The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/09/12 at 07:10 AM ET
For some mysterious reason which has something to do with parallel announcements at Comerica Park (which will be streamed online at NHL.com and DetroitRedWings.com) at 10:30 AM on Thursday and Michigan Stadium at 1:15 PM on Thursday, the Detroit Red Wings won’t practice on Thursday, but they earned the day off to promote the 2013 Winter Clas…I mean engage in a “major announcement” via a slightly sloppy but no less effective 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night.
By holding off Sam Gagner and the Oilers, the Red Wings reclaimed a 3-point lead over the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference standings and 5-point leads over the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues, they extended their home-ice winning streak to 18 games, and, mostly, they overcame heavy legs and heavy brains in a gritty effort which allowed the Wings to shake off their 5-game road swing while snapping a two-game losing streak.
When the Oilers took the Red Wings out on Saturday, they were delighted with their game, but this time around, from Sam Gagner on out, they were very disappointed in their effort, rallying from a 2-0 deficit included. Sam Gagner and the Oilers told the Edmonton Sun’s Derek Van Diest:
“I thought we got off to a good start the first five or 10 minutes, then after that, for whatever reason, we flattened out,” said Gagner. “We couldn’t sustain any pressure. It was good we tied it up, but then right after that it was the same thing. We let it go.”
They were particularly unhappy with their inability to convert on a 5-on-3 late in the first period…
The Oilers were awarded a golden opportunity to tie the game as Emmerton and Brad Stuart took penalties just over a minute apart. However, one of the top power-play units in the league was unable to manage even a shot on the two-man advantage.
“It was awful,” said Renney. “We threw it around too much, put it to the wrong people. We had one-timers waiting to be used. We were discombobulated and it hurt us. If we score there, it’s a different ball game.”
In the second, the Red Wings extended their lead as Emmerton beat Lennart Petrell to a rebound in front, pulling his team out of its slumber to throw 15 shots at Khabibulin. Yet, despite being outplayed, the Oilers cut into the lead before the end of the period as Gagner scored on a breakaway. The centre, currently brandishing a hot stick, was sent in alone by Jones after the Red Wings were preoccupied with Ben Eager, who had drilled Dan Cleary along the boards. As Jonathan Ericsson and the rest of the Red Wings went looking for retribution, Jeff Petry sent the puck up to Jones at centre, who in turn, fired it up to Gagner for a blatant undressing of goaltender Joey MacDonald. Gagner then extended his streak to eight goals in four games after picking up Magnus Paajarvi’s leftovers in front to tie the contest.
“It’s almost like we got happy after that, like we had done it,” Renney said. “We didn’t do it. We tied the game, but we didn’t do it. That’s part of growing up, realizing that there is a lot more spade work to be done beyond that. I thought we were a little bit of fool’s gold (Wednesday) night, even though we tied it up. I didn’t see us wanting the game bad enough to go much further than we did at that point in time.”
“I don’t like what I saw and I’m not happy with the effort we put in,” Renney said. “I thought we gave a great team an opportunity to be even greater.”
Renney continued with his harsh tack while speaking to the Edmonton Journal’s Joanne Ireland (and it should be noted that the Edmonton Journal’s Jonathan Willis ripped into Cam Barker while doling out player grades, too)...
“You have to press the give-a-crap button and put yourself in harm’s way in order to win hockey games,” said head coach Tom Renney, “and Detroit does that with regularity. We went to school tonight. Even though we did tie it up, I didn’t see us wanting the game bad enough to go much further. We got outmuscled, outplayed, outworked, outhustled, out-thought. Out-everything by a very good team.”
The Oilers did not generate a shot on net during a 1:14 five-on-three. By the time the hot-handed Sam Gagner scored his first goal of the night, it was 11:08 of the second period. It was only the Oilers’ sixth shot on net. They lost puck battles, lost the special teams battle, and ended up with their 28th loss of their season, their 20th on the road.
“We can’t have lapses like that (five-on-three),” said Taylor Hall. “Who knows what a power-play goal would have done there? It could have changed the game. We could have had the lead and we’re pretty good when we have the lead, especially early in games.”
Still without all-star netminder Jimmy Howard, who missed his third game with a broken right index finger, the Red Wings sent out American Hockey League recruit Joey MacDonald to face the Oilers (21-28-5) He saw just nine pucks in the first 40 minutes. During four minutes of first-period Oilers power-play time, he had just one shot to contend with. Before the Oilers proceeded to waste their five-on-three, they didn’t get a shot on net on a five-on-four — against a penalty kill that is ranked 24th on home ice.
Instead, the Oilers argued that the Red Wings exploited their mistakes on a regular basis…
“We didn’t get any pucks in their zone. We kept turning it over, couldn’t get any momentum,” said Ryan Whitney. “We just didn’t play well enough. It wasn’t a good enough effort.”
Khabibulin lost sight of the third goal. He’d stopped Justin Abdelkader but the puck trickled under his pads and into the crease, where Drew Miller tapped it in. Henrik Zetterberg added another to put the game out of reach.
“We just couldn’t get anything going,” said defenceman Jeff Petry, “and against a team like that, you just can’t make mistakes. We knew it was going to be a tough building to play in.”
And the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff took note of the Oilers’ comments about not being able to back up the detail work they accomplish in practice during games, all while suggesting that the Oilers need to start emulating the home team’s work ethic:
“Doing it is another thing,” Renney said. “Those are the responsibilities you have to give these guys, and as much as we want badly to be a playoff team, we’re still in the petri dish.”
The Oilers have been living off the glory of the 1980s for three decades, and if their core of young up-and-comers are to be believed, they are also living through a 1980s sitcom. Growing pains.
“It’s kind of learning how to win,” former Windsor Spitfire Taylor Hall said. “That’s a process that we went through in Windsor from the time I got there. We learned how to win, we learned how to close out games. We never had teams come back on us like we’ve had happen lately here. We’re all learning, we’re all trying as hard as we can, and just trying to make it for us happen here.”
Veteran Oilers forward Ryan Smyth, 35, who is living out the tail end of a stellar NHL career that is absent a Stanley Cup ring, has heard this all before through previous Oiler rebuilds. It’s apparent he’s grown weary of these growing pains.
“That’s with any team,” Smyth said of the learning process. “But there’s got to be a point where it’s ‘OK. We’ve got to make the hump. We’ve got to overcome this.’”
Ryan Jones laid out Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall in the neutral zone, causing Justin Abdelkader to come to his teammate’s aide. The pair dropped the mitts in a spirited tilt in which No. 28 landed several bombs, earning the decision with ease. The Red Wing was assessed a cross-checking minor on the play, too, putting the Oilers on a power-play that sputtered.
NHL.com’s Brian Hedger provides our final takes from the Oilers’ locker room...
“The way we responded to coming back and getting ourselves tied was almost fool’s gold, because we thought we’d done enough,” said Edmonton coach Tom Renney, who coached from the bench after missing a game on Monday because he’d been hit in the head with a puck at the Oilers’ morning skate. “Clearly you don’t ever do enough against Detroit until you beat them. I’m not happy with it. I don’t like what I saw and I’m not happy with the way we put the effort in tonight. We gave a great team an opportunity to be even greater.”
MacDonald did, too, only that was his goal from the start while filling in for Howard – who’d gone 20-2-1 while starting all 23 of the Wings’ previous home games.
MacDonald didn’t have to make many saves—he faced only 17 shots—but he was solid when the Wings needed him to be and played well behind a strong defensive effort from the skaters in front of him.
“It’s huge,” MacDonald said of the confidence boost from winning. “It’s a tough game to play when you look up and you only have four shots [faced] halfway through the game. You got to stay mentally focused and be ready, because when they do get a shot it’s going to be a quality scoring chance.”
That’s exactly what happened, too. After Detroit’s Franzen and Emmerton gave the Wings a 2-0 lead with goals in the first and early portion of the second, Gagner went to work at 11:08 of the second – converting a breakaway caused by a defensive lapse into his seventh goal in the past four games and 12th of the season.
That made it 2-1 and shifted momentum toward Edmonton for the rest of the period. In the third, Gagner swooped in and scooped a loose rebound in front of the crease on the Oilers’ sixth power play of the game to score their only man-advantage marker at 8:23 of the third to tie it 2-2 – and also make you wonder if he’s hiding a big “S” under his sweater.
“He’s playing great,” linemate Taylor Hall said. “I’m just happy to be the guy flanking him right now. He’s going to the net and having really good timing getting open around the net and putting it in. You don’t score goals for no reason in this League, especially against a team like Detroit. I’m sure he had spurts [in Junior] where he was this hot, but to do it at this level against the teams that we’ve played is pretty incredible.”
Gagner has points in five straight games and has tallied 15 points (eight goals) in that torrid stretch – with the eight tallies split evenly against Central Division rivals Detroit and Chicago.
“He’s on a kind of a roll there now,” said MacDonald, who was beaten on a beautiful deke to the backhand for Gagner’s first goal. “He made a good move there, and hey, that’s what happens when you’re on a roll.”
As the Associated Press’s recap shifts our focus to the comments made by the Red Wings, who feel pretty darn good about racking up 18 straight home wins:
“The home win streak is really unique,” Miller said. “I don’t think we go into it really trying to say, `Hey, let’s do it to get this streak.’ I think we’re just trying to establish our game at home and play night in and night out the way that we should play.”
Detroit will either break the record or have its streak snapped on this homestand. Wednesday’s game was the first of six in a row at home for the Red Wings - following a five-game trip.
“People that don’t travel with us and just watch home games have no idea how hard it is to come back and what a grind it is,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “This game is always a tough one to win. We knew that coming in. We’re going to give our team a day off (Thursday). Ideally, we’ll be freshened up and ready to go by the next one.”
The Red Wings host Anaheim on Friday night. Detroit hasn’t lost at home since Nov. 3 against Calgary. Johan Franzen and Cory Emmerton also scored for Detroit, but Gagner answered with a pair of goals to tie the game. He has eight goals and six assists in four games.
After Gagner’s power-play goal made it 2-2 with 11:37 remaining, Miller scored his 11th of the season amid a scramble in front. After Justin Abdelkader’s shot from the slot was stopped by Nikolai Khabibulin, the Edmonton goalie appeared to think he had the puck frozen. But it was behind him, sitting tantalizingly in the crease, and Miller was able to poke it in the net.
“It was one of those right place at the right time. We’ll definitely take it,” Miller said. “I score some unnatural goals, I guess. That’s how I’ve always scored throughout my whole career, so it’s nothing new to me.”
Miller’s production was particularly timely as he and Darren Helm lost their usual linemate, Danny Cleary, to a knee injury that simply won’t get better—NHL.com’s Brian Hedger notes that Wings coach Mike Babcock believes that Cleary will miss some time after getting his left knee drained of fluid and taking a cortisone shot—but Miller tried to shrug off his production and game-winning goal to some extent while speaking to MLive’s Brendan Savage...
“I saw it laying there so it’s one of those being-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time moments,” said Miller, who scored 10 goals in each of the last two seasons. “I score some unnatural goals. I guess that’s how I’ve always scored throughout my career so it’s nothing new to me. Hopefully, I can keep it going the rest of the season. I’m getting an opportunity here to play more minutes. I’m trying to make the most of it and establish myself as an every-night kind of guy. I’m just trying to get the puck on the net.”
In raising their record to 36-17-2, the Red Wings stayed atop the NHL’s overall standings with 74 points.
“I thought we were slow the first 10 minutes and I thought we got better and I actually thought we took over the game in the second for a while,” said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. “Got a little bit cute, got them back in the game. But I really thought once it got to be 2-2 again we took the game over again. We had a lot of chances. (Edmonton goalie Nikolai) Khabibulin was good. We missed the net too much. You’ve got to give them credit. They hung around.”
And the Wings also praised Joey MacDonald’s 15-save effort…
“I think he’s playing well,” Miller said. “He stops the puck and that’s what you want your goalie to do. He makes that first save and he gives you a chance to win.”
Babcock had no complaints.
“That’ll give him confidence,” Babcock said. “I thought he made some good saves.”
And MacDOnald agreed while speaking to Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji...
“Last year, getting the opportunity to come up and watch Jimmy play every night, when I got the opportunity I thought I did a pretty good job of giving the team an opportunity to win,” MacDonald said. “Same coming in on Friday night, getting thrown in right away, you don’t think about it, you just play. The more you play, the more confidence you get.”
Who noted that the Wings’ grinders carried the team on Wednesday night:
After Johan Franzen got the Wings on the board in the first, Cory Emmerton gave them a 2-0 lead early in the second when he drove to the net and backhanded a rebound past Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. Emmerton was happy to make amends after taking a penalty in the first.
“Anytime you can help on the scoresheet other than for penalties,” Emmerton said. “It’s nice to see those get killed off and go right back to work and playing your game.”
Miller now has a career-best 11 goals and four in his last five games.
“Drew has scored some pretty big goals lately it seems like,” Emmerton said. “Tonight was no different. He has deserved the extra ice time. It’s nice to see him take advantage of it.”
With Danny Cleary having to miss the third period because of a recurrence of a knee injury, perhaps aggravated by a hit by Ben Eager, having Emmerton, Miller and MacDonald step up was just what the Wings needed after a long trip.
“That’s what we need as the season goes on,” said Justin Abdelkader, who had two assists. “We’re all chipping in. That’s what makes championship teams. That’s what we’re striving to be.”
Abdelkader’s going to slide onto the Miller-Helm line while Cleary’s out, with Jan Mursak joining a fourth line that’s likely to be centered by Cory Emmerton, who did a pretty good job of establishing himself as an every-night player as well, as the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness noted:
Emmerton made it 2-0 early in the second period, getting rewarded for driving the net. Abdelkader tried to jam a puck past Khabibulin on the short side, Emmerton swooped in from the slot and backhanded the puck top shelf.
“It’s always important for us to chip in when we can,” Emmerton said. “Tonight was a good opportunity for us to help the team. Obviously, Drew has scored some pretty big goals lately it seems like. Tonight was no different. He has deserved the extra ice time. It’s nice to see him take advantage of it. You crash the crease and good things happen,” Emmerton added. “It’s nice for me and Drew to help out on the score sheet.”
And after Joey MacDonald made a particularly interesting observation…
“Not too often you win 18 games in a row,” said MacDonald, who relieved Ty Conklin in Edmonton last Saturday and has played every minute since. “Jimmy’s been on fire this year, he’s been playing great. To step in here and contribute to a few wins myself is huge.”
Abdelkader talked about Miller’s gamer with Pleiness…
Khabibulin made an initial save on Abdelkader, but Darren Helm was able to dislodge the puck loose when he nudged the Khabibulin’s stick. The puck found its way into the blue paint and Miller jabbed it into the open net.
“I just tried to make a play,” Abdelkader said. “I felt I got a good shot off. It was loose just behind him. He thought he had it. (Balance scoring is) what we need as the season goes on,” Abdelkader added. “We’re all chipping in. That’s what makes championship teams. That’s what we’re striving to be.”
As well as DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose, who noted that Miller was quick to give some credit for his success to the linemates who’ve been ribbing him…
“Yeah, that’s just trying to get around the net and I want to credit my linemates, too,” Miller said. “Cleary was out for the third period there, but he’s been playing great for our line, the same with Helmer who provides a lot of speed and gives us a chance, and Abby stepped in and played well in the third with us. Whoever is with us, we have chemistry and we all played well together.”
With Cleary out of the game after he re-aggravated his knee injury on a hit from Edmonton’s Ben Eager, the Wings’ forwards took turns double-shifting to cover the void on the third line’s right wing. Justin Abdelkader, another product of the MSU hockey program, started the scoring play when his high shot from the low slot handcuffed Nikolai Khabibulin. With the puck resting in the crease behind the Oilers’ goalie, Helm took a swipe at the puck and missed. But hard-charging Miller didn’t as he raced through the slot and poked the puck across the goal line.
“The puck came along the boards, a little forechecking,” said Abdelkader, who had two assists. “I just tried to make a play. I felt I got a good shot off. It was loose just behind him.”
And Michigan Hockey’s Michael Caples Miller jabbing the game-winner past Khabibulin). Bragging rights? Miller has them:
“Oh yeah. We all skate together in the summer, and they’re all very well aware that we’re out there, kind of give you a little stick or a nod ‘hi’, so it’s fun,” Miller said. “It’s pretty unique. I think last game in Edmonton all five of us were on the ice at once, and that was pretty cool.”
The goal was Miller’s 11th of the season, which marks a new personal best for the East Lansing native and former Spartan. The 27-year-old had scored 10 goals in each of the last two seasons with the Wings.
“Yeah, that beats my record I guess, so it’s pretty cool,” Miller said. “Hopefully I keep it going the rest of the season, get an opportunity to play more minutes and play on the third line, so you try to make the most of that. I’m trying to better myself each season, each game, and establish myself as an every-night guy.”
While he may not be competing for the Rocket Richard Trophy, Miller’s goals seem to always come at the right time. He’s got three game-winning tallies on the season, and eight in his career. Factor in that he has 37 career goals, and that means that 22 percent of the times that Miller has found the back of the net, it’s been in the form of the game-winner. However, Miller’s more pleased to be helping the Wings continue their home win streak – which is now at 18 straight – than his own goal totals.
“The home win streak is really unique,” Miller said. “I don’t think we go into the games saying let’s do it to keep the streak, we’re just trying to establish our game at home, and play night in and night out the way we should play.”
The Free Press’s Helene St. James took note of Henrik Zetterberg’s rare goal and dominant performance in which he tied fellow goal scorer Johan Franzen for the team lead in shots with 4 and finally seemed to have some confidence in his sticks:
Zetterberg’s goal was only his 10th of the season, but he has been a key reason the Wings have seven points in their last five games.
“I think Hank’s been great,” Babcock said. “He’s playing well and he’s playing better and he’s skating better. That’s the key for us—the better Hank skates, the better off we are. The other thing about him is, he gets better in the second half every year and I expect the same here.”
Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson were out the entire 1:14 stretch it took in the first period to nullify a two-man power play, doing the job so effectively the Oilers never even got a shot through on Joey MacDonald. He faced only 17 shots all game.
“It’s tough when you’re looking up and you only have four shots halfway through the game,” MacDonald said. “You’ve got to stay mentally focused and be ready.”
Jimmy Howard, sidelined with a broken finger, had been the goalie for the first 17 games of the home streak.
Babcock was relatively satisfied with his team’s performance…
“lt’s nice to win at home, it’s nice to feel comfortable,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ve been a pretty good team most nights here at home. Tonight, we weren’t great, but we were good to win it.”
But even Babcock was willing to admit that his team got “too cute” during the first of what St. James notes are six straight games at home:
Coach Mike Babcock on how the Wings started: “I thought we were slow the first 10 minutes and then I thought we got better and I thought we took over the game in the second for a while. We got a little bit cute and got them back in the game, but once it got to be 2-2, we took the game over.”
As the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell’s recap is currently absent of quotes, I’d like to give the last words to the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa and the Wings’ coach because the Wings’ win is really “one to grow on” as opposed to a template for future success against stiffer competition in Anaheim, Philadelphia, Dallas, Nashville and then an all-important measuring stick game against San Jose (those are the Wings’ home stand opponents):
The power play continued to be a concern. The Wings converted one out of four, seeking to improve a power play that had succeeded only 11.6 percent of the time in the previous 24 games.
Joey McDonald played well, as Jimmy Howard continued to recover from a broken finger. McDonald stopped 15 of 17 shots, including some during an important juncture while the Wings caught their breath at the start of the third period.
“Well, obviously you need to win,” Babcock said of McDonald, who has seized the starting role from the Wings’ intended backup goalie, Ty Conklin, in Howard’s absence. “He got one here tonight, and that will give him confidence. I thought he made some good saves.”
Overall, Babcock gave his team a good review.
“People who don’t travel with us and just watch home games have no idea how hard it is to travel and come back, and what a grind it is,” he said, referring to yet another long trip just concluded for the Wings, part of a streak of 21 out of 31 games on the road over the past two months. “This game’s always a tough one to win, we knew that coming in,” he said of the first game back at home. “We’re going to give our team a day off tomorrow and get ready for another one.”
Highlights: TSN posted a 2:35 highlight clip which includes comments from Sam Gagner, Taylor Hall and Oilers coach Tom Renney;
Sportsnet posted a 1:04 highlight clip which should work…if you live
And as of the time I’m writing this, NHL.com’s highlights are all wonky, so you’ll have to check out the Red Wings website’s recap for embedded but not embeddable highlights.
Post-game: TSN posted a 2:26 clip in which Steve Kouleas and Craig Button praise Darren Helm, Drew Miller, Justin Abdelkader and the Wings’ “grinders,” as well as Sam Gagner’s arrival as a star, and TSN also posted a 1:49 clip of comments from Gagner, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Tom Renney;
The Oilers’ website posted clips of Renney’s post-game presser, comments from Gagner, Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi and a bit more from Renney, NHL Tonight’s take on the game and the Gagner breakaway goal:
I guess that charging and boarding don’t count anymore;
Fox Sports Detroit posted Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond’s takes on the game as well as comments from Drew Miller, Joey MacDonald and coach Mike Babcock…
And the Red Wings’ website posted a clip of Joey MacDonald, Drew Miller and coach Mike Babcock’s comments:
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 23-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 23-image gallery;
Fox Sports Detroit posted a 7-image gallery;
The Edmonton Journal posted 7 images from the game in its “Oilers in February” gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 19-image gallery;
Daylife.com’s Red Wings gallery includes 6 Reuters images from the game;
And the Red Wings’ website embedded a 41-image gallery
in its website’s recap.
Statistics: Shots 30-17 Detroit. The Wings out-shot Edmonton 5-4 in the 1st, out-shot Edmonton 15-5 in the 2nd and out-shot Edmonton 10-8 in the 3rd.
The Wings’ PP went 1-for-4 in 6:20 of PP time; the Oilers went 1-for-7 in an astonishing 10:50 of PP time, including 1:14 of 5 on 3 time..
Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 26 of 30 shots; Joey MacDonald stopped 15 of 17
The 3 stars, per TSN’s Gord Miller, were Abdelkader, Gagner and Datsyuk.
The Wings’ goals: Franzen (21) from White (20) and Datsyuk (41), PPG;
Emmerton (6) from Abdelkader (9) and Cleary (16);
Miller (11) from Abdelkader (10);
Zetterberg (10) from Stuart (8) and Kronwall (12).
Faceoffs 31-26 Detroit (Wings won 54%);
Blocked shots 8-7 Edmonton;
Missed shots 13-9 Detroit (total attempts 51-33 Detroit);
Hits 22-19 Edmonton;
Giveaways 5-4 Detroit;
Takeaways 12-5 Detroit.
Faceoffs: Franzen went 8-and-5 (62%); Helm went 4-and-8 (33%); Zetterberg went 4-and-5 (84%); Datsyuk went 6-and-4 (60%); Filppula went 5-and-2 (71%); Abdelkader went 2-and-0; Emmerton went 1-and-1; Miller won his only faceoff; Bertuzzi lost his only faceoff.
Shots: Zetterberg and Franzen co-led the Wings with 4 shots; Abdelkader and Miller had 3; Cleary, White, Hudler and Ericsson had 2; Lidstrom, Stuart, Helm, Bertuzzi, Emmerton, Filppula, Kronwall and Holmstrom had 1.
Blocked attempts: White and Ericsson fired 2 attempts into Oilers players; Kindl, Datsyuk, Filppula and Kronwall had 1 shot attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Datsyuk missed the net 3 times; Zetterberg and Franzen missed the net 2 times; Kindl, White, Hudler, Bertuzzi, Emmerton and Filppula missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Ericsson led the team with 4 hits; Kronwall had 3; White, Miller and Emmerton had 2; Kindl, Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi and Holmstrom had 1.
Giveaways: Cleary had 2 giveaways, as did Franzen; Lidstrom had 1.
Takeaways: Datsyuk, Miller, Stuart and Zetterberg had 2 takeaways; Lidstrom, White, Filppula and Kronwall had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: Kindl and Kronwall blocked 2 shots; Miller, Zetterberg and Franzen blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Abdelkader took a major penalty for fighting and 2 minors; White, Stuart, Emmerton and Holmstrom took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +10. Holmstrom, Ericsson and White finished at -1; Hudler, Zetterberg, Emmerton and Filppula finished at +1; Abdelkader finished at +2; Stuart and Kronwall finished at +3 (yay for Kronwall, who’s had a hard time getting on the right side of 0).
Points: Abdelkader had 2 assists; Miller, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi and Franzen had goals; Cleary, Datsyuk, White, Stuart and Kronwall registered assists.
Ice time: Lidstrom led the Wings in ice time with 23:46 played; Kronwall played 23:30; Datsyuk played 22:11;
White played 22:03; Stuart played 21:29; Zetterberg played 20:31;
Filppula played 19:25; Franzen played 17:59; Ericsson played 16:17;
Bertuzzi played 16:09; Hudler played 14:45; Helm played 13:43;
Miller played 12:48; Kindl played 11:53; Abdelkader played 9:11;
Cleary played 8:09; Holmstrom played 7:36; Emmerton played 5:43.
Part II: Let’s talk about the Wings’ injuries: First and foremost, as MLive’s Ansar Khan noted, it sounds like Danny Cleary might miss up to a week as Wings coach Mike Babcock both pulled Cleary from Wednesday night’s game and suggested that it’s time for Cleary to address his problematic left knee’s issues—which will involve draining his knee of fluid and then giving him a cortisone shot, if not a Synvisc shot as well:
Detroit Red Wings forward Danny Cleary will be out for a few games, coach Mike Babcock said, after he received an injection in his sore left knee. Cleary left Wednesday’s 4-2 win over Edmonton after the second period, after his knee, which has been bothering him for a few weeks, flared up.
Cleary said earlier this week that he would eventually need to have the knee drained, following a build-up of fluid caused by a Baker’s cyst that burst. He said he would then need a cortisone injection that would likely idle him for a week. That’s how long Tomas Holmstrom was out after having Synvisc injected into both knees just before the All-Star break on Jan. 26.
Cleary, who assisted on Cory Emmerton’s goal in the second period, has six points in the past six games (goal, five assists). His line, with Drew Miller and Darren Helm, has been providing points as well as energy.
Babcock said Cleary’s absence will allow Jan Mursak to play. Mursak has appeared in only three games since returning last month from a fractured ankle.
• The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness took note of Pavel Datsyuk’s wrist injury, and if you take a glance at the stat sheet, Datsyuk ended up taking 10 faceoffs, going 6-and-4, but as Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond pointed out, Johan Franzen took the vast majority of faceoffs over the game’s second half, and he did pretty well, going 8-and-5.
• Jimmy Howard’s status is worth repeating, too, via the Free Press’s Helene St. James...
Howard was on the ice for about an hour Wednesday but still hasn’t taken any shots as he recovered from a broken finger. He saw a doctor in the morning, who basically said when Howard played was up to his pain tolerance. “The doctor did say I’m lucky being young enough where the bone is going to grow back fast,” Howard said. “Hopefully, by the end of the week, I’m out there taking shots.” Howard remains able to care for his 4-month-old son. “I got it down, feeding and everything,” he said. “I can do that with my eyes closed now.”
Jimmy Howard was back on the ice skating after fracturing his right index finger against Vancouver. He did not however face any shots. Howard saw doctors Wednesday, but was not given a timetable on when he can return to action.
“Every single day my finger is getting better,” Howard said. “I’m lucky being young enough where the bone is going to (heal) faster. Hopefully by the end of the week I’m out there taking shots. I’ve just got to deal with the pain.”
Howard said he’ll need to get a couple practices in before he can play, which will more than likely rule him out the rest of the week since the Wings’ won’t skate again until Friday morning prior to their game against Anaheim. Their next full practice won’t come till Saturday before playing Philadelphia on Sunday.
“I’d really love a couple of good practices before I get in there,” said Howard said. “I don’t want the timing can go away.”
Part III: Red Wings notebooks/features: Henrik Zetterberg scored his 10th goal of the season on Wednesday, and as I said a little earlier, I think he’s finally feeling confident in his Warrior sticks after using Easton products for the vast majority of his career, but Zetterberg is admittedly frustrated about his lack of production, as he told MLive’s Ansar Khan...
“It doesn’t really help that much, nine or 10, doesn’t really matter,’’ Zetterberg said. “You got to get more than that.’‘
Zetterberg has struggled offensively this season. He is second on the team with 30 assists but has only 40 points. That is exactly half of his total from last season. He is on pace for his least-productive season since 2003-04, his second year in the NHL, when he had 15 goals and 28 assists in 61 games. He said he is “way past the frustration point.’‘
“I was frustrated for the first 20-30 games. Now it’s kind of too late,’’ Zetterberg said. “Just got to focus on what’s left and prepare for every game and do the best of it.’‘
Zetterberg said if he knew why his production was down he “would have changed it by now, would have scored more goals.’‘
“I’m trying different stuff, trying to shoot more, trying to pass more, trying to work a little different and hopefully it will turn around,’’ he said.
Wings coach Mike Babcock’s satisfied with Zetterberg’s overall game…
“I thought Hank was our best forward on the (recent) trip. He’s been great the last little while,’’ Babcock said. “He’s skating better. That’s the key for us. The better Hank skates, the better off for us. One thing about him, he gets better in the second half every year, and I expect the same this year.’‘
“Would (Zetterberg) like to have 40 (goals)? Absolutely,’’ Babcock said. “But he doesn’t. So let’s just keep winning. That’s the big thing for me. He’s here for the same thing as the rest of us. It’s called winning. Those personal stats, I don’t think there’s one guy in the room who spends a whole lot of time worrying about it. It’s nice to have them, but that’s not the measure here for our group.’‘
But Zetterberg sounded equally frustrated while speaking to NHL.com’s Brian Hedger:
“I’m way past the frustration part or the thinking part,” Zetterberg told NHL.com after Wednesday’s morning skate. “Now, I’ve just got to play. I’ve got to go out and play every game and not look at the stats and think, ‘Oh, what if I do this or what if I do that? Maybe I will have a good year again.’ You just go out and play the best you can.”
Statistically speaking, that’s exactly what the Swedish star forward is doing. He’s played center on Detroit’s second line for most of the season – rather than left wing on the top line with center Pavel Datsyuk – and his assist total of 30 is right in line with expectations.
Also good are the goal numbers of his wingers on that second line. Valtteri Filppula (16 goals and 26 assists) is having a career year playing left wing instead of center, and right wing Jiri Hudler (17 goals and 17 assists) has nearly doubled the 10 goals that he scored in 73 games last season. That could all be looked upon as evidence that Zetterberg is merely doing his job as a playmaking center – distributing the puck and setting his teammates up for goals.
“Yeah, but I should have more than nine goals,” Zetterberg told NHL.com. “That’s … that’s … you can’t say anything but that. I should have more than that. You can’t just go and hide. You’ve got to keep playing and do your best.”
Zetterberg isn’t running away from it, that’s for sure. He’s also not pretending there is nothing wrong when he hasn’t scored a goal in nine games and has only found the back of the net once in the past 23 contests. It’s not his style, not in his makeup, to cower—and not allowed, at least in his mind, when you wear an “A” on your sweater for the Red Wings, the only NHL team he has ever played for. Think Zetterberg is underperforming, especially for a guy with a salary-cap hit of roughly $6 million a season for the next six years? He’d agree with you.
“I think so too,” Zetterberg told NHL.com. “It’s just that scoring goals is way down. Assists are there. It’s something you don’t want to have. You want to score, but I had a real tough start. The first 25 games were bad and I’ve felt better since then, but I can’t really find a way to score goals.”
Cue the, “At least he’s not Dick Axelsson” line:
“We’re on top in the League, and I can’t be that disappointed,” he told NHL.com. “You’ve got to find a way to help the team. If you can’t really score goals, then you’ve got to do other stuff and it will turn around. It will come. It always evens out, so I’m not that depressed.”
• The Edmonton Journal’s Joanne Ireland actually snagged fantastic endorsements of the Red Wings organization from Brad Stuart, Ty Conklin and Danny Cleary…
“There’s a consistency here you don’t see in a lot of other organizations,” said Stuart. “Their leadership corps has been here for so long.”
Stuart, who played for the San Jose Sharks, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings before he was dealt to the Red Wings in 2008, just pointed to Nicklas Lidstrom the ageless captain, who is the model of consistency.
“You win some games here and nobody gets all that excited about it. It’s expected,” Stuart continued. “At the same time, if we lose some games, we’re not happy, but we know we’ll be able to turn it around. There’s no panic. I’ve been on other teams where after a few games it starts. You start squeezing the stick, maybe try and do things you normally wouldn’t do, and you start digging yourself a hole.”
“We pride ourselves on being a good, professional, hard-working team that pays attention to the details,” said Cleary, once an Edmonton Oiler and briefly a Coyote in Phoenix, “and the culture we have here, is that we like to win.”
“It’s experience,” [Ty Conklin] said, “and there’s a calmness in the locker room. There’s none of this (roller-coaster motion) during the course of the year. It’s even keel, win or lose. That comes from Nick and the leadership.”
The Wings have been in the playoffs each of the last 20 seasons, and have claimed the Stanley Cup four times during that run. They last won it all in 2007-08.
“You need everything to go your way. You need all your best payers to be their best, your role players to be the best role players. No injuries, timely bounces,” said Cleary. “It’s amazing how everything has to fall in line. It’s certainly worth the journey and the work that goes into it but it’s not luck.”
And both she and the Edmonton Sun’s Derek Van Diest found that Nikolai Khabibulin of all people thinks that Tomas Holmstrom, who will play in his 1,000th game on Friday, is a special player in a good way:
“It’s really hard to see anything when he’s in front,” said Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin. “You just have to battle hard to try and find the puck. I think it’s almost better to leave him in front by himself so it doesn’t create a double screen. He’s so good at moving with the passes and getting in the lanes of the shot for screens.”
Traditionally a hazard area, Khabibulin can understand why more players don’t like to plant themselves in front of the net.
“You have to take so much punishment,” he said. “A guy like Holmstrom, he’s always in front and it seems like he’s always getting cross-checked. He’ll take the occasional dive, but for the most part he gets hacked and whack. The abuse he takes from defencemen, it’s pretty amazing so it takes a lot of courage to do what he does. I respect a guy like that a lot.”
The Red Wings will set something of a record when Holmstrom plays on Friday as they’ll become the first team in NHL history to have six players who’ve played in 1,000 games for a single franchise, and Holmstrom and his teammates talked about the impending milestone with the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness…
“You really don’t think that much about it,” Holmstrom said after the Wings’ morning skate at Joe Louis Arena Wednesday night. “It’s 80 games, then 40 games and now two games then you start thinking about it. Wow, 1,000 regular season games,” Holmstrom continued. “It’s a big honor to put on that Red Wings jersey. I’m fortunate. It’s been a great run and has been so much fun. Time goes by so fast. There are 28 games left and it’s going to hit you in the face and then playoffs.”
“It’s just his will and determination, battling through injuries and still playing at a high level,” said Lidstrom, who on the same night will tie Alex Delvecchio for most games played for Detroit with 1,549. “He wasn’t considered a great skater when he came here, but he scored 30 goals (2006-07) and he’s scored 20 goals consistently for us. He has bad knees since he came here,” Lidstrom added. “He’s been able to battle through and overcome it. Some nights you know he’s in pain. You don’t know how much it hurts, but he battles through game in and game out. He’s a hard worker. He earns his spot whether it’s on the power play or in our lineup.”
Holmstrom, who played in his 47th game of the season Wednesday, would have reached the milestone against the Oilers, but he had a bad reaction following injections in his knees in Calgary last week. He had a Synvisc injection, which lasts between 5-6 months, before training camp and had another during the All-Star break.
“What a true warrior,” said Edmonton’s Ryan Smyth, who played in his 1,123rd career game Wednesday. “He’s a competitor. He’s a winner … four Stanley Cups. I’m sure his body aches a lot after games. I know that from experience, too. He’s one of the best, if not the best, in my opinion. I watched him over the years, and I’ve picked up a few things, and maybe he picked up a few things from myself,” Smyth continued. “I have tremendous respect for him.”
“It’s impressive,” Johan Franzen said. “You’ve got a guy like (Ray) Whitney two nights ago, he’s got 1,200 games but that’s the opposite kind of games that Homer gets. It’s impressive the way he’s been able to play the way he has for so many games.”
MLive’s Ansar Khan spoke to several other Wings about Holmstrom hitting the 1,000-game mark…
“He’s got great hockey sense, he knows how to play, knows how to protect the puck, knows how to get it back, where to stand,’’ Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s not an elite skater and yet he’s an elite competitor. It just goes to show you players come in all different sizes, shapes and abilities and Homer’s managed to have a good enough package to play a long time.’‘
“Wow, 1,000 regular season games!’’ Holmstrom said. “It’s a big honor to put on that Red Wings jersey. I’m fortunate. It’s been a great run and has been so much fun. Time goes by so fast.’‘
“With the amount of games he’s played and the amount of abuse he’s taken, you’d think that his body would have given up on him,’’ [Kris] Draper said. “His pain threshold is probably as high as I’ve ever seen with a hockey player, the stuff that he goes through and how he keeps coming back for more.’‘
Holmstrom’s career probably was extended by rules implemented in 2005-06, after the lockout, prohibiting players – particularly goaltenders – from hacking and whacking opponents in front of the net.
“It’s a lot easier these days compared to when he started playing,’’ teammate Johan Franzen said. “It makes you appreciate what he did back than. They’re really a lot nicer now, the referee doesn’t allow as much to go on in front of the net. It’s still pretty tough, you’re going to get cross-checked. If it’s getting too dirty they’re going to call a penalty. They didn’t do that 10 years ago.’‘
But Holmstrom himself isn’t sure whether he can continue to play…
“In the mind, I would love to play, but it’s body-wise, the wear and tear,’’ Holmstrom said. “It’s going to be a big decision. We’ll wait until after the season and see what’s going on.’
And the Detroit News’s John Niyo wrote a fantastic article about Holmstrom. I can only quote part of it, but I highly encourage you to read the whole thing and enjoy it:
Ask the 39-year-old Holmstrom, whose deteriorating knees might be in worse shape than Steve Yzerman’s were at the end of his career, if his body feels like it has played 1,000 games and he just laughs.
“More like 1,500,” he says. Still, he admits, “You start thinking about it and — wow — 1,000 regular-season games. That’s a big honor.”
An even bigger surprise, too. Just about everybody can agree on that. Never mind that he arrived in Detroit without a medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Or that the biannual Synvisc injections — to help alleviate the osteoarthritic bone-on-bone pain in both knees that might finally end his career this summer — have been as routine as dental appointments the last three or four years. (A bad reaction to the most recent shot over the All-Star break forced him to miss a game at Calgary.)
Holmstrom, the 257th overall pick from the 1994 draft, also arrived in the NHL without much of a clue.
“I think his first shift in training camp he tried to run over Stevie and someone kind of had to grab him and say, ‘Whoa, you don’t do that,’” longtime teammate Kris Draper recalled with a laugh Wednesday. “Never mind seeing 1,000 games, you won’t see Game 1.”
Just thinking about all the punishment Holmstrom has absorbed since — all the hacks and whacks, all the cross-checks and cheap shots, not to mention goalie interference calls like the one he drew Wednesday — is enough to make even his teammates cringe. He remembers his concussions — at least four, but likely more — by the names of the defensemen who delivered them. “(Chris) Pronger was one, two from Rob Blake,” he says, and so on.)
“He’s probably always in pain,” said captain Nick Lidstrom, Holmstrom’s best friend on the team and one of the five grand Red Wings he’ll join in the 1,000-game club. “But he’s gonna do whatever it takes. When he gets knocked down, he gets right back up and he goes right in front of the net again. You just see it on the ice that he’s really not going to accept it. His stubbornness comes out. And I think that’s why he’s still playing.”
The Miller brothers made an impact at both ends of the ice on Wednesday. In Detroit, forwards Drew Miller scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period as the Red Wings beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 for their 18th consecutive victory at Joe Louis Arena. That game ended a few minutes before big brother Ryan completed his second shutout in three games by stopping 36 shots in the Buffalo Sabres’ 6-0 victory against the Boston Bruins.
It’s the first time since Oct. 10, 1973, that brothers accounted for a winning goal and a shutout on the same night.
Phil Esposito completed a hat trick with the go-ahead goal for Boston in a 6-4 season-opening victory for the Bruins at Vancouver. Down the West Coast in Los Angeles, brother Tony Esposito stopped all 25 shots he faced as the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-0.
• Cue late-breaking power rankings, via the CBC’s Tim Wharnsby…
3. DETROIT RED WINGS (35-17-2) The Red Wings had an impressive victory in Vancouver last week, but then followed up with losses in Edmonton and Phoenix.(Last Week: 1)
• Shifting gears to shift our sights toward the OIlers for a moment, WDIV’s Roger Weber field a story and video regarding the fact that Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry is the son of former Detroit Tigers Pitcher Dan Petry;
• Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika spoke to Ryan Smyth about possibly being traded before tonight’s game (and Cotsonika believes that the Rangers and Red Wings would make good destinations for Smyth), and Smyth is waffling a little bit about going on a playoff run;
• Sticking with trade talk, yes, someone on Sportsnet suggested that Ales Hemsky is worth either Brendan Smith or Petr Mrazek, and a first-round draft pick;
• ESPN’s Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun, however, are split as to whether the Wings should pursue a goaltender from outside the organization…
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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.