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Red Wings Monday practice post: Ericsson sore, Wings regrouping, Howard an Olympic underdog

Updated 6x at 5:24 PM: Thanks to their disappointing effort against Boston this past Saturday, Detroit Red Wings have a laundry list's worth of "to-improve-upon" issues (see: better special teams play, getting "on the inside" and sustaining offensive pressure via rebound retrieval and screening goaltenders, a better transition game, smarter play in their own end) to work on during their three "off days."

The Wings will need to get their collective and individual games in order soon, because the Wings' Sunday-to-Wednesday break is their longest until January, and Thursday and Saturday's games against Phoenix and Philly, respectively, precede a Columbus Day rematch with Boston and, in total, a slate of 4 games played over the course of 6 nights, 6 in 8, and a total of 10 more October games, two road trips included.

If I've learned anything about the Wings during my tenure as a blogger, it's that they always begin practice early:

Hey, at least Detroit isn't Philadelphia...

Ed Snider runs the Flyers like some Wings fans would love to run Detroit: FIRE EVERYONE! TRADE EVERYONE! NOW!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

I think sitting Tatar for Thursday on a Monday is a little presumptuous, especially given what Daniel Cleary told DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose in his "Week Ahead in Hockeytown":

“We need to get shots to the net and create traffic and get them moving around, and then we can start making plays,” Cleary said. “We have to work on a lot of things. It’s early in the season, but we have a few days to get a little rest and work on things Monday and Wednesday.’’

Teams have to give their players 3 CBA-mandated days off per month, and it makes sense to give the Wings a little break on Tuesday instead of making them practice for three straight days.

While we're at it, here are Roose's previews of Thursday and Saturday's games:

THURSDAY – vs. PHOENIX (1-1-0): The Coyotes are in the middle of a five-game road trip – their longest this season – when they visit Joe Louis Arena this week. They’ll finish the current trip in Philadelphia on Friday and Carolina on Sunday. … Once operated by the league, the Coyotes enter this season under a new nine-member ownership group led by Canadian investment banker George Gosbee. Consistency and quality goaltender were staples of a Coyotes team that qualified for three straight postseasons. Then there was last season’s disaster when a defenseman (Keith Yandle) was the team’s leading scorer. … Goalie Mike Smith returns for his third season with Phoenix. The veteran netminder signed a six-year contract worth $34 million during the offseason. He had five shutouts last season, tying him with Jimmy Howard for the league lead among all NHL goalies. Smith’s 13 career shutouts are the most in the NHL since the start of the 2010-11 season. St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott is second with 12 shutouts, and Howard is third with 11. … Defenseman Zbynek Michalek led the Coyotes with 87 blocked shots last season and has led the Coyotes in blocked shots during five of the last six seasons. Through the first two games, he already leads the team with seven blocks. … Coyotes tough guy Paul Bissonnette is eligible to return from his suspension this week for leaving the bench during a preseason altercation. Though the league reduced his regular-season sentence to three games from 10, it’s unknown if he’ll be in the Coyotes’ lineup against Detroit.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Forward Radim Vrbata started the new season the way he finished the last – netting a natural hat trick leading Phoenix to a 4-1 win over the New York Rangers in last Thursday’s season-opener. Vrbata, who has scored 198 career goals, is the first NHL player to notch a hat trick in a season finale and the season-opener of the next campaign for the same team since hall-of-famer Luc Robitaille did it for the Los Angeles Kings in 1988. The Coyotes are now 73-17-9 in 99 games when Vrbata scores a goal. He has 11 goals and 13 assists in 39 career games against the Red Wings.

Vrbata's always been a Wing-killer.

SATURDAY – vs. PHILADELPHIA (0-3-0): For the second straight season, the Flyers have started 0-3. It’s only the fourth time they’ve opened a season with three straight defeats. The other two were 1994-95 and 1989-90. Philadelphia hasn’t opened a season with four straight losses. If the Flyers don’t begin winning soon, could Peter Laviolette be the first coaching casualty of the season? …

Yes, yes he was.

Goalies Steve Mason and Ray Emery have been roughed up in the first week of the season. Neither veteran has claimed the starting role, which means the Flyers more than likely will ride a rotation. Mason has started twice, dropping decisions to Toronto and Carolina. Emery surrendered four goals in a 4-1 at Montreal on Saturday. The Flyers have also gotten off to a weak offensive start with just one goal each from center Vincent Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn, and defenseman Luke Schenn.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Mark Streit, the 35-year-old defenseman is starting fresh with a new team this season. The NHL veteran, who was drafted by Montreal in 2004, has two assists in three games, but recently said it will still take some time to adapt to the Flyers' system and to working with Luke Schenn before he is fully comfortable. The Flyers used their compliance buyouts on Danny Briere and Ilya Bryzgalov to make the Streit’s signing possible in the off-season. Because he has only played seven seasons in North America, and hasn’t missed a game in three-plus seasons, the Swiss star believes he’s ready to jump-start his career on a Stanley Cup contender. There’s plenty of reason to think he can have a 40-assist season while becoming a plus-player for the first time since the 2008-09 season.

Anyway...

I hate it when irony precedes a collision...

Hopefully it was indeed just "slight."

The Wings usually practice for 35-45 minutes, max...

This hints at an end to practice, or at least a final skate prior to the end-of-practice stretch:

I love that Krupa tells us about the drills insteat of just standing around and waiting for the locker room to open. I appreciate his candor and colorful observations.

Long delay between end of practice and start of quotes. Caught up on Swedish, Czech, Slovak, Russian news.

Okay, this is just bad-ass:

I am grateful for our active and veteran miltary members' services every day. They put their lives on the line so people like you and me can talk about hockey. I've got a friend serving on aircraft carrier in the Pacific right now.

And in the locker room...

Uh, yay?

The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness also penned a practice column:

"We feel we’re off to a pretty good start,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We didn’t like the fact that we didn’t stick to believing in our structure and doing what we do in Boston. You have to give them a ton a credit, they played way better than we did. We really felt we gave away goals with turnovers. Our first penalty kill goal we gave up we ran around. The second one we turned the puck over in our zone. To me that kind of thing doesn’t make sense. You have to trust one another and trust your structure and keep playing hard and be mentally strong. I didn’t think we stuck to it at all.”

The Wings will take Tuesday off before returning to practice Wednesday.

“These next few days, get people rested and compete and work hard in practice,” Babcock said. “It’s critical we keep taking steps. We made lots of mistakes, mental mistakes in Game 3 that you shouldn’t make. Was it because we were mentally fatigued, or was it that Boston was on us, who knows the answer to that question I just know you can’t make them.”

The Wings third line of Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Cleary centered by Joakim Andersson has yet to register a point this season and are a combined minus-8.

“I thought they were OK in Boston, are you saying are they ever going to get a point?,” Babcock said. “I just think do good things and good things tend to happen. I’m a big believer in that. Every year we get excited about Pav never scoring in this game and look at the record book at the end of the year and he has 80 points every year. Let things evolve here and it’ll work out. I think they’ve played pretty hard.”

The line has a total of 11 shots between them.

“(The line has) real good size so we need to be physical, we need to be on the forecheck, we need to grind, we need to be at the net and we have to bang some pucks into the empty net,” Babcock said. “Do all those things and good things will happen to you. Bert and Clears have played on the power play most nights too. They’ve had opportunity.”

 

 

 

In the prospect department, uh, this is...Unique...Per the Bayshore Broadcasting Centre:

The Owen Sound Attack is announcing that veteran forward Zach Nastasiuk has been named the teams Becker Shoes Attacker of the Week.

The 18 year old Barrie native was impressive at both ends of the ice in three games last week. The Detroit Red Wings 2nd Round Pick tallied a goal last Wednesday against the London Knights and was an even rating in a 7-1 loss to the Storm on Friday night while picking up an assist on the lone Attack goal.

The 6’2 forward sits 4th in team scoring with 6 points in 7 games played.

In Toledo, the Wings' ECHL affiliate, the Toledo Walleye, open training camp today, and Max Nicastro, Kevin Lynch and Trevor Parkes are taking part, as is a...baseball player?

In Grand Rapids...

And if Muir's rankings didn't convince you that Jimmy Howard's an Olympic underdog, the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek's assessment of Team USA's "goalie derby" cements Howard's status:

There are questions in Canada over the selection of the Olympic goalie and the same is true in the U.S., but for different reasons - too many good choices. Schneider is a perennial save percentage and goals-against leader, but he’s probably well down the pecking order behind the Kings’ Jonathan Quick, the Senators’ Craig Anderson and the Sabres’ Ryan Miller.

Anderson and Miller faced each other Friday night and together combined for 80 saves in Ottawa’s 1-0 victory. Oddball stat of the week: The teams combined for 39 first-period shots (OTT: 23, BUF: 16), the most in a scoreless period since 1967. Detroit’s Jimmy Howard is 2-1 after three starts, with a 2.31 GAA and a .915 save percentage.

 

 

Update #1: The Free Press's Helene St. James filed a practice post...

The Detroit Red Wings went through a solid hourlong practice today at Joe Louis Arena, part of an unusually long break before they play again Thursday, against the visiting Phoenix Coyotes. The Wings are 2-1, suffering their first loss Saturday at Boston.

"I just think it's really good," coach Mike Babcock said of the break. "I thought we got a good work day in practice today, we'll get another good work day (on Wednesday), and a day off in between. I'd have rather not played on Saturday and played on Sunday and had one day, but that's not how they schedule it. So you take what they give you."

Everyone remotely healthy practiced, including forward Patrick Eaves (knee), who "was out there for 12 seconds," Babcock joked. Practice lines were the same as the first two games, indicating that forward Tomas Tatar is back on the outs after making his debut in Boston.

Even though it's early in the season, a break is a break, and "we'll take it," goalie Jimmy Howard said. "All kidding aside, it's good. To start the season off with three games in four nights is pretty tough. That first back-to-back game is probably the most toughest of the year. We get a few days to re-energize ourselves, and I think that's good."

As much as players are familiar with playing twice in 20-odd hours, the first one of the season is hard because "your body isn't used to it," Howard said. "It's one of those things where, I can't remember the last time we started off a season with three in four nights. I definitely felt it in the third period the other night. Now it's under our belts, your body is used to it again."

Several players said a team function for season-ticket holders tonight would prevent them from attending this afternoon's Tigers-Oakland A's game, but at least one guy will go to Game 4 on Tuesday: Howard is having date night with his wife, Rachel.

"Looking forward to it," Howard said. "It should be a lot of fun. I'm excited."

But her practice video isn't up yet.

 

Update #2: The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan suggests that Mike Babcock "put the Wings through a tough practice":

The practice was a bit longer and more intense than usual. But with four days off between games, you'd expect coach Mike Babcock to put the Red Wings through the paces -- which he did Monday morning. And after a disappointing 4-1 loss Saturday in Boston, there's no doubt Babcock had everyone's attention during practice.

"It's critcial we keep taking steps," Babcock said. "There were lots of mental of mistakes (Saturday) you shouldn't make. Was it mental fatigue, or was it what Boston was doing to us? I just know you can't make them (mental mistakes)."

The Wings don’t play again until Thursday at home against Phoenix.

"Even though it's early in the season, a break is a break and we'll take it," goalie Jimmy Howard said. "It's good. To start the season with three games in four nights is pretty tough. That first back-to-back game is probably the toughest of the year. We get a few days to re-energize ourselves, and that's good."

The Wings opened last Wednesday at home against Buffalo, then played Friday and Saturday at Carolina and Boston, respectively. There was plenty to work on Monday and there will be in the days ahead, as well. A bankrupt power play continues to baffle the Red Wings, who are scoreless in eight attempts.

"We need to depend on it," forward Daniel Alfredsson said. "We've done some good things but we haven't put the puck in the net and that's what it's all about.”

FYI:

Injured players Patrick Eaves (sprained knee, ankle) Darren Helm (back), and Jordin Tootoo (bruised shoulder) all were on the ice for varying periods Monday.

"They're wearing gray (jerseys, usually the players not in the lineup); maybe one of these days they'll wear red and white and be available," Babcock said.

… Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson collided with forward Jordin Tootoo in practice. Ericsson left the ice before practice ended but there was no lasting issue.

The Free Press's Helene St. James posted a 46-second clip of Mike Babcock's comments...

And if you want to read about the Red Wings talking Tigers baseball, MLive's Ansar Khan has you covered, but in terms of hockey stuff...

Ericsson fine after leaving practice early: Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson left the ice near the end of practice due to the sore groin that’s been bothering him since the preseason. He said he’ll be fine for Thursday’s game.

“Everything is good; it was just a little precaution,’’ Ericsson said. “My groin was a little sore after the game. Didn’t feel worse by skating, but when we did those sprints at the end, just wanted to be careful.”

Eaves skates before practice: Right wing Patrick Eaves skated before practice and stayed on for a few minutes with the team before leaving. He's been out since Sept. 19 with a sprained left MCL and sprained ankle. He is on long-term injured reserve, so he's not eligible to play until after sitting out 10 games.

Here are the lines and defense pairings they skated with today:

Henrik Zetterberg-Pavel Datsyuk-Justin Abdelkader

Johan Franzen-Stephen Weiss-Daniel Alfredsson

Daniel Cleary-Joakim Andersson-Todd Bertuzzi

Drew Miller-Cory Emmerton-Mikael Samuelsson

Tomas Tatar (extra)

Jordin Tootoo, Darren Helm (skated but on injured reserve).

Niklas Kronwall-Jonathan Ericsson

Danny DeKeyser-Jakub Kindl

Kyle Quincey-Brendan Smith

Brian Lashoff

Jimmy Howard

Petr Mrazek

Jonas Gustavsson (on IR)

 

Update #3: MLive's Khan offers Babcock's take on the Todd Bertuzzi-Joakim Andersson-Daniel Cleary line (Khan reports that the line boasts no points and a -8)...

"I thought they were OK in Boston,’’ Babcock said. “Are you saying ‘Are they ever going to get a point?’ Yeah, me too. I just think do good things and good things tend to happen. Every year we get excited about Pav (Datsyuk) never scoring in this game (early in the season) and look at the record book at the end of the year and he has 80 points every year. Let things evolve here and it’ll work out. I think they (third line) have played pretty hard.’’

Cleary said of the line: “It’s been OK. Obviously, you want to be good at both ends, but it’s three games in; not that concerned.”

Babcock likes the line’s size.

“Real good size, so we need to be physical, we need to be on the forecheck, we need to grind, we need to be at the net and we have to bang some pucks into the empty net,’’ Babcock said. “Do all those things and good things will happen to you. Bert and Clears have played on the power play most nights, too. They’ve had opportunity.’’

If Babcock opts for a change, one option would be to insert Tomas Tatar. He played 9:08 on the fourth line during his season debut in Saturday’s 4-1 loss at Boston. But, based on the lines in practice Monday, Tatar looks to be a scratch for Thursday.

“Obviously, it’s kind of hard for the mind to stay in it (when you’re not playing much),’’ Tatar said. “Practice hard and focus and hopefully I’ll get in the lineup soon and stick there for a while.’’

Via RedWingsFeed, Hockey's Future named Gustav Nyquist its 28th-best prospect, and Petr Mrazek earned an "honorable mention" despite not having cracked the top 50 (speaking of crack, given the Wings prospects' accolades and prospect touranment performance, the fact that only two made the top 50 is absurd):

Petr Mrazek, G – Detroit Red Wings
Height: 6-0 Weight: 184 pounds

Though he has good vision and is extremely athletic, it is the intangibles that set Petr Mrazek apart from many other goaltending prospects. He is a determined young man on and off the ice and plays with a swagger that instills confidence in the players in front of him. Though not overly large, he has good anticipation and squares up to shooters nicely. Like many developing goaltenders, Mrazek sometimes makes things harder than he needs to. In particular, he needs to improve his backside push and control rebounds better, as he relies far too much on his quickness and athleticism to make saves. He has rocketed up the Red Wings depth chart and it seems only a matter of time before he is the regular backup behind Wings starter Jimmy Howard.

 

Update #4: Joy, more power rankings, this time from CBS Sports' Brian Stubits:

8 [last week 7] Detroit Red Wings: Outside of a late-game burst in Carolina, the offense is late to the season. Still, a small complaint with wins in two of three.

 

Update #5: In the fantasy hockey department, per TSN's Scott Cullen:

6. Red Wings RW Justin Abdelkader is getting a premium opportunity this year, skating with Red Wings superstars LW Henrik Zetterberg and C Pavel Datsyuk, who he finished with last season, when he scored nine goals in the final 20 regular season games. Abdelkader has a couple points in three games to start the year, and is tied for third in the league with 15 hits, despite playing a modest 13:41 per game.

 

Update #6: DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose spoke with the Wings' third-line forwards about their issues...

“None of us are really happy with how we played last game and maybe not the game before,” said Anderson, who is minus-3 with three shots on goal. “We know we can do a lot better. We need to play strong on the puck and play more down low in their end and get there more often. I’m not happy that we’ve been on the ice when the other team has scored.”

...

The problem for the line mates is that they are also the second unit on the Wings’ power play, which is 0-for-8 to start the season.

“I don’t know. It’s been OK,” Cleary said. “Obviously, you want to be good at both ends, but it’s three games in; not that concerned.”

Last season and into the playoffs, Andersson centered a successful third line with Gustav Nyquist and Damien Brunner. With Nyquist in Grand Rapids and Brunner playing with the New Jersey Devils, Babcock assigned Bertuzzi and Cleary to Andersson’s line, which showed promise during the exhibition season.

“Bert and Clears are good players and both are strong on the puck,” Andersson said. “We should be able to create some scoring chances. If we get down low and in their end more often we’re going to get more chances to shoot the puck so we have to start getting in their end more. It feels like when we’ve been out there the last two games it’s been kind of like ping pong, back and forth too much. That’s not the kind of game our line wants to play too much.”

...

The Red Wings have four days off before they return to action on Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes at The Joe. With the break the Wings began working on getting back to basics, which were missing on their 4-1 loss at Boston on Saturday.

“There’s some structural things – you could tell against Boston – that we weren’t doing right, it doesn’t look very good,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “There’s going to be nights where you don’t have your energy on top but you can fall back on your structure. It’s a lot easier. That’s something we have to keep working on as we move forward. That’s something you can never work too much on.”

The power play, which is 0-for-8, is another area that needs work.

“It can get better. We need to depend on it,” Alfredsson said. “We’ve done some good things, but we haven’t put the puck in the net and that’s what it’s all about. It’s not big changes, it’s small adjustments. It’s one of those things where I believe it’s a new look and all we need is a couple to go in and we’ll feel great. Last game against Boston we didn’t do a good job of getting zone time and then it’s tough to score.”

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Comments

bezukov's avatar

I think it’s easy to read too much into the Boston game.  The Bruins are a better team, and the Wings played the night before.  Obviously, the Wings have to be able to compete with them eventually, but they’re gonna get their wins too.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 10/07/13 at 02:15 PM ET

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About The Malik Report

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.