The Malik Report
I'm not sure words are adequate to describe how much the Red Wings' 5-4 shootout win over the Chicago Blackhawks means to the team, to their playoff hopes, to the players' confidence and especially to the seppuku-inclined fan base.
I'm not sure if it will mean much if the Wings don't build upon this game by defeating the Montreal Canadiens on Friday, and the Habs got smacked 5-1 by Pittsburgh.
This game had all the thrills, chills and especially self-inflicted spills of a classic Red Wings-Blackhawks afair (please see the Cleary-Helm-Bertuzzi line ending up at -3 and Smith having an assist on the 2-1 goal and an assist on the Hawks' game-tying goal, and the Wings' 24-and-44 faceoff record for that matter), it had the "dirty" plays and dives and truculence of a playoff affair...
The Red Wings' coach speaks the truth regarding tonight's "Rivalry Night" game between the Wings and Blackhawks (on NBCSN and TSN2 at 8 PM EST), as noted by 97.1 the Ticket's Ashley Dunkak:
The Red Wings, who have been battered with injuries, are 21-18-10 with 52 points in the standings. The Blackhawks are 32-8-11 with 75 points.
“I don’t think we’re holding up our end of the bargain,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “Rivalry is when two teams really get after one another. I thought we did last year in the playoffs. We haven’t been a good enough team this year to consider this a rivalry-type game, and yet the past is what the past is. We’ve had a good run with them.
“We used to be where they are,” Babcock reflected, “and now they’re where we were.”
Instead, as both Jimmy Howard and Babcock told Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji after Tuesday's practice, the Wings are looking up at their immediate rivals--the other teams battling for a "wild card" spot in the Eastern Conference standings:
The Red Wings' "out of the playoff mix" status in terms of their spot in the Eastern Conference Standings yielded what the Free Press's Helene St. James reports was a twist in the subject matter discussed at the Wings' mid-season organizational powwow.
Instead of discussing draft prospects, St. James reports that the front office--Ken Holland, Ryan Martin, Kris Draper, Mark Howe's pro scouts, Tyler Wright's amateur scouts, the team's prospect and goalie mentors and font-of-knowledge Jimmy Devellano--both prepared for a possible non-playoff draft outlook (which would involve qualifying for the NHL's draft lottery) and attempted to assess which players might help the cause of a roster so beset by injuries that one must look back to October to see what a "fully healthy" (or nearly so) Red Wings team was capable of producing in terms of points and wins.
Holland told St. James that the Wings may or may not "buy" at the deadline...
Chuck Pleiness of Red Wings Front with a post-skate update on Datsyuk,
Pavel Datsyuk appears to be getting closer to returning from his lower-body injury.
“Good,” Datsyuk said when asked how he felt. “I can skate now. It’s much better. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. (It’s) not walking up, it’s when I skate. I feel better every day. (I) can’t say anything more.
“It’s much better now,” Datsyuk continued. “(I’m) looking forward to skate tomorrow and it’s day-by-day. (I’ve had) too many injures this season, maybe it’s my age. I also have lots to think about my game.”
more including Ericsson excited to return to tonight.
from Brian Stubits of CBS Sports,
The injury issue is very real but that doesn't mean other issues aren't present. For one the Wings don't scream greatness down the middle. Get past the awesome Pavel Datsyuk and you're talking about a center corps that has Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist (who has been most productive of this bunch), Darren Helm and Stephen Weiss among a few others who have popped up from the AHL. Weiss was supposed to be the No. 2 guy but he's been felled by the old injury bug and before that was having a dreadful beginning to his Wings career with four points in 26 games.
There is also the issue of a lack of offense from the blue line. Niklas Kronwall is fourth on the team with 29 points but among defensemen Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl are next with a whopping 11. The defensemen not named Kronwall have combined for a goal and six assists on the power play, a power play that is 22nd in the NHL at 16.8 percent. It's pretty apparent Niklas Lidstrom isn't back there anymore.
It all helps to explain why the Red Wings, the high-powered Red Wings just a couple of seasons ago, are 23rd in the NHL with 2.45 goals per game. When we adjust for the goal that absolutely should not have counted against LA as it was scored by the mesh above the boards, the Red Wings have scored six goals in the past six games -- three coming in one game.
Updates will be posted as needed.
added 10:57am, Beat writers say Ericsson tells them he is in tonight.
added 11:06am, Khan tweets,
Kindl still skating, so it looks like he is a healthy scratch tonight.
added 11:10am, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune tweets,
Defenseman Brendan Smith says Red Wings want "redemption" against #Blackhawks for last season's playoffs.
added 11:12am, Khan on Datsyuk,
Chuck Pleiness of Red Wings Front with an update after practice,
Howard was in getting treatment and said he has fluid on his knee and that he didn’t think the injury was as serious as the MCL sprain he suffered last month.
He injured the knee making a save in the first period on a Blues’ power play.
“As the game went on in the second period it just got stiffer and stiffer,” Howard said. “I’m hoping short term. It’s not as serious as it last time in Tampa.”
Howard, who will get re-evaluated in a week, missed eight games after suffering the MCL sprain during practice.
“First and foremost is getting the knee healthy for this organization,” said Howard, who added he wasn’t concerned about missing the Olympics. “It is frustrating. You’re moving in the right direction, you feel you’re doing all the right things and we were doing all the right things. It’s just bad luck, I guess.”
more plus other injury news...
added 2:18pm, Khan with his post-practice update, Gusttavsson cleared to play and Ericsson is possible for tomorrow...
I guess I have to report this, via the AP...
Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard left the game against the St. Louis Blues midway through the second period with what the team called a lower-body injury.
Howard, who is one of the U.S. Olympic team goalies, was replaced by Petr Mrazek after making 22 saves. Detroit was trailing 3-1.
Howard is 9-11-8 with a 2.58 goals-against average. He stopped all three shots he faced in the tiebreaker to lift Detroit to a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.
Because Mickey Redmond suggested that he was ill, not suffering from a tweaked groin or hip flexor, all of Twitter and even Roberto Luongo have been making "poopy" jokes over the last 30 minutes. At this point I am HOPING that Howard's ill and not injured.
About The Malik Report
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.