The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/08/13 at 02:03 PM ET
Updated 2x at 2:34 PM: After taking Saturday off for some much-needed rest and recuperation--both mentally and physically speaking--the Red Wings' prospects took part in a brief but spirited game-day skate ahead of tonight's game against the St. Louis Blues (7 PM at Centre Ice Arena)--and while the Wings' staff is convinced that "they're in" to the championship game, those who know the rules (i.e. @Lindy72 and those who run the tournament) suggest that the Wings must beat St. Louis OR score at least two goals if the Wings lose and Dallas wins (Dallas and Minnesota play today at 3 PM) to win the Howe division and play in the championship game at 7:30 PM on Monday.
The Wings are starting Jake Paterson against the Blues this evening, and it looks like Phillipe Hudon will take Jordan Maletta's spot on the fourth line, and Richard Nedomlel may or may not sit this one out given that try-out Richard Plutnar skated some shifts alongside Max Nicastro.
Today is "Bryan Rufenach Day" at Centre Ice Arena, so take note:
I wasn't in fantastic form when I spoke with Tyler Bertuzzi--who seemed a lot less jittery--about an increased level of familiarity with the Wings' system, the importance of tonight's game, his attempts to balance physical play with showing what he can do in terms of his skills, and of course his excitement about skating alongside his uncle next week:
Xavier Ouellet is a bit of a one-word answer guy, so I did my best to ask him about his comfort level, whether skating with his future coaches in Jeff Blashill, Jim Paek and Spiros Anastas gives him a bit of an edge coming into a Griffins team with a crowded blueline, and again, the importance of tonight's game...
Initially, Tomas Jurco and I had a chit-chat about his Twitter beat-down of my musical tastes a few days ago, but after that, we ended up speaking for six minutes, discussing his attempts to round-out his game by proving that he's reliable defensively, the importance of receiving and wearing an alternate captain's "A" on his jersey, getting a jump on his fellow Griffins by skating a week early, trying to deal with the mental and physical fatigue that is playing 4 games over the course of 5 nights, the training camp to come and his goals for the upcoming season:
I know I sound very self-depreciating in the interview, and I kind of am in general, but we shook hands on good terms, and I'm going to keep bugging him about his musical choices
And Grand Rapids Griffins assistant coach Spiros Anastas and I also spoke for about six minutes, discussing the drills that the players are working on, the importance of having many coaches on the ice to give the players as much guidance as possible, the transition from the summer camp to the fall tournament, the team's decision to give the players a full "off day" on Saturday, the importance of teaching systems play to younger players and reinforicing positives for returning players during game-day skates, and I tried to sneak in a question about the overabundance of front office personnel in TC and whether the front office is on the same page after losing Jim Nill, but I received a very honest answer.
Anastas also talked about his role as a younger assistant coach as compared with Jeff Blashill and the very seasoned Jim Paek, and I thought his observation about being a more easily-relatable-to coach was intriguing:
I will also say this: I finally introduced myself to the soft-spoken Nate "Dogg" Thompson, the Grand Rapids Griffins main equipment manager, and according to "Dogg," his Stanley Cup-and-Calder-Cup celebration was delightful as he and the Chicago Blackhawks' assistant equipment manager reconnected with many long-lost pals at the Ogsood Brewing company in Grandville yesterday, but "Dogg" said that he was home by midnight.
I can't say the same for Andrew "Steggy" Stegehuis, who looked and sounded like he'd had his fill of celebrating late into the night--not that there's anything wrong with enjoying oneself!
In terms of other Wings-related afternoon news...
Somewhat ironically, the Windsor Star's Bob Duff spoke with one Todd Bertuzzi about his advice to the player wearing "T. Bertuzzi #59" at training camp...
“Stay out of my way,” Bertuzzi joked. “I just told him just to be smart and use his head. He knows what to do. He got there for a reason. It’s up to the coaches now to paint the picture of what they want from him.”
The younger Bertuzzi, a left-winger with the OHL’s Guelph Storm, was selected 58th overall by the Wings in the 2013 NHL entry draft, making his uncle a proud man
“It was pretty cool,” Todd said. “It was a great day for my father because he spent a lot of time with him when he was a kid. I watched him a lot as a kid, growing up and playing in Guelph where I played, too. Then Detroit picked him. I think they got a really good pick.
“He’s a really, really gritty, tough little kid. He’ll do all the dirty things. He’s coachable. He’s the kind of player you don’t want to play against. I’ve heard reference to (Chicago’s Andrew Shaw), guys like (Buffalo’s Steve) Ott, guys like that.
“He’s just got to figure out how to be a little more offensive, hold onto the puck, make plays and all that and just not run around with your head cut off. He’s a young kid and will mature. He’ll figure it out whether it’s the hard way or easy way he’ll figure it out.”
Bertuzzi also told Duff that he's aware that #44's job is on the line during training camp and the exhibition season, too:
“It’s a full-out tryout training camp for a lot of people,” Todd Bertuzzi said. “There’s jobs to be had and jobs to lose. You have to go into camp and you have to play for a spot. It’s not like the old days when you pretty much know where you’re stationed in. You have to earn your spot.
And that’s fine with Bertuzzi.
“I’m not ready to be done,” he said. “I’ll fight for my job. I’ll be ready.”
And while he's not up here at present (Wings photographer Dan Mannes joined the Fox Sports Detroit crew today, and Slapshotgoal from Winging it in Motown is here, as is the Left Wing Lock's Sarah Lindenau and NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale), MLive's Brendan Savage penned a superb profile of the gritty Zach Nastasiuk, who Savage notes is the son of a Canadian Football League champion:
Nastasiuk got his first taste of life with the Red Wings during July's Development Camp and now he's back in Traverse City taking part in the club's annual Prospects Tournament, which continues tonight when the Red Wings play the St. Louis Blues at 7 p.m. at Centre I.C.E. Arena.
Nastasiuk has helped the Red Wings to a 2-0 record in the Prospects Tournament, putting them on the verge of earning a spot in Monday's championship game.
Nastasiuk prides himself on playing a two-way game.
"I think defense first and foremost," he said. "I want to get the puck out (of the defensive zone) first but at the same time in the offensive zone I'm not going to take away my creativity to make plays. Come out of the corner and make a nice pass. But first and foremost, I want to win the battles with the guy I'm lining up against."
Nastasiuk, who helped Canada win the gold medal last season in the under-18 World Championships, agrees with the Red Wings assessment that the needs to work on his skating – "My first few strides need to get more powerful and I need to open up my hips when I'm pivoting" – and he's looking forward to reporting to his first NHL training camp this week.
His skating's gotten better over the summer. I'd say he's added half a step already.
Like all of the prospects, Nastasiuk would obviously love to open the season in Detroit but given the Red Wings depth and history of success, he knows that's virtually impossible. The Red Wings envision Nastasiuk as a two-way forward who can play center or wing, will deliver big hits and block shots, has soft hands that could eventually make him more of an offensive threat, and can be used on special teams.
"The Detroit Red Wings know exactly what they're doing with their development," he said. "I think we both believe I'm not ready. A couple more years of development in juniors will be good for me. I'm going to go back to Owen Sound and take on more of a leadership role and play the way I played last year."
Update: In the Twitter department:
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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.