The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/18/13 at 10:01 PM ET
Updated 2x at 9:30 PM: This afternoon's Red Wings news cycle hit "pause" pretty early as the Red Wings hustled to Metro Airport to board Red Bird III and flew to St. Louis almost immediately after wrapping up their final pre-season practice at Joe Louis Arena. This evening, a combination of Wings-Blues tidbits (tomorrow's game starts at 8 PM EST, and will air on Fox Sports Detroit, with a season preview airing at 7 PM, and 97.1 FM--and if you checked out the Wings' combined radio and TV broadcast schedule, you'll notice almost half their games will air on WXYT AM instead of the Ticket's FM station), Wings personnel notes and NHL previews and prognostications merit an evening post, so here it is.
Starting at the beginning, with player personnel news, the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan confirms that Darren Helm (back), Jakub Kindl (groin) and Todd Bertuzzi (flu) will miss tomorrow night's season-opener, with Helm and Kindl slated to miss multiple games due to their injuries:
The Red Wings will be without forwards Darren Helm (strained back) and Todd Bertuzzi (flu/groin) and defenseman Jakub Kindl (groin).
Babcock said after Thursday’s scrimmage that Bertuzzi had a tender groin – but amended it Friday to being ill. Bertuzzi has been fighting a virus all week.
“He’s sick, got the flu,” Babcock said. “They’re going to give him an IV and he’ll join us (in St. Louis) or the next day (in Columbus).”
Helm is going to miss the first three games and isn’t likely to play until Friday at home against Minnesota,
“Friday is more realistic,” said Helm, who is going to travel on the trip. “With the back it’s never good to make worse, so I’ll use the weekend to try to get on the ice and get a couple of practices in.”
Babcock wasn’t sure if he’d use Jan Mursak or Eaves to fill Bertuzzi’s spot on the third line.
“The good thing about it is I don’t have to tell you (who is playing) because I don’t know and I still haven’t decided,” Babcock said.
The fact that Eaves could play tomorrow is remarkable in itself, and Eaves spoke to MLive's Brendan Savage about receiving medical clearance to play after battling a broken jaw and then a concussion and post-concussive symptoms since November of 2011...
"It was pretty exciting news to get," Eaves said Friday. "I got it yesterday afternoon and everything got done today. I'm excited, excited to be back. I knew I'd be back. I didn't when or how but I knew I could come back and play. I had no timeline to be honest with you. I just knew I'd be back. It was rough. It was really rough. I had a great support staff with my wife and family and doctors and teammates and I wouldn't have made it without them. It was a long, rough road. To be back cleared is a great thing. I'm very fortunate to be back playing."
Eaves, 28, hasn't played since Nov. 26, 2011, when he was hit in the side of the head with the puck after going down to block a shot by Nashville rookie Roman Josi. He suffered a broken jaw and although that has since healed, Eaves had subsequent headaches and experienced concussion-like symptoms.
The eight-year veteran knew things were looking good when he was able to take part in Tuesday's scrimmage.
"I had a feeling that was a big part of it," said Eaves, who appeared in just 10 games last season before getting hurt. "I didn't know that was the final (step) or that big of a step. It was a big step for me personally to be back playing. Before camp, I was starting to feel good and ready to try things out. I've been feeling good all camp so it's been kind of going from there. Everything is back (to normal physically). I feel good out there. I feel up to speed and ready to go. This week was great. Practice and then the scrimmage, it gave me the ability to get up to speed."
Now, all Eaves has to do is take his first big hit in an actual game since there was no checking in the scrimmage. Then, his comeback will be complete.
"I've had contact," he said. "I've been bumped around. The first game hit will probably be a big one."
But even though Eaves and his road roommate and friend in Drew Miller spoke to DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose about Eaves' recovery employing a combination of enthusiasm, relief and out-and-out joy, the Red Wings' coach has no desire to put anyone in the lineup for the sake of a "good story":
During Friday’s practice, Eaves worked with the third line, joining Daniel Cleary and center Justin Abdelkader. But afterwards, Wings coach Mike Babcock said he was undecided on Saturday’s lineup.
With Darren Helm (back) on IR, and Todd Bertuzzi back home sick, that leaves Eaves and Jan Mursak to fill the void on the third line.
“Good thing about it is I don’t have to tell you,” Babcock said, “because I don’t know and I still haven’t decided.”
Either way, Eaves said he’s prepared to return to action.
“I feel good out there. I feel up to speed and ready to go,” he said. “This week was great, practice and then the scrimmage it gave me the ability to get up to speed.”
At the other end of the enthusiasm spectrum, Darren Helm's found himself beset by a series of injuries over the past year-and-change, and while he's not going to miss too much time due to his back injury, Helm admitted to the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that he's pretty bloody tired of being banged-up:
Wings forward Darren Helm has ruled himself out for at least the first three games of the season due to an injured back.
“I’m feeling good, since it happened each day it keeps getting better and better,” Helm said Friday morning at Joe Louis Arena. “I’m going to go on the road and hopefully get a skate in. I don’t think I’ll be playing Saturday, Monday or Tuesday.”
Helm hasn’t skated since Jan. 10.
“I can touch my toes,” said Helm, who was placed on short-term injured reserve retroactive to the injury occurring. “My motion is pretty much close to being back. It’s still a little stiff or sore when I come up, but not too bad. We went fairly hard today and we’ll see how it feels tomorrow.”
Helm, who said this is his first back injury, has been on the wrong end of a rash of injuries of late. On March 17, he missed the final 10 regular season games with a sprained MCL. Then, in his first game back, the playoff opener against Nashville, he had tendons in his forearm sliced by a skate. He was also hit by a puck on Nov. 2 during an informal skate in Troy, breaking an orbital bone.
“I want to play,” Helm said. “I’m pretty upset this happened at this time, after a lockout, it’s a short season, missing games is frustrating.”
The Wings didn't just leave Helm and Kindl in Detroit. The team also chose to pass on signing Mike Knuble to a two-way contract, and instead, Knuble has signed a 25-game pro try-out with the Grand Rapids Griffins. The 40-year-old Kentwood, MI native told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan that he's chosen to take the "PTO" route for a reason:
"I was pretty realistic, I didn't have any crazy illusions of something happening this week," Knuble said. "It is what it is, a week of hockey and a chance to play and get back into the mind-frame of playing again and get your name out there and you're active.
"It (the tryout) gives me more flexibility to decide what I want to do. If you're at a different point of your career, you'd be crushed but being a veteran guy, you understand the way it goes and it's law of the jungle."
Fox 17's Steve Amrose reports that Knuble won't play in the Griffins' Saturday night game in Rockford, IL, but he'll make his Griffins debut sooner than later:
The Griffins are in Rockford and will take on the IceHogs on Saturday. Knuble will not join the team this weekend in Rockford, and instead is expected to sign his professional tryout on Monday and join the team then. His first game with the Griffins could be at Van Andel Arena on Wednesday when the Griffins host the Oklahoma City Barons.
In terms of setting up tomorrow night's match-up in a very broad sense of the term, we already know that ESPN's picking the Blues to win the Cup, and as more season previews rolled in this afternoon, none of NHL.com's experts are predicting the Red Wings to unseat the Blues as Central Division champions, and only one is picking the Wings to advance to the Stanley Cup Final (and lose);
The Wings received no playoff or division votes and exactly one trophy vote--a Selke nod for Pavel Datsyuk--from Sports Illustrated's hockey staff;
Things shake out similarly for the Pro Hockey Talk staff;
Both the Hockey News's Adam Proteau, the Sporting News's Jesse Spector and the Score's Chris Lund are predicting that the Wings will have to scrape and claw to make the playoffs, and then bow out early, and if you're interested in watching a video preview, ESPN's Barry Melrose believes that the Wings are in some hot water;
The Wings did receive some relatively friendly mentions from former NHL'er and Hockey News columnist Ben Clymer, who believes that, should Darren Helm and Todd Bertuzzi return to action, they'll form a "third line that can score," which is what Clymer believes is one of the keys to winning during an abbreviated season...
ESPN's Craig Custance, in his insider-only blog, believes that Brendan Smith is in fact the 8th-most important player this season, in terms of determining whether a team succeeds or fails, anyway...
8. Brendan Smith, D, Detroit Red Wings -- The Red Wings lost out on Ryan Suter this summer after Nicklas Lidstrom retired, putting even more pressure on the young Smith to reach his potential. Like all Red Wings prospects, he's well-seasoned. In most organizations, he'd probably be on his second contract by now, but he's got three full seasons at Wisconsin and parts of three seasons in the AHL. In 32 games this season in Grand Rapids, he had 20 points.
"I'm not getting as many points as I would have hoped," he said toward the end of his time in Grand Rapids this season. "But I haven't really been burned defensively -- that's what they're looking for."
And I had to laugh approvingly when the Sporting News's Jesse Spector asked the Magic 8 Ball to answer several pertinent questions, and it had this to say about Jimmy Howard:
Why doesn’t Jimmy Howard get the recognition he deserves as a top-level goalie?
IT IS DECIDEDLY SO: Right. Forgot it has to be yes-or-no questions.
Somewhat surprisingly, even the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness is offering, "Outlook not good" for the Wings in his Central Division preview...
Central Division breakdown
The Central Division was turned upside down last season when St. Louis emerged on top ahead of perennial powers Detroit and Chicago. The Blues’ 43-15-11 record to end the season was due in large part to a coaching change – Ken Hitchcock – and a goalie tandem – Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott – that conceded just 165 goals. This team stayed pretty much intact and should contend again. The Wings, who finished third in the division for the first time since 1990-91, suffered the biggest loss on the blue line this offseason with the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and add to that the trade of Brad Stuart to San Jose. But Detroit may be the deepest it has ever been up front. Nashville, which bounced Detroit from the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2006, had the second biggest loss on the blue line when Ryan Suter bolted for Minnesota. The Predators then nearly lost Shea Weber before matching an enormous 14-year offer sheet Philadelphia made before losing their top two D-men in one offseason. The Blackhawks’ roster has seen little change – Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook – from the team that won the Stanley Cup two seasons ago. Columbus should again be the doormat of the division, coming off a league-worst 65 points a year ago.
Prediction: Wings finish third in Central; qualify seventh for playoffs; lose in second round.
Narrowing our focus to the Wings-vs-Blues match-up, Fox Sports Southwest's Jon Rosen offered this take on tomorrow night's game, which he believes is the 8th-best tilt to watch this weekend:
Red Wings at Blues, Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
For the first time in 20 years, Detroit will take the ice without Nicklas Lidstrom, who retired after a stellar career for the Red Wings. But don't expect the Blues and the fans in St. Louis to show any sympathy at the Scottrade Center opening night. Captain David Backes (right) and the Blues are coming off a great 2011-12, which saw them finish second in the West, but swept out of the playoffs in a second-round upset to Los Angeles. Saturday's clash between the two division rivals will be a good measuring stick as to who might control the Central Division this year.
I'm guessing that you know that the Blues decided to sign a player the Wings felt they didn't need to add in one Wade Redden, as noted by the Belleville News-Democrat's Norm Sanders...
Looking for additional help on defense, the St. Louis Blues took an affordable gamble Friday on longtime NHL veteran Wade Redden. The one-year, pro-rated contract worth $800,000 is pending a physical Redden will take on Sunday. Redden, 35, who has been skating with a junior team in Kelowna, British Columbia, is expected to join the Blues as early as Saturday.
"I know where he's been skating, I know the drills he's been doing, I know how hard he's been working," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He's in great shape, so he's like everybody here. We'll see how quickly he can get up to speed."
The Blues signed Redden one day after the New York Rangers used an accelerated compliance buyout that will pay him $3.341 million this season, plus two-thirds of the $5 million he is owed for next season. The Rangers had to put Redden through waivers before making that move.
"I know Wade very well," Hitchcock said. "I was on the (Team Canada) coaching staff when he was with the Olympics and World Championships and stuff like that. He's a stay-at-home dependable defenseman that can play both ends of special teams."
That being said, the 6-foot-2, 212-pound defenseman hasn't played an NHL game since April, 2010. He did have 10 goals and 50 points in 2005-06 with the Senators, but his numbers have been on the decline ever since.
From 2008-10 with the Rangers, he had five goals and 40 points combined in 156 games. Redden spent the last two seasons with the Rangers' American Hockey League affiliate in Connecticut, where he had four goals and 20 points in 49 games last season. He was lured from the Ottawa Senators in 2008 when the Rangers signed him to a six-year, $39 million free-agent deal.
He last played in the NHL during the 2009-10 season, when he had two goals and 14 points in 75 games with the Rangers. In the last two seasons in the AHL, Redden had a combined 12 goals and 62 points in 119 games with Hartford and Connecticut.
Redden won't play for the Blues tomorrow night, but the Blues announced that Jaroslav Halak will start opposite Jimmy Howard on Saturday, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford reported that several rookies or nearly-rookies in Jaden Schwartz and Ian Cole had made the team's opening-night lineup.
NHL.com has already issued a Wings-Blues preview...
Big story: After months of waiting, the Blues will finally begin the defense of their first Central Division title in 12 years. Detroit's night might be even more dramatic, however, as the Wings play their first game of the post-Lidstrom era.
Red Wings: Many teams made dramatic personnel moves this offseason that significantly altered their rosters. But few teams in the League have to deal with as difficult a transition as the Wings, who for the first time in 22 years will be playing without future-Hall-of-Fame defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. Lidstrom announced his retirement this offseason and while Detroit, owner of the NHL's longest string of postseason appearances, still returns with a talented, deep and experienced lineup, it's hard to imagine there won't be a void in the locker room -- to say nothing of on the blue line -- that must be filled.
Henrik Zetterberg will be tasked with replacing Lidstrom's leadership, having been named the Wings' captain earlier this week, but Detroit is lucky that Cup-winning veterans like Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Cleary and Johan Franzen will also be there to grease the Winged Wheels. As for the defense corps, replacing Lidstrom is likely an impossibly tall order, but Detroit did sign Carlo Colaiacovo away from St. Louis in September to bolster its back end, a move that could pay immediate dividends Saturday night.
Blues: St. Louis has waited a long time to raise another banner at Scottrade Center, but 12 years after the Blues won the franchise's only Presidents' Trophy, they will have a 2011-12 Central Division champions banner to keep it company. The task of getting another banner for 2012-13 -- or even a banner of greater significance -- will be a considerable challenge in the loaded Central Division, but St. Louis believes it has the pieces in place.
The Blues' top six scorers from last season are all returning, including potent defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk, and St. Louis still has 2012 Jennings Trophy winners Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott in net, which means the ingredients are there for another division-title run. That potential run, however, despite the void Detroit has to fill on defense, will face a stiff test on opening night.
Injury report: Detroit is already facing setbacks on the injury front. Darren Helm (back) is not expected to play Saturday while Mikael Samuelsson (groin) is doubtful and Colaiacovo (shoulder) is questionable for his first potential reunion with his former team.
If you're interested, KMOX's Chris Kerber spoke to Wings play-by-play man Ken Kal about the Wings-Blues rivalry in a very general sense, and if you want to peruse the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Blues/NHL preview section, knock yourself out...
But in terms of specifics, I have yet to find much more than this from MLive's Ansar Khan regarding either team's likely line-up combinations:
And shifting focus back to the Detroit press corps, Pleiness offers a 2013 Wings season preview from the perspectives of the Wings' players, with the big picture in mind...
"You can’t replace Nick [Lidstrom] and [Brad Stuart],” goalie Jimmy Howard said. “It just gives guys an opportunity to step up and take advantage of a role they might not have had.”
The returning blue liners are Niklas Kronwall, Ian White, Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl. They hope Kyle Quincey gets back to playing like the player they re-acquired at the trade deadline and that Brendan Smith is ready to make the jump to the NHL, while former St. Louis Blues defenseman and often-injured Carlo Colaiacovo rounds out the D-men. Because of the Wings’ holes on the blue line, many pundits have them finishing near the eighth seed in the Western Conference or even missing the playoffs, which would end a streak of 21 consecutive seasons of reaching the postseason.
“The fact we’re flying under the radar I think we’re going to catch a lot of teams by surprise,” Howard said. “We’re very deep up front, right down through the middle, all four centers and very balanced.”
The Wings are the deepest they’ve been up front in quite some time and have more talent waiting in the minors. Despite losing Jiri Hudler (free agency) and Tomas Holmstrom (retirement), Detroit brought back Mikael Samuelsson, along with adding Jordin Tootoo and Damien Brunner. They get added to a mix up front with Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Valtteri Filppula, Johan Franzen, Danny Cleary, Drew Miller and Patrick Eaves.
“If we can have Fil be what he was last year and play in the middle, him and Mule be a tandem and Pav and Z be a tandem, I think we’re a really good hockey team,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought it was real beneficial last year for Fil to play with Z basically the whole year, get confidence and earn confidence. That’s a real player in the National Hockey League and now he has a real opportunity to take a step and we perceive him to be part of the leadership group on this team, so that’s advantage us. And those other two guys (Pav and Z) like playing together and are very good together,” Babcock continued. “We just didn’t feel last year it was good for us. Last year I put them together at the start but between them and Clears they were never going at the start, so we had to change and we never went back.”
Babcock's charges are very aware of the concept that the condensed schedule means that they've got to live hockey, hockey, and more hockey over the next 99 days...
“The margin of error is almost nil,” Cleary said. “There’s just nothing there. Your lifestyle completely has to be focused on hockey. Obviously family, too, but it has to be eating well, sleeping well with the schedule, with the amount of games.”
“I know we’ve got a good schedule to come out with, which is nice, but the back end of back-to-backs are going to be hard,” Cleary said. “You’ve got to get as much rest as you can, you’ve got to eat as well as you can, as often as you can, and you’ve got to prepare your body. You’ve got to make sure you’re ready to go on the ice every time and manage injuries as best you can. It’s not going to be easy but the team that does the best will have the best opportunity. That’s what you have to believe.”
In a more specific sense, MLive's Brendan Savage spoke to the Wings about how they're feeling mentally and physically heading into Saturday night's game...
"There's a lot of nervous excitement," goaltender Jimmy Howard said Friday after the final practice before the Red Wings departed for St. Louis, where they'll open the season Saturday night against the Blues. "The last time the NHL went through a half a year without playing was the '94-95 season so there's not too many guys left who know how that all played out. Guys are kind of curious to see how the pace of play is tomorrow night."
In a shortened season, every game is going to take on more importance. And that's going to be especially true Saturday night since the Red Wings not only want to get off to a good start but because the Blues will be one of the teams to beat for the Central Division crown.
"We're going to push as hard as we can every night like we do every year, just like all the teams in the league do," said coach Mike Babcock. "The urgency for all the teams in the league will be heightened so the intensity has got to be higher because you have so much to play for early. We're going to have fewer practices because we play every second day so you're going to set up the schedule that'll allow you to skate, work on the details and keep the guys as fresh as you can. But practices are part of the game as well so we'll figure it out."
Since the lockout ended two weeks ago, teams obviously didn't have much time to prepare for the beginning of the season. Players who signed in Europe had to make their back to North America and others had to travel from their respective homes, eliminating the opportunity to play preseason games and reducing training camp to one week.
The Red Wings, for instance, had just eight practices and one scrimmage before departing for St. Louis. That means play could be ragged at times, especially early in the season.
"You try to simulate as much as you can in a short training camp," said forward Drew Miller. "I anticipate the games will get better as we go. The whole league will. First few games will be a little rusty perhaps, but with the energy and the excitement around the league, everyone will be going hard."
And in the most specific sense of the term, the Windsor Star's Bob Duff asked new Wings defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo how it feels to start one's stint with a new team by facing off against his previous employer:
"It’s a lot to think about right now,” he admitted. “It’s going to be pretty emotional. The adrenaline’s going to be rushing pretty good. I had great years there, have a lot of great memories. I still have a lot of friends in St. Louis, and a lot of friends in the city, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be taking it all in, but at the same time, I’ll be playing my butt off. That city is hockey hungry right now. It’s a fun place to play.”
“We were great division rivals from the time I got there,” Colaiacovo said. “They were heated battles. Every game was a tough game to play.”
“When I was there, we always wanted to model ourselves after the way the Red Wings played,” Colaiacovo said. “Once you walk into the (Detroit) room and you see all the great names on the wall, the Stanley Cups on the wall, it makes you feel that we’re here to win a Stanley Cup. I had my first taste of a winning season last year. I’ve been in the league for a long time and to have that feeling, it’s something that every player wants.”
The only off-season addition to the Detroit blue-line following the summer departures of captain Nicklas Lidstrom (retirement) and Brad Stuart (free agency), Colaiacovo is quick to end any thoughts that he’s here to fill either player’s skates.
“I’m not coming here to replace Nick Lidstrom,” he said. “He was the best player in the league. But I do think I’m a good complement to what’s already here.”
A slick skater and solid puck mover, the oft-injured Colaiacovo would certainly boost the calibre of Detroit’s defencemen if he remains healthy. His first chance to do so comes tonight against his old team.
“I have nothing but great memories of that place, but I’m in a happy place now, with a team that competes every year for the Stanley Cup,” Colaiacovo said of his impending return to St. Louis. “I’m excited about that opportunity.”
MLive's Brendan Savage offers us a multimedia insight into tomorrow night's game via a short clip of Babcock talking about the Blues (and the afternoon practice post is chock full of multimedia, too)...
And as I'm not a fan of ending on, "Oh crap, the Blues are stacked, everybody's picking them, everybody thinks that the Wings are down and out, and they're already banged-up, onoes!" and am more inclined to suggest that the Wings are best served by not giving a rat's ass as to what anyone else thinks about them, and instead of looking over one's shoulder (click for a surprising picture) and fearing that one can never live up to the legacy of one's forebears--because Ken Holland himself was both realistic and optimistic while speaking to the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek about the Wings' unenviable 2013 season task in proving that they can move forward without Lidstrom, Holmstrom and Stuart...
Let's end on a positive note, with WXYZ's Brad Galli pondering the scoring punch a line of "Euro Triplets," a.k.a. Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Damien Brunner, might begin to pack away in the form of goals and assists, as soon as tomorrow night:
"It's definitely fun. You can learn a lot from just watching those guys on the ice everyday," Brunner said.
He'll start the season on the top line -- and on the point for the team's first powerplay unit. He says he's played the point for years in Switzerland, and overseas, he's used to four forwards on the powerplay. Giving Zetterberg and Datsyuk a boost won't be easy, but if Brunner clicks with his linemates, the unit could instantly be regarded as the most talented in hockey.
"I've played against (Zetterberg and Datsyuk) six times a year for the last four seasons, and I know what they're capable of," former Blues and current Red Wings defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said."Adding a guy like Brunner; he's dynamic."
Colaiacovo said if Brunner can develop the same style of play his two MVP-caliber teammates, the potential is scary.
"It would be pretty lethal," he said.
Brunner said he's been most impressed with the way Zetterberg and Datsyuk protect the puck, a skill he said he's working on improving.
"It's exciting," Datsyuk said. "But it's going to take time to be like what you say, the 'best' line."
Brunner agreed. When asked about the trio potentially being the best in the league, he laughed and sat back in his chair.
"Oh. Well, let's see. I haven't played a game so far, so let me get the first game over. Let me see how I play."
Here's WXYZ's video of the report:
Cross your fingers, fellow Wings fans. The 48-games-in-99-nights demolition derby begins in under 24 hours, and it's going to be intense.
Update: There are always updates. Here's one from "BlueNoteInsider," a.k.a. Chris Pinkert...
And DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose spoke to Mike Knuble about the reason he signed a PTO with Grand Rapids:
“It’s going to be a crazy year,” Knuble said. “Guys are going to be dropping. They’re going to find young guys can’t handle the grind, they’re not ready. You stay with it, two weeks in, you should see how this whole year is going to shape out. Teams are in trouble already.”
Knuble will head to the Wings’ minor-league team in Grand Rapids, where he’ll continue to prepare physically should Detroit, or another NHL club need his services.
At 6-foot-3 and 230-pounds, Knuble is still agile enough and he could still wind up in the NHL this season. The former Red Wing – the last member from the 1997 Stanley Cup squad still playing pro hockey – has logged 1,040 NHL games spanning 15 seasons with five different clubs. But he was realistic about his chances of starting with the Wings this week, especially without an exhibition season to properly audition for the coaching staff.
“I didn’t think I had any crazy illusions of something happening here this week,” Knuble said. “It is what it is. It gives me the chance to play and get back in the frame of playing again. And you get your name out there that you’re active.”
If things don’t go as he hopes, Friday could very well have been Knuble’s final skate at Joe Louis Arena. At one point during the practice, Knuble took a look toward the rafters where 11 Stanley Cup banners hang from the ceiling. Asked if he was soaking in the moment, Knuble chuckled and said, “I like to be dramatic like that, but I wasn’t. I was probably just staring off into space for some reason.”
“You know I’ve played here a lot,” said Knuble, who played 41 NHL games at JLA. “I think the first time I player here in this building I might have been 12-years-old playing in front of these empty seats in the Little Caesars Hockey League, so I played a lot of hockey through the course of the years in this building. It has a distinct feel when you walk in, a distinct smell, something that I’ll always remember.”
Stale beer, peanut shells, pizza and ice. And probably asbestos.
Update #2: Fox Sports Detroit posted a video of Ted Kulfan and Art Regner offering a post-Friday practice 2013 season preview:
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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.