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Articles from practice: Wings narrow their focus ahead of pivotal game vs. Buffalo

As Paul noted, the Red Wings practiced with new lines on Tuesday, hoping to snap a 4-game losing streak when they travel to Buffalo to battle the Sabres tomorrow evening.

Jimmy Howard will start, and Dylan Larkin will play at center, between Gustav Nyquist and Thomas Vanek, as noted by MLive's Ansar Khan...

Larkin practiced at center Tuesday and is expected to start Wednesday's game at Buffalo in the middle, flanked by Gustav Nyquist and Thomas Vanek, as the Red Wings seek an offensive boost.

"That's three real high-end offensive players," coach Jeff Blashill said. "So, we've got to try to create scoring any way we can and we're hoping that combination, if we go with it, could create some scoring."

The Red Wings scrapped their preseason plan of having Larkin center the top line after just four games, when he was having difficulty adapting to his natural position, after playing almost all his rookie season on the wing. A move back to the wing sparked Larkin, who had four goals in stretch of seven games, once again utilizing his speed to beat opponents wide. But had just one point in his past eight games (a goal), slumping like most of the team.

"It's going to be fun," Larkin said. "Getting more pucks hopefully and winning faceoffs, so that'll be good."

Khan continues, and the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness continues:

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Red Wings send Jurco to Grand Rapids for 2-game conditioning stint

Per the Free Press's Helene St. James...

[edit/update: the Wings...

/end edit]

And MLive's Ansar Khan:

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It’s Official, The Detroit Pistons Will Play At Little Caesars Arena

DETROIT – Detroit Pistons Owner Tom Gores, Ilitch Holdings, Inc. President and CEO Christopher Ilitch and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced today agreements under which the Pistons will move to downtown Detroit and begin playing at the new Little Caesars Arena starting next season.  

The move will include construction of a new state-of-the-art Pistons practice facility and corporate headquarters that will bring substantial new investment and economic activity to the city, and a comprehensive community benefits plan that will bring millions of dollars more into Detroit neighborhoods.  

“This is a historic day for our franchise, and for the City of Detroit,” Mr. Gores said. “We’re moving to a beautiful new arena that will provide a state-of-the-art fan experience, and we’re investing in the future of Detroit. 

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Dylan Larkin Back At Center

from Ansar Khan of Mlive,

Larkin practiced at center Tuesday and is expected to start Wednesday's game at Buffalo in the middle, flanked by Gustav Nyquist and Thomas Vanek, as the Red Wings seek an offensive boost.

"That's three real high-end offensive players," coach Jeff Blashill said. "So, we've got to try to create scoring any way we can and we're hoping that combination, if we go with it, could create some scoring."

The Red Wings scrapped their preseason plan of having Larkin center the top line after just four games, when he was having difficulty adapting to his natural position, after playing almost all his rookie season on the wing.

A move back to the wing sparked Larkin, who had four goals in stretch of seven games, once again utilizing his speed to beat opponents wide. But had just one point in his past eight games (a goal), slumping like most of the team.

"It's going to be fun," Larkin said. "Getting more pucks hopefully and winning faceoffs, so that'll be good."

Larkin has won just 42.1 percent of his draws (32-of-76).

"I didn't feel comfortable (at center) until the fourth game and they switched it up," Larkin said. "It's hard, it's a battle every faceoff. It's not easy playing that position. You have to be able to move your feet, take offensive chances and be quick in your own zone."

read on for more on the Wing after practice today...

added 2:57pm, from Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press,

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Frans Nielsen Is Right

 

Wakiji has a few more tweets on this topic from Nielsen...

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Detroit’s Practice Today

Also from Khan,

Jimmy Howard in net usually occupied by next game's starter.

more as needed...

added 12:18pm, Khan again...

lines at practice:
Abdelkader-Zetterberg-Mantha
Tatar-Nielsen-Glendening
Nyquist-Larkin-Vanek
Sheahan-Ott-Bertuzzi/Miller

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ESPN’s LeBrun weighs in on Wings expansion draft strategies

From ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, regarding the expansion draft:

Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings only have one player with a full no-move, and that's Frans Nielsen -- so he's automatically on their protection list. Second-year forward Dylan Larkin is exempt from the expansion draft.

Right now I see the Wings going with a 7-3-1 protection list because they have so many forwards who are eligible for the expansion draft even with Larkin exempt. Forward Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou, for example, are eligible for the expansion draft as third-year pros, so the Wings either have to protect them or expose them.

Detroit has some tough choices up front. Let's assume they protect Nielsen, Henrik Zetterberg, Gustav Nyquist, Justin Abdelkader, Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan; that leaves them with one spot left, for either Mantha, Athanasiou, Darren Helm or Luke Glendening. Three of those guys will have to be exposed.

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Praise for Jimmy Howard

Sportsnet's Sean McIndoe has doled out quarter-season awards, and he's named Jimmy Howard his "comeback player of the year" (thus far):

The winner is… Jimmy Howard.
Midway through last season, Howard looked like he was just about done as an NHL starter. He was coming off back-to-back seasons where he'd posted a below-average .910 save percentage, and he was struggling to even reach that low bar (he'd finish the year with a .906).

He'd lost the starting job to Petr Mrazek, and the six-year contract he'd signed after his last decent season, way back in 2013, was looking like one of the league's worst. He started two playoff games, lost both, and headed into the off-season with everyone wondering if there was any way the Detroit Red Wings could unload him.

They couldn’t, and they're pretty happy about that right now.

Howard's been fantastic so far, posting a .940 save percentage. That hasn't translated to many wins (he's 4-5-0) and he's still splitting time with Mrazek, but he looks like a bona fide NHL starter again, if not something more.

If he can keep it up, the outlook for a Red Wings team that can't seem to score suddenly starts seeming a lot less hopeless.

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‘Two Things’: On a marriage of convenience and Tweets of note

Of Red Wings-related note this morning:

1. The Pistons' move downtown (presser at 3 PM today on the Wings' website) is only part of what appears to be an organizational affiliation of sorts between Palace Sports & Entertainment and Olympia Entertainment, as noted by the Free Press' James Jahnke...

The deal between Pistons owner Tom Gores and the Wings-owning Ilitch family likely will include the sides’ entertainment arms partnering -- Gores’ Palace Sports & Entertainment and the Ilitches’ Olympia Entertainment.

And Crain's Detroit Business's Kirk Pinho:

Details of the deal are expected to be complex and involve additional long-term business relationships between Gores and the Ilitch family. They're expected to include a joint venture operating various theaters and entertainment venues, and possibly a partnership on media broadcast rights for the Pistons, Red Wings and Ilitch-owned Detroit Tigers.

2. Twitter is very busy with notable news this morning:

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The Wings This Week

from Ansar Khan of Mlive,

The Red Wings are not in a playoff position as they approach the 20-game mark of the season. Of course, more than three-quarters of the season still needs to be played, but it's often said the standings don't change much after 20 games, which is usually around Thanksgiving.

One year ago on this date, 13 of the 16 clubs that were in a playoff position reached the postseason. Florida, Philadelphia and Anaheim were the teams on the outside that got in, replacing Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver.

This year, the Red Wings must replace one of the clubs they're looking up at. There is a long way to go, but history is not on their side.

Here are five things to watch for this week:

Can Mrazek rebound?

The Red Wings were counting on strong goaltending from Petr Mrazek to help compensate for their offensive shortcomings. But Mrazek is off to a shaky start (4-5-1, 3.16 goals-against average, .901 save percentage). He has allowed four goals in each of his past four starts.

Ironically, the team is supporting Mrazek well, averaging 3.1 goals per game in his 10 starts. They have averaged only 1.44 goals per game in Jimmy Howard's nine starts.

read on

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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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