The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/21/13 at 12:29 PM ET
Updated 13x at 6:46 PM: The Detroit Red Wings are preparing to face off against the Columbus Blue Jackets this evening (7:30 PM EST, FSD Plus/FS Ohio/NHL Network/1270 AM), and gauging from MLive's Ansar Khan's Tweets from the morning skate, we shouldn't expect much in the way of personnel changes on the Wings' behalf:
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness confirms...
Apparently so, per the Free Press's George Sipple as well as Khan and Pleiness...and the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...
DetroitRedWings.coms Bill Roose confirms as well, as does the Wings' official Twitter account:
And, from Red Wings coach Mike Babcock's morning presser...
As noted in the overnight report, the Columbus Dispatch is a late-updating website, so if you're interested in reading about Blue Jackets prospect Sean Collins or Cam Atkinson's return to the lineup, enjoy. The Dispatch's game preview offers some tidbits of note, however...
Blue Jackets at a glance
• Past 10 games: 2-7-1
• Power play: 13 percent (tied for 27th in NHL)
• Penalty kill: 81.2 percent (17th)
• Injury update: C Brandon Dubinsky (left knee) is out.
Red Wings at a glance
• Past 10 games: 4-4-2
• Power play: 13.5 percent (25th)
• Penalty kill: 76.1 percent (24th)
• Injury update: RW Mikael Samuelsson (broken left
finger), RW Todd Bertuzzi (back), C Darren Helm (back),
D Brendan Smith (shoulder) and D Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) are out; RW Johan Franzen (hip flexor) is doubtful.
And the Dispatch offers the following prospective Blue Jackets lines:
Otherwise, it's a bit too quiet this morning, with the Grand Rapids Griffins posting their weekly press release...
This Week’s Games
Fri., Feb. 22 - GRIFFINS at Rockford IceHogs - 8:05 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., Feb. 23 - San Antonio Rampage at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sun., Feb. 24 - San Antonio Rampage at GRIFFINS - 4 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Winning Weekend: The Griffins won a pair of home games last week to tie a season high with four consecutive home victories (Feb. 2-15). With its four top scorers out of the lineup (Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Joakim Andersson in Detroit and Landon Ferraro missing due to injury), Grand Rapids scored five goals for the second consecutive game en route to a 5-3 win. Mitch Callahan tallied twice, while Chad Billins, Nathan Paetsch and Jeff Hoggan combined for the three unanswered goals that made the difference. The winning streak was extended to four on Sunday during the Griffins debut of Jonas Gustavsson. The 28-year-old goaltender made 26 saves while Triston Grant and Andrej Nestrasil scored for the Griffins to help the team to a 2-1 victory over Charlotte. It marked the second time that the Griffins have beaten the Checkers in the teams’ eight meetings, and it was the first time they won on home ice.
Three-in-Three: Grand Rapids could make February a perfect month at Van Andel Arena if it can beat San Antonio on Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. But first, the team will meet the Rockford IceHogs for the eighth and final time this season. The teams last squared off on Jan. 19 in a game that featured Griffins records for goals scored (11) and combined penalty minutes (230) – both still standing as the highest total in each category in the AHL this season. The game also saw six players suspended as the result of a bench-clearing brawl. San Antonio’s weekend appearances mark the only time this season it will visit Van Andel Arena, as the teams will meet just one more time this season (March 28 at San Antonio).
As well as a "Between the Benches" video from last Friday's victory over Lake Erie:
Update #0.5: From Pavel Datsyuk:
And, via RedWingsFeed, the NHL posted another clip of Datsyuk's goal vs. Nashville:
Update #2.5: This is good to hear/read:
“I can see straight now,” Howard said after today’s morning skate. “They did a bunch of tests yesterday, and all came back on the good side of things."
He knew something was wrong early in the game against the Predators.
“All of a sudden, my vision was blurred, couldn’t really see the puck down at the other end," Howard said. "It was just a blur. I knew I wouldn’t be helping the guys if I tried to stay out there.”
Howard said he hasn’t experienced anything like that in his career. He said he had tests after exiting the game, and then more Wednesday at the Detroit Medical Center, including a CT scan.
“I got hit the other day in practice in the head,” Howard said, later explaining he was kicked in the face. Doctors “did a concussion test, and everything was fine there, too. It was just one of those freak things. It was scary, I’m not going to lie.”
Injury updates: Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said he’s still experiencing some pain in his shoulder and isn’t sure when he’ll be cleared to play. He hasn’t played since Jan. 21.
“I wish I had an answer for you; I wish I had a clear picture of it,” Colaiacovo said. “I’m at a point where it’s allowing me to do more. Strength is continuing to get better every day. That’s just what I’m focusing on. It kills me to watch, that’s for sure. I want to be out there so bad, you guys don’t even know. I’m just itching for that opportunity.” …
Forward Johan Franzen (hip flexor) will have an ultrasound test today and said he hopes to play this weekend.
As did MLive's Ansar Khan...
Howard was kicked in the mask around his left cheek during Monday's practice, but he passed a concussion test afterward and felt fine.
“I started looking right away for blood because the mask actually came up,'' Howard said. “I was more scared than anything else coming that close to a skate blade. I continued to practice. It was just one of those freak things.
“But there are no worries now that the tests all came back positive.''
Right wing Jan Mursak will replace Patrick Eaves in the lineup. It will be Mursak's first appearance since he suffered a collar bone injury in the season opener Jan. 19, on a check from David Backes of St. Louis.
On defense, Kent Huskins replaces Jakub Kindl.
Johan Franzen (hip flexor) will sit out for the fifth game in a row. He hopes to play this weekend.
“They’re going to do an ultrasound today to see if it’s healed or it it’s starting to heal,'' Franzen said. “I’ve been pushing real hard the last 3-4 days. It feels better to me. As long as I can skate hard I’m real happy.''
Here are the lines they skated with:
And the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...
Jimmy Howard wanted to make sure everyone knew one thing, right off the bat, which was important for any goalie attempting to play.
"I can see straight now," said Howard, the Red Wings goaltender, who'll start tonight against Columbus.
Howard left Tuesday's game in Nashville after about nine minutes when he couldn't see straight.
"All of a sudden my vision was blurry, I couldn't really see the puck down on the other end, it was a blur," Howard said. "I couldn't see the end boards on the far end. I knew I wouldn't be helping the guys if I stayed out there. Nothing like that's ever happened. It was weird."
Howard took a bunch of tests at the Detroit Medical Center on Wednesday and passed them all.
Howard was bumped into during Monday's practice, and a player's skate jarred his helmet upward. But he doesn't think that was the primary cause for the vision problems.
"I was more afraid and looking for blood because the mask came up and I was more scared than anything else that the blade came close to my neck," said Howard, who went through Tuesday's morning skate and warmups without problems. "I continued to practice (Monday) and never went off (the ice). It (the blurry vision) was just one of those freak things."
The blurry vision continued for Howard once he reached the locker room in Nashville, "and it was like that for rest of the night pretty much. It was scary, I'm not going to lie. I'm relieved all the tests came back positive."
And the Windsor Star's Bob Duff focused on Jan Mursak's return to the lineup...
“Yeah, I’m excited to be back,” Mursak said. “I’m ready. I’ve been skating for two weeks now. I’ve got my conditioning back, and hopefully I can show to the coach that I can play here. We’ll see how it goes tonight.”
Mursak, who also missed much of last season with a fractured ankle, admitted he’ll need to get a few games under his belt before he can completely shake the injury worries from his mind.
“It’s not the easiest thing,’ Mursak said. “You always think that you don’t want to get hurt again. I don’t want to be scared out there. I think I’m physically strong enough that I can handle the guys at that level and I’ll show that out there too. It hasn’t been fun. I’m just trying to stay positive. Some days I’m a little more frustrated than others, but hopefully that’s the end of the injuries. Hopefully I can keep playing here without being hurt.”
Mursak is slated to skate on a line with Tomas Tatar and Joakim Andersson, two players he’s familiar with from his time in the minor leagues.
“We all played together in Grand Rapids so we know each other a little more,” Mursak said. “I always had fun playing with those guys, so hopefully we can show that here on the NHL level, too.”
Detroit coach Mike Babcock made it clear what the speedy Mursak must do in order to maintain a spot in the Wings’ lineup.
“For Murs to be real good, we need him to be on the forecheck, to be relentless,” Babcock said. “He’s got a great shot. He’s got to shoot the puck and he’s got to be real good defensively, good on the wall and have good decision-making at their blue-line. He’s like anybody coming back, does he want to play short shifts (or) play real hard to earn yourself more ice-time?"
Including a video of Mursak's comments to the press:
Update #4: The Columbus Dispatch's Shawn Mitchell offers Columbus's morning skate news...
Through the 16-game mark, one-third into this shortened 48-game regular season because of the lockout, the Red Wings find themselves ninth in the Western Conference, just out of the playoff picture (top eight teams) with Dallas sliding ahead of Detroit because of more victories (8-7).
The Wings could make the excuse injuries have devastated them, but Babcock isn't buying it.
"I don't care about that stuff," Babcock said. "The bottom line is we've done a lot of good things, but we've made some big mistakes in games that have cost us. Just taking care of the puck, and decision making, we have to get better at. We have to continue to work hard at moving the puck.
"Our power play has been non-existent (ranking 25th at 13.5 percent Thursday). Not inconsistent. Non-existent. We have to be way better. Our work ethic on it, and getting pucks back, we have to create momentum for ourselves in that area. We have to better at it. With our group here, we have to evolve our game and scratch and claw and find ways to win games."
Update #5: And now, for two wacky and nonsensical trade/signing rumors...
1. Fantasy hockey expert Darryl Dobbs, penning a column for Yahoo Sports, suggests that poolies ought to stay away from Jakub Kindl, who's been so up and down that the Wings may need to sign Chris Campoli to replace him (huh?).....
Jakub Kindl, Detroit Red Wings (3-0-3-3, plus-3, 8 PIM, 3 SOG) – This one carries a risk because he has been a healthy scratch recently and his last game saw just over 11 minutes of ice time. But the Wings are so banged up they either have to play Kindl or resort to lifting the secret ban on signing the recently retired Chris Campoli.
2. And Paul found this one. Sports Illustrated's Al Muir offers a completely unsubstantiated and non-sourced rumor that makes no sense to me:
Rumor: Panthers center Stephen Weiss could be put on the market in a matter of days. When that happens, Detroit will step to the front of the line.
The read: So much for building on last season’s run to the playoffs. The Panthers are a point out of the Eastern cellar at 4-7-4 and allowing a league-worst 3.73 goals-against per game. With a tough skein ahead (Pens twice, Bruins and Flyers), the time to look ahead to next season is about to smack them in the face. The building blocks are in place for the future, but GM Dale Tallon might not see pending UFA Weiss as part of that picture. The former fourth overall pick (2001) has never fully delivered on his potential, so a change of scenery makes sense. Weiss could net the Panthers a mid-to-low first rounder and a solid prospect. The Wings could pull that off. Keep an eye on Jose Theodore, Florida’s other noteworthy UFA-to-be. Jakob Markstrom needs more ice time, so moving Theo makes sense. If the Bruins aren’t comfortable with Anton Khudobin as their backup heading into the postseason, Theodore might make sense in Boston.
The Wings need a defenseman, not a forward.
Update #6: 97.1 FM's Ken Kal offers three keys to the game...
Get off to a Fast Start - After two games on the road, the Wings are coming home, well rested after a day off, they need to feed off the crowd, come out and take it to the Blue Jackets.
Take Advantage of Power Play - The Wings have scored 10 PPG at home this season, so they need to build on that, keep moving the puck well, and get quality scoring chances.
Retrievals are Key - After the Wings get that first shot on net, they need to get to the puck, get second and third scoring opportunities, and make it difficult on Columbus’ goalie.
And a reminder about tonight's charitable drive:
ANSAR KHAN: Mursak will have a tough time cracking the lineup when everyone – or most everyone – is healthy. And it wouldn't be any easier for him next season, when the club must make room for Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Joakim Andersson, all of whom are ahead of Mursak in the pecking order.
That's why I don't think Mursak has a long-term future with the organization. If they need to move or waive a forward before the April 3 trade deadline due to lack of roster space, Mursak seems like he would be the odd-man out.
BRENDAN SAVAGE: The Red Wings lineup hasn't exactly been an easy one to break into over the past several years but if the club was high on Mursak it sure seems like he would have played more than 44 games to prove himself the past two seasons.
It didn't help that he got hurt in the season opener this year since the Red Wings could have used him with the rash of injuries they've encourtered. That would have been a great opportunity to show what he's capable of doing.
With all the young players on their way up, it's hard to see Mursak sticking with the Red Wings for the long haul unless he does something special soon.
Udpdate #9: Here's DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose's game-day story. He focuses on--surprise!--Jan Mursak's return:
The 25-year-old will work on the third forward line with a pair of familiar faces, skating with center Joakim Andersson and Tomas Tatar. The three played together in Grand Rapids with the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate.
“We know each other a little more,” Mursak said. “I always had fun playing with those guys so hopefully we can show that here on the NHL level too.”
Mursak will play in place of Patrick Eaves, who is sitting out his team-high eighth game as a healthy scratch. The Wings need Mursak to be relentless on the forecheck, coach Mike Babcock said.
“He’s got to shoot the puck and he’s got to be real good defensively, good on the wall and good decision-making at their blue line,” Babcock said. “He’s like anybody coming back, does he want to play short shifts (or) play real hard to earn yourself more ice-time?”
The injury forced Mursak to miss 14 games, which is just 13 percent of the 105 man-games lost by the Red Wings this season. The last time the NHL had an abbreviated 48-game schedule (1995), Detroit had 102 man games lost to injury or illness. Mike Krushelnyski led the way with 23 missed games, followed by Mark Howe (22) and Darren McCarty (15).
With the rash of injuries, Mursak said it’s not easy to erase the injury from his mind.
“You always think that you don’t want to get hurt again,” he said. “I don’t want to be scared out there. I think I’m physically strong enough that I can handle the guys at that level and I’ll show that out there too.”
Update #10: Here's ColumbusBlueJackets.com's Rob Mixer's game-day story:
The second half of the Blue Jackets' six-game road trip begins tonight at Joe Louis Arena, and there are plenty of things to cover as we get set for puck drop.
First and foremost: the arrival of new GM Jarmo Kekalainen, who had his work visa approved earlier in the week and has made it to the Motor City to meet the team. He'll catch his first game as Blue Jackets GM tonight and will travel with the team on the remainder of the trip, which goes to St. Louis and Chicago over the weekend.We'll have a full-length story on our conversation with Kekalainen coming this afternoon on BlueJackets.com, so hang tight and keep hitting refresh if you know what's good for you.
On the ice, the Blue Jackets held a crisp morning skate at The Joe and are getting back to full health as they prepare for tonight's Central Division clash. The two clubs have split their meetings so far this season (most recently a 4-2 Columbus win at Nationwide Arena on Feb. 2) and have two more dates scheduled after tonight. If the first two were any indication, we're in for another entertaining hockey game this evening.
Sergei Bobrovsky starts between the pipes for Todd Richards' club and it will mark his fifth in the last seven games. At a time when the schedule allows one goaltender to get into a rhythm, it appears as if (for the time being) Bobrovsky will be given that opportunity. Jimmy Howard is slated to start in goal for the Red Wings.
Cam Atkinson and Artem Anisimov are back in the Blue Jackets' lineup tonight and their returns cannot be understated. For a club that has struggled to generate consistent offense and has seen hot-and-cold results with its power play, getting two skilled players back and playing key minutes is a huge boost. Atkinson skated in practice yesterday alongside RJ Umberger and Derick Brassard, while Anisimov centered Matt Calvert and Nick Foligno.
Here are my "three keys" to success for the Blue Jackets tonight:
1. START FAST: This is a Detroit club that has had its own battles with inconsistency this season, and has not played particularly well on home ice. The Blue Jackets had a great start in Anaheim on Monday and put significant pressure on the Ducks' defense, and they'll be asked to do the same tonight against the Red Wings, who have been battered by injuries on the blue line. Get the forecheck started, make them skate, make them go back for pucks.
2. UNDER PRESSURE: It's one of the keys to the Blue Jackets' game, and when they commit to it, they're a tough team to deal with. Getting started on time and moving the feet early is paramount against the Red Wings, who thrive on possessing the puck and making opponents play at their speed. Limiting their time with the puck and pressuring them into turnovers is one way to get them off their game.
3. NO FREEBIES: Turnovers, careless puck management, penalties...just a few of the things that the Red Wings want you to do and they feed into the style they want to play. In the Blue Jackets' win over Detroit a few weeks back, they were smart with the puck and made the right decisions between the blue lines and exiting their zone. The "nothing for free" mentality is applicable every night, but is magnified when playing opportunistic-by-nature clubs like the Red Wings. Take care of your game, manage it, and you'll be alright.
Update #11: The Windsor Star's Dave Waddell penned a profile of the Eurotwins for Michigan Hockey:
Coach Mike Babcock mused recently that the Detroit Red Wings aren’t as pretty to watch as they used to be.
There’s no arguing with that observation in general, but Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk certainly have been this season. In this season of transition, one shudders to think how ugly it would be in Detroit had the duo not been performing at such a high level. Both players are averaging over a point per game.
Zetterberg has been up among the league leaders in the scoring race with five goals and 20 points in his first 14 games. Datsyuk’s all-around game has been superlative of late with seven goals and 16 points in 14 games.
Between them, Datsyuk and Zetterberg have scored 12 of the team’s 40 goals and been involved in the majority of those they haven’t potted themselves. If you throw in Zetterberg’s winger, Damien Brunner and his seven tallies, that’s one short of half of the Wings’ offensive output.
“I don’t think it’s something I thought I had to do,” said Zetterberg of his increased offensive output. “I just go in and play and the puck’s been bouncing my way. Brunno (Brunner) and Mule (Johan Franzen) have done a good job and of course the power play has been getting better. That helps.”
With Franzen and his nine points now on the injured reserve list with a strained hip flexor muscle, the Wings most productive line has been broken up for now. It doesn’t help that Todd Bertuzzi and Darren Helm are out for the foreseeable future with back ailments while Mikael Samuelsson is just getting his season started after being plagued by a sore groin since training camp.
That makes a load that’s even heavier for Detroit’s dynamic duo. Of late, even Datsyuk has been hampered by the injury bug as a sore shoulder forced him to miss a game before returning for a two-point performance Feb. 17 against Minnesota.
Zetterberg has been around the league long enough to know you enjoy the points while they’re piling up because the ‘Hockey Gods’ have a way of balancing out the good and the bad for even the NHL’s top players.
“You just got to keep going,” Zetterberg said. “I know it won’t last forever. You will have slumps, when you’re not scoring and getting points. You better be happy when they’re coming.”
“It was scary. I’m not going to lie,” the Red Wings goaltender said, following Thursday’s morning skate. “I was trying to track down the puck in the other end and I realized I didn’t have that great vision on it. Then I started looking around and it was sort of like everything was sort of a blur. … I knew I wouldn’t be helping the guys if I stayed out there.”
With 8:38 left in the first period, Howard skated to the team bench where he pulled himself from the game. The blurry vision lasted for much of the night, but a battery of tests, first at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, then Wednesday at the Detroit Medical Center, showed no abnormalities.
However, Howard is fine and will start tonight when the Red Wings host the Columbus Blue Jackets at Joe Louis Arena. Howard underwent a CT scan and had other tests performed by an optometrist on Wednesday.
Howard was kicked on the left side of the mask during practice Monday in Nashville, though doctors don’t believe that it had anything to do with his blurred vision.
NOTEBOOK: Johan Franzen (hip) said Thursday that he hopes to be ready for the weekend when the Red Wings host back to back games against Nashville on Saturday, and Vancouver on Sunday. Franzen, who last played on Feb. 10 against Los Angeles, has skated hard for the last few days, but was still scheduled to have an ultrasound of the injured hip flexor this afternoon.
“They’re going to see if it’s healed or it it’s starting to heal,” he said. “They need some pictures to make sure.”
Franzen has three goals and six assists this season, but he’s missed the last four games, which has left a hole among the Wings’ top six forwards.
“I’ve been pushing real hard the last 3-4 days,” he said. “It feels better to me, definitely. As long as I can skate hard I’m real happy.”
Update #13: Here's Ken Kal's game-day preview:
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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.