The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/04/13 at 03:54 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings find themselves in a particularly delicate situation heading into tonight's game against the Phoenix Coyotes (10 PM EDT, FSD/NHL Network U.S./97.1 FM) and tomorrow's tilt against the Colorado Avalanche (9 PM EDT, FSD/97.1 FM).
The 18-13-and-5 Wings sit in 7th place in the Western Conference, with 41 points and 12 games to go, which places them only 3 points behind the 4th-place Wild and Canucks...But also only five points ahead of the 12th-place(!) Coyotes, who, despite selling off Raffi Torres, Matthew Lombardi and Steve Sullivan at the trade deadline, have no intention of wanderig into the haze of yet another possible springtime relocation saga easily.
The Wings defeated Phoenix 3-2 back on March 25th, but given the razor-thin margin for error in terms of playoff positionioning and the fact that the Wings will host the Coyotes on April 22nd, Phoenix can do quite a bit to play the playoff-spoiler's role if the Wings don't take their opponent seriously.
In the four games since the Wings took 'em out, the Coyotes have gone 2-1-and-1, dropping a 4-3 OT decision to Minnesota, thrashing Nashville 7-4, dropping a 3-2 shooout decision to San Jose this past Saturday and defeating Los Angeles 3-1 on Tuesday.
As the Coyotes didn't practice on Wednesday, the Yotes' press received a stiff dose of, "We're not re-shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic, you know" from Coyotes assistant GM Brad Trevliving, per both PhoenixCoyotes.com's Dave Vest...
"We’re losing three players off our roster. Having said that, the core of our team is still intact,” said Coyotes Assistant General Manager Brad Treliving, who addressed the media in place of General Manager Don Maloney, who is away from the team’s headquarters in Arizona because of the death of his father on Sunday. “… In all honesty this is not surrendering a white flag. This is doing what we have to do from a management level to maximize the assets that we need to maximize moving forward.”
He added, “We’ve got 12 games left and I know our core group is going to push forward and try to attain that playoff spot.”
The Coyotes are expected to recall several players, presumably forwards, from their AHL team on Thursday to help fill out the roster for the final 12 games of the regular season.
Phoenix is in 12th place in the Western Conference standings, but just two points behind eighth-place St. Louis.
And the Arizona Republic's Sarah McLellan:
Even a win Tuesday night against the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings that, at the time, moved the Coyotes two points back of the eighth seed in the Western Conference couldn’t convince the Coyotes brass to remove the seller tag that probably began to stick in the midst of that crippling seven-game losing streak. But hope for a fourth straight playoff berth hasn’t been extinguished. The Coyotes still have a chance, albeit a slim one, because despite the heavy subtraction, the core of the team was untouched.
“The balancing act that we tried to do today was maximize the return on some of our unrestricted players right now without impacting our roster as best we could,” said Assistant General Manager Brad Treliving, who was manning the phone at the team’s headquarters on Wednesday while General Manager Don Maloney dealt with the recent death of his father.
The exodus at the deadline was uncharacteristic during coach Dave Tippett’s watch, but the reasoning behind it was actually the same one that’s guided the Coyotes amid ownership uncertainty.
Take the safe approach and do more with less. That’s what the Coyotes did in dealing away three impending unrestricted free agents, recouping assets instead of letting all three sign elsewhere once free agency opens July 5.
“You cannot continually get to a point at the end of the season where people walk away from your team and you get nothing in return,” Treliving said.
The Coyotes recalled forwards Chris Brown and Chris Connor from their American Hockey League affiliate with McMillan reporting for duty there. It’ll be somewhat of a patchwork effort to end the season, but the Coyotes have had successful stretches as a rag-tag bunch. That isn’t a guaranteed precursor to a magical finish, but today’s roster does more closely resemble the one that went to the Western Conference finals.
“We know it’s a tough climb here the remainder of the season,” Treliving said. “But we hope our group can continue to push forward.”
As for the recalled players--Conner is of course a former Wing--here's what Trevliving had to say to McLellan:
After the trades, the Coyotes recalled forwards Chris Brown and Chris Connor from the American Hockey League. The development of the youth there was another reason why the Coyotes were able to move three forwards.
“The recalls are not guys you’re going to sit here and say, ‘You’re going to be our savior,’” Treliving said. “They can add to different parts of the game. Offense is obviously a part we think some guys can bring to the table, but we think we can add some energy. We think getting (goalie) Mike (Smith) back, that’s a big thing for us. Trying to get our No.1 goalie back is going to make us a better team, but we can’t just rely on people coming up from Portland to be the answer. We need a little more from everybody in the room here. The group this year, right now, we need a little more from everyone that’s here, and we’re going to hope and push the people that come up from Portland bring some energy, offense and, again, anybody that follows our team, we don’t rely on one or two guys. We’re going to need everybody.”
On Monday night, the Coyotes received a huge lift from their goaltender, as NHL.com's Jerry Brown noted...
Backup goalie Jason LaBarbera was brilliant with 39 saves and defenseman Keith Yandle matched a career high with two goals as the Coyotes kept their flickering playoff hopes alive with a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night at Jobing.com Arena.
“It keeps us in the game. The only way you're going to have a chance is to win,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “We have a real good group. They want to do well and they respect what we're trying to do. Sometimes it doesn't go as well as you like, but it's not from a lack of trying.”
The Coyotes are 2-0-2 in four games since a seven-game losing streak that dropped them out of the playoff pack, and they failed to hold late third-period leads in Minnesota and San Jose last week before settling for a point. But this time, Yandle's second goal with 2:53 left wrapped up two points Phoenix had to have. The 36 points still leave the Coyotes 12th in the West and two points behind the eighth-place St. Louis Blues, who have two games in hand.
“We have to play like our lives depend on it, and they do,” said Yandle, who has 21 points for the season and 17 of them – including seven of his eight goals – have come in Phoenix's 19 home games. “If we play this way we can make a push at it.”
Kyle Chipchura had the first assist on both of Yandle's goals and Matthew Lombardi snapped a 1-1 tie with the eventual game-winner in the second period. But the real star was LaBarbera, who was very good early when the Coyotes had a listless start and continues to hold the fort while starter Mike Smith continues to rehab the injury suffered in a March 21 collision with Vancouver’s Alexander Edler. Five straight starts have allowed LaBarbera to find his rhythm and comfort zone.
“It's tough when you play once a month and you put a lot of pressure on yourself to deliver on that opportunity,” said LaBarbera, who made one start in a 26-game span from Jan. 28 to March 25. “That's my role and I've had ups and downs with it, but getting some games here makes you feel like when I was younger and played a lot. It's gratifying to get that feeling again.”
And the Arizona Republic's McLellan praised Yandle's performance in her recap:
[Phoenix] scored first, usually a telltale sign that they have a chance. Center Kyle Chipchura won a battle along the boards and flung the puck to the front of the net, where a pinching Yandle roofed it over Kings goalie Jonathan Quick at 11:02 of the first for the 50th goal of his career. Quick finished with 27 saves.
“(Yandle) has the green light to do that as long as we have the puck,” Tippett said. “He’s not down there being crazy, but he’s down there at the right time.”
But 1:10 later, the Kings tied it on a fluky goal when Justin Williams sent a bad-angle shot from along the boards toward the net and the puck redirected off Coyotes defenseman Michael Stone and in behind LaBarbera.
It wasn’t until 11:05 of the second that center Matthew Lombardi made it 2-1, finishing a pass from Rob Klinkhammer with a backhand shot, his fourth goal of the season. With an assist, Klinkhammer extended his point streak to five games. Yandle scored the insurance marker at 17:07 of the third, a rangy shot from the half-boards. Seven of his eight goals – and 17 of his 21 points – have come on home ice, and it was first two-goal game since Jan. 26, 2010.
“In a tight game we were able to get a lead, and we were able to get that crucial third goal that pushes you along,” Tippett said. “We’ve been in a lot of one-goal games, and it seems like we haven’t been able to get that break to get that third goal. Tonight we got the third goal.”
The Kings sent 40 shots to the Coyotes net, but LaBarbera had one of his better performances acting in relief of Smith, who’s still on the mend from a charge he took behind the net almost two weeks ago.
“Everybody that gets the opportunity, sometimes it doesn’t go as well as you’d like but it’s not from lack of trying and Barbs is a battler,” Tippett said. “He’s in there trying hard. I think as he’s continued to play games here, his game’s gotten better.”
Prior to Tuesday's game, McLellan reports that Mike Smith returned to the cage to face some shots he attempts to recover from an "upper-body" injury, but LaBarbera's a safe pick as tonight's starter.
Here's the lineup McLellan reports the Coyotes employed against Los Angeles. It's going to look a little different tonight:
Projected Coyotes lines:
Possible scratches: Bissonnette and Korpikoski.
Injury update: Defenseman Zbynek Michalek is still on injured reserve with a cracked bone in his foot. Goalie Mike Smith is also on IR as he recuperates from the charge he took behind the net March 21 against the Canucks. Winger Lauri Korpikoski is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
NHL.com's Tal Pinchevsky sets up tonight's game as follows:
Red Wings [team scope]: After winning five of six games in the latter part of March, the Red Wings hit a snag as they closed out the month, falling 2-0 in San Jose on Thursday before being dismantled 7-1 at home by the Blackhawks in a nationally-televised game on Sunday.
Detroit looked to turn things around Monday at Joe Louis Arena against the Colorado Avalanche. Justin Abdelkader opened the scoring with 4:03 remaining in the first period when Johan Franzen's shot bounced off Semyon Varlamov's blocker and found the Wings forward by the side of the net. Daniel Cleary and Damien Brunner scored 3:26 apart in the second, chasing Varlamov and blowing the game wide open.
Colorado outshot the Wings 9-4 in the final period, getting goals from Jamie McGinn and Matt Duchene to pull to within a goal. But Jimmy Howard held the fort to preserve the 3-2 win.
Coyotes [team scope]: After ending the month of March with a 1-5-3 run, April couldn't start soon enough for the Coyotes. They started the month by opening a three-game homestand Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Kings, a team that beat them in back-to-back games played during their previous skid.
Against the Kings, Keith Yandle opened the scoring midway through a high-flying first period in which the two teams combined for 28 shots. But the Coyotes' lead was short-lived, as Justin Williams replied for the Kings just 70 seconds later when his shot from a severe angle bounced off Michael Stone and past Jason LaBarbera. Despite being outshot 16-8 in the middle period, Matthew Lombardi put the Coyotes ahead 2-1 with his fourth goal of the season.
The Kings pushed late in the third to tie the game, but Yandle put the game away with 2:53 remaining in regulation when he notched his second of the game. Yandle's first multi-goal game since Jan. 26, 2010 and LaBarbera's 39 saves secured a big 3-1 Coyotes victory.
Who's hot: Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall both have three points in their past four games for the Red Wings while Howard has allowed two or fewer goals in four of his past five games. … Yandle now has five points in his past five games while Radim Vrbata has six points in his past six games. Recent call-up Rob Klinkhammer has six points over his current five-game point streak.
Injury report: Red Wings forwards Henrik Zetterberg (groin) and Mikael Samuelsson (upper body) remain day-to-day while Darren Helm (back) and Todd Bertuzzi (back) are traveling with the team but remain on injured reserve along with defensemen Kyle Quincey (upper body). … Forward Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) will likely miss his fifth straight game for the Coyotes while Mike Smith (upper body) and Zbynek Michalek (ankle) are on IR.
And the AP's game preview adds some stats to the mix:
The Red Wings (18-13-5) have gone 27-6-3 against the Coyotes since the start of 2006-07, including playoffs. Pavel Datsyuk, who has 71 points in his last 46 games in the series, notched a goal and an assist as Detroit pulled out a 3-2 win at Phoenix last Monday.
The Coyotes (15-15-6), though, have since gone 2-0-2 to stay in the playoff hunt. Sitting a few points out of the Western Conference's eighth and final postseason spot, Phoenix beat Los Angeles 3-1 on Tuesday.
Kyle Chipchura set up both of Keith Yandle's goals for the Coyotes, who recorded a point in five straight contests during a 3-0-2 stretch Jan. 28-Feb. 4.
Detroit, which occupies seventh place in the West, could prove especially dangerous down the stretch with Damien Brunner back on track. The 27-year-old rookie tallied his team best-tying 11th goal to snap a 15-game drought Monday.
Brunner will try to build on his impressive showing against Phoenix's Jason LaBarbera, who's started the last five games with Mike Smith sidelined due to an upper-body injury. LaBarbera, who has gone 1-4-2 with a 3.83 goals-against average over seven career starts versus Detroit, made a season-high 39 saves against the Kings.
Jonas Gustavsson stopped 28 shots in last week's win at Phoenix, but Howard could be in goal Thursday. Howard has gone 10-0-1 with a 2.12 GAA over his last 11 games in the series, including playoffs. He is 8-1-1 over 10 career road starts against the Coyotes.
The comings and goings during Wednesday's Red Wings practice were all but ignored due to trade deadline hoopla, but it was a good-news-bad-news mix (as usual) on the injury front, with Henrik Zetterberg skating despite missing the past two games with a groin injury, and Damien Brunner missing practice with a mysterious ailment, as the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness noted:
"We think one of them is playing,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said after practice.
Zetterberg is quite optimistic he’ll play after missing the last two games.
“We had a couple of days of good treatment and the goal was coming in here today and feeling good,” Zetterberg said. “That was achieved and hopefully no setbacks at the (morning) skate.”
The defensive pairings could be the same as they were Monday or there could be changes with either Kyle Quincey (jaw) or rookie Danny DeKeyser getting inserted into the lineup.
“(DeKeyser) practiced today like he was playing,” Babcock said. “I’ll talk about it with the coaches in on the flight. When we put Danny in it’ll be because we think he’s going to help us win. It’s not because we think we owe him a game or anything like that. I think I’m going to put (Quincey) in against Colorado,” Babcock added. “I talked to him already. But I’ve got a long flight to figure that out for sure. I was going to play him back to back, but we’ll see.”
Quincey said he’s getting more used to wearing a cage, which he’ll have to wear the rest of the season.
“As a hockey player you always want to play,” Quincey said. “When you’re out of the lineup for two to three weeks you always want to get back in it. I’m good to go for sure one of these next two games. I’d play through anything, but the doctor’s know how bad the break was and how fragile I am so they’ll talk with the coaching staff and make a decision.”
Zetterberg told the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa that he's made good progress...
Red Wings forward Damien Brunner (undisclosed) didn't practice Wednesday, and is listed as day-to-day. Babcock, however, wouldn't rule Brunner out of tonight's game in Phoenix.
Zetterberg (groin) participated in the entire practice and appeared ready to play.
"Feeling better, it was nice to be skating again," said Zetterberg, who was optimistic he'll play tonight. "We had a couple of good days of treatment and hoping to feel good today and that was achieved. Hoping for no setbacks."
Helm has resumed skating and remains optimistic he'll rejoin the team before the end of the season.
"The last couple of weeks have been pretty positive," said Helm, who has played in one game and will not travel on this two-game trip. "I've been skating quite a bit and working out and doing different things. I've been progressing, and it's not getting worse."
And the Free Press's Helene St. James noted that Todd Bertuzzi's accompanying the Wings on their trip...
Bertuzzi hasn't played for the Detroit Red Wings since limping out of St. Louis Feb. 7, hampered by nerve pain that extended from his back down through his right leg. But he has joined practices this week, and he's in contact drills. Most encouraging, maybe, is that he's scheduled to be on this afternoon's flight to Phoenix -- and someone in pain wouldn't sit on a plane for five hours if there were risk of aggravating anything.
Bertuzzi won't play Thursday at Phoenix nor Friday at Colorado, but every day he's on the ice delights teammates, who've missed him.
"He tried to take my spot in front of the net," fellow forward Johan Franzen said, laughing. "I told him to beat it."
Bertuzzi said he's hopeful that he'll feel even better within a week.
Bertuzzi and forward Mikael Samuelsson (upper body) both are practicing, but coach Mike Babcock isn't counting on either until they're cleared. "Him and Sammy are in a spot where we don't really know when they're going to be available," Babcock said. "Some contact today. They seemed to get through it."
Babcock said both Bertuzzi and Samuelsson will go on the Phoenix-Colorado trip.
And while Darren Helm's staying in Detroit, the Free Press's George Sipple noted that, after seeing a second back specialist, Helm's been told that it's "fish or cut bait" time in terms of attempting to return from a torn ligament in his back sometime this season:
“Yeah, I talked to another doctor,” Helm said at Joe Louis Arena today. “He’s kind of confirmed what a few other doctors have said. There’s nothing really structurally wrong with it. I can kind of start pushing things and progress and try to push through that pain that I’m having. I’m not going to have any big problems with it. Obviously, if I go too hard too fast, things will get a little messy. If I keep a steady pace and be smart about it, I shouldn’t have any problems.”
Helm said not being able to play has been hard.
“There’s a lot of good things that are happening right now,” Helm said. “Just gotta be happy with that.”
Helm said he has been skating on his own for about a week. Today was the first time he was able to take shots with the goalies before the team practiced. Helm said he’ll continue to skate by himself this week. Helm already had one setback early in the season.
“We don’t know if it was from pushing it too hard or travel or both,” Helm said. "We’re still going forward. That’s the most important thing.”
Helm is optimistic he could be back before the end of the regular season.
“Hoping to just get back when I get back,” he said. “Hopefully, when I do, there’s some games left where I can play.”
At the same time, and also, in a tangential injury department story, Carlo Colaiacovo told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that he doesn't plan on going gently into that good buyout:
After playing three games in four nights, Wings defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo seems to have put the shoulder injury that sidelined him pretty much the entire season behind him.
“I think that’s been my mindset for the last couple of days, just getting back to being a hockey player again,” Colaiacovo said after practice Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena. “It’s been an unbelievable feeling. I took advantage of my day off yesterday to get some much-needed rest. Coming off three really good games, I want to keep building on that momentum as a player and a person.”
Colaiacovo missed 33 games after suffering a sprained left shoulder in the second game of the season. He returned to the lineup in Monday’s 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche. He played two games with the Grand Rapids Griffins over the weekend as part of a conditioning stint.
“I think the biggest battle I was fighting was the third game in four nights, but I didn’t let that become an issue for me,” Colaiacovo said. “I let the adrenaline take me through it. At the end of the day, my hockey sense and my experience got me through it. I’m confident in myself and I’m confident in my abilities. It’s just felt so great to be out there. You’re out there in the middle of a game, you’re into it, you’re making hits and plays and at the end of the day, it was a huge important win for us and that was a very gratifying feeling.”
Now Colaiacovo just has to focus on remaining in the lineup. When Brian Lashoff joins the team in Phoenix, the Wings will have nine healthy defensemen to choose from.
“Depth is never a bad thing to have on defense,” Colaiacovo said. “If you look at the unfortunate turn of events we’ve had this year, we’re going to need every guy going into this thing. It makes guys stay on top of their game, because there are guys pushing to get into the lineup. There’s a case to make for every guy on our back end that they deserve to play every night. I’m not the coach, I don’t make those decisions. I just worry about what I need to do, focus on what I need to bring on a daily basis.”
Collectively, as DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose noted, all the Wings' moving parts understand that winning as many of their remaining 12 games as possible--starting tonight--is absolutely essential to ensuring that the Wings earn the right to play hockey in May:
The Wings have 41 points and currently own the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference standings. But a handful of teams are in striking distance of Detroit with St. Louis, Nashville, Edmonton, Columbus, Phoenix and Dallas all within six-points of the Wings. Only the Blackhawks and Ducks have stockpiled enough wins for them to feel somewhat invincible at this point.
“I thought there would be teams separating themselves, but it’s a logjam,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “That’s what people wanted. It’s exciting. I’d rather be one of the two teams that separated themselves, but that’s what it is, so embrace it.”
With the NHL’s trade deadline in the rearview mirror, the sprint to the playoffs is now, and wins are critical for about eight teams in the West, including the Wings who have to play seven of the final 12 games on the road. The season ends April 27 in Dallas.
“This is the fun time,” declared captain Henrik Zetterberg. “You look at the standings and you know you have to win a lot of games to get in. It’s basically the playoffs already and that’s why you play hockey. You want to be in these situations.”
The Wings didn’t make any trade noise, choosing to stand pat as the 3 p.m. deadline passed. But Zetterberg said he’s content with the state of the roster, especially the depth with several players having returned from injuries lately.
“Getting some new, fresh blood in, that’s the same as getting a player from another team,” said Zetterberg, who has missed the last two games with a groin injury. “We’ve been doing all of the little things right. … We still have bodies that haven’t really been playing. We just got Coco (Carlo Colaiacovo) back here the other game and he looks really good and hopefully we get some more bodies in there too, and we’ll be fine going into the postseason.”
The Wings certainly need the captain back in the lineup, and he’s optimistic that he’ll play against the Coyotes. Another piece that the Wings need is forward Damien Brunner, who missed Wednesday’s practice with a lower body injury. He too, said that he hopes to be in the lineup Thursday, but Babcock wasn’t so sure on Wednesday, saying that Brunner is day to day.
“He practiced today. Looked good,” Babcock said of Zetterberg. “We plan on playing him tomorrow, but with travel and you wake up tomorrow then you decide what’s going on.”
That's the real bottom line here.
Trades or no trades, it's a "best of twelve" for the Wings, and they'd better not let these twelve games get the better of 'em.
Red Wings notebooks and/or stuff of Red Wings-related note: Go figure, Valtteri Filppula wants to stay in Detroit, as he told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness...
Wings forward Valtteri Filppula said he’s not let his pending unrestricted free agency become a distraction this season.
“You automatically think about it, but I’ve been trying to put little thought into it because it’s not going to do me any good,” Filppula said. “We’ll see what happens, but definitely interesting times. It’s been a great place to be, great team. Obviously you always want to be on a team like that.”
Filppula is in the final year of a contact that’s paying him $3 million.
“There’s nothing going on right now,” Filppula said.
He’s reportedly looking for a deal that will give him a $2 million increase per season.
“I don’t think it matters that much to me,” Filppula said when asked if he wished he was close to a deal. “I think the focus should be on playing right now. And then when the time comes to think about that stuff I will do that.”
Asked if he’s agent has talked to Wings general manager Ken Holland, Filppula said, ““No update. There’s nothing going on right now. … So I really can’t update you now.”
But Filppula said he prefers to stay with the Wings, who made him a third-round draft pick in 2002.
“It’s been a great place to be, great team,” he said. “Obviously you always want to be on a team like that.”
Multimedia counts as "notebook" material this morning. Here's Henrik Zetterberg holding court with the press, including the Windsor Star's Bob Duff...
Here's Helene St. James talking about Todd Bertuzzi...
Here's her trade deadline report...
And Niklas Kronwall gave a helluva interview to WDFN's Matt Sheppard:
In the "For the Record" department, part 1: The Wings are going to hold a food truck food gathering at the Joe on April 20th (on the ice, no less);
In the "For the Record" department, part 2, from the Global News's Thomas Piller:
Gordie Howe will be a guest of honour in Saskatoon as it hosts the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup.
He is one of eight Saskatchewan hockey legends who will be honoured in pre-game ceremonies over the ten day tournament.
“His name is synonymous with hockey, and for people from these parts, it’s also synonymous with Saskatoon, so we’re extremely excited about the opportunity to honour him in his hometown,” said Jack Brodsky, co-chair of the event.
The Saskatchewan-native won six Hart Trophies as the NHL’s most valuable player and proudly held the Stanley Cup four times.
The Saskatoon Blades are hosting the National championship which takes place from May 16 to 26. They last hosted in 1989.
In the prospect department, in Sweden, Mattias Backman registered an assist and played 23:43 in Linkopings HC's 3-2 OT loss to Skelleftea AIK, which now leads their Swedish Eliteserien semifinal 3 games to 1;
In the OHL, second round playoff play began with Athanasiou registering 2 assists as his Barrie Colts defeated Oshawa 4-3 in overtime.
In terms of other Wings prospects, Alan Quine's Belleville Bulls will battle the Sudbury Wolves starting on Friday, and in my back yard, the Plymouth Whalers will tangle with the Owen Sound Attack on Friday;
In the QMJHL, Martin Frk and the Halifax Mooseheads will face Gatineau starting on Friday, Xavier Ouellet and the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada will battle Val-d'Or, and Phillipe Hudon and Victoriaville will tangle with Baie-Comeau on Friday.
Ouellet was named to the QMJHL's first All-Star Team on Wednesday night.
On Friday, Willie Coetzee, Trevor Parkes, Jordan Pearce and the Toledo Walleye will begin their first-round ECHL playoff series against Cincinnati at Toledo's Huntington Center;
And on Thursday, April 11th, Nick Jensen and Saint Cloud State University will battle Quinnipiac at the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh.
And I guess we have to go down the no-trade-trade talk route again. As the Free Press's Helene St. James notes, the Red Wings have chosen to embrace their impromptu youth movement-via-injuries (to Mikael Samuelsson, Carlo Coalaicovo, Todd Bertuzzi, Darren Helm, Jonas Gustavsson, etc.)...
"Would I have liked to have done a deal? Yeah, I would have liked to have done a deal," general manager Ken Holland said. "You're always looking for a top-six forward and a top-four d-man. Ultimately, we didn't get it done. You've got to look at your moment in time, and find out if the trade fits, do you have the assets, is it worth it? We're trying to compete. We're on the bubble."
"I think you have to look at what teams have got and the age of their best players, and the position they are in for the next five or six years," Holland said. "We're trying to compete, we're trying to rebuild. I can't look at the moment in time. I have to look at what we've got and where I think we can go over the next few years. The age of the roster. Who's going to be here for a while."
Their best players, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall, are in their early-to-mid-30s. The next generation lies in the numerous talented 20-somethings the Wings either already are using or will integrate into the lineup: Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Joakim Andersson, Danny DeKeyser, Brian Lashoff and Petr Mrazek, as well as Riley Sheahan. Brendan Smith has shown growth this season, as has Jakub Kindl.
"I like the direction we've got going," coach Mike Babcock said. "We've got some kids that I think are really coming. We're trying to figure out which are the best kids to help us be successful."
The fact is, the first year after Lidstrom retired always was going to be brutal. Then came injuries so numerous that "we haven't even had a full game with everyone playing," Jimmy Howard said. "I think just getting some guys back healthy would be a great addition for us."
The Wings take satisfaction in continuing to hang onto a spot within the eight-team playoff picture despite not having had someone like Helm, for example, for more than one game. They take pride in having gone 3-1 on a recent swing through California and Arizona. And before last Sunday's disaster against Chicago, the Wings were eighth in the NHL in goals-against.
"I think our players are better than people give them credit for," Holland said. "We've got a lot of kids on defense, and a lot of injuries up front. Hopefully we'll get some of our injured players back, in the meantime, there's been real good opportunity for some of our kids, and I think they've done a good job. If we can get those guys in the lineup in two weeks, I couldn't do any better moves than getting those guys back in the lineup. And if they don't come back, it probably doesn't matter what moves you make. You need your players."
Etc. etc., per the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:
"When you look at what transpired, you can figure out who we would have had some interest in," Holland said. "At the end of the day we didn't get it done and it was for a whole host of reasons."
The Red Wings were known to have interest in Flames defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who ended up with the Blues, and Stars forward Jaromir Jagr, whom was traded to the Bruins. Holland was reluctant to trade prospects with the Red Wings (Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist, Brian Lashoff or Dan DeKeyser) or in Grand Rapids (Tomas Tatar, Petr Mrazek or Riley Sheahan), or any first-round picks.
"We don't need depth players," Holland said. "From a depth standpoint, we have players on our team. We're going to go with the kids."
And, with forwards Todd Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson and Darren Helm, and defenseman Kyle Quincey all hoping to return from injuries the next couple weeks, Holland believes those additions are better than what was available on the trade market. Bertuzzi (back) could return in a week, Samuelsson (upper body) is day-to-day, Helm (back) hopes to come back before the season ends, and Quincey (fractured cheekbone) could play Friday.
"I couldn't do any moves better than getting those guys back," Holland said. "Now if they don't come back, than it doesn't matter what moves you make. You need your players."
Said captain Henrik Zetterberg: "All year we've had so many injuries, and getting some guys back (from injuries), that's new bodies, new fresh blood and the same as getting players from other teams. I know (the front office) in the war room, they've been in there a few days and probably thinking (about potential trades) but if (nothing develops), we have a good squad in here and looking forward to the playoffs."
Coach Mike Babcock was fine with the decision made by the front office.
"Absolutely, 100 percent," Babcock said when asked if he'd be comfortable with his roster. "I've never felt like we were going to do anything (trade wise). I kind of like what we have going and the direction we're going. We think we have kids that are really coming and we're trying to figure out which are the best kids to help us be successful. We have a few more kids in the minors, in particular (center Riley) Sheahan I'd like to take a look at as well."
In the end, it doesn't matter who the Wings were after and who they didn't get, at least not for the next month. Right now, it's about what the players on the team's roster can do to ensure that they're still playing in May.
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