The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/05/13 at 11:27 AM ET
Updated 12x at 3:20 PM: The Detroit Red Wings face off against the Calgary Flames this evening (7:30 PM, FSD, Sportsnet West, 97.1 FM), and injuries remain at the forefront this morning, with the Wings anxiously waiting for news regarding Darren Helm's back (he's having a bone scan today), but thus far, little news is good news:
Whoops, make that some intriguing news--Ian White's returning, Brian Lashoff's going to play, and Tomas Tatar will indeed skate on the second line with Pavel Datsyuk and Valtteri Filppula--per Chuck Pleiness, George Sipple, Ansar Khan and Ted Kulfan:
The Wings' Twitter account also posted a morning skate note, and Sportsnet's Roger Millions is...A prolific Tweeter and a half:
Colaiacovo and Samuelsson went through drills together and took shots on the Monster before today's morning skate.— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) February 5, 2013
I promise I won't post every Millions Tweet. I know that Twitter embedding = slower loading.
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff's also talkative this morning...
In the conventional text department, in charitable news, per the Farmington-Farmington Hills Patch's, Joni Hubred-Golden:
Yolanda Serra, Comerica Bank vice president and banking center manager, recently presented Farmington Hills Fire Dept. Lt. Michael Kish with smoke detectors collected during the Detroit Red Wings’ 11th annual Smoke Detector Drive presented by Comerica Bank.
The donated smoke detectors will benefit low-income families as well as elderly and disabled members of the community. Collection boxes were stationed at southeast Michigan Comerica Bank locations during the 11th annual Detroit Red Wings Smoke Detector Drive.
Additional in-game collections will be held before the Wings take on the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 9 and before the Wings face the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 10, on home ice at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
In prospect news, the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner spoke to Wings prospect and Grand Rapids Griffins forward Landon Ferraro, who's finally blossoming into the scoring forward the Wings drafted him to become, and Ferraro tells Wallner that growing up as a pro hockey prospect who also happens to be "Ray Ferraro's son" wasn't necessarily easy (and Ray talks about that issue as well)...
"There was a period there, roughly 15 to 17 or so, when it was really hard to accept,” Landon said. “You have to listen to your dad about the way you dress, schoolwork and chores around the house. I didn’t want to have to listen to him about hockey, too.”
But Ferraro's hitting his stride while in Grand Rapids, and while he may develop into a player with his father's goal-scoring potential at the NHL level, the incredibly speedy and versatile forward's found his own niche as a pro prospect:
“He earned my trust early in camp and was rewarded with ice time,” said Griffins first-year coach Jeff Blashill. “As guys get in their second years, the more opportunity that they earn, the more productive they can become.”
Ferraro had 10-game period starting the end of December with 11 points, including seven goals. He’s also healthy, as a knee injury late last season put a final downer on an average year with 20 points (9-11-20) in 56 games.
In order to reach Detroit, Landon can thank his father for the answer to a question he never asked. The talent level between the two helped Landon assess his skills after last season, to recognize what he does best, and set a path to forge a professional career. He is a center, but has often moved to wing to accommodate an ever-changing lineup caused by the return of the NHL and the subsequent rash of injuries. He has become a key member of special teams, and his six short-handed points (4-2-6) lead the league.
“I came into this season with a lot of confidence, and a lot of that was this summer talking to him,” Landon said. “It is all about growing up, maturing, realizing he just wants to help. For him, he was saying that, ‘If I didn’t score I was useless … ‘ But he pointed out that if I’m not scoring, I can still kill penalties, build energy with hits and use my skating to create opportunities for others. That’s where I see my strengths going forward.”
Weight is the key. The 6-foot Ferraro played about 167 pounds last season, has gone to 175 this year and wants another 10 to make him a better physical presence as long as he doesn’t give up speed.
“Landon has a great attribute in his skating and a great attribute in his shot,” Blashill said. “Skating and quickness can help you be a real good penalty killer. For someone like Landon, he will have to do everything right to give himself the best chance to be an NHLer. And being capable on the PK and the power play adds to that, no question.”
And I don't know why you'd ever want a wallpaper-sized picture of Brendan Smith suffering a shoulder injury, but if you want to see the moment Derek MacKenzie nailed him in the back, CBS Detroit provides said picture.
Update #0.5: The Free Press's Helene St. James confirms the Wings' lineup changes...
Update #1: Good news for Helm...Mostly...
And he's offering some Tatar-related Tweets as well:
Sportsnet's Millions reports no lineup changes for Calgary:
Also from Kal, via Twitter:
In a "Game Day" article, MLive's Ansar Khan and Brendan Savage both agreed that the Wings couldn't afford to keep Jiri Hudler with teh cap going down...
And the Hockey News chose to post a video interview with Petr Mrazek, taken when he was with the Grand Rapids Griffins, at a convenient time. The video isn't embeddable, sorry!
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness offers a morning skate update in text form, starting with the Wings' takes on Hudler's return...
“Hud’s is a good player,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s got great hockey sense and is a fierce competitor. He’s not a big man, not an unbelievable skate, but unbelievable hands. He’s as good on the power play as anybody in the league. He’ll be exited to play here tonight and we’re excited to see him.”
Hudler has two goals and three assists in three games with the Flames this season.
“It’s going to be weird seeing him on the other side after seeing him for a such a long time over on this side,” Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said. “We wish him all the best, but not against us. He’s a good passer, that’s an underestimated part of his game how well he finds guys out there,” Howard added. “We’ll have to be aware of that when the puck’s on his stick and find the guys in the soft spot.”
Defenseman Ian White will return to the line after missing the five games with a leg laceration. Brian Lashoff will also return to the lineup for Jakub Kindl.
“I just want to win,” Babcock said after the skate. “It’s just about trying to figure out what’s the best option that gives us the best chance that’s what you’re trying to do on a nightly basis. Lash did a real good job for us on the penalty kill. Specialty teams are huge for us, tonight’s the Flames’ power is about eighth in the league, around 24 percent, we’re probably going to take a couple penalties, but we want to be disciplined so we want to kill them off and we feel Lash gives us the best opportunity to do that.”
Tomas Tatar will make his season debut, skating on the Wings’ second line with Pavel Datsyuk and Valtteri Filppula.
“We’re hoping he’s a bit like Huds,” Babcock said. “He’s a kid that played and has been very dominated at the young levels and maybe got to pro hockey maybe even a bit earlier. He’s been good in the minors when we called him up.”
Patrick Eaves is out.
“We’re not generating much from our bottom six,” Babcock said. “Originally we were going to play him there, but we’re going to put him with Fil and Pavel and give him a chance. That gives me better depth on the third line.”
The Free Press's George Sipple's morning skate update focuses on Darren Helm...
Detroit Red Wings forward Darren Helm said today that he will see a back specialist after another round of tests came back negative.
Helm still has trouble sitting down without having back pain, but has had two MRIs and had a CT scan and a bone scan on Monday that came back negative.
"Nothing new, we still don't really know what the main cause is," Helm said. "Today or tomorrow I'm going to see a back specialist again with all the results accumulated and maybe he'll have something new for me to do. Some days feel better than others and I do the same thing pretty much every day, so I'm not too sure -- nobody's really sure what's going on. I'm just hoping one day soon I can turn the corner."
Asked about the pain he's experiencing, Helm said: "Walking's fine. Moving around most of the day is pretty good. It's when I start sitting down or standing in one spot too long, that's when it starts to get really uncomfortable. The drive down here is usually where I kind of gauge myself, how much pain I'm in."
Helm said he hasn't been able to do much off-ice conditioning as a result and hasn't been able to skate. He hasn't been able to lift weights. He has been on a stationary bike a few times.
"They can't find anything particular, so I don't know if it's just me," Helm said. "The first time my back started hurting, it took me a week until I could start skating and working out. Now it's been 10 or 11 days. It still feels the same from the moment it started bugging me again. I don't know."
Helm had a bone scan Monday, to go along with two MRIs he had and various other tests, the exact cause of his back pain still is unknown.
"Nothing new, we don't really know what the main cause is," Helm said.
Helm expects to take all of his tests to a back specialist within the next couple of days to see if they can find an answer. No question Helm is beginning to scratch his head about what is going on.
"Absolutely, for sure," Helm said. "Some days I feel better than others, and I do pretty much the same thing every day. Nobody is really sure what is going on. I'm just hoping one day I can turn the corner."
Update #4: Jiri Hudler spoke to the Windsor Star's Bob Duff about returning to Detriot...
In what’s been an emotional point in his life, former Detroit Red Wings centre Jiri Hudler figures his return to Joe Louis Arena Tuesday as a member of the Calgary Flames will be another night where he’ll be just a little bit sentimental.
“I don’t know what to expect, I haven’t been in this situation before,” Hudler said of facing his old team. “I have a lot of great memories in this building and of the guys on the other side, so it’s going to be special.”
It’s been a difficult time for Hudler. While making the transition to his new team after the NHL lockout ended last month, Hudler’s father Jiri Sr. died in the family home of Olomouc and Hudler returned to the Czech Republic to be with family.
“It’s been tough, but this obviously helps a lot, being around the guys, talking to the guys, to my teammates, my ex-teammates, and just thinking about hockey,” Hudler said. “For me right now, this half season is better because the schedule is so tight and I spent some time before with my dad. I didn’t want to sit around for a long time. Just get back on the horse and play hockey.”
With 2-3-5 totals in three games, Hudler has been one of the few bright spots for the Flames, currently 15th in the NHL’s Western Conference.
“He has been a force for us,” Calgary coach Bob Hartley said. “I have so much respect for him. I knew him as a player, now I know him as a player and a man. I’m very impressed with Jiri Hudler.”
Several Wings stopped by to say hello to their old teammate.
“I miss him,” said Wings forward Dan Cleary, among Hudler’s closest friends on the team. “Bert (Todd Bertuzzi) and I had been in pretty good contact with him. We were probably the closest with him. He misses the guys here, but he says he’s having fun. He’s playing a lot more in Calgary than he did here and he likes that. And that’s probably one of the biggest reasons why he left.”
And Duff posted a video of Hudler's comments as well:
“It’s nice to be back,” Hudler said, after practicing this morning at Joe Louis Arena. The Detroit Red Wings host the Flames tonight at 7:30 (Fox Sports Detroit). “Got a lot of good memories here. It’ll be interesting to play against guys I played with for a long time.”
Hudler enters tonight’s game with two goals and three assists in three games. Hudler had gone back to the Czech Republic to be with his family after the death of his father and missed Calgary's first three games.
“Having to go back home, take care of the funeral, all the paperwork, Jiri comes right back, right in the lineup and he has been a force for us,” said Flames coach Bob Hartley. “I have so much respect. I knew him as a player, now I know him as a player and as a man. I’m very, very impressed with Jiri Hudler.
“He’s a gamer. He always wants to compete. With the puck, he’s so creative. His passing, his vision around the net, he’s very gifted. Has that quick release that can surprise many goalies. At the same time, I think he was raised in a great organization and you can tell his on-ice habits are very good and I think that’s going to be a great example for our young players.”
Asked how emotional he expected to be tonight, Hudler said: “I don’t know. I haven’t been in that situation before.”
Does he have any extra motivation facing his former team?
“I don’t want to be over-motivated, but those guys… those are my ex-teammates, but at the same time, we’re still talking with Bear, Bert and some guys there,” Hudler said, referring to Daniel Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi. “Obviously I don’t want to lose against them. We need these points, too.”
And the Calgary Herald's Scott Cruickshank:
Asked about his quick start in Calgary — five points in three games — Hudler paused before responding.
"Well," he said. "I played three games and we won just one, so it’s kind of disappointing. The situation, with the half season, every game is real tight. We need the points."
Hudler did make it clear, though, he’d love to grab two tonight in Detroit.
"I don’t want to be over-motivated," he said, "but those guys, they’re my friends, my ex-teammates . . . obviously I don’t want to lose against them. We need these points, too. We’re in a critical situation.
"It’s going to be a tough game. Playing in this building is tough. They’ve got a lot of talent, a lot of skill. I was watching them on TV, they play well."
Hartley, however, knows he can count on No. 24.
"For Jiri, it’s his passion for the game," said Hartley. "He’s a gamer. He always wants to compete. With the puck, he’s so creative — his passing, his vision, around the net — and he’s very gifted. He has that quick release that can surprise many goalies. At the same time, I think he was raised in a great organization — you can tell. His on-ice habits are very good. I think that’s going to be a great example to our young players."
And Duff's in a Tweeting mood today:
Ditto for the Flames:
“He definitely plays a lot bigger than he is,'' defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “He's very slippery around the corners, but he's also really strong in front of the net, despite his size. Sneaky player, got unbelievable hands, sees the ice unbelievable. Very dangerous on the power play, can make plays out of nothing.''
Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said Hudler will present a challenge for him.
“I like playing against bigger players because I don't have to do this, little squats to get down,'' Ericsson said. “His job is to get in there and my job is to keep him out of Jimmy's office.''
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock greeted Hudler while he was on the ice.
“We had a little chat there, but I had no time because we were practicing,'' Hudler said. “But, it was nice for him to come out and say hi.''
Babcock said Hudler was an important part of the team, a player they enjoyed having around.
“He’s got great hockey sense and is a fierce competitor,'' Babcock said. “He’s not a big man, not an unbelievable skater, but unbelievable hands. He’s as good on the power play as anybody in the league. He’ll be exited to play here tonight and we’re excited to see him.''
If you want to hear Sportsnet's Peter Maher speak to Calgary's 960 the Fan, you may most certainly do so, but this is funny:
Update #7: The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan spoke to Hudler, too:
On December 26 while playing in the Czech Republic during the NHL lockout, Hudler suffered a cut near his neck which nearly cut an artery.
A short while later, on Jan. 14, his father Jiri Hudler Sr. passed away at the age of 50.
"It's been tough," said Hudler, who had been traveling back and forth from Calgary to the Czech Republic, arranging and finalizing issues. "This obviously helps being around the guys, my teammates, my ex-teammates, when you're thinking about hockey. The way the schedule is, it's so tight, you don't have time to think about other things. I spent time back home to clear stuff I needed to do, but for me right now, this half season is good because it's so tight. I was able to spend time with my dad (and after) I didn't want to sit around and do nothing for a long time. I wanted to get back on the horse and play hockey."
Hudler remains in touch with many of his former Red Wings teammates, which will make this game an emotional one.
"There's a little motivation," Hudler said. "I don't want to lose against them. We need these points, we're in a crucial situation."
Coach Mike Babcock made a point of finding Hudler before Calgary's morning skate and talking with his former player.
"It's nice, we had a little chat," Hudler said. "I had no time because we were practicing but it was nice for him to come over and say 'hi.'"
Update #8: Holy crap, actual Wings news! DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose spoke to coach Babcock and the Wings' players about the lineup tweaks, i.e. Brian Lashoff in for Jakub Kindl, Tomas Tatar playing alongside Pavel Datsyuk and Valtteri Filppula, Todd Bertuzzi dropping to the third line with Danny Cleary and Justin Abdelkader, and Patrick Eaves rotating out of the lineup:
“I just want to win,” declared Babcock. “It’s just about trying to figure out what’s the best option that gives us the best chance that’s what you’re trying to do on a nightly basis. Lash did a real good job for us on the penalty kill. Specialty teams are huge for us. The Flames’ power is about eighth in the league, around 24 percent, we’re probably going to take a couple penalties, but we want to be disciplined so we want to kill them off and we feel Lash gives us the best opportunity to do that.”
Since getting blitzed in a 6-0 shutout on opening night in St. Louis, the Red Wings have improved immensely, garnering points in four of the last five games with a 3-1-1 record. But there’s still room for improvement, Babcock said.
“We’re in the battle like everyone else,” he said. “We’ve played two really poor games then a whole bunch of games where we like our team. Our first game and our last game weren’t good enough with energy with excitement with the way we played. I really thought we got on our way the other night when we played St. Louis, but it just goes to show you a coach should never think like that. You should just be scared your whole life and things will turn out all right.”
The Wings also hope that Tatar can bring some secondary scoring when he skates with center Pavel Datsyuk and forward Valtteri Filppula. Detroit is still looking for someone to jump up and fill a scoring punch role vacated by the loss of Jiri Hudler, who signed with the Flames during the off-season.
“We’re hoping (Tatar) is a bit like Huds,” Babcock said. “We’re not generating much from our bottom six. Originally we were going to play him there, but we’re going to put him with Fil and Pavel and give him a chance. That gives me better depth on the third line. You look at their third group with (Curtis) Glencross, (Lee) Stempniak and (Mikael) Backlund that line’s got more goals than the top two lines so our third line has to be good tonight.”
Justin Abdelkader will center the Wings’ third line between forwards Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Cleary.
The leadership of Henrik Zetterberg’s line has done more than their share of goal-scoring for the Wings, who are still seeking offensive production from their bottom-six forwards. Zetterberg has five goals and seven assists in the last seven games, while Damien Brunner (four goals, two assists) and Johan Franzen (two goals, five assists) are also riding six- and five-game point streaks, respectively.
“Listen, every team is looking for points,” Cleary said. “The same story line is going to happen between now and April, and it’s only going to get more intensified. Calgary is obviously looking to get going. We’re looking to get going. We’re on a home stand here with a lot of games at home. We actually had a great schedule to start the year and we need to take advantage of it.”
And CalgaryFlames.com's Torie Peterson just filed a Flames morning skate report:
CONTAINING THE BIG TWO: There is no doubt the Red Wings top two lines can be lethal offensively. Through their opening eight games of the 2013 campaign, they have rattled off 18 of the team's 21 goals. Johan Franzen, Damien Brunner, Valtteri Filppula and Todd Bertuzzi have all been key contributors for the Red Wings, regularly generating scoring chances and producing offensively.
But Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have to be considered Detroit's best weapons up front. The pair, who have each played all eight games this year, have 22 points between them. Zetterberg, the team leader in scoring, has potted five goals and 12 points while Datsyuk has three tallies and 10 points to his name.
According to rearguard TJ Brodie, the key to shutting down such highly skilled players is denying them time and space in the neutral and defensive zones.
“It’s tough to make plays when there are guys all over you and you don’t have much time to think or pursue the play. That will be big,” the 22 year old said. “I think playing a little physical on them too – knocking them off pucks and letting them know it’s not going to be an easy game.”
WORKING OFF THE POSITIVES FROM SATURDAY: The word domination could very well be used when describing how the Flames played against Chicago on Saturday night but despite putting 49 shots on Ray Emery – and holding the Blackhawks to just 19 shots –Calgary fell 3-2 in a shootout. Rather than dwelling on the result of that outing, the Flames are looking to build off of the positives that stemmed from the loss.
“We did a lot of good things,” Brodie said. “For a team like Chicago to only get 19 shots, that’s definitely a good feeling.”
One thing the team is focusing on is capitalizing on chances. From shots going just wide of an empty net to whiffing on passes, the Flames had puck luck on Saturday but, in Brodie’s mind, no one should feel that Chicago just had fortuitous bounces. Instead, they have to harbor the attitude that they have to get better on jumping on scoring opportunities.
CLIPPING THE WINGS: Mike Cammalleri has had great success against the Wings throughout his career, recording 18 points (9 goals, 9 helpers) in 19 games. He faced off against Detroit once last season, scoring one goal on four shots in his 19:54 of ice time.
Captain Jarome Iginla has seen his fair share of the boys from Motor City over the last 15 seasons. He's played 60 games against the Red Wings, scoring 20 goals and 54 points - an average of .90 points-per-game. While Iginla is still in search of his first goal of the year, he has posted four points in his last five games. The winger is also leading the Flames in shots on net with 25 through six games.
Calgary's current scoring leader Alex Tanguay has played quite well against Detroit over the years. He has notched 11 goals and 32 points through 36 contests, an average of .89 points-per-game. The forward is heading into tonight's tilt on a five-game point streak.
While three games is an extremely small sample size, TJ Brodie has been very effective for the Flames when facing the Red Wings. Two of the defenceman's 12 assists last year came against Detroit and he averaged 16:21 of ice time versus the Red Wings.
Update #9: We're now at the, "We have everything but video" point. The Calgary Sun's Randy Sportak says that Hudler was basically mobbed after the Flames' morning skate:
“Jiri,” Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman called out as he bolted to the showers. “I think the media’s all here waiting for you.”
The return of Jiri Hudler, who spent five full seasons and parts of two others with the Detroit Red Wings, made his return to the Motor City in anticipation of Tuesday night’s clash at the Joe Louis Arena. Hudler, who joined the Flames as a free-agent in the summer by signing a four-year, US$16-million contract, was greeted by former teammates, coaches and the arena staff.
As much as everyone wanted to give their greetings, a constant topic was the death of his father on the eve of the season. Hudler, who won a Stanley Cup title with the Red Wings in 2008, admitted being on the ice has been part of the healing process.
“For me, right now, this half season is better. I spent some time before with my dad,” he said. “I didn’t want to sit around for a long time, get back on the horse and play hockey.”
“We’re excited to see him,” said Wings head coach Mike Babcock. “It was real sad news about his dad, and it’s good to see he’s come through that. Now, he’s back with a family and he can do what he loves to do.”
But Cruickshank also talked about the game and what it means for both teams...
As for the game, it appears the last-place Flames (1-3-2) will insert Steve Begin into the lineup in place of Tim Jackman. Former Flames defenceman Ian White is poised to return for Detroit after missing five games due to a leg laceration. Jakub Kindl is likely to be scratched.
The Flames are struggling to win and facing a motivated Wings team, which is coming off a 4-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“We’ve played, I think, two poor games and a whole bunch of games, we like our team,” Babcock said. “Our first game and our last game weren’t good enough, with energy, with excitement, with the way we played. I really thought we got on our way when we played St. Louis (a 5-3 win last Friday), but it just goes to show you a coach should never think like that. You should just be scared your whole life and everything will turn our all right.”
Update #10: It took a while, but the Red Wings' website finally posted a "game day" preview in which Ken Kal speaks to Jimmy Howard, Danny Cleary and Niklas Kronwall about capitalizing on the heavily home-game-weighted schedule and what playing in front of the Joe's raucous crowd means to them:
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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.