The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/16/13 at 08:17 AM ET
Updated with the Penguins' roster for tonight's exhibition game at 8:33 AM: The Red Wings did speak with the media regarding the result of their Red vs. White game, but the headlines of the day kind of eclipsed the players' "end of camp" quips.
Thankfully, the Traverse City Record-Eagle's Chris Dobrolowski snagged some quips regarding training camp itself, with one of the players slated to skate tonight against Pittsburgh (7 PM, WPCW, and again, the Wings will hold their game-day and non-game day skates at Centre Ice Arena today and tomorrow from 10 AM-12:45 PM)
"It's going to be nice. This week was a time to get ready, to get in shape for the exhibition (games) that are coming up here. It kind of feels like it's starting more for real now," said defenseman Jonathan Ericsson.
Before Detroit capped off its initial four-day run in Traverse City, it squared off for the Red-White game, with the White posting a 4-3 shootout victory in front of a packed Centre Ice Arena on Sunday.
"It's really fun to go and play a game again. It's been awhile," said team captain Henrik Zetterberg. "I think it's another step, going from informal skates to camp it's one step. Now we take another step. We're ready. We had fun up here. It's fun to be up here and see everyone here again and now we're just going to move on."
Some of the players will remain in Traverse City for the next two days, while others will head out to play the Penguins and then the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks one night later.
"It was a good camp and for us to see all the young guys coming up," said Ericsson. "We don't really have a chance to see them before they come to camp. That was a thrill for me. I see a lot of really good players that I'm going to see on our team in a couple of years."
Some of those younger players made an impression at the intrasquad game, including defensemen Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet and forward Riley Sheahan. Sproul and Ouellet each scored a goal for the White team and Sheahan scored what turned out to be the deciding goal in the shootout.
"You notice they're good players," said Zetterberg. "It's fun to see. That's one thing with this organization, we always seem to find the guys that come into the system and they play, and when they get the chance they're really ready to do the job."
Because the balance of today's entry involves stories you (mostly) heard about yesterday, though they are worth repeating. The Free Press's Helene St. James notes that Wings coach Mike Babcock was not pleased with the performance of the Johan Franzen-Stephen Weiss-Daniel Alfredsson line, but the players themselves understood that they're going to take time to mesh...
Babcock called the group “still a work in progress,” an understatement given Weiss and Alfredsson not only are new to each other but also to the team. Babcock said he “might need to change” the group around, because “they’ve got to be better.”
Alfredsson and company will see their first action against nonteammate opponents Tuesday at Chicago.
“We’ve never played together before,” Alfredsson said. “Today was really the first game I felt there was a little bit more structure out there and we kind of knew where to be most of the time. We’ll take it one day at a time and see where it goes. I think it will be good to play against someone else.”
Alfredsson isn’t having to learn all that much that’s new, because much of what the Wings do structurally is similar to what he used to do with the Ottawa Senators. Weiss has a tougher learning curve coming from Florida, but his role is pretty simple — get the puck to Alfredsson or Franzen.
Weiss said: “We’re still trying to piece the systems together and make sure we have that down pat. Once that becomes second nature, I think it will be easier to play within the system. It might take a little bit, but it will be nice to get into exhibition games, for sure. We’ve got to score some goals, help out the top guys. We’ve got to find a way to be productive offensively.”
St. James also noted the compliments sent in one Justin Abdelkader's direction...
“He really does a good job,” Zetterberg said. “He looks even faster than he was last year. It’s fun to see. I think everyone thinks it’s easy to play with me and Pav, but it’s kind of tough. You don’t see the puck that often. Homer’s been trying to tell everyone that for five or six years, but no one believed him. I think it takes awhile to understand the way we play.”
This fits right in with Abdelkader’s leitmotif. He’s 26, and his mental understanding of what it takes to succeed in the NHL has caught up to his physical ability.
“Just from the experience of playing,” Abdelkader said, “you get confidence. Last year was a big year for me, confidence-wise. I’ve felt like my game has progressed. Each year I try and get better and work on small aspects of my game to hopefully round it out.”
In talking about the mental toughness the NHL requires, Abdelkader sidetracked to teammate Jakub Kindl, who took as big a stride last season as Abdelkader. Having joined the organization in the same draft year, Abdelkader has been one of Kindl’s biggest boosters, telling him “to have faith in yourself. For a while, he was down on himself, but once he started to play really good, he’s just taken off. Confidence isn’t just going to be given. You’ve got to earn it.”
“People can say he’s playing with good players,” Babcock said, “but he’s playing hard every day. That’s what he does. When you work hard and play hard, good things happen for you. I think confidence is the hardest thing to get. You’ve got to earn it. No one can give it to you. He’s an every-dayer. He took advantage of an opportunity last year, and now he’s making more plays for those guys and he understands that when they give him the puck, to give it back to them.”
As did MLive's Ansar Khan, who notes that Babcock's not sure whether Abdelkader or Daniel Cleary will play alongside Zetterberg and Datsyuk...
“Everyone thinks it's easy to play with me and Pav, but it's kind of tough, you don't see the puck that often,'' Zetterberg said. “Homer (former Red Wing Tomas Holmstrom) has been trying to tell everyone that for 5-6 years but no one believed him. It takes a while to understand the way we play. It's good we have camp and exhibition games. Hopefully, we can only get better.''
Babcock's faith in Abdelkader didn't waver during tough times last season. His confidence in the 6-foot-1, 219-pound forward continues to grow.
“He’s an every-dayer,'' Babcock said. “He’s works hard and he’s gotten better. He took advantage of an opportunity last year and it gets better and better and now he’s making more plays for those guys and he understands that when they give him the puck to give it back to them.”
Abdelkader wasted no time developing chemistry with the team's best players.
“I just try to keep it simple, and obviously it’s always the best when (Datsyuk) or Z have the puck,'' Abdelkader said. “They’re so good, whether it’s in the open ice or in the corners defensively, I just try to do my part and pull the rope. I know where my game needs to be, which is in the corners and down low in front of the net, strong defensively. So I try to build off that.''
And the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan took note of Abdelkader's assessment of the state of his game...
“You come into the league as a young player, with a locker room of veterans, you’re not sure where to fit in,” Abdelkader said. “Now I know how to play, where I’ll be playing and what I need to do. Last year was a big year for me confidence-wise. I’ve felt like my game has progressed and each year I try to get better with small aspects of my game.”
Tonight's game's lineup (I sure hope there's a quasi-legal stream of the game somewhere)...
Babcock will take the Datsyuk line, and the line of Daniel Cleary-Joakim Andersson-Mikael Samuelsson to Pittsburgh, along with the Danny DeKeyser-Kindl and Kyle Quincey-Brendan Smith defensive tandems, as key veterans. Jimmy Howardand Petr Mrazek will split time in net.
The sked ahead...
This is the first of eight exhibition games for the Red Wings. This week, they also play the Blackhawks, and the Bruins on Thursday and Saturday.
(Thursday's game wil air on FSD)
And the following:
Babcock has been impressed by the young defensemen in camp, particularly Sproul and Ouellet.
“They’re going to be ready for prime time pretty soon,” Babcock said.
The Detroit News's David Guralnick also posted a superb 42-image photo gallery from Sunday's Red vs. White game, and the Wings posted an Instagram video of Henrik Zetterberg pulling a Forsberg on Jared Coreau...
St. James also took note of Ken Holland's comments about Tomas Tatar...
“Tats is going to be on the team,” general manager Ken Holland said. “He’s a good player. He plays hard, he competes hard. He played 18 games for us last year, had four goals. That’s a 16- to 18-goal pace playing on the third line and not getting much specialty teams. That’s a lot of goals.”
Coach Mike Babcock echoed those thoughts, saying Tatar’s concern about his future is simply because “he can count. I like him.”
What’s likely to unfold is what happens to every young player, save the superstars: Tatar will play some games, sit some games. Like Jiri Hudler before him, another guy who came in as a young standout minor leaguer, Tatar will need time to translate his game to the NHL level. Tatar is a better skater than Hudler and better defensively, so with hard work there’s a good chance Tatar will mirror Hudler’s ascension into the top-six mix within a few seasons.
“Everybody is looking for young with upside potential,” Holland said. “I like Tats, he plays hard, he goes to the hard areas, he wants the puck, and he wants to score.”
The NHL released information late last week about several new rule changes for the 2013-14 season, including several stipulations about how uniforms must be worn.
One mandate is that players’ protective equipment and padding – excluding gloves, helmets and goaltenders’ leg guards – must be worn under the uniform. If a referee notices a player in violation of the rule, they’ll be asked to correct the problem and a second violation would result in a minor penalty.
Here’s the additional description of Rule 9.5 from the PDF the NHL released last week, which you can find at the bottom of this post:
Players are not permitted to tuck their jersey into their pants in such a manner where the top padding of the pant and/or additional body protection (affixed to the pant or affixed to the Player’s body) is exposed outside the jersey. The back uniform number must not be covered or obstructed in any fashion by protruding pads or other protective padding.
As anyone who has ever watched him play in a game or skate in practice knows, Alex Ovechkin has always tucked his jersey into his pants. While the Capitals winger is prepared to follow the rule, he’s not pleased with it.
“I’m the guy who love that kind of stuff. I’m kind of upset about it, but most important thing, nobody talk to us, the players. They think it can be dangerous for somebody. I think it’s kind of stupid,” Ovechkin said Sunday. “My gear is not stay [near] my body so jersey always goes in. If I’m going to put jersey normally, I’m going to skate and it goes back.”
Coach Adam Oates also doesn’t agree with the prohibition of jersey tucking. He does understand another portion of the guidelines, though: Rule 9.3, which states sleeves must extend into the cuff of the glove. That prevents a player’s forearm and elbow pads from being exposed, the latter getting tangled or caught in something and potentially causing an injury. He can’t say the same for the pants.
“It’s a rule. Do I like it? Well, no,” said Oates, who doesn’t believe the rule was created exclusively for Ovechkin. “I know when Gretzky had his shirt velcroed in. It was part of his identity. Superstars have identities, that’s why they’re superstars. It’s part of their makeup and their personality. It’s why they transcend the game, it’s why we advertise them, but I understand part of it. I understand the sleeve rule, for sure. That makes sense to me, but taking a guy’s individuality away is tough.”
These rules will affect HUGE chunks of the Wings' roster. It's not just Pavel Datsyuk who tucks his jersey in: Johan Franzen's got a big piece of foam sticking out of the back of his hockey pants now, Daniel Alfredsson tucks his jersey in, Calle Jarnkrok does the same...
Kyle Quincey and Todd Bertuzzi wear their sleeves tacked up almost to their elbows, and the fact that the NHL's uniform rules prohibit players from cutting or altering their hockey pants--and that none of the players' "undergarments" may appear?
Well, that's going to wreak havoc with half the damn team, because from Todd Bertuzzi to Jakub Kindl, a quarter of the team wears "breezers" over hockey pants or girdles that are black or are the colors of their former teams' pants, and the "pant shells" tend not to completely wrap around or cover the bottom of the pants/girdles.
This rule's going to affect (or "have effects upon") a third of the NHL's players, and they don't know that it was "tacked on" at the last minute. That's bizarre.
Update: The Red Wings Alums' were busy in Sault Ste. Marie on Saturday, per Fox 32:
Update #2: The Penguins did release their preseason lineup for tonight's game after all...
31 ERIC HARTZELL – G
92 TOMAS VOKOUN – G
3 OLLI MAATTA – D
5 DERYK ENGELLAND – D
7 PAUL MARTIN – D
9 PASCAL DUPUIS – F
14 CHRIS KUNITZ – F
16 BRANDON SUTTER – F
22 MATT D’AGOSTINI – F
23 CHRIS CONNER – F
27 CRAIG ADAMS – F
36 JUSSI JOKINEN – F
39 HARRY ZOLNIERCZYK – F
40 NICK DRAZENOVIC – F
44 BROOKS ORPIK – D
47 SIMON DESPRES – D
49 BRIAN GIBBONS – F
58 KRIS LETANG – D
59 JAYSON MEGNA – F
87 SIDNEY CROSBY – F
Here's the Wings' lineup...
And the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Dean Molinari and Shelly Anderson report that the Penguins lost on Sunday:
Columbus rookie Ryan Murray beat Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff from just below the left hash with 21.2 seconds left in overtime to give the Blue Jackets a 5-4 victory in the exhibition opener for both teams Sunday night at Nationwide Arena.
Chuck Kobasew, in camp on a pro tryout, scored twice for the Penguins, who also got goals from James Neal and Dustin Jeffrey.
Artem Anisimov, James Wisniewski, ex-Penguin Mark Letestu and Cam Atkinson had the other Columbus goals.
Three Penguins apparently were injured in the game. Center Joe Vitale was feeling the effects of a punch he took in a late-game fight and was being observed. So was defenseman Brian Dumoulin, who absorbed a heavy check late in the second period.
Right winger Bobby Farnham seemed to hurt his right leg or ankle and was in a walking boot after the game.
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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.