The Malik Report
Red Wings-Blue Jackets wrap-up and overnight report: on beating Columbus, Helm and a charitable plug
by George Malik on 10/16/13 at 03:43 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings' 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets served as something of a palate-cleanser for Tigers fans ticked off by their team's 1-0 loss to the Red Sox, and between the surprise news regarding Darren Helm being sent to Grand Rapids for a conditioning stint, the news that Jimmy Howard's getting better, the Wings' big win over the Bruins and the team's imminent departure for a showdown with the 6-and-0 Colorado Avalanche on Thursday (with a rematch against the plucky Coyotes to follow)...
It kind of felt like Tuesday's rope-a-dope win got lost in the shuffle, especially given its lack of aesthetic value.
If it's possible to believe it, Jonas Gustavsson may have been even better against Columbus than he was in fending off the Bruins. The Wings were out-shot by an ugly 18-7 margin in the 1st period, and his third-period save on Jack Johnson made Red Wings fans forget Gustavsson's "the Groin" nickname from last season:
And the Blue Jackets themselves were pretty pissed off by their inability to pounce upon the Wings in a fashion very different from Columbus's usual "lull 'em to sleep" style, as noted by the Columbus Dispatch's Aaron Portzline...
"I thought we deserved a better fate," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "I thought the guys worked extremely hard, did a lot of good things against a really good team. We had opportunities. As a coach, it's disappointing because this is where you want your guys to get rewarded for the work they've put in. If we play like that every night, we’re going to win a lot more games than we lose."
The Blue Jackets fired 55 pucks at Gustavsson. Ten were blocked, five sailed off target and 37 made it to Gustavsson, who had been 0-2 vs. the Blue Jackets.
At 7:25 of the first, Boone Jenner earned perhaps his best scoring chance so far this season when he went hard to the net, and took a slick set-up from Mark Letestu in the slot. Gustavsson swallowed Jenner's one-timer, however.
At 13:18 of the first, Jack Johnson's power play slap shot rang off the post. Marian Gaborik was first to the rebound, but his attempts sailed just inches wide.
"I didn't like our first period," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said during the second intermission.
"I thought we had the better of the play in the first period," Richards said.
But the Wings had the only score of the period. Daniel Alfredsson's slap shot from the left circle just two seconds after a Wings' power play ended at 5:05 was the only marker was his first as a Red Wings and his first as a non-Senator.
In both blog (above) and article (below) form:
“(Gustavsson) is a good goaltender,” said Blue Jackets right wing Marian Gaborik, who joined the club in Detroit at mid-afternoon after fighting the flu. “But we have to get more guys at the net, not just the puck there. We need more shots on him that he doesn’t see. It’s dirty goals. That’s the game right now, and the team that scores those is usually going to win.”
The only disruption to Gustavsson’s night came at 7:48 of the second period, when the Red Wings’ penalty killers let their guard down.
Atkinson’s goal will be one of the best the Blue Jackets score this season. With the Jackets’ power play doing exactly nothing, Atkinson gathered the puck deep in the defensive end and began lugging it up ice.
“As soon as I made the first move and started skating up ice, I saw that I had the whole middle of the ice,” Atkinson said. “I used my speed to my benefit and just kind of went with it.”
Atkinson’s speed was such that he didn’t face any friction until he approached the Red Wings’ zone, and then he turned on the turbo, going wide of the Wings’ Danny Dekeyser for a clean look at Gustavsson. Gustavsson made the initial save, but Atkinson poked home the rebound on the doorstep for his second goal of the season.
We'll shift focus from the Blue Jackets to Red Wings' perspectives early simply because Columbus's "road" press consists of their website and the Dispatch, focusing on Gustavsson's impressions in both NHL.com's recap...
"I felt good. We had a game yesterday, so back-to-back, and that was the first couple of games that I played, so that was different," Gustavsson said. "It's just a matter of preparing yourself and be ready to go out and have a good first period because that's usually the key in these kind of games."
The last time Gustavsson recorded wins on back-to-back days was in January 2012 while with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was in goal as Toronto swept a home-and-home series against the New York Islanders, including a 3-0 shutout at Air Canada Centre.
"Oh yeah, I remember now," Gustavsson said. "I remember the second game [in New York] and they came back with a bad bounce with 10 seconds left and then we won in overtime."
Daniel Alfredsson and Todd Bertuzzi scored for the Red Wings, who won their third straight and improved to 5-2-0.
Cam Atkinson had the lone goal for Columbus (2-3-0). Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 30 of 32 shots in the loss.
Columbus tied it 7:48 into the second period on Atkinson's second goal of the season. With Johan Franzen in the box serving an interference penalty, Atkinson carried the puck from just in front of his own goal all the way down the ice, skating through four Red Wings before poking the puck past Gustavsson to make it 1-1.
But Detroit quickly responded with a power-play goal of its own. After Derek MacKenzie was whistled for interference, Henrik Zetterberg one-timed a shot from the right circle that never made it to Bobrovsky but bounced around in front of the net. Datsyuk and Bertuzzi each took whacks at the puck and it ultimately found its way through Bobrovsky's legs at 11:44 to give Detroit a 2-1 lead. Bertuzzi was credited with his second goal of the season.
And the AP's recap also noted that Gustavsson was relatively non-plussed about his effort, game-saver included:
His biggest save on Tuesday night was a spectacular stop on Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson, sliding across the crease to smother a backhand shot from the right circle with 5:20 left to preserve the Red Wings' lead.
"I don't know if I couldn't get a good push or if I got caught with one of our or their guys, but I had to do something to get some part of my body over there," Gustavsson said. "Lucky enough that was enough."
Red Wings' coach Mike Babcock talked about Guistavsson.
"Really good for him, first and foremost, and then really good for us. If he can get his confidence back, the reason we signed him was we thought he could really help us," Babcock said. "Tonight and last night, going back to back, will go a long way to doing it. You got to stay healthy and feel good about yourself. In this league you got to earn it and he's done that the last couple nights."
The Wings were definitely happy with Gustavsson's performance, though Gustavsson himself was happy to defer credit, as DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose noted:
“I felt good,” said Gustavsson, who turned away 36 shots in Tuesday’s win. “We had a game yesterday, so back-to-back, and that was the first couple of games that I played so that was different. It’s just a matter of preparing yourself and be ready to go out and have a good first period because that’s usually the key in these kind of games. Overall, the guys played really well (in front of me) so that made it pretty easy.”
Gustavsson and the Red Wings had to weather a first-period storm by the Blue Jackets, who, as coach Mike Babcock later said, “skated us into the ground.” Columbus fired 18 shots on goal in the first period, which is the most allowed by the Wings this season. But it was the Red Wings who took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission when Daniel Alfredsson scored his first as a Wing.
“I think he was solid tonight,” Miller said. “I think you saw it yesterday afternoon in Boston and he did it again tonight. He’s play well and making the big saves and it wasn’t just the first saves, it was the second saves too, which is big when your goalie is making the big saves and following up with another one.”
The Blue Jackets continued to press in the offensive zone, and had another game-tying effort thwarted by Gustavsson when he made a splendid stop with 5:20 left in regulation. Sliding across the crease to his right, the 6-foot-3 Gustavsson made a save when Jack Johnson’s back-hand shot from point-blank range nestled under the goalie’s left arm.
“I don’t know if I couldn’t get a good push or if I got caught with one of our or their guys, but I had to do something to get some part of my body over there,” Gustavsson said. “Lucky enough that was enough.”
Gustavsson, who has battled groin injuries throughout his time with the Wings, made 28 saves in Monday’s 3-2 win at Boston. It was the first time that Monster won games on back to back days since he defeated the New York Islanders in a home and home series against the Maple Leafs in January 2012.
“It was a good test for me for sure, being out of the lineup injured early on here. That was a good test for my body and my groins felt great, so that’s what I’m most happy about. If it’s a back to back game with a couple of days in between that shouldn’t matter. You should find a way to get ready. So that was the key for me right now to feel like my body can handle this load this early in the season.”
Ho-hum, just another win? Sort of, per the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness:
“It feels good, but I’m going to be happy about this tonight and tomorrow is a new day,” Gustavsson said. “It’s sounds boring, but that’s how I am. You can’t get too high or too low. It’s early in the season, but it’s nice to get off to a good start.”
Daniel Alfredsson and Todd Bertuzzi scored for Detroit.
Cam Atkinson had the lone marker for Columbus, while Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves.
“He’s stepped up and is playing very well,” Bertuzzi said. “He’s playing like a goalie who’s 6-foot-4, coming out and challenging. He made a huge save there in the end. He’s playing very competitive. He’s out of the paint and being very aggressive. He’s been doing a heck of a job. We’ve played two pretty good teams here and he’s stood on his head.”
Babcock told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan that Gustavsson's sterling performance in the first period allowed the team to recover from something of a funk...
“We got really good goaltending until we got our legs in the first period,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Then our competitive juices got going. Gus was outstanding two nights in a row. He made a huge save on Johnson down the stretch; our specialty teams were real strong.”
This was the Red Wings’ second three-games-in-four-days stretch already in this young season. Last time, the Red Wings capped the stretch with a disappointing loss in Boston playing with little energy.
That wasn’t the case this time, with the Red Wings looking as spry as they did Saturday when they opened this three-game string with a victory over Philadelphia (then defeating the Bruins on Monday in Boston)
“We needed to get off to a good start and fortunately we did,” Bertuzzi said. “Just move your feet. This early in the season we shouldn’t be all that tired. We’re well conditioned, and we had a real good second and third periods.”
Bertuzzi’s second goal of the season, at 11:14 of the second period, put the Red Wings ahead 2-1. Henrik Zetterberg fired a shot on net as Bertuzzi was tangling with Columbus players in front of Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. Bertuzzi’s stick appeared to be the last one to touch the puck before slipping past Bobrovsky.
“I don’t even know if I scored, to be honest with you,” Bertuzzi said. “I’m glad we got the win.”
I'd be remiss to not point out that Bertuzzi was slew-footed by Fedor Tyutin on #44's goal, but Bertuzzi managed to hop back up and get his stick on the puck instead.
Michigan Hockey's Stefan Kubus noted that Gustavsson didn't mind his heavy workload...
“The Monster played as good as he has the past two games; great for him and great for us,” Quincey said. “It’s great seeing the guy finally get a chance and doing well with the opportunity, so we’re all happy for him.”
Alfredsson opened the scoring at 5:05 of the first period, firing a wrist shot past Bobrovsky for the 1-0 lead. Pavel Datsyuk and Zetterberg drew assists on No. 11′s first marker. However, Detroit headed off the ice after 20 minutes with an 18-7 shot disadvantage.
“As a goalie, you like shots,” Gustavsson said. “You like to get shots early and to touch the puck a little bit, so I think that was only good for me to get into the game and get going.”
And he also pointed out that Babcock was, for once, quite happy with his team's power play and penalty-killing:
Previously, the Red Wings power play had been 3-for-17, tied for 21st in the NHL, but Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said he liked what he saw out of his team when served with the man-advantage opportunities.
“I thought it was real good, and I thought it was dangerous,” Babcock said. “You’re not going to get (power-play goals) every night, but you want to.”
“Obviously, we got real good goaltending in the first period until we got our legs and then I thought our competitive juices started to go and we started to play a lot better in the second and third,” Babcock said. “Gus was outstanding two nights in a row. He made a huge save there on Johnson down the stretch and I thought again our special teams were huge tonight.”
As Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner suggests, Gustavsson finally looks like a goaltender who will be more than a liability, and as he's recaptured his pre-Maple Leafs form, he's given the Wings a needed kick in terms of momentum...
“He’s playing very competitive,” said Todd Bertuzzi, who scored the game winning goal for the Wings on the power play. “He’s playing outside the paint (the goal crease) and being aggressive. He’s been doing a heck of a job. We’ve played pretty two pretty good teams and he’s stood on his head.”
The win was Detroit’s third in a row and it appears that the Wings have shaken off their early season doldrums. After a disastrous home game against Phoenix last week, the Wings have come out with more energy, focus and urgency.
“We talked about trying to string some (wins) here together,” said Bertuzzi. “We’ve been one on, one off for a couple there.In order to get some space and movement in the standings, you have to start stringing some together and hopefully we can.”
But that's left one Mike Babcock expecting more:
“The game I didn’t like was the Phoenix game,” said Babcock. “Even the first one in Boston (a 4-1 loss) it was three in four nights.” We’ve done a lot of good things ... we’ve got to get better as a team. I like what’s going on.”
And then there was Alfredsson's first goal as a Wing--and Alfredsson sounding like someone who's getting settled in Detroit a little over a month after he arrived in the Motor City:
Daniel Alfredsson scored Detroit’s first goal at 5:05 of the first period on a wicked slap shot. It was Alfredsson’s first goal as a Red Wing.
“It felt great, there’s no question,” said Alfredsson. “It was nice that it happened at home, there was more emotion than when I usually score goals. It was a great feeling actually.”
The Free Press's Perry A. Farrell also took note of Alfredsson's performance (he's 3rd in team scoring, tied with Niklas Kronwall with 1 goal and 5 assists, 1 point behind Pavel Datsyuk's 7 and 3 behind Henrik Zetterberg's 9)...
He took a pass from Pavel Datsyuk on the left side of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and blasted a shot into the net in the first period, just seconds after the Blue Jackets had killed off a power play.
“It felt great, no question,” Alfredsson said. “It was the end of a three-on-two. We broke it down nicely, got to go down on four-on-two on them. I got a broken pass, picked it up and was able to get a good shot off.”
Lidstrom would have been proud. Both were teammates on Team Sweden in several international tournaments and four Olympics.
Alfredsson, 40, said playing back-to-back games didn’t bother the team.
“I thought we started pretty good,” he said. “We don’t have a lead unless Gus (goalie Jonas Gustvasson) plays brilliant."
And Farrell framed the "going forward" aspects of the team's win in both his "Why the Red Wings Won" capsule recap...
QUOTABLES: Alfredsson on the team’s early play: “We need to pick it up a little bit and manage the puck better. That’s going to help us get more pressure in their end."
WHAT'S NEXT: The Wings are on a two-game road trip to Colorado and Phoenix on Thursday and Saturday.
As well as his main recap:
Howard, the first Red Wings goalie to win 35 or more games in each of his first three full seasons, is listed as questionable for Thursday’s game at Colorado.
“I talked to Jimmy between periods, and they put ice on the hand and said the swelling was going down,” coach Mike Babcock said. “So I don’t know that means he’ll play against Colorado or Phoenix (Saturday). We got real good goaltending in the first period until we got our legs. We started playing a lot better. I like our second and third (periods).”
The Avs boast a team-record-setting 6-and-0 record after their 3-2 win over the Stars on Tuesday, so whoever starts in goal will have both his catching and blocking hands full on Thursday. Whoever starts will require more "run support" from the players in front of him, both offensively and defensively speaking.
Highlights: The Red Wings website's highlight clip is narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
NHL.com posted an "Arena Cam" interview with Jonas Gustavsson:
Fox Sports Ohio of all places posted Todd Bertuzzi's post-game interview with Fox Sports Detroit...
We All Bleed Red on YouTube posted Daniel Alfredsson's first intermission interview...
And the Red Wings' website posted post-game clips of Kyle Quincey...
And coach Mike Babcock speaking with the media:
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 12-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 10-image gallery;
ESPN posted a 25-image gallery;
Shots 37-32 Columbus overall. Detroit was out-shot 18-7 in the 1st, out-shot Columbus 8-13 in the 2nd and out-shot Columbus 12-11 in the 3rd.
Detroit went 1-for-4 in 6:11 of PP time; Columbus went 1-for-3 in 4:20 of PP time.
Jonas Gustavsson stopped 36 of 37 shots; Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 30 of 32.
MLive's Brendan Savage picked the 3 stars, and he picked Sergei Bobrovsky, Henrik Zetterberg and Jonas Gustavsson.
The Wings' goals: Alfredsson (1) from Datsyuk (5) and Zetterberg (3);
Bertuzzi (2) from Zetterberg (4) and Kronwall (5), PPG.
Faceoffs 34-32 Detroit (Detroit won 52%);
Blocked shots 11-10 Columbus;
Missed shots 13-5 Detroit (total attempts 56-52 Detroit, with Detroit firing 32 shots ON Bobrovsky and 24 wide or blocked);
Hits 24-19 Columbus;
Giveaways 9-6 Detroit;
Takeaways 9-4 Detroit.
Individual stats, TMR style:
Faceoffs: Weiss went 15-and-11 (58%); Andersson went 10-and-5 (67%); Datsyuk went 6-and-9 (40%); Glendening went 2-and-7 (22%); Zetterberg won his only faceoff.
Shots: Kronwall led the team with 5 shots; Abdelkader and Zetterberg had 4; Datsyuk had 3; Kindl, Alfredsson, Miller, Quincey and Bertuzzi had 2; Andersson, Tootoo, Glendening, Ericsson, Cleary and Weiss had 1.
Blocked attempts: Alfredsson and Lashoff hit Blue Jackets players 2 times; Kindl, Datsyuk, Tootoo, Zetterberg Ericsson, DeKeyser and Kindl had single attempts blocked.
Missed shots: Kindl, Datsyuk and Franzen missed the net 2 times; Alfredsson, Andersson, Tootoo, Lashoff, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi and Kronwall missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Tootoo led the Wings with 5 hits; Alfredsson and Bertuzzi had 3; Miller had 2; Kindl, Lashoff, Zetterberg, Glendening, Ericsson and Weiss had 1.
Giveaways: Ericsson and 3 giveaways, all during the 1st period; Quincey had 2; Kindl, Andersson, Bertuzzi and Kronwall had 1.
Takeaways: Datsyuk and Zetterberg had 2 takeaways; Kindl, Alfredsson, Miller, Lashoff and Cleary had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: Ericsson and Kronwall blocked 2 shots apiece; Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Quincey, Glendening, DeKeyser and Franzen blocked 1 shot.
Penalties taken: Lashoff, Kronwall and Franzen were tagged for minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at +5. Alfredsson, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi and Kronwall finished at +1.
Points: Zetterberg had 2 assists; Alfredsson and Bertuzzi had goals; Datsyuk and Kronwall had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 22:32 played; Kindl played 20:18; Ericsson played 18:58;
DeKeyser played 18:41; Quincey played 18:17; Abdelkader played 17:55;
Zetterberg played 17:46; Weiss played 17:42; Franzen played 17:39;
Datsyuk played 17:18; Alfredsson played 16:45; Bertuzzi played 16:31;
Lashoff played 16:30; Andersson played 16:09; Cleary played 14:57;
Miller played 10:40; Glendening played 8:53; Tootoo played 7:22.
Red Wings notebooks: If you missed it, the Wings assigned Darren Helm to Grand Rapids for Friday's home opener and Saturday's game in Rockford. The Wings hope to activate Helm at or around the Wings' home game against New York on October 26th, and the team will have to clear a) a roster spot (Luke Glendening would be demoted immediately, and once Patrick Eaves comes off the IR, the Wings would have to move a second player off the roster) and b) at least Helm's $2.125 million salary off what Capgeek estimates is $2.464 million of on-the-LTIR space.
That would require the Wings to both subtract Glendening's pro-rated $570K cap hit and another chunk of change--Jordin Tootoo's $1.9 million salary? Some sort of magical attempt to dump both no-trade-clause-owning Mikael Samuelsson and part of his $3 millon salary (given that a) a NTC is not a NMC and b) the Wings could retain part of Samuelsson's salary in a trade)? Eaves and his $1.2 million salary once he's cleared?
It's all murky now, but Ken Holland got himself in a cap bind by signing Daniel Cleary to a 1-year, $1.75 million deal, and while demoting Cory Emmerton and his $533K cap hit freed up his roster spot and what Capgeek estimates is all but $27,500 of his salary, Holland still has to move two bodies once Helm and Eaves are healthy.
That doesn't include a third body if the Wings want to add Gustav Nyquist to the roster. That's where the pie-in-the-sky Samuelsson move comes in.
Anyway, here's the story regarding Helm's conditioning stint, per the Macomb Daily's Pleiness...
"He didn’t have any training camp, he’s played one game in 18 months, so I talked to him in Traverse City and he felt he needed a full training camp,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said during Tuesday’s game at Joe Louis Arena against the Columbus Blue Jackets. “He’s now in the process of getting himself healthy, fit. He now needs to play some games.”
Helm is also scheduled to play Saturday with Grand Rapids in Rockford.
“I’m ready to get going pretty soon,” Helm said after practice Tuesday. “Things are going well. I’m skating hard. Today was a battle. I just feel good, ready to go.”
After recovering from a back injury, Helm’s return to the lineup was derailed by a groin injury.
“Everything feels good,” Helm said. “It’s looking good. Things are rolling in the right direction. I’m happy with it.
“Not until I step on the ice do I want to put a (return) date on it,” Helm added. “Until my name is on a lineup sheet I’m not going to get that excited about it. When that day comes then we’ll talk about it.”
Holland said Helm will practice with the Griffins Wednesday and Thursday and play two games for the AHL club, Friday’s home opener against Milwaukee and Saturday in Rockford. Helm will then return to Detroit and resume practicing with the Red Wings on Monday.
Helm appeared in only one game last season after hurting his back while lifting weights a few days before training camp. He experienced several setbacks in the meantime and missed camp this year due to a pulled groin.
“He didn’t have any training camp, he’s played one game in 18 months, so I talked to him in Traverse City and he felt he needed a full training camp,’’ Holland said. “He’s now in the process of getting himself healthy, fit. He needs to play some games. The two games in the American League, those are his preseason games.
“I ask him every couple of days how he’s doing; he feels great, he’s excited to go down there. We’re excited, it looks like we’re headed in a positive direction.’’
Helm is on long-term injured reserve and doesn’t need to be activated to be assigned to the Griffins, Holland said. He will be activated before his first game with the Red Wings.
DetroitRedWings.com's Roose had Holland spell out the CBA-related rules regarding Helm's conditioning stint (players used to be able to spend as many as 2 weeks with an AHL team, and I would imagine that the Wings will send Patrick Eaves down when he's healthy):
General manager Ken Holland confirmed Tuesday night during the Red Wings home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, that Helm will practice with the Griffins this week and play in a pair of American Hockey League games this weekend.
“Under the CBA he can go down for three games and six days, so he’s going to go down and practice tomorrow,” Holland said. “Obviously we’re on the road tomorrow to Denver, so he’s going to practice with Grand Rapids tomorrow and Thursday and play in Grand Rapids home opener on Friday and again Saturday in Rockford.”
Helm will return to Detroit where he’s expected to join the Red Wings in their morning skate prior to hosting the San Jose Sharks that evening.
Otherwise, the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted that Brendan Smith's starting to get edgy about his status as a healthy scratch..
There were about 20 family and friends the Smith brothers — Red Wings defenseman Brendan and Bruins forward Reilly — Monday in Boston. The matchup, however, didn’t come about after Brendan was a healthy scratch for a second consecutive game.
“That was a little frustrating, but that’s hockey,” said Brendan Smith, who didn’t play Tuesday against the Blue Jackets. “I’ve just got to stay positive and when I get my chance to get back in the lineup, stay there.”
What doesn’t help Smith’s chances is the continued success of the Red Wings, who are 3-0 with Brian Lashoff in for Smith.
“Once a team keeps on winning, they usually stay with the same lineup,” Smith said. “It’s the old thing ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’”
And Kulfan noted that Babcock was both happy with the Wings' showing against Boston...
“We think we have a good team,” Babcock said. “Their team at this time is probably more NHL ready for a long run just because they have been together longer. (It’s) an experienced group. We are a young group that has to continue to get better and better together and we will do that. I like what happened for our team confidence wise.”
And while Luke Glendening is definitely headed back to Grand Rapids, he's at least leapfrogged Cory Emmerton on the depth chart:
“He’s smart, competitive and plays heavy,” Babcock said. “In high school he was a running back, playing football. He’s used to being hit.”
In the prospect department, RedWingsCentral's latest prospect report notes that Mike McKee's status as joining Western Michigan University means that he has to rest his scrappy hands because NCAA hockey = you get tossed and suspended for the next game when you fight:
The hulking 6-foot-4, 245-pound defenseman, who over the past two USHL seasons piled up 21 fighting majors, 529 penalty minutes and seven separate suspensions totalling 20 games, opened up his freshman NCAA campaign at Western Michigan this week.
And according to McKee, in an interview with MLive.com, he welcomes the change: “I’m actually excited to play and not do that part of the game, for a few years anyway.”
Here's the rest of what McKee said to the Kalamazoo Gazette's David Drew:
Head coach Andy Murray said the coaching staff expects a dramatic learning curve, but they hope it will be a fast one. McKee, a Newmarket, Ontario native, was a scrapper in the USHL and has a missing tooth to further prove his toughness. McKee won’t be able to drop the gloves at the college level and he said he’s embracing that change. “I’m actually excited to play and not do that part of the game, for a few years anyway,” he said with a smile. “You just play as hard as you can and you try to win every battle, block shots and I think that part of your game stays with you.”
And RedWingsCentral duly notes that McKee's has to balance his "toughness" with discipline that he's never displayed before:
The Red Wings called McKee the toughest player in the 2012 draft and liked the fact that he had good straight ahead speed and a hard shot. But ultimately they want him to be a tough defensive defenseman, and they’re pleased he’s on college ice under the guidance of ex-NHL head coach Andy Murray at Western Michigan.
With the USHL’s Lincoln Stars last season, McKee managed three goals and 18 assists along with a plus-15 rating in 42 games. But his lack of discipline put him in the doghouse with head coach Chad Johnson, who at one point said the Stars needed McKee “on the ice for 25-plus minutes, as opposed to in the penalty box for 15 minutes.”
In two games with Western Michigan on the weekend, McKee had no points, four penalty minutes, five shots and four blocked shots. The Red Wings have until August 2017 to sign him to an entry-level contract.
RedWingsCentral's report continues...
And in a very ironic twist, Barrie Colts forward Andreas Athanasiou missed a game after engaging in the following fisticuffs with Bradley Latour, as noted by DropYourGloves.com:
Also of Red Wings-related note: In the Bonus Swedish department, Aftonbladet's Per Bjurman spoke with Daniel Alfredsson about scoring his first goal as a Red Wing (what follows is roughly translated)...
"The longer one goes without scoring goals, the more you start to think about it. So it was nice to finally get one," "Alfie" said to Sportbladet after Detroit's 2-1 victory over Columbus.
During a counter-attack at the end of a power play, five minutes into the meeting between the old Central Division Rivals--the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets both moved eastward this year--Alfredsson learned what it feels like to score a goal for a team that's not the Ottawa Senators.
"'Zata' tried to get the puck to Datsyuk, but it bounced through a Columbus stick out to the side. Then I jumped on it and took half a slap shot," said the 40-year-old legend when we reached him on the phone from his new hometown after the final whistle.
"It was really fun to get into it. I had several chances that didn't go in, and the longer one goes without putting some pucks in, the more you start to think about it."
"Alfie" played well in the full games before scoring, and above all played on the power play--offering premium sandwiches to his teammates in most games.
"Yes, by all means. I haven't played super in games, but I feel better and better all the time. Especially on the power play, I feel like I'm starting to find the players I'm playing with," he says.
At the beginning the native of Gothenburg--who spent 18 years in Ottawa--had to get used to being a Red Wing.
"It's been hectic, but when we moved into our own house a few weeks ago, it got better. You can get into a routine and relax more. It's been great fun, and I really like it," he says.
The Red Wings finished the game with a 2-1 win.
"Just like Boston we played well defensively, and just as in Boston, Jonas (Gustavsson) was sick in the net. He made some key saves tonight," explains "Alfie."
And Gustavsson spoke with Expressen's Gunnar Nordstrom about what may have been a pair of Red Wings-career-saving starts:
"It's nice to confirm that my injury is healed and I can go full-out," says the Monster to SportExpressen.se.
For Jonas Gustavsson, it's been a tumultuous couple of days. He received short notice that he had to jump into the net for Monday's away game with Boston, and was the best player when the Red Wings won 3-2.
"It was a little unexpected, but fun, of course. I was told that I'd play 15 minutes before the game."
The Monster stood on his head in Boston, and was the reason that the Red Wings took revenge for their 1-4 loss at the TD Garden 10 days earlier.
"Playing in Boston is one of the toughest games, so the victory was extra special."
Starting goalie Jimmy Howard is still on the injury list, so Gustavsson gained more confidence in last night's home game against Columbus.
He stopped 36 of 37 shots and was named the game's best player again.
"I had a lot of work, but everything went well. It's usually tough to play the second night in a row, but it worked well. And perhaps best of all, I didn't feel anything regarding my previous injury."
And finally, I'll encourage you to read the Detroit News's Marney Rich Keenan's story about a mural dedicated to a girl who passed away due to cancer when Steve Yzerman was a Wing on your own...
But I was asked to plug an auction to benefit a scholarship at U of M, and this is something I can't help but mention:
Love the blog. I was wondering if I could implore, beg, cajole you to run a quick post on about an online auction fundraiser I and a group of UofM alums are running now through mid November to benefit a trio of scholarships for undergraduates at the University of Michigan including the Pat Maloy Cancer Scholarship which goes to a UofM undergrad with financial need who either has cancer or whose whose parents have or had cancer. Basically it was created to make sure students whose finances were wiped out because someone in the family was fighting cancer don't have to bypass going to college.
I'm specifically reaching out to you because we've got a BUNCH of Detroit Red Wings items that have gone unbidded on including sticks autographed by Chris Chelios, Johan Franzen and Dan Cleary, a Jimmy Howard Wings jersey, Wings pucks signed by Tomas Holmstrom and Ted Lindsay and none have received a bid!!! Most of the people on our auction site go after the UofM memorabilia so some Red Wings fan is going to steal this stuff. I was hoping you could put word out to your readership. Here's the link to the auction http://www.biddingforgood.com/auction/AuctionHome.action?vhost=mgoauction . You can find the Wings stuff in the hockey tab on the left.
Thanks in advance for your help.
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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.