The Malik Report
Red Wings pre-Zetterberg announcement mashup: Datsyuk muses about Russian return, injury updates etc
by George Malik on 01/15/13 at 05:22 PM ET
Updated 2x at 4:36 PM: As you and I wait for official confirmation that the Red Wings have named Henrik Zetterberg their new captain, and we either make our way to Compuware Arena for tonight's 6 PM scrimmage (on Fox Sports Detroit and WXYT AM), I thought I might try to offer you some tide-you-over observations and comments regarding the news stories that got stuck in the practice post and were otherwise not mentioned:
- First, I don't know if you caught this, but the Wings' $9 ticket announcement also suggested that the only event open to the public on Thursday will be the Wings' 7 PM scrimmage at Joe Louis Arena. I don't know if they're still planning on opening the rink up for the 10:30 AM practice on Thursday, and I'll have to check that out;
- Second, he's not our "Happy Hudler" anymore, but it was very sad to hear that Jiri Hudler's father passed away. Hudler's dad had a liver transplant during the last lockout, so he'd been battling some severe health issues for an extended period of time.
- In the "sensational news" department, Pavel Datsyuk won't be taking part in today's scrimmage, but he did practice with the team this morning, and then he suggested to the media that he would consider ending his hockey career in Russia, as noted by the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness:
“It’s been a long time (since I’ve played) in Russia,” said Datsyuk, who last played in his homeland during the 2004-05 lockout that cancelled the entire NHL season. “(I’ve got) lot of Russian friends. (I’m) always welcomes home, nice, positive. You never know the next time (you’ll) play in front of Russian fans.”
Datsyuk did not take part in the Wings’ scrimmage, but is expected to Thursday at Joe Louis Arena. Babcock said Datsyuk will be reunited with long-time linemate Henrik Zetterberg this season and have rookie Damien Brunner on a wing.
“Those two guys like playing together are they’re very good together,” Babcock said. “We just didn’t feel last year it was good for us. Last year I put them together at the start but between them and (Danny Cleary) they were never going at the start, so we had to change and we never went back.”
Datsyuk said he didn’t know much about Brunner.
“I can tell you the guys are thrilled to have him, the coaches are thrilled to have him and the people of Detroit will be thrilled to have him back,” Babcock said. “He’s a superstar who’s an unbelievable person and a great team leader.”
Datsyuk will enter the final year of his contract next season and hinted he may like to finish his career in Russia.
“It’s my kind of a dream to come back and enjoy it,” Datsyuk said. “Russian fans pull for me. You never know how (your) career (will) go.”
Something tells me that the Red Wings will give Datsyuk millions and millions of reasons to stay in Detroit after next season, but one never knows.
- In the injury department, Pleiness updates us on the respective statuses of Darren Helm (back) and Mikael Samuelsson (groin):
Darren Helm (back) missed the third day of camp and is doubtful for Saturday night’s opener in St. Louis.
“Each day has been a little bit better, so I really don’t know when I’ll be on the ice,” Helm said. “Just day-by-day, play it by ear. Probably pretty doubtful to play,” Helm added when asked about opener. “Still have to get on the ice first. That’s probably a couple days away.”
Helm hasn’t skated since last Thursday and hasn’t had another test since an MRI on Sunday.
“I can’t really lift anything up right now, can’t bend over too well,” Helm said. “I’ll have to tie my skates before I skate around. It is hurting. It’s a small injury but bugs me quite a bit. I have to make sure I can actually skate before I go out there.”
Helm said this is his first back injury.
“I’m just kind of listening to what they’re saying and trusting them, like I’ve done before,” Helm said. “Just being really cautious with it and when it’s ready it’s ready. It’s a short season. Obviously, I’ve got to get back quickly but I can’t rush it and be out for another 3-4 weeks. I’ve got to be smart with it.”
As for Samuelsson, he's doing much better:
Mikael Samuelsson said an ultrasound revealed nothing on his injured groin.
“It’s a minor, minor thing,” Samuelsson said. “It’s not a big deal, but you don’t want to start like this.”
Samuelsson said it’s very possible he’ll be on the ice Thursday and feels he’ll be ready for the opener.
“I will be ready for Saturday if the coach wants me,” Samuelsson said.
Samuelsson also told the Free Press's Helene St. James that the ultrasound revealed that he's not pregnant, which is good.
- MLive's Ansar Khan offered an intriguing Tweet regarding two more Red Wings forwards...
Via RedWingsFeed, Michigan Hockey's Matt Slovin checked in with a forward who really, really wants to latch on with the Wings in try-out Mike Knuble, and it sounds like Wings coach Mike Babcock likes what he's seen thus far from the 6'4," 230-pound 40-year-old:
“I liked him (Monday),” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “We gave him a good opportunity. He’ll have a good opportunity skating with good players (during Tuesday night’s exhibition).”
This isn’t going to be the easiest year for the University of Michigan graduate to crack Detroit’s forward corps. In a year when the Red Wings are hard-pressed to (impossibly) find a blue-line replacement for Nicklas Lidstrom, the forward group is generally pretty deep.
“I think you gotta just come in and take it day by day,” Knuble said. “It’s something you’re not really used to as a player. You’re used to coming into camp and getting ready for the season. There’s a little more sense of urgency, probably, in myself because it’s a short week and you’ve gotta be on. …You just roll with whatever happens.”
So far, he’s said the experience has been a positive one. And the competition has been fierce, even though the team has only recently reconvened.
“There are a lot of good players here,” Knuble said. “You know they’re good players in games, but you don’t really appreciate it until you practice with them.”...
Certainly, the presence of another NHL veteran in the locker room will be a welcomed one in preparation for a season in which every game matters even more than normal. But that’s not to say that Knuble will become a permanent fixture with the Red Wings — Babcock has some tough decisions to make.
“The bottom line is we don’t have exhibition games, and even exhibition games are usually going slow,” Babcock said. “Camp’s slow, and then exhibition games are slow and then the league starts and it’s going way quicker. Then two months later it’s going twice as fast. We have to make decisions on people based on one speed when the game’s going a totally different speed.”
- In the fantasy hockey department, Damien Brunner's (again, it's BROO-ner, not BRUNN-er) received another, "Pick him!" endorsement, this time from the Sporting News's Sean Gentile...
Damien Brunner, Red Wings: Brunner is probably the biggest lock to make an impact on this list. He's 26 and dominated the Swiss League (25 goals, 32 assists) alongside Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg. Not a bad way to open some eyes before camp begins. He's already working with the team's top power-play unit and could wind up on a line with Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.
“It worked out as good for him as it possibly could have because he was leading the (Swiss) league in scoring again, and Z comes over, he develops a friendship, a confidence to play with real good players. Now he's just got to keep doing the same thing. So we're excited about having him," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told MLive.com.
- As events wind down at Compuware Arena, the Plymouth-Canton Observer's Brad Kadrich reports that fans have enjoyed watching their Wings skate--for free...
Fans have crowded into Compuware Arena to watch the Red Wings practice the last few days, including Tuesday night’s Red and White scrimmage. Local fans, at least, are seemingly willing to forgive both the players and the league for the 113-day lockout that cost so much of the season (the Wings open the regular season Saturday at St. Louis).
Jimmy Garlit of Plymouth said he’s been a fan of the Wings for some 50 years, and he’s ready to watch some hockey. He and his wife of 21 years, Julie Anne, watched the team go through its paces Tuesday morning.
“It’s completely unnecessary. ... That’s just the nature of the business,” Garlit said of the lockout. “To me, there are only two sports (teams) in this town — the Tigers and the Red Wings. I’m incredibly glad they’re back.”
Julie Anne Garlit has only been a fan since she and Jimmy have been together — “That’s 21 years ... if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” she said with a laugh — and she remembered her husband’s reaction when the lockout ended.
“He heard about it and said, ‘My prayers have been answered,’” she said.
Larry Rafalski of Canton said he watched the lockout and said he “could see the players’ point and the clubs’ point.” He said it was exciting to see them up close in the friendly confines of Compuware.
“They looked good considering how long they’ve been off,” Rafalski said. “It was great to see them up close. Their reflexes are amazing. (But) with that long break, you lose something. I hope it doesn’t hurt them.”
- And as you might imagine, things are starting to get busy at Compuware, as noted by DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose (sorry for inline updates, Twitter's embed code is being a pain)...
I'm here for a #RedWings press conference, and the worse kept secret in town since Nicklas Lidstrom was named captain. http://pic.twitter.com/ye2suw9N
Fox Sports Detroit's John Keating....
Red Wings setup for the 4:45 announcement- Henrik Zetterberg as next captain. Entire team will be here. More on FSD @6 http://pic.twitter.com/GZiMdTMg
And Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika:
Loooooong line of fans waiting to get into Red Wings' scrimmage. http:/pic.twitter.com/4ntH4LqL
Update: Via RedWingsFeed, DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose offers a Datsyuk update:
“It's good to have him here,” said Babcock, who also said that the Russian star will not play in Tuesday night’s intra-squad scrimmage at the 3,500-seat arena in suburban Detroit.
It appears that Datsyuk is already in midseason form, though. He returned to Russia in September, where he waited out the NHL lockout, and produced 11 goals and 25 assists in 31 games with CSKA Moscow.
“We'll give him a day off today and a day off tomorrow,” Babcock said. “Then he should be back on body clock-wise and ready to go here.”
Babcock has indicated that he plans to reunite the Euro-twins – Datsyuk and newly minted captain Henrik Zetterberg – when the season opens in St. Louis on Saturday. The star forwards will be joined on the first line by Swiss import Damien Brunner.
Valtteri Filppula, who centered Zetterberg’s line throughout most of the 2011-12 season, will now center a line with Johan Franzen and Mikael Samuelsson.
“If we can have Fil be what he was last year and play in the middle, him and Mule be a tandem and Pav and Z be a tandem, I think we're a really good hockey team,” Babcock said. “We just didn't feel like last year was good for us. Last year I put them together at the start but between them and (Daniel Cleary) they were never going at the start, so we had to change and we never went back.”
As for guys like Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Brunner, who all spent the lockout playing in Europe, Babcock feels the Wings will have an early advantage once the season begins. But he also credited others who stayed in metro Detroit for their dedication to working out during the lockout.
“Obviously, it's great that Fil and Pav and Z were all playing,” Babcock said. “I think Bert looks great, Mule looks great. They look like they've done some serious training. Kronwall looks great. If you've done enough work there's no issue. If you haven't, we're all going to know.”
Update #2: I've already mentioned ESPN's Craig Custance's Red Wings preview, but he also tossed off some Central Division predictions and observations in his Insider-only blog, and here's what he had to say about the Wings:
Most interesting storyline this week: The Red Wings are already deep at forward, so veteran Mike Knuble really would have to impress the team to earn a spot after being invited to camp. And he'd have to somehow do it without exhibition games. So yeah, he's a long shot. But he has a few things to his advantage. Babcock likes his size. Detroit lost presence in front of the net when Tomas Holmstrom retired, and that's something Knuble can provide. GM Ken Holland loves veterans, and signing Knuble would allow the Red Wings to keep another young forward in reserve in Grand Rapids, ready to play when there's an injury. And Knuble is a leader. The Red Wings' dressing room has lost some great personalities and leaders the past few years, a void that Knuble would help fill.
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