The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/12/13 at 01:29 PM ET
Updated 8x at 3:26 PM: The Detroit Red Wings face a must-win situation tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks (8:30 PM EDT, FSD Plus/CSN Chicago/NHL Network, with the requisite Center Ice/GameCenter Live blackout/97.1 FM), and the Blackhawks' morning skate was a routine affair...
Via RedWingsFeed, I do believe that this is called, "The NHL Network, rubbing it in":
NHL.com's Brian Hedger has already penned a slate of prospective lineups for both teams...
Johan Franzen – Pavel Datsyuk – Justin Abdelkader
Valtteri Filppula – Henrik Zetterberg – Danny Cleary
Gustav Nyquist – Joakim Andersson – Damien Brunner
Drew Miller – Cory Emmerton – Patrick Eaves
Niklas Kronwall – Jonathan Ericsson
Kyle Quincey – Brendan Smith
Danny Dekeyser – Jakub Kindl
Scratched: Ian White, Jordin Tootoo, Brian Lashoff, Carlo Colaiacovo, Mikael Samuelsson, Jared Coreau
Injured: Darren Helm (IR, back), Todd Bertuzzi (IR, back)
Brandon Saad – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp – Marcus Kruger – Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell – Michal Handzus – Victor Stalberg
Daniel Carcillo – Andrew Shaw – Michael Frolik
Duncan Keith – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Nick Leddy – Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya – Michal Rozsival
Scratched: Sheldon Brookbank, Brandon Bollig, Dave Bolland (day-to-day, lower body)
On the Wings' side of the ice...
That means that Carlo Colaiacovo's in...And we kind of knew this:
ANSAR KHAN: They'll be happy just to get in, the way they've been playing lately.
But, if they do make it, Anaheim would be a much better match-up for anyone than Chicago would be. The Blackhawks aren't like the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks of last season, a soft, mentally fragile team ripe for a first-round upset. I think Chicago will win the Stanley Cup, and it would take a major upset to bounce the Blackhawks from the opening round.
Anaheim, on the other hand, seems like a team that might implode under pressure and adversity. The Ducks' big forwards can be tough to handle, but they're also prone to taking bad penalties when they get frustrated. Also, Anaheim's goaltending and defense isn't as strong as Chicago's.
BRENDAN SAVAGE: The obvious answer is Anaheim. The Red Wings beat the Ducks 5-1 and 2-1 in a span of three days on the road last month to kick off the second half of a brutal stretch that saw them play seven of eight games on the road while making two West Coast trips.
But they gave the Blackhawks all they could handle in the first two meetings – reaching overtime twice only to lose both games 2-1 – before getting blasted 7-1 on Easter Sunday. But I wouldn't put too much stock into that game. It was one of those days when everything went right for Chicago and nothing did for Detroit.
Anaheim might be the better matchup but I'd like to see the Red Wings play the Blackhawks in the first round. Two Original Six rivals separated by Lake Michigan has all the makings of a classic series even if it is the No. 1 team in the West against the eighth seed.
I agree with them. The Wings can frustrate the Ducks...I'm not sure whether they're deep enough to battle the Hawks.
Details are available here.
"You can feel it going into games, you can feel the buzz in the crowd during games -- the animosity, not just from the players, you can sense it from the fans," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "They even have their chants that represent that."
Indeed, Friday night's game (the 725th meeting all-time between the teams) won't be the last time "De-troit Sucks!" echoes through the Madhouse, but unless the two teams meet in the playoffs -- a distinct first-round possibility -- it was the last time it happened during a game between division and conference rivals. The Red Wings are headed to the Eastern Conference next season as part of the NHL's sweeping realignment. And love them or hate them (OK, hate them), they're surely be missed in Chicago.
"I don't mind the new realignment that the league decided to go with, but the one thing that does suck is not playing the Red Wings a number of times," Hawks winger Patrick Sharp said. "I think the fans will always appreciate the rivalry, and when we do see them it'll be a special game. I like going to Detroit and playing in their building, I like it when they come here. They're fun games to play in."
"Sometimes, when you play a team six or eight times in a season, people think that builds a rivalry, but sometimes it kills them because you see the same faces over and over," he said. "Seeing these guys once or twice a year, you'll get fired up for those games, the fans will too, and maybe that'll spark things."
The new realignment will have every team Western Conference team play every Eastern Conference team twice each season, once in each city.
"We're going to play them next year, we'll still have a home and home," Detroit defenseman Brendan Smith said. "I don't think you can ever lose a rivalry. It'll just be heightened when we do play them."
And if the season ended today, the Hawks and Red Wings would meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- a fitting conclusion to their tenure as conference rivals.
"It would be a lot of fun," Smith said. "I think everybody in the hockey world would love that. It'd be a lot of fun for us and a lot of fun for everybody."
And Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Steve Konroyd offers three keys for the Hawks to beat the Wings:
1: Wings have memories, this is a revenge game: The last time these two teams played, Chicago had a five goal lead just 24 minutes into the game. It was 7-0 until Detroit scored with 33 seconds to play. I don’t have the stats to back me up, but I’m pretty sure that this was the first time in 20 plus years that the Red Wings lost 7-1 at home. One thing this Wings team has is plenty of speed up front. Be ready for a payback game.
Nope. 8-2 against Nashville, there's been a 10-1 loss...
2: Play a road game at home: Love the way the Blackhawks are playing on the road right now. Simple hockey all over the ice: get it in, get it out -- beat them with hard work and relentlessness. That’s the mindset on the road. I’d like to see that mindset at home. In their last two road games, they’ve given up just 20 shots in each. It’s will over skill, and eventually your skill will take over.
3: Beware of Datsyuk: Pavel Datsyuk is a fun player to watch. He’s like Patrick Kane in that he does the unexpected, and he has the skill to make it work. He’s got 13 goals this year, and seven of them are on the power play. He has been held pointless against the Hawks in three games this year. As Pavel goes, so go the Red Wings. Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson will probably get this assignment. Make sure it’s a quiet night for Datsyuk.
Update #4: Here's the Free Press's Helene St. James' game-day update:
Quick update from an optional morning skate: Jimmy Howard will make his eighth straight start for the Detroit Red Wings.
The Wings play the Blackhawks tonight at United Center (8:30 p.m., NHLN-US, FS-D+).
The Wings lost in a shootout to San Jose Thursday; as general manager Ken Holland put it: It was a huge point gained - and a huge point lost. The Wings are in a tight, tight battle for what's likely to be the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Coach Mike Babcock and his staff wasn't at the United Center, but based on who did skate, defensemen Brendan Smith, Ian White and Brian Lashoff are out tonight. Smith had just sat two games after a poor performance last week at Phoenix, but he didn't respond well against San Jose Thursday.
The most interesting take-away from the morning skate was that Howard will play again. It's not surprising, given how badly the Wings need points, and Babcock has pointed out more than once that Howard gives the Wings the best chance to win. But it's a further indictment against backup Jonas Gustavsson, as ideally the backup goalie plays one of the games of a back-to-back situation. Gustavsson last played March 31, against the Blackhawks, when he relieved Howard and then allowed three of the goals in the 7-1 disaster.
Update #5: The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan reports that Todd Bertuzzi still hopes to return from his back issues sometime before the regular season ends:
"The way I felt today was probably the most positive sign I've had in a long time," Bertuzzi said, after several Red Wings completed a morning skate at United Center. "I'm trying my best to get back."
Bertuzzi has been limited to seven games this season after suffering a back injury Feb. 7 in St. Louis. The back is pretty much cured at this point, but the pain shooting down the back of his leg isn't.
"It's pretty much 80 percent the leg," said Bertuzzi of what is keeping him out of action.
The condensed lockout schedule isn't helping, either.
"It's unfortunate with the lockout, there are games every second day," Bertuzzi said. "They go by one by one by one, so I'm in a race to get back right now."
Bertuzzi sought a second opinion last week and he's optimistic something was found which will be able to get him on the ice quickly. Surgery isn't anticipated in the near future.
"At this point, no," Bertuzzi said.
Update #6: The Wings' game-day blog offers a historical note...
On This Day in Red Wings History...On April 12, 1996
Detroit wins its NHL record-setting 61st game of the season, beating Chicago, 5-3, at Joe Louis Arena.
And Ken Kal's Keys to the Game:
Score Early - The Wings need to set the tone out of the gate. Its the last regular season game Detroit plays in Chicago as division rivals, so they have to take the crowd out of the game.
Win the Special Teams Battles - The Power Play was key to the Hawks' success in the first 2 games. The Red Wings need to score on the PP and also be effective on the Penalty Kill.
Win The Battles in the Corners - This is where the games are usually won. Detroit has to compete hard and win those 1-on-1 battles tonight.
Update #7: MLive's Brendan Savage reports that Brendan Smith goofed around with reporters, and...
• Goaltender Jimmy Howard is close to reaching a contract extension with the Red Wings but has yet to sign it.
"Just getting it finalized," said Howard, 28.
Howard, in his fourth full season with the Red Wings, is on the verge of agreeing to a six-year extension that would pay him $31 million. This season, Howard has appeared in 34 of 40 games for the Red Wings (19-15-6) and has a 16-12-5 record, 2.39 goals-against average and .918 save percentage with two shutouts.
• Goaltending coach Jim Bedard and advisor to hockey operations Chris Chelios ran the morning skate while coach Mike Babcock took the morning off, meaning there was no update on potential lineup changes.
But all indications point to the only lineup change from Thursday's 3-2 shootout loss to San Jose being Carlo Colaiacovo dressing in place of Smith.
This morning's skate was optional and Smith took part along with Jordin Tootoo, Ian White, Brian Lashoff, Mikael Samuelsson and Helm. Howard is expected to start for the second straight night.
Also, from Calgary's 660 News's Kaitlin Lee:
NHL hockey legends are in Calgary for a star-studded birthday party Friday.
Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe, is celebrating his 85th birthday and kicking off a weekend-long tournament to raise funds for the Alzheimer Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories.
NHL superstars Alex Devecchio, Guy Lafleur, Frank Mahovlich and Garry Unger will all be present for the kick off of the pro-am face off for Alzheimer’s.
The local fundraiser gives amateur hockey players a chance to play alongside hockey greats, and raise money for the cause.
Update #8: More Wings-Hawks rivalry talk from ESPN Chicago's Scott Powers:
“We're going to play them next year,” Smith said. “We're going to have a home-and-home. I don't think you can ever lose the rivalry. I guess it'll be heightened when we do play them the select few times that we can. It'll be sad to not come up here and not play all the games we normally play, four or five or whatever it may be here. That will suck, but it's going to be a lot better on our travel schedule.”
“I think over the year the history there is very real, and the rivalry was definitely in place,” Quenneville said. “You could feel it going into games. You could feel the buzz in the crowd during games. The animosity not just the players, you can sense it from the fans. They even have the chants to represent that. I just think there's been so many games you've seen Detroit. You have so much respect for what they've done throughout their history and through the history of the games between one another. It'll definitely be missed, but I still think when we play each other once a year that it'll be easy to get back to that level of the rivalry.”
While Friday's game will mark their final regular-season matchup this season, the two teams could meet in the playoffs. As of Friday, the Blackhawks were the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and the Red Wings were No. 8. Blackhawks forward Dave Bolland was in favor of facing the Red Wings in the playoffs.
“That would be pretty fun actually,” Bolland said. “If it is them, we'll be ready for it. They're still a good team. They're still a team that can changes things up right away. They've got a lot of good players. I think you got to be aware of them.”
The Blackhawks will be attempting a regular-season sweep of the Red Wings on Friday. The Blackhawks last accomplished that in the 1976-77 season. Aside from preventing the sweep, the Red Wings are also looking for a better showing than their last meeting when the Blackhawks defeated them 7-1 in Detroit on March 31.
“I think you never forget something like that,” Smith said. “That was just a frustrating game in our part, a lot of mental errors. The biggest thing for us is to come back and try to redeem.”
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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.