The Malik Report
Red Wings-Penguins set-up and morning report: the only ‘message’ Wings need to send is a 2-point one
by George Malik on 04/09/14 at 08:53 AM ET
Update: Oh joy:
The Red Wings were relatively satisfied with their slightly ugly 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, but the Wings will need to take their games to another level if Mike Babcock's ship is to take 2 points from the Pittsburgh Penguins this evening (8 PM EDT on NBCSN/TSN2/97.1 FM), especially given the wild-and-woolly way in which the Wings took a 5-4 OT decision from Pittsburgh on March 20th.
Tonight's "NBC Rivalry Night" game may precede a rekindling of the teams' playoff rivalry a week from now, and the Peguins, who are as flummoxed by the NHL's new playoff format as the rest of us, have split their past 4 games but have won 4 of 6, including a 3-2 shootout win over Colorado last Sunday--a win in which the Penguins sat a bunch of slightly-injured players.
As the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Chris Adamski notes, the Penguins are dealing with a number of injuries, but none more significant than Evgeni Malkin's "foot injury":
More than two weeks since his most recent game and a little more than one week until the playoffs begin, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin returned to the ice for light skating Monday and Tuesday.
Malkin, out since March 23 because of a foot injury, was cleared to skate after being evaluated by a physician. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Malkin skated on his own Monday and was accompanied by injured forward Joe Vitale when he skated at Southpointe on Tuesday prior to Penguins practice.
“Evgeni Malkin did have his doctor's appointment, and he did progress to the point of skating lightly,” Bylsma said after practice Tuesday. “There is no timetable at this point in time on his (return to game action from) injury.”
A two-time former NHL scoring champion, Malkin has been limited to 60 games this season. Even so, he has 23 goals and 49 assists to rank 14th in the league with 72 points heading into Tuesday's games. Malkin is tied for ninth in the NHL in assists and is second to teammate Sidney Crosby in points per game (1.20).
The Penguins may or may not receive Malkin back in the lineup before the regular season ends...
Bylsma said rushing Malkin back to appear in a regular-season game before the playoffs begin next week is not a priority. Last season, Crosby sat out 13 consecutive games — the final 12 of the regular season and Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the New York Islanders — but appeared to seamlessly step back into the lineup for Game 2 with two goals.
And the Penguins are dealing with other injuries, too, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Shelly Anderson notes:
Another injured center, Joe Vitale, joined Malkin for a light skate Tuesday. He had resumed practicing with the team, but left a team road trip over the weekend to return to Pittsburgh to see a doctor.
“We’re kind of trying to see what’s best in terms of rest or getting back and practicing,” Bylsma said.
Vitale has missed the past 10 games because of an unspecified injury.
Yet another injured center, Marcel Goc, is not skating and is wearing an orthopedic boot on his left foot. He was hurt March 27, and initially was projected to return sometime around the beginning of the playoffs.
Four players who sat out the win Sunday at Colorado because of apparently minor injuries — forwards Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz and defensemen Olli Maatta and Brooks Orpik — practiced. Maatta is the only one of the four who missed the past two games. Bylsma described those four as day to day, and Crosby validated that.
“I feel good,” Crosby said. “Just kind of going day to day, but definitely feel good.”
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Adamski also noted that one Penguins defenseman is attempting to pull off a comeback, while another just accomplished the feat...
• Every day over recent weeks, defenseman Kris Letang has done two things: Skate and consult with team medical personnel. Letang, out since a January stroke, said he feels “100 percent of myself” both on and off the ice. But Letang added that he “still has to talk to people around me” before he returns to game action.
• Defenseman Paul Martin reported some “general soreness” but declared himself “feeling good” after playing three games over a four-day period after returning from an absence of more than six weeks because of a broken hand. Martin said the plan going into last week's road trip was for him not to play in the Saturday-Sunday back-to-back games, but he played out of necessity.
PittsburghPenguins.com's Michelle Crechiolo provides the balance of Penguins personnel updates, noting that Tomas Vokoun's heading to Wilkes-Barre for a conditioning stint, and she added a set of practice lines (if you are attending tonight's game, the Penguins posted a "Fan Guide," and if you really want to watch Sidney Crosby speak with the media for 5 minutes, or Paul Martin speak with the media for 2 minutes, you may most certainly do so):
* With Crosby and other injured players returning to practice, here is what lines looked like...
Kunitz - Crosby - Bennett
Gibbons - Jokinen - Neal
Glass - Sutter - Stempniak
Pyatt - Adams - Payerl
(Stempniak did double duty on a fifth line with Megna and Ebbett).
Maatta - Niskanen
Letang - Engelland
Scuderi - Bortuzzo
Orpik - Martin
Despres rotated with the defensemen.
The Tribune-Review's Joe Starkey shifts our focus toward the playoff implications of tonight's game, wondering whether the Blue Jackets, Flyers or Red Wings represent better playoff match-ups:
The Penguins are 5-0 against the Blue Jackets this season and 9-0-1 in Crosby's past 10 games against them. He lights them up like a pinball machine. Bring in the Blue Jackets, and Penguins fans might greet them at the airport they'd be so happy.
The Flyers, on the other hand, seem to have people shivering in fear. Maybe for good reason. The numbers aren't pretty. The Flyers are 10-2-1 all-time at Consol Energy Center (including playoffs) and have beaten the Penguins three times in four tries this season.
On special teams — where the Penguins have done their best work this season — the Flyers have dominated. They are 5 for 13 on the power play and 16 for 17 on the penalty kill against the Penguins. They also irritate the Penguins like a 3 a.m. car alarm, exposing their frayed fuses like no other team can.
If I had my choice, it'd be Penguins-Red Wings. I've been waiting for a rubber match since those two epic Cup finals. I happen to believe the Hockey Gods would like to see it, too. And even if both teams are different, several core players and both head coaches remain.
Even the system remains in Detroit, where the Wings are closing in on their 23rd consecutive playoff spot.
“They still play the exact same system,” Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “It seems like it's just interchangeable parts on that team. They get guys to buy into the system. ... I think it all goes back to the coaching and leadership they have.”
The Post-Gazette's Anderson, who posted practice audio from coach Bylsma and Crosby, got the Penguins to specifically discuss the message-sending and playoff implications regarding tonight's game--and the fact that beating Detroit will increase the Penguins' chances of not meeting the Wings (especially given that the Blue Jackets begin tonight's "Rich Peverley Make-Up Game" with a 1-0 lead), who defeated the Penguins 5-4 in overtime on March 20th:
“That is a dynamic of the game — it does change the probabilities if we win the game,” coach Dan Bylsma said Tuesday after practice at Southpointe. “We’re still going to try to win it, I know that.”
[T]he notion of the game tonight serving as a potential a preview of a first-round matchup could shape the flavor of the game in a few ways.
“It will be interesting to see what kind of game it will be,” Penguins forward Jussi Jokinen said, pondering the idea that the clubs could attempt to set a tone or deliver a message about what to expect next week. "That could happen. It could be a heated game. You don’t know how it’s going to go.”...
“We had two great series against them,” Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. “Fun to play. Good challenge.”
Unless there is further league realignment that sends the Red Wings back to the Western Conference, there never will be a rubber match on as big a stage as those two series. Detroit was moved to the East this season.
“I honestly never thought of facing them [in the playoffs] in our conference,” Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. “I always thought it would be in the finals if we saw them again.”
“You could throw all your aces on the table and show them what you’ve got, or do something different,” Bylsma said. “I would anticipate … we may change a little bit of what we do. I don’t think we’re going to throw all the aces out on the table and let them know what Game 1 is going to be like.”
Ah yes, Arrogant Bylsma, how I did not miss thee.
NHL.com tossed off the usual "Rivalry Night" pre-game articles and hype-up pieces, so we're going to shift perspectives from the Penguins to Red Wings very slowly, with something of a "long bridge" of semi-game-related news and a bit of fluffernutter:
NHL.com's John Kreiser gives us a "Tale of the Tape"...
Detroit Red Wings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
38-27-14 (4th, Atlantic) 2013-14 Record 50-24-5 (1st, Metropolitan)
2773-2327-815-106 All-Time Record 1593-1566-383-91
63-59-16-3 Head-to-Head Regular-Season Record 62-61-16-2
1-0-0 Streak vs. Opponent 1-0-1
1-0-0 @ Pittsburgh Home/Road Streak vs. Opponent 0-1-0 vs. Red Wings
11 Stanley Cup Championships 3
48 Hall of Fame members 10
Gordie Howe Most Famous Alumnus Mario Lemieux
9 Hart Trophy Winners 6
61 Postseason Appearances 29
Paul Coffey (1993-96) Best Player in Common Paul Coffey (1987-92)
NHL.com's Adam Kimelman attempts to break down a Pavel Datsyuk vs. Evgeni Malkin match-up, reaching the following conclusion as to which player will have a "bigger impact"...
Verdict: Malkin and Datsyuk have proven to be major playoff performers during their stellar careers. Datsyuk will be relied upon more with Zetterberg unlikely to play after back surgery, but the health of his knee will go a long way toward determining what kind of performance he's able to have. Malkin likely will have a bigger impact on the Penguins' fortunes when he returns to his usual role as second-line center. With Sidney Crosby playing on a different line, Malkin won't see the same level of competition, which could allow him to flourish.
And NHL.com's Dan Rosen names 5 coaches who will serve as the NHL's "best" going into the playoffs, with this caveat:
Nine active coaches have won the Stanley Cup. Six of them are expected to be in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. Five are already in, and Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has his team close to clinching a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Assuming the Red Wings get in, Babcock is on NHL.com's list of the top five coaches in the playoffs this season.
Joel Quenneville, Ken Hitchcock, Claude Julien and Bylsma are the other coaches on the list, and Rosen describes Babcock and his body of work as follows:
Mike Babcock, Detroit Red Wings
Stanley Cup championships: 2008
Stanley Cup Final appearances: 2003, 2008, 2009
Babcock has been to the Stanley Cup Final three times since 2002-03. He won the Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2008. He has won two Olympic gold medals as Canada's coach (2010 and 2014), and gold at the IIHF World Championship in 2004 and at the 1997 World Junior Championship. He is the only coach in the IIHF's Triple Gold Club (Stanley Cup, Olympics, World Championship).
However, Babcock is doing perhaps his best coaching job this season. The fact he has the Red Wings on the verge of clinching a playoff spot is remarkable considering the injuries they've had and the inexperienced players they have infused into their lineup.
Everyone in Detroit knew this was going to be a transition year because many of the players who won the Calder Cup with the Grand Rapids Griffins were going to challenge for roster spots in Detroit. But nobody expected the Red Wings to have to make the playoffs on the backs of some of those players.
That appears to be happening now. Forward Gustav Nyquist has been a revelation. Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco have made up a formidable line. Defenseman Danny DeKeyser is having a breakout season. Luke Glendening has been rewarded for his play as a depth center with a three-year contract.
Babcock has been the steadying influence. He hasn't changed his approach or the team's direction because star forwards Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have had major injuries this season, or because forwards Johan Franzen, Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Daniel Alfredsson, defenseman Jonathan Ericsson and goalie Jimmy Howard have missed chunks of time as well.
The Pro Hockey Talk gents talked about tonight's game...
NHL.com's John Kreiser penned a balanced preview...
Season series: The Detroit Red Wings are making their only visit of the season to Consol Energy Center. The teams split two games in Detroit, with the Pittsburgh Penguins winning 4-1 in December and the Red Wings earning a 5-4 overtime victory on March 20.
Big story: The Red Wings can lock up their 23rd consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs by getting a point against the Penguins, who are tuning up for the postseason after clinching the Metropolitan Division title and the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. This could be a playoff preview: The Penguins will open the playoffs against the first wild-card in the East; the Red Wings enter Wednesday in that spot, one point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Penguins [team scope]: Pittsburgh has three regular-season games remaining, all at home. But coach Dan Bylsma's eyes are on next week, when the Penguins start the playoffs. With a team that has missed more than 500 man-games due to injury, getting healthy before the playoffs start is the top priority now.
However, captain and NHL scoring leader Sidney Crosby, who sat out Sunday against the Colorado Avalanche with an upper-body injury, may return play against Detroit. He said he didn't mind getting the night off in Denver, even though it meant not playing all 82 regular-season games.
"I'd love to, but I think I've played more than 82 at this point, if you're counting every one," he said with a smile, referring to the 2014 Sochi Olympics. "So I'm OK with that. I think what's most important is that you feel good at the right time and that's playoffs, so just have to be smart."
Who's hot: Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard has won his past four starts, allowing two goals in each game. … Crosby has six points, all assists, in his past five games. Center Brandon Sutter had two goals against Colorado.
Injury report: Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (finger surgery), and forwards Stephen Weiss (sports hernia surgery) and Henrik Zetterberg (back surgery), are on injured reserve. Forward Daniel Cleary (sprained knee) is out indefinitely. … Penguins forward Chris Kunitz (lower body) and defensemen Brooks Orpik (lower body), and Olli Maatta (upper body), all of whom sat out Sunday, practiced Tuesday and are day-to-day. Center Evgeni Malkin (foot) saw a doctor Monday and has progressed to skating lightly, according to Bylsma. Forward Joe Vitale, who has missed 10 games with what the team called a mid-body injury, is also skating. Goaltender Tomas Vokoun, sidelined all season following preseason surgery to dissolve a blood clot, will begin a minor-league rehab assignment Wednesday. Defenseman Kris Letang (stroke) and fForwards Marcel Goc (foot) and Chris Conner (foot) remain out.
And the AP's preview adds stats to the mix:
Detroit, which can secure a playoff berth with one more point, got some relief with the return of Pavel Datsyuk from a 16-game absence Friday. Datsyuk scored in Saturday's 5-3 loss in Montreal that ended a four-game winning streak and had an empty-net goal in a 4-2 victory at Buffalo on Tuesday.
The Red Wings hold the East's first wild-card spot, one point ahead of Columbus with three games to play.
Crosby scored twice in a 4-1 victory over Detroit on Dec. 14, then Daniel Alfredsson's second goal in overtime gave the Red Wings a 5-4 victory March 20.
Marc-Andre Fleury was in net for the Penguins for the last matchup and he could get the nod again after making 39 saves Sunday.
Jonas Gustavsson could get the start for Detroit in the second of a back-to-back set. Gustavsson, though, allowed all five goals Saturday.
Babcock wouldn't tell the media who he was starting for tonight's game, saying that he'd make the decision on the flight to Pittsburgh, but he did address his new status as the Wings' winningest coach (he now has 414 wins to Jack Adams' 413) with MLive's Ansar Khan...
“The win tonight is way more important than that (record) but I would say to you these are things you think about in the summer and I’m thrilled,” Babcock said. “No. 1, in order to do it you got to be there a long time. Jack Adams was there a long, long time. Tying Scotty Bowman (who has 411 wins with the Red Wings) was something (special) just because I know Scotty was there (nine seasons). For me to be in my ninth year, what it tells me is that my kids got to go to high school in the same town and that doesn’t happen for an NHL head coach very often, so I’m thankful.”
Before addressing tonight's challenge:
"They’re going to be ready for us,” Babcock said. “If we do what we’re supposed to do and they do what they’re doing we could meet in the playoffs. Reality is it’s an important game.”
If the Red Wings don’t earn a point Wednesday, they still can get into the postseason by getting just one point in one of their final two games, Friday at home vs. Carolina and Sunday at St. Louis. They can also get in if New Jersey and Washington don’t win out (each has three games remaining).
“Try to get that (Wednesday),” Red Wings forward Johan Franzen said. “We got a few chances here, but we just got to keep playing like we’re playing. Keep doing things right and getting ready for the playoffs.”
The Wings were marginally pleased with their effort on Tuesday...
“To me the big thing is to stay the course,” Babcock said. “If you get carried away, sometimes when you need to win more than the other team you start to press. We didn’t want to do that. We just wanted to play.”
Said Helm: “I thought we did a pretty good job. A few times we didn’t play quite up to our potential but we played hard when we needed to and scored when we had to and found a way to win.”
And Pavel Datsyuk, who was very visibly frustrated with his game at times, is slowly but surely "getting his wind back," as he told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:
Datsyuk, in his third game back from an inflamed knee, played 20 minutes, 18 seconds on 26 shifts, scored an empty-net goal, was plus-2, won 14 of 20 faceoffs, and was on the ice during a key five-on-three Red Wings penalty kill in the second period.
“It feels better,” Datsyuk said of his knee, which limited him to four NHL games and four Winter Olympic games since Jan. 1. “Mentally it’s a little bit tough not (having) played a lot of games. It’s tough. But when games start, it’s easy to come back. Every game it’s better and better.”
Coach Mike Babcock believes Datsyuk is getting closer to breaking out.
“Before he breaks through he’s doing good things with the puck but not quite as quick as normal,” Babcock said. “Pretty soon he’ll start pulling away from people.”
Babcock was also very pleased with the performance of the team's new "third line" of Daniel Alfredsson, Darren Helm and Tomas Jurco, as he told the Free Press's Helene St. James...
“They’re fast,” Babcock said. “Jurcs has good speed and Alfie knows how to play. Give Alfie a couple guys that can really fly, he’s a better player. I thought that was a good group for us.”
Though Jurco — who at 21 is two decades younger than Alfredsson — is new to the group, Helm and Alfredsson have played together on and off this season.
Jurco's trying to shoot more as he grinds up and down the boards, Alfredsson passes like nobody's business and goes to the front of the net, Helm's speed creates opportunites and he wins puck battles, and he was great on faceoffs Tuesday, going 10-for-10. It's a perfect line in terms of the players' complimentary games.
“We had some good shifts out there, some early chemistry, and hopefully that continues,” Helm said. “We’ve got to find ways to be effective against other teams and stick together and score some goals. I’ve played with Alfie for a lot of the time that I’ve played, so I’m pretty comfortable with him. I’d like to be able to do more with him as skilled as he is, but I’ve got to play to my potential and things will happen.”
Helm score his 12th goal of the season when he picked up a rebound, got to an open spot and went high on Matt Hackett. Helm went 10-for-10 in the face-off circle.
Who noted that Babcock offered due praise for Kyle Quincey, who's turned his game around after an awful first half:
“He’s been steady for us,” Babcock said. “He’s ultra-competitive in games. He’s a heavy body. We need him to be good. Him and (Danny) DeKeyser have been a good pair for us that we’ve been able to play against the best unit.” Quincey has shored up his play especially since gaining DeKeyser as a partner after Jonathan Ericsson was sidelined by a broken finger a month ago.
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan continues the Quincey story...
"If I'm not noticed, that's a good thing," said Quincey, who along with Danny DeKeyser have evolved into a steady defensive tandem. "Stay under the radar, play good defense, and let the forwards do their job and score some goals, and we should be fine."
After an uneven start, Quincey's season has turned for the better — especially in that hazy plus-minus statistic (on the ice for a goal, versus on the ice for an opponent's goal).
Quincey — who along with Drew Miller is on course to play every game this regular season — was at minus-nine in the early weeks of the season, as coach Mike Babcock was quick to point out Tuesday morning. But Quincey has worked his way downward since (he was at minus-6 entering Tuesday's game).
"It's one of those stats that comes and goes," Quincey said. "You can have some games where I feel like I didn't have a great game and I'm plus-two, and if I feel I've had a great game, I'm minus-three.
"All you can control is your one-on-one battles and there's a lot of intangibles that go into that (statistic). When your team is winning, we had a great stretch there for a while, and my plus-minus was good, it's one of those things.
"I try to focus on consistency throughout the year. I want Babs (Babcock) to know every game what he's going to get from me. Nothing flashy, I'll jump in (to the play) when I can and get shots through and make good first passes, and win battles. That's my game now."
And DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose discussed the play of a slightly steadier, but, surprisingly enough, sometimes no-less-maligned defenseman in Niklas Kronwall:
“Kronner does it right each and every day and he’s a guy you should be following,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “That’s another issue sometimes with young guys, are they following the right people? You got to pick out the right people and the people you want to model after and make sure you’re doing it right. Kronner is the guy, he does it right every day, it’s not about Nik Kronwall – ever. It’s about the best decisions for the team. He plays hard, he’s committed, he does things right. To me he’s excellent.”
Kronwall is among the league’s top 10 point producers this season. He’s been relatively healthy, missing just two games with a concussion in October, and he continues to quarterback Detroit’s power play. But what makes him standout among his peers – and actually places him in an exclusive club – is his extraordinary production of compiling at least 48 points with 145 blocked shots and 90-plus hits. Only Nashville’s Shea Weber can claim similar all-around numbers.
“He’s been around the organization for the longest out of the D, so we can really learn from him,” defenseman Danny DeKeyser said. “He shows from his play every night that he’s here to play every night and he’s willing to block shots, make hits and he’s willing to do all of the little things to help the team.”
Roose also noted that Daniel Alfredsson had nothing but superlatives to dish about Kronwall...
“He’s one of those guys who is underrated, maybe, all around the league,” Alfredsson said. “Until you see him day in and day out you don’t realize how invaluable he is.”
With Alfredsson raving about Kronwall's performance as the interim captain for Team Sweden after Henrik Zetterberg's back flared up at the Olympics:
“It’s a great honor and it shows how much, not just how the Red Wings think of him, but also the national team,” Alfredsson said. “He’s been one of the most professional players that I’ve been around with the way he handles himself on and off the ice.
“He brings a consistency with him night in and night out, and he expects himself to be the best that he can be every night. He prepares that way and now it’s magnified when those guys have been out for periods of a time and he’s been a huge impact on us being in the position that we are in.”
Roose points out that Kronwall and Alfredsson are tied with Henrik Zetterberg for the team's points lead, though David Legwand's 50 overall points registered with Detroit and Nashville are 2 more than Alfredsson and Kronwall's 48.
The Red Wings may or may not have a #1 defenseman, but Kronwall's played like one this season. He'll need to be at his best for the Wings to beat Pittsburgh tonight.
Red Wings notebooks and also of Red Wings-related note: I was out of the office during Tuesday afternoon, and I'll miss today's morning skate due to yet another ferrying of the mom to a doctor's appointment, but I want to post a quip Babcock delivered to the Free Press's Helene St. James as it might very well frame the balance of the Wings' regular season:
"All you have to do is look around the league," Babcock said after the morning skate. "You watch Calgary and New Jersey, or you watch Anaheim go into Edmonton (Sunday) - these games aren't easy to win. They never are. They're NHL players on an NHL team with pride that you're playing against, and you've got to dig in and play well. The biggest thing is, you've got to be playing well this time of year any way to have any success, so we have to be focused on us and having energy and doing things right."
Ditto for this quip delivered to MLive's Khan:
“You got to play well without the puck, you got to be committed to details and doing things right and our group has to work harder than the other team if we’re going to win,” Babcock said. “I thought in Montreal we lost F-3 (third forward high) too many times and the next thing you know the puck’s in our net. We worked hard, did lots of good things but we can’t have the puck in our net all the time. We need goaltending out of Howie and we just got to keep focused on the details and our work ethic.”
Gustav Nyquist has received the kind of defensive attention that a first-line player has to deal with over the past three or four games, and his goal-scoring has dried up as a result, so this quip delivered to NHL.com's Joe Yerdon's also a pertinent one:
Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist heads into the game as one of the League's hottest goal scorers. In his past 12 games he has 12 goals and leads the Red Wings with 28.
"[Babcock] has talked to me about shooting the puck more, and obviously I've been trying to do that and I think I've been doing that," Nyquist said. "But obviously I've been playing with some great players too. I think that's the biggest difference this year, also with the confidence you gain playing with them."
In prospect news, part 1: top defensive prospect Mattias Backman and Linkopings HC were eliminated by Skelleftea AIK on Tuesday, and Aftonbladet's Johannes Hagglund duly noted that Backman may or may not head to North America this spring:
Mattias Backman, 21: The player played in his third season as a regular player and his first on the first defensive pair. He had the best plus-minus (+26) of all players in the SHL during the regular season. His rights belong to the Detroit Red Wings, but he was on loan this year. The question is whether he's ready to play in North America, or whether the Red Wings want him to play in the SHL for one more season.
In prospect news, part 2: NHL.com's Adam Kimelman reminds us that Red Wings prospect and University of Minnesota Golden Gophers defenseman Ben Marshall's team will battle the University of North Dakota in one of the Frozen Four's semifinals, on Thursday at 8:30 PM EDT.
The game airs on ESPN2, as does the other semifinal (Union vs. Boston College at 5:30 PM), and the winners will battle for the NCAA Division I championship on Saturday at 7 PM (on ESPN).
The games are taking place in Philadelphia, and there is a "local" taking part in the game, as the Philadelphia Daily News's Ed Barkowitz noted:
10 Boston College forward Patrick Brown's father, Doug, played 15 seasons in the NHL and was part of the Red Wings team that swept the Flyers in the 1997 Stanley Cup finals.
In prospect news, alumni version: According to SwissHockeyNews.ch, Jokerit Helsinki may be joining the KHL next season, but Ilari Filppula, Valtteri Filppula's older brother, won't rejoin his hometown team. He played for CSKA Moscow this past season, and he's signed a 2-year deal with HC Lugano of the Swiss NLA league.
In out-of-town news, part 1: The Boston Globe's Tim Rosenthal offers this assessment of a potential Red Wings-Bruins first round series:
Detroit Red Wings: Having dealt with injuries to Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg for most of the season, head coach Mike Babcock has done a stellar job behind the bench. Some pundits wrote this team off a few weeks ago, but with a 6-3-1 mark in their last 10, the Red Wings are poised to clinch a playoff berth for the 23rd consecutive season.
The Bruins have not had much success against the team from "Hockeytown," winning only one of four meetings this season, including last Wednesday's 3-2 loss. Sure, some of the players, like Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Daniel Alfredsson and Tood Bertuzzi, are aging. But with some young blood injected into the lineup, including Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Brendan Smith, this is not a team the Bruins want to be facing in round one.
With a four-point lead on the Devils and Maple Leags (tied for ninth in the East) and a five point lead on the Capitals (11th), its safe to say that things are looking pretty good for the Wings in terms of clinching another playoff berth. They also have a pretty favorable schedule that includes the lowly Sabres (tonight) and Hurricanes (Friday), and a matchup against the Metro Division leading Penguins Wednesday night before their season finale against the Blues on Sunday. If Bruins fans have their way, the Wings-Pens matchup could be a first round preview.
In out-of-town news, part 2: SI's Allan Muir offered this take on the "state of the Wings" in his weekly slate of power rankings:
12 Detroit Red Wings Last Week: 15 Pavel's back, Gustav's red-hot and the Wings have been (almost) universally anointed as the team no one wants to face in the first round. It's not a good idea to look beyond that, but considering that they're healthier than they've been in ages and they're showing signs of playing the kind of detail-oriented hockey that coach Mike Babcock likes, they might just have an upset in them. (Last week: 2-1-0)
In out-of-town news, part 3, from ESPN's Craig Custance's chat:
Matt (Chicago): Do you think there are ever instances where a rash of injuries can be a blessing in disguise? Take the Wings this season, for example. It seems like, other than the hardship of simply losing their best guys for extended periods of time, the biggest problem caused by all the injuries was disruption to the team's chemistry. With players dropping like flies, lines were constantly being shuffled around and lots of the young guys or new additions to the team didn't have time to settle into a defined role or a particular line. However, as time went by and guys like Zetterberg and Datsyuk stayed out, guys like Nyquist and Tatar began to step up. They were given the opportunity to play in situations they may not have gotten the chance to play in had the Wings been healthy. Now, obviously, I'm not saying I'd rather guys get injured; but it does seem like it gives emerging talent the chance to develop. What do you think?
Craig Custance: Matt - both Tatar and Nyquist said that the injuries were big for their development. It gave them more icetime and opportunity on the power play and things like that. With that icetime came confidence and production. Now the track is maintaining that high level of play when everybody is back in the lineup. The challenge Mike Babcock faces is making sure his young players don't defer to Datsyuk and Zetterberg if both are healthy in the playoffs.
In out-of-town news, UGH version: The Columbus Dispatch's Michael Arace summarizes last night's Blue Jackets win...
The Blue Jackets and Phoenix Coyotes met in a high-speed collision and gushed all over Nationwide Arena last night. You hear the players talk about it all the time, about playoff hockey and what it is like, and this was a vivid preview, this crazy, emotionally charged home finale.
There were 16,289 fans on hand. They filled the building with massive gasps and huge roars. They had their guts twisted in knots throughout 60 minutes and on into overtime, when Ryan Johansen scored the winning goal and the place went to another level of eruption.
James Wisniewski found Johansen with a two-line, cross-ice pass. Johansen, unfettered, picked a spot and let a wrist shot go from near the top of the left circle. It was a nasty shot, fired with bloodlust, and it beat Coyotes goaltender Thomas Greiss above the glove inside the far post for a 4-3 victory.
The goal came just a few minutes after the Coyotes scored in the dying seconds of regulation and gave the Blue Jackets two points that are bigger than the dancing fat man. It put them on the cusp of their second playoff appearance.
And the Dallas News's Mike Heika spoke with Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill about the fact that the Rich Peverley make-up game will start in the 2nd period, with Columbus up 1-0:
The NHL is following precedent in making the odd decision to start Wednesday’s make-up game between Dallas and Columbus at a regulation 60 minutes but with Columbus holding a 1-0 lead.
The league did the same thing during the 2005-06 season when Detroit defenseman Jiri Fischer collapsed in a game. That game with Nashville was stopped at the 12:30 mark of the first period Nov. 21, 2005, with the Predators leading, 1-0. It was resumed Jan. 23, 2006, with Nashville leading 1-0 and was played in its entirety. Nashville ended up winning, 3-2.
“It’s what they did before, so I think it was an easy decision to do the same thing again,” said Stars general manager Jim Nill, who was with the Red Wings at the time. “There was a lot of thinking that went into it, and it seems like the right way to resolve the situation.”
The Stars’ game was stopped at the 6:23 mark of the first period March 10 when center Rich Peverley collapsed on the bench because of a heart ailment. Peverley, who was treating an irregular heartbeat with medication, had to be revived by an AED (automated external defibrillator). He was taken to the hospital that night and released a day later. He had ablation surgery a week later and is recovering.
He’s out for the season.
The Wings don't quite face the same situation that WDIV's Matt Barktowiak Jr. spelled out yesterday, but Columbus still holds those damn overall win and Regulation or Overtime win tiebreakers:
If you want to feel a little gloomy, Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner provides for your needs by suggesting that Steve Yzerman will never return to the Red Wings:
[In 1997] Yzerman then told me that he didn't have any interest in coaching after he retired as a player. Instead, he wanted to run a team, to build an organization from the ground up.
Even back then, I had a feeling that Yzerman was looking beyond Detroit. And since he hung up his skates in 2006, he's dedicated himself to becoming one of hockey's top executives.
Detroit played a key role in Yzerman's early development in management, and he still has all the Wings' top brass on speed dial. But he's always been an independent guy, so maybe the Wings are his past and the Lightning his future.
Look, I think Yzerman enjoys coming back to Detroit because it's a hockey oasis for him. Red Wings fans don't care anything about Tampa Bay or even Team Canada.
In Detroit, Yzerman is just a legendary hockey player.
Maybe that's all he ever wants to be here.
Regarding the current GM, Ken Holland spoke with Detroit Sports 105.1 FM's Matt Dery yesterday afternoon, but he didn't offer anything particularly revelatory. Here's the interview:
In news of a very different kind, via WXYZ:
In promotional news, charitable version: From DetroitRedWings.com's Alex DiFillipo:
Former Red Wings star Kris Draper will visit St. Stephen Elementary in Saginaw, Mich., on Friday, April 11 as part of the Detroit Red Wings School Assembly Program sponsored by the Detroit Red Wings Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and The Kroger Company of Michigan. The program will take place from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. in the school’s gymnasium.
Draper, currently the special assistant to the general manager for the Red Wings, will make his second appearance with the Red Wings School Assembly Team to introduce students to the sport of hockey through a youth street and floor hockey initiative. The Wings will provide equipment and hands-on instruction to familiarize kids with the sport of hockey and to encourage an active and healthy lifestyle.
The School Assembly Team opens every program with an interactive lesson on exercise and healthy eating, followed by an energetic hockey shootout competition pitting students against teachers. New to the program this year, the assembly will address the growing issue of bullying.
Each school receives two full sets of floor hockey equipment complete with hockey sticks and nets courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings Foundation, with every student receiving a Red Wings folder, a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan life-size growth poster featuring Brendan Smith, as well as a healthy eating cookbook from the Kroger Company of Michigan.
Now in its fourth year, the Red Wings School Assembly Team has visited 345 local schools, reaching more than 150,000 students and providing 690 sets of equipment to physical education departments throughout Michigan. This season alone, the Red Wings School Assembly Team has visited 105 schools and reached more than 43,000 students. Notable players and alumni such as Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall, Jimmy Howard, Todd Bertuzzi, Chris Osgood and Kirk Maltby have each attended an assembly.
A special fundraising initiative administered by the Red Wings School Assembly Program has helped local students raise more than $85,000 since 2011 for a variety of charitable endeavors.
The Red Wings School Assembly Team plans to make 115 appearances this season. The most up-to-date schedule can be found at http://www.DetroitRedWings.com/schoolassemblyschedule.
And finally, I'm going to be out of the office from about 9:30 till 1, so Paul will be handling the morning skate updates. Stupid doctor's appointments...
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