The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/26/13 at 05:17 AM ET
What a difference four days can make. The Detroit Red Wings entered their 4-game road swing through the Western U.S. sitting all of a pair of points up on every "playoff pack" team, including those damn Columbus Blue Jackets.
Heading into their first practice-less "dayoff" ince the Wings' 4-2 loss to Minnesota seven days ago, the Wings have gone 3-for-3 on their road trip, racking up 5-1 and 2-1 wins over Anaheim and, playing their 3rd game in 4 nights and their 4th in 6, a gritty 3-2 win over Phoenix.
The Wings now have 39 points, and sit in 5th place in the Western Conference, 1 point behind both the Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks. The Wings lead the St. Louis Blues by 3 points, Thursday's opponent, the San Jose Sharks, by 5, they have a 5-point lead on Nashville, a 6-point lead on Dallas and a 7-point lead on those damn Blue Jackets.
The Coyotes? They're 9 points back and sit in 12th place, just ahead of the Oilers, Flames and Avs. They also haven't won a game since March 9th, going winless in 6 straight games, so it's not surprising to find out that Coyotes GM Don Maloney told Fox Sports Arizona's Craig Morgan that his team is on the precipice of becoming trade deadline "sellers":
“We’re right at the cliff as far as I’m concerned,” Maloney said. “If we slide much further, all bets are off. We’re going to go out and find assets. This is reality.”
When the Coyotes next take the ice at Jobing.com Arena on April 2, the roster could look very different, because they just slid a little further in the Western Conference race. Phoenix is four points behind eighth-place San Jose and ninth-place Nashville. The Sharks play 11 of their final 17 games at home, where they are 8-1-4. The Predators plays nine of their final 15 games at home, where they are 9-2-4. In contrast, the Coyotes play 10 of their final 16 games on the road, where they are 3-8-3.
Maloney said there has been “constant” dialogue with other teams about trades, but he wasn’t about to “throw in the towel” before this week had played out because the Coyotes have been in this position before -- needing a late-season run to secure a playoff spot -- and have delivered.
But the task has never been so daunting. The Coyotes’ next three games are at surging Minnesota, at Nashville and at San Jose (after a dreaded cross-country flight) before they return home to face the Kings in their final game before the trade deadline. It’s not a stretch to say the Coyotes need five points -- maybe all six -- in those next three road games to save the season, and it's just as important to deny the Predators and Sharks those points. Playing .500 hockey on the road just won’t cut it when you have only six games left on home ice. You have to make up ground.
“The pack is pulling away, and our recent play isn’t cause for a lot of optimism,” Maloney said. “We need to have a run that starts in net on out -- and it has to start now.”
It’s fair to wonder if that’s even possible. Phoenix is winless in its last six games, the longest winless streak since Dave Tippett became coach before the 2009-10 season.
“Its frustrating. Every day, our staff, we look at everything to try to uncover every rock we can,” Tippett said. “Ultimately, we have to just keep pounding away and hope it turns.”
Tippett was incredibly frustrated with the 5 penalties his team incurred--with the Wings going 2-for-5 in 9:17 of PP time--as he told the Arizona Republic's Sarah McLellan, but not before suggesting that the Coyotes played well enough to build at least some hope and belief out of their effort:
“There are some things that we can take out of this game that were better in some areas,” Tippett said. “But the two key areas where the games matter most – in front of your net and their net – we’re lacking in both those areas.”
With the Red Wings on the second half of a back-to-back and the Coyotes rested after three days off, it looked like the Coyotes might have the energy to sit on this lead after they continued to find scoring chances around the net.
But a high-sticking penalty by defenseman Michael Stone sent the Red Wings on the power play. After defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s clearing attempt was stopped at the blue line, Niklas Kronwall fed a wide-open Johan Franzen in the slot and Franzen tied it with 39 seconds left in the second. Another penalty in the third, this one a too-many men on the ice infraction – put the Red Wings back on the power play.
“(Boyd) Gordon happens to step on the ice as Hanzal’s crawling off,” Tippett said about the penalty. “That’s a bad break, but it just seems like it’s one of those mistakes that’s coming back to bite us right now.”
Henrik Zetterberg’s pass went off defenseman David Schlemko’s skate and right to Pavel Datsyuk, and he beat LaBarbera at 6:12 for the 3-2 lead. LaBarbera finished with 32 saves, and Gustavsson had 29.
“The last goal is a perfect example we’re kind of where we’re supposed to be, but it goes right off Schlemer’s skate and right to Datsyuk,” Tippett said. “Unfortunate break it goes off Schlemer’s skate. Probably goes to the wrong guy. That’s the way it goes right now.”
The Coyotes had a chance to tie it with 4:12 remaining when winger Lauri Korpikoski was hauled down on a short-handed breakaway and awarded a penalty shot, but Gustavsson made the stop.
That looked something like this:
Jason LaBarbera played almost as well as Gustavsson, stopping 32 of the 35 shots the Wings fired his way, but he told McLellan that his team's penalty troubles doomed them:
“You’re not going to win if you take penalties at bad times or don’t score enough goals or whatever it may be,” LaBarbera said. “As a group, everybody just needs to be that much better. It’s tough. You’re chasing it. Everyone’s trying. Everybody wants it to happen. It’s not working right now, but we just gotta stick with it.”
As McLellan pointed out in her notebook, the Coyotes face a very difficult road, literally and figuratively, in terms of salvaging their playoff hopes...
After three days off, the Coyotes sunk all the way to 12th in the Western Conference standings but are still only a few points out of a playoff position.
What’s challenging, though, is their next five opponents are legitimately in the playoff race. The Coyotes don’t play a team that’s currently below them in the standings until they host the Colorado Avalanche on April 6.
This four-game set in six nights picks up Wednesday in Minnesota before the Coyotes move on to Nashville and then San Jose.
“If you don’t really go three out of four or two and a half out of four, you know unless you go 10 in a row you’re probably not going to make it because it’s just all the other teams are going to be focusing that much more on winning their games and their portion of games,” defenseman Rusty Klesa said. “This is really how bad we want it.”
As far as Monday's game was concerned, however, Tippett told Arizona Sports' Carter Nacke that his team's winless streak's sapping its self-confidence...
"Right now, we've got a lot of players who aren't playing with a lot of confidence," said Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett after the team's 3-2 Monday loss to Detroit, adding that guys have to earn the right to be proud of their play.
The upcoming road trip, just three games long, is going to define the Coyotes' postseason chances this season. If they somehow manage to bungle it and drop all six points, they're pretty much out of the race. A nine-game losing streak will likely make them sellers in the market and they'll quietly go about wrapping up the season. But just four points out of six, a big task but a doable one, can push the 'Yotes right back into the playoff hunt.
The sad thing is, the Coyotes are not playing that poorly. They're not winning, but they're not getting blown out. They're with the game up until the final whistle, when, somehow, the scoreboard doesn't read in their favor.
"Right now, we're finding ways to lose games," said goaltender Jason LaBarbera. He couldn't be more right.
The Coyotes have taken 31 penalties in their six-game skid, including two that led to two Red Wings power play goals on Monday, one of which was the game winner. If that's not finding a way to lose, I'm not sure what is.
As the losing streak has gone on, most players have given variations of the same answer when asked what the team has to do going forward.
"We just have to find a way to find 60 minutes here and just get ourselves out of this hole," said forward Rob Klinkhammer.
And while Tippett and LaBarbera lamented bad breaks and bad bounces while speaking to NHL.com's Jerry Brown...
"The too many men on the ice (penalty) is a play that happens 100 times a game – one guy goes in one door, one guy goes out the other door, and the puck comes to the guy that steps on the ice (Boyd Gordon) as Hanzal is crawling off. Then we're kind of where we're supposed to be (on the Datsyuk goal), but it goes off of Schlemmer's skate and it goes right the wrong guy. It's a bad break, and mistakes like that are coming back to bite us right now. It's frustrating. We're saying all the right things; we're just not getting it done."
Jason LaBarbera, subbing for the injured Mike Smith, made 32 saves in a losing effort and played well, but Franzen's goal with 38.6 seconds left in the second period – set up by Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall – took the wind out of the Coyotes.
"We played well, but it's just one of those things where we're finding a way to lose games," said LaBarbera, now 1-5 this season. "We're not getting the bounces around their net and they're getting the bounces around ours."
Brown noted that the Wings' road game is rounding into form, in no small part thanks to Pavel Datsyuk...
Datsyuk, who collected his 500th NHL point in Anaheim on Friday, continues to haunt the Coyotes. He now has 14 goals and 57 points in 39 career games against Phoenix – the most he has collected against any team outside the Central Division. The Red Wings have now won five straight on the road and three in the last four days – following up a two-game sweep of the Ducks in Anaheim with another victory.
Ian White also scored for Detroit. After going six games in a row without a power-play goal, Detroit now has at least one in eight straight games, going 5-2-1 and solidifying its playoff position.
"Our specialty teams in the first (half of the season) were awful – both our power play and penalty kill," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "Changing (coaching) staff and with a lot of new players and you put it all together and it takes some time. It never went in the net for us, so now it's going in the net and it was a good part of today's game."
The Coyotes had a golden chance to tie the game with 4:12 left in regulation when Lauri Korpikoski was awarded his first career penalty shot after being taken down from behind by Detroit's Jakub Kindl on a shorthanded breakaway. But Detroit goalie Jonas Gustavsson stopped Korpikoski with a glove save to preserve the lead and the Red Wings' win.
"I just tried to be patient and wait (Korpikoski) out," said Gustavsson, who made 29 saves in his sixth appearance on an injury-plagued season. "I tried not to be too deep before he made his first move and it paid off."
And both Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg told the Associated Press (whose recap serves as our pivot point between the Coyotes' and Red Wings' perspectives) that the Wings' confidence regarding their power play has surged of late:
"We're doing a lot of good things even though we don't score on each and every one, it definitely feels like we've got some things going," Datsyuk said.
Coming off consecutive road wins over Anaheim, the Red Wings needed their power play to come through after Phoenix rallied to take a 2-1 lead.
Datsyuk helped set up the first one, getting the second assist on Johan Franzen's tying goal in the second period. Datsyuk then put Detroit ahead by beating Coyotes goalie Jason LaBarbera with a one-timer midway through the third period, giving him 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in eight games.
The goals stretched the Red Wings' string of scoring on the power play to eight straight games since they failed on 13 straight chances over six games.
Ian White also had a goal for Detroit, which has won five of six and is fifth in the Western Conference.
"It's just little things," Detroit left wing Henrik Zetterberg "I don't think we changed that much. It's just that when the puck goes in, you gain confidence."
Niklas Kronwall agreed--regarding the Wings' performance as a whole--while speaking to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...
"It's all about getting two points each night and we've been able to grind some out," said defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who had two assists. "Right now we're shooting the puck (on the power play), getting pucks back and entering the zone. It definitely feels like we've got some things going."
After going the first 10 road games this season without a power-play goal (0-for-36), the Wings have now scored a power-play goal in six straight games on the road. They've also scored a power-play goal in eight straight games overall, after Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk scored on the man advantage against Phoenix. Franzen tied the score 2-2 at 19:21 of the second period. Datsyuk broke the tie with his 11th goal at 6:12 of the third period.
"Just a little more puck luck," said forward Henrik Zetterberg of what's been the difference on the power play. "The puck is bouncing back to our sticks instead of their sticks and we get more chances It's just little things. When the puck goes in, you get more confidence and you make the right decision."
Zetterberg carried the puck into the Phoenix zone, wheeled around the net, and had his pass bounce off the skate of Phoenix defenseman David Schlemko to Datsyuk, who one-timed a shot past LaBarbera for what turned out to the winner.
"It never really went in the net for us, but now it's going into the net, and it was a big part of today's game," coach Mike Babcock said.
Goalie Jonas Gustavsson, getting a start in place of Jimmy Howard, preserved the victory with a penalty shot save on Phoenix forward Lauri Korpikoski at 15:48 of the third period.
"I just tried to be patient and wait him out," said Gustavsson, who made 29 saves and earned his second victory of the season (2-2-1). "Try not to be too deep before he made the first move, and it paid off."
Zetterberg said of Gustavsson's performance, "It was really important. It was nice to see him coming in and really winning games for us and to play real good. It's really good for him to be playing good, nice to see."
And while Jonas Gustavsson's goaltending techniques do not inspire confidence per se--even this former goalie will admit that Gustavsson looks like something between Cosmo Kramer, someone having a seizure and someone trying very hard to play goal in hockey with the same dramatic dives and body-splaying moves displayed by soccer goalies (which is scary given how small a puck is by comparison)--but he did the job and actually saved the Wings' bacon repeatedly when they were down 2-1, from the 12:21 mark of the 1st period to19:21 of the 2nd period.
“We need him, for sure,'' Babcock said. “Your team's also got to be confident in him. Things haven't gone great for him this year; he's been hurt all year long, it's hard to get into a rhythm and get any confidence in yourself. Ideally, this will be a confidence-builder.''
Gustavsson stopped all 16 shots he faced in the final two periods, after Phoenix took a 2-1 lead in the first.
“It was finally one of those games where they shoot the puck on me a little bit, so you can get into the game,'' Gustavsson said. “Maybe a couple of misses on rebounds here or there, but that's going to happen in a game. Overall, I felt pretty confident. I felt like my guys helped me, too. I felt it was a good step.''
The Coyotes are winless in six (0-5-1) and had scored only three goals in their previous five games. But, for the Red Wings, playing on back-to-back nights was going to be a challenge. They needed Gustavsson to step up his game.
“It all starts with the goaltending,'' captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “Monster really made the saves and we felt really calm having him back there. He was going to make the first save. We just got to be there for the second chances.''
“We've been able to grind some out here as of late,'' defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Tonight, it wasn't pretty at times, but we stuck with it and found a way. We made some early mistakes in the neutral zone, caused way too many turnovers. They were able to turn on us. When we looked after that, we were in much better shape.''
Perhaps more importantly, Gustavsson told Khan that the Wings' once paper-thin confidence didn't go up in flames after the team surrendered that 2-1 goal...
“I felt like even though we're down a goal or two, we have energy to come back, especially in the third period,'' Gustavsson said.
And Babcock was downright supportive of Gustavsson while speaking to the Detroit News's Kulfan about his often-slighted back-up goaltender:
"When you lose a game you want to come back and win," said Gustavsson, who had lost his last two decisions. "You want to bounce back and get a win, that's what matters."
Babcock sensed Gustavsson was nervous early, but settled down and made big saves the final 40 minutes.
"Things haven't gone great for him this year, he's been hurt and it's hard to get in your rhythm and gain confidence in yourself," Babcock said. "This will be a confidence builder."
Hell, Babcock issued a veritable pat on the butt to Gustavsson while discussing his play with the Free Press's Helene St. James:
"He had a real strong second and third period," Babcock said. "He was nervous early, he ended up on his butt on the second goal, which, that's not normally him. Real big save on the penalty shot. He made some big saves and was a big man, so good for him."
"It was a good start to the road trip," Daniel Cleary said. "Great start. We needed it."
The Coyotes had been off since last Thursday. The Wings had played two games since that time, both victories against the Ducks in Anaheim, Calif. Buoyed by beating one of the top teams in the NHL, the Wings didn't particularly look like they were playing their third game in four nights at the start, doing a good job keeping the puck in Phoenix's zone. They scored four minutes in, when White fired a shot from the blue line, taking advantage of having both Damien Brunner and Joakim Andersson in front of Jason LaBarbera.
By the end of the period the Wings trailed, 2-1, thanks to a backhand from Martin Hanzal on a power play. Rob Klinkhammer scored the second goal, sneaking in and firing a shot high over a seated Gustavsson after he'd made the initial stop on Keith Yandle.
The second period didn't have nearly the same energy from either side, but Gustavsson did make a couple of solid saves, and then the Wings got a man advantage, which after a futile start to the season suddenly can't miss. This time, Datsyuk got the puck along the blue line and passed to Niklas Kronwall, who patiently skated down the left side before sending a perfect feed to Franzen, who one-timed the puck from the slot with 38.6 seconds left in the period.
Datsyuk followed up at 6:12 of the third period, firing the puck into the net after Zetterberg's shot bounced off the right skate of David Schlemko. Jakub Kindl hauled down Lauri Korpikoski during a shorthanded breakaway, leading to a penalty shot, but Gustavsson read the attempt beautifully and denied Korpikoski's wide sweep-in with a glove save.
"I just tried to be patient and wait him out, don't try to be too deep before he makes his first move, and it paid off," Gustavsson said. "I think we were the stronger team in the third period, especially after that goal, we tried to play tight and we did that for the most part. I feel like we have a lot of confidence."
Damien Brunner didn't register a point in his return to the lineup (and Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith looked very, very young), but Brunner did indeed stand in Jason LaBarbera's line of sight as he swung and missed at Ian White's goal, and he registered 2 shots, 2 more attempts and 2 hits in 14:19 of ice time. Babcock told St. James that Brunnner looked good after taking a night off to catch his breath:
"I thought Bruns was real good," Babcock said. "He was committed to what he was doing, strong on the puck, had some energy. He played a real strong game for us."
Normally I'd mention that Wings fans who watched the Coyotes' broadcast found out that the Wings had ordered 50 "In 'n Out" burgers as their post-game meal, suggest that their day off in sunny Phoenix is well-deserved and leave it at that, but both Aftonbladet and Expressen (and the Neue Zuger Zeitung, if you count a subscriber-only interview with Brunner that says, "I could cry out for joy playing alongside Datsyuk" and then runs into a Paywall as an "article") spoke to the Wings' Swedes after the game, so here comes some roughly-translated Swedish:
Aftonbladet's Per Bjurman wonders, "How good the Red Wings really are?" but Niklas Kronwall (who played in his 500th game) urges caution in the, "Wings are back!" regard:
"It's still early, so we shouldn't shout 'hey' to everyone, but we do feel that we can compete with any team," says Niklas Kronwall.
There were many who thought that the Detroit Red Wings would struggle when institutions like Tomas Holmstrom, Brad Stuart, and, most of all, of course, Nicklas Lidstrom disappeared before this season. But so far, the new generation of warriors of Motown have been great.
Last night, after the double-defeats of the Ducks in Anaheim, they won their third straight game, and the team is now on a reasonably secure fifth spot in the Western Conference standings, with a five-point margin to the playoff line.
"The dynamics are a little different here, and there are still things that we need to improve, but we're working hard, and when we do and play like we should, everything looks good. Then we feel like we can compete with any team in this league," says Niklas Kronwall when we reach him after the game against the Coyotes.
Does that mean that the old epic team is a contender for the championship this year?
"Well we're not going to shout 'hey!' yet, but it's early, though it's also late, which feels slightly strange. But the goal of course is that we should make the playoffs, and, like I said, when we play like we can, we feel that we can compete with everyone," Kronwall says and continues.
Kronwall accounted for two assists against Phoenix. Henrik Zetterberg had one, and Johan Franzen scored his seventh goal of the season.
Moreover, Jonas "The Monster" Gustavsson had such a brilliant game in the crease that he received a group hug after the final whistle.
"Yeah, he was really great. In the first period, he made some key saves, and he was outstanding on a penalty shot in the third," says Kronwall in praise.
The Red Wings will continue their road trip, after a day off in hot Phoenix today, with a game against San Jose on Thursday.
If they win there, too, maybe we can call Detroit a real heavyweight again.
I'm not buying that at all, but I do believe that the Wings are facing a stretch of games where they can blow their chances to not need "help" getting into the playoffs or find themselves scratching and clawing toward April 27th hoping that teams X, Y and Z lose, and so far, anyway, the Wings are swaying the odds in their favor.
Anyway, Expressen's Gunnar Nordstrom spoke to Gustavsson after the game, and here's what Gustavsson had to say:
"It's good for me to earn this win, but the whole team played a good road game," he tells SportExpressen.se.
After two straight wins in Anaheim this past weekend, with big name goalie Jimmy Howard in the net, Detroit arrived in Phoenix hoping to extend their streak of victories away from home to five games.
"Now Gustavsson will get the chance to show what he can do," said coach Mike Babcock before the trip from Anaheim to Phoenix on Sunday night.
The Monster had all eyes on him because he hadn't played since March 8th, when Detroit lost 5-2 to Calgary in an away game.
But there was no need to worry.
"I mostly had to work during the first ten minutes. As usual on the road, the home team came storming out, but things calmed down after the halfway point of the first period," says Jonas.
He made some great saves when the game was on the line.
"Everything felt good and things were flowing well. A win like this is good for self-confidence, it's huge to beat good teams like Vancouver, Anaheim and Phoenix on the road."
The Coyotes were given a penalty shot with just over four minutes left, when Lori Korpikoski skated in on but didn't outsmart Jonas Gustavsson.
"I was glad to be able to come out and stop the penalty shot," says Monster.
Johan Franzen scored one of the Red Wings' goals, Niklas Kronwall had two assists and Henrik Zetterberg had an assist.
Highlights: The Red Wings website's highlight clips are narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
Fox Sports Arizona posted a snippet of LaBarbera's interview, and I can only shake my head regarding Tyson Nash and Jody Jackon's post-game wrap-up (Nash is...He makes Mickey Redmond look objective. And level-headed). What does Nash call Pavel Datsyuk? Pavel "Dad-zook." Jonas Gustavsson? "Gust-a-fun." All while wearing a velvet sportcoat.
Fox Sports Detroit posted videos of "Gust-a-fun" and Niklas Kronwall speaking to Trevor Thompson after the game...
And the Red Wings' website posted clips of Henrik Zetterberg...
And coach Mike Babcock discussing the game:
Photos: The Arizona Republic posted a 10-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 17-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 33-image(!) gallery;
The Windsor Star posted 7 big images from the game;
ESPN posted a 57-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted 15 images from the game in its Wings gallery;
Shots 35-31 Detroit overall. Detroit was out-shot 15-14 in the 1st, out-shot Phoenix 12-6 in the 2nd and was out-shot 10-9 in the 3rd.
Detroit went 2-for-5 in 9:17 of PP time; Phoenix went 1-for-3 in 4:46.
Gustavsson stopped 29 of 31; LaBarbera stopped 32 of 35.
The 3 stars were picked by the Coyotes' broadcasters, and they were Henrik Zetterberg, Jason LaBarbera and Pavel Datsyuk. What?
The Wings' goals: White (2) from Kindl (8) and Cleary (3);
Franzen (7) from Kronwall (18) and Datsyuk (24), PPG;
Datsyuk (11) from Zetterberg (24) and Kronwall (19), PPG.
Faceoffs 38-21 Phoenix (Detroit won 36%);
Blocked shots 9-9;
Missed shots 18-17 Phoenix (total attempts 61-58 Detroit);
Hits 24-20 Phoenix;
Giveaways 3-2 Phoenix;
Takeaways 7-3 Phoenix.
Individual stats, TMR style:
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 9-and-11 (45%); Zetterberg went 3-and-11 (21%); Andersson went 2-and-8 (20%); Emmerton went 4-and-5 (44%); Filppula went 3-and-3 (50%).
Shots: Zetterberg and Franzen co-led the team with 5 shots; Cleary and Andersson had 3; Kindl, Datsyuk, Eaves, White, Brunner, Emmerton, Filppula and Ericsson had 2; Smith, Miller and Kronwall had 1.
Blocked attempts: Kindl and Datsyuk hit Coyotes players 2 times; Nyquist, Eaves, Brunner, Zetterberg and Franzen had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Nyquist missed the net 3 times; Datsyuk, Filppula, Kronwall and Franzen missed the net 2 times; Smith, Kindl, White, Brunner, Emmerton and Ericsson missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Abdelkader led the team with 5 hits; Miller hat 4 hits; Smith, Brunner, Andersson and Franzen had 2; Datsyuk, Lashoff and Filppula had 1.
Giveaways: Kindl and Filppula had 1 giveaway.
Takeaways: Datsyuk, Nyquist and Ericsson had takeaways.
Blocked opponent shots: Miller and Kronwall had 2 blocked shots; Datsyuk, White, Lashoff, Zetterberg and Andersson blocked 1 shot.
Penalty minutes: Kindl, Zetterberg and Filppula took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished even collectively. Smith and Lashoff finished at -1; Kindl and White finished at +1.
Points: Kronwall had 2 assists; Datsyuk had a goal and an assist for 2 points; White and Franzen had goals; Cleary and Zetterberg had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 26:36 played; Ericsson played 22:15; Filppula played 21:23;
Zetterberg played 20:18; Datsyuk played 18:34; Kindl played 17:23;
Smith played 17:17; Franzen played 17:14; White played 17:07;
Lashoff played 16:06; Miller played 15:32; Cleary played 14:31;
Abdelkader played 14:29; Brunner played 14:19; Andersson played 13:36;
Nyquist played 10:50; Eaves played 9:45; Emmerton played 8:00.
Red Wings notebooks: As MLive's Ansar Khan and the Free Press's Helene St. James reported during the game, the Wings received fantastic news on the injury front--for once--when Wings GM Ken Holland announced that Kyle Quincey won't need surgery to repair his fractured cheekbone:
Detroit Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey doesn't require surgery for his fractured left cheek bone and could return in two weeks, general manager Ken Holland said.
Quincey has been cleared to start doing off-ice workouts and should be back on the ice with the team when it returns home following this four-game West Coast trip.
The club originally feared Quincey would be out four-to-six weeks after he was struck by a puck that rode up his stick late in the third period of a 3-2 overtime win in Edmonton on March 15.
Quincey has one goal, one assist and a plus-8 rating in 26 games.
Holland also said right wing Mikael Samuelsson (broken left index finger) is expected to return for Sunday's game against Chicago at Joe Louis Arena. Samuelsson has been idled since Feb. 19, when he was hit by a shot from Ian White during the morning skate in Nashville.
In Metro Detroit, spring is a strange season. A year ago, we had weather in the 80's in late March, and we've enjoyed snow and rain showers, highs in the upper 30's and bone-chilling, gusty winds over the past week or so, with the Detroit Tigers likely to open their season on Friday, April 5th with temperatures maybe pushing 50.
If they're lucky.
As such, prior to Monday night's game, Wings coach Mike Babcock kind of rubbed in the Wings' "spring break"-like conditions while engaging in their 4-game road swing while speaking to MLive's Ansar Khan:
“The great thing about the trip, let's face it, we haven't seen the sun in Michigan in what month was that last?'' coach Mike Babcock said today. “This is like spring break for us, but we got to play some games. Other people are in Florida for spring break, we're out here. I think just being out here in the sun is a fantastic thing. Winning is a good thing. We couldn't win for a while on the road, we've been better on the road and we got to be feeling good about ourselves.''
The Red Wings have allowed only six goals in their past four road games, following a third-period meltdown in a 5-2 loss at Calgary on March 13. That was Jonas Gustavsson's last appearance. He will start tonight.
Gustavsson, who has not played at home this season, is 1-2-1, with a 2.84 goals-against average and .878 save percentage.
“Last year was tough on the road, we didn't play all that great,'' said goaltender Jimmy Howard, who gets a breather after back-to-back wins in Anaheim. “At the beginning of the year, it was sort of dicey on the road. I think now we've settled down, we have a commitment to playing great defense, keeping them to the outside. I know if I leave a rebound lying around there, somebody's there to clear it out, so I think we're just paying attention to the details on the road, which is paying off.''
The Free Press's Helene St. James focused on Damien Brunner's state of mind as he's played in over 60 pro games this season--with his 32 games with Detroit involving a kind of style of play, pace of game and especially a travel schedule that he's never had any experience dealing with.
That's why Babcock felt that benching Brunner for a game would allow the Wings' Super-Schweitzer to re-charge his batteries:
"It's his new haircut," Babcock said. "He looks faster. No, that's what we wanted, just take a breath. He was exhausted. Mentally, there's no space. So when you're used to tons of space and there's no space -- that's the biggest thing. So you've got to learn and adjust to the change. He'll do all that, I'm not concerned about that one bit. I think his hockey sense and his work ethic and his ability to score will overcome any kind of short-term slumps that he has going."
Brunner, 27, is adjusting to the NHL at a rate even harder than most rookies go through because the lockout has crammed 48 games into 99 days. In his native Switzerland, Brunner's longest trip was a 3-hour bus ride, with most about an hour.
He had never been through anything like the past few weeks, which have seen the Wings head to western Canada, come home for three days, then trek out to California before continuing to Phoenix.
"I felt more tired the last couple of weeks," Brunner said. "I was a little up and down. Last couple games, I felt much better, and I hope this day off gets me in even better shape. I'm ready to play."
The hope is the break also will restart Brunner's scoring, which had been dormant for 12 games after he scored 10 goals in the first 19.
"That's the biggest thing," he said. "Have faith in what I do and not start to think too much and force it too much. The bounces will come. I'm pretty confident that I can score soon."
On Monday night, he looked good, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted...
Babcock saw a different Brunner in his 14 minutes, 19 seconds of ice time.
"He was real good today, he was committed to what he was doing," Babcock said. "Strong on the puck, he had a strong game for us."
The rigors of the shortened schedule — compared to the Swiss League, in which he played during the lockout — were starting to drag on Brunner.
"I'm definitely not used to it, but there's not much thinking about it," said Brunner, whose 10 goals is one behind Pavel Datsyuk for the team lead. "You have to get used to it pretty fast. In Canada (last week) I felt worse than I do now. I have the energy back and I feel good to go on."
The Swiss Elite League is a bus league. Brunner said the longest trip is three hours. Babcock isn't surprised Brunner hit a wall, but is confident the forward will recover.
"Exhausted, you have to be," Babcock said. "I'm not concerned about that one bit. His hockey sense, his work ethic, and ability to score will overcome any kind of short-term slump he has going."
But Kulfan also delivered bad news on the injury front. It's starting to sound like Todd Bertuzzi may not be able to return from his back woes this season after he felt significant pain in his legs while trying to skate on his own Monday...
"I can't get the legs to catch up," he said. "I can't skate fast. I can't skate hard. I can't move quick enough. The nerves must be inflamed. I thought I'd be doing better. You can't push off. There's no strength in the right leg. It takes time, but games are going by pretty quick."
As the Free Press's St. James also noted:
"It's frustrating," Bertuzzi said. "It takes a long time. My right leg is just not cooperating right. It looks like it'll take time. I'm trying to go as long as I can. I just got no power, still. Hopefully, it starts coming soon."
Bertuzzi last played Feb. 7 when he limped out of St. Louis in so much pain he landed in the hospital for three days. The pain shot from his lower back down his right leg, where a pinched nerve made it hard to walk. His back has improved, but the leg is impacting every stride.
"I can't skate fast, I can't skate hard, and I can't move quick enough yet," he said. "I guess the nerve must still be inflamed. It's not where I wish I was right now -- I thought I was feeling better. The back feels a lot better, but I can't get the leg to catch up. You can't push off. You have no strength in your right leg. The frustrating thing is it takes time, but it's a lockout year, and the games are going by pretty quick."
There are 15 games left in the regular season, which ends April 27. The odds are diminishing daily that Bertuzzi will make it back. He has skated three days in a row for the first time in some six weeks, but he isn't close to joining full practices. When and if that day comes, he'd likely need a good week's worth of those before there'd be any talk of getting into the lineup.
The Wings miss his size and sweet touch with the puck, but coach Mike Babcock has learned to live without injured players and not to bank on them being ready until he sees it himself.
"What I've found over the years is, if you're going to an injured guy all the time, and saying, 'When are you ready?' you're putting pressure on him," Babcock said. "That's not my job. Don't get me wrong, I hear from the strength coach, I hear from the therapist, I hear from the guys skating them, I gather all the information. But in the end, I get to watch them skating and see whether they're going to make the lineup or not."
All Bertuzzi really can do is take it a day at a time.
"Just, keep going and keep going, and hopefully one of these days," he said, "it turns over, and I'll be able to skate normal."
I hope so, but I'm starting to believe that Bertuzzi's going to find himself fighting for his job against guaranteed full-time NHL'ers in Tomas Tatar, Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist next fall instead of returning just in time for the playoffs.
In the rumor department, TSN's Bob McKenzie more or less confirmed what he Tweeted on Sunday about one Danny DeKeyser during TSN's "Insider Trading" segment on Monday--and it's worth mentioning that TSN does not believe that the Wings are on Jarome Iginla's "list of teams to which he'd accept a trade," and neither do the Calgary Sun or Calgary Herald:
McKenzie: The courtship of Danny DeKeyser begins on Tuesday. He's going to be at his advisors' office in Mississauga and all the big guns are coming out to play. We've already had Edmonton owner Daryl Katz phone DeKeyser to try and woo him to go to the Edmonton Oilers. Justin Schultz amongst others has been texting with this young player. There are general managers and some NHL coaches lining up to go in and try and woo him. He has brought his hockey bag and he's ready to go in terms of his equipment. He could sign with somebody before the end of the week and be in their lineup as quickly as that.
ESPN's Craig Custance penned the following regarding DeKeyser's decision-making timeline:
Custance also pointed out a Tweet from CBS Sports' college hockey expert, Chris Peters:
And the Kalamazoo Gazette's Drew Peters has this to say about DeKeyser's tenure at Western Michigan University:
The hype surrounding DeKeyser is for good reason. I have covered the WMU hockey team and DeKeyser for two-and-a-half seasons and what I can tell you is Danny DeKeyser is very good at men's ice hockey.
He is a disciplined defenseman who almost never gets beat in one-on-one situations because of his length and stick work.
He communicates extremely well with his defensive partner Luke Witkowski, a Tampa Bay draft pick who is expected to sign with the Lightning at some point.
His offensive game overall will need some work as he enters the next level, but he is a strong puck handler and is a good point man on the power play. His shot became more powerful this season, but it still needs some work.
Offense will be a welcome bonus for the NHL team that inks DeKeyser, who is being sought for his work on the blue line.
DeKeyser was one of three players to wear the captain's letter this season for WMU. He has never been an overly exuberant player off the ice, but he's very knowledgeable, honest and almost always has a smile on his face.
DeKeyser was a wanted commodity after his sophomore season, but he chose to play one more season at the college level to bulk up and improve his skating ability.
He might not be a top four defenseman right away but there is no doubt DeKeyser has the skills to get to that level, possibly quickly depending on what team he signs with.
This isn't necessarily a "rumor," but ESPN's Pierre LeBrun included it in his "rumblings":
Team Canada hasn’t named its Olympic coaching staff for next February because it’s waiting for the NHL to sign off on Sochi first (a decision on the NHL and Sochi should come by mid-April). But the worst-kept secret in hockey is that Team Canada is going to bring back Mike Babcock and his staff (Ken Hitchocck and Lindy Ruff) for Sochi. Thing is, retired coach Jacques Lemaire needs to be replaced and I’m hearing that Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien is a very good bet for that spot. And if that’s the case, it’s a brilliant decision. Julien has been long overdue for this kind of honor.
In the prospect department: In Finland, Teemu Pulkkinen and Jokerit Helsinki are in trouble. The SM-Liiga's top regular season team dropped a 2-1 decision to Lukko Rauma, which won a playoff play-in series to earn the privilege of playing Jokerit, and Pulkkinen didn't register a point in the game.
Jokerit trails the series 3-1, and, ironically enough, Ilta Sanomat reports that the game's start was delayed because Pulkkinen broke a pane of glass during the pre-game warm-ups;
In the OHL, Ryan Sproul registered 3 assists in the Soo Greyhounds' 5-3 win over Owen Sound, who they trail 2-1 in their first-round series;
Andreas Athanasiou registered the game-tying goal in the Barrie Colts' 4-2 win over Kingston, givingBarrie a 3-games-to-none lead in their first-round series;
And in my backyard, the Plymouth Whalers took a 3-0 lead on the Sarnia Sting via a 5-2 victory;
In the WHL, Richard Nedomlel didn't register a point in the Swift Current Broncos' 3-2 OT win over Calgary. The Broncos trail their series 2-1.
Yahoo Sports' Neate Sager praised Sproul in his OHL playoff round-up...
Sault Ste. Marie 5 Owen Sound 3, ENG (Attack lead 2-1) — How much did the game turn on special teams? To a large extent, although the Greyhounds harnessing their desperation probably had something to do with them earning their chances before a raucous Northern Ontario crowd. Their power play, which was 0-for-11 during successive one-goal losses in Owen Sound, hit a trifecta early in the second period with star defenceman Ryan Sproul assisting on each tally.
Point being, though, the Soo handled that power-play windfall well. It also held the Attack to 0-for-6 with the extra skater after giving up a pair of PP goals in the first two games. This is looking every bit like the six- or seven-game series that was predicted.
It's time for power rankings!
The Wings' weekend series against the Ducks yielded positive spin in this week's first crop of power rankings.
ESPN's Pierre LeBrun took note of the Wings' self-steadying...
9. Detroit 16-11-5 Last Week: 10 Two big statement wins in Anaheim over the weekend for a Red Wings team beginning to find its stride with four wins in its past five games.
As did NHL.com's Dave Lozo...
8 Detroit Red Wings [last week 10]: The Red Wings have won four of five and started their four-game road trip with two wins in Anaheim. Justin Abdelkader has six goals this season and five have come in his past four games. After an uneven start, the Red Wings are finding themselves.
And TSN's Scott Cullen...
This Week 11 Last Week 12 Detroit Red Wings: The Wings are 4-1 in their last five, with the only loss coming in a home game against Minnesota in which they outshot the Wild 38-19. Not for nothing here, but RW Damien Brunner has now gone a dozen games without a goal.
Key Injuries: RW Mikael Samuelsson (groin), RW Todd Bertuzzi (back), D Kyle Quincey (face).
But Sportsline's Brian Stubits dropped the Wings down a spot...
10. Red Wings [last week 9]: Consider this: The Ducks were 13-1-0 at home before the Red Wings came to town. They're now 13-3-0. What an impressive two wins for Detroit in such a tough place to play.
Fox Sports' A.J. Perez left the Wings in 10th place...
10. Red Wings [record] 16-11 -5: Beating any team twice in a span of three days is a feat, let alone when that team is the Ducks. A victory against the Coyotes on Monday night and Detroit will have its first three-game winning streak since early February.
And the same is true for USA Today's composite power rankings:
10. Detroit Red Wings 16-11-5 [highest/lowest] 8/17 Big back-to-back wins in Anaheim were confidence-builders.
Finally, I'd highly suggest that you take a gander at the Left Wing Lock's Sarah Lindenau's list of the Wings' free agent prospect signings as a companion to Hockey's Future's Top 20 Wings prospect list...
And as far as I'm concerned, after covering three games over the course of four nights, I'm going to pray to the Hockey Gods for a slow news day, because I've been getting up at 10 or 11 AM EDT to accommodate the East Coast news cycle, working till 6 or 7 to cover the team's "morning" skates and "early afternoon" practice on Saturday, taking an hour or two nap and then working from 8 to somewhere between 5 and 6 in the morning and not really getting to sleep until after 6 AM EDT for the past four days.
While the Wings rest up by the pool or play golf today, I'm gonna try to catch up on some sleep, go grocery shopping and just putter around like a normal human being's supposed to do.
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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.