Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Capitals set-up and overnight report: Wings finally get back to work amidst sticky wickets

The good part of the Red Wings' relatively "light" schedule of late involves the fact that the Wings have enjoyed three two-day breaks between what one can generously describe as a three-game slate of hiccups after the team's successful Western Canadian swing.

The Wings have had time to rest, to practice, and in the case of the Wings' most recent personnel moves--demoting Jordin Tootoo and waiving Patrick Eaves included--affording Johan Franzen (???), Jonathan Ericsson (shoulder, will return tonight) and Brendan Smith (who will return from his shoulder injury sooner than later) time to recover from their injuries.

Given the team's six-game home losing streak and status as winless in four, however, all that "free time" has yielded a downright poisonous atmosphere amongst a fan base that feels the team's summertime moves and previous signings are coming back to strangle the progress of its younger players, as well as a fan base whose recollections of last year's 48-games-in-99-nights demolition derby have yielded far less patience and much more intense concern when things go wrong during the course of an 82-game, six-and-a-half month marathon.

So the fact that the Red Wings are getting back to work with a home game against the Washington Capitals tonight (7:30 PM, FSD/CSN Washington/NHL Network/1270 AM) and a road tilt against the Islanders tomorrow (7 PM, FSD/MSG Plus) is...A huge *#$%@& relief for those of us who are tired of the warring and arguing among Wings fans, and want to see what the team can do to back their comments up on the ice.

Between discussing the Free Nyquist movement, the cap calculus the Wings face and the demotion of Tootoo and waiving of Eaves on Thursday--as well as airing discontent with the high probability that Tomas Tatar will sit in Mikael Samuelsson's stead--we've kind of talked the Wings' roster machinations of late to death.

So if it's okay with you, can we talk about tonight's game instead, at least for the most part?

The 10-8-and-1 Capitals haven't played since they defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 in OT on Tuesday--just as the 9-5-and-5 Wings haven't played since Tuesday's 3-2 shootout loss to Winnipeg--and the AP's recap of Tuesday's Caps game offers some very necessary context:

First game back from a long road trip. Early season, midweek matchup against an opponent that doesn't exactly fire up the masses. The conditions combined to create a low-energy performance from the Washington Capitals, and that's exactly what it was at times Tuesday night. Nevertheless, they rallied when it mattered. Mikhail Grabovski's 100th NHL goal tied the game with 1:45 remaining in regulation, and Alex Ovechkin put in a rebound 1:34 into overtime for a 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"I think maybe we were a little tired. Maybe the trip caught up to us a bit," Washington coach Adam Oates said. "We played better early than I thought we were going to, and then I think it just showed itself. ... A little frustrating at times because we had easier plays than we were making, which is maybe mental fatigue. But obviously to figure out a way to get it done is still a good thing as well."

Ovechkin's 14th goal of the season and franchise-best 13th career overtime goal capped a game that included a pair of short-handed scores and third-period comebacks by both teams.

Joel Ward gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead, then Jared Boll and Cam Atkinson scored less than three minutes apart to put the Blue Jackets in front, and then Grabovski pounced on a loose puck to send the game to overtime.

"Tonight was one of those games that we know we should have won this game," Washington defenseman Karl Alzner said. "The fact that we went down like that, I think really upset us and lit enough of a fire for us to get back and build the confidence."

John Carlson also scored for the Capitals, who returned home after losing a pair at Phoenix and Colorado. They have won five of seven overall and five straight at the Verizon Center. Braden Holtby made 24 saves.

On Wednesday, the Capitals found out that defenseman Mike Green was likely to miss tonight's game with a "lower-body injury," and they recalled Tyson Strachan from the AHL's Hershey Bears as a result, but Comcast Sportsnet Washington's Chuck Gormely reports that Thursday's Capitals practice muddied the injury waters...

The bad news regarding Capitals defenseman Mike Green is that he did not practice with the team for the second day in a row on Thursday because of a lower body injury.

The good news, according to Capitals coach Adam Oates, is that Green’s lower body injury is a bruise and not a groin injury and that he’s making the trip to Detroit for Friday night’s game against the Red Wings.

Whether he plays or not, now that’s another story.

“He’ll get a couple more treatments and we’ll see how he is in the morning,” Oates said.

And the Washington Post's Katie Carerra also took note of Green's status:

Mike Green sat out a second consecutive practice with a lower-body injury that Coach Adam Oates described as a bruise, but the defenseman will travel with the team to Detroit Thursday afternoon. Whether Green will be ready to suit up against the Red Wings on Friday, though, remains uncertain.

Green suffered the injury in Washington’s 4-3 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday night at Verizon Center and was seen limping at the team’s Arlington practice facility.

“He’s going to come with us on the trip, get a couple more treatments and see how he is in the morning,” Oates said. “It’s a different injury, he got hit pretty hard and he’s bruised. It’s not a groin problem. It’s a bruise.”

If Green's out, CSN Washington's Gormley suggested that the Capitals' blueline will take on a particularly "green" tone...

With right-handed defenseman Mike Green hobbled by a lower body bruise, the Capitals have recalled right-handed veteran defenseman Tyson Strachan from the AHL Hershey Bears. Strachan, 29, has four assists, 22 penalty minutes and is a plus-3 in 11 games for the Bears this season.

With the Caps already playing four rookies in their lineup – forwards Tom Wilson and Michael Latta and defensemen Nate Schmidt and Alex Urbom – they decided it was best to go with Strachan, who has 120 games of NHL experience, over 19-year-old rookie Connor Carrick, who played his first three NHL games with the Caps at the start of the season.

It will be interesting to see if assistant coach Calle Johansson keeps his other two defensive pairs intact and uses Strachan in Green’s spot alongside Schmidt. If that’s the case, the top pairing of Karl Alzner and John Carlson will remain the same and Steve Oleksy will play alongside Urbom.

Strachan [pronounced STRACK-in] is no stranger to the NHL.

He played in 38 games with the Florida Panthers last season, compiling four assists and 40 penalty minutes. He ranked third on the Panthers in penalty minutes and also recorded nine points [one goal, eight assists] and 22 penalty minutes in 24 games with San Antonio of the AHL.

And CSN went with a video practice report instead of a written one, disussing Jay Beagle's leadership. Sort of.

On Thursday morning, the Washington Post's Carerra noted that the Capitals are getting significant production out of their reformed top line...

Altering line combinations or defensive pairings is typically an effort by the coaching staff to find chemistry between different players. Through five games, it’s unclear whether that can be established with the Capitals’ first line as currently constructed.

Since Alex Ovechkin returned to the lineup on Nov. 5 after missing two games with a shoulder injury, he has skated with Nicklas Backstrom, his usual center, and Martin Erat on left wing. The trio has yet to combine for an even-strength goal.

There’s always an adjustment period for a new player working alongside Ovechkin and Backstrom, who have had years to develop a chemistry and understanding of how the other approaches various situations on the ice. Erat never had the luxury of playing with offensive stars of their caliber during his time in Nashville and is trying to grow familiar with the pair’s habits and preferences.

“It’s always going to take a couple games, it doesn’t matter who you play with but it’s easier to play with them. They know what to do on the ice and for me it’s just about trying to read them, trying to get used to their patterns, what they do on the ice,” said Erat, who has yet to record a goal this season but has had several nice assists including a set up to John Carlson against Columbus.

“For example, Ovi likes to shoot the puck and so you have to go to the net when he’s on the ice,” Erat said. “Backy when he gets the puck you need be ready, to know when he wants to pass it.”

But her feature story for this morning focuses upon a player the Wings weren't able to sign after their prospect tournament in 2001 in Joel Ward...

Joel Ward doesn’t like to make a fuss about himself. Bring up his nine goals — which are the most he’s had in three seasons with the Washington Capitals and rank second on the team behind only Alex Ovechkin — and with a sheepish grin he’ll quietly acknowledge that he has found his scoring touch this season. While it may be masked by modesty, Ward’s emergence on the scoresheet illustrates a player thriving in his role and relishing additional responsibilities.

“For me, when you get an opportunity to play, you make the most of it,” said Ward, who has 13 points as part of Washington’s dominant third line and is riding a three-game scoring streak heading into Friday’s game at the Detroit Red Wings. “I didn’t really get a chance to play on the power play or penalty kill so much [early in his tenure with the Capitals]. It’s a whole different ballgame when you’re playing on special teams. You get an opportunity for more minutes, you get more reps in, more chances to make plays, and you feel more confident in areas like in front of the net.”

Back in 2011, Ward recorded seven goals and six assists in 12 postseason games with the Nashville Predators, establishing his reputation as a playoff performer and making him a sought-after free agent that same summer.

When the Capitals signed Ward to a four-year, $12 million contract on the first day of free agency, General Manager George McPhee admitted Washington overpaid by roughly 15 percent in order to land the big, forechecking winger with a strong two-way game.

While it was his postseason play that made Ward, now 32, such a prominent target on the Capitals’ wish list that year, the team believed he could produce consistently year round. But until this year, Ward’s offensive production during the regular season has been inconsistent, with just 14 goals and 38 points in his first two seasons with the Capitals.

“When a player can play as well as he did in the playoffs, in the most difficult time of the year, then you think you’d be able to get even more in the regular season and get even more performance like that out of him. We’re finally getting it from him,” McPhee said. “We haven’t been disappointed in him, but we thought he was capable of doing this a while ago. It looks good, it looks good on him.”

And the Washington Examiner's Mike Harris focused on that "dominant third line":

Oates is using Ward on a regular shift on the third line with [Mikhail] Grabovski at center and Jason Chimera on the other wing. He’s also using Ward regularly on the power play and penalty kill. Ward has three power-play goals, two more than he had the previous two seasons. He has the team’s only short-handed goal, matching his total from the past two seasons.

“I haven’t really changed anything,” Ward said. “When you get an opportunity to play, you make the most of it. I think the times I’ve had opportunities, I’ve done very well with it. When you’re given the opportunity to play on the power play, the penalty kill, you get on the ice more, you’ve got your confidence up a little more. It’s like any sport. The more reps you get in, the more practice you get, the more you’re going to have good results.”

Chimera said Ward is selling himself a bit short. Ward’s shot, his linemate said, “has improved immensely this year. He’s really worked on that. It’s been going good for him.”

Ward and Chimera started the season with Eric Fehr as their center. When Oates made a few adjustments throughout the lineup, he moved Grabovski to third-line center and the results have been impressive. You can make a case that it has been the team’s best line. It is at least in the conversation with the top line. Grabovski has six goals to go with his 11 assists. That puts him four assists ahead and only three goals behind his totals last season in Toronto. Chimera has five goals and eight assists. He had three goals and 11 assists last season.

“[Ward] is playing great hockey, the whole line is,” Oates said. “They’re a great foundation for us in certain situations like after a goal, after a power play, after a penalty kill. It’s a great feeling knowing you can put that line out and count on them against any one of the three lines the other team puts out in terms of offense.They’re reliable, they eat the clock up, they’re threatening and they wear teams out.”

If Green plays, NHL.com's Adam Vignan reports that the Caps employed the following lineup against Columbus on Tuesday, and we shouldn't expect too many changes:

CAPITALS

Martin Erat - Nicklas Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin

Brooks Laich - Marcus Johansson - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Mikhail Grabovski - Joel Ward

Aaron Volpatti - Michael Latta - Tom Wilson

Karl Alzner - John Carlson

Nate Schmidt - Mike Green

Alexander Urbom - Steve Oleksy

Braden Holtby

Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Jay Beagle, Eric Fehr, Dmitry Orlov

Injured: John Erskine (upper body), Jack Hillen (fractured tibial plateau)

Between Tom Wilson and Michal Neuvirth's statuses as former Plymouth Whalers, Erat's familiarity with the Wings from his years as a pain in Detroit's butt with the Nashville Predators, Ward's try-out with the Wings 12 years ago, the fact that Adam Oates played for the Wings and Alex Ovechkin and Mikhail Grabovski's familiarity with Pavel Datsyuk as Russian National Team and lockout teammates (Ovechkin and Datsyuk played together for Dynamo Moscow in 2004-2005, and Grabovski and Datsyuk played together on CSKA Moscow during 2012), there are more than a few "local storylines" to tap into.

The Capitals' PR department reports that you can add Steve Olesky to the, "Michigan-Metro-Detroit-and/or-Red-Wings-ties" list...

The Capitals travel to Detroit to play the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena tomorrow night. Capitals defenseman Steven Oleksy was born in Chesterfield, Mich., located approximately 30 miles north of Detroit. Oleksy played collegiately at Lake Superior State University in Michigan from 2006-09, where he registered 20 points (3g, 17a) and 110 penalty minutes in 113 games. Entering his second season with the Capitals, Oleksy has collected four assists and 36 penalty minutes in 17 games this season.

And Olesky spoke with the "Monumental Network's" John Walton on Thursday:

Alex Ovechkin addressed his familiarity/friendship with Pavel Datsyuk when speaking with the Capitals' media, too...

And here's coach Oates' off-day presser:

Capitals beat writer Mike Vogel penned a game preview that's incredibly thorough, so I can only quote a small part of it...

The Caps are 1-3-1 in their last three road games, and they’re facing a Red Wings team that has somehow gone six straight games without tasting victory at The Joe. The Wings are 0-1-5 in their last six games at home.

...

[T]he Caps have been rolling along nicely. They’re 9-4-1 in their last 14 games, and they enter Friday’s contest just a point behind front-running Pittsburgh for the top spot in the Eastern Conference’s Metropolitan Division.

If there is a worry for Washington of late, the team has allowed three or more goals in each of its last three games (1-1-1). More worrisome might be the fact that it has allowed two third-period goals in each of those three games, the last three games of a rugged stretch in which the Caps played five times in eight nights and finished with three contests in four nights.

...

For the first time since 1978-79, the Capitals and the Red Wings are members of the same NHL conference, the Eastern Conference. The Caps and Wings go head-to-head as conference foes for the first time in more than three decades on Friday night. Back in ’78-79, the Caps and Wings were not only members of the same conference (the Prince of Wales Conference), they occupied the geographically whacky Norris Division along with Montreal, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles.

...

Detroit is in fourth place in the NHL’s Atlantic Division, but the Wings have had some nagging injuries and they’ve lacked secondary scoring. Veteran stalwarts Henrik Zetterberg (10 goals) and Pavel Datsyuk (nine) have accounted for more than 40 percent of Detroit’s offensive output this season. The Wings have the league’s longest streak of consecutive playoff appearances going at 22.

“Talent,” says Oates, in describing how the Wings have continued to thrive over the decades. “They’ve played the same way for a long time. They’re very cohesive in the way they play. It’s fun to watch them because they’re very freewheeling, but there’s a plan to it. You know there is a plan to it. They’ve done it so often; they know their routes. It’s very difficult [to play against them] when you haven’t seen them in a long time.”

Washington had struggled in Detroit, going without a win for more than a decade. But the Caps finally broke that streak with a 5-3 win on their last visit here on March 19, 2012. Many of Washington’s young players will be playing at the fabled Joe for the first time in their careers.

“There is an intimidation factor,” concedes Oates, “and we’re going into a lot of buildings with that. There are a lot of banners up there and a lot of famous players over there. But on the flipside, enthusiasm conquers some of that. It’s a one-game elimination where you’re in awe, but you’re so excited, those mistakes don’t show up. I’m hoping that’s the player I get. We’re going into new buildings for the first time and the veterans have got to carry the young guys. That’s part of the deal.”

NHL.com's Corey Masisak provides a balanced game preview...

Big story: As poorly as the Capitals started and the Red Wings have played of late, Washington could be in first place in the Metropolitan Division and Detroit could be in second in the Atlantic by the conclusion of the games Friday night.

...

Capitals [team scope]: Washington has ridden a 5-1-1 streak into second place in the Metropolitan and is one point behind division-leading Pittsburgh, though the Penguins have a game in hand. The Capitals have struggled at even strength but lead the NHL with a 25.6 percent success rate on the power play and are second on the penalty kill at 89.2 percent. Their record has been aided by a 4-0 record in the shootout, where the Capitals are 7-0 since Adam Oates took over as coach before last season.

However, the Capitals will likely be without defenseman Mike Green (lower body). They called up Tyson Strachan from Hershey of the American Hockey League on Thursday, though Green made the trip to Detroit.

...

Red Wings [team scope]: Detroit has lost eight of its past 11 games to slip into fourth place in the Atlantic. The Red Wings are winless in their past six games at Joe Louis Arena, their worst drought at home since 1996-97; however, five of the losses have come to overtime or shootouts, cushioning the slump.

...

The biggest issue is a lack of offense beyond the team's two stars. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have combined for 19 of Detroit's 47 goals (more than 40 percent), and the Red Wings' average of 2.47 goals per game ranked 21st in the League.

Who's hot: Washington's third line has produced more like a top unit in the past 11 games. Mikhail Grabovski, Joel Ward and Jason Chimera have combined for 14 goals and 30 points in that span … Zetterberg and Datsyuk have combined for eight goals and 17 points in the past six contests for the Red Wings.

Injury report: Washington defenseman John Erskine (upper body) has been out since Oct. 28, and Jack Hillen (leg) is expected to be out until at least February … The Red Wings are missing defenseman Brendan Smith (shoulder) and center Stephen Weiss (groin). They are expected to get No. 2 defenseman Jonathan Ericsson back from an upper-body injury that has kept him out since Oct. 19 against Phoenix.

And the AP/STATS LLC's preview provides, well, what you'd expect--with the quotes coming from the above-posted videos:

Detroit is 0-1-5 at home since beating Columbus 2-1 on Oct. 15, recording its worst slide at Joe Louis since 1986. The only longer home losing streak the franchise has ever had was a seven-game skid Feb. 20-March 25, 1982.

The Red Wings (9-5-5) are wrapping up a four-game homestand having lost the first three after regulation, and they've matched their worst overall losing streak of the season at four.

...

Ovechkin has 14 goals to tie the injured Steven Stamkos for the Eastern Conference lead. He has points in all eight career games against the Red Wings, with seven goals and five assists.

"I think teams respect the Red Wings, especially in their building, it's going to be a hard game for us," said Ovechkin, who has four goals in four visits to Detroit.

...

There's familiarity between Babcock and Washington coach Adam Oates, who played for him with Anaheim in 2002-03 - Babcock's first season as a coach and Oates' second-to-last as a player.

"It was his rookie year coaching and it was my last year basically and we kind of butted heads a little bit at the beginning but it was more because he didn't know me and I was an older guy and sometimes older guys can be difficult," Oates said. "Once we got through the first couple months, we hit it off great and he's a very good coach."

Oates has watched his league-leading power play dip to 25.6 percent after going 0 for 7 over the last two games. Washington (10-8-1) rallied for a 4-3 home victory over Columbus on Tuesday when Mikhail Grabovski scored with 1:45 left in regulation and Ovechkin scored in overtime. The Red Wings will present a challenge since they have killed off 24 of opponents' last 25 power plays.

In terms of the Red Wings' roster tweaks, you probably know by now that Jordin Tootoo will practice with the Griffins this morning, and, as MLive's Ansar Khan reported, Patrick Eaves got caught up in a numbers and salary cap game:

The Red Wings placed Eaves on waivers Thursday, a move coach Mike Babcock said was purely a business decision. The team needed to clear salary-cap space for the return of defenseman Jonathan Ericsson.

“Obviously, Patty Eaves is a real good player, a real good person, does everything right,’’ Babcock said. “We haven’t been able to give him an opportunity here to play enough He wants to be in the lineup every night and he should be, he’s a good enough player. He knows how to play. He’s a responsible team guy. It’s disappointing we weren’t able to make it work and we’re hopeful he’s going to get himself an opportunity.’’

If Eaves clears at noon Friday he will be assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

“You got to look at everything as an opportunity, so hopefully I get picked up and play somewhere,’’ Eaves said.

Eaves has appeared in only three games this season (no points, minus-2). He missed the first three weeks of the regular season after getting injured (knee, ankle) during practice on Sept. 19.

“There’s a bunch of us there, so it’s just the way it is,’’ Eaves said. “It’s a business. And then I got fell on in training camp so that didn’t help either.”

This is the final year of Eaves’ contract ($1.2 million). If he is claimed, his entire salary will come off the Red Wings cap. If he clears, the Red Wings will get $925,000 in cap relief.

The Free Press's Helene St. James also took note of the monetary part of the equation...

The Wings need the $1.85 million to make room for defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, who is returning from long-term injured reserve Friday, when the Wings will try to overturn a six-game losing streak at home with a game against the Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m., FSD).

"It's cap-related and it's competitive-related," general manager Ken Holland told the Free Press of the moves. "Ericsson is coming back, we need cap space. We had to make a decision."

...

Holland said he talked with Eaves about 10 days ago to figure out what would be best for both sides. "He wants to play every night," Holland said. "He's in the last year of a contract; he'd like another contract.”

And she posted a video of Mike Babcock discussing the move:

The other move that the Wings made on Thursday involved Babcock's decision-making power instead of Ken Holland's, and it didn't delight the fan base. As the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness notes, Tomas Tatar's going to take a seat for Daniel Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson's sakes...

“When I looked at our lineup (Tuesday) I thought that was a spot I felt we could have been better so he gets an opportunity to watch,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He’ll get back in.”

Tatar has two goals and one assist in 11 games. He’s a plus-1.

Cleary has a goal and two assists in 18 games. He’s a plus-1.

“I thought (Mikael) Samuelsson was good, had lots of opportunities to score last game so I’m leaving him back in,” Babcock said.

Joakim Andersson will center Cleary and Samuelsson.

Samelson has just one goal in seven games. He’s a minus-1.

And as such, MLive's Ansar Khan posited the following probable lineup for the Wings while also noting that Brendan Smith (shoulder) and Stephen Weiss (groin) are "progressing":

Babcock said defenseman Brendan Smith, who’s missed four games with a shoulder injury, is a couple days away from returning.

“He didn’t stop and start yesterday; we didn’t stop and start today,’’ Babcock said. “He’ll get some more work and he should be ready to go soon.’’

Center Stephen Weiss (groin) skated on his own today and said he felt fine, Babcock said, but won’t be ready until next week.

...

Henrik Zetterberg-Pavel Datsyuk-Todd Bertuzzi

Johan Franzen-Darren Helm-Daniel Alfredsson

Daniel Cleary-Joakim Andersson-Mikael Samuelsson

Drew Miller-Luke Glendening-Justin Abdelkader

Scratches (in gray jerseys): Tomas Tatar, Patrick Eaves, Jordin Tootoo

Injured: Stephen Weiss (groin)

Niklas Kronwall-Jonathan Ericsson

Kyle Quincey-Danny DeKeyser

Brian Lashoff-Jakub Kindl

Scratch: Xavier Ouellet

Injured: Brendan Smith (shoulder)

Jimmy Howard
Jonas Gustavsson

The Free Press's St. James noted that the Wings are very wary of Ovechkin...

The Washington Capitals pose tonight’s challenge at Joe Louis Arena, where the Wings haven’t won in six straight games. No Caps player looms larger than Alex Ovechkin: The tank-sized winger has 14 goals and seven assists, and he has played only 17 games.

“He score a lot and we need to be ready where he is,” Datsyuk said Thursday.

The Wings will at least be able to use 6-foot-4 defenseman Jonathan Ericsson as part of their Ovechkin counter-attack, as Ericsson is back after missing 10 games with a shoulder injury.

“He’s a guy you have to keep an extra eye out for,” Ericsson said of Ovechkin. “You have to know where he’s at and not let him build too much speed. He’s a guy who almost scores every night.”

Ovechkin, 6-3 and 230 pounds, is the only player in the NHL who already has taken 100 shots.

“He’s just very dynamic and explosive,” Jimmy Howard said. “He can shoot the puck from anywhere in the offensive zone, so we’re going to have to be aware of where he is all night long.”

And she posted a video of Howard, Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi discussing this evening's tasks--with Howard sporting quite the Movember Moustache:

The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan also took note of the team's match-up against Ovechkin and Datsyuk's duel with his friend...

"He has size, talent, the ability to score," coach Mike Babcock said. "He loves to score. (But) they have a good team. They have real good forwards. It's going to be a good test for us."

Along with his shot, Ovechkin is constantly moving and looking at ways to get the puck on net.

"He moves his feet all the time," said defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, who returns to the lineup Friday, just in time to face Ovechkin. "The shots can come from anywhere. But he keeps moving, he's mobile and searching for those open spots. You never know where he's going to shoot it from."

Confidence and determination are what make Ovechkin elite, defenseman Niklas Kronwall said.

"He shoots the puck from anywhere and he can score anywhere," Kronwall said. "He's big, strong, and he flies out there. He's like (Tampa Bay's Steven) Stamkos in that way. He also has that power-forward ability to run around and hit guys. He's a tough guy to go up against."

Probably no Red Wings player is more familiar with Ovechkin than forward Pavel Datsyuk; they have been teammates on several Russian national teams.

"He finds the good spots," said Datsyuk. "He has a good sense of (moving) forward. He's looking for rebounds and he plays hard, every time. He's one of the best."

Datsyuk and Ovechkin are friendly, but don't speak that often. The two are sure to chat after Friday's game.

Said Datsyuk: "We speak Russian."

While DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose noted that the Wings know that Ovechkin's partner in crime, Nicklas Backstrom, is almost equally dangerous:

"They’re all good players, fun to watch,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “You like to watch them play and score against other teams. I don’t need to watch them score against us. We need to do a good job against them.”

Detroit is coming off its sixth straight home loss, a winless streak the Joe Louis Arena hasn’t seen since the 1996-97 season. Although the Red Wings have earned 12 points in their last 15 games, they couldn’t get the second point in their last three home contests.

“We’ve been able to get one point (at home) a number a times and we haven’t been able to get the second one,” Babcock said. “We’re taking steps here and need to continue to get better. Playing without the puck will be key for us.”

....

“He’s big, strong, flies out there with a lot of energy,” Niklas Kronwall said of Ovechkin. “Obviously he has a quick release and shoots the puck from anywhere and can really score from anywhere, sort of like (Steven) Stamkos in a lot of ways with his shot. But he’s got that power forward ability as well to run around and hit guys. He’s a real tough guy to go against. We have to do a real good job of playing real good team defense against him. Not just him, but we have to keep an eye on Nick Backstrom as well. He’s one of the more skilled guys in the whole league, setting guys up. So we need to play very solid defense to be able to have some success.”

Roose pointed out that the Wings kept the, "We're making progress" line going...

Despite the winless streak at home, Detroit took quite a few positives from the 3-2 shootout loss to Winnipeg on Tuesday. The Red Wings killed all three penalties they picked up against the Jets, which bodes well as they prepare for the No. 1 power play in the league. Detroit also outshot the Jets 43-21, and notched two power-play goals after going 1-for-18 on power plays in their previous six games.

“I think we played pretty well last game,” Ericsson said. “We gave up a couple of big scoring chances, but that’s it. Things are going to turn around. I think we’re close. It’s been better lately. We just have to stick with it and it’ll come.”

And MLive's Khan noted that the Wings are getting Ericsson back at just the right time, with "Big E" suggesting that he's more than ready to step into the lineup and ready to step up his play to stifle Ovechkin:

“It’s a big challenge, and I really embrace those challenges,’’ Ericsson said.

...

Ericsson has missed 10 games with a left shoulder subluxation. Coach Mike Babcock changed his second and third defense pairs, joining Danny DeKeyser with Kyle Quincey and using Jakub Kindl with Brian Lashoff. Brendan Smith (shoulder) remains out.

“This will give us two really solid pairs,’’ Babcock said. “We can move Kindl to the three-pair so we can now really move the puck. I think this just gives us a better team.’’

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Ericsson was averaging 22:09 in ice time through nine games, second on the club to Kronwall. The pair leads the team in short-handed ice time, averaging close to three minutes per game.

“I thought we did a lot of good things without him; then we lost Smitty (the past four games) and I didn’t think we were as good,’’ Babcock said. “It was really good for the development of DeKeyser because he’s gotten a much bigger role and more ice time. Now he’ll continue to get the ice time, so that’s a positive thing.’’

Ericsson told Khan that he's feeling much better...

“I feel better practicing now than I did before I got injured, but it’s so different when you come out and play games.’’ Ericsson said. “The speed is so different, the timing. It’s all going to go real quick. Shooting and everything feels good. If I get hit really hard I don’t know how it’s going to feel. … Pavel (Datsyuk) hit me, that’s about it. It felt good.’’

And DetroitRedWings.com's Roose noted that Niklas Kronwall's looking forward to being reunited with his usual partner:

“He’s someone that I feel very comfortable out there (with) and he means a lot to this team,” Kronwall said. “He’s huge for us on the PK and just in the 5-on-5 play as well. He’s very solid and always plays big minutes for us, and he plays in big situations, anytime there’s a big PK coming up or the end of the game, he’s out there for us, so he means a lot to this team.”

Roose also pointed out that the Wings are well aware of the home-ice hole they find themselves digging out of:

It was 24 years ago this month that the Red Wings last went seven straight games without a home win. It’s a streak that the current players don’t wish to equal. Detroit has an opportunity to snap a six-game home winless skid Friday against Washington.

“We want to be back winning as soon as possible, of course, starting here tomorrow,” Kronwall said. “I thought last game was a step in the right direction. I thought we played pretty decent for 60 minutes. We kept going and kept going and kept going and didn’t let up. It didn’t matter if they scored or not, we kept going the same way and that’s what we have to do every game. If we can keep doing that then we’ll be in good shape.”

During the 1989-90 season, Detroit experienced a 0-4-2-1 home skid, and finished in last-place in the five-team Norris Division. The Wings didn’t qualify for the playoffs, thus ending the four-year coaching tenure of Jacques Demers, who had won the Jack Adams Award, as the league’s coach of the year, in his first two seasons in Detroit.

I don't believe that the Red Wings are in any danger of missing the playoffs, nor do I believe that the coach or GM are in trouble, but I will tell you this much:

I found the re-signing of Cleary baffling, and the dramatics around it struck me as indicative of a player who'd all but closed the door on his chapter with the Wings. He looked gassed during camp and he didn't look much better during the exhibition season, so I kind of had the feeling that he was going to struggle...Though I didn't think he was going to struggle this much.

But we were told that the coach, the GM and the Wings' players wanted him back, I can certainly tell you that the players suggested as much at that time, and the Wings had to know that bringing Cleary back would yield difficult personnel decisions.

As I've been saying over the past couple of days, the moves can't be undone--regardless of whether we agree with them or disagree with them--thanks to every team's either immediate proximity to the cap or status as "capped out" in terms of its individual budget.

Our relationships with sports teams have their ups and downs, and we don't have to march lock-step in agreement with every personnel move, nor do we have to absolutely adore everyone on the roster. But over the long haul, we have to decide whether the team making decisions that we don't agree with yield so much "wrong" done to our vision of the team as it should be to us that we wish to exit the relationship, and in the cap world...

There are more warts that you have to accept on your sports team if you are to stick with them, because they're not easily removed.

I don't like every move that the Wings have made, and there are a few players that I'm not exactly delighted to have on "my" Wings, but I root for them and I root for the team regardless, and I wish them the best for their sake, for my sake and for my fellow fans' sakes.

 

 

 

Also of Red Wings-related note: My search engine monkeys noted that Joshua from A Winning Habit pointed out that Chris Chelios stated the following during an interview on TSN Montreal's 690 AM:

Chris “Knuckles” Nilan had Hockey Hall of Famer Chris Chelios on his afternoon show on TSN 690 earlier today and chatted about his experience in Montreal. According to Chris Chelios the Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has had a couple looks at his son Jake Chelios who is a defensemen currently playing in his senior year at Michigan State University. Chelios stated that they have had a couple of discussions with his son, but it doesn’t look like anything is imminent in the near future.

The interview's...uh...rambly...

And if we're going to be talking about players who we wish well in their future endeavors, NHL.com's Louie Korac noted that the Wings' compliance buy-out this past summer, Carlo Colaiacovo, is absolutely delighted to have caught on with the St. Louis Blues...again:

When the situation presented itself for Carlo Colaiacovo, it was a no-brainer for the veteran defenseman to go back to familiar territory.

Colaiacovo, 30, was on the ice for the morning skate Thursday with the St. Louis Blues after settling immigration paperwork, passing his physical and then making his one-year, $550,000 one-way contract official. Colaiacovo played for the Blues from 2008-12 after being acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs along with Alexander Steen for Lee Stempniak.

Jordan Leopold is sidelined two months with ligament damage to his right index finger, so the Blues felt compelled to bring in a veteran presence and one that they were familiar with rather than go with a younger American Hockey League player to fill the void as a seventh defenseman. When things intensified Monday, Colaiacovo didn't waste any time deciding what to do.

"It was just ironic. I took some time off this year to be with my wife, we’re expecting our first child this year, so I thought it was important for me to be around her during that time," said Colaiacovo, who spent last season playing for the Detroit Red Wings. "Then a couple of weeks ago, me and my agent, I gave him the go-ahead to start finding me some teams to play. We were in talks with a few teams and then out of the blue, we get a phone call from St. Louis and I just put everything on hold because the opportunity that presented itself seemed too good to be true.

"Me and my wife and my family really enjoyed our time here, and it was an easy decision for me to come back. Regardless of the opportunities that were presented to myself with the other teams, my goal is to be part of a winning team and there was no better scenario to put myself in than to come back here and be part of a team that’s competing for a Stanley Cup. To me, it was a no-brainer and I'm glad we got it done."

DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose noted that several Wings are growing "Movember" moustaches, and the Wings are attempting to raise awareness of and funds for men's helath on a website called Movember.com...

And the NHL posted a video of Gordie Howe visiting the San Jose Sharks-Vancouver Canucks game with the WHL's Vancouver Giants' owners. He received a standing ovation:

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

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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.