The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/20/13 at 01:13 PM ET
Updated 8x at 5:03 PM: The Detroit Red Wings will descend into the land of media hype ahead of tomorrow night's pre-Winter-Classic-Warm-Up-Excitement-Excitement-Excitement-Game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, hoping to build upon a 3-2 OT win over and fan-pleasing performance against the Calgary Flames.
We'll kick things off with an FYI from the NHL:
.@DAlfredsson11 became the 3rd Swedish-born player to reach the 700-assist plateau, joining Nicklas Lidstrom (878) and Mats Sundin (785).
Today's practice yielded surprisingly good news on the injury front, per the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness...
Good sign Wings are nearing full health. Zetterberg, Nyquist, Helm and Abdelkader practicing. No Howard or Franzen.
From the looks of things Helm could return Saturday in Toronto. Skating with Sheahan and Alfie. Tootoo and Samuelsson appear out.
And MLive's Ansar Khan:
Nyquist, Helm and Zetterberg skating today at Wings practice. Franzen and Howard not on the ice.
Based on the way they're skating it looks like Helm might be ready to play Saturday in Toronto but not Nyquist.
Lines at practice: Bertuzzi-Datsyuk-Jurco, Helm-Sheahan-Alfredsson, Miller-Andersson-Tatar, Cleary-Glendening-Eaves.
Based on the lines, it looks like Tootoo and Samuelsson would be healthy scratches. Abdelkader skating but doesn't appear he's ready.
Zetterberg is skating as well but he won't return until Dec. 28.
DeKeyser at the left point on 2nd power play unit with Eaves at right point. Could be DeKeyser is ready to play and Kindl may be scratched?
(Bad idea unless Babs wants to piss Kindl off)
DeKeyser manning point on second PP unit. Looks like he could return Saturday.
Kindl may be sitting and watching from pressbox tomorrow in Toronto.
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan also got in on the proceedings...
Many of the injured are on the ice...maybe this team is finally going to get healthy again.
FYI #2: NHL.com gave Pavel Datsyuk some "love" in their latest edition of "Top 20 Outdoor Moments"...
FYI #3: Yahoo Sports posted a 25-image gallery of Michigan Stadium's "transformation" into the Winter Classic rink, and the NHL has a webcam of the rink construction up:
FYI #4: From the Wings:
The 2013 SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival™ open skates scheduled for Tuesday, December 24 (Christmas Eve) on the ice rink inside Comerica Park are Sold Out. No additional tickets will be available for purchase online or at the ballpark.
Public open skates kicked off this past Tuesday inside Comerica Park allowing fans of all ages to have the once-in-a-lifetime thrill of skating on the same ice as their Red Wings and Maple Leafs Alumni hockey heroes.
These on-ice activities lead up to the fun-filled final five days of the 2013 SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival™ on Dec. 27-31 which includes the 122,000-square-foot Coke Zero Fan Zone with interactive activities, live entertainment, food, photo/autograph opportunities and hockey-themed exhibits taking place outside of Comerica Park and an exciting schedule of hockey inside the stadium including the 49th annual Great Lakes Invitational college hockey tournament Dec. 27-28; Ontario Hockey League and American Hockey League games Dec. 29-30; and the finale: a doubleheader with the Red Wings Alumni taking on the Maple Leafs Alumni on Dec. 31.
Dates, times and activities are subject to change. Visit http://www.DetroitRedWings.com/2014winterclassic for the most up to date schedule and information.
FYI #whaaat? The Wings are still listed amidst NHL.com's Corey Masisak's Super 16 rankings:
15. Detroit Red Wings (15-12-9) LW: 13
The Red Wings have a seven-game and a six-game losing streak just in the past six weeks of this season, and they can't win at Joe Louis Arena. They've got tons of injuries, but have scraped by with non-regulation losses (seven since Nov. 7) to ease the pain while they try to stem the tide and wait for reinforcements.
MUST READ: HBO's "24/7" gives fans inside access, and Justin Bourne breaks down some of the inside hockey stuff the cameras caught glimpses of.
In the prospect department, Anthony Mantha had a goal and an assist in Canada's 4-2 win over Sweden in a World Junior Championship tune-up game...
And Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi offered an intriguing take on the Wings-Flames affair:
[Pavel] Datsyuk, recently back from a concussion, looked more like his supernatural self as the game wore on. In general, though, these Red Wings generate fewer “OOOOooooohhhhhhhs!” from the crowd than their forebears. Particularly with much of the roster in triage, the Red Wings don’t possess enough skill to survive on playmaking. Potential odd-man rushes are evaporating in the neutral zone. You won’t find many creative drop passes or artistic goals on the season highlight reel. Out of necessity, the Red Wings have started chipping. “We have to play a little bit more north-south, get the puck out of our zone and into their zone, keep grinding away, get some chances off the cycle,” Kronwall said.
Translation: These are not Brett Hull’s Red Wings. That was obvious less than seven minutes into Thursday’s game, when [coach Mike] Babcock’s top power play unit included Tomas Jurco, a 20-year-old Slovak playing in his third NHL game. Yes. Third. Scotty Bowman likely required a more extensive NHL résumé for prime ice time in the era of Robitaille, Shanahan and Fedorov.
But while HBO’s cameras roll and the Red Wings prepare to face the Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium, Babcock is ad-libbing magnificently with the Jurcos and Tomas Tatars and Luke Glendenings. As Kronwall pointed out Thursday, the kids are getting experience that could pay major dividends in the spring. On a related note: The Red Wings, even in their wounded state, would be seeded fifth if the Eastern Conference playoffs began today.
Do the Red Wings have a future Hall of Famer on the ice every time a new line hops over the dasher? No. Will they be favorites to win the Stanley Cup when the NHL starts playing for keeps in April? No. Will the Red Wings win as often as they once did? No. But they haven’t forgotten how. If the old ways stop working, they’ll invent a new one.
“We’re not playing perfect hockey,” [Daniel] Alfredsson said. “But when you see everybody grinding, it rubs off.”
Take it from the new guy: The Red Wings are the Red Wings after all.
Practice ended at 12:50 PM, and Pleiness offered the first quip from the locker room...
DeKeyser says he's in lineup Saturday against Leafs.
MLive's Ansar Khan followed...
DeKeyser said he has been cleared to play tomorrow.
And the Toronto Sun's Lance Hornby took note of a Jonas Gustavsson comment made last night:
Jonas Gustavsson: "I don't know if I'm starting yet, but no matter what, it's going to be fun to go there and try to get a win in Toronto."
In the Leaf Hype Department, the Toronto Star's Brendan Kennedy asked Toronto native Kris Draper about his first game at Maple Leaf Gardens...
February 15, 1994: The first time he set foot in Maple Leaf Gardens as a member of the Detroit Red Wings. Draper had been to the Gardens countless times before. Sitting in the reds with his Dad, he had marveled at the bright-white ice and cheered for Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald and Mike Palmateer.
But this was different. He wasn’t in the stands anymore. He was about to take the ice himself, wearing the Wings’ red and white, as part of an Original Six rivalry in his hometown.
“One of the first things I did — I’ll never forget it — I walked right down to the bench, still in my suit, and I just looked around and took it all in. It didn’t hit me until I got down there and looked around: ‘I’m going to play in Maple Leaf Gardens.’ I kind of had to catch myself.”
As well as his job as the de-facto coach of the Wings' alums...
“It’s been fun. We had a real good skate today. I think we had actually 10 forwards on each team. Guys were given ’er pretty good today. We had two little balls of hate — Pat Verbeek and Dino Ciccarelli — and we made sure we split those guys up.”
Noted fitness guru Chris Chelios has also been cracking the whip, apparently.
“We even had a little conditioning skate at the end of practice,” Draper said, laughing. “Cheli wanted to skate.”
Last week Steve Yzerman — the Wings’ greatest player after Gordie Howe and the current GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning — confirmed he would take part in the game, giving the retired red-and-white a big boost. “We were all glad to see Stevie join in.”
Draper’s also looking forward to getting back together with “The Russian Five”: Igor Larionov, Slava Kozlov, Viacheslav Fetisov, Sergei Fedorov and Vladimir Konstantinov, whose career was cut short in 1997 when he was paralyzed following a car accident, but has confirmed his attendance.
“I think everyone is just really excited about this,” he said. “I think the alumni game has picked up more speed after the Philadelphia one (in 2012). The number of great players and the history both organizations have, it should be a great day. It wasn’t hard to fill the roster for two games. I’m looking forward to seeing all of the guys.”
And Kyle Quincey talked about his hit on Ryan Getzlaf while speaking with the Fan 590's Joey Vendetta today:
Update #0.5: Per the Free Press's George Sipple...
Babcock said Gustavsson will be in net vs. Toronto on Sat.
MLive's Ansar Khan...
Babcock confirms Gustavsson will start tomorrow in his return to Toronto. Beyond that he said no lineup decisions made yet. Not sure on Helm
And the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:
Gustavsson to start tomorrow against his old team the Leafs...DeKeyser looks like a go too...heck maybe even Helm
Update #1: Here's the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness's practice update...
Danny DeKeyser appears to be ready to return to the lineup after missing the last 15 games with an injured shoulder.
“I feel good,” DeKeyser said after practice. “I should be good to go. I’m excited. It’s been awhile since I’ve played, a little over a month, but it seems longer than that so I’m just ready to get back at it.”
DeKeyser has two goals and seven assists in 22 games this season.
“I’ve just got to get up to game speed,” DeKeyser said. “It’s been awhile since I’ve played so I’m going to do my best to play as well as I was playing when I got hurt so that’s what I’m going to try to do. Sitting around all the time makes it seem longer than a month that I’ve been out.”
All of the Wings’ injured players skated Friday, expect for Jimmy Howard (knee) and Johan Franzen (concussion).
“Dekeyser’s available tomorrow, we’ll see at the morning skate,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I mean I had 17 forwards on the ice the biggest group I’ve ever had since I’ve been here by far. That’s good and the other thing that’s important is you need competition for jobs. To be a real good team you need competition for jobs and then you got to get guys to embrace the internal competition that makes you a better player.”
As it looked in practice, Darren Helm (shoulder) appeared as if he was playing, skating on a line with Riley Sheahan and Daniel Alfredsson, but he said afterwards he didn’t think he was in.
“I’ve got no idea,” Babcock said when asked about the lineup he would go with against the Leafs. “The general manager and I will sit together on the plane after we talk to the medical people and we’ll do the math.”
And the Free Press's George Sipple focused on Gustavsson's start tomorrow:
“It was my first few years over here,” said Gustavsson, who played in his native Sweden before coming to the NHL. “It was a lot of learning. Obviously, we didn’t make the playoffs and that was disappointment. For myself, I felt right away I got a chance to play right away and get some experience. That was really good for me. And then of course, I had some good stretches and some not-so-good stretches.”
Gustavsson said he thought it was tougher for Canadian-born players to play in Toronto than it was for him. Hockey, and chiefly the Maple Leafs, dominate the headlines in Toronto.
One difference, he said, is that when he’s doing an interview, like he did today, there were five reporters to talk to instead of 25 like in Toronto. The Maple Leafs decided not to resign Gustavsson after he went 17-17-4 with a 2.92 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage in 2011-2012.
“I think both parts felt it was time to move on,” Gustavsson said. “For me, it was time to find another challenge. For them, it was probably a good period to move on too.”
Gustavsson is 9-3-2 with a 2.25 GAA and a .920 save percentage this season for the Wings and coming off a 3-2 overtime win over the Flames on Thursday.
“I thought he played good,” Babcock said. “Gus has been really good for us. He’s had very few off nights or average nights, to say the least. He’s got confidence. He gives our team confidence. He’s done an excellent job for us. We’re thrilled with the job he’s done for us. We’re not scared of Petr (Mrazek) one bit either, but Gus has earned the right to play.”
Sipple also took note of Gustav Nyquist's take on his groin...
Gustav Nyquist (groin) remains day-to-day. “We gotta see here in the next few hours how it feels after a good skate,” Nyquist said.
And Mikael Samuelsson's take on being scratched:
“That’s what I need most of all,” Samuelsson said, referring to confidence. “You can say, ‘Oh yeah, you have to skate faster, you’ve got to battle harder.’ Yeah, absolutely. I haven’t played my best hockey. But it has its reasons too, but I don’t want to comment on that. I just have to take it one day at a time.”
Anthony Mantha had a goal and an assist as Canada rallied to beat Finland 4-2 on Friday in a world junior hockey championship exhibition game.
Bo Horvat, Mathew Dumba and Aaron Ekblad also scored for Canada. Connor McDavid added two assists.
Finland opened the scoring at 8:34 of the first period on a goal from Juuso Ikonen, then Esa Lindell scored shorthanded at 12:45 to put the Finns up 2-0.
Canada made it 2-1 before the end of the first on Horvat's goal before tying the score just 25 seconds into the second when Dumba scored.
Ekblad gave Canada its first lead of the game at 14:43 of the second before Mantha added some insurance two minutes into the third.
Canada starter Zach Fucale stopped 11-of-13 shots, steadying his play after a rough start.
Here's MLive's Ansar Khan's practice update...
“I feel good; I should be good to go,” DeKeyser said. “I’m excited. It’s been a while since I’ve played, a little over a month, but it seems longer than that so I’m just ready to get back at it.”
DeKeyser was having a strong season and was producing more offensively before he got injured, with eight points (two goals, six assists) in the 10 games before the Nashville contest.
“It’ll be a little difficult at first,” DeKeyser said. “I’ve just got to get up to game speed. It’s been a while since I’ve played so I’m going to do my best to play as well as I was playing when I got hurt.”
Coach Mike Babcock said DeKeyser is available for Saturday but added that no lineup decisions have been made, on defense or at forward. DeKeyser was practicing on the second power-play unit, in place of Jakub Kindl at the left point.
Darren Helm (sprained shoulder) skated on a line with Daniel Alfredsson and Riley Sheahan in practice Friday, but said afterward that he doesn’t think he’ll be ready to play Saturday. He is aiming to return Monday at home against the New York Islanders.
Gustav Nyquist skated for the first time since he hurt his groin on Sunday but said he doesn’t think he’ll be ready to play Saturday.
“We waited until I felt good and had good strength,” Nyquist said. “We’ll see if it starts to hurt or aches after the skate; that’s the big test. Still day-to-day.”
Here's the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's practice update...
This will be something different for goalie Jonas Gustavsson, going into Toronto Saturday and facing his former team, the Maple Leafs. Gustavsson has never done that. He’s never opposed a former team.
“It’ll be the first time,” said Gustavsson, who earned the 3-2 overtime win Thursday over Calgary. “I’ve never switched teams. I switched leagues in Sweden, but never played against a team in that league. This will be the first time. It’ll be exciting. I spent three years there (2009-12). I know a lot of people. I’ll be fun to go back there.”
Like any Maple Leafs player, past or present, Gustavsson was beloved and not so beloved, with Maple Leafs fans. Toronto is a different place to play, what with its intense media scrutiny, and passionate fan base.
“It’s even tougher for the Canadian players that have families and kids, and if they have a tough game their kids’ friends will read about it,” Gustavsson said. “I put pressure on myself, so I didn’t feel any extra pressure. I like to do other stuff when I’m not playing hockey (instead of reading or watching it non-stop). The difference (between Toronto and Detroit) is here you have five guys interviewing you instead of 25 over there.”
Coach Mike Babcock had 17 forwards skating Friday at practice, one sure sign many of the injured Red Wings are close to returning. Defenseman Danny DeKeyser (shoulder seperation) will be in the lineup Saturday after missing the last 15 games.
This is the first match-up between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs this season, and only days before the Jan. 1 Winter Classic.
“Fans enjoy the Original Six rivalries,” forward Daniel Cleary said. “Detroit-Toronto has a lot of history and the build up is fun. This game tomorrow will be fun.”
And, via Paul:
For the record, the Hockey News's posting of an excerpt from Darren McCarty's memoir was already posted in the Free Press, but it's still good:
Detroit Red Wings’ cult hero Darren McCarty is sharing “his truth” with the world through a memoir of his life and career entitled, “My Last Fight: The True Story of a Hockey Rock Star.”
In the book, co-written with USA Today’s Kevin Allen, McCarty covers his days as a feared NHL enforcer, battles with addiction, bankruptcy, divorce and playing in the band Grinder.
In the following passage, McCarty, now 41, takes the reader through the notorious “Bloody Wednesday” grudge match with the Colorado Avalanche, a night when he and his teammates exacted revenge for Claude Lemeiux’s dangerous hit from behind on Kris Draper.
If you want to appreciate how much anger I was carrying when I went after Claude Lemieux on March 26, 1997, take a close look at my left fist in the famous photo where Lemieux appears to be “turtling.”
My fist is so tightly wound that there is a stress indentation that runs down from hand to my forearm.
Many times since then I’ve tried to ball my fist tight enough to reproduce that stress line. I’ve never been able to do it.
Even though I fought close to 200 times during my professional hockey career, it’s fair to say that I brought more intensity and anger to the Lemieux confrontation than any bout I ever had.
Years later, Lemieux told me that the first blow I delivered was the hardest punch he ever received. During my career, there were other times when I wanted to pound the shit out of an opponent, but I’d never wanted to hurt anyone as much as I wanted to hurt Lemieux.
Update #3: DRW Prospects on Twitter posted a clip of Mantha's exploits...
And the Barrie Advance's Shawn Gibson penned quite the story about Andreas Athanasiou:
Athanasiou’s mother is of Guyanese decent and his father is from the soccer-mad nation of Greece. Despite no immediate hockey history in the genes, it was an overall love of sport that got a young Andreas on to skates.
“We are a sports-mad family,” Athanasiou said. “My older siblings played hockey and all sports really. We just always stayed active and took an interest in not only athleticism, but each other and what we were doing. I tried to do as much as I could, but focused on hockey because I enjoyed it the most.”
Born in London, Andreas moved to Mississauga at age five and eventually settled in Woodbridge. The 19-year-old played a throughout the GTA and beyond. While he faced many obstacles as a young hockey player, Athanasiou is thankful he never had to overcome any name-calling on the ice.
“With such a diverse family background, I never encountered racism on the ice. I know it’s out there and that it happens, but even having played all over, it wasn’t something that happened to me. I always thought that if it ever did, there isn’t much I could do about it and it would be something to just shrug off. Maybe I’m just lucky to have encountered great people along the way.”
One of his favourite early memories of the game was when he was involved in a tournament in Las Vegas. A lengthy overtime included reducing the players on the ice from five-on-five right down to an eventual one-on-one.
“I scored on the one-on-one to win the game. It was an amazing feeling.”
Number 22 was instrumental in Barrie’s incredible run in last year’s OHL playoffs; putting up 25 points in 22 games and coming as close as 0.1 seconds to possibly advancing to the Memorial Cup. The loss to his former Knights squad was bad, but not as catastrophic as most have made it out to be.
“It will probably sting for as long as I can remember it,” Athanasiou said of the close loss. “But the truth is, it’s over and we don’t think about it as much as the fans or media do. I understand the obsession with it as it was such a great series, but I was friends with a lot of guys there and it wasn’t a huge revenge thing or a personal vendetta. It was a game we lost and now we try to get back and do it again with different results.”
Update #4: MLive's Ansar Khan added more about Samuelsson to the mix:
“It’s extremely disappointing,” Samuelsson said. “It’s out of my hands. I’m disappointed I can’t be in the lineup.”
Samuelsson admits he hasn’t done enough to warrant being in the lineup, with just three points (goal, two assists) and a minus-5 rating in 21 games.
“It’s a matter of ice time, it’s a matter of confidence right now; that’s what I need most of all,” Samuelsson said. “You can say you got to skate faster and battle harder, absolutely. I haven’t played my best hockey. It has its reasons, too, but I don’t want to comment on that. I just have to take it one day at a time.”
Babcock said he’ll decide on his lineup for Saturday in the morning.
“I had 17 forwards on the ice (for practice); the biggest crop I’ve ever had since I’ve been here by far,” Babcock said. “To be a real good team you need competition for jobs and then you got to get guys to embrace the internal competition that makes you a better player.”
He did say that Patrick Eaves will remain in the lineup.
“Patty Eaves, by the way, was the first star in practice today,” Babcock said. “He won Pete (assistant coach Bill Peters) two dinners. Pete’s pumped. Pete said he’d buy you an appetizer because you won him a dinner, Patty. Good job.”
Also: the Toronto Star posted a "Red Wings-Maple Leafs Rivalry By the Numbers" article...
And, via RedWingsFeed, this is campy:
Update #5: For the record, the Guelph Mercury's Tony Saxon found out why Tyler Berutzzi isn't playing for the Guelph Storm, and the news isn't good:
Bertuzzi is experiencing the same type of neck/head issues that kept him out of the Storm lineup for a considerable period around this time last year.
It is hoped the same type of chiropractic treatment he received at home in Sudbury, where his stepmom is a chiropractor, a year ago will also help this year over the Christmas break.
"He's having neck problems similar to last year," [Storm GM Mike] Kelly said. "It's coming. He felt better the other day. We don't have a timetable on his return."
Gordie Howe also made an appearance at Wednesday's Hershey Bears game, per the Hershey Patriot-News's Tim Leone:
Hockey immortal Gordie Howe attended Wednesday night's Hershey Bears-Syracuse Crunch game at Giant Center.
The 85-year-old viewed the game from a press box booth with his son Mark, a scout for the Detroit Red Wings who also is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. In recent years, Mark Howe has brought his legendary father on annual visits to Giant Center.
“That's pretty good,” Bears head coach Mike Haviland said. “That's pretty cool, for sure. Certainly, one of the best players ever to play the game, so that's pretty special.”
Mr. Hockey saw Bears winger Brandon Segal score a goal and add two assists in Hershey's 4-3 shootout win before a sellout crowd of 10,801.
“It's pretty amazing,” Segal said. “He's still coming to all these games.”
Update #6: Via RedWingsFeed, the CBC's Jim Hughson weighs in on the Wings' ups and downs:
And Michigan Hockey's Stefan Kubus spoke with Luke Glendening about playing in outdoor game #4:
Luke Glendening is set to play in the fourth outdoor game of his hockey career, but there’s just one snag.
He doesn’t know what team he’ll be playing for yet.
The 24-year-old Grand Rapids native started the 2013-14 season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, but has since been recalled up to the parent Detroit Red Wings on six different occasions due to Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock shaking up the lines and also due to a number of injuries.
Should Detroit receive a collectively cleaner bill of health by the time the Winter Classic rolls around, Glendening – who has one assist in 13 NHL games as of Friday afternoon – will likely be sent down to the AHL to play with Grand Rapids at Comerica Park instead, but that’s not something the forward is worried about.
“I just take it day by day here,” Glendening said. “I don’t know how long my time here will last, but you’ve just got to make the most of it while you’re here, and it’s an opportunity to make a name for myself.”
One thing is for sure, though – Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock has loved what he has seen out of Glendening so far this season as a defensive forward when called upon. In fact, following a preseason win against Toronto before Glendening even made his NHL regular-season debut, Babcock had a strong prediction for the forward’s future.
“He’s a good player,” Babcock said after that game. “He’s smart, he’s another guy like (Joakim Andersson); you trust him, you don’t worry about him. I had him out there every penalty kill right off the get-go. He’ll play for the Red Wings. He’s smart enough and competitive enough and knows how to play good enough. He’ll find a way to play in the NHL.”
Update #8: Petr Mrazek's HeadStrong Grafx mask is cooler:
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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.