The Malik Report
by George Malik on 11/26/13 at 04:28 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings took an "off day" after playing back-to-back games over the weekend (losing to Ottawa on Saturday and winning against Buffalo on Sunday), and no practice meant a little trip to Montreal for Wings coach Mike Babcock, who was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by McGill University (and fielded a few Canadian Olympic team roster queries) but no practice meant little to nothing in the way of updates regarding Pavel Datsyuk's status.
The Wings will get back to work today, preparing to spend Thanksgiving Evening battling a Boston Bruins team that surrendered a literal last-second game-tying goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins but took a 4-3 OT decision on Monday.
The Wings will also make their annual pre-Christmas trip to Children's Hospital today, and after Wedneday night's game and an "American Thanksgiving" spent in Metro Detroit, the Wings will play a Black Friday matinee on Long Island (4 PM EST start), and they'll then head into the media maelstrom ahead of Daniel Alfredsson's return-to-Ottawa game on Sunday.
I wish I could offer more regarding Datsyuk via Sport-Express's Slava Malamud's interview with Datsyuk, but it a) appears to have occurred prior to Jared Cowen's elbow and b) boy howdy, does its translation to English via Google and Promt indicate a level of linguistic subtlety that I can't toss off as a "rough translation" without offering you garble...
And, and perhaps moreover, aside from Datsyuk tossing off a, "It should be handled professionally" regarding Mikhail Anisin's drunken brawl with a teammate and discussion of his commercial filmed for MegaFon in Metro Detroit and an admission of a desire to take up mushroom hunting, it's not particularly revelatory.
Instead, I'll start what feels like an overnight report worth of odds and ends with this assessment of the "state of the Wings" from one Barry Melrose, penning a column for NHL.com:
Pavel Datsyuk missed the Detroit Red Wings' game on Sunday against the Buffalo Sabres after taking a hit to the head Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators. His return has not been announced, although Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he "seems to be doing fine," but if this ends up being a prolonged absence, it is a huge loss for Detroit. There are no two ways about it.
The Red Wings are lucky in that they're in the Eastern Conference. If they were in the West they would already be on the outside looking in with the inconsistent season they've had. I do think Detroit will be in the mix for the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the season goes on, but if Datsyuk is gone for any considerable length of time that will spell trouble. They don't have many guys scoring consistently, and to lose a guy that not only can score, but also plays against the other team's best players and shuts them down, could be a big problem for a team that doesn't look like it has the depth we once thought it had.
In addition, the Red Wings are managing a big loss on the blue line now that Danny DeKeyser is out 3-6 weeks with a left shoulder injury. Losing one of their top four defensemen will put more pressure on Niklas Kronwall to play bigger, more important minutes. At the same time, Jimmy Howard, who should be one of the top goalies in the NHL, has been good, but I don't think he's been great. That leaves a number of games that should be wins for Detroit that haven't been.
Injuries are a part of the NHL, and they're going to be worse than usual this season because of the congested schedule with the Olympics, but that won't be an excuse in Detroit. Losing Datsyuk and DeKeyser could have an enormous impact on the Red Wings, but overcoming injuries is going to be pivotal throughout the League this season. The Wings are just one example of it.
Let's go from bad news to good news on the "how teams attept to deal with injuries via contribtions from 'support' players" front. As the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness notes, Daniel Cleary's "second stint"' with the Wings has been a few steps away from an unmitigated disaster (hell, Mikael Samuelsson's out-playing him)...
Cleary has not scored in 18 straight games. Last Saturday, Babcock added Cleary to a line with Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi.
“It’s like winning the lottery,” Babcock said of anyone skating on a line with Datsyuk.
As the game progressed Cleary saw his ice time decrease ending with him playing just one shift in the third period of the Wings’ 4-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators.
“We’re hoping ideally that playing with Pav might help him,” Babcock said before the game. “Pav’s a pretty good player and yet we need Pav to be going big-time for us to have success and helping him in some ways is probably more important than helping Cleary. That’s our thought process right now.”
Babcock, whose squad is 2-3-5 over its last 10 games, said afterwards that it wasn’t a benching, he just wanted to see Justin Abdelkader inserted there “for a different look.”
On Sunday, Cleary played his fewest shifts of the season, 14, and registered no shots on goal in just over 11 minutes of ice time.
“It’s in the middle,” Cleary said when asked where his confidence level was. “We’ve all been through it. You have to stay positive, have to stay confident. That’s the only way to get through it.”
But Darren Helm, as it turns out, has turned into one hell of a second-line center, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan notes...
After playing only two games since April 2012 because of a variety of injuries, Helm has five goals in 11 games. Only Pavel Datsyuk (12 goals), Henrik Zetterberg (10 goals) and Johan Franzen (six) have more.
“It’s nice to see the puck going in once in a while,” Helm said after Sunday’s 3-1 victory over Buffalo. “I just have to continue to stick to the basics and focus on that and get my game back to where it needs to be. Pucks are finding me.”
Helm found himself Sunday centering a line with Justin Abdelkader and Daniel Alfredsson. Helm and Alfredsson (empty net) both scored goals and had a number of quality chances.
“It’s a real good line for (Alfredsson because) they do a lot of leg work for him and he can do the thinking,” Babcock said.
Helm also has played on the power play and penalty kill.
“Every time he (Babcock) puts me in big situations, I take it as a personal challenge to play my best and not disappoint the team,” Helm said.
Abdelkader has been a Helm linemate at times throughout their careers and says Helm continues to gain confidence.
“He’s working real hard, skating well, and it’s one of those things where once the puck goes in, you feel more confident and you shoot more pucks,” Abdelkader said. “He’s making plays out there. He’s shooting the puck and it’s going in and that’s huge for us.”
And, as MLive's Brendan Savage notes, while he's missed half a dozen games due to a groin injury, the first part of Daniel Alfredsson's tenure with the Red Wings has gone swimmingly:
"He gets the whole team to calm down a little bit," said Johan Franzen, whose third-period power-play goal against Buffalo was the game-winner. "He says the right things. He's been around long enough. For him to just step in after missing all those games is pretty impressive."
Alfredsson also had an assist vs. the Sabres while playing more than 17 minutes in his first game since Nov. 12, when the Red Wings lost 4-2 in Winnipeg. He played on a line with Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader.
"He's just smart," said coach Mike Babcock. "I don't know if his legs were like he wanted them. He knows how to play. That line with Helm and Abby and him is a real good line because they do a lot of the leg work for him and he can do some thinking for them."
Alfredsson's assist came on Helm's goal 30 seconds into the second period that tied it 1-1.
In statistical news, from DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose:
In Sunday’s 3-1 win at Buffalo, Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg became the fifth-fastest player in franchise history to reach the 700-point plateau.
The captain recorded the primary assist on Johan Franzen’s game-winning goal in the third period for career assist No. 427 in 739 NHL games. Zetterberg also has 273 career goals, which puts him at No. 8 all-time in team history. He is also No. 8 in assists, just eight assists shy from passing Norm Ullman (434).
Zetterberg now ranks second in the league with 28 points in 25 games this season, including seven assists in his last five contests.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Zetterberg is the fifth-fastest Red Wings’ player and eighth-fastest among active league players to reach the 700-point milestone.
FASTEST TO REACH 700 POINTS IN RED WINGS HISTORY
1 Steve Yzerman 519 Games
2 Sergei Fedorov 638 Games
3 Gordie Howe 673 Games
4 Pavel Datsyuk 706 Games
5 Henrik Zetterberg 739 Games
In promotional news of a sort, the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa suggests that Chris Osgood's debut as a Fox Sports Detroit analyst has gone particularly well, all things considered (and googley eyes for the camera aside), and he spoke with Osgood at length about his status as a broadcasting "rookie":
“I wouldn’t say it is total comfort,” Osgood said, describing the process of becoming a broadcaster. “But, I definitely enjoy it. That’s the main thing, which is key for me: I’m having a lot of fun doing it. I’m just starting to realize I’m getting better the more I do it. There’s plenty of room for improvement. But I would think by the end of the year I will have gotten a lot better at it. Going into next year, I’ll be a lot more comfortable with it.”
Coaching goalies with Jim Bedard for the Red Wings was enjoyable, too, Osgood said. And just like his experience in the booth and studio, he said, “a lot more goes into it than I realized. I tell people that if the Grand Rapids Griffins were the Plymouth Griffins instead, I would still be coaching,” he said.
Like nearly every player who retires, Osgood was looking forward to spending a lot more time with a young family than his nine months of hockey allowed. Coaching the Wings’ goalies involved lots of work with the prospects, like Petr Mrazek, the Calder Cup-winning goalie for the Griffins.
“It was two hours there and two hours back, two or three times a week,” Osgood said. “Plus, being gone on weekends watching games. So, I was gone more than I was when I played.”
He is on the road for the broadcasts. But the schedule also allows for much more time at home, when home games are not near Grand Rapids.
“And I did want to try broadcasting. It’s an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often. I thought if I got the opportunity, I’d give it a try.”
Krupa's interview continues, and it's worth your time.
I'm glad that Osgood explained why he's no longer consulting/scouting for the Wings up front. That was a hanging chad and then some.
In the promotional department, part 2: The Windsor Star's Bob Duff did his best to offer a review-without-spilling-the-juicy-details review of Darren McCarty's forthcoming memoir, and the Star reports that Duff's about to embark on a book tour of his own:
Join Windsor Star sports columnist Bob Duff at Cheli’s Chili Bar, 47 East Adams Street in Detroit Sunday where he’ll be launching his new photo history of Hockeytown’s Golden Age.
Original Six Dynasties: The Detroit Red Wings, contains hundreds of previously unseen photographs taken from the archives of the now-defunct Detroit Times newspaper covering the era of the six-team NHL from 1942-67.
Published by Windsor’s Biblioasis literary press, the book features portraits and action shots of the team’s most legendary players of that era including Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Sid Abel, Red Kelly and Terry Sawchuk, as well as many other players who were part of the team’s history during what many consider to be the greatest era of the franchise.
The event begins at 3:30 p.m. for a pre-game talk and book signing by Duff, followed by NHL action on the big screen TVs as the Wings tackle the Senators in Ottawa, Daniel Alfredsson’s first appearance in Canada’s capital since leaving the team to sign as a free agent with Detroit.
Duff will also be making further book-signing appearances in Windsor and Detroit over the next couple of weeks. He will be at the Costco in Windsor at 4411 Walker Rd. on Dec. 6 from 5-7 p.m. On Dec. 10, the official launch of the book in Windsor will take place at the Walkerville Tavern, 1850 Wyandotte St. East, from 7-10 p.m. Duff will make further Detroit-area appearances on Dec. 12 from 2-6 p.m. at the Detroit Metro Airport and on Dec. 14 from 1-3 p.m. at the Novi Public Library, 42555 West Ten Mile Rd.
Original Six Dynasties: The Detroit Red Wings ($29.95 US for hard cover) is available at all area bookstores and on-line at biblioasis.com.
And in the promotional department, part 3:
I'm starting to think that it's going to take Justin Abdelkader all year to switch to those Warrior sticks for good.
In my least favorite category, three slates of power rankings popped up on Monday. TSN's Scott Cullen went with the obvious goalie angle...
This Week 18 Last Week 16 Detroit Red Wings11-7-7
G Jimmy Howard hasn't been at his best this season, but he also hasn't won since November 1, which is opening the door for Jonas Gustavsson to see more action, if only because Gustavsson is 5-0-1 on the season.
Key Injuries: C Pavel Datsyuk (concussion), RW Todd Bertuzzi (upper body).
ESPN's Pierre LeBrun went with the obvious Daniel Alfredsson angle...
13. Detroit 11-7-7 Last Week: 18 Hmmm, wonder if there's a game in Ottawa on Sunday that a certain Red Wing has circled on his calendar?
And CBS Sports' Brian Stubits went with his "gut":
17 [Red Wings, last week 19]: The Red Wings are in playoff position but this just doesn't feel like a playoff team at the moment; their tight win over Buffalo was just their second in 10 games.
And their second in three! Second in three!
The preliminary list of honorees for the proposed Detroit Walk to Fame has been released, and there are 25 sports dignitaries among them. (And Mitch Albom, who is listed under the arts.)
The plan calls for the granite stars to be situated at relevant landmarks across Detroit, though actual construction of the star plaques — about $7,500 each — will hinge on corporate sponsorships, grants and app revenue.
That income stream “will determine how many stars we can lay out in a given year,” said commissioner Herman Jenkins.
Honorees may also fund their own stars, via a nonprofit entity set up by the commission.
Here are the sports stars in line for stars:
■ Sid Abel
■ Jerome Bettis
■ Dave Bing
■ Chauncey Billups
■ Miguel Cabrera
■ Dave Debuscherre
■ Alex Delvecchio
■ Cecil Fielder
■ Kirk Gibson
■ Ernie Harwell
■ Spencer Haywood
■ Tommy Hearns
■ Gordie Howe
■ Mike Ilitch
■ Al Kaline
■ Jackie Kallen
■ Greg Kelser
■ Bill Laimbeer
■ Joe Louis
■ Tom Monaghan
■ Sugar Ray Robinson
■ Barry Sanders
■ Emanuel Steward
■ Isiah Thomas
■ Chris Webber
What do you think? Who’s the biggest snub? And who is on the list who shouldn’t be?
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About The Malik Report
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.