Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Flames set-up and overnight report: banged-up, Lidstrom-less Wings face Hudler’s Flames

The Detroit Red Wings face off against the Calgary Flames tonight (7:30 PM EST, FSD, Sportsnet West, 97.1 FM) hoping to rebound from an ugly loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets while continuing to withstand more injuries (Brendan Smith is going to miss a month with a shoulder injury, Darren Helm's got an "uh oh" of a medical test coming up in the form of a bone scan on his sore back, and the Wings recalled Petr Mrazek and Tomas Tatar from Grand Rapids because a) Jonas Gustavsson is nowhere near returning from a groin injury and b) the "bottom six" forwards have 1 assist between them)...

But the Red Wings will have anything but an easy oppnent in the Flames. As the Wings kick off a slate of four games over the course of six nights, Jiri "Happy" Hudler and the Flames hope to dig themselves out of a 1-3-and-2 hole while atttempting to assuage a 3-2 shootout loss to Chicago on Saturday which the Flames should have won seven ways from Sunday, out-shooting Chicago 47-19 and surrendering a 2-1 lead with 2.3 seconds left on the clock.

Before the Flames left Calgary for a three-game, "As far an 'East Coast Swing' as one can get while playing in the Western Conference" trip, they practiced in Calgary, and Flames coach Bob Hartley insisted that his team's 1-3-and-2 start was an aberration while speaking to the Canadian Press...

"My first year in Colorado we were 2-5 and we made it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup semifinals," Hartley said. "Last year in Zurich we were 5-8 and we won the championship. There's plenty of examples like this."

Hartley guided the ZSC Lions to a Swiss League title last season before being hired to coach the Flames in late May. His Calgary side is coming off a disappointing 3-2 shootout loss at home to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night. The Flames now head out on a three-game road trip starting in Detroit on Tuesday.

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Hartley commended his players for a fine performance against Chicago. The Flames were dominant at times against the league-leading Blackhawks (7-0-2), who stole the victory thanks to a 45-save performance by goalie Ray Emery and a clutch shootout goal by Chicago captain Patrick Kane.

"We're doing some good things," Hartley said. "We're building on a good foundation. I would like to see our guys getting rewarded because I think that they deserve better."

Hartley believes the Flames will have momentum on their side following Saturday's performance against the Blackhawks.

"We're right there and I feel that we're showing progress," Hartley said. "It's going to be a good building block for us, but at the same time, we need to cash in on our chances and rack up some wins."

Hartley's players agree with their coach...

"We've done a lot of good things, but at the end of the day we have left some points on the table," [Mark] Giordano said. "We're pretty happy actually after our last game. If we play like that and get those types of chances, we're pretty sure we're going to be OK on most nights."

As they also told CalgaryFlames.com's Aaron Vickers...

Four of Calgary’s six games have been decided by one goal, and two of those were determined by the shootout. Another, Calgary’s 6-3 setback to Colorado, was tied with three minutes remaining in the contest.

A bounce or two Calgary’s way and suddenly the Flames lay claim to more than the four points the standings currently show them with. At least, according to Jarome Iginla.

“The hardest part in this first six games is we’ve played pretty well in a lot of these games and we should’ve had more points,” the captain said. “Yeah, we’ve let some slip away but our habits are getting better, our game is getting better as a group. I think we need to get some results. If we need to get that feeling, the winning and put a little streak together.”

The team will have ample opportunity to do so on a three-game road trip that will take put them against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday, the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday and Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks.

“It’s a very important road trip for us,” Iginla said. “We have games at hand. Right now we’re at the bottom but we have three games and you win those three games, you’d be right in the playoff mix. It is a shortened year, we know that.”

The problem that faces the Flames is the same one that faces the 4-3-and-1 Wings: the Flames' seventh game represents having completed 14.58% of their schedule, and the Wings' 9th game will yield 16.666% (with the .6's going on to infinity) of their schedule having been played, so for both teams, playing in perhaps the most competitive and most heavily stacked divisions and conferences in the NHL in the Central and Northwest Divisions, respectively, a 48-game schedule places paramount importance upon winning or at least earning a point every single night:

“We need to win some games,” Mike Cammalleri said. “It’s been probably well documented. We’ve been in a lot of games and feel like we could’ve won a lot of games but haven’t. I’m not so much worried about road or home or away. We hit the ice, there’s still two nets, one center line, two points that are available. We’ll just try to take two no matter where we’re playing.”

Jiri Hudler's return to Detroit is obviously a "human interest" story-and-a-half: in addition to his status as a Cup-winner with the Wings and someone who the team really felt they didn't have a chance to sign, even though he ended up signing with the Flames for similar money to what the Wings were offering him...

Hudler missed part of the 04-05 lockout season because his father, Jiri senior, had a liver transplant in the Czech Republic. The Wings let Hudler leave the Grand Rapids Griffins, and loaned him to HC Vsetin in the Czech Extraliga, so that he could be closer to his father.

Just before the 2013 NHL season began, Hudler's father passed away, and while Hudler's playing very well for the Flames--as the Calgary Herald's George Johnson notes, Hudler's registered 2 goals and 3 assists playing on a line with Damien Brunner-style "late bloomer import" Roman Cervenka and Matt Stajan, which is very impressive given that Johnson reports that Hudler's mom wasn't in his life, and as such, he was raised by a single dad.

At the present moment, Hudler's been something of a revalation to his Flames teammates...

"I knew playing against him, he was a great player,” says defenceman Mark Giordano. “But playing with him, you notice all the little things and his skill. Man, he’s been really good, and he’s been a treat to watch.”

These are early days, but general manager Jay Feaster looks pretty sharp for signing Hudler last summer to a four-year, $16 million contract — even though the deal at the time was harshly criticized by some hockey pundits. Heck, even Stajan looks born again playing with Hudler.

“He’s got that skillset where it seems like he has that puck on a string,” Stajan says, positively raving. “He has no panic in his game. I think that’s the key. He makes plays. When he feels the pressure, he doesn’t necessarily just throw it away. He takes that extra split second that most guys don’t think they have, and he makes the play. That’s something you can’t really teach.”

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“At his size, he brings that patience to the game along with that skill,” Stajan says. “It’s a nice combination to be playing with. He does a good job finding the open ice. He reads the game really well. It’s a credit to him. There’s a reason he’s playing at the high level he plays at.”

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“He’s got very high hockey IQ, especially in the offensive zone,” [Alex] Tanguay says. “A player his size has to have the ability to get into open areas and get to the loose puck. With the hands he’s got and the vision he’s got, it’s certainly going to be a big plus for this team. It’s good to have him on our side.”

And Hudler shrugged off the Flames' loss to Chicago...

“There’s nothing you can do now,” he says. “You’ve got to forget about it real soon, because if you’re going to be biting your nails, it’s not going to help, right? We’ve got a lot of games coming up. Just look forward. Don’t look back. Just play your game. If we’re going to play like we did against Chicago, we’re going to be fine.”

And Hudler told Johnson that while the Wings organization reached out to him off the ice to let him know they were thinking of him as his father's health deteriorated toward the end of the lockout, when Hudler was playing for HC Lev Prague in the KHL, he's going to try to return the favor by showing the Wings what they're missing:

“Obviously, I want to win so bad,” he says. “We need the points, and it’s the first time going back. I’ve got a lot of good friends there, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. But at the same time, we need a lot of points. I don’t get over excited, right, because it’s going to get you off your game. But at the same time, I know that building. I played there for the last seven seasons, so it’s going to be something special for the first shift. And then I think it will be a normal game.”

Johnson's a prosaic and prolific writer, and he also noted that the Flames are going to have something of an easier time facing the Wings because a certain Nicklas Lidstrom has happily shuffled off to Sweden, where he's thoroughly enjoying being a full-time dad, kinda-sorta Wings scout and an ambassador for the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation as they prepare to co-host their second straight World Championship (with the medal rounds to be held in Stockholm instead of Helsinki this time around).

Johnson asked the Flames' players and coaches to marvel abut Lidstrom's legacy, and marvel, they did:

“Starting out in Colorado, we had some great battles in the playoffs,” Alex Tanguay was reminiscing Monday, as the Calgary Flames hustled to catch a charter flight to the Motor City and their first encounter against the Lidstrom-less Detroit Red Wings. “Playing on Joe (Sakic) or Peter (Forsberg)’s line, I’d see Nick on the other side most nights. It’s going to be a nice feeling not to see him. In my mind, ever since I’ve been in the NHL, he and Ray Bourque are probably the two best Ds I’ve seen. One I had a chance to play with and the other one I had a chance to watch for a long, long time. What a career. What a player. It was certainly fun to watch. But I’m glad he’s not playing anymore.”

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Lidstrom and Flames’ captain Jarome Iginla tussled often over the years, particularly memorably through two playoff series. When the ‘book’ on Iginla was to play him physically, take the body often and hard, Lidstrom relied on his greatest assets, guile and timing, to contain the captain.

“He’s been such a great part of their team for ... my, uh, whole career,” said Iginla on Monday. “It’s funny, you don’t even realize he’s gone yet when you haven’t played them. He’s out there in all the situations, his PK, his good stick. Trying to play against him, he was just such a smart player. He didn’t get beat often. If you ever did score when he was out there you really did feel good about that, try to remember that, because it was tough.   He was that good.He plays off you. He picked off so many passes. I don’t know what his straight-out speed was, but he always seemed to get beat. It is hard. I kinda like guys who run at you; I like to try and roll off it. He definitely played a different style. He could frustrate you at times, for sure.”

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“It’ll be a nice change,” mused centre Matt Stajan, who, as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, faced off against Lidstrom in countless Original Six battles. “For us. For anybody going in there. He’s obviously one of the best D-man that’s ever played. His positioning was second to none. Always in the right spot. He probably had the best stick in the game for the last 20 years. You’d try and chip it by him, he’d bat it out of the air. I don’t think a guy like that is replaceable. But they play a good system and it’s never an easy building to go into.”

For Jiri Hudler, the opener of this three-game road swing is special on many fronts. It marks his return to Detroit, to The Joe, where he spent so many fruitful seasons. It also marks the first time he’ll suit up against all his old mates — minus one.

“He’s special, because of the way he played the game,” lauded Hudler. “He played hard. He’s got skills like nobody. So smart. It’s really tough to describe. He was one of the best to ever play the game. So it’s going to be different. They’ve got a lot of talent, a lot of young guys. Obviously, there’s no second Nick Lidstrom there. It’s going to be weird not seeing him there.”

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“I’ve been waiting for this day,” joked the retired Craig Conroy. “And he outlasted me! Man! He always kept saying he was going back to Sweden. Year after year. And then he’d come back. So I’m like ‘OK, so WHEN’s he going, anyway?!’ But honestly, he’s one of those guys you wish you’d had a chance to play with. A season. A game. Even a shift. Puck always on your tape, at the right time. I remember it being a nightmare trying to block his shot. Not that it was hard, but he’d just lift his head up, pull you out, suck you in, and Bang! it was in the net. From the time I started, he was there. This great, great player. So you just feel he should still be there. Doesn’t seem right, somehow, an NHL without Nick Lidstrom in it.”

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“Those guys,” praised Tanguay, “are ageless. He could’ve played for another three or four, easy. And been a Norris Trophy contender on a yearly basis. So certainly it’s going to be a big difference on their side, but they’ve been a winning team, a winning organization for a long, long time. So we’re not thinking about going in there and admiring the ceiling — I don’t know when his jersey’s going to be up there, but I’m sure it’s going to be soon. We’ve got to focus. We’ve got a job to do.”

The Flames will have no sympathy for the Wings once the puck drops, and both Hudler and coach Hartley told the calgary Sun's Rany Sportak that tonight, the Flames hope to put a short memory to use regarding both their Saturday night snafu and Lidstrom:

“I never live with past games,” head coach Bob Hartley said. “I told the boys this morning we did lots of great things. We did lots of things to build on, but we have three big games on the road. It’s gonna show our team who we are and keep building. Apart from the results from the past games, I see many positive things going on.”

Positive vibes and moral victories are great, but they don’t mean wins, and the Flames know it. A 48-game season has a small window to make up ground.

“Without looking at the standings, we have to generate some wins, generate momentum, and I think we’ll get good confidence out of this,” Hartley said. “I would like see our guys getting rewarded, because I think they deserve better.”

Hudler, who spent seven seasons in Detroit where winning is a part of life, said the key is to just play and not worry about where they are in the standings.

“If you’re going to be biting your nails, it’s not going to help,” he said. “We have a lot of games coming up, so just look forward, not look back. If we play like we did against Chicago, we should be fine.”

Sticking with the "pertinent to tonight's game" stuff, CalgaryFlames.com's Aaron Vickers offered a quip from Hudler about facing Datsyuk and Zetterberg...

Despite playing parts of seven seasons alongside the duo, Hudler doesn’t have any insider tips on how to shut down the likes of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, who of the game’s most offensively gifted forwards.

“I think the whole league is still trying to figure out how to play against Z and Pav’s,” Hudler said. “They’re phenomenal players and its always tough.”

And in terms of the road trip...

With a 1-3-2 record heading into a three-game set against the Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets and Vancouver Canucks, points are at a premium with the team away from Calgary according to captain Jarome Iginla.

“It’s a very important road trip for us,” Iginla said. “We have games at hand. Right now we’re at the bottom but we have three games and you win those three games, you’d be right in the playoff mix. It is a shortened year, we know that.”

The schedule, albeit tight, works for coach Bob Hartley.

“It’s going to be good plus it’s a good situation because we’ve got three games in five nights, a day in between each game,” he said. “We’re going to be able to get decent quality practice time and we’re going to be able to spend time together. I think it’s going to be a good building block for us but at the same time, we need to cash in on our chances and rack up some wins.”

But the 1-3-and-2 record indicates two losses--two shootout losses--and if the Flames (who are almost completely healthy, with Anton Babchuk likely to return from a shoulder injury at some point during the Flames' trip) find themselves in a shootout with the Wings, the Flames insisted to the Calgary Sun's Wes Gilbertson that they'll get the job done, but Gilbertson isn't convinced:

“It seems like a coin-toss,” Tanguay said — once again — after Saturday’s devastating 3-2 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at the Saddledome. The coin is bound to flip our way sometime soon.”

You could forgive Flames fans for thinking their team might be using a one-sided coin. And it keeps coming up losses. The Flames posted a 3-9 record in the shootout during the 2011-12 campaign, including setbacks in their final five of the season. That losing streak hit a half dozen Jan. 23 in Vancouver, where Tanguay was the only Flames marksman to cash in before Canucks brute Zack Kassian finally ended it in the fifth round. Saturday’s winner-take-all showdown with the Blackhawks only lasted half that long.

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“It’s such a slim margin between winning and losing and, for some reason, it’s not coming our way right now and we have to make it work,” Tanguay reiterated before Monday’s charter flight to Detroit, the first stop on a three-game road-trip. I made a good move (against the Blackhawks), I’ve just gotta get the puck up and, for some reason, the puck doesn’t get up. That’s certainly very frustrating. We had a couple of good chances and then they come in and (Kane) tries to go five-hole and it goes far side and the puck goes in. It was a great move, but he was aiming five-hole and the puck goes far side and it goes in. What can you say?”

It’s fair to say the Flames would rather get it over with before the Zamboni is called upon to scrape the middle of the ice for the breakaway bonanza.

Since the tie-breaker format was changed after the 2004-05 NHL lockout, only three franchises — the Ottawa Senators, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Carolina Hurricanes — have collected fewer wins than the Flames in the shootout.

The crew from Calgary is 26-42 all-time in the showdown, which includes a dreadful 6-20 record on home ice and a respectable 20-22 mark on the road.

In the multimedia department--and there is always lots of multimedia when Canadian teams come to town--TSN's Jermain Franklin filed a Flames report that is non-embeddable, if you're interested in audio, The Fan 960 posted clips of coach Hartley, Iginla, Tanguay and Hudler speaking to the media, and the Flames' website posted clips of Tanguay and Hudler talking about playing against Lidstrom...


Hudler talking about returning to Detroit...

And the media scrums held by Iginla, Mike Cammalleri, and Hartley, which you can click on if you're interested.

The Calgary Herald's Kristen Odland offers a prospective Flames lineup in her "Game Day" preview...

[For the Flames,] KEEP YOUR EYE ON LW JIRI HUDLER: The Czech forward is making his first trip back to Detroit since signing with Calgary in the off-season. Since his debut against the Edmonton Oilers, he’s been living up to the hype of being an offensive scoring threat with two goals and three assists in three games.

THE LINES

M. Cammalleri A. Tanguay J. Iginla

J. Hudler M. Stajan R. Cervenka

C. Glencross M. Backlund L. Stempniak

S. Begin B. Comeau B. Jones/T. Jackman

THE PAIRINGS

M. Giordano J. Bouwmeester

T.J. Brodie D. Wideman

C. Sarich A. Babchuk

THE GOALIES

M. Kiprusoff

L. Irving

THE INJURIES

LW Sven Baertschi (hip flexor)

And CalgaryFlames.com's Aaron Vickers offers the following Wings scouting report:

A Western Conference powerhouse, the Detroit Red Wings haven’t missed the playoffs since the 1989-90 season – earning four Stanley Cup Championships during that span. But after the retirements of future hall-of-fame defenceman and seven-time Jammes Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom and perennial thorn Tomas Holmstrom this offseason, many have projected the Red Wings are primed to be clipped.

New captain Henrik Zetterberg and constant threat Pavel Datsyuk are poised to ensure that will not happen under their watch. The pair are both in the top-20 in National Hockey League scoring. If that duo continues to shine and Detroit can get solid goaltending out of starter Jimmy Howard, the team will be poised to keep flying yet again.

THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH

DAMIEN BRUNNER: Dipping into the European ranks in a similar fashion Calgary did with Roman Cervenka, the Red Wings nabbed Brunner and have to be pleased with his performance thus far. The Zurich, Switzerland product has produced well, scoring four times in eight games for the Red Wings this season and also has a Datsyukian shootout winner to his credit as well. Earning just $1.35 million this season, Brunner has proved to be an early-season steal for Detroit.

PAVEL DATSYUK: Though he’s a four-time Lady Byng Trophy winner, Datsyuk’s treatment of opposing goalies is anything but gentlemanly. The six-time 25-goal scorer is known for his sparkling creativity and dazzling hands, making him one of the league’s craftier shootout players as well. With 10 points through the season’s first eight games, Datsyuk continues to be a threat opposing goaltenders watch for.

HENRIK ZETTERBERG: Zetterberg, named Detroit’s captain after the retirement of Niklas Lidstrom, currently leads all Red Wings in goals (5) and points (12). The former Conn Smythe and Frank J. Selke Trophy winner has been one of the league’s most dynamic forwards for the better part of a decade and Wayne Gretzky went so far as to tell NHL.com, “I think he’s the best Swedish player they’ve ever put into the National Hockey League, and there has been a lot of great ones, from (Borje) Salming to (Nicklas) Lidstrom.”

I tend to lean on NHL.com's game previews to shift focus from one team's perspective to the other team's perspective, but whoever was supposed to write the Wings-Flames preview is out to lunch, so we're going to go with the Associated Press's game preview as a pivot point instead:

[Flames coach Bob] Hartley remains optimistic even though the Flames are allowing 4.0 goals per contest and have one victory while playing five of six at home. They must try to get on track with the next three games coming on the road, where they're in the midst of an 0-2-4 stretch going back to last season.

Calgary, which last went winless in seven straight road games Jan. 26-Feb. 22, 2007, has dropped seven of nine overall against the Red Wings (4-3-1) and three of four at Detroit.

Star winger Jarome Iginla has yet to record a goal in 2013, but he has five with two assists in Calgary's last three visits to Detroit.

Flames forward Jiri Hudler has two goals and three assists in three games after missing the first three contests while on bereavement leave. The veteran now makes his return to Detroit, where he spent his first seven NHL seasons and posted at least 37 points in each of the last four before signing a four-year deal with Calgary over the summer.

The Red Wings have totaled 14 goals, including five on 19 power-play chances, during a three-game winning streak at Joe Louis Arena that followed a 2-1 home-opening loss to Dallas on Jan. 22. However, they are looking to rebound after Saturday's 4-2 defeat at Columbus. Detroit has been outscored 15-7 in four road games (1-2-1), going 0 for 22 on the power play.

Rookie Damien Brunner scored his fourth goal in six games Saturday and Johan Franzen added his second, but the Red Wings allowed more than three goals for the first time since a season-opening 6-0 loss at St. Louis.

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Jimmy Howard had his worst performance since the season opener but has a 2.35 goals-against average while winning seven of eight against the Flames. The lone defeat during that span came at home, 4-1 on Nov. 3, 2011.

Detroit will be without defenseman Brendan Smith for two to four weeks due to a sprained shoulder. It might get some help on the blue line if former Flame Ian White returns after missing the last five games with a leg injury. Two of White's seven goals last season came against Calgary.

The vast majority of Monday's Red Wings news involved injuries and call-ups. The Wings recalled Tomas Tatar and Petr Mrazek, who was subsequently named the AHL's Player of the Week, but the Wings also found out that Brendan Smith will miss a month with a right shoulder injury, and the fact that the Wings are going to give Darren Helm a bone scan today is bad news in terms of his attempts to recover from a sore back, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted (bone scan = trying to find out if there's a broken rib, shoulder blade or vertebra that isn't showing up on an x-ray):

Forward Darren Helm (back) will have a bone scan within the next couple of days to determine his progress. Helm hasn't skated the past few days and progress has been slow.

"Just trying to stay positive," said Helm, who has played only one game this season.

In theory, Ian White may be cleared to play tonight if the sutures holding his quadriceps muscles to his knee joint are holding up well enough in the eyes of the doctor who put them there, team orthopedist Douglas Plagens (I'm not sure whether that means that Brian Lashoff would continue to sit or whether Jakub Kindl would rotate out of the lineup)...

And down the line, the Wings hope that Petr Mrazek's recall will allow the team to sit down an overworked Jimmy Howard--with the Wings playing the Flames tonight, heading to St. Louis to play the Blues on Thursday and then holding matinee games at home on Saturday against Edmonton and Sunday against Los Angeles--as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted...

Mrazek is 16-7-1 with a 2.26 goals-against average and .916 save percentage for the Griffins.

"I was surprised when I got the call, it's been my dream to be in the NHL," Mrazek said. "It came true and I'm so happy."

Holland and Babcock said it's important to give starter Jimmy Howard some rest. Howard has started all eight games this season and is scheduled to start tonight.

"You have to give Howie a break, he can't play every single night," Babcock said. "Neither of the goalies on the shelf (Joey MacDonald or Jonas Gustavsson) appear to be coming back soon. We have to do something about that. (Mrazek) has played great."

But the Wings couldn't help but shake their heads at their continuing cavalcade of injuries on the blueline while speaking to DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose...

“If you go back to my first year when I first got called up, I think we almost had 10 guys from Grand Rapids up in the lineup,” Kronwall said. “All teams go through sooner or later. It’s now hit us, but we have to find a way through it.”

Kronwall made his NHL debut in Buffalo on Dec. 10, 2003 when the Red Wings were without forwards Steve Yzerman, Henrik Zetterebrg, Tomas Holmstrom, Darren McCarty, Steve Thomas and Ray Whitney, defensemen Chris Chelios and Darian Hatcher, and goalies Dominik Hasek and Manny Legace. Still, the Wings salvaged a road win that night, defeating the Sabres, 7-2.

Smith chalks up the Wings’ recent injuries to unfortunate circumstances.

“Just bad luck, I mean, with any injury everybody says bad luck, but it’s unbelievable how it seems to be hitting the D side,” Smith said. “It is bad luck, and in my case, for sure, I don’t even know how it even happened.”

Smith absorbed an open-ice hit from Blue Jackets center Derek MacKenzie near the midway point of the first period. Smith left the ice under his own power, and never returned to the game. Smith, who at the time of his injury was lead all Wings defensemen with a plus-4 rating, said he’s never dealt with a shoulder injury in the past.

“It’s frustrating, I mean, playing well and playing lots of minutes than going to not playing at all is very frustrating,” he said. “Being injured sucks to begin with, but just playing pretty well with lots of minutes than going to playing none is frustrating.”

Meanwhile, Ian White, who was injured on Jan. 22 when the heel of Jimmy Howard’s skate blade punctured the defenseman’s left thigh, believes that he may play against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday. The Wings are still down three defensemen, meaning if White isn’t ready to return to the lineup Tuesday, rookie Brian Lashoff – who had expected to be returned to Grand Rapids over the weekend – will step in.

“I just told Lash two days ago he was going to Grand Rapids,” Babcock said. “Just shows you I lied to him. The truth in our game today and the truth tomorrow are different. Lash was on his way back but now he’s staying.”

And Ian White told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that he believes that he's going to be ready to play tonight...

“You’re just getting your legs under you and this happens,” White said. “I really didn’t do anything for a better part of 10 days so I’ll probably have a little bit of rust again. The only way to get that off is to get into game action.”

But the injury news is pretty crappy otherwise:

Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) has skated on his own, but remains at least two weeks away.

...
Darren Helm (back) has yet to skate since suffering a setback after playing his first game of the season, Jan. 25. He’s scheduled to have a bone scan Tuesday to see if there’s any structural damage.

...

Forward Mikael Samuelsson (groin) has skated on his own for the last two days, but isn’t ready to put a time frame on when he’ll return. He’s played in just two games this year.

Goalie Jonas Gustavsson (groin) still isn’t ready to return after making a relief appearance in the season opener. He skated Monday and said things felt good and he was going to skate a little harder Tuesday.

There was one wrinkle placed in the Wings' lineup with Tatar coming up to theoretically help jump-start the team's "bottom-six" forwards, however, and that might be the most intriguing bit of news heading into tonight's game. MLive's Ansar Khan reported that the Wings skated with the following lines on Monday...

Johan Franzen-Henrik Zetterberg-Damien Brunner

Valtteri Filppula-Pavel Datsyuk-Tomas Tatar

Daniel Cleary-Justin Abdelakder-Todd Bertuzzi

Drew Miller-Cory Emmerton-Jorin Tootoo

Patrick Eaves rotating in on the third and fourth lines.

Niklas Kronwall-Jonathan Ericsson

Kyle Quincey-Ian White

Kent Huskins-Jakub Kindl

Brian Lashoff rotated in

White (leg laceration) said he believes he can play Tuesday and is hoping to be cleared by doctors today.

Jimmy Howard

Petr Mrazek

Joey MacDonald

So it appears that instead, Wings coach Mike Babcock will attempt to use Todd Bertuzzi's size to help wake Danny Cleary from his offensive slumber on a line with Justin Abdelkader, and that he's going to keep the Miller-Emmerton-Tootoo line together as Miller and Tootoo were really the Wings' best forwards outside their "top six" in both last Friday's win against the Blues and in Saturday's loss against Columbus, especially after the bottom seemed to fall out from beneath almost every other player.

Tatar, who's tied with Gustav Nyquist for the scoring lead in Grand Rapids with 39 points, told Khan that he's ready to contribute alongside Datsyuk and Filppula, or with who(m)ever he ends up sharing ice time...

“That’s a big chance for me to show that I can play,'' Tatar, 22, said. “They are two really good players, so I’m really excited and looking forward to the game.''

...

“I’m that kind of guy that has been producing down there, so I think this (top six) is the right spot for me,'' Tatar said. “We’ll see how I’m going to do there. Guys are going to help me out there. I’m going to talk to them a bit. It’s really a big opportunity for me. I’ve never really played with big guys like that in the NHL. This is something new and I’m really excited.''

Listed at 5-11, 176, Tatar has good offensive instincts. He skates well, competes hard, has the ability to beat defenders one-on-one and has a good shot. Tatar said he's been playing in all situations for the Griffins, who the play the same system as the Red Wings, so he shouldn't have a problem adjusting. He is anxious for the opportunity to play with Datsyuk.

“I played against him in the World Championships; I know it’s tough,'' Tatar said. “I hope when we play together we’ll hopefully make it tougher on someone else. I need to keep my stick on the ice for a pass because he’s got great vision. He’s one of the best players in the league. I don’t know what to expect, but it’s going to be fun for sure.''

...

Tatar said he's improved his skating in Grand Rapids and is faster.

“I did the skating treadmill,'' Tatar said. “I think I got faster. I can see results. It’s been a fun season down there so far, and I hope I continue it up here.''

And as Khan notes, Tatar got the call-up ahead of Nyquist both because he's played in more games in the AHL--to the point that he was starting to drop, "If they don't want me to play at the NHL level, maybe they should trade me" hints last summer--and because he scored a hat trick last Friday. In other words, the organization's throwing a good soldier a bone to make sure he knows that he's still a part of their future plans at the NHL level, and that's essential to do from time to time, even if Nyquist has been more of a demonstrative leader at times.

The Wings are happy to have him...

“He’s a fast player, very shifty. Crafty, too,'' [Niklas] Kronwall said. “Hopefully, his intensity can bring another level to our game.”

And Babcock told both the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan and DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose that he'll be happy to see, well, "Happy" back:

"We're big fans of Huds here, we still wish he was a Red Wing," Babcock said. "But that's a decision guys make and we wish him luck every night except when he plays against us. But it'll be good to see him."

Roose penned a more than click-worthy article titled, "Week Ahead in Hockeytown," and it examines all of this week's opponents, but the most pertinent quotes involve tonight's "guest":

For the second time this season, the Red Wings will face a stretch of three games in four days when they travel to St. Louis on Thursday then return to the friendly confines of Joe Louis Arena for back-to-back games against Edmonton and Los Angeles this weekend. But the action-packed week begins Tuesday when the Wings host former teammate Jiri Hudler and the Calgary Flames.

February is an important month for the Red Wings, who can capitalize on their favorable schedule. Detroit has eight games at home this month, including four straight beginning with the Oilers on Saturday.

“When you got the good schedule you have to take advantage of it,” coach Mike Babcock said.

Getting points, especially against teams, like the Flames, who are last place in the Western Conference standings, is critical if the Red Wings are to extend their 21 straight appearances in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“Good team, dying for points,” said Babcock, of Calgary. “They’re a team that needs to play well and we need to play well. Plus they’ll have Huds in the lineup. We’re big fans of Huds here. We still wish he was a Red Wing, but that’s a decision guys make and we wish him luck every night except when he plays against us.”

It's also worth noting that Jordin Tootoo made a telling comment to WXYZ's Brad Galli in an article Galli penned discussing the Wings' injury situation:

"This is a veteran team. If I didn't think we could (win), I wouldn't be here," Jordin Tootoo said. "Every day is like the playoffs."

Tonight's game 9 for the Wings. By Sunday, the team will have played in 12 games, and what's 12 out of 48?

25% of the schedule. Gone before the Wings play their third and final game of the month against the Blues on Wednesday the 13th. So yes, it's like the playoffs, every day.

In the multimedia department, here's Galli's video report...

Fox 2's Jennifer Hammond filed a report from the Joe today as well...

 


And the Wings' website posted a non-embeddable video of Tatar speaking to the media, as well as click-and-watch-videos of Justin Abdelkader...

Mrazek...

And coach Babcock speaking to the media:

 

Normally, I'd leave the set-up portion of a blog entry with Babcock's words, but as we're talking about prospects and their futures with the team, the good news for Mrazek, as noted by the Detroit Free Press's George Sipple, seems to portend a gloomy and/or limited future with the team for a certain Tom McCollum unless he heads back to Grand Rapids with his head held high--and then works his ass off while Mrazek spend the next week or two as Howard's back-up:

Babcock didn't commit to playing Mrazek this week, but the Wings play four times over the next six days. Jonas Gustavsson (groin) and Joey MacDonald (back) aren't ready to back up Jimmy Howard tonight.

"At some point in time this week, we have to play another goalie beside Jimmy Howard," general manager Ken Holland said.

It won't be Tom McCollum, 23, who was sent back to Grand Rapids. McCollum hadn't played for the Wings this season and was a disappointment the past two seasons in Grand Rapids. His 2.69 goals-against average and .899 save percentage in 17 games at Grand Rapids this season are his best since turning pro.

"He's starting to show the promise that our scouts saw in him when we drafted him," Holland. "He's gotta continue one game at a time putting a résumé together, and at some point he'll get an opportunity."

Also of Red Wings-related note: In the prospect department, Mrazek wasn't the only young Wings-drafted player who received an accolade on Monday. In the informal department, Hockey's Future's Kevin Forbes deemed Blainville-Boisbriand Armada captain and signed prospect Xavier Ouellet to be the best NHL-drafted defenseman playing in the QMJHL, and formally speaking, from the Ontario Hockey League, a certain defenseman who the Wings signed to an entry-level deal on the same day they inked Ouellet received quite the nod (via RedWingsFeed):

The Ontario Hockey League today announced that defenceman Ryan Sproul of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds is the OHL Player of the Week for the week ending February 3 after scoring three goals and three assists for six points in two games with a plus-minus rating of plus-1.

Sproul helped the Greyhounds earn two big comeback wins on the road against tough West Division opponents in Plymouth and Saginaw.  On Friday night he recorded a career-high five points with two goals and three assists as first star of a 6-5 win over the Whalers.  Trailing 2-0 early in the first period, Sproul’s 15th goal of the season put the Hounds on the board at the 11:04 mark.  He later added goal number 16 on the power play at 19:37 of the second period which gave the Hounds a 4-3 lead, before setting up Andrew Fritsch for his 17th of the season at 17:20 of the third period which held as the game-winner.  On Saturday night Sproul’s third period goal was the Hounds’ third unanswered coming back to tie the score 3-3 in a game they went on to win 5-4 in a shootout over the Spirit with Sproul claiming third star honours.

Sproul, a 20-year-old from Mississauga, ON, is playing in his third OHL season with the Greyhounds.  Selected in the second round of the 2011 NHL Draft by the Detroit Red Wings, Sproul is now tied for first among OHL defencemen in scoring with 47 points including 17 goals and 30 assists in just 34 games played.

Also considered for the award this week was fellow Red Wings prospect Alan Quine of the Belleville Bulls who scored two goals and seven assists for nine points in three games, and defenceman Anthony DeAngelo of the Sarnia Sting who scored once with six assists for seven points in three games.  In goal, Matej Machovsky of the Brampton Battalion went 2-0-0-1 with one shutout posting a goals-against-average of 1.30 and save percentage of .953.

In the "activities" deaprtment, DetroitRedWings.com's Christy Hammond announced that the Wings will be holding viewing parties at the MotorCity Casino's Sound Board this season;

Ditto, except involving a slightly more famous Wing: 97.1 the Ticket is holding its annual Sport Fest at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi (I'm not sure if I'm gonna attend...If I do, it's in my frickin' backyard, so maybe a few TMR'ers could get together) on Saturday, February 16th (the Wings play the Ducks on Friday the 15th and in Minnesota on Sunday the 17th, but the 16th is an "off day"), and the Detroit Free Press notes that two new members of the alumni department will be attending the event:

The question is, will he bring his skates with him? Nicklas Lidstrom is slated to be back in town for 97.1 the Ticket's fourth annual SportsFest, Feb. 16 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.

Fellow Red Wings retiree Tomas Holmstrom is supposed to be there, too, along with current and former Lions and Pistons.

In the multimedia department, via RedWingsFeed, NHL.com's E.J. Hradek mentioned the Wings' 2008 Cup championship in his "E.J. 5"...

 

Oh joy, it's time for power rankings:  As you know, they're my least-favorite lists, but I've got to mention them. ESPN's Scott Burnside kicks off the first crop of this week's power rankings...

13. Detroit [record] 4-3-1 Last Week: 13 The Wings are starting to cook offensively, although the loss to Columbus Saturday blunts some of the positive feelings created by a big win over St. Louis the night before. Niklas Kronwall, with seven assists, is assuming a much bigger role offensively for the Red Wings. But they need to find some relief for workhorse Jimmy Howard in net.

And the Wings rose a spot in TSN's Scott Cullen's rankings (Cullen also raved about Jiri Hudler and Kronwall in his fantasy hockey coulmn)...

Detroit Red Wings This Week: 16Last Week: 17

The Red Wings opened the season with their biggest question being their defence corps, following the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, so they are hardly equipped to deal with the injuries they've been saddled with on the blueline. Fortunately, C Pavel Datsyuk and LW Henrik Zetterberg are great enough to keep them treading water in the meantime.

But Sportsline's Adam Gretz believes that there's a simple reason behind the team's mildly bipolar start...

14. Red Wings [last week 17]: Talk about up and down. The Wings followed up a big win over St. Louis at home by losing on the road in Columbus. Just when you think they have it going that happens. ... Jimmy Howard really needs some help. He's played all but 18:45 this season, starting every game.

And Fox Sports' A.J. Perez offers a reason why I'm starting to think that, after adding a defenseman in such a manner as to not bankrupt the prospect pipeline, the Wings may want to add yet another speedy fourth line forechecker:

12  Red Wings [up 1, highest/lowest] 12/18: The Wings are dinged. Forward Darren Helm is set to have further tests on his back, zapping an already struggling offense of some needed speed.

But things aren't all bad, as the New York Post's David Satriano suggests.

13) Red Wings (4-3-1) ([last week] 20): Veteran Henrik Zetterberg had a hat trick and figured in all five goals in Detroit's 5-3 win over St. Louis on Friday. If only the power play could get going.

The Wings "just missed" out on cracking NHL.com's Dave Lozo's "Super 16," and I'm sure we'll be graced with the persence of more power rankings today...

And as I make it a point of trying to be as nice as possible in terms of accepting dissenting opinions as valid parts of Red Wings-related conversations, even if I feel that some are slightly daffy, I'll simply suggest that you read Yahoo Sports' Ryan Lambert's take on the Marquette Mining Journal's Craig Remsburg's suggestion that the Wings don't need a defenseman, but instead, need a top-line forward, on your own.

Update: I'd been working on this since about 11 PM on the 4th, so of course, as soon as I finally fix most of the spelling errors and click "submit," NHL.com's preview finally pops up. Here are the highlights of Deborah Francisco's preview:

Season series: This will be the first of three meetings between the teams. Last season they split a four-game series, with the Red Wings prevailing in their last matchup 3-1 in Calgary on Jan. 31, 2012.

Big story: Detroit hopes to notch its fourth consecutive home win Tuesday night. Calgary has played just one road game so far this season, a 3-2 shootout loss at Vancouver. As eager as the Red Wings are to extend their winning ways on home ice, the Flames are even more eager to snatch up two points and climb the standings.

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Comments

MsRedWinger's avatar

Happy birthday, George!

cool smile

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 02/05/13 at 09:47 AM ET

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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.