The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/25/13 at 05:24 AM ET
I'm going to start an entry I wouldn't normally write with a set of announcements I normally wouldn't state:
1. I may or may not split up recaps and overnight reports from now on, depending on your feedback. I've done so for the Wings-Predators and now the Wings-Canucks games simply because there's so much going on during the weekends in terms of notes, quotes and prospect news that I run out of room, especially on back-to-back nights, so this seems a little less unwieldy;
2. And I may or may not take part or all of Monday off. I'd been planning on taking half of Monday off because my trusty laptop's left monitor joint fell victim to a loose screw that disappeared, and I need to get that replaced. The laptop's hard drive is also starting to sound a little unhappy, however, and as all I've got at present is this laptop, if there's an issue with the hard drive that involves more than me simply applying too much pressure to steady the off-balance laptop with my left hand, then Paul may have to fill in with short-form stuff for all of Monday.
The Wings don't practice today; they'll fly out West on Red Bird III to face the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday and the San Jose Sharks on Thursday. The team then heads back to the Joe to tangle with Chicago, as DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose notes in his "This Week in Hockeytown" article...
Having staking four points out of a possible six, the Red Wings’ players are beginning to feel a little better about themselves following back-to-back crushing wins over Nashville and Vancouver at Joe Louis Arena. But the wins, where they outscored the Predators and Canucks by a combined 12-3 score, will be a distance memory by the time the team lands in southern California Monday evening.
“It’s a better feeling when you’re winning games, but in saying that, those five games that we lost … we still have to get back to a winning streak,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We have to go down and win games. We have to regroup and starting Wednesday we have to be good again.”
Only three games are on the schedule this week, however, with the added burden of traveling across three time zones and back-to-back games in Los Angeles and San Jose, wins again won’t be easy.
“It is a tough week for us and it’s the first time we’re going to the West Coast, as well,” Zetterberg said. “The time difference and all that comes with it, we have to be ready for it. Hopefully, we can get some bodies back too, and win some games.”
In the last four seasons, the Red Wings are 11-9-4 on the road in California.
The Wings return home next Sunday to face the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks, who remain unbeaten in regulation this season. The Wings took the Blackhawks to overtime, but lost when Nick Leddy scored at 2:45.
Which I will allow you to continue reading on your own for his scouting reports--though I must mention that Roose points out that the Kings have gone 5-and-1 since losing to the Wings two Sundays ago...
Because news of the Wings' possible realignment assignment in an Eastern time zone "conference" took the hockey world by storm, and happily surprised the Wings' players when they were confronted with the news after Saturday night's win.
The Globe and Mail's David Shoalts summarizes said plan while receiving a predictable quip from Red Wings GM Ken Holland...
Under the new proposal, the teams will again be grouped by time zones but Detroit and Columbus were moved to the more eastern conferences. There will still be two eight-team conferences and two seven-team conferences but the playoff inequity may be addressed by adding wild-card teams.
Detroit would join a conference with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. All of those teams are in the Eastern time zone, as are those in a second conference that the Blue Jackets would join.
However, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said he has not heard anything from the league about this proposal. But he said the Red Wings have not changed their desire to head east.
“We want to be in the east and we did vote for the four-conference proposal and a midwest conference [last year],” Holland said. “But at the end of the day I don’t know enough to comment.”
Conference 1Carolina; Columbus; New Jersey; New York Islanders; New York Rangers; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Washington
Conference 2Boston; Buffalo; Detroit; Florida; Montreal; Ottawa; Tampa Bay; Toronto
Conference 3Chicago; Colorado; Dallas; Minnesota; Nashville; St. Louis; Winnipeg
Conference 4Anaheim; Calgary; Edmonton; Los Angeles; Phoenix; San Jose; Vancouver
But I have to agree with the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa, who suggests that Wings fans should proceed with an abundance of caution instead of assuming that this is a done deal:
A proposal, even one reported by the credible Elliotte Friedman of the CBC, is only a proposal. The issues must be resolved by the same officials who brought you yet another owners' lockout, distressed NHL finances despite record revenues and the epic ownership fiascos in Phoenix and Atlanta.
Both the NHL Board of Governors and the NHL players' association must vote to approve realignment.
As usual, when big news about how the game is organized or played is under consideration by the league, fans are holding their breath.
Unfortunately, the NHL still has the reputation for messing up important things. NHL officials obviously want to change that, especially after this latest lockout. And they have two huge opportunities to put a lot of bad feelings behind them, if they can address both realignment and participation in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Both issues are enormously complicated, requiring cooperation between owners, players, their organizations and, in the case of the Olympics, the prickly International Olympic Committee.
And both issues require resolution, presently, if the realignment is to occur next season, as hoped, and if NHL players are to skate in the Russian Caucasus precisely 12 months from now.
Some owners must put aside personal wants and desires for realignment for the good of all. And the players must be satisfied that they have had fair input into a reasonable resolution that is fair to as many teams as feasible. Some players will travel less, others more.
Moreover, some mechanism must be instituted to resolve the problem of having two eight-team divisions and two seven-team divisions, with the obvious variance in the chances to make the playoffs.
I know that the Predators are loath to surrender their rivalry with the Wings, that the Stars, Wild and Jets all feel that they belong in a "central" division with the Wings, and I also know that the Blue Jackets are more likely to "move east" than the Wings now that John Davidson is advocating for the flagging franchise, so this isn't going to be simple to figure out, even if the NHLPA does sign off on the imbalanced conference issue given that the league wants its pre-Cup Semifinal playoffs to remain "in conference."
As the Chicago Sun Times' Mark Lazerus notes, the Blackhawks have a bit of a bone to pick with the concept, though Hawks coach Joel Quenneville suggests otherwise:
The way coach Joel Quenneville sees it, Blackhawks-Red Wings games always will be a big deal. There just might not be as many in the near future.
The NHL is expected to unveil next season’s realignment plan soon, perhaps this week, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation offered a look at the proposed four “conferences.” One of the more notable changes to the 2011 proposal (shot down by the NHL Players Association) is that Detroit has been moved to the East, while the Hawks remain in the West.
The Hawks would be grouped with Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg. Detroit would be with Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto.
Quenneville shrugged it off.
“I don’t think it’ll go away if it does happen that they’re on the other side,” he said. “I think Blackhawks-Detroit will always be a special rivalry, a special game.”
Quenneville actually saw a benefit in losing the Wings, even as Detroit muddles through a rare season of mediocrity.
“They’ve been a team that’s always been tough to contend with every single year; it’s a powerhouse organization,” he said. “Look at their record and their standing over the course of time here. They’ve been dominating a lot of times.”
Detroit made no secret that it wanted to be lumped in with Eastern conference teams. But Quenneville said the Hawks — who will travel roughly 25,000 miles this season, compared with less than 12,000 for the New Jersey Devils — don’t mind being in the West.
“Our travel’s not too bad,” he said. “You have some stretches where you go out west, and this and that, but I don’t think we’ve got a complaint where we’re at.”
The Red Wings remain a team beset by injuries, and with a travel-heavy schedule over the second half of the season, injuries remain a primary focus. The Free Press's George Sipple reports that Darren Helm will be heading to New York today to see a back specialist, but that both Helm and Todd Bertuzzi remain out for significant periods of time--they'll need 2 to 3 weeks to round back into hockey shape:
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said forward Darren Helm will go to New York today to see "a rehab specialist."
Helm has been out since Jan. 25 with back pain. He missed the first three games of the season, came back to play one game and then left practice early the following day and hasn't skated since.
"It's not healing as fast as we'd like," Holland said of Helm's injury. "He gets better, but we want him to be better quicker. They've ruled everything out. They've ruled out disc issues. They've ruled out structural issues. It's some type of either a ligament or a muscle issue."
Holland said forward Todd Bertuzzi, also out with a back problem, has been making progress, but there's no timetable for when he might begin skating. Bertuzzi missed his ninth straight game Sunday.
"The last week he's made real good progress," Holland said, adding that Bertuzzi wouldn't travel with the team to play Los Angeles on Wednesday and San Jose on Thursday.
Holland did say he expects to have some players currently sidelined back and ready for action Wednesday. Among those possibilities are forward Johan Franzen (hip flexor), defenseman Kyle Quincey (ankle) and goaltender Jonas Gustavsson.
I would imagine that we'll hear more about Gustavsson's injury and the Wings' other injured players today, because if Gustavsson isn't good to go, the Wings may or may not recall Petr Mrazek after bringing up Tom McCollum to serve as Jimmy Howard's back-up on Sunday.
Otherwise, as noted by the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness...
Holland said they’re shooting for forward Johan Franzen (hip flexor) to return to the lineup Wednesday in Los Angeles against the Kings, unless he re-injures it in practice Tuesday.
Defensemen Brendan Smith and Carlo Colaiacovo, both out with shoulder injuries, are expected to return by next Sunday at the latest, or possibly in one of these two games on the West Coast.
Those two have been "a week away" for three or four weeks now. That's a bit of a concern, as is Colaiacovo's continued shoulder pain.
Forward Mikael Samuelsson is still out between 2-4 weeks with a broken finger.
“It’s a 4-5 week injury,” Holland said. “We’ll see after two weeks if he can play with a splint.”
Forwards Darren Helm and Todd Bertuzzi, both sidelined with back injuries, are progressing. Helm is scheduled to see a specialist in New York on Monday.
“(Helm) is progressing but not nearly as fast as we had hoped,” Holland said. “The specialist deals with muscles and ligaments. We just need to start ruling out this or that. We think it’s a ligament strain or sprain, but it’s not healing as fast as we had hoped.
“Bert had a good week and he’s happy with how his back has felt,” Holland added. “I saw him Thursday and he was feeling significantly better.”
In cheerier news, I thought that the Vancouver Province's Ed Willes delivered quite the compliment to Damien Brunner, whose two goals and two assists in Sunday's win give Brunner 10 goals and 6 assists for 16 points over the course of 19 games played:
It’s now obvious the Red Wings have a secret hideout somewhere in Europe where they clone under-sized, highly skilled forwards, bring them to North America with a secret cloaking device, then drop them in the NHL and watch as they wreak havoc on the best league in the world.
The latest, of course, is Damien Brunner who the Wings claim played six seasons in the Swiss league before they brought him over. Brunner now leads the Wings with 10 goals in 19 games but, I swear, if you do a DNA analysis you’ll find he’s the product of Henrik Zetterberg with a little Valtteri Filppula and Tomas Tatar thrown in.
Brunner’s alleged career in the Swiss league makes him ineligible for the Calder Trophy for this season but there’s still a dandy race developing for the top rookie. Ten days ago, it looked like Oilers defenceman Justin Schultz was the early leader but he’s likely been passed by Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau. Montreal’s Alex Galchenyuk has also joined the conversation along with Tampa’s Cory Conacher, who just keeps on putting up points.
If you want a dark horse, look for Ottawa’s Mike Zibanejad. Injuries have forced him into a regular role on the Sens and the young Swede has been productive.
Brunner was somewhat gob-smacked upon finding out that he's two goals shy of the league lead, but the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's sidebar story from Sunday night's game focused upon both injuries and Brunner, whose personality seems to be a perfect mix of naivety and arrogance, all adding up to a 26-year-old forward who's very confident in himself and his abilities but still very happy to be here, and understanding of the fact that he's on the team on an as-earned basis:
"I had a five-point game in Switzerland," said Brunner, of his stay in the Swiss Elite League while the NHL was in a lockout.
You get the sense this won't be his only multi-goal, or multi-point game. The two goals gave Brunner a team-leading 10 for the season, in what was the Wings' 19th game.
For a guy who had never played in the NHL, at the age of 26, Brunner is living up to whatever expectations the Red Wings and fans had.
"I had expectations for myself," said Brunner, who has kept those largely to himself. "I wanted to come over and prove I could play in this league. When you play with great players, you have chances to score and you have chances to put the puck in. I'm happy they're going in right now. I play with some great players and the puck is going in and that gives you confidence."
Brunner has been consistent, not going more than two games without a goal. He's found good chemistry with Zetterberg, who played on the same line with Brunner during the lockout for EV Zug in the Swiss League. That has helped Brunner's transition to the NHL.
"It's about timing, finding your shots, working hard and putting the puck in the net," Brunner said. "They've given me a lot of confidence and I want to make sure to (earn that confidence)."
Brunner gave a wonderful interview to the Windsor Star's Bob Duff and DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose after the game, and it's a must-watch...
In no small part because it yielded this comment, as noted by Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji:
"I am?" Brunner said in surprise of his place in the scoring standings. "OK, I have to be honest with you, since I got here, I feel like I have no time to study the stats because I’m always sleeping and recovering and eating. I know that I have 10, but I have no idea who is leading the league right now."
Unlike a lot of European players, who prefer to pass first, Brunner will shoot at almost any time. He is also in the top 15 in the league in shots on goal with 66, ahead of Zetterberg, who has 62. Washington's Alex Ovechkin entered Sunday in the league lead with 75 shots.
"It is amazing," Zetterberg said. "I played with him over in (Switzerland) and I saw that he has that special touch. You don’t see him for a long, long time, and all of a sudden, he comes up there and scores a goal. He has that kind of sense to be in the right spot in the right time, and he has a good shot."
One of the concerns about Brunner was how he would adjust to the smaller ice surface, especially with all of the fast NHL players working to take away his time and space. That hasn't been much of a problem.
"When I came over here, I knew it was going to be tougher to create scoring chances because the players were bigger and tougher," Brunner said. "But I tried to come in with the strategy to just play my game, be confident, and when I got the puck, do the same things that I did in Switzerland. It’s paid off so far."
The toughest adjustment for Brunner has been the relentless schedule.
"I have to admit that’s the toughest part so far, playing in so many games and the traveling," Brunner said. "You have to be mentally focused every night and try to get the best out of yourself. You can’t have nights off because they will take advantage of you. But it’s an excellent challenge, and you have to learn to grow in this role."
In foreign-language news, via RedWingsFeed, Expressen's Gunnar Nordstrom absolutely gushed about both the league-leader in points scored by defensemen in Niklas Kronwall (3 goals, 13 assists and 16 points in 19 games, and now he's "only" a -4) and Joakim Andersson's two-goal performance in the Wings' win, and Expressen's Per Bjurman took in both of the Wings' games.
"We got a few goals on the power play, and that's very good. We've practiced very hard on the man advantage and it's finally starting to pay off," says "Zata" when he sits sweating in his stall just inside the door of the locker room.
Kronwall was satisfied with the teamwork as well:
"But it's not that hard, all you see is that when Hank or Datsyuk get the puck, good things happen. When they don't, they're the league's two best players, and they compete very hard," he says.
With the scoring harvest from last night, "Zata" is in a place where he hasn't been near since he won the Conn Smythe in the playoffs in 2008--tied for third in the NHL's scoring race.
"It's good, it started after the All-Star break last season, and then it's just rolled along. And of course it's fun," he says.
Even Joakim Andersson, Detroit's new Swedish star, had an excellent game and scored at the end of the third period via two resounding slap shots past Roberto Luongo.
"Yeah, when the Canucks stopped playing, I could score," he says, jokingly.
"But I feel good now. Last year it was huge when I got called up and played in my first games, but I didn't really know what to expect. Now I've got more confidence and was told to just keep playing like I did in Grand Rapids, and I've tried to do that," says the 24-year-old from Bohuslannig.
Eventually the Wings won with a crushing 8-3 tally, even though they played the night before.
"It was probably our best game of the season. It's hard to think otherwise when you scored 8 goals," says captain Zetterberg.
There were also 14 Swedish points scored in the game--which is verging on a new record.
Zetterberg and Kronwall also talked to Bjurman about the proposed realignment:
"It would be absolutely fantastic," says Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg when Sportbladet tells him about the new division. "first, we'd have a great advantage in playing more in our own time zone, and avoiding traveling as enormously much as we do today. It wears on you a lot, especially during a regular season with 82 games. And secondly, it would of course be fun to play more against new teams."
The new conference would also have teams play their rivals in the conference five or six times, and they'd meet every other team in the league twice--once at home and once away.
"So there would be a real series, I think that's very good. Especially for the fans. Everyone should have the chance to see Sidney Crosby and Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg," Niklas Kronwall said.
You're going to have to take this one as it's not up in the middle of the night: MLive's Ansar Khan penned a middle-of-the-night notebook discussing Jordin Tootoo's ability of late to drive opponents to distraction (the Predators and Canucks were furious with his play) and the Wings' power play, but this is all that I can access at 4 AM:
Red Wings now have a top-10 power play – at home; Mike Babcock glad Jordin Tootoo 'runs over people'
Ansar Khan | email@example.com
Posted 2/25/2013 2:08 AM
DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings haven't scored a power-play goal on the road, but they have improved on the man-advantage at home.Following Sunday's season-high three power-play goals in an 8-3 blowout of the Vancouver Canucks at Joe Louis Arena,... Read more »
In the prospect department, in the AHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins peppered their opponent with over 40 shots for the second time in two nights, and this time they came out on top. The Griffins defeated the San Antonio Rampage 7-3, and the Grand Rapids Griffins' website provides a recap:
Chad Billins picked a fine time to record the first hat trick of his life. With the Griffins having lost two straight and staring down a brutal schedule that will see them play 14 of 18 games on the road over the next six weeks, the rookie defenseman tallied three goals over the final 26 minutes on Sunday to lead Grand Rapids to a dominant 7-3 come-from-behind victory over the San Antonio Rampage at Van Andel Arena.
Billins, who had never scored a hat trick at any level of hockey, gave Grand Rapids a 4-2 lead by scoring twice late in the second period, then he capped off the night at 18:48 of the third to became the first defenseman in Griffins history to notch a hat trick at home. Logan Pyett, the only other Grand Rapids blueliner to score three goals in one game, accomplished the feat at Hamilton on Feb. 27, 2011.
Gustav Nyquist also had a three-point night with a goal and two assists, taking over the lead in the AHL’s scoring race with 52 points (19 goals, 33 assists), one more than Syracuse’s Tyler Johnson and former Oklahoma City Baron Jordan Eberle, now with the Edmonton Oilers. Nyquist totaled six points over this weekend’s two-game split with San Antonio, spearheading a Griffins attack that out-shot the Rampage by stunning margins of 46-23 tonight and 89-44 for the set.
Things did not start well for the Griffins, though, as the Rampage (24-25-1-4) built a 2-0 first-period lead for the second time in as many nights. In a play that was reviewed and ultimately confirmed as a goal, Zach Miskovic fired a shot from the top of the right circle during a power play that deflected off the crossbar and down, landing just beyond the goal line at 5:59. About six minutes later, Jon Rheault was awarded a penalty shot after being impeded by Gleason Fournier on a breakaway, and he beat Petr Mrazek with a backhand at 12:03, prompting coach Jeff Blashill to call his timeout to refocus his squad.
Brett Skinner put the Griffins (30-18-2-2) on the board with 1:22 remaining in the period, thanks mainly to Nyquist’s deft puck-handling. The winger grabbed the puck in the right corner and skated back to his blue line before driving down the slot and finding an open Skinner for a one-timer at the bottom of the right circle. With that assist, Nyquist joined Glen Metropolit (1997-99) as the only two players in franchise history to reach the 50-point plateau as both a rookie and a second-year Griffin.
The Griffins, who pounded away at Dov Grumet-Morris with 21 shots in the second period, scored on consecutive power play chances to claw on top by a 3-2 score. Francis Pare connected from the left circle for his 17th goal of the season at 11:33, and Billins collected his own rebound and beat Grumet-Morris from the right post just 2:53 later.
Billins then notched his second power play goal in less than five minutes at 19:23, only seven seconds after Jared Gomes was ushered off for hooking. Intercepting a pass at the point, he threaded his way into the left circle and sent a low wrister that snuck inside the far post, staking Grand Rapids to a 4-2 lead.
Nyquist recorded the Griffins’ fourth unanswered power play goal midway through the third when his blast from the point deflected off Grumet-Morris’ stick and over the goalie at 9:52, before Mitch Callahan converted a rebound at 16:17 to finish off a barrage and make it a 6-2 game.
Eric Selleck added a third goal for the visitors at 18:24, but Billins restored the four-goal cushion 24 seconds later, streaking down the right wing to tally his second unassisted goal of the evening and the hat trick.
Mrazek made 20 saves to improve to 17-8-1 on the season, while Grumet-Morris stopped 39 shots but surrendered an AHL career-high seven goals.
The Griffins, who increased their lead atop the Midwest Division to five points over Chicago, will play three road games in three nights next weekend, beginning with Friday's 8 p.m. EST visit to Milwaukee.
The Griffins' website also posted a photo gallery and a slate of highlights and interviews:
In the ECHL, the Toledo Walleye were also playing back-to-back games, and thought Jordan Pearce stopped 25 shots and Willie Coetzee registered an assist, the Toledo Walleye dropped a 2-1 OT decision to the Cincinnati Cyclones. The Walleye's website provides a recap and a slate of highlights, and the Toledo Blade's Mark Monroe provides a recap as well, and the Blade posted a photo gallery from the game.
Overseas, in Russia, Alexei Marchenko only played 7:09 and didn't register a point, but CSKA Moscow defeated HC Lev Prague 3-1, and they now lead their playoff series 3-0;
In Finland, Teemu Pulkkinen was held off the scoresheet in Jokerit Helsinki's 1-0 win over their archrival, HIFK Helsinki;
Back over on this side of the Atlantic, in the QMJHL, Xavier Ouellet didn't register a point but his Blainville-Boisbriand Armada defeated Shawinigan 6-1;
Martin Frk registered 2 goals and 2 assists and was named the second star in the Halifax Mooseheads' wild 11-3 win over Acadie-Bathurst;
In the OHL, Ryan Sproul didn't register a point in the Soo Greyhounds' 4-3 win over Mississauga;
Alan Quine registered a goal, an assist and a +3 in the Belleville Bulls' 6-3 win over Ottawa;
And in the WHL, Richard Nedomlel didn't register a point in the Swift Current Broncos' 6-1 victory over Brandon.
Update: Here's Khan's article. On Tootoo (you can read about the Wings' bizarre home-vs-road power play split personality on your own):
Jordin Tootoo was called for charging when he ran over Christopher Tanev at 9:35 of the second period. Zack Kassian then attempted to engage Tootoo in a fight. Tootoo declined, and Kassian was called for roughing, negating the power play.
“He runs over people. That’s what he does,'' Babcock said of Tootoo. “You know he’s out there and he’s coming hard. He was a physical guy that always made me nervous when I was (coaching) Spokane (in the Western Hockey League). When he played against our team (for Brandon) he would always drive me crazy. It was the same in Nashville. So we’re happy to have him.''
Tootoo also scored his second goal of the season.
“He's been tremendous for us since the start,'' Zetterberg said. “He's been a great energy boost on and off the ice, in practice and in games. He gets the crowd going and gets us going, so it's a great addition to our hockey club and we're glad to have him."
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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.