The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/03/12 at 03:42 PM ET
Updated 5x at 7:54 PM (argh): As the Detroit Red Wings prepare to face off against the Dallas Stars tonight (8 PM EST, FSD/NBC Sports Network outside Michigan/WXYT), a certain blogger has to run a major errand for a currently jittery family member, so I’m going to leave you with some Wings-Stars tidbits to tide you over until I can file a real morning skate update:
From the Stars’ side of things, here’s Darryl Reaugh’s game preview…
• According to the Stars’ website, Paul Devorski and Greg Kimmerly will referee tonight’s game, with Steve Miller and Brian Pancich working the lines;
• If you wish to read an in-depth article about the Stars’ decision to change their goaltending after Marty Turco faltered a few season ago, ESPN Dallas’s Richard Durrett provides said article after a massive teaser;
• And from the Wings’ side of the equation, the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness notes that the Wings’ power play has been awful of late, going 1-for-19 over the past 7 games (and he adds more to the Cole suspension-Abdelkader reaction mix as well)...
“It’s not very good, eh?” Wings coach Mike Babcock said after practice Monday afternoon. “No, the power play has to work better than the penalty kill. The power play can have all of the skill, but if you don’t work hard enough to get pucks back then your power play isn’t very good, and our power play in the last while hasn’t been as hard as it needs to be,” Babcock added. “One of the things (Tomas) Holmstrom provides is everyone talks about his net-presence, but he gets the puck back for you, so we’re one and done and we’re working on our breakouts right now.”
Holmstrom has missed the last three games with a groin injury. Detroit’s last power play goal came in a 3-2 win last Tuesday against St. Louis. That goal snapped a string of 11 straight power play chances without a goal.
“It’s not good, obviously,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “We need to score more goals when we have a chance. It’s something we need to work on. That’s the way it goes through the year, you have your peaks and you have times when the puck won’t go in,” Zetterberg continued. “You keep doing the same things and all of a sudden the pucks go in. Just keep shooting and go after the second chances.”
The Wings began the season going three straight games without a power play goal, 0-for-16.
“We need more consistency there,” Niklas Kronwall said. “We need to get back to the basics, shoot the puck a little more and get pucks back.”
• And MLive’s Ansar Khan both discusses the power play and the Wings’ 9-and-11 road record…
“Sometimes you just need the ugly ones,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Last year we did that, this year we’re not. If we figure out the road, we’ll be in really good shape.”
The Red Wings play their next four games on the road, including tonight at Dallas. After games at Toronto (Saturday), Chicago (Sunday) and the New York Islanders (Jan. 10), Detroit will have competed a stretch of 14 out of 19 games on the road.
“It is a bit of a grind, but that’s a part of the season we’re in,” defenseman Brad Stuart said. “We’re almost halfway through, and this is the part where the mental side of it becomes very important and you got to make sure you’re prepared mentally as much as you are physically.”
“We’re playing a very fast game (at home); it’s a simple game of just shooting the puck and getting it back,” Stuart said. “On the road we’re maybe thinking it’s a little harder than it really is.”
Said goaltender Jimmy Howard: “At home, we’re dictating the way the game’s played. Whether it’s match-ups on the road, we got to find a way to play our game and try to dictate the pace.”
Valtteri Filppula is among several players who have been more productive at home (22 points) than on the road (eight points). Jiri Hudler has 15 points at home, eight away; Nicklas Lidstrom has 16 at home, seven away; Kronwall has 12 at home, six away.
“When you are on the road you have to play solid defensively, not make it too complicated,” Lidstrom said. “I don’t think we’ve done that. But we haven’t scored as many goals, and that’s really the bottom line.”
And as I can’t quote the whole article, Khan adds that Babcock is very happy with the play of Mike Commodore as a physical, stay-at-home defenseman, but he’s still going to give Jakub Kindl a chance to win his job back.
More to come when I return.
Update #1: Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating reports that the Wings will go with their same lineup from Saturday/Friday/etc….
• NHL.com’s Steve Hunt offers the following projected lineups...
Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Dan Cleary - Justin Abdelkader - Drew Miller
Gustav Nyquist - Cory Emmerton - Joakim Andersson
Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson - Mike Commodore
Notes: White is currently third in the NHL in plus/minus, sporting a rating of plus-24. Detroit has an impressive goal differential of plus-39. The 84 goals allowed by the Red Wings is third-fewest in the league, behind only Boston (68 goals) and the New York Rangers (79 goals). Howard currently leads all NHL goaltenders with 23 wins.
Loui Eriksson - Jamie Benn - Michael Ryder
Brenden Morrow - Mike Ribeiro - Steve Ott
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak
Toby Petersen - Tom Wandell - Adam Burish
Alex Goligoski - Adam Pardy
Nicklas Grossman - Trevor Daley
Mark Fistric - Jordie Benn
Kari Lehtonen (starter)
If you want to read more about the Jamie-Jordan Benn storyline, Hunt offers a sidebar regarding the brothers’ debut as well;
he Stars went with their same practice lines from Monday, so Jordie Benn will be in and they will go with six defensemen and 12 forwards.
Brenden Dillon gets called up, but will be a healthy scratch. Jake Dowell comes out of the lineup and Toby Petersen will come in. His skillset seems to work well against the Red Wings (see the 2008 playoffs).
Jordie and Jamie Benn will become the sixth pair of brothers to play for the Stars in the same game. Here are the others:
• The Stars’ website posted a rather obvious pre-game comment from Dallas coach Glenn Gulutzan while noting that one Star’s killed the Wings of late:
Gulutzan: “We need to make sure we are at a heightened level of intensity because that’s what it will take [tonight]”
[Loui] Eriksson has earned a pt in his last 7 games against Detroit. He has also earned a point in 11 of his last 12 against them. #PeskyStars
• The Stars’ media website posted audio clips—though they’re M4’s, so you may have to download them or open the “Download File” link in a new tab to listen to them—of Gulutzan’s morning presser…
And Brenden Dillon’s morning skate comments….
• And here are ESPN Dallas’s Richard Durrett’s game-day updates:
* Kari Lehtonen is, of course, in nets tonight. Gulutzan believes he’s getting his rhythm as the club plays every second night.
* Brenden Dillon and Jake Dowell are the expected healthy scratches tonight. Toby Petersen is in the lineup (Gulutzan wanted a little more speed and veteran savvy on the ice over someone more physical).
* Jordie and Jamie Benn should be on the ice as teammates tonight. That will make them the sixth brother pair in franchise history to play in the same game as teammates. Derian and Kevin Hatcher were the last to do it.
* A reminder: Tonight’s game starts at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus).
That’s 8 PM EST, and if you’re in Michigan you’ll be able to see the game on Fox Sports Detroit.
Update #3: DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose provides an update on the status of Darren Helm:
“I was hoping to be back right away, looks like they want me to stay off a little longer,” said Helm, of the Wings’ training staff.
Helm suffered the injury late last week as the team prepared to face the Blackhawks in Chicago. He’s missed the last two games, and hasn’t been on the ice since last Thursday.
“It feels a lot better, hopefully get on the ice when (they) get back,” Helm said. “Stick around here, get some treatment, get a couple of workouts in, hopefully be ready for the weekend, for the fathers’ trip.”
With Helm and power forward Tomas Holmstrom out of the lineup, rookie forwards Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist made the trip to Dallas for tonight’s game against the Stars. Tuesday’s game will be the fourth straight missed by Holmstrom, who suffered a strained groin midway through last Monday’s 4-1 win at Nashville.
With the fathers’ trip coming up this weekend with nostalgic road matchups against Original Six rivals Toronto and Chicago, Helm is hoping to be back in the lineup.
“The fathers’ trip is something I really want to be ready for,” he said.
• If you’re a fan of situational stats, The Score’s Daniel Wagner offers a look at the NHL’s penalty-killers’ “plus-minus” ratings, Helm included;
• The CBC’s Elliotte Freidman offered three Wings-related quips in his “30 Thoughts”...
28. Alfredsson said Alex Kovalev was the best he ever faced in keepaway, but “the Sedins are really good, too.” Before Detroit fans begin to mobilize, he says he’s never tried it against Red Wings marvel Pavel Datsyuk.
29. Future NHL Winter Classic scenarios: It’s widely believed Detroit will be next year’s host. (Curious to see if Toronto is the opponent. Lots of politics surround that decision). The Capitals were promised a home event after playing in Pittsburgh last year and are in position to follow Detroit. In 2015, Yankee Stadium frees up and, even though the NHL has looked at other New York-area locations, the Yankees want the NHL and the league wants it there. Consider these cities the American favourites.
30. I know the NHL Winter Classic is a made-for-TV event, overly hokey and too Northeast-centric for a lot of people’s tastes. I’ve been to every one on both sides of the border and wonder as each approaches if this is the one I’m finally going to get sick of. It never happens, though. The real strength is in being there. The fans create great atmosphere and the players love it. The 82-game season gets monotonous and this is a bolt of energy for them.
• And the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema provides a Griffins injury update. Jan Mursak apparently has strep throat...
Mursak, who hasn’t played for the parent club Detroit Red Wings since breaking his left ankle in a Sept. 25 preseason game against Chicago, was assigned to the Griffins on Dec. 28. In three games with Grand Rapids, he has one assist, six shots and a minus-2 rating. The conditioning stint is set to end Jan. 11, unless the Red Wings recall him earlier.
Grand Rapids coach Curt Fraser said Mursak should be able to return to practice Wednesday.
“We were just keeping him away for a couple days,” Fraser said. “He got run down a little bit, but he’s been playing a ton and doing a great job.”
And Thomas McCollum won’t be sent down to Toledo this week as Jordan Pearce’s ankle is still wonky:
The Griffins got a boost from Tom McCollum, who was recalled from the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL on Dec. 31 and started that night in a 3-2 victory against Milwaukee. He made 29 saves to win his fourth consecutive game. Fraser expects to start Joey MacDonald on Friday night and McCollum on Saturday.
“Tommy had played pretty good here (before being reassigned to Toledo on Dec. 7), but he’s a young guy and he’s got to continue to get his numbers better,” Fraser said. “We still have to score three or four goals and it’s tough. But he’s been doing a good job for us, Joey’s getting better and it was too bad Pearcey got hurt because this would be a good time for him to be playing a lot.”
McCollum is 5-3-0 with a 3.03 goals-against average and .901 save percentage in eight games with the Griffins. He also is 5-6-1 with the Walleye and is seventh in the ECHL with a 2.68 GAA.
Update #3: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan spoke to Jakub Kindl about his status as a healthy scratch of late:
“I have to work harder and climb back into the lineup,” said Kindl, who has eight points (one goal, seven assists) in 31 games, and is plus-8. “The team is doing so well, I just have to keep working. There are some things you can’t control.”
Kindl got off to a fine start this season but saw his ice time diminish before he was benched.
“I came here this season to make the lineup, and now I’m out, so I just to have keep building and working hard and wait for an opportunity,” Kindl said.
Commodore has brought toughness to the lineup, said coach Mike Babcock, and has played well on a pairing with Jonathan Ericsson (who was also Kindl’s defensive partner). Babcock said he’ll get Kindl into the lineup soon.
“He’s been out long enough, he’s played well enough,” Babcock said.
At the other end of the spectrum, so to speak, Mike Commodore spoke to the Flint Journal’s Brendan Savage about receiving some regular playing time:
Defenseman Mike Commodore has become a fixture in the Detroit Red Wings after being a healthy scratch for 17 straight games at one point this season. He’ll be in the lineup for the sixth straight game tonight, when the Red Wings kick off four straight on the road against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.
“I’m starting to actually feel like a hockey player again,” said Commodore, who was a free agent when he signed a one-year contract with the Wings last summer. “It’s been a while. It’s been fun. I’d obviously like to keep it going. It’s going fairly well so far. I know I can play better also. There are some things I’ve been doing with the puck I can do better. In the past, I’ve been fairly efficient at moving the puck. That’s something I’d like to get a little better at. The most important thing is my legs have felt well and I’ve been skating well for me.”
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon posted a quick Wings-Stars preview this morning;
• And if it matters, here’s TSN’s Scott Cullen’s assessment of the state of the Wings via a slate of power rankings:
This Week 4 Last Week 4 Detroit Red Wings: The Red Wings are getting more from their supporting cast, as Dan Cleary, Todd Bertuzzi and Jiri Hudler each scored 11 points in December (for a total of 33), after tallying 27 points through the first two months of the season.
Update #3.5: Ohboy, more power ranking (sarcasm!). Here’s The Hockey News’s Adam Proteau’s take on the Wings…
4. Detroit Red Wings [last week] 4: Wings have league’s top home record (15-2-1), West’s best goals for/against differential (plus-35)
And Sportsline’s Adam Gretz wants us to freak out about the Wings’ goaltending:
5 Red Wings [last week] 9: Before the season there was some discussion as to whether the Wings needed an upgrade over Jimmy Howard. Well, so far, Howard has cemented himself as Detroit’s starter, but there has to be some concern about his backup, Ty Conklin. When Howard isn’t in net the Red Wings are 1-4 and give up nearly a goal-and-a-half more per game. He might need some help.
I don’t think that five games are enough to give a be-all-end-all assessment of Conklin’s ability to hold up his end of the bargain.
Update #4: Late updates irk me but sometimes it’s necessary to update a post just before game time. Via RedWingsFeed, the NHL Network’s EJ Hradek rambled on about Jimmy Howard not getting a shutout tonight…
And NHL Live gabbed about the Wings-Stars game:
The Flint Journal’s Brendan Savage also filed what is essentially a Stars game preview, noting that the Stars hope to stifle the Wings’ offensive machine:
“They’re one of the top teams in the (West) and they have been for a long time,” said forward Steve Ott. “They’re such a structured team with high end, high end skill. When you play those guys you have to play them tight. It not, you’ll get burned. They’re too good offensively and they hurt you quickly and too easily with the firepower they have. We just played the top team in the East in Boston so we have to continue our focus and play that extreme structured game we played against Boston.”
Defending Stanley Cup champion Boston is the NHL’s best team both offensively and defensively. The Bruins lead the NHL in goals scored per game at 3.43 and are No. 1 defensively at 1.91. The Red Wings rank No. 4 offensively (3.21) and are fourth defensively (2.21). Dallas got a good tuneup for the Red Wings by beating Boston 4-2 at home on New Year’s Eve.
“Coming off the Boston game, we have two of the best teams in the league coming in here,” said Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan. “We have to do exactly what we did against Boston and make sure we have a heightened level of intensity and we’re on our game for 60 minutes. That’s what it’s going to take against a pretty good hockey team.”
Update #5: Grr! One more pre-game update from Savage, who found that Wings coach Mike Babcock wants Nicklas Lidstrom to reprise his role as an All-Star Game team captain:
Nick Lidstrom should be captain of one team,” Babcock said. “That’s automatic. It’s a rite of passage.”
Lidstrom, who won his seventh Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman last season, also captained the Western Conference All-Star team a year ago. Lidstrom was the highest-ranking Red Wing in the fan voting Tuesday. He was third among defensemen with almost 400,000 votes but trailed Toronto’s Dion Phaneuf by more than 110,000 votes for second place.
Wings Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg ranked ninth and 14th respectively among forwards while Jimmy Howard was fifth among goaltenders. Howard led all write-in candidates with almost 170,000 votes. Babcock says Datsyuk and Howard are both deserving of All-Star nods, especially the latter. Babcock thinks an All-Star berth would be a good thing for Howard, who has come under fire from Red Wings fans in the past but leads the NHL in victories this season.
“It’s affirmation,” Babcock said. “No question about it, (with) his numbers and wins he’s been an All-Star thus far.”
Fans will pick the first six players named to the teams — three forwards, two defensemen and one goalie — when voting ends Wednesday The game is Jan. 29 in Ottawa.
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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.