The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/05/14 at 12:20 PM ET
That pre-morning skate slate of Red Wings news may have to suffice as your "game-day update" ahead of tonight's game between the Red Wings and Canadiens (7 PM EDT on FSD, the CBC, the NHL Network U.S., RDS and AM 1270). According to the Montreal Gazette's Dave Stubbs, the Canadiens are holding a very optional morning skate after having rallied from a 3-0 deficit to defeat Ottawa 7-4 on Friday (and the Candiens' website duly noted that Montreal's a scary 7-1-and-1 in the back half of back-to-back games)...
And the Red Wings simply aren't holding a skate after defeating Buffalo 3-2:
If you live in Canada, you're going to have a hard time finding the Wings game on Hockey Night in Canada as Toronto's tilt against Winnipeg's getting top billing (and HNIC's holding a triple-header in terms of its early game, with Ottawa battling New York as well):
And if you weren't aware, the Wings will start Jonas Gustavsson against Carey Price:
Stubbs posted tonight's game notes, and it appears that Brad Watson and Rob Martell will referee tonight's game, with Steve Barton and Brian Pancich working the lines...
The Red Wings (37-26-14) strengthened their hold on the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with a 3-2 victory over Buffalo on Friday, moving them three points clear of Columbus. Darren Helm, Tomas Jurco and Daniel Alfredsson all scored in a 9:39 span of the first period for Detroit, but coach Mike Babcock wasn't thrilled with the final 40 minutes as the Sabres made a game of it.
Montreal (44-27-7), which is fighting Tampa Bay for home-ice advantage in the first round, took a two-point lead over the Lightning in that quest with four games remaining after storming by Ottawa 7-4 on Friday despite being outshot 43-23.
The Canadiens dug themselves a 3-0 hole 5:50 into the game but responded with seven consecutive goals - including a hat trick by Max Pacioretty, who added two assists for his first career five-point game. It was the ninth win in 11 games for Montreal, which has scored 33 of its 39 goals in that span at even strength.
''Obviously you look at the shots and we got some favourable bounces and that's just the way it goes some nights," said Pacioretty, whose 38 goals are a career high and leave him two shy of becoming the first 40-goal scorer for Montreal since Vincent Damphousse had 40 in 1993-94.
Pacioretty, who has seven goals and three assists in his last five games, snapped a 3-all tie in the most recent meeting with Detroit on March 27, a 5-4 Montreal victory. Tomas Plekanec scored two goals in that game and Thomas Vanek added a goal and two assists for the Canadiens, who dropped the previous two games between the teams this season.
NHL.com's Brian Hunter's game preview noted the following...
Last 10: Detroit 7-2-1; Montreal 8-2-0
Season series: This is the final game between the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens. The Red Wings have won two of three, with forward Gustav Nyquist's overtime goal giving them a 2-1 victory in the first game at Bell Centre on Feb. 26. NHL Trade Deadline acquisition Thomas Vanek scored the decisive goal when the Canadiens won 5-4 in the most recent game March 27.
Canadiens [team scope]: Price was scheduled to have the night off when Montreal visited the Ottawa Senators on Friday, though it appeared that might be in question when backup Peter Budaj was beaten three times in the opening six minutes. Coach Michel Therrien stuck with Budaj, and though his night didn't get any easier in terms of workload, he made 39 saves and got plenty of support from his teammates.
Max Pacioretty's hat trick highlighted a burst of seven straight goals by the Canadiens in a 7-4 win that moved them two points in front of the Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division. The Lightning hold a game in hand, but the Canadiens have three more non-shootout wins.
"He's an animal," forward David Desharnais said of Pacioretty. "He scores every chance he's got and I don't expect less from him. He's a great guy, a great leader, and that's what we need from him. All the credit to him."
Who's hot: Red Wings forward Darren Helm has four goals in as many games. Forward Tomas Jurco has a goal in two straight. … Pacioretty has eight goals in his past seven games and a career-high 38 for the season. Desharnais has a goal and an assist in three of his past four games. Vanek has two goals and seven assists in his past five games.
Injury report: Red Wings forward Stephen Weiss (sports hernia) has been shut down for the season. Forward Henrik Zetterberg (back) is expected to start skating next week and could return during the first round of the playoffs. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (hand) and forward Daniel Cleary (knee) are out. … Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges (hand) is skating but not ready to return. Forwards Dale Weise (upper body), Brandon Prust (upper body) and Travis Moen (concussion) are out.
And the Montreal Gazete's Stu Cowan sets up tonight's game with quite the quote from Michel Therrien:
“We showed a lot of character to come back after giving up three goals and as a coach you appreciate that,” Therrien said after the Canadiens gave up three first-period goals before rallying for a 7-4 win over the Senators Friday night in Ottawa. “We didn’t quit and we showed that we’re ready for the playoffs. We’ve achieved our goal of making the playoffs and now we want to play solid and play with passion and we did that tonight.”
The Canadiens will be back in action Saturday night when the Detroit Red Wings visit the Bell Centre (7 p.m., CBC, RDS, TSN Radio 690). Only a handful of Canadiens players were expected to skate Saturday morning in Brossard and there was no media availability.
The Canadiens are two points ahead of Tampa Bay in the battle for second place in the Atlantic Division and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but the Lightning holds a game in hand. The Lightning plays host to the Dallas Stars Saturday night.
CTV Montreal's Brian Wilde duly noted that there was some controversy for the Canadiens last night in that PK Subban was benched for a while, too.
TSN focused on the Wings' situation...
With 88 points and five games left in the regular season, the Red Wings are three ahead of Columbus for the first of two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference. Toronto is one point in back of the Blue Jackets and New Jersey is two behind the Maple Leafs.
Detroit scored three times in the first period against visiting Buffalo on Friday and then held on for a 3-2 victory at Joe Louis Arena. Daniel Alfredsson posted a goal and an assist to help lead the offense, as the Red Wings posted their third four-game winning streak of the season.
Tomas Jurco and Darren Helm also scored, while Jimmy Howard had 21 saves for the Red Wings.
"Obviously it was huge for the standings but we still have to get a few more wins here to get in," said Detroit forward Gustav Nyquist. "I feel that every time we win the other teams win too. Everybody lost tonight which is nice to hear but obviously we have to get a few more wins."
The Red Wings haven't won five in a row since a six-game winning streak from Feb. 8-19, 2012.
Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk played for the first time since Feb. 27 on Friday and the star forward registered one shot on net in 17 minutes, 45 seconds of ice time. He had missed 16 games due to inflammation in his left knee. The three- time Selke Award winner has 15 goals and 18 assists in 39 games this season.
The Red Wings won the first two encounters with the Habs this season before Montreal recorded a 5-4 regulation win in the Motor City on march 27. Five total goals were scored during a wild third period in that meeting, including three by the Red Wings, but the Canadiens were able to hold on for the win.
The Red Wings have won six of the past nine meetings overall and have taken three of the past four encounters at the Bell Centre.
As MLive's Ansar Khan noted earlier this morning, there's one roster question for the Wings...
With back-to-back games, Babcock hadn’t decided whether he would play Datsyuk and Alfredsson Saturday in Montreal (7 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit). But, as long as Datsyuk doesn’t experience a setback, he should get better, and he’ll be a big boost the last few games for a team that has put itself in a good position to earn a playoff spot.
The Wings had a three-goal lead 16 minutes into the first period, then let the game get too interesting. Maybe it had to do with Pavel Datsyuk being back in the lineup for the first time in five weeks, giving the Wings more offensive potential, especially against an opponent that lost for the 47th time this season.
“We started really good, we were all over them,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Suddenly we had some skill and suddenly we were dangling around with the puck, and now we had cute-itis going and then we didn’t want to shoot it in the net, we wanted to pass it one more time. The next thing you know, it’s game on, instead of just doing things simple and hard and right.
“That was us feeling like we’re a pretty good team suddenly. Maybe we weren’t scared for the first time in two months.”
I certainly didn't expect this to pop up, but USA Today's Kevin Allen's made his Jack Adams Awards picks. #1 and #2 are Patrick Roy and Ken Hitchcock, and Claude Julien, Dan Bylsma, Alain Vigneault, John Cooper and Craig Berube also pop up, but his #3 candidate--who won't win the award--is a solid choice:
3. Mike Babcock (Detroit Red Wings): He could move up to the top position if the Red Wings clinch a playoff spot.
He has worked wonders with a banged-up team that at one point was missing five centers.
The Red Wings lost their top two offensive players, Henrik Zetterberg and Datsyuk, after the Olympics and he has managed to rally the team into the top wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
I don't believe that Babcock will win. The NHL's Broadcasters Association votes on the award, and there's just been so much momentum behind Roy's work in Colorado, Cooper's work in Tampa Bay, Bylsma's ability to steer the Pens through injuries and Berube's resurgent Flyers that I can't see the broadcasters giving Babcock due credit.
One more thing: As noted in the overnight report and the pre-morning-skate thread, the Free Press's Helene St. James reported that the Wings might be interested in pursuing Buffalo Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, which would make some sense as this summer's crop of unrestricted free agent defensemen is less than awe-inducing, but the cap-compliance buy-out market could change everything.
I don't believe that the Buffalo Sabres will make the following move, but if they do, as the Hockey News's Matt Larkin suggests in an article titled, "Top five compliance buyout candidates for 2014," the Wings would be all over this guy like white on rice:
5. Tyler Myers, D, Buffalo Sabres
(Five years left, $5.5-million cap hit)
Am I contradicting my own criteria? It’s controversial pick, as some teams may be willing to explore a trade for him, but the cap hit and term, not to mention Myers’ no-trade clause that kicks in for 2016-17, would make it tough for Buffalo to find a dance partner. The Sabres don’t need Myers for their future, as they have Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov and Jake McCabe to build around, not to mention Christian Ehrhoff signed at a reasonable price until the end of time. Myers is the anti-Dennis Green player, in that he just isn’t who we thought he was after that Calder Trophy campaign in 2009-10.
Agree or disagree with these picks? Have some candidates of your own? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Myers is all of 6'8" and 227 pounds, he's 24, he shoots right and the Sports Forecaster describes him as follows:
Assets: Is incredibly big and lanky, but also a very good skater for his size. Can play in all game situations and also boasts very good offensive upside. Can also be a big-minute shutdown defender.
Flaws: Still needs to fill out his 6-8, 227-pound frame, as well as become more aggressive in the defensive zone, in order to maximize his vast all-round potential. Is prone to making mistakes.
Career Potential: Talented all-round defenseman with big upside.
I can't imagine that the Sabres will do anything less than demand a large trade return for Myers. I can't see him being bought out at all--it doesn't even make sense.
As I said last night, I think that it's more realistic to expect the Wings to sign a veteran like Dan Boyle or Kimmo Timonen (if he still wants to play) to a one-year "bridge" contract so as to not get in the way of the half-dozen Grand Rapids Griffins defensemen who are a few years from contributing on a rgular basis, and as rumor has it that the Canucks still want a crapton of assets (2 top prospects and a first-round pick) for 27-year-old Alex Edler, his -33 and his $5 million cap hit...
Ehrhoff makes a lot of sense if the Sabres are willing to do the trade dance with a division rival, but we all know that the Wings work the free agent marketplace to address their needs most regularly, and as Matt Niskanen will remain with Pittsburgh thanks to Kris Letang's health issues, we're talking about players like Marek Zidlicky, the aforementioned Timonen and Boyle, Sami Salo, some dark horses in Willie Mitchell, Raphael Diaz or Andrej Meszaros if they aren't re-signed, and maybe a Derek Morris or Henrik Tallinder being available.
It would make more sense for the Wings, especially given their glut of forwards, to make a trade, but at this point, it's entirely possible that the team may simply re-sign Kyle Quincey, bring Adam Almquist into the fold as he's no longer waiver-exempt, perhaps say goodbye to Jakub Kindl or Brian Lashoff, and then see what happens and/or perhaps make a trade during the regular season.
That's not what I want to happen--I want to see the Wings be aggressive and make a trade for an Ehrhoff, look at a "bridge" player on the UFA marketplace, or if there are any cap compliance buy-out surprises, to pursue those players aggressively as I believe the team DESPERATELY needs another top-three defenseman, but I can very easily see the Wings standing pat.
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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.