The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/09/13 at 11:36 AM ET
The Red Wings' prospects engaged in a light-hearted morning skate before tonight's prospect tournament championship game against the Buffalo Sabres (taking place at 7:30 PM at Centre Ice Arena), but the "optional" skate was anything but--18 of the 24 players on the roster took part in a practice ran by Jim Paek, Spiros Anastas, Jim Bedard and Chris Chelios (no Jurco, Athanasiou, Nedomlel, Tvrdon, Jarnkrok or Frk, but I can assure you that those I spotted in the hallway looked healthy and hale)-and tonight's starter, Jared Coreau, got in a solid amount of work.
I'll posit some short observations when I get back to the "home office," but for now, here are a pair of interviews for your listening pleasure:
Free agent try-out goaltender Cam Lanigan's not playing in tonight's game, and he hasn't started any of the Wings' prospect tournament games, but he's genuinely happy to be at the Wings' camp, and coming out of junior hockey, he does hope to latch on with the organization in some way, shape or form this or next year. He spoke at length about working with Jim Bedard, the difficulty that is being a good teammate when you're not able to go out and prove what you can do, his style of play and his excitement about taking part in the main camp--as well as the fact that going "camping" with the Wings is as much about learning how to be a professional off the ice as much as it is being a pro on the ice:
And for someone whose English is supposed to be so-so, Alexei Marchenko was thoughtful and forthright in discussing the adjustments he's making as he tries to learn how to play North American-style hockey on a smaller rink, working with his partner Marc McNulty, dealing with the physical grind, how he's trying to balance being "safe" with generating offense and his adjustments to turning "North American pro" in general. I can say that the gentleman sports a very large wedding ring, so he's not going it alone. Nice guy, really smart:
This is pretty awesome, too:
Update: We've got news from the Sabres' side of the ice...
The Rochester Americans will air highlights from the game; the Sabres' website will offer a recap, as will WGR 550, and BuffaloSabres.com's Kris Baker posited a list of nine prospects who are powering the Sabres' championship run:
Right from the opening shift, Girgensons brought a high level of intensity to help get the Sabres out to an early lead. His vision was clearly evident at the left wing spot on the Sabres’ top offensive unit, and his motoring legs made an impact at both ends of the rink. The second-year forward continued to display strength on the boards, winning a number of battles to help sustain pressure deep in the Hurricanes zone. The Sabres will need more of the same Monday when they look to complete their title defense.
With Chad Ruhwedel nursing an upper body injury, Gauthier-Leduc was thrust into a leading role on the Sabres blueline, and his performance did not disappoint. He wired an accurate shot from the left point to give the Sabres a 2-0 lead in the opening period, but his mark was made with his physical play and mobility in front of Sabres goaltender Connor Knapp. From quick tape-to-tape passes or key shot blocks, the QMJHL product seemed to improve with each passing shift while paired with rock-solid Brady Austin.
Paired with Nikita Zadorov, Ristolainen again proved effective with his efficient two-way style for the full 60 minutes. He added motion on the power play, covered a lot of ground on the penalty kill, and used his body to clear the Carolina forwards out from in front of the Sabres net. The top Sabres defender through the first three games, Ristolainen will need to continue his high level of play and seal off backdoor opportunities if the club is to walk away from Traverse City with a perfect record and their second title in as many tries.
Update #2: The drills may have been short in duration, but they were anything but overly simplistic.
After goalie coach Jim Bedard warmed up Jake Paterson, Jared Coreau and Cam Lanigan with some simple, "Shoot at the toes" drills, the players engaged in a really slick drill in which a defenseman standing at the hash marks would push the puck up to a left winger, he'd push the puck up to a right winger and the three would charge all the way down the ice at the opposite net--and a second set of players would skate up the ice shortly behind the first, really skating in on the goaltender in waves.
Then the players lined up in a set of four "repositories" at each of the bluelines, and first, one of the four corners' players would send a pass up to the opponent "vertically" parallel to him, he'd receive a pass back, skate laterally along the far blueline, pass the puck to the player at the other end of the blueline, receive that pass back and skate in on the goal from whence he came.
After that, the players engaged in a dump-retrieve-and-regroup drill in which a coach would dump in the puck, the goaltender would play it to a single defenseman, that defenseman would fire the puck to one of two wingers, who'd pass to a defenseman at the far blueline, and that d-man would help the 2 forwards skate back in on the defenseman who retrieved the dump-in...
Jim Bedard had players take part in two iterations of a now-familiar drill, where the players line up on either the goalie's glove or blocker side at the half boards, they take a pass from a coach below the goal line, skate to the front of the net, fire the first puck, circle around a glove planted at the very top of the faceoff circle opposite the side of the ice where they started, receive another pass from a coach and take a second shot to test the goalies' ability to recover laterally. That drill eventually included the skater standing at the net as a third pass would head out to the blueline, where a defenseman would either walk laterally or fire from the center of the blueline.
Bedard threw in a wrinkle where he'd clang the puck off of the boards near himself as if to indicate a giveaway that players had to pounce upon, and that was more than a little intriguing as a subtle move.
At the other end of the ice, the defensemen--and Anthony Mantha--worked on their one-timers, and by the end of it all, the guys played "jam the puck in the goalie while standing in a horseshoe," all while Coreau went off early....
And it must be noted that Tyler Bertuzzi, Barclay Goodrow, Rasmus Bodin, Jordan Maletta and Richard Plutnar stayed on the ice for almost another twenty minutes taking shots and one-timers.
In terms of indivdiual players, in a more light-hearted vein:
#15 Riley Sheahan: Sheahan was out there to work, and while he was a little less intense than usual, he was all business. He continues to set the tone for his teammates, he's really showcasting his offensive panache and he's focusing on the details of his game.
#26 Tomas Jurco: Jurco sat this one out, but he's fine.
#39 Anthony Mantha: It sounds a little weird, but Mantha actually spends a good deal of time working on his shot, regardless of whether he's one-timing the puck, taking slap shots or sliding wristers through traffic. He's not captain competitive and gritty during practice, but he works very, very hard.
#42 Martin Frk: Frk didn't skate. I didn't see him but I'm assuming that he was taking a breather.
#56 Teemu Pulkkinen: He passes superbly, he shoots rockets, his defensive awareness is surprisingly superb, he skates very quickly, enjoys contact...But boy, are the sights off on his Holy Slapper. He's going to have to keep adjusting to the angles of an 85-foot-wide rink instead of a 100-foot-wide one as the "clang" of puck hitting glass is what you most usually hear when he winds up and unloads.
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi: When he practices, as goofy as he can be, he really showcases the untapped offensive potential he possesses. Slick shot, great passing skills, head up all the time, he possesses an awareness of where his teammates are and he makes steady plays. If he could do that in games, it'd be fantastic.
#60 Marek Tvrdon: Didn't skate. He hasn't played hockey for almost 10 months, so he needed to recharge.
#62 Zach Nastasiuk: Put bluntly, he hustles with a smile on his face. He really, really enjoys doing what he does, and his enthusiasm is in fact quite contagious. He's a grinder who takes delight in proving that he can do more than check.
#63 Phillipe Hudon: Hudon was of course the most serious player not named Sheahan on the ice. Phil was all business, cracking smiles but generally focusing on positioning and trying to play a little more aggressively in terms of his offensive forays.
#64 Jordan Maletta: I still can't figure him out. 6'3" and 212 pounds of either grinder or possible playmaker...When he's interested.
#67 Rasmus Bodin: Rasmus is affable, tremendously gifted with a gigantic body, he's very mobile for his size, he works hard, and yet the focus isn't there. He's frustrating as hell to watch just kind of chilling on ice.
#70 Calle Jarnkrok: I don't believe that Jarnkrok skated. He's dealing with a hard pace of games played over short periods of time, too.
#72 Andreas Athanasiou: For some reason, he wasn't listed on my practice roster, so I'll say this: he works very, very, very hard in practice, on offense, on defense, on positioning, on using his teammates better and getting in position to be utilized as a defensive outlet and an offensive marker. He listens to the coaches, tries to be in the right place at the right time, tries to make simpler and more decisive plays, and while he's smiling most of the time, he approaches practices like games--as an opportunity to showcase what he's got and to make what he's showcasing better.
#84 Barclay Goodrow: Goodrow was very casual. The absence of battle drills didn't allow his net-crashing, hard-charging abilities to shine.
#47 Alexei Marchenko: Like Athanasiou, Marchenko works very hard during practices. He hustles, he grinds, and he's very engaged in attempting to adjust to the dimensions of the North American rink and the pace of the game. There are many drills for him to use to learn about being in the proper position and making the proper play--regardless of whether it's a slick offensive move, a foray into joining the rush or just gettin' the dang puck out of trouble--and he's trying to learn as much as he can.
#48 Ryan Sproul: Sproul took things slowly and casually, working on his one-timers, but he also continues to just display a remarkable amount of natural skill and a looming physical presence.
#61 Xavier Ouellet: Slick, slick, slick, even when goofing off and trying to ligthen the mood.
#58 Max Nicastro: Nicastro is working on bringing his innate offensive abilities to the fore, and he knows that practice makes perfect. He's doing his best to show the coaches that he can in fact be more than a #6 defenseman every time he takes to the ice.
#74 Marc McNulty: McNulty is just ridiculously mobile for his 6'6" stature and strong for his 189-pound-listed weight, he's got a heavy shot and his positioning is superb. He's very, very promising.
#75 Michal Plutnar: Plutnar keeps up, Plutnar displays solid offensive skills, Plutnar does not stand out. Not enough on a stacked blueline.
#77 Richard Nedomlel: Richard took some shots while wearing shoes instead of skates, goofing around. That's all he did today.
#31 Jared Coreau: Coreau's lateral mobility remains a work in progress and his blocker can't drop as easily as it's been dropping of late. He's trying to figure himself out after a long absence from the game and a longer absence from health, but his calmness and smarts are seeing him through.
#36 Jake Paterson: Paterson has few holes or chinks in his armor. He's simply incredibly fundamentally sound, and he makes the game look effortless at times.
#68 Cam Lanigan: I like Lanigan's approach, I like his demeanor, at 6'3," he's a superb hybrid goalie who kicks rebounds out to the proper spots, uses a smart, high-held glove hand to snag or block pucks, he stands very, very upright in his stance to maximize his blocking area and he's been incredibly professional about sitting out all four games. He's just stuck up the bad end of a numbers game.
I'm keeping these short so I can rest up for what should be an exciting championship game.
As for Michelle Osgood's photo gallery, it really is amazing:
Click on the Bertuzzi picture for a bigger version. It's epic.
All images courtesy of Slapshot Photography, LLC.
Update #3: DetroitRedWings.com's Dan Mannes conducted interviews with Jeff Blashill...
And Ryan Sproul:
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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.