The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/17/14 at 11:42 PM ET
I'm trying not to get into details, but the last two weeks have obviously involved a difficult time for me health-wise, and as a result, a diminished presence here. I'm on my way to recovery, but it appears that I can't give the same prognosis for the Red Wings' playoff chances ahead of Tuesday's game against Toronto (7:30 PM on FSD and Sportsnet Ontario).
The Wings are playing 5 games in 8 nights, hosting the Leafs (this game defines "four point" given the team's incredibly tenuous playoff footing), the Pens Thursday, and doing a home-and-home with Minnesota this weekend, all prior to four gigantic games against Columbus, Montreal, Toronto and Tampa to close out the month, and even a practice-less day delivered a cavalcade of injury news to a gloomy Red Wings nation, almost all of it bad.
Landon Ferraro's finally been recalled because Justin Abdelkader's banged-up, and it appears that the eleventh injured Wing's status for Tuesday's tilt () is iffy at best, as MLive's Ansar Khan reported...
Abdelkader suffered a lower-body injury in Sunday’s 4-1 loss at Chicago; he didn’t play the final six minutes.
The club will know more about his status Tuesday morning. That is also when a decision will be made on Todd Bertuzzi, who missed Sunday’s game due to a lower-body injury.
Ferraro (6-0, 179) has 13 goals, 28 points and 44 penalty minutes in 60 games this season with the Griffins, the third full year in Grand Rapids for Detroit’s top pick (32nd overall in the second round) in 2009. He has 46 goals, 49 assists and 135 penalty minutes in 190 career AHL games.
Ferraro, 22, is a fast skater and right-handed shooter. He is a center who can play all three forward positions. He has yet to make his NHL debut.
And the news gets worse from there, per the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness...
[Red Wings GM Ken] Holland said that they’ll assess where [Pavel] Datsyuk, [Joakim] Andersson and [Tomas] Jurco are at in a week to 10 days.
[Jonas] Gustavsson continues to practice with the team and is considered day-to-day.
Three other injured players – [Darren] Helm, [Stephen] Weiss and [Daniel] Cleary – have all suffered setbacks.
“Helm, I think he’s had a bit of a setback,” Holland said. “Weiss, I think he’s going to get another opinion.”
Helm appeared as if he was on track to returning Tuesday, but left last Friday’s morning skate before the entire team took the ice.
Weiss was supposed to return from sports hernia surgery after the Olympic break, but right now it appears he could be lost for the rest of the season.
(Khan reports that Weiss is looking for a second opinion regarding the pain he continues to experience after recovering from "core muscle" surgery, and when he's already been back to Philadelphia to see Dr. William Meyers, the surgeon who operated on Weiss and Kris Draper, Chris Chelios, Chris Osgood and another half a dozen Wings with sports hernias before them, that's a BAD SIGN)
“During the Olympic break Dan tried to some things and tried to push himself real hard,” Holland said. “His knee reacted. He’s had some fluid on the knee. He hasn’t been able to skate. They’ve taken some fluid out of his knee a couple times over the last two weeks. I’m not sure if he’s ready to skate (Tuesday). I don’t know where he’s at.”
And DetroitRedWings.com's Andrea Nelson:
“He got dinged up in the third period last night,” said general manager Ken Holland. “He wasn’t able to finish the game. We’re going to assess him here and see how today goes. We’re hoping he’s ready to go tomorrow night. We’ll know tomorrow after the morning skate.”
In case Abdelkader isn’t available Tuesday, the Wings recalled center Landon Ferraro on an emergency basis from the club’s minor-league affiliate in Grand Rapids Monday afternoon. Ferraro, Detroit’s first choice and 32nd overall pick in the 2009 NHL draft, has earned 13 goals and 15 assists in 60 games with the Griffins this season.
If Ferraro replaces Abdelkader against the Maple Leafs, the center will wear No. 29 as the seventh player to make his NHL debut for the Wings this season, and the tenth Griffins player to be called up to Detroit in the last four months.
The 22-year-old is the third player to be called up from Grand Rapids in the past five days, joining Teemu Pulkkinen and Jordin Tootoo as the Wings continue to suffer injuries. However, since all three players were called up on an emergency basis, they will not be counted as recalls. When a team has fewer than 12 healthy forwards, it can call players up as an emergency, which will not count against its call-up limits.
Abdelkader could join a growing list of Wings who are currently sidelined with injuries, including Tomas Jurco (broken rib), Joakim Andersson (foot), Henrik Zetterberg (back), Pavel Datsyuk (lower-body), Stephen Weiss (sports hernia), Darren Helm (head), Daniel Cleary (knee), Mikael Samuelsson, Todd Bertuzzi (lower-body) and Jonas Gustavsson (groin).
Where are the Wings at, in terms of the standings?
With no clear end to Detroit’s injuries in sight, the young Wings players are buckling down for a tight playoff race as the end of the regular season looms ahead. The club currently sits in fourth place in the wild-card race behind the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers and Washington Capitals with just 15 games remaining on its schedule.
The Grand Rapids Griffins on Monday signed forward Colin Campbell to an amateur tryout.
The 22-year-old Campbell, who also signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Detroit Red Wings, has spent the last four seasons with the WCHA’s Lake Superior State Lakers, registering 64 points (27-37—64) and 64 penalty minutes in 119 games. A native of Pickering, Ontario, Campbell ranked second on the Lakers this season with 29 points (14-15—29) in 36 games, bouncing back from a junior season in which he missed 30 games while recovering from surgery. The 6-foot-1, 203-pound forward led the Lakers in goals (14) and game-winning goals (three).
The Griffins will play consecutive road games against the Iowa Wild on Friday (8:05 p.m. EDT) and Saturday (2:05 p.m. EDT) before traveling to Allstate Arena for a match against the Chicago Wolves on Sunday (4 p.m. EDT).
And the Wings' assistant GM told the Macomb Daily's Pleiness that Campbell's not exactly the next Anthony Mantha (more on the prospects soon; in the interim, RedWingsCentral's prospect report focuses on Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet this week):
“I’d say he plays a real hard brand of hockey,” Wings assistant general manager Ryan Martin said in a phone interview Monday. “He’s going to be a checker at the next level. He’s got good compete level and a good skater.”
Campbell, who’s 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, will play the rest of the season in Grand Rapids on an amateur tryout contract.
“He was one of their better offensive players,” Martin said. “His assets are his work ethic, his compete level. I think he’s got a chance to play in that Luke Glendening kind of a grinding forward type of role.”
As for the big club, the Free Press's Helene St. James posited a "State of the Wings" article. Among her points:
Can the Wings still make the playoffs? Well, they have a chance until the math says otherwise. But the last week has been costly - the Wings went 1-3, sliding out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference standings.
Do the Wings control their own destiny? As much as any of us do - and don't. The damage over the past week has been two-fold - the Wings haven't been winning, while teams surrounding them in the standings have. The standings are skewered by the fact teams have not all played the same amount of games, but here's something to key in on - the Wings have 73 points, three behind the Rangers, who sit in the last wild-card spot. Toronto, Tampa Bay and Montreal all have created more separation, and that matters to the Wings because two of those teams are poised to claim the second and third place spots in the Atlantic Division, behind Boston That would leave one of them likely to fall into the first-wild card spot, leaving the Wings to fight for the second wild-card spot.
What's going on with the offense? The Wings have scored three times in regulation the last three games. Everything that is going on with the Wings ties into Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk both being injured. It's popular to say injuries are not an excuse; injuries are, however, an explanation. If someone thinks not having Datsyuk and Zetterberg in the lineup shouldn't make a difference, that is a person who does not understand what those two do.
What needs to happen for the Wings to make the playoffs? They have to play stifling defense, get offense from their power play, and Jimmy Howard will have to be team MVP. The winning percentage is going to have to be around 65-70%, which sounds daunting because it is.
What would happen if the Wings miss out of the playoffs? It would end a historic 22-season streak. Things that would still happen: The sun rising, and maybe some perspective settles in that building such a streak should be appreciated more than seeing it end should be lamented.
And MLive's Khan penned an article noting that the Wings can at least articulate their concerns, though Sunday's disastrous effort against Chicago certainly showed us what happens when single players attempt to force play instead of relying upon each other--fatal mistakes occur:
“We haven’t played with the puck enough, spent a lot of time in our own end,” Johan Franzen said after Sunday's 4-1 loss at Chicago. “It’s tough to create much offensively.”
The Red Wings play seven of their next 10 at Joe Louis Arena, including Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit). Detroit is 6-0-2 in its past eight home games but still only 13-11-9 for the season.
“We got to spend more time in the offensive zone,” coach Mike Babcock said. “You need 20 guys, you can’t just have a few. It doesn’t matter where you got called up from, when you get an opportunity you got to play well. Obviously, we’re understaffed, we understand that, but that doesn’t mean we can’t compete hard.”
Franzen has no points in four games, after racking up 13 goals and 28 points in his previous 23 games. His center, David Legwand, has one point (an assist) in four games.
Daniel Alfredsson has gone nine games without a goal (three assists). Tomas Tatar has three points (goal, two assists) in 11 games.
Niklas Kronwall said the offense must start from the defense.
“You win the puck in our own zone, try to get it up to the forwards quick and now we got some speed,” Kronwall said. We have to find a way to get the pucks on the net. We have to get more pucks in there and try to create something. There are times when we’re too much on the outside.”
Daniel Alfredsson agreed while speaking with the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...
“With the personnel we have, we know how we have to play,” Red Wings forward Daniel Alfredsson said. “Obviously playing from behind doesn’t make it easier. Getting that first goal is definitely important for this squad.”
The Red Wings are effective when they get through the neutral zone and create momentum — when they play with speed. But it’s a different story when they get bogged down.
“It’s when we’re slow and struggle through the neutral zone, we don’t have the puck and we’re wasting a lot of energy chasing the puck,” Alfredsson said.
The Wings' bottom line is simple:
“Maybe we need to believe in ourselves a little bit more,” he said. “It looks like we’re not all there. It doesn’t look like we all believe in it. For us to win games everyone out there has to want the puck and help each other. You can’t sit on the side and watch other guys do it for you. Everyone has to pull in the same direction.”
Coach Mike Babcock believes this stretch to end March — two games against the Maple Leafs, two against the Wild, and games against the Penguins, Blue Jackets, Canadiens and Lightning — can make the Red Wings stronger.
“Anything in life can be a grind if you let it, if you’re soft between the ears,” Babcock said. “You get to play in the NHL and you get to compete every day, I don’t know how bad that can be. I don’t know where the grind is. Let’s just get ready to go. ... It’s real important as a group you have to stay together and each guy has to bring his personal best each and every night.”
The Leafs, who're coming off a 4-2 loss to Washington on Sunday, are wary of the Wings, as they told the CBC's Mike Brophy (who reports that James Reimer will start as Jonathan Bernier has a "lower-body injury")...
The Maple Leafs are preparing to conclude a tough five-game road swing that took them through Death Valley in California, then on to the nation's capital in Washington and will end up in Detroit on Tuesday. They have a chance to return home with smiles on their faces with a victory.
Sure there have been some disappointing moments on the trip -- getting smoked 6-2 in San Jose and then falling behind 3-0 after 8:44 of the first period in what amounted to a 4-2 loss in Washington -- but there have been high points, too.
Toronto will cling to the memory of out-playing and defeating the Ducks in Anaheim and Kings in Los Angeles when the playoffs roll around. It gave the Maple Leafs some legitimacy.
The Red Wings, meanwhile, have been decimated by injuries this season and are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in 23 years. That, in itself, makes them a dangerous opponent. They won't go down without a fight.
"We know [Tuesday] night they will be coming after us and it's going to be a skating game," said Toronto coach Randy Carlyle of the Red Wings. "We have to be prepared to skate."
And DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose:
“Our focus is right now and we’ve been playing some good hockey,” Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf said. “We feel good about the team that we have and obviously we feel we could have played a little bit better in Washington. We didn’t do enough to get points. It’s disappointing but today is a new day and tomorrow is a big game for our team.”
The Wings and Leafs spilt their two previous contests this season with each club winning in a shootout, including the Leafs’ victory in an outdoor game at Michigan Stadium that may have wakened a rivalry that has been dormant for years.
“I think them moving to the East with the Winter Classic, playing them more with the history of the organizations just brings even more to the rivalry,” Phaneuf said. “You look at the schedule, the way it’s set up, and we’re playing them at this time of the year with points being so big for both teams it’s done a lot for the rivalry with them coming to the Eastern Conference.”
The Leafs are wrapping up a five-game road trip Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena that began eight days ago in southern California. And while it hasn’t gone completely as planned, Toronto has claimed four points with regulation wins at Anaheim and Los Angeles.
“We’re ending a road trip that we played some pretty solid hockey on over a long period of time,” Phaneuf said. “When you go on road trips, especially ones that are over a week-long there’s a lot of hockey and a lot of travel and I feel that we’ve been doing a lot of good things over the majority of the trip.”
With 15 games remaining in the regular season, the Red Wings know the importance of capitalizing on three upcoming home games in the next six days beginning Tuesday against the Maple Leafs. Detroit will host Pittsburgh on Thursday before playing a home-and-home against the Minnesota Wild this weekend.
“I think everybody realizes this,” forward Tomas Tatar said. “We know there’s lots of teams picking up points. It doesn’t really matter how the other teams look, we know what we have to do, how many points we need to pick (up) to get in. The homes games are obviously an advantage, we know we have to win them.”
Roose also noted the following via Twitter:
In lieu of a longer entry due to illness, I'll suggest that you read Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner's case for retiring #91 and a surprising endorsement from Calgary Flames forward Curtis Glencross on your own (Sergei's father, Viktor, just passed away at 71 years of age), and I'll let NHL.com's game preview get us down to brass tacks:
Season series: This is the third of four games between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Red Wings, who last played Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., in the 2014 NHL Winter Classic. The Maple Leafs won 3-2 in a shootout and the Red Wings won the first game of the season, 5-4 in a shootout, on Dec. 21 at Air Canada Centre.
Big story: Detroit keeps spinning its wheels amid a slew of injuries in an effort to extend the franchise's streak of qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs to 23 straight years. The Red Wings' 4-1 loss Sunday night at the Chicago Blackhawks dropped them further outside the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.
The Maple Leafs, despite a 4-2 loss Sunday at the Washington Capitals, appear in decent shape to make the playoffs for a second straight season. They've climbed high enough in the Atlantic Division standings to separate themselves from the pack vying for the last wild-card opening.
Who's hot: Phaneuf has scored goals in two straight games for the Maple Leafs and has five points in his past five games. ... Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist scored his 17th goal in the loss against the Blackhawks, and has 12 goals, 11 assists and 23 points in his past 20 games.
Injury report: Maple Leafs center Dave Bolland (Achilles surgery) remains on injured reserve. ... The Red Wings are without captain Henrik Zetterberg (back surgery), top center Pavel Datsyuk (knee), center Stephen Weiss (sports hernia), center Darren Helm (concussion), goalie Jonas Gustavsson (groin), center Joakim Andersson (foot fracture), forward Tomas Jurco (rib), forward Daniel Cleary (knee) and forward Mikael Samuelsson (shoulder).
I've had a rough 2014 health-wise, and I'm currently recovering from both a depressive episode and severe anxiety attacks. Let's just say that the Wings' play of late has not aided my mental health, and the more-likely-than-not fact that I may be a month removed from preparing to watch several Swedes take part in the World Championships in Minsk and the Grand Rapids Griffins defend their Calder Cup instead of the Red Wings making the playoffs...
That concept, which is becoming more and more probable with every Wings loss, is downright depressing.
As St. James says, a team that can't possibly assume that anyone save Gustavsson, Bertuzzi or Abdelkader are likely to return before the regular season's out has to somehow win or capture points in 2/3rds to 70% of their remaining 15 games.
THIS team winning 8 out of 15 and earning another three or four points via OT or shootout losses?
With Toronto, Pittsburgh, wild-card-hungry Minnesota, then Columbus, Montreal, Toronto again and Tampa on this month's schedule, and April consisting of Boston, one more tilt against Pittsburgh and one more tilt against Montreal, a pair of games against the spoiler-happy Sabres, an unpredictable game against the Hurricanes and then a season-closer in St. Louis on Sunday the 13th in the offing...
Can this team really make any sort of playoff run?
I have no idea, and you'd call me mentally disturbed, pun intended, if I were to pull a Stan Fischler and say I'd eat my hat if Detroit didn't make the playoffs. I like my hats too much, and I'm too bald to go without 'em.
Can this team even make the playoffs?
I don't know. I'd give you the line that Darren Helm's prognosis inhabited while his back was giving him hell--"I'm hopeful, but not optimistic."
As someone who's trying to get back to blogging for a living, I can tell you that regardless of when the Red Wings' season ends, I will be busy throughout the spring and summer, because the hockey news cycle simply does not end save a few blessedly quiet weeks in late July and early August these days.
As a loud-and-proud Red Wings fan, however, the concept of my team and my Red Wings missing the playoffs is devastating. Add in the fact that drafting in the NHL is still art as much as science, and I see no silver lining in snagging a higher pick via the draft lottery.
I don't think that way to begin with. I want my team to keep playing for as long as humanly possible, and for as long as I've been a Red Wings fan (I was a late-bloomer), this team has made the playoffs. This would be the first time in my hockey fan career and 23 out of 36 years that they might not have a post-season.
So what are we to do as fans, given that we are truly powerless to do anything but watch and hope and pray?
Even though I'm willing to admit that I'm ending my 100+-game boycotting of NHL merchandise as I don a Wings t-shirt and slap the Red Wings magnet that's been hiding in a car seat pocket on the trunk lid of my Pacifica tomorrow, having taken the magnet off the car on September 15th, 2012?
Aside from relying on or returning to superstition, I will suggest that we do one and exactly one thing:
We should enjoy the hell out of whatever's left, and ride the ups and downs for as long as the Wings allow us to travel on their hockey-playing journey with them.
If the Red Wings don't make the playoffs this year, I'll be devastated, but I'm still going to love the team and care about the players, their Olympic-reflective coach and his staff and the management, too.
I've had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with the majority of the players, coach and management when I've been afforded access to the team, and I can tell you for a fact that they're people who are worth rooting for.
I care about the team. I am proud that the Red Wings represent not only the city of my birth and the region and state I call home, but also a community of Wings fans who come from all around the world.
It's that community of fans that has kept me going through my battles with anxiety and depression over the years. It's you that I keep fighting for, it's you that have defined my work and have given me a reason to work my ass off whenever I'm able, and none of the friendships made, dear readers, dear critics, frenemies and even the trolls' relationships with this blogger are going to disappear if the Wings miss the playoffs.
To me, the Red Wings are, as campy as this might be, representative of a sporting passion, a community, a way of life and my biggest coping skill as I deal with disabling illnesses that I fight every day to defy from defining me.
I will still be damn proud of my Red Wings, my hockey fans and the person that hockey and the Wings have allowed this English degree-holder turned secondary education school burnout dropout turned disabled person turned self-made hockey blogger (at least most of the time) to become.
I sure as *#$%@& hope that the Wings make the playoffs, but if they don't, I'm going to do my *#$%@& best to enjoy this broken-and-bandaged Wiffins team do its best, regardless of what "doing its best" yields in terms of results.
That's all I know how to do. To keep fighting and to keep rooting for my team.
See you tomorrow (hopefully), and Go Wings.
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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.