Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Avalanche wrap-up and overnight report: it wasn’t pretty, but a win’s two crucial points

The Detroit Red Wings neither started nor finished particularly strongly during what was sometimes less than an aesthetically-pleasing 2-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche, but the Wings' company line after the game involved two points of emphasis:

1. They weren't thrilled with the fact that Jimmy Howard had to stop 36 shots, including 16 in the third period, nor were they thrilled with their power play or overall effort;

2. But the Wings now sit in sixth place in the Western Conference with 26 points, six points ahead of an Avs team that could've pulled to within two points of them, 5 points above Thursday's opponent, the Edmonton Oilers, who dropped a 4-3 shootout decision to Columbus on Tuesday evening (Sportsnet's Mark Spector reports that the Avs were "snowed in" thanks to the blizzard blanketing Illinois, Indiana and Ohio), only one point behind the 3rd-place Vancouver Canucks, and 8 points ahead of the 15th-place Blue Jackets, who the Wings will play on Saturday and Sunday.

Okay, so the Wings didn't say all of that, but they tipped their hats to Jimmy Howard and Johan Franzen, they acknowledged that the West is very tight, and they promised to play better next time.

As for the Avs, they told the Denver Post's Mike Chambers that giving the Wings a run for their money felt like progress made, at least to some extent...

"We had some really good two periods of hockey, hemmed them in pretty good. (Jimmy) Howard was on his head tonight. Unbelievable stops,” Avs captain Gabe Landeskog said. “Played a strong game against a pretty good hockey team. We didn’t get rewarded. We didn’t come out on top, bottom line.” — P.A. Parenteau.

Center Ryan O’Reilly played better in his second NHL game this season. He played 18:10 (about 4 minutes more than Sunday), registered three shots and was minus-1 (helpless on Johan Franzen’s breakaway goal).

...

Jean-Sebastien Giguere (31 saves) played pretty well. The game-winning goal came on a shot that didn’t hit the net. Jiggy was playing the rebound off the end boards as Dan Cleary was crashing the net.

“Trying to get to my post as fast as I could, and the boards being what they are here, it’s unfortunate to lose a game that way, but the boards are there for both teams,” Jiggy said. “All of us are well aware of it. That’s the way it went.”

And the Avs reiterated their points of emphasis to Chambers in his main recap...

"There's some positives to take out of this game, there's no question," Sacco said. "It's disappointing we didn't get any points, but I like the work ethic and the energy in our game."

...

"Pretty good effort tonight," Giguere said after a 31-save performance. "In this building, we almost managed 40 shots. In that aspect of the game, I think we have to be satisfied. Eventually some pucks are going to go in. Howard played a good game, and you have to give him credit. But it was a good effort."

Still, the Avs fell to 2-7-3 on the road, winning just once in regulation in those 12 games. They began this three-game trip with an uninspired 2-1 shootout loss Sunday at Columbus.

"It was a good response from our group, considering that game we played in Columbus wasn't the type of effort we were looking for," Sacco said. "I really thought our guys worked extremely hard."

Said [Paul] Stastny, "We didn't get the outcome we wanted, but compared to how we played against Columbus, it was a different game."

But I'd wondered whether the Avs might look past Detroit to some extent given that they're slated to play against the Blackhawks tonight--the unbeaten-in-23 Hawks, thanks to their 5-3 win over Minnesota on Tuesday--and that may have been the case, at least to some extent:

"No time for that," Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog said about complaining that they deserved at least a point in their first game against the Red Wings this season. "We played a great game of hockey. We just didn't score (enough) goals. Right back it against Chicago, and we all know how they're playing right now."

Colorado plays the Blackhawks (20-0-3) on Wednesday in Chicago and Friday in Denver.

"They seem to be on their own little program, and everybody else is falling behind them," Avs coach Joe Sacco said of Chicago. "It's going to be a great test for us."

Instead, Landeskog praised Howard's performance while speaking to the AP's Larry Lage...

Howard made 36 saves. The most acrobatic of them came early in the third, when he stretched all the way out on his side to stop John Mitchell in front of the net. Mitchell had been left alone and had time to pull the puck to his backhand, but after maneuvering around Howard, he couldn't put the puck past him.

...

"He was incredible tonight," Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog said. "We played a good game. We did everything we could do except score."

And Lage reported that the Avs may have been a little more peeved than they were willing to admit, though the Wings felt that they didn't exactly paint a Picasso:

"The difference was really a couple of bounces for them and one hot goalie for them," Giguere said.

Colorado trailed 2-0 when Paul Stastny spoiled Howard's bid for a shutout, scoring with 1:30 to play in the third. Detroit has gone four straight games without allowing a goal in the first or second period, but the Avalanche had their share of chances in this one. Howard needed to be sharp on several occasions.

"This was our loosest game in the last while," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "To win on a nightly basis, you can't leave your goalie like that as much as we did."

Detroit was coming off a shootout loss to Chicago on Sunday -- after the Red Wings came within 2:02 of handing the Blackhawks their first regulation loss of the season.

They almost blew a late lead in this one too, but Colorado wasn't able to tie it up. The Avalanche nearly had a fortunate bounce of their own in the final seconds when a shot went wide and caromed off the boards out to Matt Duchene in front of the net. But Duchene couldn't beat Howard. After the final buzzer, a frustrated Duchene broke his stick into three pieces when he slammed it against the empty net Colorado had been defending, then threw the rest of the stick down on the ice.

DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose helps us pivot perspectives from those of the Avs to those of the Wings' players and coach via a recap which focuses upon Howard's diving cuff-of-the-glove save on John Mitchell in the third period...

“It was just one of those things,” Howard said. “You do it in practice, never give up on pucks in practice and sometimes in games you come up with it.”

The third-period save on Mitchell was just one of many highlight reel saves that Howard made during the Red Wings’ 2-1 win over the Avalanche on Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena. As he was in Sunday’s shootout loss to Chicago – where he allowed just one goal in regulation – Howard was spectacular against the Avs, making 36 saves, many of which left their shooters spellbound. Cruising in on the right wing, Mitchell picked up a rebound and flipped a shot on his back-hand, which was earmarked for a large opening in the Wings’ net.

“I figured he would go down a little earlier, but he dove over and kept his hands up,” Mitchell said. “I was in so tight that I really didn’t have much room. All I was trying to do was get it up and hopefully he was going to be down with all of his gloves and stick. But he made a great save by keeping his hands up.”

Howard made 15 saves alone in the third period. The Avs finally beat him when with 1:30 left in regulation, Paul Stastny scored on his own rebound. Howard kicked out Statsny’s initial shot, but the puck went right back to Stastny, who reached with his backhand in traffic and squeezed a shot between Howard’s body and the near post.Despite the goal, Howard’s stellar play protected the Wings’ two-goal cushion for more than 18-minutes of the final period. Moments after stopping Mitchell, he came up again, this time stopping a breakaway chance by P.A. Parenteau.

“What can you say? He baled us out tonight,” said defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who scored his third goal of the season on Tuesday. “If it weren’t for him we probably wouldn’t have won that game.”

The Wings built a 2-0 lead when Johan Franzen and Kronwall scored even-strength goals more than 10-minutes apart in the second period. It was Franzen’s first goal in a month and his first game-winner in more than a year. For the fourth straight time, the Red Wings didn’t allow a goal in the first 40 minutes. Detroit’s defense has definitely stiffened over the last six games, surrendering just nine goals in the team’s 4-1-1 stretch. Yet despite the improved defense, Kronwall wasn’t overly satisfied with the team’s performance.

“It was way too much open hockey for us, especially in the first,” he said. “I thought in the second we got better. But obviously, Howie’s coming up huge for us … giving us a chance. You cannot ask anything more in a goalie.”

The Wings' players and coach raved about Howard while speaking to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...

"We gave up two quality chances down the stretch where we didn't sort things out," coach Mike Babcock said. "They came in and (Howard) made saves on both of them. I don't think we were as good defensively as we have been. We have to get better for sure. This was our loosest game for the last while."

But Howard was consistently there when the Red Wings (11-8-4, 26 points) did break down defensively.

"He's been unbelievable," Franzen said. "They had good chances but he was steady as can be. He's giving us chances to win every night and that's all we can ask for."

Howard maintained early in this shortened season he wasn't feeling as if he was quite "there" yet, that he wasn't at the level he wanted to be. Since shutting out Nashville on Feb. 23, Howard has found that elusive groove.

"I'm playing at a level where I want to be playing at," Howard said. "At the same time, the guys are doing a good job in front of me of picking up sticks and if I leave a rebound there, cleaning up in front of me."

In the last six games the Red Wings have allowed eight goals, a sign the defense is improving.

"In the last six games, we've been playing real well," forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "We're doing the right things. Howard has been unbelievable for us. We're doing the right things and we're going to try to keep doing the right things."

The Wings' compliments for their goaltender continued as they spoke to MLive's Ansar Khan (Khan penned a quote-less recap, too):

Howard has been playing his best hockey of the season during this stretch, though his overall numbers don't reflect it (9-7-3, 2.63 goals-against average, .912 save percentage).

“I don’t care much about stats and numbers, we know what he can do and he’s been great for us many years and will be great for us many years to come,'' Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “With (backup Jonas) Gustavsson being out with injuries (most of the season) he’s been playing a lot of games. It’s tough to do with this schedule. We haven’t been stellar on the goal-scoring part, but he still gives us a chance.''

...

“At the same time, the guys are doing a real good job in front of me, picking up sticks,'' Howard said. “If I leave a rebound around, they do a great job of clearing it out for me.''

...

Howard came up big seven minutes later, denying PA Parenteau on a breakaway.

“I actually gave him the glove, I wanted him to shoot there,'' Howard said. “Try and dictate where he was going to put the puck instead of having him come in and deke because he's a good player.''

The crown began chanting “JIM-MY HOW-ARD!''

“It's fun,'' Howard said. “It's one of those things where you just feed off the crowd. We got great fans. I enjoy playing in front of them.''

Franzen, who led the team with 6 shots, received due praise for an overdue goal from both his teammates and Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji, who points out that a Wings team without Todd Bertuzzi, Darren Helm and Mikael Samuelsson--and Valtteri Filppula--needs all the Mule-powered offense that it can get...

Franzen did stay with it and at 7:00 of the second, he got another nice pass from Damien Brunner, this time for a breakaway and this time he did not miss.

"That was a good pass by him," Franzen said. "I think there was a (defenseman) in between and he got it over his stick and I got the breakaway."

Asked what he was thinking about on the breakaway, Franzen said, "I only have one move and that's it. That's the only thing I got."

Franzen has 13 goals and five assists in 25 games against Colorado. With the goal Tuesday, Franzen has four goals and six assists in 16 games this season, good enough for fifth on the team despite the missed time.

...
 

"He was great all over the ice," Kronwall said of Franzen. "I really thought he competed tonight and made it hard on their D-men. He was everywhere I thought on the forecheck, the backcheck. He played great for us."

Wings coach Mike Babcock was equally impressed.

"I thought he was outstanding," Babcock said. "Last game he got better as the game went on. (Tuesday) he was ready to go from the start. We need him to be. He can be a force for us. I thought he was really heavy on the forecheck, he got pucks back. I thought he was excellent."

But the Wings also made sure to point out that they need to rack up as many points as they possibly can...

"(Colorado) has played two less games and we're only up six points on them," Zetterberg said. "But these are important. A win takes us up in a playoff spot and a loss takes us out of a playoff spot. That’s how it’s going to be. You have to play every game, every night and if you do that and win games you’ll get rewarded in the end."

As the Detroit News's John Niyo noted...

"A win puts us in a playoff spot, a loss takes us out of a playoff spot," Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said, shrugging and smiling as he nodded to the already-outdated league standings scribbled on a white board in the team's dressing room. "That's just how it's gonna be."

If they didn't understand that a month ago, they certainly do now. And just as their fans have realized these aren't the Wings of the past, the Wings appear to have realized the same thing. Which is a good thing, at least if you're worried about that playoff streak of theirs.

Because gone are the days when this team routinely outshoots opponents by a 2-to-1 margin, dominating the league's lesser teams on its way to a 100-point season. Instead, it's the Wings talking about learning to play a "simple game" and relying on a hot goaltender to bail them out when they don't play one well enough.

...

Up front, the Wings appear to be doing a better job of that. And, yes, Babcock did relent — albeit briefly in the second period — by replacing Justin Abdelkader, who wasn't scored a goal since last March, with Tomas Tatar on Pavel Datsyuk's line. But the biggest change might be on the back end, where the suspect defense also is doing more with less. Or maybe it's vice versa, as Howard sees it.

"I think early on we were trying to do a little bit too much with the puck" Howard said. "Now we're keeping it simple. If the play's not there, or if our forwards aren't the right spot, the (defensemen) aren't afraid to go off the glass, instead of trying to force something."

The Wings insist that they're comfortable with parity...

"The day they ended the lockout in (2005), we knew this was on its way," said Babcock, whose team will play 15 of its final 24 on the road after Thursday's first-half finale against Edmonton. "It's gonna be like the NFL: Everyone's gonna have a chance."

As they also told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness...

“It’s crazy,” Howard said. “You play a game Sunday afternoon, you’re in fourth place and by Monday night you’re in tenth. It’s crazy how many teams are grouped together there, so you just got to find a way. It was definitely good to get the two points,” Howard continued “It’s unfortunate they got one so late in the game but those things happen. As you can see in the standings, it’s huge for us every single night to find a way to get two points.”

...

“But these are important,” Zetterberg said. “A win takes us up in a playoff spot and a loss keeps us out. That’s how it’s going to be. You have to play every game, every night and if you do that and win games you’ll get rewarded in the end.”

But luck fared into the equation, too...

With less than three minutes to play in the second period, Kronwall put the Wings up 2-0 using the lively end boards to his advantage. Finding an open lane, Kronwall unleashed a rocket that slammed of the boards, shot back out and then deflected into the back of the net off the right skate of Giguere.

“Yeah,” Kronwall laughed when asked if that’s how he drew up that goal. “(Daniel) Cleary and (Justin Abdelkader) did a great job in front of the net. I couldn’t really get a shooting lane through. I just tried to get it somewhat close and the puck went in.”

And because the Wings can't always be lucky, they have to get better. Tuesday's effort wasn't quite good enough, and after the Wings absolutely bombed playing, "Let's make Niklas Kronwall shoot the puck, even when Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Damien Brunner are all on the ice" power play hockey for almost three minutes, including 1:03 of 5-on-3 time, early in the third, the Avs took over.

So the Avs poured on their offense, robbed Jimmy Howard of a due shutout for perhaps the second game in a row--and the Wings owe Howard two shutouts by now--and nearly tied things up with Giguere pulled:

“I didn’t think we were as good defensively as we have been,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We gave up quality chances down the stretch where we didn’t sort things out, they came in home free. He made a save on both of them. We could have even been better when it was 6-on-5, to tell you the truth,” Babcock continued. “We’ve got to get better for sure. This was our loosest game in the last while. To win on a nightly basis, you can’t leave your goalie like that as much as we did tonight. So we just have to take the good win, it’s a real good win for us and get better and get prepared for the next one.”

As for the power play?

“We’re creating our chances, but we can’t get the puck in the net,” Zetterberg said. “But it is tight too. Both teams are playing good defense. You’re not getting many chances and you have to take advantage of the ones you get all the time. We need to do that.”

It's hard to get your chances when you refuse to allow anyone not wearing #55 to shoot, but I suppose that's another story for a different day.

All in all, the Wings feel that their trajectory's tracking upward, as Johan Franzen told the Windsor Star's Bob Duff (in a recap which focuses on the "youth movement" more than it does Tuesday's game)...

“We’re starting to understand how we have to play to be successful,” Detroit right-winger Johan Franzen said. “So we’re taking a step forward every night, it feels like.”

But finding one's way also involves knowing that the line between success and failure is more minuscule than the lines dividing teams in the standings right now, as Babcock told the Free Press's Helene St. James:

Coach Mike Babcock cautioned the Wings, "not give ourselves to much credit here. The score and the amount of chances we gave up aren't the same. We've played better, and lost, than we played tonight. But it's a good win for our hockey club. There's never been an ugly win."

Franzen continued to build on his legend against the Avalanche, scoring his 12th goal in 12 games against Colorado. "I thought he was outstanding," Babcock said. "Last game, he got better as the game wore on; today he was ready to go from the start. He can be a force for us. I thought he was really heavy on the forecheck, he got pucks back. He was excellent."

...

"It's unfortunate that they got one so late," Howard said after making 36 saves. "But it was huge for us to find a way to get two points."

The Wings came into the game confident they're a better team than a month ago, a more cohesive and better defensive one. The Avalanche are one of the faster teams in the league, and while the Wings weren't happy with their start, they were delighted with their goaltending. "Howie came up huge for us and gave us a chance," Kronwall said. "You cannot ask for anything more from your goalie."

That's true, but the goalie and the coach could ask more from their players, as St. James found in her "notes and quotes":

"I didn't think we were as good as we have been defensively," coach Mike Babcock said. "This was our loosest game in the last while, and to win on a nightly basis, you can't leave your goalie out like that as much as we did tonight. It's a real good win for us." ...

"I think I'm playing to the level where I want to be at," Howard said. "And at the same, the guys are doing a great job clearing it out for me." ...

"I think we were not too happy with the first period," Franzen said. "But we got better."

Multimedia:

Highlights: The Red Wings website's highlight clip is narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:


Post-game: The Windsor Star's Bob Duff posted a clip of Johan Franzen speaking to the press...

Fox Sports Detroit posted short quips from coach Mike Babcock, Johan Franzen, Jimmy Howard and Niklas Kronwall:

Via RedWingsFeed, Niklas Kronwall spoke to the NHL Network after the game:

Currich5 on YouTube posted clips of Henrik Zetterberg...

Johan Franzen...

Niklas Kronwall...

Jimmy Howard (MLive's Ansar Khan's clip is very similar)...

And coach Mike Babcock speaking to the media...

The Wings' website posted NHL.com's E.J. Hradek praising Damien Brunner...

 

As well as clips of Johan Franzen...

Henrik Zetterberg...

And coach Mike Babcock's full presser:


Photos: The Detroit News posted a 22-image gallery;

The Detroit Free Press posted a 15-image gallery;

MLive posted a 38-image gallery;

The Denver Post posted an 11-image gallery, as did the Macomb Daily;

The Windsor Star posted 5 big photos from the game;

Yahoo Sports posted 13 images in its Wings gallery;

ESPN posted a 35-image gallery;

NHL.com, the Avs' website and the Wings' website posted 24-image galleries;

And the Wings' Facebook page inadvertently revealed that Damien Brunner uses at least six or seven different sticks, probably all having different flexes and/or blade patterns.

Statistics:

Shots 37-33 Colorado overall. The Wings out-shot Colorado 12-11 in the 1st, out-shot Colorado 11-10 in the 2nd, and were out-shot 16-10 in the 3rd.

The Avs went 0-for-1 in 2:00 of PP time in what was a loosely-officiated game; the Wings went 0-for-2 in 3:57 of PP time, including 1:03 of 5 on 3 time.

Jimmy Howard stopped 36 of 37 shots; Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped 31 of 33.

The 3 stars, per the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness, were Johan Franzen, Niklas Kronwall and Jimmy Howard.

The Wings' goals: Franzen (4) from Brunner (7);

Kronwall (3) from Ericsson (8) and Datsyuk (15).

Faceoffs 25-21 Colorado (Detroit won 46%);

Blocked shots 11-10 Detroit;

Missed shots 6-4 Colorado (total attempts 54-47 Colorado);

Hits 27-19 Colorado;

Giveaways an ugly 11-2 Detroit;

Takeaways 6-0 Detroit.

Individual stats, TMR style:

Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 9-and-11 (45%); Emmerton went 4-and-7 (36%); Zetterberg went 5-and-3 (63%); Andersson went 1-and-3 (25%); Eaves lost his only faceoff; Miller and Franzen won their only faceoffs.

Shots: Franzen led the team with 6 shots; Brunner had 4; Smith, Cleary, Tootoo and Zetterberg had 3; Abdelkader, Miller, Quincey and Kronwall had 2; Miller, Emmerton and Ericsson had 1.

Blocked attempts: Tootoo and Brunner had 2 shot attempts blocked by Avs players; Smith, Cleary, Datsyuk, Tatar, Kronwall and Andersson had single shot attempts blocked.

Missed shots: Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Ericsson and Andersson missed the net 1 time.

Hits: Abdelkader led the team with 4 hits; Kindl, Tatar, Lashoff and Zetterberg had 2; Smith, Cleary, Miller, Tatar, Brunner and Kronwall had 1.

Giveaways: Datsyuk and Zetterberg had 2 giveaways; Smith, Kindl, Miller, Tatar, Lashoff, Ericsson and Franzen had 1.

Takeaways: Smith and Datsyuk had 2 takeaways; Tootoo and Brunner had 1.

Blocked shots: Kronwall blocked 2 shots; Smith, Kindl, Cleary, Datsyuk, Eaves, Miller, Tootoo, Emmerton and Franzen blocked 1.

Penalties taken: Zetterberg took a minor penalty.

Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +5. Kindl finished at -1; Smith, Abdelkader, Brunner, Zetterberg, Ericsson and Kronwall were +1.

Points: Kronwall and Franzen scored goals; Datsyuk, Brunner and Ericsson had assists.

Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 22:08 played; Ericsson played 20:47; Datsyuk played 20:38;

Kindl played 19:34; Franzen played 19:25; Smith played 19:17;

Quincey played 19:01; Zetterberg played 18:47; Cleary played 18:32;

Lashoff played 17:30; Brunner played 17:25; Abdelkader played 17:18;

Emmerton played 14:16; Miller played 13:32; Tootoo played 10:54;

Tatar played 10:26; Eaves played 9:18; Andersson played 8:52.

Tootoo had a stealth performance: 3 shots, 2 blocked attempts, a hit a takeaway and a blocked shot in 10:54 played.

 

Red Wings notebooks: As the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan notes, going into a slate of three games in four nights, including back-to-backs against Columbus, the Wings have chosen to not practice today, and I think that's a good decision for more reasons than simply being a sleep-deprived blogger.

After those three games in four nights, with Edmonton coming to town on Thursday, and the Wings traveling to Columbus on Saturday before welcoming the Blue Jackets to the Joe on Sunday, the Wings get two days off--but they'll take Monday to fly out to Calgary, and they'll do the three-games-in-four-nights spiel again, but in much harder locales, playing the Flames on Wednesday the 13th, the Oilers on Friday the 15th and the Canucks on Saturday the 16th.

23 games into a 48-games-in-99-nights marathon, I'm not sure whether the coaches can do much more than alter lines (which Babcock hasn't done recently) or work on special teams without possibly finding their players coming up injured if they push the pace too much or attempt to replicate too many in-game scenarios (see: Jonathan Ericsson, Mikael Samuelsson, Jonas Gustavsson, etc.).

As the season goes on, we should expect fewer practices...

With four games in six days, including a planned day off Wednesday, quality practice time will be in short supply this week. The Red Wings skated 30-45 minutes Monday, and Babcock held an optional morning skate Tuesday, the team's seventh day on the ice in eight days.

"We have to give them a day off," Babcock said. "The bottom line is, we have to do our practice on video, and teach our game in the video sessions."

And there's good reason for giving 'em a day off--nobody's coming back from their injuries anytime soon, especially as shoulder injuries are the new groin injuries:

Since injuring his back Feb. 7, forward Todd Bertuzzi hasn't been on the ice and continues to walk gingerly. There is no timetable for his return.

"(Bertuzzi is) like all the guys we've got injured, nobody is on the horizon anytime soon," Babcock said.

Forwards Darren Helm (back) is out indefinitely, while forward Mikael Samuelsson (broken finger) could return in 2-3 weeks. Forward Valtteri Filppula (shoulder) has been ruled out this week.

While Ian White sits and stews, the Red Wings seem to have found someone who's other than a hot mess on defense in reclamation project Kyle Quincey, as the Free Press's Helene St. James notes...

"Last month or so, I'm just trying to keep it simple," [Quincey] said. "That's what Babs has been saying: Just do good when you're on the ice. My one goal is just to keep the puck out of our net, and it's nice to see our goals against going down."

Quincey got a boost last week when his regular defense partner, Brendan Smith, returned after missing most of February with a sprained shoulder. The two complement each other well, with Quincey playing more of the stay-at-home role while Smith jumps up into rushes.

"Smitty and Q have been playing great," Niklas Kronwall said. "They're really quick back in their zone, getting the puck and getting it moving. That's key to our game."

The Wings acquired Quincey, 27, a week before the 2012 trade deadline via Tampa Bay, bringing back a player they lost through waiver wires in the fall of 2008. Quincey demonstrated a nice offensive touch while with Los Angeles and then Colorado, regularly contributing around 20 assists and a handful of goals. The Wings haven't gotten that out of Quincey -- he had one point after 20 games -- but that doesn't mean nearly as much to his coach as the plus rating.

...

Compared with last year, when Quincey joined a Wings team on a downslide and struggled as much as they did, he said the comfort level is off the charts: "It's times a hundred. I'm so comfortable with the systems and the guys now."

And Quincey talked to the Denver Post's Mike Chambers about rejoining the Wings after spending enough time in Colorado that he's chosen to make the Denver area his off-season home:

Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey had dinner and played cards with his old buddies Monday night. He and former Avalanche teammate Cody McLeod set up the dinner, and the Avs' David Jones, Jamie McGinn, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Erik Johnson joined them for a good time on the eve of the first game of the season between Colorado and Detroit.

"It was good to see the boys again, good to catch up," Quincey said Tuesday after the Red Wings' pregame skate. "The hardest thing leaving there is the boys in the locker room. So getting to see them again was big for me."

Quincey, who became a Red Wing a little more than a year ago in a three-team trade that brought forward Steve Downie to Colorado, lives in Denver during the offseason and focuses his attention on his Ontario-based business, Boardworks Surf Canada, a paddleboard/surfboard outfitter. He spent the majority of the lockout training in Denver, including a 12-game, community-outreach stint with the Denver Cutthroats of the Central Hockey League.

"I love Denver. No reason to leave," he said.

Quincey participated in the Avalanche "captain's practice" for a couple of days after the new collective bargaining agreement was reached in January, but before it became official. He then flew to Detroit to begin training camp. Make no mistake, as much as he loves Denver, he loves playing for the Red Wings. For an example, he pointed to a sign above the exit to the Detroit dressing room at the Joe. The red sign with white lettering reads: "To whom much is given, much is expected."

Quincey knows where he stands among Detroit brass, and enjoys his relationship with a team that re-signed him to a two-year, $7.55 million contract last summer. He has just a point (goal) in 20 games, but the Red Wings are looking beyond stats to find Quincey's real value.

"I told 'Quince' the other day," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said Tuesday morning, " 'It's real clear for me and real clear for our team, we don't need stats beside your name. We need pluses beside your name and we need 22 minutes out of you a night, going against probably the second group on the other team. ... And if you do that, we're ecstatic. Maybe you're not. Maybe your agent isn't, but we are. But you're playing for us.' "

At perhaps the other end of the spectrum, Justin Abdelkader started the season slowly, picked up for a bit while playing on the third and fourth lines...But he's kind of fallen off the map while attempting to get his offensive game going playing alongside Pavel Datsyuk and Daniel Cleary. MLive's Ansar Khan took note of Abdelkader's struggles...

Justin Abdelkader has seen some strange goals this season, none more peculiar than the shot that went in off Tom Pyatt's face for Tampa Bay on Monday. Abdelkader should be so fortunate. The Detroit Red Wings forward could use a bounce like that, or any kind of break. He has not scored a goal in 22 games this season, heading into Tuesday's contest with Colorado. He hasn't scored a goal in 40 games, dating back to last season, including the playoffs.

“I feel like I’m doing a lot of good things,'' Abdelkader said. “It’s puck luck, and the puck’s not going into the net. I’ve just got to keep doing all the small things, keep shooting, putting the puck on net and hope for some breaks. I’ve just got to keep going to the net and all the hard areas and eventually I’ll find the back of the net.''

Coach Mike Babcock said Abdelkader looked like someone who didn't play during the lockout when he first came back, but said he has “gotten way better here of late.''

“Big, heavy guys, I think it takes longer,'' Babcock said. “He's a worker, honest, two-way guy. Pavel Datsyuk can sit out six months and still be able to stick-handle in a phone booth. (Abdelkader) can't. So confidence comes into play. Dan Cleary had nothing and then suddenly, boom, he gets going. (Abdelkader's) got to keep plugging and doing good things.'' 

Abdelkader has just one assist and a minus-6 rating. His numbers during this 40-game stretch are not pretty: no goals, two assists, minus-16.His last goal was on March 10, 2012, against Nashville.It is by far the longest drought in his hockey career.

“I think the start was tough, coming out of the lockout and not playing,'' Abdelkader said. “It probably affected my play a little bit. It took a while to get your legs under you as far as game shape. I felt good off the ice, but playing in games is a lot different.''

The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness also took note of Abdelkader's "I'll stick with 'er" comments...

“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 Wings’ morning skate Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena. “I haven’t gotten much puck luck. I’ve just got to keep going to the net and all the hard areas and eventually I’ll find the back of the net.”

...

Adding it all up, including the playoffs, Abdelkader has gone scoreless over his last 40 games, collecting a total of two assists with a plus-minus rating of minus-16.

“You just do your due diligence each day and work in practice and just keep trying to get pucks to the net and making plays and hopefully it’ll go in,” Abdelkader said. “You can’t worry about that. You just play your game. You just want to try and get three shots on net each game. Obviously, pucks find their way through a lot of different ways. I’ve just got to keep doing the same thing.”

...

Daniel Cleary has benefited a bit with his promotion to a line with Datsyuk. He has four goals and two assists over his last seven games and is a plus-2.

“Pavel Datsyuk can sit out six months and still be able to stick-handle in a phone booth,” Babcock said. “(Abdelkader) can’t. So confidence comes into play in that. Dan Cleary had nothing and then suddenly, boom, he gets going. Obviously, he’s doing a good job for us right now. He’s playing good minutes, getting a good opportunity. He’s got to keep plugging and doing good things.”

...

Abdelkader, who signed a four-year deal worth $1.8 million a season just before the lockout, is coming off a career high eight goals and 14 assists last season.

“You could look at it a couple ways,” said Babcock, when asked if he’d keep Abdelkader on the second line. “You could say Pavel and Z haven’t scored in three games, you can blame the wingers, or you can say there are times during the year you don’t score. They’ve been playing against good players and 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.”

If you're tired of reading Babcock speak, you can watch him. The Wings posted his 5:33 post-morning skate presser--but not until after 5 PM EST--and it's worth watching:

 

In the prospect department, Trevor Parkes was named the ECHL's player of the week, as noted by the Toledo Walleye. As such, the Toledo Blade's Makr Monroe held a Q and A with Parkes, and Monroe talked to Parkes about his attempts to transform himself into a power forward:

Parkes, who spent most of his first two seasons in Grand Rapids, said there are many “high-end skill guys” in the Red Wings organization. The 6-foot-2, 202-pound forward said to reach the highest level, he must find his role.

“I like to get physical and get in front of the net,” Parkes said. “That may be where I fit in. I’m a bigger guy, and if I want to make it to NHL … I have to be a strong defensive guy. I won’t be [Pavel] Datsyuk. I want to be physical and help on the penalty-kill side.”

Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said Parkes’ presence has helped reignite the team’s power play.

“Having a guy like Parkes here recently, he’s a big body like Tomas Holmstrom,” Vitucci said. “He’s in front of the net causing havoc. He deflects pucks and is hard to move. He’s had a couple nice tip-ins and guys have gotten chances from that.”

Holmstrom, who announced his retirement in January, finished with 530 points in 1,026 games. Holmstrom, who was 6-foot and 198 pounds, produced most of his 243 goals with a willingness to take a beating in front of the net.

“It’s tough for them losing a guy like that,” Parkes said. “It would be tough to match what Tomas Holmstrom would do. But that was kind of the role I played in junior [hockey]. I like to be that big body in front on the power play. That was my bread and butter.”

In the OHL, the Saginaw Spirit and Plymouth Whalers played a matinee game for elementary and secondary school students, and Jake Paterson gave up 4 goals on 34 shots as the Spirit dropped a 4-1 decision to Plymouth;

In the WHL, Richard Nedomlel registered an assist and a +3 in the Swift Current Broncos' 6-3 win over Prince Albert;

In the USHL, Mike McKee took 3 minor penalties and a 10-minute misconduct in the Lincoln Stars' 6-3 loss to Sioux City;

In the Finnish SM-Liiga, Teemu Pulkkinen took 6 shots but didn't register a point in Jokerit Helsinki's 4-1 win over Lukko;

In Sweden, Calle Jarnkrok and Brynas IF will open their playoff series against AIK Skelleftea on Tuesday, March 12th, and Mattias Backman and Linkopings HC will open their playoff series against HV71 on Thursday, March 14th;

And in the KHL, Alexei Marchenko and CSKA Moscow will begin their second-round series against Dynamo Moscow on Thursday.

 

Also of Red Wings-related note: MLive's Brendan Savage compiled a list of power rankings commentaries on Tuesday afternoon, and the only one he missed was SI's Adrian Dater's list, which didn't post until Tuesday evening. Here's what the Space Canoe had to say about the Wings prior to Tuesday night's game:

4 Detroit Red Wings Last Week: 13 Their last three games have ended with 2-1 scores: a win, a loss and a shootout loss. Goalie Jimmy Howard has been solid of late, which is great news for coach Mike Babcock, who keeps having to use a patchwork lineup most nights because of injuries. Howard was outstanding Sunday against the Blackhawks until a late Patrick Kane goal sent the game to overtime and that eventual SO loss. Valuable forward Valtteri Filppula (shoulder) returned to practice Monday, but likely is a ways off from playing.

Missed the game, didn't miss the gallery: the Wings' alums played against the "Westland Wild Wings" at Mike Modano Arena last Saturday, and the Westland Observer posted a photo gallery from the game. If you click through the gallery, you won't just see Dino Ciccarelli--you'll also see Brad McCrimmon's son skating in a #2 jersey, wearing his dad's Graf gloves.

Don't forget that the Wings' alums will play against the Well Church in Brighton, MI this Saturday;

Somewhat tangentially, Joey MacDonald showed off his Calgary Flames-themed mask on Tuesday, and the Calgary Sun's Randy Sportak spoke to MacDonald about the fact that he nearly signed with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl before choosing to remain in North America thanks to Wings goalie coach Jim Bedard...But now MacDonald's in Calgary, and while Miikka Kiprusoff should return from his "lower body injury" (knee) this weekend, MacDonald's very happy with the opportunity the Flames have given him to reestablish himself as at least someone worth an NHL back-up's job somewhere next season, especially after recovering from the back injury that flared up last spring and cost him the back-up's spot behind Jimmy Howard:

"Coming in here and being given the opportunity to play, that's given me a lot of energy," he said. "There were long days in March, April -- good days and bad days -- days you couldn't get off the couch, and you're wondering, 'Is that it? Did I play my last game?' "

Not even close. In fact, Tuesday was a big day for the netminder. He finally received his new mask, which features flames up the middle and the character Mack from the animated movie Cars -- one his son's favourite movies -- on each side and the name of his children, Camden and Kendall, on the back plate. It was delivered to him in the middle of practice.

"It's something you take pride in, and what you can put on it," he said of the new present. Now, I'm just waiting for a headshot."

Also in the "tangentially-related" news department, IIHF.com's Martin Merk posted a story about EV Zug forward Linus Omark (the link is weird-- http://www.iihf.com/home-of-hockey/news/news-singleview/recap/7589.html?tx_ttnews[backPid]=955&cHash=b6e42a4876 so good luck with it), who's now the Swiss National A League's top scorer despite having lost his linemates from the first half of the season in Damien Brunner and Henrik Zetterberg:

Omark is Brunner’s successor as the league’s best scorer. And he’s not surprised at all that Brunner has had success with the Detroit Red Wings and could become the first Swiss forward to leave his mark in the NHL. With ten goals and 16 points in 22 games, the overage rookie is currently the Red Wings’ top goal scorer.

“I knew he’s going to do well,” Omark said. “He has so much talent and skill. I’ve never played with a better goal scorer. He knows how to find the net.”

Also:

In an unofficial vote by the clubs’ captains and coaches, Zetterberg was voted MVP of the league. Three more “awards” were won by Zug players: Diaz was best defenceman, Brunner best forward and Martschini the revelation of the year. Fribourg-Gottéron succeeded in the other categories: Benjamin Conz was selected as best goalkeeper and Hans Kossmann as best coach.

If you're interested, part 1: The CBC's Elliotte Friedman tossed off several takes on the realignment issue in his "30 thoughts" column...

26. Here's the latest on realignment: the schedule does not allow for one giant conference call, so the NHLPA is having calls with several team reps at a time. As I finish this, it is still uncertain if this will be a vote among the 30-man executive board or if every player will get a ballot. The Eastern-based players, though, are really against the playoff structure.

27. If the plan is rejected, how will the NHL react? It is extremely unhappy that it invited NHLPA leadership to be part of the discussion and still can't get this done. Will the league ask an arbitrator to decide if the players actually do have the power to reject this?

28. The union argument is this affects their conditions of employment. The league argument? No idea, but my guess is that there is little historical precedence of players being involved in realignment discussions. Betting on how an arbitrator will rule? Good luck with that one.

If you're interested, part 2: Via RedWingsFeed, WDFN's Doug Todd weighs in on whether Valtteri Filppula should be able to command the $4.5 million the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson reports his agents are asking for the Wings to pay to re-sign him. Todd correctly assumes that Filppula's representatives will use his 66 points during the 11-12 season as his best "comparable":

Using those numbers and that season as a reference, let’s look at some of the other players in the league that are making around Filppula’s alleged target of $4.5 million per season.  Of the players in the same salary range of note, Filppula outscored most of them in 2011-12.  Ray Whitney ($4.5 million) and P.A. Parenteau ($4.0 million) outscored Filppula.  Filppula had more points than guys like Milan Michalek ($4.33), Ollie Jokinen ($4.5), Ville Leino ($4.5), David Backes ($4.5), Martin Erat ($4.5), David Legwand ($4.5), Tomas Fleischman ($4.5), Max Pacioretty ($4.5), Jamie Benn ($5.25), Patrice Bergeron ($5.0) and Jaromir Jagr ($4.55).  He also tied with Teemu Selanne ($4.5).  Granted, Filppula’s goal total was on the lower side compared to some of the other players but, agents and lawyers will focus on the overall point total. 

Those numbers put Filppula in some pretty good company in terms of NHL talent and some good company in terms of NHL dollars.

Why have I given you all of those names and dollar figures?  Because I don’t think there is a way that the Red Wings can avoid paying Filppula his alleged asking price.  Not only is he a valuable part of the team and a legitimate top six forward but there is that pesky Datsyuk situation looming.  The Red Wings have put a lot of time and effort into developing Filppula into the player he is today and I’m willing to bet that they believe going forward he’ll be closer to the player he was in 2011-12 than the player he’s been in 2013.  The Red Wings have to secure their future and protect themselves against the loss of other forwards in coming years and that means re-signing Filppula at almost any cost. 

Whatever the cost ends up being to sign Filppula, one thing is a certainty.  His loyalty to Detroit and the Red Wings loyalty to him will be put to the test during the negotiation process because there will many suitors for Filppula as he enters his prime years.

If you're interested, part 3: The Free Press's Evil Drew Sharp will mix sports metaphors while chatting on Freep.com at 11 AM today;

And finally, if you didn't already know it, the Free Press's sports staff wants you to know that the 94-95 Wings registered the second-most points by any team when the NHL played 48-game seasons. The Hawks will probably bump that team down to third, but we all know how the 94-95 season turned out...Sadly.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

George Malik's avatar

I ran out of room, but the Calgary Herald’s George Johnson wrote an article about MacDonald’s tenure with the Flames, too.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 03/06/13 at 05:08 AM ET

perfection's avatar

This…

“You could look at it a couple ways,” said Babcock, when asked if he’d keep Abdelkader on the second line. “You could say Pavel and Z haven’t scored in three games, you can blame the wingers, or you can say there are times during the year you don’t score. They’ve been playing against good players and 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.

that’s the truth

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 03/06/13 at 05:51 AM ET

Avatar

So I caught up on some backlogged games yesterday, and unfortunately what we saw last night in Det-Col is what’s going on in the NHL right now.  A whole bunch of pretty similar teams slogging around the ice.

The NHL needs to get a handle on what’s happening with their product.  It’s not a disaster, even mediocre hockey is enjoyable to a certain degree to fans, but still.  It’s a problem.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 03/06/13 at 06:45 AM ET

Avatar

that’s the truth

What about the 23-game stretch without a goal for Justin Abdelkader?

Posted by Garth on 03/06/13 at 10:29 AM ET

MOWingsfan19's avatar

What about the 23-game stretch without a goal for Justin Abdelkader?

He has one point on the season. I’d think playing on Pav’s line for a couple of weeks would produce at least a point a week. That really should not be too much to ask for any forward playing second line mintues alongside someone with Pavel’s skill set.

Posted by MOWingsfan19 from I really like our team on 03/06/13 at 12:01 PM ET

LivinLaVidaLockout's avatar

I ran out of room, but the Calgary Herald’s George Johnson wrote an article about MacDonald’s tenure with the Flames, too.
   
    Posted by
          George Malik
     
    from South Lyon, MI on 03/06/13 at 04:08 AM ET

Awesome.  I wish that man success wherever he goes… except against the Wings, of course.

Posted by LivinLaVidaLockout on 03/06/13 at 12:16 PM ET

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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.