The Malik Report
by George Malik on 11/28/13 at 10:01 PM ET
After trying to scoff down a Thanksgiving dinner, the team boarded Red Bird III for a 7 PM flight to Long Island. The Wings will battle the Islanders tomorrow afternoon at 4 PM (on FSD and MSG Plus; the Islanders lost 3-2 to Winnipeg on Wednesday, and they've dropped 4 straight games since defeating the Wings 5-4 in a shootout on Saturday the 16th), and then they'll descend upon a media maelstrom ahead of Sunday afternoon's Daniel Alfredsson reunion and/or Wings' attempt to defeat the Ottawa Senators for the first time in 3 meetings (after being spanked 6-1 on October 23rd and 4-2 last Saturday, with both games taking place at the Joe).
While Henrik Zetterberg's the team's leading scorer (and we'll get to him in a little bit), the Wings' Most Important Player told MLive's Ansar Khan that he's still trying to recover from the after-effects of the concussion dealt to him by Jared Cowen's un-penalized elbow (and oh hey, the Ottawa Citizen's Ken Warren reports that Cowen's been scratched for tonight's Sens-Canucks game because he's struggling to, you know, play hockey...):
Datsyuk did not skate Thursday during the Detroit Red Wings’ 35-minute Thanksgiving Day practice at Joe Louis Arena. He did not anticipate accompanying the team later in the day on the trip to New York and Ottawa. He previously had been ruled out of Friday’s game at the Islanders (4 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit). He also won’t play Sunday against the Senators.
Datsyuk is experiencing concussion-like symptoms after being elbowed in the chin by Ottawa defenseman Jared Cowen last Saturday. Datsyuk declined to comment on the hit or the NHL’s decision not to punish Cowen.
“It’s not my priority,’’ Datsyuk said. “I’m just looking to heal fast and be careful. Next time be ready.’’ Asked if it was careless on Cowen’s part, Datsyuk said, “I don’t know. He need to explain how this happened. I just play; it’s hard to say.’’
He said of the hit, “I was going another way, he go the opposite way. This made it more speed, more power.’’
Datsyuk said he has never experienced this kind of injury. He skated for about 10 minutes on Wednesday,
“I’m starting slowly, go with the program,’’ he said.
He does not have a time frame for his return.
“Nobody knows,’’ he said. “I hope so soon.’’
Khan reported that the Wings skated with what have become their "usual" lines...
And Todd Bertuzzi may or may not recover from his shoulder injury in time to play on Sunday:
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan confirmed Datsyuk's status...
“Slowly, a little bit better,” said Datsyuk, regarding how he’s feeling. “(But) I’m not feeling where I am supposed to be.”
Datsyuk, who leads the Red Wings with 12 goals, was hopeful of returning this weekend. Datsyuk has done some light skating but nothing close to actual practice conditions. Chances are, he will need to go through at least one or two full-length practices before it’s determined he can play again.
“I’m starting slowly,” said Datsyuk of his skating program. “Just a little bit, but not with the team.”
And Kulfan also noted that Jimmy Howard has no problem with Jonas Gustavsson's regular starts of late (after last night's game, Babcock stated that Howard will start on Friday, Gustavsson will "go" on Sunday as Howard's had no luck vs. Ottawa, and then Howard will start vs. Philadelphia on the 4th, which the Free Press's Helene St. James reported is Ken Holland's, "We'll probably have Datsyuk and Bertuzzi back no earlier than then" date):
Goalie Jimmy Howard, who missed the last two starts in favor of Jonas Gustavsson, will get the start Friday against the Islanders.
“I understand it,” said Howard, who is winless in seven starts. “Gus deserves to play. He’s been one of our best players this season. I just have to go out there and play my game.”
In terms of tomorrow night's game--and switching things up by offering the Wings' takes first and the Islanders' takes second--I'm going to keep the Wings-Islanders set-up portion of this entry brief: Newsday's Arthur Staple reported that the Islanders skated on Thursday and called up Calvin De Haan, and the New York Daily News's Stephen Lorenzo and the New York Post's Brett Cyrgalis confirmed that the Isles swapped out De Haan and defenseman Matt Donovan was essentially demoted for making a mistake that led to the Jets' second goal...
But I can't really find anything from Thursday's Islanders practice online. Again, the Islanders' 3-2 loss to Winnipeg punctuated a 4-game losing streak since their 5-4 shootout win over the Wings almost 2 weeks ago.
The New York Daily News's Lorenzo reports that the Isles' loss on Wednesday night was particularly frustrating for the team...
With the Islanders already in the cellar of the Metropolitan Division, their problems continued Wednesday night. Unable to play out of a 3-0 hole, the Isles fell, 3-2, to the Winnipeg Jets at Nassau Coliseum. The Isles have now lost four in a row and are 4-9-0 in November. The loss is typical of the Islanders’ recent troubles as they fell behind and then came up just short in a comeback effort.
“It’s the same thing again. We don’t want to give teams 3-0 leads and we don’t want to wait to engage in the way we need to play until we’re down,” a noticeably agitated Islanders captain John Tavares said after the loss. “We need everyone to have the same mind-set, play hard every shift and do all the little extra things on the ice. When we don’t do that as a team, we are pretty easy to play against. No question this is frustrating and we need to address it.”
The Winnipeg scoring carousel started at 11:27 of the second on a Mark Stuart slap shot from the point. Minutes later at 14:39, a Matt Donovan giveaway in the neutral zone led to a Jets 3-on-2 that was finished by Andrew Ladd to make it 2-0. By 16:42 it was 3-0 Jets after a Keaton Ellerby slapper deflected off the stick of Devin Setoguchi and past Kevin Poulin, which drew some hefty boos from the Uniondale crowd.
Andrew MacDonald finally put the Islanders (8-14-3) on the board at 17:49 of the second period with a power-play goal past former Isle and Rangers first-rounder Al Montoya that broke a 0-for-13 drought on the man advantage. Tavares added an even-strength goal at the 14:01 mark of the third to bring the Isles within one.
“It’s just not good enough. Our intensity and the little things — taking hits to make plays — all the things that make a big difference in a game over a long run, we’re just not doing,” Tavares said. “It seems like we’re just waiting for them to happen. And they’re not going to come until the consistent effort in each and every shift is there.”
As did the New York Post's Cyrgalis...
For the past four years, the Islanders (8-14-3) have made it a habit of falling to pieces in the second month of the season — which traditionally has been November, but was February last season as a result of the lockout. This loss was the Islanders’ ninth in the past 11 games, and took them to 4-9 this month. Over the past four years, their record in the second month is now 13-33-5.
“I wish I had an answer,” forward Frans Nielsen said before the game. “I was actually wondering the other day what our record is in November in the last four years.”
When told, Nielsen still had little in a way of an explanation.
“I knew it,” he said. “For some reason we do struggle, but I don’t have an answer.”
NHL.com's Cory Wright...
“We have to do a better job of answering back after we get scored on,” Travis Hamonic said.
The Islanders responded about a minute later, on the power play, as MacDonald ripped a high shot on Al Montoya.
Tavares brought the Islanders within a goal in the third period, burning Tobias Enstrom wide, curling out in front of the net and scoring five-hole on Montoya. The goal sparked the Islanders, who pressured the Jets on a power play less than a minute later.
The top power-play unit came close, but the Islanders watched as a flurry of chances slid through the crease and bounced off Montoya.
“With our unit, we got back to getting pucks to the net,” Tavares said. “It’s crazy with the amount of bounces how a couple of them stayed out.”
[The] little breakdowns came, and the pucks ended behind Kevin Poulin. Casey Cizikas lost a defensive-zone draw and Mark Stuart's point shot caromed off the post and in at 11:27 of the second. At 14:39, Matt Donovan lost the puck in the neutral zone with his forwards awaiting a dump-in and Andrew Ladd finished off the odd-man rush the other way.
"That's a costly turnover," Jack Capuano said of his rookie defenseman. "One play can cost you a game."
At 16:42, a scattered, partial change left the Isles scrambling for position in their own zone and Devin Setoguchi was free to direct a long-range tip past Poulin. Three mistakes, a couple more glaring than the rest, and the game was essentially out of reach.
"You've got to want the puck more than the other guy out there. We need that on every shift and it's not there," said Tavares, whose line with Vanek and Kyle Okposo generated the bulk of the Isles chances, but fumbled away a couple. "When we have everyone going as a team, we're tough to play against. We need more from everyone."
And the Associated Press:
"We have character guys in our room and I know if they keep working, we will turn this around," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "When you don't get results, it's tough mentally. You just have to find a way out of it."
The teams played a spirited scoreless first period, featuring end-to-end action at both ends of the rink. The Islanders outshot the Jets 13-11, but failed to capitalize on two power plays.
Both goaltenders played well early. Poulin stopped Matt Halischuk with a flailing stop midway through the second to keep the game scoreless, but the Jets solved the Islanders goaltender shortly thereafter.
The 23-year-old Poulin has struggled since becoming the team's No. 1 goaltender after starter Evgeni Nabokov sustained a groin injury against Detroit on Nov. 16. Poulin has lost four straight starts and has allowed 21 goals in his past six appearances.
"We gave them too many opportunities," Poulin said.
Newsday's Staple's Thursday night story involves John Tavares insisting that the Isles will be fine minus a coaching or drastic personnel changes..
"We've got all the faith in the world in the people in this organization," Tavares told Newsday. "We're the ones stepping on the ice. We're the ones not getting the job done. We proved last year what we're capable of. This is not last year, but this is about the guys in this room."
Capuano, for his part, does not see a team that has tuned out the coaching staff. His Islanders lost to the Jets, 3-2, on Wednesday night in a game that featured an equal number of mistakes and scoring chances on both sides. Afterward, Capuano said that during the team's slow start last season -- they were 8-11-2 before turning the shortened season around with a 16-6-5 finish -- he saw some worse signs than he's seeing now.
"If I go back during this stretch, if I'd seen that [being consistently outworked and outplayed], that would be one thing," Capuano said. "It's been small battles here and there that we've lost, and that's been the message: One or two seconds can cost you."
That message was sent Thursday to Matt Donovan, whose giveaway at center ice led to the Jets' second goal during Winnipeg's three-goal second period. Donovan, a rookie, was sent down to Bridgeport and Calvin de Haan, the 12th pick in the 2009 draft, joined the Islanders.
De Haan has lost two seasons to major shoulder surgeries since the Islanders selected him 11 picks after Tavares. He had a goal and two assists in 17 games with Bridgeport this season after playing only three games last season before his latest shoulder injury.
"If we can get another guy who can play poised with the puck, make better decisions, that will help us as a team," Capuano said.
The coach has not decided on any lineup changes among the forwards, but Josh Bailey, with no goals and two assists in his last 15 games, is a candidate to be a healthy scratch. Capuano has done the same with Michael Grabner, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Peter Regin in the last four games, and the Islanders need more than just Tavares' line to produce.
And in terms of tomorrow's possible lineup, NHL.com's At the Ring blog had the Islanders dressing the following lineup on Wednesday evening:
Thomas Vanek – John Tavares – Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner – Frans Nielsen – Josh Bailey
Pierre-Marc Bouchard - Peter Regin - Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Brock Nelson
Andrew MacDonald – Travis Hamonic
Matt Donovan – Aaron Ness
Thomas Hickey – Matt Carkner
Scratched: Radek Martinek, Colin McDonald, Eric Boulton
Injured: Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion), Brian Strait (upper body), Evgeni Nabokov (strained groin)
NewYorkIslanders.com's Eric Hornick posited a set post-game stats which are worth noting going forward...
Casey Cizikas had his career-best five game point streak (3-2-5) stopped … John Tavares has points in eight of the last nine games and has scored in two straight games; both Tavares and Thomas Vanek have three game point streaks... Isles have scored 36 of their 67 goals in the second period, but have been outscored 27-15 in the third period… The Isles have been outscored 20-6 in the third period of the last 15 games… The Jets scored three goals in a period for the first time on the road this season… The Isles are 4-9-0 in November, with two games to play. The Isles have not had a winning November since 2008 and are 9-23-5 in their last three Novembers (2010, 2011, and 2013)…This was the 16th time in the last 19 years that the Isles have hosted a Thanksgiving Eve game (there was no NHL hockey played in two of the other three years). The Isles are 0-4-2 in their last six Thanksgiving Eve games but are 6-6-5 all-time at home on Thanksgiving Eve…Winnipeg is 7-5-4 in one-goal games while the Isles are 5-8-3.
NHL.com's John Kreiser sets up tomorrow afternoon's game as follows...
Last 10: Detroit 3-2-5; New York 2-8-0
Red Wings [team scope]: Detroit has been looking for secondary scoring all season, so getting two goals and three assists from the fourth line of Tomas Tatar, Drew Miller and Joakim Andersson against Boston brought a smile to the face of coach Mike Babcock.
"We work pretty hard most nights. Today we were rewarded," Babcock said. "We had puck luck and got some energy and got going. I think that was the biggest thing. We've played lots of good games this year; we haven't won lots of games. That's the fact, because we never score. … I thought we built off what we've been building and it was a positive for the guys."
Islanders [team scope]: New York's struggles on the road carried over into its first game after an 0-3-0 trip. They gave up three second-period goals to Winnipeg, scored twice and came up one short. The 3-2 loss was the Islanders' fourth in a row and kept them in last place in the Metropolitan Division with 19 points.
"It's just not good enough," said captain John Tavares, whose goal with 5:59 left in regulation cut the deficit to one. "Our intensity and the little things … taking hits to make plays, all the little things that make a big difference in a game over a long run, we're just not doing. We're not creating our breaks or our opportunities. It seems like we're just waiting for them to happen, and they're not gonna come until the consistent effort for each and every shift is there."
Who's hot: Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg had a goal and an assist against Boston, giving him seven points in his past four games. … Tavares has goals in back-to-back games and has three goals and six points in his past five games.
Injury report: Detroit has played the past two games without star center Pavel Datsyuk (head) and forward Todd Bertuzzi (shoulder). Defenseman Danny DeKeyser (shoulder) is on the long-term injured reserve list. … The Islanders are missing regular defensemen Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) and Brian Strait (upper body), as well as goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who went down with a groin injury in the previous game against Detroit and won't be back until next month.
And the AP/Stats LLC's preview adds stats to the mix:
John Tavares had a goal and an assist in the Islanders' 5-4 shootout win over the Red Wings on Nov. 16, part of a current nine-game stretch during which he has four goals and eight assists.
The Islanders are 4-10-0 since trading Matt Moulson to Buffalo for Thomas Vanek on Oct. 27 despite Vanek recording two goals and two assists over the last three.
Detroit's loss to the Islanders was part of an 0-2-5 stretch from Nov. 4-19, but it has won three of four since after routing Boston 6-1 on Wednesday. The win came without Pavel Datsyuk, who missed his second straight game after being elbowed in the jaw in a loss to Ottawa on Saturday.
New York has outscored the perennial power Red Wings 27-13 during its six consecutive victories in the series.
Gustavsson made 37 saves while taking the loss Nov. 16, and Jimmy Howard could be back in goal for this matchup. Howard, though, has gone 0-3-4 with a 3.03 goals-against average in his last seven starts, giving up at least three goals five times in that stretch.
It's unclear who will start in net for the Islanders, who also play Saturday. Kevin Poulin made 26 saves against the Jets and earned the win over Detroit by stopping 19 shots in relief of Evgeni Nabokov, who suffered a groin injury and has since been on injured reserve. Anders Nilsson has been serving as New York's backup, beating Philadelphia on Saturday in his only start.
In terms of today and tonight's feature and/or sidebar stories, the Free Press's St. James took note of Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar's contributions to the lineup...
“They’ve made us way better,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Nyquist has come and given us another real good player and so we have a better team because he’s here.”
The Wings will be even better when Pavel Datsyuk returns from a concussion suffered last Saturday, but general manager Ken Holland told the Free Press that isn’t happening before next week. Datsyuk did not join the team for the trip to New York and Ottawa. Todd Bertuzzi (bruised shoulder) did travel in order to continue practicing.
Nyquist and Tatar both scored in the Wings’ masterful 6-1 drubbing of Boston Wednesday. Tatar demonstrated great puck-possession skills on both his goal and in setting up Drew Miller’s. Tatar has eight points in 18 games since becoming a regular.
“I just feel better and better as the games go on,” he said. “It’s all about opportunity. There’s different main guys here, so I’m not as much on the ice, so I have to try to do my best whenever I am on the ice.”
Nyquist’s goal gave him four points in four games since joining the team Nov. 21. It doesn’t hurt that with Datsyuk and Bertuzzi out, Nyquist is playing with Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen on the team’s first line.
“I’ve got a great opportunity here with two world-class players,” Nyquist said. “They make it easy for me. They’re usually open and they create a lot of chances offensively and they’re both real solid defensively, as well. That’s helped me get more comfortable.”
And MLive's Khan noted that Henrik Zetterberg credits his early-season scoring success to having revamped his summertime training regimen...
Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said that when he was younger he could skate for a week during the summer and be ready for training camp. Those days were over when he reached his early 30s.
“Maybe it took a while for me to understand that I had to skate a little bit more,’’ Zetterberg, who’s 33, said.
He did that this past summer in Sweden, skating with his former club, Timra.
“I took almost a month off to relax, not do much and let the body heal,’’ Zetterberg said. “Then, once you start staking you’re really going at it. When I came over here I felt good skating-wise and conditioning-wise.’’
His preparation is paying dividends. Zetterberg is off to his best start after 26 games since the 2007-08 season. He is tied with Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and St. Louis’ Alexander Steen for second in the NHL with 30 points (11 goals,19 assists), behind the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby, who has 33 points. Zetterberg had 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in the final four games last season, games his team needed to win to squeeze into the playoffs.
“He was a force at the end of last year and he’s probably been our best player this year,’’ goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “Night in and night out he’s finding ways to put pucks in the net or setting guys up. He’s still very good in his own zone. Not surprised at all with how Z has been playing.’’
As did the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness:
"When you were younger you could skate for a week and you were ready,” Zetterberg said. “Maybe it took a while for me to understand that. Maybe I had to skate a little bit more. I did that with my team back home in Sweden before I got over here and when I came over here I felt good skating-wise and conditioning-wise.”
Zetterberg is off to his best start through 26 games since the 2007-08 season when he had 17 goals and 18 assists.
“It always makes it easier when you help the team in scoring,” Zetterberg said. “I think last year, after the lockout, I had a pretty good start, too. Definitely enjoy that more than those starts I had a couple years ago.”
Zetterberg has points in four straight games (one goal, six assists) and has failed to register at least one point in just seven of 26 games this season.
“For a while there no one scored except (Pavel Datsyuk) and Hank so obviously it was huge for us,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We need him going.”
Pleiness also noted that Jimmy Howard's hoping to bounce back from a difficult November ASAP, and again, MLive's Khan reported that Howard was trying on a new mask during Thursday's practice in an attempt to change his luck:
After winning his first start on the first day of November, Howard has gone 0-3-4 the rest of the month. Over his last seven games, Howard has a 3.03 goals-against average and a .899 save percentage. He entered the month with a 2.50 GAA and .915 save percentage.
“It’s just getting out there and stopping pucks,” Howard said.
For the record, fantasy hockey expert Darryl Dobbs gushed about Zetterberg as a "fantasy hockey stud," too:
Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings (4-1-6-7, plus-4, 2 PIM, 12 SOG, and 4 PPPts) - For some inexplicable reason, the Red Wings signed Dan Cleary in the offseason when they were already carrying too many forwards. As a result, the team sent Gustav Nyquist back to the AHL, since he was the only one who didn't have to clear waivers. This despite the fact that he's one of the team's best offensive forwards. The Red Wings then have difficulty scoring early on, despite Cleary's torrid nine-point pace. So they recall Nyquist four games ago, plunk him on Zetterberg's line, and the rest is history.
Not quite given that Datsyuk and Zetterberg worked magic together--and "not quite" given that Johan Franzen's been registering a point per game since he returned from that unspecified upper-body injury--but there's no denying that Nyquist's speed and confidence give the Wings a different and better "look."
Looking back at Wednesday night's game, per ESPN's stats crew...
Red Wings 6, Bruins 1
* Red Wings: won 3 of 4 overall
* The 6 goals scored by Red Wings, allowed by Bruins, were season highs for each team; 6 different players scored for Red Wings
* Bruins: 1st regulation loss in last 6 games
* Johan Franzen (DET): 3 assists; 11 points in last 8 games
* Henrik Zetterberg (DET) goal, assist; has 30 points in 26 games this season; scored at least 1 point in 4 straight games
FROM ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU: The Red Wings’ 6–1 win over the Bruins at Joe Louis Arena matched the largest margin of victory by either side in a game between those two “Original Six” teams over the last 20 years. Detroit posted a win by the same score in Boston on Feb. 11, 2011. The Bruins haven’t won a game against the Red Wings by as many as five goals since a 6–1 victory at Boston Garden in January 1991.
Looking back at yesterday's signing of Jonathan Ericsson (the 291st pick in the 2002 Entry Draft) to a 6-year, $25.5 million contract extension, NHL.com's Brian Hedger took note of Ericsson, Ken Holland and Mike Babcock's comments about the Wings' long-term commitment to the 29-year-old defenseman...
"I think I've always been a late-bloomer when it comes to everything," said Ericsson, who became a father for the first time earlier this season. "'Mr. Irrelevant,' I think they called me that lots of times. I’m actually glad. I’d rather be the last pick than the fifth-to-last pick. I'm making some kind of history. I know there won't be any later picks than me now and I don't think there has been a later pick than me that's playing in the NHL, so that's pretty special. I'll take that."
Turns out Ericsson knows his draft history pretty well. The NHL went from nine rounds to seven in 2005 and there were three drafts with as many players taken as his '02 class.
Thus, there is one other active player in the NHL who was drafted 291st, same as Ericsson. That's St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott, but he was the second-to-last pick of the 2003 draft, thanks to the New Jersey Devils taking Arseny Bondarev, a Russian forward, with the 292nd pick. Also of note in the 2003 draft is the fact the Blues current goalies were taken in the ninth round. Elliott was selected by the Ottawa Senators 20 picks after the Montreal Canadiens took Jaroslav Halak, the guy he now backs up, with the 271st pick.
Ericsson also has quite the success story. Despite the long odds of not only making it to the NHL, he's managed to work his way into a critical role along the blue line for the Red Wings. Attrition through the past few seasons left Detroit without three stalwart defenders: Nicklas Lidstrom (retirement), Brian Rafalski (retirement) and Brad Stuart (free agency).
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland wasn't going to let another one get away.
"You can't just keep losing Lidstrom and Rafalski and Stuart and then lose [Ericsson]," Holland said. "You can't keep losing players. After a while, you wake up and there's not enough players. So, I went to [Ericsson's] agent in late September and early October and told him that it was a priority to get him signed. We certainly had some comparables in the marketplace and ultimately we came up with the deal we came up with. He's a real important guy on our team."
Detroit coach Mike Babcock sees it the same way, only he also sees Ericsson as a key puzzle piece for another reason. The Red Wings have a number of talented young defensemen in the pipeline and Ericsson could help them develop the way some former vets helped him.
"We can’t lose [defensemen]," Babcock said. "It takes time to become a good player. The great thing about it is, if you have Lidstrom or Kronwall and it looks like maybe [Danny DeKeyser], to play guys with, they look good. But when you don't have one of those guys to play them with, it maybe takes you some time to become a good player in the League. If you're fortunate in Boston to play with [Zdeno Chara] every night, it helps you a little. Yet if you're on your own, it's a lot harder League. We have kids coming, but they're just kids. It takes time."
DetroitRedWings.com's Andrea Nelson cranks up the "Aww" factor by an order of magnitude...
There are few things that will melt a father’s heart like the smile of his little girl. Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson is no exception.
“I didn’t know I could like her that much and just the feelings developed so fast for something, that’s incredible, it’s a good feeling,” the new father said of his five-week old daughter.
Liv Ericsson came into the world on Oct. 21 at 7 pounds, 4 ounces and 20 inches. It was a busy but exciting few days for Ericsson, who flew back with the team that Sunday from a road game in Phoenix, making it home just in time to take his fiancé Evelina to the hospital.
“That was hectic and I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it before she actually had to go,” Ericsson explained “I was on the phone with her the whole time driving home, probably breaking the speed limit a little bit. She was already packed to go when I got home and I just took her right away to the hospital.”
It was love at first sight when he finally held Liv in his arms for the very first time.
“I was so curious if it was going to be a boy or a girl and then how that person was going to look like,” Ericsson said. “So that was like, shocking to see what she actually looked like and what she’s been kind of turning into and all that. It’s an amazing feeling and emotional to actually see her and hold her for the first time.”
And Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika discussed the re-signing in his Three Periods column, noting that Ericsson did struggle along the way, and that some bagged on his status as an integral defenseman, but the Wings' management only cares about how well Ericsson plays on the ice, and not the outside perspectives about Ericsson's play or relative worth...
The Wings haven’t had high draft picks over the years because they have won and made trades trying to win, so they have had to find gems late in the draft. Patience has been a necessity and a luxury – a necessity because they have had to let their prospects develop, a luxury because they have had a good enough team to give them time to do it.
“The formula for us, I guess, is we hold on to some older players longer because we don’t have those blue-chip kids coming on to our team,” said general manager Ken Holland. “We think we’ve got kids that we can develop into NHL players, so patience has to be part of our program. Fortunately in this situation, it’s probably worked out good.”
The Wings kept Ericsson in Sweden until 2006. They kept him in the minors for the most part until 2009. They kept him low on the depth chart when he made the NHL full-time, behind players like Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski and Brad Stuart. They stuck with him when he made mistakes and the fans howled, because he was 6-foot-5 and mobile and still learning. Now Lidstrom, Rafalski and Stuart are gone, and he’s on the top pair and a key penalty-killer at age 29.
Some outside the Wings organization think he’s slotted too high; Holland says he’s a solid No. 2 or No. 3. But there is no question he would have been in demand as an unrestricted free agent because the market is so thin for defensemen, and he came so far in Detroit that he wanted to stay.
“I think I’ve always been a late bloomer when it comes to kind of everything,” said Ericsson, whose brother, Jimmie, plays in the Swedish Elite League. “I haven’t always been the most talented guy. My older brother is more talented than me hockey-wise, but he hasn’t liked working out and being that determined to maybe reach that far. He’s a great hockey player, but he doesn’t have that mentality maybe off the ice that maybe I have.”
Cotsonika also posited the following:
— Can’t take credit for this one, but in the Detroit press box Wednesday night, the line of Dan Cleary, Stephen Weiss and Mikael Samuelsson was dubbed the No-Production line. The Red Wings have lacked secondary scoring, and Cleary ($1.75 million cap hit this season), Weiss ($4.9 million cap hit for five seasons) and Samuelsson ($3 million hit this season) have combined for four goals and four assists in 91 games. Gordie Howe, Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay they are not.
— John Tortorella returns to New York on Saturday. Daniel Alfredsson returns to Ottawa on Sunday. Both should be received well, especially Alfredsson. Tortorella was fired because he wore out the Rangers, but he squeezed as much out of them as he could, taking them all the way to the Eastern Conference final in 2012. Alfredsson left as a free agent in an awkward dispute over money, but he is an Ottawa icon and led the Senators to the Cup final in 2007.
Quoting Cotsonika's Wednesday night Tweets:
Weiss did indeed play in only 17 games during the 2013 season before having major reconstructive surgery on his wrist, and while I'm not thrilled with his lack of production (3 points in 20 games), he did miss time with a groin injury, and Babcock's readily stated that he believes Weiss will have a strong second half.
If I was Weiss, I'd sure as hell pull the "blame the equipment" changing of his gloves, stick, skates and helmet, but I can't fault his effort on a nightly basis.
Again, the definition of "competent" and "bang for one's buck" are very different for Mikael Samuelsson, but he has at least embraced his fourth-line role while displaying solid-enough defensive play to serve as a "role player" who happens to be earning $3 million--but Cleary's continued to look like his get-up-and-go got lost in luggage headed to Philadelphia, and as much as I admire Cleary as a player and a person...
I can't help but believe that, should he not improve over the next two-to-four weeks, #71 will be waived to alleviate the cap crunch the team will find itself in when Danny DeKeyser returns.
As you and I have witnessed, Tomas Tatar and--the man who Cleay's signing ensured would be demoted to Grand Rapids in Gustav Nyquist (I certainly thought that the Wings would've waived Eaves and Tootoo earlier, but the team surprised me there)--have out-played Cleary by a wider and wider margin as games have gone by.
I do wonder if Cleary's suffering from another chronic injury that's being put to the test due to the Wings' cap-challenged lineup, and I'm crossing my fingers that that's the case, but I don't think it is. I think Cleary is regrettably, for lack of a better term, "Old and busted."
As we all know, Ken Holland believes that a team's place in the standings as of American Thanksgiving is a HUGE indicator as to whether a team will make the playoffs, and while the Red Wings' 12-7-and-7 record isn't pretty (that's 12-and-14), the Wings' 31 points are good for 4th in the East and 3rd in the Atlantic Division, only 2 points behind the 16-8-and-1 Lightning and 3 behind the 16-7-and-2 Bruins.
ESPN's Pierre LeBrun looked at the Atlantic Division's standings as of today and concluded the following:
1. Boston Bruins
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Detroit Red Wings
4. Montreal Canadiens
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
6. Ottawa Senators
7. Florida Panthers
8. Buffalo Sabres
The skinny: The Senators rallied for a big win in Washington on Wednesday night, improving their postseason chances overnight by 5 percent, according to Sports Club Stats, the Sens now with a 32.8 percent chance of making it. Let's write off Florida and Buffalo; obviously, they're goners. Ottawa is six points behind both Toronto and Montreal and face both teams again a few times this season (the Habs four times, the Leafs three). I still think the Sens can make it into the playoff race and am not ready to write them off. What's interesting, though, is that fifth-place Toronto is given a 79 percent chance of making it by Sports Club (Montreal is at 93.3 percent), which suggests the current prediction is for both playoff wildcard entries to come from the Atlantic and only the top three from the weaker Metropolitan to make it in. The Leafs have hit hard times of late, winning only four games in November, and having outshot the opposition only three times in 25 games. Unless Toronto finds a way to strengthen defensively, perhaps the Leafs are Ottawa's best bet to reel in. Tampa Bay is another potential target, given the prolonged absence of Steven Stamkos. The Bolts have gone 4-3-1 without the world's best goal scorer, very much outplaying the Flyers on Wednesday night and showing terrific team structure under head coach Jon Cooper. I know Stamkos is a huge absence but I like the way the Lighting play as a team too much to see them drop too far.
Sports Club Stats suggests that there's a 73.3% chance of the Wings making the playoffs as of today, despite the team's -2 goal differential, but they peg the Wings' Cup-winning odds at 2.1%.
And in "stats" of a different kind, Fox Sports' Eric Stephens penned a slate of power rankings, and here's what he has to say about the Wings:
16 . Red Wings [record] 12-7 -7 [no change, highest/lowest] 5/16
GOOD NEWS: Back-up goaltender Jonas ‘The Monster’ Gustavsson (5-0-1, 2.35 goals-average, .926 save percentage) has given the team a lift in goal.
BAD NEWS: Top center Pavel Datsyuk missed time with a minor concussion.
BOTTOM LINE: This team needs to restore order. It needs Datsyuk back on the ice and Jimmy Howard back in goal, making the big stops.
Yes, but unlike some of you, I would not suggest that Howard has been "marginally competent at best" or "bad." I think he's struggled mightily at times, but I also believe that he's been quite solid overall. He's just got to stop forcing things and he's got to stand about six inches closer to his crease while raising and extending his glove and blocker about six and eight inches, respectively, to place himself in a more engaged position.
Update: Tyler Bertuzzi had an assist and finished at -2 in the Guelph Storm's 6-4 loss to Erie...
And the Hockey News's Ken Campbell makes sure to bring equal touches of smarm and ignorance to his power rankings:
11. Detroit (16): Red Wings coach Mike Babcock claims there is not a goalie controversy in Detroit despite the fact that backup Jonas Gustafsson has taken over the net. With a record of 6-0-1, he has earned points for the Red Wings in every game this season. Off the ice, veteran defenseman Jonathan Ericsson was rewarded with a six-year, $25.5 million contract extension. A cause for concern is Pavel Datsyuk, who hasn’t played since being elbowed in the head by Jared Cowen of the Ottawa Senators last weekend.
Johan Gustafsson plays for Minnesota.
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