Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Coyotes wrap-up and Wings-Avs set-up: brain fart loss yields urgency vs. Avs

The Detroit Red Wings caught a very late flight to Colorado to prepare for tonight's game against the Avalanche (9 PM EDT, FSD/Altitude/97.1 FM) having placed themselves in a particularly desperate situation thanks to their awful showing in a 4-2 loss to Phoenix on Thursday evening.

The Wings now sit in 7th place in the Western Conference standings with 41 points, but the 18-14-and-5 Wings are only 1 point ahead of the St. Louis Blues (who have 2 games in hand), are 2 points ahead of the Edmonton Oilers and Columbus Blue Jackets (no games in hand) and are 3 points ahead of both the Coyotes and Predators....

And with 11 games remaining, if the Wings continue to flounder, there's a genuine possibility that they'll need "help" to make the playoffs, which is as scary as Thursday night's loss is inexcusable.

Why? Each and every one of the Red Wings' players struggled through doofy mental mistakes after the first 20 minutes of the game despite being rested and relatively healthy, while at least half a dozen Coyotes were literally sick and tired, as the Arizona Republic's Sarah McLellan noted:

A flu bug wiggled its way into the locker room, tagging expected starting goalie Jason LaBarbera and defenseman David Schlemko, and the Coyotes were forced to turn to No.3 Chad Johnson and play with only five defensemen after Schlemko left in the first period.

“Throughout the afternoon we had five or six guys that were sick, that were questionable to play, throwing up on the way to the game,” coach Dave Tippett said. “That’s the first game I think I’ve ever coached with two buckets beside me on the bench.”

But it’ll take more than a pesky illness to sink this team’s playoff chances as the Coyotes continue to hover near the playoff cutline in the Western Conference after a 4-2 win over the Red Wings in front of 16,623 at Jobing.com Arena. The Coyotes sit in 11th with 38 points and have taken points in five straight games.

“That, to me, is one of the more amazing wins in a regular season that I’ve been around,” Tippett said.

The Coyotes' illnesses--and the team's decision to "sell" Raffi Torres, Matthew Lombardi and Steve Sullivan at the trade deadline--didn't prevent the Coyotes from pouncing on the Wings in the second period, out-shooting Detroit 20-5 and scoring 3 goals thanks to Wings players "cheating" toward offense, making bad line changes, awful defensive mistakes, and in Jimmy Howard's case, cheating toward his glove side to the point that his blocker and five-hole surrendered soft goals:

Winger Chris Conner, one of the team’s call-ups from the American Hockey League to replace the departed trio had an immediate impact, scoring the game-winner at 8:08 of the second period in his Coyotes debut. But Conner wasn’t the only farmhand to push the Coyotes to a 2-0 showing on this three-game homestand.

Defenseman Michael Stone, who has fast-tracked his development to the No.1 pairing with Oliver Ekman-Larsson after starting the season with the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate, had the first goal. And Johnson was solid with a 34-save performance.

...

Johnson wasn’t given official word that he’d be between the pipes until six hours before puck drop.

“For a situation this where I’m thrown in the game here for me it was just try to give the team a chance to win,” Johnson said.

The AP's recap continues the Coyotes' near-unbelievable narrative...

"I don't know what happened over the course of the afternoon, but we had five or six guys who were sick that were questionable to play, throwing up on the way to the game," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "That's the first game I think I've coached with two buckets beside me."

...

Detroit had the jump on the illness-ravaged Coyotes early, scoring less than two minutes into the game on a power-play goal by Valtteri Filppula. The Red Wings had no answer for Phoenix in the second period and couldn't finish off a comeback following Daniel Cleary's power-play goal with 1:13 left in the third period. Detroit has lost three of four and is down to seventh in the West, a point ahead of the Blues.

...

The Red Wings were sharp early, turning a penalty on Rob Klinkhammer in the opening minute into a power-play goal by Filppula on a rebound. But after taking a 1-0 lead into the second period, Detroit couldn't match the Coyotes. Swarming the Red Wings, Phoenix fired 20 shots at Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard in the second period, their most since Feb. 14, 2009, against Calgary.

...

[Michael] Stone scored less than 2 minutes into the second period, beating Howard stick side with a hard slap shot from above the right circle.

[Chris] Conner, who didn't arrive with fellow call-up Chris Brown until 5 a.m. Thursday, made it 2-1 midway through the period. He took a nifty pass from Boedker before whipping a wrist shot past Howard high to the stick side.

After sweating out so many close games recently, Phoenix enjoyed a rare cushion when Doan made it 3-1 with his 12th goal of the season late in the period. [Keith] Yandle set it up, catching the Red Wings on a line change with a long pass to [Martin] Hanzal, who flipped it ahead to Doan.

The Red Wings pulled within a goal when [Daniel] Cleary tipped in a shot by Johan Franzen, but the Red Wings couldn't get anything else past Johnson. Hanzal sealed it with his 10th goal of the season, giving the Coyotes the kind of pull-it-together win that could provide a spark for the remainder of the season.

"If you only knew what was going on today," Tippett said. "That was one of the more amazing wins in the regular season I've been around."

As does Fox Sports Arizona's Craig Morgan, who took note of the Coyotes' justified post-game chest-puffing:

When the Coyotes found out that Raffi Torres, Matthew Lombardi and Steve Sullivan had all been dealt Wednesday without any players coming back to help the immediate roster, the mood was somber.

"It's never good. No one's ever happy when you lose friends or teammates," said captain Shane Doan, who scored the crucial third goal on a breakaway after a stretch pass from Keith Yandle and a touch feed from Martin Hanzal. "I don't think anyone felt like we were giving up, but it wasn't what any of the players wanted."

Aside from a pregame scene straight out of the cholera years, Phoenix went into Thursday's must-win game with a lineup that looked more like Portland West's. Chad Johnson started in goal after finding out he would serve such duty at 1 p.m. Thursday. Call-up Chris Conner, who makes Tippett look tall, was in the lineup. So was Chris Brown, not to mention Rob Klinkhammer and Michael Stone.

...

The realist would note that the Coyotes still have a long road to climb to the playoffs. St. Louis has two games in hand. Nashville and Edmonton have home-heavy schedules, and after Saturday, Phoenix plays seven of its final 10 games on the road. But with prospective buyer George Gosbee in attendance and talk that an ownership announcement could be coming soon for this long leader-less franchise, this was a night for optimism and hope.

"It's a real credit to the leadership in our room and how much those guys care about the organization doing well," said Tippett of his club's ability to put the deadline deals behind it. "It starts with Shane, but it's Yandle, it's Hanzal, it's (Derek) Morris, it's (Radim) Vrbata. It's hard to take three veteran players out of your lineup. It's a tough day all around. But for them to regroup and make sure that we were focused for tonight speaks volumes about their leadership."

NHL.com's Jerry Brown, who's also the Coyotes' team historian, offers a recap which serves as our pivot point between the Coyotes' to Red Wings' perspectives:

"It's exciting. You just try not to do anything but play your game," said Conner, a former Red Wing and Michigan Tech Husky, who has three goals in seven career games against the Red Wings. "It's where I'm from, so there's always a little added motivation playing them."

Johnson didn't even get into the net at Thursday's morning skate. The Coyotes worked out Mike Smith – who missed his sixth straight game with injury – and LaBarbera, who had the flu hit him just after he got off the ice. But Johnson, who hadn't played anywhere in two weeks, showed the same steady hand he's shown in his three NHL starts this season, helping the Coyotes collect five of six points (2-0-1).

"I was kind of thrown into the game and knew it was a big game so it was great to get that chance," said Johnson, who found out he was playing about six hours before the game. "We got some timely goals from guys and we held on from there."

Valtteri Filppula and Daniel Cleary scored for Detroit. Cleary's goal came on a 6-on-4 power play with 1:13 left in regulation and goaltender Jimmy Howard on the bench in favor of an extra attacker. Both Detroit goals came on the power play; the Coyotes took seven penalties but survived.

"I think our undoing was the power play," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "It's not that we didn't do much on the power play … we got caught out at the end of [two] power plays for long shifts and they ended up scoring on one. In the end, they tilted the rink on us."

...

"It was a bad period for us," Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "We struggled a bit. We turned the puck over a little bit too much and they took advantage of that."

The Red Wings' loss had nothing to do with who the Wings did or didn't acquire at the trade deadline. It had everything to do with the Red Wings' forwards "cheating" toward offense, poor line changes, poor decision-making by Carlo Colaiacovo, Brendan Smith, Brian Lashoff and Jonathan Ericsson, and mental mistakes made by every player who hopped over the boards, from Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk on down.

Ken Holland no longer plays goal. Jim Nill wasn't in the lineup to react to Derek Morris's nasty knee-on-knee hit on Pavel Datsyuk. Ryan Martin doesn't score goals. Mark Howe wasn't on the ice to bail out the Wings' defense, nor were Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper, Chris Chelios, Joe McDonnell or Hakan Andersson able to steady the bench. Chris Osgood's blocker hand was much more liable to give up soft goals than Howard's has ever been.

The Red Wings' players didn't suggest that their loss was part of an elaborate plan to shame the management. Instead, they were pissed off at themselves for losing another game that they looked poised to win after 20 minutes, as the Free Press's Helene St. James noted:

"There's no hiding from that -- our second period was really not good at all," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "I felt we almost gave them a few goals there. We dug ourselves a hole, and couldn't get out of it."

Worse for the Wings were two other results on the same night, as both the Blues and Blue Jackets picked up two points apiece.

"We're disappointed in ourselves," coach Mike Babcock said. "We didn't feel we had the kind of second period that our team is capable of or that the opportunity presented itself with. You've got to be better when you have these opportunities we have right now. Some of these wounds tonight were inflicted by ourselves, with turnovers and line changes. Add it all together, you can't do that to be successful."

Valtteri Filppula had Detroit's first power play goal, and Daniel Cleary converted on a power play with 1:13 remaining. Jimmy Howard saw the most pucks, peppered with 20 shots in the second period alone.

"It was a bad period," captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "I think we started the game good, then we turned the puck over a little bit too much, and they took advantage of that. We got some power play opportunities as well, but we couldn't really get any pressure in their end."

The Wings finished two-for-six with the man advantage, but rued how little they accomplished during that second period.

"I really thought our undoing was on the power play," Babcock said. "It's not even that we didn't do much on the power play, as we got caught out at the end of both power plays for long shifts and they ended up scoring on one. In the end, they tilted the rink on us. We didn't execute and didn't get it behind them and didn't do the simple things that we had done in the first period so well."

After the Wings surrendered a 3-1 lead, they spent the vast majority of the 3rd period offering no puck support to the single players skating into 3 or 4 Coyotes defenders, inevitably steered into the boards and very regularly roughed up in the process, and the team committed turnover after turnover between bluelines, allowing Phoenix to continue to dominate puck possession and earn "grind time" by pressuring play toward the Wings' end of the ice.

Zetterberg duly noted that the Wings could've opened a turnover bakery while speaking to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:

"Turnovers are turnovers and it's tough to win games if you have too many of them," forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "The second period was bad."

...

The Coyotes took the lead with Conner's goal. Conner and Boedker found themselves on a two-on-one break and Conner, alone in the circle, wristed a nice shot into the corner of the net. The goal was Conner's third career tally against the Red Wings in seven games.

After a pair of Red Wings power plays failed, Doan capped the Coyotes' barrage. Hanzal found Doan all alone for a partial breakaway between the circles, and Doan wristed a shot past Howard for his 12th goal at 16:01.

"We weren't as good in the second period, we didn't skate," Babcock said.

Babcock also felt the power play, which went 2-for-6 overall, didn't supply enough pressure at critical junctures in the second and third periods — and Red Wings players agreed.

"Absolutely, no doubt about that," Kronwall said. "We have to find a way to dig in and generate more chances on the power play. Our first two (opportunities) were real good. After that, I don't know if we had a whole lot to be honest with you."

Instead, the Wings dug their own hole, as they suggested to MLive's Ansar Khan (who also penned a quote-less recap):

“Mental toughness is the key to being successful in anything you do,'' coach Mike Babcock said. “Tonight, we didn't have enough of that for 60 minutes.''

Turnovers, mental mistakes, an energy-draining power play and lack of skating led to their downfall in the second period.

“It felt we almost gave them a few goals,'' defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “It's tough, we dug ourselves a hole and couldn't get out of it. We stopped skating. That was the biggest factor. We're looking at someone else to do the job. We didn't win enough battles down low, couldn't get out of our zone at times.''

Said captain Henrik Zetterberg: “We couldn't really get any pressure in their end. We had no problem getting into their zone, but once we got in we couldn't get any shots through.''

...

“Bad line changes, we can't afford that,'' Kronwall said. “I was late off the bench, probably could have gotten the puck deeper.''

...

The Red Wings went two-for-six on the power play (Valtteri Filppula opened the scoring at 1:56 of the first), but Babcock and players said it doesn't indicate how bad they were on the man-advantage.

“Some nights you're not going to play great, but if you have a lethal power play, you can win games anyway,'' Kronwall said.

...

“This was a tough one for us,'' Babcock said. “Right now we got some tough travel, so we need to get in there and get to bed as fast as we can and get our mind right for tomorrow, because we're going to be in for a battle.''

So Chris Conner got the last laugh on his former employer, as he told DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose:

“I think they made a great play and certainly there was a little more motivation there,” said Conner, of playing against his former team. “I have to carry that into every game and I had a couple other chances to score a couple of more goals. … My linemates played great tonight, so they helped me out.”

The Wings had a second crack at getting another first-period power-play goal, but they couldn’t get another past backup goalie Chad Johnson, who was a late substitution in goal when Jason LaBarbera was held out of the lineup with flu-like symptoms. While the power play gave the Wings an early lead, it was also partly to blame for the team’s second-period collapse.

“I really thought our undoing was on the power play,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “It wasn't that we didn't do much on the power play, it's that we got caught out at the end of both power plays for long, long shifts and they ended up scoring on one. In the end they tilted the rink on us and the fact we didn't execute and didn't get it behind them and didn't do the simple things we had done in the first period so well. So we got to give them credit but we're disappointed in ourselves. We didn't feel we had the kind of second period that our team is capable of. … You got to be better with these opportunities we have right now and tonight's one we let slip away.”

Trailing 3-1 with less than two-minutes remaining in regulation, Daniel Cleary popped in a power-play goal when Jimmy Howard was pulled for an extra attacker. But it was a case of too little, too late for the Red Wings, who now have 11 games remaining with five teams within three points of them in the standings.

“We just got to look forward,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We have to find a way to get back to our game, skate, get back pucks, get out of our zone and get through the neutral zone. Put the puck deep and go to work. We didn't do that enough times tonight.”

Multimedia:

Higlights: If you must re-live the game, at least watch Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond's version of events:

Post-game: The Coyotes' website posted clips of Chris Conner and Chad Johnson speaking to the media, as well as Dave Tippett's post-game presser.

That's all the video I could find as of 4 AM EDT. Fox Sports Detroit, Fox Sports Arizona and the Wings' website or YouTube channel may post stuff later this morning, but I've been working on this entry since 1:32 AM, and I wrote my quick take as soon as the game ended at 12:36 AM, so I'm gonna call it a night at 4:16.


Photos: The Arizona Republic posted an 11-image gallery;

The Detroit Free Press posted an 18-image gallery;

The Detroit News posted a 16-image gallery;

MLive posted a 6-image gallery;

The Windsor Star posted a 6-image gallery;

Yahoo Sports posted 19 images in its Wings gallery;

ESPN posted a 58-image gallery;

And NHL.com, the Coyotes' website and the Red Wings' website posted 40-image galleries.

Statistics:

Shots 38-36 Phoenix overall. Detroit out-shot Phoenix 15-11 in the 1st, was out-shot 20-5 in the 2nd and out-shot Phoenix 16-7 in the 3rd.

The Wings went 2-for-6 in 9:12 of PP time; the Coyotes went 0-for-4 in 8:00 of PP time.

Jimmy Howard stopped 34 of 37 shots, and the Coyotes' 38th shot went into an empty net; Chad Johnson stopped 34 of 36 shots.

The 3 stars were picked by the Coyotes' broadcasters, and they were Chris Conner, Mikael Boedeker and Chad Johnson.

The Wings' goals: Filppula (7) from Nyquist (3) and Smith (5), PPG;

Cleary (9) from Franzen (14) and Zetterberg (25), PPG.

Faceoffs 34-30 Phoenix (Phoenix won 53%);

Blocked shots 20-6 Phoenix;

Missed shots 11-6 Detroit (total attempts 67-50 Detroit);

Hits 23-17 Phoenix;

Giveaways 5-1 Detroit;

Takeaways 9-3 Phoenix.

Individual stats, TMR style:

Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 12-and-9 (57%); Emmerton went 8-and-5 (62%); Zetterberg went 5-and-6 (45%); Filppula went 4-and-5 (44%); Andersson went 1-and-8 (11%);

Shots: Zetterberg and Filppula co-led the team with 5 shots apiece; Franzen had 4; Kindl, Abdelkader, Nyquist, Colaiacovo and Kronwall had 3; Cleary had 2; Smith, Datsyuk, Miller, Lashoff and Emmerton had 1.

Blocked attempts: Smith and Kronwall had 4 attempts blocked by Coyotes players; Kindl and Nyquist had 3 attempts blocked; Datsyuk had 2 attempts blocked; Emmerton, Zetterberg, Filppula and Franzen had 1 attempt blocked.

Missed shots: Nyquist missed the net 3 times; Smith,Cleary,Datsyuk, Emmerton, Colaiacovo, Zetterberg, Filppula and Kronwall missed the net 1 time.

Hits: Miller led the Wings with 4 hits; Tootoo, Lashoff, Kronwall and Franzen had 2; Kindl, Abdelkader, Cleary, Eaves and Ericsson had 1.

Giveaways: Smith, Kindl, Datsyuk, Ericsson and Andersson had giveaways;

Takeaways: Emmerton, Filppula and Ericsson had takeaways.

Blocked opponent shots: Colaiacovo blocked 3 shots; Lashoff blocked 2; Andersson blocked 1.

Penalties taken: Tootoo took 2 minor penalties; Abdelkader, Datsyuk and Kronwall took 1.

Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective -21. Colaiacovo finished at -3; Nyquist, Miller, Zetterberg, Filppula, Kronwall and Ericsson finished at -2; Smith, Kindl, Abdelkader, Cleary, Eaves and Lashoff finished at -1.

Points: Cleary and Filppula scored goals; Smith, Nyquist, Zetterberg and Franzen had assists.

Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 23:53 played; Smith played 20:40; Kindl played 20:33;

Ericsson played 20:03; Filppula played 19:42; Zetterberg played 19:37;

Colaiacovo played 19:25; Cleary played 18:29; Datsyuk played 17:59;

Franzen played 17:42; Lashoff played 15:35; Miller played 15:13;

Nyquist played 14:27; Abdelkader played 13:08; Andersson played 11:25;

Emmerton played 9:54; Eaves played 9:50; Tootoo played 6:43.

 

Red Wings-Avs set-up: I'm going to be brief here. The Avs are coming off a 3-1 loss to Nashville on Tuesday night and were banged-up while playing their second game in two nights, as the Denver Post's Mike Chambers noted...

"It's extremely frustrating," Avs coach Joe Sacco said of blowing a late lead and losing for the 10th time in 12 games. "We do grab the first goal, but unfortunately offensive-zone penalties hurt you in the league. We had a young player take an offensive-zone penalty, and they tie the game up. Those are just mistakes that you can't really afford to make when you're going through a tough time like this."

The Avs again played without injured forwards Paul Stastny (foot), Milan Hejduk (shoulder), David Jones (knee) and Chuck Kobasew (torso). That helped McLeod move to a starring role.

"It's good when you get more of a role, but it's too bad we couldn't contribute with a goal," he said. "I thought we played hard. It's just tough to come up short again. I'm just trying to make the most of the opportunity."

And as such, the Denver Post's Mike Chambers suggested that the Avs should tank the rest of their season to qualify for the NHL's draft lottery, but Avs GM Greg Sherman nixed that concept while speaking to Adrian Dater, and the Avs' players don't believe in the concept, either, as they told Dater on Thursday:

"A top pick would be great, but I think a positive feeling going into the summer from a great finish would be even better for us," said Duchene, whose team hopes to beat the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night at the Pepsi Center. "I owe it to every guy in this room and to every person who buys a ticket, who pays good money to come see us and cheer us on, to try to do my best. People are playing for future jobs and contracts, and these last 12 games may be meaningless for the playoffs, but for each one of us in here they all mean something. We need to help each other. That's how we have to finish here."

Even if the Avs were to finish 30th overall, their standing now, they wouldn't be guaranteed the first pick and the opportunity to draft Jones, a Portland Winterhawks defenseman. The draft lottery is April 29 and all 14 teams that miss the playoffs have a shot at getting the No. 1 pick. It ranges from a 25 percent chance for the 30th-place team to a 0.5 percent shot for the 17th-place team. No team can move down more than one slot from where it finished in the standings.

"I think we're going to get a good pick no matter what," said Duchene, who was selected third overall by the Avs in the 2009 draft. "Our scouts always do a great job in drafting. But at the end of the day, you want to win as many games as possible."

...

Avs goalie J.S. Giguere, who will start against the Red Wings, agreed.

"No one is thinking about our draft pick. Our job is to go out and play our best and try to win the hockey games. That's what we'll do," he said.

Dater's game preview reads as follows...

Spotlight on Kyle Quincey: The former Avs defenseman is scheduled to return to the lineup Friday after missing about a month with a fractured cheekbone. His return should give a good boost to a Wings defense that has seen its share of injuries this season. Quincey was traded by the Avs last season to Tampa Bay for Steve Downie, but the Lightning traded him to Detroit for a first-round draft pick before he got to play for Tampa Bay.

...

Avalanche: Jean-Sebastien Giguere will start in goal, his second consecutive start. No. 1 goalie Semyon Varlamov is expected to start Saturday's game at Phoenix. ... Forwards David Jones, Chuck Kobasew and Paul Stastny all missed practice Thursday with injuries, and won't play Friday. ... The Avs rank 12th in the NHL in faceoff winning percentage (.511). ... The Avs have surrendered the first goal in 25 of their 36 games. ... Colorado is a collective minus-15 as a team.

And NHL.com's John Kreiser sets up tonight's game succinctly:

Big story: The Red Wings are used to competing for championships, but this season they're having to battle just to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They dropped to seventh in the Western Conference by losing 4-2 to the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night. The Avalanche are the only team in the League that hasn't reached 30 points in the standings.

...

Avalanche [team scope]: Colorado needs to get off to a faster start in the return match with the Red Wings than it did Monday night in Detroit, when the Avalanche trailed 3-0 after two periods and lost 3-2. They lost 3-1 to the Nashville Predators the following night to go 0-2-0 on a quick two-day trip. Colorado general manager Greg Sherman did little at the trade deadline on Wednesday; his only move was shipping bottom-pair defenseman Ryan O'Byrne to Toronto for a draft pick.

The good news for the Avalanche is that they're back in the friendly confines of Pepsi Center, where they are 10-6-1 this season -- as opposed to a 2-14-3 record on the road.

Who's hot: Johan Franzen has three assists in Detroit's past two games. Dan Cleary had a late goal Thursday and has scored in back-to-back games. … PA Parenteau, Colorado's leading scorer, has five assists in his past five games.

Injury report: Detroit was without rookie forward Damien Brunner (undisclosed injury), as well as forward Mikael Samuelsson (upper body), Todd Bertuzzi (back) and Darren Helm (back). The Red Wings hope to have defenseman Kyle Quincey (broken cheek) back soon. … Colorado is missing forward Milan Hejduk (shoulder), Paul Stastny (foot) and Steve Downie (season-ending knee surgery -- all are on injured reserve, as is defenseman Ryan Wilson (ankle). Forward David Jones is still nursing a knee injury.

The AP's game preview simply doesn't add much of anything to the mix.

The Wings will swap out three defensemen tonight, adding Ian White, Kyle Quincey and Danny DeKeyser to the lineup, as Babcock told the Free Press's Helene St. James...

"I've been feeling good the last few days," DeKeyser said. "I think I'm ready to go."

DeKeyser only has practiced with the Wings for less than a week, joining them Saturday, a week after his career at Western Michigan ended.

"We sure like what we see," Babcock said. "We just have to have enough courage to fire him in and get on with it."

DeKeyser, 22, was vigorously pursued by numerous NHL teams when he became an unrestricted free agent at the end of March. He chose his hometown team, much to the delight of the Wings, who got to add someone they see as a potential building block. DeKeyser has much to prove -- and expectations should be tempered for his debut by the fact he's never played a minute of pro hockey -- but he's a 6-foot-3 defenseman who can skate, and that's a valuable asset even if there's much growth ahead.

Babcock also said Ian White and Kyle Quincey will be in the lineup. Babcock didn't say who they would bump, but Carlo Colaiacovo didn't have a great game Thursday, finishing minus-3. Brendan Smith and Brian Lashoff also struggled.

After months of seeing half his corps milling around sick bay, Babcock is in the unusual position of having nine healthy defensemen at his disposal.

"What I'm going to do is have less theories," he said, "and just play who I think is going to help us that night."

And MLive's Ansar Khan notes that Jimmy Howard may or may not play tonight:

Babcock said he is leaning toward starting Jimmy Howard in goal for the second night in a row but will think about it.

Quincey told the Free Press's St. James that he's good to go despite still nursing a broken cheekbone that's left him without feeling from his broken right cheekbone to his chin, and despite wearing a full cage for the balance of the season:

“You have bars in front of your eyes,” Quincey said. “You have a black cage in front of you and a black puck coming at you. So especially with the vision, you’ve got to be that much better with the puck in your hands.”

Quincey still lives in Denver during the off-season, having fallen in love with the place and its nearly perennial pleasant weather. In the summer, he’s big into mountain biking.

“It’s a great place for me to train,” he said. “You’re at a high altitude all the time. I’m big into outdoor sports. The best thing about it is, it’s just sunny every day. You can’t really beat that. They don’t have much water, but they do have the Colorado River, so I paddle-board down the river. It’s just central — if I want to go back home for a week, if I want to fly out to L.A., it’s right in the middle, 3 hours from most things.”

 

Red Wings notebooks: The Wings notebooks were written before Thursday night's game as the press has commercial flights to catch on back-to-back nights, and they're ridiculously ironic.

DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose offered an update on the respective health statuses of Damien Brunner and Mikael Samuelsson:

Damien Brunner, who scored his first goal in 16 games on Monday, will miss his first NHL game due to an injury when he sits out Thursday’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena. Brunner, who has 11 goals and 11 assists this season, has an undisclosed lower body injury that first started bothering him a couple of weeks ago. He did not practice with the Red Wings Wednesday in Detroit, and he tried to participate in today’s morning skate, but only lasted about 15 minutes before he headed back to the locker room.

“I tried,” Brunner said. “I thought it's going to be better, but obviously it felt not that good. I hope it's going to be better tomorrow.”

Immediately after tonight’s game, the Red Wings will fly to Denver where they will face the Colorado Avalanche for the second time in five days.

The Wings will again be without veteran forward Mikael Samuelsson, who suffered a new injury in Sunday’s 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks at Joe Louis Arena. The new injury is to the upper body, but Samuelsson was hesitant to say exactly. He missed 12 games early in the season after re-aggravating a groin injury that he suffered during the team’s mini-training camp in mid-January. He then sat-out 19 games after sustaining a non-dislocated fracture of the left index finger.

“I'm falling apart,” said Samuelsson, half joking. “Not lucky at all. I bruised my pec (pectoral) muscle. (Michal) Roszival got stuck in the boards with his stick so I went to hit it, or poke-check it. Since he got stuck, it pulled me back.”

The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness also took note of Samuelsson's health or the lack thereof (and I'm not going to subject you to triple quotes via the Free Press's Helene St. James' conversations with both players)...

“It’s a different injury,” Samuelsson said. “I’m falling apart. Not lucky at all. I bruised my (left pectoral) muscle.”
Samuelsson said he was injured along the boards on Sunday against Chicago when he was going in for a loose puck with Michal Roszival.

“It’s day-to-day,” Samuelsson said. “I thought maybe (I’d) play (Thursday) but that’s not going to happen.

“I’m OK when I have the puck in front of me but once I got back here I can’t do that,” Samuelsson added. “It’s a little frustrating. But, at the same time, what can you do. I thought it was over. It’s not a very common injury. It shouldn’t happen but it did.”

And Pleiness discussed Danny DeKeyser's delayed debut...

"It’s interesting with Danny here, we have so few practices to get him up to speed to where we want,” Babcock said. “We sure like what we see. We’ve just got to have enough courage to fire him in and get on with it. Originally it was going to be (Thursday), it’s not.”

DeKeyser completely understands Babcock’s decision.

“I’ve been off for two weeks or so without a game, so (they’re) just trying to make sure that I’m conditioned enough and not going to get tired and stuff like that. So, I just want to be ready.

“I never know until the day of (if I’m playing),” DeKeyser added. “So I’m just preparing myself to be ready to go whenever it is. It’s a little tough (waiting), I’m anxious to go, but whenever it comes I’ll be ready.”

DeKeyser agreed that getting up to “NHL speed” is kind of like cramming for an exam.

“A little bit,” DeKeyser said. “A lot of the system stuff here is kind of similar to what I had at Western (Michigan). It’s not much different.”

As did MLive's Ansar Khan...

“I definitely understand it’s tough,'' DeKeyser said. “Just a few points separate everybody. The standings change every night. It’s a heated race in both conferences, so it’s a tough situation. I’m anxious to go, but whenever it comes I’ll be ready.”

Babcock said the team's lack of practice time has hindered its ability to get the former Western Michigan star up to speed.

“I’ve been off for two weeks or so without a game, so just trying to make sure that I’m conditioned enough and not going to get tired,'' DeKeyser said.

He said the system they play at Western under former NHL coach Andy Murray is similar to what the Red Wings do, helping his transition. And, his new teammates have helped him get acclimated.

“All the guys here have been really good,'' DeKeyser said. “I was a little nervous the first day when I stepped into the locker room. But everyone has made me feel really comfortable. Once you get out there, skate around in a few practices, guys joke around with you a little bit. It makes you feel a little more comfortable, kind of gets the nerves out.”

As did DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose:

“My family asks me every day, so it’s the same thing I tell you guys, whenever my name’s up there is when I’ll be in,” DeKeyser said Thursday morning at Jobing.com Arena.

Coach Mike Babcock has hinted this week that he would like to get a look at the 6-foot-3, 190-pound defenseman, who spent the past three seasons at Western Michigan University and became the crown jewel of the undrafted free agent pool last month.

“It's interesting with Danny here, we have so few practices to get him up to speed to what we want,” Babcock said. “We sure like what we see, we just got to have enough courage to fire him in and get on with it. Originally it was going to be today, it's not.”

When DeKeyser gets is time is a fine line, Babcock said.

“We'll figure it out,” the Wings’ coach said. “In the meantime he'll get an opportunity to practice every day with good NHL players and when he gets a chance he'll be in.”

Roose also talked to Brian Lashoff about his stint in the AHL due to the Wings' roster constraints after signing DeKeyser and taking Carlo Colaiacovo off the IR (the 23-man roster limit no longer applies after the trade deadline)...

“I didn’t really have to be too bummed about it,” said Lashoff, of going to the minors this week. “But it was fun to go down there.”

...

Lashoff has gained the respect of the coaches, who in return, have relied on him in short-handed situations all season. Lashoff has logged the third-most penalty-kill minutes on the team, averaging 2:17 of short-handed ice-time.

“Penalty killing is something I like doing, I like blocking shots. Keep it simple from the first day I got here,” said Lashoff, who has been with the Wings, basically, since the second game of the season.

The defensive unit was in shambles with every defensemen – with the exception of Niklas Kronwall and Lashoff – missing some length of time because of a multitude of injuries. Lashoff didn’t play in the Wings’ last game, but it certainly speaks to the faith that the team has in him that the 22-year-old is back in the lineup.

“Now that there's a lot of options it's only going to be better for the team,” Lashoff said. “It's only going to make competition for jobs better. It'll be fun.”

As did the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...

"They communicated the situation to me and I knew I would go down for one game in Houston and meet them (in Arizona)," Lashoff said. "I enjoyed it. We have a good atmosphere, a good group of guys, a good team (in Grand Rapids) and I knew it was just for one game. It was fun and we had a real good win."

Lashoff's goal since he was initially promoted Jan. 21 after Carlo Colaiacovo injured his shoulder was to make it difficult for the staff to take him out of the lineup. Because of his work on the penalty kill, willingness to block shots, and sound defensive game, Lashoff has accomplished that.

"It's a confidence booster," Lashoff said of being back in the lineup. "As far as my game is concerned, penalty killing is something I like doing, and blocking shots, and keeping it simple from the first day I got here. Now there's a lot of options and that's only going to get better for the team and make the competition for jobs better."

Who also talked to Kyle Quincey about his impending return against his former employer:

Defenseman Kyle Quincey (fractured cheekbone) returns to the lineup tonight — and returns home. Quincey played for Colorado the last three seasons before being acquired by Detroit at the trade deadline last year.

"It's a good group of guys over there and I'll have a lot of friends outside of hockey and it'll be good to see them again," said Quincey, who makes Denver his offseason home. "I hope I get enough tickets. It's opening day over there, so fans will go see the Rockies game and then go to the Red Wings game. It's a big day."

 

Otherwise, MyFoxDetroit revealed the locations of Fox Sports Detroit's "April in the D" bobbleheads;

Autoblog's Seth Miersma reported that the Red Wings Edition of Dodge's Ram 1500 pickup has sold so well that Dodge will consider building other sports models;

If you have access to the CBC, the Canadian Press notes that the Gordie Howe bio-pic will air in Canada on April 28th, whereas the Halmark Channel won't show it until May 4th;

The Wings are holding a promotion to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation during Sunday's game against St. Louis;

FYI, via RedWingsFeed:

Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika still believes that the Wings are playoff-bound, as he stated in his "Three Periods" column, which assesses each and every team's trade deadline moves...

— Detroit Red Wings: GM Ken Holland is in a delicate position. He’s still trying to win now, because the Wings have always tried to win now. But all that trying to win now has made it awfully difficult to set a foundation for the future, because the Wings never get to draft early. Holland was in no position to sell before the deadline with the Wings in a playoff spot, but he was in no position to pay high prices with the Wings not among the top contenders and his assets so precious. The Wings need to get healthy and do the best they can now with what they’ve got, and they have to hope the U.S. college free agent they just signed, hometown boy Dan DeKeyser, develops into a solid shutdown defenseman.

And in the prospect department, in the BCHL, James De Haas scored the overtime and series-winning goal as his Penticton Vees advanced to the 3rd round of the BCHL playoffs via a 2-1 OT win over the West Kelowna Warriors, defeating the Warriors in 5 games.

Or did he score the game-winning goal? De Haas went to Twitter after the game to insist that he merely registered an assist:

Update: As usual, I can't get to sleep easily after writing all of this stuff. So I stay up for a bit, and RedWingsFeed inevitably alerts me of a late-night update or three. Here's Niklas Kronwall's post-game scrum, via the Wings' website...

Here's Henrik Zetterberg...

And here's coach Babcock:


Good on Babs for taking responsibility for his part in the loss.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

NIVO's avatar

and with st. louis having those 2 games in hand, the wings should play like they are in last. the game was just ugly and lethargic, much like the chicago one. They better be ready for the smackdown come this sunday, or its over.

Posted by NIVO from underpants gnome village on 04/05/13 at 06:40 AM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

The team’s been banged up all year, realize they don’t have a bunch of talent like the good ol days and have the kids in the lineup. Now, if I was on a deserted island for a couple years, was finally saved and able to see what their roster looks like my first impression would be “Oh feck! Lidas retired!” then I’d say “I bet this team hustles their ass off and may not win a lot but are fun to watch because everybody has to realize they gotta bust it to get it done.”.
I need to take a three hour tour. A three hour tour.

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 04/05/13 at 08:04 AM ET

Hootinani's avatar

the wings should play like they are in last.
Posted by NIVO from underpants gnome village on 04/05/13 at 06:40 AM ET

They are playing like they belong in last, is that close enough?

And good to see you are still the Captain of the Management Cheerleading Squad, George.

Posted by Hootinani on 04/05/13 at 08:15 AM ET

Hootinani's avatar

I bet this team hustles their ass off and may not win a lot but are fun to watch
Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 04/05/13 at 08:04 AM ET

Well, 1 outta 3 aint bad, right?

Posted by Hootinani on 04/05/13 at 08:18 AM ET

Figaro's avatar

Let’s stay positive!  11-0 run into the Play-Offs!

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 04/05/13 at 11:13 AM ET

d ca's avatar

I will be at the game tonight (in the corner where the Wings shoot on in the 1st and 3rd) 8 rows up. Trying to get there early enough to watch warm up and eat dinner across the street before hand (Rockies home opener is earlier so don’t know how crowded that area will be)...

just wish White wasn’t playing.

Posted by d ca on 04/05/13 at 11:30 AM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

from the comments in another post…Brunner out indefinitely with a hip flexor injury.  brilliant.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/05/13 at 02:01 PM ET

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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.