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Red Wings-Blackhawks game-day updates: Ericsson’s slated to return for Wings; Hawks didn’t skate

Updated 2x with likely lineups at 1:47 PM: In theory, anyway, the Detroit Red Wings' uphill battle against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight (7 PM EST, FSD/CSN Chicago, AM 1270) was supposed to yield very little in terms of game-day news as NHL.com's Brian Hedger reported that neither team would hold a morning skate (the Blackhawks will be playing their sixth game in nine nights this evening, and the Wings aren't far behind as they'll be playing their second game in three nights and their fifth game in nine nights), but I rolled over this morning, checked RedWingsFeed's Twitter page on my phone, and could only shake my head at the following Tweet from Ken Kal:

Hockey players are hockey players, and while this late-riser's idea of a pleasant way to wake up for a hockey game does not involve 20 minutes of strapping and taping on one's hockey gear, skating for 20 minutes, spending 10 more minutes peeling off one's hockey gear, and then riding a bike for 30 minutes, the Red Wings' players seem to be pre-programmed to do just that, even if they've been told that they can sleep in. As such, the Red Wings' Twitter feed offers some pertinent game-day information...

Again, we won't know who Ericsson will replace (Brian Lashoff? Jakub Kindl?) until game time.

Kal offered some tidbits about tonight's game and its place in the long and storied rivalry between the Wings and Blackhawks...

(I've never understood the clapping through the anthem thing, but I respect the tradition--whatever is meaningful for Hawks fans is important)

As for the Hawks' beat writers, it sounds like the Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc, the Sun-Times' Mark Lazerus and CSN Chicago's Tracey Myers had a "Plains, Trains and Automobiles" adventure in attempting to fly back to Chicago, but I'm sure we'll hear some quips and quotes from the Hawks' players and coach before all is said and done.

As noted in the overnight report, MLive's Ansar Khan's Wings-Hawks preview didn't hit the wires until 10 AM, so here's what he offers regarding the Wings' attempts to derail the Chicago's 5-and-0 start...

“Great team, high-octane offense,'' Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey said. “That's a great challenge for our defense. I think we're really looking forward to the challenge.''

The Blackhawks are averaging four goals per game, tied for third in the league. They're led by a quartet of top forwards in Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp.

“Very high-end talent, mobile defense, playing the game real fast,'' Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Penalty kill has been real good for them. They're going to be a tough test for sure.

“It's going to be imperative we stay together as a five-man unit, forecheck well, play defense well, be patient. And yet you can't go in there and stand around and watch them play or they'll end up having the puck all night. We need to get off to a good start, be strong in the faceoff circle and be ready to compete.''

Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard said his team must make Chicago play in its own zone as much as possible.

“They're really dangerous with their forwards, they're deep up front,'' Howard said. “Best way to counter that is make them play in their own end.''

Puck possession, eh? Again, the operating theory for the Wings thus far seems to involve, "It doesn't matter who's wearing red and white jerseys on a given night: the Wings' puck possession system works, and it's all most of the team's players know how to play hockey, so why not keep employing it?"

The Free Press's Helene St. James offers a game-day preview...

The Detroit Red Wings looked pretty good in their last game, when they took on one of the better teams in the NHL.

Tonight comes the best, or at least the hottest: The 5-0 Chicago Blackhawks, who've averaged four goals a game as they've dispatched such notable opponents as the Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars. They beat the Blue Jackets Saturday at Columbus.

The Wings face the Blackhawks at 7 at United Center (FSD). Given that it's a 6 p.m. start in Chicago, the Wings opted not to have a morning skate, instead having work-outs at their hotel.

Of course they worked out at the hotel. They probably worked their asses off, too, given that they're the Wings. Sometimes this team's off-ice work ethic really does still amaze me, even after 22 years of hearing, "Oh yeah, we still rode the bikes, pumped some iron and got the blood flowing even though we didn't have to"...

The Wings are 2-2, but their last performance was a well-done 5-3 victory over Minnesota. The Wings built a two-goal lead, saw it flattened, but surged thanks to a lineup that was finally near full health up front with the additions of Todd Bertuzzi and Darren Helm. The power play worked, twice. The penalty kill, non-existent in the first four games, was far more disruptive.

The Wings have the advantage of being fresher while the Blackhawks are on the second game of a back-to-back. But the Blackhawks are going to be a handful at any energy level: Patrick Kane is at nearly two-points-a-game average with two goals and seven assists. Former Wing Marian Hossa, who left last season with a concussion, has five goals and two assists. Jonathan Toews and Dave Bolland each have three goals. No Wings have more than two goals (Damien Brunner, Henrik Zetterberg, Bertuzzi).

The Blackhawks aren't just getting it done offensively - defensively, they're allowing an average of 2.4 goals per game, compared to Detroit's 3.5.

And if you're interested in some outside context as to  "what they're saying" regarding the Wings' start, MLive's Brendan Savage provides some quips and quotes from Metro Detroit and beyond, including some earlier-this-week praise for Damien Brunner from Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen, issued to ESPN's Craig Custance (in his Insider-only blog) after the Wings-Stars game...

Technically, Damien Brunner is too old to qualify as a rookie, but he's certainly worth mentioning among the newcomers in the league this year. Because of the failure of Fabian Brunnstrom, the last big European star who signed as an NHL free agent, Brunner's move to North America was met with skepticism after lighting up the Swiss league. Playing with Henrik Zetterberg in Switzerland, Brunner had 25 goals in 33 games, nearly equaling last year's point total in 12 fewer games. He displayed his skill with an impressive shootout goal against Columbus and his best attribute is his quick shot, which beat Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen on Tuesday night for his first NHL goal.

One of Lehtonen's first questions about him was to ask his age, because he noticed that Brunner played with the maturity of a veteran.

"He feels quite confident out there, wants to make moves," Lehtonen said. "He has an elite skill level. He's going to play well in this league."

He's been playing on the point for Detroit's power play, and there's still been an adjustment to the speed of the NHL game, with the Stars jumping on a couple short-handed opportunities when Brunner was out there.

As well as some Wednesday afternoon praise for Brunner from TSN's Scott Cullen...

Red Wings RW Damien Brunner scored a highlight reel shootout goal against Columbus Monday, then followed up with his first NHL goal against Dallas Tuesday. While the Red Wings' early performances have been uneven, Brunner is asserting himself enough to believe that he's going to be a fixture in a scoring role going forward. The 26-year-old Swiss forward has played 18:51 per game (behind only linemates Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg) and leads Detroit with 15 shots on goal through the first three games.

While there are eight games taking place this afternoon and evening, it's pretty clear that the Wings-Hawks game is the marquee match-up as TSN's Steve Kouleas and Jamie McLennan (from "That's Hockey 2 Night) suggest that Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa will out-score Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk...

And as I was cobbling this game-day report together, MLive's Brendan Savage and Ansar Khan offered the following game-day pondering regarding who sits when Jonathan Ericsson returns:

THE ISSUE: The Detroit Red Wings finally have a nice problem on their hands today.

After battling a rash of injuries for the first week of the season, the Red Wings are getting healthy and find themselves with a spare defenseman entering tonight's game at Chicago against the unbeaten Blackhawks.

Jonathan Ericsson is slated to be back in the lineup after missing the last three games because of hip and shoulder injuries suffered against St. Louis in the season opener, when he stepped on a puck and crashed into the boards.

Rookie Brian Lashoff was recalled from Grand Rapids to replace Ericsson.

Now the question is, who do the Red Wings sit to make room in the lineup for Ericsson, Lashoff or somebody else?

ANSAR KHAN: Ordinarily, they'd just send Lashoff back to Grand Rapids. But, he's played well and they have confidence in him, that's why he was paired with Niklas Kronwall during Ericsson's absence. So, I think Lashoff will stick around, at least until Ian White returns.

I imagine they'll rotate a player in and out of the lineup. I could see Jakub Kindl being the first to sit out, and then maybe Kent Huskins. Kyle Quincey played well in Friday's 5-3 win over Minnesota, but if he starts making too many mistakes it wouldn't be surprising to see him sitting out a game here and there.

BRENDAN SAVAGE: Keep Lashoff in the lineup, at least for the time being. He's played well and since he's not hurting the team, keep giving him experience that will pay off in the future.

Quincey was better Friday against the Wild so I'd give him another shot tonight in Chicago but I'd keep him on a short leash. Huskins hasn't hurt the Red Wings after being an emergency replacement when the injuries hit so why sit him?

I'd sit Kindl tonight, see how that goes and proceed from there.

I'm not Mike Babcock, but I'd sit Kindl and work Ericsson back into the game slowly, pairing him with Kent Huskins, too. Lashoff's play has merited a spot--maybe a full-time spot--and if he can help Kronwall stifle the Hawks' high-scoring forwards, all the better for him. If Lashoff struggles, the Wings can simply rotate Ericsson into Lashoff's spot and go from there.

As I was cobbling this together, part 2: Comcast Sportsnet Chicago just posted a quickie preview from Nina Falcone...

Friday's matchup against the Blue Jackets wasn't pretty at times, but the Blackhawks continued to push through for the win in Columbus, bringing their season record to a franchise-best 5-0. Now the Hawks have returned to Chicago to host the Windy City's favorite rival: The Detroit Red Wings.

The Red Wings (2-2-0) are heading into tonight's matchup after recording a win against the Wild on Friday, but Detroit has yet to win back-to-back games this season. Tonight won't provide an easy opportunity for the Wings to earn consecutive wins as the Blackhawks continue to prove that their team chemistry and strong perseverance can't be stopped easily

And Blackhawks commentator and former Hawks and Wings defenseman Steve Konroyd offered "three keys" for the Hawks to focus upon as they attempt to defeat the Wings tonight:

1. Get ready for a barrage from these New Look Wings: Yes, the Red Wings are without Nik Lidstrom, Brad Stuart and Tomas Holmstrom from last year's squad, but they still have Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and one of the best coaches in the league in Mike Babcock. He stated last night he wants to play as much of the game as he can in Chicago’s end of the ice. Get ready for a ferocious forecheck.

NICK Lidstrom. It's Niklas Kronwall and Nicklas Lidstrom.

2.  Special Teams may be the decider: Last year, Detroit was the second-least penalized team in the league. This year they are the second most, having taken eight minor penalties in their last win against Minnesota. Chicago’s penalty kill still ranks among the tops in the league, having killed off 16 of 17 short handed situations, but they will be tested by a Detroit powerplay that scored its first goals of they year (2) against the Wild.

3. Wings taste best when they’re “b-eaten” at home: The Red Wings are still the best rival the Chicago Blackhawks have. There is a lot of history between these two storied franchises. Detroit has fallen on hard times, and they are not the Wings of the past. But they still have what it takes to be spoilers, and they feel if they can win in Chicago, it may help change the mindset of their team. Chicago can set a new franchise record for consecutive wins to start a season. The United Center will be rocking.

Detroit has "fallen on hard times?"

Grumble. Grumble grumble really intensely dislike the Hawks grumble.

And as I'd prefer to leave things on a Red Wings-related note, here are three quips from the Wings' Game Day blog:

Wings Aim to Take Reeling Blackhawks Down

"I think our young D is getting better and better." - Mike Babcock

Fresh off a thrilling 5-3 win over Minnesota Friday night, the Red Wings will try to do something tonight that no other team has done yet this season -- beat the 5-0 Blackhawks. After getting a couple friendly faces back in the lineup Friday with Bertuzzi and Helm, the depleted Wings are starting to look more like themselves. The addition of defenseman Kent Huskins has also given the team a boost on the back end, blocking seven shots last game. You can watch tonight's game at 7:00 PM on Fox Sports Detroit or listen on AM1270.

...

On This Day in Red Wings History...

On January 27, 1955: Gordie Howe sets an NHL record with 19 shots on goal, as the Wings tie the New York Rangers 3-3. Surprisingly, Gordie didn't score in the game.

...

RAM Keys to the Game with Ken Kal

Weather the Early Storm - With a looming 6-0 record on hand, Chicago's building will be loud. It's important to get off to a good start, especially in the first ten minutes.

Stay Out of the Box - The Blackhawks' Power Play has been great this year (25%), so the best penalty kill for the Wings is to avoid taking bad penalties.

Test Corey Crawford - He's been good so far this season, but has a history of incosistency, so the Wings need to get the puck on net. Detroit saw what happened when you shoot the puck on Friday night, so they have to get multiple scoring opportunities and screen the goalie.

Update #0.5: Interesting, from the Sports Network's Wings-Hawks game preview:

Sunday's Central Division clash marks just the second home game of the season for Chicago, which built a superb 27-8-6 record at United Center in 2011-12.

The Red Wings are 2-2 on the season and coming off Friday's victory against the visiting Minnesota Wild. Detroit has yet to win consecutive games this year and that could be a difficult task to achieve on Sunday against a Blackhawks team that has won three straight and eight of the last 11 encounters in this series

Todd Bertuzzi scored twice in his first game of the season, while Pavel Datsyuk added a goal and two assists as the Red Wings posted a 5-3 decision over the Wild at Joe Louis Arena. It was Bertuzzi's first multi-goal effort since Feb. 4 of last season against Chicago.

Update #0.75: The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons says that it's Carlo Colaiacovo's 30th birthday today. I believe it would be in bad taste to suggest that Wings fans spare him "slings and arrows" today.

Update #1: The Red Wings' Game Day blog offers a picture of Jonathan Ericsson skating this morning at the United Center, as well as some quips and quotes from the Wings (though they're mostly sourced from Saturday's practice):

“It's going to be imperative we stay together as a five-man unit, forecheck well, play defense well, be patient…We need to get off to a good start, be strong in the faceoff circle and be ready to compete.”– Mike Babcock

“(Chicago’s a) great team, high-octane offense. That's a great challenge for our defense. I think we're really looking forward to the challenge.”– Kyle Quincey
 

Jonathan Ericsson is expected to play tonight.

Ericsson was joined by Eaves, Tootoo, McCollum and Gustavsson this morning.

Jonas Gustavsson (groin) took shots for the first time and continues to improve.

Tom McCollum will back up Jimmy Howard tonight. 

“Drastic, night and day.”– Mike Babcock on how his defense looked last game compared to season opener

“(Friday) was a building block, for sure…We're going to keep getting better every game.”– Kyle Quincey  

“So far (our defense) has been better every game. Of course, it always helps when Howie's playing great in net. Both Lash and Huskins have played great since they got there. So, very impressive.''– Niklas Kronwall

“We've been doing a lot better job (on defense). I think a lot of it is guys sacrificing their bodies. There's good communication back there, which allows us to break out faster.” – Jimmy Howard 

“The type of team we have, we're going to see a lot of games where it's going to be a grind-fest. So embrace what you got and be the best that you're capable of.”– Babcock

Update #2: NHL.com's Brian Hedger isn't sure whether Lashoff will sit to make room for Ericsson, either, and he offers prospective lineups for both teams (FTR, Ledger's picking the Hawks to win tonight, via his Twitter account):

RED WINGS

Johan Franzen – Henrik Zetterberg – Damien Brunner

Valtteri Filppula – Pavel Datsyuk – Todd Bertuzzi

Justin Abdelkader – Darren Helm – Danny Cleary

Drew Miller – Cory Emmerton – Jordin Tootoo

Niklas Kronwall – Brian Lashoff

Brendan Smith – Jonathan Ericsson

Kyle Quincey – Kent Huskins

Jimmy Howard

Tom McCollum

Injured: Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder), Ian White (leg laceration), Jonas Gustavsson (groin), Mikael Samuelsson (groin)

Scratched: Patrick Eaves, Jakub Kindl

Lineup notes: Without skating in the morning, it’s tough to say exactly what Detroit coach Mike Babcock will do with his lineup against the Blackhawks. Ericsson will likely be a gametime decision because of hip and shoulder injuries that are healing up, but he’s expected to return to the lineup by media covering the team on a regular basis.

Lashoff has played pretty well with Kronwall while filling in during all of the injuries, so that makes Kindl the most likely candidate to be scratched against Chicago. Eaves could potentially find himself drawing into the lineup somewhere in the bottom-six forward group, while Helm (back) and Filppula (knee) continue to battle nagging injuries that could potentially take them out of action if they worsen.

BLACKHAWKS

Brandon Saad – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa

Patrick Sharp – Dave Bolland – Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell – Andrew Shaw – Viktor Stalberg

Brandon Bollig – Marcus Kruger– Michael Frolik

Duncan Keith – Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya – Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy – Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford

Ray Emery

Injured: Daniel Carcillo (lower body); Steve Montador (concussion symptoms)

Scratched: Sheldon Brookbank, Jamal Mayers

Lineup notes: Chicago did not hold a morning skate after beating Columbus 3-2 on the road Saturday night. Brookbank played alongside Leddy and Mayers played right wing on the fourth line in place of Frolik. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville may opt for the speedier Frolik against the Red Wings and could go back to Rozsival on the third defense pairing, after he’s played well in three games.

Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Tracey Myers doesn't believe that the Hawks will make any changes:

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Comments

MsRedWinger's avatar

Lashoff has been great as Kronner’s partner.  I say leave him there.  Babcock is always saying that, when players are out, others have a chance to grab a spot.  I think Lashoff deserves to stay where he is.  I agree with you George - pair Ericsson with Huskins or Q and let him earn his way back in.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 01/27/13 at 01:41 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I’m just wary of Babcock expecting Ericsson to play for 22-25 minutes, as Kronwall does. As Ericsson hasn’t played and didn’t even practice from last Sunday until yesterday, I don’t see any reason to push Big E that hard unless absolutely necessary.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 01/27/13 at 02:21 PM ET

perfection's avatar

Going to the game tonight… can’t wait! Prob my only chance this short season to see the Wings in person. Of course I’ll have to prepare myself for the usual threats as I cheer on my Wings, but I’ve lived in Chicago for 12 years and am well used to it. I’ve been here long enough that I was going to all the Wings games here when the Wings fans outnumbered the Hawks fans. Amazing what a few #1 overall draft picks and a dead owner can do for a team. Now I get challenged to a fight if I get excited that the Wings score a goal… at least in the nosebleeds where we’re sitting. That’s the secret of being an opposing fan at a Chicago sporting event. It’s a class thing sadly. If you can afford the good seats, the Hawks fans down there tend to be very pleasant, many are longtime season ticket holders, and are willing to talk hockey throughout the game. The upper deck on the other hand is where you have to watch yourself. People are looking for trouble a lot of nights. Generally speaking the 6pm, Sunday start time should at least minimize some of the drunken shenanigans… not that I care. I still go every year and still scream for my Wings at every chance. Can’t wait… unless the Wings get killed of course. Then its no fun there.

I agree about keeping Lashoff up for now, though I think no matter how he’s playing, you have to send him back when everyone gets healthy. Unless the team believes he is literally the difference between making the playoffs or not, it’s not worth waiving Kindl for nothing when Lash can go back down and then be recalled for the playoffs. With that said, what’s the odds we actually have 8 healthy D-Men at some point before playoffs?

Can’t wait to see my boy Brunner in person for the first time. I’m loving him so far. He’s really everything Leino wasn’t. If he keeps this up and continues to improve, I hope Kenny locks him up for 4 or 5 years at a couple mil a year. It’ll be a steal in a couple years.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 01/27/13 at 03:56 PM ET

Hockeytown Wax's avatar

Kindl is in the same boat Quincey was before Q was traded.
He’s got the hockey cliches down pat during TV interviews but can’t translate them into on-ice effort.

After tonights game I think we’ll see another groin give out (conveniently probably quincey’s) giving Kindl one more kick at the proverbial can before he’s shipped out.

Posted by Hockeytown Wax from West Bloomfield, Mi. on 01/27/13 at 05:07 PM ET

alukacs's avatar

Perfection - I lived in Chicago for a while and always ended up in the nosebleed sections. They used to have $10 tickets and $8 for students… I never had a problem. The secret is that you have to be loud, fearless and knowledgeable about hockey… I was able to intimidate and entertain a whole 3xx section in my graduate student days… while the Wings kept running up the score. 
Let’s go Wings!

Posted by alukacs on 01/27/13 at 05:41 PM ET

perfection's avatar

I remember those $10 days… times have changed. When the Hawks sucked, only true hockey fans went to the games and it actually made for some great banter. Plus the stadium was always about 50/50 Wings/Hawks fans and there would be chants back and forth and really it was an amazing atmosphere. But since their cup it’s totally changed. Now EVERYONE loves the Hawks and the stadium is FULL of fair weather fans who are often going to the game more to get wasted than watch top notch hockey. Also, our two nosebleed tickets cost $54 a piece PLUS ticketmaster fees. Times have definitely changed.


(All my complaints aside, I do think the NHL and this city are both MUCH better off with an original six club like the Hawks thriving, as much as it kind of sucks for Wings’ fans)

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 01/27/13 at 06:04 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Alukacs, I have to do the same thing at Jackets games.  Once someone starts mouthing off I start my Good Will Hunting-Hockey Addition.  Shuts’em right up.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 01/27/13 at 06:18 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Addition?  Man I’m mildly retarded, this is why I shouldn’t post while at work.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 01/27/13 at 06:19 PM ET

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.