The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/04/13 at 12:08 PM ET
Updated 8x at 4:45 PM: The Red Wings officially recalled Tomas Tatar and Petr Mrazek from Grand Rapids this morning, placing Brendan Smith (shoulder) on the IR to make room for Tatar and swapping out Tom McCollum for Mrazek, and while there is a modicum of good news in the injury department as the Wings' practice begins...
GM Ken Holland told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan that the team needed to recall a goaltender who the team feels comfortable playing in Jimmy Howard's place...
Mrazek is 16-7-1 with a 2.26 goals-against average and .916 save percentage for the Wings' minor league affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins. Mrazek earned his first pro shutout over the weekend, and made the American League All-Star team earlier this season.
To bring in Mrazek, the Red Wings reassigned Tom McCollum back to Grand Rapids.
"At some point this week, in one of the games, we're going to have to rest Jimmy Howard," general manager Ken Holland said. "McCollum has been up here for two, almost three weeks, and hasn't played a game. He has to play. Mrazek has been playing in Grand Rapids, playing well."
But it's not a given Mrazek will play. If either Joey MacDonald (back) or Jonas Gustavsson (groin) is ready to play by the weekend, one of those two injured veterans will play, according to Holland.
"We're taking it day by day," Holland said.
And Holland told the Free Press's Helene St. James that the Wings brought Tatar up in an attempt to jump-start their "bottom six" forwards, who've posted an entire assist over the course of the team's eight games:
Tatar will play against the Flames in hopes of spurring some offense beyond the top two lines. The 22-year-old has 19 goals and 20 assists for 39 points in 44 games for the Griffins.
"We thought we'd have more secondary scoring," Holland said. "It's only eight games. Our big guys have produced, but we haven't gotten much from anyone else. Tatar has played real well in Grand Rapids. He had a hat trick. We'll put him in lineup tomorrow night, figure out a way to jump-start some offense. We're hoping he can come up and give us some jump and we can get some secondary scoring."
Update #0.5: It turns out that the Wings have chosen to utilize Tatar in a slightly different role:
Update #3: Oh, this is ironic...
Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith said he will miss 3-4 weeks with a “normal AC sprain” in his right shoulder. Smith was injured in the first period of Saturday’s game at Columbus when he was hit by forward Derek Mackenzie.
“I was in the corner and I think Mackenzie came to hit me and I dropped my shoulder,” Smith said. “I didn’t fall, it didn’t really hurt right away. Next thing I was skating out to the blue line and shoulder felt a little weird.”
Smith said the rash of injuries that have hit the Wings’ defensemen is just bad luck.
“It’s unbelievable how the injury bug seems to be hitting the D-side,” Smith said. “In my case for sure, I don’t even know how it happened. Guy came to hit me, and he was the one that I think actually fell. I couldn’t believe it actually happened.”
Defenseman Ian White (leg laceration) practiced today and said he hoped to be back in the lineup Tuesday against Calgary (7:30 p.m. Fox Sports Detroit), although he hasn’t yet been cleared by doctors.
Here’s a few other injury updates: Forward Mikael Samuelsson (groin) said he has been skating on his own and is optimistic he’ll be able to return to the lineup later this week.
Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson (groin) said he was out on the ice for about 15 minutes today and expects to take another step Tuesday and practice for at least 30 minutes. No indication when he’ll be able to play, though.
Goaltender Joey MacDonald (back) practiced today and said he hopes to be cleared today or Tuesday by doctors. The Wings might want to get MacDonald a conditioning stint in Grand Rapids before considering him to spell Jimmy Howard.
Forward Darren Helm (back) said there hasn’t been any progress with his injury. He said he’s trying to stay positive and expects to have a bone scan today or Tuesday.
Here's MLive's Ansar Khan's practice update...
"We're going to put Tats in the lineup, we're going to see what he can do to help us,'' coach Mike Babcock said after practice today at Joe Louis Arena. “Our bottom six isn't scoring. Maybe he can help with that.''
Tatar skated on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Valtteri Filppula, as Todd Bertuzzi was moved to the third line, but Babcock said. “I don't know what he's going to do tomorrow. He's got some ability, he's scored some goals (19 goals in 44 games with the Griffins). He's fearless. Maybe he can help us. We're going to watch and see.''
Mrazek, an AHL All-Star in his first pro season, took part in his first NHL practice today. He'll back-up Howard on Tuesday and also, in all likelihood, back him up Thursday in St. Louis.
“I felt the other night in Columbus -- it's not like I got options -- but I felt like I shouldn't have started Howie,'' Babcock said. “And so eventually we got to give Howie a breather. He can't play every single night. Neither one of the goalies on the shelf (Jonas Gustavsson, Joey MacDonald) appear to be coming back anytime soon, so we got to do something about that. This kid's played great.''
Asked if Mrazek would start one of the home games this weekend (Saturday vs. Edmonton or Sunday vs. Los Angeles), Babcock said, “I don't know what I'm going to do. You can ask me the same questions tomorrow, I'm not answering them today because I don't know.''
Here are the lines and defense pairs they skated with today:
Johan Franzen-Henrik Zetterberg-Damien Brunner
Valtteri Filppula-Pavel Datsyuk-Tomas Tatar
Daniel Cleary-Justin Abdelakder-Todd Bertuzzi
Drew Miller-Cory Emmerton-Jorin Tootoo
Patrick Eaves rotating in on the third and fourth lines.
Niklas Kronwall-Jonathan Ericsson
Kyle Quincey-Ian White
Kent Huskins-Jakub Kindl
Brian Lashoff rotated in
White (leg laceration) said he believes he can play Tuesday and is hoping to be cleared by doctors today.
And here's the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness's practice update:
The Wings expect to have Ian White (leg laceration) back in the lineup if he’s cleared by doctors.
“You’re just getting your legs under you and this happens,” White said. “I really didn’t do anything for a better part of 10 days so I’ll probably have a little bit of rust again. The only way to get that off is to get into game action.”
The Wings recalled forward Tomas Tatar and goalie Petr Mrazek from Grand Rapids. Tatar skated on the second line with Pavel Datsyuk and Valtteri Filppula.
Tatar, 22, has 19 goals and 20 assists this season with the Griffins.
“That’s a big chance for me to show that I can play,” Tatar said. “They are two really good players so I’m really excited and looking forward to the game. I’m that kind of guy that has been producing down there so I think this is the right spot for me,” Tatar added. “It’s really a big opportunity for me. I’ve never really played with big guys like that in the NHL. I used to play on the third line when I got called up. This is something new and I’m really excited.”
Babcock wasn’t pleased with his backup goalie situation.
“We can’t give away games, the league’s too tight to give away games because a guy’s injured, so we got to figure that out,” Babcock said.
Jimmy Howard is starting Tuesday against the Calgary Flames. Mrazek, 20, is 16-7-1 in Grand Rapids with a 2.26 goal-against average and a .916 save percentage. He’s coming off a 53-save performance and a shutout over the weekend.
“I’m feeling great,” Mrazek said. “It’s a great experience to be here and I will try my best to practice and to show up. I got surprised when I got the call because that was my dream, to be in the NHL one day, and it went true and I’m so happy.”
Update #5: The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's practice post sounds like a repeat...
Defenseman Brendan Smith (shoulder sprain) is expected to be out three to four weeks. Smith was hit awkwardly Saturday by Columbus forward Derek MacKenzie in the corner.
"It didn't really hurt right away but then I skated to the blue line and the shoulder felt a little weird," Smith said. "I don't even know how it happened. He's the one that actually fell. I couldn't believe it, one of those things that happen. It's frustrating when you're playing well, playing lots of minutes and to go to not playing, obviously it's frustrating."
Forward Darren Helm (back) will have a bone scan within the next couple of days to determine his progress.
Helm hasn't skated the past few days and progress has been slow.
"Just trying to stay positive," said Helm, who has played only one game this season.
DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose profiled Mrazek in his off-day story...
Mrazek stopped 53 of 54 shots in two games last week as Grand Rapids extended its lead atop the Midwest Division with a 5-1 win at Hamilton on Friday followed by a 1-0 home victory over Abbotsford on Saturday. Before Saturday’s win, Mrazek’s first career shutout as a pro, the 20-year-old Czech star received some advice from Chris Osgood, the Red Wings’ goalie development coach.
“I felt pretty good before the game and I talked with Ozzie before the game and he said I have to be a little more aggressive in the net so I had to be and it happened,” Mrazek said. “It was a great night for us.”
A fifth-round draft pick in 2010, Mrazek began last week by representing the Griffins and earning the win in net for the Western Conference during last Monday’s AHL All-Star Game. In this, his first season with the Griffins, Mrazek owns a 16-7-1 record and is second among AHL rookies with a 2.26 goals-against average, and is third with a .916 save percentage. He is just the third Griffins’ player to receive the AHL award in the past four seasons, and second in the last three weeks. Forward Joakim Andersson earned league honors on Jan. 20.
With Jonas Gustavsson (groin) and Joey MacDonald (back) not available and the Wings facing a week filled with four games – including three in four days at week’s end – coach Mike Babcock said he feels like Jimmy Howard needs a rest.
“I felt the other night in Columbus – it’s not like I got options – but I felt like I shouldn’t have started Howie,” Babcock said. “So eventually we got to give Howie a breather. He can’t play every single night. Neither one of the goalies on the shelf appears to be coming back anytime soon, so we got to do something about that. This kid’s played great.”
Having played in front of him in Grand Rapids, defenseman Brendan Smith has seen what Mrazek can bring to the Wings.
“He’s such a quick goalie. He gets side to side really quickly and he’s a competitor, which I like,” Smith said. “He wants to play well all of the time and he competes well in practice. In today’s game, the puck moves so quickly, you’ve got to get side to side, and I think he does a really good job of doing that.”
And the Red Wings' website posted video clips of coach Babcock...
And Tomas Tatar speaking to the media:
Update #5.5: I'm having a very, very hard time iwth the Tatar embed code, so you might want to click on this link instead...
Update #6: Wings prospect Xavier Ouellet earned a shout-out from Hockey's Future's Kevin Forbes, who suggests that the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada captain is the best NHL-drafted defenseman currently playing in the QMJHL:
1. Xavier Ouellet, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
Drafted 48th overall (2nd round) in 2011 by the Detroit Red Wings
It has been a banner year for 19-year-old Xavier Ouellet. Not only is he the captain of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, one of the top teams in the QMJHL, but he also cracked the lineup of Team Canada and competed at the 2013 World Junior Tournament in Ufa, Russia. Although the World Juniors did not end as hoped, with Canada being shut out of the medals for the first time since 1998, Ouellet was a revelation for the Canadians, playing a crucial stay-at-home role. This was a change of pace for Ouellet, who scored 21 goals last year, but the Quebec native has showed continued dedication to rounding out his game since being drafted. In the QMJHL, the acquisition of veteran defender Samuel Carrier has also taken some of the blue line scoring load off of Ouellet's shoulders. He's established himself as a complete player on the back-end, just as capable of helping out offensively as he is with taking care of business defensively. In 32 games this year with the Armada, Ouellet has six goals and 28 points, placing him second behind Carrier in defensive scoring on the club. Already signed to an NHL contract, Ouellet is preparing for a final playoff run this year with the Armada before graduating to professional hockey.
The Red Wings have been struggling to get any scoring from their second six forwards. Babcock had one reason for that.
"Darren Helm. And it doesn't look like we're getting him back anytime soon," he said after practice.
Helm hasn't skated since injuring his back again on January 26. He has played in only one game this year.
The team's depth on defense has been straining as Niklas Kronwall and Kyle Quincey are the only blueliners to play in all eight games this season. Brendan Smith, who Babcock said has been "a good player for us," told reporters he expects to miss three-four weeks with a shoulder injury. Carlo Colaiacovo is out of the lineup for at least another two weeks, Jakub Kindl sat out the team's first three games due to a groin pull, and Jonathan Ericsson missed three games after stepping on a puck and injuring his shoulder.
Ian White expects to be back this week after cutting his leg in the team's home opener against Dallas. Babcock didn't know if he'd be ready on Tuesday. Between the pipes, Jimmy Howard has played in every game thus far, and Babcock said he needs a break -- soon.
"It's not like I have options, but I should have rested him in Columbus," he said.
Jonas Gustavsson has been nursing a nagging groin, and the team hasn't cleared Joey MacDonald to practice. Mrazek, who was named the AHL's Player of the Week for a 2-0 record and a 0.50 GAA last week, could start later this week.
The good news? Five of the team's next six games are at home. The second half of the schedule is filled with road games out West, so the importance in piling up wins is imperative.
"This is a veteran team. If I didn't think we could (win), I wouldn't be here," Jordin Tootoo said. "Every day is like the playoffs."
Update #8: DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose penned an article discussing "the week ahead"...
February is an important month for the Red Wings, who can capitalize on their favorable schedule. Detroit has eight games at home this month, including four straight beginning with the Oilers on Saturday.
“When you got the good schedule you have to take advantage of it,” coach Mike Babcock said.
Getting points, especially against teams, like the Flames, who are last place in the Western Conference standings, is critical if the Red Wings are to extend their 21 straight appearances in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“Good team, dying for points,” said Babcock, of Calgary. “They’re a team that needs to play well and we need to play well. Plus they’ll have Huds in the lineup. We’re big fans of Huds here. We still wish he was a Red Wing, but that’s a decision guys make and we wish him luck every night except when he plays against us.”
This week in Hockeytown:
TUESDAY – vs. CALGARY FLAMES (1-3-2): The Flames head out on their first road trip of the season, heading to Detroit, Columbus and then Vancouver. Calgary limps into town with the league’s worst record, however, the Flames possess one of the league’s top power-play units, scoring six times on 25 opportunities with the man-advantage.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Former Red Wings forward Jiri Hudler had two goals and an assist against Colorado last week. The speedy Czech has recorded two goals for five points in three games since joining his new club as a free agent during the off-season.
THURSDAY – at ST. LOUIS BLUES (6-2-0): The Western Conference leaders in scoring – with 30 goals in eight games – the Blues are 3-1-0 in one-goal games this season. A very good team at protecting the puck, St. Louis has coughed up the puck just 37 times. Only Columbus has fewer giveaways with 33.
PLAYER TO WATCH: With starting goalie Jaroslav Halak placed on injured reserve on Sunday, backup Brian Elliot will likely get his first start against the Red Wings this season. Elliot is 2-5-1 with a 2.48 goals-against lifetime against the Red Wings. Halak suffered a lower body injury on Feb. 1 at Detroit.
SATURDAY – vs. EDMONTON OILERS (4-3-1): One the strongest power plays pay a visit to Joe Louis Arena in a special Saturday matinee. The Oilers’ special team is 11-for-38 (29 percent).
PLAYER TO WATCH: Nineteen-year-old forward Nail Yakupov (5G, 1A) has registered at least one point in four straight contests for the Oilers. The former Sarnia Sting star is currently tied with Tampa Bay’s Cory Conacher and St. Louis’s Vladimir Tarasenko for the league’s rookie lead in goals.
SUNDAY – vs. LOS ANGELES KINGS (2-3-2): The defending Stanley Cup champions have struggled in the first month of the season. The Kings are ranked 27th in the league with 2.14 goals per game, and only three players – Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter - have scored more than once.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jonathan Quick, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner, had his last game end prematurely Saturday, as Anaheim chased him from the crease with two goals on just three shots in less than six minutes.
And, via RedWingsFeed, Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner weighed in on the Wings' call-ups in his latest video blog:
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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.