The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/13/13 at 02:51 PM ET
Updated 4x at 6:30 PM: This game is apparently ESPN's "Game of the Week," too: Normally, I'd try to keep the game-day updates regarding tonight's game between the Red Wings and St. Louis Blues (7:30 PM EST, NBCSN/TSN/97.1 FM) in one thread, but surprising and unpleasant injury news regarding a player whose size and strength the Wings rather desperately needed to employ against St. Louis merits its own entry. According to the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness, Johan Franzen will mis tonight's game due to a hip flexor injury (first it was groins, then shoulders, and now backs and hip flexors)...
Wings general Ken Holland just confirmed that Johan Franzen will miss tonight’s game against the St. Louis Blues due to a hip flexor injury.
“It’s day-to-day and has progressively gotten worse,” Holland said in a phone interview. “We’re going to give him a day off and see how he feels tomorrow.”
Franzen has played all 12 games this season and has three goals and six assists. Patrick Eaves will be back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the last four games.
Because the morning skate was optional the Wings didn’t skate lines so it won’t be known until game time who is skating with Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Brunner on a line.
And MLive's Ansar Khan's confirming:
Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen will miss tonight's game due to a sore hip flexor, general manager Ken Holland said. Franzen is listed as day-to-day. Patrick Eaves, a healthy scratch the past four games, will replace Franzen in the lineup against the St. Louis Blues.
“It’s day-to-day and has progressively gotten worse,'' Holland said of Franzen's injury. “We’re going to give him a day off and see how he feels tomorrow.''
Franzen has three goals, six assists and a plus-4 rating in 12 games. He had been playing on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Brunner.
Eaves has no goals, one assist and even plus-minus rating in six games.
If you hadn't been following the original game-day post, the Wings had received some progress reports regarding Carlo Colaiacovo (feeling better but still several weeks out), Darren Helm and Todd Bertuzzi (still dealing with back injuries, no timeline for return at this time), and the Blues are swapping out Kris Russell for Wade Redden and plan on starting prospect Jake Allen tonight opposite Jimmy Howard.
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff posted Mike Babcock's game-day presser, too:
I will post subsequent updates in this post.
Update #1: The Red Wings' Game Day Blog stated that Jan Mursak (shoulder), Brendan Smith (shoulder) and Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) skated today, and Mikael Samuelsson (groin) and Jonas Gustavsson (groin) are theoretically the closest to returning, but I'm not sure whether they took to the ice for the optional morning skate;
If you missed it, RedWingsCentral's Matthew Wuest reported that top prospect Teemu Pulkkinen's turning things around in Finland;
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff spoke to Justin Abdelkader and Jordin Tootoo about the up-tick in fighting this season;
Wings coach Mike Babcock's comments to the Free Press's Helene St. James and the Detriot News's Ted Kulfan about the team's style of play are worth repeating. Per Kulfan:
[W]Ith Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, there will be moments of offensive brilliance. But largely, because of the retirements of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski the last couple years, and the trade of Brad Stuart, there's less skill and experience on defense. That's why coach Mike Babcock and his staff have been trying to define exactly what the Red Wings have, and figure out the best way to play going forward.
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."
St. James also added a note to her game-day story...
The Hallmark Channel today announced that a new original movie about Wings legend Gordie Howe will air May 4. The movie, titled “Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story,” stars Michael Shanks as Howe and focuses on his return to professional hockey at age 45.
NHL.com's Louie Korac penned a set of lineups for tonight's game which didn't include Franzen's injury...
Probable lineups for Wednesday night's Central Division battle between the St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings from Joe Louis Arena [7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN].
David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald - Alex Steen - Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart
Vladimir Sobotka - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves
Ian Cole - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak
Scratches: Matt D'Agostini, Wade Redden
Injuries: Jaroslav Halak (groin strain), Jamie Langenbrunner (hip)
Patrick Eaves - Henrik Zetterberg - Damien Brunner
Valtteri Filppula - Pavel Datsyuk - Daniel Cleary
Joakim Andersson - Justin Abdelkader - Tomas Tatar
Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Jordin Tootoo
Niklas Kronwall - Brian Lashoff
Jonathan Ericsson - Ian White
Kyle Quincey - Jakub Kindl
Scratches: Kent Huskins, Jan Mursak
Injuries: Johan Franzen
Injuries: Todd Bertuzzi (back), Darren Helm (back), Mikael Samuelsson (groin), Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder), Brendan Smith (shoulder), Jonas Gustavsson (groin).
Korac spoke to Jake Allen about starting tonight, too...
The Detroit Red Wings did it for goalie Petr Mrazek a week ago in St. Louis. Now the Blues will turn around and give Jake Allen his first National Hockey League start. Allen, 22, will get the call when the Blues face the Red Wings on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2).
Allen was recalled Tuesday from the American Hockey League's Peoria Rivermen for the second time in a week after Jaroslav Halak aggravated the groin strain that sidelined him for four-plus games during warm-ups prior to Monday's game vs. Los Angeles. Allen, the 34th pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, is 12-16-2, with a 2.94 goals-against average and .903 save percentage for the Rivermen this season.
"It's a great feeling," Allen said. "It's something you work for your whole life. You want to make the most of it. I know I'm definitely going to enjoy it. I'll remember it for a while. It's another game. I'm excited. ... It's hopefully another step in my career. It's more experience under my belt and I'm looking forward to the challenge tonight."
The Blues are mired in a 0-4-1 slump and will turn to Allen to help them get back on track. With Halak injured, Brian Elliott has lost all five games since replacing Halak ironically here at Joe Louis Arena. He has a 4.67 GAA and .810 save percentage since Halak's injury.
"It's a reset button for Brian," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We just can't keep going down the same path with Brian because Brian's got to catch his breath here and reset and get back to what he was. We've got to get him calmed down and playing the position because we don't know where Jaro's at."
Hitchcock admitted there's an unknown element entering tonight's game by gambling on Allen to help the team out of a slump.
"I don't know. I haven't done that before for a long, long time, so I have no idea how this is going to turn out," Hitchcock said. "This is new ground for all of us. He's played really, really well. His last four or five starts in Peoria have been excellent. But this is a different league. We're a lot like Detroit. Detroit brought [Mrazek] in [a 5-1 win at St. Louis on Feb. 7]. He was competitive. I thought the players fed off his competitiveness. That's what we're hoping for Jake. He's got to get his career started somewhere. Other than Toronto, you couldn't get a bigger building to play in. You couldn't get a bigger atmosphere for a young guy to start his career other than probably Toronto."
This is, uh, interesting...
And St. James just posted a text report regarding Franzen's status:
The Detroit Red Wings will be without top-six forward Johan Franzen when they play the Blues tonight.
General manager Ken Holland told the Free Press that Franzen is day-to-day with a hip-flexor injury.
The Wings are hosting the Blues at Joe Louis Arena for the second time this season (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, TSN2).
With Franzen out, Justin Abdelkader is expected to move up a line, most likely to fill in next to Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Brunner in Franzen's spot.
Update #2: Tonight's game is apparently ESPN's "Game of the Week," which means that it receives a full-on preview from ESPN's Scott Burnside, who is "embedded with the Blues" (read: he's only going to give us the Blues' perspective)....
And Burnside's offering a "state of the Blues" article going into tonight's game:
The Blues' opponent Wednesday, the Red Wings, were the team that began the Blues' stunning free-fall almost two weeks ago. In that game, the Blues felt a poor penalty call on captain David Backes turned the tide, and Detroit would ultimately win 5-3. Since that game, the Red Wings pummeled the Blues a second time, 5-1 as part of the ill-fated homestand, as though to suggest that there was nothing of a fluke involved in the earlier decision.
"We're not the same team" as last season, Hitchcock acknowledged. "This is all self-inflicted."
Last season was different, Hitchcock said, because his players had seen someone -- former head coach Davis Payne -- lose his job as a result of their uneven play.
"It was an easy sell," Hitchcock said of the demands he made of his team.
Now it's a different test, in large part because this Blues team enjoyed such success under Hitchcock last season, winning a surprise Central Division title, finishing with 109 points (second in the league) and defeating the San Jose Sharks in five games in the first round. That success led many to believe the Blues had already established the identity and work ethic crucial to winning in the NHL.
Many observers liked the Blues to take another step forward with a long playoff run next spring. Some, including this scribe, liked the Blues to use last season's successes to catapult themselves to the franchise's first Stanley Cup championship, much like what Los Angeles did last season.
Forward T.J. Oshie and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk admitted that hearing and reading those kinds of predictions might have seeped into the Blues' subconscious after the lockout ended.
"We've come to expect our game to show up a little bit too much" as opposed to working to produce the level of play that marked the Blues' of last season, Shattenkirk said.
Update #3: The Wings' website posted Babcock's pre-game presser:
Update #4: Here's Ken Kal's game-day preview...
And the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford confirmed tonight's Blues lineup:
David Perron-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald-Alex Steen-Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart
Vladimir Sobotka-Scott Nichol-Ryan Reaves
Ian Cole-Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell-Roman Polak
Other than Allen, the Blues will be putting their opening-night lineup on the ice tonight against Detroit.
That includes reuniting the line combinations, which means the return of Andy McDonald, Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko. They've been separated the last three games. After producing 10 points in his first eight NHL games, Tarasenko is pointless in his last four games.
"Tarasenko played his best with those two guys and as much as we probably need help somewhere else up the lineup, those three guys were a combination, so we'll just stay with it," Hitchcock said.
On defense, Kris Russell returns after sitting out as a healthy scratch the last two games. He'll replace Wade Redden, who has played eight of nine games (missing one with the flu) since he was signed. Through 10 games, Russell is without a point, and he's a minus-2.
"Yeah, he's calmed down and ready to go again," Hitchcock said.
Redden had goals in his second and third games with the Blues, but he's without a point in his last five. Furthermore, he's a minus-7 in the last five games. Redden played only 10 minutes, 10 seconds in Monday's 4-1 loss to L.A.
Asked if Redden needed a breather, Hitchcock said, "A little bit in our eyes ... he hasn't played much. I think that left side is four guys for three spots, so whoever going well plays, and whoever isn't, that's just the game of hockey."
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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.