward has gotten used to.
“I’ve had that reaction last three times, it just blows up on me. But it settles down after 5-6 days,” he said. “I started feeling pain in my knee and I know it’s going to get worse and worse, I need to shoot it in.”
Holmstrom said that the knees began bothering him a few weeks ago, and that the All-Star break provided the only window of opportunity to undergo the procedure. And while it was nice to get away with the family in beautiful northern Michigan for a few days, dealing with the agonizing pain was miserable.
“Couldn’t do much,” Holmstrom said. “Did the injections Thursday, it blows up on me Thursday night, Friday is bad, Saturday started turning around a bit.”
• Sportsnet posted a slate of power rankings from Luke Fox…
2. Detroit Red Wings [last week] 1: While Detroit is virtually unbeatable at home (20-2-1), the Wings’ most gifted player, Pavel Datsyuk, told us on Sunday that the team doesn’t think too much about its Joe Louis dominance. “We need to start winning on the road,” he pointed out. Big D leads the NHL in points (67), but actually has a losing road record after its 7-2 debacle in Montreal on Wednesday.
• If it matters, Pro Hockey Talk’s Jason Brough reports that poitential Wings trade candidate Travis Moen is banged-up;
• And I’m not allowed to comment on this note from NHL.com’s Tal Pinchevsky:
Heading into the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin enjoyed a three-point cushion atop the list of NHL scoring leaders. So it’s hardly surprising that his was one of the first names mentioned when players competing in the big game and rookies selected to take part in the Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Skills Competition were asked to choose a first-half MVP in an anonymous poll conducted by NHL.com.
Of 38 players polled, an impressive 23 selected Malkin as the League’s top player thus far this season. With 60 percent of players polled choosing Malkin, Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux came in a distant second with seven votes. New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk received three and two votes respectively. Daniel Alfredsson, Jonathan Toews, and Marian Hossa each earned a single vote.
When it came to choosing the NHL’s most underrated player, there was far less consensus among the League’s All-Star participants. Philadelphia defenseman Kimmo Timonen narrowly edged the field with four votes, while Dallas forward Loui Eriksson and Vancouver winger Jannik Hansen earned three votes each. Another Flyer, forward Scott Hartnell, got two votes while 17 different players, including Patrice Bergeron, Mikko Koivu, Dan Girardi, and Datsyuk, earned a single vote. The question itself proved so difficult for All-Star participants that nine different players chose not to answer.
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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.