The Malik Report
Red Wings overnight report: on Wings’ Olympians, injury issues, Callahan, Ouellet and prospect stuff
by George Malik on 02/18/14 at 06:52 AM ET
As I'm writing this, Gary Bettman, Donald Fehr and Rene Fasel have already given their, "Will the NHL participate in the 2018 Olympics" bluster presser, Slovenia is en route to a quarterfinal match-up with Sweden on Wednesday (at 3 AM EST), the Russians have inducted 146 former players and coaches into their Hockey Hall of Fame, and the teams that aren't skating in today's qualification round playoff games (as MLive's Brendan Savage noted, Norway will play Pavel Datsyuk's Russians at 7:30 AM on the CBC and NBCSN and Slovakia will battle the Czech Republic at 12 PM on NBCSN) are practicing or have already completed their practices.
The Free Press's Helene St. James reported that Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg won't return to Detroit until Thursday while allowing Ken Holland to weigh in on the sticky wicket that is Zetterberg (herniated disc in his back) and Pavel Datsyuk (Knee? Groin? Fallopian tube bruise?) skating in the Olympics.
Going into today's qualification games and tomorrow's quarterfinals, Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner took note of the Red Wings Olympic participants' performances thus far (and I'm going to skip Canada as Mike Babcock and Ken Holland do not play, and won't post the stats or the lack thereof of Jonas Gustavsson or Jimmy Howard, who haven't played a minute in these games)...
Team Sweden: Features six Red Wings and will play the winner of Slovenia-Austria in the quarterfinals.
Daniel Alfredsson (3-GP, 2-G, 1-A, 3-P, 14:30 TOI) -- Alfredsson has picked up the scoring slack for Sweden, he scored the game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Switzerland.
He's been a big-game point-producer and leader, as usual.
Gustav Nyquist (3-GP, 0-G, 0-A, 0-P, 7:50 TOI) - Nyquist was a late addition to the team as a replacement for Detroit teammate Johan Franzen. Nyquist hasn't looked out of place, but Zetterberg's injury has greatly impacted his game.
He's been playing as the team's 13th forward pretty regularly. That's apparently going to continue tomorrow, per Aftonbladet's Hans Abrahamsson:
Jonathan Ericsson (3-GP, 0-G, 0-A, 0-P, 17:18 TOI) -- Ericsson has been paired, for the most part, with Wings teammate Nik Kronwall and has been steady, but he's still prone to turnovers.
So, you know, the usual...
Nik Kronwall (3-GP, 0-G, 1-A, 1-P, 19:22 TOI) -- When Zetterberg was forced to pull out of the tournament, Kronwall replaced him as Sweden's captain. He has been solid and has kept the Swedes together, despite their injuries.
He's played very, very well.
Team Slovakia: Winless in three games, the Slovaks, featuring two Red Wings players, will play the Czech Republic in a qualification playoff game Tuesday. The winner will play Team USA in the quarterfinals Wednesday.
Tomas Jurco (3-GP, 1-G, 0-A, 1-P, 14:00 TOI) -- The Red Wings rookie is receiving high praise for his skill level and poise at just 21 years old. He scored Slovakia's only goal in their 3-1 loss to Slovenia.
He's played on the 2nd line and has been invisible at times, but he's also looked hard-working and downright dangerous at others...
Tomas Tatar (3-GP, 1-G, 0-A, 1-P, 16:30 TOI) -- Like his play in Detroit, Tartar has shown he has a nose for the net. He scored Slovakia's lone goal in a 7-1 rout at the hands of the Americans. Tatar did miss in a shootout attempt against Team Russia. Slovakia has two goals total goals -- both scored by Red Wings.
Tatar's played on the top line with Marian Hossa and Michal Handzus, and he's been fantastic at both ends of the ice.
And then there is the quiet man, the Magic Man, and Russia's captain:
Pavel Datsyuk (3-GP, 2-G, 0-A, 2-P, 18:47 TOI) -- Russia's captain is showing the world that he's one of the world's best players. Playing on a gimpy left knee, Datsyuk's ice time has been carefully managed. He scored Russia's two goals against Team USA in their epic clash and one was 1-of-3 in the shootout against the Americans.
For the record, the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa penned a story regarding the teams participating in games today and tomorrow, and here's what Niklas Kronwall had to say about inheriting Sweden's captaincy from Zetterberg:
“You wish the circumstances were different,” said Niklas Kronwall (Red Wings), who replaced Zetterberg as team captain. “But we’re moving forward. We have to play better than we have. We can’t sit and dwell about what would be happening if he were here.”
Regarding the Wings' Olympic participation in a larger sense of the term, the Free Press and 97.1 the Ticket's Jamie Samuelssen believes that the exposure NHL players receive is worth placing the health of players like Zetterberg on the line:
I’d love to shake my hands in outrage and claim that the players and the league gain nothing from these exhibition games in Sochi. But this this is the very best hockey that we get every four years. And if you think these players are just going through the motions, all you had to do was watch the epic shootout between the USA and Russia Saturday morning to know just how much these games mean. You may hate shoot-outs. And a shoot-out seems like a wholly artificial way to settle these games. But sports are often about theater. And the Olympics are always about theater, which is why NBC packages the games the way that they do. In terms of sports theater, it doesn’t get much better than what T.J. Oshie and the American hockey team provided us with Saturday morning.
What does this have to do with Zetterberg and his injured back? Well some have publicly wondered if it’s worth risking the players health in these high-pressure games once every four years. I’ll admit that I wondered that when news of Zetterberg’s latest setback broke Friday morning. Some Red Wings fans that care far more about a Stanley Cup than a gold medal expressed outrage at Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk dragging their already beat-up bodies over the Russia for the Olympics. And that is completely logical rationale.
But consider the fact that Zetterberg didn’t actually hurt himself in a game. And consider the fact that an injury like his could become inflamed at any point. And then think about that shoot-out on Saturday morning. Zetterberg wasn’t part of it, but Datsyuk was. And with a week remaining in the tournament, there’s a very good chance that we’ll get more moments like that one thanks to the fact that the NHL players are over there.
We’ve entered a weird era in sports where less and less seems to move the needle. Whether it’s the influence of social media and smart phones or the ever-increasing prices at the box office, sports seem to be in a lull. The NFL gets blood boiling. So do the playoffs in most sports. But the thought of the best in the world playing as hard as they can at the highest level is so rare that it needs to be embraced. Risking the health of players like Zetterberg and Datsyuk is frightening. This season, it might be damaging. But what’s the alternative? Telling them to stay home? Scrapping the whole pros in the Olympics altogether? Sorry. That’s not a trade I’m willing to make. And if it costs the Red Wings this season, so be it. The two weeks of hockey that we’re getting is well worth any price a hockey fan could pay.
I'm not a, "'The Story' matters more than the health and safety of 'the players' or the interests of 'the team,' because sports are all about 'The Story"" person. I don't dig the concept of placing players' personal interests above those of the NHL team that employs them, either. And the "paying the price" argument is just inflammatory in my opinion.
I do, however, understand that the players want to participate in the games (and sometimes, they have no real choice but to show up), that the sport does receive tremendous exposure from the Olympics, and I understand that this is the kind of Faustian bargain that's hard to extricate oneself from once one agrees to it.
In my opinion, if the NHL's going to do this, and the players want to play, I would at least like to see more of the kind of medical coordination that the Swedes engaged in with the Red Wings, choosing to keep the team abreast of Zetterberg's injury and consulting with the Wings regarding the best course of treatment, and especially given the WADA's prohibition of anti-inflammatory medications and corticoid steroids, I believe that this medical coordination needs to start far before the Olympics, when the players are still skating from their NHL teams and when the players have to wean themselves off of everything from cortisone to cold medications.
If the NHL's going to do it and the players are going to do it, they need to make sure that balancing the players' NHL and international obligations via placing the players' health first and foremost--throughout the seasons leading up to Olympic games and during those games, too. The NHL teams and Olympic teams need to be on the same page medically and they need to work together from the moment the players are selected to participate (even informally; as we've learned, the Czechs made many of their Olympic picks this past summer, and slam-dunk players like Zetterberg were informed of their statuses and leadership roles last summer or early this past fall) to the moment that they board flights back to their respective employers' cities.
Otherwise...If you're really interested in the specifics regarding Zetterberg's herniated disc and the possible avenues for treatment, Undisclosed Injury did a FANTASTIC job of explaining disc herniations;
In the "near-future events" department...
I believe the books will be made available just prior to Nicklas Lidstrom's jersey retirement on March 6th vs. Colorado...
In the prospect department, Monday was "family day" in Canada, so many Major Junior hockey teams played matinee games. For whatever reason, the ECHL's Toledo Walleye were hosted by the Greenville (South Carolina) Road Warriors in a President's Day matinee, too, and things did not go well:
The Walleye dropped a 6-1 decision to Greenville, with Jared Coreau replacing Mac Carruth in the Walleye crease and stopping 21 of 23 shots; defenseman Richard Nedomlel scored the Walleye's only goal, though he finished at -1, and defensive partner Max Nicastro also finished at -1. The Walleye's website posted a recap:
Greenville struck for three in the first and rolled over Toledo 6-1 Monday afternoon in Greenville. Toledo has an overall record of 16-29-3-0 and is 7-17-3-0 on the road.
Toledo held a shot advantage of 14-11 in the first period but the Road Warriors opened up a 3-0 lead. The first goal came from Andrew Rowe at 7:07, the 11th shorthanded goal of the season allowed by the Walleye. Marc Olivier-Vallerand would score twice before the period came to a close.
“Special teams were huge in this game with our strong power play unit against the best penalty kill in the ECHL,” said Head Coach Nick Vitucci. “That early shorthanded goal against set the tone for the game. They can strike quickly with loads of offense and Greenville did that to us today.”
Greenville kept the scoring going in the second period with a power play goal at 2:45. That would be the end of the day for Mac Carruth as he was replaced by Jared Coreau after the 4th Greenville goal. Road Warriors would tack on two more goals late in the second to balloon the lead to 6-0.
Richard Nedomlel would get Toledo’s lone goal at 16:56 of the third period when he scored his 7th goal of the season. Travis Novak and Bobby Shea with assists.
Walleye Notes: Goaltender Mac Carruth made 11 saves on 15 shots in net for Toledo. Carruth has a record 8-13-0-0 on the season. Jared Coreau made 21 saves on 23 shots after entering the game. Today started a stretch of seven consecutive for the Walleye against teams from the South Division. Toledo has lost a season high five consecutive games.
In Major Junior hockey, in the QMJHL, Phillipe Hudon did not register a point in the Victoriaville Tigres' 5-0 loss to Rimouski;
In the OHL, Jake Paterson had a better evening, stopping 21 of 22 shots as the Saginaw Spirit took a 3-1 decision over the Sarnia Sting;
Tyler Bertuzzi remains sidelined with neck issues, but his Guelph Storm still trounced the Plymouth Whlers 9-3;
And Zach Nastasiuk ("upper-body injury") watched his Owen Sound Attack defeat the Ottawa 67's 5-4.
The Griffins took note, and re-posted Alan Cross's story about Callahan's unlikely path to AHL success (and I believe he's going to successfully clear waivers next year because his smallish stature won't intrigue NHL teams)...
Recently, the nitty-gritty forward has had an opportunity to play a bigger role on the team as a result of an injury-laden Detroit squad recalling many of his teammates, including two of his roommates - Luke Glendening and Riley Sheahan. Reaching this point hasn’t been a cake walk for Callahan, but he’s used to having to work for what he wants.
“I think it all started off playing junior hockey,” Callahan said. “I got a tryout to Kelowna of the WHL and made it as a walk-on. They had no idea who I was. That kind of showed that, for me, it’s going to be a bunch of hard work if I’m going to make it anywhere. Going into the draft, I was a late pick. Going into my first year pro, the Griffins didn’t know if they wanted to keep me in Grand Rapids, send me to the Toledo Walleye (ECHL) or send me back to juniors. So I just kind of went to the grindstone and made sure that they couldn’t send me anywhere.”
Callahan has been a Griffins mainstay since his arrival in the 2011-12 season. Standing six feet tall and weighing a humble 200 pounds, Callahan has never been afraid to step up and scrap with the best of them. In his debut season with Grand Rapids, he clocked 103 penalty minutes in only 48 games, including 14 fighting majors that were enough to rank second among all AHL rookies. During Callahan’s 2012-13 Calder Cup-winning season, he slightly reined in his temper and finished the regular season with 10 fewer penalty minutes in 23 more games.
He’s an agitator, though he laughs at the idea of ever being considered a serious heavy-hitter.
“I’m not sure if I was ever an enforcer. I was probably a guy who fought guys around my height when I had the opportunity,” Callahan joked. “But I’m not going to be fighting the real big guys.”
And the Griffins also posted an article by Cross profiling a player who will probably take a more direct route to the NHL in Xavier Ouellet:
Quite literally, his passion for the sport was born from his father, Robert Ouellet, who was also a professional hockey player. A huge influence on his son’s personal and professional life, Robert laid the groundwork for Xavier’s journey on the ice.
“He played in the QMJHL at first, then he went to Europe to play in France,” Ouellet said. It was in France where Xavier was born on July 29, 1993, but his father was a native of Montreal, Quebec, granting Xavier dual citizenship. “He made the National French team, so he went to a couple of World Championships, and in 1998 he went to the Olympics with Team France.”
In the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, the French team had a relatively average performance, suffering losses to Belarus (4-0) and Germany (2-0) but taking home a dominant 5-2 decision over the host Japan.
Collectively, France’s Preliminary Round group had a rough go at the Olympics compared to the powerhouse nations. However, Belarus managed to make it to the quarterfinals before falling to Russia, the eventual silver medal winner. In the end, the Czech Republic took home the gold by defeating Russia, 1-0, in the gold-medal match.
France ultimately finished 11th place by trouncing Italy, 5-1, in a consolation round.
“I was really young when my dad played in the Olympics, but I remember watching it on TV with my mom,” Ouellet recalled. Xavier was only four and a half years old at the time.
And finally, as a reminder, MLive's Ansar Khan reported that the Wings' non-Olympians will practice tomorrow at 2 PM at the Joe, and 97.1 the Ticket is holding a promotional event involving Danny DeKeyser on Friday, with DeKeyser appearing at the Meijer on Brown Road in Auburn Hills, MI from 5-7 PM:
Join the Street Team at Meijer on Friday, February 21 for to meet Detroit Red Wings Defense man Danny DeKeyser. Stop by from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. as Danny DeKeyser will be meeting fans and signing autographs. Plus there will be hockey experience games in the store and recipe demonstrations of Meijer Angus Beefs Chili! Stop by for all the hockey fun from Meijer, the Detroit Red Wings and your station for sports … 97.1 The Ticket!
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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.