Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Kings set-up and overnight report: on forward momentum, superstars and prospects

The Detroit Red Wings proved that they can still out-skill as well as out-will teams in their 2-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, but today's game against Los Angeles (12:30 PM EST, NBC/TSN/97.1 FM, and the Wings are collecting smoke detectors for charity), but the Red Wings know they're in for a challenge and a half as they wrap up a slate of 4 games played over the course of 6 nights and afternoons--and 3 in 4 "days"--against the ornery Kings.

They spoke very bluntly about the team's status as one whose forward momentum and identity-building progression are provisional upon today's outcome while speaking to the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness:

"It feels like we’re a work in progress and we gotta continue to get better,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock, whose squad last followed up a win over the Blues with a loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. “I thought we played a good game last game, came back and followed it up. Now we gotta follow it up tomorrow against a heavy team. It’s going to be a test.”

The Wings turn right around and host the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Los Angeles Kings, Sunday afternoon.

“I just think if we remain competitive and we keep getting better, we have a chance to be a good hockey club,” Babcock said. “I think our back end’s rounding into shape here so we’re getting better.”

“It can all change back tomorrow (standings),” Henrik Zetterberg said. “It’s so many games and close schedule so you don’t keep playing well, you won’t win a playoff spot. You’ve got to keep winning games. We did the job today and we’ve got to do it tomorrow again.”

As noted in the overnight report, Babcock was displeased with the amount of time he had to employ his top players in Saturday's game, a he told MLive's Ansar Khan...

The Detroit Red Wings just wrapped up a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers Saturday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena, when coach Mike Babcock glanced at the stat sheet and then his watch.

“We play in 22 hours,'' Babcock said. “I played my big guys too much. You got to win the game, but you've got a game in 22 hours. I guess we'll deal with that tomorrow."

The Red Wings (6-4-1) don't have much time to re-energize. They host the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings Sunday at 12:30 p.m. in a nationally televised game on NBC. The Kings (3-4-2) are off to a sluggish start, but they've had two days to rest and prepare.

Babcock played his big guys, Pavel Datsyuk (21:23) and Henrik Zetterberg (21:08), a little more than he would have liked, especially on the penalty kill. But, that's what helped them earn an important two points.

Zetterberg told the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa that Saturday's game meant little (yes, this is repetition from the wrap-up, but it works) in the greater scheme of things...

"[The Oilers] are a fun team to play against, a lot of speed and a lot of skill. The penalty kill did a good job, and that 5-on-3 was big for us," he said. "But it can all change back tomorrow. So many games in a close schedule — if you are not playing well, you are going to lose your playoffs spot. We did it today, and we need to do it again tomorrow."

And the Wings talked very bluntly about today's test with the Krupa, too:

"It's step-by-step," said Pavel Datsyuk, who had a goal and an assist against the Oilers. "We are working hard at practice, and you do what you can to improve. We get better, but little by little bit."

Asked if he felt, after playing Edmonton, that the team finally "clicked," coach Mike Babcock was dismissive.

"No. It feels like we're a work in progress and we've got to continue to get better," he said. "I thought we played a good game last game (Thursday, on the road, against the Blues), and we came back and followed it up. But we've got to follow it up tomorrow against a heavy team."

The Wings play the Kings Sunday, and the defending Stanley Cup champions won it by putting their big bodies heavily against everything that moved in the playoffs.

"It's going to be a test," Babcock said."I just think if we remain competitive and keep getting better, we have a chance to be a good hockey club. I think our back end is rounding into shape here, and so we're getting better."

...

"I think we played better than we have been," the Red Wings captain said. "You've just got to keep winning games. We did it today, and tomorrow we've got to do it again."

You've gotten the Wings' takes on today's game, so who are the Kings, anyway? They're still big, still mean and still the defending Cup champs, and they're rested as they're coming off a 3-0 loss to Nashville on Thursday in the Music City.

They possess a 3-5-and-2 record, and they're a bit of a team in flux as they've sent Andrei Lokitonov to New Jersey and brought in big Keaton Ellerby from Florida recently, and the Los Angeles Times' Lisa Dillman's recap of the Kings' 3-0 loss to Nashville may summarize how things are going for LA of late:

Here is your utterly misleading statistic of the night: Kings 32, Predators 14.

Shots on goal meant almost nothing, which is exactly what the Kings managed to do against Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, a Vezina Trophy finalist last season: nothing. Rinne recorded his first shutout of the season and the 26th of his career as the Predators beat the Kings, 3-0, on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena.

The Kings have won once in their last four games and got off to another sluggish start, giving up a goal in the first three minutes as Gabriel Bourque scored at 2:54, beating goalie Jonathan Quick with a one-timer from the edge of the circle. Colin Wilson scored twice, and star defenseman Shea Weber got his first point of the season, assisting on Wilson's second goal, on the power play at 13:02 in the second period.

That made it 3-0, and the Predators, already expert at clogging the middle, resorted to lockdown mode, something they have turned into a fine art.

Additionally, there was the Predators' continuing dominance in the faceoff circle, the far more meaningful statistic of the night. Center Paul Gaustad went 15 of 22 (68%), and Mike Fisher won his faceoff against the Kings' Jarret Stoll, leading to Wilson's power-play goal, a rebound off Weber's shot.

“When they score goals on you, then you dwell on it, right?” Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said. “Tonight is two faceoff goals. Kopi [Anze Kopitar] is usually so good on his backhand there. The first goal there he loses the draw, and Rob [Scuderi] and Drew [Doughty] both don't have coverage. …What's it attributed to? You've got to ask them. You don't coach faceoffs. Those guys are veteran guys that know who they're playing against. Every time we play Nashville, it's a huge stat always.… Obviously they do a better job at it when we play them than we do.”

Said Kings forward Justin Williams: “They're a tough team to chase when you're behind…. Hey, sometimes you can say you didn't get the breaks. I don't think that was the case tonight. We didn't deserve it.”

On Saturday, Dillman reported that the Kings practiced in Nashville because there was no room at the Joe, and they shook up their lines:

Change was afoot — or more accurately — on the ice Saturday shortly before the Kings finally left what turned into their home most of the week, Nashville.

Defenseman Keaton Ellerby, acquired from Florida for a fifth-round pick Friday, practiced with the Kings and was paired with Drew Doughty. Line combinations were shuffled for more balance, at least for the moment, and Jeff Carter was moved back to center.

...

[Anze] Kopitar and Dustin Brown were put on a line with Simon Gagne; Mike Richards was centering Dwight King and Jordan Nolan; and Jeff Carter was centering Kyle Clifford and Justin Williams. "Just trying to shake it up, get some goals out of it," Richards said. "Hopefully it works. Sometimes it adds that little bit of spark."

Kings Coach Darryl Sutter had his own message to deliver.

"Our top players … get all the credit for what they've done.… but we're nine games in," he said. "To me, that's more significant than anything that happened last year. There's some self-evaluation to be done."

Are the players self-evaluating?

"Oh yes, I trust our guys in that way," Sutter said. "But we need our top guys to play, to be helluva a lot better players. That's clear. That's not me. That's clear, right?"

On paper, that alignment looks as follows, per LA Kings Insider's Jon Rosen:

If credence is given to the alignments and pairings at practice this morning, the Kings may offer a whole lot of new looks in Detroit tomorrow. Here’s what I’m seeing:

Gagne – Kopitar – Brown
Clifford – Carter – Williams
King – Richards – Nolan
Richardson – Stoll – Fraser – Lewis

Ellerby – Doughty
Scuderi – Voynov
Martinez – Drewiske

Quick / Bernier

Penner is wearing a black jersey, complementing Muzzin.

I doubt that you'll find Rosen's conversation with Keaton Ellerby to be fascinating, and Kings coach Darryl Sutter's comments to Rosen mostly involved said acquisition. However...

On bringing back the King-Nolan-Richards line that was together for parts of last season: “Quite honest, it changes quite a bit. I’m not really isolated on Mike Richards and Dwight King and Jordan Nolan. I think our top players – the guys that get all the credit for what they’ve done, but we’re nine games in, and to me that’s more significant than anything that happened last year. There’s some self-evaluation to be done. It’s not necessarily to do with King and Nolan.”

On whether that self-evaluation is taking place: “Oh yes. I trust our guys in that way, but we need our top guys to be a hell of a lot better players. That’s clear. That’s not me. That’s clear. If you think about your top offensive guys, what they’re on for, for and against, and what [their] zone time [is], and the way you break things down, you need a lot more from them.”

NHL.com's John Kreiser's set-up reads as follows...

Season series: The teams are meeting for the first of three times this season. Detroit won three of four in 2011-12, including both games at Joe Louis Arena.

Big story: The Kings' quest for a second straight Stanley Cup isn't off to a good start - they've won only three of their first nine games and are coming off a 3-0 loss at Nashville on Thursday. The Red Wings are finding ways to keep their heads above water - they edged Edmonton 2-1 on Saturday.

Kings [team scope]: After a frustrating night in Nashville on Thursday - the Kings outshot the Predators 32-14 but trailed three minutes into the game and couldn't play catch-up - the Kings are likely to have some new line combinations on Sunday. One big change could be the reuniting of veteran center Mike Richards with young wings Jordan Nolan and Dwight King. That threesome worked well together last spring. The Kings have to find goals somewhere - they're averaging just 2.1 per game and have had two goals or fewer in six of their nine games.

"We need our top guys to be a hell of a lot better players," coach Darryl Sutter said. "That's clear."

...

Who's hot: No one on the Kings' roster has more than five points in L.A.'s first nine games. … Henrik Zetterberg has four points (all assists) in Detroit's last three games. Kronwall's goal was his first of the season, but he's among the leading scorers among defensemen because he has eight assists.

Injury report: The Kings are without two key defensemen, Willie Mitchell (knee) and Matt Greene (back surgery). Both may miss the rest of the season. … The Wings are a walking M*A*S*H unit - Todd Bertuzzi (back) sat out Saturday, joining defensemen Brendan Smith (back) and Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder), center Darren Helm (back) and forwards Jan Mursak (collarbone) and Mikael Samuelsson (groin).

And DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose pennedan "At a Glance" look at the Kings on Friday:

Talk about puzzling. Certainly, slow starts in a lockout shortened season, can spell doom, but it’s truly amazing to think that the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings are among the underachievers.

Sure, the Kings were the No. 8 seed in the West before they made their incomparable march to the Cup championship. But this year’s squad can’t find a way to put the biscuit in the basket.

Aside from center Jeff Carter, who has four goals in eight games, the rest of the Kings have 15 goals, including three each from right wing Dustin Brown and center Anze Kopitar.

The Kings are in the midst of a grueling three-week stretch where they play eight of nine games away from Staples Center. But Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey, who played a season in Los Angeles, said the Kings’ forwards have a way of wearing down the opposition.

“Their biggest strength is probably their attention to detail and they’re so good defensively,” said Quincey, who played for the Kings in 2008-09. “We’re going to have a challenge, and when we do get a chance to score we have to bury it. They’re a grind team. They go out and love their big forwards, right? They try to wear you do and we have to try and play in their zone as much as we can and try to limit them from buzzing around in our zone. That will be the challenge for this game.”

These really early games scare me, quite honestly. I think that the first goal is going to be absolutely monumental, and the Kings and Wings both know this game's nationally televised in the U.S. and Canada, so given that Detroit's playing a Darryl Sutter team (see: Calgary, circa forever), the Wings better have their heads on a swivel, or the Kings will try to beat them and beat the shit out of 'em while checking the Wings into and through the boards.

The Wings need to start strongly and back it up with grit, hard and smart work and the kind of attention to detail that they displayed in negating the Blues' physical advantage in St. Louis by being willing and able to first work as hard as possible to gain control of the puck in their own zone so that the Blues couldn't forecheck, to skate it through the neutral zone against a trapping defense by  skating up the ice as a 5-man unit, and using short, diagonal passes to back off that first trapping back-checker...

And then, sometimes, they're going to have to dump the puck in and chase it if they don't see any play developing so that they can get the Kings' defensemen to turn. Usually, the Wings prefer to loop back at center and re-set, but they really need to just chip it deep and force the Kings' defensemen to turn and chase the puck down themselves if there's no better option.

 

 

Red Wings notebooks: As the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness notes, Damien Brunner's parents were in attendance for Saturday's game (the Swiss newspaper Blick thought that this was so cool that they took a screenshot of Brunner's parents):

Damien Brunner’s parents, Kurt and Karin, got to see their son play for the first time live Saturday.

“It’s cool they came over on vacation,” Brunner said. “I’m excited they’re here.”

The couple arrived from Switzerland Friday and will see Wings’ entire four-game home stand.

It’s their first trip to the United States.

“I think they’re happy just to see me playing,” Brunner said. “They’re staying with me. They’ll figure out something to do since I have to rest a lot with that schedule. They’ll find something.”

"That schedule" includes 3 more home games before the Wings head to Minnesota next Sunday and Nashville next Tuesday. The Wings play the Kings today, the Blues on Wednesday and the Ducks on Friday, all at the Joe.

Pleiness took note of Joakim Andersson's 2013 season debut...

Joakim Andersson saw just over seven minutes of ice time in his first game this season with the Wings, skating on a line with Tomas Tatar and Justin Abdelkader.

“I thought we had some good shifts, I’m pretty happy about it,” said Andersson, who had three shots on goal and two hits. I was hoping to get called up. They told me I’m close to being here.”

Andersson, who has 10 goals and 17 assists in 36 games with the Griffins, replaced Todd Bertuzzi (back) in the lineup. He has yet to record a point in six games with Detroit dating back to last season.

“I think I’ve been coming closer and closer (to NHL) every year here and last year I got a couple games in (five),” Andersson said. “I felt more comfortable than last year.”

And he offered an injury update:

Backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson said he practiced for 50 minutes this morning, the longest time he’s been on the ice.

“We turned it up a notch,” Gustavsson said. “It felt good. It’s another step in the right direction. The last few days I’m doing more and more, been on the ice a few times. It’s tough to know exactly when you’re going to be back.”

The Free Press's Kirkland Crawford wants to know what you think about Henrik Zetterberg finding out that Wayne Gretzky's favorite player is, well, Henrik Zetterberg, and for today's NBC game, NHL.com's Dan Rosen profiled Zetterberg. After Craig Button and Eddie Olczyk ponder whether Zetterberg was re-energized by the lockout and playing in Switzerland, Zetterberg basically confirms as much to NHL.com's Louie Korac...

"I think that got me a little advantage coming back here," Zetterberg told Korac. "If you look back the last couple years, I haven't been stellar before Christmas, either. I was always a slow starter, so this is the time of year when I start playing better. I don't know why, but it just fits me."

And Wings coach Mike Babcock gave Zetterberg some serious praise:

"I think one of the misconceptions out there for people when they're looking at athletes is how talented the superstars are -- they are talented, but their will is way more than their talent," Babcock said. "They're so freaking competitive, the best players, and that's what makes them special. And [Zetterberg] is like the little energy bunny, he just never stops. He just keeps going and going and going. It doesn't matter how big you are or how hard you hit or how determined you are, he just thinks he's going to out-will you."

Zetterberg's new role as captain hasn't changed him, but that's not really a surprise, either. It's almost as if he was being groomed for this role, first under Yzerman and then under fellow Swede Lidstrom.

"I don't think he misses a beat that way," Babcock said. "The kind of person he is, he's a good, good, good man. He treats people right. He's not shy at all. He'll talk to the general manager or the coach and he has an opinion. I think he's a strong, strong leader and he goes about it the right way. He's like a coach on the ice. He's born to lead. He knows what he's doing. I don't think there is any issue for the adjustment for him. But it's way harder when your team is not going as well as you like versus when everybody is rosy and you're flying along."

The Red Wings are not flying along, not even close. But they're still competitive, still a playoff contender, in large part because of their new captain.

"One thing about being here is the standards are so high and it's always been about winning, not who gets the points," Babcock said. "It's just about winning, and that's what he is all about. When you're competitive you relish these situations because you think you're always going to get the job done, that's just how your mind works. He's one of those guys."

At perhaps the other end of the skill spectrum, but not the will one, the Free Press's Helene St. James offers a "quarter pole" article taking note of the fact that Brian Lashoff, Petr Mrazek and Damien Brunner, among other players, have taken advantage of the opportunities given to them via the shortened season and the Wings' litany of injuries:

Lashoff got called up the morning of the second game, ended up taking his pregame nap while using a car service to get from Grand Rapids to Columbus, Ohio, arrived an hour before the game, then scored a goal in his NHL debut. He has played in six games since, consistently getting solid reviews from coach Mike Babcock, who likes the steadiness and size the 6-foot-3, 200-plus-pound defenseman brings.

Mrazek, "Razzer" to teammates, is another example: One week before his 21st birthday, he calmly boasted that he's never nervous, then backed it up by winning his NHL debut, 5-1, over the Blues on Thursday. He handled the puck with a dexterity the Wings haven't seen since Chris Osgood, and provided a measure of relief for a team short on healthy NHL-tested goaltenders.

Tatar made his season debut last week and immediately made the third line more potent because he's a smart, skilled player. The Wings wanted to get a look at Tatar because he's in that same group of Grand Rapids Griffins as Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson, players who are deemed NHL material. Nyquist got called up for one game earlier, and there's little doubt he'll be back, but when the Wings needed to call up another forward for this weekend, they went with Andersson because he's bigger and grittier.

The Wings don't lack for heady players, adding a fresh face this season in Brunner. Brunner isn't big and he isn't strong, but he is fearless and finds a shooting lane with the best of them. He has shown why the Wings were one of many NHL teams who coveted him last summer by delivering eight points in 11 games.

On defense, the Wings were counting on [Carlo] Colaiacovo, [Brendan] Smith and Kyle Quincey to make up for some of the points lost with the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, figuring they could help produce from the back end along with Niklas Kronwall and Ian White. Colaiacovo has barely played, Smith had one assist in eight games before getting hurt, and then there's Quincey.

The Wings gave up a first-round pick last year to get Quincey, a trade made at the time in anticipation of a future without Lidstrom and Brad Stuart. Quincey, 27, had 23 points in 54 games for Colorado at the time, building on the offensive potential he'd shown earlier with the Avalanche and in one season with Los Angeles. There has been little of that guy evident so far, and that's a problem.

Smith was getting better as he played, but Quincey is a hot mess. I'm still rooting for him and I'm still hoping that he'll come around, but if he doesn't, remember this name: Andrei Vasilevski. He's the goalie that the Tampa Bay Lightning picked with the first-rounder the Wings gave 'em (the Bolts sent Steve Downie to Colorado in the three-way deal). If Vasilevski out-plays Quincey over time, then the trade wasn't worth it. If Quincey comes around, and we're all hoping that he does, that's another story.

Regarding young superstars, the Windsor Star's Bob Duff posted an article that's somewhat tangential to Wings discussion...

Bursting up ice, headed toward the Detroit Red Wings’ net, Edmonton Oilers’ left-winger Taylor Hall had a goal in mind. Unequipped with a rear-view mirror, Hall didn’t get the spoiler alert – that Detroit centre Pavel Datsyuk was closing fast.

Datsyuk picked Hall’s pocket and made off with the puck. Scoring chance averted.

“I didn’t know until I was coming off the ice that it was Datsyuk,” Hall admitted after a 2-1 loss to the Wings Saturday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena. “If I would have known, I probably would have protected the puck better, because he’s so good at taking the puck away from guys. You have to play really hard against him.”

Fast forward to the third period. Leading 2-1, Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg burst into the clear, looking for the insurance marker. But Hall, bearing down defensively, tipped the puck away from Zetterberg just as he was about to unload a point-blank shot.

Lesson learned.

If he were a Red Wing, it’s likely that former Windsor Spitfire Hall, 21, would just be arriving at the NHL level after serving a minor-league apprenticeship. With Edmonton, he’s already into his third NHL season and Hall is the first to admit that there’s plenty of on-the-job training ongoing amidst his big-league evolution.

“I’m still learning every game,” Hall said. “There’s still a lot to learn about this game. It’s not an easy league to play in. Every game is a challenge. I’m definitely not as wide-eyed as when I first came in, but I’m still learning and I still have a huge process ahead of me.”

And in a very different kind of "learning on the job vein"...

I'm comfortable with the concept that the Red Wings will send Petr Mrazek, Tomas Tatar, Joakim Andersson and Brian Lashoff back to Grand Rapids to "over-ripen" when the team finally gets healthy. The Wings are 11 games into a 48-games-in-99-nights demolition derby, and the team rather desperately needs as many warm bodies capable of playing NHL hockey as possible, regardless of how much you or I like them or how much you or I think that a younger player cold replace them.

As we've already seen, injuries come so fast and furious in shortened seasons that it's silly, so you need to maximize your depth, even if you do so at the expense of your prospects' egos.

The team's success has to trump fans' desires to see the next big thing blossom and bloom for the sake of immediate gratification, and that's just the way it is.

I am happy, however, to see Brian Lashoff at least give Jakub Kindl and Kent Huksins runs for their money--and am happy to see all of the Wings' prospects who've been called up remind the team's veterans that their jobs are not in fact secure, but are instead earned on game-by-game and shift-by-shift bases--and Lashoff's presence as Niklas Kronwall's more and more regular partner was noted by the Wings' press corps.

The 22-year-old is 6'3," at least 210 pounds and he's got the maturity of someone fifteen years older, so it doesn't surprise me that Niklas Kronwall and Mike Babcock gushed about him to the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa:

As the defense continues to improve, despite injuries to Brendan Smith and Carlo Colaiacovo, Brian Lashoff continues to impress and to receive compliments from his coaches and teammates.

At 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, the 22-year-old was starting his fifth season for the Grand Rapids Griffins when the Wings beckoned. Babcock has been unafraid of using him in key situations on the penalty kill, sometimes paired with Jonathan Ericsson.

"He's been huge for us, killing a lot of penalties, playing a lot of minutes," Kronwall said. "He's not, maybe, a flashy guy. But he's getting the job done every night, making the right decision all of the time. I'm really impressed with him. He is easy to play with. He makes it easy, by keeping it simple."

Just before he faced the media, Babcock said he had praised Lashoff in a conversation with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.

"Outstanding, I thought, and I just said to Kenny, 'To me, he's just smart.' He's big and he's smart, and because you're big and you're smart and you're competitive, you get to play lots. So good for him."

As the Free Press's George Sipple points out, however, Lashoff has had some ups and downs, and that's to be expected:

Lashoff played 19:55, including 6:34 on the penalty kill, in the Red Wings' 2-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday at Joe Louis Arena. He was on the penalty kill early in the third period during a 5-on-3 and again in the final minutes with the Oilers trying to score 6-on-4 after pulling the goaltender.

"I think it's huge," Lashoff said of playing in key situations. "Ever since I got here, I've been put in pretty key situations. That's obviously huge for my confidence."

Lashoff said he's used to being put in key penalty-killing situations with the Grand Rapids Griffins and has confidence he can help the Wings.

"I want to win," Lashoff said. "It doesn't really matter, when it's those kind of situations, it's all about that want to win."

Asked about Lashoff's play Saturday, coach Mike Babcock said: "Well, outstanding. He's just smart. He's big and he's smart. 'Cause you're big and you're smart and you're competitive, you get to play lots."

Lashoff played a season-high 20:18 in Thursday's 5-1 win at St. Louis, after being scratched the previous three games. Babcock recently had told Lashoff he was going to be sent back to the Griffins. That decision changed when defenseman Brendan Smith suffered a shoulder injury that will sideline him three to four weeks.

Kronwall talked about Lashoff at a little more length with MLive's Brendan Savage...

"He's been  huge for us," said veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who has been paired alongside Lashoff since he joined the Red Wings. "He's playing a lot of minutes, killing a lot of penalties. He's not maybe a flashy guy but he's getting the job done every night, making the right decision all the time. Lash has been unbelievable ever since he got here in that first game that he joined us in Columbus. He's played really mature, making the easy play with the right decision. He's strong in his own zone and wins a lot of battles one-on-one. He's huge for us on the PK, can't say enough good things about him. I'm really impressed with him so far. He's real easy to play with, making it easy on you."

Lashoff did play during the Wings' 5-on-3 and penalty-kill, and he continued to earn ice time when the Oilers pulled Nikolai Khabibulin to push for a power play goal in the game's final moments:

"That was a huge moment in the game," Lashoff said. "We're up by a goal and I think (goalie Jimmy Howard) did a great job and I know a lot of guys did a great job of blocking shots and stuff like that. It was a huge, critical moment in the game, especially when we were up by a goal."

After the Red Wings killed the 5-on-3 early in the third, they came right back and took the lead for good on Kronwall's first goal of the season.

"That was huge," Lashoff said. "That was a big momentum swing. Anytime you can kill of a 5-on-3 it's usually going to give the boys a good boost on the bench and luckily that's what it did and we got the game-winner."

Playing alongside somebody like Kronwall has helped ease the transition from Grand Rapids, where Lashoff had two goals, four assists and 23 penalty minutes in 36 games.

"It's been great," said Lashoff, who is in his third full pro season after being signed by Grand Rapids following a successful amateur tryout near the end of the 2008-09 season. "He's really slowed the game down for me. He's made things easier. We don't spend a lot of time in our own zone. I think we feed off each other pretty well and we're making passes out of our zone so I think playing with him has definitely helped me start my career off, that's for sure."

Emphasis on the start. Lashoff's going to be an NHL regular, and he's going to be a Brad Stuart-style "multi-tool" defenseman that can be utilized in any situation, and frankly, I think a big part of that certainty involves the fact that the foundation behind his talent involves a pretty remarkable character...But he's going to arrive for good when the Wings decide he needs to "get a place in the area, and not before.

 

 

In the non-NHL-playing prospect department, in the AHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins went 0-for-2 in their back-to-back slate of games against the Oklahoma City Barons, and they had a very difficult night on Saturday, giving up 6 third-period goals en route to a 7-5 loss. The Griffins' website provides a recap (and a Flickr photo gallery):

After holding a 3-1 lead heading into the third period, the Griffins allowed the Barons to score six goals in the final 20 minutes en route to the 7-5 loss. The six goals allowed in one period ties a franchise record set three times before, most recently on Dec. 31, 2009 at Hamilton (2nd). It was also the first time the Griffins had allowed six goals in the third period.

The Barons (23-18-2-4) jumped on the scoreboard first as Ryan Martindale connected for the second straight night on a power play goal at 11:37 of the opening period. Tom McCollum made a great save on a shot by Taylor Fedun, but the rebound deflected to Martindale who quickly found the back of the net.

Grand Rapids (27-16-2-2) tied the game at one on a shorthanded goal at 15:19 of the first period. Brett Skinner made a clearing attempt from 15 feet inside the Griffins’ blue line and the puck took a skip on goaltender Yann Danis. As Danis tried to block the shot, the puck trickled between his legs just over the goal line. The goal was Skinner’s first as a Griffin.

Francis Pare gave the Griffins their first lead of the game on a power play goal at 16:43 of the first period. Gustav Nyquist took a pass from the right wing circle to the net and Danis made the initial save, but the puck came loose to Pare who snuck his shot past the goaltender.

Nyquist gave Grand Rapids a 3-1 lead midway through the second period. The right wing knocked the puck off a defender’s stick and slipped it past an unsuspecting Danis at 10:18 for his first goal and second point of the game.

Josh Green cut the Griffins’ lead to one goal on a power play at 1:29 of the final period. The center sent a wrist shot past McCollum to score his sixth goal of the season.

Nyquist put Grand Rapids up by a pair on a power play goal of his own at 5:17 of the third period. The goal was the Halmsted, Sweden native’s second of the night and 17th of the season.

The Barons rattled off four straight goals within the next five minutes to take a commanding 6-4 lead. Jonathan Cheechoo scored his third goal in the two-game series 40 seconds after Nyquist’s goal. The right wing’s shot from the bottom of the circle snuck through McCollum’s pads at 5:57 of the third.

Toni Rajala tied the game at four at 9:49 of the final period. Taking a pass at the left wing, Rajala drew McCollum out of position with a fake and went in on a sharp angle to score.

Philippe Cornet and Dane Byers both scored within the next minute to give the Barons a two-goal lead. On a two-on-one advantage, Cornet sent a shot over McCollum’s left shoulder at 10:13. Less than 30 seconds later, Fedun took a shot from the point and Byers deflected it by McCollum from the right side of the net.

Brent Raedeke pulled Grand Rapids within one goal at 13:24 of the final period as he received a pass up the middle and snapped his shot underneath the arm of Danis.

But Cheechoo sealed the victory for the Barons as he scored the final goal of the game on an empty net at 19:05.

McCollum recorded 22 saves and Danis earned the victory behind 22 saves.

The Griffins will return to the Van Andel Arena for their next game as they host the Lake Erie Monsters Friday at 7 p.m.

The Barons' website's recap probably won't interest you, and as their highlight clip involves Barons goals, Barons goals and Barons goals, I'm just including it for the sake of including it:

In the ECHL, the Toledo Walleye had a rough go as well, losing 3-0 to the South Carolina Stingrays. The Walleye's website provides a recap;

In major junior hockey, in the QMJHL, Martin Frk's Halifax Mooseheads didn't play the Acadie-Bathurst Titan because the game was postponed due to the snowstorm running up the East Coast;

Phillipe Hudon and didn't register a point in the Victoriaville Tigres' 3-1 loss to Quebec;

In the OHL, Alan Quine scored a goal in the Belleville Bulls 4-1 victory over Erie;

Ryan Sproul registered a goal in the Soo Greyounds' 3-2 loss to Peterborough;

Andreas Athanasiou registered an assist, but his Barrie Colts lost 5-3 to Jake Paterson and the Saginaw Spirit. Paterson stopped 37 of the 40 shots he faced;

In the WHL, Richard Nedomlel didn't register a point but finished at +3 in the Swift Current Broncos' 3-0 win over Prince Albert (not in a can);

In the USHL, Mike McKee had an assist and registered 2 penalties but not a fight in the Lincoln Stars' 4-2 loss to Omaha;

In the BCHL, James De Haas didn't register a point in his Penticton Vees' 8-4 win over Alberni Valley;

In NCAA hockey, in the WCHA, Nick Jensen registered an assist as Saint Cloud State defeated Minnesota 4-3. Ben Marshall didn't register a point for Minnesota;

And at the Oddset Hockey Games (thanks again to DRW Prospects on Twitter for the heads-up), Mattias Backman didn't register a point in Sweden's 4-1 loss to Russia.

 

In foreign-language news, Niklas Kronwall told Aftonbladet's Per Bjurman that he owes credit for his game-winning goal against Edmonton to Tomas Holmstrom impersonator Johan Franzen, and he suggested that it was "about time" that he scored his first goal of the year because the team was passing the puck around too much on the power play instead of simply shooting it...

And he says that the Wings will have to utilize the same attention to detail they displayed against Edmonton to defeat the Kings today.


And finally, as the Sun newspaper chain's going toward subscriber-only content (which never works unless you're the New York Times), the Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons offers the following observation:

For basically two decades, the best defenceman in the hockey world was a Swede, Nicklas Lidstrom. He didn’t take over games as much as he controlled them. He was almost mistake free, superb with the puck, and thought the position as well as anyone ever has.

Well, this is the first NHL season without Lidstrom and the best defenceman in the hockey world looks to be a Swede: Ottawa defencman Erik Karlsson. He won the Norris Trophy last year and if voting was done today, would probably win it again. And all this is just a little astounding considering he doesn’t turn 23 until May.

An NHL scout told me recently he thought Karlsson was a Top 5 player in the league. As for the top Canadian defenceman right now? There isn’t one obvious choice. Some might say Drew Doughty. Some might say Shea Weber, who is off to a slow start. But no one is calling any of them Top 5 in the league.

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Comments

w2j2's avatar

The Griffins must really be hurting since so many of their best players are now with the Wings.

Remember Andreas Lilja?
He was valued by the Wings as a big, shot-blocking, penalty killing, stay-at home Dman.  But he also made more than his share of mistakes, especially early in his career.

Lashoff brings all of those positive things without all the mistakes.
He fills a roll the Wings have desparately needed.
Let Kronwall & Smith flit around and score some goals.
The Wings need a rock in front of the net.  Now they found him.

Posted by w2j2 on 02/10/13 at 09:14 AM ET

bleep bloop's avatar

I don’t understand allowing 1 goal through two periods and then 6 in one. Did they not have a goalie in the 3rd or did they decide to stop playing defence, figuring a 2-goal deficit was insurmountable for the other team? idgi

Posted by bleep bloop on 02/10/13 at 11:54 AM ET

Figaro's avatar

I actually liked the way Lilja played for us. I was sad to see him go, and just as sad to see him struggle in his post-Wings career.

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 02/11/13 at 11:06 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.