The Malik Report
by George Malik on 11/01/13 at 12:17 PM ET
Upated 8x at 4:05 PM: The Detroit Red Wings begin a particularly challenging set of 3 games over the course of 4 nights when they tangle with the Calgary Flames this evening (9 PM EDT, FSD Plus/Sportsnet West/
97.1 FM 1270 AM).
We already know that the Wings will do so without the services of Jonas Gustavsson as he's got a sore neck--meaning that it's entirely possible that Petr Mrazek will either start against Edmonton on Saturday (the Oilers are lying in wait after having dropped a 4-0 decision to Toronto on Tuesday) or Winnipeg (they play a Saturday matinee against Chicago) on Monday--and that Jonathan Ericsson won't return from his shoulder injury until at least November 15th as he will be placed on the LTIR to carve out the cap and roster space necessary to accommodate Darren Helm's return to the lineup tomorrow evening.
In noting Gustavsson's status, the Free Press's Helene St. James also took note of the Wings' shaken-up lines thanks to Johan Franzen's return from an "unspecified" injury this evening...
The Wings are trying to build a winning streak after coming out on top, 2-1, at Vancouver. They haven't had any success against the Flames in 2013, losing all three games to them last season.
Forward Johan Franzen returns to the lineup after missing a game; he'll center Daniel Cleary and Daniel Alfredsson, which means Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are starting together, along with Todd Bertuzzi on the right wing.
Stephen Weiss drops a line to center Tomas Tatar and Justin Abdelkader, and Joakim Andersson is with Drew Miller and Patrick Eaves. Jordin Tootoo, Mikael Samuelsson and Darren Helm are scratched.
Helm remains on track to make his season debut Saturday at Edmonton.
Mrazek, 21, is 2-2-1 with a 3.14 goals-against average and .891 save percentage this season with Grand Rapids in the AHL. In two appearances with the Wings last season, he went 1-1, with a 2.02 GAA and .922 save percentage.
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan confirms the Mrazek recall..
The Red Wings have recalled goalie Petr Mrazek to back up Jimmy Howard tonight in Calgary and likely Saturday in Edmonton.
Jonas Gustavsson suffered an upper-body injury during warmups Wednesday in Vancouver.
Gustavsson is considered day to day, but rather than risking using a goalie less than 100 percent, the Red Wings decided to promote Mrazek.
The Red Wings have three road games (Friday in Calgary, Saturday in Edmonton, Monday in Winnipeg) in the next four days.
MLive's Ansar Khan reported that Helm will be good to go tomorrow:
Holland said it appears center Darren Helm will make his season debut Saturday in Edmonton but that the team will make the final decision after the morning skate tomorrow.
Holland said they will probably transfer defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (separated shoulder) from short-term injured reserve to long-term IR to get the necessary salary-cap relief to activate Helm.
"Everything I've been told is positive (on Helm),'' Holland said. "He said he has no issues with his back or his groin.''
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff also took note of Helm's pre-road-trip take on his status:
“I’ll be playing this year,” Helm boasted. “I’m confident in that.”
The waiting game may finally be over for Helm. He’s expected to be in the lineup Saturday as the Wings play the third game of their four-game western Canadian road trip at Edmonton against the Oilers. Including Friday’s game at the Saddledome against the Calgary Flames, Helm will have missed 89 of Detroit’s last 91 regular season and playoff games, through a variety of ailments, including a knee injury and a sliced arm.
Through all the hurts and setbacks, Helm has done his best not to let the ups and downs get to him.
“When I’m out of the rink, I’ve got other things that keep my mind off it,” Helm said.
Helm believes that by going on the LTIR, it took the pressure off of him to be ready and allowed him to get healthy at his own pace.
“I think I’ve done a pretty good job of not thinking about setting a time line or any kind of date,” Helm said. That helped me to just do what I need to do to get healthy.”
The Red Wings' Game-Day Blog sets up tonight's affair from a Wings perspective...
Now that Detroit has moved to the Eastern Conference, the Red Wings and Flames will face each other just twice each season. The two teams kick off their abbreviated season series Friday with each trying to pull itself out of the logjam in its respective divisions.
The Red Wings come to Calgary off a much-needed win against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday. After mustering two points (0-1-2) during a three-game homestand, Detroit opened its road trip through Western Canada by edging the Canucks 2-1 to snap a four-game skid.
The Red Wings limited Vancouver to 20 shots against Jimmy Howard by playing the kind of puck-possession game coach Mike Babcock has been preaching.
"We had the puck a lot more because we executed out of our defensive zone fast, we didn't waste a lot of time in there and we got through neutral zone, and in the end had way more puck possession because of it and that's the right way to play," Babcock said. "(Vancouver) was a good step for our team. Now we've got to match it."
As well as Ken Kal's Keys to the Game:
Be on the Attack - Keep sustained pressure in the offensive zone and play with an edge to create scoring chances.
Win the Faceoff Battle - When you control the faceoffs, you control the puck and that allows you to dictate the style of play.
Play Solid Defensively - The Wings have had trouble scoring as of late, so when that happens, it's important to play tight on D, especially in your own zone and in net.
While CalgaryFlames.com's Aaron Vickers offers an "enemy" scouting report...
WHO'S HOT: DANIEL ALFREDSSON: Signed as a free agent in the offseason, Alfredsson has delivered another veteran presence to the Red Wings lineup. He’s also brought some offensive punch, too. The 40-year-old comes to Calgary having scored in back-to-back games and has three goals and 11 points this season.
WHO'S NOT: STEPHEN WEISS: Inked this offseason to a five-year deal with an average annual value of $4.9 million, Weiss has yet to deliver. The 30-year-old has just two points in 13 games this season and is minus-7 in his last 10 outings. The former fourth overall pick of the Florida Panthers has yet to find his groove in Motown.
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
PAVEL DATSYUK: It doesn’t take much incentive to keep an eye on Datsyuk. He’s always found success against the Flames, recording 11 goals and 38 points in 40 career games against the club. Though he continues to age, the 35-year-old’s skills haven’t diminished and he continues to pace Detroit with 12 points this season.
HENRIK ZETTERBERG: Much like Datsyuk, Zetterberg has a share of the team lead in points with 12. The 33-year-old has also found success against Calgary, finding the back of the net 14 times and adding 12 helpers in 37 career games against the Flames.
NIKLAS KRONWALL: Leading Detroit in points from the blue line with eight this season, Kronwall is doing it all on defence for the Red Wings. The 32-year-old also leads the team in ice time, playing upwards of 22 minutes per game. Kronwall isn’t shy to block a shot, either, leading Detroit with 26 this season and putting him among the top-30 in the NHL.
And Sportsnet 960 The Fan's Pat Steinberg sets up the game from the Flames' perspective, noting that Joey MacDonald will face his former teammates this evening (and he posits a Wings scouting report as well):
The Flames finish off a three game home stand tonight when they welcome the Detroit Red Wings (7 pm, Sporsnet West and Sportsnet 960). Calgary suffered their first regulation loss on home ice Wednesday night, when they fell 4-2 at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was a frustrating loss for the Flames, who outshot their opponents 43-22 and were unlucky not to be leading by a large margin after two periods. That said, the team is stressing the positives and hope to put them to use against another difficult opponent.
Calgary Flames 5-5-2, 6th Pacific Division
Curtis Glencross-Matt Stajan-David Jones
Mike Cammalleri-Joe Colborne-TJ Galiardi
Sven Baertschi-Sean Monahan-Jiri Hudler
Lance Bouma-Mikael Backlund-Tim Jackman
Chris Butler-TJ Brodie
Kris Russell-Dennis Wideman
Derek Smith-Shane O’Brien
Backlund returns to the lineup tonight after being a healthy scratch Wednesday against Toronto. It came as a bit of a surprise to many, and was another somewhat head-scratching decision. That said, head coach Bob Hartley has said he wants Backlund to play a bigger role on the team and is hoping the scratch will give him the impetus to make that happen. For his part, Backlund has been pretty adamant he’s ready to respond to the challenge positively.
At the same time, Colborne is seeing his responsibility increased in recent games. After playing around 15 minutes against Washington, he saw his ice time jacked up to about 25 minutes against the Leafs. Colborne took 32 faceoffs and saw all kinds of power play time as he seems to earn more of Hartley’s trust.
The Flames could use some a little boost on their power play, as it has struggled the last while. Calgary hasn’t scored a power play goal in 13 tries over their last four games, drying up in games they could really use an extra shot of offence. It’s been dangerous at times over this stretch, but knowing how close the Flames have been playing of late, a goal on the man advantage here and there could prove to be crucial.
Joey MacDonald gets the start in net tonight after watching Karri Ramo start the last three games, and five of the last six. Ramo struggled against Toronto, seeming to fight the puck all night. That said, I thought his game against Washington was the most controlled performance we’ve seen from a Flames goaltender this year. MacDonald’s last outing was Oct. 22nd in Phoenix, a game where he struggled as Calgary fell 4-2. Overall, MacDonald is 3-2-1 with a 3.01 goals against average and a 0.894 save percentage.
Sportsnet's Roger Millions suggests that he's snagged Calgary's lineup from the Flames' morning skate....
Prob. Flames Lines- Glencross Stajan Jones - Baertschi Monahan Hudler- Cammalleri Colborne Galiardi- Bouma Backlund McGrattan
Prob Flames D+G - Butler Brodie - Russell Wideman - Smith O'Brien - MacDonald
But the Calgary Sun's Wes Gilbertson isn't so sure:
No line rushes from the #Flames this morning, but expect a similar lineup to Wednesday's loss to Leafs. C Mikael Backlund back in, though.
The Hockey News posted a game preview too:
RED WINGS (7-4-2) at FLAMES (5-5-2): This is the first meeting of the season between these two clubs and when the Detroit Red Wings were in the Western Conference last year, the Calgary Flames won all three meetings. The Flames suffered their first regulation home loss of the season earlier in the week against the Toronto Maple Leafs, while the winged-wheels are making their way through Western Canada after a disappointing 0-2-1 homestand.
Johan Franzen should return to the Wings lineup tonight after missing Wednesday’s win over the Vancouver Canucks. ‘The Mule’ is 95 percent sure he’ll play Friday and is looking to bounce back after a slow start to the season that has seen him go scoreless in nine of the team’s first 12 games (Detroit News)
Joey MacDonald will get the nod for the Flames tonight against his former club. He has only played the Red Wings once before, notching a shutout with the New York Islanders. (Calgary Herald)
Player to Watch: Dennis Wideman. With captain Mark Giordano out for a while, the Flames will have to count on Wideman to provide some of the offense from the back end. And he has so far. The Kitchener-native has four assists in the past three games.
In the "supplementary reading" department, Sportsnet's Ryan Porth suggests that Jimmy Howard's in the mix for Team USA's Olympic goaltending job (or jobs)...
The goaltender with the best chance to unseat Quick from the starter spot is Detroit’s Jimmy Howard, who is coming off his two best seasons since breaking into the NHL.
Like Quick, Howard is off to an inconsistent start in 2013-14. But after those two, there are plenty of question marks with the goaltending depth for the U.S.
Howard was the No. 1 reason why Detroit kept their 21-year playoff streak alive last season. He posted a 2.13 GAA and .923 save percentage and was in the Vezina Trophy conversation despite not being a finalist.
Toronto Maple Leafs: 13 The Maple Leafs racked up a lot of titles in the early days of the NHL but they've found the No. 13 to be quite unlikely indeed; they're stuck on it. As everybody across Canada knows, whether they're die-hard and tortured Leafs fans or a fan of another team that loves to revel in Toronto's misery, the Leafs haven't won a Cup since 1967. Heck, they haven't even returned to the Cup Final since then. That's an eternity.
Detroit Red Wings: 11 The Leafs have the edge on the total number but the Red Wings have been catching up over the years, especially in the last couple of decades. The Wings have won four Cups in the last 20 years and played for two others. Given that's a heck of a lot more recent than 1967 and today's game is a lot tougher than it was back then with more obstacles, we're going to give the edge to the Wings in an upset even though they have two fewer in franchise history. Maybe if Toronto had one Cup since the league expanded beyond six teams the number superiority would give them the edge.
Edge: Wings. Controversy!
Hall of Famers
Toronto Maple Leafs: 54 The Hockey Hall of Fame is located in Toronto and the local NHL team is more than well represented. Anybody who was anybody in a Leafs (and St. Patricks) sweater has a spot in the Hall. Perhaps guys who played in Toronto get more attention than they should for the HHOF but it's tough to argue this is a heck of a group.
Detroit Red Wings: 47 The Leafs might have the quantity edge here but the Red Wings probably have the quality. Between Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman and the plethora of greats in between, they have quite the cast. This time though we're going to stick with the quantity because some of those Toronto Hall of Famers actually have played since 1967.
All-time series record: Believe it or not, the all-time record is an even draw. The teams are 334-334-93 all-time against each other. At least in the regular season. The playoffs? Well there the all-time record is 59-58 in favor of the Red wings. So there you have it, the Wings have one more win all time in 878 contests. That's so close it might as well not even count.
And the Wings made the cut in NHL.com's Corey Masisak's "Super 16":
11. Detroit Red Wings (7-4-2) | Last week: 8
The Red Wings have not quite stormed to the top of the Eastern Conference the way many pundits expected, but they have wins against the Avalanche, Bruins and Vancouver Canucks. They also have some key injuries. Coach Mike Babcock said, "We're not very good right now. We're going to be." He's a pretty smart coach and he's almost certainly correct.
MUST READ: Winging It In Motown does a unique, in-depth breakdown of every Red Wings game, like this one from the win Wednesday night against the Canucks.
I normally wouldn't post this entry prior to the Wings' "morning" skate, but Khan and St. James have offered notes about the Wings' goaltending that are incredibly important.
Holland said they're not sure if Gustavsson can play tomm. In EDM. if not the plan is to start Mrazek.
Holland said they don't want Howard to start back to back. He'll play tonight and in Winnipeg Monday.
And St. James:
Ken Holland said Jonas Gustavsson may play Saturday at Edmonton, if not, it will probably be Petr Mrazek. #RedWings
Red Wings plan for now still to put Jonathan Ericsson on LTIR to open room for Darren Helm to play Saturday at Edmonton
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan also confirms...
Holland does not rule out gustavsson playing tomorrow and says mrazek could start vs. Edmonton...would rather not Howard go back back
And the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness is confirming the Wings' roster swaps, too:
Center Darren Helm also appears to make his season debut Saturday night against the Edmonton Oilers.
“Everything I’ve been told is positive,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “He told us he has no issues with his back or his groin.”
If Helm does return to the lineup, he would have missed 89 of the Wings’ last 91 games
If Helm is able to play, the Wings will place defenseman Jonathan Ericsson on long-term injured reserve to free up a roster spot and cap space. Ericsson is already on short-term injured reserve with a separated shoulder.
Goalie Jonas Gustavsson won’t be able to backup starter Jimmy Howard suffering from a stick neck according to Holland. Holland said that Gustavsson suffered the injury during warmups in Vancouver on Wednesday. The team had to recall Petr Mrazek from Grand Rapids to backup Howard tonight in Calgary.
Update #1: Khan reports that Gustavsson's practicing...
Gustavsson is skating today. It's an optional. Mrazek has arrived.
As is Kulfan...
Gustavsson is taking the ice
The Calgary Herald's Scott Cruickshank suggests that coach Bob Hartley's holding his post-practice presser...
#Flames coach Bob Hartley on Jiri Hudler: "For me, he's our best forward." #nhlpn
The #RedWings just hit the ice in Calgary http://pic.twitter.com/4udO0E6fcC
Update #2: Per St. James...
Mike Babcock said Jimmy Howard won't start Saturday at Edmonton, will be Petr Mrazek or Jonas Gustavsson. #RedWings
#RedWings G Jonas "Zoolander" Gustavsson said temporary kink in his neck means he can't move his neck "to the left."
Babcock says Howard will not go back to back
Update #3: The Wings posted a quartet of Tweets...
Petr Mrazek is on the ice with the team; he'll back up Howie tonight while Monster deals with a sore neck #RedWings http://pic.twitter.com/NpCy2k4rVE
UPDATE: The #RedWings have signed 2013 second-round pick Zach Nastasiuk to a three-year entry level deal. http://pic.twitter.com/N9ypiCEoGw
Tomas Tatar signs a few sweaters for #RedWings fans at Morning Skate. http://pic.twitter.com/oCZQjXpjMZ
Per Ken Holland, #RedWings don't want to start Howie both tonight & tomorrow; He's in tonight, either Monster or Mrazek may go in Edmonton.
The Calgary Herald's Scott Cruickshank confirmed the Flames lines while filing a game-day update...
If any of the Calgary Flames forwards need blueprints, all they have to do is observe the Detroit Red Wings. Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Alfredsson were singled out for praise this morning by Flames coach Bob Hartley.
“Whenever your top forwards are (those three), you know that those guys don’t cheat the game,” said Hartley. “They play the game in the three zones, the way hockey should be played. They’re great workers. They’re unbelievable talented players. It makes it interesting. For us, we prepare just like we prepare for any other team.”
Mikael Backlund, returning to the lineup after being scratched Wednesday, can take note of the aforementioned trio.
“This morning I sat with him,” said Hartley. “We went through what he needs to do in a better way. He’s aware of this. Backs is very fun to work with. He’s a great young man and he’s done lots of great things for us. I told him, ‘I believe that you focus way too much on only your defensive game.’ I want our players to play the game all the same. I think Zetterberg and Datsyuk are great examples . . . when you have the puck, think of scoring a goal. When we don’t have the puck? Well, take it as quickly as we can from the other team so that we can go and score a goal.”
The Wings, now in the Eastern Conference, bring to the Saddledome a record of 7-4-2.
“It’s a very good hockey club,” said Hartley. “We saw that they went into Vancouver and they beat the Canucks when the Canucks were playing real good hockey.”
Motor City, apparently, is also a dandy nurturing ground. Talking about former Wings forward Jiri Hudler, Hartley noted that the player’s early days in Detroit turned him into the player he is today.
“This is a great organization — you look at Yzerman, Shanahan, all those great guys that they had and all the great runs that they had,” Hartley said. “Whenever you’re raised as a young player in this organization . . . look at what they’ve done with all those young players, and Jiri was one of them. And right now, our young players are benefitting from Jiri’s experience.”
And if you're interested, the Flames also posted a feature story about Mikael Backlund...
As well as a morning skate entry in which Aaron Vickers notes that Joey MacDonald's starting...
“When you get an opportunity to play your former team it’s energizing,” said MacDonald, who was plucked off waivers from Detroit by the Calgary Flames last February. “I spent a lot of time there, know some of the guys really well. It’s going to be a fun, exciting game.”
The game will mark just the second time in his career MacDonald has played against the Wings. In his only other outing, the 33-year-old blanked Detroit, making 42 saves in a 2-0 shutout victory as a member of the New York Islanders. on March 27, 2009. There’s definitely extra motivation in facing your former club, according to coach Bob Hartley.
“I think that goalies always like to play against their former team,” he said. “It’s probably just like a motivator factor more than anything. Mac has been great for us and he deserves the start.”
Having spent parts of three seasons in the Red Wings organization, MacDonald isn’t sure if it’s he who has the advantage or his former teammates.
“I think it works both ways,” he said. “I’ve been there for quite a while, I know some of their shooters. I think they probably know where to shoot on me. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a challenging game.”
Noting that Jiri Hudler's also renewing acquaintances with his former teammates, pointing out that Hudler has 13 points over the course of 12 games...
“Huds has been doing what he’s been doing in Detroit,” MacDonald said. “He’s a great leader, he’s shown it on and off the ice. When he gets the puck, he holds onto it. He’s got that great patience like we all know. He’s been playing with these young guys here. They’re looking at him and they’re learning a lot from him. It’s good for Huds to have a good start.”
Hudler’s hot start started on Day One, according to Hartley.
“I think it has all to do with the summer that he put in,” Hartley said. “Last year, there was lots of uncertainties with the work stoppage then the passing of his dad. There’s many things that went on with Jiri last year off the ice and those are not excuses, they’re facts. They’re facts of life that everyone unfortunately sometimes has to go through. This year, Jiri showed up to camp in great shape. His season started right from Day 1 at camp. He’s been unbelievable. He’s a great leader. For me, he’s our best forward.”
And offering Bob Hartley's assessment of the state of his team's opponent:
“It’s a very good hockey club,” he said. “As we saw, they went into Vancouver and beat the Canucks and the Canucks were playing real good hockey. Whenever you’re top three forwards are Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Alfredsson, you know that those guys don’t cheat the game. They play the game in the three zones the way hockey should be played. They’re great workers, they’re unbelievable talented players. It makes it interesting and for us, we prepare just like we prepare for any other team.”
Update #4: Here's MLive's Ansar Khan's game-day update, which both confirms the Wings' lines and discusses Gustavsson's status (and on defense, it's Kronwall with DeKeyser, Quincey with Smith and Kindl with Lashoff):
Gustavsson hurt his neck during the pregame warmup Wednesday in Vancouver. He practiced Thursday and was on the ice today at the Saddledome. But he is not able to back-up Howard. So the club recalled Mrazek from the Grand Rapids Griffins to dress as the backup.
“I never felt it before,’’ Gustavsson said. “At the end of warmup, just locked, so I couldn’t move my head to the left, so it’s kind of weird. I guess it usually happens when you sleep. But it’s been feeling better and better. I got to talk to our medical team and evaluate and then we’ll make a decision (on Saturday).’’
It’s a day-to-day injury.
“We tried to get some treatment on it, but at the end of the day you kind of have to wait it out,’’ Gustavsson said. “It shouldn’t be that long. Hopefully I can go tomorrow, if not, in the next couple of days.’’
Mrazek found out he was being recalled Thursday evening, when the Griffins were in Cleveland. He was booked for a 6 a.m. flight Friday morning. Problem was, he didn’t have his passport.
“It happened pretty fast,’’ Mrazek said. “I didn’t have my stuff with my, my passport, too, so my girlfriend drove from Grand Rapids to Cleveland, six hours, or I probably wouldn’t be here right now. After lunch I’m going to bed and just sleep until the game.’’
Mrazek is anxious for another opportunity, after appearing in two games with the Red Wings last season, going 1-1.
“Every time I get a chance I’ll do my best and play hard,’’ Mrazek said. “That was a great experience, that helped me so much in my career, showed me how the NHL goes.’’
The Calgary Sun's Wes Gilbertson filed a game-day entry as well:
THE MAIN STORYLINE: Flames netminder Joey MacDonald will be between the pipes for Friday's matchup with the Detroit Red Wings, the first time facing his former squad since being claimed on waivers by the Flames in February. MacDonald has no hard feelings about the move — he was, after all, coming off a lengthy layout due to back issues when the Red Wings tried to assign him to the AHL — but he'll still want to show well against his old pals. MacDonald has a 3-2-1 record with a 3.49 goals-against average in six appearances this season.
LINEUP NOTES: The Flames didn't get the result they were looking for in Wednesday's 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs but after out-shooting the out-of-towners by a 43-22 margin, head coach Bob Hartley won't make many adjustments to his lineup. Mikael Backlund returns to the fourth line after one game as a healthy scratch, while Joey MacDonald is between the pipes after Karri Ramo made three consecutive starts.
Johan Franzen returns for the Red Wings after missing one game with an upper-body injury. Franzen, who is expected to skate between Daniel Cleary and Daniel Alfredsson, has only two goals so far this season but is key to Detroit's powerplay. With Jonas Gustavsson battling a neck injury, the Wings recalled Petr Mrazek to serve as Jimmy Howard's backup.
BURNING QUESTION: How will Flames centre Mikael Backlund respond after watching Wednesday's 4-2 loss to the Maple Leafs from the press-box. Backlund has been — at least, in the short term — leapfrogged by Sean Monahan and Joe Colborne and is skating on the fourth line. Backlund has been blanked in his past four games and his head coach told reporters Thursday that the 24-year-old needs to generate more offensive chances.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Flames right-winger Jiri Hudler was held off the scoresheet Wednesday for just the second time this season. Hudler, who has five goals and eight assists in a dozen dates so far, spent eight seasons in the Red Wings organization. After learning from the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom and Steve Yzerman, the 29-year-old has embraced a leadership role in Calgary on a line with youngsters Sven Baertschi and Sean Monahan.
FAST FACT: No word on his Halloween costume, but Detroit Red Wings centre Pavel Datsyuk has been disguised as a thief all season. Heading into Friday's action, Datsyuk leads the NHL with 23 takeaways. By comparison, left-winger Curtis Glencross is tops on the Flames with nine swipes. Datsyuk has high-end skill, so the Flames can't afford to be pick-pocketed by the Wings star, who is a threat to make magic every time the puck is on his stick.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I told (Mikael Backlund), 'I believe that you focus way too much only on your defensive game.' I want our players to play the game all the same, and I think (Henrik) Zetterberg and (Pavel) Datsyuk are great examples for those guys. When you have the puck, think of scoring a goal. And when we don't have the puck, well, take it as quickly as we can from the other team so we can go score a goal.” — Flames head coach Bob Hartley
Update #4.5: St. James updated her Mrazek recall story with Gustavsson's comments:
Gustavsson has a kink in the neck dating to Wednesday's warm-ups in Vancouver. He was on the ice for an hour this morning and said he might be able to play against the Oilers.
"I've got to talk to our medical team and evaluate it, then we'll make a decision," Gustavsson said.
Gustavsson's injury isn't serious; it's what a lot of people get simply from sleeping. Gustavsson said he can't turn his neck to the left, but "it feels better and better every day."
Update #5: From ESPN's Pierre LeBrun's chat:
jim (miami): Are the Wings looking for any trades?
Pierre LeBrun: I think they're trying to move a body to make room for Nyquist as a regular
Update #5.5: Aaron Vickers also writes for NHL.com, and here's his game-day update for the NHL's At the Rink blog:
Franzen skipped Detroit's 2-1 victory against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday with an undisclosed injury. Feeling better, he'll return against the Flames.
"You never want to miss too many games," said Franzen, who has two goals and five points in 12 games this season. "The longer you're out the tougher it is to come back. I've only missed a few days here so hopefully I didn't lose my step or anything like that. It's good to be back."
He wasn't sure how the layoff would affect him Friday.
"Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad," he said. "I was feeling really good before sitting out that game. We'll see."
Though the Wings were victorious in his absence, goaltender Jimmy Howard knows what it means to have the 6-foot-3, 223-pound forward back on the ice.
"He's a big body for us," Howard said. "Mule [Franzen] has to play and use his body to get to the tough areas of the rink and get to the front of the net and score some ugly goals."
Backlund returns to the Flames after being a healthy scratch in the Flames' 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday. Though Backlund wasn't happy with being sent to the press box, the 24-year-old understood Hartley's message.
"Obviously I wasn't happy about it, I'm not going to lie, but things happen," Backlund said. "Me and Bob had a good talk Wednesday, [Thursday and Friday]. I'm excited to get back at it."
Update #6: MLive's Ansar Khan took note of Joey MacDonald's comments:
"Of course, when you get an opportunity to play your former team it’s energizing,’’ MacDonald said. “I spent a lot of time there, know a lot of the guys really well. It’s going to be a fun, exciting game.’’
MacDonald is 3-2-1, with a 3.01 goals-against average and .894 save percentage this season with the Flames.
“I’ve been (in Detroit) for quite a while, I know a lot of their shooters, and I think they probably know where to shoot on me,’’ MacDonald said. “They’re a great team. It’s going to be a good test for us.’’
Update #6.5: USA Today's Kevin Allen lists Stephen Weiss as being, "Among 5 players looking for fresh starts tonight":
4. Stephen Weiss (Detroit Red Wings): Weiss got his new team last summer when the Red Wings signed him believing he was going to be a force as the team’s No. 2 center. They are still waiting. Weiss, who missed the bulk of last season with injury, still seems out of sync. The Red Wings are on a Western road trip, playing Calgary tonight, and coach Mike Babcock undoubtedly hopes this trip will mark the beginning of the Weiss resurgence. His ice time has declined over the past two weeks. He’s averaging 15:20, but he played 13:25 at Vancouver and he has been under 13 minutes in two of the past five games. He has gone seven games without a point.
Update #7: The Free Press's St. James posted a game-day video which focuses on Jiri Hudler:
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