Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Canucks set-up and overnight report: climbing up the West while hoping to go East

At the beginning of February, I looked at this weekend and figured that today's game between the Red Wings and Vancouver Canucks (5 PM EST, FSD/Sportsnet Pacific/97.1 FM) as something of a "bonus win." Today's game marks the Wings' 3rd in 4 nights, their 4th in 6 nights, their 5th over the last 8 nights and their 7th over approximately a week-and-a-half's worth of time.

So I thought that today's game would pretty much be a guaranteed loss, coming off to back-to-backs and what's really been a month's worth of "mini series" games against St. Louis, Columbus and Nashville. In theory, anyway, the Wings that were starting to find their footing in February were going to be too tired and perhaps a little too fat and happy (so to speak) to take this game as seriously as I thought they'd need to.

The Wings' 0-3-and-2 record before last night's 4-0 victory over Nashville changes that presumptive equation on its head, and makes a team that is doubtlessly a little tired and more banged-up than I think any of us could've expected at game #19 out of 48 face a must-win situation this afternoon, with the 8-7-and-3 Wings rather desperately needing to earn two points against a 10-3-and-4 Canucks team that flew to Detroit and watched Saturday night's affair after having defeated Nashville 1-0 on Friday night.

Because the Canucks didn't get into town until after a practice-free Saturday, there just isn't all that much from their press corps about tonight's game.

The Canucks are going to hold a morning skate of sorts--the Wings won't hold a morning skate at all, if we are to believe Mickey Redmond, and he's generally reliable in that department--and at that time, they'll update the status of Kevin Bieksa, who's got a groin issue...

But at 5 AM, even I have to head to bed, and while I'd like to wait up for the Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province to update, I've gotten about 90 minutes of sleep since 10:30 AM on Saturday, and I'm also at the end of a very grueling stretch of blogging, so I'll have to save whatever posts between now and when I get up for an early afternoon post. Paul's going to cover the morning skate for me, and for now, I have to cobble a preview together based upon what little information I can find that's pertinent to tonight's game.

I'm going to go back to the Associated Press's recap of Vancouver's 1-0 win over Nashville to allow both you and me to get to know the Canucks:

[Roberto] Luongo made 23 saves for the shutout and Dale Weise broke a scoreless tie at 9:14 of the third period and the Vancouver Canucks defeated Nashville 1-0 Friday. The Canucks have won consecutive games on their four-game road trip after losing three straight.

...

With the game still scoreless in the third period, Maxim Lapierre had the puck behind the Nashville goal line and carried it up to the right circle. He then spun and sent a shot toward Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne. Rinne kicked the puck away with his right pad, but Weise was there to put away the rebound for his first goal of the season.

...

Luongo was tested early, as he turned aside 13 Nashville shots in the opening period.

"The first period, we were looking to find a little bit of energy and I think we built off that really solid performance from Louie in the first period," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "He permitted us to find our legs, find our execution, find our energy, and we were much better in the second and the third."

The Canucks' defence held the Predators to just five shots each in the second and third periods.

"They came out strong, but we were able to weather the storm," Luongo said. "The last two periods, I thought we played basically the type of hockey we want to play, especially playing against these guys."

The shutout was Luongo's second of the season and 62nd of his career. His 35 shutouts with the Canucks are a franchise record.

I can tell you that Bieksa's potential absence hurts the Canucks' cause in a big way, as the Vancouver Province's Jason Botchford noted on Saturday...

Bieksa was forced out when he pulled up, leading into a Hal Gill hit on his second shift on the third period. With a a groin injury, he didn’t return.

“He tweaked a groin a little bit, we’ll know more tomorrow,” Vigneault said. “At first, it doesn’t seem to be that serious but we will find out tomorrow. See how he reacts to ice and treatment.”

If he’s out Sunday in Detroit, Andrew Alberts is in.

The injury scrambled the Canucks defensive pairings and left them without their hottest goal scorer. Bieksa came into the game with five goals in his past eight games, and in the first period, when the Canucks generated just three shots, Bieksa had two of them.

And the Vancouver Sun's Brad Ziemer confirmed...

Bieksa’s absence meant the Canucks, who were plying their third road game in four nights, had to play the rest of the night with just five defencemen.

“Some games you have to grind it, you have to find ways, and tonight was an example of that,” Vigneault said. “Those five guys did a tremendous job, all four lines did a really solid job of playing high percentage and smart hockey against a team that is a very intelligent team on the ice.”

Defenceman Keith Ballard said the key was keeping shifts short.

“I didn’t think it was bad at all,” he said. “We had real short shifts. We were 20, 30 seconds and changing and everyone is kind of in the flow and in the game so you didn’t really notice it. You’d come back to the bench and sometimes you are up in 30 seconds and you grab a drink of water and go back out there.”

Dan Hamhuis led Canuck defencemen with 26:10 of ice time.

If Bieksa can’t go on Sunday, Vigneault said Andrew Alberts will take his place in the lineup. Bieksa’s absence would leave the Canucks’ defence with just one right-handed shot in Chris Tanev.

And Ziemer pointed out that Roberto Luongo's stats are scary good:

Luongo’s goals-against average dropped to a league-best 1.45. His save percentage of .941 is second among goalies who have played at least five games this season. He continues to credit his strong start this season to the work he did during the off-season and lockout with Francois Allaire.

“I got a chance to work on some aspects of my game I wasn’t happy with and right now I feel big in the net, I feel like I am seeing the puck well and I’m not making any desperation saves and stuff like that,” Luongo said. “I am always trying to be in good position and it’s working out well.”

NHL.com's Brian Hunter provides a superb preview...

Last 10: Vancouver 7-1-2; Detroit 4-4-2

...

Big story: Despite a rash of injuries this season and a recent five-game losing streak, the Red Wings are hanging tight in the Western Conference playoff race. The Canucks have recently been bolstered by the returns of Ryan Kesler and David Booth, and while the early surges by the Blackhawks and Ducks dominate the headlines, they're chugging right along atop the Northwest Division standings.

...

Canucks [team scope]: Roberto Luongo turned in a vintage performance Friday night in a 1-0 win over one of the NHL's stingiest teams in Nashville. For over 49 minutes the Canucks couldn't break through against Pekka Rinne, but the fourth line eventually cashed in as Dale Weise converted the rebound of a Maxim Lapierre shot at 9:14 of the third period for the game's only goal. Luongo finished with 23 saves and recorded his 62nd career shutout.

"This was our third game in four nights on the road with a tremendous amount of traveling and late nights," coach Alain Vigneault said. "I had to play four lines. We did. We got a lot out of our people in the second and the third. [Luongo] gave us the chance for us to get our legs and get our energy."

Red Wings [team scope]: With several regulars up front having to be replaced in recent weeks by call-ups from its American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids, secondary scoring has become a necessity for Detroit to put wins together. The Red Wings got just that Saturday night against the Predators, as Drew Miller, Tomas Tatar and Daniel Cleary all lit the lamp along with defenseman Niklas Kronwall, and Jimmy Howard made 33 saves in a 4-0 victory that snapped their skid.

...

Who's hot: Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis drew the secondary assist on Wiese's goal and has a helper in three straight games. … Pavel Datsyuk has five goals and five assists in his last seven games for the Red Wings. Kronwall had a pair of assists Saturday for a three-point night.

The Canucks are healthy other than dealing with Bieksa's groin issue.

DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose added a preview of his own...

The Vancouver Canucks wrap up a four-game road trip with a stop at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday. Last season’s President’s Trophy winners will be looking for their third straight win in four days – and seven points out of a possible eight – when they face-off against the Red Wings for the first time since last February.

The Canucks, who for the last three seasons have been led by a top five offense, have cruised to the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference on the strength of a stingy defense.

Behind veteran goalie Roberto Luongo, who seemingly has moved off of the trading block, Vancouver’s goaltending tandem has allowed just 36 goals. … The Canucks are led by five players who have five goals each – Daniel Sedin, Alexandre Burrows, Mason Raymond, Jannik Hansen and Kevin Bieksa – this season. Meanwhile, center Henrik Sedin has a team-high 13 assists and a plus-12 rating.


PLAYER TO WATCH: RW JANNIK HANSEN – In his seventh NHL season, Hansen has earned the reputation as a solid, speedy two-way winger. But this week, his squeaky clean rep took a hit when he was slapped with a one-game suspension for his hit to the head of Chicago forward Marian Hossa on Tuesday. Hansen was disappointed with the league’s decision, which carried a fine of more than $7,200. “It bothers me that you have that on your record now,” Hansen told the media in Dallas on Thursday. “You have that on you now and if something happens in the future you are repeat offender.” Red Wings’ fans may remember an incident where Hansen bowled over goalie Jimmy Howard last season. The play resulted in a Canucks’ goal, which easily should have been disallowed.

NUMEROLOGY

...

2011-12 Season Series: 2-1-1

All-Time Series Season: 82-54-18-5

Vancouver’s Season Record: 10-3-4

Top Scorer vs. Red Wings: Henrik Sedin – 4 Assists in 4 Games.

Red Wings’ Top Scorer – Darren Helm – 1 Goal, 4 Assists in 4 Games.

And the Associated Press's game preview offers some stats of note:

Vancouver looks to earn at least a point for the 10th time in 11 meetings as it concludes a four-game road trip in Detroit on Sunday.

The Canucks (10-3-4) are the clear favorites to win a fifth straight division title, and have won their last two games after Friday's 1-0 victory in Nashville - their sixth consecutive one-goal game.

Roberto Luongo improved to 5-0-3 with an NHL-best 1.45 goals-against average after making 23 saves. Once thought to be on his way out of town following a disappointing showing in last season's playoffs, Luongo has put himself in early consideration for the Vezina Trophy.

...

Vancouver is 5-1-4 in the last 10 meetings with Detroit, as Luongo has started each of the nine that resulted in at least one point while posting a 2.77 GAA. It's unclear if he or Cory Schneider will be in net for this contest, but coach Alain Vigneault has praised Luongo's contributions.

"The first period, we were looking to find a little bit of energy and I think we built off that really solid performance from Louie in the first period," Vigneault said. "He permitted us to find our legs, find our execution, find our energy."

...

No matter the results of recent meetings, neither team has been able to capitalize on power-play chances. Vancouver went 0 for 9 with the man advantage in last season's four matchups, while Detroit was a dismal 0 for 20. The Red Wings have converted just 1 of their last 12 power-play opportunities and rank near the bottom of the league by converting 13.7 percent of their chances.

Henrik Zetterberg is scoreless in his last five versus the Canucks, while Pavel Datsyuk has just two assists in that stretch.

We do know that the Wings are starting Jonas Gustavsson, presumably against Corey Schneider, as Wings coach Mike Babcock stated as much after the Wings' win over Nashville, and Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji looked up Gustavsson's stats against Vancouver. They aren't pretty:

The Wings are hoping to get a few of their injured players back next week, but even when they do Howard and Jonas Gustavsson will have to be at the top of their game.

Gustavsson, finally healthy after missing most of the beginning of the season, will make his first start Sunday evening against the Vancouver Canucks. In three games played against the Canucks, Gustavsson is 0-2 with a 4.08 goals-against average and .878 save percentage.

The Wings need him to be a lot better than that — Sunday and the rest of the season.

We do know that the Wings are in "must-win" mode, and of all the quotes uttered after last night's game, I thought this one from Niklas Kronwall, noted by the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa, was particularly pertinent...

"I still think there's some areas we can definitely improve on," Kronwall said. "I definitely thought that we tried to stick with it for 60 minutes, this time. Guys were battling hard and winning battles — and Howie, again, came up huge for us."

As was the end of MLive's Ansar Khan's recap:

The Red Wings scored all of their goals with either a net-front presence (Cleary, on two goals), or right in front of the net (goals by Miller and Tatar).

“We've always been like that, each line has to have a guy at the net,'' Cleary said. “I've been going there since I've been here. As the season gets going, you get better at it, your timing and your deflections. If you keep going there, good things happen at the net.''

Miller opened the scoring at 5:11 of the first period by banging in a rebound. Tatar displayed his good set of hands by roofing a shot from in tight at 2:58 of the second period. It was his third goal in 10 games since being recalled from the Grand Rapids Griffins.

“Tatar's got an NHL skill package,'' Cleary said. “He's going to be a good player.''

Kronwall scored at 15:33 of the second to make it 3-0, as his shot fluttered past Pekka Rinne with Cleary in front. Cleary made it 4-0 at 11:48 of the third period, standing in front of the net to deflect in a shot by Kronwall.

The Red Wings turned in the 60-minute effort that had been missing during this stretch of losses.

“Things weren’t going our way,'' Howard said. “We weren’t really paying attention to detail, and tonight we got the performance from every single one of us. We stuck to the game plan and we continued to make their D turn and face the glass and go get pucks. That wears on you throughout the game.”

That's the best I can give you this morning, folks. Sometimes you've got to know, "When to say when," and at 5:25 AM, and having been "at work" since immediately after the Wings and Predators wrapped up their game around 9:40 PM on Saturday night, I've gotta say, "Enough. This is the best I can do with the information available to me at this time."

 

 

Today's obvious "other story" invovles the CBC's Elliotte Friedman's report that the NHL is proposing to realign its two-conference format into a 4-"conference" system in which the Red Wings would find themselves in an 8-team "conference" with the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.

I read the imbalances between two 8-team "Eastern"  and 7-team "Western" divisions as something of a slap directed toward the face of the NHLPA, which doesn't want the league to realign itself in a manner that would make one's chances of making the playoffs greater or lesser depending on which team a player found himself playing for, and I sure as hell don't imagine that any of the current Western Conference teams--including the Nashville Predators, who are ardently opposed to losing their rivarly with the Wings, and the Phoenixes and Anaheims of the world, who know that the Wings can come to town in October, when football and baseball are competing for sports fans' bucks, and fill buildings--will want to see the Wings leave, so I'm very iffy on this. 

This news broke during the third period of Saturday's game, and the Wings' players and coach Mike Babcock were essentially confronted by this "news" after the game.

As you might imagine, they didn't mind the proposal, as they told DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose...

“Us going to the East, that would be a no-brainer,” [Niklas] Kronwall said. “Home-and-home with each team, if that's the case, would be great for the game. That way all the fans get to see the Crosbys, the Datsyuks and the Zetterbergs.”

Less travel and fewer sleepier mornings for Wings’ fans is also a key component to the proposal, [Jimmy] Howard said.

“We’ve traveled back and forth, across the United States quite a bit,” he said. “To move to the Eastern I think that would be a lot of fun to play a lot of games in the Eastern Time Zone. It would be great for our fans too, not having to stay up until all hours of the night to watch us.”

The Macomb Daily's Fred Costello...

“I think it would be great for us,” Howard said. ”The travel, even though we’re all used to it now, and we know how to deal with it…we’ve traveled back and forth across the United States quite a bit.  To move to the East I think would be a lot of fun. It would be great for our fans too, not having to stay up at all hours of the night to watch us.”

Who offered this as his "quote of the day":

Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard was asked for his thoughts on the CBC report on Saturday, which showed a proposal for NHL realignment that would have Detroit moving to the East.

“It would be unbelievable,” Howard said. ”I think the travel sometimes takes years off of all our lives.”

Howard said that while looking at the press corps, and given that they're preparing to spend most of March and April in Western Canada and the West Coast, that's certainly understandably spoken.

The Detroit News's Gregg Krupa tried to get a comment from Wings GM Ken Holland, and he was...noncommittal...

The NHL is working on realignment, and the Red Wings were quick to react Saturday to a report out of Canada that currently under consideration is a proposal to move Detroit and the Blue Jackets into the Eastern Conference.

"I have no information on it, but that would make a lot of people happy," said Ken Holland, the Wings' general manager and executive vice-president.

The Red Wings and Columbus are the only two teams in the Eastern time zone that play in the Western Conference, and over the years it has made for an enormous travel deficit for the Wings. Especially in the playoffs, they are forced to fly more miles than almost any franchise and through more time zones than all.

Elliotte Friedman, of CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada" reported Saturday that under the proposal, there would be eight teams in each of two divisions in the Eastern Conference and seven teams in both divisions of a Western Conference. Friedman described it as "the latest proposal." He said the NHL would present it to the players' union, presently.

Babcock was skeptical of the news,asking the press corps whether they made it up or whether he did (how do I know this? I watched the Red Wings website's clips of Babcock and Howard speaking to the press), and he only warmed up to it when he'd been told that it was Friedman's report:

"I haven't heard the rumor and I didn't start this one," coach Mike Babcock joked. "But it would be a good one. That would be outstanding. No, it would be great! Unbelievable, actually.

"He (Friedman) usually knows what he's talking about."

"Well, travel's huge," the coach added. "There's no question about it. It wears you right out. It'd be a great thing for us. I'd have to learn a whole new league, but that's all right, too."

The Free Press's Helene St. James got a surprising quip from Holland--none...

The realignment has not been confirmed by the NHL, and Wings general manager Ken Holland did not want to make a comment.

According to the new plan, Detroit would be in a group with Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto, a division that includes three Original Six rivals in the Bruins, Canadiens and Maple Leafs.

"I'd be for us going to the East, that would be a no-brainer," 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."

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."

The NHL tried to push through realignment last season only to have the NHLPA put the kybosh on any changes for this season. The Wings would have been in a sort-of Midwestern division, which would have reduced the travel, though still included numerous road games at least one time zone away.

The other divisions under the newest plan would have a second Eastern group of Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington.

In the West, one group would be Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg. The other would be Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Jose.

And I'm glad to hear that MLive's Ansar Khan reports that Kronwall expressed some skepticism about the proposal, because it's not a slam dunk for 20 of the 30 members of the Boards of Governors, never mind the PA:

“It has been ups and downs, I'm just excited that they're taking about it again,'' Kronwall said. “I definitely think where we're at, with the new CBA finalized, we can get back to the table and get a completely different dialogue (with realignment).''

According to Friedman, the other eight-team conference would include Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, the New York Islanders, the New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington.

One seven-team conference would feature Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg. The other seven-team conference would have Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver.

The NHLPA last season rejected a previous realignment proposal by the league. In that plan, Detroit was in an eight-team conference that included Columbus, Chicago, Dallas, Nashville, Minnesota and St. Louis and Winnipeg.

Khan's link goes to a story he penned almost a year ago, in which a certain Jimmy Devellano perhaps began his anti-PA crusade...and as we all know, he hasn't spoken very much after the team took a $250,000 fine for some well-placed words about the owners being the ranch and everyone who relies upon them being cattle last summer.

 

 

Red Wings notebooks:  This isn't technically a Wings notebook, but before the game, the Tennessean's Josh Cooper spoke to Jordin Tootoo about playing game #2 against his former team, and Tootoo stated the obvious:

“Obviously there was a lot of hype going into the game in Nashville and obviously the reception I got was pretty amazing,” Tootoo said. “I know coming back here is just going to be another game for us. We’re division rivals and we have to get back on the winning ways and no better team to do it against.”

Also, the condensed schedule has lessened the anticipation level. The Predators lost last night to Vancouver, and the Red Wings have gone winless in five straight and just need a victory.

“We’re like playing every second day here,” Tootoo said. “It’s going to the drawing board to see which team we’re playing and making sure we know their systems and what not. It has definitely been busy. Every night we need to get points or we get pushed out of a playoff spot.”

Tootoo also told Cooper that he understood why some Predators fans booed him:

The fans gave him a standing ovation during a first period video tribute. And then they booed him. So what did Tootoo, one of the most popular players in Predators history, think about the boos?

“They cheer for their team and obviously any rival team comes in you’re going to hear a few boos,” Tootoo said. “It’s a part of it, but at the same time to have a standing ovation was pretty amazing. I would like to thank everyone once again for all their support.”

Cooper also took note of quite the yarn from Barry Trotz:

Maybe it was because he was in Joe Louis Arena. Or because he is now officially the longest-tenured coach with his particular team in the NHL, but Barry Trotz brought up an interesting moment in his personal history.

On Nov. 8, 2003, the Predators were down 3-0 at Detroit six minutes into the third period. Then Nashville scored four unanswered goals and won.

Years later, former owner Craig Leipold said he would have seriously considered firing Trotz had Nashville lost that game. The Predators then won nine of their next 11. Of course, Trotz has been with Nashville ever since.

“You always ask the question of, ‘does your message get old,’ ” Trotz said. “I say, ‘if it’s the right message, then it shouldn’t get old.’ “

Switching perspectives, the Free Press's Helene St. James noted that Tomas Tatar's making something of a permanent home for himself as a Red Wing after scoring yet another clutch goal on Saturday night, and she reports that Tatar's hitting it off with his teammates, too:

"Tatar has got an NHL skill package," Daniel Cleary said. "He's got hands. He's an NHL player. I've been really impressed, I like him a lot."

Since arriving in Detroit Feb. 5 to help the Wings through the slew of injuries they've endured, Tatar has five points and is minus-1 in 10 games. His coach, Mike Babcock, would like to see a better defensive effort, but at least Tatar is contributing offensively.

"He's got to learn to take care of the puck," Babcock said. "He's got to learn how to play without it, but he has skills in those areas, and so as he gets better without it, and as he gets heavier on the puck, as far as taking care of it, he'll be an important player for us."

Tatar played on a line with Joakim Andersson and Patrick Eaves.

"I feel really good on the ice, I have good ice time and I feel our line is playing really well," Tatar said. "We know exactly what Coach wants from us, we create energy and try to make it harder for them. So I feel happy."

Tatar did spend some time on the power play, as a net-front player, and he's more enthusiastic about the concept of playing on the wing with Valtteri Filppula and Justin Abdelkader--when the Wings stack Datsyuk and Zetterberg on the same first unit, anyway--than his coach is with the Wings' patchwork second unit:

"We want to score PP goals," Tatar said. "Somebody just has to, so there is pressure. I think we have lots of experienced guys to make it happen. Fil has great hockey sense and is great on the puck, he's a lot of fun to play with. I just try to help him out there.

Tatar and Abdelkader have a little friendly competition after practices and morning skates winds down, putting $5 on who can score the most goals in a one-on-one battle. Abdelkader came off the ice Saturday morning and congratulated Tatar, who quipped back he'd like to see the $20 he'd just won from their morning escapades.

St. James also took note of the fact that Brendan Smith's been cleared for the equivalent of light contact, but I have no idea where this quip in the Associated Press's Larry Lage's recap came from:

Detroit hopes two of its banged-up players -- Todd Bertuzzi (back) and Brendan Smith (hip) -- will return in about a week.

Erm, I think he means Johan Franzen (hip) and Brendan Smith (shoulder). Franzen's hip flexor is getting better, and he and Smith hope to return sometime during or after the Wednesday-Thursday back-to-backs in Los Angeles and San Jose, but on Saturday morning, the Free Press's George Sipple had pointed out that Carlo Colaiacovo's shoulder is still sore, which is worrisome.

As for Bertuzzi and Darren Helm, the last I heard, they were on bed rest and are 3-to-4 weeks from returning as both are out of shape and will need to basically get themselves back into hockey shape.

The Detroit News's Gregg Krupa brings us back to Barry Trotz, albeit from a Red Wings point of view, discussing Trotz's take on Shea Weber's slow start by suggesting that Weber is like Nick Lidstrom, a notoriously slow starter who didn't like it when the Wings sat him for preseason games...

"I think those big guys, you can say what you want: You need preseason," he said. "I always go back to Nick Lidstrom, and we had a group of guys, veteran players, who did not want to play a lot of exhibition games, and would just sort of cruise through it, if you will.

"And I read an article where Nick Lidstrom was talking about preseason. He said, 'I need to play the preseason. I need to ready for the season.' I think, at the time, he was about 38, or something like that. And, I'm thinking: I've got guys that are in their mid-20s that don't want to play any games in a preseason, and here's an older player, one of the greatest defensemen of our generation, and he wants to play all of the exhibition games, because he wants to be ready.

"He said something about, if I play 18 minutes a night, I can't prepare properly, if when the seasons starts, I'm going to play 26. To me, the great players play that way."

And Krupa also clarified Wings coach Mike Babcock's reasoning behind placing Justin Abdelkader on the power play in Tomas Holmstrom's position:

"Well, he did it in the minors," Babcock said, of Abdelkader playing in front of the net on power plays, referring to his time in Grand Rapids. "The bottom line is, if a guy has adjusted to it real good, behind his name you've got these power-play goals and points. That's the measure in the end."

...

"I think it's like all the guys who didn't play," Babcock said, of the impact of the lockout. "It took a while to get him going. He's been playing better of late. He's playing with Datsyuk. It's like winning the lottery! So, get him the puck and go to the net and get his confidence back. Anybody who looks at their stats and doesn't have any stats, you know, it's tough."

Then, recalling his statistics in his own abbreviated playing career as a defenseman in the Western Hockey League, colleges in Canada and elsewhere, Babcock joked, "I always used to think if mine weren't going up on the one side, you'd better get them up on the other side, with lots of penalty minutes."

At McGill University, where Babcock graduated as the second-highest scoring defenseman, career, he tallied 22 goals and 85 assists, for 107 points. He also had 301 penalty minutes.

And the Free Press's Steve Schrader offers a "Stevie" award that's appropriate for an Oscar Weekend (nice reason to schedule the Wings' Sunday game for 5 PM, eh?):

The "Infirmary On Ice" Award

To the Red Wings, who are feeling the hurt at every position. A fractured finger. A hip flexor. A sore back. A sprained shoulder. A leg laceration. And quite a few bruised egos. Memo to the NHL: That's what happens when training camp is six days.

 

 

In the prospect department, in the AHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins fired 41 shots at Dov Grumet-Morris, but still dropped a 6-3 decision to the San Antonio Rampage. The Griffins' website provides a recap...

Behind a 40-save performance by Dov Grumet-Morris, the San Antonio Rampage overcame a 43-21 disparity in shots and snapped the Grand Rapids Griffins’ four-game home winning streak with a 6-3 victory on Saturday at Van Andel Arena.

Grand Rapids, whose lead atop the Midwest Division now stands at three points over Chicago, trailed 2-1 midway through the second period before three straight Rampage goals blew the game open for a time. The Griffins responded with two of their own, including a hotly disputed goal by Mitch Callahan that made the score 5-3 with nearly five minutes left, but San Antonio – fifth in the South Division – held on to earn its third win in its last four games and its sixth victory in its last nine outings.

The bad news for the Griffins (29-18-2-2) is that they’ve failed to earn points in four of their last six outings, a first this season under new head coach Jeff Blashill. The good news is that they get an immediate chance at redemption tomorrow when they host a rematch with the Rampage at 4 p.m.

The Rampage (24-24-1-4) pounced on a pair of rebounds to build a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes despite being out-shot by an 11-4 margin. Zach Hamill got the scoring started just 37 seconds into the contest, slapping the puck past Tom McCollum from the slot. San Antonio then went more than 17 minutes without registering a shot until capitalizing on a 4-on-3 power play, as McCollum denied Brian O’Hanley’s initial try from the right side before Greg Rallo potted the rebound into a gaping net from the bottom of the left circle at 17:55.

Grand Rapids answered with its own power play goal halfway through the second to cut the deficit to one. From the left point, Brett Skinner slid a pass to the top of the right circle to Gustav Nyquist, who teed up a slap shot that beat Grumet-Morris low to the ice at the 9:46 mark.

Any momentum the Griffins gained from that goal was short-lived, though, as the Rampage scored twice in the ensuing seven minutes to take a 4-1 cushion into the second intermission. Quinton Howden went coast-to-coast with the puck before snapping a wrist shot past McCollum from the left circle at 12:09, and Scott Timmins followed up by redirecting Eric Selleck’s centering pass from the doorstep with exactly four minutes left in the period.

Up three goals despite having had its shot output more than doubled (12-25), San Antonio promptly made it a 5-1 game when Brendon Nash scored from long range during a power play on his team’s 13th shot 1:04 into the third.

With just over 11 minutes remaining, Riley Sheahan trimmed the margin to 5-2 when he ripped a shot home from the slot while being tripped at 8:48. That goal ignited the Griffins, who began forcing the play in the Rampage end and had several near-misses around the visitors’ net over the next few minutes before San Antonio was awarded a sixth power play.

Grand Rapids successfully killed off that chance and soon after capitalized on one of its own. Several Griffins took whacks at the puck in a scramble around Grumet-Morris’ net before Callahan jammed it across the line at 15:06, prompting the goalie to briefly chase after referee Ian Croft and infuriating San Antonio coach Chuck Weber.

McCollum, who finished with 15 saves, went to the bench in favor of an extra attacker with 2:42 remaining, and the Griffins generated several scoring chances before Howden scored his second of the night into the empty net at 19:30.

Notes: Right wing Jan Mursak, assigned to Grand Rapids by the Detroit Red Wings earlier today after clearing waivers, is slated to make his AHL season debut on Sunday. He skated in 190 games with the Griffins from 2008-12, notching 87 points (39-48—87) and 108 penalty minutes…The Griffins have not won five consecutive games on home ice in nearly two years (Feb. 20-March 16, 2011)…Grumet-Morris served as the Griffins’ backup goalie for five games in January 2011 but saw no action.

The Griffins' website also posted a photo gallery and a slate of highlights and interviews...

And the Grand Rapids Press's Dean Holzwarth spoke to the Griffins about their loss:

“We got a lot of shots, a lot better than Friday night, and I thought we came out with a really good effort for coming home late last night,” said Griffins right wing Gustav Nyquist, who tallied three points with a goal and two assists. “We came out and created a lot of chances, and made a good push at the end, but it wasn’t enough.”

Grand Rapids (29-18-2) had an 11-4 advantage with shots on goal in the first period, but trailed 2-0 after goalie Tom McCollum gave up a goal just 37 seconds into the game. The Rampage got a second goal on a 4-on-3 in the last two minutes of the period. McCollum, who stopped 15 shots, dropped to 1-7 in his career against the Rampage, giving up an average of more than four goals per game.

The Griffins peppered San Antonio goalie Dov Grumet-Morris throughout the game, but failed to capitalize on any quality chances until the third period. Grand Rapids trailed 5-1 in the third before trimming the deficit with goals from Riley Sheahan and Mitch Callahan.

“I thought we played good, and I liked our energy level and compete level, but it didn’t go our way,” Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill said. “But the credit goes to them for sure, they played a good game as well and I think we might’ve pushed too hard when we got down and gave up a couple goals that we wouldn’t liked to give up.” Our guys definitely wanted to keep fighting, and they didn’t quit. We have to make sure we eliminate those mistakes defensively.”

The Griffins have allowed 10 goals in their last two games.

“We have to be better defensively, and we have to do a better job,” Blashill said. “You can't win games when you give up that many goals and we know that as a team. We have to make sure we are a better defensive team tomorrow (Sunday).”

...

Despite dropping four of its last six games, the Griffins still lead the Midwest Division by three points over Chicago with 26 games remaining.

“Sunday’s game is huge because we we’re on top of our division, but if we lose a couple of games in a row then all of a sudden you are right there with other teams and battling for a playoff spot,” Nyquist. “It’s important that we come out with the same energy as we did tonight.”

The Griffins will tangle with San Antonio again, so they can make things right today.

In the ECHL, the Toledo Walleye dropped a 3-1 decision to the Fort Wayne Komets. Willie Coetzee didn't register a point and Jordan Pearce sat this one out. The Walleye's website provides a recap;

In Europe, Teemu Pulkkinen didn't register a point in Jokerit Helsinki's 1-0 victory over Ilves;

Mattias Backman registered 2 assists and played 21:06 in Linkopings HC's 4-3 shootout victory over HV71;

Calle Jarnkrok registered an assist in Brynas IF's 2-1 OT loss to Rogle;

Back on this side of the pond, in the QMJHL, Phillipe Hudon registered an assist in the Victoriaville Tigres' 5-2 win over Shawinigan;

In the OHL, Alan Quine registered an assist in the Belleville Bulls' 5-2 win over Peterborough;

Andreas Athanasiou didn't register a point in the Barrie Colts' 2-0 win over Guelph;

Jake Paterson didn't play in the Saginaw Spirit's 6-2 loss to Owen Sound;

In the WHL, Richard Nedomlel didn't register a point in the Swift Current Broncos' 2-0 loss to Medicine Hat;

In the WCHA, Nick Jensen registered an assist in Saint Cloud State University's 5-2 win over Colorado College;

Ben Marshall registered an assist in the University of Minnesota's 2-2 tie--they still have ties!--with Minnesota-Duluth;

In the USHL, Mike McKee took two penalties in the Lincoln Stars' 4-3 win over Waterloo;

And in the BCHL, James De Haas didn't register a point in the Penticton Vees' 4-3 OT loss to Trail.

 

Also of Red Wings-related note: In the rumor department, part 1: despite Crain's Detroit's Business's Bill Shea's expert reporting, the Free Press's John Gallagher reports that Ilitch Holdings is actually speaking with a "community activist" organization which represents the downtown Detroit neighborhoods where the Wings' follow-on rink and the rest of the proposed $650 million development will be built, and that's huge news in its own way:

"If it was done right, it is the single best opportunity to connect what's happening in Midtown with what's happening downtown," said Francis Grunow, a public policy consultant based in Midtown Detroit and a partner in the New Solutions Group. "Conversely, if it was done wrong, it would be a huge barrier."

Community benefits agreements are formal contracts in which a developer of a major project, such as a stadium or arena, agrees to provide specific benefits to residents who live near the project or would be impacted by it.

Typical requests include commitments to hire local residents for construction jobs, to provide job training, to create or maintain local parks, to provide affordable housing for low-income residents or to set aside extra green space.

Grunow and the group he represents -- a loose coalition of local residents and entities called the Corridors Alliance -- met recently with the Ilitches' real estate chief, Eric Larson. But this month, Larson took a new position with Quicken Loans' real estate arm.

Even so, the request of Larson's replacement will likely include some of the same mainstream concerns about local hiring and affordable housing seen in other successful agreements around the country, Grunow said.

He emphasized that the community activists are not opposed to the Ilitch plans for a district centered on an arena.

"We definitely see this as being a collaborative effort," Grunow said Friday. "We don't want to stop a stadium. We want to make this development a successful development with the input of the community."

Hmm.

In the rumor department, part 2: I don't tend to trust the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch's rumors (he banned me from reading his Tweets for a reason--he keeps a list of the people who label him a loony rumormonger, and I'm one of 'em), so take this with salt:

If Anaheim RW Corey Perry does decides to come East as a UFA on July 1, he'll have lots of suitors. The Maple Leafs, Sabres, Bruins, Senators and Wings will get in on the action.

This one, I believe:

Lots of talk that the NHL is trying to find a way to move the Detroit and the Columbus to the East. The uncertainty of the Phoenix Coyotes is making it difficult.

And finally, we're going to be reacquainted with Brad Stuart when the Wings play the Sharks on Thursday, but I think I already know what it feels like to face Stuart via, of all people, the Denver Post's Adrian Dater, who previews Tuesday's Avs-Sharks game while focusing on Stuart:

When: The Avalanche returns to HP Pavilion on Tuesday for a game against the Sharks, one month to the day since losing captain Gabe Landeskog to a concussion after a big hit from Stuart.

What's up: Stuart caught Landeskog unaware and took advantage with a huge hit, resulting in Landeskog's injury. Stuart wasn't suspended by the NHL. Landeskog returned to the Avs for Saturday's game against the Kings.

Background: The third player chosen in the NHL's 1998 draft by San Jose, Stuart spent his first six seasons with the Sharks before playing for Boston, Calgary, Detroit and Los Angeles. He is a native of Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, and has always been known as a physical player.

Dater's take: Stuart has been a good player for a long time. He won a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2008 and played on their Cup Finals team the next year.

For the most part, Stuart has earned the reputation of a "tough but honest" player, but I will bet that the Avs go out of their way to take a few shots at him Tuesday. Avs defenseman Ryan O'Byrne fought Stuart right after the hit on Landeskog, but that may not have settled things in the minds of the Colorado players. It will be interesting to see Landeskog play against the Sharks, though he has said that he blames himself more than Stuart for the injury, saying he put himself in a bad situation.

If not against Stuart, the Avs may play physical hockey against other top San Jose players to send the message that Stuart's hit hasn't been forgotten.

Don't say it. I already thought it. Just back away from the keyboard. Slowly.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

Bugsy's avatar

George, don’t worry about what I asked about Howard in the last post. Get some rest.

Posted by Bugsy on 02/24/13 at 06:03 AM ET

w2j2's avatar

McCollum is not NHL material.  The Wings should cut him and move on.  That was a waste of a first round pick.
Leopold is the worst owner in the league.
Trotz may be the best coach.
At the handshake after they beat the Wings last year, Trotz begged Lidstrom to not retirer.

Posted by w2j2 on 02/24/13 at 09:17 AM ET

creasemonkey's avatar

I might consider the slump busted (last thread title) if the Wings play a lot like last night’s game. I’m hoping to wake up to a good score, as it will make my coworkers’ blathering about the awards show more bearable (thanks for the warning, btw).

Posted by creasemonkey from sweet home san diego on 02/24/13 at 09:46 AM ET

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About The Malik Report

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.