The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/05/13 at 11:37 AM ET
Updated 13x at 2:55 PM: No changes for Detroit, Avs won't have Hedjuk and Giguere's starting: The Detroit Red Wings will face off against the Colorado Avalanche tonight (7:30 PM, FSD/Altitude/97.1 FM, and it's Breast Cancer Awareness Night at the Joe) hoping to rebound from a 2-1 OT loss to Chicago on Sunday while scrambling for points in a tightly-packed Western Conference.
While the Avs are perceived to be in a less playoff-ready "rebuilding" mode than the Wings' rebuild-in-progress, the Red Wings' Game Day Blog notes that Detroit's taking the threat that a team sitting all of 4 points behind the Wings presents very seriously, and the Wings do indeed view this second of three straight home games as a must-win affair:
"The one thing about a team in our situation, every night's a real contest, we understand that totally.”- Mike Babcock
The Red Wings will face Colorado for the first time this season tonight when the Avalanche pay visit to the The Joe, a place filled with years of history between the two teams. The Avs enter the week at No. 13 in the Western Conference standings, but still only four points behind the Red Wings, who currently sit in the final playoff spot with 24 points.
“They’re fast, they’re extremely quick up front." said Jimmy Howard. "You just have to find a way every single night to get points.” The light-scoring Avs started slow this season. And despite a 5-4-3 record in February, the owners of the third worst goal-differential (-10) in the West are 1-1-3 in their last five games.
Regarding tonight's charitable activities, from 97.1 the Ticket's Ken Kal...
And in the "historical note" department, again, from the Game Day Blog:
On This Day in Red Wings History...On March 5, 2010
Nick Lidstrom records his 800th career assist on a goal from Tomas Holmstrom in a 5-2 win over the Predators.
The Wings' beat writers didn't offer any Tweets from what was most likely an optional skate, so MLive's Ansar Khan offers a, "No surprise here" update:
It's a quiet morning, and that's not necessarily a bad thing given all the injury news Wings fans, myself included, have had to deal with over the past two months.
Update #1: The Wings posted Ken Kal's "Keys to the Game"...
Score Goals - The Wings have scored just 4 goals in their last 3 games; they need to create scoring chances and make the best of them when they occur.
Play Well Defensively - The team has been consistent and good defensively over the past 5 games. Don't change that and continue to play tight D all-around.
Slow Down the Avs - Colorado is a fast, explosive team. The Wings must take away their time and space, especially in the neutral zone, which is where they generate most of their speed.
And the Avs' Twitter account points us toward Altitude's Mark Moser, who offers Avs roster updates...
Quick update from the Wings’ optional morning skate. Wings coach Mike Babacock said he’s going with the same group of forwards and defensemen he’s used over the last three games tonight against the Colorado Avalanche, which means defensemen Ian White and Kent Huskins are healthy scratches.
Jimmy Howard will start in goal.
Justin Abdelkader will continue to play on a line to Pavel Datsyuk and Daniel Cleary.
Abdelkader has no goals and just one assist in 22 games this season.
“I’ve just got to keep doing all the small things, keep shooting, putting the puck on net and hope for some breaks,” Abdelkader said after the morning skate. “I haven’t gotten much puck luck. I’ve just go to keep going to the net and all the hard areas and eventually I’ll find the back of the net.”
Update #2: More from RedWingsFeed: The Windsor Star's Bob Duff posted Mike Babcock's game-day presser, which is five minutes long(!)...
And the Griffins posted a press release regarding its "Purple Game" on Friday:
Navy blue, red, metallic silver and metallic gold are the official team colors of the Grand Rapids Griffins, but purple will also be included this Friday, when the team hosts its second annual “Purple Community Game” to benefit the Van Andel Institute and cancer research.
When fans arrive for the 7 p.m. contest against the Hamilton Bulldogs, they’ll notice that nearly everything at Van Andel Arena will be in sync with the color associated with cancer survivors, including:
• Purple jerseys that will be worn by the Griffins, autographed and auctioned to the public in the Fifth Third Bank Vault restaurant after the game, with proceeds benefiting VAI;
• 10,000 purple T-shirts that will be handed out as fans enter the arena;
• Purple polo shirts worn by the Griffins’ staff;
• Purple concession items such as cotton candy, sno cones, popcorn and cupcakes;
• Purple VAI logos embedded in the arena’s ice surface;
• Purple game production elements, including songs, videos and LED graphics.
Additionally, Haley Gort, a resident of Caledonia, Mich., who returned to her high school’s basketball team last month after battling cancer for two years, will drop the ceremonial puck before the game, and a salute to cancer survivors will take place during the first intermission.
Fans who’d like to attend the game and support fundraising for cancer research can order their tickets online and use a special promotional code that will allocate $3 of their ticket price to VAI. Visit griffinshockey.com/promocode and enter the code “purple.” One hundred percent of the funds raised through the Purple Game will go directly to laboratory research at VAI.
The Griffins are “purpling out” their web site, Facebook page and Twitter page to call attention to this special night. The team is also offering prizes to fans who change their profile picture to a “Purple Game” badge, or who post on its wall or tweet about the game. Fans can also text “PURPLE” to 50555 to donate $10 to VAI.
Update #3: Avs stuff:
No comment regarding the "issue" pondered by MLive's Ansar Khan and Brendan Savage:
THE ISSUE: Nothing gets hockey fans talking quicker than a discussion about forward line combinations. Especially Detroit Red Wings fans who don't always agree with coach Mike Babcock's decisions.
These days, many fans are frustrated at seeing Pavel Datsyuk skate on a line with Justin Abdelkader and Daniel Cleary since they're not producing in the manner a line featuring Datsyuk normally does. Datsyuk, arguably the Red Wings best two-way player, has no goals and four assists in his last six games, Cleary has three goals in his last 12 games and Abdelaker has yet to score in 22 games this season.
Meanwhile, Tomas Tatar leads the Red Wings rookies with four goals and seven points. All four of his goals have come in the last 10 games, when he also recorded two assists. Is it time for Babcock to juggle his lines and put Tatar alongside Datsyuk to see what the rookie can do next to the crafty veteran?
ANSAR KHAN: Options are limited, with so many injuries to forwards. But, with Abdelkader struggling (no goals in 35 consecutive games, dating back to 2011-12), the time is right to give Tatar an extended look on the line with Datsyuk and Cleary.
Babcock is concerned about Tatar's play without the puck and fears he might make costly defensive mistakes matched up against top lines. But, Datsyuk's presence can help compensate for the rookie's shortcomings in that area.
Tatar has terrific hands and a scorer's touch around the net. Maybe he wouldn't fare as well playing against the opposition's top defensive pairing more often. Or maybe he would form good chemistry with Datsyuk. It's worth a sho, for a team that has scored only one goal in each of the past three games.
BRENDAN SAVAGE: Babcock needs to do something to try and jump start an offense that has scored two goals or fewer in 12 of 22 games this season. Tatar has shown a knack for putting up points in his first full NHL season so why not?
Playing alongside Datsyuk could give Tatar more opportunities offensively and if Babcock is worried about his defensive skills, who better to skate alongside than the gifted Datysuk? His talents can make up for a lot of mistakes by linemates.
Abdelkader clearly isn't working on Datysuk's line so move him back into a checking role and keep Cleary alongside Datsyuk and Tatar to provide some size and grit. What do the Red Wings have to lose?
Update #4: The Free Press's Helene St. James just published her game-day update:
The Detroit Red Wings have the Colorado Avalanche on their schedule and breast cancer awareness on their agenda. The Wings host the Avs tonight at Joe Louis Arena (7:30 p.m., FSD), looking to build on how well they have played in the last three games.
Jimmy Howard is starting in net, and coach Mike Babcock isn't making any changes among his skaters. That means Pavel Datsyuk with Daniel Cleary and Justin Abdelkader, Henrik Zetterberg with Johan Franzen and Damien Brunner, Joakim Andersson with Tomas Tatar and Patrick Eaves, and Cory Emmerton with Drew Miller and Jordin Tootoo. The defense remains Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Brendan Smith, Kyle Quincey, Brian Lashoff and Jakub Kindl.
The Wings, of course, will wear red tonight, as they usually do at home. But in recognition of breast cancer awareness, they're asking fans to wear pink. Any fan who wears pink can enter to win a 2013 team-signed jersey by picking up a numbered ticket on the concourse behind Section 126.
Also on deck tonight, per the Wings: a silent auction, mystery puck draw, 50/50 raffle and a special sale of soccer-style scarves, with all proceeds benefiting the Karmanos Cancer Institute (Weisberg Cancer Treatment Center in Farmington Hills) and St. John Providence Health System (Liggett Breast Center in Grosse Pointe). The funds raised will help alleviate the costs of breast cancer screening and treatment for uninsured and underinsured women in the Detroit area.
For $25, fans can purchase an autographed puck by going to the concourse behind Section 126 -- but they won’t know which player signed the puck until after making their purchase. The fan who unwraps the puck signed in gold by Howard will meet him after the game.
Forty-two autographed memorabilia items will be auctioned off behind Section 126, including the players’ sticks, wrapped in pink hockey tape and used during pregame warm-ups.
The Red Wings will honor those affected by breast cancer by hosting 20 patients and survivors in suite 74, and all will receive a special gift bag with Red Wings items enclosed. Zetterberg will host four breast cancer patients and survivors along with their families in the Zetterberg Foundation Suite.
Update #5: The Windsor Star's Bob Duff offers his take on Justin Abdelkader's lack of offensive production (1 assist) and an update on Avs forward Ryan Wilson:
“I’m playing with Pav, so I just keep grinding, working in the corners and getting him the puck as much as I can,” Abdelkader said. “I try to keep it simple. I think I can shoot the puck more than I have been. That’s what you strive to do, shoot it and go to the hard areas because that’s where a majority of the goals will go in.”
Abdelkader has gone nearly a year between goals. His last tally came March 10, 2012 against the Nashville Predators, a goalless skid of 35 games. He insists he hasn’t lost confidence in his ability to score.
“Playing with a guy like Pav, you’re going to get a lot of chances,” Abdelkader said. “He’s going to create a lot of space, so hopefully, eventually, it’s just going to be one of those things where you get that first one and it’ll open the flood gates. I feel good about a lot of the things I’m doing out there. I want to keep following the puck in and maybe Pav will shoot one off me and that will get things going.”
Wings coach Mike Babcock also believes that good fortune is just around the corner for Abdelkader, and that it’s taken him longer to shake off the rust of not playing during the NHL lockout.
“I think he’s gotten way better here of late,” Babcock said. “I think he looked like a guy who didn’t play in the lockout when he first came back. Big, heavy guys I think it takes longer. He’s a worker, an honest, two-way guy. Pavel Datsyuk can sit out six months and still be able to stickhandle in a phone booth. He (Abdelkader) can’t.”
Meanwhile, make it a baker’s dozen of absences for Avalanche defenceman Ryan Wilson of Windsor, whose injured ankle will keep him out of the lineup for a 13th consecutive game.
“You just get kind of frustrated,” Wilson said. “You’re watching and you want to be out there, but there’s nothing you can do. Your body has to heal. You just try and support the team in any way you can.”
Update #6: This is hilarious. St. James asked Jonathan Ericsson, Brendan Smith, Kyle Quincey and Johan Franzen which one of their teammates would look best in pink:
Here's MLive's Ansar Khan's game-day update...
In his second game back following a lengthy contract battle, Colorado Avalanche third-line center Ryan O'Reilly will present a matchup issue for the Detroit Red Wings tonight at Joe Louis Arena (7:30, Fox Sports Detroit). It's up to rookie Joakim Andersson or Cory Emmerton to alleviate the problem, coach Mike Babcock said.
“With O'Reilly in the three-hole for them today, we got kind of like a Shaw-Bickell-Stalberg thing, we got a matchup issue,'' Babcock said after today's morning skate. “I knew it before the last game, I know it before this game. If one of those guys, Andy or Emmerton do a real good job, then we don't have a matchup issue. Otherwise, that swings the game.''
Babcock was referring to Sunday's 2-1 shootout loss to Chicago, when he felt his club didn't match up well against the Blackhawks' third line of Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw and Viktor Stalberg.
He expects Andersson, Tomas Tatar and Patrick Eaves, who teamed up for the club's lone goal in that game, or the line of Emmerton, Drew Miller and Jordin Tootoo to neutralize the O'Reilly line, which features wingers John Mitchell and Milan Hejduk. Babcock said of Andersson: “He's a smart guy, he's got seriously good hockey sense, knows how to play with and without the puck. It's just pace with him, that's the biggest issue. But he's a real good player.''
Babcock said he'll continue playing Justin Abdelkader, who is struggling offensively (one assist in 22 games), and Daniel Cleary on the line, at least at the start.
“You could look at it a couple ways,'' Babcock said. “You could say Pavel and Z haven't scored in three games and you can blame the wingers, or you can say there's times during the year you don't score. They've been matched up against real good players and we've had an opportunity to win. In the last three games we're 3-1-1 and things are going all right for our team, so let's just keep going here.'' I think he's been good. I didn't line one shift last game where they got hemmed in by the Shaw line and he lost his check, but other than that I think he's been real good and effective. Now, I went through every single one of Andy's shifts just to be sure.
Bertuzzi not on the horizon: Todd Bertuzzi hasn't been on the ice since the Feb. 7 game at St. Louis, when he hurt his back. And the club has no indication when he can resume skating.
“He's like all these guys we've got injured, nobody is on the horizon anytime soon,'' Babcock said.
And here's an Avs update from the Denver Post's Mike Chambers:
Update #10: Yeah, but can he score?
And the Denver Post's Mike Chambers posted an Avs lineup update:
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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.