The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/19/12 at 08:52 PM ET
Updated at 7:19 with, “Oh, hell with it” Wings pre-game news: Red Wings back-up goaltender Joey MacDonald had an MRI today thanks to both back spasms and “shooting pains” down his legs starting during last Wednesday’s game in Anaheim, but the Red Wings released no information regarding his status during the morning skate (and that particular post will continue to be updated till near game time due to late-breaking gnus), nor did the Wings update MacDonald’s status when Wings GM Ken Holland revealed that Darren Helm will be out until the start of the playoffs with a 2nd degree sprain of his left MCL. This evening, MLive’s Ansar Khan explains why the team is in a holding pattern regarding MacDonald:
Wings goalie Joey MacDonald will see a back specialist tomorrow for a better read on the MRI he had today, GM Ken Holland said.
If MacDonald has suffered some sort of disc herniation, remember that the Wings won’t be able to recall Ty Conklin until after the regular season ends to avoid exposing him to re-entry waivers…
And Holland did engage in a radio interview with The Fan 590’s Bob McCown, but he wasn’t allowed much of a word in about his team as McCown challenged Holland’s take on “hybrid icing” and other rule changes proposed during the GM’s meetings:
Hell, scratch the game-day update post. I’ve run out of room, so here are the final news and notes and such regarding tonight’s game and Wings news in general:
• CSN Washington’s Chuck Gormley talked to Roman Hamrlik about his team’s struggles;
• Hedger also took note of the fact that the Red Wings are excited about but not necessarily looking forward to tangling with Alex Ovechkin…
Asked if he likes playing against Ovechkin, Datsyuk only needed four words for an answer.
“Against him?” Datsyuk said. “Not really.”
That’s because Datsyuk—whose own hockey skills are largely unmatched—thinks Ovechkin is still every bit the superstar he was when he was averaging 54 goals per season in his first five seasons. Ovechkin “only” has 30 goals this season, but Datsyuk believes Ovechkin’s past amazing seasons skew anything less.
“He’s the same as before, but now more people waiting for him more and more,” Datsyuk said. “If he’s not scoring 50-goal seasons, (they say), ‘Oh, he not good anymore.’ I think he’s really good. You need to pay attention. He shoots from anywhere. He’s one of those guys who can score from anywhere.”
The Red Wings learned that lesson the hard way a year ago in this building, when Ovechkin fired a rocket wrist shot through the legs of a defenseman that went over the shoulder of goalie Jimmy Howard and under the crossbar.
“It’s quick and it’s fast,” Howard said of Ovechkin’s shot. “He gets it off relatively quick; usually it’s really hard, as well. He’s dangerous no matter where he is on the ice when he’s shooting.”
That’s why the best way to play against him as a defender is just anticipating his position on the ice and trying to take away as many options as possible.
“You’d like to get a gap up on him early, hopefully try to take away that wrister he’s got,” Kronwall said. “Anytime he enters the zone, he either tries to beat you wide or he’s going for that wrister between your legs. It’s tough. He’s always shooting at the right times.”
“That’s why it’s so tough, because you don’t know what he’s going to do,” Kronwall said. “Sometimes he’ll shoot and sometimes he’ll fake the shot and go around you. With that speed and size advantage, you’ve definitely got to be aware of when he’s on the ice. Those guys are definitely hard to defend, and with his size and skillset and shot, he’s the complete package.”
• And Hedger also talked to Ken Holland about Gustav Nyquist, who will start tonight’s game playing alongside Pavel Datsyuk…
“Depends how he plays,” Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland said when asked if Nyquist might stick in the NHL. “He might be (with Datsyuk and Bertuzzi) for a shift. It all depends. Nyquist has played very well in the American Hockey League, but that’s the American Hockey League. We’re trying to roll 3-4 lines and Cleary is a guy that can play up and play down. You put Cleary and (Justin Abdelkader) and (Drew Miller) together and it’s a real good third checking line.”
Putting the talents of Datsyuk, Bertuzzi and Nyquist together also could be interesting. Nyquist is one of the AHL’s top scorers this season and recently has shown flashes of his impressive skillset with the Red Wings. He’s yet to score a goal, but the 22-year old Nyquist has 3 assists and a plus-1 rating in eight games—including assists in two of his last three games.
“He’s young and has lots of skill and fresh legs,” Datsyuk said. “We don’t need to match (skills). We need (to) help each other. He’s (got) good skill and (he’s) fresh and exciting ... what we needed. It’s the end of the season. Everybody is getting tired and has lots of injuries. I think he helps us a lot.”
At least that’s what Nyquist is hoping to do.
“It’s a great opportunity for me and that’s what I want to be down the road,” he said of getting a shot to play in the top-six forward group. “It’s a good start to kind of get a feel for it and hopefully I’ll take advantage of it tonight.”
His previous eight NHL games have given Nyquist added confidence each time he now suits up for the Red Wings.
“It helps every game you play up here,” he said. “You learn something new every game and it feels a lot better now than at the start of the year, especially playing a lot of minutes down in Grand Rapids. That helps a lot.”
• DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose talked about Nyquist in terms of boosting the team’s offense amidst all the injuries they’ve sustained…
“He’s done a real good job for us in the minors. We know it’s a totally different league. He’s got skill and he’s got a mind. We like that,” Babcock said, of Nyquist, who has three assists in eight games with the Wings this season. “Obviously, we haven’t generated near enough offense. We’re trying to be better. We lost Helmer the last game, so that changes things a little bit. We’re just trying to figure it out.”
With a win tonight, the Wings would pull into the No. 4 seed, two-points ahead of Nashville in the Western Conference standings. However, they must find a way to score, particularly at even-strength, especially since the power play is 4-for-46 over the last 12 games. Since posting back-to-back wins three weeks ago against Columbus and Minnesota, the Wings have stumbled, posting a 1-5-1 record while averaging 1.85 goals per game.
“We’re not rolling right along,” Babcock said. “We’re a team that needs to find a way to win some games, and we’re probably a little fragile right now. We need to feel good about ourselves, and the guys understand that totally and want to play well, and want to get wins. That’s why you’re in the game. We left on the road trip with the potential for eight points and we got one. That’s the reality.”
While Henrik Zetterberg’s line has accounted for 46 percent of the team’s offense in the last seven games, the Wings need greater production from others, and the hope is that Datsyuk and Nyquist can get it going quickly. With a three-point performance on Saturday, Nyquist, a two-time Hobey Baker Award finalist at the University of Maine, established a new Griffins’ rookie scoring record. He is currently ninth in AHL scoring with 22 goals and 36 assists in 56 minor-league games. The previous Griffins’ record was held by center Glen Metropolit (55 points in 79 games) during the 1997-98 campaign.
In his three previous call-ups to the Wings this season, Nyquist has played on lines with no fewer than five different forwards, including Bertuzzi, Danny Cleary, Johan Franzen, Cory Emmerton and Joakim Andersson. But playing for the first time with arguably the best two-way forward in the world can be overwhelming.
“You can’t think about that playing out there,” Nyquist said. “You just have to play your game and play good as a line and try and get some chemistry. I’ve been growing up watching him play and now to get put on a line with him, it’s something and a good opportunity I need to take advantage of it and have some fun out there.”
• The Wings also posted a charitably-related press release;
The Detroit Red Wings are hosting a school supply item collection on Saturday to provide children in low-income households with the necessary supplies to learn and participate in their classroom. The school supply drive will take place during the team’s home game on March 24 when the Wings take on the Carolina Hurricanes at 7:00 p.m. (FS Plus and AM 1270).
All donations will benefit Operation: Kid Equip, which has the capacity to serve 70,000 Metro Detroit students – more than 6,000 of these students are homeless. Operation: Kid Equip provides free school supplies, books, hygiene and food items for local children in need.
Fans are encouraged to bring new school supplies to Saturday’s game. The items most in need are pencils, markers, crayons and glue sticks. Volunteers from Operation: Kid Equip will be on hand at each entrance of Joe Louis Arena when the doors open at 5:30 p.m. to collect donations.
Fans who donate school supplies or make a monetary donation will be entered to win an autographed, game-used Justin Abdelkader stick on Saturday. Fans must be present to win.
Who: Detroit Red Wings and Operation: Kid Equip
What: School Supply Item Collection
When: Saturday, March 24, vs. Carolina at 7:00 p.m.
Where: Each of the Four Entrances to Joe Louis Arena
• The Griffins offer something completely different in their weekly presser...
This Week’s Games
Tue., March 20 - GRIFFINS at San Antonio Rampage - 8 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Thu., March 22 - GRIFFINS at San Antonio Rampage - 8 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., March 24 - GRIFFINS at Oklahoma City Barons - 8 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sun., March 25 - GRIFFINS at Oklahoma City Barons - 5 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
The Right Path: The Griffins opened last week with a victory, closing out a season-high five-game road trip with consecutive wins over Houston and Texas. The Griffins beat the Stars 5-2 last Wednesday, paced by a pair of goals each from Chris Conner and Fabian Brunnstrom and a season-high 38 saves from goaltender Ty Conklin. Conklin was nearly perfect the following game, conceding only one goal in a 2-0 loss to the Toronto Marlies on Friday, as the Griffins saw a four-game home-winning streak come to an end. The team got back in the win column with a 5-3 victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs on Saturday, as Gustav Nyquist registered the first game-winning goal of his professional career as part of a three-point night (2-1—3) that saw him become the franchise’s all-time rookie scoring leader.
Playoff Picture: Grand Rapids begins this week tied for 11th place in the Western Conference with the Milwaukee Admirals at 66 points, five points behind the eighth-place Rochester Americans and the final playoff spot. Along with Milwaukee, Grand Rapids has played the fewest games in the AHL (62), meaning it can make up ground with four games coming in a six-day span from Tuesday to Sunday. The Griffins have one game in hand over the Americans, but they have as many as three in hand over other teams in the playoff hunt, including Lake Erie (71 points) and Abbotsford (73 points). The conference’s final four playoff spots (5-8) are separated by just two points, while nine teams (5-13) are separated by eight points.
On Tap: The Griffins will head southwest this week for pivotal road games against two teams from the West Division. The team will open the week in San Antonio, taking on the Rampage on Tuesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. EDT for their fifth and sixth consecutive road games in the state of Texas. They will barely leave the state for their next two road games against the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Barons on Saturday at 8 pm. EDT and Sunday at 5 p.m. EDT.
Offensive Onslaught: Continuing a season-long trend, the Griffins are currently one of the league’s highest scoring team, leading the Western Conference with 199 goals scored and a 3.21 goals-per-game average. Grand Rapids has scored five goals in each of its last three wins to improve to fourth place in the AHL in goals per game overall, trailing Norfolk, Hershey and St. John’s. The Griffins’ 115 goals at Van Andel Arena are the second most by any team at home this season, behind only Hershey (119). They lead the entire AHL with a 34.44 shot-per-game average, over one full shot (1.19) better than second-place Rockford. The team leads the AHL with 2,135 total shots, but they’ve also done their part to limit their opponents. They’re one of two teams (Norfolk) in the league to outshoot their opponent by over 100 in the third period this season (683-548) and are one of three teams (St. John’s and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) overall to have a 100-shot advantage over opponents in two periods, with a cumulative 717-594 advantage in the first period as well.
Travel Light: This week, the Griffins will play the final four games of a season-high nine road games in the month of March, as well as the final road games against teams outside the North Division. While Grand Rapids will still host three different non-divisional teams, it will only travel to Toronto (April 1 and 7), Rochester (April 10) and Hamilton (April 14 and 15) during the final three weeks of the regular season as they push for a playoff berth.
Bumpy Road Ahead: The Griffins have the hardest remaining schedule of the 15 teams in the Western Conference, as their opponents have a combined winning percentage of 0.579, slightly more challenging than the schedule of Texas (0.575). Rochester (0.529), Oklahoma City (0.531) and Lake Erie (0.531) have the easiest remaining schedules based on opponent’s winning percentage. The Griffins number is inflated due in part to three games each against Toronto and Oklahoma City – two teams they have done well against this season. Grand Rapids is 4-1 against the North Division-leading Marlies, with its first loss of the season series coming in a 2-0 shutout on Friday, and it is 2-3 against the West Division-leading Barons, with two of those losses coming by just one goal.
• And our first four slates of power rankings come from ESPN’s Scott Burnside...
7. Detroit 44-24-4 Last Week: 5: The Wings’ road woes continue as they were beaten in San Jose in OT Saturday. They are 16-20-2 away from Joe Louis Arena and 1-5-1 in their past seven overall. The continued absence of Nicklas Lidstrom, along with a host of other injuries, has been problematic for the once-dominant Wings—although Pavel Datsyuk returned to the lineup over the weekend.
TSN’s Scott Cullen...
This Week 6 Last Week 6 Detroit Red Wings: Six losses in the last seven games, but at least the Wings got C Pavel Datsyuk back from injury. Of course, that gain was offset by the loss of LW Johan Franzen, but the Wings’ vulnerability without their elite players is becoming all-too evident.
Sportsnet’s Luke Fox...
12 [last week] 8 Detroit Red Wings: After missing 11 games, Pavel Datsyuk returned to the Wings’ lineup on Saturday, but even he couldn’t save the Wings’ dismal 0-for-4 road trip.
Fox Sports’ Joe Rosen...
8. Red Wings [last week] 4 [highest/lowest] 2/20: Just 1-5-1 in their last seven, the banged up Red Wings aren’t likely to get Nicklas Lidstrom back this week, while Johan Franzen is also day to day. Their schedule lightens up, with two Columbus games upcoming and only three games away from the friendly confines of Joe Louis.
And the Hockey News’s Adam Proteau:
10. Detroit Red Wings [last week] 7: Hurry back, Nicklas Lidstrom, you’re missed very much.
Via RedWingsFeed, here’s Larry Murphy speaking to NHL Live….
And finally, ESPN’s Scott Burnside answered a few Wings-related questions during a chat on ESPN.com:
GBK (Lincoln Park): The Wings just announced that Helm is out 4-6 weeks. Given that there is still no timetable for Lidstrom’s return and that Franzen has been having back spasms, do you see the Wings falling as far as 6th place?
Scott Burnside: GBK; Yes, I think that’s possible given how the ‘Hawks are playing and the Wings’ road woes. Actually 6th place might be the best for them to start….
Emily (St.Louis): In your opinion, how tight is the central division race?
Scott Burnside: Emily; Great race although the Blues are running away with it. Like the Preds to hold down 4th although the question is whether Chicago will overtake the Wings for 5th. Great fun.
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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.