The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/16/13 at 04:15 AM ET
As will become very, very typical after a Red Wings game in Detroit this upcoming 48-games-in-99-nights NHL season, Red Bird III left Metro Airport on Tuesday night, but this time around, it was carrying the Grand Rapids Griffins (and suspended White Team goal-scorer Trevor Parkes) to Charlotte, North Carolina for an AHL game on Thursday.
The Red Wings were able to head to their homes and sleep soundly in their beds after a particularly busy day, which included a morning skate in which Pavel Datsyuk made his Wings return, the official announcement of Henrik Zetterberg as the Wings' new captain and a spirited, if a little sloppy, Red vs. White Game in which the red team of Griffins players, prospects and Red Wings regulars defeated the White team 4-2 at Compuware Arena (which was so well-attended that some fans weren't able to squeeze into the 3,400-seat rink)
While the Griffins embark in a slate of games in Charlotte tonight and tomorrow, and then in Rockford, IL on Saturday--a very Red Wings-like schedule--the Wings will be able to rest whatever bumps and bruises they've accumulated over the last four days before resuming practice on Thursday, when the scene shifts to Joe Louis Arena.
At this point, it appears that the Wings' 10 AM practice on Thursday will not be open to the public, but the Wings are encouraging fans to "Jam the Joe" for the team's 7:45 PM practice, which will be followed by open skates on the ice at 8 PM and 10 PM. According to an email the Wings sent out, Thursday's evening affair will not only include what's become customary during the Compuware Arena portion of camp in free admission and free parking, but also $1 concessions.
I'm not sure if $1 concessions will be the case on Friday, but the Wings' 12 PM practice on Friday will be open to the public as well, and by Friday afternoon, the Griffins will have had to return Red Bird III to the big club as the Wings will be flying out to open their season against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday (8 PM, FSD, with a 1-hour preview show airing at 7 PM). On Monday, the Wings will head to Columbus, and on Tuesday, the Wings will open up the home portion of their schedule, so the team can use all the rest it can get at present.
Wednesday was definitely a busy day, and while I did my best to cover the Zetterberg captaincy announcement and the Red vs. White game in as close to real time as possible, the beat writers and press corps assembled at Compuware (let's hope the Wings use the facility again as it's a great place to hold, oh, I don't know, open practices on a smaller and cheaper scale than it is to hold them at the Joe) have offered an evening and overnight report's worth of reflections on all of Wednesday's events.
If it's okay with you, I'd like to start with Zetterberg's captaincy (there's tons of multimedia crammed into the linked-to post) before moving onto the scrimmage (ditto for said post), and then seeing which way the wind takes us.
Zetterberg spoke to the media both during and after his unveiling as the team's captain...
And Red Wings GM Ken Holland gave his new captain effusive praise (YouTube clips via Currich5)...
And, as the Detroit News's David Goricki noted, Zetterberg read from prepared remarks that were no less sincere than anything he's said off the cuff:
"It's a true honor to be named the new captain of the Detroit Red Wings and I'm really humbled about it," said Zetterberg, a native of Sweden like Lidstrom, who is now in his 10th season with the Red Wings. "It's a very big responsibility to represent the Wings in everything we do. When I read a quote from Stevie Y when he became a captain in '86, he said it made it a lot easier to have a locker room full of leaders. And, that's the same for me now. I'm lucky to have players like (Pavel) Datsyuk, (Niklas) Kronwall, (Dan) Cleary, (Todd) Bertuzzi, (Johan) Franzen, (Jimmy) Howard and all the guys standing over there in the locker room. We all lead this team by doing the right things every day on and off the ice."
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock knows the organization has the right man for the job.
"He's a leader of men," said Babcock of Zetterberg. "He's a fierce competitor. He can talk to coaches and management without worrying about it."
Zetterberg has exceeded expectations, performing at a much higher level than a seventh-round draft pick (No. 210 overall in 1999 NHL Entry Draft), enjoying a career-high season during the Stanley Cup championship year in 2008 when he had 43 goals and 92 points. He started the season by earning at least one point in each of the Red Wings' first 16 games, a club record.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said it has been a process for Zetterberg to reach this point.
"For me, it's really an evolution of a leader," said Holland, who confided to Zetterberg the player was going to be the team's next captain during a July golf outing. "He's (32) and is at a good time in his career. He's played with two incredible leaders in Steve and Nick and is a great player day in and day out."
The Free Press's Helene St. James spoke to Zetterberg's first mentor regarding #40's maturation from the Swedish scoring sensation brought over to watch the 2002 Stanley Cup run and then to play during the 02-03 season to the man he is today...
"Henrik is a natural leader, intelligent, confident," [Steve] Yzerman said. "He's a complete player who can also be counted on no matter the situation. He will be an outstanding leader for the Red Wings."
While Holland admitted that he'd spilled the beans, if you will, regarding his decision during a golf game in July...
"As we were getting ready to leave, actually we were by his car," Holland said. "I said, 'I've got one more thing I'd like to talk to you about.' It was just him and I. And I told him that Mike Babcock and I wanted him to be the next captain of the Red Wings, was he comfortable with it, did he want to do it? We shook hands and he said absolutely, he wanted to be the next captain."
As Holland remembered it: "It was my best round of the year. I shot 73."
Zetterberg remembered who won, too, but it didn't matter. All that mattered was what happened at the end. Holland told Zetterberg to keep it quiet, that it would be announced at training camp, which was delayed by the 113-day lockout. The blackout didn't extend to family, of course.
"I called my dad right away and told him, and he was really proud," Zetterberg said. "It is special, and I'm glad the day is here."
Zetterberg's teammates offered effusive praise (as did Zetterberg's coach, but you'll have to read the rest of St. James' article to read what Babcock had to say)...
Datsyuk called it "exactly the right decision. He deserve it. He leader in locker room, out of locker room. It's hit to target."
For a captain, Daniel Cleary said, "all you look for is you look for the players to respect you, and you lead by example by working hard and being an honest player and treating people with respect. And that's what I know Stevie did and Nick did and I know Hank will."
And Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika, who once covered the Wings, headed to the NFL and now covers hockey again, asked Holland what Zetterberg's captaincy means--as a very clearly anticlimactic moment given that we all knew he would succeed Lidstrom around the time of that golf game, but had to wait for the official announcement until that pesky lockout was over--given that the Red Wings are a team in transition:
"There's a lot of uncertainty," Holland said, "and I'm not sure where we are."
First, the team's divorce from Sergei Fedorov in 2003 was supposed to signal the end of the Wings' period of dominance.
Then it was the lockout, which witnessed the team part ways with Darren McCarty, Ray Whitney, Derian Hatcher, Curtis Joseph and Brett Hull.
Surely, we all thought, when Steve Yzerman retired and Brendan Shanahan decided it was time to leave town in 2006, the party was over.
But the Red Wings responded under Nicklas Lidstrom's leadership, and now?
"We're trying to compete with the best teams," Holland said. "We're trying to stay in a playoff spot. There's an overhaul, a reload, a new era of players coming along. If we can continue to be competitive, you're not going to notice it as much. When the team falls out of the playoffs, then you notice it."
GM Ken Holland seeks to continue the Wings' two-plus decades of success. (Getty) But if the Wings are in danger of falling out of the playoffs at the trade deadline – or even if they finally fall out of the playoffs this season – don't expect Holland to panic. He is not likely to sacrifice the long term for the short term. He knows the New Jersey Devils missed the playoffs in 2010-11 and went to the Cup final last season, and he knows they lost to the Los Angeles Kings – the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
The Wings cannot stockpile talent the way they did before the salary cap, when their payroll pushed $80 million and their roster looked like a Hall of Fame ballot. But no one else can, either. And even the Pittsburgh Penguins – with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and a strong supporting cast – lost in the first round of the playoffs last year. Parity has allowed the competition to catch up. At the same time, it won't let the competition pull away.
"People look at our team, and I think they compare our team against teams past," Holland said. "I don't know if there are any of those teams anymore. The cap makes everybody close…Who are the Cup contenders? I believe the Cup contenders are the 16 teams that make the playoffs. Just look at the Stanley Cup playoffs year after year after year. Even if the first-place team beats the eighth-place team, it goes to Game 7."
I can't quote all of Cotsonika's article, but it's worth noting that Holland believes that the "luster" hasn't left the Red Wings for a very specific reason:
"It's a culture," Holland said. "If we're going to continue to compete with teams that have had high picks, we have to have a culture. We have to believe in the culture. We have to stick to the culture, the philosophy, and if we veer off the philosophy, the culture, I think then that you're probably looking at going in a different direction."
In other words, as long as Holland is the Wings GM, this is the way it will be.
"We're going to stick to the program. We're drafting. We're developing," Holland said. "The program is patience. The program is to have a plan. The program is to slowly turn the wheel. And the program is, when you get up to Detroit, that we've got real good leaders that teach you how to play the style of play that we think you need to play to compete with teams that have superstars."
That's the theory Holland's captain espouses:
"We all lead this team by doing the right things every day on and off the ice," Zetterberg said, "and together we will carry on the great tradition we have in this fine organization."
As you might expect, Zetterberg also spoke to Expressen's Gunnar Nordstrom about his new official status, and while this is roughly translated from Swedish, his tone remains exactly the same:
Zata, new captain: "An honor."
Los Angeles. He has won the Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe Trophy, Olympic Gold and World Championship gold.
Last night, Henrik Zetterberg, 32, was named the new captain of the Detroit Red Wings.
"It's an honor which I rank incredibly highly over the course of my career," says Zata to SportExpressen.se.
During a press conference in Plymouth, Michigan, an hour before the night's intrasquad game, Zetterberg was presented as Nicklas Lidstrom's successor.
"I've learned a tremendous amount [of knowledge] after the legends we've had here, like Steve Yzerman and Lidas as captains during my time here with the Red Wings. That's invaluable now that I'm taking over the captain's job."
Will you do anything differently?
"No, I don't think so. I'll try to lead the team in the same way as [Yzerman and Lidstrom] did. And I'll continue to be myself. But I'm aware that there will be more media responsibilities for me now.""
Your coach, Mike Babcock, says he appreciates your honesty, and that you don't always think alike?
"It's no secret that we've argued with each other a few times. We are both very stubborn people, but we have an honest, open relationship, and there's give and take."
Will having the "C" on your jersey affect your game?
"No. When the puck's dropped, I probably won't think too much about it. And we have many strong leaders on this team. In addition to the alternate captains, Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall, we also have Todd Bertuzzi, Dan Cleary, Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula, guys that help with leadership within the locker room."
Are there other players you've learned from in the NHL?
"Yes, aside from Yzerman and Lidas, I was fortunate to have Chris Chelios, Igor Larionov, Luc Robitaille and Darren McCarty as teammates here with the Red Wings."
What about your readiness for Saturday's opener in St. Louis, who will be on your line?
"It feels pretty good. It seems to me that Datsyuk and the new Swiss player, Damien Brunner, will be on my line. I think it'll work well. Brunner and I played together in Switzerland this winter."
Zetterberg also spoke to Aftonbladet's Per Bjurman about his new position:
"It's tremendous. To be named the captain of the Red Wings definitely feels like one of the biggest highlights of my career," says Zata on the phone from Michigan.
He continues: "It's impossible to fill the shoes of Lidas and Steve Yzerman, who were the captains during my time here. But it's hard to imagine better teachers. I will try to do exactly what they did."
That means that the newest captain at Joe Louis Arena will also lead by example instead of by sweeping gestures.
"Well, neither Lidas nor Stevie were people who gabbed much in the locker room, and I'm not that way, either. You have to try to lead on the ice, and take the floor when it's really needed," he said. "But I've tried to act the same way [for a while], for the past two or three seasons, so I don't think it will be a huge difference."
"Zata" is the twelfth Swede in NHL history to be named captain--a remarkable number.
"I don't really know why that is, but Swedish players are generally very calm and still know when to take responsibility," says the latest in an impressive of blue and yellow official captains.
Zetterberg won't have much time to get used to his new role. On Saturday, four days after his "coronation," the sprint of a compressed regular season, following an unnecessary lockout, begins.
"This will be a special year for us. Lidas leaves a void that's impossible to fill. Holmstrom also, and we'll miss both of them on and off the ice. Since we haven't practiced at Joe Louis Arena, it hasn't really sunk in yet, we'll probably feel it more when we're there," he says.
"But those of us who are left will have to help each other to fill in the blanks. No single player can do it, and I think we've looked good in camp. Everyone is hungry, everyone wants to play."
Zata will see himself reforming his old line with his radar partner Pavel Datsyuk, and his teammate from Zug, Switzerland, in Damien Brunner.
"Both me and Pavel are looking forward to playing together again, we have fun together, and Brunner has done all that he possibly can in Switzerland. There's going to be a transition for him, but he's so talented that he probably won't have any problems," he said.
Back on this side of the pond, the Windsor Star's Bob Duff allows me to give the bottom line regarding a story to one Mike Babcock for the first time this year--most certainly not the last:
"He sets the tone." Wings coach Mike Babcock likes that he can challenge Zetterberg, and that Zetterberg feels confident enough to challenge him. Neither is afraid to get up into each other's grill, but neither of them ever takes their verbal jousting personally.
"He's not afraid to communicate," Babcock said. "He doesn't mind getting mad at me one bit. He's just not shy about what he thinks. He gets mad at me, I get mad at him, but no one holds a grudge. He's demanding of himself and he doesn't mind speaking his mind. He cares about his teammates. To me, that's pretty good leadership. I think we've got a pretty good guy there."
Yeah, but is Zetterberg ready?
Ask the captain.
"It's all about experience," Zetterberg said. "I feel comfortable now for this task. I learned a lot throughout my years and I'm looking forward to getting the season started."
As an FYI, the Free Press notes that Zetterberg has 102 points to register to tie Ted Lindsay as the sixth-highest-scoring captain in team history.
In terms of the scrimmage (please add the Grand Rapids Griffins' Flickr gallery and Yahoo Sports' Wings gallery to the multimedia mix), the Grand Rapids Griffins' PR department provides us with an official summary...
Trevor Parkes opened the scoring in the final minute of the first period, converting after generating several chances for Team White during his first few shifts. Triston Grant knocked the puck off the stick of Riley Sheahan, springing Parkes in alone on Red Wings netminder Jonas Gustavsson, burying his opportunity to give his squad the one-goal advantage.
The second period brought the sellout crowd to life, featuring the bulk of the game’s offense. Detroit forward Drew Miller evened the score at one after pouncing on a loose puck in front of Jimmy Howard’s crease, after linemate and ex-Griffin Cory Emmerton helped feed the puck in front.
Current Griffins accounted for the game’s next two goals, one for each side. Grand Rapids captain Jeff Hoggan capitalized on another frantic goalmouth scramble, banking a shot off the back of Gustavsson from behind the net to provide a 2-1 advantage. A former Griffin and current Griffin combined for Team Red to even the score at two, after Louis-Marc Aubry tipped a Jonathan Ericsson blast behind Howard.
Minted with the captain’s ‘C’ in a press conference prior to the game, Henrik Zetterberg put Team Red on top for good. Ericsson’s long breakout feed was received by Damien Brunner, who cut towards the goal for a strong scoring chance on Howard. His chance was denied, but Zetterberg collected the rebound and scored from a sharp angle to put Team Red up 3-2 in the late stages of the second frame.
Grand Rapids veteran defenseman Nathan Paetsch added the insurance for Team Red after one an individual effort from Tomas Tatar, taking a feed in the high slot and placing a shot past the blocker of Howard and just inside the post.
Despite the two-goal lead, the game went to a shootout following 60 minutes of regulation. Team White struck back in the skills competition, as the Griffins alumnus Howard steered aside five consecutive shootout opportunities to help his side take a 3-0 win. Valterri Filppula and Todd Bertuzzi each converted on their opportunities, while Brendan Smith brought the crowd to its feet with a spectacular one-handed move.
While even a seemingly refreshed, rejuvenated, more enthusiastic, energetic and hockey-mad Mike Babcock raved about crowd support to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan--before snapping back into his coach's mode self...
A capacity crowd of more than 4,000 packed into the rink and watched the Red team defeat the White squad, 4-2.
"That may have been the best thing about the night," said coach Mike Babcock, referring to the enthusiastic fans. "The parking lot was jammed, it was tough in get in here, and people were very supportive of the players. I'm appreciative of that and I'm appreciative they've stuck with us."
As for the game, Babcock felt it was a step toward getting back to NHL game speed.
"I saw a bunch of guys who were trying hard," Babcock said. "To me, it's a priority to get playing fast."
And Zetterberg and Jimmy Howard were absolutely delighted by the crowd's support, as they told Michigan Hockey Now's Michael Caples...
“It was real nice to see,” said Zetterberg, who was named captain of the Red Wings at 4:45 p.m. “When we drove up here, we got here around 4:15, we almost couldn’t come to our parking lot, because there were so many fans outside. It was pretty cool to see, and having it sold out for a scrimmage.”
Goaltender Jimmy Howard echoed his captain’s statements after the scrimmage.
“That’s awesome,” Howard said after the game. “Just how much our fans love us, the way they came out here tonight, it’s really inspiring for us.”.
Zetterberg said that the team is looking forward to the next step in their fast-paced training camp – returning to Joe Louis Arena. The Wings were unable to return to their home rink at the conclusion of the lockout due to a scheduling conflict, but after a day off on Wednesday, they will return to The Joe for two practices on Thursday.
“We’re really looking forward to that,” the Wings’ captain said. “Especially now when we haven’t been able to practice there either, so, on Thursday, when we go down, that’s going to be pretty cool just to go back home and skate there, but Tuesday night’s (home opener) game is going to be special, to come back.”
Zetterberg also said that he appreciated the fans who attended the game at Compuware, and knows that it’s not going to be easy for other fans to get over the most-recent lockout.
“I don’t know if I was worried about (people attending),” Zetterberg said. “I would understand. But everyone I’ve been talking to when you walk around town or you meet fans, they’re real happy hockey’s back, but I’m pretty sure there will be people that will not show. We’re really appreciative for those fans that came tonight, and we’re really looking forward to seeing everyone on Tuesday.”
But the crowd support couldn't change the fact that the Wings' only de-facto exhibition game didn't really involve a lot of contact, and was more about what Howard told the Free Press's George Sipple the scrimmage's purpose involved than the Red vs. White game was about displaying the Wings in peak form:
“It felt really good to be out there,” said Howard, who stopped all five shots he faced in the shoot-out after giving up four goals in the scrimmage. “Definitely that game served its purpose with getting the rust off. As the game went along, I felt more and more comfortable.”
Trevor Parkes and Jeff Hoggan scored for the White. Drew Miller, Louis-Marc Aubry, Henrik Zetterberg and Nathan Paetsch scored for the Red.
“I just saw a bunch of guys that are trying pretty hard,” Babcock said. “We haven’t played. It’s apparent, just in the tempo of the game. The NHL is a fast, fast league, and the pace is going to fall off when you haven’t played a bunch. To me, that’s a priority for us to get playing fast.”
I mentioned Trevor Parkes at the opening because his goal was tremendous, as Sipple points out, and Parkes was giddy about receiving the NHL treatment, as was fellow Griffin Gleason Fournier:
The players who usually board Red Bird III gave thumbs-ups regarding their rust-removing game while speaking to DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose...
“It was nice to have a little game-like action,” said Zetterberg, whose second-period goal was the game-winner. “It's as close as we can get to a game. It was a lot of fun to see all the fans come here. Real loud out there. It was a little taste of coming back and playing in The Joe.”
“It was fun to be out there, for sure,” said Gustavsson, a free-agent signing in July. “First period, maybe feel rusty, maybe the timing isn't there. But as the game goes, you feel more that you can read the play, see the players and so on. I felt better and better.”
Who noted that the game was incredibly important for one Wing who's trying to make his way back from a long-lingering injury...
Forward Patrick Eaves played in his first competitive game since suffering a broken jaw nearly 14 months ago, which has resulted in reoccurring concussion-like symptoms. He was symptom-free during the game and in the locker room afterwards, which he viewed positively.
“When the puck dropped out there it was like, ‘We’re back at it.’ So it was exciting,” Eaves said. “We’ll see how tomorrow goes. We have the day off tomorrow, so we’ll see how Thursday goes. Just not trying to look too far ahead.”
Eaves also told Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji that he felt pretty good, all things considered...
"It's a different pace than what we were doing in Troy," Eaves said. "It's been going well. Just try to get a little better every day, get used to the speed, to the size of the guys. Everything is coming back now."
Eaves has been cleared to practice fully, but has not been cleared to play in regular-season games. For now, he's feeling pretty good and trying not to look too far ahead.
"We'll re-evaluate when camp's over and see where I'm at," Eaves said. "That was a good step for me. We’ll see how I do, but I had a lot of fun."
And she adds a particularly intriguing perspective to the mix--both in her article and via Twitter--because she spoke to one of two prospects who are a little pissed off about not starting the season in Detroit.
The Red Wings firmly believe that Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar have no place on their team's fourth line when they could be playing 20 minutes a night, leading the Griffins in scoring and leading the Griffins in savvy and poise, which I happen to agree with, but Tatar wasn't overly thrilled with playing in a glorified exhibition game that yielded a fourth game over the course of the next five nights, but he was happy to make an impression (and both he and Nyquist were excellent):
"It was kind of hard to play," Tomas Tatar said. "You don't want to injure anybody and you gotta kind of be careful. It's more about getting guys ready for the games. Obviously you want to show yourself, too. I think it was fun for the people."
The Griffins will get another benefit from the Red-White Game. They have a game in Charlotte, NC, on Wednesday night and they get to take the Wings' plane there.
"For sure, it's way easier for us, just fly there from here than to just go the regular plane," Tatar said. "It's kind of nice. We kind of did something for (the) Red Wings, we tried to make them be prepared for (the) season, so I guess this is how they pay us back and it's nice for us. I think everybody will appreciate it."
The game may have been most important for the team's goaltenders, and while both Howard and Gustavsson were leaky at times, they finally got into game action, and that's absolutely essential for both of 'em:
"Even if you share the locker room and all that and you face your teammates, it's still a game," Gustavsson said. "It's a lot of competition out there and that's what you need. Especially when you haven't played a game in a long time, you get to be in those situations, you have people battling in front of you that you have to battle with to see the puck. You don't really get that in the practice."
The story of the night, however?
It involved the Wings' new captain and a player that Ken Daniels says actually wants his name to rhyme with "runner" instead of "rune-r," as the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness noted.
Zetterberg and Damien Brunner (again, it's supposed to be BROOner, but hey, he wants it to be bRUNNer) got a little cutesy at times, and looked like players that had 15 more feet of rink width and more time to practice putting extra passes across the net for pretty empty-net goals, but Zetterberg also looked like a point-per-game player again, and Brunner displayed both scoring savvy, playmaking flair, speed and this thing so many European phenoms don't have called "maturity," which seems to come with being 26 and not choosing to go to the team that promised they'd cut him the biggest paycheck:
“It was fun, when we play exhibition games in Switzerland we don’t have fans in the stands,” Brunner said. “It’s fun to hear them cheer. The Red Wings have great fans. I’m looking forward to playing more games in front of them.”
“If you’ve worked hard on your conditioning it shows and if you haven’t it shows,” said Babcock, who watched the game from the press box. “To me that’s a priority one for us is to get playing fast.
“I thought Brunner, he generated some offense for sure,” Babcock added. “It’s tight space. It’s not heavy going out there or anything like that so only time will tell. And I thought (Brendan) Smith was good. Those are the two guys for me that aren’t regular Wings that stood out for me."
“It was good to get some game action going actually,” Brunner added. “It’s different on the small ice and it’s different than practice because in practice everyone knows what to do. It’s good to see you have a little more space than I thought in game action. It felt good today.”
And Brunner showed he will go hard to the net on a few occasions.“It’s got some great skill and it’s going to be fun to watch him this year, especially if he’s going to be playing with Z,” Howard said. “He knows how to get open, he knows how to find that soft area, and Z’s good at finding people, so it should be a good connection.”
....“Hopefully they can be a good line for us,” Babcock said. “But in the end you have to get to the net to score. Pav and Z have always been dynamic players and we’re hopeful we found a player in Brunner that will continue to grow. He’s a kid in the league that hasn’t played in the league and it’s a hard league.”
.Babcock was also very happy to see Eaves skate and smile...
“It’s great for Patty Eaves,” Babcock said. “He’s been a year away from hockey and to come back and play I’m sure he feels good. We’re pulling for Patty Eaves first and the Red Wings second.”
But yes, yes indeedy, did Zetterberg and Brunner stand out, as MLive's Ansar Khan noted:
Zetterberg, officially named captain before the game, scored what proved to be the deciding goal in a 4-2 win for the Red team. He knocked in the rebound of a shot from Brunner, as the two picked up where they left off in Switzerland.
“It’s different on the small ice and it’s different than practice because in practice everyone knows what to do,'' Brunner said. “It’s good to see you have a little more space than I thought in game action. I think it’s not a big difference than it was skating back home with (Zetterberg) on the big ice.''
“There was one point where Brunner came down the wing, cut the corner and I didn’t realize how fast he was actually coming,'' Howard said. “It’s going to be fun to watch him this year, especially if he’s going to be playing with Z. He knows how to get open, he knows how to find that soft area, and Z’s good at finding people, so it should be a good connection.”
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff didn't pen a recap of the scrimmage, but he did add some interesting Tweets to the mix...
And the Associated Press's Noah Trister very wisely found a way to get the Wings' participants to wonder how their scrimmage performances might bode for future games--ones that count in the standings:
Jimmy Howard isn’t sure what to expect when the NHL season begins this weekend. Will scoring increase or will goalies such as Howard have an advantage following the lockout?
“That’s a good question. We’re going to have to see,” the Detroit netminder said. “I think as the season progresses, the goalies are going to get better, just because not a lot of us were able to find jobs overseas. … Today was definitely a good start.”
Howard and the Red Wings held a public scrimmage Tuesday night, and Howard’s White team lost 4-2 to the Red team. Henrik Zetterberg, who was officially named Detroit’s new captain before the scrimmage, banged a rebound past Howard with 5:42 remaining in the second period to break a 2-all tie. Despite the loss, Howard was encouraged by his performance.
“To be honest, I felt really good out there – a lot better than I thought it was going to be,” Howard said. “We’ve got to dive right into it, no matter what.”
“The NHL’s a fast, fast league, and the pace is going to fall off when you haven’t played a bunch,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “If you’ve really worked hard on your conditioning, it shows, and if you haven’t it shows.”
Currich5 on YouTube provides some highlights from the game...
And the NHL Network posted a clip of Todd Bertuzzi's shootout goal:
In other news, part 1: We'll start the "sidebar stories that shouldn't be sidebar stories" section with an interesting column from the Detroit News's John Niyo, who wonders whether Jimmy Howard will have the kind of season that, well, will convince the Wings to keep #35, and Niyo asks Chris Osgood and Holland to weigh in on that subject, too.
Howard, in the back half of a two-year, $4.5 million contract extension he signed in February 2011, begins his fourth full season as starter as the NHL's 27th-highest-paid goalie. And a pending free agent next summer. But before you wonder about what his future holds, he'll remind you that it doesn't do him any good to do the same. In fact, as he discovered a couple years ago, it's generally a bad idea to let business interfere with, well, business.
"You want to go out there and prove yourself," said Howard, 28, who earned his first NHL All-Star honor last season, leading the league in wins at the break. "But especially in a contract year, I think guys have a tendency to overdo it. And that's what I learned last time, is to just keep everything in check."
So when it comes to paychecks, he'll simply say what he has maintained all along — "This is where I want to be," he said Monday — and then focus on what really matters: Stopping pucks, while ignoring everything else in front of him.
"I think it's just a learning experience, what I went through last time," Howard said. "It can creep up on you. When you're constantly thinking about it, you've just got to brush it aside, go out and do your job and know that everything will fall into place."
After a terrific 2009-10 debut as a starter — Howard was runner-up for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie — he endured a sophomore slump. Playing out his entry-level rookie contract, Howard struggled to find his groove for much of the winter and finished with pedestrian numbers: a 2.79 goals-against average and .908 save percentage.
But after finally agreeing to the two-year extension that February — not long after he learned his wife Rachel was pregnant with their first child — Howard rebounded with a solid showing in the spring. He posted a 2.49 GAA and .923 save percentage in the playoffs, helping the Wings sweep Phoenix and then rally from a 3-0 series deficit to force San Jose to a Game 7 in the Western Conference semifinals.
"When you go out there and you're forcing things or you're forcing the issue, that's when pucks are gonna go into the net," said Howard, Detroit's top pick (63rd overall) in the 2003 entry draft. "And when you're trying to make saves instead of just letting the puck hit you, that's when holes are gonna open up. That's what happened last time. I was trying to make everything look absolutely perfect instead of just going out there and playing."
I'll suggest that you continue reading for Osgood and Holland's take on a "good goalie" "coming into his prime years," but it's worth noting that the coach doesn't plan on finding a new starting goaltender any time soon:
"We want to keep him in Detroit," said Holland, when I asked him about signing Howard to another extension. "I don't know when we'll get at it. I don't have a timetable. … But certainly at some point we'll have some conversations to see if there's a reason to talk or see if there's a reason to wait till the end of the year."
In other news, part 2: Let's talk about Niklas Kronwall, shall we? He's now the Red Wings' #1 defenseman, and while Kronwall told the Free Press's Jeff Seidel that learning from Nicklas Lidstrom has helped him develop into an excellent player in his own right...
"I don't know where to start, really," Kronwall said. "Just how he handles himself in all situations. On ice. Off ice. With fans. With reporters. With other athletes from other sports. It really is amazing how he handles himself and carries himself. How he prepares himself. Obviously, he is an unbelievable player."
Kronwall says that he's going to do his own thing while the 32-year-old defenseman continues to learn on the job:
Kronwall had 15 goals and 21 assists last year in the regular season. But Kronwall said he is still learning when to go on the attack. He is still learning when to push it.
"It's a timing issue," Kronwall said. "You have to get back to knowing when to jump and when not to jump. That's something that Nick always made the right choice, always picked the right spot. That's something that I'm still learning."
Kronwall doesn't plan to change his game. He will continue to bring some huge, teeth-rattling hits. Leaving the opposition Kronwalled.
"I try not to go and look for them," he said. "That's when you get burned and create more problems. I've learned to not look for that big one."
So that's where we are. The Wings will not replace Lidstrom with one player. It will be Kronwall and Committee.
"We need everybody to be 10% better," general manager Ken Holland said. "At the end of the day, we are not going to have that superstar back there, who leads the NHL defensemen in scoring and wins seven Norris Trophies out of 10 years. But nobody is going to have that. Kronner plays hard every day. He's physical. He's a world-class player. He plays for Sweden in the Olympics. He's the leader of our defense."
In other news, part 3: The story that shouldn't be a scandalous one involves Pavel Datsyuk's long-stated desire to eventually go back to Russia. The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness took note of Datsyuk's comments regarding playing in the KHL for CSKA Moscow, and choosing to remain there for the KHL's All-Star Game this past weekend:
“It’s been a long time (since I’ve played) in Russia,” said Datsyuk, who last played in his homeland during the 2004-05 lockout that cancelled the entire NHL season. “(I’ve got) lot of Russian friends. (I’m) always welcomes home, nice, positive. You never know the next time (you’ll) play in front of Russian fans.”
Datsyuk did not take part in the Wings’ scrimmage, but is expected to Thursday at Joe Louis Arena. Babcock said Datsyuk will be reunited with long-time linemate Henrik Zetterberg this season and have rookie Damien Brunner on a wing.
“Those two guys like playing together are they’re very good together,” Babcock said. “We just didn’t feel last year it was good for us. Last year I put them together at the start but between them and (Danny Cleary) they were never going at the start, so we had to change and we never went back.”...
Datsyuk will enter the final year of his contract next season and hinted he may like to finish his career in Russia.
“It’s my kind of a dream to come back and enjoy it,” Datsyuk said. “Russian fans pull for me. You never know how (your) career (will) go.”
The Free Press's Helene St. James duly noted that Datsyuk's daughter lives in Russia, and that, well...
"When we come first day as NHL players, they cheer, support us, love us," Datsyuk said. "I think it's logistic to finish season there, so close door with All-Star Game. I'm sorry I'm a little bit late. Long time don't play in Russia, with Russian friends. Always welcome to be home. Positive to play home, always. You never know next time you play front of your friends, Russian friends."
That's what has to worry the Wings just a bit: Datsyuk, 34, is signed through 2013-14, but there's a very good chance he'll give a long, hard thought to returning home after that. His daughter, born the summer of 2002, the same year Datsyuk won the Stanley Cup as a rookie, lives in Russia. He sounded like the idea is already in his head.
But the Red Wings have no intentions to let Datsyuk leave the Motor City for Yekaterinburg until he's ready to hang up the skates:
Datsyuk will be 36 when the seven-year, $46.9-million deal he signed in 2007 expires. That's past the prime of an NHL player, but when the player is someone with Datsyuk's dazzling skills, age isn't a big factor. For the present, the Wings are happy to have Datsyuk in their fold.
"I can tell you the guys are thrilled to have him, the coaches are thrilled to have him, and the people of Detroit will be thrilled to have him back," coach Mike Babcock said. "I mean, he's a superstar who's an unbelievable person and a great team leader. Why wouldn't you be excited to have him?"
That's why the Wings were fine with letting Datsyuk play in the KHL's All-Star Game. Why annoy someone who could play for the Red Wings until he's in Igor Larionov territory?
"It's hard when you make commitments all over," Babcock said. "You start there and you think you're going to be there a little bit, and suddenly you're there and you become part of the community and the program, and that's your homeland. I didn't have any problem."...
"We're excited to have him back," Zetterberg said. "He had a lot of fun over in Russia, so he will bring that joy with him and it will pump up this team."
In other news, part 4: Regarding roster players in, short bursts: the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan covered a lot of "ice" in short order by discussing a player who should be garnering more attention due to his importance to the team's cause...
Valtteri Filppula finally had the type of season the Wings had been expecting, posting career highs in goals (23), assists (43) and points (66). Filppula played mainly with Henrik Zetterberg last season but coach Mike Babcock has decided, at least early on, to put Zetterberg back with Pavel Datsyuk while Filppula will play with Johan Franzen.
"If we can have Fil be what he was last year, and play in the middle, and he and Franzen be a tandem and Pav and Z be a tandem, we can be a real good hockey team," Babcock said.
Babcock felt Filppula gained confidence playing with Zetterberg last season and is ready to assume a larger role.
He noted that Babcock's been pleased with the form Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen have been displaying thus far...
"Bert ( Todd Bertuzzi ) looks great, Mule ( Johan Franzen ) looks great, they look like they've done some serious training (and) Kroner ( Niklas Kronwall )," Babcock said. "If you've done enough work, there's no issue. If you haven't we're all going to know."
And I'm sure the guys from TPL will love this:
The Wings held a morning skate Tuesday, trying to duplicate a typical game day as best as possible. But Babcock isn't sure what he'll do once the slew of games start in the regular season.
Babcock is considering having a game-day skate instead of practicing. He's also not ruling out reversing the two, and maybe not holding any game-day skates. Bottom line?
"We'll be a work in progress," Babcock said.
In other news, part 5, regarding a tryout: an intrasquad scrimmage isn't the best place for phsyical players to attempt to make an impact, but 40-year-old forward Mike Knuble told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that he's doing his best to make an impression nonetheless:
“You are what you are in this league, compared to being a young guy trying to show what you’re all about because they’re not sure what you can do,” Knuble said. “As for me, being good in my own end and being around the net and being strong on pucks, that’s what I feel I can do and that’s going to get better as the conditioning catches up a little bit to.”
Knuble, who was drafted by the Wings in the fourth round in 1991, had six goals and 12 assists in 72 games last season with the Washington Capitals. He skated on a line with Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen during the Wings’ Red and White scrimmage at Compuware Arena Tuesday night.
“It was fast paced, there was nothing you could do to be in game shape but play games,” Knuble said. “A lot us probably feel the same way and I may feel worse than anybody, but it is what it is. After the first game there is nothing that surprises you with you feel."
In the prospect department, per DRW Prospects on Twitter, Teemu Pulkkinen had an excellent outing for Jokerit Helsinki, registering a goal and an assist in Jokerit's 5-0 win over Ilves:
In the "further context" department, ESPN's Pierre LeBrun spoke to Ken Holland about the team's decision to "Bet on Brunner":
Brunner caught the Wings’ attention last season en route to winning the Swiss league scoring title with 60 points (24 goals-36 assists) in 45 games. Former Red Wing Stacy Roest, who was still playing in the Swiss League last season, kept emailing Wings GM Ken Holland about Brunner. Roest and Holland both summer on the same lake in Vernon, British Columbia.
"Stacy felt Brunner would be a guy he thought that could make the jump from the Swiss League to the NHL," Holland told ESPN.com this week.
Brunner’s agent, Neil Sheehy, said there were five NHL teams seriously in the bidding for his client, "but Detroit was the best fit for Damien," he told ESPN.com Tuesday. Then came the NHL lockout. Silver lining? Brunner and Zetterberg become linemates for Zug of the Swiss league this season.
"It couldn’t have worked out any better for us during the work stoppage that Henrik Zetterberg went over to play with him, and they obviously found great chemistry over there," Holland said. "He’s got nothing more to prove in Switzerland, he led the league in scoring last year, and he looks to have led them in scoring this year [had he stayed]. He’s a good skater, really quick, knows where to go to score, he has a quick release, thinks the game at a high level. Obviously, the question is, at 5-10, 5-11, on a smaller rink with less space, can he still find ways to get open and create scoring chances? We’re going to give him every opportunity."
According to LeBrun, Brunner can't win the Calder Trophy as he's six months too old, but TSN's Scott Cullen believes that both Brunner and Brendan Smith will star as "impact" rookies--at least in the fantasy hockey vein...
In terms of season preview-type stuff: Yahoo Sports' Harrison Mooney penned a Central Division preview, and he believes that the Red Wings will finish third in the division, and Sportsline's Brian Stubits has the Wings ranked 11th overall in his pre-season power rankings, but as I've bombarded you with text, here's NHL Tonight's Red Wings season preview in video form instead...
A certain Larry Murphy waxed analytic about the Wings for 3 and a half minutes on the NHL Network during the Wings' scrimmage...
And finally: I've gone from being in bed dealing with a depressive episode a week ago today to working my butt off trying to cover training camp in its entirety, and as the Wings are taking the day off...
I'm exhausted and a bit burnt out, too, so I'm going to take today very, very slowly. I hope that's okay with you. I need to do things like go grocery shopping, shave my lockout beard and, well, sleep. This entry alone has taken five hours, and I think that makes it somewhere between fourteen and sixteen of the last 24 spent working. I need to have an "off day," too, or at least a slower one.
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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.