The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/05/13 at 12:06 AM ET
I arrived in Traverse City relatively safely a little earlier this evening, though I can't say the same for the windshield on my Pacifica, which now sports a 4-inch battle scar when it lost a battle with a pebble near Flint. I'm here, I'm unpacked, and I'm...
What's about to take place is going to be intense and it's going to be intense for a sustained period of time. The Red Wings' prospect tournament officially kicks off on Thursday morning with a slate of team practices at Centre Ice Arena--the Wings will take to the ice at 11:30 AM--and there are four games scheduled for the evening (the first of three evenings' worth of "round robin" games), including the Red Wings battling the Minnesota Wild at 7:30.
Simultaneously, the Red Wings' non-prospect-tournament-participating prospects and roster players will be skating in Detroit, Pavel Datsyuk included, and the Wings' beat writers are likely to mostly remain in Metro Detroit to cover the NHL'ers.
In theory, I could cover the vast majority of what takes place over the days leading up to training camp on the 12th very easily, but doing so would involve staying home and putting in 16-hour days, and instead, dozens of you voted with your wallets and suggested that I spend my time up here instead.
Long story long, I will do my best to provide timely updates here and on Twitter, but even with Paul's assistance, neither he nor I are going to be able to capture everything that takes place at Centre Ice or Joe Louis Arena, at least not as it's breaking. That obviously bugs me a bit, but I'm here because you sent me here, so here is my promise for the next five days' worth of prospect tournament events and then the six days' worth of the Wings' training camp:
I promise to do my best up here. I promise to work my tail off and to provide the observations, analysis and interviews you want--and as you know, I do pay attention to your requests and suggestions (constructive criticism, anyway), so your input will shape my content.
Due to the schedule, however--the Wings' prospects skate from 11:30 to 12:15 on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and the Red Wings tend to skate from about 10:45 or 11 AM until 11:45 or 12--there may be some small gaps in coverage or catchy-uppy posts, and as the Wings' prospects play games at 7:30 PM, I'm still trying to figure out how to make the "create content and then recharge to create more content while covering the other content that's popping up" equation work.
Obviously, this prospect tournament is now a very big deal, and in addition to representation by 8 teams--the Hurricanes, Wild, Stars, Blue Jackets, Rangers, Sabres, Hurricanes and Wings--the NHL will be here and many websites' correspondents will take in the spectacle as practices begin at 8:30 AM and the games won't be ending until 9 at night (as will a boatload of scouts, and of course fans). So It's going to be an adventure and then some coverage-wise...
And I guess I'll take the same approach that I do during training camp, when there's such an overabundance of coverage that I can't get everything while actually being there--again, I'll do my best to get what I can when I can, Paul will lend a hand, I promise to work my butt off, and I hope that's enough.
For the moment, trying to get some sleep = an early overnight report.
In terms of this evening's stories, they're mostly repetition of the major themes touched upon by the beat writers attending Wednesday's practice at Joe Louis Arena.
Darren Helm admitted to DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose that he's not without back pain, and that after missing the vast majority of the 2013 season with back issues, the persistence of discomfort's become a significant mental hurdle:
“We’ve been on a plan to get this thing better with skating, working out, different exercises, different treatments,” said Helm, following Wednesday’s informal skate at Joe Louis Arena. “I’m just taking care of my body a little bit better.”
Despite everything he does to prevent a re-occurrence, Helm understands he might be relegated to a lifetime of uncomfortable mornings.
“I know a few people who have back pain and every morning it’s a little achy, whether it’s a really sore or a little sore,” Helm said. “I’m just trying to overcome the idea that it’s going to be sore every morning. I’m trying to get the idea out of my head and not think about it. Just coming down here and it usually feels better and better the more I do, so that’s a positive. It’s usually a little sore in the morning. I think it may be like that … forever.”
Being 40 at 26 is never fun.
It was last January, as players prepared for an abbreviated training camp following the NHL lockout, when Helm first injured the back while lifting weights. One setback after another, followed by countless trips to see orthopedic specialists, has frustrated the 26-year-old, who hasn’t played a regular role on the Wings’ team for the last 18 months.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock indicated on Tuesday that he expects Helm will center the third line as training camp opens next Wednesday in Traverse City. Helm is optimistic that he’ll be ready to regain his role on the team.
“I’m skating pretty good. I feel I’ve been skating pretty good these last couple of weeks,” he said. “It is something to look forward to since things are going so well going into camp. It’s good knowing that I’ve been skating so hard for this long.”
MLive's Ansar Khan took note of the fact that Helm is optimistic about his return, but that he knows the truth of the matter--that neither he nor we are going to know whether Helm's back can stand up to the test of crashing, banging, grinding, checking and taking checks until he...
Crashes, bangs, grinds, checks and takes checks, and that's not going to happen until training camp and the exhibition season:
“There is that certain optimism going into camp,'' Helm said Wednesday, after skating with teammates at Joe Louis Arena. “I’ll be able to skate and do most of the drills, but I haven’t really tested the whole physical aspect of it.''
Nobody knows if Helm will be ready for the start of the regular season on Oct. 2. The speedy third-line center has been so integral to the team's success. Before he can even think about playing a game, exhibition or real, he must see how his back responds to contact.
“It’s going really slow,'' Helm said. “Today, I got bumped a couple of times. A couple weeks ago I got bumped a couple of times and it felt good. I think it’s just a gradual thing. It’s just going to have to come down to comfort between myself, the trainers and the staff.''
Helm said he's not ready for weight training.
“That’s one thing I do want to overcome before I start playing again,'' he said. “I want to be able to do the stuff I used to do, maybe not to the extreme that I used to, but I still want to be able to do some fairly heavy lifting. I’m not at that point yet.''
That would be good, both on and off the ice, and in the interim, I think that it might be better for the mental health of fans like you and me to try and adopt Helm's perspective regarding when he's going to return:
As for his state of mind, Helm said, “I haven’t really focused on any kind of timeline or how it feels today or yesterday. I’m just kind of going every day and working hard and trying to get ready to play.''
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan did offer something new to the mix, speaking with Mikael Samuelsson about his desire to return to health and contribute to the roster...
"It was crazy," said Samuelsson, who skated with a bunch of teammates during a conditioning skate Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena. "I never thought a year like that could happen. Just weird, fluky injuries."
Groin injury. Broken hand blocking a shot in practice. Torn pectoral muscle. 4 games played. Quite the mess.
"You realize how much fun the game is when you're away from the game," Samuelsson said. "I haven't played (hockey in a while). I needed a good summer. I had a good summer. I'm healthy. It's a good feeling to wake up and feel like I do. When you're feeling good and strong it feels exciting."
Samuelsson also wants Wings fans to know that he wasn't approached about being bought out:
"I don't know where that came from," said Samuelsson, who added he was never approached by the Red Wings about a buyout. "No sense talking about it. I'm here to do a job."
But Samuelsson, as one of 16 forwards in camp (the Red Wings plan on keeping 14), understands he's in a fight for a job he intends to win and keep.
"If you play good, you play, and if you don't play good, you don't play," Samuelsson said. "It's that simple and that's the way it should be. Nothing has changed in my approach. I know what it takes to be a good player and hopefully I can be one."
At this point, he's untradeable with a year remaining at $3 million and a no-trade clause, so let's hope that Samuelsson does find his form and that he contributes in a meaningful way not involving his presence on the long-term injured reserve.
The honest truth of the matter is that the player's perspective is most accurate for the second time in a row.
While Mike Babcock may like Samuelsson's shot on the power play point, if Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist or whoever else ends up on the team's 23-man roster plays better than Samuelsson, #37 and his $3 million salary will be sitting in the press box.*
And the Wings posted a trio of Tweets:
I need to post a BIG CORRECTION here: On the Forecheck's Dirk Hoag noted that HE did NOT posit the David Legwand to Detroit for Ericsson and Tootoo suggestion.
New On the Forecheck writer Jeremy Sargent decided to stir up the you-know-what instead, and Hoag does not believe that Legwand can possibly fetch that kind of return:
And in news regarding the Red Wings' ECHL affiliate, the Toledo Walleye, a former Red Wings prospect camper and tournament participant was re-signed by the team, per the Toledo Blade...
Forward Travis Novak has agreed to terms with the Toledo Walleye for the upcoming season.
Novak appeared in 65 games last season, scoring 11 goals with 23 assists. The 24-year-old picked up a pair of goals plus an assist in six playoff games. He finished fifth in scoring for the Walleye team and also collected two shorthanded goals.
“Travis has terrific motor and is one of the fastest skaters in the league,” said Nick Vitucci, Walleye head coach. “His skating alone changes how teams play against us on a nightly basis. He brings a scoring punch that we witnessed last year.”
Prior to turning professional, Novak appeared in 134 games with St. Cloud State. He collected 34 goals and 37 assists during his four year college career. The native of Lethbridge, Alberta was named to the WCHA All-Academic team multiple times and finished his college career with five game-winning goals.
And the Blade noted that the Walleye are going to hold two preseason games (again, the Grand Rapids Griffins will be playing a pair of preseason games against the Lake Erie Monsters, with the first taking place on September 28th in Plymouth, MI and the second taking place on September 29th in Windsor, ON):
The Toledo Walleye will play two preseason games in October, including one at home. The Walleye will play at Kalamazoo on Wednesday, Oct. 9 to open the preseason schedule. Toledo will then host Kalamazoo on Saturday, Oct. 12.
The ECHL today announced its preseason schedule of 25 games beginning Oct. 5 and continuing through Oct. 13.
The Walleye open their fifth regular season on the road on Saturday, Oct. 19 at Fort Wayne.
Toledo's home opener is slated for Saturday, Oct. 26 when the Walleye host Wheeling at the Huntington Center.
The game times for home games on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays have been moved from 7:05 p.m. to 7:15 p.m., including the preseason. Sunday games will begin at 5:15 p.m.
The ECHL's teams play 72-game seasons, thus the late start.
Okay, that's it for now. See you in the morning.
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About The Malik Report
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.