The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/23/14 at 06:18 AM ET
The last two weeks have been quite the trip work-wise. I'm hoping that this is the last morning where I spontaneously wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning to write an overnight report before an early Sochi game--this time, the Gold Medal game between Sweden and Canada at 7 AM EST (on NBC and the CBC; the game will re-air on NBCSN at 5 PM and the CBC at 1:30 PM)--and while my little corner of South Lyon's so dark and so quiet that I could go outside and drop a pin to listen to it land in on refrozen ice, the internet connects me to the world, and Twitter's abuzz with Canadian, American and Swedish journalists taking pictures of the Bolshoy Arena, Tweets of Canadians lining up at the ass end of dawn to watch the game together all across Canada, and a few intrepid Swedes are engaging in the most polite form of trash talk that exists.
While the Red Wings' Olympians battled, you and I have been on quite the roller-coaster ride thanks to one Henrik Zetterberg's back surgery and the subsequent news that he's out until a potential playoff run, so I'd like to begin this entry with a conversation DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose had with Kyle Quincey, discussing the exact procedure Zetterberg underwent on Friday:
Henrik Zetterberg isn’t the only Wings player to have a discectomy during his professional career. Forward Todd Bertuzzi and defenseman Kyle Quincey also underwent the surgery, and Quincey assumes his procedure was similar to the one performed on the Wings’ captain to repair his herniated disk.
“It was the best thing that I’ve ever done so I felt amazing right afterwards and hopefully he feels the same way that I did and his pain is gone,” said Quincey, who had a discectomy in 2009. “It’s a quicker rehab than people think. It’s not an ACL. The most important thing is that his pain is gone and I’ve been through all of that and I just wish him all the best. … I played with it for two years and then I went to LA and got it fixed.”
It's incredibly important to note that Zetterberg had a small part of his disc removed, unlike one Todd Bertuzzi, who a Twitter pal reminded me had a spinal fusion. Zetterberg's surgery will supposedly ensure that he plays a long career, and it also bears mentioning that while Zetterberg's battled chronic back soreness since the he broke into the league, having to quit chewing tobacco and change his diet to address his initial back issues, he has always engaged in an exhaustive regimen with the Wings' training staff.
I watched Zetterberg get a post-practice working-over last fall, and I can tell you that before and after practices and before and after games, Zetterberg receives an aggressive, physical-therapy-like set of massages, he engages in a special stretching routine and he's obviously been communicating his issues to the coaching and training staff (see: Darren Helm as an example of what happens when you try to gut it out).
Zetterberg may not end up playing out his entire contract because he's signed until the 2020-2021 season due to back issues, another injury or plain old deciding that he's given his all and is ready to move on, but you and I can both take some comfort in the fact that his chronic back issues--and they will always remain chronic--have never involved anything less than strong coordination with the Wings' training staff, physicians and the best specialists that Mr. Ilitch's money can buy.
In terms of the Red Wings' roster sans Zetterberg and his $6.08 million cap hit, we've been repeatedly told that the Wings won't make any decisions regarding potential additions--or the statuses of Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco or Luke Glendening--until the team figures out whether Stephen Weiss and Johan Franzen are healthy enough to play...
And the team's definitely in a pickle because Franzen's stated that he won't know whether he can play without incurring post-game headaches until he plays in a game, and Weiss's chest cold negated a conditioning stint with Grand Rapids, so Weiss stated that he's not even sure if he'll be cleared to play when the Wings resume playing via back-to-back games in Montreal on Wednesday and Ottawa on Thursday.
I can tell you that Mikael Samuelsson is most certainly heading back to Grand Rapids, but I also have to point out that the Wings' roster issues are complicated by the fact that the team can only make 4 call-ups after the trade deadline, save "roster emergencies," so what happens between now and next Thursday...
Well, it's going to be complicated given the 23-man roster limit, the fact that Patrick Eaves would have to clear waivers to be sent down and the fact that, should Sheahan, Jurco or Glendening be sent down, they might not come back up because that 4-call-up limit remains in place until the end of the regular season, and even after that, when the cap and roster limit go away during the playoffs, the 4-call-up limit has to remain in place until an NHL team's AHL affiliate's season ends.
The Griffins are the defending Calder Cup champs, so, should the Wings make the playoffs, they're going to have to make some very hard roster decisions, and they're going to have to stick by 'em.
Regarding Weiss, the Free Press's George Sipple spoke with #90 after Saturday's practice at the University of Ligett School in Grosse Pointe Woods, where the team will also practice today...
After practice on Saturday, Weiss and the trainers decided he needed to get more physical contact in practices with the Wings before returning to action in a game.
“I’m starting to feel really good, but there hasn’t been that much practice time,” Weiss said. “First day with some contact today. So, start ramping that up again tomorrow and Monday and see what happens next week.”
He will practice with the Red Wings today, rather than report to Grand Rapids. Weiss could still play in a game or two with the Griffins in the coming week, if it is decided he needs a conditioning stint before playing in an NHL game.
“He’s looked good,” assistant coach Bill Peters said after Saturday’s practice. “I thought things have progressed real well. I know he got sick there early in the Olympic break, but his last two skates have been excellent.”
Asked whether there was a chance Weiss could return for the first game back, Peters said he wasn’t sure.
“Slow and steady wins the race in his situation, coming off that surgery that he had,” Peters said. “He’s getting real close.”
And Weiss acknowledged that Zetterberg's injury puts some pressure on him to finally regain his form and prove that the Wings made the right decision in signing him last summer:
“Obviously losing Z is a huge loss for us,” Weiss said. “I’m not thinking about coming in trying to replace him. I’ve got to come and do my own thing and play my game, but certainly we’re going to need guys to step up and fill that void. I definitely put some of that onus on me coming back, for sure.”
In a second article, Sipple spoke with assistant coach Peters about Zetterberg's absence from a team-wide perspective...
t’s a substantial loss, let’s not kid ourselves,” said assistant coach Bill Peters said. “It’s your captain, it’s your leading scorer. He’s a point-a-game player. Leadership in the room, as much as anything, in my opinion, is going to be an important loss. Now we’ll get our head wrapped around it. Once we do that, move on and find a way that we’re going to play to be successful down the stretch, and we’ll do that as a group.”
And Sipple spoke with one Tomas Jurco regarding both his appearance on the Slovak Olympic team and his tentative status as a Wing:
“It was awesome just to be there,” Jurco said. “We didn’t play that good.”
Jurco said he didn’t know what to expect about his first Olympic experience. He’s also not sure what to expect over the next few days, whether he’ll continue to be with the Wings or whether he’ll return to Grand Rapids to play in the American Hockey League.
“Hopefully I’m staying here,” Jurco said.
I also need to note that the player the Wings will probably lean upon the hardest in Zetterberg's absence, Pavel Datsyuk, Tweeted from Yekaterinburg, where he's spending the weekend visiting his daughter and the ex-Mrs.-Pavel. Datsyuk won't return to Detroit until tomorrow, and he'll skate with the team on Tuesday:
Also in the Twitter department, but shifting our focus toward today's game, one Mike Babcock may be skirting IOC rules by wearing a McGill University tie during today's game, but he made sure to not tell anybody about the tie...Well, save McGill University, which revealed Babcock's secret wardrobe weapon at 4:23 AM today:
IIHF.com's Andy Potts noted that Babcock and the Wings' Swedes--Daniel Alfredsson, Jonathan Ericsson, Jonas Gustavsson, Niklas Kronwall and Gustav Nyquist--are usually on friendly terms...
"Obviously I'm a huge fan of Swedes. It's a beautiful country and they're good people,” [Babcock] said. “My captain plays for them and they’ve got some really good men on that team.”
Among the principle virtues of Swedish hockey players, Babcock cites hard work and a team ethic. “They are ego-free players, they’re well structured, they don’t hand the puck over for free and they have a dangerous power play,” he said. “It’s going to be a hard, fast game.”
Kronwall, stand-in captain in the absence of Zetterberg, has been solid in defence and regularly picks up the plaudits of his team-mates. Erik Karlsson’s eight-point haul from the blue line might have been the eye-catching stat of the competition, but he can’t speak enough in praise of Kronwall’s leadership.
“He’s been a key player for us,” Karlsson said. “When Zetterberg couldn’t play anymore, he stepped up for us. He’s taken that role and really sacrificed himself to make sure that everybody’s ready. He leads by example for us, and he makes it easier sometimes to make decisions out there.”
The man himself is less prone to self-promotion – that whole ego-free thing Babcock mentioned – and instead prefers to evoke the thoughts of Zetterberg, who usually wears the C in the locker room for Detroit and Sweden.
"It’s what Hank says in Detroit – don't get too high, don't get too low," Kronwall said. "That's just something that I keep in the back of my mind. Hank is an unbelievable captain, and we wish he was here with us. He can't be here physically, but mentally, it feels like he is around us."
He also paid tribute to the professionalism of Babcock's coaching: "He's incredibly prepared. He spends endless hours on the rink every day, going through videos, doing everything to win."
And Alfredsson told Potts that he expects Canada to employ a very Red Wings-like style of play:
Alfredsson, meanwhile, feels that he knows what to expect from a Babcock team and recognises some of Canada's play from the Red Wings strategies. "I think both teams know each other really well. I think Mike and Canada play a similar system to what we do in Detroit, but they also made adjustments to the bigger ice and do some things differently," he said. "Both coaches are going to be well aware of what the other guys do, and it's going to be more a matter of who wins the battles, who wins the races to the pucks, that's going to decide it."
Danny Dekeyser took in Western Michigan's 4-3 win over the University of Nebraska Omaha on Saturday to help raise funds for Duchene Muscular Dystrophy research...
And I will try to translate a profile of Gustav Nyquist from Kvallsposten before the game. It's a meaty article and Gothenburg Swedish is difficult to translate, so I can only promise to do my best.
Update: From the Zetterberg Foundation on Facebook:
Henrik thanks you all for the well wishes after his successful back surgery. If the Wings go to the playoffs, he should be a part of it. In the meantime....GO SWEDEN!
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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.