Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Flames set-up and overnight report: the thin line between competing and rebuilding

The Detroit Red Wings begin the road-heaviest portion of their schedule tonight against the Calgary Flames tonight (9:30 PM EDT, FSD/TSN/AM 1270), and as the Wings hope to rebound from their crappy 0-and-2 weekend series against Columbus, and the Wings begin a slate of 3 games in 4 nights in Calgary, Edmonton and then Vancouver by facing off against a team whose status depends on whose story you believe.

Technically the Wings were just "winless" this past weekend just as, technically, the Wings have a 12-9-and-5 record over the course of 26 games played, good for 6th in the Western Conference. While even I resorted to some wailing and gnashing of teeth regarding the Wings' craptastic weekend, the team still believes that it's got what it takes to turn around its crappy road record and 0-for-36 road power play in a hurry, and it hopes that Valtteri Filppula's highly probable return and Gustav Nyquist's highly controversial recall will inject some badly-needed offense into the mix...

All while attempting to turn around a 3-5-and-2 road record while playing 7 of this month's remaining 9 games away from Joe Louis Arena.

While Wings GM Ken Holland's "steady as she goes" comments to MLive's Ansar Khan and the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness raised many Wings fans' eyebrows (while I was setting up laptop #5 of the past two weeks), Holland had already told ESPN's Pierre LeBrun that he wasn't anticipating making any roster moves (save Nyquist's recall) on Monday afternoon...

The Red Wings, coming off back-to-back losses to Columbus, are expecting a couple of key players back the next seven to 10 days.

"We expect [Valtteri] Filppula back this week at some point on the Western Canada trip," GM Ken Holland told ESPN.com Monday. "We’re expecting Darren Helm to come back after that trip, either at home to Minnesota or for the California trip. So we’ll get a few bodies back the next four or five games."

Nothing imminent on the trade front, Holland said as of Monday, citing the incredible closeness of the NHL standings as a major contributing factor. The veteran Wings GM believes a lot of teams need to wait closer to April 3 before deciding what they want to do.

And we're sticking with ESPN as a source because LeBrun's partner in analysis in Scott Burnside declared that "the Flames are cooked" on Tuesday morning:

For the first time, as part of the new CBA every team that does not qualify for the playoffs will have at least a remote shot at “earning” the first overall draft pick in late June. Still, it pays to really stink if you want to maximize your shot at Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon or Jonathan Drouin.

To that end, the Calgary Flames appear determined to put their stamp on the snails' race to last place in the NHL. They’ve got some stiff competition in Florida, and Edmonton, Columbus, Buffalo, Tampa and Washington might yet have a say in the stink-off. But after dropping a 3-1 decision to the Kings on Monday night in Los Angeles, it’s hard to imagine the Flames being anywhere but firmly entrenched at the bottom of the heap when the sediment settles at the end of the regular season.

The Flames were outscored 13-3 on a three-game West Coast trip that included two miserable stops at the Staples Center, where the Kings illustrated just how far away the Flames are ... from anywhere, really. The Kings have won nine of 11, outscoring opponents 49-29. Remarkably, they are 95-1-10 when leading after two periods in their last 106 games.

The Flames? After Miikka Kiprusoff returned from a knee injury last week and guided the Flames to a 4-1 victory over San Jose at home, one wondered if the Flames would banish the odor of the Ryan O’Reilly offer-sheet debacle with a period of strong play and a subsequent surge into the playoff picture in the Western Conference. One didn’t need to wonder long, as Kiprusoff reverted to his recent disappointing form, giving up 10 goals on 46 shots in two losses and forcing coach Bob Hartley to go with Joey MacDonald on Monday night.

The Flames are officially at the midpoint of their schedule and are in 15th place in the conference, six points out of eighth place. They are cooked. All eyes will be on the Flames and the approaching April 3 trade deadline. At some point, GM Jay Feaster will have to deal with the Jarome Iginla situation as the Flames captain approaches the end of his contract. Why on earth would Iginla stay in Calgary? Why on earth would a team on a collision course with a fourth straight miss of the playoff dance want to do anything but bring in as many valuable young assets as possible? An age-old question, as it turns out. Iginla is an obvious asset who would generate significant interest on the trade market.

The Calgary Sun's Eric Francis agreed with Burnside's assessment in a column penned on Monday night...

It’s now impossible for ownership and management to continue the years of denial that have seen them stubbornly refuse to be intellectually honest about where the team stands. Or is it impossible?

Heading into Monday night’s game in L.A., the Flames had lost nearly one-third (7-of-23) of all their games by three goals or more. Surely in a league that prides itself on parity, few can suggest the Flames are even remotely close to being contenders for anything more than a top draft pick.

Sure, Jiri Hudler and Dennis Wideman were decent signings last summer, and there are glimmers of hope from time to time. But then, even the Columbus Blue Jackets won 29 times last year, proving every dog can have its day. One the verge of four years without a playoff spot and no draft picks higher than No. 13 to show for it, many fans are now officially focused on what could be the most exciting news in years — a lottery pick. You get that by doing what the Flames are getting good at — losing.

A growing number of fans now want the message to be sent loud and clear to ownership and management that significant changes must occur. It’s so obvious. There must be wholesale changes. A cultural shift. No longer can Jay Feaster be a buyer at the trade deadline. It’s time to sell, sell, sell.

That doesn’t necessarily mean blow things up as the Edmonton Oilers, the Florida Panthers, and the Atlanta Thrashers have proven over the last handful of years that complete tear-downs don’t guarantee anything. Just stop mortgaging the future for the faint hope the team can squeak into the playoffs. Focus entirely on getting younger in a young man’s league.

And the Calgary Sun's Randy Sportak agreed on Tuesday evening, albeit while adding optimism to the equation...

Granted, we’re talking about a team that does not have the young talent to make noticeable changes. Defenceman T.J. Brodie has taken a solid step forward in his third professional season. Young forward Sven Baertschi is going through the ups and down of being a first-year pro. It’s been a more difficult jump than expected, but his day will come. You can count Roman Cervenka as a young player, being his first year in the NHL. But after that, though, which youngsters have earned a full-time gig in the league?

Still, we’ll throw out another phrase Mr. Feaster said to discuss his team: “Intellectual honesty.” Status-quo has not worked in the past, and there are no reasons to believe it will work in the future.

As much as Flames captain Jarome Iginla and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff have done for this organization in the past, they can’t continue to bear the bulk of the weight. Iginla is no longer the 27-year-old star who can dominate a game from start to finish.

Kiprusoff is not longer the netminder who can slam the door shut despite porous defence.

That’s not a knock on both those stars — it’s just a fact.

As much as adding players such as Alex Tanguay, Michael Cammalleri, Jay Bouwmeester and Jiri Hudler is supposed to take the pressure off those two, it hasn’t, because nobody has stepped up and taken control.

A look at the Flames shows this is a team in flux and needs somebody to make the tough decisions required to take a step forward. It’s time for the Flames to decide who are the players to build around going forward the next few years.

And the master of nuanced bombast, the Calgary Herald's George Johnson (see: Steve Simmons and/or Larry Brooks impact minus 99% of the cynicism), simply suggests that, and I quote, the, "Soft, aging Flames [are] stuck with familiar calamity as [the] stretch drive approaches":

General manager Jay Feaster’s words of a year ago hang in the air, ominously:

“If the idea,” he proclaimed then, “is, ‘Burn it to the ground,’ then [Flames president] Ken [King] can find another manager to do it.”

That he may. Kindling, anyone?

You wonder how those two-peas-in-a-pod [coach Bob] Hartley and Feaster are actually getting along these days, considering that two of the players the GM chose to re-up, Cory Sarich — two years, $4 million — and Anton Babchuk — two years, $5 million — are reduced to press-box regulars on Bob’s watch.

Hartley is beginning to find out what Brent Sutter, nodding knowingly out in Red Deer, already knew only too well. The immediate future looks bleak. The Iginla issue has been left too late, by a year or two. This reimagining isn’t working. Standing pat, the status quo, is unthinkable. The idea of a complete overhaul means long-term pain of a different variety.  Welcome to their world.

As for the prospects of a stirring second-half uprising, well, sorry but this city has lived through this dance of death and deception before. Mop-up goaltender Joey MacDonald seems a pretty jovial fella, in that relaxed Maritimer kinda way. He’s only been around a few weeks, but already he’s got the dogma down word-perfect, as if he were a longtime resident.

“I felt our last two periods,” said MacDonald following the 3-1 loss at the Staples Centre, “were the best periods of the trip. So we need to take the positives and move on.”

Take positives. Move on. Heard those before. Often. Good on ya, Joey, but move on to WHERE, exactly? Why, the mind positively reels.

Hell, Sportsnet's one-uped its bigger competitor, TSN, in making its videos emebeddable in humble blogs like this one, and its Darren Millard, Mike Keenan and Nick Kypreos spent Tuesday evening talking about Iginla and Kiprusoff being moved...

And Kypreos, John Shannon and Chris Johnston insisted that the Flames must be reluctant "sellers" come trade deadline time, though Shannon duly notes that the Flames don't believe that they're sellers or that they need to rebuild:

From an outsider's perspective, all I can offer is: Huh? The Wings are 12-9-and-5 (12 and 14) after 26 games, and even after losing three straight, the Flames had begun March with 2 straight wins, and went 6-4-and-3 in February.

After 24 games played--two less than Detroit--the 9-11-and-4 Flames do sit in last place in the West with 22 points, but 26 points in the playoff cut-off, and the Wings have 28 points. Had the Flames even taken three points out of their losses against Anaheim (4-0 last Friday) or one of their two losses against Los Angeles (6-2 on Saturday and 3-1 on Monday), we'd be talking about a very different scenario.

Frankly, it's equally important to remember how badly the Flames made the Wings look in the process of defeating Detroit 4-1 on February 5th, too. Just as the Blue Jackets don't give a rat's ass about the uncertainty they face as a probable "rebuilding" team once again, and just as the high-flying Oilers will give the Wings all they can handle on Friday, the gritty, sandpapery Flames will try to check the Wings into the end boards and then set up shop in front of Jimmy Howard, all while cycling the puck down low (the Flames play a similar game to the Sharks...and the Blue Jackets, for that matter).

They're expecting neither sympathy nor anything less than more of the same scrutiny they've endured during their past losing campaigns, as coach Bob Hartley and his players told the Calgary Herald's Vicki Hall...

“Again, that’s part of our job,” Hartley was saying after the Flames fell 3-1 to the LA Kings Monday night to mark the end of a dreadful California road trip. “Trades, firing, fans happy, fans frustrated — we’re in the sports business. We’re in the entertainment business. That’s the job that we chose.”

At the midway point of the season, the Flames have the dubious distinction as the oldest team in the league. For the third straight year, they have 22 points after 24 games. In other words the trajectory of this group is hardly headed in an upward direction.

“I don’t see any distraction,” Hartley stated firmly. “There’s going to be lots of stuff being said.If you want to focus on those things, it’s not going to help our hockey club, that’s for sure.”

...

“I think the names that are out there are veteran names,” [Mike] Cammalleri said. “We have been in the business long enough to know why this speculation takes place and what may or may not happen.”

...

“How can we control it?” Cammalleri said when asked about potential movement at the deadline. “We go win five games in a row, and I doubt they’re going to trade anybod. If we don’t, it’s a reality that you have to be aware of.”

...

In midst of all this uncertainty the Flames must prepare for the next monumental challenge in shutting down Pavel Datsyuk and the surging Red Wings. In spite of the all the turmoil, the game goes on.

“Obviously, we need to bring it on the ice, but tomorrow morning is another day,” Hartley said Monday night before heading back to the team hotel. “Just look around in your neighbourhood. Look around in your society. There’s much worse than losing a couple of games in hockey. So I think you get right back and you go to work. It’s as simple as this.No one feels sorry for us. That’s the way it is. We just have to find a way to be better.”

Hartley insisted to the Calgary Sun's Wes Gilbertson that his team is giving its all...

“You can’t fault the effort — I think the effort is there,” Hartley said. “It’s a couple of reads. You look at their first goal — (Dustin) Brown gets the puck by himself beside the net. We all know who is supposed to cover that area.”

The culprit on that goal was workhorse blueliner Jay Bouwmeester. Not long after, NHL newbie Roman Cervenka was spotted wandering around his own zone as Jarret Stoll ripped a shot from the slot for the eventual winner.In a four-minute span, the Flames essentially proved what their coach had told reporters hours earlier.

“It is a game of mistakes — nobody goes out there to make mistakes on purpose,” Hartley said after Monday’s morning skate. “They’re great guys. They’re good workers. I think they give us all they’ve got. But lately, a couple of mistakes here and there, and the puck ends up in our net. A little bad luck or stuff like this? Maybe, but I’m not a big buyer of luck or bad luck.”

And while "the numbers" are stacked against the Flames, even the Calgary Sun's Randy Sportak found two positives about the Flames' first-half performance that the Wings can't boast to possessing themselves:

3. A powerplay that’s actually scoring Yes, it was a tough go with the man-advantage during the recent three-game losing skid, but the Flames powerplay has been a success story this season.

Before puck dropped on Tuesday’s action, the Flames sat 11th in the league with a 19.3% rating on the powerplay (17-for-88). And that’s after scoring just once in 13 chances over the last four games.

If you want proof the Flames have put together a more talented squad, there it is. They still allow too many advantages go by the wayside because of an inability to gain the zone, but having a couple of units which can score on the powerplay is a huge advantage.

4. Goals, goals, goals: After watching last year’s Flames team flounder offensively — they finished 24th in the league in goals for — any improvement is welcome. Right now, they’re right in the middle of the league in scoring.

Sure, creating offence this season has come at a cost to the defensive game, but if we’re talking about a team that’s going to miss the playoffs, it may as well be at least entertaining.

For the most part, the Flames games have at least been interesting, and after three seasons of low-scoring dull games that didn’t mean the playoffs, that’s a good thing. The scoring-by-committee approach hasn’t meant more victories, but to their credit, the Flames have been getting offence from all corners.

The Calgary Herald's Scott Cruickshank believes that the Flames will employ the following lineup against the Wings...

The Lines

* Tanguay Stajan Iginla

* Hudler Cammalleri Stempniak

* Comeau Backlund Cervenka

* McGrattan Begin Jackman

The Pairings

* Brodie Bouwmeester

* Giordano Wideman

* Butler Sarich

The Goalies

* Kiprusoff

* MacDonald

The Injuries

* C Paul Byron (hand), LW Curtis Glencross (wrist)

And, among his "5 things to watch":

2. COLD WINGS — Detroit arrives in Calgary having mined only a single point out of a home-and-home weekend with Columbus. Now, with 22 dates remaining, the Wings have 14 on the road, including the three-game swing through Western Canada. “It’s definitely going to be tough, but there’s not excuses because we’re going out on the road,” G Jimmy Howard told the Detroit News. “We’ve got to find a way to get dirty wins. It’s just going to the net and hopefully getting some puck luck. I don’t think we’ve really been on it, as of late, and hopefully we can break out of it, on this road trip.” The Wings have made the playoffs for 21 straight years, but they awoke Tuesday only two points north of ninth.

3. THE WHITE (DOG) HOUSE — Former Calgary D Ian White snuck back in to the Wings lineup Sunday after six straight healthy scratches. Not that coach Mike Babcock had been singing his praises. Far from it. “Going into this game, in his last six he was minus-six — the math doesn’t work,” said Babcock. “I go through this time and time again with players and the media. The players decide who plays, not me. If you play good, you get to keep playing. If you don’t, you don’t.” White, by the way, was plus-one in Sunday’s 3-2 shootout loss to Columbus.

4. ROAD-TRIP REVISIT — Here is one final rummaging through the rubble of a three-loss road trip, a junket in which the Flames were outscored 13-3. Three Flames, in particular, took plus-minus beatings — D Chris Butler, LW Jiri Hudler, LW Michael Cammalleri were all minus-five. At minus-four had been C Roman Cervenka and RW Blake Comeau. Comeau, however, did dish out a total of 15 hits, while RW Jarome Iginla was credited with 12. D Dennis Wideman blocked eight shots, while Butler stopped six. Leading the club in points had been LW Alex Tanguay, who picked up one goal and one assist.

5. INS, OUTS, WHAT-HAVE-YOUS — Calgary is 17th in goals-for. Detroit? Remarkably, one slot south . . . At 3.29, the Flames sit 28th in team goals-against. Only the New York Islanders and Florida are worse . . . Without D Nick Lidstrom and RW Tomas Holmstrom, the Wings’ power-play is uncharacteristically shabby, only 26th . . . Believe it or not, Calgary is among the league’s leaders with 26 first-period goals, but 28th in second-period goals, 16th for third-period goals . . . Averaging 9.6 minutes, the Flames continue to be the most lightly penalized side in the NHL . . . Calgary’s team rating of minus-15 slots it 27th . . . Calgary and Detroit are 28th and 29th in hits. Chicago, of all teams, is the only squad with fewer belts . . . The Flames and Wings are amongst the bottom-feeders when it comes to one-goal games. The former's winning percentage is .400 for 25th. The latter’s is .357 for 27th.

Oof.

NHL.com's Brian Hunter's game preview serves as our pivot point...

Season series: Second of three meetings. Mike Cammalleri set up three goals, including the game-winner by Curtis Glencross, as Calgary took a 4-1 win in Detroit on Feb. 5. On the down side, Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff had to leave the game after the second period with an MCL sprain and missed the next month.

...

Red Wings [team scope]: Used to beating up on traditional Central Division doormat Columbus over the years, Detroit instead saw its recent 5-1-1 run stymied by back-to-back games against the suddenly resurgent Blue Jackets. The Red Wings were blanked at Nationwide Arena on Saturday, then returned home on Sunday looking to turn the tables. Instead they found themselves playing catch-up throughout, as Jakub Kindl and Johan Franzen wiped out Columbus leads, but despite a Pavel Datsyuk goal to begin the shootout, Ryan Johansen and Matt Calvert scored in response, handing Detroit a 3-2 defeat.

....

Flames [team scope]: After managing to tread water in Kiprusoff's absence with a combination of Leland Irving, Joey MacDonald and Daniel Taylor, Calgary appeared to be trending in the right direction when Kiprusoff won his return against the Sharks on March 6. But the Flames were just swept on a three-game road trip, the last two in Los Angeles, and return to Scotiabank Saddledome in dire need of a hot streak to regain ground in the Western Conference playoff race.

"It was a big step in the wrong direction," captain Jarome Iginla told the Calgary Sun following Monday's 3-1 loss. "We get to go home, and we've gotta win games, but this trip definitely put us a ways back. We have to play better. We have to find ways to out-compete the other teams. We have to find ways to win. This was a close game … but they found a way to win it. That's what we haven't been doing enough lately."

Who's hot: Kindl has goals in two of the past three games for the Red Wings. Howard is only 2-1-2 over his past five starts, but hasn't given up more than two goals in any of those games and boasts a .958 save percentage. … Mikael Backlund has two goals in the past three games for the Flames. Alex Tanguay has a goal and an assist over the past two games.

Injury report: Detroit defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) and forwards Darren Helm (back), Todd Bertuzzi (back), Mikael Samuelsson (finger) and Valtteri Filppula (shoulder) are on injured reserve. … Glencross missed Monday's game for Calgary with an upper-body injury. Forward Paul Byron (hand) is on injured reserve.

The Associated Press's game preview offers some stats of note...

Still searching for their first road power-play goal, the Red Wings hope to continue their recent success in Calgary while handing the Flames a season-high fourth straight loss Wednesday night.

Detroit (12-9-5) ranks near the top of the league in converting power-play chances at home at 22.1 percent (15 of 68), but is 0 for 36 at home while going 3-5-2. The 10-game road drought without a power-play goal equals that of the 2000-01 Minnesota Wild for the longest to start a season since 1987-88, and the stretch of consecutive failed power-play chances is fourth-longest in that span.

...

The Flames (9-11-4) let their opponents have only two power plays in a recently completed three-game road trip but allowed goals on both. They've killed 14 of 15 penalties at home, where they have won four straight.

Detroit went 1 for 4 with the man advantage during a 4-1 home loss to the Flames on Feb. 5. The Red Wings are 2 for 32 on the power play over the last nine meetings in Calgary but have won five of their last six visits.

The Flames own a 16-8 scoring advantage while winning four straight at home, but hope to get back on track after being outscored 13-3 while losing at Anaheim and two straight at Los Angeles.

...

Iginla was limited to one assist on the trip but has four goals and six assists during a seven-game home point streak. He's failed to earn a point in two straight home games against the Red Wings but scored at Detroit last month.

Among the struggling Red Wings is Henrik Zetterberg, who has one goal in the past 19 games and two points over his last seven. Pavel Datsyuk is seeking his first goal in 11 games and Damien Brunner has none in the past seven.

And DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose offers a Wings-perspective take on tonight's opponent:

WEDNESDAY – at CALGARY FLAMES (9-10-4): The Flames are 4-5-1 in their last 10, but lost a pair of four-goal decisions in southern California last week. Veteran goalie Mikka Kiprusoff allowed 10 goals on 46 total shots in a 4-0 loss at Anaheim, before he was yanked in third period of a 6-2 loss at Los Angeles. … Injuries have been a problem for the Flames between the pipes this season, which forced management to claim backup netminder Joey MacDonald off waivers from Detroit last month. Joey Mac is 3-3-1 with a 2.96 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage in eight games since joining the Flames. However, Kiprusoff is finally healthy, and could begin to improve on his 3.43 GAA and .867 save percentage – both career lows. … Jiri Hudler has six assists in the last five games, and has 12 on the season, which leads the Flames.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Named an alternate captain this season, defenseman Jay Bouwmeester holds the longest current ironman streak in the NHL at 611 games – a streak that started on March 6, 2004 – which is sixth longest in league history behind Andy Hebenton (630), Craig Ramsey (776), Steve Larmer (884), Garry Unger (914) and Doug Jarvis (964). On March 15, 2011, he broke the NHL iron man streak by a defenseman at 496 (set by Colorado’s Karlis Skrastins at 495). Bouwmeester’s streak includes seven consecutive seasons without missing a game. He has a goal and four assists, but is a minus-1 in the last eight games. … Bouwmeester is still without a goal in 19 career games against the Red Wings.

The Wings took the somewhat strange step of staying in Detroit to practice at the Joe before flying out to Calgary on Tuesday afternoon, and one would certainly hope that the coaching staff addressed the power play. Wings coach Mike Babcock told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that he's well aware of the 0-for-the-road PP's status as a millstone...

“It’s well documented our power play’s clipping along at like 14 percent at home,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “It’s (ranked) ninth at home and it’s zero on the road. We haven’t scored a power play goal on the road. We need to get there. We need it for two reasons. One, obviously we need the goals but two, when your offensive people are scoring on the power play, it puffs them up and they’re that much better all around. Guys who score want to score. We have to put our work as a coaching staff and as a group of players into being effective on the power play.”

The Wings are 0-for-36 with the man advantage on the road.

“With our skill, the five guys that we can put out there it’s kind of mind boggling how we haven’t (scored any goals),” Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said. “But we really can’t think about it. We just have to go out there and pound pucks on net and hopefully one goes in off the shin pads.”

Though Babcock obviously remains optimistic about its potential:

“Obviously it’s not a confidence thing,” Babcock said. “Even the other day at home, not taking anything away from Columbus because they penalty kill real well, we had nothing on the 5 on 4 part. We scored a 5 on 3 goal. So the power play just has to get better.”

Monday's biggest developments involved Tomas Tatar being swapped out for Gustav Nyquist and Valtteri Filppula nearing a return from his left shoulder issue, as noted by MLive's Brendan Savage...

I think Filppula is back in so suddenly there's no power-play time for Tatar," coach Mike Babcock said. "You got to give Tats a ton of credit. He came up for one game ... and he earned himself 17 games. We'll give Gus an opportunity and see what he can earn himself.

"I thought (Tatar) played really good. I thought he did good things. The only thing is suddenly if you're not on the power play, where's he getting his touches? Because Filppula is going to do that. We don't perceive him ahead of Fil.

"Any way you look at it, that's less ice time for him and less opportunity. So we made that flip. (Nyquist) is getting an opportunity. We have an extra forward now. We need to take an extra forward on the trip. We'll see what happens."

Filppula has missed seven games with an injured left shoulder. He hasn't played since Feb. 24, when the Red Wings beat Vancouver 8-3. Filppula was Detroit's third-leading scorer last season with 23 goals among 66 points and the Red Wings are hoping he can add some punch to an offense that has scored 10 regulation goals in the last seven games. He still has to be cleared by trainer Piet Van Zant but hopes to play Friday if he can't go Wednesday.

"Today, it felt the best it has," said Filppula, who has four goals and 10 points in 19 games this season. "Great shooting. Obviously, you don't get a lot of battles in practice so I don't know if the game is the time to test it out. But other than that it felt pretty good."

Nyquist was leading the AHL in scoring with 23 goals and 60 points in 57 games for Grand Rapids before being recalled for his second stint with the Red Wings this season.

In two games with Detroit, Nyquist had no points after getting a goal and six assists during 18 games with the Red Wings last season. He skated in practice Tuesday on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen and is excited about the possibility of playing with them on the three-game road trip.

"If that's the case for the game then it's going to be a great opportunity for me," Nyquist said. "It's really exciting to be playing with guys like that. I'm just going to try and make the best out of it." I'm back and it's obviously exciting and I'm happy to be up here again."

And the Macomb Daily's Pleiness:

The team will make a decision on Filppula after the morning skate Wednesday in Calgary according to Wings general manager Ken Holland. Nyquist leads the AHL with 60 points this season, 23 goals and 37 assists.

“This year I think I’m starting to shoot the puck a little bit more,” Nyquist said. “I’ve tried to work on that and go to the net a little bit harder. I think I’ve scored a few more goals this year than I did last year down there. That’s what I’m going to try to bring with me up here.”

Nyquist has been up for two games this year, registering no points.

“I’ve always been a guy who’s been a pass-first guy and up here you don’t know how many chances you’re going to get,” Nyquist said. “I think down in the AHL I can create a lot more chances and when you’re playing in the best league in the world you don’t know how many chances you’re going to get a game. Once you get a chance you want to take advantage of it and a shot is a better option most of the times than a pass.”

...

Tomas Tatar was sent back to Grand Rapids. Nyquist watched from the minors as Tatar and Joakim Andersson saw regular shifts in Detroit.

“You have to focus on working hard down there and showing them that you want to be up here,” said Nyquist, who has a goal and assists in 18 games in Detroit last season. “But at the same time, the guys who have gotten the chance to play up here so far have done a great job. They’ve really shown that they can here too.”

The Wings also received good news regarding Darren Helm, as noted by the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:

Darren Helm (back) skated during practice, and is aiming to return March 20 against the Wild. Helm, who played in one game, will travel with the team to Western Canada to continue conditioning.

"There's still a few things I want to overcome as far as strengthening it and not feeling any pain after skating or the next day," Helm said. "It definitely did take a big step last week. I started skating Monday, just a few little whirls around the rink, nothing too hard, and I pushed it a little harder (later in the week). (Tuesday) was the first time I was with the team in five, six weeks and it was definitely nice to be out there and see the end (to the injury) coming close."

Otherwise, the Wings insisted that the could get the job done on the road one way or another while speaking to the Free Press's Carlos Monarrez...

"It's going to be tough," goaltender Jimmy Howard said. "But there's no excuses because we're going out on the road. We've got to find a way to get dirty wins."

Dirty wins?

"Just going to the net and hopefully getting some puck luck," Howard said. "I don't think we really have gotten it as of late. So hopefully we can make out on this road trip. I don't think it's lack of effort or lack of trying by the guys. They're working hard, and hopefully when we go out on this trip we get a couple bounces."

Coach Mike Babcock hopes to have Valtteri Filppula back this week and then Darren Helm, which could boost offensive production. The Wings have scored more than two goals only once in their past seven games.

"In the end, we haven't been good enough," Babcock said. "We thought we had her going pretty good. But even when we win, we win 2-1. And we got two again (Sunday against Columbus). So it looks like we can't give up two. We can only give up one. That's a hard way to play. So hopefully we can get things fixed up so that we move the puck better and generate more offense."

And MLive's Savage:

"It's definitely huge," goaltender Jimmy Howard said Tuesday. "Whether it's make or break, I don't know. There's a lot that's going on here with teams just jockeying for position. It's imperative for us to get off on the right foot here tomorrow night. We can't start looking too far ahead into the future. We can just concentrate on Calgary. If we start looking at the schedule, we could overwhelm ourselves."

...

"Obviously now we're going to be on the road for a long time, so there are a lot of games at the end of the season, and obviously we need some points to be in the playoffs," said forward Valtteri Filppula, who is expected to return to the lineup during the trip after missing seven games with an injured left shoulder.We definitely need a different kind of road performance than we have had so far."

The Red Wings have a 3-5-2 road record this season and are 1-3-1 in their last five games away from Joe Louis Arena.

In addition to Calgary, the upcoming seven road games will see the Red Wings play Edmonton, Vancouver, Phoenix and San Jose as well as a pair of back-to-back games against Anaheim, the only team keeping the Chicago Blackhawks from running away with the Western Conference championship.

Coach Mike Babcock didn't mince words when asked how important the road trip is for the Red Wings but like Howard didn't want to look too far down the road past Calgary.

"Huge," Babcock said. "It's not even the trip, it's tomorrow. We got a game tomorrow. We've got one out of a possible four points here lately. We need to get back on the winning side of things. We've continued to be pretty good defensively. We thought we only gave up very few chances in (Sunday's) game. But we still didn't score. So hopefully with (Valtteri Filppula) back and spreading it out, we'll have more opportunity to score. We're putting (Johan Franzen) back with Pavel (Datsyuk), hopefully there's a twosome there. Fil with (Henrik Zetterberg), hopefully there's a twosome there. Then we haven't had much trouble in our bottom six."

Some of Tuesday's best observations came from Howard, who had this to say to Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji when asked about Filppula...

"It's good," Howard said. "He's one of our leaders out there, we look for him to get points for us. He's one more piece to add up front where the other team has to respect him."

This about the road ahead...

"It’s just paying attention to detail out there, like we do at home," Howard said, "not trying to be too fancy or getting frustrated when something doesn’t go right on the road, just stick to the game plan and trust in our systems."

And this about the power play:

"Definitely with our skill, the five guys that we can put out there, it’s kind of mindboggling how we haven’t (scored any goals)," he said. "But we really can't think about it. We just have to go out there and pound pucks on net and, hopefully, one goes in off the shin pads."

Savage offered video clips of Nyquist and Babcock speaking to the media...

 

 

And you can take this quip from the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan for what you will:

Pavel Datsyuk has gone 10 games without a goal. It’s a lengthy streak, but interestingly, Datsyuk has gone through more droughts that have been much longer.

Datsyuk’s longest stretch without a goal is 21 games, from Nov. 5 2002 to Jan. 28, 2003 (he missed 18 games in between due to injury).

In all, Datsyuk has had 11 droughts of at least 10 games in his career.

This is just an FYI, but whenever I hear about something being "gluten-free," I don't think about it as a "food trend" (like "low carb" or "100 calorie pack") as much as I think about the fact that people like Wings color commentator Mickey Redmond used to have to bring his own food with him on the road in order to not suffer ill effects from Celiac disease, and these days, he can at least tag along more often:

 

 

Also of Red Wings-related note: If you missed it, Holland offered an update regarding Mikael Samuelsson, Todd Bertuzzi and Carlo Colaiacovo's respective statuses to the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness on Monday night:

Holland hopes to have Mikael Samuelsson (broken left index finger) back during the Wings’ trip to California, March 22-28. His issue is also conditioning.

Todd Bertuzzi (back) has begun riding a stationary bike a bit and Holland hasn’t ruled out his return this season.

“We were optimistic a few weeks ago, but then his back wasn’t feeling so good,” Holland said. “On Friday there was optimism again. We’re going to give it another week to 10 days and then decide where he’s at.”

The news isn’t as good on defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, who suffered another setback from his sprained left shoulder injury.

“He’s frustrated,” Holland said. “He’s not 100 percent. All we can do is give him more time.

“We got eight healthy defensemen ready and available,” Holland added.

From Twitter:

In terms of power rankings, as I spent Monday setting up my laptop, I'll direct you to MLive's Brendan Savage regarding Monday's crop thereof, and I'll add USA Today's multi-person-panel's ranking...

10 Detroit Red Wings 12-9-5 [highest/lowest]  8/17 Since an 8-3 win, they have scored 10 goals in their last seven games

And the observations of one Adrian Dater, writing for Sports Illustrated, to the list:

16 Detroit Red Wings Last Week: 14 A listless shutout loss at Columbus Saturday was followed by an only a slightly better showing in an OT loss to the Jackets at home on Sunday. Injuries and a lack of punch on not only the bottom two forward lines but the bottom four on defense seems to be holding the Wings down near the level of mediocrity. Detroit's power play, at 14.4 percent, ranks 26th in the league. Nick Lidstrom, come back! Last week: 2-1-1

In the promotional department, from the Wings:

The Wings are also holding a viewing party for tonight's game at Strykers Bar and Grille in Westland, MI, with Manny Legace in attendance, and they're holding two more "pre parties" at Meijer over the next two Tuesdays to hand out tickets to "Fan Day at the Joe."

 

In the prospect department, in the KHL, Alexei Marchenko did not play in CSKA Moscow's 2-1 double overtime loss to Dynamo Moscow, which now leads their best-of-seven series 3-1;

In Sweden, Calle Jarnkrok played 16:29 in Brynas IF's 5-0 loss to Skelleftea AIK in their playoff opener;

In Finland, Teemu Pulkkinen didn't register a point in Jokerit Helsinki's final game of the SM-Liiga season. Jokerit lost 3-2 to HPK. Jokerit will wait until March 20th to start the playoffs as they're going to play the winner of a play-in series between HIFK and SaiPa;

Of note from DRW Prospects on Twitter:

In the QMJHL, Xavier Ouellet did not play in the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada's 5-2 loss to Shawinigan;

As the OHL, WHL and QMJHL are winding down their final week of regular season play, the OHL has offered a "playoff tracker" to explain potential playoff scenarios;

The Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner reports that even without Brendan Smith, Brian Lashoff, Joakim Andersson and sometimes Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and Petr Mrazek in the lineup, things have gone particularly well for the Grand Rapids Griffins this season...

They are first in the AHL’s Midwest Division – a position held since Dec. 31 - with a 35-19-2-2 record, eight points ahead of second place Chicago. That’s already two more wins than last year’s 33-32-7-4 mark.  They have won four in a row - three coming on consecutive days last weekend - and four of six. In the four games, they have allowed four total goals. They have the league’s top scorer in Gustav Nyquist, a second-year winger with 60 points (23-37-60) in 57 games, with a bright future on a top line in Detroit.

And fans can’t get enough of them. The Griffins have drawn six sellouts at Van Andel Arena, including five of their past 10 home games since Jan. 25, and average attendance of 7,351 is up 3.2 percent from this time last season. The sellouts surpass the past two seasons combined.

“It’s really been a perfect storm,” said Tim Gortsema, the Griffins senior vice president of business operations. “It’s certainly great the way the team is playing, and that does inject enthusiasm with the fan base and create renewed energy within the front office, too.”

All this with a first-year coach in Jeff Blashill who has juggled a roster not expected to be greatly impacted by the belated start to the NHL season in January. Instead, it has been picked over by the Red Wings. The team also didn’t waver from its greatest distraction, the headline-grabbing arrest of Riley Sheahan for drunk driving while wearing a teletubby costume. Sheahan pleaded guilty in mid-December to a super drunk offense of operating a vehicle with a blood-alcohol content of .17 or more.

“The atmosphere is a lot better this year,” said Francis Pare, who is in his fifth season with the team. “We don’t look too far ahead. We enjoy being around each other. It’ not that in the past that guys were bad, or we didn’t get along. It’s just that when you’re winning, everything is better. Every time you show up to the rink, you want to get better because you know we have a really good chance of winning.”

...

With the departures, players such as Landon Ferraro (16-19-35), Sheahan (also 16-19-35), have stepped up the scoring; rookie Chad Billins, selected to the All-Star Classic, has become a stalwart on defense, and Mrazek, after a successful stint in Detroit, remains one of the top AHL goalies with a 20-9-1-1 record, 2.25 goals against average and .919 save percentage.

As for the crowds, the Griffins sold out Friday and Saturday last week – the second back-to-back sellouts since the end of January. The 7,351 average attendance is fourth in the 30-team AHL. Last year, the Griffins averaged 7,253.

And here's the Griffins' weekly release, or at least part of it:

This Week’s Games

Wed., March 13 - Chicago Wolves vs. GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com

Sat., March 16 - GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals - 8 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com

Sun., March 17 - GRIFFINS at Peoria Rivermen - 4:05 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com

...

Perfect Weekend: For the third straight weekend, the Griffins played three games in three days, this time finishing with a perfect 3-0 record. It marked the first time since Oct. 23-25, 2009 that the team went undefeated during a three-in-three. Grand Rapids began the stretch with back-to-back tightly-contested games in front of sellout Van Andel Arena crowds on Friday and Saturday. On Friday, the team earned a 2-1 victory over Hamilton after two goals from Tomas Jurco and a 30-save performance from Petr Mrazek. The following night, the Griffins duplicated the 2-1 victory over Lake Erie, getting goals from Jeff Hoggan and Louis-Marc Aubry. Grand Rapids completed the weekend and extended their winning streak to an AHL-best four games on Sunday, beating the Bulldogs 4-1 on the road. Gustav Nyquist reclaimed sole possession of the AHL scoring lead with three points (1-2—3), while Chad Billins, Riley Sheahan and Hoggan also scored.

Rivalry Week: The Griffins will pit their four-game winning streak against division rivals this week in an effort to extend their division lead. Grand Rapids will host Chicago on Wednesday at 7 p.m., looking to build on the eight-point cushion they hold on the Wolves in the Midwest Division. Wednesday’s contest is just one of two home games the Griffins will have in a 13-game stretch (March 10-April 6), as the Griffins will begin a three-game road trip to kick off the weekend. Grand Rapids will visit Milwaukee on Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT and Peoria on Sunday at 4:05 p.m. EDT before concluding the trip with a rematch against the Rivermen next Tuesday at 8:05 p.m. EDT.

Chasing Number One: Grand Rapids has taken advantage of its four-game winning streak to pad its lead in the Midwest Division to eight points and move within two points of Texas for the top seed in the Western Conference, following the Stars’ five-game winless streak. The Griffins also trail Charlotte by one point, but they have played two fewer games than the Checkers and one fewer game than the Stars. The Griffins currently rank seventh in the AHL with 74 points, also trailing the Eastern Conference’s Syracuse (79), Binghamton (78), Providence (75) and Springfield (75).

Update: Of charitable note:

1. The Westland Observer's LeAnne Rogers reports that Tomas Holmstrom will be signing autographs in Wayne, MI today:

Hockey fans can bring their memorabilia to the Avenue Downtown Wayne, 3632 Elizabeth St., at 7 p.m. Wednesday for an autograph. The cost is $10 and thanks to businesses sponsoring Holmstrom's visit, all the proceeds will go the Wayne Goodfellows.

It does help to have a connection. Goodfellow Jennifer Gietzen's brother Matt, owner of Henry's Service Center, is Holmstrom's neighbor.

“He asked Tomas if he would help out. He really cut what he would normally charge to come out,” said Gietzen. “We try to raise money throughout the year to make it easier in December.”

In 2012, the Wayne Goodfellows raised $22,000 to provide a Christmas for 300 youngsters in 200 families. Food vouchers were provided to Wayne families and seniors.

And this is pretty cool, from WHMI FM:

After one of its members had a brush with death, a local hockey club has challenged the Detroit Red Wings Alumni Association to a game to raise money for life-saving devices and training. About two years ago, George Stefureac entered cardiac arrest after playing in one of the regular Friday games of the Hartland Ice Hogs. His teammates applied CPR and an employee of the Hartland Sports Center properly applied a defibrillator device, keeping Stefureac alive until EMTs could take him to the hospital for treatment. He has made a full recovery, but researched the event afterward and found that people in Michigan only have a 5% chance of surviving cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting. However, people in Washington State have a 40% chance of survival due to mandatory wo

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Comments

gowings's avatar

“Oof”

indeed….The good thing about the game tonight? I will likely be in bed since I start at seven the next day. So instead of being frustrated all night because of a loss…..I will be p**** in the morning. At least I will get some sleep…

Posted by gowings from MTL on 03/13/13 at 06:42 AM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

However, people in Washington State have a 40% chance of survival due to mandatory wo

question

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 03/13/13 at 07:24 AM ET

Slumpy's avatar

Haha, Flames going to skate McGrattan against us? Why does the their coach think we have Probert and Kocur and it’s 1987, lol.

Nyquist dominated the AHL but what I’ve seen of him and someone I know that saw him play for Maine says he is slow skater.
Will he be goal scorer also in the NHL like he has the AHL or because of his skating will he concentrate on being a playmaker.

Flames I wonder if they have hit rock bottom yet as an organization, yeeks.
Iggy deserves to get traded to SC contender.

Posted by Slumpy from Detroit on 03/13/13 at 07:27 AM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

They are cooked.

Which means the Wings will lose to them, I assume.  (Sorry I’m not my usual optimistic self these days…)

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 03/13/13 at 08:54 AM ET

Figaro's avatar

It’s ok MsRedWinger, that’s the usual feeling coursing through us Wings fans.  They seem to lack motivation to play teams with a worse record, which results in poor games and often, losses.

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 03/13/13 at 10:34 AM ET

cigar_nurse's avatar

In Washington, you must have a basic life support certificate in order to have a driver’s license. As of 1985 as I remember.

Posted by cigar_nurse from Greenville South Cakalakee on 03/13/13 at 07:54 PM 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.