The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/16/12 at 03:45 PM ET
Updated 11x at 6:27 PM: As the Detroit Red Wings prepare to face off against the Buffalo Sabres tonight (7:30 PM, FSD/MSG B/WXYT), kicking off a slate of back-to-back games against Buffalo tonight and heading to Dallas tomorrow, no news is good news, especially given that the Wings took part in a rare Sunday practice for season ticket-holders on Sunday. MLive’s Ansar Khan reports that the next star of NHL 36 (what am I most looking forward to as cameras follow Nick over the next 36 hours? The conversations between Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom as they carpool to and from the Joe) and his teammates didn’t have to skate this morning if they didn’t want to do so…
Optional skate today for Wings, who’ll stick with same lineup vs. Sabres: 93-13-44, 51-40-26, 20-43-11, 48-8-96; 5-18, 55-23, 4-52, 35-29.
But Khan also provided a worrisome update about Patrick Eaves’ status:
Wings GM Ken Holland said nothing new to report on Patrick Eaves (broken jaw on Nov. 26). The club doesn’t know when he can start skating.
The Red Wings’ website’s Twitter account confirms that the Wings received an energy-saving morning off…
The #Wings are expected to dress the same lineup as they did on Saturday following this morning’s optional skate at Joe Louis Arena.
And there’s a wee bit of uncertainty at the other end of the rink. The Buffalo News’s Mike Harrington reported that the Sabres recalled a player whose presence may or may not indicate another injury:
Greetings from Motown, where the Sabres have recalled defenseman T.J. Brennan from Rochester in the wake of the injury Robyn Regehr suffered Saturday night on Long Island. The team is hopeful Andrej Sekera can return to the lineup tonight after missing eight games but Lindy Ruff told me yesterday that’s still uncertain. The morning skate here at Joe Louis Arena doesn’t begin until 11:30 so we’ll have to see how Sekera holds up.
If Sekera can’t play, the Buffalo defense would be woefully thin going against a Detroit team looking for its franchise-record 15th straight home win. Brennan, Joe Finley, and Marc-Andre Gragnani would make up half the D corps, which would mean plenty of ice time for Tyler Myers, Jordan Leopold and Mike Weber. Sekera, Regehr, Christian Ehrhoff and Brayden McNabb all out.
Amongst Harrington’s Twitter updates as of just after 12 PM EST:
No changes in #Sabres forward lines for AM skate here in Detroit. 8 D on the ice counting Ehrhoff, Brennan, Sekera.
I would say Sekera will play based on drills on the ice. Nothing official yet though. #Sabres
Sekera confirms he is in. Looks like Finley the scratch.
Great find in Joe Louis basement: Highway sign for old Olympia Stadium, #RedWings home till 1979. http://twitpic.com/881dbk
Right in front of me in Joe Louis press room. The Dominator. #Sabres #RedWings http://twitpic.com/881ctf
Great sports history mural at Detroit airport I forgot to post yesterday. http://t.co/VqY0UHy5
In the slightly-bigger-picture category, MLive’s Ansar Khan reports that Ryan and Drew Miller hung out with each other ahead of a game which both players will actually take part in…
“We had lunch and dinner. He came over to my place here in Detroit and hung out for the afternoon,’’ Drew said today, after an optional morning skate. “Then my mom, my brother and sister came down from East Lansing and had dinner. It was a good time. Any time that you can get away from the rink and see family and friends it always helps to recharge the battery.’‘
Drew said they didn’t watch football, just hung out and watched “Modern Family.’‘
Drew confirmed that Ryan is starting tonight, as expected. It will be the first time since March 13, 2010, that they have played against each other, and just the fourth time in the NHL.
The Red Wings, seeking their franchise-record 15th consecutive home victory, face a struggling Buffalo club that has lost eight in a row in regulation on the road, following an 8-3-0 start away from home.
Also of personnel-related note form Khan:
Jan Mursak is a healthy scratch. Mike Commodore (sore foot) said he’s close and would probably be available to play Tuesday in Dallas.
Khan also broached a delicate topic related to the Miller-versus-Miller match-up while speaking to Wings coach Mike Babcock yesterday—and let’s just say that there’s no way in hell that Drew will be scratched this time around given that he’s earned a spot as an every-night player:
The Millers last played against each other on March 12, 2010, when the Red Wings beat the Sabres 3-2 in overtime. Ryan, 31, was out with a concussion when these clubs met in Buffalo on Dec. 2—the result of a controversial hit by Boston’s Milan Lucic. Drew, 27, was a surprise scratch during their lone meeting in 2010-11, when Babcock opted to dress Kris Draper instead.
“Obviously, it was tough for Millsie,” Babcock said. “I hadn’t thought about it in advance. I promised Drapes he was playing, his family was coming to the game (from Toronto). In the end, (Miller) didn’t get to play. Here’s an opportunity for him, so we’ll do our part.”
Their parents will be among many family members and friends at the game.
“My mom sewed a jacket that’s half Red Wings and half Buffalo,” Drew said. “It has both our numbers on the corresponding sides and ‘Miller’ on the top.”
While Drew (seven goals, 14 points) is on pace for his most productive season, Ryan has struggled (10-11-2, 2.97 goals-against average, .903 save percentage), just two years after winning the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie. Drew, who has faced his brother while playing for Tampa Bay and Anaheim, is 2-1 vs. Ryan. But he hasn’t scored against him. There is no trash talking, however.
“It’s always joking about things,” Drew said. “Well, I can’t really joke about running him over, it’s a pretty sensitive subject now. I try to give him a little whack in the pads when I’m in front of him.
In the “Also of Red Wings-related note” department as we wait for more morning skate news to roll in: I can’t quote the whole article as it’s a subscriber-only one, but ESPN’s Craig Custance took note of the Blackhawks’ bright demeanor after dropping their 3-2 OT decision to the Wings on Friday as their outlook pertains to the Central Division slog-fest. Custance accurately suggests that it’s not only possible, but also probable that the only way Central Division teams will avoid each other in the first round of the playoffs is by capturing both the division and Western Conference’s titles:
On Sunday, the Blackhawks beat the surging Sharks, solving Antti Niemi thanks to a dominant performance from their top line of Toews, Patrick Kane and Viktor Stalberg. Said Sharks coach Todd McLellan to reporters: “Their big boys had the puck the whole night.”
It could turn out to be the most crucial weekend of the Blackhawks season. They earned three out of four possible points against two of the better teams in the Western Conference. It propelled the Blackhawks to the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference and gave the Blackhawks a two-point lead in the Central, although they’ve played two more games than everyone else in the division.
But this year more than ever, winning the division has to be a focus of the teams battling in the Central. Just look at the standings on Monday morning: The division winner holds the top seed in the West and would play the struggling Minnesota Wild in the first round of the playoffs. The second-place team is headed for a seven-game grudge match against another Central division rival that could leave the survivor limping out of the first round. Right now, it would be the Blues playing the Red Wings. But Nashville isn’t far behind.
The prevailing attitude in hockey is to just get in the top eight and go from there, but that can’t be the attitude in the Central. It sets up the best divisional race in the second half of the season.
“The Central is tight, it’s going to be like this until the final weekend,” Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said. “We have to find [a way] to get points every single night to see if we can’t separate ourselves here. I think everyone understands the urgency we need to play with within the dressing room.”
• Looking back at Saturday’s game, Michigan Hockey’s Michael Caples offers a few quips from the Wings’ win, starting with the 2-1 goal scored by Andrew Shaw…
“It was just a bad break,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said of the goal. “I don’t know if it hit right where the Zamboni entrance is; it hit something right there, bounced over his stick or right by his stick. But I thought he battled back, and I thought he played well for us.”
In the closing moments of the third period, a point shot from Marian Hossa hit both of the captains before finding the back of the net. The shot first struck Lidstrom’s foot, then hit Jonathan Toews – giving the Blackhawks’ captain credit for the game-tying goal.
“The tying goal, they were playing 6-on-5, and Hossa got a shot through,” Lidstrom said. “I think it went off my skate and I don’t know if it hit anything else after that, but I know they were trying to get pucks at the net and I wasn’t able to block it.”
The Red Wings controlled play in the extra period before Bertuzzi scored his eighth goal of the season to get the Wings another home win. After the game, Lidstrom tried to sum up the momentum swings.
“I think we came out with a good push, I thought we were handling the play in the first period,” the Wings’ captain said. “We got the two goals that we wanted, we wanted to get a lead, especially in this game, and they battled back. They came back with a strong push in the third, I thought they pushed us back in our zone so we couldn’t get much going, and they tied it up late, but it’s great to see Bert respond the way he did in overtime.”
• Shifting gears, this week’s first slate of power rankings come from NHL.com’s Dave Lozo, but his comment’s head-shake-worthy:
4. Detroit (28-15-1) [last week] 7: It’s all well and good that Nicklas Lidstrom didn’t want to attend, but what about Ian White? He hasn’t made fans forget about Brian Rafalski, but they may be foggy on his name right now.
Um, no…Rafalski was an elite, elite defenseman, and if the Wings had both players in the lineup, hoo boy…
• From Yahoo Sports: Do we need to revisit the whole, “Should the NHL have forced Nicklas Lidstrom to take part in the All-Star Game” thing? Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski thinks so;
• Also from Yahoo Sports, let’s go with a, “What ‘we’ learned versus what I’ve learned” point-counterpoint via crazy stalker closeted Wings fan:
Detroit Red Wings Presented by Amway: The Red Wings are now tied for the longest home winning streak in franchise history, which gives reporters the terribly easy job of asking stuff like, “Are you worried about breaking that record?” and then writing tap-in columns when Mike Babcock says no. And guess what: That potentially record-breaking home game is tonight against Buffalo. Talk about tap-ins.
Do those questions fall into the, “Low-hanging fruit” category even more than power rankings do? Why yes, of course they do.
However, here’s the dealy-o regarding “beat writer” (as opposed to beatnick or beat poet) philosophy: a beat writer’s job is to attend practices and games, obtain the necessary observations and quotes necessary to pen a story, file it and move on. They don’t give a rat’s ass about repeating each other because their job is to find and file the quotes which will draw the most readers to their website as opposed to saying, “Hey, reporter from Website A, are you going to cover subject X today? Then I should cover subject Y so that we don’t overlap and fans read the same thing and grumble.”
They don’t care about that stuff at all. They ask their questions, get their quotes, post their stories and move on to the next thing, and if repetition yields more tap-ins than the closeted Wings fan’s favorite player spending 20 minutes after each practice tipping shots down into an open net, the beat writers, who face some serious-ass deadlines and nasty travel schedules, somewhat justifiably don’t care.
• And via the Birmingham Observer, you never know where you’re going to see Chris Chelios (just don’t approach him with a digital sound recorder in your hand, lest you expect to face the second-nastiest death stare this side of Mike Babcock’s):
Former Detroit Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios was seen at the auto show industry day Thursday, hanging out as the special guest in the Comcast area on the main show floor. Chelios, who owns a bar in Detroit and is a spokesman for Comcast, also took some time to pose for pictures and sign autographs.
Update #1: I Believe we’re going to have to call him Captain Understatement for the next 36 hours. Nicklas Lidstrom did address the NHL 36 treatment while speaking to the Detroit News’s ted Kulfan…
Lidstrom said the show’s crew began filming him Monday working out on an exercise bike, stretching, and meeting with his teammates.
“It’s different — it’s different having someone follow you the whole time, whatever you do,” Lidstrom said. “It’s just a matter of getting used to it.”
A cameraman, however, stuck to his job and didn’t try any participatory journalism.
“No, he wouldn’t,” Lidstrom said, smiling, when asked if he made the cameraman ride a bike next to him. “There were a lot of bikes available, but he wouldn’t jump on one.”
Lidstrom isn’t sure what the final on-air product will look like, and hasn’t seen the two previous “NHL 36” episodes profiling players. But he was persuaded by the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) and teammates that the show will benefit him, the Red Wings organization and the league.
“I had to think about it for a little bit, get the details about what the (NHL) expects, what they are looking for,” he said. “But the team encouraged me, the NHLPA did as well. I think it’s good for hockey.”
• Grumble power rankings grumble, per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun:
5. Detroit [record] 28-15-1 Last Week: 6: Let’s just forget that loss in Long Island ever happened. Entertaining win over the Blackhawks on Saturday.
Update #1.5: Per WGR 550’s erm, author-less news feed:
Sekera Returns in Detroit: Sabre defenseman Andrej Sekera will return to the line-up Monday night against the Red Wings. Sekera takes the place of the injured Robyn Regehr. Joe Finley stayed out after the morning skate to do some extra work, making it likely that T.J. Brennan will play against the Wings and Finley will be the healthy scratch. Brennan was just recalled from Rochester.
Sekera has 2 goals and 9 points in 36 games this season. The Sabres are in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, 7 points behind a playoff spot.
Update #2: More from Lidstrom, per the Free Press’s Mike Brudenell:
A camera crew from NHL Original Productions trailed the defenseman at today’s morning skate at Joe Louis Arena, in advance of the Wings’ game against Buffalo Sabres tonight (7:30, FSD). The Wings would set a franchise record of 15 consecutive home wins if they beat the Sabres.
The cameras will follow just about Lidstrom’s every move for the next 36 hours. The Wings play at Dallas on Tuesday night. Viewers will get an up-close look at Lidstrom at the rink, at home with his family and at team meetings.
The show will be followed on NBC Sports Network by “NHL Live” at 7 p.m. and the Wings’ game at the Montreal Canadiens at 7:30 p.m.
Said Lidstrom after practice this morning: “I thought it was a neat thing to do ... and I think it is good for hockey for us to get out there (in public) a little more, too.”
Update #3: From the Buffalo news’s Mike Harrington:
Lindy [Ruff] would not confirm other than Sekera. Finley is a scratch and it would appear Brennan will play. #Sabres
And here’s Harrington’s morning skate report:
The Red Wings are going for a franchise-record 15th straight home win and the Sabres are trying to break their all-time skid of eight straight road losses in regulation tonight. That’s Story 1A at Joe Louis Arena. But a clear 1B is the fifth career meeting of Ryan Miller and his younger brother, Red Wings winger Drew Miller.
The Millers haven’t met in two years (Drew was a healthy scratch last season in Buffalo and Ryan missed the teams’ December meeting with his concussion), and even got to spend all day together yesterday as the Sabres got the day off after arriving from Long Island. Their father was out of town but a younger brother and sister and some family friends had lunch and dinner at Drew’s house.
“We didn’t talk about hockey so that was nice,” Drew said. “It didn’t work out the last two years. I wanted to play last year and I know he wanted to get back from his injury to play against us. It will be fun to get back on the ice and play against each other. A lot of people are looking down like he’s playing horrible and I don’t think it’s all on him,” Drew said. “I don’t think he’s playing that bad. I think he expects more of himself. The injury is improving every day. The injuries have been pretty unfortunate for him and the team hasn’t been winning like they’d like to so a lot of the pressure goes down on their big players. He’s one of their guys that has to answer to that and that’s tough.”
As is usually the case here, Ryan had some long chats with Detroit-area reporters. Among the items he discussed was a change from a titanium mask to steel to help ease some of the puck impacts on his head.
As for the Sabres predicament tonight, Miller said, “This is a good place to start for this season. It’s time to get our feet under us and play consistent hockey. [The Red Wings] had a little bit of a slower start than I think they wanted. It just shows they demanded something higher and they turned it up a notch.”
The Sabres will get Andrej Sekera back tonight in place of Robyn Regehr. Joe Finley looks like a healthy scratch with T.J. Brennan arriving from Rochester and appearing to be in the lineup as well (Lindy Ruff said that would be a game-time decision)
Harrington also posted audio interviews with Ryan, Drew and Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, but I can’t embed them in this post….
Update #4: You may or may not find The Score’s Scott Lewis’s satirical preview of a Red Wings-Leafs HBO 24/7 treatment funny:
Meanwhile, back in Detroit, the Red Wings will spend the day licking their own wounds after their embarrassing loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets the night before. At least one familiar face will be absent from Monday morning’s skate, as Nicklas Lidstrom has been ordered to spend some extra time in his anti-aging hyperbaric chamber. At 42, the perennial Norris Trophy candidate will take every opportunity he’s afforded to rest his body.
Lidstrom’s former teammate and Red Wings assistant goaltending coach, Chris Osgood, postulates how his own career may have gone had he been pampered as much as his friend.
Chris Osgood: “Look at Nicky over there chilling in his chamber. Guy spends nearly 18 hours a day in there. I probably could have played until I was 50 if Kenny got me one of those.”
Henrik Zetterberg: “Maybe you would have reached the 500 win mark… you still wouldn’t be a Hall of Famer, though, Ossie.”
Osgood: “Looks like he’s reading a Swedish hockey magazine in there Hank.”
It’s business as usual on the ice at the Red Wings’ practice as they will host their divisional rival Chicago Blackhawks. Even the most trivial of slip ups, a stray pass or missed check will draw the ire of Mike Babcock.
Babcock: “Get your head out of your ass Abdelkader. Don’t make me ask Kenny to sign Darren McCarty to take your roster spot.”
Update #5: Here’s more on Lidstrom’s new friends from DetroiRedWings.com’s Bill Roose:
There was much more game-day media than usually in the Red Wings’ dressing room Monday morning. And it wasn’t because the Miller brothers are slated to play against one another for the first time in two years. No, the bevy of cameras and boom microphones descended on Hockeytown to follow captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who is slated to be the subject of any upcoming episode of the NHL’s all-access series called ‘NHL 36’.
For the next two days, the production crew has exclusive access to Lidstrom, driving to and from Joe Louis Arena with the seven-time Norris Trophy winner and spending time with him and his family at their Northville home. The crew will even be onboard Red Bird III later this evening when the team travels to Dallas its Tuesday night game against the Stars.
Filming began early Monday as Lidstrom prepared to drive down I-96 to the morning skate at JLA. While the skate was optional, the crew got plenty of footage of Lidstrom as he opted to ride a stationary bike instead.
Asked if the cameraman joined him for a bike ride, Lidstrom laughed, saying, “No, he wouldn’t. There were a lot of bikes free, a lot available, but he wouldn’t jump on.”
The crew did jump in team meetings and will give viewers an unprecedented view of the team as they discuss strategy and prepare for an opponent.
“They were in a lot of our meetings, they were in our penalty killing meeting just to see what that’s like,” Lidstrom said. “It just started this morning so we haven’t done a whole lot, but it’s different. It’s different having someone follow you the whole time no matter what you do, whether you’re in here, or like today I rode a bike instead of going on the ice. I did some stretching and we had our meeting, so it’s just a matter of getting used to it.”
Update #6: More Miller-Miller talk from DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose:
“It didn’t work out the last two games, which is tough,” Drew Miller said. “I wanted to play against him last year, he wanted to get back from his injury and play against us, but it didn’t workout with that either. It’ll be fun to get back on the ice against each other and I’m looking forward to it.”
Ryan Miller was coming off a concussion when the Wings defeated the Sabres, 4-1, in Buffalo on Dec. 2. The Sabres’ All-Star goalie has had a rough season, missing nine games with a concussion/whiplash received in a conclusion with Boston’s Milan Lucic in mid-November. Miller has four road victories this season, but his last came in a 3-2 decision at Nashville on Dec. 3. Since then he’s lost six straight on the road with an uncharacteristic 3.45 goals-against average.
“A lot of people are looking down on him like he’s playing horrible,” the younger Miller said. “I don’t think it’s all on him, and I don’t think he’s playing bad. I think he expects more of himself, but with the injuries and the concussions he’s coming back and improving every day. … I don’t think he’s necessarily played bad.”
Meanwhile, Drew Miller his putting together one of his best NHL seasons, with seven goals and seven assists in 42 games.
Asked who holds the upper hand if he were to get a breakaway on his older brother, Drew said, “I don’t know about that. Hopefully I do, but he’s pretty good one-on-one. He usually gets me pretty good in the summer.”
Update #7: According to ESPN Dallas’s Mark Stepenski, the Stars will start Richard Bachman tomorrow against Detroit.
Update #8: WGR 550’s Paul Hamilton talked about Ryan Miller’s attempts to recover from both a concussion and spotty play...
Ryan Miller’s play has been better lately, but you wouldn’t say we’re seeing the Ryan Miller of old yet. In his last nine games he’s given up either two or three goals in each game. His record during that time is 3-6-0 with a 2.70 goals against and .904 save percentage.
Lindy Ruff said, “I think he is, I’m not going to talk about the stuff we’ve talked about, but I think he’s a lot closer to his game now than he was a month ago. The goals against are going down, the type of saves he’s making are going up so I think he’s real close right now.”
Many have questioned if he’s still feeling the effects of the concussion he received from the Milan Lucic hit. Lindy Ruff isn’t sure Miller was right when he returned,
“You come off an injury and not an easy injury when you’re talking about a concussion and his game was off and he’s trying to get it back on track. I’ve seen it tough for some of our forwards going back to last year with Pominville, I said he wasn’t right for a month. It took a month before you really felt like that delay in his game was gone. He passed the test, he was supposed to be OK, but there’s just something about the way he was playing that didn’t seem right so I think it’s the severity and when they come back, I’ve seen very few players that just have come back and been right where you say, ‘Man he’s right where he needs to be’. It’s always been ‘Boy, it looks like it’s going to take a few games to get used to the grind’.”
There’s been a lot of work put in by Miller on and off the ice to get his game fixed.
Miller said, “I’ve been trying to evolve the way I think about things with my helmet especially trying to take some cues off the more modern helmets that guys are wearing trying to get the different equipment reps to offer me some solutions with harder foams, density, trying to take away things like flat areas on that mask, screws anything that can get caught up. I had a titanium mask and I’m wearing steel now which is a little heavier, but it’s not as hard so it gives just a little bit more, just things to take away some of the shock of puck impact. Everything else is, just contact for us is just trying to pay attention to things like that within the helmet, but our helmets aren’t made with the same kind of content which is worrisome” Ruff added, “There was a period of time where he was getting one or two shots a game where they either going off the mask or the neck area. I think he has to be sure to have the right equipment whether it’s a heavier mask or a more protective mask in those situations to prevent against the occurrence of that injury happening again is the proper thing to do, but there’s always a comfort factor. I think everybody knows goalies are the most fickle when it comes tweaking with their own equipment.”
Miller gets the call tonight against a Detroit team that he’s 17-11-5 against with a 2.63 goals against and .916 save percentage.
The Sabres’ website also posted game preview…
And pre-game interviews with Ryan Miller…
And coach Lindy Ruff:
NHL.com’s Brian Hedger posted a quip from Ruff about the Sabres’ defense while listing both teams’ probable lineups...
“Our defense is going to have to play better,” Ruff said. “We’re going to have to make smarter decisions and we have to be better with the puck in the offensive zone, so we get to play there more. I think that will be the key. It all starts with what we do up ice. If we allow them to control play in our end and give them that period of time, by the time we’re done defending we’re giving them back the puck usually … and that won’t work.”
Here’s a look at how the Sabres and Red Wings might line up on Monday night.
Thomas Vanek - Jochen Hecht - Jason Pominville
Nathan Gerbe - Derek Roy - Drew Stafford
Luke Adam - Ville Leino - Brad Boyes
Cody McCormick - Paul Gaustad - Patrick Kaleta
Brayden McNabb - Tyler Myers
Andrej Sekera/TJ Brennan - Jordan Leopold
Mike Weber - Marc-Andre Gragnani
Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Danny Cleary
Cory Emmerton - Justin Abdelkader - Tomas Holmstrom
Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jakub Kindl - Jonathan Ericsson
As well as some quotes about the Wings’ 15-game winning streak given their struggles on the road—and the theoretical tee-up that the Sabres supposedly present:
“It’s scary isn’t it?” Babcock said on Monday morning, when the stark differences in each team’s trends home and away were pointed out. “We have a game today. You can look at what you did over the last 15 or what they did … to me that doesn’t make any difference. They’re getting prepared. We’re getting prepared, and the team that plays the hardest is going to win. The onus on us is to play a real good game here tonight. You’ve got to find a way to win.”
Luckily for Detroit, that hasn’t been a big problem once they take the ice at home. It’s been a much bigger issue in other rinks, where the Red Wings have a road record of just 11-13-0 so far—a night-and-day difference that even strikes Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff as odd.
“Anytime you can win 14 in a row in your own building is an amazing feat, because you can get beat by a hot goaltender some nights,” Ruff said. “The amazing part is to have that record and then to look at the road record and think, ‘How come the road record isn’t near as close as the home record?’ But a lot of that has to do with getting your matchups and getting your personnel on a consistent basis. When they get their match-ups with the personnel they have, they can take advantage of some tough situations.”
A year ago, the Wings were better away from Joe Louis Arena than they were inside it. It’s completely flip-flopped this season and Babcock just hunches his shoulders when asked for theories on why. Are the Wings actually playing their simpler “road game” on home ice and trying to be too fancy on the road?
“It’s a good question and that’s what we said about our team last year, when we were great on the road,” Babcock said. “This year we’re good at home and we don’t know why we’re not good on the road. I’d like to tell you I have all the answers. I don’t. The bottom line … if you play well without the puck, I don’t care if that’s at home or on the road, you’re going to win a lot of games. We’ve been way better without the puck in our own building than we have been on the road, and to me that’s why we’re winning.”
Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom took it a step further. He said the Wings get after opponents more and take the action to them more on home ice this season than they do in other rinks. Part of that, he said, has to do with the current home winning streak boosting their confidence when playing in front of the home crowd.
“You always want to have that edge when you’re playing at home,” Lidstrom said. “Our fans have really been supporting us and been behind us and we’ve been real aggressive at home. We’re going after teams a little bit more than we have on the road.”
And Hedger spoke to Lidstrom about his very educated decision to allow the NHL 36 cameras to follow him around:
Lidstrom said he was “encouraged” to do the documentary by both the Red Wings and the National Hockey League Player’s Association, and signed off on it after thinking it through.
“I had to think about it for a little bit and kind of get the details of what to expect and what they were looking for and what they wanted,” he said after Monday’s morning skate at Joe Louis Arena, which he spent off the ice in a meeting about the team’s penalty-killing strategy and then riding a bike—all while being filmed. “I think it’s good for hockey, so I was willing to do it.”
Monday was the first day of filming, so it was a little strange for both Lidstrom and his teammates to get used to the roaming video cameras and large boom microphone.
“It’s different having someone follow you (around) the whole time, (filming) whatever you do whether you’re in (the locker room) or … today I rode the bike instead of going on the ice and did some stretching,” Lidstrom said. “It’s just a matter of getting used to it.”
Lidstrom has spent countless hours on the bike in his career, which allows his teammates to see the kind of intense work ethic it takes to not only be a top player, but have the longevity to do it for such a long career. Detroit center Justin Abdelkader said that’s likely what fans will get most out of the documentary.
“(They’ll see) his calm demeanor, how he goes about his business,” Abdelkader said. “He’s a professional in so many ways. He has such a calming presence. You learn from him not to get too high or too low, just stay on an even keel. He’s a great presence to have in the locker room.”
“It’s a tribute to his game and his skill, but also how he goes about his business on and off the ice,” Abdelkader said. “I’m not really sure what he does with his down time. I guess we’ll find out.”
Lidstrom reiterated his comments to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness...
“They were in a lot of our meetings, they were in our penalty-killing meeting just to see what that’s like,” Lidstrom said Monday. “I guess we’ll have to wait and see. It just started this morning so we haven’t done a whole lot, but it’s different. It’s different having someone follow you the whole time no matter what you do, whether you’re in here, or like today, I rode a bike instead of going on the ice. I did some stretching and we had our meeting, so it’s just a matter of getting used to it.”
And Drew Miller spoke to Pleiness about his Brother’s struggles...
Ryan has struggled this season and much of it could be related to the hit Boston’s Milan Lucic delivered on him that caused his concussion. After averaging 37 wins over the last five seasons, he’s just 11-12-0 this year.
“You see around the league a lot of guys are having trouble coming back from them,” Drew said. “It’s a tough situation to be in and definitely as a goaltender – their helmets aren’t built the same as ours – and they have to track the puck and use their head a lot more. There’s a little more of a process for them coming back.”
In his first game back, Nashville’s Jordin Tootoo ran him hard while Ryan was in his crease. The Sabres goalie took exception to hit and began throwing punches.
“It was good that he stood up for himself,” Drew said. “A lot of the goalies around the league are starting to stand up for themselves, I know Jimmy (Howard) did a little bit too. It’s one of those things that are a gray area, but guys want to go hard to the net more and you have to protect the goalies, but at the same time guys want to get around those areas to get goals.”
Drew said the two don’t do much trash talking on the ice.
“I’m always joking about things,” Drew said. “Well, I can’t really joke about running him over, it’s a pretty sensitive subject now. I try and give him a little whack in the pads when I’m in front of him. I look forward to these games on the schedule. Every game you’re going out there trying to score,” Drew continued. “Just because it’s my brother I’m not trying to score anymore than if it was just another game. I would be nice to get one on him.”
And we need to precede the Detroit News’s Eric Lacy’s story about Drew Miller’s mask and cage with some lingo correction and a physics lesson:
Okay, so Miller changed the cage, i.e. the metal bars which protect his eyes and face, from titanium to steel. Titanium is the preference of many goalies who can afford a $250 cage (keep in mind that Miller wears a mask made by Port Huron’s Gary Warwick, so this is kind of a big deal that we’re talking about it) because it’s much lighter than a steel cage and is very rigid, but titanium’s rigidity is a problem: when a puck hits a titanium cage as opposed to a steel one, the titanium will not flex or bend as a steel cage would, and as such, a titanium cage transfers more of the impact of a shot taken to the face to the mask or directly to the goalie’s face. A steel cage will occasionally bend and deform to the point that it needs to be replaced, but that’s okay, because steel’s slightly more ductile structure means that the cage will absorb more of the impact.
Moreover, we’re talking about a cage attached to a mask which is made from layers of Fiberglas, carbon fiber and Kevlar, and the mix thereof determines how well masks spread the impact of a puck impact over its surface area. going even further, goalies have choices in terms of what padding they choose to use in their masks, and many goalies prefer a somewhat stiff vinyl nitrile foam, but VN foam can get pretty stiff with exposure to moisture, so it has to be replaced regularly…And some goalies would argue that lighter gel pads affixed only to the pressure points of a mask are more effective, but it sounds like Miller’s going back to VN foam:
“I’ve been trying to evolve with the way I think about things — my helmet especially,” said Miller after participating in Monday’s morning skate at Joe Louis Arena. “I’m trying to take some cues on the more modern helmets guys are wearing.”
Miller said the heavier steel mask absorbs the impact of a flying puck better than a titanium one. He also will stick with a helmet lined with harder protective foam, compared to a lighter one he used before the concussion.
So that’s a steel cage and a Mask lined with harder and more protective foam.
Monday marks a Miller reunion in Detroit, the first of its kind in more than two years. Red Wings left wing Drew Miller is Ryan Miller’s brother and is also expected to play in the game. Drew was scratched from a game against the Sabres last season, and Ryan suffered a concussion just before the Sabres hosted the Red Wings on Dec. 2.
Drew Miller told reporters he expects his brother to start for Buffalo and expressed confidence in Ryan’s ability to rebound from his health setback and struggles in net.
Ryan Miller, with a career mark of 232-138-44, is an uncharacteristic 11-12 this season with a goals-against average of 2.97 and save percentage of .903.
“I think he expects more of himself,” Drew said of 31-year-old Ryan. “I think he’s proving himself every day and coming back. A lot of people are looking down on him like he’s playing bad, but I don’t necessarily think he’s playing bad.”
Also: The Macomb Daily’s Pleiness spoke to Jan Mursak about his status as a Healthy scratch...
Jan Mursak and Mike Commodore both were scratched from Monday’s lineup.
Mursak played in his first game back from a conditioning stint in Grand Rapids and has sat the last two games. He knows it’s going to be tough for him to crack this lineup.
“There are a lot of good guys and everyone’s playing really good right now, so I just have to wait for my opportunity,” Mursak said. “When it comes I have to grab it and not let it go. I need to just keep working hard in practices and gym and hopefully soon I’ll get another chance.”
Commodore said he’s close to returning from a sore foot and could probably be available to play Tuesday night in Dallas.
The Wings’ website posted a game preview with Ken Kal…
And Fox Sports Detroit’s John eating provides a preview of a different kind:
How do I know Tomas Holmstrom’s son has the flu? Find out on Red Wings Live, just before the Wings-Sabres on FSD. #pukingcoughingmentioned
After average numbers for the Thanksgiving Showdown, and seeing the Winter Classic ratings slide a bit, NBC used an Original Six rivalry to open their more traditional NHL coverage on an up note in 2012.
The network’s first Saturday regular season broadcast in four years, a Red Wings overtime victory over the Blackhawks, drew a 1.1/3 overnight rating, tying for the best NBC numbers since last year’s Hockey Day in America doubleheader.
The game tops 2011′s first indoor broadcast (PHI/CHI, 1/23/11: 1.0) by 10%, and topped 2010′s first game indoors (CHI/DET, 1/17/10: 0.8) by a whopping 38%. Keep in mind that both those games aired on Sunday, and the Philadelphia/Chicago game aired on the same day the Chicago Bears were hosting the NFC Championship Game. 2009′s Chicago/Detroit game also aired in the way of NFL Divisional Playoff games, while the Hawks/Wings OT thriller ended before football action began on Saturday. That said, I love an encouraging note to begin the second half of the NHL’s season. It will be interesting to see if NBC can keep the momentum going for a Crosby-less Penguins/Capitals showdown next Sunday.
The Windsor Star’s Bob Duff is covering the local angle today…
Former Windsor Spitfires captain Mike Weber realizes the time is long overdue for the Buffalo Sabres to kick things into gear, and he can’t think of a better time to get it going than Monday at Joe Louis Arena against the Detroit Red Wings.
“We’ve been in a little bit of a tough stretch of late, but no better night than tonight against the Wings, who’ve got an unbelievable home record, to get our road record straightened out,” Weber said.
With 43 points, the Sabres sit 11th overall in the NHL’s Eastern Conference, seven points out of a playoff spot. “We’ve put ourselves in a position where we can’t waste any more time,” Weber said. “We’ve dug a pretty good hole, and it’s time to start putting a big streak of wins together – five, six, seven, eight, nine. It’s a big task, but we’re looking forward to it.”
The injury-riddled Sabres have lost 197 man games to injury, including Weber, who missed 11 games earlier this season due to a shoulder problem. “It’s just one of those things where our team has caught a really bad bug of it,” Weber said. “Those things I believe will be straightened out. We’re getting guys back, we’re slowly becoming healthy. We’ve just got to get our back end healthy and we’ll be heading the right way here.”
Minus Andrej Sekera, Christian Ehrhoff and Brayden McNabb, Weber has been logging plenty of ice time along the Buffalo blue-line. He played a season-high 26:58 in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the New York Islanders. “Right now, with some of our big guys injured, a little more responsibility falls on other guys,” Weber said. “I’m just trying to play a solid, good defensive game.”
And the Windsor Star’s Mike Mouat penned a quick, “If you’ve been watching the Lions and Tigers and don’t pay attention to the Wings until the Lions’ season ends, here’s what’s going on” post:
The Red Wings have just passed the mid-point of the schedule and are second place in the Central Division, one point behind the Chicago Blackhawks after a thrilling 3-2 overtime win on Saturday. Their 57 points are good for fourth in Western Conference, just one point ahead of division rival St. Louis.
The Red Wings have been treating those fans that have been paying attention to some wonderful hockey at home, winning their last 14 straight at Joe Louis. They have the NHL’s best home record at 17-2-1.
Jimmy Howard has been Detroit’s best player on most nights and will represent the Red Wings at the All-Star Game in Ottawa at the end of the month. He leads the league with 26 wins, and is in the top 10 in goals against average, save percentage and shutouts.
He will be joined at the All-Star by Pavel Datsyuk who is back to his old form with 46 points in 43 games. Valtteri Filppula has evolved into the player the Red Wings have envisioned he could be and is second on the team in goals and third in points.
Welcome back Detroit, and LETS GO RED WINGS!
• And I’m pretty sure that Sportsnet’s Mark Spector, who spoke to several GM’s about “the rats” in the league, is suggesting that Mike Babcock and the Red Wings are setting the league back by not dressing an enforcer:
That the visitor can’t ice a heavyweight at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit is old news. With the last change and no heavy in his bench, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has done as much damage to the heavyweight role as any rule change, simply by sending quicker, skilled players over the boards and letting the puck drop.
But since the retirement of Kirk Maltby, Babcock does not employ a true disturber like Vancouver’s Alex Burrows. It is the existence of these players — moreover, their proliferation — that has men like Burke pining for the abolishment of the instigator rule.
Shame, shame! :rolling eyes:
Update #10: Oh boy, power rankings! Here’s the Hockey News’s Adam Proteau’s take on the Wings…
4. Detroit Red Wings [last week] 5: Valtteri Filppula on track for 41-assist, 69-point year; his career highs are 28 assists and 40 points (both set in 2008-09)
Here’s TSN’s Scott Cullen’s take...
This Week 4 Last Week 4 Detroit Red Wings: No regulation wins in their last five, yet the Wings still earned six points and recorded at least 40 shots on goals in three of those games.
Here’s what Sportsnet’s Luke Fox has to say…
3 Detroit [last week] 4: Beating their Central Division rival Chicago Blackhawks twice in eight days, by identical 3-2 scores, has helped assert the Wings as the division’s best team. Even though Detroit trails both the Blues and Hawks in the standings, it has more regulation wins (28). If the Wings win at home vs. Buffalo on Monday, they’ll set a franchise record with 15 straight home W’s.
Here’s Fox Sports’ Joe Rosen’s take...
4. Red Wings [no change] [highest/lowest] 2/20: Winning their 14th straight home game, the Wings tied a club record set in the second half of the 1964-65 season. Detroit is 11-13 on the road.
And here’s what Sportsline’s Adam Gretz has to say:
6. Red Wings [last week] 5: They won three of their four games last week, including a pair over the Blackhawks, but that one loss sticks out like a sore thumb—5-1 at the hands of the New York Islanders. Who saw that coming?
Um, me and the various pundits who noted that the Wings haven’t won on Long Island in ages. Mostly, the Wings took the Islanders too lightly…
Update #11: From the Muskegon Chronicle’s Rob Rop:
Jock Callander, Robin Bouchard and Scott Feasby will make their return to L.C. Walker Arena on Feb. 11 when the former Muskegon hockey stars take on the Detroit Red Wings Alumni team.
Highlighting the Red Wings’ roster are Mickey Redmond, Jimmy Carson and Kris Draper. The game is making a return appearance to Muskegon after a two-year absence.
“This is an opportunity to celebrate Muskegon hockey history and rekindle the relationship with fellow players and fans,” Muskegon Lumberjacks’ president Tim Taylor said. “We are trying to reach out further than we have in the past, to all the guys who have been a part of our hockey community.”
Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 12 and under. There are VIP tickets priced at $20 and will include a postgame event at the Lake House, where NHL memorabilia will be auctioned off. Included is a signed Henrik Zetterberg jersey
And here’s the Grand Rapids Griffins’ weekly press release:
This Week’s Games
Tue., Jan. 17 - GRIFFINS at Charlotte Checkers - 7 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Fri., Jan. 19 - Lake Erie Monsters at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Sat., Jan. 20 - Rochester Americans at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
All Hands on Deck: Sunday’s 4-2 loss to Charlotte saw two important pieces rejoin the Griffins lineup. Defenseman Travis Ehrhardt was a team-best plus-two in his first game since injuring his shoulder in a fight at Rochester on Oct. 16. Grand Rapids also regained the services of Chris Minard, who had not played this season while recovering from a concussion. Minard posted 35 points (18-17—35) in 79 games last season and was one of the hottest Griffins during the second half of the season, with 15 of his goals coming in the team’s final 40 games. The pair adds depth to the Griffins lineup that saw a boost last week, as Joakim Andersson, Chris Conner and Gustav Nyquist all returned from stints with the Red Wings since the beginning of the New Year. Grand Rapids now boasts its healthiest lineup all season, with no players in Detroit and only missing goaltender Jordan Pearce, who is still recovering from an ankle injury suffered on Dec. 30 versus Peoria.
On Tap: The Griffins will get a chance at revenge in Charlotte as they’ll take on the Checkers on Tuesday at 7 p.m. after losing 4-2 in their first-ever game there on Sunday. Grand Rapids will then return home to begin a stretch that will see it play each of its next three and 13 of its next 17 at Van Andel Arena, opening up on Friday at 7 p.m. versus the Lake Erie Monsters before taking on the Rochester Americans on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Jam-Packed Promotions: Fans attending the Griffins home games this week will be treated to one of the most jam-packed weekends of the year. Friday’s contest versus Lake Erie will see the Van Andel Arena debut of “Super Fan” Cameron Hughes, who gets the crowd on its feet with energetic dances, spirited chants and a variety of other antics designed to create a memorable experience for fans. Other promotions include $1 beers and hot dogs from 6-8 p.m., and complimentary fare on The Rapid to or from the game by showing your ticket. On Saturday, the first 1,500 fans will receive a fleece hockey helmet, courtesy of MetroPCS. Entertainment in the stands throughout the game and on the ice during both intermissions will come from the ZOOperstars, the inflatable, oversized mascots who are returning after appearing last season. The Griffins will again wear the special patriotic uniforms also worn on Salute to Heroes Night (Dec. 3). The jerseys will be signed by the respective players and auctioned off at the Fifth Third Vault following the game to will benefit the Griffins Youth Foundation, which will in turn donate a portion of the proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project. Finally, the Fox Sports Detroit Girls will be taking pictures and signing autographs with fans inside the arena’s Section A from 6-7 p.m.
Great Skate Winterfest: Griffins players, sled dogs, snowboarders, ice sculptors, zoo animals, figure skaters, horse-drawn carriages, winter sport athletes, museums, libraries and local celebrities will all be part of the 2012 Great Skate Winterfest, which will run for 34 consecutive hours on Saturday and Sunday at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids. Fans can enjoy a day full of winter-inspired events, sports demonstrations and family activities starting at noon on Saturday. Grand Rapids-based Marhar Snowboards will construct a snowboarding rail that will be open to the public from noon-6 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, with a “Rail Jam” competition, which will be judged by Winter X Games rider Ryan Paul and other industry pros, taking place at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Also new to the Great Skate Winterfest, O.C.M Mushing of Mancelona, Mich., will offer sled dog rides through Grand Rapids during the afternoon on Saturday at the cost of just $5 per person. Following Saturday night’s game versus Rochester, the annual 24-hour skating marathon with Griffins players will begin at 10 p.m. For a complete list of events or to make a donation to a Griffins player, visit griffinshockey.com/greatskate.
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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.