The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/18/13 at 03:37 AM ET
Updated at 4:06 AM with an excellent article about Niklas Kronwall, and give the Swiss Pavel Datsyuk Q and A a gander, too: At the end of an incredibly busy day at Joe Louis Arena, after the Detroit Red Wings had suffered a Jakub Kindl groin injury setback during their morning practice, chose to pass on Wade Redden, informally announced that Tomas Holmstrom will officially retire on Tuesday, announced the naming of three AHL and one ECHL prospects to their respective league's All-Star Games during an afternoon news cycle, and may or may not have lost Todd Bertuzzi's services for Saturday's opener in St. Louis as he chose to rest his sore groin after skating through half of Thursday night's practice...
And again, Friday's 12 PM practice will be free and open to the public, with free parking in the Riverfront Lot, and will be streamed on Fox Sports Detroit's website...
Wings coach Mike Babcock addressed the press a world away from his, "We're just so grateful to be here" mood when training camp started on Sunday, practically hissing and growling at the press after having read that ESPN's chosen Saturday's opponent as this year's Cup pick. After lecturing the press about the 10-day groin injury rule, MLive's Ansar Khan caught a classic Babcockian summary of what the team's attempted to achieve in going from zero to 48-games-in-99 nights over the course of a week:
“I thought it was a heck of a week,'' Babcock said. “I expected more (groin injuries).''
The players skated for about 90 minutes Thursday night in front of roughly 2,000 fans. Their final practice before Saturday's season opener at St. Louis will be noon Friday at JLA (open to the public, free of charge).
"In five days you're trying to do what you did in five weeks,'' Babcock said. "We're trying to be prepared. We got a big game against St. Louis. I read in ESPN they're picked to win the (Stanley) Cup, so we better get ready to go.
“We're going to go fast and execute and make sure we got our details done. We plan on coming in tomorrow and feeling really good about ourselves, whipping around, competing hard for 35-40 minutes and be ready to go.''
Asked about his early-season goaltending plans, Babcock said, “Howie (Jimmy Howard) is going to start, and if he plays good he's going to start again, and if if he plays good he's going to start again.''
Play Howard three games in four nights?
“Why not?'' he said.
Babcock also addressed his team's steep learning curve while speaking to the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness:
“We’re trying to skate as much as we possibly can and go through the details of our play,” Babcock said. “Basically, I have a lesson and I keep crossing off the details and I expect the guys to absorb it and pay attention to it and the bottom line is you have a way better chance to look good if you all know what’s going on.”
On Tuesday, the Wings had a morning skate before scrimmaging at Compuware Arena. They also had a morning skate Thursday before returning for a practice later in the evening.
“I’m trying to get their body clock on,” Babcock said.
After taking part in my own 4-month hiatus, albeit due to health-related reasons instead of voluntarily, I'm gonna put things a little more bluntly this time around. If I've changed during that period of time, I've become a little less worried about speaking my mind and a little less likely to "give a shit."
We're moving into a packed period of time in which season previews will hit the wires like pairs of shoes over the power lines near a marijuana dealer's house in Ann Arbor, and this morning, I can tell you that the stuff that's trickled in over the past week or two comes to one conclusion, as summarized by this quip from Fox Sports' NHL preview:
Teams built to succeed or fail in lockout-shortened season
Detroit Red Wings - fail
Nicklas Lidstrom never missed the playoffs during his 20 seasons with the Red Wings. The Wings’ playoff streak is actually one season longer than that and could finally be in jeopardy of ending this season now that Lidstrom, the team’s captain and blue-line anchor, has retired. The Red Wings announced Tuesday that Henrik Zetterberg would take over the “C.” Replacing one of the best two-way defensemen in league history will take more than a few weaves of some thread.
The out-of-town press seems to believe that the Red Wings are finally done like dinner--though they've spent the last ten years predicting as much.
This time, everyone insists, with the last of the 2002 Stanley Cup team's Hall-of-Famers heading for the exits, the Wings have finally sank back to the middle-to-bottom of the playoff pack, and almost in unison, everyone from NHL.com to the folks who charge money to look at made-up trade "charts" agree that the Wings might make the playoffs, but won't do much more than make a first-round curtain call.
It's over, they insist. The Wings are just another polka, like any other polka.
If I were able to give the Wings one sentence's worth of advice, or to give Red Wings fans who fear the same things a 2013 season outlook, I'd put it this way:
F*** 'em, and worry about what you can do to succeed on a daily basis, even if that means faking confidence 'till you find it within yourself.
F*** what everybody else thinks. Yes, this team has more question marks than the Riddler's jumpsuit, but the Wings aren't just who they are. They're like the rest of us in that they're going to become "what they do," and "what they do" is a story written on the ice, not in the newspapers, on sports talk radio, TV or on websites and talk-is-incredibly-cheap blogs (including this one).
As the Detroit News's Bob Wojnowski suggests in an article headlining the News's NHL preview, the Wings are indeed in a scary place, especially with Lidstrom, Holmstrom, Brad Stuart and Jiri Hudler absent, no marquee free agents having been signed during the summer (the Wings swung and missed on Ryan Suter in a big way, and they didn't seem to have a back-up plan, unless Mikael Samuelsson, Jordin Tootoo, Carlo Colaiacovo, Jonas Gustavsson and finally giving Brendan Smith a chance to earn a full-time job are back-up plans).
So what? Starting on Saturday night, we'll find out whether the Wings are as scared of what their roster looks like and what their chances might be as fans like you and me are, and something tells me that the Wings aren't nearly as afraid of the 2013 season story they're about to write for themselves as fans like you and me are (and yes, I'm scared, too...I have a *#$%@& anxiety disorder. When the hell am I not scared, and when the hell am I not jittery as shit about my Wings? So yes, friends, this steely calm and positivity I display on the blog is a dogged attempt to be professional, and is not necessarily a reflection of how scared I can get--or how that pretend professionalism ends up calming me backdown):
"We heard that the last few years — we're too old, we're too old, we can't compete with the tough teams," [captain Henrik] Zetterberg said. "Now I guess we're too young, right? You can't really be bothered by what people say. It's gonna be a crap-shoot anyway going into playoffs this year. It's going to be fun."
There is something intriguing about the unknown. For instance, Zetterberg and Datsyuk will be playing with heralded 26-year-old newcomer Damien Brunner, who led the Swiss league in scoring but is an NHL novice. On defense, Niklas Kronwall is the leader, and we'll find out if Jonathan Ericsson is ready to be a first-pairing stalwart.
The Wings need more scoring from Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula, Daniel Cleary, Todd Bertuzzi, Darren Helm and others. They need Howard to be as dominant as he was early last season, and if not, new backup Jonas Gustavsson could surprise.
A team that makes the playoffs 21 straight seasons and wins four Stanley Cups doesn't suddenly turn into an intrepid underdog. But everyone knows the reality — the Wings haven't made it past the second round since 2009.
"I have the same attitude every year when we start," said Babcock, entering his eighth season. "We gotta get off to a good start, keep getting better and play our best hockey at the end. Every year I've been scared to death just to make the playoffs. This year is no different."
Even Babcock gets scared. But then he goes out and does something about it. Like going out and recruiting Damien Brunner at the World Championships, or planning, planning and planning some more, and then spending a week attempting to cram a season's worth of growth into his players over the course of a week.
Don't get me wrong, when I hear that Jonathan Ericsson believes he can be the team's #2 defenseman behind Niklas Kronwall, I'm halfway to my bottle of Klonopin...
"I talked to Babs a little bit and he wants me to be a guy they can count on," said Ericsson, 28, who's a significant key. "And I want to be the guy they can count on defensively in the last minute of the game when we're up one goal. It's not just me that has to take a step; everyone in this room has to."
The Wings also lost Tomas Holmstrom to retirement, so someone has to assume a larger net-front role, especially on the power play. Can Franzen be a more consistent and prolific scorer? Can Bertuzzi and Cleary stay healthy? Can Tootoo add needed feisty agitation? Can GM Ken Holland make moves to bolster the thin defense by the trade deadline?
The Wings were the fifth seed in the West last season and are pegged by most prognosticators no higher than third in their division again, behind Chicago and St. Louis, scrapping alongside Nashville. It wasn't easy then and it's even tougher now, as the Wings enter a season without Lidstrom for the first time in more than 20 years.
"All my career I had him back there, so it will be an adjustment, for sure," Zetterberg said. "But if you look at us forward-wise, we basically have the same guys, with some good additions. I don't think we'll be that different. Then again, No. 5 (Lidstrom) isn't there, so we don't really know how it's gonna turn out. You just gotta be honest about it and take it as a challenge."
What happens now? As the Free Press's Helene St. James notes, the Wings are actually excited to find out:
"It's going to be a fun year, that's all I know," Johan Franzen said. "Very exciting. We've got some different faces on the back end. We have to play with a lot of energy and be ready when it starts. No holding back."
Ken Holland may have spent Thursday canvassing his pro and amateur scouts as to who his team might target to bolster the blueline at the trade deadline, or earlier, if things don't go well on defense, as well as who might be able to fit into the mix as a top-six forward and goal-scorer on a team that's full of third and fourth-liners, but he also believes in his team in its present form:
"Personally, I think in this cap world, we've all got strengths and weaknesses," general manager Ken Holland said. "There is not a team that's good in every area. The days are gone when you can look at a team before season starts and say, 'Oh, they're going to run away with (the) West.' We've had Nick Lidstrom for 20 years, but other teams didn't have Nick Lidstrom and they found ways to compete. We've got to do that."
There is one certainty: It's going to be harder than it has been in years.
"For us to be successful," Jimmy Howard said, "we're going to have that workman's attitude out there. Come in every single day ready to work."
As St. James suggests, teh fact that the Wings are stacking Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on the same line, with the ever-intriguing Damien Brunner, suggests that Babcock's given in to the concept that his best players actually need to play together, and it's definitely make-or-break time for Franzen, his line mate in free agent-to-be Valtteri Filppula, the Clearys, Bertuzzis, Helms, and even the Tootoos, Abdelkaders and Millers.
And while we're at it, Tom Renney's going to try to resurrect the power play while using the Mule in Tomas Holmstrom's place.
"We've got a lot of depth at forward, right down the middle," Howard said. "Then with Bert, Clears, Mule, those are big guys, and if we can get Brunner going, I think we're going to be more dangerous than people think.'
Jimmy Howard's got to prove that he's worth signing to a contract extension before a season in which the salary cap will go down, not up, and then there's the defense.
Kronwall-Ericsson. Quincey-Smith. Colaiacovo-White. Kindl and possibly Lashoff in reserve, depending on whether the Wings sign Mike Knuble to a one or two-way deal before the team shrinks down to the 23-man roster limit this afternoon (I will be grocery shopping with the mom as my first week of blogging has not yet yielded the level of balance necessary to both do my job and do things like shop for groceries or try to get more than six hours of sleep at a time, and no, I don't give a flying *#$%@& if you think I'm bitching, so Paul will let you know what the Wings do personnel-wise).
What do you think, coach?
"I have lots of ideas, but the proof is always in the pudding," Babcock said. "What we've done that I like is, I think we've increased our depth in goal and I think we've increased our depth up front. We've got good people, we've got commitment to details, we've got work hard in practice at it so we can execute, and then in games it's a priority. We've got to bear down."
That's the theory.
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness very specifically asked the Red Wings' suspects on defense about their collective job and individual jobs in not making the defense look as suspect as it may appear...Okay, and he asked the starting goalie, too:
“I think everyone has a lot of question marks about it,” Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said Thursday after practicing at Joe Louis Arena. “But there’s no slouches back there, that’s for sure. You can’t replace Nick, and Stewie’s a tough one to replace, especially what he brought to the defensive side of the puck and the (penalty kill), the way he’d lay his body on the line, but we got a lot of guys back there willing to do that as well. It gives the guys an opportunity to step up and take advantage of a role they might not have had.”
If you want to read Ericsson's shudder-worthy comments about his own potential, given how cynical y'all tend to be about him, go ahead, but we haven't talked about the most important piece of the defensive equation yet in one Niklas Kronwall:
“He’s been really good for us,” Ericsson said of Kronwall. “I have all the faith in the world in Kronner that he’s going to be even better for us. We worked well when we were paired together, both on the penalty kill and five-on-five.”
Kronwall won’t replace Lidstrom, but he will take over as the leader on the blue line for this group.
“For Nik, the biggest thing is not overdo it, don’t feel like you got to put the whole world on the back of your shoulders and go out there and be something you’re not,” Howard said. “Nick is really good using his instincts out there, making that first pass out of the zone, or whether it’s as a big body-checker jumping up in the play. He reads the plays really well, he’s got great hockey sense. If he just plays within himself he’ll be fine.”
And then there's Brendan Smith, who has so much potential, but so little experience, and has to prove that he's Kronwall's successor:
“There’s going to be a lot more minutes,” Smith said. “(Lidstrom) played in all positions – power-play, penalty kill, even strength, four-on-four. Whatever it was, he dominated.
“We’ve just got to come in and play well as a unit and that will take care of itself there,” Smith added. “You can’t replace a guy like Nick Lidstrom. Nobody in the NHL can. We’ve just got to go out as a D corps and do the best we can do and be productive in that sense.”
The middle of the night can be an odd time news-wise, so while I'm blathering on about the season to come and the, "Don't give a f*** about what anyone else thinks: do what you can do and let things fall into place" line, I need to let you know about something that is either very good for the Wings or very bad for people like try-out Mike Knuble and one-time top prospects Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton.
The long wait is finally over for Detroit Red Wings forward Patrick Eaves, who has been cleared to play as the team gets set for the season opener Saturday in St. Louis.
Eaves hasn't played since being hit in the side of the head while going down on one knee to block a shot Nov. 26, 2011 against Nashville. He suffered a broken jaw, which has long since healed, but he continued to experience headaches and concussion-like symptoms until recently.
He was cleared for contact prior to training camp and reported no issues following several hard practices and Tuesday's Red and White scrimmage.
Eaves will start the season on the 23-man roster, which must be finalized by 3 p.m. Friday.
Center Darren Helm, who is expected to miss at least the first three games due to a pulled muscle in his back, likely will start the season on short-term injured reserve, opening up a roster spot and enabling the club to delay making a more difficult roster decision.
The Free Press's Helene St. James confirms while updating the team's injury picture:
Eaves was green-lighted Thursday, in time to be put on the 23-man roster due by 3 p.m. today. The Wings had planned to carry 14 forwards, and Eaves puts them at 15. However, Darren Helm will miss at least three games with a sore back, general manager Ken Holland said. That makes it possible to put Helm on retroactive injured reserve.
The Wings could have a problem when Helm is ready to return, though another injury could crop up. Should the Wings be healthy, they'd have to make a decision whether to trade someone or use waivers.
Damien Brunner can be sent down without being exposed on waivers, but he would have to have an awful start for this to be considered. The likelier scenario is to risk waiving Jan Mursak or Cory Emmerton, or even Eaves, who might be shy about blocking shots on the penalty kill after getting hit by the puck the last time he was out, in November 2011, leading to the concussion.
The Red Wings also have a sort of gentlemen's agreement with Brunner's Swiss team, EV Zug, that if he isn't playing in the NHL, he's going to be in Switzerland, and that may or may not factor into the team's decision as well.
Helm hasn't skated since suffering an injured back a week ago, but coach Mike Babcock shared some good news after the morning skate, saying "He can touch his toes."
Forward Mikael Samuelsson skated for the first time since suffering a pulled groin Sunday, and he said he expects to play Saturday at St. Louis. Defenseman Jakub Kindl missed practice with a groin injury, but Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) will be ready for the opener, giving the Wings six defensemen.
Todd Bertuzzi left the night practice Thursday with tightness in his groin. He is day to day.
If you're keeping score at home, whether it's by taking a gander at the Free Press's roster in list form, the Detroit News's nifty roster in pictures, the Wings website's roster page or Capgeek's Wings organization chart (Detroit has about the pro-rated equivalent of $8.2 million in cap space if you include Joey MacDonald's one-way contract, and closer to $7 million if you include Lashoff on the roster), you add in Mike Knuble, and the team has 15 forwards, 8 defensemen and 2 goalies.
As the magic number is 23, and the team has 26 players on the roster.
That suggests that Brian Lashoff will be sent back to Grand Rapids, if Knuble's interested in signing a two-way deal, the Wings will accommodate him, and that's 24...Put Helm on the IR for a bit, and that's 23, but as St. James says, then come hard decisions regarding Mursak and Emmerton.
Waiving the speedy Mursak or the superbly solid Emmerton sounds like an easy proposition given that Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Joakim Andersson and Riley Sheahan are all either over-ripe or nearly ready in Grand Rapids...
But just as the Wings may very well have to sign a free agent after inking Nathan Paetsch to a 2-way contract somewhere down the line because you want to have at least 9 or 10 NHL-ready defensemen available, and just as the Wings may eventually welcome Joey MacDonald back instead of burying him in Grand Rapids to unseat Petr Mrazek or Tom McCollum as you really do need to be 3 to 5 goalies deep in a 48-games-in-99-nights demolition derby, the Wings aren't going to want to sacrifice assets for nothing.
For those of you who don't remember the 94-95 season, the number of players some teams went through thanks to fatigue and injuries was stunning, and the deepest teams, including the Red Wings, ended up winning out. So there really are no easy decisions when it comes to waiving players when the season starts.
In any case, today's the Detroit News's turn to offer a significant chunk of NHL preview articles, and the ever-verbose but thoughtful Gregg Krupa asks five questions surrounding the team which he believes they will answer, including the an intriguing quip from Ken Holland regarding said roster and possible tweaks to it...
"We'll have to learn the CBA," Holland said of the new collective bargaining agreement, which has three new provisions — compensatory buyouts, salary retention in some trades, and a sudden decline in the salary cap after this season — that likely will provide for ample movement of players.
"Obviously, the loopholes have been taken away, which is fine," Holland said of old provisions that the Red Wings were the first to fully exploit to sign long-range contracts with uneven salary distributions for players like Henrik Zetterberg, Kronwall and Johan Franzen, while minimizing exposure under the cap. Let's figure out what the rules of the game are, and let's go."
And while Krupa talks about the defense, Damien Brunner, the power play and the cap, it always comes down to goaltending, so "Howie" and "The Monster" have to deliver while fighting off physical fatigue, mental fatigue and injuries:
Howard had his best season in 2011-12. Early, as the Red Wings struggled, Howard was the best player on the ice. He is also now a veteran playoff performer and a team leader in the dressing room.
Gustavsson, known as The Monster because of his 6-foot-3 height and 193-pound weight, is motivated for a bounce-back performance after the harsh focus on goaltending in Toronto last season. With the Wings playing 48 games in 99 days, the backup role becomes critical.
They might be involved in more high-scoring games than usual, which puts a premium on Howard and Gustavsson to "just win."
Howard had the lowest goals-against average of his three full seasons with the Red Wings, 2.13. But each year presents its own challenges, and Howard will be dealing with no exhibition games, which normally offer NHL goalies the best preparation for the regular season. But he says early signs are good.
"To be honest, I felt really good out there. A lot better than I thought I was going to be," Howard said after Tuesday's Red-and-White scrimmage. "I was surprised about that."
Detroit Red Wings
Coach: Mike Babcock, 8th season with Wings.
2011-12 record: 48-28-6 (102 points, 3rd in Central Division)
2011-12 leaders: G — Johan Franzen, 29; A — Pavel Datsyuk, 48; W — Jimmy Howard, 35.
Pressure is on: C Valtteri Filppula — After a career-best year, and with the prospect of free agency this summer, can Filppula duplicate or better the 66 points of a season ago?
Star in waiting: D Brendan Smith — He's been waiting for a while but Smith finally gets his chance to play regularly in the NHL.
Notable: Losing defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom (retirement) and Brad Stuart (trade) is a massive hit. The Wings are not above the pack as they once were.
In terms of the Red Wings' ultimate fate, the News's beat writers offer their predictions...
Ted Kulfan: I can see the Wings squeezing into the playoffs as a 7th or 8th seed— and getting bounced in the playoffs.The loss of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart is going to be difficult to overcome.The constant flying back and forth across the country the latter part of the season is going to be a factor, too. After 48 games, there will be not much separation in the standings. But the Wings will have fewer wins than the top seeds.
Gregg Krupa: The Wings play 2013 seemingly poised between a famously successful past and an uncertain future, without Nicklas Lidstrom. They are deep in forwards and have good goaltending, but the defensemen will be challenged. Avoiding the injuries that have harried them the past few seasons is likely even more important this year. The Wings are destined for the sixth seed in the Western Conference and elimination in the second round of the playoffs.
John Niyo: If the top two lines are as productive as they hope — and Damien Brunner's transition to the NHL is a big key — the Wings should have enough up front to offset the back-end losses. Enough to finish second behind St. Louis in the Central, I'll say, before another second-round playoff exit.
Bob Wojnowski : One popular theory is, the Red Wings' 21-year playoff streak is about to end. I'm not buying it, primarily because Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg remain elite forwards. Oh, it won't be easy, and the defense has gaping holes. This is the year — a contract year — goalie Jimmy Howard must prove his worth. The Wings finish second in the Central Division and lose in the second round to the Canucks.
And while the Free Press's NHL preview section seems slight and likely to get filled out with bluster from one of their columnists tomorrow night, their sports staff offered their takes on the Wings' playoff chances as well:
Helene St. James: Yes.
They have many strengths — forwards, goaltending — to mask deficiencies on defense, and while they aren’t going to be a top team, they’ll be competitive enough to make the playoff cut. Once in, it’s anyone’s game — but unless improvements are made on the back end, it’s hard to think the Wings will make it further than two rounds.
Jeff Seidel: Yes.
Barely. If the Wings are close to making the playoffs, they have plenty of young talent in the minors and plenty of cap space to make a move to push them over the top at the trading deadline. They certainly have the offense to make a long run in this league of parity. But they will lose in the first round because they don’t have the defense. That would change if they can upgrade there.
Drew Sharp: Yes.
The streak will continue. They won’t win the division and will find themselves scrambling for the No. 4 seed and home ice in the first round. But for the fourth straight year, it’s unlikely they’ll survive the beyond the second round. That becomes a bigger concern than missing the playoffs altogether.
George Sipple: No.
The Wings simply aren’t as good without Nicklas Lidstrom. They still have a lot of talent and some good young talent waiting in the wings. But with a 48-game schedule, there won’t be time to make up for slow starts, significant injuries nor scoring slumps.
Mitch Albom: Yes.
The Wings have enough depth to withstand this upcoming grind of a season and, let’s face it, making the NHL playoffs is not climbing Mt. Everest. But second round may be all they can hope for in this transitional year.
What do I think will happen? Beats the hell out of me, but I do know that these abbreviated seasons are truly "anything goes" campaigns, and I do believe that the Wings' playoff streak will continue minus Lidstrom and Holmstrom.
Otherwise? The Wings have to worry about what they can do on and off the ice to be as prepared to play when the puck drops as humanly possible, and they must not give a f*** about what anyone else thinks about them, even if it feels like it's motivational, because there's simply not enough time to be concerned with what anyone thinks or says. In the 48-games-in-99 nights demolition derby, you've got to worry about playing hockey and nothing else.
In other Wings news:
- Regarding those groins, from the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:
Groin injuries are beginning to have an effect. Defenseman Jakub Kindl didn't skate at all Thursday while forward Todd Bertuzzi didn't come out for the second session in the evening.
"Bert felt some tightness in his groin," said coach Mike Babcock , who felt the Wings actually fared well in terms of groin pulls for this camp. "It was a heckuva week. I expected more."
Forward Mikael Samuelsson skated Thursday after missing the first three days of camp because of a tender groin and will likely play in Saturday's season opener in St. Louis.
"If you ask me, yes," Samuelsson said.
Babcock ruled out forward Darren Helm (strained back) for the weekend. Helm has yet to skate in camp.
- In terms of coming "back home" to well-attended practices both in the morning and in the evening at Joe Louis Arena, per the Free Press's George Sipple and Helene St. James:
Just being back at his locker stall was enough to make Johan Franzen happy. Franzen said Compuware was nice, but "this is the place you want to be."
"This is the place we feel at home in," Franzen said. "It's great to be back home."
Coach Mike Babcock went for his routine jog in the morning.
"It's great," he said. "I've been down here lots, but having players around here today, obviously, is a positive thing for us."
"Coming in, parking the car and seeing the regular people you see when you come in, it's good to see the familiar faces," [Drew] Miller said. "You come into the locker room and you have all your stuff that you're used to, the stick room and weight room."
Having the morning skate and then an evening practice will help the players prepare for the start of the regular season, which comes Saturday at St. Louis.
"We did a checklist of things we had to get through," Babcock said. "In five days we're trying to do what you did in five weeks."
Said Miller: "It's all mind-set. You have to have that repetition. We don't have the preseason games. We have to simulate as best we can. I think this was a good idea."
- And in the multimedia department, the Detroit Free Press posted a gallery from the morning session, Michigan Hockey Now's Michael Caples posted a gallery from both sessions, the Wings' Facebook page posted a gallery from both skates and the Detroit News's David Guralnick posted both a dual-session gallery and the following on Twitter (via RedWingsFeed again):
The Grand Rapids Griffins’ offense came alive and ended a six-game losing streak against the Charlotte Checkers with a 5-3 victory on Thursday at Time Warner Cable Arena.
After being shut out last night, the Griffins held Charlotte to only 15 shots, marking the first time in franchise history the team has defeated the Checkers.
Charlotte jumped on the scoreboard first as Michal Jordan scored a shorthand goal at 6:56 of the first period. Coming off a faceoff near the Checkers goal, Brett Sutter sent a centering pass to Jordan and the defenseman tipped the puck past Tom McCollum on a backdoor play.
Jeff Hoggan scored the Griffins’ first goal in the two-game series at 10:18 of the first period. The Hope, British Columbia, native buried a shot from the top of the circles to tie the game at one.
Jordan scored his second goal of the game and his third of the season for the Checkers just over one minute after Grand Rapids netted the tying goal. The defenseman fired a wrist shot 55 feet from the goal, tucking the puck inside the right goal post at 11:24 of the first period.
Landon Ferraro tied the game at two midway through the second period. Joakim Andersson angled his pass into the middle and Ferraro snuck behind the Checkers defense, sending his shot behind the pads of Justin Peters. The goal at 11:10 of the second period was the center’s 15th of the season, tying Tomas Tatar for team lead.
Grand Rapids took their first lead of the game at 2:47 of the third period. Gustav Nyquist scored a highlight reel-worthy goal as he fired the puck during a spin-o-rama move, sneaking his shot inside the right goal post.
The Checkers answered less than two minutes later as Justin Shugg’s shot was stopped by McCollum, but deflected off a Griffins defender. The puck took a Charlotte bounce into the net to tie the game at 4:28 of the final period.
In his first game back since Dec. 29, Andersson assisted on two goals before scoring one of his own to give the Griffins a lead they wouldn’t lose. Nyquist’s shot was deflected by Peters, but the rebound bounced right to Andersson on the opposite side of the goal. The center’s goal was his 50th as a pro.
In his first game since Dec. 31, Francis Pare scored the final goal of the night on an empty net at 19:42 of the third period, securing the Griffins victory in Charlotte.
Peters recorded 36 saves while McCollum earned the win behind 14 saves. With his 36th career victory, the goaltender passed Pokey Reddick for seventh place in franchise history.
The Charlotte Checkers' website also posted a recap, both the Griffins and Checkers' websites posted Flickr photo galleries, the Grand Rapids Press's recap looked ahead to the reason that the Griffins will fly out of Charlotte on Red Bird III and head to Rockford, IL this morning (the link takes you to Flightaware.com's N682 RW--a.k.a. Red Bird III--tracking page), with the Wings' team plane heading back to Detroit to pick up the Wings and deposit them in St. Louis this afternoon or evening...
Goalie Tom McCollum stopped 14 shots to earn the win for Grand Rapids, which heads to Rockford for a 8:05 p.m. EST Saturday matchup against the IceHogs. The Griffins, 22-12-2-2 continue to hold the Midwest Division lead entering the season's midpoint.
And the Checkers' website posted YouTube-formatted highlights of a sort:
Also: in the OHL, Andreas Athanasiou registered 2 assists as his Barrie Colts defeated the Oshawa Generals 3-2 in a shootout.
Also of Red Wings-related note:
- In the power rankings category, only one of USA Today's 12 panelists for this year's composite power rankings is picking the Wings to win the Central Division;
- In fantasy hockey news, the Hockey News's Darryl Dobbs gave Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith "honorable mentions" in his predictive list of the likely top rookies this upcoming season:
Gustav Nyquist, Detroit - Thanks to Damien Brunner, Nyquist gets another year of seasoning in the AHL. He would have been No. 6 on this list had he been in training camp.
Brendan Smith, Detroit - This is a great pick in roto leagues because if he does little offensively, he'll still provide heavy penalty minutes. So the downside is still pretty good.
- In foreign-language news, I'm actually pretty bummed out to state that Damien Brunner's interview with the Zuger Zeitung, his hometown paper, is a subscriber-only article (with two nice pictures of Brunner at his locker and Brunner sitting next to his next-stall neighbor, Pavel Datsyuk)...
- Though there is a Q and A Pavel Datsyuk conducted with Nicola Berger that's available free of charge (roughly translated from German), and my goodness, is it worth the translation! This article is titled "Blabla," which translates itself. Please keep in mind that Berger and Swiss journalists aren't allowed into teams' locker rooms in the Swiss National A League (NLA), so this is the tale of a fellow who's walking into the Red Wings' locker room for the first time:
Swiss NLA journalist and hockey expert Nicola Berger is tracing the start of the shortened NHL season in North America. He's recording his experiences in his blog.
A few hours ago, I attended the Red Wings' evening practice at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena. It was an exciting affair in front of 1,000 fans in the stadium, who were celebrating the return of NHL hockey after a 113-day lockout, and as a "thank you" for their loyalty to the team, the team sold pizza and hot dogs for a dollar.
After an exercise period, which is a common practice in North America, the media could walk into the ostentatious locker room to try to talk to the players. I tried my luck with Detroit superstar Pavel Datsyuk (34), who arrived recently, who's playing alongside Henrik Zetterberg (32) and Damien Brunner (26) on the same line.
The minutes of an unusual encounter with an unusual player:
Berger: Mr. Datsyuk, can I ask you something about Damien Brunner?
Datsyuk: You can try, but nothing will happen.
Berger: Why not?
Datsyuk: I just got here on Tuesday, I know nothing. Everything I would say would certainly just be, "Blah blah."
Berger: Well, it's the "blah blah" of Datsyuk.
Datsyuk: Yeah, but in Russian. Do you speak Russian?
Datsyuk, resigned: Okay.
Berger, defiantly: What do you know about him?
Berger: Have you ever seen him play?
Datsyuk, irritated: Yes!
Berger: Have you spoken to him about Zetterberg?
Berger, resigned: Okay...
Datsyuk, aggressively: You're from Switzerland?
Datsyuk: Very good. Next time, bring me some cheese.
Berger, stunned: Okay...
Datsyuk: We can make a trade. I brew vodka in my basement...
Berger, satisfied/joyously: Deal!
- And finally, as an FYI: Kuriren.nu, a newspaper from Norrboten, Sweden, posted an editorial in which Magnus Tosser hopes that Tomas Holmstrom's #96 is retired due to his 1,027 games, 15 seasons and 4 Stanley Cups paid for with blood, sweat, tears, sore backs and knees that will likely need to be replaced at some point, and he hopes that Holmstrom comes out of retirement for the playoffs, so that he can go out winning a Stanley Cup. It's a bit far-fetched, but very sweet.
I had the pleasure of meeting Holmstrom once, and I can tell you that he was indeed just as wacky, quirky, grumpy, funny and genuinely kind and decent as you might expect of someone who willingly sacrificed his body on a nightly basis to help his teammates win. He'll probably cry on Tuesday, and I know that some Wings fans will, too.
Update: Grumble. Of course NHL.com's Dave Lozo published his first slate of power rankings in the middle of the night, and the Wings missed the cut in his 16-team list;
And MLive's Brendan Savage also published an article discussing Niklas Kronwall's attempt to succeed Nicklas Lidstrom as the Red Wings' #1 defenseman (and it's an excellent article, so give it a full read):
"Obviously, there will be more responsibility but at the same time if you try to do too much it's going to just hurt team and hurt myself," said Kronwall, who turned 32 last week. "You just take it for what it is and embrace the challenge.I have to try to go out there and play my game, not try to do too much because that's how you end up in trouble."
Goaltender Jimmy Howard thinks the key to success for Kronwall this season involves little more than simply being the same player he's been since joining the Red Wings for 20 games in 2003-04 after being selected in the first round (29th overall) of the 2000 NHL entry draft.
"For Nik, the biggest thing is not overdo it, don't feel like you've got to put the whole world on the back of your shoulders and go out there and be something you're not," Howard said. "Nik is really good at using his instincts out there, making that first pass out of the zone, or whether it's as a body-checker jumping up in the play. He reads the plays really well. He's got a great hockey sense. If he just plays within himself, he'll be fine."
"Kronner is an unbelievable player," [Kyle] Quincey said. "He's going to log a lot of minutes this year. He's the backbone of our defense. We're going to be relying on him big time. He's a great hockey player and he's going to step out of the shadows and be amazing. I don't know how much higher he can go on the leadership chain. He's our rep on the (Players Association). He was with us all summer, talking to us, keeping the communication open, which was huge. He's a huge part of this team. I'm looking forward to seeing how good he is."
"He's one of my favorite hockey players," said Quincey, who rejoined the Red Wings at midseason last year after breaking into the NHL with Detroit in 2005-06. "I watch him and learn from him. He's an unbelievable skater. He's one of the best skaters defensively in the game. That's the reason he can hit guys like he can. It doesn't matter how much a guy wants to hit somebody if he can't get there to hit him. By the time (an opponent) looks up and looks back down at the puck, (Kronwall has) went from A to B and is in your face and you're on the ground."
Although more is expected of him this season, Kronwall said he won't feel any more pressure than usual.
"The most pressure comes from within yourself, regardless of your situation or the team's," he said. "Whatever task you're up against comes from within yourself. Hopefully, things like that just fall naturally. I'm going to be myself and not try to be somebody I'm not. We've been spoiled (having Lidstrom) for 20 years here in Detroit, myself for eight years. Having him here in the locker room, his calmness and his perfection, it's going to be different."
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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.