The Malik Report
The Red Wings hadn't won a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning since November 30, 2011, but today's game against Tampa Bay was supposed to be one of those must-win games that the Wings needed to both snap their seven-game winless streak against the Bolts and to keep the Ottawa Senators (who are visiting Toronto tonight at 7) and Boston Bruins (who defeated the Rangers 4-2 in a 1 PM matinee, closing to within 3 points of Detroit) at least 5 points in arrears of the Wings' third and final Atlantic Division playoff spot.
For the Lightning, this was supposed to be a pretty "easy win," a game that would sew up a playoff spot while continuing their dominance over Detroit while sending a message that--perhaps to paraphrase some of the Bolts' beat writers--the Bolts wouldn't have to consider the Wings much more than a speedbunp along the way toward a long, deep spring playoff run.
via Ansar Khan tweets,
Babcock said he's not sure yet if Datsyuk will play. He'll find out either before or after the warmups.
If Datsyuk can't go, Cleary will be in the lineup. Babcock said he hadn't decided who'd be second line center if Datsyuk is out.
No changes on defense. Kindl is healthy scratch.
The Detroit Red Wings begin a stretch of 4 incredibly important games in 6 nights against the Tampa Bay Lightning this afternoon (2 PM on FSD/Sun Sports/97.1 FM), and while this game isn't necessarily as possibly playoff-trajectory-changing as Tuesday's 4-pointer against the Senators or Thursday's 4-pointer against the Bruins (both teams remain 5 points behind Detroit)--and unless the Lightning lose their last 7 games, and the Wings win their last 9 (see also: Wings have 2 games in hand on Tampa), Detroit's not likely to close the 9-point gulf separating its 90 points and Tampa Bay's 99...
But it would be nice if the Wings, who are now in a fight to earn the visitor's spot in an opening-round battle against either the Lightning or Canadiens (who have 100 points), haven't defeated the Lightning this season (last Friday's 3-1 loss was the Wings' 3rd loss of the season to Tampa and the Wings' 7th loss in their last 8 games vs. Tampa Bay), so it would be nice if the Wings skate into the playoffs having proven that they can defeat the Lightning at least once over what amount to three seasons' worth of losses-and-a-win-in-November-2011.
The Lightning are obviously in a different place than Detroit; they've won 4 of their past 5 games and 8 of 12 March outings (see also: Detroit, 3-7-1), and their 3-2 loss to Nashville on Thursday produced headlines like Bolts falls to Nashville, can’t seal playoff spot instead of, "Our goalie can't stop more shots than the other goalie this March...again..."
The Red Wings have exactly one NCAA-playing prospect still playing as of this evening: David Pope and the University of Nebraska-Omaha will battle Harvard at the NCAA East Regional in Hartford, CT on Saturday (at 7:30 PM on ESPN3), and that's...
That's it now. Ben Marshall and the University of Minnesota dropped a 4-1 decision to Minnesota-Duluth on Friday, ending Marshall's NCAA career and casting his future in some real doubt as Marshall's senior season yielded 2 goals, 9 assists and 11 points in 38 games played (and those stats are indicative of his four-year career's worth of being an offensive defenseman who didn't necessarily produce points).
Almost a week after it happened--as a Red Wings fan--I still don't give a flying *#$%@& about the hubbub surrounding Justin Abdelkader's broken-stick-shoves-it-in goal save exactly one problem: agendas of the article-writers and Wing-fan-provokers aside, by the letter of the law, the goal was in fact illegal, and it should provide an opportunity for the NHL to explore ways to get the call right by reviewing it.
Sportsnet's John Shannon figured that he could leverage some of his connections to survey general managers regarding plays like this applying to the proposed "coach's challenge," and he received some positive feedback:
On Friday, ESPN's Pierre LeBrun reported that a tweak to the Hockey Hall of Fame's bylaws made Chris Pronger eligible for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame this year, and LeBrun's Tweeted out a note about the bylaw tweak that might make Nicklas Lidstrom's induction this November that much more Red and White:
3 Stanley Cups, 2 Sekle Trophies, a Hart Trophy, a Lester B. Pearson Award, 483 goals, 1179 points, 176 playoff points....That's Hall of Fame stuff.
Updated 7x at 3:52 PM: The Red Wings' Friday practice did not bring good news: the beat writers reported that Pavel Datsyuk is "questionable" for tomorrow's game, that Erik Cole will probably miss both of this weekend's games and that Riley Sheahan will be, to quote coach Mike Babcock, "out for a bit" with an "upper-body injury" (the playoffs are near = no more injury clarity).
Given the magnitude of tomorrow's showdown with a possible playoff opponent in Tampa Bay, the Wings' horrible historical record on Long Island, and the essential-must-win natures of next Tuesday's battle with Ottawa and next Thursday's tangle with Boston, the Wings don't need to have an entire line of offensively-minded forwards out (the 4-non-roster-emergency call-up cap = Cleary draws in) while also battling defensive issues and shaky goaltending by both the would-be starter and the would-be back-up.
Jimmy Howard made some slightly strange comments after practice, telling the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that his issues with tracking the puck--which is an absoultely essential, fundamentally important skill for goalies--involve "little things" as opposed to being something minor that he needs to "tweak"...
Updated 6x at 1:32 PM: Sheahan has an "upper-body injury":
What are the Red Wings going to do about it? We can chew off our fingernails worrying or wear our fingerprints thin offering our own solutions, but hockey isn't an interactive business in terms of coach or player decision-making, so...
We'll find out at a sligthly "late" practice, ahead of back-to-back games against Tampa Bay (2 PM EDT on Saturday) and in Long Island (5 PM on Sunday), with both games preceding a Tuesday-and-Thursday set of games against the closely-pursuing Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins.
The Wings took to the ice just before noon EDT, and bad news came in a hurry, per the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness...
Riley Sheahan not on ice. Not sure if he's injured or a maintenance day. Waiting word from Holland.
And MLive's Ansar Khan:
Cole not practicing today, so he's likely out at least the next two games. Sheahan not practicing. No word yet on reason.
This much = good, again, per Khan...
The Red Wings' 6-4 loss to the San Jose Sharks wasn't more costly because the Wings "got help in the standings" for the first time in a long time: Ottawa, which is 5 points behind the Wings, lost 5-1 to the Rangers, and the Bruins, who are also 5 points back having played 1 more game than both Detroit and Ottawa, dropped a 3-2 OT decision to Anaheim.
After the game, Wings coach Mike Babcock, who's become a media-beleaguered gentleman during the Wings' 3-7-and-1 March schedule, chose to announce that Petr Mrazek would start Saturday's all-important showdown with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and you will have to take what he told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness about Mrazek vs. Jimmy Howard as you will:
When Babcock was asked if he had a No. 1 goalie he responded with, “I’m starting Pete Mrazek next game.”
At the same time, Babcock told Pleiness and the assembled media that he didn't feel that his goaltenders--plural, because Petr Mrazek gave up two soft goals, too--were solely to blame for the Wings' issues...
With the Wings having just completed their 10th remaining game of the 2014-15 campaign, I've changed my mantra from, "Catch the Bolts" to "get a point!"
The Wings' disastrous March 3-7-and-1 record and game-to-game and period-to-period performances have deteriorated to the point that it's all but essential for the Wings to "go .500" to not drop into a Wild Card spot, and as such, the goal of earning one point every night might be a little more realistic than hoping for wins.
Thursday, the Wings placed fans on an emotional roller coaster that resulted in a 6-4 San Jose win and what was an exasperating, infuriating and incredibly frustrating effort in which BOTH Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek weren't good enough, NOR were the players in front of either--Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar had 4 giveaways apiece, at least on paper, and 3 of Nyquist's giveaways yielded Sharks goals on a -11 team.
As a result, I'm sure that more of you are going to insist that Howard's incompetent, but you will see him on either Saturday against Tampa or Sunday vs. the Islanders, the coach remains the coach, friends, and the Wings' games against Ottawa on Tuesday and Boston on Thursday, with both teams 5 points behind Detroit, become monumental ones.
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.