The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/09/13 at 12:52 PM ET
The Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers face off today (2 PM EST, FSD/CBC/97.1 FM) as the Wings wrap up a slate of four games played over the course of six nights...and days...With a pair of matinee games.
There obviously won't be any morning skates today or tomorrow (when the Wings play the LA Kings at 12:30 PM EST, on NBC, TSN and 97.1 FM), so today's game-day updates are more "factoids" than hard news...
Though Oilers broadcaster Rob Staufer brings us the first of a couple of Oilers lineup updates, with Oilers coach Ralph Krueger's decision as to whether he's going to start Nikolai Khabibulin or Devan Dubnyk opposite Jimmy Howard likely to be revealed sometime before the game...
The Oilers' website reveals how the team gets its heart rates up before matinee games...
Is Khabibulin in? Maybe, suggests the Edmonton Sun's Derek Van Diest...
The Edmonton Journal's Bruce McCurdy's offering his keys to the game for the Oilers...
1. Produce more than two goals. With 9 goals in the last 5 games, the last 4 of them
lossesnon-wins, Ralph Krueger looked at new line combos in practice yesterday. One novel approach to balance scoring seems to be his intention to put his leading goal scorer, Nail Yakupov (5), in the bottom six. A little puzzling, given Yakupov is on a 6-game point streak; that said, he is coming off the first two-game goalless streak of his career, the bum. How Krueger deploys Yakupov, both at even strength and on the powerplay, will be interesting to track. How the rookie responds may prove to be even more interesting.
2. Get a big game from Teemu Hartikainen. Despite just 1 point in 9 games, the burly Finn is apparently getting the push to play with Jordan Eberle and the returning Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Whether he scores himself or not, Hartikainen’s ability to create space for his skilled linemates to operate will be key.
3. Stay in the game early. Detroit has won 4 of 5 games in which they scored first, and 100% of all games that they led at either intermission. The Wings may not be the powerhouse they once were, but they still know how to play with the lead.
About today’s opponent: These aren’t your daddy’s Red Wings that have dominated the NHL landscape for much of the past two decades. More to the point, they are no longer Nick Lidstrom’s Red Wings, as the ace defender retired last summer, leaving a gaping hole on the blueline where an all-time great used to be. They currently sit a very unWinglike 20th in the NHL with 2.9 goals against per game.
Still plenty of competent players to be sure, especially up front in the form of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula, Johan Franzen, and newcomer Damien Brunner, while Niklas Kronwall & Jonathan Ericsson have done their best to anchor the blueline. Those seven players, Europeans all, are the Red Wings top seven scorers; their top producer of North American extraction is Todd Bertuzzi with 3 points … and he’ll miss today’s game with back woes.
As always, Datsyuk will be a player to watch for Detroit. One of the most complete forwards in the game, I enjoy perusing the full breadth of his stats for out-of-the-ordinary performance. Today’s nugget is that the three-time Selke Trophy recipient is an astonishing 21/30=70% on the faceoff dot while shorthanded. He should have a field day against the sorry group of faceoff men that the Oilers can send out in the absence of Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger.
Kal also offers three "Keys to the Game" on the Red Wings' Game-Day Blog...
Don't Get into a Run-and-Gun Game - The Oilers are a good skating club and they can burn their opponents with a north-south type of game.
Get Off to a Good Start - Day games can be tough, especially coming off an emotional victory like in St. Louis. The Wings need to feed off the crowd and come out with intensity.
Take Advantage of the Homestand - The Wings play their next four games at The Joe. It's a great opportunity to get some points and move up in the standings, and it all starts with today.
Which offers a factoid of its own...
On This Day in Red Wings History...On February 9, 1982
John Ogrodnick is chosen to represent Detroit in the 34th NHL All-Star Game played in Landover, Maryland.
And a sort of "capsule preview":
Wings Look to Keep Young Guns of Edmonton at Bay
"We got a good, quick team in the Oilers coming in, should be a lot of fun."
- Mike Babcock
Coming off a convincing 5-1 victory in St. Louis on Thursday, the Wings will try to carry that momentum into today's game against the Oilers here at The Joe.
Welcome to the Detroit Red Wings Game Day Blog, where you can get behind-the-scenes information, thoughts from players and staff, and up-to-date news on anything and everything Red Wings on game day.
You can watch today’s 2:00 PM game on Fox Sports Detroit or CBC for our Canadian viewers, or tune in on 97.1 The Ticket or AM1270.
DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose also talked to Danny Cleary about the Wings' blossoming of point production from their "bottom six" forwards on Thursday...
“It feels good. A whole lot of us felt good about it and realized the importance of it,” Cleary said. “That’s how we’re going to be a successful team by getting some balanced scoring. It was good to get off the schnide, is that what they call it?”
Yes, that’s what they call it. And the Wings, who desperately need offensive production from other than their two usual suspects, could really use the boost from forwards like Cleary, Cory Emmerton, Justin Abdelkader, Jordin Tootoo, Drew Miller and Tomas Tatar, all of whom registered points in the win over the Blues.
Now, Wings coach Mike Babcock would like to see some consistency from the third- and four-line guys.
“We had real good effort from our bottom six. They all played well and really contributed,” he said. “We left the game feeling good, but the last time we left the rink feeling good we weren’t so good. So it’s important we match last night’s effort. We’ve got a good team like the Oilers coming in so it should be lots of fun.”
The Oilers come in with a speedy, offensively potent group of young stars, meaning the Red Wings can’t afford to give them added opportunities by taking penalties. Detroit did a great job of staying out of the penalty box against the Blues, who were 1-for-2 on the power play.
“Penalty kill has to be better. We might not be a team that's going to score 4-5 every night,” said Abdelkader, who had an assist and was a plus-1 against the Blues. “We got to play well defensively and not give so many chances and so many goals. Offensive numbers are going to come and go. I think you can always control your defensive play and attention to detail. You might win some 1-0, 2-0, 2-1 games. You don't need to score four goals every night. We just got to come out with better start.”
If there is any "controversy" for the Wings going into today's game, it involves two points:
1. Does Joakim Andersson swing into the lineup? Andersson brings some significant size and checking ability, which might help with Todd Bertuzzi sidelined for the weekend with a sore back, but as Patrick Eaves continues to work himself back into NHL shape, he brings speed on the forecheck and superb penalty-killing to the mix.
2. Who replaces Bertuzzi on the second line? There's an open winger's spot on the Valtteri Filppula-Pavel Datsyuk line, and Danny Cleary could receive a promotion, but Tomas Tatar was brought up from Grand Rapids to play in an offensive role on the third line, not to check on the third line. MLive's Ansar Khan and Brendan Savage weighed in on the "issue"...
ANSAR KHAN: The third line of Cleary, Justin Abdelkader and Tatar had good chemistry in Thursday's 5-1 win at St. Louis, but the Red Wings have no choice but to move Cleary or Tatar up to Datsyuk's line. Either Joakim Andersson, recalled Friday from Grand Rapids, or Patrick Eaves, a healthy scratch the past four games, will be inserted into the lineup, but not on a top-two line.
As much as you'd like to see what the young, skilled Tatar can do playing with Datsyuk for a whole game, my guess is Cleary will take Bertuzzi's spot, giving the line more size and a net-front presence. It could also help spark Cleary, who is coming off his best game. Tatar likely will return to Grand Rapids once the team gets some healthy bodies back (Darren Helm, Mikael Samuelsson, Bertuzzi), so it needs Cleary to return to form, and playing with Datsyuk for a few games can't hurt.
BRENDAN SAVAGE: Cleary seems like the obvious choice.
He's got more experience than any of the other possible replacements and perhaps a move to the top six would help give him the boost he needs to start scoring regularly. Thursday night in St. Louis was certainly a step in that direction.
Hey, if Cleary can't pick up his production playing alongside Datsyuk, he might never do it.
I'm starting to wonder whether Cleary's plain old getting worn down after having to battle through so many knee and groin injuries. We were told before what was supposed to be an 82-game season that Cleary would have to be monitored in training camp because his there was some degenerative damage to his left knee, and its surgical repair might not hold up if he pushed too hard during the presumptive full-season's exhibition games.
Cleary's put some hard, hard miles on his body over the years, and I'm starting to wonder if he's pulling a bit of a Rafalski in finding himself at the brink of a precipitous decline in play...But I sure hope that that's just me worrying.
As I said on Twitter, the criticism toward players like Cleary is obviously warranted, but I root for every Red Wings player, regardless of whether they're my favorites, they drive me nuts (see: Mikael Samuelsson) or I just don't have a strong emotional connection with them, and I want each and every one of them to succeed and thrive here in Detroit.
I hope all of 'em get off to a great start today against the speedy Oilers.
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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.