The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/25/13 at 10:31 AM ET
Updated 10x with the Wings' game-day video at 4:06 PM: The Detroit Red Wings still face a must-win situation against the Nashville Predators tonight (7:30 PM EDT, FSD/FS Tennessee/97.1 FM) despite defeating the Los Angeles Kings last night, and at least initially, the morning skate gave no indications as to Johan Franzen's status for this evening...
As MLive's Khan noted in a 7 AM notebook article, Todd Bertuzzi's ready to go if Franzen isn't:
The Detroit Red Wings certainly don't expect Todd Bertuzzi to be in midseason form if he returns Thursday, not after missing 11 weeks with back and leg issues. But, his size, his hands around the net and, if it comes down to it, his moves in the shootout will help a team that has had trouble scoring.
“Bert has been a huge loss for us,'' teammate Daniel Cleary said. “First thing he's going to bring is another voice in the locker room. He brings experience and calmness on the bench, and then you factor in his play and his size. Obviously, he hasn't played the whole season, so it's going to take some time.''
After Wednesday's morning skate, Bertuzzi was confident he'd be available for Thursday's home finale vs. Nashville.
“I’m ready to go (Thursday),'' Bertuzzi said. “I really wanted to play (Wednesday vs. Los Angeles), but I needed to skate hard with Tom (assistant coach Renney). I needed to do one-on-one drills with the defensemen. I needed to get some pushing and shoving down low. I needed to get cross-checked in the back. I needed to be able to spin off and needed to be able to stop and start and take off with the puck.
“Having my third visit to the doctor, I needed to make sure I tested it properly and got it taken care of. The last thing I wanted to do was for them to take a fresh guy out and have me play one period because something didn’t go right. The team is bigger than any individual.''
Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has recalled forward Joonas Rask (YOH-nuhs RASK) from Milwaukee (AHL), while assigning forwards Filip Forsberg and Austin Watson to the Admirals.
Rask, 23 (3/24/90), notched a goal and an assist in his first and only AHL game on April 19 against Charlotte. He joined Milwaukee on April 11 after completing his fourth season in the Finnish Elite League with Jokerit, where he posted 10 points (5g-5a) in 52 games. The 5-10, 176-pound defensive and face-off specialist was Nashville's seventh choice, 198th overall (seventh round), in the 2010 Entry Draft and is the younger brother of Boston Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask.
Watson has appeared in six games for Nashville since his first career recall on April 7. He scored his first NHL goal in Tuesday night’s win over Calgary. Forsberg notched his first career point/assist in his fourth NHL game on Tuesday.
In other news, ESPN's Scott Burnside reports that the Blue Jackets are well aware of their must-win situation as they preapre to face the Stars tonight given that a Wings regulation-or-OT win plus a Blue Jackets loss doled out by the Dallas Stars would yield a playoff spot for the Wings:
"We're all very aware of what needs to happen for us and what's going on," [Blue Jackets defensejan Jack] Johnson said. But, he added, "we have to win our last two games. At the end of the day, that's all we can control."
Detroit's win moved the Red Wings ahead of Columbus into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 52 points, one more than the Blue Jackets. The Minnesota Wild are still in the mix, one point ahead of Detroit, while Dallas (48 points) has the biggest challenge of those still in the hunt for a postseason berth.
All four teams have two games remaining, including Thursday's now-monster clash between Columbus and Dallas in Big D. The fact that both the Stars and Blue Jackets can still discuss the postseason at this late date is something of a minor miracle and adds an upbeat backdrop to Thursday's game.
If the Wings do make the playoffs, ESPN Chicago's Scott Rogers rather delicately suggested that the Chicago Blackhawks would welcome that match-up...
The two rivals have met in 15 playoff series throughout their history. The Blackhawks hold an 8-7 series advantage. They've played in four playoffs series in the last 25 years. The Blackhawks are 4-0-0 against the Red Wings this season.
The Red Wings do still have some work to do to remain in the playoffs. There are four teams still fighting over two remaining playoff spots in the Western Conference, and all four still have a shot at facing the Blackhawks in the opening round.
The Red Wings can move closer to securing a spot with a win against the Nashville Predators on Thursday. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars also meet in a key game on Thursday. The Blue Jackets can move back into the eighth spot with a win coupled with a Red Wings' regulation loss. The Stars need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Minnesota Wild could also clinch a playoff spot with a Blue Jackets' regulation loss.
Here's a closer look at all four of the Blackhawks' potential first-round opponents with their records, ROW (regulation + overtime wins, which is used as a tiebreaker), remaining games and best-and-worst-case scenarios.
- Wild, 25-18-3, 53 points (seventh place): 21 ROW, two games remaining (vs. Edmonton Friday, at Colorado on Saturday), best case (57 points, fifth place), worst case (53 points, out of the playoffs)
- Red Wings, 22-16-8, 52 points (eighth place): 20 ROW, two games remaining (vs. Nashville on Thursday, at Dallas on Saturday), best case (56 points, seventh place), worst case (50 points, out of the playoffs)
- Blue Jackets, 22-17-7, 51 points: 17 ROW, two games remaining (at Dallas on Thursday, vs. Nashville on Saturday), best case (55 points, seventh place), worst case (51 points, out of the playoffs)
- Stars, 22-20-4, 48 points: 20 ROW, two games remaining (vs. Columbus on Thursday, vs. Detroit on Saturday), best case (52 points, eighth place), worst case (48 points, out of the playoffs)
According to USA Today's Kevin Allen, Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk is likely to earn a nominaton for the Selke Trophy as the NHL's best defensive forward--again--but Allen does not believe that Datsyuk will win the award:
SELKE TROPHY (TOP DEFENSIVE FORWARD)
The big three this season appear to be Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk, Toews and Boston's Patrice Bergeron.
But the trendy pick might be Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jay McClement, a superb penalty killer and relentless defensive zealot.
Every year, the debate is whether the intent of this award is to honor the league's best two-way forward or the third-liner who dedicates his career to defensive work. In other words, should it go to a defensive-minded star or role player?
If a voter chooses the latter, McClement would be a strong choice. If it's the former, the big three would be favored. Maybe Toews wins the award as the consolation prize for falling just short in Hart voting.
Who decides the winner: PHWA members
1. Toews. 2. Bergeron. 3. McClement. 4. Datsyuk. 5. Frans Nielsen, Islanders
Amongst Wings play-by-play man Ken Kal's game notes:
And in the FYI department:
The morning skate ended quickly, and after posting the following, St. James and the Wings' beat writers headed into the Wings' locker room...
It would also be swell if I could embed NHL.com's Brian Hedger's Tweets, but he blocked me for some reason (???).
I have had trouble with hip flexor issues since I was a teenager, so my guess is that his hip flexors flared up.
Update #0.5: Yup, game-time decision:
This is to be expected given the fourth line's play last night:
As did MLive's Ansar Khan...
Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen said he expects to play in tonight's home finale against the Nashville Predators at Joe Louis Arena.
Franzen did not play in the final six minutes of Wednesday's 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings due to an undisclosed injury. But, he said he feels much better now.
Coach Mike Babcock said if Franzen plays then Todd Bertuzzi will not be in the lineup. Bertuzzi has been cleared to play. Babcock said there are no lineup changes from Wednesday.
Update #4: The Free Press's Helene St. James reports that Franzen was emphatically stating that he'd play tonight:
"I'm playing," Franzen said. He opted to sit on the bench for the waning minutes of the Los Angeles game "just to get a little rest. No need to play those last minutes. I thought I'd get off and use the rest. That's it."
Never one to get effusive, Franzen didn't have much to say about his hot streak, which has seen him pump 19 points into his last 21 games.
"It's probably the way we're playing," he said. "We're playing with more desperation and getting more pucks to the net, and that's usually where I hang out. So it's probably most the way we've been playing lately. It suits me a lot better when we play a straight game and are getting pucks to the net, and we know what everyone is doing out there. It's a lot easier to play."
Coach Mike Babcock said that if Franzen plays, forward Todd Bertuzzi won't. So in other words, there won't be any changes to the lineup tonight.
The Wings can extend their 21-season playoff streak if they win tonight and if Dallas beats Columbus. The Wings also can clinch if they get one more point than Columbus.
"It's been a different season for us," Franzen said. "It's a good experience for the whole team. We'll come out stronger from it, I think. We're really starting to play stronger at the end here, when we have to, and hopefully, we can continue to do that the last few games here."
Update #5: Twitter potpourri time:
For the record, Jake Coreau is in Detroit, and he's Tweeting...Some odd stuff...
Also in the prospect department, the Grand Rapids Griffins open their 1st round playoff series against the Houston Aeros with games in Houston on Friday and Sunday, and the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner notes that a disgruntled Wing has aided the Griffins' cause:
The Griffins, who open at Houston on Friday in their first postseason appearance in three seasons, could use the veteran skill of Mursak, a right winger who leads the team with a plus-minus of 15 in just 23 games.
But Mursak is likely in his last season with the organization. The 25-year-old was sent down by the Red Wings in February after two games and an injured collarbone. With a glut of young frontline players in Grand Rapids and Detroit, and with his contract up, he acknowledged the writing’s on the wall.
So, what’s best for Grand Rapids? Does coach Jeff Blashill give more ice time to prospects to gain valuable experience, or use a lame duck player such as Mursak to try and win the Calder Cup?
“We play guys who will give us the best chance to win,” Blashill said. “Prospects have to earn their spots, just like everyone.”
Mursak has earned his spot, the coach said.
“When he came down and we talked, he said he wanted to win and would do everything he could to put us in the best position to win,” Blashill said. “He has done that.”
“I always like coming here, but I wish I was still in Detroit,” he said. “It was hard for the first week or two. My energy level was low because I was kind of disappointed, but the past month and a half, I’ve been feeling really good. I just want to win here and get a cup here.”
Update #6: Whaaaat?
And here's Khan's morning skate report:
The Red Wings, who've had trouble scoring this season, desperately need Franzen's offense. And the big forward is playing his best hockey of the season.
Franzen has six goals in his past six games and 11 points (including five assists) in his past 11 games. He attributed his surge to the team's desperation, as it battles to make the playoffs.
"Probably (has to do with) the way we're playing,'' Franzen said. "We're playing with more desperation and getting more pucks in front of the net. That's usually where I hang out. So it's mostly the way we've been playing lately.''
He seems to need a fire lit under him to get the best out of him.
"it suits me a lot better when we play a straighter game and get pucks to the net,'' Franzen said. "You know what everyone is doing out there and it's a lot easier to play.''
Update #7: Via RedWingsFeed, here's Wings coach Mike Babcock's morning skate presser:
Update #8: MLive's Ansar Khan penned a second game-day article, noting that the Wings face a classic "let-down game" situation against a non-playoff opponent after playing Los Angeles, and we all know that the Wings have tended to play "down" to the level of their opponents:
“For us, the main issue is take care of our own business,'' Detroit's Niklas Kronwall said. “We cannot rely on what other teams do. We have to make sure that we’re ready to go tonight and that we’re going after two points. Just go after them the way we have the last two games.''
Johan Franzen called it a different kind of season, having to battle until the end to make the playoffs.
“It's a good experience for the whole team,'' Franzen said. “Just going to come out stronger for it. Really starting to play well here at the end when we have to and hopefully we can continue doing that the last two games.''
“Last night you were playing the Stanley Cup champions (3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings) and tonight you’re playing a team that’s out of the playoffs,'' Babcock said. “No disrespect to them, but that sometimes affects your mindset and we can’t let that happen. Nashville has played us hard each and every night I’ve been here and has beaten us a bunch so we have to be prepared and start on time.''
The Red Wings are 7-2-2 in the second game when playing on back-to-back nights.
“Playing it simple, I think, and doing what we do … paying a lot of attention to the details of the game,'' Kronwall said. “For some reason we’ve had a lot of energy in these games and hopefully we can continue that tonight.”
Goaltender Jimmy Howard attributed the success to playing a safe, simple game
"Not being cute with it,'' Howard said. “Getting it in, just going to work, playing simple hockey. I think that's been the key for us in back-to-back games this year.''
Shifting gears, the Red Wings' game-day blog offers a historical note...
On This Day in Red Wings History...On April 25, 1988
The Wings take a 3-1 series lead over St. Louis with a 3-1 win, and Petr Klima scores his 10th goal of the playoffs, breaking the franchise record that was held by Gordie Howe.
And Ken Kal's keys to the game...
Fight The Fatigue - This will be the third game in four nights for Detroit. The last two games were like playoff contests. Be mentally tough.
Keep Playing Solid Defense - Detroit has allowed just two goals in their last three games. Jimmy Howard has been solid as a rock, as well. Limit the shots on goal and that will put the team in a position to win.
Be Hard on the Forecheck - Put pressure on the Nashville defense. Force them to cough up the puck and create scoring chances.
While the Windsor Star's Bob Duff penned a feature article praising Danny DeKeyser:
“He’s awesome,” Detroit forward Daniel Cleary said. “It’s impressive. I’ve been really, really impressed with him, probably more impressed with a young player than I’ve ever been.”
The addition of DeKeyser, a strong skater who makes safe, simple plays with the puck and distributes a sound first pass, is just one of the reasons why Detroit coach Mike Babcock feels much better about the puck-moving abilities of his defensive corps.
“We really feel we’re a much better team than we were months ago just because our back end is so much better,” Babcock said. “It’s not just the fact DeKeyser’s in, but (Brendan) Smith’s an improved player, and (Jakub) Kindl’s a much improved player.We feel we’ve got three sets there that move the puck pretty good for us, so we play faster than we did before.”
For his part, DeKeyser has found he’s settled in quite nicely and rather quickly as an NHL regular.
“It’s been a good two or three weeks for me here,” DeKeyser said. “I’m getting more and more confident. I feel like I’ve fit in well here. Everybody plays kind of a similar style to me and everyone thinks the game really well. It’s been a good transition for me. The guys here make it easy on me with how good they are, too.”
Oh, and about that playoff streak?
“It’s incredible how many years in a row they’ve been in,” DeKeyser said, still not quite comfortable enough as an NHLer to refer to the Wings as ‘we.’ “It’s one of the longest streaks there is in hockey. We want to keep it going, but really what we’re concerned with right now is that we want to get in this year.”
At the other side of the rink, the Tennessean's Josh Cooper continues to offer morning skate quips...
And NHL.com's Brian Hedger penned a game-day update discussing Franzen's status and positing the following prospective line-ups:
Nashville will get top center Mike Fisher back into the lineup after a hand injury after he missed the previous seven games. The Predators also sent rookie forwards Filip Forsberg and Austin Watson to Milwaukee of the American Hockey League on Thursday while calling up forward Joonas Rask -- the younger brother of Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.
"Last night, [we] were playing the Stanley Cup champions and [now] you're playing a team that's out of the playoffs," Babcock said. "No disrespect to them, but that sometimes affects your mindset, and we can't let that happen. Nashville has played us hard each and every night I've been here and has beaten us a bunch, so we have to be prepared and start on time."
Chris Mason will get the start in net for Nashville (16-21-9), while Jimmy Howard will make his 14th straight start and 19th in the last 20 games for Detroit (22-16-8).
Mike Fisher – David Legwand – Kevin Henderson
Sergei Kostitsyn – Nick Spaling – Joonas Rask
Bobby Butler – Chris Mueller – Matt Halischuk
Richard Clune – Craig Smith – Daniel Bang
Roman Josi – Shea Weber
Victor Bartley – Kevin Klein
Hal Gill – Jonathon Blum
Scratched: Taylor Beck, Chris Mason
Injured: Colin Wilson, Paul Gaustad, Gabriel Bourque, Brandon Yip, Patric Hornqvist,
Henrik Zetterberg- Pavel Datsyuk – Justin Abdelkader
Valtteri Filppula – Johan Franzen – Daniel Cleary
Gustav Nyquist – Joakim Andersson – Damien Brunner
Patrick Eaves – Cory Emmerton – Todd Bertuzzi
Niklas Kronwall – Jonathan Ericsson
Kyle Quincey – Brendan Smith
Danny DeKeyser – Jakub Kindl
Update #9: Here's the Tennessean's Cooper's game-day article:
If Nashville beats Detroit in regulation, the Red Wings would fail to clinch a postseason berth tonight. If the Red Wings get one more point than Columbus this evening — the Blue Jackets play the Dallas Stars tonight — then they will make the playoffs for the 22nd straight season.
The Blue Jackets have 51 points in 46 games played. The Red Wings have 52 points in 46 games. The Red Wings hold the tiebreaker.
“It’s a little bit motivation,” coach Barry Trotz said. “I think everybody is playing for next year, and for jobs and all that and pride, so if we could put a dent in them, that would be very helpful.”
Nashville will start Chris Mason in goal tonight. Mason hasn’t picked up a win since Jan. 22, the second game of the season for Nashville. Mason has started just four games this year. He has a 3.80 goals against average and .848 save percentage. In his last two starts, Mason has allowed 11 goals total.
“It’s tough getting in there, sometimes you don’t know what exactly to expect, and you don’t know how you’re going to feel until you get into the game,” Mason said. “But I felt pretty good in practice and hope to carry the feeling I had in practice to the game. Hopefully that translates well.”
Update #10: Cooper added a second update..
When Joonas Rask heard he was going to make his NHL debut tonight for the Predators against the Red Wings, he called his brother Tuukka, the starting goaltender for the Boston Bruins.
“He gave me some tips,” Joonas said. “Just like, keep your feet moving.”
Rask played one game with Nashville’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee before being called up for Thursday’s game at Detroit. He had two points in that contest. A seventh round pick in the 2010 draft for the Predators, Rask notched 10 points in 52 games for Jokerit in the Finnish Elite League this season.
Coach Barry Trotz said the reason to recall Rask was so Nashville could take a look at the 5-foot-10, 176 pound center’s skill-set at the NHL level.
“We’ll put him in the game and just see where he’s at,” Trotz said.
Forward Filip Forsberg was sent down to Milwaukee on Thursday to play in the Admirals’ Friday playoff game against the Texas Stars.
Trotz said Forsberg would return for the Predators’ Saturday game at the Columbus Blue Jackets. If Forsberg had played in more than five games, he would have burned a year off his entry-level contract. Forsberg will end up with five games total.
And, oddly enough, the Predators' website announced that Bobby Butler and Craig Smith have joined Team USA's roster for the World Championships.
On the Wings' side of the ice, DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose penned a game preview...
“We just have to prepare for the process here tonight,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said, following his team’s optional skate this morning. “We’re playing a team that has a bunch of kids that got called up and are playing well. They get (Mike) Fisher back here tonight. They’re going to play hard.”
Thursday’s game will be the last time that the Wings and Predators will meet as Central Division rivals. The Red Wings are scheduled to move to the Eastern Conference next season, while the Predators will remain in the Western Conference. The playoff race is coming down to a sprint as four teams – the Red Wings, Wild, Blue Jackets and Stars – jockey for the final two spots in the West.
The Predators can make friends in Ohio, Texas and Minnesota if they can squeak out a victory in Detroit. The Red Wings (52 points) are one-point behind Minnesota, who holds down the No. 7 seed, and a point ahead of Columbus. Dallas is the 10th seed, and on life-support, with 48 points and two games remaining, including the season-finale against the Red Wings at American Airlines on Saturday night.
Nashville has gone 1-7-1 in its last nine games while being badly out-scored 31-16. Eleven days ago, it took the Red Wings 57 minutes to get a Johan Franzen goal that gave them some breathing room in a 3-0 win at Bridgestone Arena.
Babcock expects a similar match-up tonight, though the Predators seemingly have nothing to play for, which became obvious this morning when it was announced that backup goalie Chris Mason would get the start against the Red Wings, instead of veteran No. 1 Pekka Rinne.
This season, Mason is 1-2-1 while allowing 14 goals on 98 shots in four starts. His last start was last week when he surrendered five goals on 18 shots in a 5-2 loss to Dallas. Still, Babcock isn’t ready to let his guard down, especially since his team is playing the second night of a back-to-back.
“Last night you were playing the Stanley Cup champions and tonight you’re playing a team that’s out of the playoffs,” Babcock said. “No disrespect to them, but that sometimes effects your mindset and we can’t let that happen. Nashville has played us hard each and every night I’ve been here and has beaten us a bunch so we have to be prepared and start on time.”
The Wings' website posted a game-day preview in which Ken Kal chats with Niklas Kronwall...
And the Detroit Free Press wants you to know that Brett Lebda is still around, preparing to play in the AHL playoffs for the Ottawa Senators' AHL affiliate, the Binghamton Senators.
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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.