The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/30/13 at 03:46 PM ET
Upated 3x with some Leaf stuff at 4:30 PM: As Paul noted, the Red Wings received mostly good news at today's morning skate ahead of tonight's Red Wings-Predators game (8 PM EST, FSD/FS Tennessee/1270 AM). The Free Press's Helene St. James reports that both Darren Helm and Jimmy Howard will return to the lineup this evening:
A couple more regulars are coming back for the Detroit Red Wings, with Jimmy Howard and Darren Helm on deck tonight.
The Wings close out 2013 with a game at Bridgestone Arena against the Nashville Predators (8 p.m., FSD), looking to build on a 3-1 run.
Howard and Helm have each missed about three weeks, Howard with a sprained left knee and Helm with an injured left shoulder.
Helm will center Justin Abdelkader and Tomas Jurco, a line with good speed and scoring skill. Henrik Zetterberg is with Daniel Alfredsson and Gustav Nyquist, and Pavel Datsyuk with Todd Bertuzzi and Tomas Tatar. Joakim Andersson is with Daniel Cleary and Drew Miller.
MLive's Ansar Khan confirms (and notes that Patrick Eaves and Mikael Samuelsson will sit out), noting that Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was particularly effusive in his praise for Howard:
“He’s a world-class goalie,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Things haven’t gone the way he wanted (this season); he’s had lots of time off. Mentally he should be real fresh. He’s worked hard with Jimmy B (goaltending coach Bedard). I expect him to be really good.”
Helm will be making his second comeback this season. This time he returns from a sprained left shoulder suffered Dec. 4 against the Philadelphia Flyers. It didn’t take Helm long to get comfortable on the ice when he returned on Nov. 2 after a lengthy absence due to back/groin issues.
“He’s a huge part of our team,” Babcock said. “I thought it was going to take Helmer a long time last time and it didn’t. Let’s be honest, Helmer hasn’t played many games in two years. When he does, he’s a real factor for us. I don’t know much he can play tonight. We got four real good centers tonight. Whether we end up playing them that way or something changes and we go a different direction … but that’s the way we’re set up.”
Helm will center a line with Justin Abdelkader and Tomas Jurco, at least to start the game.
“They can skate; we’re not a team that skates easy,” Babcock said. “We like guys who skate, it makes it easier for us. Now we have them all on the same line, that’s probably not a great idea, but that’s the way it worked out.”
This is good news too...
Johan Franzen (concussion) skated today for the first time with the team since Dec. 15 but has not been cleared to play and said he won't be ready for Wednesday's Winter Classic vs. Toronto at Michigan Stadium.
And the NHL posted the Wings' lines:
Here is the projected lineup for the Red Wings on Monday:
Tomas Tatar - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Gustav Nyquist - Henrik Zetterberg - Daniel Alfredsson
Justin Abdelkader - Darren Helm - Tomas Jurco
Drew Miller - Joakim Andersson - Daniel Cleary
Niklas Kronwall - Brendan Smith
Kyle Quincey - Danny DeKeyser
Jakub Kindl - Brian Lashoff
Scratched: Patrick Eaves, Mikael Samuelsson
Injured: Stephen Weiss (groin/hernia), Johan Franzen (concussion), Jonathan Ericsson (ribs), Jonas Gustavsson (groin)
For the Predators, the non-MSM covered today's morning skate, with Smashville 24/7's Robby Stanley offering a note...
Barry Trotz confirmed earlier that there will, in fact, be a goalie in net for the #Preds tonight. "Playing without goalies is not good."
And a video of Barry Trotz's morning skate remarks...
Cellblock 303 posted some pictures from the morning skate...
And the Predatorial's Kristopher Martel stated the obvious:
The narrative for HBO tonight for the Red Wings is pretty big: Howard back, Zetterberg back, Helm back, trying to win before the WC
Just as important for Nashville as well, especially with a chance to do something on internationally-aired television
Pavel Datsyuk Tweeted a picture, too:
Otherwise, the Red Wings' Game Day Blog posted a historical note...
On This Day in Red Wings' History...On December 30, 1985
Brad Park is appointed new head coach of the Red Wings.
As well as Ken Kal's Keys to the Game...
RAM Keys to the Game with Ken Kal
Start Fast - Put the pedal to the metal and go after the Preds early.
Penalty Kill Needs to be Sharp - 9 of Nashville's last 18 goals have come on the power play and they have a PP goal in 6 straight home games.
Need Solid Goalkeeping - Whoever is in net has to make timely saves. The team needs to play well in front of the net, as well.
And the Wings posted a Morning Skate Update:
Jimmy Howard will return to the lineup and start tonight, after missing the last few weeks with a sprained MCL.
Darren Helm will also be back after a shoulder injury.
Helm with play on a line with Jurco and Abdelkader.
Henrik Zetterberg missed yesterday with a sore groin, but will play.
Johan Franzen skated for the first time since December 15 (concussion), but said he is still not symptom-free and will miss the Winter Classic.
Jonas Gustavsson is out with a sore groin.
Patrick Eaves looks like a healthy scratch.
Dan Cleary says he lost 10 teeth after being hit with a puck last game against Florida.
Regarding the last point, just as I was about to hit, "Submit entry," MLive's Ansar Khan explained the toothy situation...
Detroit Red Wings forward Daniel Cleary said it felt like he had broken candy dangling around in his mouth after being hit with the puck Saturday in Florida.
Expect, this wasn’t anything sweet, it was his teeth. Cleary lost 10 teeth on the play, which happened midway through the first period. He returned for a short shift near the end of the period, finished the game and will be ready to play tonight in Nashville.
“They were swimming around in my mouth, I could feel them,” Cleary said. “When I took out my mouth guard up top, I had more (teeth) sitting inside that.”
He added, “It’s kind of gross to talk about, but what are you going to do?”
Cleary has an 8 a.m. dentist appointment Tuesday. He anticipates it will take 90 minutes for some repair work. Then he’ll join his teammates at Michigan Stadium for a noon practice, in preparation for Wednesday’s Winter Classic against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“My concern is the wind on my nerves,” Cleary said, referring to exposed nerves at the bottom of his mouth. It (stinks), but numerous people have lost teeth, what are you going to do?” Cleary said.
And in cheerier news, DetroitRedWings.com's Andrea Nelson penned a story about Tomas Jurco's status as excelling as he climbs the pro hockey learning curve:
After tallying 28 points in 74 regular-season games last season on the 2013 Calder Cup championship team, Jurco has already recorded 25 points through 24 games this year, an improvement coach Jeff Blashill attributes to the forward’s difficult but instructive transition to the AHL.
“The first half of last year was a bit of a struggle for him,” Blashill said. “He came in as a really highly touted prospect but in my mind had to really learn how to play the pro game and as a result he had a tough transition. I would say of those points that he scored, the majority of those would have been the second half. I would also say probably opportunity. He’s been given more opportunity this year than he was at the beginning of last year.”
Jurco also believes improving his defensive game and strength have helped him earn the trust of the coaching staff, and in turn, more ice time.
“I’ve been working on my defensive side since Coach, you know he didn’t play me a lot at first for a couple of reasons,” Jurco said. “One of them was he didn’t trust me as much defensively because I wasn’t really good so I tried to work on that and I think I’m way better at it right now. I was trying to be stronger with the puck and win more puck battles so those are two things I think I improved on since last year.”
The Kosice, Slovakia, native has taken advantage of the increased ice time he’s earned, ranked No. 9 in the AHL in scoring at the start of December with 11 goals and 14 assists, and has developed into one of the team’s top offensive threats over the past year.
“Tomas has been from about the midpoint of last season through where we currently stand, he’s been one of our offensive players including the time that he spent when (Tomas) Tatar and (Gustav) Nyquist and the likes were down here, he’s been right with those guys as one of our top offensive guys,” Blashill said. “He’s got a lot of both playmaking ability and the ability to score, he skates well, he’s got good size and at times he uses that size for physicality as well. He so far this season has been our most consistent offensive performer and he’s someone we lean on quite a bit.”
Update: MLive's Ansar Khan has more news about Johan Franzen, and it's not good:
Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen was back on the ice Monday with his teammates, but he’s still not close to returning from a concussion. That means Franzen will miss Wednesday’s Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium.
“Of course (it’s disappointing), but it is what it is,” Franzen said.
Franzen has no time frame for his return. He’s been out since Dec. 15, when he was hit in the face by Tampa Bay’s Radko Gudas.
“I felt pretty good today, felt good on the ice, but it’s still there,” Franzen said of his symptoms. “They said hopefully I’ll wake up maybe tomorrow or the day after that and feel good again. That’s what they say usually happens, you just wake up and feel normal.”
Right now he said he is not close to feeling normal. He has been experiencing headaches and dizziness.
“It’s kind of been the same now for a while,” Franzen said. “They said when it goes away it usually goes away overnight and you feel good again. That’s what every expert says; one day you wake up and it’s gone and then you can start working 100 percent on the ice and then you do the baseline test and you’re good to go when you’re ready physically.”
Update #2: Here's the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's game-day article (via RedWingsFeed):
This can’t be the type of season goalie Jimmy Howard thought he’d be having. But beginning Monday night, there’s a chance for some corrective measures. Howard is back in net in Nashville after missing the last eight games with a sprained left knee.
“I’m excited to be back out there and looking forward to bringing that energy on the ice,” Howard said.
With a 6-8-7 record, 2.65 goals-against average and .910 save percentage, the statistics haven’t been as impressive as in past seasons. And with the U.S. Olympic team set to be announced Wednesday during the Winter Classic, there is speculation as to whether Howard will be chosen as the third goalie on the roster after Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings) and East Lansing native Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres).
Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop (20-5-3, 1.89 GAA, .935) and New Jersey’s Cory Schneider (5-8-5, 2.13, .914) have better statistics.
“If it happens, I’ll be excited and thrilled to participate,” Howard said. “What an honor it would be to represent your country in the Olympics. But at the same time, if it doesn’t happen, I wouldn’t beat myself up over it. If it doesn’t happen, it gives us much needed rest in February and I’ll be able to go somewhere nice and warm on the beach somewhere.”
And, regarding Helm's return, from the coach's perspective:
Helm will center a line with Tomas Jurco and Justin Abdelkader.
“They can skate,” said coach Mike Babcock of the line. “When Abdelkader came back he gave us some skating. We’re not a team that skates easy. We like guys who can skate, and that makes it easier for us. Now we have all of them on the same line, which probably isn’t a great idea, but it’s the way it worked out.”
This is also...Interesting...From the Free Press's Helene St. James:
A number of Detroit Red Wings will be going to Russia for the Winter Olympics, a potentially scary situation given recent events. Over the past couple of days, suspected terrorist attacks in the southern Russian city of Volgograd have killed at least dozens of people and injured many more. The attacks in the Volgograd, a city about 400 miles northeast of Sochi, have centered on public transportation, with one suicide bombing at the city's central train station and the second coming on a trolleybus.
Wings coach Mike Babcock, who will be coaching Team Canada, said, "I haven't followed it closely enough just because I've been watching hockey instead of watching world news. Obviously, I have to get a little bit informed.
"You know, when anything like this goes on in the world, it's saddening, because it's hard to believe that intelligent people can't find a better way to go about making the world a better place than that. Makes no sense to me."
Jimmy Howard, whom the Free Press has been told will be one of the three goalies on Team USA, said he was unaware of the events, which included a car bomb last Friday that killed three people in Pyatigorsk, 170 miles east of Sochi.
Henrik Zetterberg, who will be on Team Sweden, said, "hopefully they will get squared away before the Games get started. I think the security at every Olympics I've been on, the security has been really high, so I think it will be the same way in Sochi."
Fellow Team Sweden player Johan Franzen said, "bombs are scary, but I'm sure after this their security will be higher. I think they're going to do everything they can to make it as safe as they can."
And coming back "home," here's the thrust of MLive's Brendan Savage's game-day article:
The Detroit Red Wings are more in demand than ever these days.
Fans all over Michigan are talking about Wednesday's Winter Classic against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
HBO cameras have been following them for weeks now to film their every move for the cable network's popular "24/7" series chronicling the Jan. 1 game at Michigan Stadium.
They even practiced outdoors Dec. 18 at Comerica Park to prepare for the Winter Classic.
But with the Red Wings struggling and fighting a rash of injuries, that leads us to one question:
Given all the hoopla, has the Winter Classic been a distraction?
Update #3: The Free Press's St. James also posted a video of the Wings' comments regarding the Volgograd bombing...
Update #3: Briefly:
Coach Randy Carlyle said he decided on a starting goaltender, but he was cagey about who that will be. Would he consider giving both Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer some ice time?
“We consider all options,” the Leaf coach said.
Bernier has started the last three games and the Leafs appear to leaning toward the former Los Angeles King star as their No. 1 netminder.
The Leaf coach added that although the outdoor game is surrounded by hype and celebration, he’s got to get the team focusing on an important two points against their division rival.
“Our job is to get the team to play to higher level than we have been,” Carlyle said. “This is our last formal practice.”
The Leaf coach said the practice Tuesday outside won’t be anything like a regular pre-game practice.
“There’s going to be three or four drills and then get off. When you play at 1 o’clock the next day, it’s going to be different. It will be get up, have breakfast, go to the rink and go play.”
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