The Malik Report
I’d generally prefer to keep this story in the game-day update mega-post, but as it seems pertinent enough to merit its own entry, Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi did speak to the media this morning about his hit on Chicago Blackhawks forward Ryan Johnson, insisting that a hit which resulted in a 5-minute major and a game misconduct was not premeditated in any way, shape or form, as DetroitRedWings.com’s Jeff Sanford notes:
“I thought he was in a really bad spot so I tried to ease up and go with my side and tried to hit him more with my butt in the stomach than anything,” Bertuzzi said after Wednesday’s morning skate. “I know if I went straight on I could have hit him pretty hard. If it was a guy who hits all the time and knows how to hit properly, I could’ve hit him really hard. He had his head down coming around the net, coming around the corner trying to make a hockey play, which you have to respect. ... I could’ve hit him really hard so I tried to ease up. When I eased up, your body goes a little bit loose and I caught him with one of my armpits.”
In a season plagued with serious and high-profile head injuries, the line between a strong hockey play and an illegal cheap shot is thinner than ever in the NHL. Bertuzzi’s hit on Monday illustrates how difficult the balancing act can be.
“If you see a guy like that you got to finish your check,” Bertuzzi said. “That’s what we’re paid to do and told to do. But at the same time you don’t want to, I don’t want to put the guy through the boards. For what? But I got to finish my check on him and make sure that he knows I’m there and I got to try to get the puck. At the same time, I try to do the right thing, and it almost kind of got away a little bit. I’m glad he’s fine. You don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”
It was reported that following the hit on Johnson, Bertuzzi met with the Blackhawks’ center during the first intermission, and apologized.
“It was just something me and him discussed, and we’ll just leave it at that,” Bertuzzi said.
Wings coach Mike Babcock told Sanford that the reaction to the fact that Bertuzzi was not suspended has more to do with Bertuzzi’s reputation than the reality regarding a player who’s grown up on and off the ice during his second go-round in Detroit:
In his latest “Dreger Report,” TSN’s Darren Dreger reveals that the NHL does at least informally keep track of players who tend to bend the rules into a pretzel on a regular basis:
Todd Bertuzzi’s hit on Blackhawks centre Ryan Johnson earlier this week sparked reaction from those who believe - based on Bertuzzi’s history - he should have been held accountable as a repeat offender. Suspensions and fines remain on a players record for future consideration, but “repeat offender” status is applied for financial penalty for those who face supplemental discipline, or are fined by the NHL, more than once over the span of 18 calendar months. Bertuzzi has been incident free since taking out Steve Moore in 2004, and in this case, his hit on Johnson was not considered suspendable by the league.
However, there is an unofficial “repeat offender” category as well, which isn’t new, but, is used by Colin Campbell when identifying players who repeatedly creep to the line between what is and isn’t acceptable in today’s game.
In some cases, a questionable hit may not warrant a fine or suspension, but will prompt Campbell to call either the player, his GM, or both to explain the nasty trend the targeted player has established.
The hockey world is understandably sensitive right now to all head hits and bodychecks delivered with an added element of “meanness,” or sense of violence and the league says it’s commited to the job of protecting players, which means more suspensions and fines for those that cross the line. The problem is, as may have been illustrated this week by Bertuzzi’s hit on Johnson, in the eyes of the hockey consumer, has the line moved and if so, does the NHL need to do more than what is proposed for next season to adjust? For some, when it comes to addressing both definitions of what is a “repeat offender,” the answer is yes.
Continued with Crosby and Nabokov talk.
Red Wings director of European scouting Hakan Andersson told RedWingsCentral’s Matthew Wuest that the Wings plan on re-signing Dick Axelsson to retain his rights in case Axelsson gets his “stuff” together and chooses to come over to the NHL, but while the mercurial forward is playing a large role in Farjestads BK’s playoff push, he also remains incredibly inconsistent, sometimes ridiculously immature and generally a player whose tremendous potential is the only reason that his swings in play thanks to his swings in mood are worth putting up with.
As the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema suggests, the Wings recently signed a very different kind of prospect in former University of Maine Black Bears and second-time Hobey Baker Award nominee Gustav Nyquist, who’s already did his homework before making an educated decision to place his college education on hold to join the Grand Rapids Griffins. Nyquist already admits that he knows that he faces a long learning curve in terms of going from playing against 18-to-24-year-olds to playing against grizzled pro veterans, but he tells Zuidema that, after two dominant years at Maine, it was time for a player who’s temporarily wearing #6 (Nyquist wore #89 in college, but the Griffins prefer that their players stick to lower numbers) to take the next step in working very hard to attempt to achieve his dream of playing in the NHL:
Updated 10x at 7:04 PM: As the Detroit Red Wings prepare to face off against the St. Louis Blues tonight (7:30 PM EDT, FSD/FS Midwest/WXYT), Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika reports that Jimmy Howard isn’t quite ready to return from a shoulder injury...
Jimmy Howard said he will not dress for Red Wings tonight against the Blues but expects to play Saturday at NSH
But it sounds like when Howard returns, so will Datsyuk, per the Red Wings’ Twitter account:
Datsyuk: Still not sure about tonight. I still not skate like Helmer ... fast.
Reporter asked Datsyuk, if not tonight, will he be ready to play on Saturday? ‘If not tonight, practice tomorrow,’ Pav responded.
Babcock: I am assuming he’s (Datsyuk) is going to go on Saturday.
Cotsonika also offered a n interesting tidbit regarding Todd Bertuzzi’s hit on Ryan Johnson:
The Detroit Red Wings’ game against the St. Louis Blues tonight (7:30 PM, FSD/FS Midwest/WXYT) is exactly the kind of game that would normally cause worry and angst among Wings fans as it’s a classic late-season-letdown in the making—a “throwaway” game against a team that’s bound for the golf course in two weeks—save the fact that…
Well, the Wings boast a less-than-lovely 1-1-and-2 record on the 5-game home-stand which concludes tonight; they have, technically speaking, lost four of their past five games; and, very plainly speaking, the Wings need the points as they’re only one point ahead of the San Jose Sharks and 3 ahead of the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference standings. The Blues might be just the team the Wings need to shake themselves out of their doldrums, too. The 13th-place Blues will be playing the second game of a back-to-back slate that started with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild, snapping a two-game winning streak, and the Blues will be without a wing-killer in T.J. Oshie, who was benched by the team for skipping (missing?) practice on Monday.
Updated 2x at 6:39 PM: As you probably know by now, Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi was not suspended after taking a 5-minute major and game misconduct thanks to an unintentional but careless and dangerous hit on Blackhawks forward Ryan Johnson, and while Sportsnet is reporting that Bertuzzi was fined for the incident, that seems unlikely, especially given Ken Holland’s comments to MLive’s Ansar Khan:
Todd Bertuzzi will not be suspended for his hit to the head against Chicago’s Ryan Johnson on Monday, the Detroit Red Wings confirmed today.
“Colin Campbell (NHL vice president of operations) talked to him after the game,’’ Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “They felt the punishment was appropriate.’‘
On the West Side of the state, the Grand Rapids Press’s Chris Knape reports that Christopher Ilitch made an intriguing comment about the Red Wings’ future home while speaking to the Economic Club of Grand Rapids…
“He practiced a little (Monday) and we’re going to see how he feels (Wednesday) morning,” Holland said. “I would think there is a possibility he dresses for the St. Louis game, but if he’s not ready I would fully expect him to play Saturday.”
The Red Wings don’t feel the need to rush Howard back for two reasons: They’ve already clinched a playoff berth, and Joey MacDonald earned himself a chance to start again with his performance against the Blackhawks on Monday. MacDonald made 38 saves to help the Wings earn a point. Marian Hossa beat him with an in-close slap shot 36 seconds into overtime, but the Red Wings were down a man. MacDonald has a 5-4-3 record with a 2.13 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in 14 appearances for Detroit this season.
“What I like about him is he’s 30 years of age,” Holland said of MacDonald. “Even though he hasn’t played a lot of NHL, he’s played a lot of pro. When he goes in to play a game there’s a lot of the guys in this league now that went through the American Hockey League that he played against. Joey’s a pro. We feel good about Jimmy and every time Joey plays another good game it gives him a comfort level and us a comfort level so we’re in no rush to bring back Chris Osgood.”
Speaking of Osgood, Holland said the Wings hope to have the veteran goalie back by the middle of next week. Osgood has been out since early January following sports hernia surgery, but he did get to celebrate the birth of his first son, Max Anthony, last Thursday.
“He started slow (Monday),” Holland said of Osgood. “The hope is he comes back (Wednesday) feeling good and can practice again, then good on Thursday, Friday and Saturday—and by the middle of next week we’re looking at having Chris Osgood coming back. If not, certainly we’ll go with Jimmy and Joey.”
USA Today’s Kevin Allen points out that Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom and Anaheim Ducks forward Teemu Selanne aren’t the only 40-plus-year-olds who have managed to stave off old man retirement:
Right wing Mark Recchi (Boston), 43, is among the most important forwards on a Bruins’ team that has aspirations of reaching the Stanley Cup Final. The spunky forward is second on the team with 33 assists, plus he has 15 goals and he’s plus-15.
Goaltender Dwayne Roloson (Tampa), 41, is a No. 1 goalie with a .912 save percentage and four shutouts this season.
Center/wing Mike Modano (Detroit), 40: Although his season was undermined by a freak skate accident that cut his arm earlier this season, he scored a wondrous goal against Pittsburgh last week. Still skates like he’s a young man.
Updated 3x with 2:07 with…t-shirt news?: This morning/afternoon’s “late-breaking” stories subsequent to the Red Wings’ 3-2 OT loss to Chicago include a recap from the Macomb Daily’s George Pohly, who received a classic, “Stating the obvious” quip from Henrik Zetterberg about a possible Wings-Hawks playoff series…
“That would mean short travel,” Zetterberg said. “There could be a lot of games between us.”
And, aside from Elliotte Friedman’s note about Pavel Datsyuk and the Globe and Mail’s David Shoalts’s double tribute to Nicklas Lidstrom and Teemu Selanne, today’s focus involves the fact that the Red Wings could indeed face the Blackhawks, Nashville Predators or Anaheim Ducks, among others, in the first round of the playoffs. That means a tough road ahead for the Wings, as the Oakland Press’s Pat Caputo suggests:
Update 1:55 PM: for some reason, Sportsnet claims that Bertuzzi’s been fined an unspecified amount: As Paul reported, the NHL has apparently decided that giving Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi a 5-minute major, 10-minute misconduct and game misconduct for elbowing Chicago Blackhawks forward Ryan Johnson was enough punishment for #44, and will not suspend or fine Bertuzzi for his hit. Red Wings GM Ken Holland confirms, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James notes:
Detroit Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi will not face any further disciplinary action for his hit on Chicago forward Ryan Johnson in Monday night’s game.
“I talked to the league – no suspension for Bert,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said this morning.
Update: The Red Wings also posted a comment regarding the news, per Bill Roose:
he Red Wings have been told that Todd Bertuzzi will not face additional disciplinary action from the NHL for a first-period hit that earned the veteran power forward a game-misconduct, his first ejection in more than seven years.
Bertuzzi earned a five-minute major penalty for elbowing and a game-misconduct when he hit Blackhawks center Ryan Johnson in the head during the Red Wings’ 3-2 overtime loss Monday.
The Red Wings held an optional practice Tuesday morning at Joe Louis Arena. Bertuzzi, who left The Joe shortly after his game ejection, did skate Tuesday, along with Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Joey MacDonald, Chris Osgood and Jimmy Howard.
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.