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Red Wings’ comfortable with Detroit’s status as a ‘dark horse’ (and off-day news)

Updated 5x with St. James at 4:19: TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the Wings have placed Derek Meech on re-entry waivers: Detroit Red Wings vice-president Jimmy Devellano and GM Ken Holland spoke to the PostMedia News’s Dave Gross about the fact that, at least this spring, much of the playoff talk in the Western Conference involves the Vancouver Canucks as the favorite to win the Stanley Cup, and Detroit as something of a playoff afterthought, suggesting that there’s nothing wrong with not having to face the kind of pressure to succeed that’s been placed squarely on the Canucks’ shoulders:

“We’ve been a first seed on a number of occasions and in two or three occasions, the eight seed upset us. Edmonton did it to us, San Jose did it to us, and it can happen again. Doesn’t happen often, but it can happen,” said Devellano, Detroit’s senior vice-president and a management veteran of 44 NHL seasons.

If the Canucks are to run the table - as expected by most prognosticators - they’ll have to plow through clubs like the Wings. Teams that are battle-tested, experienced and prepared. The Wings have won four Cups since 1997 and have made the playoffs 20 straight seasons. Words of advice from Detroit general manager Ken Holland?

“You need depth on defence. You need depth up front and you need balance. You need scoring up and down your lineup,” said Holland. “There’s some nights when your best players don’t score, and for us, obviously, 1997, ‘98 and ‘02, you think about the (Kirk) Maltby/(Kris) Draper/(Darren) McCarty line, not only did they chip in the odd goal, but could play against the other team’s best line. They all could kill penalties. They could eat up some minutes and they could take minutes off our best players.”

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Red Wings recall a gaggle of Griffins to serve as Black Aces

After the Red Wings wrapped up their regular season with a 4-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, the Wings headed home to Detroit and received a deserved day off before preparing to face the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday, when the Red Wings’ players will return to practice and gear up for Wednesday’s game.

There’s no doubt that the Red Wings’ management, coaches and pro scouts are spending today dissecting the Coyotes, however, and remarkable fifteen members of the Wings’ AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, are spending today packing for what they hope is an extended stay in Detroit, as the Griffins’ website reports:

With the Grand Rapids Griffins’ 15th season having come to a close yesterday, the Detroit Red Wings on Monday recalled 15 players to serve as “black aces” during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Joining the parent club are goaltenders Thomas McCollum and Jordan Pearce; defensemen Travis Ehrhardt, Doug Janik, Brian Lashoff, Derek Meech, Logan Pyett and Brendan Smith, and forwards Joakim Andersson, Cory Emmerton, Ilari Filppula, Jan Mursak, Francis Pare, Brent Raedeke and Tomas Tatar.

In addition, Griffins head coach Curt Fraser, assistant coach Jim Paek, equipment manager Brad Thompson and medical therapist Brad Shaw will assist Detroit’s hockey operations staff during the postseason.

Quickie update: The Hockey News’s Ken Campbell also spoke to Jimmy Howard recently about his playoff preparation.

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Red Wings overnight report: about those Coyotes

So we know that the Detroit Red Wings will face off against the Phoenix Coyotes starting on Wednesday. Overnight and this morning, more than a few pundits have weighed in upon the stories pertaining to and potential outcome of said series, and here’s a roundup thereof, as well as a slate of “overnight report”-style Wings notes:

PhoenixCoyotes.com’s Dave Vest offered the first Coyotes’ take on the Red Wings’ rematch against the Phoenix Coyotes, which begins on Wednesday at 7 PM, suggesting that revenge will be on the mind of both the Coyotes and their fans after Detroit’s Game 7 victory over Phoenix a year ago:

After playing three games in four nights, Coyotes players were given a day off on Sunday. They will reconvene on Monday for a closed-to-the-public practice in Scottsdale. I’m guessing many will be quoted after practice about how eager they are to play the Red Wings again and how they’d like to even the score after what happened last season.

General Manager Don Maloney is looking forward to the series.

“Anyone who even remotely follows NHL hockey knows how strong Detroit has been for many years,” Maloney told me on Sunday. “However, we feel good about our team and believe we will be up to the challenge. I expect this to be a fast, hard played, exciting series.”

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Belated Red Wings-Blackhawks wrap-up: message received

The Detroit Red Wings’ 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks was the kind of victory which defied, “I think I can write this up and be done with it” status until later on Sunday evening because, put simply, its implications depended upon whether the Minnesota Wild defeated the Dallas Stars and gave the Blackhawks a Stanley Cup playoff lifeline (which they did) or whether the Stars would help the Wings sweep their long-time rival out of the playoffs and onto the golf course.

So fate smiled upon the Blackhawks, who will open the defense of their Stanley Cup championship against the Vancouver Canucks, and the Red Wings’ victory ended up meaning exactly what the Red Wings hoped it would and thought it would when they hopped on Red Bird II for a short flight back to Detroit—a message sent from Detroit to Detroit about its ability to compete with the Phoenix Coyotes come Wednesday, minus Henrik Zetterberg, and a loss that, for a few hours, anyway, made the Hawks sweat.

That’s why I’m up in the middle of the night writing this up—the media didn’t really catch up with the Hawks until late Sunday evening, and without grounding this recap in both the Wings’ and Hawks’ post-Wild-game reaction. Without that delay, the recap would have reached its expiration date about five minutes after I wrote it up, and it’s not exactly fun spending two or three hours writing up one perspective that becomes dated all of thirty minutes after you’ve cobbled the various stories and quotes together into some sort of coherent narrative.

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Red Wings-Coyotes series starts on Wednesday (updated with TV info)

Via NHL.com, here’s the schedule for the Red Wings-Coyotes series (updated with national TV info):

Wednesday, April 13, 2011           7 p.m.          Phoenix at Detroit                     VERSUS, CBC
Saturday, April 16, 2011           1 p.m.          Phoenix at Detroit                     NBC, CBC
Monday, April 18, 2011           10:30 p.m.      Detroit at Phoenix                     VERSUS, CBC
Wednesday, April 20, 2011           10:30 p.m.      Detroit at Phoenix                     VERSUS, CBC
*Friday, April 22, 2011           7 p.m.          Phoenix at Detroit                     VERSUS, CBC
*Sunday, April 24, 2011           TBD           Detroit at Phoenix                     CBC
*Wednesday, April 27, 2011     TBD           Phoenix at Detroit                     CBC
* = if necessary

Update 3:33 AM: According to Fox Sports Detroit’s Dave Dye, FSD will cover games 1, 3, 4 and 5, with their commitment to games 6 and 7 “TBD,” but the Free Press confirms that FSD will carry games 6 and 7.

Update: According to the Wings, the team won’t practice on Monday, which is well-deserved. The Coyotes will practice on Monday in Phoenix.

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No Zetterberg to start the Red Wings-Coyotes series? Crud

Per MLive’s Ansar Khan, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock believes that Henrik Zetterberg won’t play for the first game or two of Detroit’s first-round playoff series against the Phoenix Coyotes:

“I don’t expect him to start the series,’’ Babcock said following the 4-3 win over the Blackhawks. “But he’s really pushing things, he’s working hard and he’ll be ready to go as soon as he can. I think (Niklas) Kronwall will start the series.’‘

Zetterberg has an apparent knee injury and hasn’t resumed skating. Kronwall has missed the past five games with an upper-body injury, but got in a full, hard practice on Saturday.

Right wing Patrick Eaves didn’t play today due to flu-like symptoms, possibly food poisoning.

NHL.com’s Brian Hedger confirms.

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Hello, Phoenix: Detroit Red Wings serve notice that they’re playoff ready via 4-3 win over Hawks

Updated 3x—it sounds like a Wednesday-Saturday start per the Freep/News/MLive, but Trevor Thompson from Fox Sports Detroit says the series will start on Thursday: The Detroit Red Wings played an absolutely fantastic, playoff-caliber game on Sunday, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3, earning a playoff date with the Phoenix Coyotes.

If the Dallas Stars defeat Minnesota in regulation or OT, the Hawks are out, but that doesn’t matter to the Red Wings. What matters to Detroit is that they finally matched the intensity, desperation, attention to detail and effort of a team playing for its playoff life, and the Wings served notice to themselves, more than the rest of the NHL and the Coyotes, that Detroit is not going away without a fight.

Datsyuk and Lidstrom were phenomenal, Jimmy Howard showed tremendous poise and the Wings got back to basics, playing zone-coverage defense instead of chasing the puck carrier, they were efficient in moving the puck through the neutral zone with speed and without as many turnovers as usual, and they sustained possession and control of the puck in the offensive zone, went to the front of the net like they meant it, retrieved rebounds and generated secondary scoring chances.  Yes, Howard was bumped a few times and yes, the Franzen non-call was cheap, but the Wings overcame the refereeing and, perhaps moreover, overcame themselves.

More in a real recap later.

Update: According to Versus’ Steve Lepore, NBC wants to air the second Wings-Coyotes game on Saturday at 1 PM EDT, so we should assume that the Wings and Yotes will open up on Thursday at the Joe.

Update #2: For your video-watching pleasure, here’s Bert’s big hit and Datsyuk’s deke-and-dangle goal via the Red Wings’ website:

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Brooks: NHLPA likely to approve 5% inflator, bump salary cap up to $62.2 million

According to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, as the 2011-2012 season will be the last under the current CBA, negating the “bonus cushion” that allowed, for example, the Wings to sign Mike Modano and Ruslan Salei and defer their combined over-35 signing bonuses of $850,000 to the following year’s cap figure, it’s likely that the NHLPA’s membership will swallow hard and vote to bump up the cap by 5% and continue to deal with the escrow withholdings that serve as a de-facto give-back to the league in the process:

The NHLPA has told agents that the union projects a salary cap of approximately $62.2 million next season if the players vote to trigger the 5-percent escalator, Slap Shots has learned. That represents an increase of $2.8 million from the current $59.4 million cap, or approximately 4.7 percent. This means that, 1) the NHL’s “record” revenues have not increased by the 5 percent the players voted to bump the cap for this season; and, 2) the cap would remain flat or even decrease slightly for the first time if the players opt not to adopt the inflator for next season.

This is a preliminary number recently given to the agents in the union’s “marketplace” assessment that could change slightly depending upon the revenue generated in the playoffs. Just as an example, there would be significantly less revenue generated by the Hurricanes than by the Rangers, assuming an equal number of postseason home games.

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Red Wings-Blackhawks set-up: the result might not matter but the Wings’ on-ice product does

The Detroit Red Wings face off against the Chicago Blackhawks at 11:30 AM local time (12:30 PM EDT, NBC/TSN/WXYT) knowing that no matter what happens today, they’re either going to face the Phoenix Coyotes or Nashville Predators in the first round of the playoffs. Given Detroit’s 7-7-and-4 record of late and the incredible stakes of a game whose result (and its interaction with the Dallas Stars-Minnesota Wild game which begins at 6 PM) may very well determine whether the Chicago Blackhawks spend this week defending their Stanley Cup championship or packing up their equipment and trading hockey sticks for golf clubs, you could argue that there’s no way in hell that a Red Wings team that dropped a 4-2 decision to the Hawks on Friday could find a way to match Chicago’s urgency or desperation today.

That may be, but the Red Wings definitely believe that the way in which they play during their last dress rehearsal before the “win or golf” games begin on Wednesday or Thursday (according to the Detroit Free Press, the NHL Network will announce playoff schedules at 10 PM EDT) matters and matters quite a bit, if only to reassure themselves and their fans that a team which now occupies the “Dark Horse’s Cup candidate’s” spot in the eyes of the hockey world isn’t a team that’s too mentally and physically worn down to reach May.

Because the deciphering the Western Conference standings practically requires calculus right now, and I bombed out of Calc III, I’ll let Comcast Sportsnet Chicago’s Chris Boden explain how the playoff math breaks down for Chicago…

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Khan: one way or another, the Red Wings will face a familiar foe. It’s Coyotes or Catfish

The San Jose Sharks ’ 3-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night earned the Sharks second place in the Western Conference, and, according to MLive’s Ansar Khan, while the Western Conference Standings still look somewhat spaghettified, the 3rd-place Wings can only face one of two possible opponents:

Anaheim defeated Los Angeles 3-1 and clinched the fourth seed. The Red Wings will play the No. 6 seed in the first round of the playoffs, which will be either Nashville or Phoenix.

If Chicago defeats Detroit on Sunday (in regulation or overtime), the Red Wings will play Nashville. If the Red Wings beat the Blackhawks (regulation, overtime or a shootout), Detroit will face Phoenix.

If Chicago beats Detroit in a shootout, that will create a three-way tie between the Blackhawks, Predators and Coyotes for the fifth, sixth and seventh seeds (each club would have 99 points and 38 regulation/OT wins). Their standing would be determined by the season series tiebreaker, which Chicago would win, giving the Blackhawks the fifth seed.

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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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