The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/10/13 at 01:53 PM ET
Updated 8x at 3:28 PM: The Detroit Red Wings hope to earn a measure of revenge for Saturday's 2-1 loss to the Florida Panthers when the Wings begin a "Sunshine State Swing" in Miami this evening (7:30 PM, FSD/FS Florida/WXYT AM), and as you know by now, struggling Wings center Stephen Weiss's return to his only NHL employer for the first 10 years of his pro hockey career will serve as something of an overriding narrative.
Weiss discussed his imminent return to Sunrise on Monday and was the focal point of Detroit's beat writers' game set-up stories, and while we tend not to think of Weiss as a game-breaker, MLive's Ansar Khan did note that Weiss left Florida as its franchise leader or at least "up there" in several scoring categories...
NHL seasons. Nobody has played more games as a Florida Panther than Weiss (654), who ranks among the franchise’s career leaders in goals (fourth with 145), assists (first with 249) and points (second with 394).
And Khan also noted that Weiss is nervous about the possible presence of boo birds this evening:
“You’ll have butterflies before the game, but I really don’t know what to expect,” Weiss said. “I’m just looking forward to getting it over with, to be honest with you. I would hope it wouldn’t be anything negative; I don’t know what I would have done to deserve that. But that’s out of my control. Just go back and enjoy myself and try to play hard and pay those guys back for taking two points out of our building.”
Weiss signed a five-year, $24.5 million free-agent contract with the Red Wings on July 5, in part to play for a winning team. The Panthers made the playoffs only once while Weiss was there, losing in seven games to the New Jersey Devils in the first round in 2012.
“You’re living your dream playing in the NHL,” Weiss said. “It didn’t matter if it was there or wherever, I was happy to be part of the NHL. And then at a certain point it became about winning and trying to get that organization back to being respectable and making the playoffs consistently. We didn’t get to do it, obviously; we got to do it once toward the end of my time there but I enjoyed it there. It would’ve been nice to have some more success.''
Weiss is mired in the worst slump of his career. He has gone 19 games without a goal, during which time he has just two assists. For the season, he has only two goals and two assists in 25 games.
As I wait for the teams' morning skates to begin, the Panthers posted a spiffy game infographic...
And this morning's sparse crop of Red Wings-related stories is literally "all over the map," with an emphasis on Russia.
From small to large:
- SwissHockeyNews.ch reports that Ian White has backed out of his presumptive contract with Swiss NLA team Geneve-Serviette, and Yahoo Sports' Dmitry Chesnokov reported that White may sign with a KHL team;
- Sport-Express's Slava Malamud was in Detroit yesterday to interview Pavel Datsyuk, but the first part of his interview involves talk about Yekaterinburg's Uralets soccer team and a little chit chat about Datsyuk's appreciation of biatheletes (who knew that skiing + shooting = super popular in Russia?);
- And WDIV's Devin Scillian is in Moscow to posit some place-setting stories ahead of the Sochi Olympics, and he posited a hell of a teaser Tweet:
A wide-ranging conversation with Slava Fetisov. Does he think about the limo accident very often? "All the time." http://pic.twitter.com/1Az0V1LgQ8
This has nothing to do with the Wings, but it amuses me, per the Griffins:
Furniture or a an athlete? Take the IKEA or Swedish hockey player quiz: http://extramustard.si.com/2013/12/09/ikea-swedish-hockey-players-quiz/
Here come Panthers morning skate Tweets, per the Miami Herald's George Richards...
Looks like Brad Boyes back in #FlaPanthers lineup...with Jesse Winchester and Shawn Matthias v #RedWings ... Gomez, Barch out
BREAKING NEWS: Tim Thomas in net for #FlaPanthers ... making 15th start in past 16 games. Beat #RedWings 2-1 on Sat; v. Howard tonight in R2
Breaking news? Really? He was expected to start...
The Sun-Sentinel's Harvey Filakov...
Line shakeup. Hayes barkov bergy #flapanthers
Boyes on 4thwith Matthias Winchester #flapanthers
Of course Thomas back in net #flapanthers
Mottau gomez barch scratched #flapanthers
NHL.com's Alain Poupart...
#FlaPanthers lines at their morning skate: 11-27-19, 14-57-82, 20-16-12, 24-18-17.
That's Huberdeau-Bjugstad-Upshall, Fleischmann-Goc-Kopecky, Bergenheim-Barkov-Hayes and Boyes-Matthias-Winchester
Tim Thomas is the first #FlaPanthers goalie off the ice, indicating a 14th start in 15 games after Scott Clemmensen started Sunday at Chi.
And the Panthers themselves:
.@ScottieUpshall has 15 points (6-9-15) in his last 19 games . #FlaPanthers
Cats are on the ice for morning skate: http://pic.twitter.com/7iDk0MOZgb
.@kopy82 and @shawnmatthias were both drafted by the @DetroitRedWings http://ow.ly/28LcCx in 2000 & 2006 respectively.
"It was nice seeing him... It's still a little weird to see him wearing the number 90," -- @ShawnMatthias on Stephen Weiss
The Wings drafted Tomas Fleischmann in 2002, too. Fleischmann went to Washington (with the draft pick that would become Mike Green) in the Robert Lang trade, and Matthias went to Florida to acquire Todd Bertuzzi in 2007. Kopecky left as a free agent.
Hey, cool, per Filakov...
Video tribute for Weiss first tv timeout tonite #flapanthers
#FlaPanthers to offer video tribute to Stephen Weiss during first commercial break tonight v #RedWings
Here come the Wings, per the Free Press's Helene St. James...
Morning skate fun. #redwings http://pic.twitter.com/iDrblZ02Zq
Is this good news? Perhaps:
Apparently Henrik Zetterberg (back) did go on trip after all, not on ice with #RedWings
Okay, okay, so maybe he's going the Darren Helm route, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan suggests:
Evidently Zetterberg on the trip...considering it is 80 degrees here I do not blame him
Fear not, the Wings have chaperones, per Fox Sports Detroit's John Keating:
Wings are on ice under the omnipresent HBO cameras. Datsyuk back @ FLA. Howard in goal. RWLive@6:30-FSD.
Prepare for the media crush, Mr. Weiss, per Richards...
Stephen Weiss back on #FlaPanthers ice in red jersey - only it's a Detroit #RedWings sweater http://pic.twitter.com/MKagbQREhZ
And the Panthers:
A familiar face on the ice for the #RedWings skate, the #FlaPanthers all-time leader in GP & assists. #WeissToSeeYou http://pic.twitter.com/vylcQFjHo3
Here come the lines, via MLive's Ansar Khan...
Wings skating with same lines today in Florida they practiced with yesterday: 93-13-44, 8-90-11, 14-18-21, 71-25-20. 37 scratched.
And here comes the bouncy castle, per the Wings?
The @CokeZero #RedWings Experience just got a new toy for Winterfest! http://pic.twitter.com/za7uWLQveP
You may also read Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika's profile of Tim Thomas on your own.
Post-morning skate time.
Okay, this is amusing, per St. James:
Henrik Zetterberg wasn't on #RedWings plane to FLA, came down unexpectedly. Said he missed the guys. Also said he looked at forecast.
This is not amusing:
Henrik Zetterberg (back) said he's feeling better than a week ago, but sitting still painful. No estimate on when he might go on ice.
Cross your fingers about Zetterberg playing in the Winter Classic, folks.
Speaking of which, via RedWingsFeed, the NHL posted a "time-lapse video" of rink construction at Michigan Stadium:
No point on "sitting" on this news any longer to wait for Babcock's comments. The Panthers website's game notes list Gord Dwyer and Mike Hasenfratz as tonight's refs and Johnny Murray and Pierre Racicot as the linesmen.
Update: MLive's Ansar Khan penned an interview with Zetterberg:
“Too early to say; take it step by step,” Zetterberg said Tuesday, after watching the morning skate at the BB&T Center. “Hopefully this week make some progress and we’ll see where it goes next.”
“Looks like we’re doing the right things, just takes time,’’ Zetterberg said.
He will miss his fourth game in a row tonight against the Florida Panthers (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit). If it appears he’ll miss at least 10 games and 24 days, the Red Wings can place him on long-term injured reserve retroactively.
“No timetable yet,” Zetterberg said. “Just got to see how I progress and feel with each step. Right now doing some rehab stuff and then we’ll see what the next step is.”
He is not doing any off-ice workouts.
“Hopefully, I can start doing some soon,” Zetterberg said. “Going a little crazy.”
He hopes to at least return in time for the Jan. 1 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“Well, obviously, that’s a big game, but we got games before that, too,” Zetterberg said.
Update #2: This may serve as something of an advance scouting report from ESPN's Scott Burnside:
After being relatively injury-free through the first six weeks of the regular season, Tampa Bay lost Steven Stamkos to a broken leg in November and has been besieged by other key injuries since.
“It was exactly like the injury dam broke,” head coach Jon Cooper told ESPN.com Monday.
The Lightning have piled up 101 man-games lost to injury, and at one point last week had 13 players in the lineup with fewer than 100 NHL games to their credit, and eight with fewer than 50 games.
On the night the Lightning got defensemen Eric Brewer and Radko Gudas back from injury, Keith Aulie and Victor Hedman both went down with long-term injuries. The two defensemen join Stamkos and veteran winger Ryan Malone among those with significant injuries.
One of the first things Cooper did when talking to his players about the spate of injuries is make it clear they weren't going to use them as an excuse for on-ice performance.
“The one thing we’ll never do is use injuries as an excuse because once you do that we’re done as a team,” Cooper said. "The mindset has been, 'these are the 20 guys we’re going with on any given night, now how do we get the most out of them?'", the coach said.
But the rash of injuries which totaled more than 2,800 games of NHL experience has tested the team’s organizational depth and forced players to play out of their comfort zone.
Valtteri Filppula, for instance, is now the team’s No. 1 number one center and Tyler Johnson is in Filppula’s normal spot on the second line, meaning both are playing against a class of players they're not used to seeing.
Also: You may take this quip from Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, as noted by Newsday's Steve Zipay, for what you will:
“I’m shifting things because we’re .500. So I think at .500, I’ve got some latitude here. I’m putting in two players that bring more of a physical bite to our team, maybe that will make some other players compete at a higher level. I look at the Detroit Red Wings---who I know well, because I coached against them for the last seven years---they’ve had no toughness, per se, as far as that type of personality, at no point other than (Jordin) Tootoo the last couple of years, but those guys play hard, they have the puck and they say “Try and get it from me” or if they don’t have it, they battle like hell to get it back. That’s the team toughness that I’m hoping we get here. Maybe we’ll get there by changing some personnel, adding a little more toughness, we’re at .500, I’m trying.”
Update #3: Fun fact from the Production Line:
And the Free Press's Helene St. James' game-day article focuses on Jimmy Howard's desire to rebound from a difficult November...
Gustavsson has a bit of a hip flexor - not enough to keep him from serving as backup - and that combined with a game on the road provides an opportunity for Howard to get back to winning.
"First and foremost, it's just getting back to having fun out there," Howard said after Tuesday's morning skate (that was helped by having mentor and friend Chris Osgood on the ice). There was a moment there in November where I may have taken a little bit too much on, put a little too much on my plate, a little bit too much pressure," Howard said. "I've just got to find myself having fun out there."
When the season began, Howard was considered a shoo-in for one of the three goaltending spots for Team USA's Sochi squad. "If I'm there, it's a great honor," Howard said. "But it's one of those things, if I just take care of business here in Detroit, then everything else will fall into place."
Coach Mike Babcock has said the Wings will go as far as Howard takes them, and Babcock elucidated on those remarks. "We believe Howie is one of the best goalies in the world. I remember one winter when Howie looked after Ozzie all winter, so Ozzie got on a run in the playoffs. Maybe it's that year. Maybe it's going to be Gus that's going to get us through so Howie can his game going. We think Howie is one of the best goalies in the world, but he's got to play like that."
It should help that Pavel Datsyuk is coming back after missing seven games with a concussion; he'll be centering the top line between Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen. Stephen Weiss is with Daniel Alfredsson and Justin Abdelkader, Joakim Andersson is with Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, and Cory Emmerton with Drew Miller and Daniel Cleary.
And she posted a video of Howard and Babcock's comments:
Update #4: The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan penned an article about Zetterberg, Weiss...
There was a significant media scrum around forward Stephen Weiss after the morning skate, this being Weiss' first return to Florida since signing with the Red Wings last summer. Weiss admitted it felt strange walking into BB&T Center after having played here for the last decade.
"It felt strange to be sure, I didn't know what way to come into the building," Weiss said. "It was a different feeling coming to the rink. But I'm excited to get under way."
Weiss has struggled in his first season with the Red Wings, with two goals and two assists.
"I don't think it's where it needs to be, for sure," said Weiss of his overall game. "I haven't played to my potential and I have to figure out the cause for that. It's up to me to be loose and play well. We've talked about it enough and it's a matter of stop worrying about systems and where to be on the ice, and just go out and play."
And Pavel Datsyuk's return...
Pavel Datsyuk returns after missing the last seven games with a concussion but Babcock was quick to temper expectations, especially after Saturday's dreary loss to Florida.
"Pavel gives us confidence and a real good player, but the rest of us have to play better than we did," Babcock said. "If we're counting on Pavel (to cure everything), that's not how it works."
While St. James penned an article dedicated to Zetterberg's comments...
Zetterberg hasn't gone on the ice since an MRI showed a small herniated disc. He has no idea when he might do so, but at least he's doing rehab off the ice that's helping. He figured the 70-degree weather in Florida wouldn't hurt his progress.
"I've been away from the team for a bit and I decided to come down and be with the guys," he said. "I also started doing some rehab, hopefully it will turn it around. Taking it step by step. Hopefully, this week we make some progress."
Zetterberg said he's feeling better, but sitting, "is the worst. Everyone with back issues knows that. But it got better. That's one of the reasons I decided to come down here. It wasn't that bad flying down here. Happy to be here. Hopefully we can get a couple of wins."
And she posted a video of said comments as well:
NHL.com's Alain Poupart focused on Datsyuk's return in his game-day article:
"It means a lot [to have Datsyuk back], but it means a lot over the long haul," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said after his team's morning skate. "If we're looking at Pavel and counting on Pavel to get 'er done, that's not how it works. We have to be way better than we were last game. The bottom line is Pavel gives us lots of confidence, he's a real good player, but the rest of us gotta play better than we did."
Datsyuk skated on a line Tuesday morning with Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen, who has seven goals and eight assists in 13 games since coming back from an upper-body injury. Despite missing seven games, Datsyuk is second on the team with 23 points in 24 games.
"It's exciting," Datsyuk said. "It's always tough watching because you wanted to be playing."
The return of Datsyuk clearly is a welcome sight for a Detroit team that has had its share of injuries this season.
"He's a guy that can set the pace of the game, slow it down or speed it up if he wants," veteran forward Daniel Alfredsson said. "It gives you another dimension. We've been having some injuries lately and every team goes through that. I think we've handled it pretty good. That's the thing, when guys start to come back, you've got to watch, OK, we've got our best players back, but we've still got to keep playing and playing hard. I'm not too worried about that, but that's one thing you've got to bring up."
Datsyuk's return means a tougher challenge for the Panthers, who outshot the Red Wings 37-23 on Saturday.
"I think he's the best player in the League, so when you put that guy back in the lineup, it certainly puts you in a more competitive situation for them," Panthers interim coach Peter Horachek said. "He's a world-class player and we have to be that much better. I think it's a good challenge for us to play against the best players. I take that challenge and I hope that attitude [by] osmosis kind of goes into the team. We want to play against the best teams. We relish that. We understand that they're really good and what they do well. I think that's a good challenge for us."
Update #5: Here's MLive's Ansar Khan's official game-day article. Point of emphasis the first!
The Panthers outskated the Red Wings by a wide margin Saturday, outshooting those 37-23 in a 2-1 victory at Joe Louis Arena.
The Red Wings had played the night before in New Jersey, while Florida was rested. This time, the Red Wings come into the game after two days off.
“We have to be way better than we were the last game: we didn’t skate good, didn’t have a lot of energy,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “They skated better, they were quicker, they stretched us out.”
Babcock said his team had spacing problems in the last game.
“What I mean by that is when your forwards are a long way away from your (defensemen) there’s huge gaps and it’s easy to come through you,” Babcock said.
Point of emphasis the second!
Babcock said Weiss, too, is putting too much pressure on himself. He has just four points (two goals, two assists) in 25 games.
“The big part is how you handle that,” Babcock said. “He’s come to a new spot, it hasn’t gone as he’d like. So how do you get your confidence back? To me, you just get to work and be mentally tough. You talk to people and get people to help you. I think the first thing to overcome in anything is when you admit to yourself it isn’t going good, and he’s done all those things. So we just feel he’s going to start playing better and better.”
Weiss said he needs play loose and not over-think on the ice.
“It’s getting to that time where I got to stop worrying about systems and where you’re supposed to be on the ice and get out there and play,” Weiss said. “It’s a different style, system we play here, there’s a lot of responsibility on the centerman. Sometimes you can get stuck in the mud out there trying to be too positional. I think that’s been the case sometimes. The goal moving forward is to scratch that mindset and just go out and play. If you mess up, you mess up.’’
YES. Get out there and play, Stephen, just stop thinking and SKATE.
Upate #6: Fox Sports Florida's Erin Brown posited a slate of pictures from the morning skate...
#RedWings Datsyuk on the ice and all smiles: http://pic.twitter.com/XVwpjJMmY7
#RedWings Bertuzzi during morning skate: http://pic.twitter.com/shMRHZFn4Y
#RedWings (former #FlaPanthers C) Weiss during morning skate: http://pic.twitter.com/MkzaSOb0GO
#RedWings Franzen during morning skate. Laughing? Cringing? Sneezing? http://pic.twitter.com/h9RNxPNnQw
#RedWings Franzen tries to knock a puck out of mid-air during morning skate: http://pic.twitter.com/p8DVyTQzgu
#RedWings Alfredsson during morning skate: http://pic.twitter.com/LInorKIfnG
#RedWings Weiss gets the HBO 24/7 treatment: http://pic.twitter.com/C3tjlrgVkX
Asked #FlaPanthers Hayes about getting bumped up to the Barkov line. The 18-year-old, who sits next to him, joked, "It's not a promotion."
A hoodie wasn't going to help #RedWings Zetterberg hide from a media scrum: http://pic.twitter.com/4USVBRDnxV
And I believe we call these "teases":
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About The Malik Report
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.