Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Blackhawks set-up and overnight report: Wings don’t mind the odds stacked against ‘em

The Detroit Red Wings have a bear and a half of a task in front of them today. The Chicago Blackhawks come to town (12:30 PM EST, NBC/NHL Network Canada/97.1 FM) on a 18-0-and-3 streak, having won 8 straight games and possessing a stunning (according to the AP) 7-0-and-1 record at Joe Louis Arena and a 4-game winning streak against the Wings.

You'd think that these stats might intimidate the Wings, but instead, the Wings told the team's beat writers that they were in fact looking forward to the opportunity to snap the Blackhawks' 21-game unbeaten streak, and as we speed toward the halfway point of the 48-games-in-99-nights marathon (today is game #22 for the Wings, will hit the 24-game-mark on Thursday against Colorado), the Wings have suggested that they're starting to hit their stride.

It's easy to over-emphasize the importance of a particular game over the course of a long season, but it's not particularly difficult to suggest that today might serve as the team's toughest challenge thus far. The Wings sit tied with Phoenix for sixth place in the Western Conference with 23 points this morning, and remain among a tightly-packed group of 10 teams separated by 6 points.

With the Blackhawks set to run away with the Central Divison, and the Wings about to play 8 games over the next two weeks, Detroit can either make hay while the sun shines and start pushing their way toward a 4th-or-5th-place finish, or they can find themselves out of a playoff spot in a hurry.

The Blackhawks obviously come into today's game with no such worries.The vast majority of the Hawks' press--the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Daily Herald, the Chicago Sun-Times, Comcast Sportsnet Chicago, NHL.com's Brian Hedger (he spends the vast majority of his time covering the Hawks) and ESPN Chicago's Scott Powers--all focused upon the fact that "The One Who Got Away," A.K.A. Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa, will be playing in his 1,000th game today. Hossa did address his decision to spurn Detroit's offer (if you recall the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson's chronicles thereof, the Wings were more or less matching the Hawks' money, but Hossa very specifically chose to go to Chicago, because the difference between the teams' deals involved somewhere between $7 and 12 million of back-end-of-the-deal cash [the kind of cash that got the Hawks in trouble with the league and the NHL talking about "back-diving deals"]) with Powers...

Hossa will reach the 1,000-game milestone against the last team he played for prior to signing the long-term deal with the Blackhawks in the summer of 2009. Hossa played the 2008-2009 season with the Red Wings before they parted ways. Hossa is pleased with how everything turned out.

“When you’re a free agent, there are so many certain openings you can choose from,” Hossa said. “There were just a few teams, so the decision wasn’t that tough. Definitely, it’s a big choice because you’re signing for so long. I’m just glad [for it] to work out how it worked out. Just happy to be here -- a great organization, a first-class organization, great team. So it’s fun.”

And NHL.com's Hedger:

And to think, the Detroit Red Wings had a chance keep Hossa as an unrestricted free agent following the 2008-09 season -- his lone year with Detroit, when he scored 40 goals and added 31 assists. At the time, Detroit had only so much room in salary-cap space to sign three star UFA players.

The Red Wings opted to sign Zetterberg and power forward Johan Franzen, both homegrown products of their system, which paved the way for Hossa to sign with the Blackhawks. Now, he'll pay his 1,000th game against Detroit.

"I knew they had to sign three big players … either me, [Zetterberg] or Franzen," Hossa said. "Obviously, [Zetterberg] was their No. 1 choice, and when they signed Franzen, I knew I probably wouldn't fit [under] their cap. So I knew I'd probably have to move somewhere else and Chicago was a great fit … lots of good young hockey players. So it worked out well."

The question now becomes: How much longer will Hossa play?

"As long as I can," he said. "Obviously, you never know what can happen [with injuries], so I go game-by-game and try to play my best. Hopefully I've still got a long eight years left. That's my goal."

If he reaches it, Hossa will be 42. If there's anybody who can be effective for that long of a career, it's probably Hossa, who prides himself on his physical conditioning. That much is obvious just by watching him continue to dominate on both sides of the puck.

"As a coach, he reinforces that team aspect game in [and] game out," Quenneville said. "He plays at a high pace [and] has the puck a lot. [He] sees plays and makes plays. He plays in all situations. He's exactly what you want in a top player."

Put incredibly bluntly, this, "Oh, the Wings could have kept Hossa, but they picked Franzen" narrative pisses the shit out of me, because it both allows Wings fans to constantly berate Johan Franzen because he never has been and never will be Marian Hossa, and because it's simply not true.

The Wings did tie up Zetterberg first, but after that point, Holland was willing to get down to contract turkey with whoever wanted to work out a deal, and it was Johan Franzen and his agent who decided to take Holand up on his offer. The reason I mention Matheson is that Hossa's agent, Rich Winter, is based in Edmonton, and Matheson had something of an inside edge on what was going on between Winter (see also: Dominik Hasek's agent) and the Wings.

Winter didn't want to negotiate until after the Wings' season was over, and after the Wings lost that heartbreaking Game 7 to Pittsburgh, Ken Holland both told the Wings' press that he desperately didn't want to tie up a third to a half of his team's cap space in four players (at the time, Lidstrom, Zetterberg and Franzen), but he was more than willing to make an exception for Hossa, and based on what Matheson told us, he did in fact make a very comparable offer to Winter.

The difference between Detroit and Chicago's offer involved a minuscule amount of money added to the first year and those tail-off years going past the age of 40, so the truth of the matter is that Hossa chose the Blackhawks because he believed they were better-set to make a long playoff run and win the Cup during the 2009-2010 season. It was his choice, not Ken Holland or the Wings' braintrust not trying hard enough or working hard enough, nor was it a case of the Wings "settling" for Franzen.

I'm not suggesting that the Mule should get a free pass for the games where he floats, nor am I suggesting that he's ever going to be as good as Marian Hossa, but, like Jonathan Ericsson, Franzen takes a shitload of criticism for not being Marian Hossa, and I feel that it's completely undeserved.

Frankly, if he gets his legs back under him, Franzen was looking absolutely dynamite in front of the net, and while yes, he needs to score more goals, I do believe that, like Ericsson, Franzen will fulfill the team's expectations for him to make the front of the net his home, even if he and Ericsson never live up to our expectations as fans. We tend to expect the sun, moon, stars and a free lap dance from our favorite Wings (figuratively speaking, and I don't know where that came from as I haven't been to such locales in nine years).

Anyway...

ESPN's Powers also penned a column after the Blackhawks' 4-3 OT win over Columbus on Friday which summarizes the ways in which the Hawks have been winning with such alarming regularlity...

When the Chicago Blackhawks say they feel as if anyone can be the difference on any given night, they’re not exaggerating. Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook was the latest player to step up. He provided the game winner in a 4-3 overtime victory Friday over the Columbus Blue Jackets, and he became the 12th different Blackhawk to score a game winner during their 16 regulation and overtime victories this season.

As much as the top line has produced in the clutch -- Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews have totaled five game-winning goals -- the other 11 game winners have been distributed among 10 individuals. Marcus Kruger, who has played on the second and fourth lines, is the only other player with multiple game winners.

....
Hossa said the Blackhawks believe now they’re capable of winning any game no matter the situation. Friday’s win was the third time this season the Blackhawks defeated the Blue Jackets by one goal, and their 11th one-goal victory overall this year.

“That’s what happens when you got the confidence,” Hossa said. “You’re not worried about losing games even when they’re so tight or you’re falling behind. We got four even lines. It was a big goal by [Bryan] Bickell tonight, and overtime winner again. Anybody can score.”

And again, the Blackhawks added two more points to their NHL-record 21-game points streak to start a season. They’re now 18-0-3.

[Blackhawks coach Joel] Quenneville was asked Friday whether he’s ever thought, “Wow, I can’t believe we’re doing this.”

“I might have said it once,” Quenneville said with a large laugh. “No, we’re definitely pleased. We’re very happy going into that [current] game, and that’s the game. The consistency of that one road trip [six games] and coming home with a seven-game homestand, we were excited how the games were ending up, knowing the next game everybody is ready and gunning for you and trying to do what they could do. I just think the perseverance of the guys should be commended.”

Hedger duly noted that the Hawks' goaltenders have been fantastic...

The Blackhawks have the League's best goaltending numbers heading into Sunday afternoon's game against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC), with Emery and Crawford combining for a 1.71 goals-against average and .935 save percentage.
 

"We don't feel like we're ever out of a game and we always feel like we have a chance to come back," Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook said. "Our goaltending has been unbelievable and given us a chance to win every night. Even if we're down a goal, we're confident in them to make saves and let our defense get up in the play and give our forwards a few more chances. That always helps."

...

Emery's record is 9-0-0, and his latest victory came on the heels of relieving Crawford the night before against the St. Louis Blues for the final two periods of a 3-0 shutout.

...

After an upper-body injury kept him out of four straight games, Crawford returned to play against Columbus a week ago and earned his second shutout of the season, a 1-0 victory on home ice. Crawford, who's 9-0-3 with a 1.46 GAA and .943 save percentage, then had a different upper-body issue knock him out of last week's win in St. Louis after one period. The next morning at United Center, he was back on the ice for a spirited workout with a handful of teammates.

Quenneville hasn't announced his starter for Sunday' game against the Red Wings, but if Crawford is feeling healthy, there's a chance he'll get the nod. If he doesn't, Emery is just as hot, posting a 2.02 GAA with a .926 save percentage.

And while the Chicago Daily Herald's article about Bryan Bickell's surge might not interest you per se, Sassone does utilize it to set up today's game pretty decently...

Bickell is just trying to do his part as the Hawks continue to streak into the history book. They have gone an NHL-record 21 games without a regulation loss to start the season.

"It doesn't feel like we have the record we do right now," Bickell said. "We're approaching every game to get the 2 points. The streak doesn't really mean anything to us."

Quenneville agrees the focus is simply on the next game.

"We were hoping to have a good start and go from there," Quenneville said. "I don't think we envisioned this at all. Trying to get better off of these levels is what we're all about."

The Red Wings offer a challenge to the Hawks to keep the streak going.

"They'll be ready for sure," Quenneville said. "It's our first time in their building so it's going to be a great challenge and a great test."

And Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Tracey Myers wonders whether these kinds of Wings-Hawks grudge matches will become a twice-a-year event if the Wings do in fact move to an Eastern "conference" under the NHL's proposed realignment plan:

When the Blackhawks and Red Wings meet on Sunday in Detroit, there will be plenty of subplots. The Blackhawks will enter Sunday with their stunning season-opening streak of 21 consecutive games without a regulation loss. Right wing Marian Hossa, who spent one Stanley Cup Final-reaching season in Detroit, will play in his 1,000th game.

And the Red Wings, who have won three of their last four games, will look to spoil the Blackhawks’ day.

Detroit struggled through mid-February but is starting to find its way again. The Red Wings’ defense took huge blows this offseason when Brad Stuart was traded and the much-decorated Nicklas Lidstrom retired, and their absences were noticeable. But the Wings’ blue line has been much improved in recent games. Detroit coach Mike Babcock was especially happy with it following the Wings’ 2-1 shootout victory over San Jose on Thursday night.

“I thought it was the best group we’ve had all year. We looked like a hockey team at times,” Babcock told the Detroit Free Press. “We've had a number of people not available to us, and I'm not trying to make excuses at all, but that was the best that I've thought we looked.”

Meanwhile, back in the Windy City, the Blackhawks have been something. Record-setting something. Even in their shakier games, such as Friday night’s 4-3 overtime victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Blackhawks have found ways to win. And they’ve found answers from everyone: Goaltending, penalty killing, scoring from third- and fourth-line players. And they keep pushing themselves to be better.

“We were hoping to have a great start and go from there,” coach Joel Quenneville said on Friday. “I don’t think we envisioned this at all. But this is where we’re at and trying to get better off these levels is what we’re all about.”

And great hockey is what the Blackhawks-Red Wings series has long been about. If the proposed realignment is agreed upon, that’s going to change. Sure, the teams will play a home and home against each other, but it won’t be the same. So long to six games between these two per season. So long to them battling, neck and neck, for the Central Division bragging rights. So long to a big chunk of hockey tradition. Enjoy the current format while it lasts.

The Northwest Herald's Stan Musick chose to rub the Hawks' "scary good" stats against Detroit of late into Wings fans' faces...

The powerhouse Wings of the previous decade used to get into the Hawks’ heads, but that does not seem to be the case anymore. The Hawks beat the Wings, 2-1, on Jan. 27 at the United Center thanks to Nick Leddy’s game-winning goal in overtime. That win marked the latest evidence of a power shift in the rivalry.

Since the Hawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, they are 9-2-2 against the Wings. Their .692 winning percentage during that span is the best of any decade of the rivalry, far exceeding the 2000s (.386), the 1990s (.308) and 1980s (.493).

Yet Hawks coach Joel Quenneville knows better than to underestimate the Wings, who have won three of their past four games to improve to 10-8-3 this season.

Quenneville said he had a good idea of what to expect today in Detroit.

“A hungry team,” Quenneville said. “They’ll be ready, for sure. [It’s] the first time in their building, so it will be a great challenge, a great test. Let’s be ready.”

As this is an NBC game, Mike Emrick, "Subtle Interference" Olczyk and Pierre McGuire will be in town, and they gushed about the Hawks in a video preview--though McGuire does rave about Mike Babcock's coaching...

And NBC Sports' James O'Brien offered a Myers-esque preview:

If realignment becomes a reality, the Detroit Red Wings won’t be able to spoil the Chicago Blackhawks’ fun much longer.

This time around, the Red Wings hope to end two Blackhawks’ streaks for games with at least a point: 21 (to begin the 2013 campaign) and 27 (extending back to the 2011-12 regular season).

While Chicago needs to extend its point streak by eight games to tie the all-time mark of 35 by the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit could keep them from tying the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens’ second place streak of 28 games by beating the ‘Hawks in regulation on Sunday.

The veteran-heavy squad has had a knack for spoiling their younger division rival’s fun in recent years, too. Detroit knocked Chicago out of the 2009 Western Conference finals in five games and thwarted the Blackhawks attempt to clinch a playoff spot on the last day of the 2010-11 season.*

The Associated Press's game preview simply offers a terrifying set of Hawk-happy stats...

While Chicago (18-0-3) is 21-0-6 since losing 6-1 at home to Nashville on March 25, it's often had to work hard to maintain its record-setting start without a regulation loss in 2013. One night after rolling to a 3-0 win at St. Louis, the Blackhawks overcame a pair of one-goal deficits and a blown third-period lead before Brent Seabrook's goal gave them a 4-3 overtime win over lowly Columbus on Friday.

...

Chicago's enjoyment has come from a confidence that continues to grow while believing it can prevail no matter how challenging the situation. The Blackhawks, who average 3.2 goals and yield 1.9, are 11-0-3 in one-goal games.

[T]he Blackhawks face their biggest rival looking to win nine straight for the first time since Dec. 7-28, 2008. Chicago is 13-0-4 on the road since losing 5-1 at St. Louis on March 6, and in the midst of a 7-0-1 stretch at Detroit. Chicago has won four straight and nine of 13 overall against the Red Wings (10-8-3), but the last eight have been decided by a goal. Defenseman Nick Leddy scored 2:45 into overtime for a 2-1 home win over Detroit on Jan. 27.

Corey Crawford is among the NHL leaders at 9-0-3 with a 1.46 goals-against average, and could start for the Blackhawks after playing one period Thursday before leaving with an upper-body injury. He was between the pipes in this season's first meeting, and is 4-0-1 with a 1.94 GAA at Joe Louis Arena the last two seasons.

...

The Red Wings have allowed 1.5 goals in the last four after yielding 3.8 in the previous five.

They prevailed Thursday despite failing on two power-play chances to fall to 0 for 33 on the road. Detroit is 3 for 23 with the man advantage in the last eight versus Chicago at Joe Louis Arena, but ranks among the NHL leaders converting 24.6 percent of those opportunities at home this season. The Red Wings are 4 of 7 in the last two at there. The Blackhawks are killing 94.7 percent of their penalties on the road.

Johan Franzen, who scored Detroit's goal at Chicago, does not have a point during a five-game stretch that was interrupted when he missed seven with a hip flexor.

Howard is 0-1-2 in his last four starts against the Blackhawks, but has a 2.04 GAA.

The Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc went with a simpler set of stats...

Probable goaltenders: Hawks, Corey Crawford, 9-0-3, 1.46 gaa; Wings, Jimmy Howard, 8-7-2, 2.83.

Team comparison

Averages per game (NHL rank)
HAWKS  (18-0-3)  CATEGORY  WINGS(10-8-3)
3.14 (4)  Goals for  2.76 (14)
1.76 (1)  Goals against  2.71 (16)
17.5 (13)  Power-play pct.  15.6 (20)
89.5 (2)  Penalty-kill pct.  77.4 (25)

...

Storyline: The Hawks are riding an eight-game winning streak overall and look to improve upon their 9-0-2 road record. Bryan Bickell has points in three of his last four games (goal, two assists). Red Wings are playing the first of a three-game homestand and have won three of their last four overall. Henrik Zetterberg leads the Wings in scoring with six goals and 19 assists. The Hawks have defeated the Wings four consecutive games.

And NHL.com's Hedger sets up the game as follows:

Season series: Second of four meetings between these Central Division rivals. Corey Crawford made 30 saves and Nick Leddy scored 2:45 into overtime to give Chicago a 2-1 win at United Center on Jan. 27.

Big story: There was an extended period of time when the Blackhawks looked up the standings at the Red Wings, watching as Detroit won multiple Central Division titles and Stanley Cups. The tables have turned recently, though, with Chicago finally ending its championship drought in 2010 and now starting the 2012-13 season with a 21-game point streak. The opportunity the Red wings have to end that run in front of their home fans and a national-TV audience figures to have them revved up. For the Blackhawks, Marian Hossa will play in his 1,000th game against one of his former teams.

Blackhawks [team scope]: It was the perfect trap game -- second night of a back-to-back against an inferior opponent -- and Chicago almost fell right in Friday when it hosted Columbus. The Blackhawks yielded a goal in the game's first minute and fell behind again, 2-1, in the second period. As they have throughout the streak, they found a second gear. Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell struck 59 seconds apart late in the second, and although the Blue Jackets tied it in the third, the Hawks got the game to overtime and then won it when Jonathan Toews found Brent Seabrook with 1:37 left for a 4-3 victory.

...

Red Wings [team scope]: This is the start of a three-game homestand for Detroit, which rebounded nicely from an 0-3-2 stretch to finish February with three wins in four outings. The Red Wings were even able to give Jimmy Howard a rare night off Thursday and still escape San Jose with a 2-1 win thanks to the play of backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson. Making his first start after a pair of relief appearances, Gustavsson stopped 26 shots and all three shootout attempts by the Sharks. Damien Brunner connected for the Wings in the penalty-shot tiebreaker. Howard will be back between the pipes on Sunday.

..

Who's hot: Viktor Stalberg had a goal and an assist for the Blackhawks on Friday, and has three goals in the past five games. … Kronwall picked up his 15th assist this season on Patrick Eaves' goal Thursday and led all blueliners in assists and points (17) entering the weekend.

Injury report: Crawford dressed for Chicago as Ray Emery's backup Friday despite leaving Thursday's game in St. Louis after one period due to a reported upper-body injury. Forward Dave Bolland has missed the past four games with an upper-body injury. Defenseman Steve Montador (concussion) and forward Rostislav Olesz (knee) are on injured reserve. … Detroit forward Valtteri Filppula is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Forward Mikael Samuelsson is out with a broken finger. Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) and forwards Darren Helm (back), Todd Bertuzzi (back) are on injured reserve.

Hedger also reported that the Hawks used the following lineup against Columbus on Friday:

Daniel Carcillo - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell - Andrew Shaw - Viktor Stalberg

Brandon Saad - Jamal Mayers - Michael Frolik
Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Niklas Hjalmarsson - Johnny Oduya
Michal Rozsival - Nick Leddy

Ray Emery
Corey Crawford

Scratched: Brandon Bollig, Sheldon Brookbank

Injured: Steve Montador (upper body), Dave Bolland (upper body)

DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose offered an "At a Glance" take on today's game...

The Chicago Blackhawks come to town for a special Sunday matinee as the only team in the NHL without a loss in regulation this season. Though the Blackhawks come in with the league’s best record, Niklas Kronwall expects Sunday’s game will be like every other game to this point in this compressed 48-game season.

“It’s going to be a grind,” said Kronwall, the leading scorer among NHL defensemen with 17 points this season. “A lot of times we're going to have to keep it simple, get the pucks out of our zone and into their zone. A lot of times the goals aren't going to be scored off the rush, it's more off a grind.”

It’s a grind every time the Red Wings and Blackhawks meet. The Central Division foes, who have been bitter rivals for the past 87 years, have played eight straight games decided by one-goal, including the Blackhawks’ 2-1 overtime win on Jan. 27.

...

As is always the case for the Red Wings, puck-possession will be key, though an even greater emphasis to detail will be needed to stop the Blackhawks’ streak. Chicago leads the league – and by a very wide margin – with an astonishing 228 takeaways. The New York Islanders are second at 162.

Mike Babcock tinkered with the defensive six during the team’s recently concluded two-game trip to California, and the Red Wings’ coach liked what he saw from the puck-movers.

Thursday’s 2-1 shootout win at San Jose was the first victory in franchise history in which the defensive corps – Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, Brian Lashoff, Kyle Quincey and Brendan Smith – was made up entirely of former Grand Rapids Griffins. The sextet made its debut in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss at Los Angeles.

“The defense is night and day different,” Babcock said. “You put Smith in and you put Quincey in, we got a good pair there. Lashoff and Kindl both skate and both are big, moving the puck, shooting the puck. So this is the best out team has looked, in my opinion, all year. Not necessarily the way we've played but the way we've looked. We're trying to figure out a way to play.”

The Wings' YouTube channel posted a game preview...Of a sort...

On Saturday afternoon, the Wings practiced and offered "no changes" (Valtteri Filppula didn't practice, so something's up with that sore shoulder, Darren Helm reported improvement but remains weeks away from returning, and Ian White's still sitting) as their news of note on Saturday, and they spoke to the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa about their excitement about having the opportunity to end the Hawks' streak--and this is just a small part of what you might expect Krupa's article to be, i.e. incredibly, incredibly thorough:

"I watched them last night," Jimmy Howard said. "They looked good. They've got four lines that can roll out there, four lines that can put the puck in the net. All of their lines are contributing, right now. So it's going to be a big test for us. But I think everyone in here is pretty excited," Howard said of the dressing room in Joe Louis Arena, to which the team returned after rigorous, late-morning practice at City Sports Arena.

...

"Big game for us tomorrow, and we'll do our best," Kyle Quincey said. "For the most part, we're doing a lot of good things right," said the defenseman, who cast off a rough couple of games to open the season and greatly improve his game on what has become a solidifying defensive unit. "If we just keep going and put them all together, we'll be good."

Mike Babcock, who is liking his team more over the past few games, is impressed by the Blackhawks. But he likes the opportunity.

"No one's been able to hand them a loss, and we look forward to the opportunity just like anyone else would. We're excited for the chance."

...

This is at the very least a fairly talented, plucky Red Wings team that feels more familiar with time because it is beginning to play a more familiar game, as the defense helps it spend less time in its own zone. If they continue to congeal — and if they take my advice and hire a tribal shaman to ward off the evil spirits that have brought injuries down like a plague upon them, once again, this season — they could be better in eight weeks, when their games might count for a lot more. And against a brilliant team, a win today could be a marker for this season.

"They're a real good team and the record speaks for itself," Babcock said. "The specialty teams, their depth up front, their third line has done a real good job for them. So we're obviously going to have to be ready. Their back end's healthy, and I think their back end is the best in the National Hockey League, by far."

Niklas Kronwall is among the best in the NHL, too. And while he may not be the best defenseman of his generation, like his retired mentor, Nicklas Lidstrom, he did enter play Saturday as the leading scorer among NHL defensemen, during a season in which the Red Wings knew they would rely on him heavily to anchor the blue line.

"They've got good goaltending, great defense and some guys up front who can do some damage," Kronwall said, registering respect and appreciation. "But it seems like they have depth scoring as well. So, right now, it seems like they have the whole package."

The Wings reiterated their points to MLive's Ansar Khan, who took note of the realignment angle...

“It seems like they find different ways to win,'' Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “They got good goaltending (from Corey Crawford and Ray Emery), a great defense and some guys up front that do some damage. They have depth scoring as well. Right now they seem like they have the whole package. You always want to be that team that breaks it.''

The Red Wings had their own NHL-record streak last season, when they won 23 in a row at home, which Pavel Datsyuk described as "exciting, you have lots of confidence, you feel unstoppable.'' There are some similarities to Chicago's run, but Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg acknowledges the Blackhawks' streak is more difficult to maintain.

“It's a little different because we lost on the road (during their streak),'' Zetterberg said. “We didn't feel the streak like I think they're feeling right now every game. But, at the same time, when we broke the record we (remember) how we felt. They are breaking records every night. Hopefully, it will end (Sunday).''

The Red Wings-Blackhawks rivalry might end next season, or at least be diminished significantly. The NHL's realignment proposal, which must be approved by the players union, would move Detroit to an eastern-based conference, joining Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto.

“It will be (missed),'' Zetterberg said. “We're used to going to Chicago a lot and having that rivalry. But, at the same time, I've never been part of that Toronto rivalry, and you heard a lot of (good) things about that. If we make that change, it'll only be positive for us. Playing a lot of games in our own time zone makes sense.''

The Red Wings still would play the Blackhawks and every other club outside their conference home and away each season. But, it's not the same as facing them six times, like they have prior to this lockout-shortened season.

“Definitely, but at the same time those two times you play them are going to be more special,'' Kronwall said.

“It definitely is (a special rivalry),'' goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “It's always fun no matter where we play. It's great competition and great atmosphere.''

And the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness found that the Wings have formed something of a Hawks admiration society:
 

“They're a real good team, their record speaks for itself,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said after the team practice at Detroit City Arena on Saturday. “Special teams, third line, depth and goaltending (have) done a good job for them. We're going to have to be ready. No one's been able to hand them a loss. We look forward to that opportunity, just like anyone's who's played them. We're excited for the chance.”

....

“It’s unbelievable, I watched them on TV (Friday) and they said the streaks getting beyond hockey now,” defenseman Kyle Quincey said. “It’s good for the game and good for them. But we need two points as much as they do so it’s going to be a good game. They have everyone going,” Quincey continued. “They just don’t have two or three guys scoring. They’ve got good goaltending and their defense is solid.”

...
 

“They’re having a good streak now, getting that record, there’s lots of pressure now,” forward Pavel Datsyuk said. “It’s exciting. You have lots of confidence. You feel unstoppable.”

Chicago (18-0-3) has won eight straight and has outscored opponents 68-40.

“The thing with them is they just have so much confidence right now,” Quincey said. “Things are going well for them. Once the ball gets rolling it’s hard to stop. It’s a big game for us too. We’ll do our best to put an end to it.”

...

“I’ve never played on a team that’s been that hot,” defenseman Brian Lashoff said. “That’s pretty impressive when you get that hot. It’s fun for a while, but it’s a tough thing to keep going. That’s why it’s so impressive. We got on a roll in Grand Rapids when we won eight or nine games in a row,” Lashoff continued. “When you’re in the middle of that if you get down you don’t panic, no deficit is too far out of reach. We’d like to go out and make a statement.”

The Wings lost 2-1 in overtime earlier this season to the Blackhawks, whose only losses have come in shootouts.

“It's like anything, you get going, you feel real good about yourself and you just win,” Babcock said. “They seem to win by accident right now, they're that good. They're a whole different level than anybody else in the West and the rest of us are trying to be like them. Nothing like getting an opportunity tomorrow.”

In terms of today's lineup, MLive's Khan reported that the Wings' lines hadn't changed from the ones they employed against San Jose...

Johan Franzen-Henrik Zetterberg-Damien Brunner

Justin Abdelkader-Pavel Datsyuk-Daniel Cleary

Tomas Tatar-Joakim Andersson-Patrick Eaves

Drew Miller-Cory Emmerton-Jordin Tootoo

Niklas Kronwall-Jonathan Ericsson

Kyle Quincey-Brendan Smith

Brian Lashoff-Jakub Kindl

Also: Ian White, Kent Huskins, Carlo Colaiacovo

Jimmy Howard (starting)

Jonas Gustavsson

Forward Valtteri Filppula (left shoulder) hasn't been on the ice since last Sunday. He won't play tomorrow and the team said he is day-to-day.

And if there is any intrigue going into today's game, it involves Ian White's absence, as the Detroit News's Krupa noted:

Things are up and down in sick bay for the Red Wings. They continue to lead the NHL in players' games lost to injury, during a season in which they are rebuilding their defense without benefit of more than a week of training camp and no preseason. The injuries have taken a toll.

Meanwhile, coach Mike Babcock reiterated after practice Saturday that he is "happy with the team," and he will play the same squad that appeared against the Sharks Thursday against the Blackhawks Sunday, except that Jimmy Howard will return in goal.

That means veteran defenseman Ian White, who was paired with the retired Nicklas Lidstrom last season, will be a healthy scratch for a third consecutive game.

The defensive pairings remained the same at practice: Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson, Kyle Quincey and Brendan Smith, and Jakub Kindl and the continually-impressive 22-year-old, Brian Lashoff.

I can't figure out what's going on between Babcock and White, but it's worth noting that MLive's Khan suggested that the Wings won't trade White unless they get a defenseman in return while chatting with readers on Twitter. I do think that once Carlo Colaiacovo returns, the Wings will waive Kent Huskins and send him to Grand Rapids (if they don't send Lashoff down), but White...Well, his future depends on his attitude over the next couple of games, and whether Jakub Kindl can continue essentially out-playing White.

Red Wings notebooks: Speaking of White, this "Stevie Award" from the Free Press's Steve Schrader made me laugh:

The "Wounded Wings" award: To the Red Wings, whose scratch list keeps growing and growing, week in and week out -- such as, Todd Bertuzzi, (back), Darren Helm (back) and Ian White (taken aback).

On Saturday, as previously noted, MLive's Ansar Khan found that Darren Helm's probably still at least three weeks away from returning as the back specialist he visited in New York found that Helm was suffering back pain due to a partially ruptured disc:

Helm saw a specialist in New York Monday who deals with muscles and ligaments. He discovered a small tear in a disc. Helm hurt himself lifting weights on Jan. 10. He played one game, on Jan. 25, before having a setback the next day during practice. He hasn't been on the ice since.

“It's kind of a six-to-eight week injury, he said, from the time it happened,'' Helm said Saturday. “I don't know if I'm close to where he thinks I should be healing. But I do feel better, that's the silver lining. You can't rush these things, just got to rest and slowly rehab and hopefully it gets better.''

We still don't know what's up with Todd Bertuzzi, though we've heard that he's "doing better"--once they've recovered, both Bertuzzi and Helm will face anywhere between 3 and 4 weeks' worth of conditioning to get themselves back into hockey shape, and Bertuzzi was given a prescription of "bed rest," so I'm guessing that he's a full month out once he starts feeling better.

The Detroit News's Gregg Krupa offers us a needed update regarding Carlo Colaiacovo, who's been "seven to ten days" from returning to the lineup since the beginning of February...

Carlo Colaiacovo says he is good to go, but that a decision was made to give him and his shoulder more time before returning to the lineup.

"We made the decision before practice started," Colaiacovo said. "We'll probably give it another day, just to make sure mentally and physically that it's ready to go. Everything's been feeling great. ... We just decided that a couple of more days would benefit me."

The veteran, puck-moving defenseman, who was paired with White at practice, as they were several years ago for the Maple Leafs, said he has no concerns about taking a check and re-injuring the shoulder on his return.

And as Krupa is Krupa, he offers an update on Filppula that's tinged with intrigue:

Valtteri Filppula's shoulder kept him off the ice at practice, although he was seen leaving the Red Wings' dressing room at Joe Louis Arena, where he may have received treatment.

Filppula, whose season is underwhelming to date, in part because of a knee sprain suffered while he played in Europe during the lockout, will not participate against the Blackhawks and is considered day to day.

He turns 29 in three weeks, and is in the last year of his contract. In 19 games, he has four goals and six assists, which extrapolates to an 82-game season of about 16 goals, 24 assists and 40 points. That would be seven goals less than last season, and a return to the level of his performances in previous years.

The Wings also offered no hard feelings toward Marian Hossa, as the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness noted:

“Good for Hoss, Hoss is a great player,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Obviously, we wish he would have been a lifelong Red Wing but we weren’t able to get that done. He’s found a real home in Chicago and played real well for them.”

...

“He’s had a great career,” goalie Jimmy Howard said. “He’s a great player, tremendously hard worker. He’s got a nose for the net. Great when he was here, being his teammate. It’s also a lot of fun to play against him.”

The Detroit Free Press's other offerings involve a fan picture taken with Larry Murphy, Space Goggles attached to his head and some snark about the Wings' potential move to the Eastern Conference from Schrader. George Sipple took note of Henrik Zetterberg's take on the Hawks' streak as compared to the Wings' 21 straight home wins after Saturday's practice, and a video of Babcock talking about the Hawks.

 

Also of Red Wings-related note: I already made an entry out of it, so I'll direct you to NHL.com's Brian Hedger's wonderful article about Damien Brunner without quoting it;

Pavel Datsyuk posted two Tweets that are clearly his own:

You can head over to RottenTomatoes.com to check out Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a movie about a sushi master that's gotten nothing less than an incredible reception.

 

Datsyuk actually reads tons of self-help books, which shouldn't surprise anyone given his desire to constantly improve his game. Here's hoping that when Datsyuk's 40, he's still playing right here in Detroit.

If you're interested in reading about today's competition's braintrust, the Chicago Tribune's David Haugh posted a substantial story about Stan Bowman's evolution into one of the league's best general managers;

And this trade rumor, posted by the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch on Friday, keeps popping up. I don't understand it, because the Wings need a top-four defenseman with an expiring contract (Lubomir Visnovsky? Mark Streit? Sergei Gonchar?) to give them both the puck-mover their blueline needs and some cap flexibility going into this summer, but Stephen Weiss's name keeps popping up:

Keep an eye on the Florida because GM Dale Tallon could be active at the deadline by moving contracts to shave money. The belief is the Panthers won't be able to keep C Stephen Weiss, a UFA on July 1, and there's interest from several teams. A team that's asked about Weiss is Detroit. The Wings would like to add more depth up front.

In my estimation, the more interesting guy isn't Weiss, who'd command a top-six forward and perhaps a top prospect in return:

The Stars are facing a big decision on LW Brendan Morrow. He will be a UFA and whether the club is in the race or not the Stars have to decide whether they're going to re-sign or deal. The Boston Bruins, Penguins, Blues and Flyers are all looking for help.

Also: Matinee games are weird. Some news websites and newspapers' websites will have full recaps and highlights up by 4 PM today, and others, like the Free Press, won't issue their final takes until sometime on Monday morning. I'm going to write a quick take as usual, do the stats, as usual, post some highlight clips, and then wait for the bulk of stuff to come in before I do the narrative recap thing in the evening/night. I hope that's okay with you.

 

 

In the prospect department, in the AHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins had a rough outing in their second of three weekend games, dropping a 4-1 decision to the Peoria Rivermen on Saturday night. The Griffins' website provides a spartan recap...

In their second of three road games this weekend, the Grand Rapids Griffins fell to the Peoria Rivermen 4-1 on Saturday at Carver Arena. After jumping out to an early 1-0 lead, the Griffins (31-19-2-2) were unable to overcome a three-goal deficit after surrendering four consecutive goals to the Rivermen.

Gustav Nyquist didn’t waste any time putting the Griffins on the scoreboard, scoring the team’s first and only goal of the game at 3:03 of the opening period. The right wing’s pass intended for Francis Pare deflected off a defenseman’s skate and slipped inside the left goal post. Nyquist has scored in four straight games for the Griffins and has 11 points (5-6—11) over his five-game point streak (Feb. 22-March 2).

The Rivermen (24-24-4-3) scored back-to-back goals to take a 2-1 lead in the first period. Mark Cundari took a long shot from just inside the blue line and the puck was deflected, taking a Peoria bounce past Petr Mrazek at 8:22.

Eleven seconds later, Sergey Andronov whistled a wrist shot past Mrazek from the right wing circle, giving Peoria a one-goal lead heading into the second period.

The Rivermen picked up where they left off in the first, scoring 36 seconds into the second period to take a commanding 3-1 lead. Brent Regner’s shot through traffic snuck past Mrazek, tallying his fourth goal of the season.

The Griffins had an opportunity to cut Peoria’s lead to one goal midway through the final period, but were unable to tally a shot on net for 41 seconds of a five-on-three advantage.

With two minutes left in the game, the Griffins pulled Mrazek for a six-on-five opportunity, but Peoria sealed the victory with an empty net goal by Evgeny Grachev at 19:01.

Mrazek recorded 28 saves while Jake Allen earned the victory behind 28.

The Griffins will return to Milwaukee to complete their three-in-three weekend tomorrow against the Admirals at 4 p.m. EST.

As well as a slate of highlights:

The Rivermen's website also offers a recap, and the Peoria Journal-Star offers a recap from Johnny Campos and a photo gallery as well;

In the ECHL, the Toledo Walleye defeated the Evansville Icemen 7-1, and three Red Wings prospects had big nights: Trevor Parkes registered a hat trick and an assist, Willie Coetzee had a goal and two assists and Jordan Pearce stopped 20 of 21 shots. The Walleye's website posted a recap, and the Toledo Blade's Rachel Lenzi spoke to Parkes about his first pro hat trick:

During his time in the American Hockey League, Trevor Parkes explained that he has developed a style of game suited to a defensive forward. Yet in his time back in the ECHL, Parkes has unleashed his inner scoring monster. The forward’s three goals helped propel the Walleye to a 7-1 win over Evansville and helped the Toledo Walleye snap a four-game winless streak.

“I’m trying to use my big size and my speed, and that’s what’s going to get me to the next level,” said the 6-foot-2, 202-pound Parkes. “When I’m up in the AHL, I’m playing a different role, more of a checking-line type guy. When I’m down here, it’s nice to have that opportunity, to play more offensive, which I’m used to, coming from juniors. It’s nice when the puck goes in the net.

“Sometimes stuff doesn’t go in, whatever you do, but tonight, the puck went in off my stick and you enjoy it while you can.”

Since returning to the Walleye from Grand Rapids of the AHL on Feb. 27, Parkes has scored five goals in the last three games, and his hat trick Saturday paced the Walleye’s rout of the IceMen at the Huntington Center. By comparison, Parkes has three goals in 34 AHL games this season.

...

“You gotta get into dirty areas to score goals, and that’s my job,” said Parkes, who has seven ECHL goals this season.

Parkes spoke to the Toledo Free Press's Vincent D. Scebbi as well:

“That’s one thing I had to work on was to use my body to drive that net so doing that, I’ve been working on that in practice and I was able to try it in the game and it worked out,” Parkes said. “Hopefully that’s what’s going to help me get to the next level, driving guys wide then bringing them to the net, bring people to the paint and that’s what happened tonight and it worked out.”

In Europe, in Sweden, Calle Jarnkrok registered an assist in Brynas IF's 1-0 victory over AIK Stockholm, and by earning a point, the former Eliteserien champions secured the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eliteserien. They'll play Skelleftea AIK in the first round...

And Linkopings HC will also make the playoffs, and Mattias Backman played 18:08 in Linkopings' 2-1 loss to Vaxjo.

Linkopings and Brynas will face off in both teams' final regular season game today;

In Finland, Jokerit Helsinki lost 1-0 to Assat on Saturday, and Teemu Pulkkinen was obviously held off the scoresheet, but Jokerit's currently leading the Finnish SM-Liiga with a week to go in their regular season, so they're going to make the playoffs;

Back over on this side of the Atlantic, in the WCHA, Ben Marshall didn't register a point in the University of Minnesota's 5-1 win over Denver. Minnesota wrap up its regular season with a pair of games against Bemidji State next weekend;

And Nick Jensen didn't register a point in Saint Cloud State University's 5-1 loss to Michigan Tech. Saint Cloud will finish its its regular season with a pair of games against Wisconsin next weekend;

In the QMJHL, there's still a half-a-month's worth of games left. Martin Frk was named the #1 star in the Halifax Mooseheads' 4-3 shootout win over Val-d'Or, registering an assist and scoring the shootout-winning goal;

In the OHL, the same is true in terms of games remaining. Alan Quine scored a goal in the Belleville Bulls' 5-4 OT loss to Niagara;

And Jake Paterson had a rough night, giving up 8 goals on 17 shots in the Saginaw Spirit's 8-7 loss to Sarnia;

In the WHL, just like the QMJHL and OHL, the regular season ends on March 17th. Richard Nedomlel took 3 penalties and registered no points in the Swift Current Broncos' 3-0 loss to Red Deer;

In the USHL, whose regular season schedule ends in mid-April, Mike McKee registered an assist in the Lincoln Stars' 4-2 loss to Fargo;

And in the BCHL, which has one more weekend's worth of regular season games left, James De Haas didn't register a point in the Penticton Vees' 5-4 win over Trail.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

Be the first to comment.

Add a Comment

Please limit embedded image or media size to 575 pixels wide.

Add your own avatar by joining Kukla's Korner, or logging in and uploading one in your member control panel.

Captchas bug you? Join KK or log in and you won't have to bother.

Smileys

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Feed

Most Recent Blog Posts

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.