The Malik Report
by George Malik on 11/02/13 at 05:10 AM ET
The Red Wings flew to Edmonton for tonight's tilt against the Edmonton Oilers (10 PM EDT, FSD/CBC/97.1 FM) with some roster complications in tow, but also feeling decently enough about themselves after having earned slightly ugly 4-3 win over Calgary on Friday, building upon the Wings' 2-1 win over Vancouver on Wednesday, allowing the team to place some distance between themselves and that ugly 4-game winless streak.
The roster complications first:
Unless the Wings receive another unpleasant surprise, Darren Helm will return to the lineup this evening, and he'll likely supplant Johan Franzen as The Mule left the Wings-Flames game feeling unwell.
The Wings will also start Petr Mrazek against the Oilers this evening because Jonas Gustavsson's sore neck has yielded a stay on the short-term IR (7 days)...
And regardless of the roster machinations or the lack thereof, the Wings plan on placing Jonathan Ericsson (partially dislocated shoulder) on the long-term injured reserve list to make cap and roster room for Helm, and that means Ericsson can't return to action until the Wings' November 15th game against Washington.
In terms of the game that the Wings and Flames played in on Friday night, as I suggested in the Wings-Flames set-up post, I think of the Saddledome and remember last year's 5-2 loss last March--the one where Jonas Gustavsson was lit up for 3 third-period goals--or the April 17th game where Jimmy Howard coughed up the puck to Steve Begin for the eventual game-winner, and the Wings' 3-2 loss had all of us believing that the Wings were going to miss the playoffs.
So the Wings' ability to surrender a 2-goal lead over the course of 2 minutes and 32 seconds didn't surprise me, nor did the goal that made the Wings' margin a single goal with a little over ten seconds remaining.
What surprised me was the fact that Joey MacDonald was the goaltender who suffered from another team's "earned bounces," and, on a night when you could literally see the Wings stopping short of the crease and pulling up a few feet early in attempts to not jostle their former and well-liked teammate, the Wings didn't stop shooting on MacDonald, and that made all the difference in the world.
Was the Wings' second period, with few exceptions, awful? Yup.
Was it baffling to see the Wings play so sleepily at times after having finally displayed strong attention to detail in their 4-2 win over Vancouver? Yes.
Does the Wings' defense--and the transition game resulting from its passes--remain something between a work in progress and a turnover machine, depending on the urgency the defenders display, and the pace at which the forwards who serve as targets are willing to skate? Yup.
But that final ugly goal, with Wings-killer Curtis Glencross banging a pass off of Niklas Kronwall's skate, marred what was otherwise an absolutely excellent third period, a third period where the Wings went down to three lines--Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Bertuzzi, Cleary-Weiss-Alfredsson and Abdelkader-Andersson-Tatar---and those three lines played absolutely superb hockey, with the "3rd" line scoring both goals and the second getting closer and closer as Stephen Weiss finally seems to be gaining some offensive confidence and poise.
The Wings have rattled off a pair of gutsy wins after their 4-game losing streak, and while Brendan Smith remains penalty-prone, he's passing side-to-side a little less than usual; while Danny DeKeyser was guilty as could be of ignoring the dump-in on the game-tying goal, he played 22:51 and blocked 3 shots; while Jakub Kindl sometimes still reminds us that he is in fact an NHL sophomore despite being 26, there were times that his long bombs powered the second unit on an unsuccessful but dangerous second power play unit, and he's been stronger along the boards; Brian Lashoff continues to take the occasional stick penalty, but he's sure looking mobile (as opposed to last year's "a step slow") and tenacious as hell when hacking and whacking and grinding down opponents at least semi-legally; and Kyle Quincey is at least playing steadier and more physical hockey.
Kronwall's Kronwall, Howard is Howard, generally steady as steady can be, and Bertuzzi's been something of a revelation as someone who's known that the Tatars, Nyquists and even Manthas of the world are after his job, someone who's more than willing to stick out his ass, stick out his free arm or simply muscle the hell out of an opponent to grind it out down low, steal rebounds and otherwise "make room" for Datsyuk and Zetterberg while showing some pretty damn impressive, "I used to score once, you know" offensive chops of his own.
8-4-and-2 sure looks better than 7-5-and-2, or worse, 6-6-and-2, and the Wings have earned at least a bit of breathing room thanks to the win over Vancouver and now this rare road win over Calgary.
For the Flames, the goal that may or may not have touched Tomas Tatar's stick after Joakim Andersson flung a puck toward the net 1:25 into the 3rd and the wicked Justin Abdelkader snapper that tickled the top shelf with 3:34 left were nothing less than daggers to the heart. The Calgary Herald's Scott Cruickshank reports that Flames coach Bob Hartley tried to look upon his team's effort as charitably as possible...
“Unfortunately, that will happen,” Hartley said shortly after the 4-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in National Hockey League action Friday at the Scotiabank Saddledome. “Joey Mac bailed us out many times since the start of the season. It’s too bad. He feels awful.”
But MacDonald, apparently, didn’t appreciate the handiwork of the fellows in front of him. Given his gaffe, the critical tone came as a bit of a surprise.
“The first period, we did a lot of standing around and watching,” said MacDonald. “There wasn’t a whole lot going on. We were watching (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg and (Todd) Bertuzzi pass the puck around. You can do that with guys like that. Look what happens — they find back doors, they find seams. In the second period, we were a lot better. Then in the third, you know what? I didn’t think we had much. I know they got that lucky goal, but we’ve got to turn around and get some chances. I thought we just sat back and played the majority of play in our own end. You can’t do that.”
And you can’t let in a goal like Tomas Tatar’s — from behind the goal-line, from deep in the corner. But in it went, squeezing past MacDonald’s pillows to give the travellers a 3-2 lead.
“A goalie makes a mistake and it goes in the net,” said MacDonald, who also permitted a sharp-angle conversion by Justin Abdelkader later in the game (which was followed by an extra-attack marker by Curtis Glencross). “Guys make lots of mistakes on the ice (but) once we make one, everybody knows. It’s one of those things — I’ve got to stop it. And 99 times out of 100, you stop them.”
The Flames felt that the Andersson/Tatar goal cost them a game, but only barely so:
“They got a lucky one … and it changed momentum,” said Matt Stajan. “They’re a veteran team and they capitalize on their chances. We’re playing hard. We’re doing a lot of things right. We’re just falling short and it’s very frustrating. But we’ve got to battle through this and we’ve got to find a way. There’s a lot of hockey (left) this season and we have to learn to come out on top in these games.”
The Calgary Herald's George Johnson attempted to frame the loss in light of the Flames' status as embarking on a 4-game road trip through Chicago, Minnesota, St. Louis and Colrado, so he didn't take too kindly to the fact that a 5-6-and-2 team was trying to move forward so quickly:
“That last one was a tough one for us,” sighed defenceman Chris Butler, already trying to run a 4-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings through the handy-dandy mental shredder. “I don’t think we played our style of hockey, to our identity.
“Then we come home against Washington” — a mighty impressive 5-2 spanking of Ovie and Co. — “and we’re swarming the puck, we’re intense, we’re playing a fast game. Maybe on the road trip we were feeling things out going into different buildings, for whatever reason.
“On this one, we can’t afford to get away from that workman-like, grinder, blue-collar attitude that we’ve kinda developed this year. Against teams like Chicago, St. Louis, Colorado, as a defenceman I look at their offensive corps, the guys up front, and when you turn pucks over against those guys — same with Detroit tonight — you’re going to spend entire nights in your D-zone.
“When you do get it out, you’re just dumping it in and going for a change instead of forechecking, using your team speed, which is what’s allowed us to have some success. So I’d say puck management is the most important thing looking ahead to this road trip.”
Defenseman Shane O'Brien offered the requisite amount of, "This sucks" while reflecting upon the Flames' 4-2 loss to Toronto on Wednesday and the loss to Detroit on Friday:
“The last two efforts, definitely the Toronto game and maybe even tonight, we should’ve gotten something out of,” acknowledged O’Brien. “But through the course of the season there are always times when you’re left wondering ‘Why?’ ‘Cause you’re working hard and doing the right things. We’re a young team, we’re learning.
“The thing about this league is, nobody feels sorry for you. Sometimes the hockey gods arent always fair. So you’ve got have a short memory in this business. Put the last one behind you — good or bad — and move on. And that’s what we’ll do: Move on.”
As of the time that I'm writing this, the Calgary Sun's Randy Sportak's recap does not include player quotes, so here's the crux thereof:
In a game of inches, the Flames may have been saved had Tomas Tatar’s skate blade been one inch shorter. However, Tatar’s toe caused Joakim Andersson’s prayer of a shot from the corner of the rink to change direction just enough to slip through MacDonald and barely make it across the line.
It ended up the go-ahead tally against a Flames team which has dropped six of eight games and next embarks on a difficult four-game road swing that begins Sunday in Chicago.
The Flames didn’t deserve to be down 2-0 after the first period, but that’s the situation they found themselves in before mounting a comeback just after the midway point of the second period before a sellout Saddledome crows of 19,289 and drawing even.
First, Chris Butler put the hosts on the board with the kind of lucky goal teams outplaying the opposition deserve to receive.
Butler’s point shot took a wicked hop after ricocheting off Andersson’s stick and bounced past Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who was as stunned as anybody when it suddenly bounded past him.
Rookie sensation Sean Monahan scored for the first time in five games to draw his team even a couple of minutes later, converting a nifty pass from Michael Cammalleri for his team-high seventh tally of the season, but it all went for nought.
CalgaryFlames.com's Aaron Vickers offers the following observations in an "Inside the Game" recap...
GOAL OF THE GAME: Taking a pass from Cammalleri, Monahan fired his seventh of the season behind Howard, beating the Red Wings goaltender high over the glove at 12:47 to temporarily tie the game 2-2.
SAVE OF THE GAME: After kicking out the pad to deny Zetterberg’s point shot, MacDonald flashed the same pad again to take away Bertuzzi’s rebound attempt with 5:35 remaining in the second period.
TURNING POINT: Tatar’s goal just 1:25 into the third period didn’t serve as the game-winner, but swung momentum in Detroit’s favor in the final frame.
Torie Peterson offers a several digits of note in a "Numerology" article:
12 The Flames outshot the Red Wings 12-5 in the first period. Derek Smith, Sven Baertschi and Kris Russell led the way with 2 shots each.
2 The Red Wings scored twice in the opening frame; Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg found the back of the net.
Vickers also serves as NHL.com's Calgary-based correspondent, so his recap chronicles the Flames' second period rally...
“We were not pleased with our first period,” coach Bob Hartley said. “I felt that the guys regrouped very well in the locker room. I came in and they were already talking between themselves. … I knew that we would get a good second period, and we did.”...
“We didn’t execute and we turned over way too many pucks in the second period,” Babcock said. “When you do that, they look fast and you look slow. I think after they scored their second goal, we really turned things around and got playing again. I thought we finished the second strong and then had a real good third period.”
As well as Joakim Andersson's take on what may not be his game-winner:
After letting a 2-0 lead slip away in the second period, Tatar put the Red Wings back up just 1:25 into the third. Joakim Andersson fired a shot on Flames goalie Joey MacDonald from below the goal line, glancing it off Tatar's skate and finding a hole to give Detroit a 3-2 lead early in the period.
“He said he didn’t touch it,” Andersson said. “It was a lucky bounce. Sometimes you need those lucky bounces to win games. It was nice to get it.”
The Canadian Press's recap will serve as our pivot point between the Flames and Red Wings' perspectives...
“I thought we finished the second strong and had a real good third period,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock, who coached his 800th career NHL game. “We controlled the third, I thought hands down for me. There’s no question you want to just keep going after them and I thought we did that tonight.”
Early in the third period, Detroit forward Joakim Andersson chased down the puck in the Flames zone and attempted a centring pass from the corner, but the puck glanced off Tatar’s skate before deflecting into the net off of Calgary goalie Joey MacDonald’s leg.
“It was a lucky bounce,” Andersson said. “Sometimes you need those lucky bounces to win games. It was nice to get it. We’ve been talking about that all year, shooting more and getting the pucks more to the net.”...
With Jimmy Howard and Babcock weighing in on the Wings' win as follows:
“In the second period, a couple mistakes and the puck wound up in the back of our net,” said Howard, who made 22 saves to improve his record to 5-4-2. “I think we got back to playing the style of hockey we played in Vancouver the whole game in the third period here. That’s how we’re going to be successful.”
The Red Wings will continue their four-game road swing through Western Canada on Saturday when they visit the Edmonton Oilers.
“We’ve got to get re-energized and get ready to go,” Babcock said.
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan took note of the fact that Johan Franzen's aggravation of his "upper-body" injury--which turned out to be a flu bug that caused him to leave toward the end of the second period--may have sparked the WIngs...
"He was sick," coach Mike Babcock said. "I don't know if he's got the flu or what it is. But he was feeling nautious, so he couldn't play."
Franzen had a minus-1 rating for the game, with one shot. With Franzen unavailable, Babcock scrambled his lines a bit and one of the resulting units, Joakim Andersson between Justin Abdelkader and Tomas Tatar, produced two third period goals leading to the 4-3 Red Wings victory over Calgary.
"They were real solid and got us two goals," Babcock said. "We need more balance in the scoring."
Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk each had first period goals, continuing their season-long dominance. Todd Bertuzzi assisted both goals and had a team-high five shots, continuing his fine play on that top line.
"He had an outstanding game in Vancouver and I saw thrilled he was able to back that up," said Babcock of Bertuzzi. "Bert has done a good job."
While Joakim Andersson spoke with the Free Press's Helene St. James about the team's attempt to rebound from their second-period struggles...
“We were not happy about our second period,” Joakim Andersson said. “We talked about skating better, getting some more shots and getting to the net and create some chances. We had a good third period.”
And Tatar told St. James that he didn't believe his skate touched Andersson's shot:
“I didn’t score, that was Andy’s goal,” Tatar said. “It was a bad angle but it went in. I was right behind the net, so I saw the puck come in really slowly, it was nice.”
Abdelkader doubled Detroit’s lead with a high shot that went in just under the bar with 3:24 remaining in regulation. Curtis Glencross made it interesting when his shot from behind the net went in off Niklas Krownall with 9.8 seconds to go.
“We turned over a lot of pucks in the first and second, and in the third, we got back to what makes us successful,” Jimmy Howard said after facing 25, shots, 18 of them through two periods. “Second period seems to be one of our not great periods this year. We’ve got to get over that hump and not let teams back in the game.”
Babcock agreed with Howard's assessment, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted...
"Keep going after them, we did that tonight," Babcock said. "I didn't like our second period, we got back to being what we've been sometimes, which is unacceptable and un-Red Wings-like. We have to learn to play consistently."
And Kulfan spoke with Andersson about a goal that Kulfan assumed would be credited to #18 (as of 5 AM, not so much):
"We've been talking about shooting it more and sometimes you get the bounce," said Andersson, who didn't get credit for the goal until after the game (Tomas Tatar was originally given credit for the goal on an apparent deflection). "It was a good bounce. I never saw it go in. I was looking at Abby (Justin Abdelkader) and he raised his hands. I just wanted to get it to the net because I saw Abby going hard to the net. I was surprised."
Abdelkader added a goal at 16:36, pushing the lead to 4-2, which turned out to be a big goal after Calgary forward Curtis Glencross scored with just under 10 seconds left, cutting the lead to 4-3.
The Red Wings (8-4-2, 18 points) have won the opening two games of this four-game trip through western Canada, with a game Saturday in Edmonton. They close the trip Monday in Winnipeg.
"After they scored their second goal, we really turned things around and started playing again," coach Mike Babcock said.
In his sans-quotes recap, which is what's available to me at 5 AM, Ansar Khan took note of the late-game story, as well as tonight's implications:
Curtis Glencross cut the Red Wings' lead to 4-3 with 9.8 seconds left in regulation, but it was too little, too late.
It was Detroit’s first win against the Flames since Jan. 31, 2012 (3-1 at Calgary). The Flames swept the three-game season series last season, outscoring the Red Wings 12-5.
Johan Franzen, who missed Wednesday’s 2-1 win in Vancouver due to an undisclosed upper-body injury, left the game after two periods feeling nauseous.
The Red Wings continue their four-game Western Canada trip Saturday in Edmonton and wrap it up Monday in Winnipeg.
Center Darren Helm is expected to make his season debut against the Oilers. He’s been out with a pulled groin, but before that had back issues since the start of last season.
The Red Wings themselves were in motion--literally:
Highlights: Sportsnet aired the game in Canada, and even the Red Wings website's highlight clip is narrated by the Flames crew's announcers:
Post-game: The Flames' "sights and sounds" clip won't interest you if you aren't a fan of country music. The Flames' website also posted post-game clips of Joey MacDonald, Mike Cammalleri, Matt Stajan and coach Bob Hartley speaking with the media;
The Free Press's Helene St. James posted a post-game interview with Joakim Andersson...
And the Wings' website posted a very-late-night clip of Jimmy Howard speaking with the media after the game...
As well as coach Mike Babcock's post-game presser:
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 24-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 20-image gallery;
The Calgary Sun embedded a 17-image gallery in Randy Sportak's recap;
If the Calgary Herald posts a photo gallery from Friday's game, they'll do so on their newspaper's general photo page;
CBS Detroit posted a kinda cool picture of Joakim Andersson tangling with Lance Bouma;
ESPN posted a 38-image gallery;
Shots 25-22 Calgary overall. Detroit was out-shot 12-5 in the 1st, out-shot Calgary 7-6 in the 2nd and out-shot Calgary 10-7 in the 3rd.
Detroit went 0-for-3 in 4:12 of PP time; the Flames went 0-for-5 in 8:12 of PP time.
Jimmy Howard stopped 22 of 25 shots; Joey MacDonald stopped 18 of 22.
The 3 stars were picked by Sportsnet West's Charlie Simmer, and he picked Todd Bertuzzi, Mike Cammalleri and Pavel Datsyuk.
The Wings' goals: Datsyuk (6) from Bertuzzi (2) and Kindl (3);
Zetterberg (7) from Bertuzzi (3) and Datsyuk (8);
Tatar (2) from Andersson (3) and Kronwall (8)--the goal was never changed.
Abdelkader (2) from Kronwall (9) and DeKeyser (4).
Faceoffs 34-26 Detroit (Detroit won 57%);
Blocked shots 14-14;
Missed shots 14-11 Calgary (total attempts 53-47 Calgary, with the Wings firing 22 shots O Joey MacDonald and another 25 wide into Flames players);
Hits 12-11 Calgary;
Giveaways 11-4 Calgary;
Takeaways 9-5 Calgary.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 17-and-8 (68%); Weiss went 10-and-5 (67%); Andersson went 5-and-8 (38%); Franzen went 2-and-3 (40%); Alfredsson and Cleary lost their only faceoffs.
Shots: Bertuzzi led the Wings with 5 shots; Abdelkader had 3; Datsyuk, Tatar, Zetterberg and Cleary had 2 shots; Smith, Kindl, Eaves, Andersson, Weiss and Franzen had 1.
Blocked attempts: both Quincey and Franzen fired 3 shots into Flames players; Alfredsson had 2 attempts blocked; Smith, Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Andersson Tatar and Zetterberg had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Quincey missed the net 3 times; Datsyuk missed the net 2 times; Smith, Abdelkader Andersson, Tatar, Lashoff and Zetterberg missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Tatar led the Wings with 3 hits; Abdelkader, Lashoff and Kronwall had 2 hits; Kindl and DeKeyser had 1 hit.
Giveaways: Smith, Kindl, Datsyuk and DeKeyser had giveaways.
Takeaways: Kindl, Datsyuk, Quincey, Zetterberg and Weiss had takeaways.
Blocked shots: DeKeyser blocked 3 shots; Smith, Andersson Miller and Lashoff blocked 2; Tatar and Quincey blocked 1 shot.
Penalties taken: Kindl, Andersson, Kronwall and Franzen took minor penalties, and the Wings took a bench minor for too many men on the ice.
Plus-minus: the Wings finished at +5. Miller finished at -2; Smith, Eaves, Cleary and Franzen finished at -1; Kindl, Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Andersson, Lashoff, Zetterberg and Kronwall finished at +1; Tatar and Bertuzzi finished at +2.
Points: Datsyuk had a goal and an assist for 2 points; both Bertuzzi and Kronwall had 2 assists; Tatar was credited with a goal, as were Abdelkader and Zetterberg; Kindl, Andersson and DeKeyser had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 23:39 played; DeKeyser played 22:51; Quincey played 21:38;
Datsyuk played 21:14; Zetterberg played 20:20; Smith played 18:04;
Weiss played 16:47; Lashoff played 16:39; Kindl played 16:32;
Bertuzzi played 15:43; Alfredsson played 14:56; Cleary played 14:37;
Andersson played 13:10; Miller played 12:24; Abdelkader played 11:58;
Tatar played 11:49; Franzen played 9:05; Eaves played 8:39.
Red Wings-Oilers set-up: Tonight's game scares me nearly as much as Friday's did. The Oilers have been off since a 4-0 loss to Toronto on Tuesday, so the 3-9-and-3 team's had three days to practice and ruminate upon their status as having lost four straight games.
Their schedule is also similar to Calgary's in that they will embark upon a four-game road trip to Miami, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and Chicago after tonight's game, and their press corps is particularly...Efficient...So the Oilers website's Chris Westcott noted that David Perron had an MRI on Friday...
Oilers forward David Perron missed the Oilers last game, against Toronto, with an illness. He then missed practice with pain in his neck which he remained out with today.
Edmonton's Head Coach Dallas Eakins says that Perron will likely be out of the lineup for another game tomorrow night as the Oilers host the Detroit Red Wings. He is being sent in to get a MRI done on his injured neck.
He notes that the fact that defenseman Justin Schutlz had some rib issues yielded the team recalling Phillip Larsen, and alongside oodles of practice audio and video, Westcott noted that goaltender Devan Dubnyk may or may not start this evening:
Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk has sat out the past few games with an ankle injury, but he may be close to his return.
"It's better," said Dubnyk. "It was kind of a weird injury and with the little bit of time off, it's gotten better each day. It's a little bit sore, but it's nothing restricting out there. Certainly, I don't think about it anymore on the ice."
When asked if he was ready to start tomorrow against Detroit, the goalie said he feels like he is.
"I'll be ready to go. We haven't talked about it yet but I'll be ready to go if that's what they want to do."
Want the Oilers' lines? Sure.
Nail Yakupov-Sam Gagner-Jordan Eberle
Ryan Jones-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Ales Hemsky
Mark Arcobello-Boyd Gordon-Anton Lander
Luke Gazdic-Will Acton-Ben Eager
Ladislav Smid-Jeff Petry
Andrew Ference-Nick Schultz
Anton Belov-Philip Larsen
Goalies: Devan Dubnyk
Game notes? At 5 AM? Done, and as such, know that Don VanMassenhoven and Marc Joanette are tonight's refs, with Thor Nelson and Don Henderson working the lines. Hell, the Oilers even posted the game program online.
The Oilers' press corps is equally fastidious. The Edmonton Sun's Robert Tychkowski asked the Oilers how they've stayed sharp during their 3-day break, and whether they believe the team's ability to essentially re-start their season this evening will reenergize them:
“You’d hope so,” said centre Sam Gagner. “It’s important, especially mentally, to recharge your batteries and focus on what we need to do to get a win here. Guys have been working hard and trying to do the right things, but mental lapses cause you to find ways to lose games. It’s nice to have a little time to get back to square one and go from there.”
Back at it Saturday night against the Detroit Red Wings, the Oilers are among the few people in an understandably irate Edmonton who still believe they have a chance to make their season right. But at this point it doesn’t matter a lick what anyone thinks, positively or negatively. All that matters is the math, and the math is simple: Lose a few more games and they’re out, win a whole bunch more and they can remain in the conversation.
Starting … NOW!
“We just have to get some positive momentum going our way,” said goaltender Devan Dubnyk. “Everybody in here is more than disappointed in the position that we’re in right now. We want to get this thing turned around right away and there is no better time to do it than Saturday against a team that’s always easy to get up for. We have to get something going here, some positive feelings and some positive talk going around our room. That starts with us.”
Being able to hit the pause button on a schedule that had them playing 11 games in 11 different cities in 20 days should help.
“I think it was huge for the players to actually get a day away from the rink with their family, that’s important,” said head coach Dallas Eakins. “You get back with your family and they re-set you, get you back in a positive frame of mind. The second thing is the rest and the amount of practice time. When you start travelling on the road like that, the balance comes between, we can practise and they’re going to be very tired or we can rest them and hope we have jump. We haven’t had a lot of practice time with this team so the two days of practice were very beneficial.”
All they have to do now is put the rest the practice and the re-charged batteries to work against Detroit. Given that Edmonton is already at the brink, and that Detroit will be softened up from Friday night’s game in Calgary, this one almost seems winnable.
“There’s no easy games in this league,” said Gagner. “We know that going in. We want it to be hard. I’ve heard people writing us off and saying it’s impossible to make the playoffs when you’re this far out, but at the end of the day, teams have fought their way back. We have a long time to do it. It’s just a matter of getting off on the right foot. We have to get to where we have an opportunity to fight our way back. That’s our goal right now.”
Tychkowski took note of the Oilers' personnel issues, and the Edmonton Sun's Terry Jones noted that the Oilers' new coach essentially issued an "I feel your pain" statement to the Oilers' fans--after having yet to deliver a massive turnaround in terms of the team's record despite his high-profile signing as a "winner" with the AHL's Toronto Marlies:
“I feel it. I understand it,” said the new head coach of the Edmonton Oilers when your correspondent asked what it’s like to be in this sort of jackpot to begin a NHL head coaching career. I have kids bugging my daughter at school. That’s not very much fun. I’m walking my daughter to school yesterday and I have one kid yelling at everybody ‘There’s the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers!’ And my five-year-old daughter gets real excited because, ‘That’s my daddy.’ And then I have another kid yelling, ‘You suck!’”
“So, yes, that’s happening. But it’s going to go the other way, too. I’m OK with the fire right now. I’m not OK with our record. But I’m OK with the passion of our fans in the fire.”...
“I’ve just come from Toronto. I’ve seen this before,” said the Maple Leafs assistant for two seasons who went on to coach the Toronto AHL farm club for four years. I’ve seen every little bit of this. I’ve seen it for way longer than however many games its been since I’ve been here. I’ve taken good notes, believe me. I understand the guy who yells out of his car at me when I’m at the gas station and he speeds away. And I understand people as they walk into a restaurant murmuring something under their breath. I’m OK with it. That’s the passion.
“When we do turn this thing around and when we are a winning, strong team every night, the passion is going to turn the other way and it’s going to be all smiles and giggles in here and the guy at the gas station is probably buy me my gas and the people in the restaurant are probably going to buy me dinner. If I’m going to be OK with that part of it, I better be OK with this.”
The Edmonton Journal's Joanne Ireland took note of the players' reactions to their coach's remarks:
“We have full confidence we can come back. It’s going to turn around,” Jordan Eberle said. “I think there’s a lot more panic with you guys and in the city than there is in this dressing room. That’s normal.”
Defenceman Ladislav Smid dismissed the theory that the Oilers’ days are already numbered and said it was essential to maintain a positive atmosphere in the locker room.
“Everybody is talking ‘You’re out of the playoffs. You’re this and that,’ ” said Smid. “It’s way too early. There are plenty of games to be played. There are plenty of points on the table and nobody is going to quit here. Everybody believes we can make it. Nobody wants to be in this situation ... but we cannot do anything about the record. That’s in the past. All we can focus on is the next game, which is Saturday against the Red Wings.”
Eakins said that along with looking for the right combinations, he tweaked his defensive system seven games ago, but it’s an ongoing mission to get his players to show as much enthusiasm for preventing goals as they do for scoring goals. He wasn’t going to use injuries as a crutch or make excuses for the record or shrug off the league-high 54 goals against. Nor was he about to accept the fact that all has been already lost, which is obviously a sentiment that spread throughout the dressing room.
“If we look at it and go, ‘We’re out of the playoffs,’ then what? Just pack up our stuff?” asked Eakins. “You have to dig your heels in. I firmly understand where we’re at with our record, but if we were 15-2 or 20-5 or 30-0, the next game would be as desperate to me as our game against Detroit right now.”
“Nobody wants the record we have right now,” captain Andrew Ference said. “Dropping those points in some of those games and losing some of the close ones and blowing some leads with mistakes just makes it that much more of a challenge to make sure guys are focused on what we’re trying to accomplish, which is the long-term building of a solid foundation for this whole group.”
Do you need any more context for the level of desperation with which the Oilers will approach tonight's game? I don't think you need to read the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson's conversation with Oilers GM Craig MacTavish, or the Cult of Hockey's David Staples' incredibly in-depth assessment of "what's gone wrong" with the Oilers of late, nor Ryan Nugent-Hopkins speaking with the Edmonton Sun's Jones about Nail Yakupov or Justin Schultz's "sophomore slumps," if you will, and John MacKinnon's suggestion that the Oilers and the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos are tasked with Rebuilding the City of Champions is...
A bit much.
Let's take note of the fact that Wing-killer and gritty, mean and nasty forward Ryan Jones is being asked to take a bigger Babcockian piece of the pie, as the Edmonton Journal's Ireland tells us...
Even when he was recalled from the Oklahoma City Barons on Oct. 15, to fill in for an injured Jesse Joensuu, he wasn’t sure his stay was going to be a long one. But here it is, six games later, and Jones is not only set to play Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings, he has been skating with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ales Hemsky in place of David Perron.
Perron was to have an MRI on Friday to see if there were structural issues that were at the root of the neck issues he’s been plagued by. He is doubtful for the Detroit game, which opens the door for Jones.
“I’m looking for him to bring some heaviness to (the line),” said head coach Dallas Eakins. “His game is real simple. He is to finish every one of his checks because he can put their defence on their heels. His second job is to go to the net. I’m not looking for him to make plays I’m looking for him to go get the garbage at the front of the net. Then his third responsibility is that he has to back up (his linemates) if they’re taking a chance. I think he’s done a great job the last few games of doing that. It’s something we’re challenging him to keep going because he’s played extremely well here the last few games.”
Jones played a season high 15:22 against the Maple Leafs, registering eight shots in the contest, and he is intent on building on that against Detroit.
“I don’t know if I’ve played a better hockey game in my career then I played against Toronto. I found myself in the play all the time,” said Jones. “Every time I hopped over the boards, I was just thinking, ‘Okay, let’s make something happen one way or the other’. I’m just going to keep doing that. If I have to do that the rest of my career to stick around, then I will.”
Let's take note of the Canadian Press's John Korobanik's off-day article...
It seems like whenever Edmonton Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins fixes one mistake, a handful of new ones appear to cost his team badly needed wins.
“It’s like a game of pool, it’s basically what you leave on the table,” Eakins said Friday of the untimely and costly errors that have been killing the Oilers (3-9-2) through their first 14 games of the season.
The mistakes through the first half dozen games were repetitive ones that the coaching staff “squashed.” Now the miscues seem to be all over the place, and a lot of it the first-year Oilers coach attributes to inexperience and some players having different workloads or different responsibilities.
“A lot of times, it’s like you’re standing in front of a dyke and the holes are popping out and you’re trying to fill the holes as fast as you can,” he said. “But I’m glad they’re a little more scattered. The repetitive ones are hard to cure a lot of times.
“I can probably list 25 things we need to get better at. And know what, the Detroit Red Wings can probably list just as many. Every day there’s something you’re trying to get better at and every day it seems something new rears its ugly head.”
And let's move the *#$%@& on.
NHL.com's John Kreiser sets up tonight's game from a balanced perspective...
Season series: The Detroit Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers meet twice this season now that they've been separated due to realignment. Detroit won all three meetings last season, including a 3-2 overtime victory at Rexall Place on March 15, and is 6-0-5 in its past 11 visits to Edmonton.
Big story: The Red Wings' swing through Western Canada is off to a smashing start. Detroit beat the Calgary Flames 4-3 on Friday, two nights after a 2-1 victory against the Vancouver Canucks. The Oilers continue to struggle; they've lost four in a row and are 1-4-0 at home.
Oilers [team scope]: Edmonton has been off since Tuesday, when it took 43 shots but was shut out 4-0 at home by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The good news Friday is that starting goaltender Devan Dubnyk, whose play had improved before he was sidelined with an ankle injury, may be ready to return.
Who's hot: Pavel Datsyuk was the first star in Calgary after scoring one goal and setting up another. Jimmy Howard has won both games so far on the trip. … Oilers goalie Richard Bachman has a 2.40 goals-against average playing the past two games.
Injury report: Red Wings forward Johan Franzen (illness) left the game in Calgary. Petr Mrazek backed up Howard on Friday because Johan Gustavsson (neck) was idled. Darren Helm (groin) and Jonathan Ericsson (shoulder) are out. … Oilers forward Taylor Hall (knee) is skating at practice but not ready to play. Defenseman Justin Schultz (groin) is questionable. Forward David Perron (neck) is expected to miss his second straight game. The Oilers also are missing forwards Jesse Joensuu (undisclosed), Ryan Smyth (groin) and Tyler Pitlick (knee).
STATS LLC's preview focuses on what you'd think they might focus on...
The Oilers (3-9-2) are the only remaining Western Conference team with a single-digit point total. They've lost four straight (0-3-1) and have allowed a league-high 54 goals. Dallas Eakins' team has totaled one goal in its last two games and lost 4-0 at home to Toronto on Tuesday.
"You look at that game and it was about who finishes chances and who doesn't tonight for me," Eakins said. "I don't believe we were outcompeted, outhit, out-toughed, outshot. We were out-finished, that's what we were. We talked about that, the Toronto Maple Leafs, they're a team that doesn't have the puck a whole lot, they've been outshot a lot this season. But if you give them the opportunity, they will score. They have guys that can put it in the net and they showed that tonight."
[Dubnyk] has struggled when healthy, going 2-5-1 with a 4.01 goals-against average in nine games - eight starts.
Richard Bachman has started the last two games, stopping 22 shots against Toronto after a 47-save effort in a 2-1 shootout loss at Los Angeles on Sunday.
One of the keys to Detroit's success in this series has been Henrik Zetterberg, who has one goal and nine assists during a seven-game point streak versus Edmonton.
We know that Petr Mrazek's starting tonight, and the Free Press's Helene St. James tells us that Mrazek's girlfriend had to drive to Cleveland to ensure that Mrazek could travel to Canada:
“I didn’t have my stuff with me, my passport, so my girlfriend drove six hours to Cleveland to give me my passport,” he said. “They told me I had to fly at 6 in the morning.”
Mrazek went from Cleveland to Chicago to Calgary, from the morning skate to a nap. He is starting tonight because coach Mike Babcock doesn’t want to start Howard two straight nights.
Mrazek, 21, made two appearances with the Wings last season, stealing the show during his debut in St. Louis. He went 1-1 with Detroit, with a 2.02 GAA and .922 save percentage.
“That was great experience, that helped me so much in my career,” he said. “It showed me how NHL goes.”
He spent most of his season starring with the Griffins, leading them to the Calder Cup championship.
“That was great — first year of pro, and we went far, had great team, great people,” Mrazek said. “If you want to win Cup, you have to have everything together, and we had that.”
One of those great people is now with the Wings: Tomas Tatar, MVP of the AHL playoffs.
“We’re really good friends, so it’s always nice to see Petr up here,” Tatar said. “We always hang out together. It’s nice feeling to have a buddy back.”
MLive's Ansar Khan reminds us that Jonas Gustavsson's no longer chopped liver, though his neck is apparently stiff enough to rule him out of both tonight's game and Monday's game in Winnipeg--so he was placed on the short-term IR, retroactive back to Wednesday's game in Vancouver:
So the club recalled Mrazek from the Grand Rapids Griffins to dress as the backup. Mrazek is 2-2-1, with a 3.14 goals-against average and .891 save percentage for the Griffins this season.
Gustavsson, named the NHL's No. 1 star for the week of Oct. 14 after wins against Boston, Columbus and Colorado, is 3-0-0, with a 2.13 GAA and .937 save percentage.
Gustavsson shrugged it off while speaking with the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...
“It stiffened up (Wednesday in Vancouver), just locked, and I couldn’t move my head to the left,” Gustavsson said. “Usually it happens when you sleep but it happened at that point.”
Who noted that tonight's main Red Wings storyline will involve Darren Helm's return to the ice--hopefully...
Forward Darren Helm (groin), who has played in one regular-season and one playoff game since April 2012, is scheduled to play Saturday.
“It’s huge for him,” Red Wings forward Drew Miller said. “He’s been through a lot in the last 18 months or so.”
With Helm coming off the long-term injured list, defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (shoulder) will be placed on the list, retroactive to when he was hurt (Oct. 19 in Phoenix).
Red Wings-Flames notebooks: and Kulfan transitions us to the Wings-Flames story stuff by noting that Joey MacDonald and Jimmy Howard were and are pals:
“You have to have that relationship, have to have that chemistry, to bounce things off of each other,” Howard said. “It’s a team sport, but this position is very individualized (only the other goaltender understands how the other is feeling) and vice versa, and you bounce things off each other.”
MacDonald and Howard spent a couple seasons together in Grand Rapids before reuniting with the Red Wings.
“I have a lot of respect for Joey,” Howard said. “He’s a top-notch guy. We’ve had a lot of fun on and off the ice. I look forward to seeing him there at the other end.”
The Flames had nothing but good things to say about Jiri Hudler's education in the Red Wings' Way, as MLive's Ansar Khan noted...
“He’s been unbelievable, he’s a great leader,’’ Flames coach Bob Hartley said before Friday’s game against the Red Wings at the Saddledome. “For me, he’s our best forward.’’
Hartley said Hudler “is a like a new guy’’ in terms of his ability to lead.
“He’s found a real good fit for himself over here; he feels good, he feels appreciated,’’ Hartley said. “Now he knows the Calgary Flames are his team.’’
Hudler had 10 goals, 17 assists and a minus-13 rating in 42 games last season. Hartley sees a much-improved player this year.
“It all has to do with the summer he put in,’’ Hartley said. “Last year there were lots of uncertainties with the work stoppage and then the passing of his dad. There’s many things that went on with Jiri last year off the ice. Those are not excuses, they’re facts of life. This year Jiri showed up to camp in great shape. The season started right from Day 1 of camp.’’
And the Wings hold no ill will toward Hudler:
“I don’t know if I need him leading the whole crew, but Huds has fun and he’s a good guy,’’ Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s grown up a lot over the years. He’s been through some ups and downs so he’s probably a good influence on the young guys.’’
“There was a reason why Calgary went after him,’’ Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “He’s not a big guy (listed at 5-foot-10, 186), but he plays big. He’s got good balance, he’s strong, he can play net-front power play, half-wall power play, he can do it all. So I’m glad for him that he’s doing well, he’s a great kid. Obviously, we miss him.’’
The Calgary Sun's Wes Gilbertson noted Hartley's praise for Hudler--as well as that of his teammates, the fact that the Flames recalled former Wings prospect Chad Billins, who never earned an NHL deal with the team, just before the game, and he offered this take on "Alfie the Wing":
If it seemed strange to see RW Daniel Alfredsson in a Red Wings jersey, just imagine what it will feel like Dec. 10 when RW Jarome Iginla is spinning around the Saddledome in Boston Bruins silks.
Paul pointed me toward this video about the Flames' ice crew "saving the day"...
And here are some Tweets of note:
I like the fact that Zach Nastasiuk retweeted the news that he'd signed an entry-level contract with the Wings...
And finally, Jean-Claude Grenier let me know that the Journal de Montreal's Alex Drouin is reporting that it's entirely possible that Anthony Mantha will be traded from the Val-d'Or Foreurs before the 41-points-in-16-games-registering QMJHL player of the month (for the second month in a row) could fetch a huge return in a trade.
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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.