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Red Wings-Canucks game-day updates: Gustavsson’s out and other injury news; Bieksa out for Vancouver

Updated 3x at 4:19 PM: The Detroit Red Wings will face off against the Vancouver Canucks this afternoon (5 PM, FSD/Sportsnet West/97.1 FM) minus their designated starter for the day. As Paul noted, the Wings recalled Tom McCollum and will start Jimmy Howard instead of Jonas Gustavsson due to a "sore groin," though Wings GM Ken Holland told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that the team's decision involves an abundance of caution...

“Howard’s playing,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “Gus has a tender groin and we don’t want to take any risks.”

Holland said they were thinking about starting Gustavsson against the Canucks after Howard played Saturday night against the Nashville Predators. Howard stopped all 33 shots he faced against the Predators.

“Howard feels good and he’s comfortable going in,” Holland said. “We think Gus will be fine, but you never know.”

The Wings leave for Los Angeles Monday night where they will face the Kings on Wednesday and San Jose the next night before returning home to host the Chicago Blackhawks next Sunday.

“We'll see before we go to LA if it's anything significant,” Holland said.

The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan confirms, as does the Free Press's Helene St. James, and Holland offered injury updates regarding the rest of his injured players to Pleiness...

Wings general manager Ken Holland said they’re shooting for forward Johan Franzen (hip flexor) to return to the lineup Wednesday in Los Angeles against the Kings, unless he re-injuries it in practice Tuesday.

Defensemen Brendan Smith and Carlo Colaiacovo, both out with shoulder injuries, are expected to return by next Sunday at the latest, or possibly in one of these two games on the West Coast.

Forward Mikael Samuelsson is still out between 2-4 weeks with a broken finger.

“It’s a 4-5 week injury,” Holland said. “We’ll see after two weeks if he can play with a splint.”

Forwards Darren Helm and Todd Bertuzzi, both sidelined with back injuries, are progressing. Helm is scheduled to see a specialist in New York on Monday.

“(Helm) is progressing but not nearly as fast as we had hoped,” Holland said. “The specialist deals with muscles and ligaments. We just need to start ruling out this or that. We think it’s a ligament strain or sprain, but it’s not healing as fast as we had hoped.

“Bert had a good week and he’s happy with how his back has felt,” Holland added. “I saw him Thursday and he was feeling significantly better.”

And MLive's Ansar Khan:

Holland said defenseman Kyle Quincey (left ankle) will not play today. He might be ready to practice Tuesday and play Wednesday in Los Angeles.


Darren Helm: He will fly to New York on Monday to see a specialist who deals with muscles and ligaments. He hasn't skated since Jan. 26 due to back pain and has appeared in only one game.

“He is progressing daily, but not nearly as fast as we had hoped,'' Holland said. "We've ruled out a disc or fracture. We think it's a ligament strain or sprain.''

Todd Bertuzzi: He hasn't been on the ice since playing Feb. 7 in St. Louis, when his back flared up. There is no timetable on when he'll be able to start skating.

“He had a good week, been happy with how the back has felt,'' Holland said. "I saw him Thursday and he was feeling significantly better.''

Brendan Smith, Carlo Colaiacovo: Holland said he anticipates both (out with shoulder injuries) will be ready to play next Sunday vs. Chicago, if not during the trip to California (Wednesday in L.A., Thursday in San Jose).

Mikael Samuelsson: His broken left index finger, sustained at last Tuesday's morning skate, is a 4-5 week injury, Holland said. After two weeks they will see if he can play with a split.

Johan Franzen: He is expected to return on Wednesday from his sore hip flexor.

In terms of tonight's opponent, they aren't at full strength, either, though they're certainly far better off by comparison. The Globe and Mail's David Ebner reports that Kevin Bieksa will sit out for Vancouver with a sore groin, and the Canucks may not have David Booth in the lineup, either:

[In the] net, Roberto Luongo gets his second consecutive start, standing at the best goaltender in the league in several statistical categories including goals-against-average. He shutout Nashville on Friday, his second of the season, and is 5-0-3. It is his ninth start of the year, which matches Luongo with Cory Schneider, who is 5-3-1 in his nine starts.

Bieksa “tweaked” his groin in the second period in Nashville and was last seen on the official National Hockey League play-by-play taking a hit from Predators defenceman Hal Gill early in the second period. He didn’t skate with his teammates on Sunday morning in Detroit and coach Alain Vigneault said Bieksa was “day-to-day,” adding, “We’ll see how he’s doing tomorrow.”

Booth, meanwhile, is waylaid by illness, one that had also whipsawed goaltending coach Rollie Melanson and assistant coach, for video, Darryl Williams. Vigneault said he would reassess later in the day if Booth would be ready for the 5 p.m. ET game, after Booth did not skate in the morning.


So as Vancouver plays its sixth game in 10 days, and fourth in six days on the road, Detroit comes into the Sunday game on a back-to-back, where the Wings haven’t played especially well. Vancouver had a day off in Detroit on Saturday. The Canucks, at 10-3-4, have lost just one game in regulation in their past 10 games, which puts Vancouver in a club that includes only two teams, those ahead in the Western Conference, Anaheim, with one loss in the past 10, and Chicago, no losses in regulation at all this season, a record start.

Starting in place of Bieksa is Andrew Alberts, a 31-year-old who played about half the games last season and the season before for Vancouver – but none this year. The Canucks six defenceman have been, each game, Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis, Alex Edler, Jason Garrison, and Chris Tanev. Cam Barker, a No. 3 overall draft pick in 2004, also has not played. Vigneault said he was “amazed” that the Canucks have had no injuries among their defence. “We’ve been very fortunate,” the coach said after practice on Sunday.

The Vancouver Sun's Brad Ziemer reports that the Canucks are otherwise hale, hearty and ready to take the Wings out...

"We want those two points to end this road trip right," said centre Ryan Kesler, a Detroit-area native. "Obviously, we didn't start the way we wanted to in Chicago, but I think we're starting to play the way we can."

There hasn't been much joy in Hockeytown of late and the Canucks would like to keep it that way. The injury-riddled Red Wings did beat the Nashville Predators 4-0 on Saturday night, but had lost their previous three games at Joe Louis Arena and are a rather ordinary 8-7-3 this season. But goalie Roberto Luongo, who gets the start today after his shutout in Nashville on Friday night, said the Wings remain dangerous with the likes of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

"Those guys can make plays out of nothing," Luongo said. "Sometimes just when you think you have them they'll pull something out and all of a sudden they are in alone or they are creating a scoring chance. We have to play those guys hard and we can't give them time and space."


Alberts draws into the lineup after sitting out the first 17 games as a healthy scratch. He will be paired with Keith Ballard.


Vancouver's other defensive pairings are expected to be Jason Garrison with Alex Edler and Chris Tanev with Dan Hamhuis.

"I'm amazed we have gone this number of games without having an injury to our back end already," Vigneault said. "Usually that's a position where you are rotating players in and out. We have been very fortunate for those top six guys to stay healthy the way that they have. He (Alberts) has been waiting a long time to get his first kick at the can and he's got it tonight."

Vigneault attended the Wings' game on Saturday night and suggested Detroit remains a dangerous team.

"They do have some injuries, but they still have that overall team skill and they are a hard back-pressure team with highly skilled forwards that can make something out of nothing," he said. "Last night they got great goaltending at the beginning of the game and they took over in the second."

The Vancouver Province's Jason Botchford confirms and offers a "local angle"...

Good news for two younger players. Zack Kassian gets moved up the lineup and is set to play with Mason Raymond and Jordan Schroeder if Booth sits this one out. It’s essentially a homecoming for Kassian who lived in Windsor. But his mom won’t be at the game.

“My mom is on vacation,” Kassian said. “She had it booked, Cabo, during the lockout so I guess she was counting us out. We weren’t going to play.”

He won’t be short on family. He has about 50 people coming, including his sister, aunt, grandma and brothers.

“I remember those days,” said Ryan Kesler, another player from the Detroit area. “They dwindle off. He’s going to be pumped today. Hopefully he gets his first shift in early and all those jitters go away.”

Chris Tanev is the other young player the Canucks will be leaning on. Andrew Alberts checks into the lineup, and will play on a third pairing with Keith Ballard. The ridiculously consistent Tanev moves all the way to the top pair with Dan Hamhuis.

“It’s no surprise why we were confident in putting him in the Stanley Cup final,” Vigneault said. “It’s because you know, game-in, game-out what you are going to get. You are not going to get any surprises. You are going to get a guy who makes a good first pass. Doesn’t get beat one-on-one. He might not overpower anyone, but he has a good stick. And once he gets a puck, it’s out. Because they are no surprises, you’re confident with what he can do on the ice.”

As I was writing this, theCanucks' Twitter account offered an update on Booth's status...

If you find this sort of thing interesting, the Canucks' YouTube channel posted a clip of Alberts' morning skate interview, and their main video channel has a video of Luongo talking about the game...


They've got a game preview up as well...

Canucks.com's Daniel Fung offers an incredibly thorough "Tale of the Tape"...

  • The Canucks will conclude their four-game road trip this afternoon having gone 2-0-1 in the first three games. They're looking to extend their road win streak to three straight games which would be a season-high.
  • The Red Wings snapped a season-high five-game winless skid (0-3-2) last night with their 4-0 win over Nashville.
  • This afternoon marks the first and only trip the Canucks will make this season to the Joe Louis Arena. It is also the first of three meetings between the Canucks and Red Wings this season.
  • The Canucks and Red Wings split their season series last year with each team picking up two victories, including one each at the JLA.
  • Canucks G Roberto Luongo started three of the four games in last year's season series versus Detroit and finished with a 2-0-1 record. Luongo is unbeaten in regulation in his last nine games (5-0-4) against the Red Wings dating back to March 3, 2010.
  • Don't be surprised if Red Wings G Jimmy Howard gets the start this afternoon despite playing yesterday. He's started all-but-two of the team's 18 games this season. He started all four games against the Canucks in the season series last year going 2-1-1 with a 2.42 GAA and .915 save percentage with one shutout.
  • Canucks F Henrik Sedin led all Vancouver players with four points, all assists, in last year's season series against Detroit. Currently injured Red Wings F Darren Helm had five points (1-4-5) to lead all players in the season series.
  • The Canucks lost D Kevin Bieksa in the second period of Friday's win over Nashville to a groin injury. If he's unable to go this afternoon, then D Andrew Alberts will make his season debut in his place. Vancouver has played its top-six defensemen in every single game so far this season.
  • The Red Wings are 1-2-0 this season when playing on zero days rest.
  • The Canucks last game against the Red Wings, also their last game at the Joe Louis Arena, was indeed a memorable one. Daniel Sedin scored his second of two goals on the night with 15.4 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and Alex Burrows notched the shootout's only marker to lift the Canucks to a 4-3 win while snapping Detroit's NHL-record 23-game home ice win streak.

Derek Jory offers something of a professional fan's perspective...

There’s just something amazing about Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. I was sitting on the old creaky wooden visiting team bench early this morning when Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis walked out. He took a deep breath as his head rose up looking at all the banners in the rafters. By my count there are 61 banners, 11 honouring Stanley Cup Champion teams. The Joe, as it’s known, is literally oozing in history and, as it turns out, memories are a plenty from playing in his building.

“I played in one of the first ever games here,” Gillis said.

“When was that,” I asked.

“I don’t know, late ’70s, early 80s sometime.”

“I wasn’t even born yet!” I chuckled.

“Thanks, that makes me feel better.”

There’s smooth and then there’s Derek Jory smooth. Nothing like insulting the general manager before the morning paper has even been delivered.

If you haven’t been to The Joe, I highly recommend it. It’s a very unique place and was state of the art when it was built; I wouldn’t call it rundown now, it’s steeped in character.

One by one Canucks made their way out onto the bench to have a look around. Kevin Bieksa, wanting to test a new stick, walked onto the ice in shorts, a t-shirt and flippy-floppies with an ear-to-ear grin.

“I scored a couple of big goals here,” he boasted. “Final Four against Ryan Miller, that was a big goal. It’s definitely what got me drafted to the Canucks.”

Shifting focus back to the home team, the Red Wings' game day blog offers a historical note..

On This Day in Red Wings History...

On February 24, 1990: Steve Yzerman becomes the first player in Red Wings’ history to score 50 or more goals in three consecutive seasons and the third player to record his 1,000th career point.

Ken Kal's keys to the game, which were obviously written before this morning's injury news hit the wires...

Pick Up Where You Left Off - Build off of last night. The Wings played hard for 60 minutes, outworked the Preds, and fed off a rowdy crowd. They need to do more of the same tonight.

Monster Must Be a Monster - The Canucks have a potent offense, so Jonas Gustavsson needs to have a solid perfomance: be square to the puck, control rebounds, and communicate well with defensemen.

Weather the Early Storm - The Canucks are well rested and they'll be flying early, trying to take advantage of a Detroit team that played hard last night. The Wings have to eliminate early mistakes and get into the flow as early as possible.

And the Wings offer a game-day preview video as well, albeit a combined weekender:

Update: Kal's also Tweeted some stats of note...

In a very different vein, the Windsor Star's Bob Duff pondered Justin Abdelkader's slow start...

Eighteen games into the NHL season, Detroit Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader is still looking for his first goal of the campaign. He picked up his second assist in Saturday’s 4-0 win over the Nashville Predators at Joe Louis Arena, but as the Wings ready for Sunday’s home tilt against the Vancouver Canucks, Abdelkader admits he’s trying not to get frustrated by his slow start.

“Hockey’s a funny game,” Abdelkader explained. ‘You’re either getting breaks or trying to find them. I’ll just keep my head down, keep working hard, keep plugging forward and I think keep it simple. Hopefully, eventually, they’ll start rolling my way. It’s funny, when you watch highlights of games, just to see how a lot of the goals go in, they’re a break here, a bounce here, so I think it’s about creating opportunity for yourself and hopefully eventually they’ll go in.”

With injuries to Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen, Wings coach Mike Babcock has experimented with Abdelkader alongside Pavel Datsyuk, but when that wasn’t working Saturday, he dropped Abdelkader down to the fourth line.

“He’s getting to play with Datsyuk, and that’s like winning the lottery” Babcock said. ”Get him the puck, and go to the net, and good things will happen.”

Babcock chalked some of Abdelkader’s difficulties up to not playing during the NHL lockout, but wasn’t about to give him a free pass for his dismal break from the gate.

“It’s like all the guys who didn’t play,” Babcock said. “Anybody who looks at your stats and doesn’t have any stats, it’s tough. I always used to think if they weren’t going up on one side, they better go up on the other side with lots of penalty minutes. “You’ve got to make it happen for yourself.”

And USA Today's Kevin Allen and the Free Press's Helene St. James pondered the realignment issue, noting that Columbus is dead-set upon moving to the East...

Columbus would be with Carolina, New Jersey, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington.

"If this does indeed happen, I think it would be beneficial for us," Blue Jackets President John Davidson said.

Davidson said since he was hired last October, he has been informally surveying Columbus fans "and overwhelmingly they would love to be in the East." He said the Blue Jackets would like the reported plan because Detroit is also said to be moving, and the Detroit-Columbus rivalry works well for both teams because the cities are 200 miles apart. Moving to the East also would set up the Blue Jackets to develop a rivalry with the Pittsburgh Penguins, a three-hour drive from Columbus.

"The other aspect that is just sensible is the time zone (issue)," Davidson said. "For our fans to watch our road games is not easy ... and our travel is tough."

The NHL and NHLPA have been in discussions about realignment for three weeks, and more discussions are expected this week. Nothing has been finalized, and it would still need to be approved by the league's board of governors

"I'd be for us going to the East, that would be a no-brainer," Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "Then, a home-and-home with each team, I think, if that's still the case, that would be great for the game and for fans."

Detroit forward Daniel Cleary said, "If that's how it looks, that'd be great for us. It'd be huge. Anybody that's played in Detroit understands the rigors of going out west. And the hard part is going home, you lose so much time. We have one team in our time zone in our conference. It's taxing. We've been doing it for a lot of years. It'd be great to move over. I think it looks awesome."

Which is the issue MLive's Ansar Khan and Brendan Savage discussed the advantages of in their game preview:

ANSAR KHAN: The biggest advantage for the Red Wings would be the reduced travel in the playoffs. Having at least the first two rounds entirely in the eastern time zone would keep players much fresher than if they had to make multiple trips to the West Coast, like they did in 2010 and '11, playing Phoenix and San Jose both seasons.

It would be nice for fans to be able to watch road playoff games that start at 7 p.m. Or 7:30 as opposed to 10 p.m. And 10:30. That also would result in better TV ratings for Fox Sports Detroit. It's a win-win situation.

BRENDAN SAVAGE: There's no question the travel is going to be the biggest advantage for the Red Wings. Fewer long road trips to the West Coast is less of a grind and even if the Red Wings do have four or five straight games on the road, if they're against Eastern Conference teams they'll sometimes be able to fly back to Detroit between games.

For the fans, fewer late-night games is a bonus, especially for folks who have to get up early for work.

As for me, I think more games against the Original Six teams will be the best thing. The Bruins, Maple Leafs and Canadiens are among the Red Wings' oldest rivals and more games against them brings more tradition to the table.

Plus, there's nothing like watching a game on Hockey Night in Canada -- the sound just seems so much crisper -- and that should happen more often if the Red Wings are in the same conference as the Maple Leafs and Canadiens.

It's about time the NHL moved the Red Wings back where they belong.

Yahoo Sports' Greg "Puck Daddy" Wyshynski dissected the realignment issue as well...

Whatever the schedule, this is a huge win for Detroit, which was rumored to have been promised this realignment for several years.

The Wings are a perfect fit geographically here, and the NHL and its television partners must been swooning from the potential ratings for Detroit vs. Boston/Buffalo/Montreal/Toronto on a conference-rival basis. (This realignment means only good things for television -- especially if a "divisional playoff" format is adopted as well.)

It’s also a huge win for Columbus – hell, it’s a franchise game-changer. The Jackets will have Pittsburgh as a division rival, which is an enormous boon; not only because it brings a premiere franchise from the same time zone to town, but because Penguins fan invasions for those games already have created a kinetic atmosphere in the arena.

But most of all, Jackets fans won't have to stay up to the wee hours just to see their team face conference rivals.

Tampa Bay and Florida will now be in the same division as the snowbird fans that fill their seats every winter. Washington returns to its old Patrick Division friends, ending the days of Southeast Division “rivalries” that never came to fruition.

And this has nothing to do with the game, but on the heels of the news that the Cheli's Chili location in Dearborn has closed, the Macomb Daily's Mitch Hotts reports that the Cheli's Chili in Clinton Township will cose as well!

Update #2: ESPN's Barry Melrose suggests that today's game is the best one to be held this weekend...



If the embed code isn't working, click on the link (ESPN's embed code is wonky today)...

And, for the record, from the Griffins:

The Detroit Red Wings on Sunday recalled goaltender Tom McCollum from the Grand Rapids Griffins. Additionally, the Griffins signed goaltender Jimmy Spratt to a professional tryout.

Detroit’s first choice (30th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, McCollum has suited up in 22 games for the Griffins this season, setting a new career high with 12 wins alongside a 2.92 goals against average and two shutouts. The 23-year-old netminder ranks among the Griffins’ all-time goaltending leaders with 104 games played (3rd), 5826:21 minutes (4th), 39 wins (7th), 2,489 saves (4th) and three shutouts (T9th). A native of Sanborn, N.Y., McCollum has appeared in one NHL game with Detroit, making five saves in a relief effort on March 30, 2011 versus St. Louis.

A 27-year-old netminder from Chesterfield, Mich., Spratt has made seven appearances this season with the CHL’s Quad City Mallards, sporting a 1-5-0 record, a 3.79 goals against average and one shutout, and one appearance with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye, making 14 saves on 17 shots in a 3-2 overtime loss to Kalamazoo on Feb. 15. The fourth-year pro owns a 32-34-4 record with a 3.54 GAA in 80 professional contests. He appeared in two AHL games last season with the Texas Stars, notching a 1-1 record and a 2.02 GAA.

The Griffins will finish up a weekend three-in-three when they host the San Antonio Rampage today at 4 p.m. before playing 14 of their next 18 games away from Van Andel Arena.

Update #3: The Canucks won't be playing with David Booth, either...

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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.


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