The Malik Report
by George Malik on 10/25/13 at 12:43 PM ET
Updated 5x at 2:06 PM: The Red Wings returned to practice in search of more scoring ahead of tomorrow night's game against the Rangers (7 PM, FSD/MSG/NHL Network U.S., 97.1 FM, and tomorrow's the Wings "Hockey Fights Cancer" game/Shawn Burr bone marrow drive game), and it's not exactly surprising that the Wings made some changes to kick-start its offense:
The Wings are winless (0-2-and-1) in their last 3 games, having lost to Phoenix, San Jose (via a shootout) and Ottawa, but they sit at the halfway point in NHL.com's Corey Masisak's "Super 16" power rankings:
8. Detroit Red Wings (6-4-1): The Red Wings have been the gold standard in many ways for a long time in the League, and that's especially true with puck possession. Before Corsi and Fenwick started to creep into the lexicon for the average fan, everyone knew the Nicklas Lidstrom-led Red Wings kept the puck and didn't let their favorite team have it. From 2007-08 to 2011-12, Detroit finished first or second in the NHL in Corsi-for percentage.
Last season was the first without Lidstrom and the Wings slipped to sixth, but remained above 53 percent -- they didn't really get worse, other teams just got better. That's why it is weird to see the Red Wings in the middle of the pack (15th as of Wednesday), right around 50 percent. The lineup has been unsettled, but getting back to being the Red Wings is important for this team to be considered an elite one.
MUST READ: Lidstrom was a great captain. Henrik Zetterberg was a really good one in his first season. Here's Adam Proteau of the Hockey News on captains.
Here are more line combination updates from MLive's Ansar Khan...
Wings on ice for practice. Everybody who is not on IR is skating as well as Hlelm. Looks like more line changes.
Datsyuk and Zetterberg split up. Datsyuk skating with Bertuzzi and Alfredsson; Zetterberg centering Franzen and Tatar.
Weiss still centering third line, with Abdelkader and Cleary. Fourth line of Miller-Andersson-Tootoo intact.
Extras are Eaves and Samuelsson. Helm not ready to play until next week's road trip, they hope.
Defense pairs same as last game: Kronwall-Smith, Quincey-DeKeyser, Lashoff-Kindl.
First power play unit still has Datsyuk and Zetterberg together, with Bertuzzi. Kronwall and Alfredsson at the points.
Weiss is back on second power play unit with Franzen and Tatar. Kindl and DeKeyser at the points.
And the Macomb Daily's Pleiness:
Babcock appears to have new top two lines. Zetterberg with Franzen and Tatar. Datsyuk with Bertuzzi and Alfressson.
Weiss with Abdelkader and Cleary. The fourth line is Andersson with Tootoo and Miller. #RedWings
PP units have Zetterberg and Datsyuk together with Bertuzzi. Alfredsson and Kronwall on point. Weiss with Franzen and Tatar on 2nd unit.
DeKeyser and Kindl on blue line of 2nd PP unit.
In the charitable news department...
Update #0.75: Some of you will love this quip from ESPN's Pierre LeBrun:
Jay (Denver) Pierre, I have lost faith in Ken Holland. I think he is too emotionally attached to some of his veteran players. This attachment is preventing him from making very obvious moves that need to be made for cap purposes. Can you think of any other GMs that suffered from a similar ailment?
Pierre LeBrun: You have lost faith in Ken Holland? Why, because you're bored cheering for the most successful pro hockey franchise of the past 20 years??? Man, tough crowd !
Update #1: Here's the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness's practice report, discussing the Zetterberg-Datsyuk break-up...
“It’s not going,” Babcock said after practice. “I told them and you guys I wasn’t going to split them up and 11 games in I’m splitting them up. It wasn’t by plan and not necessarily what I wanted to do, but we need to.”
“We think we need more going,” Babcock said. “It’s too easy to shut down one or two guys. You need a team going. Right now we need Alfie and we need Mule and a whole bunch of guys to score. We haven’t gotten that much with playing with those guys so maybe if we get them playing with those guys then we get four guys scoring and the other guys contributing more on a regular basis and then we become a better hockey team. That’s the plan.”
The Wings have scored just three goals over their last three games.
“Could be a record, what was it 10 games,” Zetterberg joked about how long he was able to stick alongside Datsyuk to start the season. “I think Babs was pretty up front about it, we will be playing together until he needs to switch it up and now it’s time. I’m pretty sure we’ll play together here at some point in time. But when we’ve been losing games like we have, haven’t been scoring much, we have to try something different.”
Tomas Tatar's promotion...
“My job will be to skate, get the pucks for the guys so they can make the plays,” Tatar said. “Be aggressive on the puck for those guys so we can stay in the offensive zone, get the puck in the corners for them. They are smart guys and make the plays so I need to get open for them and make more space.
And Darren Helm's status as not ready to play tomorrow due to his groin injury:
“If that didn’t happen I felt that I had a chance for (Saturday), but the groin is feeling better, the back is feeling good,” Helm said. “The test in GR went really well and hopefully everything will be good for Canada somewhere.”
Update #2: Here's MLive's Ansar Khan's practice report:
“Could be a record, what was it, 10 games (11, actually)?’’ Zetterberg said after practice Friday. “I think Babs was pretty up front about it; we will be playing together until he needs to switch it up and now it’s time. I’m pretty sure we’ll play together here at some point in time. But when we’ve been losing games like we have, haven’t been scoring much, we have to try something different.’’
Datsyuk will play on a line with Daniel Alfredsson and Todd Bertuzzi, Zetterberg will center a line with Johan Franzen and Tomas Tatar.
“It’s not going,’’ Babcock said. “I told them and you guys I wasn’t going to split them up and 11 games in I’m splitting them up. It wasn’t by plan and not necessarily what I wanted to do, but we need to.’’
The Red Wings have scored just three goals in three games, going 0-2-1. They are averaging only 2.24 goals per game, which ranks 23rd in the NHL. That’s worse than where they finished last season (tied for 19th at 2.54 goals per game).
“We think we need more going,’’ Babcock said. “It’s too easy to shut down one or two guys. You need a team going. Right now we need Alfie, and we need Mule and a whole bunch of guys to score.’’
Babcock is hoping Datsyuk and Zetterberg can spark their linemates. Alfredsson has nine points in 11 games, but only one goal. Franzen has just two goals, both in the 4-2 win at Colorado on Oct. 17, and five points.
“We haven’t gotten that much with playing with those guys (Datsyuk and Zetterberg together), so maybe if we get them playing with those (other) guys as well then we get four guys scoring and the other guys contributing more on a regular basis and then we become a better hockey team,’’ Babcock said. “That’s the plan.’’
Update #2.5: Looks like we won't hear much from the Rangers' camp today, per Blueshirts United's Jim Cerny:
No #NYR practice today..back at it tomorrow in Detroit with tilt against Red Wings...not sure if @ctalbot33 starts again or @HLundqvist30
Update #2.75: From Fox 17's Steve Amorose:
Griffins moving up Riley Sheahan to Nyquist's spot on line with Calle Jarnkrok and Tomas Jurco for tonight's home game. @FOX17
This is a good opportunity for Tatar, a rookie who has impressed in limited time with his work ethic and ability to generate opportunites, if not any points yet (three games, no points).
"To play with those guys is a dream," Tatar said. "Those guys are real good players, leaders on the team and hopefully we can make good chemistry. My job is to skate and forecheck, grind the corner and get the puck for them. Those guys make real smart plays. I just have to make space for them."
On the third line, Babcock has Stephen Weiss centering Daniel Cleary and Justin Abdelkader. Joakim Andersson is between Jordin Tootoo and Drew Miller on the fourth line.
"We just have to generate more offense," Babcock said. "We need to get more going, it's too easy to shut down one or two guys. You need a team going. Right now, we need Alfie (Alfredsson) and Mule (Franzen) and a whole bunch of guys to score. We haven't gotten that as much with them not playing with those guys (Datsyuk, Zetterberg).
"If we get them playing with those guys, maybe we get them scoring."
Update #4: Here's the Free Press's George Sipple's report:
The Wings host the New York Rangers on Saturday (7:30 p.m., FSD). This will the ninth consecutive game the Rangers (2-6) play on the road to start the season.
“Hopefully, we can spread it out a little bit more and get four lines going,” Zetterberg said.
Asked what Tatar needs to do on the line, Zetterberg said: “Just play the way he’s been playing all the way up until he got here. He’s skilled. He sees the ice very well. He’s got a good shot. Shoot the puck. Both me and Mule likes to have the puck a lot. I think (Tatar) will be good at finding an open spot and being a sniper.”
Tatar is looking forward to the chance to play with Zetterberg and Franzen.
“It’s basically like a dream,” Tatar said. “Those guys are really good players, and they’re one of those leaders on the team. It’s going to be fun. Hopefully, we can make good chemistry, score a couple goals.”
Notes: Babcock said goalie Jimmy Howard will start in net for the Wings. … Forward Patrick Eaves, who has been on long-term injured reserve with a sprained MCL and ankle injury, has been cleared to play, but Babcock said he won’t be in the lineup against the Rangers.
Update #5: Here's DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose's practice report:
The Red Wings finish up a three-game homestand on Saturday before taking a journey to Western Canada next week. The New York Rangers conclude their nine-game road trip to start the season Saturday at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit has managed just one goal – Bertuzzi’s power-play goal against the Senators – in the last eight periods, plus an overtime and a shootout.
“I think the last game we can hit the delete button because I don’t think we did a lot of good things,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “The game before that, San Jose, was a well-played game by both teams. That was two scoring teams that went at each other, but we played real good defense, didn’t give each other a lot of opportunity to score goals. Saying that, I think we have to find ways to spend more time in their end.”
The one constant this season has been that Dastyuk and Zetterberg have played together on the same line, first with Justin Abdelkader and more recently Bertuzzi. But the Euro Twins have also accounted for 44 percent (11-of-25) of the Red Wings’ goals, which isn’t an ideal methodology. By switching up the line combinations, the hope is that they can spread out the scoring to become more balanced and more difficult to slow down.
EAVES UPDATE: Eaves (MCL, ankle sprain) was cleared this week to return to action, and while he’s eligible to come off of long-term injured reserve, Babcock said the veteran grinder will not be in Saturday’s lineup against the Rangers.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU: Wednesday was the first time for Niklas Kronwall and Brendan Smith to play any significant minutes together as defensive partners. While Smith is much more offensive-minded than Jonathan Ericsson – Kronwall’s usual D-partner – it will take some time getting use to.
“I thought there were things that worked and some things we need to work on a lot more,” Kronwall said. “That’s like that the first few times you play with each other. We haven’t played with each other for some time now. So it’s going to take some time to adjust to each other. The more you communicate out there the better it’s going to be. We just need to play with each other, get out there as much as possible so we can get a better read off each other.”
Ericsson is out for 2-3 weeks with a partial dislocation of his left shoulder joint.
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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.