The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/14/13 at 12:10 PM ET
Updated 10x at 3:42 PM: The Detroit Red Wings find themselves in a must-win situation as they prepare to battle the Nashville Predators tonight (7:30 PM EDT, FSD/FS Tennessee/NBCSN/97.1 FM, and whatever the heck was messed up in the game set-up and overnight report post has been fixed), and it appears that the Wings will face a Predators team minus a particularly effective Wing-killer...
The Predators won't have the services of Gabriel Bourque, Mike Fisher, Brandon Yip, Paul Gaustad and Colin Wilson due to injuries.
No surprise here:
As for the Red Wings, I guess we'd better get used to hearing this...
I hate the "Brunner at the point" experiment, but that's just me...
We may have to get used to these kinds of statements, too:
The Wings' plight's mentioned in the NHL's version of Puck Daddy's "Playoff Death Watch" this morning, with NHL.com's John Kreiser stating the obvious:
Detroit at Nashville: The Detroit Red Wings find themselves on the outside looking in at the top eight in the Western Conference as they prepare to visit the Nashville Predators. Back-to-back shootout losses to the San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks cost the Red Wings a pair of valuable points, and they start Sunday with 45, leaving them behind the eighth-place Dallas Stars on a tiebreaker. A date with the Predators could be just what the doctor ordered for Detroit -- Nashville is mired in a five-game losing streak during which it has scored just six goals. Expect Swedish rookie Filip Forsberg, the 11th player taken in the 2012 NHL Draft, to make his debut for the Predators. He was acquired from Washington for Martin Erat on April 3.
As far as the AP's game preview's concerned, the doctor's out:
Detroit is 2-6-1 in its last nine against Nashville (15-19-8), including last year's postseason. The Predators have won four of the last five meetings at home, with all being decided by one goal.
For the record, while fans like you and me are incredibly frustrated by and worried about the Wings' plight, the Toronto Sun's Mike Zeisberger's take on the Wings' status summarizes the out-of-town take on what's transpired this season:
If the Detroit Red Wings somehow don’t make the post-season, Ken Holland and the rest of the organization should still hold their heads high.
The fact that they have reached the playoffs in 21 consecutive seasons is incredible, especially given the fact that the Leafs haven’t even qualified for the post-season dance since 2004.
Perhaps the best way to put perspective on the Wings remarkable run: Detroit defenceman Danny DeKeyser, 22, wasn’t born when the streak began.
I kind of thought that this "story" was an obvious one, but nonetheless, the Buffalo News's Bucky Gleason notes that the "Ryan Miller to Detroit" talk is all but officially dead...
The chances of him landing there were slim, anyway, but Miller might as well scratch Detroit from his list of eventual destinations after he leaves Buffalo. The Red Wings were finalizing details on an extension with Jimmy Howard.
The Red Wings for years didn’t spend big money on goaltenders because they would rather distribute the dough to the rest of their players. Howard is set to sign a six-year deal worth $31.8 million. It’s high for them but reasonable for him.
“It’s really, really, really close. Pretty much just the little stuff,” Howard told reporters in Motown. “I wanted to be here. I get along great with everyone here, and I believe in this organization and I want to get the job done.”
Howard is finishing up the final year of his current deal, which paid him $2.25 million that was prorated to about $1.3 million with the shortened season. He’ll take a $5.3 million cap hit starting next year, which is 11th-highest among NHL goalies.
It’s a good deal for the Syracuse native, who had a 2.41 GAA and .917 save percentage in 226 career games. He had a 2.39 GAA (20th) and a .918 save percentage (16th) this season. He appeared in 34 of the Red Wings’ first 40 games this season.
And in after-the-morning-skate news...
That's a little odd given that the Griffins don't play again until next Friday, but with the Wings heading out West either tomorrow afternoon or on Tuesday, I guess the move had to be made in advance.
I fully believe that Lashoff has a bright future with the Wings, but with Colaiacovo healthy, he's caught up in a " numbers game."
“We're sending Lash down not because he hasn't been good, he's been excellent,'' coach Mike Babcock said. “I don't want a young kid not playing.''
Lashoff had been a fixture in the lineup for most of the season, but has been scratched the past five games, including Sunday at Nashville, because the team has nine healthy defensemen.
“Right now, with the amount of guys we have, it's better for me to play games and not be sitting and watching,'' Lashoff said. “It'll be good,. We got a good team down there. It's a good atmosphere, a lot of good guys, we've all grown up together last couple years. They kept it going after the lockout, kept playing well. It'll be fun to go down there and hopefully go in the playoffs.''
The Griffins have clinched a playoff berth. They have three games remaining – Friday through Sunday. Lashoff has played in 31 games for the Red Wings (one goal, four assists, minus-10) and 37 games for the Griffins (two goals, four assists, plus-2).
“If you sit for a while you get a little stale,'' Lashoff said. “I've played about 70 games already, so not playing is a little odd for me right now. It'll be good to get some games.''
The Wings won't be able to recall Lashoff unless there's a "roster emergency," so the Wings are going to go with Kronwall, Ericsson, Kindl, Smith, DeKeyser, Quincey and Colaiacovo [edit: and yes, Ian White] for the rest of the regular season, barring any injuries.
Update #3: Here's the Tennessean's Josh Cooper's game-day update:
On the one hand, the Predators are trying to ratchet down expectations for 18-year-old prospect Filip Forsberg in his NHL debut Sunday night against Detroit.
“Great potential. That’s always a dangerous word because it means he hasn’t done it yet,” coach Barry Trotz said.
But he also described Forsberg’s cutlery of skills, which includes a heavy shot that at one point fooled goaltender Pekka Rinne in Sunday’s morning skate, and there was a sense of anticipation in Trotz to see the 6-foot-1, 186-pound Forsberg in game action.
“He’s big, he’s 18 years old and he’s a load,” Trotz said. “You can see the skill set. He shoots the puck hard, you can see he has good mobility for a young guy. You’re excited.”
For Sunday’s game it appears he will play on a line centered by David Legwand. Taylor Beck was on the other wing, at least in practice.
“Everybody in here knows how we act, and I think that will rub off on him,” captain Shea Weber said. “I don’t think you need to say too much. He seems like a good kid, and haven’t heard any bad things about him. I don’t think there’s anything you need to point out to him.”
The Red Wings' Game Day Blog offers a historical note...
On April 14, 1955: Gordie Howe scores the winning goal in Game 7 of the 1955 Stanley Cup Finals to lead the Red Wings past the Montreal Canadiens and hoist Lord Stanley for the second straight year!
And Ken Kal's "Keys to the Game":
Control the Neutral Zone - Make it tough for the Preds to get through. Also, be mindful of turnovers in the neutral zone; try to limit your own and take advantage of Nashville's turnovers.
Be Heavy in the Offensive Zone - The Wings have to spend time in the offensive zone, try to wear the Preds out. Cycle and grind in there, try to get a number of chances, and have the mindset that no one shot trips will get it done.
Execute Defensively - Have clean breakouts out of the defensive zone with active defensemen joining the rush. The boys in red need quick transitions against Nashville D and Pekka Rinne.
If you find this sort of thing interesting, I found a video of someone explaining the construction of the Fox Sports Detroit "April in the D" Nicklas Lidstrom bobblehead, which was designed by "The Bobbblehead LLC," which is based in Kansas City, Missouri (seriously):
Update #4: Here's the Tennessean's Josh Cooper's non-Forsberg-related game-day update:
It felt like the middle of an intersection outside the Predators locker room earlier. That’s because the Vancouver Canucks were set to practice following Nashville’s and Detroit’s morning skate in advance of their game tonight. So basically, three teams were trying to go through one small area of the building.
The Canucks will play the Predators tomorrow. This will be the second home back-to-back for Nashville in this lockout-shortened condensed 48-game schedule. The previous was March 8 and 9 when Nashville beat Edmonton 6-0 on Friday and lost 2-1 to Minnesota in a shootout on Saturday.
“I think it’s an advantage, and we should use it,” defenseman Hal Gill said. “We have home ice and there’s no shortage of hate between (Nashville and Detroit), and then Vancouver as well. We want to play well, we want to play hard, we want to beat these guys, and it’s a good opportunity for us.”
Pekka Rinne will start in goal for Nashville. He did not play in the Predators’ Friday game against Dallas.
Also, forward Patric Hornqvist (“upper body” injury) is out for the next two games according to coach Barry Trotz.
Update #5: Here's MLive's Ansar Khan's story about Quincey being scratched...
“So we have eight D and there's a competition,'' Babcock said. “If you play good you get to play and if you don't then there's a rotation. So, the idea in pro sport is you get in, you grab your chunk of the cheese and you never let it go for 15 straight years.''
Quincey has played in four games since returning from a fractured cheek bone.
“There's three guys ready and waiting to play and they're all good defensemen, so that's the nature of the beast,'' Quincey said. “This isn't the time to panic. The team needs wins, that's the most important thing. My focus goes to the next game and just do everything in my power to get ready and get the two points in Calgary (on Wednesday).''
Babcock wasn't happy with his team's play without the puck in Friday's 3-2 shootout loss at Chicago.
“We made some big errors,'' Babcock said. “But … forwards are supposed to help you out. F-3 (third forward high) looks after your D and we didn't have F-3 enough. I thought we played hard, we competed like crazy, we gave ourselves a chance. In the end, we made too many errors in not having enough support for our D and their last goal I didn't like.''
Smith for Quincey is the only lineup change, Babcock said.
The Free Press's Helene St. James filed a story about the "desperate" situation the Wings find themselves in as a 9th-place team...
"You should know that it's a fairly urgent situation for us," coach Mike Babcock said this morning. "But it's been like that all year. I've heard lots of times that we're inconsistent. That's not true. We've been the most consistent Red Wings team I've ever coached. If you look at every month, we've been consistent. This is what we've been. We've been in the grinder since the start. We've been in and out of the playoffs all year. When you woke up this morning, you weren't in them. Doesn't make you feel very good. You want to be in them."
With both Dallas and Columbus winning Saturday, the Wings are now tied at 45 points with the Stars and Blue Jackets, but are behind Dallas because the Stars have more regulation or overtime wins. The Phoenix Coyotes are only two points behind Detroit.
"Every single night, you want to see what those teams are doing," Howard said. "But we are still in the driver's seat here. We've just got to get two points, win games."
Howard is starting for the ninth straight time, and in all likelihood will continue to do so the rest of the season. That's partly a reflection on how important every game is, and on how little faith the coaching staff has in backup Jonas Gustavsson.
"With how tight it is, I knew most likely I was going to be in every single night," Howard said. "There's nothing wrong with that. I enjoy competing out there for the guys."
And she reports that Todd Bertuzzi hopes to return to the lineup a week from Monday, when the Wings host Phoenix on April 22nd, despite battling through a pinched nerve in his right leg:
"I just keep pushing it," he said. "I'm hoping if it can stay the course, I'm going to see the doctor again, and then push for maybe out west. I need to get into a handful of skates where I'm not in pain. The problem is stopping and starting. You're not playing on this team if you can't stop and start."
Bertuzzi first said maybe he could play during the upcoming trip to Western Canada, which has dates Wednesday at Calgary and Saturday at Vancouver, where a decade ago Bertuzzi was at the prime of his career as a power forward.
However, because there isn't much time for practices ahead, he estimated the Coyotes game as more likely. That's the fourth-to-last game for the Wings.
"I'll just try to keep pushing, pushing, see if I can get back," Bertuzzi said. "But I've gone at least a couple days skating where I haven't felt the pain I've been having, so, hopefully it stays that way."
NHL.com's John Manasso penned an article about the Wings' playoff-desperate situation, too:
"I think the whole season we've had to battle through a lot of different things, injuries and travel and all the different things like that," said left wing Drew Miller, in his fourth season with the team. "We're battle-tested so we'll be pushing hard here the last seven games."
Miller said he follows the scores so he was aware of what happened on Saturday night.
"Oh, yeah, every day," he said. "I usually check in in no matter beginning of the season or the middle or the end. I think everyone's aware of what's going on. You can't get too up or down because we slipped to ninth or whatever. We've just got to take care of ourselves here at the end here and if you don't win, you don't even give yourselves a chance to get in."
Much of the Red Wings' playoff hopes rest on the shoulders of goalie Jimmy Howard, who has played in 13 of the last 14 games. Howard's 35 games (85 percent of Detroit's games) are tied for the eighth in the League. It's a bit of a heavier load for the 29-year-old, who has never played more than 63 games in the regular season (77 percent).
Howard said in some ways it's easier for a goalie to play that much because they are not over-analyzing their game. They don't think as much and instead they just play more relaxed. That could be good advice for his teammates, as the urgency will get ramped up in the last two weeks of the season.
"We've been talking about it for a while now," Howard said. "The urgency has to be there. We need better starts than what we've had the last couple of nights."
Babcock talked with admiration on Sunday about the Stars, who traded three big-name veterans, called up young players and have gone 5-1 since. He said the Stars play a "north-south" style instead of "toe-dragging in the neutral zone." The Stars seem unfazed by the idea of pressure. Babcock seemed to say the same was true of his team.
"We've been in out and out of the playoffs all year," he said. "When you woke up this morning, you weren't in them. It doesn't make you feel very good. You want to be in them. But the great thing about it is we've got to win today."
Update #6: Cold comfort? The Nashville Predators sent Barry Trotz and GM David Poile to Toronto to attempt to court Danny DeKeyser, and the Nashville Preadtors' media was absolutely convinced that the Predators would land DeKeyser (the Oilers and Blues weren't far behind in the, "This is easy, he'll pick our team" department)...
So there's no small irony in the fact that the Tennessean's Cooper laments the "one who got away":
Detroit defenseman Danny DeKeyser has taken a more expanded role with the Red Wings of late. The rookie — who signed as a college free agent on March 30 — played 19:49 in the Red Wings’ Friday shootout loss to Chicago. It was DeKeyser’s most ice-time as a pro.
The Predators had a high-level of interest in DeKeyser, and met with him in Mississauga, Ontario when he was entertaining teams and offers. Coach Barry Trotz even made the trip to woo DeKeyser to Nashville.
“They needed someone to play on the left side with their defense core there, kind of the same thing that a few teams told me,” DeKeyser said of the Predators’ pitch. “They needed some young D to come in and try to fill some holes, so that’s what their pitch was for the most part.”
DeKeyser obviously chose the Red Wings for a multitude of reasons, “I wanted some good leadership in the locker room, I knew they had that here and I knew there would be a chance to play if I worked hard, so that’s what I was looking for when I came here.”
Update #7: Here's MLive's Ansar Khan's article about Bertuzzi...
Bertuzzi, who has sidelined with a pinched nerve that has sapped power from his leg, doesn't expect to be ready to play during the trip to Western Canada – Wednesday at Calgary, Saturday at Vancouver. But, he is hoping to return during the last week of the regular season, perhaps as early as April 22 against Phoenix.
“Just keep pushing it,'' Bertuzzi said. “I'm hoping if it can stay the course, go see the doctor again and then try to push for maybe something out West or right when I get back. I need to get a handful of skates where I'm not in pain.''
Skating the biggest issue right now.
“I'm trying to get as much skating,'' Bertuzzi said. “The problem is starting and stopping. You're not playing on this team is you can't stop and start.''
He added, “I've gone at least a couple days skating where I haven't felt the pain I've been having. Hopefully, it stays that way.''
And USA Today just posted an article in which Jillian Seach speaks to Gustav Nyquist about making the jump from the AHL to the NHL:
When he was called up to Detroit on March 20, he was leading the American Hockey League in scoring with 60 points in 58 games. He has two goals in 15 games at the NHL level.
"I've got to find a way to learn how to use my tricks up here," Nyquist said. "You kind of have your moves and that's what you want to do. It's just a matter of trying to find space here to do them and finding the right time. You can't turn the puck over."
With the Red Wings in a desperate struggle to secure a playoff spot in the Western Conference, they are looking for secondary scoring. The Red Wings have scored two or fewer goals in four of their last five games and they are looking for their forwards to step up down the stretch.
"Which comes first, opportunity or production?" Detroit general manager Ken Holland asked. "A player needs opportunity for production, but when your team is not producing offensively or winning as many games as you want, the team can't wait around for that player to get comfortable."
Nyquist might still be trying to get comfortable, but he has shown glimpses of being the dominant player he was for the AHL's Grand Rapids (Mich) Griffins. He had a recent span in which he had a goal and two assists over three games for Detroit . That included setting up Damien Brunner's game-winner against the Colorado Avalanche.
He concedes that he's still coping with the larger players and faster speed in the NHL.
"Obviously I'm not the biggest guy out there," Nyquist said.
Seach's article continues, and it's very good.
Update #8: The Predators' website posted Barry Trotz's game-day presser:
"I don't have much to say on it," Quincey said. "Three guys are waiting and all ready to play and they're all good defensemen, so it's the nature of the beast."
Smith hadn't played in three of the last four games. Smith said it's important not to overanalyze every mistake or misplay on the ice.
"When you're out there you're playing, if you analyze during the game, that's when you get in trouble and it becomes a snowball effect," Smith said.
There's no rotation among the defensemen, said Babcock, but rather players attempting to stay in the lineup.
"You guys ask me about rotations — there's no rotation," Babcock said. "If you play good, you get to play and if you don't play good, there's a rotation. The idea in pro sports is to grab your chunk of the cheese and not let go of it for 15 years."
And regarding the Wings' lack of offense:
Forward Valtteri Filppula has one point (a goal) in the last 12 games. Babcock said Filppula is playing too much on the perimeter.
"Get in the inside," said Babcock, of how to get out of a slump. "When you're not scoring, and you think you're a scorer, get on the inside and one of the defensemen will shoot it off your foot and you'll get scoring. You have to get on the inside to score."
Of Filppula specifically, Babocck said, "We could use some offense."
Man, ain't that the truth.
Update #10: NHL.com's John Manasso believes that the Wings and Predators will dress the following lineups (and they follow a story about Forsberg's debut):
Taylor Beck - David Legwand - Filip Forsberg
Sergei Kostitsyn - Nick Spaling - Matt Halischuk
Rich Clune - Austin Watson - Craig Smith
Daniel Bang - Chris Mueller - Bobby Butler
Shea Weber - Roman Josi
Kevin Klein - Victor Bartley
Hal Gill - Jon Blum
Out: Brandon Yip, Paul Gaustad, Gabriel Bourque, Patric Hornqvist, Mike Fisher.
Henrik Zetterberg - Pavel Datsyuk - Justin Abdelkader
Johan Franzen - Valtteri Filppula - Danny Cleary
Gustav Nyquist - Joakim Andersson - Damien Brunner
Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Jordin Tootoo
Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson
Brendan Smith - Carlo Colaiacovo
Danny DeKeyser - Jakub Kindl
Out: Patrick Eaves, Brian Lashoff, Kyle Quincey, Mikael Samuelsson, Todd Bertuzzi, Darren Helm
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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.