The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/23/13 at 05:20 AM ET
This is what Justin Abdelkader accomplished in the Red Wings' 5-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night:
Between Abdelkader's hat trick (the box score for your free Arby's curly fries can be found here), Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk's 3-point nights (including Datsyuk registering his 250th goal and 500th and 501st assists) and Jimmy Howard's extremely underrated 33-save performance, the Red Wings handed the Anaheim Ducks their first home loss in 14 games and set up one helluva rematch on Sunday (8 PM EDT, FSD)...
But tonight's most significant figure involves the 2 points that the now 15-11-and-5 Wings earned, giving them 35 points and 13 regulation or OT wins over the course of 31 games played.
Why do the two points matter so much more than the night's more notable numbers?
Simple: the 6th-place Red Wings now sit exactly one point behind the Wild, Canucks and Kings in the Western Conference standings, and because they're not going to win the Central Division barring a monumental Chicago Blackhawks collapse, that's essential...
Because the Blues, who've played 29 games, sit 1 point behind Detroit; next Thursday's opponent, the San Jose Sharks, sit 3 points behind with 29 games played; the Blue Jackets of all teams sit 3 points behind with the same number of games played thanks to a 12-game unbeaten streak; the Stars sit 4 points behind with 30 games played; Monday's opponent, the Coyotes, and the pesky Predators also sit 5 points behind with the same number of games played as Detroit (31); the Oilers sit 6 points behind with 29 games played; and the Flames and Avs sit 9 points behind with 29 games played.
Long story long, we're at a point where the Western Conference standings are incredibly tightly-packed if you're not Anaheim or Chicago, and, having frittered away their point lead upon anyone and everyone, and coming into a rink whose occupant hadn't lost in two months, the Red Wings could have absolutely laid waste to their playoff chances by kicking off this road trip on a perhaps predictably sour note...
But instead, the Wings made getting a necessary five or six points out of their four-game road trip a helluva lot easier by preying upon what is an admittedly deeper (for this year) Ducks team, perhaps taking advantage of a team coming off a "clash of the titans" meeting against Chicago, and perhaps playing the role that this very young and very lean Wings team has to embrace playing this year--that of the spoiler.
Stuck in the middle of a ridiculously tightly-packed Western Conference, the Wings have aided their short and long-term causes, and, and perhaps more importantly, they didn't harm themselves on Friday night.
For the 2013 Wings, who were supposed to be a much more "veteran" team until injuries took Todd Bertuzzi, Darren Helm, Mikael Samuelsson and Carlo Colaiacovo out of the lineup long-term and half the rest of the frickin' team out on a rotating basis, this de-facto rebuilding year is about trying to take as many steps forward while minimizing the steps back, and the two steps the Wings took forward on Friday night were almost as huge as the 2 points they banked away.
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau was quite upset about the way their home-ice winning streak ended, as he told AnaheimDucks.com's Adam Brady...
"We want to remember it and we don’t want it to happen again," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. "That’s a pretty good team over there and they handled the puck tremendously, and they made us look bad. Hopefully tomorrow at practice, and in the video room, we’ll make some adjustments and Sunday we’ll come out a lot better.”
Selanne put the Ducks in front 1-0 on his second goal in as many games, taking a Kyle Palmieri pass on the rush and pushing it past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard.
But Detroit tied it, then took the lead, in a hurry. Just two minutes after the Selanne goal, Abdelkader got his first of three on the night, skating around Sheldon Souray before forcing the puck under Viktor Fasth. A minute-and-a-half after that, Pavel Datsyuk converted on the power play, as Damien Brunner fed in front from behind the net and Datsyuk backhanded it into the open net.
It was more Detroit in the second period, as Abdelkader got his second and third goals to make it 4-1 Red Wings. He took a pass from Johan Franzen and whipped a wrist shot into the top corner at 3:06. That prompted the Ducks to try to find a spark by sending Fasth to the bench for Jonas Hiller.
“I didn’t think Viktor was really sharp," Boudreau said, "and I said to myself, ‘If they score early in the second period, I’m going to shake it up’ because it would still give us enough time to bounce back from it. But tonight wasn’t going to be one of those nights that we bounce back.”
It was not, as Detroit made it 4-1 when the Ducks turned the puck over, and Abdelkader shuttled the puck past Hiller on the stick side. At the other end of the rink, the Detroit defense and Howard made things tough on the Ducks, as the Red Wings goalie recorded 33 saves on the night.
“You give a team like that any sort of space, any sort of momentum, they can capitalize on that, and I think that’s exactly what happened tonight," said Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler. "We, as a team, came ready to play because we knew the emotional high we were coming off of against Chicago, and we wanted to make sure we brought that same intensity tonight. At times we showed it, but like I said, you have a few shifts there where bounces don’t go your way and they make it hurt.”
But while Fowler shook off the loss in speaking to the Orange County Register's Eric Stephens...
"All good things have to come to an end eventually," Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said. "I think we would have liked a little better effort if we were going to watch it disappear. That's why we get to come out Sunday and get back at it again."
For a brief time, it looked as if the Ducks were about to claim another victim as Teemu Selanne led an odd-man rush and converted a return pass from Kyle Palmieri for a 1-0 lead. The Ducks continued to push the play but Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard was up to the task as he made several strong stops among his 33 saves. Abdelkader then took advantage of a rare rough night by the Ducks’ defense corps.
After Francois Beauchemin couldn’t stop Brendan Smith’s stretch pass, Abdelkader got the puck and walked around the Ducks’ Sheldon Souray before putting it between the pads of goalie Viktor Fasth.
Pavel Datsyuk put a power-play goal into an open net just 1:33 later for a 2-1 lead after Fasth slid over to stop a shot by Damien Brunner. Brunner managed to flip the puck in the air back to an uncovered Datsyuk. Abdelkader then rifled a one-timer off a pass from Johan Franzen at 3:06 of the second for a 3-1 lead, ending Fasth’s night early for the first time this season. Fasth made eight saves on 11 shots.
“After the first goal they got, we were sort of dead in the water the rest of the game,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I thought the first 10 minutes, we were all over them. We weren’t very good the last 50 minutes.”
Fasth was pulled for Jonas Hiller, marking only the second time the Ducks have changed goalies during the game. Hiller had to leave a Feb. 8 contest in Dallas because of an injury.
"I wish I could have played better today and given the team a chance to win," Fasth said. "I don’t think I did that and we ended up with a loss. We know they’re a team that likes to pass the puck a lot. Even though we knew that, we let them do it. We weren’t good enough today."
Boudreau all but growled to Stephens and every other reporter in attendance (Stephens also penned a notebook, but it's about Andrew Cogliano's teeth or the lack thereof) when the suggestion was made that the Ducks were ripefor the picking given that they'd defeated the Blackhawks on Wednesday:
"That’s an excuse," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It's an excuse. I don't know why it would be a letdown game. We had a whole 24 hours in between and you're playing the Detroit Red Wings for crying out loud. I would be jacked up just so I didn’t hear their fans cheer. In our building, that’s embarrassing enough."
The beginning of the end came not long after Teemu Selanne gave the Ducks an early 1-0 lead. Detroit's Brendan Smith sent a stretch pass up the middle that Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin could have easily picked off. Except the puck skipped off Beauchemin's stick. Abdelkader grabbed it and then easily worked his way around Sheldon Souray before tucking the puck between the pads of Ducks goalie Viktor Fasth.
It was a rare blunder by both Beauchemin and Souray, the defensive partners who entered Friday with plus-21 ratings.
"We weren't as sharp as we’d like to be," Boudreau said. "We turned the puck over and then we didn’t forecheck. That’s a bad combination. You’re bad in your zone and you’re bad in their zone. Right off the bat, when Shelly and Beauch ... they were on for that first goal and we hadn't seen that in a while."
"Certainly some plays, you look back at where I'm sure we would have liked a to make a little better play on it," Cam Fowler said. "You give a team like that, that sort of space and that sort of momentum, they can capitalize on that."
It was the first time Fasth has been pulled from a game in his brief NHL career. Boudreau said he had committed to possibly making a goalie change if Detroit scored early in the second after taking a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. Fasth was the first player present in the Ducks' dressing room afterward.
"Obviously I have to analyze this game and watch the video," he said. "And then I'm going to work hard in practice tomorrow. We've got a new game in a couple of days. It's not the first time and it's probably not the last time either so..."
It was only the second time this season Boudreau made a goalie change during a game. The last time was when Hiller was injured during the first period of a loss Feb. 8 to the Dallas Stars. It left open the question of who would start Sunday against Detroit.
Boudreau also said he hoped the memory of the loss would linger with the Ducks for a while.
"We talked about it," he said. "We want to remember it. We don't want it to happen again. That's a pretty good team over there. They handle the puck tremendous. Hopefully, in practice and the video room we'll make some adjustments and come out Sunday a lot better."
Fowler added a quip that's either moderately interesting if you read the Los Angeles Times' Lance Pugmire's recap...
"We have to limit turnovers," Fowler said with Detroit returning to Honda Center for a Sunday night meeting. "You give a team like that any jump, they can create opportunities. We've got to clean that up."
Or downright insightful if you read the AP's recap:
"You can't get too high or too low in this league. I mean, obviously we were happy about what happened Wednesday, but we were ready to go tonight, I thought," defenseman Cam Fowler said. "We just got on the wrong side of a couple of bounces, and before you know it, we're down three goals. You give that team just a little bit of light, and they're so good lifting sticks and knocking pucks down that they'll make you pay for it."
The AP's recap serves as our pivot point between the Ducks' and Wings' takes on the game, because Justin Abdelkader offered an intriguing take on the fact that he'd registered exactly 1 point over his first 28 games:
"It was really frustrating, but it's part of the business," said Abdelkader, who signed a four-year, $7.2 million contract Sept. 14. "I didn't play anywhere during the lockout and I had a slow start. It took a little bit for me to get my legs underneath me and get my hands and everything going good. I think it took me about 10 games to do that -- and I think I'm speaking for most of the guys who didn't play during the lockout. But thankfully, we won't have to go through it for another eight years."
Abdelkader, who had three previous multigoal games in his career, had the Red Wings' second hat trick of the season at 12:46 of the second period when he beat Jonas Hiller to the stick side with a one-timer from the slot after Johan Franzen set him up for the second straight time.
"I was the beneficiary of some good plays by Johan Franzen and Pavs," Abdelkader said. "It was just one of those games where you keep getting the puck and you just keep shooting. Sometimes the puck will follow you, and maybe that was the case in this game. But I give those guys a lot of credit."
Wings coach Mike Babcock had some fun with Pavel Datsyuk's suggestion that Abdelkader pulls the piano while speaking to NHL.com's Curtis Zupke...
Detroit coach Mike Babcock put Abdelkader with Datsyuk a month ago.
"I don't think he thinks he's the player, I think he's the puller," Babcock said of the piano reference. "Good for Abby. Abby's been working hard. I've heard over the last little while that he's not the right guy to play there …. Well, we think he is the right guy to play there. His hard work has been rewarded."
And so did Datsyuk, while speaking to the Free Press's Helene St. James:
"He finally tell us, 'I'm tired of pulling the piano, I'm going to play today'," Datsyuk said, smiling. He finished the night with a goal and two assists.
Abdelkader looked a little like Datsyuk on the first goal, stepping around Ducks defenseman Sheldon Souray deep in Anaheim's zone and stuffing the puck to tie the game, 1-1.
"It was good to finally get a goal that went off my stick," Abdelkader said. "That was nice. As Pav would say, I'm just trying to do my part, and pull the piano up and down the ice."
For coach Mike Babcock, the past week also has been vindication for putting Abdelkader on a line with one of the best players in the NHL. Abdelkader would be toiling on the third or fourth line were it not for all the injuries the Wings have, but Babcock has had limited options, and putting Abdelkader with Datsyuk was one.
"I've heard over the last little while that we play Abby there, he's not the right guy to play there," Babcock said. "Well, we think he is the right guy to play there. His hard work has been rewarded. Good for him. He's got to feel good about himself. His job isn't to do that -- his job is to get to the net front and to get the puck back for him and do the heavy lifting for him, and that's what he's been doing."
Remember how Babcock says he's on Twitter, but he just listens?
Abdelkader has spent more time as a wing than his prior center spot the past two seasons, a shift Babcock likes because Abdelkader "is a real good skater. He's an every day-er. He brings it every day, he works every day. He trains every day. He loves hockey. It took him a while after the lockout, he's a great, big heavy man, and it took him a while to get skating. But he's done a lot of work for Pavel."
As St. James duly notes, Babcock's clearly using Abdelkader in the Tomas Holmstrom role, and it's slowly but surely turned out to be something other than a horrible decision.
"He's been working extremely hard," Jimmy Howard said. "It's great to see him get rewarded like that."
“I thought Howie was real good early and we weren't skating at all,'' Babcock said. “We had some huge penalty kills, unbelievable, the guys really paid a price. Our back end was really solid. In the end, that's a big win.''
Said Howard: “I felt like I needed a little redemption from the other night (4-2 loss to Minnesota Wednesday). I didn't have my 'A' game, but you're not going to have that throughout the course of the season. It's getting right back on track.''
Howard stopped all 15 shots he faced in the second period and Abdelkader scored twice to complete the hat trick and put his team ahead 4-1. He made it 3-1 at 3:06 by firing a wrist shot over Viktor Fasth's glove. Fasth was replaced by Jonas Hiller, and Abdelkader scored at 12:46, driving the net and one-timing a feed from Franzen.
As for Abdelkader...
After a rough start this season, Babcock sees better days ahead for Abdelkader.
“I think he's a real good skater, he's an everydayer; that means he brings it every day, he works every day, he trains every day,'' Babcock said. “He's a big, heavy man and it took him a while to get skating like he's capable of (after the lockout), but he's done a lot of work for Pav. In the offensive zone, he gets the puck and gives it to Pavel. If you're Pavel, that's a pretty good deal.''
Abdelkader had scored a hat trick before, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted:
This was the first time that's ever happened in Abdelkader's four-year NHL career. He did have one in the minor leagues, for Grand Rapids in 2008.
"In Grand Rapids, the third goal was an empty-netter so it was pretty unique to get one halfway through (this) game," Abdelkader said. "It was just one of those games when you get the puck, you want to keep shooting."
Abdelkader has five goals in the last three games after not scoring a goal in 23 games to start the season. On Friday, the puck seemed to follow Abdelkader, who easily could have had two more goals.
"Sometimes the puck will find you, or follow you, and maybe that was the case in this game," Abdelkader said. "We had a good team game, and give those guys (linemates Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen) all the credit. Pav and Mule, they've done a tremendous job. I'm just trying to do my part, just keep going to the net and keep it simple and when I get the puck make good plays with it."
Howard wasn't necessarily alone in his efforts...
"I felt like I needed to a little redemption from the other night," Howard said of a sub-par game in Wednesday's loss to Minnesota. "I didn't play my 'A' game, but over the course that's going to happen. It's important to get right back on track."
Said Babcock: "Howie was real good early when we weren't skating at all and they were tilting the rink. We had some huge penalty kills (3-for-3), the guys paid the price, and our back end was real good. In the end, it was a big win for us."
Penalties on Niklas Kronwall and Brendan Smith gave the Ducks 26 seconds of a 5-on-3 and an extended slate of power play time at the end of the first period and the beginning of the second, but the Wings held serve with the score at 2-1, and Abdelkader scored the first of his two Franzen-assisted goals at 2:06 of the second period. The Wings did continue their stinky habit of sending more shots wide or into Ducks players than they did on the Ducks' goalies (23 shots on goal and 29 wide or blocked by Ducks players), but the team also blocked 16 Ducks shots and battled back from a crappy first-period faceoff deficit to eventually narrowly win the battle 27-25, so the team put in its fair share of "detail work."
That took a diferent kind of grit, as Babcock told St. James...
"I think every time you're playing really good teams," Mike Babcock said, "you're a little bit scared to death to get thumped. We dug in."
Jimmy Howard called it "a great effort by us. It was a good bounce-back game. We treated it as a playoff game."
Howard was stellar especially through the first 40 minutes, which saw him make 26 saves. Pavel Datsyuk used the game to earn two career milestones, producing both his 250th goal and 500th assist. Johan Franzen had one of his best games of the season, scoring the final goal after first coming through with two assists.
"We had lots of good players after the first 10 minutes, once we got going," Babcock said. "Howie was real good early when we weren't skating at all and they were really tilting the rink. We had some huge penalty kills tonight, our guys really paid a price. Our back end was really solid for use. That's a big win for our team."
No less than three Wings fought, and this on a night Jordin Tootoo watched as a healthy scratch.
"They're a big, physical team and a lot of their guys know how to fight over there," Howard said. "It's great to see the guys sticking up for themselves out there."
Yeah, those fights? Ryan Getzlaf instigating and getting away with fighting Jonathan Ericsson? Then Teemu Selanne trying to get Brian Lashoff to go, before Kyle Palmieri stepped in to bring the Wings down to 4 defensemen starting the third period? And then Bobby Ryan absolutely laughably being allowed to go with Brendan Smith, just because the Ducks who claim that they're not big and mean and ornery are still in fact big and mean and ornery and as mature as 13-year-old boys?
There's a phrase I'd use to describe that kind of behavior. It rhymes with chicken shit. Oh, wait, never mind...It is 5 AM, after all...
Yeah, Babcock liked what he saw. In fact, he likes his team just the way it is--except for not having Darren Helm, anyway:
"I didn't mind the scrums," Babcock said. "We're a way different team than we used to be. We're way harder on the back. Smitty, I kept telling him he wasn't allowed to fight, but obviously he'd had enough finally with Ryan. It's not like Smitty can't fight real well, it's just I didn't want him to fight."
In a rare circumstance brought about by the lockout-shortened season, the teams meet again Sunday afternoon.
"Now we need to focus on next game," Datsyuk said, "and be more harder."
Highlights: NHL.com's highlights are narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
Post-game: The Ducks' website one collective post-game clip:
Fox Sports Detroit posted three great clips of Justin Abdelkader, Pavel Datsyuk and coach Mike Babcock discussing the game, all digested into one clip:
The Red Wings' website posted clips of Abdelkader...
And Babcock speaking to the media:
Photos: The Orange County Register posted a 13-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 10-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 16-image gallery;
The Windsor Star posted 5 big images from the game;
ESPN posted a 39-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted 20 images in its Wings gallery;
This counts as multimedia, too:
Shots 34-23 Anaheim overall. Anaheim out-shot Detroit 12-9 in the 1st, 15-8 in the 2nd and 7-6 in the 3rd.
Detroit went 1-for-2 in 2:44 of PP time; Anaheim went 0-for-3 in 5:34 of PP time.
Jimmy Howard stopped 33 of 34 shots; Viktor Fasth stopped 8 of 11; Jonas Hiller stopped 10 of 12.
The 3 stars were picked by name not listed--seriously--and they were Teemu Selanne, Johan Franzen and Justin Abdelkader.
The Wings' goals: Abdelkader (4) from Smith (2) and Howard (1);
Datsyuk (10) from Brunner (11) and Zetterberg (23), PPG;
Abdelkader (5) from Franzen (10) and Kindl (6);
Abdelkader (6) from Franzen (11) and Datsyuk (22);
Franzen (6) from Abdelkader (2) and Datsyuk (23).
Faceoffs 27-25 Detroit (Detroit won 52%);
Blocked shots 16-15 Detroit;
Missed shots 14-6 Detroit (total attempts 56-52 Anaheim);
Hits 26-18 Anaheim;
Giveaways 9-7 Detroit;
Takeaways 7-4 Anaheim.
Individual stats, TMR style:
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 8-and-10 (44%); Emmerton went 8-and-5 (62%); Zetterberg went 5-and-4 (56%); Andersson went 4-and-5 (44%); Filppula went 1-and-1 (50%); Cleary won his only faceoff.
Shots: Abdelkader and Zetterberg co-led the team with 4 shots apiece; Smith, Cleary, Kronwall, Andersson and Franzen had 2; Datsyuk, White, Miller, Brunner and Ericsson had 1.
Blocked attempts: White hit Ducks players 4 times; Cleary, Zetterberg and Kronwall had 2 attempts blocked; Datsyuk, Lashoff, Filppula, Ericsson and Andersson had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Nyquist missed the net 3 times; Miller, Zetterberg and Franzen missed the net 2 times; Abdelkader, Eaves, White, Brunner and Emmerton missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Cleary, White and Miller co-led the team with 3 hits; Abdelkader had 2; Smith, Kindl, Lashoff, Brunner, Emmerton, Ericsson and Kronwall had 1.
Giveaways: Abdelkader had 2 giveaways; Smith, Datsyuk, Miller, Lashoff, Brunner, Filppula and Ericsson had 1.
Takeaways: Datsyuk had 3 takeaways; Nyquist had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: Smith, Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Miller and Ericsson blocked 2 Ducks shots; Kindl, White, Lashoff, Emmerton, Zetterberg and Kronwall blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Smith took a major for fighting and a minor penalty; Ericsson and Lashoff took majors for fighting; Kronwall and Andersson took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The team finished at a collective +15. Cleary, Brunner and Andersson finished at -1; Smith and Kindl finished at +1; Ericsson and Kronwall finished at +2; Abdelkader, Datsyuk and Franzen finished at +4.
Points: Abdelkader had 3 goals and an assist for 4 points; Datsyuk and Franzen had 1 goal and 2 assists for 3 points; Smith, Kindl, Brunner, Zetterberg and Howard had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 24:09 played; Smith played 20:25; Lashoff played 19:51;
Ericsson played 18:39; Kindl played 18:35; White played 18:14;
Datsyuk played 16:59; Miller played 16:54; Zetterberg played 16:30;
Filppula played 15:42; Abdelkader played 14:59; Franzen played 14:37;
Cleary played 13:59; Emmerton played 13:38; Andersson played 13:16;
Brunner played 12:37; Eaves played 12:24; Nyquist played 12:12.
Red Wings notebooks and also of Red Wings-related note: The Free Press's Helene St. James reported that Todd Bertuzzi skated with the team on Friday, but is at least a couple weeks away from playing...But the team left Darren Helm in Detroit after he suffered a setback in his recovery from similarly recurring back woes, and Kyle Quincey didn't make the trip as he's going to find out whether the multiple fractures in his cheek need surgical repair.
Anyway, Babcock weighed in on the Wings' injury situation as a whole while speaking to St. James...
"Helmer, to me, is a top-four forward on this team," Babcock said.
That's heady praise, considering that -- giving the first two spots to Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg -- it means either two of Damien Brunner, Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula get bumped below Helm. It's also somewhat moot, because talking about having Helm, Bertuzzi or Mikael Samuelsson, for that matter, available anytime soon is wishful thinking.
"Bert and Helmer and Sammy have been on our roster, but I haven't seen them," Babcock said. "It'd be like a trade-deadline deal. It'd be unbelievable to have them. But right now, we're talking about things that are like -- well, we're staying at Disneyland, so, like a fantasy."
Bertuzzi has played just seven games, though that's four more than Samuelsson, who has been sidelined by a pulled groin and a broken finger. Helm has been sidelined all but one game by back pain, and is now back in Detroit taking it easy, general manager Ken Holland said.
Teammates have gotten used to playing without them, but to see Bertuzzi make his first road trip, and even hit the ice, was positive.
"It was great seeing him back out there, if only for a couple of minutes," Jimmy Howard said. "He's just a big teddy bear. We definitely miss all our guys."
NOTEBOOK: Holland said defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, out since Jan. 21 with a sore shoulder, might be ready to play Sunday against the Ducks.
You also read quite a bit about Red Wings GM Ken Holland's trade philosophies as they apply to this particularly parity-filled season on Friday evening, and this morning, the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan reiterates Holland's points...
The NHL trade deadline (April 3) is less than two weeks away.And the question is this: Are the Red Wings, on the playoff bubble with about 15-20 other teams, going to be active, hoping to make a postseason run?
"We have to win some games first," general manager Ken Holland said. "Separation (in the standings) creates conversation, which ultimately leads to player movement. There's a little more separation in the East, and in the West it's pretty jammed. I expect things to happen. Do I expect big things to happen, I don't know."
Holland said he wants to see the Red Wings comfortably in the playoff picture before thinking about trading prospects or picks for more help.
"You don't want to throw assets at something when you're not sure if you're going to miss the playoffs," Holland said. "Those assets are young players and draft picks. The way I'm thinking, there's probably 20 teams like the Detroit Red Wings. They're going to want to see what is going to happen."
And, regarding Patrick Eaves' re-sprained jaw...
Forward Patrick Eaves (jaw) played Friday against the Ducks after missing one game when he was hit by a deflected puck. He suffered no fracture, after suffering a similar injury in November 2011.
Eaves wore a specially designed guard to protect the jaw. "This is the time of year we need points, and you don't want to miss out, it's a fun time of the year. Hopefully, I can get back and help the team."
Two sentences about an article by a KK colleague: Sportsnet's Patrick Hoffman says the Wings would be a "good fit" for Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. If they didn't have Jimmy Howard, yes.
I ought to mention the following from AnnArbor.com's Kyle Austin: the LAST CCHA championship is going to take place today and tomorrow at Joe Louis Arena. Here's how it shakes down from a Wolverine-ish perspective:
With a two-game weekend sweep over Western Michigan, the Michigan hockey team advanced to the CCHA semifinals at Joe Louis Arena for the 24th consecutive year.
Two days later, it has an opponent and a faceoff time.
The Wolverines will take on Miami (4:35 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit) Saturday at Joe Louis Arena, in the second of two tournament semifinals. The winner will face the winner of Notre Dame and Ohio State at 2:05 p.m. Sunday in the championship game.
The Redhawks are the tournament's top seed, after going 17-7-4-4 in league play. They advanced to the semifinals by beating Michigan State, 4-1, in Game 3 of a quarterfinal series Sunday.
Michigan and Miami met on the opening weekend of CCHA play Oct. 26-27, with Michigan taking the first game 4-2 and Miami taking the second game 4-3 in Ann Arbor.
And finally, Yahoo Sports' Greg "Puck Daddy" Wyshynski named the Piano Man his first star, and added some Wings-Ducks stats to the mix:
Did You Know? Datsyuk extended the Red Wings' streak of consecutive games with a power-play goal to six. (AP)
Dishonorable Mention: Minus-3s for the Ducks includes Bryan Allen, Luca Sbisa and Daniel Winnik. … Viktor Fasth was chased after giving up three goals on 11 shots.
I remember when Bryan Allen--you may recall him as the other player in the Bertuzzi-and-Allen-for-Luongo deal--played for Vancouver, and he broke Henrik Zetterberg's ankle with a pair of vicious slashes. I haven't forgiven him for that, and he's one of those players that I'd love to have on the Wings, but until that happens, would be happy to inform him that I think his play rhymes with pitchin' fits.
In the prospect department...Martin Frk wins the night. Frk scored 5 goals and added 3 assists as the QMJHL's Halifax Mooseheads defeated the Saint John Sea Dogs 11-1 in their playoff-opener. Frk took 10 shots and finished at a +4, registering a natural hat trick as well. The Mooseheads posted a clip of his exploits...
Metro Halifax's Andrew Rankin reports that the Mooseheads out-shot Saint John by a stunning 59-19 margin...
Led by Martin Frk and his linemates, who combined for a whopping 18 points, the Halifax Mooseheads pummeled the Sea Dogs 11-1 in Game 1 of their playoff series in front of 9,120 ecstatic fans at the Metro Centre on Friday night. Frk recorded five goals and three assists to set a new franchise record for goals and points in a playoff game.
“I don’t even know what to say,” said an overjoyed Frk. “This is crazy for me, it has never happened to me before. I have to thank the boys… they did everything for me.”
His first line partners didn’t do too shabby either: Jonathan Drouin picked up six helpers while Nathan MacKinnon finished with a pair of goals and assists.
“We really took it to them tonight,” said MacKinnon. “Great night for Marty. When he’s hot he just stays hot. The boys played really hard. We didn’t play our best game the last time we played Saint John. We deserved the win.”
And the Chronicle Herald's Wily Pavlov spoke to Frk after the game as well:
I don’t even know what to say,” Frk said. “This is crazy for me. It never happened to me before so I am happy. I have to say thank you to the boys. They passed to me a lot and they did everything for me. It was a great game for us and more important is we won.”
Frk’s linemates, Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, also had productive nights, collecting four and six points, respectively. MacKinnon scored the first two goals of the game and added two assists, while Drouin drew six assists to give the line a ridiculous 18 points on the night.
“It’s amazing,” Frk said. “We played (well) all game and we picked up a lot of points. It was just a perfect game for us. I think this will stay in my mind for a very long time.”
It seemed like Frk’s teammates made an extra effort later in the game to try to get him as many points as possible, but it wasn’t as if he really needed the help. He was in a zone like never before in his three-year QMJHL career.
“I didn’t know the records before,” said an elated Frk. “I was just trying to (get the most) points I can. It’s always nice and ... I still feel a little bit shaky now and everything, but it’s good.”
In other playoff action:
In the QMJHL, Phillipe Hudon registered an assist in the Victoriaville Tigres' series-opening 3-0 win over Moncton;
Xavier Ouellet scored a game-tying goal and added an assist as the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada opened their playoff series by defeating Acadie-Bathurst 5-4;
In the OHL, Jake Paterson was lifted after giving up 5 goals on 29 shots, and the Saginaw Spirit dropped a 5-2 decision to London in their playoff opener;
In the WHL, Richard Nedomlel didn't register a point and finished at a -1 as the Swift Current Broncos dropped a 3-1 decision to Calgary, falling down 2-0 in their first-round series;
The Lake Erie Monsters rallied twice in regulation and once in the shootout before escaping Van Andel Arena with a 4-3 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday.
The Griffins (36-21-3-3), who played their only home contest in an 11-game stretch and now embark on a season-high seven-game road trip, saw their winless streak extend to four games (0-2-1-1), marking their longest drought of the season. Lake Erie (28-28-2-7), meanwhile, broke a five-game skid and won on the road for the first time since Jan. 19.
Still, Grand Rapids has earned points in five straight home games (4-0-0-1) and possesses a nine-point point lead over Chicago atop the Midwest Division. The Griffins will begin their road odyssey on Saturday when they look for revenge against the Monsters in a 7:30 p.m. rematch at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Griffins needed only 1:31 to strike first, as Jeff Hoggan carried the puck down the left wing and fired a shot from the faceoff dot that beat Sami Aittokallio. Francis Pare made it a 2-0 game just over seven minutes later during a power play, taking a feed from Brett Skinner and scoring on a one-timer from the left circle at 8:33. The goal was the 99th of Pare’s five-year Griffins career.
Lake Erie cut into its deficit at the 16:05 mark, when Geoff Walker set up shop in front of Petr Mrazek and redirected Sean Sullivan’s wrist shot from the point inside the right post. The Monsters then tied it during a power play 2:58 into the second, with Bill Thomas deflecting Karl Stollery’s blast from the right circle.
Landon Ferraro put the Griffins back on top 3-2 at 10:05 of the third period, whipping a shot home from that familiar left circle shortly before another apparent Grand Rapids goal was waved off. That decision by referee Ryan Hersey proved doubly painful for the Griffins with 6:52 remaining, when Mike Sgarbossa crashed the net to pound a rebound past Mrazek and again knot the score.
Following a scoreless overtime, Chad Billins drew first blood for the Griffins in round two of the shootout, improving to a perfect 4-for-4 this season in the skills competition, but Paul Carey immediately answered for Lake Erie. Then, after Joey Hishon scored for the Monsters in round four, Aittokallio slammed the door on Pare to secure the victory for the visitors.
Mrazek finished with 19 saves for the Griffins while Aittokallio made 29 stops.
The Grand Rapids Press's Dean Holzwarth spoke to a disappointed Griffins bunch as they blew their only home game out of 11 tilts:
Grand Rapids (36-21-3-3) has now dropped four games in a row for the first time this season.
“It's definitely frustrating because we're not playing our best right now,” said Griffins defenseman Brennan Evans, who scored his first goal of the season 91 seconds into the game. “I don't think we're playing quite desperate enough for what time of the season it is, but we were better tonight than we have been in the previous two. Hopefully that is a good indicator of how we will be tomorrow (Saturday), and we will keep going in the right direction.”
While the first-place Griffins still maintain a comfortable lead in the Midwest Division, Ferraro said the team needs to get back on track.
“Regardless of whether we have a 20-point lead in our division, it wouldn't matter, we have to figure it out,” he said. “We're skilled enough that we are in games, but at the same time, if we score three goals or four goals, it doesn't matter. We have to make sure we get a win out of it.”
A source of Grand Rapids' woes has been on the defensive end. It has allowed 12 goals during its losing skid.
“We've been so good defensively throughout the season, and we have to get back to that,” Ferraro said. “That's where our success comes from, and we have to get moving again.”
Griffins coach Jeff Blashill isn't worried about his team's latest troubles, and is focused on the positives.
“What we want to look at is point earned, and we've gotten two points in the last four,” Blashill said. “I thought our compete level was high tonight, and they were playing hard and they were playing good. It was a real tight game and we lost in a shootout. I'm not worried about this stretch, I'm worried about tomorrow and how our process is. We have to do all the little things right all the time.”
The Grand Rapids Press posted a photo gallery as well.
In the ECHL, Willie Coetzee scored 2 goals and added an assist and Trevor Parkes registered an assist as the Toledo Walleye defeated the Kalamazoo Wings 4-1. According to the Walleye's website, the Toledo Blade and the Toledo Free Press, if the Walleye win one of their 2 home games on Saturday and Sunday--or earn 2 points over their final 4 regular season games--they'll clinch a playoff spot.
In the USHL, Mike McKee sat out the Lincoln Stars' 2-1 loss to Sioux Falls;
In the BCHL, James De Haas and the Penticton Vees will begin their second round series against the West Kelowna Warriors on Friday, March 29th;
And in my backyard, the OHL's Plymouth Whalers opened their playoff run with an 11-2 victory over the Sarnia Sting.
Update: Enjoying this probably makes me a bad person:
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