The Malik Report
Red Wings-Blues game-day updates: nothing new on the injury front as Wings prepare for Rivalry Night
by George Malik on 02/13/13 at 12:16 PM ET
Updated 5x at 1:32 PM: The Detroit Red Wings are preparing to face off against the St. Louis Blues tonight (7:30 PM EST, NBC Sports Network/TSN/97.1 FM) knowing that they face something of a wounded, angry animal in the winless-in-February Blues. The Wings' morning skate hasn't brought much in the way of news in the injury department....
But the in-the-locker-room news isn't exactly super, per the Free Press's Helene St. James:
In the text department, MLive's Khan penned a game preview, noting that the Wings expect the Blues to bring their best tonight...
“I’m sure they’re not going to be happy, like we weren’t happy after that first game,'' Detroit's Daniel Cleary said.
The Red Wings have outscored the Blues 10-4 since [the season] opener, including a 5-1 win at St. Louis last Thursday. They have been more organized and have competed harder.
“The first time, everyone was all over the place, we weren't on the same page,'' Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We were two steps behind, we were chasing all night long. Our game has gotten a lot better, feels like we have better structure. We're doing the little things better. We're still a work in progress, still have a lot of things to get better at, but it's moving in the right direction.''
“Nobody was going to hit the panic button after the first game, after such a long layoff (from the lockout),' [Jimmy]' Howard said. “I think it took the first 5-6 games to really get going, with the injuries and a lot of new faces in the lineup, to get used to playing with each other.''
The Wings know that they've got to play defense via offense tonight, carrying the puck out of their zone as quickly as possible to negate the Blues' relentless forechecking and cycling game:
“They're a team that likes to get on the forecheck, get through the neutral zone fast and use their big bodies and speed to wear on your D,'' Howard said. “We executed the game plan really well of hemming them in their own zone.''
That's what Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said his team must do to be successful.
“We have to be aggressive, we have to be on our toes and we have to set the tone,'' he said. “If we don’t, it’s not going to be pretty.''
NHL.com's John Kreiser penned a statistically-inclined preview of tonight's game...
All-time series: The Red Wings' two wins this month have put them back on top in the all-time series between the teams. Detroit has won 118 times to 116 for the Blues; 37 games ended in ties. The Blues' win on opening night is their only victory against Detroit in the teams' last seven meetings. St. Louis has also lost its last four visits to Detroit since handing the Wings one of the worst losses in franchise history -- a 10-3 shellacking on March 30, 2011.
Back to the start: The Blues were the opponents on Dec. 27, 1979, when the Red Wings played their first game at Joe Louis Arena -- they spoiled the night for the 19,742 in attendance by scoring twice in the third period for a 3-2 victory. In all, the teams have played 105 times at the Joe; the Red Wings have won 57, the Blues have 36 victories and 12 games ended in a tie.
Tiebreakers: The Red Wings and Blues have gone past regulation 13 times since the arrival of the shootout in 2005. The Blues have a 4-3 advantage in games decided in overtime, and they've split six contests that went to a shootout, with Detroit winning three of the last four since February 2009.
Streaks: The Blues are hitting the road after what coach Ken Hitchcock called "the homestand from hell" -- they went 0-3-1 and have dropped five in a row. A sixth consecutive loss would be St. Louis' longest slide since going 0-5-2 in December 2009-January 2010. In contrast, the Red Wings have won a season-high three in a row, including back-to-back home games last weekend.
Shot squelchers: Despite their slump, the Blues continue to do a better job than anyone else at limiting the opposition's shots on goals. Through their first 12 games, they've limited opponents to a League-low 22.2 shots per game while taking 30.2 of their own. St. Louis limited Detroit to just 14 shots in its 6-0 win on opening night, but the Red Wings have had 29 and 31 shots in their two victories. Detroit's 31 shots in the Blues' last visit were the most St. Louis has allowed in any game this season.
And NBC Sports' Ryan Dadoun penned a game preview noting that this is a "Rivalry Night" game on NBCSN, and that the Blues may very well start prospect goalie Jake Allen in Brian Elliott's stead:
The Red Wings and Blues have been very familiar opponents this season. This with be their fourth meeting together, meaning that both teams have dedicated roughly a third of their early schedule to playing together. However, after this match, they won’t face each other again until April 7.
When the two sides met on opening night, St. Louis embarrassed the Detroit Red Wings and earned a 6-0 victory.
“It was one of those games where nothing worked for us,” Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall told the Detroit News. “We didn’t do anything right. We were two steps behind and taking penalties. Our penalty kill was horrible and power play was dreadful.”
That fueled the fears of fans that the Red Wings’ dynasty ended with the retirement of blueliner Nicklas Lidstrom, but that contest didn’t start a trend. Detroit was able to bounce back in a big way and beat the Blues in their following two contests.
Meanwhile, St. Louis is in a free fall. After a great start to the season, the Blues have lost five straight games and that’s largely corresponded with the absence of starting goaltender Jaroslav Halak (groin).
Brian Elliott, who was brilliant last season as St. Louis’ backup netminder, has a terrible 3.57 GAA and .849 save percentage in nine games this season. With that in mind, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has suggested that 22-year-old Jake Allen might get his first NHL start on Wednesday.
“Before he came up to back up, Jake was playing the best hockey he’s ever played in his life, so we can’t discount that,” Hitchcock said in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report. “We’ve got to be cognizant of that, and Brian’s struggled. So sometimes a mental break for Brian might work too. We just have to discuss it and see what’s best for the goalie and the team.”
It appears that NBC Sports may not be the only network following tonight's game...
And NHL.com's dispatched Blues correspondent Lou Korac to Hockeytown as well:
News is starting to filter in from the Wings' locker room as well...
And don't forget that this weekend is Hockey Weekend Across America, and that Saturday is Hockey Day in Michigan! Michigan Hockey Now has a special webpage dedicated to HDIM, and in addition to "Try Hockey for Free" clinics, other special events, and a pair of Central Collegiate Hockey Association games airedon Fox Sports Detroit, I know that its sponsor, Warrior Hockey, is going to be offering gear at a discount at Perani's Hockey World on Saturday.
Update: Well, this is interesting, per DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose:
Helene St. James, Ansar Khan and Ted Kulfan have bad news regarding Todd Bertuzzi, however...
And the Red Wings' Twitter account's offering some initial game-day quotes from Babcock:
PK Must Be Good Again - The Blues have 7 PPG in 3 games against the Wings this year. Detroit was perfect on the Penalty Kill last game against LA, so they need to pick up where they left off.
Dictate the Play - Set the tone early! The struggling Blues will come out firing, especially in the first 10 minutes of the game. The Wings need to feed off the crowd and come out strong.
Be Strong Between the Pipes - The Red Wings goalies have been outstanding, giving up only 4 goals in the last 3 games. They need good goalkeeping again tonight and good defense in front of Howie.
The Free Press's Helene St. James has already filed a morning skate report...
The Wings are 2-1 this season against St. Louis and will host them for the second time at Joe Louis Arena tonight (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, TSN2). Coach Mike Babcock said it's a daily challenge to figure out how to keep the Wings on the winning side.
"We're just in the process of, like I've said many times, finding a way for this group to play and be successful," Babcock said after the morning skate. "We're not as pretty to watch as we once were, but that doesn't matter anyway. You've to find a way to win games."
The Wings played one of their better games of the season Thursday in St. Louis, getting balanced scoring for the first time. They paced the young and fast Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, and then got a huge performance out of goalie Jimmy Howard against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.
Babcock said he is sticking with the same lineup that won back-to-back games during the weekend, meaning Howard is starting, and forward Patrick Eaves and defenseman Kent Huskins are out.
Babcock did not have positive news on ailing forwards Darren Helm and Todd Bertuzzi, both of whom are dealing with lingering back pain. "I talked to Bert today," Babcock said. "He's not feeling very good. Helmer is just, I guess, a work in progress. I don't know how long he'll be. But neither guy is on the horizon."
Helm was at the arena but didn't want to talk beyond shaking his head and saying, "There's nothing new."
Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) has been skating but isn't yet cleared for contact and doesn't anticipate being ready before the end of the month, at the earliest. Defenseman Brendan Smith (shoulder) did a little skating but won't be back before the end of February, either.
And she posted a video as well:
There's news regarding the Blues' lineup, too, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford...
And NHL.com's Lou Korac:
St. Louis Blues web correspondent Dan O'Neill's firing off some factoid-style Tweets, too:
In something of a tangential discussion, MLive's Ansar Khan and Brendan Savage are pondering whether NHL players should be allowed to play in the 2014 Olympics...
ANSAR KHAN: There is absolutely no doubt the NHL should be participating in the Olympics, and it surely will.
The league gets tremendous exposure, regardless of what time the games are aired. Players enjoy the experience and take a lot of pride representing their country. Fans prefer watching the best players in the world pitted against each other. The two-week break in the NHL season is a small price to pay every four years.
BRENDAN SAVAGE: No question the NHL should allow its player to compete in the Olympics.
The Olympics are supposed to be a showcase for the world's best athletes and when it comes to hockey, that means the guys in the NHL. Without them, hockey would lose all of its glitz and glamour. The sport already has enough problems attracting fans in many cities across the United States.
How much fun would it be for Red Wings fans to possibly see Henrik Zetterberg of Sweden skating in on Jimmy Howard of the United States on a breakaway in the third period of a tie game?
Allowing NHL players to compete in the Olympics does nothing but help the sport and denying them that privilege would undoubtedly further alienate many fans who are already angry over the second work stoppage in eight years.
And this took a little while to upload, but the Free Press's Helene St. James filed a morning skate video, too:
Update #2.5: Via RedWingsFeed, the Windsor Star's Bob Duff posted a YouTube video of Babcock's game-day presser...
And the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness posted an update on Carlo Colaiacovo's status as he works his way back from a left shoulder injury...
“As frustrating as it is that I can’t be back right now, I’m feeling good,” Colaiacovo said Wednesday after practicing at Joe Louis Arena. “It’s obviously not moving as quickly as I would have like it, but I’m close. The beauty of this thing is that I’ve been able to keep my conditioning up to where it needs to be both on and off the ice. Once the shoulder feels ready to go I’ll be able to get right back in there,” Colaiacovo added. “I don’t want to put any timeline on myself. I just want to strive to get better every day, but I’m hoping within the next week to 10 days I’ll be back at full strength and be ready to go. That’s wishful thinking. Hopefully it’s a lot sooner than that. I’m not putting any pressure on myself, I want to make sure this thing is 100 percent because when I come back I’m staying back.”
Colaiacovo has yet to play more than 67 games in any season.
“The thing right now is I’m still having pain with a lot of the puck movements and I still haven’t been cleared for contact,” Colaiacovo said. “Once that happens, hopefully it happens sooner than later then I will have a clearer mindset of where I’m at.”
Colaiacovo said the original injury to his left shoulder had completely healed before starting the season.
“I had no issue when I came back after I hurt it at the Spengler [Cup],” Colaiacovo said. “When I came here my first day I wasn’t having any issues. Even when I first hurt it I was able to move, I wasn’t restricted. I was able to heal quick from it. This time here I knew it was a lot worse because I was feeling way more pain and I wasn’t able to do almost anything compared to the last time. There is no regrets, no second guessing, it was just an unfortunate incident,” Colaiacovo added. “There was nothing I could do to change the play. Stuff happens in the game when you’re playing full contact along boards that don’t move. It’s just unfortunate. I’ve been able to stay positive.”
Colaiacovo signed a two-year deal worth $2.5 million a season.
“It’s a tough year,” Colaiacovo said. “You have five months off because of the lockout. I go play at the Spengler because I’m so sick of doing nothing all I want to do is play hockey. Then something minor happens there. Then I finally get a chance to come to a new team, new opportunity, get a fresh start. I felt like I was doing that. I was playing great, feeling great, feeling good about myself and about this team and this happens. I’ve been through a lot in my life. I’m not going to let this hold me back or put me down. At the end of the day the thing that keeps me going is the love of the game. Watching us win games is a lot of fun, but playing in games that we win is a lot more fun. That’s something I’m looking and I’m hoping that’s sooner rather than later.”
And he offered some "ins and outs" as well:
Wings coach Mike Babcock said as of now he’s going with the same lineup tonight against the St. Louis Blues as he went with Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings, which means Patrick Eaves and Kurt Huskins will be healthy scratches.
St. Louis will start rookie goalie Jake Allen. He came on in relief of Brian Elliott once this season, allowing two goals on eight shots against Nashville on Feb. 5.
The Blues are without Jaroslav Halak, who injured his groin the last time the Blue visited Detroit. Elliott has struggled his season, with a 3.57 goals-against average and a .849 save percentage.
Update #3: Um, yeah...
Here's MLive's Ansar Khan's game-day update...
Due to the continuing struggles of veteran Brian Elliott, the St. Louis Blues will start rookie Jake Allen in goal tonight against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena (7:30, NBC Sports Network). It will be Allen's first NHL start. His only other appearance came on Feb. 5, when he relieved Elliott midway through a 6-1 loss to Nashville and allowed two goals on eight shots.
Elliott has gone 0-4-1, with a 4.67 goals-against average and .810 save percentage since Halak was initially injured, during the first period of a 5-3 loss in Detroit on Feb. 1.
Allen, 22, was recalled Tuesday from Peoria (AHL) because Jaroslav Halak re-injured his groin during pregame warmups prior to Monday's game vs. Los Angeles. Allen is 12-16-2, with a 2.94 goals-against average and .903 save percentage for the Rivermen this season. The Blues selected him in the second round, 34th overall, in the 2008 entry draft, four picks after the Red Wings took goalie Tom McCollum.
Ironically, Petr Mrazek made his first NHL appearance last Thursday in St. Louis, in a 5-1 win.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he anticipates using the same lineup tonight "at this point'' that he used in Sunday's 3-2 win over the Kings:
Johan Franzen-Henrik Zetterberg-Damien Brunner
Valtteri Filppula-Pavel Datsyuk-Daniel Cleary
Joakim Andersson-Justin Abdelakder-Tomas Tatar
Drew Miller-Cory Emmerton-Jordin Tootoo
Niklas Kronwall-Brian Lashoff
Jonathan Ericsson-Ian White
Kyle Quincey-Jakub Kindl
Jimmy Howard (starting)
NHL.com's confirming Allen's start as well...
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff spoke to Justin Abdelkader and Jordin Tootoo about the up-tick in fighting this season:
Through 186 games on the schedule, there have been 112 fights. There were 86 bouts in the first 186 games of the 2011-12 NHL season, so that’s an increase of more than 26 per cent in the fighting department. Most in the NHL think the increase in scraps is being predicated by the shortened 48-game season.
“Every game is important,” Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader said. “That would be my guess as to the reason why.”
Tootoo agreed with that assessment. “I think every game is so magnified and when there’s a lot of emotions running, things happen out there,” Tootoo said. “It’s part of the game.”
Fights are up significantly in Detroit, thanks mainly to Tootoo’s arrival. The off-season free-agent addition has fought four times among the Wings’ five bouts.
“It’s not about stats for me,” Tootoo said. “It’s about winning hockey games and battling every night, using every inch to gain an edge and help the guys out. You want to get emotionally attached to the game, sometimes that’s the way to do it.”
An experienced scrapper, Tootoo worries that the increase in fights will mean players not used to dropping the gloves may find themselves in precarious situations.
“Those things are going to happen, but you’re running the risk of injuries,” Tootoo said. “You’ve got to really be cautious and make sure mentally you’re prepared for the task. When you’re not prepared for it bad things happen.”
He also finds it distasteful that so many fights are now happening after players deliver clean bodychecks.
“When stuff like that happens, for me personally I try and create a penalty,” Tootoo said. “When I know it’s a clean hit, why am I going to have to drop the gloves? I’d rather them sit in the box and us be on the power play.”
And NHL.com posted a Wings-Blues "Tale of the Tape":
If the St. Louis Blues are to right their ship, they'll have to start the process against their Central Division rivals, the Detroit Red Wings.
The two will square off Wednesday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2) with the Red Wings in the midst of a three-game win streak while the Blues have dropped five straight, including a pair of losses to Detroit.
The Blues and Red Wings have met seven times in the postseason, with Detroit winning five times, including the last four times they've met. The Blues are 1-7 in their last eight trips to Joe Louis Arena, with their last victory coming March 30, 2011.
The Red Wings were hammered by the Blues, 6-0, in each team's 2012-13 season opener, but answered by winning the next two meetings by a combined 10-4 score.
Here's a snapshot of this Midwestern rivalry that dates to 1967, the Blues' first year in the League.
Blues ----- Red Wings:
6-5-1 (4th, Central) Current Record 7-4-1 (3rd, Central)
1,550-1,434-432-102 All-Time Record 2,718-2,288-815-85
116-112-37-6 Head-to-Head Reg-Season Record 118-109-37-7
16-24 Head-to-Head Playoff Record 24-16
0 Stanley Cups 11
17 Hall of Famers 68
Brett Hull Most Famous Alumni Gordie Howe
.857 2012-13 save percentage .910
1 Consecutive 100-point seasons 12
1 2012-13 power play ranking 23
Update #4: Here's the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's game-day article, which duly notes that Babcock believes the losses of Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Stuart and Brian Rafalski have sapped the Wings' creativity to some extent:
One thing is for sure, in Babcock's estimation: "We don't move the puck. When you have Lidstrom, Rafalski and Stuart and Kroner (Niklas Kronwall, now the most veteran of the Wings' defensemen), they go back and turn the corner and fire to someone who hasn't had to work as hard to be as close and be in the exact position. We can't play like that. We have to be closer and tighter and more available and better defensively. Sometimes it's not very pretty, and that's just the way it is."
Despite a rash of injuries to start the season, the Red Wings' defense has actually stabilized and played well in recent games. But they've also benefitted from this conservative, tighter style, which makes life easier for the defensemen.
"We have to be tight; I've always wanted it but we could get away from it before," Babcock said Wednesday. "That (protecting the defense) has to be the focus, for sure. We have to help everybody, that's what a team is. A team is helping everyone be the best they can possibly be within the constraints of the team.
"What I always do is ask them to find their game within our game. This coaching staff, more so than ever, we've had to find a game to coach that is their game. We've had to find out what they were, and we're still trying do that, so we can be successful."
Babcock is determined to make sure the Wings don't get complacent.
"For us going forward, our best way to live is to live a little bit scared to death and just keep grinding and competing," Babcock said. "If we do that, we'll have a chance to hang in there. As soon as we breathe and think we're something we're not, just embrace what you are and do the best with what you've been given."
Update #4.5: Lou Korac reports via Twitter that Wade Redden will sit out tonight, and Kris Russell will play in his stead.
Darren Helm will not play tonight.
Todd Bertuzzi is also out tonight with a sore back.
Mike Babcock said as of this morning, tonight's lineup will be the same as last game.
"Our best way to live is to live a little bit scared to death and just keep grinding and competing."
– Mike Babcock
Brendan Smith went through drills after morning skate.
"I was shooting pretty good. No real slap shots or anything, but I was shooting pretty good."
– Brendan Smith
Carlo Colaiacovo joined Smith in drills after morning skate.
"I'm feeling good. As frustrating as it is that I can't be back right now, I'm feeling good...It's obviously not moving as quickly as I would like, but I'm close" – Carlo Colaiacovo
NHL.com's Brian Metzer's fantasy hockey column offers a pertinent note about the fact that Ian White has yet to hit his offensive stride again after returning from a torn quadriceps muscle...
Ian White, Red Wings -- White looked like he would be a nice source of production, getting minutes on the power play and skating at times with Niklas Kronwall, but that hasn't been the case. He was derailed by an injury early in the season and hasn't done much offensively since returning. White has just two points (one goal) on the season, to go with a plus-3 rating and six shots on goal. We'd only suggest holding him in the deepest of leagues.
And in the prospect department, RedWignsCentral's Matthew Wuest reports that top prospect Teemu Pulkkinen is rounding (back) into form with Jokerit Helsinki:
It looks like an early-season slump was just a blip on the radar for Teemu Pulkkinen.
After struggling out of the gates with just eight points in his first 26 contests, Pulkkinen has rediscovered his scoring touch with Helsinki Jokerit of the Finnish SM-Liiga since late November, scoring nine goals along with 11 assists for 20 points in his past 24 games. All told, he has 28 points in 50 contests.
“Pulkkinen put in a great summer in terms of off-ice practicing and showed up in his best shape (of his career) by far, and he just couldn’t score,” said Red Wings director of European scouting Hakan Andersson. “Everybody was a little frustrated by that, most of all, himself, but he’s starting to produce. He’s starting to hum along nicely.”
The 21-year-old also struggled late last season with Jokerit, with just two goals and five assists in his final 17 games.
Compared favorably to Jari Kurri and Brett Hull because of his lightning release and knack for getting into scoring position, conditioning has never been a strong suit for the 5-foot-11, 183-pounder. Beyond goals and assists, Pulkkinen’s commitment to getting in shape in the off-season is perhaps the most important step in his development.
“We all know what he can do with the puck and we were all worried with his overall shape,” Andersson said. “But he put in a really good summer and everybody’s pleased with how he’s in shape.”
Pulkkinen, a fourth-round draft pick in 2010, is in the first year of a three-year entry-level contract with the Red Wings. Andersson said it’s too early to say whether Red Wings management will bring Pulkkinen to North America next season.
“If he takes off, makes the national team (for the IIHF world championship), all kinds of things can to happen,” he said. “We’ll just wait and see and take it from there.”
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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.