The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/08/13 at 04:16 AM ET
"What a difference a couple of days make" might be the theme of this abbreviated 48-games-in-99-nights season, and the Red Wings have certainly learned as much. After dropping 5 straight games, the Wings have won five of their past seven games, including a 2-1 win over Colorado on Tuesday and Thursday night's 3-0 win over Edmonton.
With 24 games in the books, the Wings sit in 4th place in the Western Conference with 28 points, tied with the Vancouver Canucks, and all seems well...But even the 13th-place Oilers sit only 7 points behind the Wings, and Saturday's opponent, the 15th-place Columbus Blue Jackets, could make up a significant chunk of their 8-point deficit on the Wings by sweeping this weekend's back-to-back games (at 2 PM in Columbus on Saturday and 5 PM in Detroit on Sunday).
The Blue Jackets have won two striaght games, too, including a 2-1 overtime decision over Vancouver on Thursday (in which they lost Derek Dorsett for the season due to a collarbone injury), but that story's for...Later today? Oh, right, it's that 48-games-in-99-nights demolition derby, and the only thing that's certain is that teams have to move on from their wins and losses in a hurry, or they'll be losing their next game if they don't stay in the moment.
In terms of Thursday's game, the Red Wings received significant contributions from the guy who's stealing Ian White's job in Jakub Kindl, their fourth line in Drew Miller and Cory Emmerton, and yet another superb performance from Jimmy Howard, who pitched a 22-save shutout.
The Oilers credited the Wings for taking control of a loosely-officiated game (both teams committed penalties, but the Oilers received only one penalty and the Wings played a penalty-free game) during a 15-shot (out of 28 on the night) second period, as Edmonto coach Ralph Krueger told EdmontonOilers.com's Mark Ciampa...
"We were pleased with the first period. I thought we had out-chanced them at the start and came into the room even trying to build on that and make that a positive with the 0-0 score and things feeling pretty good," said Krueger. "(After the 1-0 goal) for 10 minutes they just dominated us in every category. We lost our defensive coverage, we lost battles and in that time period the game was decided. They were able to pull it to 2-0."
While tied up in the slot, Jakub Kindl swatted at the puck and it managed to find its way through a crowd and beat Dubnyk through the five hole.
"On the 1-0 goal, we lose the battle in front of the puck. Two of our guys against Kindl and he puts it into the net and the game plan just disappeared," said Krueger.
Detroit extended its lead with 7:41 to play in the second. Cory Emmerton fired a rolling puck in the slot top corner past Dubnyk after a dominant series of chances from the Red Wings deep in the Edmonton zone. The Red Wings did a remarkable job staying out of the penalty box as the Oilers had no power plays for the first time this season.
Shots on goal after 40 minutes were 23 to 13 for the host Red Wings but the Oilers did make a game of it in the third.
"I thought the team came back in the third and put in an effort, losing [Ales] Hemsky took away a bit of our offensive punch but there was an effort there to try and get us back in the game but with the experience of Detroit there was not enough energy to resist that."
Hemsky exited the game after he blocked a shot in the second period, and the Oilers don't expect to have his services when they play the Predators this evening (yes, the Oilers have to move on in a hurry, too) in game 7 of a 9-game road swing, and as the Oilers are struggling on said road swing, Krueger pulled fewer punches toward his team while speaking to the Edmonton Journal's Joanne Ireland...
The Oilers, now winless in four, are 8-10-5 with a game looming Friday against the Nashville Predators. They have won just one game since Feb. 25, they’ve been outshot in 15 of the 23 games they’ve played this season. And for the first time this season, they were shut out by an opponent.
“The game plan just disappeared. Disappeared,” said head coach Ralph Krueger. “For 10 minutes they just dominated us in every category. We lost our defensive coverage, we lost battles, and in that time period, the game was decided. I thought the team put in an effort in the third ... but with the experience of Detroit, we just didn’t have enough energy to resist that. There’s no excuse for this one,” Krueger continued. “We cannot stop playing for 10 minutes against the Detroit Red Wings and expect to get points. We just stopped playing for 10 minutes and that was enough.”
“You’re not going to win games scoring zero goals,” said Oilers winger Taylor Hall. “That’s on us. That’s on the top two lines. It took them a period to get their legs and once that second period came, we got on our heels. When we’re playing in our end, it’s hard to score. We have to work to get out of our end as quick as possible and limit those chances.”
The Wings ended up neutralizing the Oilers' top two lines at the expense of the Wings' own offense, but it worked to the Wings' benefit thanks to something of a knucklepuck effort by Kindl, despite being pursued by three Oilers players:
“On that first one, I was coming across on my knees and as soon as I lost sight of it, I started to get up and he whacked at it,” said Dubnyk. “It came through a guy’s feet and caught me right below my hand. It’s disappointing. We just can’t keep going back to the same things and not have the puck in their end. We can’t just keep doing it or nothing is going to change. We can’t just sit in here and say all the right things and not have things change. We have to go do it. It’s up to us.”
Hall told the Edmonton Sun's Derek Van Diest that they had prepared for what was coming after the Wings played a bit tentatively in the first, but the Oilers couldn't stop the Wings' onslaught:
“We knew they were going to come out really hard at home and it took them a period to get their legs,” Hall said. “Once that second period came, we kind of got on our heels for a few shifts, and once we got down 2-0, it didn’t seem like anything we shot at the net was going to go in and we really didn’t get the bounces.”
After a scoreless first, Kindl put the home side up, whacking away at a loose puck in front which slipped past Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk. Emmerton increased the lead later in the period taking a pass in the slot and picking the top corner.
“I don’t think that was the defensive zone that we wanted to play and against a group like that, they’ll make you pay for it and that’s what happened,” said Dubnyk. “On that first goal, I came across on my knees and as soon as I lost sight of it, I started to get up and I was half getting up and he whacked it and it came through a guy’s feet and it went through right below my hand. It was kind of a weird one, I almost had it, but it was a bad spot for me between getting up and staying down.”
A post and couple of solid stops from Dubnyk prevented the Red Wings from increasing their lead in the period, having out-shot the Oilers 15-7 in the frame. Adding to the Oilers misery in the period was the loss of Ales Hemsky, who took a Kindl point-shot off his right foot and had to leave the game. According to Krueger, x-rays were negative, but Hemsky will likely not be available against the Nashville Predators Friday.
“The second period, that phase for all of us, including the players was extremely disappointing,” said Krueger. “You need to bottle up the anger you feel right now and turn it into something good in Nashville. It’s something that I’ve seen in this group. We’re not quitters, we’ve lost our way, but I don’t believe it was a lack of effort, it was a lack of concept that lost it for us.”
So the Oilers prepared to move on, and EdmontonOilers.com's Wendy Mach placed the game "under the scope":
The Turning Point: Tied up in the slot, Jakub Kindl's wrister in the second period managed to beat Devan Dubynk through the five hole, providing the Red Wings with the game-winning goal at (time of the goal). Kindl's goal was his second of the season.
Play of the Game: Corey Emmerton's goal in the second provided the Red Wings with some breathing room as he was coming off the bench for a change and caught the Oilers by surprise. He was able to skate through unnoticed and shoot it from the slot for his second goal of the season. Emmerton had a +1 rating on the night in 11:42 of ice time.
The MVP: Jimmy Howard stopped all 22 shots on net to give him his second shutout of the season and the 13th of his career. In the last five games, Howard has allowed only seven goals, giving him a save percentage of 0.915 this season.
1: Number of games where the the Oilers were held scoreless this season
34: Points in 40 games for Pavel Datsyuk against the Oilers
26: Hits in the game for the Oilers
21: Blocked shots compared to the Red Wings 14 blocked shots
As you probably know, I get cranky when the Wings fire more shots wide of the net or into opposing players than they do on the opposing team's goalie, and they happened to fire 28 on Devan Dubnyk--and 35 wide or into Oilers players. So I was and am not amused about that factoid.
The Associated Press's Noah Trister's recap serves as our pivot point between the Oilers and Red Wings' perspectives...
"I think we're playing really well as a team right now. We're doing a lot of great things," Howard said. "When you work hard and you pay attention to detail, good things happen."
Howard made 36 saves in a win Tuesday against Colorado, but coach Mike Babcock wasn't all that impressed with his team's overall performance that night. The Red Wings were sharper defensively against Edmonton and took control in the second period, when they outshot the Oilers 15-7.
Detroit is 10-0-1 in its last 11 regular-season games against Edmonton. The Oilers are 0-3-1 in their last four games overall.
After a scoreless first period -- a shot off the crossbar by Detroit's Kyle Quincey was the only noteworthy moment -- the Red Wings looked a bit more energized in the second. Jordin Tootoo fought with Edmonton's Mike Brown early in the period, and Kindl opened the scoring less than a minute later. Kindl was caught between two Oilers when he managed a shot that slipped through goalie Devan Dubnyk and trickled across the line for a 1-0 lead.
The Red Wings added their second goal after some sustained pressure when Emmerton took a pass from Drew Miller and beat Dubnyk high to the stick side from the slot.
"I think I kind of got lost in the change and came in a little bit higher than they expected, but it's nice to get that little bit of open space," Emmerton said. "You don't really get those open-ice chances too often, especially right in the slot."
Howard had to make a couple of terrific saves against the Avalanche and came within 90 seconds of a shutout in that game. He wasn't tested as much by Edmonton, even after the Oilers pulled their goalie with more than 2 minutes remaining. Abdelkader's empty-netter was his first goal of the season.
As Trister notes, the Wings have a pretty ugly rest of the month ahead--the Wings will play 11 more times, but have 3 home games remaining--Sunday's game against Columbus, a March 20th tilt against Minnesota (after the team spends next week traveling to Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver), and a game against the Blackhawks on March 21st (after an "on the road and still on the road" set of games in Anaheim, a game against Phoenix and then a game against San Jose), so the Wings needed to make hay while the sun shone on their 4-game home stand.
Mission accomplished, in no small part due to an increasingly indispensable player in Cory Emmerton, as DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose notes. Roose says that Wings coach Mike Babcock didn't believe that Emmerton would fit on the team's crowded roster at the start of the season, but he's made a home for himself in Detroit:
“Well, he's played every game and gotten more and more ice time and played 15 minutes (against Chicago),” Babcock said. “Just shows you what injuries do, they provide opportunity. When you get that opportunity you got to grab it.”
Emmerton made the most of his chances Thursday, particularly a second-period sequence when Pavel Datsyuk came off after breaking his stick. Emmerton came off the bench on the change and slipped undetected into the slot.
“I kind of got lost in the change and came in a little bit higher than they expected,” said Emmerton, who ripped a slap shot past Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk. “It’s nice to get that little bit of open space. You don’t get it too often.”
Emmerton’s linemate Drew Miller credit his center with making a heads up play that put the Wings up 2-0 at 12:19 of the middle frame.
“When you come off the bench you go down the middle and try to get open for the guys cycling,” Miller said. “I had the chance to find him in the spot there and he made a nice shot.”
Last season Emmerton averaged eight minutes of ice-time. This season, he’s over the 10-minute mark and gaining confidence in himself and among his teammates with every game. Emmerton’s line provided high-energy all night, including Jordin Tootoo, who engaged Oilers enforcer Mike Brown in a fight. Brown, the former University of Michigan standout, was was acquired from Toronto this week.
A shift or two prior to scoring his first goal in 14 games, Emmerton’s hustle on the forecheck was on display in the Oilers’ zone. During the shift, he battled defenseman Jeff Petry for the puck behind the Edmonton net, got off two shots and for good measure, blasted defenseman Ladislav Smid into the end boards with a good, clean body check.
“All season we’ve talked, Millsy and Toots, about playing some pretty good hockey and created some energy,” Emmerton said. “We’ve had a lot of Grade A scoring chances and it’s one of those things where you’ve got to get one and hopefully you start to get a few. … Tonight we got one and hopefully we can continue to roll with that.”
All of a sudden, the Wings have secondary scoring galore despite starting the season with only Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Damien Brunner, Johan Franzen and Niklas Kronwall denting the back of the net, and that's a good thing, as Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji notes...
“Secondary scoring is huge," said Miller, who assisted on Emmerton's goal. "You count on it in the playoffs, you count on it when the big guys aren’t having their best night or they’re not getting the goals. So everyone has to chip in here and there. I think the way we started the season, I think it was 10 games no one in the bottom six had a point — or something like that — but we take pride in our role and we want to chip in. So we’re working at that."
The Wings hope that the injuries they've suffered will end up helping down the road as the younger players have had a chance to prove themselves at the NHL level.
"It's given a lot of guys a chance, and I think all the guys have done a really good job of filling in to roles and playing with different guys, playing in certain situations that they might not get a chance to play in if we're healthy," Abdelkader said. "I think in the long run it's going to make us that much better for it and show us that we've got a lot of great depth and it'll be a good thing moving forward."
And while Justin Abdelkader's goal was an empty-netter, it should go a long way toward making him feel like he can actually put the puck in the net:
Justin Abdelkader, who hadn't scored since March 10 of last year in Nashville, a 36-game drought, finally got the empty-netter with 1:10 left in the third period, ensuring a 3-0 victory over the young Edmonton Oilers.
"Long time coming," a relieved Abdelkader said. "It feels like I haven’t scored in about five years. Sometimes it’s those kind of goals, maybe off your body or whatever parts that will get you going. I felt good. I had some chances. Hopefully, I get a few more breaks here."
Abdelkader was not one of the players who went to Europe during the lockout, and coach Mike Babcock said it showed in the early going.
"I thought Abby had his best game," Babcock said. "When he first started this year, he was probably surprised what being off hockey did to him. As much as he trained and he’s a fitness guy, when you’re a big body and you haven't played, you don't skate like you (can). I thought Abby skated great tonight and obviously was a contributor for us for sure."
Babcock told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that the team's second period performance did in fact carry the day...
“We didn’t skate as well or execute as well as we would have liked in the first period, but in saying that we got better and it was a pretty complete game for us,” Babcock said. “We didn’t give up much and our goalie was under way less duress than the other night. This sets us up for our road game here.”
“This last run we’ve had we’ve played way better defensively than we have, with the exception of our last game, we’ve played real well,” Babcock said. “I thought our fourth line was outstanding, (Joakim) Andersson was unreal, a really good player for us and Emmerton’s line was good as well. So we had all our lines on deck tonight going.”
The shutout was Howard’s second of the season and 13th for his career.
“I think we’re playing well as a team,” Howard said. “We’re doing a lot of great things. We’ve been playing real well for a while now, focusing on the details and doing the little things right.”
It’s the fifth straight game the Wings have not allowed a goal by the opposition through two periods.
“There’s a lot of talk in our own zone right now,” Howard said. “Guys are trusting one another to do their jobs, and second efforts and blocking shots.”
Over the Wings’ last five games they’ve scored just eight goals, this after putting up eight in one game on Vancouver.
The Red Wings are 5-1-1 in their past seven games, having allowed only eight goals. They reached the midway point of this lockout-shortened season with 28 points, at 12-8-4. They play 15 of their final 24 games on the road.
“I think we've made a lot of great strides,'' said Howard, who had shutouts spoiled in the waning minutes of his previous two starts. “We just got to continue working hard, focus on doing the little things right. If we can continue to pin teams in their own end and keep the third man high and not turn the puck over, we'll be fine.''
“It was a pretty complete game for us,'' Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We didn’t give up much and our goalie was under way less duress than (Tuesday vs. Colorado). We’ve had we’ve played way better defensively, with the exception of our last game. I thought our fourth line was outstanding; (Joakim) Andersson was unreal, a really good player for us tonight, and Emmerton’s line was good as well. So we had all lines on deck. We’re getting better on our back end and that’s going right through our lineup. We’ve had more guys contributing.''
The Red Wings have not allowed in goal in the first two periods in each of their past five games.
“It seemed like we had a lot of puck possession and grind time down low,'' defenseman Brendan Smith said. “The biggest thing was to stay on them, grind it out and make sure we kept a lot of pressure on them. I guess your best defense is your best offense.''
“We might not be scoring six or seven goals a game, but we know we have to play tight defensively and I think we’ve been doing a good job of that,'' Abdelkader said. “And Howie has been playing really well.''
"Yeah, it's one of those things that every team's going to go through it," Abdelkader said of the brutal travel schedule in the compacted season. "And we know we've got to take care of our home ice because we're going to be in the same situation in a few weeks here. ...Whether they're tired from the games or the travel or whatever it is, we're not making excuses for them or for us. We're just going to go out and try to play our game and do what we can."
The Oilers played their sixth game in a nine-game trip that began Feb. 25 -- and they looked weary while losing their fourth straight. They struggled to keep pace with the Wings. They couldn't sustain pressure in the Wings' zone and late in the third period they were pinned in their defensive zone by the Wings' tenacious effort that brought rousing applause from the sellout crowd of 20,066 at the Joe.
"Our fourth line was outstanding," Babcock said. "(Joakim) Andersson was unreal. He was a really good player for us tonight. Emmerton's line was good as well, so we had all our lines on deck tonight going."
That also included a top-notch defensive effort from players like Kindl, Brian Lashoff and Brendan Smith. "Our D's better than it was," Babcock said, "skating better and moving better."
Fox Sports Detroit's Darren Eliot, penning a column for Michigan Hockey, believes that the Wings' defensive progress will serve them well going forward (again, let's hope that he's right):
So, after dominating the second and taking a 2-0 lead into the third, the only question was: Would the Wings sit back as they did in the same situation on Tuesday night against the Colorado Avalanche? The answer was a resounding “No.” The Wings kept the pressure on the Oilers, giving them little hope in terms of a comeback. When the puck did get to the net, Jimmy Howard was there.
So, after a 0-3-2 skid, the Red Wings have grabbed the wheel and straightened out many facets of their game. They head into a home-and-home weekend series against the Columbus Blue Jackets on a 5-1-1 run that feels real. It may look different than years past, but this positive run is steeped in defense first and contributions from many.
That's the way the Wings will have to play on the road to succeed, because the season's "long haul" is yet to come.
Highlights: The Red Wings website's highlight clip is narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
Fox Sports Detroit posted clips of Justin Abdelkader's post-game interview and Mike Babcock's presser...
And the Red Wings' website posted clips of Jimmy Howard...
And coach Mike Babcock speaking to the press:
If you missed 'em, the Wings also posted a video promoting the Toast of Hockeytown on March 18th, and then there's this:
Photos: The Detroit News posted a 30-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 22-image gallery;
Michigan Hockey posted a 30-image gallery;
MLive posted a 5-image gallery;
The Edmonton Sun posted an 8-image gallery;
The Edmonton Journal posted a 5-image gallery;
The Windsor Star posted 5 big pictures from the game;
ESPN posted a 34-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted about 10 images in its currently messed-up Wings gallery;
NHL.com, the Oilers' website and the Red Wings' website posted 25-image galleries (and the Wings' website posted a 30-image gallery of Henrik Zetterberg handing out smoke detectors to local police and fire departments).
Shots 28-22 Detroit overall. The Wings out-shot Edmonton 8-6 in the 1st, out-shot Edmonton 15-7 in the 2nd and were out-shot 9-5 in the 3rd.
The Wings went 0-for-1 on the game's only power play.
Jimmy Howard stopped 22 of 22 shots; Devan Dubnyk stopped 25 of 27, and Abdelkader's goal was an empty-netter.
The 3 stars were picked by ESPN's Craig Custance, and they were Brendan Smith, Jimmy Howard and Cory Emmerton.
The Wings' goals: Kindl (2) from Eaves (5) and Lashoff (3);
Emmerton (2) from Miller (3) and Datsyuk (16);
Abdelkader (1) from Zetterberg (20) and Brunner (8), empty net.
Faceoffs 36-25 Detroit (Detroit won 59%);
Blocked shots 21-14 Edmonton;
Missed shots 14-6 Detroit (the Wings had 61 shot attempts, with 35 going wide or into Edmonton players, and the Oilers had 42 shot attempts);
Hits 26-15 Edmonton;
Giveaways an ugly 9-3 Detroit;
Takeaways 10-6 Detroit.
Individual stats, TMR style:
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 18-and-7 (72%); Zetterberg went 13-and-7 (65%); Emmerton went 2-and-7 (22%); Andersson went 1-and-3 (25%); Miller lost his only faceoff; Eaves and Franzen won their only faceoffs.
Shots: Abdelkader led the team with 5 shots; Emmerton had 4; Zetterberg had 3; Smith, Kindl, Cleary, Datsyuk, Eaves and Lashoff had 2; Brunner, Quincey, Andersson and Franzen had 1.
Blocked attempts: Kindl had 3 attempts blocked by Edmonton players; Datsyuk, Tatar, Brunner, Quincey, Zetterberg and Kronwall had 2 attempts blocked;
Missed shots: Brunner missed the net 3 times; Miller and Tatar missed the net 2 times; Smith, Eaves, Quincey, Zetterberg, Ericsson, Andersson and Franzen missed the net 1 time;
Hits: Ericsson led the team with 4 hits; Abdelkader, Cleary and Tootoo had 2; Tatar, Lashoff, Emmerton, Quincey and Kronwall had 1.
Giveaways: Franzen had 3 giveaways; Kindl had 2; Datsyuk, Tootoo, Ericsson and Andersson had 1.
Takeaways: Franzen also had 3 takeaways; Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Tatar, Tootoo, Brunner, Zetterberg and Kronwall had 1.
Blocked shots: Datsyuk and Kronwall blocked 3 shots; Emmerton and Quincey blocked 2; Smith, Kindl, Abdelkader and Lashoff blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Tootoo took a major for fighting.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +15. Kindl finished at +2; Smith, Abdelkader, Cleary, Eaves, Miller, Tatar, Lashoff, Brunner, Emmerton, Quincey, Zetterberg, Kronwall and Andersson finished at +1.
Points: Kindl, Abdelkader and Emmerton had goals; Datsyuk, Eaves, Miller, Brunner and Zetterberg had assists.
Ice time: Quincey led the team with 22:43 played; Smith played 22:26; Kronwall played 22:17;
Datsyuk played 20:31; Ericsson played 20:13; Zetterberg played 19:58;
Abdelkader played 19:42; Franzen played 19:24; Brunner played 19:10;
Cleary played 17:49; Kindl played 16:37; Lashoff played 14:42;
Miller played 12:45; Emmerton played 11:42; Eaves played 11:19;
Tatar played 9:44; Andersson played 9:41; Tootoo played 9:07.
Red Wings notebooks: The NHLPA really had no choice but to provisionally accept the NHL's realignment proposal, and they did just that on Thursday, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted:
"The NHL Players Association confirmed to us that it has consented to a revised Plan for Realignment, effective for the 2013-14 season," ]NHL deputy commissioner] Daly said. "Our next step will be to bring the proposed Plan for Realignment to the NHL Board of Governors for its consideration. We will update the status of the process as future developments warrant."
That Board of Governors are expected to meet at some point next week. Don Fehr, the NHL Players Association executive director, said in a statement: "After discussions with the Executive Board, the NHLPA has given consent to realignment, to be re-evaluated following the 2014-15 season."
The Red Wings and Blue Jackets are currently the lone Eastern time zone teams in the Western Conference. (Columbus is also moving into the East under the revamped realignment.)
"It's awesome," goaltender Jimmy Howard said of the Red Wings moving to the Eastern Conference. "These West Coast swings, they take a lot out of us, you guys, but also the fans who stay and watch us late at night. To play in the Eastern time zone will be very beneficial. We want to play in the East. Last year we were one of the teams that wanted to play in the East. Hopefully it'll go through."
The union rejected a proposed alignment last year in which the Red Wings were based in a Midwest Division with mostly Central time zone teams. The union rejected the plan largely because of concerns about travel and the imbalanced split of 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 in the Western Conference. The imbalance remains in this present realignment.
"We'll see how it all shakes out," said Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader, an assistant player representative. "It'll be different for everyone. We'll kind of see how it goes. Hopefully it'll be good for the game."
Under the proposed realignment, the Red Wings would be grouped with the Original Six rival Maple Leafs, Bruins and Canadiens, along with the Sabres, Senators, Lightning and Panthers in what would be the Central Division of the Eastern Conference.
The Red Wings have long wanted to be moved to the Eastern Conference, where the vast majority of the games will be in the Eastern time zone — no more long West Coast trips — improving TV ratings and cutting down considerably on travel. The ability to re-establish rivalries with the Maple Leafs (with which the Red Wings likely will play in the 2014 Winter Classic), Canadiens and Bruins is a bonus in the equation.
According to the Free Press's Helene St. James, things should "shake out" in a hurry:
"Will immediately be in touch with the Board to determine best way to proceed," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Free Press. "Hope to conclude process within a week or so."
When news of the proposal surfaced last month, the Wings welcomed it.
"We know how to deal with it, we've traveled back-and-forth across the United States quite a bit, but to move to the East, I think that would be a lot of fun," goaltender Jimmy Howard said. "That would be great for our fans, too, not having to stay up till all hours of the night to watch us."
The NHLPA, which scuttled a different realignment proposal in December 2011, spent several weeks analyzing this version before signing off. Executive director Don Fehr released a statement Thursday afternoon saying, "After discussions with the Executive Board, the NHLPA has given consent to realignment, to be re-evaluated following the 2014-15 season."
The Wings have been toiling in the Western Conference's Central Division, where they are the only Eastern-time-zone team besides Columbus. That has made for a lot of hard travel, especially in the playoffs -- like in 2007, when the Wings played Calgary, San Jose and Anaheim.
The other divisions, as they are called at the moment, would have one with Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, N.Y. Islanders, N.Y. Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington. The two western conferences would have one with Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg. The other would be Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver.
Other changes would see every team play a home-and-away with every other team. In the playoffs, the top-three teams in each division would be in, along with four wild-card teams drawn from the top two nondivision winners in each conference.
The news should soothe the Wings as they prepare to be gone for most of March. Next week, they leave for three games in four nights to Western Canada, starting with Calgary on Wednesday. They come home for one game -- March 20 against Minnesota -- after which they will immediately leave for Anaheim, where they play two games (March 22 and 24), then swing over to Phoenix, then to San Jose.
Otherwise, the topic of the day in terms of Wings notebooks involves visor usage, in light of Marc Staal's eye injury, and the WXYZ posted both a video and story from David Solano...
"You know, we kind of went around the locker room after we saw it [video clip of Staal] today and counted all my guys [who] don't have a visor," said Abdelkader. "I think it's about five guys."
NHL players are not required to wear visors, but Staal's incident has renewed the debate on making them mandatory across the league.
"It's protection, right," said Tomas Tatar, a Red Wings forward. "It's protecting your eyes and your upper head. Obviously you're really avoiding the risk [of injury] if you have it [visor]."
"It was mandatory over in Finland, " said Valtteri Filppula, a Red Wings forward, who played for the Grand Rapids Griffins before being called up. "I got used to it, and then when I came over here it was mandatory in the AHL [American Hockey League], too. I never even really thought of taking it out. "
The National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) says that approximately 73 percent of players are wearing visors this season. That's up from 69 percent in 2011-12. Staal's injury is an unfortunate reminder of the dangers players can face if they do not wear a protective visor.
"The guys are educated," Jimmy Howard, a Red Wings goalie, said. "They know what the risk entails out there. We're playing a very high speed game, where things happen in a second. I think it's still a personal preference."
Danny Cleary told the Edmonton Journal's Joanne Ireland that he doesn't believe visors should be mandatory, despite the fact that he's wearing one at the behest of his wife after suffering an eye injury...
“I do believe it should be grandfathered,” said Cleary, who didn’t wear a visor until he left the Oilers and suffered an eye injury with the Red Wings. “I mean it would be hard to tell Todd Bertuzzi to wear a visor. It could affect guys’ careers, because it is a big adjustment. But I’ve always said the best players in the world have a visor, and they see the ice pretty well. Not many kids coming in today aren’t coming in without a visor, it’s not like the old days,” Cleary continued, “but making it mandatory? I don’t know. I had to wear it. I just had to suck it up. No matter what, I wouldn’t take if off now. It’s saved me a lot of times.”
But Red Wings coach Mike Babcock doesn't like that kind of talk, as the Windsor Star's Bob Duff noted:
The Red Wings witnessed a close call of their own earlier this season when right-winger Todd Bertuzzi was accidentally clipped in the eye with the stick of Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn. Like Staal, Bertuzzi suffered no permanent damage. Currently out with a back injury, Bertuzzi returned to the ice following his eye mishap sans visor.
"It happened to Bert this year," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "Bert's 38, I know his family and his kids. I would hate for Bert to walk around for the rest of his life with eye problems, so to me it's a simple thing you can do. You think it's never going to happen to you, but it does happen to people.But I also think it's one of those decisions the athlete's got to make, whether they're comfortable."
Cleary looks at some of the best players in the game - including teammates Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg - and doesn't seen any effect to their game from donning a visor."I've always said the best players in the world have a visor on and they see the ice pretty good," Cleary said.
[Oilers forward Taylor] Hall would be included among that group, and any suggestion of ever playing the game without a visor is a nonstarter with him.
"As far as I'm concerned, I'll always wear one," Hall said. "I feel protected when I do."
With each passing season, more players agree with him, and it won't be long until visors are unanimous. It only makes sense.
"I think a lot of players are considering it and hopefully, more guys will start to wear them," Detroit centre Valtteri Filppula said.
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness provides an update regarding Filppula's shoulder injury...
Valtteri Filppula (left shoulder) skated again on his own Thursday.
“I feel better, definitely,” Filppula said. “I’m able to shoot a little bit now and skating feels good. I still can’t really tell (how much longer I’m out) because I don’t know, but it feels a lot better.”
Filppula said it looks like he won’t play this weekend. He’s aiming for next week.
And if you missed it, the Free Press's Carlos Monarrez repeated Ian White's not-quite-a-trade-demand demand:
Ian White has not asked the Red Wings to trade him, but he has asked general manager Ken Holland and coach Mike Babcock about how he figures into the team's plans. White was scheduled to be a healthy scratch for the fifth straight game Thursday night against the visiting Edmonton Oilers. He hasn't played since he was minus-two in 23 shifts Feb. 24 against the Vancouver Canucks.
"No, we're not there yet. We're not there yet," White said of trade talk. "But I was just voicing this is Game 5, and you play so many games in such a fast period that it can get away from you pretty quick. You look after the weekend, it'll be seven straight games if you don't play. And, for his sake, where do I fit? And for him, we have (Carlo) Colaiacovo coming back right away, too. So you just try to get a determination of where (Babcock) thinks you fit and where Ken thinks you fit, now and going forward as well."
White, Nicklas Lidstrom's partner last year on the top defensive pairing, has gone from enjoying the limelight to fending off a pall cast by his frustration over a lack of playing time and concern about losing his sharpness.
"Just mentally, you've got to stay positive," White said. "Times like this you question your abilities. You can't do that. You've got to stay true to yourself. You've had success in the past, you know how to play the game. When you do get that next opportunity, you've just got to go back to playing the way you know how."
While White remains certain of his ability, he is entirely uncertain about when he will be able to display that ability again.
"I'm confident I can contribute," he said. "I'm sure, from speaking with them, they've made it clear they want to keep me around. I just hope by keeping me around means putting me in the lineup. Hopefully I get back in soon and I forget about this."
Also: regarding staged fights, somewhat ironically, Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika spoke to the Wings and Oilers' respective combatants about the issue...
There is no question arenas roar when players drop the gloves. There is no doubt that fights release tension and keep players honest. And even though the science is still evolving, the players know more than ever before what they could be doing to their brains. It is informed consent, or close.
“Obviously,” said the Detroit Red Wings’ Jordin Tootoo, “you’re putting yourself at risk.”
But staged fights aren’t a reaction to the actual game. They’re only about show business or energy or intimidation or toughness. That’s it.
“I think the biggest thing is creating emotion out there,” said Tootoo, who fought twice off the opening faceoff earlier this season. “I think it’s just a spontaneous decision. Obviously you want to get off to a good start. The first five minutes of every game is huge. Setting the tone right off the bat could be the key to a big win.”
“Most of my fights are in the first period,” said the Edmonton Oilers’ Mike Brown, among the league leaders with five fights. “Just whenever necessary in my head. For me, I like to get energy in the game, whether it’s the start of the game or the start of a shift.”
And again, Cotsonika asked Niklas Kronwall about the "Norris for Kronwall" talk, and received a solid response:
The Wings’ Niklas Kronwall entered Thursday night second among defensemen in scoring with 18 points. But he scoffs at the idea he is a Norris candidate. “Stats only say so much, I think,” he said. “I know I need to be better.” He singled out one stat – his minus-3 – and said he needs to be more consistent in his own end and needs to make better decisions with the puck. “I have a few more levels to reach before I’m really satisfied,” he said.
Otherwise, if you wish to read the Edmonton Journal's Bruce McCurdy's Oilers player grades, you may do so;
At some point later this morning, you'll be able to access a story the Edmonton Sun's Derek Van Diest wrote about the fact that Oilers defenseman Justin Schultz and Wings defenseman Brendan Smith were teammates at the University of Wisconsin, but right now, the link takes you to a 404 error page;
The Worchester Telegram's Bill Balou reports that Larry Murphy will be honored by the Worchester Hockey Hall of Fame on Sunday, but it's not the same Larry Murphy that works for Fox Sports Detroit and has space goggles bolted to his skull;
Speaking of this weekend, the Wings are holding a "Social Media Meet-Up" in Columbus on Saturday...
BE SOCIAL IN COLUMBUS: Wanna watch Saturday's game with us for free and get some cool prizes? Come to our Amway US Meet-Up on Saturday in Columbus from 2:00-5:00 PM at The Three-Legged Mare during our game against the Blue Jackets!
We'll be hosting trivia contests and giving away signed gear, shirts, Fatheads, and more! EVERYONE who comes down will walk away with at least 1 Red Wings prize!
We'll provide some free appetizers, $4 Pints of Red Beer, one-time-only Red Wing Slap-Shots for $3, and over 60 different beers on tap!
Wear your Red Wings gear and come meet fellow followers, talk hockey with the Red Wings Social Media team, and hang out with other Wings fans!
The event starts at 2:00 PM and goes til 5:00 PM. Let's take Columbus by storm!
And in the prospect department:
In the OHL, Andreas Athanasiou didn't register a point in the Barrie Colts' 5-1 win over Sudbury;
Ryan Sproul scored a goal but finished at a -2 in the Soo Greyhounds' 7-4 loss to Windsor;
And finally, the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner reports that tonight's "Purple Game" between the Grand Rapids Griffins and the Hamilton Bulldogs is one of the last games the Griffins will play at Van Andel Arena for some time to come:
The Griffins have just four home games this month, and two of them are Friday and Saturday, against Hamilton and Lake Erie. Then, in keeping with the challenges of the 15-game month, the team then departs Saturday night for an afternoon away game Sunday at Hamilton.
The home games provide a respite in the most rugged stretch of the season as it marks a third consecutive weekend with three consecutive games.
Last weekend the team was in Milwaukee for two games with a trip to Peoria sandwiched in between. Before that, going back to the end of February, it was an away game at Rockford followed by a trip back for back-to-back home games against San Antonio.
Friday’s home game does carry special meaning as the Griffins host their second “Purple Community Game” to benefit the Van Andel Institute and cancer research. The Griffins will wear purple jerseys and purple T-shirts will be given to the first 10,000 fans. Purple Community members hosted 84 events throughout Michigan in 2012 and raised more than $350,000 disease research and science education at Van Andel Institute.
So far, the Griffins have endured. They split the past six games and remain atop the Midwest Division at 32-19-2-2, and five points ahead of Chicago. Hamilton, the Griffins’ opponent for two games this weekend, is at the bottom of the Western Conference at 23-27-1-5.
Grand Rapids’ second-year winger Gustav Nyquist, following a five-point weekend, leads the AHL in scoring with 57 points (22-35-57) in 54 games. He has points in each of the team’s past six games, and leads the team with 17 multipoint games.
After this weekend, the Griffins will be home Wednesday, March 13 (Chicago), and Saturday, March 22 (Lake Erie).
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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.