The Malik Report
by George Malik on 11/01/13 at 04:05 AM ET
The Red Wings will be running a gauntlet starting tonight when they battle the Calgary Flames (9 PM EDT, FSD+/Sportsnet West/97.1 FM) this evening.
As the Wings' road trip shifts from 4 games over the course of 6 nights to 3 in 4, the 5-5-and-2 Flames await the Wings this evening, having lost 3 of their past 4 games, though Calgary fired 43 shots on Jonathan Bernier in their 4-2 loss to Toronto on Wednesday.
After tonight's game, the Wings will head north to face Edmonton on Saturday (10 PM EDT, FSD/CBC), and while the Oilers' 3-9-and-2 record isn't exactly intimidating, the Oilers will be looking to snap a 4-game losing streak having rested and practiced since their 4-0 loss to Toronto on Tuesday, and Hockey Night in Canada's going to be in the house for Saturday's game...
And the Wings will wrap up their road trip when they head to Winnipeg on Monday. There, the Wings will find the 5-7-and-2 Jets having attempted to better that record in Saturday's matinee affair against Chicago, and the Wings will face an almost-total-unknown as they've played the Jets exactly once.
Playing three games in four nights against middling, rebuilding and in-flux teams (respectively) hoping to make statements against the mighty Detroit Red Wings will be no easy task--even given the fact that Wednesday's 2-1 win over Vancouver was Detroit's first win over the course of 5 games, yielding a less-than-in-full-stride Wings team attempting to regain its form
Having given you the "long story," numerical context-setting included, here's a more succinct bottom line: neither the Red Wings nor their fans will have a happy weeked if they take the next three games or three opponents lightly.
That's most certainly the case regarding the Flames: Calgary's loss to Toronto marked the first time in 4 home games that they didn't at least earn a point, and Calgary's players and coach weren't particularly pleased with the rewards earned for a strong performance against the Leafs, as noted by the Canadian Press's Flames-Leafs recap:
"It's just so frustrating right now. I thought we played a pretty good game from the top on down but that was one heck of a performance from Bernier," said Calgary forward Joe Colborne, a former Toronto player. "We were going to the net hard, we were creating secondary rebound chances and it was just one of those nights where things aren't going to go in."
Calgary cut it to one when Jones deflected Kris Russell's point shot with 5:21 left in the third period, but the Flames could not get back to even despite getting a man advantage with 3 minutes left when David Clarkson was sent off for boarding.
"I felt that we had a good game. We are not very pleased with the result but I don't know what we could have done more," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "Offensively, we generated a lot. Our forechecking was good. Our puck decisions in the offensive zone were very good but Bernier basically stole the game away from us."
CalgaryFlames.com's Aaron Vickers cut the game's narrative down to a digestable size:
The Calgary Flames fired, but Jonathan Bernier wouldn’t bend. Calgary fired a season-high 43 shots on Bernier but could only crack him twice as the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Flames 4-2 at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday.
The Leafs used Bernier’s 41 saves and received goals from four different scorers -- Joffrey Lupul, James van Riemsdyk, Mason Raymond and Paul Ranger -- to hand Calgary its first regulation loss on home ice this season.
After Lupul and van Riemsdyk paced Toronto to a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes, Matt Stajan put the Flames on the board at 17:03 of the second. Stajan took a feed from Curtis Glencross and buried the puck over the shoulder of Bernier to cut the lead to 2-1. The goal came on Calgary’s 31st shot of the game.
But Raymond put Toronto up 3-1 in the second period, pushing a David Clarkson rebound behind Karri Ramo just 5:59 into the third.
David Jones replied with his third of the season at 14:39, but Ranger iced the game for Toronto, sailing the puck into an empty net with Ramo on the bench in favour of the extra attacker at 18:38.
On Thursday, Hartley told Vickers that the team was moving on...
“This game sometimes is a little unfair,” Hartley said. “I felt that we deserved much better last night but we didn’t get rewarded. That’s the only part that I’m not satisfied about was the reward.”
The Flames tested Toronto starter Jonathan Bernier 15 times in the opening 20 minutes, threw another 20 his way during the middle frame and another eight in the third period but could only beat him twice.
“I liked everyone in our game last night, everybody did their job,” Hartley said. “Bernier did his job for the Leafs and tomorrow’s another day.”
And relatively new acquisition Joe Colborne is ready to go head-to-head against the Red Wings' top line:
The 6-foot-5, 213-pound pivot has seen his ice time grow over the past two games, jumping from 10:24 against the Dallas Stars on October 24th to 15:18 against the Washington Capitals on Saturday before Wednesday’s total against the Leafs.
That ice has come with the task of shutting down some of the opposition’s top players, including Alex Ovechkin and Phil Kessel. Neither star recorded points against the Flames.
He’ll face a similar threat in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg when the Detroit Red Wings visit on Friday.
“It’s no different then when you go up against a guy like Ovechkin or Phil [Kessel],” the 23-year-old said. “They’re the top players in the world for a reason. As a team I thought we’ve done a pretty good job of shutting down Ovi and Phil. You just have to realize they’re going to get their chances no matter what. That’s why they’re paid the big bucks. It comes down to trying to minimize them and after they get their chances, don’t allow them to get a second one.”
The Flames also plan on starting a goaltender who will want to show his former employer that they should've kept in him in Joey MacDonald, who told the Calgary Herald's Scott Cruickshank that he's looking forward to stifling the Wings this evening:
“Yeah, it’s going to be a great opportunity — a good team coming in,” said MacDonald, who, of course, also happens to be a former member of the Wings. “I spent a lot of time in Detroit, a lot of guys I played with for a long time. It’s going to be exciting to get back in (net). You sit for two or three games and you just get itching.”
So far, the workload between MacDonald and Karri Ramo has been divided evenly. Only 101 seconds, in total time played, separates them. Through 12 dates, each goalkeeper has made six starts. MacDonald is 3-2-1 (3.01 goals-against average, .894 save percentage), while Ramo is 2-3-1 (3.49 GAA, .888).
“Mac gave us a real good run early on,” said coach Bob Hartley. “Then Karri gave us a good run. Now let’s hope that Mac gives us the same kind of run that he gave us (in the season’s opening weeks). There’s no set pattern (for the goalie rotation).”
Meanwhile, the Flames say they have built confidence after stifling two of the hottest stars, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Toronto’s Phil Kessel. But MacDonald, 33, knows what’s in store for his gang now — an eyeful of all-worlders Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. How do you slow them?
“Watch T.V. and you guys can figure it out — they’re pretty good players,” said MacDonald, laughing. “Pav, he can pretty well do whatever he wants with the puck. And Hank, you know what? He gets the job done. He’s a hard worker. That’s why he’s one of the best players in the game. (Datsyuk) is probably the best puck-mover in the game. I’ve seen him do a lot of things and I’ve been around a long time. But as a goalie you’ve just got to play your game. You can’t focus too much on one guy. But you’ve got to watch and be ready at all times ... because you never know what he’s going to do.”
Jiri Hudler either didn't visit the rink or managed to dodge the media on Thursday, but you can be sure that Hudler's going to be a focal point of today's coverage. He leads the Flames with 5 goals, 8 assists and 13 points registered over the course of 12 games.
His status as a former Wing who left the team for greener financial pastures will certainly be played up--and probably played against the Wings' signings of Weiss and Alfredsson, even though the pair have little to nothing to do with Detroit's previous-season attempt to replace Hudler's production with the now-departed Damien Brunner and the currently-sitting Mikael Samuelsson.
I'm just guessing that you're probably not interested in Vickers' sidebar story on Kris Russel, nor will you be all that fascinated by Hartley's decision to bring Mikael Backlund back into the lineup, but it's worth noting that Backlund's under pressure to produce offensively, as noted by the Calgary Sun's Randy Sportak...
Backlund, the club’s 2007 first-round draft choice who was a healthy scratch in Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, is due to be back in the lineup for Friday’s tilt with the Detroit Red Wings. Head coach Bob Hartley said the centre must put more emphasis on scoring goals and not just trying to keep them out of the team’s net.
“I wasn’t very pleased to scratch him, but I felt I had to do it,” Hartley said following Thursday’s practice. “We had a great talk and I’m sure he’s going to bounce back. I don’t want him in a limited role all year. He’s a young prospect for us even though he’s been in the organization for a few years now and I think he has a lot to offer, and I want to be a partner with him and help him bring it on the ice.”
Backlund, who has collected 25 goals and 66 points in 181 NHL games, had a decent start to the season and played well during the first couple of games of the club’s five-game road trip — notably the affairs in Anaheim and San Jose — but tailed off.
Hartley said it’s time for the 24-year-old to start putting more oomph into his offensive game.
“It’s a combination of intensity, grit, harder drive at the net,” Hartley said. “I think Mikael is so conscientious about his defence that he forgets that he has lots of skills. That’s my job to remind him of this.”
Based on where Backlund was skating in practice, it won’t be easy for him to get back on the scoresheet right away. He was on the fourth line with Lance Bouma and Brian McGrattan, where he skated against the Washington Capitals, and is pegged to be against the Red Wings.
And the Calgary Herald's Cruickshank:
“I think he’s positioned himself in a spot to have a great season,” said the Flames coach, who, Thursday, skated Backlund between fourth-line flankers Lance Bouma and Brian McGrattan. “I want to reward him. When you see someone going hard throughout a summer. (Fitness) testing doesn’t lie. Then, on the ice, we’re at the stage with Mikael where we have to push him to the next gear — to find a new gear in his game. He’s willing (to do) this. I wasn’t very pleased to scratch him, but I felt that I had to do it. I sat with him and we had a great talk.”
Backlund, too, indicated the chat had been productive.
“He said he wasn’t mad at me,” Backlund said. “But I’ve got to find a way to be more consistent. That’s why I am where I am now — because I wasn’t (consistent). I’ve got to figure that out. When I get a chance to play more, I’ll grab it.”
After three points in three contests, Backlund got stuck in an offensive rut. Saturday against the Washington Capitals, he received less than 10 minutes of work. The inevitable attention-grabber followed.
“I don’t want him in a limited role all year,” said Hartley. “He’s a young prospect for us, even though he’s been in the organization for a few years now. I think he has a lot to offer. But I want to be a partner with him and help him. We do lots of video. We try to show all of our players what we want, what we expect from there.”
The Calgary Herald's "Game Day" story for tonight's tilt hasn't posted as of the middle of the night EDT (it's after 4 in the morning as I'm putting this together), so I'll have to rely on the Calgary Herald's Kristen Oodland's set of lines from the Flames-Leafs game as a probable prospective lineup:
* C. Glencross M. Stajan D. Jones
* M. Cammalleri J. Colborne T. Galiardi
* S. Baertschi S. Monahan J. Hudler
* L. Bouma M. Backlund B. McGrattan
* C. Butler T. Brodie
* K. Russell D. Wideman
* S. O’Brien D. Smith
* J. MacDonald
NHL.com's David Kalan's game preview will serve as our pivot point between the Flames and Red Wings' perspectives...
Season series: This is the first game between the Detroit Red Wings and Calgary Flames this season. The Flames won all three meetings with the Red Wings in 2012-13, including a 3-2 victory the last time they faced at Scotiabank Saddledome on April 17.
Big story: 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.
Red Wings [team scope]: 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.
Flames [team scope]: Calgary enters its matchup with Detroit looking to rebound from a 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, the team's first in regulation at home this season. The Flames outshot Toronto 43-22 but were able to beat Toronto goaltender Jonathan Bernier only twice.
The Flames struggled on the road in the first month of the season, which makes the chance to pick up two points against Detroit all the more important. Starting on Sunday, Calgary will embark on a four-game trip to face the Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche.
Who's hot: Daniel Alfredsson has scored in two straight games for the Red Wings. ... Dennis Wideman has four assists in his past three games for the Flames.
Injury report: Detroit's Johan Franzen (undisclosed) is expected to return after missing the game in Vancouver. Jonathan Ericsson (shoulder injury) and Darren Helm (back injury) remain on IR … Flames defenseman Christopher Breen (strained abdominal) did not play against Toronto and is questionable to face Detroit. Lee Stempniak (broken foot) is out indefinitely and captain Mark Giordano (broken ankle) is expected to be out 6-8 weeks.
And the AP/Stats LLC's game preview adds a numerical context:
Looking to win consecutive games for the first time in two weeks, the Red Wings try to avoid a fourth straight loss to the Calgary Flames on Friday night.
Yeah, did I forget to mention that the Saddledome's been a house of horrors for the Red Wings over the past two years? Because it's been AWFUL. See: the Wings' 5-2 loss to Calgary on March 13th, or their 3-2 loss to Calgary on April 17th, which almost immediately preceded their very necessary end-of-the-season surge...
Detroit (7-4-2) held a 14-7 scoring advantage during a four-game winning streak Oct. 12-17, but followed with an 0-2-2 stretch where it was outscored 15-5. The Red Wings mustered enough offense and played better in front of Jimmy Howard to end that slide with a 2-1 victory at Vancouver on Wednesday.
Detroit was outscored 12-5 while losing all three meetings against the Flames last season, with the last two in Calgary.
The Flames, however, have dropped five of seven following Wednesday's 4-2 loss to Toronto at home. Calgary outshot the Maple Leafs 43-22 but fell behind 2-0 in the first period before managing to get within one twice on goals by Matt Stajan and David Jones.
The Flames failed to convert on five power-play chances and are 0 for 13 in four games since they went 3 for 6 in a 3-2 win at Los Angeles on Oct. 21.
Calgary was 3 for 8 with the man advantage against Detroit last season.
Flames forward and ex-Red Wing Jiri Hudler has a team-leading 13 points but one in the last three contests. He was held without a point against Detroit last season.
Most of Thursday's Red Wings practice news involved Johan Franzen's return to action after having missed Wednesday's game with an "undisclosed" injury. The Wings sent Luke Glendening back to Grand Rapids after Franzen flew to Calgary to join the team, and MLive's Ansar Khan noted that the Wings hope that "The Mule" will jump-start the Wings' still-sputtering offensive game:
“It could be a Mule game tomorrow,’’ Zetterberg said.
The Detroit Red Wings could use one of those. They’ve had only one “Mule game’’ this season, when Franzen scored a pair of power-play goals in a 4-2 victory at Colorado Oct. 17. Those are Franzen’s only goals in 12 games (he has three assists). The Red Wings are struggling to score (averaging 2.23 goals per game, 23rd in the NHL) and need more production from the big forward. He has scored between 27 and 34 goals in his past four full seasons.
Despite the lack of production, Franzen believes he’s playing well.
“I feel really effective, actually,’’ he said. “I had two good chances and scored on both of them this year, so it feels pretty good, actually.’’
Franzen missed Wednesday’s 2-1 win in Vancouver with what he said was an upper-body injury. He did not practice Monday or Tuesday, joining the club in Calgary on Thursday. He was back at center in practice, with Daniel Alfredsson and Daniel Cleary. Coach Mike Babcock said he’ll use that line Friday against the Flames at the Saddledome. Luke Glendening was reassigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Franzen said he and the team need to generate more scoring chances. He did that in his previous game, registering seven shots in a 3-2 overtime loss Saturday to the New York Rangers.
But Franzen isn’t shooting enough. He is averaging only 2.08 shots per game, the lowest average since his rookie season of 2005-06 (1.49), when he played on a checking line.
Zetterberg and Wings coach Mike Babcock insisted that Franzen will get his offensive stuff together sooner than later while speaking with the Free Press's Helene St. James:
“Sometimes things don’t go the way you want them at the start,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Mule has the ability to be a real good player in the league. You’ve got to bring it out of yourself each and every night if you’re going to be successful. Goal scorers have got to shoot the puck.”
Franzen has a temper so quiescent it’s hard to picture him fired up. He himself laughed off questions about his lack of productivity, saying: “I feel really effective, actually. I’ve had two good chances, and I scored on both of them. So it feels pretty good, actually.”
Asked if he needs to generate more, Franzen said: “We need to generate more.”
The Wings beat Vancouver, 2-1, and average 2.25 goals. Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Todd Bertuzzi and Alfredsson account for 17 of the 29 goals.
Zetterberg said Franzen is due: “I think he is doing a lot of good things, except scoring. He creates a lot of chances. He hasn’t been with us this week — he came in this morning, he looked pretty fired up. Could be a Mule game tomorrow.”
St. James also posted a practice video...
And Khan posted Thursday's practice lines:
Coach Mike Babcock said Franzen-for-Glendening is the only lineup change for Friday. Here are the lines and defense pairs they skated with on Thursday:
Henrik Zetterberg-Pavel Datsyuk-Todd Bertuzzi
Danny Cleary-Johan Franzen-Daniel Alfredsson
Tomas Tatar-Stephen Weiss-Justin Abdelkader
Drew Miller-Joakim Andersson-Patrick Eaves
Jordin Tootoo, Mikael Samuelsson and Darren Helm wore gray jerseys, indicating they won't play the next game. Helm is expected to make his season debut Saturday in Edmonton.
Niklas Kronwall-Danny DeKeyser
Kyle Quincey-Brendan Smith
Brian Lashoff-Jakub Kindl
Jimmy Howard (starting)
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan also took note of Babcock and Zetterberg's comments about Franzen, but his notebook also includes the only "new" material of the morning:
Hot Hudler: Former Red Wings forward Jiri Hudler leads the Flames with 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 12 games. Hudler has a point in 10 of the 12 games this season.
“He’s a good player, and there’s a reason why Calgary went after him (in free agency in July 2012),” Zetterberg said. “He’s not a big guy but he plays big and he has real good balance. He’s strong, and can play the net front. He’s a great kid and obviously we miss him.”
Babcock has always been impressed with Hudler’s instincts.
“He’s brilliant with the puck, he knows how to play,” Babcock said. “He was in a good organization for a long time and he learned how to play without the puck. I think he’s a real good player, I really do.”
Ice chips: With Franzen returning, the Red Wings returned forward Luke Glendening to Grand Rapids.
... Forward Stephen Weiss is still looking for his first assist (he has two goals) but Babcock is seeing progress.
“Finding your game within (the team’s) game is absolutely critical for him,” Babcock said. “It’s going to take some time but he’s getting better.”
I looked, looked and looked some more for Red Wings news, but the beat writers are coping with travel, too, and the next four days should yield more than enough game action to provide more punch and keep me very busy over the next four days.
And if I may be blunt? This is the game I've feared the most out of all of the Wings' Western Canadian games. This team plays like absolute crap in the Saddledome, so I feel like the Wings are skating into a trap this evening.
In the prospect department, in Sweden, Mattias Janmark registered an assist and played 21:21 as AIK Stockholm defeated Farjestads BK 3-1 on Thursday, and Janmark's registered 12 goals, 7 asissts and now has 19 points registered over the course of 18 games for AIK;
On this side of the Atlantic, in the QMJHL, Phillipe Hudon spent the first of four games in the press box as he's been suspended for an illegal check to the head, and his Victoriaville Tigres dropped a 4-3 decision to the Gatineau Olympiques;
And much closer to home, in the ECHL, even Deadspin has noted that the Toledo Walleye and Kalamazoo K-Wings will be wearing Star Wars-themed jerseys for Saturday's Star Wars Night at the Huntington Center in Toledo, and the Stanley Cup will be in the building tomorrow evening, too.
Also of Red Wings-related note: this is a little offbeat, but the Vancouver Canucks will retire Pavel Bure's #10 when they host Toronto on Saturday--with that game preceding Saturday night's Wings-Oilers game at 10--and Bure's interpreter during his time with the Canucks, Beth Novokshonoff, related quite the story about the Red Wings' visits to Vancouver while speaking with the Vancouver Province's Jim Jamieson:
“We had a lot of laughs with him,” she said. “When the Red Wings were in town, the Russian Five (Larionov, Viacheslav Fetisov, Sergei Fedorov, Slava Kozlov and Vladimir Konstantinov) and Pavel and (Alexander) Mogilny would come over for to our place for dinner afterwards. Igor would do his impression of (dictatorial Team Russia coach Viktor) Tikhonov. I’ve never seen Pavel laugh so hard.
In the Twitter department:
Stegehuis is the Grand Rapids Griffins' assistant equipment manager...
And I can't help but compliment Brendan Smith's sense of humor given that HE was the one who retweeted this charming picture from a National Lacrosse League player named Illija Gajic--who's probably a friend of Brendan's older, lacross-playing brother, Rory (Rory plays for the Colorado Mammoth, and Gajic plays for the Vancouver Stealth)--regarding Smith's two-minor-penalty night against the Canucks on Wednesday:
Update: The Griffins sent out a promotional release for their matinee game on November 6th:
GRIFFINS HOST ROCKFORD FOR 13TH ANNUAL MATINEE GAME
Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013 vs. Rockford IceHogs
Time: 11 a.m. at Van Andel Arena (doors open at 9 a.m.).
13th Annual Matinee Game: The Griffins’ annual matinee game has become a major educational event for West Michigan schools. Approximately 4,000 students and teachers will arrive at 9 a.m. to take part in many unique learning experiences prior to the game’s start time of 11 a.m. This season, the Griffins have partnered with local organizations such as the West Michigan Optometric Association and the West Michigan District Dental Society to provide a variety of “Health & Wellness” educational displays and exhibits for students and teachers.
High School Symposium: For the second year in a row, the matinee game experience will include the Griffins High School Symposium, which will assist students in developing their career interests and preparing for an academic life beyond high school. The Griffins have teamed up with Grand Valley State University, Northwood University, Central Michigan University, Aquinas College, Western Michigan University, Hope College and Calvin College to create a fun event that will showcase a wide variety of exciting programs offered within each school’s curriculum. For more information on the Griffins’ 13th annual matinee game, please click here.
Senior Bingo: From 9:15–10:30 a.m., the Griffins will welcome senior citizens to play bingo in the banquet rooms. Bingo is free and prizes include Griffins memorabilia and various gifts from our sponsors.
Amway Winning Wednesday: When the Griffins win on Amway Winning Wednesday, so do you! All fans who were in attendance for the Griffins’ 5-2 win over the Charlotte Checkers on Oct. 30 can redeem their ticket stub for a free ticket to either the matinee game or the game on Wednesday, Nov. 20 versus Milwaukee at 7 p.m. To redeem a Winning Wednesday ticket, please visit the box office following the Winning Wednesday game, The Zone during normal business hours, or the Van Andel Arena box office within an hour and a half of the next Wednesday game.
Library Nights: For every Sunday and Wednesday game, fans can present their Grand Rapids Public Library card or Kent District Library card at the Van Andel Arena box office on the night of the game or at The Zone anytime during the store’s regular business hours to save $7 off the price of a Lower Level Faceoff ticket (regularly $18 in advance and $20 day of game). Limit four tickets per card per person, subject to availability.
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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.