Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Oilers set-up and overnight report: the weekend starts weird

The Detroit Red Wings will play their third and fourth games over the course of five and then six nights starting today with a maintee game against the Edmonton Oilers (2:00 PM EST, FSD/CBC/97.1 FM) today and an even earlier tilt against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday (12:30 PM EST NBC/TSN/97.1 FM and the Wings are holding smoke detector collections both today and tomorrow).

As we learned on Friday, the Red Wings will attempt to build upon Thursday's convincing win over the Blues this weekend--before playing St. Louis for the third and final time this month next Wednesday (also an NBC game)--minus the services of one Todd Bertuzzi, whose back is acting up, possibly with Joakim Andersson in the lineup, and with Jimmy Howard definitely starting Saturday and "Petr Griffin" possibly starting on Sunday.

Today's game is particularly odd because the arena located north of "South Detroit" will be kicking off the CBC's Hockey Day in Canada festivities (this year's location is Peterborough Ontario, so don't be surprised if Mickey Redmond and Larry Murphy get misty-eyed about the Petes) thanks to the compressed schedule, and it's going to be a difficult one for the Red Wings because Tom Renney's former team shares a couple of qualities with the Wings:

1. The Oilers, who dropped a 3-2 OT decision to Dallas on Wednesday, took Thursday off, practiced in Edmonton on Friday and then flew to Detroit, have gotten off to a middling 4-3-and-3 start (the Wings are 5-4-and-1);

2. And the Oilers are almost as banged-up as the Wings are. The Oilers are bringing Ben Eager (and possibly Mark Fistric) back into the lineup as he's recovered from a concussion, but Shawn Horcoff (broken hand), Ryan Jones (eye injury), Andy Sutton (knee), and Anton Lander (broken foot) are all out, and they've had another four or five players shuffling in and out of the lineup;

3. The Oilers are also beginning a slate of back-to-back games. They head to Columbus for a Sunday game;

4. And just as the Wings recalled Joakim Andersson from the Griffins by booking him a flight from Oklahoma City, somewhat appropriately, the Grand Rapids Griffins happened to be playing the Oilers' farm team in the Barons, so their extra body, Chris VandeVelde, may have taken the same flight to Detroit!

The Oilers' lineup was in flux on Friday, with coach Ralph Krueger not quite sure what to tell the beat writers it would look like, but Nikolai Khabibulin will probably start today, and, per the Oilers' Twitter account, their Friday practice lines looked like this:

The young Oilers are proud of their record given all their injury issues, even though they've lost 4 straight, as they told the Edmonton Sun's Robert Tychkowski...

“We’ve done a good job of sticking in there with guys out,” said netminder Devan Dubnyk, who’s had 10 of his teammates sidelined with injuries either in the off-season or in the first two weeks of this season. “We’ve been able to get points and keep ourselves in a playoff position so when we do get our guys back, we can go straight up.”

A point here, an OTL there, they keep scratching and clawing at the side of the pool, keeping their noses just above water. Lose Ryan Jones, Andy Sutton. Theo Peckham and Nikolai Khabibulin before the puck even drops for Game 1, and lose Ben Eager shortly thereafter? They go 3-2 in their first five games.

Lose Eric Belanger, Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Anton Lander and Marc Fistric in a span of three games? Steal points in two of them.

Now, a point here and a point there is no way to make a living, but we’ve seen enough Oilers teams sink to the bottom when guys start getting hurt to appreciate a team that’s still fighting.

“You can look at it two ways: we have five points in the last six games, but on the other side you have four in a row where you haven’t been able to win,” said head coach Ralph Krueger, adding he’s never going to be satisfied with overtime and shootout losses, but given the circumstances he’s OK with where the team is situated. “After the ups and downs and all arounds, and some strange injuries, we’re sitting in a pretty good spot. If we’re in this spot in 20 games, that’s where we want to be, in the hunt or above the hunt. Standings-wise we’re kind of on track because we were able to get points, but we need to get the hunger for the wins again and finding ways to do that. Getting just a point is not enough long-term.”

At the same time, the Oilers aren't giving themselves a free pass because they've been banged up, as their coach (above paragraph) and goalie (following paragraph) suggest:

“There’s no reason why we still can’t be winning those games,” said Dubnyk. “It’s not like we’re hanging on for dear life. We’re right in these games. We need to find a way to get two points, especially playing against Western Conference teams all the time because if we’re getting one, it means somebody else is getting two.”

That’s the danger in riding the razor’s edge, where the Oilers have spent all season (six of their 10 games have gone to overtime or the shootout). Again, points good, losses bad.

Tychkowski reports that the Oilers can't play center Eric Belanger because his stint on the 7-day IR expires on Saturday evening, but they're bringing something of a Wings nemesis into the lineup...

Ben Eager has been cleared to play after being concussed in the opening game of the season.

“He is cleared to go,” said Krueger. “We’re going to try and find a way to get Ben into the lineup so there’s good news on that front.”

And they may or may not bring Mark Fistric back into the lineup:

Mark Fistric, whose back seized up when he missed Vancouver’s Jordan Schroeder with what was going to be a devastating butt-check and wound up hitting nothing but boards, says he is also ready to go.

“Every day gets better,” he said. “I was able to do some battle drills. I feel good and ready to play. If the coaches want me I’ll be ready.”

Being in a single-vehicle accident like his is a tough way to get hurt, but that’s what happens when you play for keeps.

“I kind of go all-in on my hits and, unfortunately, some of them I miss,” he said. “I’ve had a few bumps and bruises but never anything that major. My back just kind of locked up on me. It’s loosened up and feels better every day. I think it’s because I hit it straight on. It jammed on my spine and my lower back was sore for the past few days. But I went through a full practice with no pain so I feel good.”

The Oilers' press corps is incredibly thorough, so I'm not sure if you're going to find Tychkowski's note about Teemu Hartikainen interesting, whether you're interested in reading the Edmonton Journal's David Staples talk about Justin Schultz's precipitous rise coinciding with Ryan Whitney falling off the map, or whether you'd find the Edmonton Journal's Bruce McCurdy's downright intense analysis of what the Oilers' forward line changes might yield, but the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson answered some lineup questions in a Q and A...

Q: Will Mark Fistric play on defence after missing last game with a sore back?

A: If he gets the green light from the medical staff, he’s probably in, according to Krueger. He didn’t say who would be out. But if Fistric plays it’s a coin flip between Ryan Whitney and Corey Potter in the third defence pair.  Whitney has been a healthy scratch once (against Vancouver). He played 16 minutes against Dallas and was on the ice for Jaromir Jagr’s winning OT goal. Potter only played 13:42.  If Fistric plays, I’d say Whitney plays and Potter, a healthy scratch four times, won’t dress. That said maybe Krueger doesn’t know that Potter was born in Lansing, Mich. and went to Michigan State. He’d be pumped to play in Detroit.

Q: What’s up with farmhand centre Chris VandeVelde?

A: He will be meeting the team in Detroit and will be the fourth-line centre with Magnus Paajarvi and another TBA (to be announced winger). VandeVelde played five games last year and scored his first NHL goal in Columbus.  He may only be up for one game if Belanger can go Sunday against the Blue Jackets.

Q: Will they keep riding Devan Dubnyk, giving him an 11th straight start in net, or will they look at backup Nikolai Khabibulin, giving him his first action since last March 30? Or will Khabby play in Columbus? Will they flip a coin?

A: “Flip a coin? No, we’re not going to do that,” said Krueger. “We’ll announce our decision in Detroit, but Nikolai is ready for a game.”

Matheson's article about phenom Jordan Eberle's scoring struggles reveals that the Oilers have had...Let's say some "issues" scoring at even strength...

The disturbing team point is the minuscule scoring five-on-five. Just nine even-strength goals (two by Gagner, two by Hall, two by Nail Yakupov, one by Eberle, Ales Hemsky and Lennart Petrell. They’re tied for the league high with 13 power play goals, but just nine 5-on-5, which clearly isn’t enough, especially if the power play ever goes cold. So why can’t they get anything going at even-strength?

“I’d like to say it’s a lack of chances,” said Eberle. “But it’s not. “We need more goals off secondary opportunities, rebounds, like the kind of goals we score on the power play.”

Indeed, with the man advantage, the Oilers try to get the puck back to the point and then converge on the net as Detroit long did when Nick Lidstrom patrolled the blue-line for the Red Wings until this season.

It’s the age-old theory. The only goals scored in hockey are around the blue-paint, with bodies crashing, arms and legs flailing.

And Matheson offers some stats of note in his notebook:

Krueger refused to say whether goaltender Devan Dubnyk would suit up in Detroit for his 11th straight start, or if veteran Nikolai Khabibulin would start his first game since March 30 of last season.

“We’ll announce it in Detroit. Nikolai is ready for a game,” said Krueger, who could give the backup a look in Columbus Sunday.

The 40-year-old Khabibulin was 0-3 in 176 minutes against the Red Wings last season with a .886 save percentage. Dubnyk beat Detroit 5-4 in a shootout at Rexall Place last season, Edmonton’s only win over Detroit in four seasonal meetings.

...

The Oilers haven’t won a game in Detroit since Dec. 3, 2009, when they beat the Red Wings 4-1 .

The Oilers' website's equally thorough, so again, in the, "If you're interested" department, the website posted video clips of Teemu Hartikainen, Nick Schultz and Mark Fistric speaking to the media, as well as coach Ralph Krueger's off-day presser (which is 8-and-a-half minutes long), but there's a "weekend" preview as well...

 

And EdmontonOilers.com's Mark Ciampa penned a game preview:

The Edmonton Oilers practiced in Leduc on Friday prior to departing for Detroit where they will play the Red Wings in an afternoon clash on Saturday.

In an effort to try and improve the team's fortunes five-on-five, the team went with some different line combinations. Taylor Hall was skating on the left side with Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky. Also, Teemu Hartikainen moved up to play with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

...

At the start of the AHL season with the Barons when Taylor Hall was still on the shelf with his shoulder injury, Hartikainen played on a line with Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins. He picked up a point in six of eight games on the line with three goals and six assists for nine points.

...

Krueger has been impressed with the play of Hartikainen over the past few games.

"When you look at Hartikainen -- and when you look at Paajarvi -- the last few games, they were really close to playing the system and principles that we want here on a shift-to-shift basis. Sometimes adding or mixing these players into the skill set can change the dynamics of our whole team. The possibility of having scoring on all three lines, things that we're still experimenting with. We're still a long way from a finished product. Looking at the different options and one of them is the strong play of Paajarvi, Hartikainen."

Nail Yakupov moved to the right wing. On Friday he skated with Magnus Paajarvi on the left side and Eric Belanger in the middle. Belanger will not be eligible to come off the injured reserve until Sunday so there's the possibility that Chris VandeVelde will slide into that spot.

...

The fourth line was Ben Eager skating with Ryan Smyth down the middle and Lennart Petrell.

...

"Ben just gave us such a good feel at the start," added Krueger. "He was all in and we feel that he's adding that element that we desperately need, the physicality on the forecheck, difficult to play against, brings toughness into the lineup. Also, a scoring threat. You've got to remember for the ice time he had last year, getting the goals he had, he is a threat to score at all times. We're pleased to have him back. He looks fresh and freshness is good right now into our 11th game in this point in time.

I would not be surprised if Eager and Jordin Tootoo doffed gloves at some point today.

NHL.com's Brian Hunter sets up tonigh...I mean today's game as follows:

Season series: It's the first of three meetings between the teams this season. Detroit prevailed in three of their four meetings last season, with Drew Miller scoring four of his 14 goals against Edmonton. Sam Gagner had four goals to pace the Oilers in the series.

Big story: With an odd number of Canadian teams after Winnipeg's return to the NHL a season ago, Edmonton is the one out of seven that ends up facing a U.S.-based opponent on Hockey Day In Canada. The Oilers and Red Wings have developed a decent rivalry over the years, though -- it's hard to forget the upset eighth-seeded Edmonton pulled on Detroit in 2006 en route to the franchise's most recent trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

No comment. Motherfucking obstruction crackdown giving way to Chris Pronger being allowed to wrestle and tackle Tomas Holmstrmom and Brendan Shanahan in front of Dwayne Roloson because the NHL suddenly decided that "battling" was fine...Why do I get the feeling that we'll see something like that happen this year? Oops, so much for the, "No comment"...

Oilers [team scoope]: In his first season behind the Edmonton bench, coach Ralph Krueger has seen his young group battle hard in almost every game. Although they enter Saturday on a four-game winless streak, the points earned from the overtime/shootout losses kept them in the playoff race. Hosting the Stars on Wednesday, they got a goal and an assist from Ales Hemsky and took the game into overtime before yielding the record 17th career overtime goal by Jaromir Jagr in a tough 3-2 setback.

"It wasn't the greatest effort from us," defenseman Justin Schultz, whose power-play goal in the third period helped earn the Oilers a point, said. "We found a way to come back in the third period, but we needed to find a way to win it."

Who's hot: Gagner had an assist Tuesday to extend his points streak to start the season to 10 games (3-8-11). Hemsky has two goals and two assists during a three-game points streak. … Red Wings rookie Damien Brunner scored his fifth goal in 10 games Thursday.

Injury report: Edmonton forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder), Darcy Hordichuk (facial laceration) and Anton Lander (foot), as well as defenseman Mark Fistric (back) all are day-to-day. Forwards Ryan Jones (eye), Ben Eager (concussion), Eric Belanger (foot) and Shawn Horcoff (hand), as well as defensemen Andy Sutton (knee) and Theo Peckham (hip) are on injured reserve. … Detroit goalies Joey MacDonald (back) and Jonas Gustavsson (groin) remain out, along with defensemen Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) and Brendan Smith (shoulder) and forwards Jan Mursak (collarbone), Mikael Samuelsson (groin) and Darren Helm (back).

As noted above, Nugent-Hopkins, Eager and Fistric are going to play today...Probably.

DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose's "glance" at the Edmonton Oilers will serve as our pivot point between the Oilers and Red Wings' perspectives:

If it’s extra hockey that you like, look no further then the Edmonton Oilers, who’ve gone to overtime or shoot-outs six times already this season.

Despite having a roster that consists of 40 percent former first-round draft picks, the young and talented Oilers (4-3-3) have struggled lately, getting outshot by double-digits in five of the last seven games.

“They probably got one or two more first-rounders for this year,” Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “They seem like they pop out new guys every year and they still have those guys from 4-5 years ago that came in as first-rounders. They should be better.

“I haven’t seen much of them so I can’t say how they’ve been doing this year, but they’re really skilled and if you let them play their game they’re a difficult team play against.”

Led by young 20-somethings Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall, as well as 19-year-olds Nail Yakupov and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – all former first-rounders – the Oilers have a terrific cast of up-and-comers posed to get Edmonton back to the Stanley Cup playoffs for the time since losing to Carolina in the Cup finals. Of course, that spring brings back particularly sour memories for the Wings, who were bounced from the playoffs by the Oilers, who were the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

Though they are 1-1-3 in their last five, the Oilers should be fun to watch when they play the Red Wings in a Saturday matinee at Joe Louis Arena.

The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness reported that the Wings' Friday afternoon practice was delayed for an hour due to the 4-to-6 inches of snow that fell in Metro Detroit over Thursday night and Friday morning, and he confirmed that Jimmy Howard would be back in action today while offering some quips and quotes from coach Mike Babcock...

“We had real good effort from our bottom six,” Babcock said “They all played well and really contributed. They played hard. It’s a good thing for us.”

Heading into the game the bottom six forwards had combined for one point, an assist on the power play by Patrick Eaves while he was on the ice with Henrik Zetterberg. In the Wings’ 5-1 win over the Blue, Cory Emmerton had a goal and an assist, Drew Miller had two assists, while Justin Abdelkader, Jordin Tootoo and Tomas Tatar each had one assist.

Detroit welcomes in Edmonton Saturday afternoon and Babcock is hoping for a little better effort than the last time the Wings played after beating the Blues.

“We left the game feeling good, but the last time we left the rink feeling good we weren’t so good,” Babcock said. “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 Free Press's Helene St. James noted that Jimmy Howard felt somewhat refreshed after finally getting a couple days' worth of rest and practice time with goalie coach Jim Bedard in...

The Wings were upbeat Friday, the result of having dispatched the highly regarded Blues twice within a week. But as Babcock pointed out, that won't mean much unless the Wings back it up this afternoon against an opponent that is skilled and speedy.

Howard, refreshed after spending Thursday as a backup, is looking forward to facing the Oilers. "They're young, and they use their speed to their advantage," he said. "We're going to have to do a great job in the neutral zone of getting pucks deep at their blue line and not allowing them to come with very much speed through the neutral zone."

And Howard talked to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan about his state of mind...

"It was good to be able to work with Jimmy," Howard said. "With the condensed schedule and practice time not being as long, it was good to just get out there and work a little bit with him again. You can always brush up and get back to your fundamentals — get your hands out a little bit more and stay on top of the crease and let the puck hit you."

But as has become utterly predictable, the Wings had to send Todd Bertuzzi to the Detroit Medical Center as to join Darren Helm in the, "Woo, MRI time!" club, and as such, Bertuzzi will be out until at least Wednesday's game against the Blues (the Wings' two-day break between Sunday and Wednesday's games is their last two-day break until February 25th and 26th, some two weeks later):

"We'll know more in the next day or two," Holland said. "We'll see how Bert is feeling."

Bertuzzi was hit in the corner during Thursday night's 5-1 win over the Blues and appeared to fall awkwardly. He went straight to the locker room after getting off the ice but quickly returned to the bench. With Bertuzzi unavailable, the Red Wings recalled forward Joakim Andersson from Grand Rapids.

Andersson, 24, provides the Red Wings with Bertuzzi like size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds), plays a grinding type of game, and offers the Red Wings needed size with the big and physical Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings arriving Sunday at Joe Louis Arena for a nationally televised game.

"Andersson is having a good season in Grand Rapids (10 goals, 17 assists), has size, he's good defensively, and this is a good opportunity to evaluate him," Holland said. "We didn't want to wake up this weekend and need a body."

The Wings do hope that their "bottom six" forwards will continue to contribute to the cause this weekend--four games over the course of six nights and the team's third (of 12!) set of back-to-back games means that the players will be battling mental and physical fatigue as well as the nagging bumps and bruises that every athlete deals with--and Danny Cleary talked about his and his teammates' offensive outbursts:

“It was good to get off the schnide; is that what they call it?” Cleary said.

Cleary was among seven Detroit Red Wings who notched their first point of the season in a 5-1 victory at St. Louis. It was important for the third and fourth lines to contribute eight points, taking some pressure off the top-six forwards, who have carried the club offensively. And it was particularly vital for Cleary to “get off the schnide,'' following a rough start – no points and nine penalties in nine games.

“I think experience helps a lot when you go through a stretch like that; you have to be able to have confidence in your ability and believe in yourself,'' Cleary said. “But, you don’t want to over-work either, which sometimes happens. You just keep skating as hard as you can and your timing is off. You miss all of the pucks that are around. So, you have to be patient and work hard. Eventually, it will pay off for you.”

Cleary is valued for his versatility. He has the skills to play on a scoring line and the power play, or he can provide energy on the third line and kill penalties. He has been hampered by an assortment of injuries the past couple of seasons – he had arthroscopic knee surgery last May – but said he has felt good the whole season.

“You just got to get your legs underneath you,'' Cleary said. “For me, it's all skating and hanging onto the puck. My game is strictly based on work ethic, and I feel I'm getting better every game, and hopefully this continues.''

Cleary gave possible linemate Tomas Tatar praise for his ability to, well, play like a grittier version of Jiri Hudler:

“He hangs on to the puck,'' Cleary said of Tatar. “He’s got nice vision, good passing and he just doesn’t get rid of it. He likes to make a play. He certainly has a nice skill package in him. I’ve really noticed the difference in his maturity and his game, and he’s only going to get better.”

Cleary told the Macomb Daily's Pleiness that he understands that balanced scoring is absolutely essential for the team to succeed:

“It takes some pressure off the other guys and we have to do it more often,” Cleary said. “That’s why we’ve been successful. We’ve had the scoring from different people, different lines and that’s important.”

In the 5-1 win over St. Louis, Cory Emmerton had a goal and an assist, Drew Miller had two assists, while Justin Abdelkader, Jordin Tootoo and Tomas Tatar each had one assist.

“We had real good effort from our bottom six,” Babcock said “They all played well and really contributed. They played hard. It’s a good thing for us.”

And Pleiness added an injury note that we need to pay attention to as well:

Goalie Joey MacDonald (back) practiced on his own Friday. Holland said he thinks he’s going to get cleared sometime next week and then they’ll decide from there what they’ll do.

In the multimedia department, the Free Press's Helene St. James is doing an excellent job of adding videos to her stories now, and her conversation with Howard from Friday afternoon's practice story is pertinent...

And the Red Wings' website posted both a "game-day preview" of the plural form with Ken Kal, who speaks with Jakub Kindl, Pavel Datsyuk, Petr Mrazek before setting up the games, promotions and weekend events Downtown...


And Wings coach Mike Babcock was particularly grumpy while speaking to the media on Friday. He gave them one minute and two questions:

 


Red Wings notebooks: DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose also penned an "At a Glance" article profiling the Los Angeles Kings.

The Kings dropped a 3-0 decision to Nashville in the Music City on Thursday, and I have no idea where they're going to practice today given that they're probably in Detroit (though I'd guess that they'll do so at City Sports Arena, and I would also gather that the Wings' equipment staff isn't going to sleep this weekend as the home equipment staff tries to help visiting teams in back-to-back scenarios), and they possess a 3-4-and-2 record:

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.”

Sunday afternoon’s nationally televised game at Joe Louis Arena is the third stop on a five-game road swing for the Kings.

At some point, MLive's Ansar Khan's story about Henrik Zetterberg's reaction to hearing that he was Wayne Gretzky's favorite player will be available to read. At 2:31 AM, it's a dead link;

Let's also get this straight, given the whole, "Petr Griffin vs. Peter Griffin" entry yielding confusion about Petr Mrazek's stance on Family Guy, from the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness:

“Well, I heard it’s a pretty good show,” Mrazek said. “I’ve seen a couple commercials, but I don’t watch it,” Mrazek said. “I liked the idea because my name is Petr and the Griffins are our team.”

Mrazek said Griffins equipment manager Brad Thompson came up with the idea.

“I know what it is, but I’ve never watched it,” Mrazek said. “I’ve seen a couple of commercials about it, but I’m a big fan of other shows than Peter Griffin.”

Mrazek likes ‘Homeland’, ‘Entourage’, ‘24’ and ‘Prison Break’.

Also regarding Mrazek, from Pleiness...

“He was calm out there,” Howard said. “He made the stops he needed to. I thought we did a great job in front of him. We allowed him to get into the game and feel the puck. It was just a great game to watch him play.”

And the Windsor Star's BobDuff:

This isn't necessarily a notebook, but it's interesting: Ken Holland appearedon AM 630 CHED in Edmonton on Friday, and the interview is intriguing...as is the reaction Holland receives from the hosts, both before he speaks (at the 2:30 mark) and after his interview ends (at the 13-minute mark):

 

 

In the prospect department, in the AHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins did indeed play the Oilers' farm team, the Oklahoma City Barons on Friday night, and things did not go well. The Griffins surrendered a 3-1 lead thanks to a pair of goals from Jonathan Cheechoo and ended up losing 4-3. They were out-shot 37-19 as well.

The Grand Rapids Griffins' website provides a recap of the proceedings...

The Grand Rapids Griffins saw their shutout streak and three-game winning streak end in Oklahoma City on Friday as they fell to the Barons 4-3 at Cox Convention Center.

After the Griffins took a 3-1 lead, the Barons scored three unanswered goals to take the first of a two-game set in Oklahoma City. Grand Rapids recorded only 19 shots to Oklahoma City’s 37 in the loss.

The Griffins (27-15-2-2) grabbed the lead early in the first period as Luke Glendening tipped in a shot from Adam Almquist. Almquist fired a shot from the right point and screening in front, Glendening tipped the puck past Niko Hovinen, giving Grand Rapids a one-goal lead at 5:37 of the opening period.

The Barons (22-18-2-4) tied the game at 16:37 of the first period as Ryan Martindale scored his fourth goal of the season. Curtis Hamilton found Toni Rajala behind the net, and the left wing made a perfect pass to Martindale in front of Tom McCollum for the goal. It was the first goal the Griffins have allowed in 170:56, 13:11 off of the franchise-record shutout streak.

Glendening scored his second goal of the night at 2:19 of the second period. Jeff Hoggan’s shot hit the goal post and Glendening snatched up the rebound, sending a backhand shot past Hovinen to restore the Griffins’ one-goal lead.

Hoggan gave Grand Rapids a 3-1 advantage just over three minutes later. The Barons turned the puck over in the neutral zone and the Griffins capitalized on a three-on-two advantage. Hovinen made two saves on the break before Hoggan scooped up a rebound and snuck it by the goaltender at 5:41 of the second period.

Jonathan Cheechoo scored two straight goals to tie the game at three midway through the second period. The right wing sped down the wall and used his body to cut in front of Almquist and the net, shooting the puck past McCollum at 10:03.

Cheechoo’s second goal came on a power play just under three minutes later. The Griffins missed an opportunity to score a shorthanded goal and the Barons brought the puck back up the ice quickly to set up the right wing’s second goal. A quick pass from Taylor Fedun at the blue line to Cheechoo in front for his second of the night at 12:56 of the second period.

The Barons took their first lead of the game at 12:10 of the final period. Theo Peckham took a long wrist shot that was deflected by Phillippe Cornet into the upper right corner past McCollum.

The Griffins had an opportunity to even the score on a power play at 2:45 of the third period, but were unable to convert during the final minutes of play.

McCollum recorded 33 saves while Hovinen earned the victory behind 16 saves.

The Griffins will stay in Oklahoma City for the second of a two-game series tomorrow at 8 p.m. EST.

The Griffins' website also posted a Flickr photo gallery, and the Barons' website's recap is spartan...

But the Oilers' website actually posted a slate of highlights, though they only include the Barons' goals:

In major junior hockey, in the QMJHL, Martin Frk registered a goal and an assist in the Halifax Mooseheads' 8-5 loss to Moncton;

Phillipe Hudon registered an assist in the Victoriaville Tigres' fight-filled 5-0 win over Chicoutimi;

And Xavier Ouellet didn't register a point and missed a shootout attempt in the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada's 2-1 shootout loss to Gatineau;

In the OHL, Alan Quine and the Belleville Bulls didn't play the Kingston Frontenacs because the game was delayed due to snow;

Andreas Athanasiou returned to the Barrie Colts' lineup and registered a goal, an assist and a +2 in the Barrie Colts' 6-3 victory over Plymouth;

And Jake Paterson stopped 25 of 27 shots in the Saginaw Spirit's 6-2 win over Saginaw;

In the WHL, Richard Nedomlel didn't register a point in his Swift Current Broncos' 4-1 loss to Saskatoon;

In NCAA hockey, Nick Jensen registered as Saint Cloud State University lost 4-2 the University of Minnesota. Ben Marshall didn't register a point for Minnesota;

In the BCHL, James De Haas didn't register a point as his Penticton Vees were shut out 1-0 by Meritt;

In the USHL, Mike McKee didn't play in the Lincoln Stars' 4-3 victory over Tri-Cty;

And Hockey's Future's Tony Piscotta reports that Brendan Smith finished tenth out of tenth in a poll of HF staffers who made Calder Trophy picks for January.

 

Also of Red Wings-related note: With the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia a year away, ESPN's Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside left Jimmy Howard off their prospective Team USA rosters;

CBS Sports' Chris Peters deemed Howard as "on the bubble";

The Toronto Star's Damien Cox reminded us that Ken Holland is still helping Steve Yzerman as an advisor for Team Canada's hockey operations, and the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek spoke to Yzerman about his selection process;

USA Today's Kevin Allen believes that Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Niklas Kronwall will play for Team Sweden in Sochi;

And it should be noted that in Olympic qualification games, if Jan Mursak is still in the organization next year, he's probably going to be an Olympic athlete as Slovenia has secured a spot in Sochi (the link might look funny for a reason: the IIHF's website's links are absolutely bizarre. Sorry).

 

Update: It would figure that the Windsor Star's Bob Duff's Tweet had a story attached to it, but it didn't appear until 4 AM:

Perhaps the least surprised person that Petr Mrazek was so successful in his NHL debut was Detroit Red Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer. Fischer was an assistant coach with the Czech Republic during the 2012 world junior championship in Calgary and Edmonton as Czech netminder Mrazek was named the tournament's top goalie.

"He was the best player we had," Fischer said. "He was the guy who took all the spotlight and at the same time, wasn't affected by all the media, all the hype and 20,000 people at the games. He loved it. He thrived in that environment. He couldn't get enough of it. That took so much pressure off of our team. Nobody talked about our defence. Nobody talked about any other player during the tournament. He really stayed focused throughout the tournament. That's who he is."

Mrazek was centre stage Thursday as he blocked 26 shots in a 5-1 Wings win at St. Louis. Today, Jimmy Howard will start in goal against the Edmonton Oilers at Joe Louis Arena (2 p.m., FSN Plus, live chat at windsorstar.com). Mrazek admits the big-game atmosphere of the 2012 world juniors was a turning point in his career.

"My hockey world changed after the world junior championships," Mrazek said. "Then I got the chance to play in the world championships in Sweden. The coach (Par Marts) gave me the chance there to practice with the best guys from Czech Republic, from NHL. He made the dream for me. I turned pro and now I've got the chance in Detroit. It's something unbelievable. I didn't expect to come this quickly.

"It's my first year in the pro hockey and it happened, so I'm really happy. I'm trying every game to be the best and stop the most pucks and can and be focused. That's all the goalie can do."

Fischer is certain Mrazek's debut won't prove to be a one-night stand.

"This year in the American League, we started with three goalies," Fischer said. "Jordan Pearce and Tom McCollum, they won the starting and back-up jobs right off the bat. Petr spent three games in Toledo, earned himself a call-up and the rest is history."

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Comments

bigdee89's avatar

Most complete Red Wings news around.  Outstanding work as always George.  Thanks.

Posted by bigdee89 from The Great White North Eh? on 02/09/13 at 09:18 AM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Ooooooh, I hope Mrazek starts on Sunday because the game is on NBC (I am still not giving money to the NHL so I don’t have Gamecenter or Center Ice.)

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 02/09/13 at 10:41 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.