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The Malik Report

More kettlebell and more mid-day Red Wings news

As we await news on Valtteri Filppula’s status for tonight’s Red Wings-Blues game (7:30 PM EST, FSD/Versus/TSN2/WXYT), we’ll start our survey of Red Wings-related news on an important charitable note, via the Wings’ Twitter account and Wings community relations manager Christy Hammond, several high-profile members of the Red Wings’ team and management are going to take part in an annual event which will raise funds for one of Metro Detroit’s most active charities this Friday:

The Detroit Red Wings will compete for bragging rights this Friday, December 9, to see which duo can raise the most money for The Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign, as the four teams bell ring between 4-6 p.m. at different Metro Detroit retail locations.

Head coach Mike Babcock will join Executive Vice President and General Manager Ken Holland, who is serving as Honorary Chairman of the 2011 Red Kettle Campaign for the sixth straight year, outside Hiller’s Market in downtown Northville. Six players will pair up at three area stores: the Kroger in Plymouth (Drew Miller & TBD Player), Hockeytown Authentics in Troy (Justin Abdelkader & Darren Helm) and the Kroger in Birmingham (Cory Emmerton & Jakub Kindl).

Fans visiting the Hockeytown Authentics between 4-6 p.m. on Friday can obtain an autograph from both forwards Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm by making a $10 donation per player to The Salvation Army. Last year, Abdelkader and Helm became the first player tandem to beat Babcock and Holland in the annual bell ringing competition and hope to successfully defend their title.

This season marks the sixth consecutive year the Detroit Red Wings and The Salvation Army are teaming up through the “Red Wings for Red Kettles” initiative to help the nonprofit reach its $8.2 million Red Kettle campaign goal.

“Both the players and staff have embraced The Salvation Army and have remained committed to helping people in need in our community,” Holland said. “We’re proud to support The Salvation Army again this year, and celebrate their 125th year of serving the people of metro Detroit.”

You can read more about the details of Friday’s events here, and the Salvation Army…I had to ask them for help once, and they delivered in a big way. They don’t turn people away and just about every penny that goes into the kettles goes right back out into the community. This partnership really “does the most good.”

In a different kind of promotional vein, the Wings are going to be selling very affordable “Student Rush” tickets on Thursday;

If you’re interested, Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner, Michigan Hockey Now’s Michael Caples ,Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy Wyshynski” and a representative of tonight’s opponent in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeff Gordon all offer thoughtful takes on the NHL’s realignment plan, and the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell spoke a with Ken Holland and Jimmy Devellano about the plan as well:

“I’m so happy,” said Detroit senior vice president Jimmy Devellano, who had talked with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on a weekly basis about realignment since last spring. “A dream come true for the Detroit Red Wings.As far as us going east, that never was a big issue, only that the schedule would have been better for us. Very good news.”
“For our fans, there will be far fewer games starting at 10:40, especially come playoff time,” Devellano said. “I like that for our fans and TV ratings.”

While much was made of the Wings’ desire to return to the Eastern Conference in their perfect scenario, Detroit general manager Ken Holland said the team realized that was shaping up to be a winner-takes-all proposition between his club and Columbus. It was a view shared by Bettman and the commissioner is being given credit for coming up with a plan to satisfy most teams and more importantly one that garnered 26 of a possible 30 votes in support. It also satisfied the desire of many Western Conference clubs, especially within the Wings’ new division, to keep Detroit on the schedule as a frequent visitor A visit by the Wings has long been a cash cow for the home team and that remains so this fall. Detroit is the second most-popular draw on the road behind Boston this season playing to 97.4 per cent of capacity.

“At the end of the day, every team had to give a little bit,” Holland said. “We’d love to have been in the Eastern Conference, but this set up made everyone happy. It’s as good as we can get. Four conferences made a lot of teams happy.”
“Our fans want to see all the teams in the league at home once,” said Holland of perhaps the most consistent complaint he’s heard in recent years from the Wings’ faithful. Fans get to see Montreal, Toronto, Boston, etc. once at home every year. Our fans should be excited and happy about it.”

Regarding tonight’s game, Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon offers a, “It’s on Versus and here’s what we think about the game” preview...

Seeing the turnaround the St. Louis Blues have made since firing Davis Payne and bringing Ken Hitchcock on board is proof that sometimes a coaching change is just what a team needs to get fixed. Tonight when they face off against the Red Wings in St. Louis (7:30 p.m. ET) it’ll be a match-up of tacticians between Hitchcock and Mike Babcock.

The Blues have gotten better as a team defensively and their starting goalie tonight, Brian Elliott, is a prime example why that’s been great for the team. Elliott is in the middle of the best season of his career and getting to square off against Jimmy Howard for Detroit presents an unexpected face-off between top goalies in the league.

Of course, there’s still a ton of scoring talent between these two teams as well, it’ll just be hard to see them punching through and making it all count against these goalies and defenses. You already know what Detroit brings to the table in Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, and Henrik Zetterberg. They will be without Valtteri Filppula, however, as he suffered a cut to his leg against Colorado on Sunday.

St. Louis brings their own version of thunder with Dan Carcillo‘s new best friend in David Backes as well as T.J. Oshie, Alex Steen, and Kevin Shattenkirk. The Blues aren’t big on scoring, but they’ll beat you best by keeping you off the board – just the way Ken Hitchcock likes it.

• The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Gordon filed this game-day preview...

SCOUTING THE RED WINGS: Detroit coach Mike Babcock gave the Detroit Free Press this breakdown of his team: “When we play our best, we’re physical on the forecheck, on the grind, we’re wearing the other team out, our D are allowed to be up and active. If you want your D to play with their faces against the glass all night, I don’t know how they’re supposed to have any success and make any plays. So you’ve got a decision: Do you want your D to get worn out, or your want their D to get worn out?” The Red Wings are getting more out of forward Henrik Zetterberg, who has eight points in his last seven games after producing just five points in his previous 13. Center Pavel Datsyuk also picked up his play, scoring 14 points in his last nine games.

SCOUTING THE BLUES: Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom offered this assessment of the defensive minded Note to the Free Press: “They’re playing real well whether it’s in the offensive zone or neutral zone or especially their defensive zone. They just play a really solid system. They get on top of you when they can, and when they can’t, they make it hard in the neutral zone, and in their own zone, players are blocking shots. It’s hard to get shots through.” The Blues need to generate more offense, though, which is why the team was thrilled to get winger David Perron back from post-concussion syndrome.

LINEUP INTRIGUE: With his team getting healthier, coach Ken Hitchcock has decisions to make. Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo has recovered from his hamstring strain and is ready for action. He could return to his regular pairing with Alex Pietrangelo. Also, forward Evgeny Grachev has overcome a minor eye injury and could be available as well. The make-up of the fourth line will be interesting, since Hitchcock wants to try Vladimir Sobotka at center and Scott Nichol on the wing. In goal, Hitchcock will bring Brian Elliot back after his Saturday night loss to the Blackhawks.

• Babcock reiterated his, “We’ve got to be physical or we’ll get the crap checked out of us” theory to MLive’s Ansar Khan...

“We weren’t physical enough (Sunday),” Babcock said Monday. “When we play our best, we’re physical on the forecheck, on the grind, we’re wearing the other team out, our (defensemen) are allowed to be up and active. If you want your “D” to play with their face against the glass all night, I don’t know how they’re supposed to have any success and make any plays. So you got to decide: Do you want your “D” to get worn out or do you want their “D” to get worn out?”

The Blues have been wearing out teams since Ken Hitchcock took over as coach on Nov. 8. They are 8-2-3 under the defensive taskmaster and are only two points behind the Red Wings. The Blues outshot the Red Wings 37-22 in their lone meeting, grinding them down. Detroit’s power play went 0-for-6 in its worst performance of the season. Babcock said his team better not try to “skill” its way around the rink.

“If the other team is going to be physical and on your ‘D,’ and if you’re not willing to be physical and on their ‘D,’ eventually they’re just going to wear you out and catch you from behind, and you get turnovers all night,” Babcock said.

The Blues are second in the NHL in goals against (2.12 per game) and are allowing the fewest shots (26.3 per game). Goaltender Brian Elliott (10-2-0), who will start, is first in the league in goals-against average (1.53) and save percentage (.945).

“Just the system that they’re playing, they make it hard to get scoring chances on them,” Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “They play real well, whether it’s in the offensive zone, neutral zone, and especially in the defensive zone. ... They get on top of you when they can. When they can’t, they make it harder in the neutral zone.”

• Via the Wings’ Twitter account, Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating wants to remind us that Matt Sheppard will be doing play-by-play duties in Ken Daniels’ stead tonight…

• And, via RedWingsFeed, here’s an interesting tidbit about tonight’s game from the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff:

#redwings coach Mike Babcock’s next victory will tie him with Fred Shero for 26th place in #NHL history (390).

Finally, part 1: As Paul already posted, NHL.com’s EJ Hradek doled out significant praise regarding the Red Wings’ captain this morning…

• One of these seasons, Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom isn’t going to be a serious candidate for the Norris Trophy. Apparently, that won’t be this season.

The graceful 41-year-old has been terrific in the first two months of the season. Entering Tuesday’s game against the Blues (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN2), Lidstrom ranks fourth in scoring among defensemen with 19 points and second among defenders with 6 goals. Averaging just a few ticks shy of 24 minutes per game, he has produced a solid plus-8 rating.

If Lidstrom were to garner enough votes to win his eighth Norris Trophy, he’d become just the second defenseman to capture that honor eight times. Bruins icon Bobby Orr won eight straight Norris trophies from 1968-75.

• Speaking of the crew in Hockeytown, I think it’s pretty clear that goalie Jimmy Howard doesn’t get near enough credit for the club’s success. After all, he’s 15-5-1 with a 1.83 goals-against average. Howard’s .931 save percentage ranks sixth in the League.

The Wings have some very accomplished, high-profile veterans, but they wouldn’t be near the top of the conference standings if it weren’t for Howard’s stellar goaltending.

If the former University of Maine stopper continues to play at this high level, I suspect he might finally get some of the attention that he deserves. Heck, he might even be mentioned in the Vezina Trophy race.

And Finally, part 2: I’m headed out for a few hours to take care of some appointments, and I’ve asked Paul to specifically take a peek at Filppula’s status for tonight’s game. I’m worried about him and I’m assuming that you are, too.


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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.