The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/22/11 at 06:17 PM ET
Updated with Hat Trick Dick news and an Osgood/Franzen/Bertuzzi assessment from Ken Holland at 6:40 PM, and the Red Wings have recalled Jan Mursak and sent Joey MacDonald down to Grand Rapids: Bad news on the injury front for the Red Wings; According to MLive’s Ansar Khan, Todd Bertuzzi’s sore back will place him on the Wings’ increasing list of injured players going into tomorrow’s game against Vancouver:
“I don’t think we’ll have Franzen, Datsyuk, Hudler or Bertuzzi available for tomorrow,’’ coach Mike Babcock said after today’s practice
It would be the first game Bertuzzi has missed during his second stint in Detroit. He has played in 155 consecutive games as a Red Wing.
“He’s had aches and pain for a while and he just can’t go,’’ Babcock said. “So we’ll give him a few days.’‘
Jiri Hudler did practice on Tuesday, but is “iffy” for tomorrow with a sore neck…
“It’s still really stiff. It’s uncomfortable just to move my head,’’ Hudler said. “I don’t care about the stiffness in my shoulder. I played through a lot more stuff than that. But I got to move my head around. Everybody wants to be comfortable on the ice. If you can’t move as much as you can it’s sometimes real dangerous.’‘
And while Chris Osgood’s probable return means that Jan Mursak may be called up so that the Wings have at least 11 forwards, the team’s being uber-careful in the injury department:
None of the injuries are serious. Babcock said if this were the playoffs, “they’d be playing.’‘
“That’s why I’m not a doctor or a therapist. I don’t have to make these decisions,’’ Babcock said. “I always tell the guys once the playoffs start I’m the team doctor. Until then, we got people who make those professional decisions.’‘
The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness confirms...
“I don’t think we’ll have Franzen, Datsyuk, Hudler or Bertuzzi available for tomorrow,” Babcock said after after practice. “He’s had aches and pain for a while and he just can’t go. So we’ll give him a few days.”
If Bertuzzi can’t play it’ll be his first game missed in his second stint in Detroit, playing in 155 consecutive games. Hudler skated for the first time since getting hurt on his first shift last Wednesday against the Washington Capitals.
“It’s still really stiff and uncomfortable to move the head,” Hudler said. “That’s the main reason. I don’t care about the stiffness in my shoulder. I’ve played through a lot more stuff than that. I want to turn my head around. Everybody wants to feel comfortable on the ice. It’s sometimes a little dangerous (if you don’t).”
Chris Osgood got most of the work in practice over Joey MacDonald, but his status for Wednesday’s game won’t be determined until later Tuesday or the morning skate Wednesday. A healthy Osgood would [aid] the Wings up front.
As does the Detroit Free Press’s George Sipple...
“I don’t think we’ll have Franzen, Datsyuk, Hudler or Bertuzzi available for tomorrow,” Babcock said. “(Defenseman Ruslan) Salei is back. (Goalie Chris) Osgood is a question still.”
Osgood practiced today and said he would make a decision about his status after talking to the training staff. But the Wings cleared the locker room to film a public-service announcement before Osgood came back out, so his status likely won’t be known until Wednesday morning.
Asked about Bertuzzi’s injury, Babcock said: “What part of the body do you want me to call it? Let’s call it an upper.”
Babcock said Bertuzzi wasn’t injured on the shoot-out attempt.
“He’s had aches and pains for a while and just can’t go,” Babcock said. “Give him a few days” to recover.
And the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan confirms as well:
Bertuzzi missed Monday’s morning skate but played in Monday’s loss to the Penguins.
“He just can’t go,” said Babcock, “so we’re giving him a few days so he can go (and play).”
Depending if Babcock chooses to use a defenseman such as Jonathan Ericsson, Ruslan Salei or Jakub Kindl up front, the Wings could be down at least three forwards. The Wings can’t recall anyone from Grand Rapids because they’re at the salary cap.
Chris Osgood (sports hernia) expects to be ready to dress and back up Jimmy Howard in net. If that’s the case, Joey MacDonald will be sent back to Grand Rapids.
Update #1: The Red Wings’ website posted a clip of Babcock’s off-day presser…
And Babcock spoke to WBBL’s Huge Show as well:
Update #2: Hudler addressed the Wings’ injury situation given the team’s somewhat precarious 2nd-place standing in the West while speaking to NHL.com’s Brian Hedger...
Datsyuk and Bertuzzi didn’t participate at all in Tuesday’s practice, while Franzen and Hudler started out on the ice with just Hudler finishing the entire session. Hudler said it’s a balancing act for Detroit between charging hard for playoff positioning and getting healthy for the start of the playoffs.
“San Jose is just (three) points behind us,” he said. “It’s really tight and you want to get in the best position you can—but you also want your key guys to be 100 percent.”
“We’re very lucky to have [depth],” Hudler said. “A lot of teams don’t have depth like we do. To be able to still perform like the Detroit Red Wings is great. Everybody in this room can play any position, any time. They can chip right in and that’s what’s great about us.”
And Jimmy Howard addressed his slightly off performance on Monday:
“It happens,” he said of getting the hook. “The season is long. I wasn’t happy with how last night went, but at the same time, you just got to let it go and continue to push forward. The season is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. Just got to put it behind you and step forward.”
Howard has come under a lot more scrutiny in the local media this season, after mostly cruising through his rookie season a year ago and making a case for Calder Trophy consideration. He is tied with Montreal’s Carey Price for the League lead in wins (34), but saw his goals-against average increase to 2.79 after Monday’s performance.
“Fortunately enough I don’t listen to them,” Howard said of critics. “I don’t read the newspapers. I don’t read the Internet. I don’t listen to the radio stations—because you don’t want things to creep into your mind that aren’t there. You just have to, I guess, live in your own little bubble.”
Mike Modano also spoke to DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose about breaking his scoring schneid in the, “Am I going to continue playing if I play this way?” sense:
“When you feel the end is near and you’re trying to squeeze ever last drop out of you before it’s over; certainly here there are a lot of expectations to win and be successful,” he said. “The opportunity is there, so you want to come in and contribute a little bit and feel like you’re a meaningful piece to this team.”
“When he got hurt I thought that he was just getting better and better for us back in November,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “Now he’s getting his legs again, and he’s getting his hands and his timing back together. I think he’s going to be a great asset for us to have with his experience and with his speed that he still has. He can play the point on the power-play and can be a third-line center man or out on the wing.”
“Not much has happened meaningful here for me,” he said. “I’m just trying to get back into the flow of things. It took some time to get back up to speed. … It was slowly getting back on my game and thinking of it as a process again.”
And Nicklas Lidstrom addressed the Wings-Canucks match-up as well, suggesting that the Wings aren’t particularly concerned about closing the 8-point gap between themselves and Vancouver:
“It’s more about the measuring stick of playing against the top team in the league right now,” Lidstrom said. “Look at their record and their specialty teams, they’re the tops in most categories. That’s the kind of team that you want to match yourself up against.”
Special teams have catapulted the Canucks to 47 wins this season. Their power-play unit leads the NHL at 24.8 percent with 66 goals with the man-advantage, meanwhile their penalty-kill has held opponents to 38 power-play tallies. The Canucks also lead the league in goals-scored (238) and fewest goals allowed (172). Still, the Red Wings are 2-1-0 against Vancouver this season with both teams scoring 11 times in the season-series.
“They’ve been some close games against them,” Lidstrom said. “They play real well defensively and they play a good system. They have guys who can score and they have the best power-play in the league, so they can score when they get an opportunity.”
Update #3: The Vancouver Province’s Ben Kuzma took note of the Wings’ injuries in his Tuesday update…
If it was a playoff matchup, Mike Babcock conceded that the injured Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), Johan Franzen (groin), Todd Bertuzzi (back spasms) and Jiri Hudler (shoulder) would be playing Wednesday against the Vancouver Canucks.
“They’d be playing,” the Detroit Red Wings coach said Tuesday. “That’s why I’m not a doctor or a therapist. I don’t have to make these decisions. I always tell the guys that when the playoffs start, I’m the team doctor.”
Which, of course, sounds like Babcock is conceding that the eight-point lead the Canucks have atop the Western Conference is too great to overcome, despite leading the season series 2-1-0.
“I don’t think we’ve conceded anything,” said Babcock. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve just tried to win every day. You’d like to finish as high as you can. The higher the better and the better you feel about yourself, but that doesn’t guarantee anything. We’ve tried it all different ways and which ever way you do it, you embrace it.”
Datsyuk has 57 points (22-25) in 52 games while Franzen has a team high 27 goals. Bertuzzi has been limited to 14 goals and Hudler eight.
Update #4: Kuzma reports that Daniel Sedin will play for Vancouver after his wife gave birth to the couple’s
third child on Monday, but…
Meanwhile, Mikael Samuelsson (lower body) won’t play Wednesday, but Daniel Sedin will arrive in time after his wife gave birth to a baby girl Monday night. Victor Oreskovich has been recalled on an emergency basis from Manitoba.
The Vancouver Province’s Brad Ziemer confirms both teams’ injury updates...
Winger Mikael Samuelsson won’t play Wednesday night when the Canucks meet the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. oach Alain Vigneault said Samuelsson is nursing a “lower-body injury.” Vancouver has recalled Victor Oreskovich from Manitoba to take his spot in the lineup.
Winger Daniel Sedin will rejoin the Canucks in time to play Wednesday night. Sedin’s wife delivered the couple’s third child, a daughter, on Monday night.
Babcock said the decision to rest his four injured forwards should not be interpreted as the Wings conceding the Western Conference title to the Canucks. Detroit trails Vancouver by eight points and each team has nine games left.
“I don’t think we concede anything whatsoever,” he said. “Since I have been here we just try and win each and every day. I’m not worried about anything except getting off to a good start and trying to win. A couple of years we won the Presidents Trophy, a couple of years we were just short of it. You’d like to finish as high as you can. I think it’s important if you can have home-ice advantage. I really believe even though we have played better on the road this year than we have at home, I think it’s a benefit at playoff time. So the higher you can finish the better you are and the better you feel about yourself going in.”
Update #4: Also of Wings-related note:
• As Paul posted earlier today, the Oakland Press’s Pat Caputo issued quite a missive about “missing” Sidney Crosby;
• RedWingsCentral’s Sarah Lindenau took note of Mike Babcock hitting the 300-win mark in her Left Wing Lock blog:
Coach Mike Babcock is nothing if not intense. From the moment he stepped on the ice in Traverse City for the 2005 Detroit Red Wings training camp, he set the tone for the veteran team. Babcock is an intense and demanding coach who runs his practices like a drill sergeant. That being said, he’s delivered nothing but results in his six years as coach for the Red Wings.
His 600 regular season wins in just six seasons puts him in impressive company that includes former Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman and Glen Sather. He’s also coached the team to a Stanley Cup championship back in 2008 and came a game away in 2009 after losing in game seven to Pittsburgh.
His achievement did not draw major headlines in the press likely because it was overshadowed by the talent of the Red Wings or the view that winning with Detroit’s roster would be easy for any coach. If there is one thing Detroit has learned over the years, is talent alone does not win championships. A veteran team needs a fiery coach who can instill discipline and get the players to play like a team.
Babcock has been consistently force behind the bench coming up with new coaching methodologies, while also learning from his mentors. His passion and intensity for the game are unmatched 300 wins later and the Red Wings hope he stays that way.
• In the not-so-pleasant news department, the 9&10 News posted Joey Kocur’s mugshot from his DUI arrest in St. Ignace in February;
• In the “rubbing it in” vein, the Sporting News’s Craig Custance spoke to Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal after he scored his team’s shootout winner on Tuesday, and ESPN’s Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun rambled on about the Wings’ playoff readiness based upon last night’s game;
• In the AHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins’ “Afternoon Shift” explains the Griffins’ status as stuck amidst a pack of possibly-playoff-bound teams in the North Division…
On Sunday evening, for the first time since Nov. 18, the question that begins “If the playoffs started today…” had a positive answer for the Griffins. And for the first time since Veterans Day, Grand Rapids now sits just two points out of first place in the North Division.
The Griffins’ 5-3 win over Rockford on Sunday vaulted them over Hamilton and into third place – the final guaranteed playoff spot in the North — for the first time in four months. The Bulldogs have two games in hand on Grand Rapids, but it’s the Griffins who own all the momentum.
Grand Rapids is 9-1-1-0 in its last 11, 11-2-1-0 in its last 14, 12-2-1-2 in its last 17, and 13-3-1-3 in its last 20, having played the last quarter-season’s worth of games at a 0.750 clip. Hamilton, meanwhile, has lost two straight, three of four and four of six, while missing Curtis Sanford, the AHL’s No. 2-ranked netminder who’s out for the season due to a shoulder injury, along with their top five scorers, who are all with the parent Montreal Canadiens.
Remarkably, Grand Rapids needed just 10 games and 17 days (March 4-20) to move from seventh to third in the North, leap-frogging over Rochester, Abbotsford, Toronto and Hamilton. Since sitting in last place, the Griffins have fired off an 8-1-1-0 record during their “March” to the Calder Cup Playoffs.
With 80 points, the Griffins (35-26-2-8) stand just two points behind North Division co-leaders Manitoba and Lake Erie, but also only one point ahead of Hamilton, two ahead of Toronto and three in front of Abbotsford. They’ll conclude their five-game, eight-day homestand Wednesday against the Marlies, in another of a seemingly endless string of critical contests. After that, Grand Rapids will play seven of its final eight regular season games on the road.
• And the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema reports that the Griffins will play Toronto on Wednesday minus the services of Jamie Johnson, who was suspended for 2 games thanks to a blind-side hit on Lake Erie Monsters forward Patrick Bordeleau.
Update #5: Per the Sporting News’s Craig Custance:
Vancouver comes in banged up as well, with Mikael Samuelsson out of the lineup. Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said Victor Oreskovich will be called up on an emergency basis. That is on top of Tuesday’s news from Vancouver that versatile, valuable center Manny Malhotra is done for the season with a major eye injury.
The Red Wings’ injuries aren’t serious, and all four forwards would likely play if there was something more on the line than two points.
“I always tell the guys once the playoffs start, I’m the team doctor,” Babcock said. “Until then, we’ve got people who make professional decisions.”
The Canucks haven’t made a decision yet on defenseman Kevin Bieksa, but Vigneault said Bieksa looked fine on the ice during Tuesday’s practice and they will have a conversation in the morning about his availability. Bieksa has been out since Feb. 15 with a foot injury.
“(We’re) up there in the injury department and we’ve just kept on winning,” Vigneault said. “That’s what we intend to do.”
It’s not all bad news for the Canucks though. Daniel Sedin was expected to join the team in Detroit on Tuesday evening after staying behind in Vancouver. Sedin became a father again Tuesday when his wife gave birth to a girl. It’s the Sedins’ third child.
Typical: In a video in which the Canucks discuss Manny Malhotra’s injury, Bieksa tells the press that he’s enjoying the, “Beautiful weather and clean, clean air” in Detroit (at the 2:30 mark);
The Canucks’ website also posted an off-day video about Malhotra…
As well as Canucks coach Alain Vigneault’s off-day presser:
One more update: Oh look, it’s Adrian Dater, panicking about the Wings’ defense:
The Detroit Red Wings are going to the playoffs again. They’ve overcome a lot of tough injuries so far this season and nobody should look forward to facing them when the games become best-of-seven next month. But there is growing concern among the legions of Winged Wheel fandom over their team’s defense and goaltending as the playoffs near.
Monday’s five-goal (one in a shootout) allowance to the banged-up Pittsburgh Penguins at home isn’t going to soothe the nerves of Wings fans, with Jimmy Howard pulled from the game in favor of Joey MacDonald. Howard has a nice won-loss record (34-14-5), but his saves percentage is down sharply from last season (.908 from .924). His goals-against average (2.79) is more than half a goal higher than last year too.
Right now, he seems caught in a good game game, bad game trend, and that likely won’t cut it in the playoffs. Detroit’s defense overall is looking a bit leaky as well, with even the legendary Nicklas Lidstrom a minus-4 in games since Feb. 26.
Detroit’s 209 goals allowed entering Tuesday was the most of any of the Western Conference’s top-8 teams, and only nine fewer than they allowed all of last season, with nine games left to play.
All worrying aside, only two other teams have more points than Detroit. They came back from a 4-0 deficit before losing in the shootout. Again, nobody should look forward to playing them. But is Detroit the defensive dynamo of years past? Doesn’t look it.
NHL.com’s Brian Hedger also provides the Canucks’ off-day news regarding both the loss of Manny Malhotra...
“We’re a big family in here, so it was hard,” Kesler said on Tuesday afternoon, after the Canucks practiced at Joe Louis Arena. “But it was good to see him. It answered a lot of questions for us, and as a group we grew closer together because of that. With Manny, it’s not even about hockey. It’s really about his health and his family and hoping everything’s all right. Hockey comes second when it comes to stuff like that.”
As well as the other Canucks news of the day:
Bieksa may return: Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa said he’s ready to get back on the ice for games, starting with Wednesday’s tilt against Detroit—but Vigneault said he’ll wait to talk with Bieksa on Wednesday morning before making the final call. Bieksa has missed 15 games with a foot fracture after blocking a shot on Feb. 15 against the Minnesota Wild. He went through Vancouver’s full practice on Tuesday with no apprent issues.
“It’s been a long time,” Bieksa said. “It feels like it’s been a long time. I’m excited to get back and be on the road with the guys.”
Sedin to play, Samuelsson to sit: After being with his wife for the birth of their daughter, Canucks forward Daniel Sedin was scheduled to arrive in Detroit early Tuesday evening and play against the Red Wings on Wednesday. Meanwhile, forward Mikael Samuelsson will be scratched with an undisclosed lower-body injury that needs a few days to heal. Replacing Samuelsson will be Victor Oreskovich, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound center who was called up from Manitoba of the American Hockey League. In 10 games with the Canucks this season, Oreskovich has 1 assist and minus-1 rating.
Swedish Update: As reported this morning, Red Wings prospect Dick Axelsson is at least interested in allowing the Red Wings to retain his rights, and he’s confirmed as much to NWT.se’s Per Martensson.
Martensson plays up the, “He’s going to play for the Red Wings” angle, but that’s far from a given. Axelsson probably won’t come over for another season or three as he can make more money playing for Farjestads BK until he feels that he has a superb chance of making the Wings’ roster:
Enjoy Tricky Dick as long as you can - next year, he will certainly play in the NHL.
“Hakan Andersson (Detroit’s chief European scout) has been here for a few days. I’ve talked to him and he told me that Detroit will offer me a contract proposal. If I’m given a good short-term contract, I will go. It’s always been my dream to play in the NHL.”
The last time Axelsson got that chance, he ended up playing for the farm team, and snuck home under well-noticed circumstances.
“Now I’m more ready as a man. Though I might have to sign a two-way contract.”
Update: Ken Holland confirmed to the Free Press’s George Sipple that Osgood is ready to play:
Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said tonight that goalie Chris Osgood will be Jimmy Howard’s backup Wednesday night against the Vancouver Canucks. Osgood practiced today, then met with the team’s training staff and Holland.
Osgood “had two hard practices and then felt soreness, so we backed him off,” Holland said of last week’s episode. “We’re trying all over again. He rarely gets a full practice, because we’re, obviously, trying to keep Joey MacDonald sharp as well.”
As for the injured forwards, Holland said he anticipates having Johan Franzen (groin) available for Saturday’s home game against the Maple Leafs, and possibly Todd Bertuzzi (upper body), too.
“We don’t think it’s anything significant,” Holland said of Bertuzzi’s injury. “It’s something he’s been playing through the last little while, and it’s gotten to a point where he thinks it is affecting his ability to play, and he needs some time to get it healthy. Obviously, the earliest he’s going to play is Saturday.
“We’re pretty optimistic that Franzen will play on Saturday. Beyond Franzen, everyone else is day-to-day and we’ll see how the week plays out with them, healthwise.”
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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.