The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/07/13 at 03:42 AM ET
The Red Wings' game against the St. Louis Blues today (12:30 PM EDT, NBC Sports/NHL Network Canada/97.1 FM, and today the Wings are partnering with the Make-A-Wish Foundation at the Joe today) makes for "good TV" and "easy storytelling") for those without a rooting interest, for several reasons:
- After today's Winter Classic presser, a pair of teams separated by one point in the Western Conference standings (43 points for Detroit to 42 for St. Louis, though the Blues have 2 games in hand, and that 12-to-10 ratio won't change after today's game) face off with playoff hopes on the line (the Wings sit in 7th place in the West and the Blues 8th, with Detroit holding a 3-point lead over the Coyotes and 4 over those infernal Blue Jackets);
- Both teams are playing their third game in four "nights," probably yielding fatigue and mental mistakes (St. Louis defeated Chicago 4-3 in a shootout on Thursday and Columbus 3-1 on Friday; the Wings dropped a 4-2 decision to Phoenix on Thursday and defeated Colorado 3-2 in overtime on Friday);
- The fact that neither team practiced on Saturday yields all sorts of roster intrigue (did Henrik Zetterberg's groin get "tweaked" badly enough that Riley Sheahan will have to play in his place, with Zetterberg joining Damien Brunner [hip flexor], Mikael Samuelsson [pectoral muscle] and Helm and Bertuzzi [back] on the sidelines? We won't know until just before game time;
- Obviously, as you and I have already discussed, there's the twist that is the fact that the Blues landed Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold to bolster their blueline during the trade deadline, while the Wings committed to the youth movement it reluctantly embraced when half the damn roster got hurt in February;
- And then there is the fact that the Wings and Blues rivarly may be "going away" if the Coyotes' ownership mess doesn't prevent Detroit from moving East, and the fact that this game represents the last meeting between the two teams for this season, with the Wings dropping a 6-0 decision (in which David Backes nailed Jan Mursak into the bench, injuring his shoulder) on opening night, defeating St. Louis 5-3 on February 1st (with Backes "shaking up" Kent Huskins), earning a Petr Mrazek-powered 5-1 win on February 7th, and the Wings surrendering a 2-goal lead en route to a 4-3 OT loss to St. Louis on February 15th (with Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom looking on).
Me, I don't give a shit about a "good story" or the fact that today's game provides "filler day material" for some of the media types who are more focused on the Tigers and basketball Final Four, nor do I care about any of the fluffernutter.
The Wings and their fans, me included, have faced a frustrating and challenging season thus far, and with the playoffs 10 games away--hopefully--and the Wings set to enjoy their last 3-day break of the season between today's game and the Wings' next slate of three-games-in-four-nights starting on Thursday (the Wings host the Sharks on Thursday the 11th, head to Chicago on Friday the 12th and play in Nashville on Sunday the 14th)...
So I'm hoping that both the players and fans like you and me will be able to enjoy the three-day break instead of enduring the lead-up to a jam-packed final two-and-a-half weeks of the regular season (after next weekend, the Wings play road games in Calgary on the 17th and Vancouver on the 20th, return home for a four-games-in-six-nights slate against the Coyotes on the 22nd, the Kings on the 24th, the Predators on the 25th, and they wrap up the regular season in Dallas on the 27th).
Though the Blues didn't practice on Saturday, they were more than willing to talk about the importance of winning today's game while speaking with the Belleville News-Democrat's Norm Sanders...
"If you're ever looking for a source of motivation or wondering how big every game is down the stretch, no need to look any further than what the standings look like," said Blues captain David Backes, who had the game-winning goal in Friday's 3-1 victory over Columbus and has 15 career goals in 38 games against the Blue Jackets. "It's a big swing to win in regulation against the teams you're trying to battle for spots with."
The Blues put a little space between themselves and the Blue Jackets on Friday. Now they set their sights on the Red Wings, a team that has played two more games than the Blues.
"It's crunch time," Blues winger Chris Stewart said. "I think we finish the year with 15 games in 27 nights, so you know it's going to be tight. When you get the opportunity to get your rest you take it and get ready to battle. Everybody's in the same boat."
Stewart's goal Friday was his first in six games. He leads the Blues with 16 goals and 30 points and the team is 15-2-1 when he scores at least a point. The emergence of Stewart has been big considering the low goal totals of Backes (five), Andy McDonald (four) and others.
You can read NHL.com's Lou Korac's story about Stewart's resurgent season on your own...
"It's hard, last year everything went right," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, whose 2011-12 team tied for second overall in the NHL. "Every goal was scored at an important time. That's just the way it is, it's a grind. Last year we were a good team that got great goaltending and fortunate goals at the right time. That's the small edge we lived on, we lived on the fine line in the right way."
Things have been nowhere near as easy for the Blues this season thanks to inconsistencies and injuries in virtually every area.
"Sometimes we've been on the fine line the wrong way, but I think we've played better for the most part this year than we did last year -- and at times a lot better," Hitchcock insisted. "But we've not seen the same result because of it and I think it's been (the) timely save, timely goal. When you get that it's like gold and when you don't, you're kind of searching all the time."
I mentioned Backes' exploits as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford noted that the Blues' captain is heading into today's game on something of a tear:
Starting with a hockey brunch (11:30 a.m. start) in Detroit on Sunday, the Note play four in a row on the road, making additional stops in Nashville on Tuesday, Minnesota on Thursday and Columbus on Friday. When it’s over, the team plays seven of the last eight at home.
The Blues own the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and are a point behind Detroit, two behind Minnesota, two up on Phoenix, three in front of Columbus and Edmonton and four ahead of Nashville. They had games in hand on all six.In short, this NHL season is a carnival and the West is the bumper-car ride. Backes is the Blues’ best bumper car.
This has not been a bumper season for Backes, this has been a slow burn. Throughout his career, the 28-year old Minneapolis native has been a deliberate starter. At 6 feet 3, 225 pounds, he needs time to get the SUV body rolling at muscle-car speed. In this abbreviated schedule, Backes is like a stock car entering a drag race. Backes did not pick-up hockey freelance work during the lockout. He waited for an agreement and even participated in the process before the 48-game schedule launched. With no exhibition games, with only a few days of preparation, the bear went from hibernated state to full-on hockey in less than a week.
In some ways – the most obvious ways – it showed. Before a game in Chicago on Thursday, Backes, the team’s No. 1 center, a scorer of 103 goals over four previous seasons, had three goals in 34 games. For reference, defenseman Barret Jackman, a scorer of 23 goals in 10 seasons, also had three.Then Backes snapped a 14-game drought with a goal at Chicago, and on Friday he netted a game-winner as the Blues beat Columbus 3-1. With 12 games remaining, with playoff lives at stake – in the most obvious way — Backes is back.
“As a slow starter or whatever in a normal season, do the eight months of summer and lockout exacerbate that slow start for a big guy? I think it definitely does,” Backes said. “Whether we’re over that hump now, or what’s going on, I don’t know. But I think my game in general has come a long way over the season and hopefully I’m hitting my stride going into the playoffs.”
“When you’re a top-line guy and one of the forwards (getting the most ice time), you’re expected to contribute offensively,” Backes said. “There’s a lot of responsibility on us, on my line, and if we didn’t like that responsibility, we probably wouldn’t be in the NHL. You relish those types of roles.”
At the same time, there are qualifications, additional gauges that measure 19 minutes 29 seconds per game. The readings aren’t complete until the ice melts and the equipment is stored. Has it been a fulfilling season? Stay tuned.
If you want to read more warm fuzzies, go ahead, but I'm no fan of the Blues and never have been, so we'll proceed forth with Rutherford's tidbits of roster news regarding T.J. Oshie...
And the ever-pesky Scott Nichol:
NHL.com'sLouie Korac reports that the Blues employed the following line-up for Friday night's game...
Jaden Schwartz-David Backes-Alexander Steen
Andy McDonald-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart
David Perron-Vladimir Sobotka-Vladimir Tarasenko
Adam Cracknell-Chris Porter-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Jordan Leopold-Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman-Roman Polak
Healthy scratches include Kris Russell and Ian Cole. Scott Nichol (soreness) took the ice this morning but was only on briefly. Other injured players include Jaroslav Halak (lower-body), Oshie (lower-body) and Jamie Langenbrunner (hip). Oshie did not skate with the team today.
After the game, he offered some notes of note...
Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold both made their home debuts Friday night. Bouwmeester collected two assists and now has three assists in two games as a Blue. Leopold is still looking for his first point. ... The Blues are now 15-2-1 on the season when Stewart registers at least a point, 5-12-1 when he's held scoreless. ... The Blues, who had only five power play goals in their last 21 games (5-for-56), were 1-for-3 on the man advantage. After killing both Columbus power plays, their penalty kill has killed off 24 of 25 in the last 10 games, including 13-for-13 in the last five games. ... Steen's assist on Backes' goal was the 300th point of his career.
And the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Rutherford offers a game preview from the Blues' perspective...
BLUES PREVIEW • The Blues have a three-game winning streak going, which includes wins at Chicago and Minnesota. The Detroit stop is the first of four straight road dates for the Blues, who will play seven of their final eight at home. The team trails Detroit by one point for seventh place in the Western Conference standings, and trails Minnesota by two points for sixth. After going 14 games without a goal, David Backes has goals in his last two. Chris Stewart leads the team in goals and points with 16 goals and 30 points. Newly-acquired defenseman Jay Bouwmeester has an assist in each of his first two games with the Blues.
RED WINGS PREVIEW • Pavel Datsyuk had two goals, including the game-winner in overtime, to lead the Red Wings to a win at Colorado on Friday. Datsyuk leads the team in goals and points with 13 goals and 38 points. Defenseman and recent college signee Danny DeKeyser made his NHL debut against Colorado and logged 16:36 of ice-time, including 1:35 of short-handed time. Former Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo recently returned to duty, after missing 33 games with a shoulder sprain. Detroit has nine games remaining after today, including five on the road.
INJURIES • BLUES – F T. J. Oshie (bruised foot) IR, G Jaroslav Halak (lower body) out indefinitely, F Jamie Langenbrunner (hip) IR, F Scott Nichol (upper body) day-to-day. RED WINGS – F Damien Brunner (hip) out indefinitely, F Mikael Samuelsson (upper body) out indefinitely, F Todd Bertuzzi (back) IR, F Darren Helm (back) IR.
NBC Sports' Mike Halford hypes up the game as follows...
These two long-time rivals will renew acquaintances and fight for postseason positioning at Joe Louis Arena in their fifth and final meeting of the year — and, if the previous four matchups have taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.
The Blues won the opening meeting of the season in dominant fashion, bombing the Wings 6-0. In Game No. 2, Detroit gained a measure of revenge by winning 5-3 on the strength of a Henrik Zetterberg hat-trick.The third game saw the Wings make full amends for the 6-0 blowout, as they crushed the Blues 5-1. And, in the most recent game (Feb. 13), the Blues beat the Wings 4-3 in overtime, rallying from an early 2-0 deficit to win it on Alex Steen‘s OT winner.
As for current form, Detroit comes into Sunday’s game on a roll, having won two of their last three. That includes Friday’s wild 3-2 overtime win over Colorado, in which Pavel Datsyuk scored the game-winner with 15 seconds remaining — giving the Wings a win despite being out-shot 35-31.
The Blues, meanwhile, have won three straight, including a crucial 3-1 victory over Columbus on Friday. Captain David Backes scored the game winner, snapping a 15-game goalless drought, and rookie netminder Jake Allen stopped 26 of 27 shots as the Blues held off the hard-charging Blue Jackets, who now sit tied for ninth in the West.
NHL.com's Dan Rosen's preview offers a pivot point between the Blues' and Red Wings' perspectives...
Blues [team scope]: St. Louis put together a three-game winning streak to start April after closing March with a three-game losing streak.
The Blues are coming off a 3-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. They also defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in a shootout and the Minnesota Wild 4-1 in the past week.
Blues captain David Backes has a goal in back-to-back games after scoring three in the first 34. He scored the winner Friday and was identified by coach Ken Hitchcock as the best player on the ice.
Forward Chris Stewart chipped in against Columbus with his first goal in six games. Rookie goalie Jake Allen made 26 saves for his ninth win of the season. Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, whom the Blues acquired Monday, picked up two more assists in the win over Columbus, giving him three in two games.
Red Wings [team scope]: Forwards Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk were reunited Friday and it worked as the Red Wings left Denver with a 3-2 overtime win against the Colorado Avalanche.
Datsyuk scored the overtime winner off a feed from Zetterberg with 15.4 seconds left. Detroit's dynamic duo also teamed up for a Datsyuk power-play goal 8:27 into the first period.
The Red Wings' only points in their past five games have come in wins over the last-place Avalanche. Detroit came into Colorado early Friday morning after losing at the Phoenix Coyotes, 4-2, Thursday.
Who's hot: Blues forward Alex Steen has an assist in each of the past three games. ... Red Wings forward Johan Franzen has four assists during a three-game point-scoring streak.
And the AP's game preview adds even more stats to the mix:
St. Louis, one point behind the Red Wings (19-14-5), will try to match a season-best 4-0-0 run that ended with a 5-3 loss at Detroit on Feb. 1. That was also the start of the Blues' season-worst five-game skid, which included a 5-1 home loss to the Red Wings on Feb. 7 and ended six days later with a 4-3 overtime victory at Joe Louis Arena. Jake Allen won that game in his first NHL start with just 15 saves for St. Louis, which had lost four straight and seven of eight in Detroit.
The Red Wings are in a much better position to defeat the Blues with captain Henrik Zetterberg back on the ice. In his second game after missing two with a groin injury, Zetterberg had two assists Friday - his 398th and 399th - including one on Pavel Datsyuk's game-winner.
While Zetterberg leads the Red Wings with three goals and six points against St. Louis this season, Datsyuk has netted two goals and set up another.
Blues goaltender Brian Elliott has won his last two starts, but the Red Wings could get a second look at Allen after his 26-save performance Friday. It was his first start since being re-called from Peoria of the AHL earlier this week when Jaroslav Halak suffered a lower-body injury.
Jimmy Howard should make a sixth consecutive start for the Red Wings but has struggled in three starts against the Blues this season. His 4.44 goals-against average in those matchups is his highest versus any opponent, and he allowed a season-high five goals in a 6-0 loss at St. Louis on Jan. 19.
Blues leading scorer Chris Stewart, tied with Patrik Berglund and rookie Vladimir Tarasenko with a team-best three goals in this season series, ended a five-game goal-scoring drought Friday. St. Louis is 15-2-1 when Stewart records at least one point.
The Wings very specifically chose to stay in Colorado and fly back to Detroit on Saturday because they got their asses handed to them during last weekend's matinee game against Chicago, as both DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose and the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness noted:
The Red Wings and St. Louis Blues will meet on Sunday for the fifth and absolute final time as Central Division rivals at Joe Louis Arena.
The game, which will be aired nationally on NBC at 12:30 p.m. EDT, is crucial for both teams in the Western Conference standings. St. Louis has won three consecutive games, after losing three straight, and Detroit is coming off a game that it had to have Friday night when the Wings captured a 3-2 overtime win at Colorado.
The Blues bring two strong special teams into Sunday’s game. They haven’t allowed a power-play goal in five straight games, killing off 13 consecutive penalties during that stretch.
The Blues are one of three teams – Edmonton and Philadelphia being the others – in the top 10 in both power play percentage and penalty kill percentage. St. Louis also leads the league at allowing the fewest number of shots, just over 24 per game.
With only 10 remaining on the schedule, the Red Wings are on the playoff bubble. There’s good news and bad news for the Wings. The good news is they are just three-points away from the No. 4 seed and hosting a first-round playoff series. The bad news? They’re four-points from missing the playoffs altogether.
Sunday’s game is very big as the Blues are just a point behind the Wings in the standings.
Asked Friday night about travel back home and playing a third game in four days, coach Mike Babcock said, “Time change, you got to get back and get adjusted as quick as we can. We're staying over (in Denver) and hopefully guys will get to bed here early and get ready to go. It's a big game for us. St. Louis has got two games in hand, plus we always have fun playing against St. Louis.”
Cue a slightly more blunt take from Pleiness:
The Wings didn’t fly back after Friday night’s game like they normally do, instead opting to depart Saturday as they prepare for Sunday’s afternoon tilt at home with the St. Louis Blues.
“Time change, you got to get back and get adjusted as quick as we can,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We’re staying over and hopefully guys will get to bed here early and get ready to go. It’s a big game for us.”
The Blues are eighth in the Western Conference, a point behind the Wings. St. Louis also has played two fewer games than Detroit.
“I don’t think it’s going to be that difficult this time, it’s a much shorter flight,” said goalie Jimmy Howard, who will start against the Blues. “We get back at a much earlier time. I don’t think it’ll be that hard.
“Just show up and play,” Howard continued. “I enjoy those games. Seems like the only bad one I ever had was the Chicago one. I enjoy the Sunday afternoon games and it’ll be no different.”
The Wings dropped a 7-1 decision to the Blackhawks last Sunday after coming back from an extended road trip to the West Coast.
“Look at the standings and every game from here on in is pretty much do or die,” defenseman Ian White said.
We received exactly one lineup update on Saturday aside from the Sheahan recall...
So I have absolutely no idea whether Brendan Smith, Brian Lashoff and Carlo Colaiacovo will sit for the sake of ian White, Kyle Quincey and Danny DeKeyser continuing to play, but Pleiness duly noted that Babcock liked what he saw from DeKeyser:
“I liked him,” Wings coach Mike Babcock after Friday’s 3-2 overtime win over Colorado. “He’s going to be a good player in the league for a long time. Obviously, he’s got to get a lot stronger and just as he gets comfortable playing in his own end, but he skates so good and passes the puck so good and he’s smart, good defender, makes it pretty easy to like him.”
DeKeyser was paired with Ian White on the blue line.
“I thought he was really solid,” White said. “Usually it takes a little while to get your feet wet, but I thought he was good pretty much from the get-go. Obviously (there are) a lot of nerves coming into a situation like this. It would be one thing to be a new guy starting the season but we’re in pretty much a do-or-die situation every game, so to come in in a must-win game like this and be calm under pressure like that spoke volumes about him.”
DeKeyser saw 16:36 of ice time, which included 1:35 shorthanded. He had three takeaways and two giveaways.
“The easiest way to get through any situation is to just talk,” White said. “We had a chat before the game and it’s nice to maybe lend some of my experience to him and help him through I’m sure a little bit of anxiety. We talked through it. I thought it went fine.”
And, as Pleiness noted, it sounds like Johan Franzen will continue to play as a center on a line with Valtteri Filppula and Gustav Nyquist:
“We said to him grab a line and take it,” Babcock said. “With Fil, (he) gives him real good speed, and Gus makes good plays. I thought they were good (Friday).”
Franzen was drafted by the Wings as a center, but because of their depth through the middle he’s played pretty much solely on wing since he joined the team for the 2005-06 season. He seemed to like his new role.
“It was fun,” Franzen said. “(You’re a) little bit more involved in the game, got some more pucks, a lot more skating, so it was fun. Usually when you’re playing the wing you have a designated spot, you know where you’re going to be, you’re on your wing pretty much every time you go back and forth up and down, and you don’t leave that,” Franzen added. “As a center you can use your, what do you call it … a little more freedom, you try to find openings and you go there. It’s a lot more skating and less stopping.”
The Wings are hoping this move pays off and makes Franzen a more consistent player that they’re looking for. Franzen won 8-of-13 faceoffs, had one assist, one takeaway and four hits on Friday.
“That’s definitely a good thing, it would be bad if he didn’t think I was one,” Franzen said when he heard Babcock called him an X-Factor on the team. “I’m happy about that. I’m trying as hard as I can. It’s something new and get a little boost maybe.”
The move also allowed Babcock to rejoin Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk together, playing on a line with Justin Abdelkader.
“I just thought the energy level of our group wasn’t great (Thursday) night,” Babcock said. “I just thought this would give us some energy. I thought it did. Everyone’s talking about Pav and Z, but I thought Mule was fantastic in the middle, dominated the faceoff circle, really played well, went head-to-head against (Matt) Duchene all night long and was very good.”
Otherwise, MLive's Ansar Khan explained why the Wings were able to use an "emergency recall" to bring Sheahan to Detroit:
General manager Ken Holland said the move was made in case the Red Wings have an injury to a forward and they need Sheahan to play Sunday against the St. Louis Blues at Joe Louis Arena (12:30 p.m., NBC).
The Griffins are playing in Abbotsford, British Columbia tonight, so Sheahan wouldn't have been able to get to Detroit soon enough if they waited until Sunday to see if everyone who played Friday in Colorado was available.
Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg missed two games earlier in the week due to a groin injury and then played on back-to-back nights in Phoenix and Colorado on Thursday and Friday. He might not be available for Sunday.
Forwards Todd Bertuzzi (back/leg), Mikael Samuelsson (pectoral muscle) and Darren Helm (back) remain out, while Damien Brunner (hip flexor) is listed as day-to-day, but not expected to play Sunday because he hasn't skated since Thursday.
The 6-foot-2, 212-pound Sheahan is in his first full season with the Griffins. He has 16 goals, 19 assists and 31 penalty minutes in 67 games. He is currently tied for third on the Griffins with six power-play goals.
The Wings exhausted their 4 optional post-trade deadline recalls from Grand Rapids when they demoted DeKeyser, Smith, Lashoff and Nyquist to the Griffins on paper to make them eligible for the AHL playoffs, but the Wings can recall any player when they deem themselves to be in danger of not having 8 healthy skaters. This rule still applies until the team's AHL affiliate's season ends, possible playoff runs included, and unlike the previous three seasons' worth of Griffins teams, Grand Rapids will make the playoffs this time around, so we shouldn't expect to see half the team recalled when the playoffs presumably begin.
And the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan wraps up the game preview part of this entry by noting that Gustav Nyquist has slowly but surely worked his way up the team's depth chart...
Speaking of Nyquist, getting the opportunity to play among the top-six forwards and in a more offensive role has seemed to coincide with his stretch of fine play. Nyquist scored an impressive goal against the Avalanche and was a factor most of the evening.
Playing with Franzen and Filppula, rather than in a checking role — which Nyquist did often after being promoted from Grand Rapids — has been a difference.
"I'm happy wherever I play, but obviously Mule and Fil are great players and it's fun to play with players like that," Nyquist said. "We had good chemistry out there and good chances. You get more comfortable every game and learn something new."
And he also points out that, save the Chicago-to-Nashville-to-Detroit-to-Calgary-to-Vancouver road trip, the Wings are winding down the road-heavy portion of their schedule:
The Red Wings stayed overnight in Denver after the Avalanche game, and traveled back to Detroit Saturday morning (they didn't practice). This was the fourth consecutive lengthy road trip the Red Wings have had.
"I hope we have some (airline) mile cards," said Datsyuk, jokingly. "At least that would be some kind of bonus."
Babcock and his coaching staff have kept the Red Wings overnight on the final stops of these trips lately to get a good night's rest — and travel the following day. The Red Wings lead the division-rival Blues by one point in the standings.
"With the time change, it's important to get back and get adjusted quick as we can," Babcock said. "St. Louis has two games in hand and it's one point behind us. It's a big game and we always have a lot of fun playing against St. Louis."
As long as your team wins, coach, I don't care if it's fun or boring as hell. "Get 'er done" today, please.
Notebooks? We don't got no stinking notebooks with the Wings not practicing (the beat writers fly commercial and after all the road trips, their fatigue is understandable, too), but, via Paul, we have Don Cherry praising Pavel Datsyuk's sportsmanship in patting J-S Giguere on the head to apologize for running him over as he scored the OT goal on Friday.
Fast forward to the 6:20 mark:
Don Cherry praising Pavel Datsyuk...I'm scared! Hold me!
Also: the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch offers some trade deadline gossip-y tidbits and a note about the Coyotes:
The Jackets will deny it, but sources confirmed GM Jarmo Kekalainen did offer one of their three No. 1 picks in the first round to the Dallas Stars for Jaromir Jagr. He landed with the Bruins instead, but the Jackets were in there right until the end. The Red Wings made a pitch, as well. Shrewd move by GM Peter Chiarelli, Jagr could be Boston's next Mark Recchi.
Insisting he is happy to stay in Winnipeg, forward Alexander Burmistrov wouldn't have accepted a change of scenery. The Jets -- insert denial here -- shopped him hard because Burmistrov, 21, clearly isn't coach Claude Noel's cup of tea. The Devils and Sabres had interest on deadline. In the end, Regier wouldn't deal winger Drew Stafford to Winnipeg for Burmistrov ... The Coyotes tested the waters to see what they could get for defenceman Keith Yandle. The asking price was high, which is why he wasn't dealt. He is another candidate to move this summer.
League sources say a decision on the future of the Phoenix Coyotes is imminent. While NHL commissioner Gary Bettman leads with an iron fist, his leadership took a hit during the 113-day lockout and I'm told he's getting heat from owners to settle this mess. "In Canada, the fans have been very forgiving," said a league executive. "There are 20 owners in the United States who are sick of writing cheques for $1 million to prop this thing up." The decision that makes the most sense: Relocate to Quebec City and keep the Jackets in the Western Conference until the NHL expands to 32 teams. The league, however, doesn't always do what makes sense, which means the Coyotes will likely be relocated to Seattle .
What few Canadians have been willing to say: Quebec City's small--half a million people live here, and its metropolitan area is smaller than Winnipeg's--so if the Canadian dollar ever goes south again (highly unlikely due to Oil Sands $$), or if Quebec's bizarro political machine screws over the Quebecor Media rink deal (oh, hi, Quebecor owns the Sun newspaper chain), that team could be in financial trouble...Seattle's got over 3.5 million people in its metropolitan area, and its proximity with Vancouver, strong WHL ties and deep-pocketed owners make an incredibly more "natural"and plain old safer fit.
In the prospect department, in the ECHL, the Toledo Walleye did not rebound well from their 2-1 double OT loss to Cincinnati on Friday night. On Saturday, Cincinnati defeated Toledo 5-2, and while Trevor Parkes had an assist, Willie Coetzee was held off the scoresheet for the second night, and Jordan Pearce stopped 2 shots in a little over 10 minutes of relief work. The Walleye's website provides a recap and highlight clip...
And the Toledo Blade's Mark Monroe spoke to the Walleye's players about attempting to get their game in order before the series resumes on Wednesday:
Cincinnati defeated Toledo 2-1 in double overtime in the series opener on Friday. The teams meet for Game 3 on Wednesday at U.S. Bank Arena. The Walleye will have to win at least two of three to extend the series to a potential sixth game in Toledo on April 16.
“We've had success in their barn,” Walleye forward Trevor Parkes said. “That's the good news.”
In a scoreless first period, Toledo outshot the Cyclones 10-6. Parkes had a chance to get the game's first goal but Houser (26 saves) got just a piece of his shot and it trickled wide.
“We definitely had chances tonight,” Parkes said. “Those things happen in hockey. The bounces didn't go our way in the first. But that's hockey.”
In the QMJHL, Phillipe Hudon didn't register a point as his Victoriaville Tigres dropped a 6-2 decision to Baie-Comeau, which now leads the teams' second-round series 2-0;
Xavier Ouellet didn't register a point and finished at -1 as his Blainville-Boisbriand Armada defeated Val-d'Or 5-4, taking a 2-0 series lead;
Martin Frk registered an assist in the Halifax Mooseheads' 5-0 victory over Gatineau, taking a 2-0 series lead;
In regular season play, in the USHL, Mike McKee's back on the IR as he didn't play in the Lincoln Stars' 3-2 loss to Omaha;
And in the AHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins dropped the second half of their back-to-back series against Abbotsford, 3-2 in a shootout.
The Griffins' website provides a recap...
Behind Danny Taylor’s 32 saves, the Abbotsford Heat defeated the Grand Rapids Griffins 3-2 in a shootout Saturday at Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre.
Grand Rapids (40-24-3-3) struck first as Chad Billins found the back of the net on a power play goal at 17:04 of the opening period. Brett Skinner fed Billins and the defenseman’s shot from 45 feet away slipped inside the left goal post. Skinner’s assist on the goal was his 200th as a pro and Francis Pare’s assist was his 133rd, tying Kip Miller for 3rd place in franchise history.
The Heat (32-30-4-6) tied the game on a power play goal of their own at 7:31 of the second period. Tyler Ruegsegger beat Tom McCollum with a backhand shot that went over the goaltender’s stick and inside the left goal post. The goal was Ruegsegger’s 9th of the season.
Krys Kolanos gave the Heat a 2-1 lead at 11:27 of the final period. McCollum made the initial stop with a terrific left toe save, but the puck took an Abbotsford bounce to Kolanos on the left side of the net. The right wing dumped the puck into an empty net before McCollum could recover.
Tomas Tatar scored the tying goal at 13:02 of the third period. Pare won a faceoff and quickly fed Tatar, who snapped a shot past Taylor for his 23rd goal of the season.
The game went into overtime after both teams failed to score in the final seven minutes of the third period. The Griffins had an opportunity to finish the game in overtime as Tatar’s shot went inside the goal, but a collision in the goal mouth jarred the net free and the score was waved off by the referee.
After a scoreless overtime period, the Heat defeated the Griffins 3-1 in a sudden death shootout. Ben Walter, Kolanos and Blair Jones scored in the second, fourth and fifth rounds while Billins scored the Griffins’ lone shootout goal in the second. The score was Billins’ fifth shootout goal in five attempts.
McCollum stopped 26 of 28 shots while Taylor earned the victory behind 32 saves, stopping three of the Griffins four shootout attempts.
After playing 10 of their last 11 games on the road, the Griffins will return to Grand Rapids to host the Chicago Wolves Wednesday at 7 p.m. EDT.
And while the Abbotsford News's Dan Kinvig and the Canadian Press's recaps don't add much to the mix, it's worth noting that two Wings players/prospects made NHL.com's Corey Masisak's list of the best players from NCAA and European ranks to join NHL teams or their AHL affiliates' playoff runs:
Calle Jarnkrok, Detroit Red Wings: Jarnkrok was a second-round pick by Detroit in the 2010 NHL Draft. With his season in the Swedish Elitserien over, the forward has joined Grand Rapids in the AHL and has two points in five games. The Griffins are leading the Midwest Division, and he could help them in the playoffs before potentially making a push for a roster spot in Detroit next season.
Danny DeKeyser, Detroit Red Wings: DeKeyser was the jewel of this college free-agent class, and the Red Wings beat out many NHL teams for the defenseman's signature. After three NCAA seasons at Western Michigan, he signed with Detroit and made his NHL debut Friday night against the Colorado Avalanche. He could be a regular for the Red Wings in the final month of the season, and possibly a significant addition for the Griffins if their season lasts longer than the parent club's.
Update: The Free Press's Helene St. James tells us more about Franzen playing center...And the Wings' lineup...
"I just want Mule to be dominant," Babcock said. "I've said to it to Mule: I think Mule is the X-factor on this team. He's big. He's a good player. If we can really get him playing at the highest possible level. ..."
Babcock related that before Friday's game, the coaching staff told Franzen, "grab a line and take it." Franzen did, and together with his wingers offered a terrific second punch behind the Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Justin Abdelkader group.
Franzen, who played center in Sweden, said it was fun to be back in the middle. "You're a little bit more involved in the game," he said. "Usually when you're a wing, you have a designated spot. As a center, you have more freedom. You try to find openings. It's more skating and less stopping."
When this season began, the plan was to play Datsyuk and Zetterberg together. Filppula was supposed to center the second line, but he's had more success as a winger.
Franzen is a great option to have at center, especially when the Red Wings play opponents who have their own big centers, like Anaheim's Ryan Getzaf and San Jose's Joe Thornton. The Wings just hope to see Franzen be an X-factor more consistently.
NOTEBOOK: General manager Ken Holland said forward Riley Sheahan was called up from Grand Rapids because a couple of regulars "are banged up" and questionable for today.
And here's more from St. James about the Wings'...rest or the lack thereof:
"I hope they have some mile cards, at least we have something," Datsyuk said with a smile after the Wings wrapped up a 3-2 overtime victory Friday at Colorado.
Wishes for frequent-flyer programs aside, the Wings opted to stay overnight in Denver and fly home Saturday morning.
Some wished they'd gone straight home, since it's only about a two-and-a-half hour flight. Others, like Jimmy Howard, noted that with the two-hour time-zone hop, the Red Wings would have been getting through their front doors around 4 a.m., and in Howard's case, that would mean that "within a few hours," a certain little boy would have been waking up and wanting to see his daddy.
The Wings are old hands at red-eyes, of course, but always are warier when they have to come home and play again a day later. The Blues await today at 12:30 p.m., so coach Mike Babcock wanted players to get their beauty sleep.
"Hopefully guys will get to bed early," he said after the Avs game. "It's a big game for us. St. Louis has got two games in hand and are a point behind us. Plus, we always have fun playing against St. Louis."
Last weekend, the Red Wings overnighted in San Jose, flew home, but still got shellacked by Chicago in a Sunday matinee. This time, they were furthered short-changed Friday by having gotten to bed late the previous night after flying in from Phoenix.
The lesson, according to Datsyuk, is "do not cheat on your physical. It's tough sometimes. We need stay together and fight through."
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