The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/10/11 at 10:19 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings face off against the Winnipeg Jets tonight (7 PM EST, FSD with a miked-up Tomas Holmstrom/WXYT/CBC*) harboring no illusions as to the fact that tonight’s opponent may bear a team name that gives people like me and Darren Helm some warm fuzzies, but in terms of substance, this bears no resemblance to the last Jets team that visited Joe Louis Arena way back in 1996.
The Jets 2.0 have won four straight games, including a 4-2 Friday night win over the Hurricanes which marked the returns of Nikolai Antropov and Randy Jones to their lineup, and the Jets’ 7-2-and-1 record over the last ten games certainly gave Wings coach Mike Babcock pause while recounting Detroit’s last meeting with the real-life Jets—via a 5-2 loss to the then-Thrashers—to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
“They beat us like a rented mule,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “(We) should be careful. There are a lot of Jets players who’ve done very well and have played very hard.”
The Wings will become familiar with the new Jets in a hurry next season as the teams will play either five or six games against each other in the new “Central Conference,” but they represent something of an unknown to both the Wings and their fans, so let’s get the skinny on their win over Carolina, via WinnipegJets.com’s Kristi Hennessey...
Blake Wheeler tallied three assists tonight to help lead the Winnipeg Jets to their fourth consecutive victory on home ice against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Evander Kane and Dustin Byfuglien each recorded a goal and an assist and Jets goaltender Chris Mason stopped 23 of 25 shots on net to pick up his third win of the year. All three of those wins have come against the Hurricanes.
The Jets next head to Detroit for a date against the Red Wings on Saturday night as they look to keep their winning streak alive.
The Winnipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe...
The Jets got goals from Dustin Byfuglien and Evander Kane before the game was six minutes old and added two more in a span of 72 second during the second period to earn a 4-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night before a crwod of 15,004 at MTS Centre.
The Jets have now won four consecutive games for the first time this season and improved to 13-11-4 overall, leaving them one point behind the eighth-place Washington Capitals. The Jets are back in action Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings (6:05 p.m., CBC, TSN 1290).
Byfuglien banked his shot from behind the goal-line off the right leg of Cam Ward just 34 seconds into the contest for his sixth of the season, while Kane snuck a seeing-eye shot from the left-wing boards through a screen from Bryan Little for his team-leading 15th of the campaign.
Tim Stapleton rifled home a shot during a 4-on-3 power play at 10:16 of the second and Little added his ninth of the season at 11:28 to chase Ward from the game after facing 30 shots.
Justin Faulk and Brandon Sutter scored for the Hurricanes, who fell to 1-5 under new head coach Kirk Muller.
Jets winger Blake Wheeler has three assists to give him two goals and 18 points in 28 games this season. Chris Mason, making his fourth of the season, earned his third victory over the Hurricanes by making 23 saves.
And a little more context from the Winnipeg Free Press...
Big picture: The win gives the Jets four in a row, the longest streak of the season and they’ve now won eight of their last 11 to move into ninth in the Eastern Conference, just one spot out of a playoff berth. Winnipeg is now 13-11-4 and has 30 points. After playing the Red Wings in Detroit today they will return to Winnipeg for a six-game homestand.
Little picture: Another fast start that turned into a dominant performance. The Jets are beginning to play with confidence and smarts. It’s fun to watch and rewarding for the players. A win-win.
Game-breaker: With the Hurricanes still in the game midway through the second period, Jets forward Tim Stapleton put the Jets ahead 3-0 with a power-play marker for his third of the season. The Jets were enjoying a 5-on-3 and Stapleton took a pass from Kyle Wellwood before moving into the middle of the ice and hammering a slapshot through traffic that Cam Ward couldn’t find until the puck was in the net.
Before taking something of a reading on the team’s very healthy pulse, per the Winnipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe:
The Jets seemed generally annoyed this week when asked if there was any concern about a letdown after earning a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night. But after earlier losses to the likes of the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets, the question had validity and wasn’t simply a media-generated myth.
With the emotion poured into what was the Bruins first regulation loss in more than a month, it was only logical to assume that the Jets might not be as amped up for a game against the last-place team in the Eastern Conference. However, with eighth place in the East within spitting distance the Jets played with gumption and were quick to show their recent hot streak is legit.
A quick start led to a 4-2 triumph over the Hurricanes before a capacity crowd of 15,004 at MTS Centre on Friday night, helped the Jets improve to 13-11-4 on the season and gave them 30 points — one fewer than the Washington Capitals.
“When we play our game, there’s no teams in this league that are out of our league,” said Jets winger Blake Wheeler, who led the offensive charge with three assists. “Not only can we play with anyone, we can beat anyone. We’ve started to develop a confidence in what we’re doing.”
Chris Mason agreed while speaking to the Winnipeg Free Press’s erm, staff...
“That’s a huge win, especially after the big win against Boston,” said Mason. “Sometimes you come into these games thinking a little too high of yourself and I thought the guys did an excellent job of staying even keel, their work ethic was there and we stuck to our game plan. It feels great, personally. When you don’t play, when you don’t get the ice time on a constant basis you always have to deal with those jitters and pre-game butterflies. But once you get in the game they usually disappear. I felt good.”
Mason made 23 saves, is now 3-2 on the season—all three wins against Carolina—with a goals-against average of 2.21 and a .909 save percentage.
“I thought the turning point in the game was from Mason,” said [coach Claude] Noel. “He made the breakaway save at 2-0 (on Anthony Stewart) and then he stopped another one on a partial breakaway in the second. Those were the big saves that really helped us and I thought he played a really strong game. You could see why I like him. His will to compete is good and it’s infectious. They played with confidence, they showed they trusted each other and it was really well done. I feel better about they way we are now. It looks like we’re getting a good hold on what we need to do. We’re still going to hit our bumps somewhere here, I just think mentally we’re in a good place and we understand where we need to go to.”
But as Noel and the Jets head into Detroit, their expectations are much higher, as they told the Winnipeg Sun’s Wiebe...
The Jets, now 6-2-1 within the Southeast Division, don’t have much time to soak in the win as they’ll face the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena.
“We know what they’re capable of,” said Stapleton. “We’re going to have to keep it very simple because any mistakes we make, we know they can capitalize on them. Detroit has been a good hockey team for the last 10 years, they’re a good puck possession team so we’re going to have to bring our best game,” added Kane.
Since enduring a five game losing streak (0-3-2), the Jets have now gone 8-2-1 to move their way up the Eastern Conference ladder. That begged the question, is this a good time to be going to Joe Louis Arena for their lone meeting of the season?
“I tell you, Detroit is a very good team, they’re well-coached and well-managed,” added Noel. “They’ve got an emotional level we’re going to learn about tomorrow. The other thing they have that’s really impressive is how good they are as 1-on-1 players, they are strong. Guys like Datsyuk and just go down the list. If we get stuck, it’s going to be tough.
“But we’re going to be ready to go. This is a good time for us to go in there. We’ve got some travel, but that’s no excuse. We’re going to be ready to go. It’s going to be a big measuring stick.”
As well as the Sun’s Paul Friesen:
The Jets have another six nights of home fires before Santa comes down the chimney, and there’s no reason they can’t keep it burning. Before that, though, it’s off to Detroit, Saturday, where the gifts are few and far between.
A “defining game,” Noel called the Red Wings affair. “They play at an emotional level that teams can’t play at. They really can step it up. Detroit’s going to be a major bump, right there.”
How the Jets steer through it might be as telling as the smooth stretch they’ve traveled on these last four games. Like I said, you need an odometer to measure how far the Jets have come. Where better to check it than in the Motor City?
The Winnipeg Free Press’s Ed Tait sets up tonight’s game as follows:
About the Jets: The Jets are in Detroit for the first time since the 1995-96 Stanley Cup playoffs—a 3-1 Winnipeg victory on April 26 before the final game in their previous history two days later… This is the last road game for the Jets before Christmas; upon returning home they’ll play six in a row at the MTS Centre, then travel to Colorado on Dec. 27 before two more back in Winnipeg… Ondrej Pavelec will get the start in goal after Chris Mason was in the net against the Hurricanes Friday night. Pavelec is riding a three-game win streak that has included a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins, a 4-2 win over the Devils and a 1-0 shutout of Phoenix.
About the Red Wings: The Wings have been waiting for the Jets since knocking off Phoenix 5-2 Thursday night at Joe Louis… The victory over the Coyotes ended a two-game skid for the Wings, who are still 8-2 in their last 10… In the win against Phoenix, Detroit rocketed to a 5-0 lead in the first period before coasting the rest of the way… Pavel Datsyuk did not finish the game with an undisclosed ‘lower body injury’ but is expected to be in the lineup against the Jets… Detroit sports the best home record in the NHL at 11-2-1… The Red Wings power play was ranked sixth best heading into Friday’s action, but their penalty kill is just 22nd… Datsyuk and Johan Franzen are tied for the club scoring lead.
NHL.com’s Brian Hedger is in town to cover the game, and he offers a preview which allows us pivot toward the Wings’ perspectives on tonight’s tilt:
Big Story: It’s a matchup pitting two of the League’s hottest teams, but Detroit boasts an impressive 11-2-1 record at home, while Winnipeg is just 4-7-4 on the road and played on Friday night at home - beating the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 for their season-high fourth straight win. The Red Wings are coming off an impressive 5-2 rout of the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena in which they scored all five goals in the first period - all by different players. Pavel Datsyuk is expected to play despite nursing a lower body injury, but otherwise Detroit is in pretty good shape. The Jets are getting strong play from Bryan Little, Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler to help make up for a few injuries.
Red Wings [team scope]: The emergence of Valtteri Filppula as a force continued against Phoenix. In his first game back after missing a game In St. Louis with a deep cut to his right shin from a skate blade, Filppula scored a goal and added an assist in a Detroit’s five-goal first period. The line of Filppula at left wing, Henrik Zetterberg at center and Jiri Hudler on the right side is one of the hottest in the League. Against the Coyotes, they each finished with two points and seemed to create quality scoring chances every time they went over the boards in the first period.
“Obviously (Filppula) is on fire and (Zetterberg) is on fire,” said Hudler, who’s scored a goal and added an assist in each of the past two games. “They both fly. I think (we’re) just playing smart (and) simple - not as fancy as people would think. (We) just grind it out and win some battles down low and put it on the net. Those nice plays come out come after that.”
Who’s Hot: Johan Franzen has scored four goals and tallied 10 points in his past 10 games for the Red Wings, while Zetterberg has two goals and eight assists in the past 10 contests. … Little is scorching hot for Winnipeg with points in five straight games (three goals and four assists). Kane is also red-hot, with 10 goals and 14 points in his last 11 games - including a goal and a helper against the Hurricanes. He’s picking up more assists, but don’t expect him to stop passing up shots because of it.
Injury Report: Detroit is still without forward Jan Mursak (fractured ankle) - who returned to practice on Friday - and forward Patrick Eaves (fractured jaw), who is still weeks away. … Winnipeg still has Tobias Enstrom (fractured collarbone), Ron Hainsey (lower body), Derek Meech (lower body) and Aaron Gagnon on injured reserve, while Eric Fehr and Nik Antropov (both undisclosed) are day to day.
So there’re no mixed feelings for the small but seriously hardcore group of Derek Meech fans out there…
Puck Drop: For all of the Wings’ firepower, their best player might be Jimmy Howard, who’s having an outstanding season in goal. He said the extended time he spent in Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League plus his first two years in the NHL have prepared him well for the rigors of the League. Last spring’s playoffs helped too—Howard was one of Detroit’s best performers.
“It’s just a comfortablity factor with this being my third year out there,” Howard said after Friday’s practice. “I feel like I can be a difference maker out there. I’ve got a lot of confidence coming off the playoffs last year and I’m just trying to keep it going.”
Howard’s been fantastic, but he and the Wings have mixed feelings about playing a team they don’t know very well, as they told the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
As of next season, they’ll be in the same conference as the Wings, part of the realignment revealed this week. This weekend, then, is a chance to learn a little more about a team the Wings haven’t seen much of but soon will see a handful of times each season.
“It will be fun,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “We’ve played against Atlanta, but they’ve made some changes, and it’ll be nice to play a new team.”
The Wings know a few Jets well, as guys like Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd used to play in Chicago, and Detroit’s Swedes know Tobias Enstrom from national teams.
Jimmy Howard said he’d have to “really pay attention” in this morning’s meeting, but had a pretty clear memory of what happened last season, when the Wings lost at Atlanta, 5-1, on Thanksgiving eve. “They played us really hard, they were really fast and created a lot of turnovers,” Howard said. “They were on top of us pretty much the whole night. They’re very opportunistic.”
Babcock indicated on Friday that Pavel Datsyuk will indeed play in tonight’s game, but we won’t really know until the morning skate…
And now we’re going to stop in our tracks and wish that Fox Sports Detroit allowed swearing, because we’d hear some beauty Swenglish curse words tonight. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor when I read this note from the Free Press as to what we ought to pay attention to tonight:
Ever wonder about the on-ice chatter in the crease during a hockey game? Wonder no more! Fans are in for a special treat tonight as Red Wings forward and part-time crease tenant Tomas Holmstrom will be wired for sound during the game at Joe Louis Arena against the Winnipeg Jets on Fox Sports Detroit (7 face-off). Excerpts will be played back throughout the telecast.
The NHL’s media website hasn’t listed the referees or linesmen with which Holmstrom will be trading barbs tonight, at least as of the middle of the night.
Also of marquee Red Wings-related note, in the charitable department: The Wings manned red kettles to raise funds for the Salvation Army on Friday, and thePlymouth Patch and Northville Patch report that while the winners of the intra-team competition to raise the most money at a particular location haven’t been tallied, the Wings raised $17,150 as a group.
That’s nothing less than remarkable, and awesome.
Part II: Red Wings notebooks: I tried to cover these stories during the off-day update post, but if you missed ‘em, MLive’s Ansar Khan provided status updates regarding both Pavel Datsyuk and Jan Mursak, who’s going to head down to Grand Rapids when his broken ankle’s fully healed:
Datsyuk, who left after the second period of Thursday’s 5-2 win over Phoenix as a precaution, didn’t skate today, as expected, due to a lower-body injury.
“Pavel is fine,” Babcock said. “He was even finer when he found out he didn’t have to go on the ice.”
Right wing Jan Mursak practiced with the team today for the first time since suffering a broken ankle in a preseason game on Sept. 25.
“He’s hobbling around, it’s going to take him some time, but he’ll get himself ready to go then he’ll go to Grand Rapids and get started and come back,” Babcock said.
As the Free Press’s Helene St. James notes, the Wings have something of a decision to make regarding when they send him down to Grand Rapids:
Jan Mursak took part in his first full practice since suffering a broken left ankle during the exhibition season. “I felt pretty good,” he said. “Everything went well. The ankle is almost 100%. It’s still a little weak in certain positions, but I think in next couple of weeks, I’ll be 100% ready.” The Wings plan to send Mursak to Grand Rapids for a conditioning stint, but he has to be on Detroit’s roster by Dec. 19 to play before the eight-day Christmas roster freeze
• The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness wrote a superb article about Jiri Hudler’s resurgence while playing alongside Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula, and as Pleiness suggests, Hudler’s future with the Wings will be decided by how he continues to play this season:
“Playing with Fil and Z is fun, and playing on the right wing, I usually play (left wing), but when you play with players like this you don’t need to worry about it,” Hudler said. “Sometimes I find myself on the left side and Fil’s on my side, but we find each other.
Hudler began the season hot, with two goals and two assists over his first four games. He then went seven straight games without a point.
“I thought Hudler has been real good this last little bit,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought he was real good in St. Louis, maybe as good a game as he’s had in a long time. He seems to be playing well, skating way better and he looks like he’s got confidence in playing. Hud’s is a veteran player,” Babcock added. “It’s quite evident he didn’t have the kind of year he wanted to last year and he’s on track this year. We need him to generate offense for us and be good defensively as well.”
Hudler, who is in the final year of his contract, had just 10 goals and 27 assists a year ago. Prior to playing a year in Russia, he had a 23 goal season to go with 34 assists, which earned him a two-year deal from an arbitrator worth $2.875 million a season.
This morning, MLive’s Ansar Khan also takes a look at Hudler’s resurgent play:
Hudler has posted modest production (four goals, 12 assists, plus-6 rating in 26 games), but it’s far better than where he was through 30 games last season (one goal, five assists, minus-8).
“I feel pretty good. I hope I’m playing well,” Hudler said. “Playing with Fil and Z is fun, and playing on the right wing. I usually play (left wing), but when you play with players like this you don’t need to worry about it. Last year at this time didn’t go my way, I was frustrated,” Hudler said. “It was tough, but this is a new year.”
Hudler is a left wing, but he can get used to playing on the right side.
“You get the puck on your backhand more because you’re facing (the net),” Hudler said. “But at the same time your forehand is towards the net all time, so you’re ready to shoot the puck quicker. But other than that, you’re playing with good players, so it doesn’t really matter.”
After seeing Hudler post 23 goals and 57 points in 2008-09, teammates believe he is capable of being a consistent offensive threat.
“He’s good with the puck, makes real good plays,” Filppula said. “We’ve been skating pretty well and moving the puck well, creating some chances.”
Said Zetterberg: “He’s got an opportunity to play a little more and he’s been taking advantage of it. Right now he’s doing the right things.”
No complaints from me. I know I was one of Hudler’s biggest critics last year, but I think he’s playing very, very well game in and game out for the Wings, and his effort, intensity and attention to detail are miles above where they were twelve months ago.
• As previously noted, Winnipeg-born Wing Darren Helm spoke to the Wings’ press (MLive’s Ansar Khan’s article is linked to) about his affection for the original Jets and the fact that his family and friends are no longer Red Wings fans by default;
• And I can only say that I’m jealous, via the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
Joe Louis Arena manager Al Sobotka had one of his semi-annual cookouts Friday, and the delicious aroma hung over the entire practice.
“Big Al, I wanted to choke him during that but that’s the way the thing goes,” Babcock said.
Part III: Not this again! According to the Detroit News’s Mike Martindale, Gordie Howe’s family is going back to court to sue Howe’s former business manager:
Hockey legend Gordie Howe has been ripped off by his former business managers, according to an Oakland Circuit Court lawsuit that claims “priceless” tapes, videos and documents belonging to the beloved former Detroit Red Wing were destroyed without his permission. Howe has sued former managers Del Reddy, Aaron Howard, Michael Reddy and their Immortal Investments company. The lawsuit alleges a 2008 settlement agreement between the parties to end an earlier lawsuit was breached by the destruction of hundreds of boxes of compact discs, DVDs, tapes, documents, photographs and other “valuable documentation of the career and family of Gordie Howe.”
Howe, 83, of Bloomfield Township could not be reached for comment Friday. His attorney, Steven A. Matta, said the situation has been especially hard on Howe and his sons, Mark and Marty. Some tapes lost included Howe’s wife, Colleen, who died in 2009.
“These weren’t commercial tapes or properties that were up for sale to the public but personal and private records of Gordie Howe’s career with historical value,” Matta said. “… Like a tape of Howe and (ex-teammate) Bill Gadsby talking about the game of hockey. What is something like that worth? You can’t replicate that when it’s gone. It’s priceless.”
[T]he new lawsuit alleges that the three large truckloads of memorabilia eventually delivered to Howe included two Shred-It invoices for specific property ordered destroyed by the company between Nov. 20 and 22, 2008. An affidavit from the operations manager of Shred-It said on Nov. 20, 2008, eight boxes containing 402 compact discs and 861 tapes were destroyed, along with 17 boxes full of paper. On Nov. 22, 2008, another nine boxes full of paper and three boxes containing 134 DVDs and 528 tapes were destroyed.
“It all happened without prior notice and in direct violation of the agreement,” Matta said. “They feel they had the right to do it. I can’t tell you why.”
Part IV: Changing gears, big time, Aftonbladet’s David Jiglund and Nils-Peter Dufva spoke to Wings prospect and Modo Ornskoldsvik forward Dick Axelsson about something odd. Axelsson’s on Twitter, and he’s apparently taken lots of guff because his profile picture on Modo’s website involves an unfortunate pose…and a bit of a double chin as a result. Instead of throwing a customary Axelsson temper tantrum, the more mature “Hat Trick Dick” tells Jiglund and Dufva that the taunting’s just not a big deal…
And, more importantly, the news regarding Axelsson’s on-ice performance seems to support a little new-found maturity as he’s battled back from persistent injuries this season (and all of this is very roughly translated):
A knee injury during the pre-season forced Axelsson to miss the first three games of the regular season, and when he came back, he tore an old groin injury. The pain was unbearable for him, and there was no alternative but surgery. Then he came back two weeks ago, and he’s been one of the Eliteserien’s best players [since then].
His assist on Nicklas Danielsson’s game-winning goal in yesterday’s 2-1 win over Linkoping was his sixth point over the last six games.
But the derisive comments against him continue to spew on the web.
“I’ve been called this and that,” says Axelsson, who’s become accustomed to being called a “fat boy” because of the picture of him with a double chin, which was taken by photographer Stig Kenne on behalf of the Eliteserien this past summer, and he continues:
“It’s been everything from I’m fat to I’m poor…”
Why do you think you can just take that much crap?
“Some of it might involve the fact that I stand out a little bit, but it started with that picture.”
It isn’t a big deal for you?
“Of course it’s not fun to be called a fat boy and stuff [like that], but I try not to let it bother me so much.”
In January, goalie Stefan Ridderwall was mocked after rumors about his sexual orientation spread.
“Here’s what it was: AIK fans found an old picture of me at a party. I don’t really care what they say. They’re idiots, and it blew over quickly,” Ridderwall says, and continues,” It’s easy to sit there when you don’t have a name and you’re anonymous. There are idiots everywhere you look. This applies to everybody.”
But neither Ridderwall nor Axelsson have any plans to stop Twittering.
“Absolutely not. It’s probably mostly opposing teams’ fans who write them, and I think I silence them with my game, and get even more people to follow me instead,” says Axelsson.
Part V: In the on-ice prospect department: The Grand Rapids Griffins dropped a 4-3 shootout decision to the Milwaukee Admirals in Joey MacDonald’s first game back from a concussion, negating two-point performances from Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar,
The Griffins’ website (which provides a Flikr photo gallery), the Admirals’ website (ditto in the photo gallery department), the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Dave Boehler—who suggests that an ill-timed fight by Mitchell Callahan scuttled the Griffins—and the Grand Rapids Press provide recaps.
• In the ECHL, the Toledo Walleye dropped a 4-3 decision to the Cincinnati Cyclones. Thomas McCollum stopped 12 of the 16 shots he faced, but the Toledo Blade’s Mark Monroe reports that McCollum played much better than the shot total indicates, and instead, the Walleye felt jobbed as they had to kill off a five-minute major for a slew-foot which they insisted didn’t happen.
*Finally, if you followed the asterisk all this way down, I think I owe you a cookie or something. Anyway, tonight’s game is not an NHL Network exclusive, so it won’t be blacked out on Center Ice or GameCenter Live online.
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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.