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Henrik Zetterberg Says Wings Need To Keep Playing And Dylan Larkin On Auston Matthews

from Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun,

If you want some buzz for Sunday’s Centennial Classic, however, look no further than the home team. By almost any measure coach Mike Babcock’s Leafs have exceeded expectations, both for this season and in the overall turnaround/rebuild since the 2014 Winter Classic three years ago.

Winners of four in a row, including a pair of back-to-backs on the road, the Leafs are very much in the Atlantic Division playoff picture and can be discussed in such context with a straight face sooner than many expected.

Auston Matthews is worth watching just about any time he steps on the ice (though perhaps not the $200-plus for this one), the rookie-heavy lineup plays with eye-catching speed and enthusiasm and the result has been the most inspiring run in the early days of the Babcock era.

But while the Leafs continue to trend steadily upward, the Wings have veered in the opposite direction of their Original Six hosts this weekend. They will head into the kickoff event of the league’s 100th anniversary celebrations having slipped into seventh place in the Atlantic Division and 24th overall.

Predictably, talk is heating up that the Wings’ magical run of 25 consecutive playoff trips will finally expire this April. They won’t go down without a fight, but the aging Detroit roster is nowhere near as competitive as it was a decade ago.

“Yeah, it’s new, but we’re in (that position),” Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said on Friday following his team’s quick practice on the pristine and fast BMO Field ice surface. “We’ve got to deal with it. Just got to keep on playing.

more

Below, Dylan Larkin on Auston Matthews...

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A More Confident Anthony Mantha And Jeff Blashill On The Outdoor Game

from Ansar Khan of Mlive,

Mantha is riding a five-game points streak (three goals, three assists) heading into Sunday's Centennial Classic outdoor game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He is a plus-7 during that stretch and is tied with Henrik Zetterberg for the team lead at plus-9.

Mantha has scored three goals in the past four games. He has seven goals and 13 points in 21 games, a pace for about 27 goals and 50 points.

The big winger scored at 1:07 of overtime in Thursday's 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre....

"It all comes back to confidence," Mantha said. "Zetterberg and Tatar are talking to me on and off the ice to make the smart plays. I'm just trying to calm my play down from maybe a few weeks ago. I think it's making me a better player on the ice right now."

Mantha said having Blashill's confidence also helps.

"He told us and told me that we could take our time making plays," Mantha said. "And it just started to come in my head that I did have that extra second to make a play than just throwing it away or trying to rush."

more

Below, watch Jeff Blashill talk about the outdoor game in Toronto...

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Make-A-Wish, Red Wings make a young fan’s wish come true

This is just cool. NHL.com's Dan Rosen tells the story of how Make-A-Wish made a young fan's hockey-related wish come true:

[Jager] Perreault, from Mattawa, Ontario, was diagnosed with leukemia on Sept. 10, 2015. He is here for the 2017 Scotiabank NHL Centennial Classic between the Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports, NHL.TV) because Make-A-Wish Canada teamed with the NHL and the Red Wings to fulfill Perreault's wish of attending the game and meeting Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg.

That and more happened Friday.

Perreault, along with his parents, Celine and Alain, were escorted into the Red Wings dressing room, where they found every player sitting in front of his locker stall.

"He's not normally speechless," Celine said.

But Perreault was as Detroit coach Jeff Blashill introduced him to the team and to Zetterberg, who gave him an autographed jersey.

"I don't know if there are words to describe that," Perreault said upon leaving the room to head toward the outdoor rink, where he'd watch practice.

Rosen continues...

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Articles from practice: on Athanasiou’s benching and Centennial Classic preparations

Updated 7x at 5:07 PM: The Red Wings practiced outdoors on Friday in preparation for Sunday's Centennial Classic, and after their practice, the Wings spoke with the media.

A few Tweets rolled in a little late after practice, as posted by the Toronto Sun's Rob Longley...

#Wings coach Jeff Blashill on outdoor games: "They're kind of like a wedding. Everything isn't always going to go well." #Leafs

And DetroitRedWings.com's Dana Wakiji...

#RedWings Blashill: I know Helmer will not be available, I know Abdelkader will not be available.

...

#RedWings Blashill: Marchy’s getting close. I don’t think he’ll be available for (Sunday), hasn’t really practiced enough.

...

#RedWings Blashill: Sheahan, I don’t have an answer on yet today.

As well as the Wings:

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Practice Tweets, outdoor version: Coreau appears likely to start Sunday’s game

The Red Wings took to the ice at BMO Field, I mean Exhibition Stadium, for an outdoor practice ahead of Sunday's Centennial Classic, as noted by the Free Press's Helene St. James...

DetroitRedWings.com's Dana Wakiji...

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Regarding Athanasiou’s benching

As MLive's Ansar Khan noted, a fan favorite was benched last night:

Andreas Athanasiou logged 5:13 for the entire game and didn't get off the bench in the third period after being on the ice for Ottawa goals in each of the first two periods.

Said Blashill: "It's a coach's decision. I'll just leave it at that."

Athanasiou has had defensive issues. He failed to stay above Evander Kane in the third period Tuesday, on the play in which Kane scored the winning goal for Buffalo.

I believe in Athanasiou and his potential, so it's disappointing for me "as a fan" to witness Athanasiou not earn a chance to play more regularly...But his defensive mistakes have been glaring of late, and for better or worse, the coach who calls "Double-A" a dynamic player also seems to believe that the way to get through Athanasiou's healthily massive ego is to take away ice time.

My biggest hope is that Athanasiou comes out on Sunday and plays dynamic hockey, because the Red Wings need the line of Athanasiou, Larkin (who's having a sophomore slump, big time) and Glendening to step up in a big way.

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Morning news: On Coreau, Mantha and post-game videos

Of Red Wings-related note this morning:

1. MLive's Ansar Khan took note of Jared Coreau's performance against the Ottawa Senators--a 26-save outing--as Khan penned a late-breaking recap:

Coreau was raised in Perth, Ontario, about 40 miles west of Ottawa. He grew up watching the Senators and Daniel Alfredsson, who had his No. 11 raised to the rafters during a pregame ceremony.

This was one of the few times Coreau's buddies and kin weren't cheering for the Senators. He was asked what this win means for him.

"I think just looking back, kind of all the hard work that's gone into getting to this point," Coreau said. "Every one of them said, 'Hey, the real work starts now.' That's something I'll keep in mind. just winning in front of them, and my best friend is here. It was just a really good feeling."

...

Coreau (2-1) was called up after Jimmy Howard's latest injury (sprained MCL on Dec. 20). He started due to Petr Mrazek's struggles. Coreau might have earned the start for Sunday's Centennial Classic outdoor game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Exhibition Stadium.

"I thought it was the best game that he's played for us of the three," coach Jeff Blashill said. "I thought he looked the most calm, I thought he looked the most compact. He made big saves in the first (period) when they were pushing."

Khan continues...

2. WDIV's David Barkowiak Jr. pointed out that Anthony Mantha's been heating up of late:

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If you are attending the Centennial Classic, the NHL has a few ‘reminders’ for you

From the NHL:

FAN REMINDERS FOR THE 2017 SCOTIABANK NHL CENTENNIAL CLASSIC™ &
2017 ROGERS NHL CENTENNIAL CLASSIC™ ALUMNI GAME

TORONTO (Dec. 30, 2016) – The National Hockey League would like to remind fans attending Saturday’s 2017 Rogers NHL Centennial Classic™ Alumni Game and Sunday’s 2017 Scotiabank NHL Centennial Classic™ about some traffic, parking and security matters:

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The overnight report: Red Wings-Senators wrap-up—Mantha, Coreau deliver big OT win

The Red Wings took a 3-2 OT decision from the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night, with Anthony Mantha's OT winner delivering a well-deserved win for Jared Coreau in front of his family and friends (see the "grandma Coreau" video below).

The Red Wings earned their win despite a consistently...difficult...power play (0-for-5 on the night), and the Wings earned their win thanks in no small part to an excellent, excellent penalty-killing unit, including a trio of successful clearing attempts from Luke Glendening while the Wings were down 5-on-3.

Mostly, the Wings out-hustled, out-worked and out-hustled the Senators, and despite having to rally from a 2-1 deficit, the Wings "stuck with it" through a kind of gummy third period, getting saves when they needed 'em from Jared Coreau and eventually prevailing in overtime.

It was the kind of gritty win that the Red Wings will want to build upon as they head to Toronto and continue their 7-game road trip.

Our friends in Ottawa were less than thrilled with the guests spoiling the host's party, as they told the Canadian Press...

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Prospect news: Hronek scores for Czechs at WJC; Finns on the ropes

Of prospect-related note:

At the World Junior Championship, Vili Saarijarvi took 3 shots, finishing at -1 in 21:45 of ice time as Finland lost 3-1 to Sweden. The Finns have to hope that Denmark beats Switzerland to advance to the playoff round;

Filip Hronek scored a goal on 4 shots in 25:36 of ice time as the Czechs lost 3-2 in OT to Denmark. TSN posted a Twitter video of Hronek's goal:

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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.

 

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