The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/14/13 at 11:44 AM ET
Updated 7x at 1:38 PM: The Detroit Red Wings will attempt to claw into their clunky 5-6-and-6 home record when they battle the Pittsburgh Penguins this evening (7 PM, FSD/Root/NHL Network U.S. with the usual Center Ice and GameCenter Live blackouts/97.1 FM), kicking off a slate of 6 pre-Christmas games to be played over the course of 10 pre-Christmas nights and 5 of 6 pre-Fa-Ra-Ra games at the now-endangered Joe Louis Arena.
The Wings dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to Tampa Bay on Thursday and found out that a) Jimmy Howard will miss at least 2 weeks with a sprained MCL and that b) Danny DeKeyser, Darren Helm and Henrik Zetterberg should return during or around the Wings' December 28th game in Florida; the Penguins defeated New Jersey 3-2 on Friday and have won four straight games, but they gave up 30 shots over the course of the 2nd and 3rd periods, nearly blowing a 3-0 lead.
DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose offered a morning skate quip related to the Wings' HBO 24/7 close-up this evening (the first episode leading up to the Wings-Leafs Winter Classic airs at 10 PM EST)...
An @HBO crew member just promised me tonight's first episode of the #RedWings and #MapleLeafs "24/7", which airs at 10 p.m. EST, is "epic".
And he offered encouraging news regarding Zetterberg and Helm:
Henrik Zetterberg (lower back) skated ahead of the #RedWings morning skate here at Joe Louis Arena. Stay tuned for any update.
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness confirmed...
Zetterberg and Helm doing laps on the ice prior to morning skate at Joe Louis Arena.
And the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Shelly Anderson offered a stat of note...Or perhaps not given that it's believed that Matt Zatkoff will start this evening:
Per Elias, MA Fleury is now 8-1-0, 1.33 GAA in 9 home games vs. Devils since the #Penguins moved to Consol Energy Center in October 2010.
The Penguins' "Inside Scoop" actually followed the Wings' skate in detail...
R. Kelly's "Step in the Name of Love" playing on our way to the arena for Wings morning skate. #SlowJams -MC
Daniel Alfredsson played his last game in a Sens jersey against the #Pens in the playoffs -MC pic.twitter.com/RFOolrv257
(MC = Michelle Crechiolo, one of the many interns the Wings have "let go" over the years; see also Michigan Hockey editor Michael Caples and one-time in-game host Alyonka Larionov)
And MLive's Ansar Khan reported more good news in the lineup department...
Wings lines at the state: Abdelkader-Datsyuk-Alfredsson, Nyquist-Franzen-Bertuzzi, Miller-Andersson-Tatar, Cleary-Glendening-Eaves.
So Eaves and Glendening are in, and...
Samuelsson looks to be the healthy scratch. Also, Zetterberg skated this morning before practice with Helm.
But this is both not good and expected, per Pleiness...
Wings GM Ken Holland said Weiss may need to go for a second opinion on his groin next week.
Weiss is out until after Christmas according to Wings GM Ken Holland.
And the Free Press's Helene St. James:
Per Ken Holland, #redwings F Stephen Weiss (groin) out at least through Christmas.
I know you're not fans of repetition, but I think that what Holland said to Khan--though it's only subtly, subtly different than what he told Pleiness and St. James--indicates that the Wings' medical staff is going to discuss whatever they found with Weiss, so I'm posting it:
Weiss out until at least after Christmas, Holland said. They might send him to a specialist after he had MRI on groin. Will decide tonight
In the prospect department, the Toronto Sun's Terry Koshan noted that Wings propect, QMJHL scoring leader and Val-d'Or Foreurs forward Anthony Mantha's playing on the second line at Team Canada's World Junior Selection camp...
[Coach Brent] Sutter is bound to experiment with his lines and defensive pairs, but this is how the lineup looked at practice at the MasterCard Centre: Hunter Shinkaruk-Nic Petan-Curtis Lazar; Charles Hudon-Bo Horvat-Anthony Mantha; Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Felix Girard; Kerby Rychel-McDavid-Reinhart; and Frederik Gauthier and Josh Anderson, who were without a third linemate as Drouin was absent.
And Saginaw Spirit goaltender Jake Paterson's also at the camp, which means the following goaltending situation is what Saginaw will deal with over the next couple of weeks, as noted by the Saginaw News's Cory Butzin:
Nikita Serebryakov started for Saginaw, with Jake Paterson in camp with the Canadian Junior National Team, and stopped 20 of 24 shots he faced. Spirit draft pick David Ovsjannikov served as the backup.
I wonder if Thursday's Canadian Press feature article on Tyler Bertuzzi was bad luck, because the Guelph Mercury's Tony Saxon reports that Bertuzzi the Younger is now injured:
Bertuzzi will also miss the Storm's other two games this weekend due to an "upper body injury" suffered last weekend. He did not practice all week.
At the AHL level, the Grand Rapids Griffins defeated the Milwaukee Admirals last night, winning a scrappy game 4-2, and Tom McCollum backstopped the Griffins to the win.
Given the fact that Jared Coreau's struggled to adapt to pro hockey (unsurprisingly so), McCollum will serve as the Griffins' go-to netminder with Petr Mrazek backing up Jonas Gustavsson in Detroit.
That's okay as McCollum--who's on an AHL-only contract this season--has all but unseated Mrazek as the Griffins' starter, as the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner notes:
“I’m really excited to get a chance to play a few games in a row here and get my feet under me,” said McCollum, who came into Saturday with a 2.41 GAA and .915 save percentage. “It’s sort of the same mentality I had before – take it day by day and keep working hard in practice and the games will take care of themselves.”
Last year, McCollum had his best season, and played in 31 games with a 2.61 GAA and .904 save percentage and had a couple brief spurts as the starter when Mrazek was called up. However, Mrazek was in net for all 24 playoff games.
Coach Jeff Blashill believes McCollum is up for the opportunity.
“Tommy had been playing really good even when he wasn’t getting many starts because Petr had been playing so good,” Blashill said, “so now it really opens up the door for him to do a great job.”
McCollum and Mrazek have evenly split starts over 26 of the Griffins' 27 games thus far, and McCollum's given up only one more goal than Mrazek over the course of 13 games played.
I keep myself quite busy looking for Red Wings-related news stories during the course of the morning skate, but there are periods where I have to sit on my hands (figuratively speaking) waiting for Babcock's comments, and such very brief periods of time drive me nuts.
In all honesty, I'm usually "skating uphill" in attempting to jam the stories I've missed after a predictable five hours of game-day sleep into these entries while also monitoring Twitter for the morning skate's personnel machinations, so these mornings are more like a scrambly attempt to get my shit together as opposed to a leisurely post-a-Tweet-and-fiddle-around endeavor.
Petr Mrazek said he's been told he's starting Sunday when #redwings host Tampa Bay.
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff let us know he's at the rink...
#RedWings Weiss (groin) had MRI today, may have 2nd opinion next week. Out until at last after Christmas.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Josh Yohe did the same thing while discussing the suspension Shawn Thornton will face for kneeing Brooks Orpik (who is concussed) in the head a week ago today...
Babcock and Alfie made it pretty clear that Orpik shouldn't have felt obligated to fight Thornton.
Babcock also went out of his way to praise Thornton. "A good, good man."
Babcock's opening address praised three Penguins by name: Crosby, Malkin, and...Kunitz
And, via RedWingsFeed, the Windsor Star's Duff posted a video of Babcock's morning skate remarks, and Babcock stated that the Wings' team doctor will look at Weiss's MRI results this evening--at the start of a 5-minute morning skate presser:
It sounds like St. James is going to focus on Brendan Smith today, and Duff will talk about Dan Bylsma's status as a former player and "farm team" coach when Babcock coached the Ducks; he also told Crechiolo that he doesn't plan on going out of his way to scout the Penguins' potential Canadian Olympians, and he spoke with Yohe about fighting, "the code," etc.
Update #1: The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness focused on the Wings' fourth line swaps in his first game-day article...
“We’re just looking for a more consistent push back from our fourth group,” Babcock said. “That’s what we need from them. We think (Joakim) Andersson, (Tomas) Tatar and (Drew) Miller have been fantastic for us. We think we can get more out of that (fourth) group so that’s why we’re giving them a chance. They both can penalty kill,” Babcock continued. “Eaves can really shoot the puck. They both have some grit and physicality to them. Glendening is normally a real good faceoff guy and knows how to play. We’ve liked it when he’s been here before.”
Glendening, who’ll be playing in this 10th game with the Wings tonight, has three goals and seven assists in 17 games this season with the Griffins, while Eaves has four goals and two assists in eight games.
“I’m excited to be here,” Glendening said. “Every time I get up here it’s just another opportunity for me to show I can be here.
Eaves was a numbers casualty at the start of the season, playing just three games in Detroit before being sent to Grand Rapids.
“It’s good to be back,” Eaves said. “I’ve had a really good time in Grand Rapids. There’s an excellent team down there, very well coached and it was a great atmosphere. The guys made it easy on me to come in and kind of join their team. (I) just want to play every night,” Eaves continued. “That’s the key, that’s what you want to do and I was able to do that down there. They gave me an opportunity and I tried to run with it the best that I could and, like I said, I was playing with great players so that really helped.”
And he clarified Weiss's situation as well:
“There’s a chance we might send him in for another opinion,” Holland said. “We’re going to see tonight what Dr. Plagens thinks, but Piet Van Zant thinks the second opinion might be (the right move).
“You’ve got a guy that’s had groin issues 3-4 weeks ago, came back, felt great, now we got groin issues, we got to be sure,” Holland added. “He’s out for sure until after Christmas. Let’s see what Dr. Plagens reads and let’s see where we go.”
Update #2: MLive's Ansar Khan included updates regarding Zetterberg, DeKeyser and Helm in his morning skate report:
Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg skated before practice today, the first time he has been on the ice since the Dec. 1 game at Ottawa. Zetterberg (herniated disc) is not eligible to come off long-term injured reserve until Dec. 28.
“Z’s doing better every day,” Holland said. “We’re cautiously optimistic he’ll be ready to go on 28th.”
Holland said Dec. 28 the target date for defenseman Danny DeKeyser and center Darren Helm to return from their shoulder injuries, but indicated they might be back before then.
“He’s doing very good,” Holland said of DeKeyser. “We’re shooting for the 28th of December. He’s optimistic he’ll be available before that, but we’re shooting for two weeks.”
He said of Helm, “Shooting for 28th of December. He’s feeling better every day.”
Update #2.5: Yup, St. James is focusing on Smith today:
RedWings Brendan Smith on playing Penguins: "Your blood gets boiling. You get more ready. You want to challenge yourself against the best."
Update #3: Here's St. James game-day "in-focus" article about Smith, discussing his and Kyle Quincey's likely respective statuses as the team's second pairing on defense, playing opposite Evgeni Malkin's line:
"I think the opportunity to play against guys like Sid and Kunitz and Malkin, when you get a chance to play against these guys," Smith said, "your blood gets boiling. You get more ready for it. You're more aware, because you want to challenge yourself against the best players in the world. I'm excited. I know Q is always excited to play high-level competition. You get to test your level and see how good you are."
Smith has looked much better over the past month compared to October, when risky decisions helped drop him to minus-7 after just a handful of games. Coach Mike Babcock said he's comfortable using Smith against Malkin because "Smitty is an elite skater. He can skate with him. It's just decision making. In that area, it's more taxing for Q to be honest, just because of the pace that Malkin comes through the neutral zone with, and his reach. He's a big, big man as well."
The Wings are without captain Henrik Zetterberg (back) as well as forwards Darren Helm (shoulder), Stephen Weiss (groin), defenseman Danny DeKeyser (shoulder) and goaltender Jimmy Howard (knee). The Wings are still waiting to hear results from Weiss' MRI, but expectations are he'll need a second opinion, which is never a good sign. General manager Ken Holland told the Free Press Saturday morning that Weiss is out at least through Christmas.
That helped prompt a decision to flip Cory Emmerton for Luke Glendening and Patrick Eaves. Eaves and Glendening are playing on a line with Daniel Cleary. Joakim Andersson is with Tomas Tatar and Drew Miller; Johan Franzen is centering Todd Bertuzzi and Gustav Nyquist, and Pavel Datsyuk is with wingers Daniel Alfredsson and Justin Abdelkader. Jonas Gustavsson is starting in net. Petr Mrazek has been told he's starting Sunday when the Wings host Tampa Bay.
The Wings and Penguins had quite the rivalry going five years ago, when they met in the Stanley Cup Final in 2008, with Detroit winning, and again in 2009, when Pittsburgh won. Smith 24 and with 71 NHL games to his credit, wasn't around for those events, but he's seen enough of the Penguins in exhibition games to know these games are extra fun.
"It'll be a challenge, for sure," Smith said. "We're going to have to have our things together tonight."
And the Windsor Star's Bob Duff's "in-focus"-style article discusses the play of Jonas Gustavsson:
“He’s been real good for us,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said of Gustavsson, who again gets the nod in goal Saturday as the Wings play host to the Pittsburgh Penguins at Joe Louis Arena. “He’s found a way to get hit by pucks and we’ve found a way to win. We’re in the winning business, we need points.”
Gustavsson is 8-1-2 with a 1.93 goals-against average and .933 save percentage and has been thrust into the No. 1 role with Jimmy Howard due to be out 2-4 weeks following a knee sprain he suffered earlier in the week.
“I feel good right now and the team is working good too, they’re helping me out out there and have really battled hard in front of the net,” Gustavsson said. “It’s team game and when the team is helping it’s easy to get good numbers.”
Detroit GM Ken Holland, who signed Gustavsson to a two-year, $3-million free-agent deal two summers ago, is happy to see his move finally paying dividends.
“He’s played the way we hoped he would when we signed him,” Holland said. “Last year was a tough year for him with the injuries and then when he got healthy it was a must-win every night so Mike Babcock went with Jimmy Howard every night and he was dialed in. (Gustavsson) has been a big story for us. He gives us a chance to win every night. In this day and age you need to have two goalies going. The days of one guy playing 70 games are over. With (minor-league call-up Petr) Mrazek, we believe they can give us the type of goaltending that gives us a chance to win.”
Update #4: No surprise here, from the Macomb Daily's Pleiness...
Chippewa Valley's Jeff Zatkoff starts tonight for the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
Or the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Dave Molinari:
Neal, Glass, Dumoulin, Fleury and Zatkoff are on the ice at Joe Louis Arena. No official game-day skate for Penguins.
Mike Babcock, on facing the Penguins: "They present a good test for us. We always get excited to play them."
Mike Babcock, on coaching success he and Dan Bylsma have had: “When they give you good players, you get a chance to be a lot better coach.”
This quip from Daniel Alfredsson, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Josh Yohe, is intriguing:
Alfredsson on whether you should fight after throwing a big hit: "Not at all. That's the old school. Let ref decide if it was illegal."
Somewhat surprisingly, the Wings posted an HBO 24/7 teaser, too:
This is the first time the teams have met in just over two years, since the Red Wings won at Pittsburgh on Dec. 13, 2011 (4-1). The Penguins’ most recent appearance in Detroit was on March 21, 2011 (5-4 shootout win).
The Penguins are near the NHL lead in most major categories: sixth in goals per game, fourth in goals against per game, first on the power play, second in penalty killing.
"They do a lot of good things and they have a lot of quality players," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "But they have two of the best centers in the world, maybe 1 and 2. And Kunitz is obviously having a big year. They have real good special teams and their goaltending has been outstanding, especially of late, so they present a good test for us. We always get excited to play them and it should be a lot of fun."
Smith and Quincey figure to be matched up against Malkin’s line, with Jussi Jokinen and Jayson Megna.
“It’ll be a challenge, for sure,” Smith said. “We’re going to have to have our things together because he’s a fantastic player and we got to play him tough, for sure.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Dave Molinari penned a game-day set of notes...
*** The Penguins did not have a game-day skate, although goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff, defenseman Brian Dumoulin, Glass and Neal worked out on the ice at Joe Louis Arena.
*** Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on Penguins winger Chris Kunitz, a candidate to play for Babcock on the Canadian Olympic team: “Kunitz is obviously having a big year.”
*** The Penguins, Detroit and Montreal are the only NHL clubs to be ranked in the top 10 in both power play and penalty-killing.
*** The Penguins are in their seventh set of games on consecutive days this season. They are 3-3 in the second game so far.
*** Red Wings winger Daniel Alfredsson, the former Ottawa captain, has 64 points in 64 career games against the Penguins. He needs two assists to reach 700 for his career.
*** The Penguins are 18-2 when getting the first goal of the game and 11-1 when leading at the first intermission.
*** Detroit averages just 8.6 penalty minutes per game, second-lowest figure in the league.
*** Penguins center Evgeni Malkin still is two points shy of 600 for his career.
From Teh Twitterz...
And if you really want to watch the four HBO 24/7 preview videos that the network posted, the Free Press's Brian Manzullo rounded 'em up and put 'em in the same place.
Update #6: Well okey dokey, per the Penguins Inside Scoop:
Nothing to report from the #Pens this morning. Coach Bylsma will speak two hours prior to game time. Any updates will come then -MC
Update #7: The Red Wings' Game Day Blog offers a historical note...
On This Day in Red Wings' History...On December 14, 1934
Ebbie Goodfollow becomes the first Red Wings player to score on a penalty shot. He beat goalie Bill Beveridge of the St. Louis Eagles.
As well as Ken Kal's Keys to the Game...
Get into Their D - Pittsburgh has injuries to their blueline corps, so the Red Wings forwards need to get into their zone and make plays.
Contain Crosby and Malkin - Easier said than done, they're two world class players. It's nearly impossible to stop them, the way they are playing now. The longer you keep them off the board, the better your chances are of winning.
Win the Special Teams Battle - Both the Red Wings and the Penguins are in the top 10 in the PK and PP. Whoever excels on special teams will have a huge advantage and a very good chance to win the game tonight.
And DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose posited a game-day article which discusses Patrick Eaves' recall from Grand Rapids (as well as other topics):
“It’s good to be back,” said Eaves who produced four goals and six points in eight games with the Griffins. “I had a really good time in Grand Rapids. There’s an excellent team down there, very well coached and it was a great atmosphere. The guys made it easy on me to come in and kind of join their team.”
The best thing for Eaves was that he got steady ice time with the Griffins, where he played on a line with Tomas Jurco and Calle Jarnkrok.
“Just play every night, that’s the key, that’s what you want to do and I was able to do that down there,” Eaves said. “They gave me an opportunity and I tried to run with it the best that I could. … We were playing a lot of minutes, a lot of power-play minutes. So it was a lot of fun. It was nice to be playing with those types of players down there.”
Coach Mike Babcock likes the versatility that both Eaves and Glendening can bring against a high-flying Penguins’ squad that did not skate this morning following a 3-2 home win over New Jersey on Friday night.
“They both can penalty kill. Eaves can really shoot the puck. They both have some grit and physicality to them,” Babcock said. “We’re just looking for a more consistent push back from our fourth group. That’s what we need from them. We think (Joakim) Andersson, (Tomas) Tatar and (Drew) Miller have been fantastic for us. We think we can get more out of that (fourth) group so that’s why we’re giving them a chance.”
For Glendening, this is his fifth call-up to Detroit. The Grand Rapids native has appeared in nine games with the Red Wings and is a minus-3. But Babcock likes the rookie’s skills in the faceoff circle.
“We’ve liked it when he’s been here before,” Babcock said.
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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.