The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/07/13 at 03:32 AM ET
The Red Wings reach the halfway point of their 48-game 2013 season tonight when they host the Edmonton Oilers (7:30 PM, FSD/Sportsnet West/97.1 FM). For the Wings, game #24 on the schedule kicks off a slate of 3 games played over the course of 4 nights, and represents the last of a home-friendly first half schedule.
The Wings, who sit in 6th place in the West with 26 points, play 11 more times this month, tonight's game excluded, but only 3 of those games will take place at Joe Louis Arena. After trading a home-and-home series with Columbus on Saturday and Sunday, the Wings will head through Western Canada (with games in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver in another three-games-in-four-nights span) next week (the 13th, 15th and 16th, respectively), they'll come home for a game against Minnesota (on the 20th), and then the Wings will be gone for over a week spent on the West Coast (they play the Ducks in an "on the road and still on the road" series on March 22nd and 24th, head for Phoenix on Monday the 25th, and wrap up their 8-day trip in San Jose on the 27th) abefore wrapping up the month with a home game against Chicago (on the 31st).
The Wings are still rebounding from Sunday's loss against the unbeaten Blackhawks, and their 2-1 victory over Colorado was less than aesthetically pleasing, but we can hope to witness "better hockey" tonight:
The Wings deked and dangled their way to an exciting 2-1 win over Edmonton on February 9th, and the Oilers come into town still playing fire-wagon hockey...But they're also annoyed as they dropped a 4-3 shootout decision to Columbus on Tuesday, have lost 6 of their past 10 games and haven't won since February 25th.
All of that being said, the West is so tightly-packed that the 13th-place Oilers sit all of 5 points behind the Wings, and just as the Wings rather desperately need to get on a winning streak to start separating themselves from the playoff pack, the Oilers know that they can get back into the thick of said pack with a win this evening.
The Oilers did get the game’s first goal, but they also had a vulnerable Steve Mason in the Blue Jackets net. He gave up three goals on eight shots, the last of which came off the stick of forward Magnus Paajarvi 31 seconds into the second period. The Oilers directed just six shots at replacement Sergei Bobrovsky in the second period.
“Maybe if we could have shot a bit more on Bobrovsky when he came in ... ,” defenceman Ryan Whitney said. “That’s not the only thing we have to do better. It’s just something that comes to mind.”
By game’s end, Bobrovsky was the difference, denying Jordan Eberle on a backdoor attempt in overtime, then stopping Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky in the shootout. Artem Anisimov and Mark Letestu beat Devan Dubnyk in the skills competition.
Four minutes after the game was underway, defenceman Jeff Petry took advantage of a screen and sent a long distance shot by Mason. The advantage lasted all of three minutes.
Derek MacKenzie, who was being covered by Whitney, freely slipped a goal past Dubnyk, then Vinny Prospal notched a power-play marker, also at the expense of Whitney, who was in the penalty box for tripping. Whitney did tuck his second goal of the season through Mason’s legs, sending the teams into the first intermission tied 2-2.
“We had a good start, then they came right back,” said Whitney. “That was my guy who scored, so that one’s on me, but it is things like that that we have to be better at. We have to win.”
“It’s good to get a point, but we need to get two right now,” said Dubnyk, who was beaten by a one-timer from Jack Johnson midway through the second.
Dubnyk went on to finish with 35 saves. The Oilers were outshot 24-14 through the first 40 minutes, closing out with a total of 29.
Instead, the Oilers began a parade to the penalty box, as Jordan Eberle told the Edmonton Sun's Derek Van Diest...
“It seemed like every time we were getting some momentum, we took a penalty and were in the box,” said Oilers winger Jordan Eberle. “For the most part, I thought we played pretty decent. The shots didn’t reflex that, but they had four power plays and we didn’t have any until overtime. But I thought in the third period, we had chances to bury and so did they, and then once you get into overtime, anything can happen.”
Eberle had the best chance to end the game in overtime, when he took a cross-crease pass on the power play and had Bobrovsky at his mercy. Bobrovsky, however was able to get his pad on Eberle’s shot, extending the contest.
“I kind of just had to calm the puck down, it was rolling a bit,” said Eberle. “I got it up, but he made an unbelievable save, you have to give credit to him. Maybe one thing I could have done was one-time the puck, but it was rolling that’s why I tried to calm it down. Kudos to him.”
“It seems to be one of those things for us, getting shots when we have opportunities,” said [Oilers coach Ralph] Krueger. “It’s something that we need to continue to work on. But Bobrovsky seemed quite game-ready immediately. We didn’t get the shots in the first few minutes that we would have liked to have gotten when a new goalie comes in. But often, coming off the bench, goalies at this level will play without pressure and he played a really strong game.”
Coach Krueger felt that his team played better, but not necessarily good, as the Oilers website's recap notes:
"I thought we played a much better game than we played in Minnesota there's no question about the reaction being there," said Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger. "There was a lot of good things. The result is disappointing when you look at the storyline. Getting a 3-2 lead, having a 1-0 lead."
Oilers goal scorers were Jeff Petry, Ryan Whitney and Magnus Paajarvi. Devan Dubnyk made 35 saves on 38 shots for the win.
"We knew they were going to work hard," Krueger continued. "They're a hard working team. They battled hard and we had our chances in the overtime."
Edmonton had a great chance to end the game after Nick Foligno took a penalty 25 seconds into the extra frame for closing his hand on the puck. The penalty set up a four-on-three man advantage which resulted in a handful of outstanding scoring chances. Most notably, Sergei Bobrovsky, who replaced Blue Jackets starter Chris Mason in goal early in the second period, slid across and made a brilliant pad save on Jordan Eberle who had the puck in the left circle and fired a wrist shot on what looked to be an open net.
"Usually Ebs would be able to bury those," said Krueger. "He had a little pain, that might have held him back from putting it in the roof. Bobrovsky has to probably be the difference-maker here for the point that we lost."
The Oilers were "snowed in" at Columbus due to the snowstorm that blanketed Illinois, Ohio and Indiana before moving on to the East Coast on Wednesday morning, so they didn't arrive in Detroit until the middle of Wednesday afternoon, nor did they practice. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall spoke to EdmontonOilers.com's Mark Ciampa about the challenge the team faces this evening...
"They're a great team, especially in this building," said Hall. "We're going to have to play a lot better than we did yesterday, we know that. It's been a bit of an inconsistent year for us so far. We've had good games and we've had bad games. We haven't been able to string together some good ones."
The Red Wings have had a home-heavy schedule so far with a record of 8-4-2 at the Joe Louis Arena. They've only played nine games on the road (3-4-2).
"We hope to start that tomorrow against a really good team. It's going to be a battle for us. If we can keep it close for the first two periods hopefully going into the third we can give ourselves a chance to win."
The Oilers opened this road trip with an overtime loss to Chicago and followed that up with a big 5-1 win in Dallas but have only picked up a single point in their last three outings. Hall added that the team has not only been inconsistent on the trip but even within games.
"We've had inconsistency as a whole in the season and we've had inconsistency in games. We can't string together shifts where we do the right things, get the pucks deep and play in their ends. It's just frustrating to see and I'm no different."
And Nugent-Hopkins duly noted that the Oilers know that even their 3-5-and-2 record over their past 10 games can be overcome in a hurry by winning a few games in a row, starting tonight:
"We're right there. We know that if we string a couple of wins together we'll be back in the hunt," he said. "Especially on a road trip like this in a shortened season, it's so important to make sure that we take pride in every game and starting tomorrow that would be a good challenge for us."
The Edmonton Journal's Joanne Ireland notes that the Oilers, who are playing in game 6 of a massive 9-game road swing, face long historical odds and aren't exactly playing with tons of confidence as they prepare to play at the Joe...
They haven’t won in Detroit since Dec. 3, 2009, and goaltender Jimmy Howard is not only sporting a stingy 1.16 goals-against average in his last six games against Edmonton, he has fashioned a .96 average in his last two appearances. To top it all off, the Red Wings are 4-1-1 in the six games they’ve played since Feb. 23.
“We just have to get our confidence and our mojo back in this locker-room,” winger Ryan Jones said. “We need to recognize that we are a good hockey team. It’s a tough road trip as it is, and if we make it tougher on ourselves, it will be never ending.”
The Oilers, beaten 4-3 by the Blue Jackets in a shootout on Tuesday, were then grounded for an extra night in Ohio because of a snowstorm. They play the Red Wings Thursday and the Nashville Predators the following night. More than halfway through their franchise-high nine-game road trip, they are 1-2-2 since leaving Edmonton.
“Confidence is really fragile. When you have a young team and a short season, you feel like every game is so important,” said veteran centre Eric Belanger. “We’re in a serious situation now, but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have to find ways to keep things simple and get a win. Time is not on our side now, but we have four games left on this trip and we need to get points. We need to get wins. There’s nothing else we can do.”
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk has one win in his last seven games and has been on the hook for two or more goals in six of those outings. The Oilers power play is running at zero for the last three games and they are still waiting for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to find his touch again. He has just one goal in 21 games.
As a team, the Oilers are giving up a league-high average of 34 shots a game and producing a substandard average of 2.36 goals a game. There are several areas that need improving.
“I don’t think we feel that excitement on the bench,” said winger Taylor Hall. “Every line has been inconsistent. Every line is not going out and doing the things we can. It’s frustrating. We know we have the skill in our lineup to make a huge difference in this league, and right now we’re not playing with the grit and panache we need. We’ve had inconsistency through the season and we’ve had inconsistency in games. We had (Columbus) on the ropes a few times and we could have put the nail in the coffin but we didn’t. Maybe that’s the immaturity we’re showing, I’m not sure, we just have to realize when we do get a one-goal lead, we need to expand that. I don’t sense confidence from the team right now. It’s hard to have it when you haven’t been stringing together wins.”
But Hall always plays well against the Wings, and that's partially because he won a Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires, as the Edmonton Sun's Derek Van Diest notes...
"Getting to play in front of some Windsor fans is always nice," he said. "I usually have some family that comes and supports me. It's always fun to play here, hopefully we're able to get a win."
"Playing in Toronto and Ottawa, it's fun for me being from Ontario," said Hall. "But playing here in front of some Windsor Spitfire jerseys that I see in the crowd, it's nice. I'm going to Windsor (Wednesday night) to see some people. It's always nice to kind of get away from hockey and see some people that you haven't seen in a while."
Hall made a return the Oilers lineup Tuesday in Columbus after being forced to sit out the previous game with a hamstring injury. He's currently second in team scoring with four goals and 19 points on the season. The Oilers came up short in Columbus, falling in a shootout to the current Western Conference basement dwellers. They know going up against the Red Wings in Detroit is a different proposition altogether.
"They're the Wings and you look at everything that they've done in the last 20 years," Hall said. "Detroit is a hard building to play in. They seem to play their best at home. We're going to have to keep in close through the first couple of periods and from there, try to expand our game. We have to play well defensive and try to manage the game well. That's something that we haven't been doing well."
And while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is enduring a sophomore slump in terms of stats, he told Van Diest that he's excited about playing against the Wings:
Being the team's franchise centre, Nugent-Hopkins is a work in progress. He had a great rookie season with 18 goals and 52 points, earning a Calder Trophy finalist nomination. This year, he, Hall and Eberle are the names circled by opposition coaches as keys to keeping the Oilers in check. The trio are going up against some of the top players in the league on a nightly basis.
"That definitely makes a difference, but hopefully I'm going to keep playing against them and it's something that I'm going to have to get used to," Nugent-Hopkins said. "Playing with guys like Jordan and Taylor, you have to get used to that, it's something that you have to battle through and make sure you're playing well."
Against the Red Wings on Thursday, Nugent-Hopkins is expected to get a healthy does of Henrik Zetterberg, who is among one of the premier centres in the game.
"You have to try and be patient against him," Nugent-Hopkins said. "Guys like that are so quick and so deceptive, you can get caught up in their moves and things like that. But if you just stay patient, it gives you a better chance. We have to keep a level head and we can't get frustrated and we can't get down. Obviously we want the results, but if we stay focused and we stay even keel, I think it'll come for us."
It all this talk's making you feel warm and fuzzy about the Oilers, who also have a Michigan native in former MSU defenseman Jeff Petry on their roster, keep in mind that they just added former U of M forward Mike Brown, the gent who blind-sided Jiri Hudler when Brown played for the Ducks, to the mix, and remember that the Oilers dress Ben Eager, a buzzsaw of a forward who always tries to run Wings defensemen into the boards.
Oilers Nation's Jason Gregor reports that the Oilers utilized the following lineup against Columbus:
NHL.com's Tal Pinchevsky's game preview serves as our pivot point between the Oilers and Wings' perspectives...
Season series: This is the second of three meetings between teams, who will close their season series next week in Edmonton. Detroit topped Edmonton 2-1 at Joe Louis Arena on Feb. 9 and took the season series in 2011-12 with a 3-0-1 record against the Oilers.
Big story: While Detroit is enjoying success through a run in which they play four of five games at home, Edmonton is off to a rough start to a season-long nine-game road trip. They'll need to turn things around to salvage any playoff hopes, but that will mean doing it against a Red Wings team that appears to be working toward another postseason run.
Oilers [team scope]: Edmonton started their marathon road swing with back-to-back 4-2 losses in St. Louis and Minnesota. With a record that put them near the bottom of the Western Conference, they hoped to turn the corner Tuesday in Columbus.
Red Wings [team scope]: With a 4-1-1 record in the last two weeks, Detroit appears to have moved past some early-season struggles and is coming together just in time for the playoff push. The only games in that run they haven't won have come against the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks.
Who's hot: For Edmonton, Ryan Whitney has two goals (his first two of the season) in his last three games, while Jordan Eberle has five points (all assists) on his current four-game point streak. Despite dealing with injury and a suspension, Taylor Hall has nine points in his last eight games. … For Detroit, Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson have five and four points, respectively, in the last five games. Goaltender Jimmy Howard has allowed six goals in his last five games.
Injury report: Theo Peckham is questionable for Thursday's game with an illness as the Oilers injured-reserve list now includes Andy Sutton (knee), Mark Fistric (elbow), Shawn Horcoff (knuckle), Anton Lander (foot), Teemu Hartikainen (shoulder) and Nikolai Khabibulin (undisclosed). … Detroit's IR list is just as long, with Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder), Darren Helm (back), Valtteri Filppula (shoulder), Todd Bertuzzi (back) and Mikael Samuelsson (finger) all out.
As MLive's Ansar Khan reported on Wednesday, the Wings don't expect Filppula or Colaiacovo to return before the team's Western Canadian road trip, and while Helm skated on Wednesday, he's at least a few weeks away, barring any setbacks. The same can be said for Samuelsson, and at this point, nobody knows how long it will take for Todd Bertuzzi to get better.
The AP's game preview adds some stats to the mix...
The Red Wings will try to continue their dominance over the slumping Oilers in Thursday night's finale of a three-game homestand. Detroit (11-8-4) is 4-1-1 since Feb. 23, and benefited from Niklas Kronwall's unusual goal for a 2-1 victory over Colorado on Tuesday. Late in the second period, the defenseman's shot from the blue line ricocheted off the boards then off Avalanche goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere's right skate into the net.
Jimmy Howard did the rest, stopping 36 shots to improve to 3-1-1 with a 1.38 goals-against average in his last five games. He started this season 6-6-2 with a 3.08 GAA.
The Red Wings will try to add to their momentum by earning a seventh consecutive home win over the Oilers (8-9-5). Detroit is 9-0-1 in the last 10 overall matchups, including a 2-1 victory at Joe Louis Arena on Feb. 9 - the season's only prior meeting. Kronwall had the tiebreaking power-play goal in the third period and Howard stopped 23 shots for his seventh consecutive win over Edmonton. He's posted a 1.16 GAA in the past six matchups.
The Oilers, meanwhile, have given up a combined 11 goals in their 0-2-1 start to this month. Edmonton earned that lone point Tuesday in a 4-3 shootout loss to Columbus, the fifth of a franchise-high nine consecutive road games.
The Oilers are 1-2-2 on their lengthy trip, which ends in Colorado on March 12, and will seek their first win in Detroit since Dec. 3, 2009. The Red Wings are 22-2-4 in the last 28 regular-season meetings at Joe Louis.
Zetterberg had two of his team-high 19 assists against the Oilers last month, giving him 27 points in his last 24 matchups (eight goals, 19 assists).
Edmonton's Sam Gagner, who has seven goals and a team-high 21 points, has been one of his team's few bright spots in the last three games against the Red Wings, totaling four goals and an assist.
And DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose penned an "At a Glance" Wings-Oilers preview, noting that Brendan Smith and Oilers defenseman Justin Schultz used to be teammates at the University of Wisconsin:
The Oilers will bring their sixth rated power play to Joe Louis Arena for the second and final time this season. Edmonton dropped a 2-1 decision at Detroit on Feb. 9.
Thursday’s game will be the first time the two friends will face in the NHL. The last time Edmonton was in town Smith was on injured reserve with a shoulder sprain. The two did play against one another in the AHL during the NHL lockout. Schultz is the third former Badgers’ teammate that Smith will face in the NHL. He played against the Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan last March at Madison Square Garden.
“I have played against all of them, except Schultzy and Cody Goloubef,” Smith said. “Cody was just called up and we have Columbus on Saturday and Sunday, so if he’s still up it will be cool to play against him, because he was my roommate in college.”
Smith and Schultz bring similar attributes to their teams with incredible offensive instincts and mobility, and plenty of upside. Smith credits the Badgers’ coaching staff for encouraging their defensemen to think offense while being defensively responsible.
“We were just taught as freshmen to play the right way,” Smith said. “We did a lot of stuff that would help our ability to get better offensively, like having a good stick, a good pivot, how to block shots. All of that stuff helped us and put is in good position to play offensively. But the biggest thing we talked about when we were in school was the better you played defensively, the better position you’ll be for offense. That’s how we learned and everybody ended up succeeded that way.”
Roose also notes that the newly-acquired Brown's likely to make an impact of some sort:
In 12 games, Brown has one assists and 70 minutes in penalties.
The Wings didn't practice on Wednesday, either, so I'm lean on "new stuff" on the Wings' side of preview-y things...So this is the best I've got:
Especially given Wednesday's trade talk (more on that below), it appears that the Red Wings are essentially on their own this season (to the point that I wonder whether Ken Holland needs to need to climb to the rafters and scream, "THIS...IS...REBUILDING!" because the team we're watching is playing as close to a "rebuilding year" as the Wings want to tread [see: losing but not really replacing Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Stuart, Tomas Holmstrom or Jiri Hudler]), but the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness notes that Jimmy Howard's stats don't tell his story as nothing less than a stalwart for his team, earning a spot on next year's team and then some despite his status as an unrestricted free agent-to-be:
“We have a solid goalie back there and he’s been that way all season,” Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “In my opinion, I don’t care much about stats and numbers, we know what he can do and he’s been great for us many years and will be great for us many years to come.”
Howard again was stellar in a 2-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday night. He had two huge saves in the third period. John Mitchell had the first chance. All alone in front of the Wings’ goalie, Mitchell had Howard down on the ice, but couldn’t get his backhand over his outstretched glove hand. Howard then stoned PA Parenteau with a partial glove save on a breakaway that seemed to put an exclamation point on what would have been his 13th career shutout.
Howard is 9-7-3 this season with a 2.63 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage.
“Jimmy’s played some really good games and hasn’t been as good in others,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Howie will be the first to tell you, he’s got to be as good every night as he was (Tuesday night). Then you have the numbers to reflect how you are.”
Howard’s workload has been more than what the Wings had hoped went the shortened season began. A lingering groin injury to Jonas Gustavsson has forced Howard to appear in 20 of the Wings’ 23 games this season.
“He’s been playing a lot of games,” Zetterberg said. “It’s tough to do with this schedule. He’s finding a way to give us a chance to win games. We haven’t been stellar on the goal scoring part, but he still gives us a chance.”
In theory, the Wings would love to keep him...
“I like that he’s a workhorse,” Wings general manager Ken Holland has said of Howard. “He’s a guy we can put in net night after night. We drafted him, we developed him and we watched him grow as a goaltender. His prime years are ahead of him.”
And Howard wants to stay here:
“This is where I’d love to be,” Howard said. “I got a lot of great friendships within this dressing room. We’ve had a lot of great success in here and I enjoy playing here.”
The Wings have a different kind of "story" on their hands in Jakub Kindl.
More experienced and more established defenseman Ian White finds himself working out in the Wings' locker room (why the Wings don't ask their scratched players to watch one or two games in the press box and *actually do some scouting* to make them feel like they're accomplishing something and contributing to the team's efforts, I don't know) while a player who nearly lost his job to Kent Huskins and Brian Lashoff is suddenly earning regular playing time.
The Detroit News's Gregg Krupa penned an incredibly thorough article (as usual) on Kindl's long journey from top prospect (the Wings' 19th overall pick in 2006) to washed-up waiver wire material to someone who's earned a regular spot in the lineup:
Kindl entered this season seventh on the depth chart, but after missing the first three games with an injury, he has been among the six defensemen in 16 of 20 games, regularly logging 19 or 20 minutes on the ice. Against the Blackhawks last weekend, in one of the biggest games this season, he had the most hits of any Red Wings player in any game all year — six. Kindl also had three shots and no goals allowed. He continues to look composed, of firm intent when he has the puck and forceful in his own zone.
"I think it all comes with the confidence," said Kindl, who is from little Sumperk in the Czech Republic, a 13th-century town of about 28,000, 20 miles southwest of the Polish border. "I played overseas with a team during the lockout, and I had an opportunity to play in every situation, and I really think that helps out coming over here. So, each game, I am feeling better and better. My goal is to be solid defensively, play big, don't get beat on a one-on-one situation and whenever I have the puck just shoot it through."
The Red Wings did their job scouting Kindl. His skills are evident. But putting them to use has been an issue for the player teammates call "Kuba."
"The big thing, for me, with Kuba, it's the same all the time, I tell him this every time," Babcock said. "If he'll go back and get the puck, if he'll be courageous and compete, he's fine. The skill's all there. It's the competing every shift, it's the playing every shift, it's the plays without the puck. And as long as he stays out of the scoring chances against, he'll find himself in every game."
Kindl was involved in a snafu in defensive coverage late in the game Tuesday, which led to the Avalanche's goal and made the closing minutes unnecessarily perilous. But it begins to appear as though a regular slot on the blue line is now his to lose. The game against the Blackhawks was a bit of a revelation.
"Well, that's what I've got to do," he said. "I'm not expecting to have six hits every night. But that team we played against, you know, they are really skilled and we knew that (the checks) needed to be finished in our zone, because they're really dangerous up in the front. Whatever happens, I've got to play physical; that is all."
Krupa continues, obviously, and does so at some length...
And if the Wings really are "on their own" for the rest of the season (more on that in the next paragraph), Kindl, Lashoff, Smith, Tomas Tatar, Joakim Andersson, Cory Emmerton, Drew Miller, Justin Abdelkader and all of the Wings' "youngsters" will have to continue stepping up offensively and defensively if this team is to be something more than one carried by Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Damien Brunner, Niklas Kronwall and Jimmy Howard.
Even more trade talk: The Free Press's Helene St. James and 97.1 the Ticket's Jeff Riger certainly started a firestorm by talking trades and/or revealing that Ken Holland's still more inclined to let his team-in-progress get healthy and see what happens--presumably while waiting until the summer to see who gets bought out due to the cap going down from $70.2 million to $64.3 million and whether the team's able or willing to re-sign UFA's-to-be Damien Brunner, Jimmy Howard, Danny Cleary, Ian White and Drew Miller, and whether the team's going to be able to ink Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist, Jakub Kindl and Joakim Andersson to affordable "second contracts."
St. James duly noted that parity's preventing trades--as ESPN's Pierre LeBrun confirmed in conversations with multiple GM's on Wednesday--and I'm guessing that what Holland told MLive's Ansar Khan on Wednesday evening isn't going to make you any happier:
"First off, we got to win some games; we got to be in a position where we think we're a playoff team and it makes good business sense,'' Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “If we don't win enough games, that decision is going to be made for me. We got to assess our team over the next 2-3 weeks and see if we're in a position to be a playoff team. Then we'll explore.''
The list of teams that might be in selling mode by the deadline includes Florida, Buffalo, Winnipeg, Washington, the New York Islanders, Calgary, Edmonton and Columbus.
Some defensemen who could be available include Jay Bouwmeester of Calgary, Lubomir Visnovsky and Mark Streit of the Islanders, Ryan Whitney of Edmonton, Robyn Regehr of Buffalo and Ron Hainsey of Winnipeg. All except Bouwmeester would be rentals – players in the final year of their contract who will be unrestricted free agents on July 5. Bouwmeester has one year remaining on his contract at $6.7 million. That's a hefty sum, especially since the salary cap will be reduced to $64.3 million in 2013-14. Plus, he would need to waive his no-trade clause.
“I think there will be a lot of little depth trades,'' Holland said. “Will there be big ones? I don't know. What helps create moves at the deadline is separation. Lots of teams are not in a selling mode because they have a chance to be in the playoffs. In our position, you want to win some games to be in a position to be a buyer.''
Surprise! Health is the Wings' theoretical trade deadline boost--but you'll like the, "It is in the realm of possibility that we may recall Gustav Nyquist" part of Holland's next sentence:
“Darren Helm is going to be (like) a trade deadline addition,'' Holland said. “I can't make a move that's going to have a bigger impact than Darren Helm is going to have on our team. We got a guy who's leading the AHL in scoring (Gustav Nyquist). I don't know that we can get better players than that up front at the trade deadline.''
Holland said they would like to recall Nyquist from the Grand Rapids Griffins at some point this season. Tomas Tatar and Joakim Andersson have played well since being recalled, boosting their depth. The implementation of the salary cap in 2005-06 has steadily eroded the impact of the trade deadline because there is less separation between teams.
“I don't think the trade deadline is as big as it was 10 years ago because of parity,'' Holland said.
And I'm starting to believe that the team's braintrust--i.e. the coaching staff, Holland, Jim Nill, Ryan Martin, Kris Draper, Mark Howe, Kirk Maltby, all the pro scouts, Chris Chelios, Jiri Fischer, Chris Osgood and the amateur scouts and even the ownership have signed off on a game plan that reads like this:
"This is a rebuilding/transitional year, so here's what we'll do:
1. See what our younger players can do;
2. Cross our fingers about making the playoffs if we ever shake the injury bug;
3. And then let's see who gets bought out when the cap goes down;
4. Who we can re-sign before July 1st;
5. And whether we can wine and dine a real top-four defenseman and a top-six forward with size during the courting period between July 1st and the real start of free agency on July 5th."
For what it's worth, ESPN's "NHL Crew" held a chat on Wednesday afternoon, and here's what they had to say about the concept that the Wings might want to add a forward instead of a defenseman:
[Question from] Keith: Do we see Detroit making a move to get a little more power in the top 6. With Bertuzzi being out indefinitely and Samuelsson still at least two weeks away (plus conditioning time), the top 6 is looking a little ragged.
Scott Burnside: Keith; Wings aren't likely to sacrifice young talent at this stage given that the team is in somewhat of a transition. Hard to get a handle on where the Wings are at vis a vis poised for a long playoff run or even making the playoffs. Actually hoping they finish 8th and play the Blackhawks in the first round after last Sunday's classic.
Craig Custance: Keith - Yeah, they could use another forward. Pavel Datsyuk deserves an upgrade on the wing. They're starting to get healthy on D which is helping. I think Ken Holland will be aggressive in improving his team, although they traded a first rounder last year for Kyle Quincey, so it'd have to be a good player to do it again.
Depending on who you believe, this year's draft is either incredibly deep in terms of second-tier prospects, or it's a stinker.
Red Wings notebooks and/or also of Red Wings-related note: MLive's Ansar Khan posted a substantive list of injury news and/or updates, and it sounds like the Wings don't expect to have any of their injured players in the lineup soon, even though Darren Helm did skate at the Joe on Wednesday. Valtteri Filppula (shoulder) appears to be out for at least the week and weekend, Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) remains in a holding pattern, Mikael Samuelsson is a couple weeks out, the same is true for Helm as he needs to both continue to improve and get into hockey shape again, and Todd Bertuzzi is "improving," but needs to feel "good," not "improving as opposed to feeling better than he did when he had to hospitalize himself."
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness reports that Helm has in fact skated by himself for three straight days:
“He pushed it harder today than yesterday,” Wings GM Ken Holland said. “He'll wake up (Thursday) and see how it feels. I'd say he's at least a couple of weeks away. It's not only the back, it's the conditioning.”
“(We’re) a lot more optimistic about him than a week ago,” Holland said. “Doctor felt it was a 6-8 week injury. We're sitting at five weeks.”
Forward Valtteri Filppula (left shoulder) and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (sprained left shoulder) are both out through the weekend and hope to return when the Wings make a three-game trip to western Canada beginning Tuesday.
“We hope (Filppula) is ready, but it’s not written in stone,” Holland said. “(Colaiacovo) is close. We want him both physically and mentally ready to go so we may as well err on the side of caution. He doesn't want to come back and get hurt and be out another six weeks. The way our defense is playing, I'd rather be 100 percent sure.”
Forward Mikael Samuelsson (broken left index finger) is out a couple more weeks.
There is no timetable for forward Todd Bertuzzi (back inflammation). “We just have to give it more time,” Holland said.
In terms of an outside perspective regarding the Red Wings' progress, the Ottawa Sun's Chris Stevenson a "halfway pole" glance at the Western Conference's teams, Wings included:
DETROIT: The challenge for Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is to help the team reinvent itself in the post-Nik Lidstrom era. The once free-wheeling, breathtaking Wings must now play a more suffocating style, evidenced by the fact their last four games going into Wednesday’s action were 2-1 scores (2-1-1 in those games). Encouraging for the Wings is they are fourth in 5-on-5 scoring.
If the NHL were to hold an All-Star Game during this shortened season, SI's Allan Muir believes that two Red Wings would make the Western Conference's roster
Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings — His scoring has dried up since he’s been paired with Justin Abdelkader and Dan Cleary, but Datsyuk remains the game’s best two-way player and the one most capable of creating a highlight at any moment.
Henrik Zetterberg, Red Wings — Last month, Wayne Gretzky called Zetterberg “my favorite player over the last 10 years.” Not going to find a better endorsement than that.
Muir also posted a list of the "Top Ten NHL Power Forwards of All Time," and I'm surprised at how lowly Brendan Shanahan was ranked...
8. Brendan Shanahan: He'd eventually become one of the highest-scoring left wings in history, topping the 40-goal mark six times and twice breaching 50 on his way to 656 career tallies. But Shanny was a good Irish lad who enjoyed mixing it up on occasion. While he didn't drop them as often once he left his NHL stop in Hartford, he continued to play the sort of robust, physical game that gradually wore down defenses until he could beat them down low with a wicked wrister.
The Wings also made the Hockey News's Rory Boylen's top 10 list of "All Time Streaks" by teams...
10. Consecutive goals, one team, one game – Detroit (15): Here’s one unlikely to ever be replaced, since NHL rosters were in flux as a result of World War II. The Rangers were awful in 1943-44, finishing with a 6-39-5 record to bottom out the six-team NHL. Detroit was second – 25 points behind Montreal – and when the two met January 23, it got ugly. The Red Wings won the game 15-0 and set a record for most consecutive goals by one team in one game. It didn’t help that New York only showed up with 12 players. Rangers goalie Ken McAuley, who finished with a 6.24 goals-against average that season, still managed to make 43 saves in the game.
9. Home winning streak – Detroit (23): Just last season, from Nov. 5, 2011 through Feb. 19, 2012, the Wings didn’t lose a single game at home. The streak broke the old record of 20 held by the 1929-30 Boston Bruins and 1975-76 Philadelphia Flyers. The Vancouver Canucks finally snapped the run with a 4-3 shootout win and two nights later, the Wings lost another at home, 4-3 to Colorado. Though they made the playoffs, Detroit was ousted in the first round for the first time since 2006.
And Hockey's Future's D.J. Powers' list of the best unrestricted free agent prospects playing NCAA hockey includes a player the Wings really, really, really want to sign:
Dan DeKeyser, D, Junior, Western Michigan University: Dan DeKeyser was the most coveted available collegiate free agent last season and that hasn’t changed this season. Among the teams heavily pursuing him are the Calgary Flames, the Detroit Red Wings and the Tampa Bay Lightning. DeKeyser opted to return to Western Michigan this season in large part due to the impending (and eventual) NHL lockout. His return has greatly benefited not only his Broncos team but his overall development, as well. To date, DeKeyser has played in 33 games, posting 15 points (two goals, 13 assists). He logs nearly 30 minutes of ice time per game playing alongside senior Luke Witkowski (TBL) as part of one of the nation’s most dominant defensive pairings.
The Clay Township, MI native has blossomed into one of college hockey’s top rearguards. And while he is a defensive defenseman, DeKeyser is by no means the stay-at-home type. He is very mobile, plays intelligently in all three zones, and can be seen jumping into plays when opportunities present themselves. At 6’3” and 198 pounds, DeKeyser has a good frame and one attribute that has had scouts clamoring to get glimpses of him is how well he uses that frame. DeKeyser uses his size, strength and tenacity quite effectively in wearing down opposing players and taking away time and space. This is particularly evident in his excellent play along the boards. DeKeyser is an agile skater with terrific feet and great balance. He moves equally well going north-south and east-west. His skating and feet also allow him to make smooth transitions and make the right plays. One attribute that sets DeKeyser apart from many other collegiate defensemen is his ability to control the tempo of the game. He sees the ice really well and possesses great hockey sense. His decision-making has continually improved with quicker and smarter reads and reactions. DeKeyser possesses a powerful shot and can get shots to the net. He has great hands and moves the puck exceedingly well, too.
DeKeyser's a late-bloomer who plays a Brad Stuart-style game with a little more offensive flair, but he was a work in progress two summers ago, when the Wings invited him to their summer prospect camp. Obviously, the Wings are hoping that DeKeyser's Michigan roots and his connection with former Western Michigan University coach and current Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill will give them an edge in the DeKeyser sweepstakes, but whether the Wings will guarantee DeKeyser a spot on their NHL roster or not (they did so for Damien Brunner, so the, "Wings would never do that!" rule no longer applies), we don't know.
TSN's Kerry Fraser's answer to a question as to whether players can clear pucks into the penalty box and not be called for delay of game involved Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson, but I'm not going to subject you to it.
Also, via RedWingsFeed:
And finally, in terms of this little section of the overnight report, the Free Press offers Winging it in Motown's Graham Hathaway's take on booing Hossa, which you may read on your own, as well as a "Fanswer" from James Jahnke:
Question: It appears there is an overabundance of left-handed shooters vs. right-handed shooters in the NHL. I have never seen such a disparity of shooters in the NHL than there is today. What are the percentages of left-hand shooters vs. right-hand shooters in the NHL? Thank you. -- Robert LaRose
Answer: Using ESPN's rosters, which, bless their hearts, are among the only ones that list the handedness of players, about 62% of NHL skaters are left-handed (423 of 683). That does not include goalies. The most left-handed teams (and perhaps the reason you noticed this phenomenon) are the Dallas Stars and your Detroit Red Wings. Eighteen of the Stars' 21 skaters are lefties, and 20 of the Wings' 25 are lefties. The only team with more righties than lefties is the Carolina Hurricanes (11 to 10). The New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators and St. Louis Blues are evenly split.
In the prospect department: In the OHL, Alan Quine had an assist in the Belleville Bulls' 3-1 loss to Ottawa;
In the QMJHL, Blainville-Bosbriand Armada captain Xavier Ouellet didn't register a point in the Armada's 6-2 win over Chicoutimi;
Martin Frk had a goal and two assists in the Halifax Mooseheads' 8-7 loss to Acadie-Bathurst;
Phillipe Hudon didn't register a point in the Victoriaville Tigres' 4-1 win over Gatineau;
In the WHL, Richard Nedomlel didn't register a point in the Swift Current Broncos' 2-1 loss to Moose Jaw;
In the KHL, Alexei Marchenko and CSKA Moscow will begin their second round playoff series against Dynamo Moscow on Thursday, and the KHL's English-language website has posted a backgrounder on its two Western Conference Semifinal series;
If you missed it, RedWingsCentral's Matthew Wuest's prospect report focused on Tomas Jurco, who's not having an easy time transitioning from the QMJHL to pro hockey as a member of the Grand Rapids Griffins;
The Grand Rapids Griffins will hold a "purple" charity game to raise funds for cancer research and treatment on Friday, when they host the Hamilton Bulldogs, and their weekly release highlights both the "Purple Game" and "Star Wars Night":
This Week’s Games
Fri., March 8 - Hamilton Bulldogs vs. GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., March 9 - Lake Erie Monsters vs. GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sun., March 10 - GRIFFINS at Hamilton Bulldogs - 5 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Roller Coaster Weekend: The Griffins started a weekend three-in-three on the right foot last Friday, defeating the Milwaukee Admirals 5-1. After Francis Pare opened the scoring with his 98th goal as a Griffin, the Admirals evened the score before the end of the period. But Gustav Nyquist scored a pair of goals – giving him three consecutive three-point games – and Luke Glendening and Jan Mursak added one each to end the team’s three-game road losing skid. Luck did not follow the Griffins to Peoria on Saturday, where the team fell 4-1 to the Rivermen despite another goal from Nyquist and 28 saves from Petr Mrazek. The weekend ended with a second 5-1 victory over the Admirals, as the team’s offense was led by a pair of goals from Jeff Hoggan and insurance tallies by Andrej Nestrasil, Tomas Jurco and Mursak.
On Tap: For the third straight week, the Griffins will play three games in three days, marking the team’s seventh three-in-three this season. The team will open up the stretch with a pair of home games, hosting the Hamilton Bulldogs on Friday at 7 p.m. and the Lake Erie Monsters on Saturday at 7 p.m. On Sunday, the team will play the fourth of this month’s 11 road games in Hamilton at 5 p.m. The Griffins will play three of their next four games (March 8-13) at Van Andel Arena, but face 11 road games among their next 15 (March 8-April 6). Grand Rapids currently holds a five-point lead over Chicago in the Midwest Division, ranking second in the Western Conference and eighth in the AHL.
Important Game, Important Cause: Navy blue, red, metallic silver and metallic gold are the official team colors of the Griffins, but purple will also be included this Friday, when the team hosts its second annual “Purple Community Game” to benefit the Van Andel Institute and cancer research. When fans arrive for the 7 p.m. contest against the Hamilton Bulldogs, they’ll notice that nearly everything at Van Andel Arena will be in sync with the color associated with cancer survivors, including purple jerseys that will be worn by the Griffins, autographed and auctioned off to the public in the Fifth Third Bank Vault restaurant after the game, with proceeds benefiting VAI; 10,000 purple t-shirts that will be handed out as fans enter the arena; purple polo shirts won by the Griffins’ staff; purple concession items such as beer, cotton candy, sno cones, popcorn and cupcakes; purple VAI logos embedded in the arena’s ice surface; and purple game production elements, including songs, videos and LED graphics. In addition to the post-game jersey auction, a brand new set of purple Joey MacDonald goalie equipment will be auctioned off as well. Additionally, Haley Gort, a resident of Caledonia, Mich., who returned to her high school’s basketball team last month after battling cancer for two years, will drop the ceremonial puck before the game, and a salute to cancer survivors will take place during the first intermission. The Griffins are “purpling out” their web site and social media pages to call attention to this special night. The team is also offering prizes to fans who change their profile picture to a “Purple Game” badge, or who post on its wall or tweet about the game. Fans can also text “PURPLE” to 50555 to donate $10 to VAI.
Leading the Pack: Gustav Nyquist enters this week as the AHL’s leading scorer, boasting 57 points (22-35—57) in 54 games. Sitting just two games shy of his rookie season totals (56), Nyquist has already equaled his first-year goal production and is one assist and point away from duplicating the 58 points (22-36—58) that earned him a spot on the AHL All-Rookie Team. Additionally, Nyquist has recorded points in each of the team’s last six games, piling up 12 points (5-7—12) from Feb. 22-March 3. The Halmstad, Sweden, native also leads the club with 17 multipoint contests after registering three consecutive three-point games from Feb. 24-March 1.
Saturday Promotions: In addition to Friday’s “Purple Community Game,” the Griffins will host another popular annual event on Saturday versus Lake Erie in Star Wars Night. The 501st Legion returns for another year, with proceeds benefiting the Griffins Youth Foundation. Over 55 costumed characters will be roaming the arena and interacting with fans. In addition to light sabers and Griffins Star Wars-themed pucks and t-shirts being sold on the concourse, a photo area will be set up on the concourse for fans to get their picture taken with their favorite characters for a small donation. Fans can also bring their skates to the rink and take to the ice after the game, presented by J&H Family Stores. For select games, receive four tickets and $12 in concession cash for a great low price. The package is also valid for the Griffins’ game on April 13. Visit griffinshockey.com/f4p or call (616) 774-4585 ext. 2. Finally, fans can enjoy $16 in total ticket savings and unlimited popcorn refills when they purchase four or more Griffins tickets with the Saturday Night Popcorn Pack. The package is also valid for the Griffins’ game on April 13. Visit griffinshockey.com/popcorn for more information.
And Petr Mrazek's AMA on Reddit was pedestrian in terms of "Ask Me Anything" answers...But Mrazek did reveal that he wants to wear #3 for the Wings if they allow him to do so one day.
In the promotional department: Amongst this week's Red Wings promotions:
1. The Wings are holding viewing parties during the Wings' second-half-of-the-month road trips, and their March 13th party will be held at Strykers Bar and Grille in Westland, with Manny Legace attending, and Darren McCarty will attend their second viewing party, on March 25th at the Applebee's in Woodhaven (conveniently, the Wings have a coupon promotion with Applebee's going on at present);
2. Away from the Joe...
4. Fox Sports Detroit is still asking Wings fans to submit reasons why they deserve a "Man Cave Upgrade," including a 43-inch TV and some...Other stuff...
5. And these Tweets made me smile:
I could have sworn that those damn things were bolted to his skull.
In the programming department: This pisses me off and I hate to say that, but it's true. I will be out of the office from 10:30 AM--when the Wings' morning skate starts--until an undetermined time on Thursday afternoon because I have to take my mom to a doctor's appointment.
I tend to do these things pretty regularly, and I'm genuinely happy to help, but the doctor I'm taking her to today has an office over 50 miles away from where we live (which isn't a big deal--there is a rule about health care if you have access to it, and it goes along the lines of, "If you have a physician that makes a substantial contribution to the quality of your life, you travel to that physician instead of sacrificing the care you receive for the sake of convenience"), and she also tends to run astonishingly late at times. We may make the trip to Sterling Heights and back, with two scheduled stops on the way home, between 10:30 and 12:45, or we may not get back home until 2:30.
So Paul will offer some brief updates from the morning skate, and I'll fill in the blanks when I get home.
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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.