The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/29/11 at 06:19 PM ET
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 declined to comment on the ongoing saga over the future of the Detroit Pistons, which his family had expressed an interest in buying before current lead bidder, California financier Tom Gores, entered the picture.
Ilitch also said he’s hoping to have news about a replacement for Detroit’s aging Joe Louis Arena soon.
“We’re committed to building a new arena just as soon as possible, and we’ve committed that the arena will be in downtown Detroit,” he said. “We think that could be a good opportunity to do some special things in our downtown.”
Mike Babcock and Ken Holland were attending a similar event held by the Detroit Economic Club today, so I’m assuming that we’ll hear some quips from them shortly…
And, aside from the news that Jimmy Howard may back up Joey MacDonald on Wednesday (against the T.J. Oshie-less St. Louis Blues) and playoff talk both online and on sports talk radio, there was an under-the-radar transaction which took place—the Wings signed Cory Emmerton to a 3-year contract extension on Monday evening—and Emmerton, who will earn about $533,000 per season at the NHL level and less at the AHL level (his contract remains a two-way deal for the 2011-2012 season but becomes a one-way deal thereafter), spoke to the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema about his probable future in Detroit:
“I think it’s always a relief,” he said after practice with the Grand Rapids Griffins on Tuesday morning. “But it’s only the first step in a long journey to next season.”
Emmerton is tied for fifth on the Griffins in scoring with 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists) in 59 games this season. An excellent passer, he also is strong on the penalty kill and backcheck. Emmerton was one of the Griffins’ best players at the start of this year before he was forced to miss 12 games in an injured knee in December. But he still earned his first recall by the Red Wings, and made his NHL debut Jan. 22 against Chicago—and even scored his first goal. In two career games with Detroit, he has one goal and a plus-1 rating. Emmerton is out of minor-league options next season, meaning he would be subject to waivers if he was sent down. But it looks like the Red Wings will give him every chance to make the roster in training camp.
“It was nice to hear their positive reviews about how I’ve been playing and what they feel about me,” he said. “I think it shows they have some confidence in me, and now just I have prove to them why I got another three-year deal.”
Despite the fact that Emmerton and Jan Mursak will likely spend next season shuffling from the fourth line to the press box and back, Emmerton told Zuidmea that he didn’t want to leave the Wings for greener pastures:
“Not at all. This is a team you want to play for and I hope to play here my whole career,” he said. “It doesn’t happen a whole lot, but Detroit is a team where it’s possible because they’re very loyal to guys. There’s a chance there, I just have to work hard and take another big step in my career.”
Also of Wings-related note: If he manages to stick around till the 3rd or 4th line, it’s entirely possible that the Wings will pick up Spokane Chiefs defenseman Brenden Kitchton, who broke his hand on the second day of the Wings’ prospect tournament this past fall and rebounded with an 81-point season in the WHL. The Spokane Tribune-Review’s Dave Trimmer spoke to Kitchton about his superb 2010-2011 season;
This Week’s Games
Fri., April 1 - GRIFFINS at Abbotsford Heat - 10 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Sat., April 2 - GRIFFINS at Abbotsford Heat - 10 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Crunch Time: With only six games remaining in the regular season, Grand Rapids stands in fifth place in the North Division but just three points behind third-place Hamilton and the final guaranteed playoff spot. The Griffins also sit one point in back of fourth-place Toronto and three points behind the top two crossover candidates from the West Division, Chicago and Oklahoma City. This Friday and Saturday, they’ll make what has become their annual two-game visit to Abbotsford to face a Heat squad that currently resides in sixth place in the North, only two points behind Grand Rapids.
Breaking it Down: The top six teams in the North Division are separated by a total of 10 standings points…The Griffins’ six remaining games are tied for the fewest within the North Division, their three divisional games are the fewest, their one home game is the fewest, and their opponents’ winning percentage of 0.573 is the second-highest…If the other six teams in the North Division maintain their current winning percentages through the end of the regular season, the Griffins would need to finish with 92 points to tie for the final guaranteed playoff spot (third place), which translates into a 6-0 record.
Hitting the Road: The Griffins will play five of their final six regular season games on the road. They own an overall mark of 17-14-1-3 away from Van Andel Arena this season, including 4-2-1-0 since Feb. 27 and 9-5-1-3 since Jan. 13.
Dwindling Opportunities: Grand Rapids, whose 17-10-0-4 record (0.613) within the North Division trails only Lake Erie’s 24-9-0-2 mark (0.714) and Abbotsford’s 15-8-1-3 record (0.630), will play just three of its final six against divisional opponents (Friday, Saturday and April 8 against sixth-place Abbotsford). The Griffins, who will finish the season with a low of just 34 games within the North Division, will watch each other team in the North play more than half – and in some cases, all – of its remaining schedule within the division.
Ironman Between the Pipes: Rookie goalie Jordan Pearce has started 20 consecutive games for Grand Rapids (12-5-1-2 from Feb. 16-March 26), just four starts shy of the franchise record set by Joey MacDonald from Feb. 25-April 9, 2005. Now with 20 career wins as a Griffin, Pearce sits in 10th place on the franchise’s all-time list.
AHL Award Candidates: The AHL will begin handing out its annual awards on Wednesday with the announcement of the All-Rookie Team. Despite an injury-plagued season, Brendan Smith is a solid candidate on defense, having posted 32 points (12-20—32) and a plus-seven rating in 57 games. His 12 goals lead all rookie defensemen while his 32 points rank fourth. Ilari Filppula (20-42—62, 10th in AHL) has a shot at being named to the First or Second All-Star Team (Thursday), Derek Meech and Jamie Tardif are nominees for the Fred T. Hunt Award for sportsmanship, determination and dedication (Friday), while the Griffins’ Man of the Year, Greg Amadio, is eligible for the AHL’s league-wide honor, the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award (April 6).
Right. There are times I’d like to know about the Wings’ musical tastes, movie preferences, what they do to entertain themselves on flights, what they’re reading, etc. etc.
• And finally, for now, anyway, St. Clair County Community College reports that its game against the Red Wings’ Alumni Association raised $12,000 for the school, not including the establishment of a $20,000 nursing scholarship. That’s pretty awesome.
• Squeezing this one in: ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers offers a day-after reflection upon the Wings-Hawks tilt:
So why was Monday’s one-goal affair any more intense or entertaining than Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Anaheim? The game against the Ducks should have brought out the intensity considering both teams are neck and neck in the standings. It didn’t have that playoff feel, but Monday sure did. So was it the rivalry or the fact the game was on national television?
Neither. It was the style of play.
And that, more than any other reason, bodes well for a Hawks potential upset of Detroit or Vancouver if they face either of those teams in the first round, assuming they get into the playoffs.
The Wings and Canucks allow the Hawks to skate, and that’s their strength. Chicago and Detroit have been mirror images of each other for the last couple of years. Both teams like to have the puck and both teams struggle to get it back when the other team possesses it.
It’s one reason Monday’s game had a back and forth feel to it from shift to shift. When the Hawks had possession in the offensive zone they looked like world beaters but the same can be said of the Wings when they grabbed the puck. Based on the season series to this point, regardless of injuries, a postseason best-of-seven would be up for grabs between these teams. Remember, though they are separated by seven points after Monday’s game, it’s still just a few more wins for the Wings. Does that really matter come spring?
It’s ironic the Hawks match up better against the best teams in the West, but if Phoenix or Nashville come calling, then it becomes a nail- biting grind. Either way, the fun is just beginning. Monday night kicked off the final two weeks of the season in fine fashion. What will Tuesday in Boston bring?
“More of the same, I’m sure,” Kane said after the win.
Updateydoo: Per the Hockey News’s resident fantasy hockey expert, Darryl Dobbs, this Gustav Nyquist kid won’t be bad:
I’ve always thought highly of Detroit prospect Gustav Nyquist and was interested to see the Red Wings signed him to an entry-level contract. Now two games into his professional career, Nyquist has a point in both of them for American League Grand Rapids. With Jan Mursak likely joining the NHL team full-time next year (his contract is one way), look for Nyquist to get cups of coffee much like Tomas Tatar is getting this year. Nyquist’s future lies in the top six.
Update: As part of the Red Wings and WDFN’s promotions celebrating the Red Wings’ 20th straight playoff season, Sean Baligian spoke to former Wing Gerard Gallant, who coached the CHL’s best team this past season in the QMJHL’s St. John Sea Dogs, this afternoon:
Left Wing Lock blog:
The Pitea, Sweden native signed his first contract with the Red Wings in 1996 and spent his first year splitting time between Detroit and Adirondack of the AHL. Holmstrom played 48 NHL games that year including one playoff game during the Red Wings 1997 cup run. The gritty forward would earn a full time roster spot the following year after Detroit opted not to re-sign fan favorite Tomas Sandstrom, who had been acquired earlier that year in exchange for Greg Johnson.
In the early days as a Wing, Holmstrom would frequently find himself in head coach Scotty Bowman’s dog house. While his net presence has always been a strength, his poor defensive game and inability to skate at an NHL level were the reasons why he was routinely scratched. Under Bowman’s watch, he learned to become more responsible defensively while also adapting to the numerous crease related rule changes.
Holmstrom, who’s skating has improved over the years but is still below average, was even able to adapt his game in the post lock-out era of more skating and less obstruction. While he will never be known as a defensive specialist, he isn’t nearly the liability he once was. The veteran forward is still one of the best in the NHL at screening opposition goalies, but he has also developed a pretty effective set of offensive tools over the years routinely chipping in 30 or more points a season. The last few seasons he has even seen time on the top two lines as well and the top power play unit.
The so called Swedish Demolition Man has earned every one of his 501 points the hard way taking abuse from opposition goalies and defensemen alike. In the process he’s become a fan favorite for his blue collar work ethic and his ability to adapt to the ever changing NHL game.
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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.