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Krupa profiles Mantha, Sproul, Callahan and Bertuzzi

The Detroit News's Gregg Krupa spoke with Anthony Mantha, Ryan Sproul, Mitch Callahan and Tyler Bertuzzi about their seasons with the Grand Rapids Griffins and their takes on their 15-16 regular season campaigns and their hopes as they look toward next fall's training camp:

The Red Wings are no longer playing, but the Griffins are in the thick of the American Hockey League playoffs.

Heading into Game 1 of the AHL Central Division final against the Lake Erie Monsters on Thursday, players like Anthony Mantha, Ryan Sproul, Mitch Callahan and Tyler Bertuzzi are in a critical time of the season — and their careers.

Playoffs are proving grounds at any level of hockey. The action ramps up and performances must improve proportionally.

“This is very important for their growth,” said Todd Nelson, the Griffins coach. “A lot of guys are maybe knocking on the door to make the club next year. The organization wants to see how these guys do in intense situations, and see how they perform.”

Krupa continues...

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There’s a Cup protocol in place for Nyquist the horse

In the, "You can't make this up" department, from the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek:

The Stanley Cup will be making the trip to Churchill Downs on Saturday morning, in the hopes of bringing good luck to Kentucky Derby favourite Nyquist, owned by Windsor, Ont., native J. Paul Reddam.

According to the Hockey Hall of Fame’s vice-president and curator, Phil Pritchard, the famous trophy is flying into Louisville from Toronto on Friday morning and will be in place in Nyquist’s barn by 6:30 a.m. on race day.


Reddam had invited Nyquist, the player, to attend the race as his guest, but he declined, as he is competing for Sweden at the world hockey championship in St. Petersburg, Russia, set to begin later this month.

However, Nyquist tweeted a good-luck message to his namesake this week, “Best of luck to @NyquistHorse running @KentuckyDerby this weekend.”

As per tradition, the horse will not be permitted to sip from the Stanley Cup until after the race – and only if he wins.

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Grand Rapids Griffins-Lake Erie Monsters Game 1 open post

The Grand Rapids Griffins are playing the first game of their second-round series against the Lake Erie Monsters presently (7 PM EDT start on The AHL Live and ESPN 96.1 FM), and if you're interested in sharing your take on the game and/or share some viewing options, please do so.

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Ilitches formalize their ‘leadership succession plan’

From the Detroit News's Louis Aguilar, via RedWingsFeed:

Mike and Marian Ilitch, the husband and wife whose holdings includes the global Little Caesars pizza brand, the Red Wings and Tigers, MotorCity Casino Hotel and plenty of downtown Detroit property, announced a leadership succession plan Thursday.

All their business holdings will remain under family ownership and one of their sons, Christopher Ilitch, will eventually take on his parents role in overseeing their entreperneurial empire — a role he’s been growing into for years now.

“I’m pleased to say that all of our businesses, including the sports teams, will remain 100 percent Ilitch-family owned,” said Mike Ilitch, chairman of Ilitch Holdings Inc., in a  statement released Thursday afternoon. Mike is 86 and Marian is 83.

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Grand Rapids Griffins-Lake Erie Monsters Game 1 Game-Day Preview video

Here's Bob Kaser with the Grand Rapids Griffins' Game-Day Preview video setting up tonight's game against the Lake Erie Monsters (7 PM on The AHL Live and ESPN 96.1 FM):

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St. James on Sproul

The Free Press's Helene St. James profiled Martin Frk yesterday, and today, she discusses Ryan Sproul:

Sproul, [Xavier] Ouellet and Nick Jensen are waiver-exempt starting next season, putting onus on the Wings to decide whether they are part of the future in Detroit or worth risking on waivers. Where Jensen, who will be 26 in September, is viewed more as a potential depth guy, Sproul entices with his stature (he's listed as 6-feet-4 by the NHL, 6-feet-3 by the Griffins) and offensive talent. He picked up three assists in Grand Rapids' three-game first-round series, after finishing the regular season with a career-best 12 goals and 35 points.

The Griffins next take on Lake Erie tonight. Wings brass plans to be on hand to watch.

"He was one of the most improved players from last year to this year," assistant general manager Ryan Martin told the Free Press. "He has an absolute rocket from the blue line. He's got enough going his way that we need to find out where he fits on our depth chart."

Sproul, 23, has played one game in the NHL, appearing for the Wings in a meaningless season finale April 13, 2014, at St. Louis. He's a good skater, and his top asset is his shot. As with Wings defenseman Brendan Smith, Sproul sometimes makes errors in his own zone. But on a Wings team that has just one offensive right-handed shot in Mike Green, Sproul could be an asset on the third pairing and on power plays.

St. James continues...

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About Nyquist the Horse’s owner and ‘derby odds’

From CNN's Motez Bashara...

Picking championship racehorses is something J. Paul Reddam is exceptionally good at, but it's well known that hockey is his true lifeblood.

So just how big a fan is he?

Well, for starters, his horse Nyquist -- the 10-3 favorite to win Saturday's Kentucky Derby -- is named after a player on his favorite team, the Detroit Red Wings.

The 60-year-old Reddam, who made his fortune launching two lending businesses, grew up in Windsor, Ontario, just across the border from Detroit where his mother, a team secretary, would bring home Red Wings tickets and apparel.

"That's how I really got hooked," Reddam tells CNN, adding that he caught 75 of the Red Wings' 82 games on TV this season. He even got to sip champagne from the Stanley Cup when Detroit won the title in 2002.

"That was almost as big a thrill as winning the Derby a few years ago," he says, referring to his 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another, who went on to take the Preakness, before pulling out of the Belmont Stakes a race shy of the Triple Crown.

Bashara continues, there's a video attached to teh story, and, from NHL.com:

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A Griffins-Monsters preview from a Lake Erie/Columbus perspective

The Grand Rapids Griffins have posted video and text previews setting up tonight's second-round series against the Lake Erie Monsters (7 PM EDT on The AHL Live/ESPN 96.1 FM), and today, the Columbus Dispatch's Aaron Portzline posted a definitive preview from the Monsters' perspective and the perspective of their parent team, the Columbus Blue Jackets:

In a 76-game regular-season schedule, the Lake Erie Monsters and Grand Rapids Griffins played each other 12 times, or nearly 16 percent of the American Hockey League schedule.

“We played two exhibition games before the season, too,” Monsters coach Jared Bednar said. “So, yeah, there are no secrets between us.”

The AHL affiliates of the Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings open a best-of-seven, second-round playoff series at 7 tonight in Quicken Loans Arena. If familiarity breeds contempt, this should be fun.

“We know them and they definitely know us,” said Dublin’s Trent Vogelhuber, one of the Monsters alternate captains. “We have had some real battles this season. We were talking about it earlier in the season (in the room), how playing this team in the playoffs would be a really good match-up for both of us. It’s a team we wanted to play, just because we think we match up well against them.”

The Monsters went 5-4-3 vs. Grand Rapids this season, with Lake Erie winning the first two games and last two games in the series. But it was close all the way. Aggregate score: 35-34, Grand Rapids.

“We’ve played all kinds of different games against these guys,” Bednar said. “We’ve had some really physical games against them, and then some games that turned out to be run-and-gun. By now we know how we want to play, how we feel we have to play against them to have success. I’m sure they’re feeling the same way.”

Portzline continues at significant length, discussing the large number of Blue Jackets NHL players returned to Lake Erie after Columbus' regular season ended, listing Lake Erie's lines and noting that both teams have endured a significant lay-off between series...

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Nyquist, Larkin give Russian-language interviews from the World Championship

This is going to be a little weird. Gustav Nyquist and Dylan Larkin gave English-language interviews to Russian websites on Thursday, and here are the rough translations thereof:

1. Nyquist spoke with R-Sport's Roman Solvyev regarding Pavel Datsyuk's possible NHL exit...

Russian forward Pavel Datsyuk from the NHL team "Detroit Red Wings" will be a great loss, says Swedish "Red Wings" forward Gustav Nyquist.

Pavel Datsyuk won an Olympic bronze in 2002 and a World Championship in 2012 as a member of the Russian national team, and he just spent his 14th season in the NHL. In April he announced that he's probably going to complete his performance overseas after the current season. The 37-year-old Russian's contract with Detroit will expire in 2017. Later, Datsyuk said that he'd determine his future after the home-ice World Championship.

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Morning news: On Brad Richards, a mock draft and a Gordie Howe pro-am press release

Of Red Wings-related note this morning:

1. MLive's Brendan Savage took note of Brad Richards' locker room clean-out day remarks:

"Guys that I grew up and started my career with are retiring," said Richards, who turned 36 this week. "It's probably going to creep into my mind here in the next month a little bit too in what I want to do. I'm not there yet where I want to say I'm retiring. I need to get away and kind of see mentally how I feel and where I'm at.

"It's a young man's game now and it's hard to start a family and all that stuff and put in the time and effort it takes to stay in shape against some of these young guys. You do have to make sure you're 100 percent all in mentally. The offseasons so big at this age.

"That's going to go into a lot of decision-making."

Savage continues...

2. ESPN's Corey Pronman conducted a mock draft as part of an Insider-only blog entry, and he believes that the Red Wings will draft an American forward with the 16th overall pick:

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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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