The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/15/13 at 02:59 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings face off against the Anaheim Ducks tonight (7:30 PM, FSD/Prime Ticke/NHL Network U.S.--so that means that Center Ice and GameCenter Live Online users are screwed via an NHL Net blackout yet again!/97.1 FM, and tonight is a Niklas Kronwall "Fathead Friday") facing a stiff test in more ways than one.
The 9-2-and-1 Ducks are coming off a pair of shootout wins and possess a 6-and-1 February record, they're relatively (Jonas Hiller ["lower body"] and Cam Fowler ["upper body"] are out), they haven't played since Tuesday's 3-2 shootout win over Chicago, and their interim goalie, 30-year-old rookie Viktor Fasth, boasts a 6-and-0 record, a 1.74 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage.
The Red Wings, as you already know, are coming off a disappointing and distressing 4-3 overtime loss to St. Louis on Wednesday, and the Wings will wrap up their four-game home stand minus some significant size and strength in Todd Bertuzzi (back) and Johan Franzen (back), in addition to the usual injury parade.
It sounds like Mikael Samuelsson might be returning in on Sunday in Minnesota or Tuesday in Nashville, but for the moment, "the status is quo" with the lineup (that means Justin Abdelkader will still bafflingly play alongside Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Brunner, and Jimmy Howard will start tonight).
So who are the Ducks? Fox Sports West's Michael Martinez offers something of an introduction to the team while offering "three keys" to the Ducks' success thus far:
It's early, of course, and there are no guarantees that their 9-2-1 start will lead to a strong finish, but the possibilities are intriguing. After a 3-2 shootout victory over the conference-leading Blackhawks on Tuesday in Chicago, the Ducks are 3-1 on a season-long six-game road trip and are 6-1 in their past seven games.
It hasn't been easy sailing. Their past two wins have come as a result of shootouts, and both times they had to come from behind. Saturday night in St. Louis, for example, they fell behind by two goals, lost two third-period leads and still beat the Blues 6-5 in a shootout.
Those kinds of games can be frustrating for a coach, but the Ducks' Bruce Boudreau has found a silver lining amid all the stress.
"The team doesn't give up and never believes they can't win," Boudreau recently told the Los Angeles Times. "And that, to me, is a very important thing . . . That makes you believe that wherever you're playing you have a chance to win."
How are they doing it? Here are three contributing factors to the Ducks' fast start:
1. Ageless wonder. Right wing Teemu Selanne is 42, but he's playing like he's 22. His 14 points (4 goals, 10 assists) through the first 12 games are his highest total to start a season since he had 14 in 11 games for the Winnipeg Jets in 1995-96 at age 25. During his hot stretch, Selanne had two four-point games in a 22-day span, making him only the third player 42 or older to accomplish the feat. The others, Gordie Howe (1971) and Tim Horton (1972), each did it once. Another key Ducks contributor is 38-year-old Saku Koivu, who is second to Selanne in scoring (4 goals, 9 assists, 13 points) and is tied for the league lead with a +11 rating. They're getting older, but better, too.
2. Net results. The Ducks signed goaltender Viktor Fasth as a free agent last May, believing he would be a capable backup to starter Jonas Hiller. But Fasth has been better than that, and with Hiller sidelined because of a dreaded lower-body injury, the Ducks are relying on Fasth to keep the nets secure. The 30-year-old rookie, who was signed out of the Swedish Elite League, is 6-0 in place of Hiller, and his 1.74 goals-against average is tied for fourth best in the league. It's no wonder that Fasth recently told the Orange County Register, "I'm what you call maybe a late bloomer."
3. Style points. The Ducks hired Boudreau in November 2011 to replace Randy Carlyle, who took them to the Stanley Cup title in 2006-07. Boudreau led the Ducks to one of the NHL's best records after the All-Star break last season and has them playing in the style he favors – fast and offensive. Although their first line has struggled, the Ducks are averaging 3.25 goals per game, third best in the league and a significant improvement over last season's 2.45. The Ducks also rank seventh in power play efficiency at 23.1 percent, and although their penalty killing is a woeful 29th (69.6 percent), they killed two penalties in overtime to send the game to a shootout.
The Ducks are a little bit like a healthy Wings team would and should look like: a top-heavy team up front, relying on three superstars to stir the offensive drink in Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry (boo!), and while their defense is similarly a slightly patchwork affair, Sheldon Souray and Francois Beauchemin have found some Kronwall-and-Ericsson-like chemistry.
AnaheimDucks.com's Kyle Shohara offers a snapshot of the team via a Thursday practice report...
The Ducks practiced at Joe Louis Arena this afternoon in preparation for tomorrow’s road contest against the Detroit Red Wings. It’ll be game five of their current six-game road trip and the first of back-to-backs (they play in Nashville on Saturday). So far, Anaheim is 3-1-0 in its longest road trip of the season.
Anaheim recalled center Peter Holland and left wing Patrick Maroon yesterday from Norfolk (AHL) and both were on the ice today.
Holland, 22, made his NHL season debut on Jan. 25 vs. Vancouver, going scoreless in 7:57 time-on-ice (TOI). Reassigned to Norfolk on Jan. 27, Holland recorded 35 points (16g/19a) with 58 penalty minutes in 39 AHL games this season. At the time of his recall, Holland led the Admirals in scoring and goals, and ranked second in assists.
Maroon, 24, appeared in 45 games with Norfolk this season, scoring 30 points (13g/17a) with 108 penalty minutes. The 6-3, 229-pound winger ranked second among team leaders in points, tied for second in goals, third in assists and first in games and PIM.
The Ducks also reassigned Emerson Etem to Norfolk and returned Rickard Rakell to the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League.
Below are the forward line combinations from today’s practice:
Beleskey – Getzlaf – Perry
Ryan – Holland – Selanne
Cogliano – Koivu – Winnik
Maroon – Bonino – Palmieri - Staubitz
Ah, yes, Bobby Ryan...Lest I forget. Their Filppula? Something like that.
The Orange County Register's Eric Stephens reported that the Ducks went with the following defensive pairs against Chicago...
Sheldon Souray-Francois Beauchemin
Luca Sbisa-Toni Lydman
Bryan Allen-Ben Lovejoy
Because Thursday's topic of note around the NHL involved Erik Karlsson's torn Achilles tendon and whether players should wear Kevlar-lined, cut-resistant undergarments, and because Teemu Selanne suffered a similar injury during the 92-93 season, that's what the Ducks discussed in Stephens' Thursday article--so, prepare for a diversion!
Teemu Selanne took his skate with the blade facing his right arm and repeatedly ran over it to the amazement of reporters surrounding his stall at Joe Louis Arena. A piece of fabric was the only thing sitting in between. But Selanne kept moving the skate back and forth without a pause.
“I think every player should have this kind of sleeve. This doesn’t cut,” Selanne said of the sturdy but flexible piece of fabric. “If you have that, there’s nothing.”
Ducks players have seen the gruesome injury suffered by Ottawa's Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson, whose Achilles tendon was severed by the blade of Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke on Wednesday night. Selanne used the opportunity to display socks and arm sleeves he wears that are made of Kevlar, a synthetic fiber that has numerous applications and uses. Body armor is one example of where the high-strength fabric is a component.
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said the majority of his teammates wear the Kevlar equipment, chiming in with “there’s no real point in not wearing them.”
“Same thing with Jason Blake,” Selanne continued. “If he would have had this, he would have never cut his wrist last year.”
Corey Perry swears by the socks. Perry missed the final 12 games of the 2007-08 regular season when his right quadriceps tendon was lacerated by a blade in Colorado.
The Wings had a healthy discussion regarding the socks and sleeves given that Valtteri Filppula, Mike Modano, Darren Helm and now Ian White have all sustained injuries due to skate cuts, and here's hoping that none of their opinions will have anything to do with anything that happens during tonight's game.
Fun fact: Kevlar is my favorite substance.
While we're talking about things that may or may not have anything to do with tonight's game, AnaheimDucks.com's Adam Brady profiled each of the Ducks' six road opponents--and the Wings are opponent #5--in an offbeat (and amusing) way:
DUCKS AT DETROIT RED WINGS (7-4-2)
Joe Louis Arena
Ducks with ties to the Red Wings or Michigan
Andrew Cogliano - played with University of Michigan (CCHA) from 2005-07
Cam Fowler - hometown is Farmington Hills, Michigan
Rickard Rakell – played with Plymouth Whalers (OHL) from 2010-12
Former Ducks currently on the Red Wings
Mike Babcock, head coach of the Ducks, 2002-04
Todd Bertuzzi, played with Ducks, 2007-08
Kent Huskins, played with Ducks, 2006-09
Drew Miller, played with Ducks, 2007-09
About Detroit: Detroit is the largest city in the state of Michigan (713,000-plus residents). A hub of the American automobile industry, Detroit is known as the "Motor City." America's oldest surviving soft drink, Vernor's ginger ale, was developed by Detroit pharmacist James Vernor. Detroit has the most registered bowlers in the United States. The Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center is the tallest all-hotel skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere. In 1879, Detroit became the first city to assign telephone numbers.
Regarding tonight's game--back on topic we go!--the Los Angeles Times' Lance Pugmire previews tonight's game as follows...
Where: Joe Louis Arena.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830.
Records: Ducks 9-2-1, Red Wings 7-4-2.
Record vs. Red Wings (2011-12): 1-2-1.
Update: Center Henrik Zetterberg has 13 assists for the Red Wings, who rank among the league's worst in power-play and penalty-killing situations. Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller skated through the full practice Thursday and could play by Saturday, when the Ducks wrap up their six-game trip in Nashville.
NHL.com's Brian Hunter offers a very substantial game preview...
Last 10: Anaheim 7-2-1; Detroit 6-2-2
Season series: First of three meetings, with the final two coming as part of a home-and-home on March 22 and 24. Detroit won the first three matchups on the 2011-12 slate before Anaheim took a 4-0 victory behind Jonas Hiller's flawless, 23-save performance in their most recent game.
More like a, "Home and still at home!" for the Ducks.
Big story: In just about any other season, the Ducks would be the NHL's biggest success story with nine wins in their first dozen games. The Blackhawks may have stolen some of their thunder by going 13 games without a regulation loss and racing to the early lead in the Western Conference, but Anaheim does enjoy the satisfaction of having edged Chicago in a shootout on Tuesday and will now attempt to wrest two points from another tough Central Division team.
Ducks [team scope]: As Hiller works his way back from a lower-body injury suffered last week, the major sub-story to Anaheim's tremendous start went on doing his thing Tuesday in Chicago. Viktor Fasth, a veteran in terms of age (30) but a rookie in terms of NHL experience, improved to 6-0 by stopping 28 of 30 shots and two of three shootout attempts in the Ducks' 3-2 victory. He did allow a pair of goals 28 seconds apart in the second period as the Blackhawks went in front, but Andrew Cogliano netted the tying goal with 2:40 left and Nick Bonino and Corey Perry scored in the penalty-shot tiebreaker.
I've got some good news and some bad news about Viktor Fasth. The good news is that Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson (for a game, anyway) have all played with Fasth during the 2012 World Championships, and Damien Brunner, Tomas Tatar, Pavel Datsyuk and Valtteri Filppula all played against him, so he's not going to be some sort of magic mystery to the Wings.
The fact that Wings coach Mike Babcock and GM Ken Holland attended the Worlds, too, means that they've got a scouting report on a goalie who, in international hockey, anwyay, got lost in his net from time to time and can really, really, really overcommit on shots.
The bad news is that the rest of the Wings haven't played against Fasth, that the Ducks are pretty darn good defensively, that the power play sucks, and that the Wings' bad habit of shooting more pucks wide of the net or into opposing players as opposed to shooting at the actual goaltender returned agaisnt St. Louis, with the Wings sending 18 pucks at Jake Allen and another 33 shot attempts wide of the net or into Blues players.
Red Wings [team scope]: This is the finale of a four-game home-stand on which Detroit has gone 2-0-1 so far. The lone point they failed to collect came Wednesday night when the Red Wings fell to the rival Blues 4-3 in overtime. They built an early 2-0 lead on first goals of the season by Tomas Tatar (his second career goal in 14 games) and Drew Miller, but St. Louis roared back to take the lead. Pavel Datsyuk scored the equalizer and after a scoreless third, Alexander Steen beat Jimmy Howard 52 seconds into the extra period.
Who's hot: [Nick] Bonino has a goal and two assists during a three-game points streak for the Ducks, and has shootout goals in each of the last two games. Ben Lovejoy had two assists in his third game since being acquired from the Penguins. … Datsyuk has goals in three straight games for the Red Wings.
Injury report: Hiller could dress Friday if he continues to make progress. Defensemen Cam Fowler (upper body) and Hampus Lindholm (concussion) are on injured reserve. … Detroit forward Johan Franzen missed Wednesday's game with a hip flexor and forward Todd Bertuzzi was sidelined with a strained back. Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson (groin), defensemen Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) and Brendan Smith (shoulder) and forwards Jan Mursak (collarbone), Mikael Samuelsson (groin) and Darren Helm (back) are on injured reserve.
Yup, no Franzen, no Bertuzzi, no Helm, no Mursak, no Samuelsson, no Smith, no Colaiacovo and no Gustavsson.
DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose offered the following Ducks scouting report...
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock watched the Ducks play to a shoot-out loss at Chicago this week. Despite the loss, Babcock was astonished by the improvements made by Pacific Division leaders.
“I was impressed by their group the other night,” said Babcock, who coached the Ducks from 2003-04. “Obviously, I’m a big fan of some of their players, but I like what they’ve done on their back-end. They’re way quicker.”
The Ducks have benefited from several off-season acquisitions, including defensemen Sheldon Souray and Bryan Allen, along with third-line forward Daniel Winnik. Besides the usual suspects – Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry, the Ducks are getting balanced scoring from their bottom six, which is why they’re off to the league’s second-best start with a 9-2-1 record. The Ducks are the only team with eight different skaters with at least four goals each. The third line of Winnik, Saku Koivu and Andrew Cogliano have combined for 11 goals, and caught Babcock’s attention.
“They have stars with some real good players, and Selenne is as good as he’s ever played,” Babcock said. “And obviously, Getzlaf and Perry and the Ryan kid is real good. But I think when you put Koivu and Cogliano on the third line – and I don’t know who the other guy is (Winnik) – they just seem like a deeper team. … Their fourth line center, who’s on the power play, (Nick Bonino), I mean, he looks like a real player, too.”
PLAYER TO WATCH: G VIKTOR FASTH – Likely the biggest surprise of this NHL season, goalie Viktor Fasth, a 30-year-old who’s playing his first NHL season, has the Ducks flying high with a 6-0-0 record, an 1.74 goals-against average and a shutout.
“He looked excellent the other night,” Babcock said. “What I liked about him is that in traffic he found the puck every time. He didn’t seem to be in a panic to find it. He was relaxed, and there and square. He looked like a goaltender to me.”
A two-time Honken Trophy winner as the top goalie in the Swedish Elite League, Fasth has allowed just 12 goals in relief of starter Jonas Hiller, who has a lower body injury.
Season Series: 0-0-0
2011-12 Season Series: 3-1-0
All-Time Series Season: 46-17-7-2
Anaheim’s 2011-12 Season Record: 34-36-12
Top Scorer vs. Red Wings: Ryan Getzlaf – 3 Assists in 4 Games.
Red Wings’ Top Scorer – Henrik Zetterberg – 2 Goals, 1 Assists in 4 Games.
And the AP's Nicolino DiBenedetto offers some statistical tidbits of note:
Fasth may get a chance at becoming the first goaltender to win his first seven starts in over seven years Friday night as the Ducks seek a rare road win against the Red Wings.
Anaheim (9-2-1) fell well short of the playoffs last season, finishing 15 points back of the cutoff in the Western Conference. The Ducks, however, look more like a shoe-in early this season, leading the Pacific Division while sitting second in the conference.
Much of that success can be traced to Fasth, who is 6-0 with a 1.74 goals-against average and one shutout in seven games - six starts. That's been vital since regular starter Jonas Hiller is trying to come back from a lower-body injury.
[Wings coach Mike] Babcock is also likely wary of Teemu Selanne, who has six goals and five assists in his last 12 meetings with Detroit (7-4-2). The future Hall of Famer leads the team with 10 assists and 14 points, getting nine while sparking the Ducks to a 5-1-1 road record.
They're 3-1-0 on this season-high six-game road trip, which concludes in Nashville on Saturday. Anaheim, though, has lost 30 of 36 regular-season visits to Joe Louis Arena, tying three times. The team has also won just once in over 10 years there (1-13-4), and that victory came on Feb. 10, 2008. They've dropped eight in a row since.
Jimmy Howard is expected to be in net looking to continue his own dominance of the Ducks. He's 7-2-1 with a 2.00 GAA and three shutouts in 10 career meetings, winning all five home matchups while blanking them twice. Howard is 2-0-1 with a 2.32 GAA in his last three starts after allowing eight total goals in back-to-back losses.
He stopped 21 shots in a 4-3 overtime loss to St. Louis on Wednesday, ending Detroit's season-best three-game win streak. Pavel Datsyuk, who scored for the third straight game, has nine goals and nine assists in 18 career regular-season home games versus Anaheim.
Henrik Zetterberg has 12 goals and 31 points in his last 19 home games - including playoffs - against the Ducks. He has five goals and 10 assists in eight home contests this season.
The Red Wings are at least miffed about their effort on Wednesday as they told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness...
The Wings still felt they gave two points away Wednesday night.
“We beat ourselves,” said Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who will make his fourth straight start Friday against the Anaheim Ducks at Joe Louis Arena. “It was one of those games where we got in our own way. We pretty much handed them points. Good thing is we’ve still taken seven out of eight points.”
“We made some big mistakes that cost us the game,” Niklas Kronwall said. “I thought 2-0 we were going and then things started going downhill. We made some mistakes that we can’t afford.”
The Wings eventually lost in overtime.
“I think we just have to keep playing on our toes,” Daniel Cleary said. “We came out and started well, but once they got that shorthanded goal they started to come in waves and we didn’t. We were getting out-chanced and we didn’t get a lot of shots over the last two periods and a half.”
And Babcock, who a Twitter follower told me had told Tomas Tatar to repeatedly, "Sit the *#$%@& down" as Tatar wanted to hop over the boards when Babcock felt that it was better to ride his top two lines as much as possible on Wednesday, told Pleiness that he clearly made a tactical error there:
One thing is becoming evidently clear to Wings coach Mike Babcock, he’s got to start limiting the ice time of his top six forwards.
“I thought they did a good job for us,” Babcock said when asked about the play of his bottom two lines in Wednesday’s overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues. “Bottom line is I’ve got to get them on the ice more. That’s my fault, not their fault, because they did good enough things to be on the ice more.”
Henrik Zetterberg had the most ice time of all skaters at 24:18, Damien Brunner and Pavel Datsyuk each we just over 20 minutes.
“I got them out there for about 10 minutes apiece, which to me isn’t enough, because I would have liked to have played that one group for sure a couple (more) minutes and I didn’t do it,” Babcock said.
Nothing really changed lineup-wise during Thursday's practice, as MLive's Ansar Khan noted (and I have no idea whether we're supposed to read something into the fact that the Grand Rapids Griffins recalled Andrej Nestrasil from Toledo on Thursday as there was no news from the Griffins regarding their injury situation. I am also not supposed to tell you that I think that the coaching staff placing Justin Abdelkader on the top line is dumb, but I don't think that he kept up on Wednesday):
Justin Abdelkader-Henrik Zetterberg-Damien Brunner
Valtteri Filppula-Pavel Datsyuk-Daniel Cleary
Tomas Tatar-Joakim Andersson-Patrick Eaves
Drew Miller-Cory Emmerton-Jordin Tootoo
Also: Mikael Samuelsson, Jan Mursak
Niklas Kronwall-Brian Lashoff
Jonathan Ericsson-Ian White
Kyle Quincey-Jakub Kindl
Also: Kent Huskins, Carlo Colaiacovo, Brendan Smith
Jimmy Howard (starting Friday)
The media didn't press the Wings too hard on anything except Teemu Selanne's remarkable longevity and their take on the Kevlar protective equipment issue on Thursday, so we only received news in the injury department,
including a note about Brian Lashoff's sore left hand from Pleiness the fact that Todd Bertuzzi's back pain has been so bad that he went to the hospital this past weekend from Ken Holland, via the Free Press's Helene St. James, and St. James talked about the "bromance" between Danny Cleary and Edmonton Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff, but Babcock did address the Ducks at length during his off-day presser, praising Fasth and Nick Bonino, and stating that his team's got to "suck it up" on the injury front and find a way to win, regardless of who's playing and who's not.
The Wings' website captured Babcock's presser, and it's must-watch viewing, and I'm very glad that Babcock suggested that Brunner had a very "off" game on Wednesday, and that he feels that Brunner's defensive game is a work in progress:
Optional skate this morning! Somewhere, The Production Line's shaking its collective head.
We'll end the preview portion of this entry with some talk about Selanne and some talk about tonight's game via the Free Press's St. James:
"He's like fine wine," Wings coach Mike Babcock said Thursday. "He's as good as ever. The thing about Teemu, too, is he loves being around the game and loves having fun. His disposition is such that he's fun to be around, and he's been an unbelievable ambassador for the game. He's been spectacular since Day 1. He's pretty good, I'd say."
Goaltender Jimmy Howard, slated to start tonight, said: "It's always a lot of fun when you get to go up against him. What he's doing, it's amazing. It still looks like he's got years left. He's just an extremely smart player, and extremely skilled."
That echoes what players around the NHL used to say about Lidstrom, who retired last summer but who is in town for a few days and is expected to watch tonight's game from owner Mike Ilitch's suite. Lidstrom was at Wednesday's game, and teammates who saw him noted that "he looks like he could still play."
I desperately wish that Lidstrom wasn't so happily retired and so unwilling to work himself into off-season shape anymore, and I still believe that Lidstrom's anticipation of at least a half-season lockout helped push him back to Sweden. I'm hoping that he'll speak to the press today, but the Wings' PR department all but threw a blanket over him to not reveal his return until the third period of Wednesday's game, and if he doesn't want to talk, he won't.
You will be able to see Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom sign autographs from 12-1:30 PM at 97.1 the Ticket's SportsFest in Novi on Saturday, but Lidstrom seems to want to keep the focus on the team, not him, as he and the braintrust hash out Lidstrom's role as an ambassador/part-time Swedish scout/repository of information regarding trade targets and possible free agent acquisitions/sponsor palm-greaser, and I really wonder whether he would have been happier to return during a Wings road swing, but he's here, and that much is a good thing.
The Wings won't have Lidstrom in their lineup again, and there's little relief in sight from the injured players who are on the team. Mikael Samuelsson, sidelined by a pulled groin, appears to be closest to ready. Johan Franzen technically is day to day with a sore hip flexor, but as Babcock pointed out, "that usually means 10 days." No one else is close.
The Wings enter tonight's game frustrated over how they played Wednesday, when a 2-0 lead was made moot as the Blues scored three goals in a row and won in overtime, not least because of a flat second-half performance by Detroit.
"I feel we've played some good hockey here lately, but we really let one slip away last night," Daniel Cleary said. "We've got to be a little more focused, keep playing on our toes."
Yes, yes you do.
Red Wings notebooks: Jimmy Howard, Valtteri Filppula, Ian White, Damien Brunner, Danny Cleary, Drew Miller and Kent Huskins will all be free agents this summer, and with the salary cap going down from $70.3 million to $64.3 million next season--and it's likely to stay at that figure for a while as the players' share of league-wide revenues will drop to 50%--the Wings will have some hard decisions to make in terms of re-signing players. The fact that, as Capgeek.com's roster chart illustrates (the Wings will have $17.895 million in cap space to work with, Joakim Andersson, Jan Mursak, Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith, Brian Lashoff, Gustav Nyquist and Tom McCollum will all be restricted free agents this summer makes things even more complicated.
It's safe to say that Andersson, Nyquist and Lashoff will all be full-time Wings next season, too, which means that a current forward or two won't be retained.
Capgeek indicates that the Wings will have $17.895 million in cap space with which to try to re-sign all of those players, and while I don't expect the Wings to use a compliance buy-out on Johan Franzen--let's get that out of your head right now, folks, he's gonna stick around because his cap hit is $3.95 million, the Wings don't really have a power forward with size in their system save the project players that are Martin Frk and Marek Tvrdon (Andersson's an excellent 3rd/4th line center, Riley Sheahan's in the same mold with 2nd line center potential in 3 or 4 years, Tomas Jurco's having a rough first pro season, Andrej Nestrasil and Trevor Parkes are still projects-and-a-half, Louis-Marc Aubry is more of an Andersson than a Sheahan in-the-making, and while it is entirely possible that Calle Jarnkrok and Teemu Pulkkinen will make the team next season, Jarnkrok's a skinny fellow and Pulkkinen's 5'9" or 5'10"), and Todd Bertuzzi's getting older, so the Wings don't have a size pipleine yet --it's arguable that someone like Kyle Quincey better straighten up and fly right in a hurry, because his $3.775 million may be a necessary casualty if he continues to play like a hot mess.
MLive's Ansar Khan and the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness spoke to Howard about his status as someone who wants to remain in Detroit, and Howard told Khan that he's not going to allow his contract negotiations with the team to affect his play, as he did before the Wings inked him to a 2-year, $4.5 million contract extension back in 2011:
“It was a learning experience last time,'' Howard said. “It was the first time I've ever been through something like that, and it took a toll on me. Now it's the furthest thing I'm thinking about. You don't have time to think about it.''
Howard said his agent and the Red Wings have had preliminary talks about an extension. Howard, who turns 29 on March 26, is in the final season of a two-year deal that has a salary-cap hit of $2.25 million. Both sides are hoping to get a deal done before the end of the regular season. Howard would be eligible for unrestricted free agency, which begins on July 5 this year.
“This is where I'd love to be,'' Howard said. “I got a lot of great friendships within this dressing room. We've had a lot of great success, and I enjoy playing here.''
What is Howard's market value? He has a career record of 116-58-21, with 11 shutouts, a 2.44 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in the regular season. That is similar to the St. Louis Blues' Jaroslav Halak (112-67-21, 24 shutouts, 2.42 GAA, .918 save percentage) and Anaheim Ducks' Jonas Hiller (121-93-15, 15 shutouts, 2.56 GAA, .917 save percentage).
Halak, 27, signed a four-year, $15 million contract ($3.75 million cap hit) in 2010. Hiller, 31, signed a four-year, $18 million contract ($4.5 million cap hit) in 2010.
In addition to Howard, the Red Wings are hoping to sign forwards Valtteri Filppula and Damien Brunner, both slated to become unrestricted free agents this summer, before the end of the regular season.
They're not likely to decide on whether to offer contracts to their other unrestricted free agents until after the season. The list includes forwards Daniel Cleary and Drew Miller and defenseman Ian White.
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness noted that Ken Holland offered the following assessment of the 28-year-old Howard back in 2011...
“I like that he’s a workhorse,” Holland said at the time. “He’s a guy we can put in net night after night. We drafted him, we developed him and we watched him grow as a goaltender. His prime years are ahead of him.”
And Pleiness astutely looked at the team's goaltending pipeline to help assess Howard's chances of remaining a Wing.
To say that they're incredibly high would be an understatement:
Jonas Gustavsson, who hasn’t played since relieving Howard in the season opener in St. Louis after suffering a groin injury, has one more year left on a $1.5 million deal.
Rookie Petr Mrazek played well in his one appearance with the Wings, allowing one goal on 27 shots. His contract, which runs through the 2014-15 season pays him $773,333 a season if he’s in Detroit. Mrazek leapfrogged Tomas McCollum on the Wings’ depth chart. McCollum has just 15 minutes of NHL experience, allowing three goals on eight shots.
Jordan Pearce is also in Grand Rapids. Pearce is 16-7-1 with the Griffins this season with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.
If McCollum doesn't play out of his mind, the Wings may very well waive him, but Pearce is 26 and may head to medical school, and I still get the feeling that the Wings want to have Mrazek as over-ripe as possible--and Gustavsson's size, puck-blocking abilities and $1.5 million cap hit won't be a hindrance to keeping him--so I think that the team may go with Mrazek and McCollum next season, with McCollum probably exempt from waivers
As we all know, the Wings were going to accommodate Joey MacDonald's request for a trade at some point, so while the fact that Calgary snagged him off the waiver wire was a surprise, he was going to be heading out of town anyway...
And Jake Paterson may or may not be ready to turn pro, so I think the Wings will probably want him to remain in the OHL for his "over-ager" season, even if they sign him to an entry-level deal.
In each of Howard’s first two full seasons in Detroit he recorded 37 wins. He struggled in his first postseason with the team, but then rebounded the following year in the playoffs, which coincidentally was the same season he worked out a new two-year deal with the team. Howard finished second to Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers in the Calder Trophy race as the NHL’s top rookie.
The Wings will also try and workout deals with Valtteri Filppula and Damien Brunner before season’s end.
Filppula is in the final year of a $3 million a year deal and Brunner is making $1.35 million this season. Both will become unrestricted free agents on July 5 if no deals get done.
I can't imagine the Wings letting Brunner get away, but Filppula is a question-mark. He's earning $3.5 million in real-world bucks, and he's had a rough start to a contract year, sore left MCL or no sore left MCL. I don't know if the Wings see him as an essential left-winger or someone who may have to be parlayed into a top-pair defenseman (which would further complicate the Wings' cap situation, as would any other acquisitions), and the fact that Nyquist, Tatar and Andersson are all likely to stick in Detroit next season has me scratching my head and wondering.
I wish I knew, but neither you nor I are Ken Holland, Jim Nill or Ryan Martin, so we'll have to make educated guesses.
If you are attending SportsFest, the Red Wings' Twitter account posted a teaser...
And in the promotional department:
This link is where you want to head for more details.
In the prospect department, the Grand Rapids Griffins played their charity hockey game against the Sled Wings on Wednesday night, and the Griffins posted a video depicting the event, but EMI Music has blocked it!
Given that Mrazek is in Detroit, the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner pondered the state of the Griffins' goaltending:
After Gustavsson’s injury, the Red Wings called up McCollum to sit behind Jimmy Howard. But with Howard in need of a rest, the parent club opted to switch McCollum for Griffins starter Petr Mrazek. The rookie debuted Feb. 7 and shined in a 5-1 win against St. Louis. So, for now, the Red Wings have kept Mrazek, the Griffins best goalie to date with 2.26 goals against average and 0.916 save percentage in 25 games (16-7-1-1).
The changes have made McCollum the starter again. The fourth-year goalie, who started the season opener and played the most games in the nets last season (28), has been inconsistent. He was impressive Feb. 6 against Houston with his second shutout of the season. Over the weekend at Oklahoma City, however, he allowed three third-period goals Saturday and six goals overall, four in the third period, in a pair of losses. Jordan Pearce, who has shuffled from Toledo in the ECHL, finished up Sunday’s game. It was his first appearance with the Griffins since Oct. 27.
“Sometimes that’s the way it goes and you have to just put it out of your mind and go forward,” McCollum said. “I know I didn’t help out the team at all (in Oklahoma City) but it was going pretty good before that.”
McCollum’s shutout was part of a three –game run where the Griffins allowed just one goal.
The Griffins (27-16-2-2) hold a seven-point lead over Chicago in the division with home games 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15, against Lake Erie and 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17, against Charlotte. The Griffins expect to get Mrazek back once Gustavsson is ready to go, which might be by the end of the week based on his comments Tuesday. That left coach Jeff Blashill cautious Wednesday about who will start in goal this weekend.
“Honestly, right now I expect (McCollum) to start on Friday,” Blashill said. “But, I’ll make that decision on Thursday because it’s such a day-to-day thing. Who know we’ll have down here by the end of the week? We might have Petr by then. So I’ll hold off for now.”
And the Toledo Blade's Mark Monroe noted that Nestrasil's AHL call-up is a big loss for Toledo:
The Toledo Walleye lost their leading scorer and No. 1 goalie to promotions on Thursday. Forward Andrej Nestrasil, who has averaged nearly a point per game this season, was called up to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League. Rookie goalie Kent Simpson, who has won seven of his last 10 starts, was called up to Rockford of the AHL.
Simpson, a native of Edmonton, Alberta, has posted a 14-10-3 record this year with the Walleye. Simpson has a 2.42 goals-against average, which is seventh best in the ECHL. He also has a .906 save percentage. Simpson, 20, was the ECHL goaltender of the week from Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, 2013. That week Simpson went 3-0-0 with a 0.67 GAA and a .975 save percentage.
Nestrasil leads the team with 41 points. He has 11 goals and a team-high 30 assists in 40 games.
This is the second time Nestrasil earned a promotion. He was sent to Grand Rapids in early January. The Prague, Czech Republic native has one assist in six games with Grand Rapids.
The 22-year-old started his professional career with Toledo last season, posting 29 points (7 G, 22 A) in 51 games.
In the actual games played department, in Europe, Teemu Pulkkinen scored a goal in Jokerit Helsinki's 5-3 loss to TPS Turku;
Mattias Backman remains out with an injury suffered in the Oddset Games, so he didn't play in Linkopings HC's 6-0 drubbing of Rogle;
And in the USHL, Mike McKee had an assist and finished at a +3 in the Lincoln Stars' 6-5 shootout win over Tri-City.
Also of Red Wings-related note: TSN's Jamie McLennan ranks Jimmy Howard as the 7th-best goalie in the Western Conference;
In the ratings department, per SB Nation's Steve LePore:
The Blues win over the Red Wings in overtime on Wednesday night continued to show decent numbers for the network's Wednesday Night Rivalry series, but saw what was by far the lowest numbers of the series.
The game, which faced tough competition from the rare not when regular season college basketball is worth anything (Syracuse/UConn and North Carolina/Duke drew huge numbers on ESPN) drew 453,000 viewers to NBC Sports Network, according to a network spokesperson. It marks a big drop from last week's 771,000 for Boston/Montreal. It's the first time this season a Wednesday night game hasn't been the most-watched game of the week for NBCSN (Sunday's Devils/Penguins game took those honors with 556,000).
In Detroit, the game drew a 4.06, up 17 percent from the Red Wings' 2011-12 NBCSN average, but still well below the 7.4 Kings/Red Wings drew on Sunday. NBC Sports Network was still the No. 1 cable network in Detroit Wednesday during it's time period, as was the case in St. Louis, which scored a 3.37 rating.
According to the Peoria Journal-Star's Dave Eminian, former Red Wings goalie Ty Conklin has retired and is trying on the coaching gig, working as an interim goalie coach for the AHL's Peoria Rivermen, the St. Louis Blues' AHL affiliate:
Conklin, 36, is making the transition from playing, to coaching. He called St. Louis Blues goaltending coach Corey Hirsch recently, and expressed an interest in exploring a coaching career. So the Blues arranged for Conklin to spend the week working in Peoria with Rivermen goaltenders Mike McKenna and Paul Karpowich.
Conklin is no stranger to McKenna. The two are friends and spent many summers training together in Philadelphia.
“It’s so nice to have a second set of eyes watching you play, watching what you are doing,” McKenna said. “I can watch video tape and make adjustments, but it’s not the same as having someone there to talk to. Ty is a guy who was up and down several times between the AHL and NHL during his career before finally making it. He really had to work for everything. And there isn’t anything we go through down here, or face here, that he hasn’t gone through himself.”
Conklin had NHL stints with Edmonton, Columbus, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Detroit and St. Louis. He went to the Stanley Cup Finals with Pittsburgh in 2008, and again with Detroit in 2009. He also played in the NHL’s first three regular-season outdoor games. Along the way there were a lot of AHL stops, including Hamilton, Hartford, Syracuse, Wilkes-Barre and, last season, Grand Rapids.
“I’ve had my share of good and bad moments,” Conklin said. “I had a rough couple of years at the end, I was looking for a place to play but it’s not like teams were knocking on my door. That’s the game. It’s time to transition now. I called Corey, and the Blues were gracious enough to send me here and I’d like to see how coaching works out, how that feels. You miss the locker room, and it’s just good to be in here.”
In the charitable news department, the Oakland Press's Diana Dillaber Murray reports that the Red Wings' School Assembly Program visited the Walton Charter Academy, and all went well;
This is plain old cool, from the Autism Alliance of Michigan:
Autism Alliance of Michigan (AAoM) Partners with Detroit Red Wings’ Niklas Kronwall
Niklas Kronwall, defenseman for the Detroit Red Wings has donated tickets for each remaining home game to families living with autism identified through AAoM’s partner organizations. Home games allow families like one family from the Oakwood Health Systems, Center for Exceptional Families, to enjoy the experience of a Red Wings game at the Joe Louis Arena.
Kronwall was turned onto AAoM after hearing new addition to the awareness and safety training, Anthony Ianni, speak. Ianni is a recent Michigan State University graduate and basketball player who has been traveling the state sharing his story about overcoming the challenges he faced as a child in school and now as an adult. He speaks of a need for acceptance, understanding, and eliminating bullying of those with autism. While bullying occurs throughout schools, those with autism are often bullied more frequently than those without the disorder, due to the many social challenges experienced by these children.
Kronwall, who recently heard Ianni share his story stated, “I was moved by his message; the struggles and how much he has been able to accomplish in his life. I am ready to give back to this community and can think of no better organization to target my own efforts around awareness and acceptance than the Autism Alliance of Michigan”.
Dr. Colleen Allen, President and CEO of AAoM, stated, “Niklas’ compassion for persons with autism is commendable. We are honored that he is committed to spreading awareness of this challenging disorder on behalf of AAoM. His high profile status in our community will go a long way towards reaching those who may not understand autism through awareness and education, facilitating our efforts at community integration of persons with autism.”
I wasn't able to access the Free Press's Helene St. James' video about Danny Cleary and Shawn Horcoff's "bromance," so here it is...
And finally, I'm sorry about having stayed out of the comments section over the past couple of weeks. I've been a) busy and b) so worried about getting my shit together (the depression is still there, but I'm trying to play through it, so my energy levels aren't super) that I've kind of sort of been unresponsive, and I will try to do a much better job of talking with you instead of at you.
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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.