The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/19/13 at 03:35 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings have a particularly stiff test on their hands as they begin a two-games-in-a-week slate against the Nashville Predators (8 PM EST, Fox Sports Detroit/FS Tennessee/AM 1270, and the Wings welcome the Predators to the Joe on Saturday) this evening. The Wings will be facing the team that bested them last April while attempting to rebound from losses against St. Louis (technically an OT loss), Anaheim and Minnesota with an 0-for-the-road power play, no Johan Franzen (or Todd Bertuzzi, or Darren Helm, or Brendan Smith, or Carlo Colaiacovo, but Jonas Gustavsson's healthy and Jan Mursak has recovered from his shoulder injury)...
And the currently 9th place Wings, who sit three points behind the Predators (19 points to 16 points) in the Central Division standings, will be facing a particularly pissed off opponent this evening. The 5-2-and-3-for-February Predators have lost two straight games, dropping a 3-2 shootout decision to Anaheim on Saturday and a 6-5 loss in Colorado on Monday that was marred by one of the worst non-called off-sides goals I've seen since the 2009 Stanley Cup Final. Via Puck Daddy and Hockey WebCaster on YouTube, here's Avs winger Matt Duchene, offsides by a mile:
By Predators coach Barry Trotz's standards, the game was awful in every aspect--the Avs built up 2-0 and 3-1 leads, and over a 3:30 span in the second period--ten minutes after Duchene's goal--the Avs and Predators traded 3-2, 4-2, 4-3 and then 5-3 and 6-3 goals before Trotz pulled Chris Mason, who gave up those 6 goals on only 18 shots, and then the Predators made things interesting with a late 2nd period goal and a late goal during a 17-shot third period.
Trotz was absolutely furious, though he calmed down by the time he spoke to the Tennessean's Josh Cooper:
Predators coach Barry Trotz
On Matt Duchene’s offside goal: “The league already verified it should have been an offside. The explanation from the crew here unfortunately, they said it was… they said we passed it back. We didn’t pass it back, and that’s why they didn’t blow the whistle. The league has already talked to us about it. It’s just one of those things. Everybody has a bad day.”
On how his team responded: “That’s part of life, that’s part of the game. Certain things are going to happen and you can’t control them. There was nothing we could control about it, we just had to play through it, and we didn’t.”
On his team’s play: "The scoring chances were pretty lopsided in the third period. They were about 15-1. We should have found a way to at least get a point and get it to overtime, but we didn’t and there’s nothing we can do about it now.”
The Predators got back a pain in the Wings' asses in Patric Hornqvist, who was credited with an insane 12 shots--by the Avs' scorekeepers--and registered an assist in his return...
Forward Patric Hornqvist
On getting back in the flow of the game
“It’s always good to get hit when you’re out for a couple of weeks. I haven’t had contact. It’s nice to get that first hit out of the way, and then you feel normal.”
To say that things got out of hand for the Predators is an understatement, as noted in the AP's game recap, which notes that Trotz planned on relieving Chris Mason after the Duchene goal...
Trotz was kicking himself for not pulling Mason at that point instead of later in the period following back-to-back goals by Paul Stastny and Jamie McGinn that came just 13 seconds apart. Those scores made it 6-3 and forced Trotz to summon Rinne, who is 6-1-1 in his past eight starts, with 6 minutes left in the second period.
"We stopped playing for two minutes and they got two goals," Trotz said. "The offside was a good play by Duchene. I probably should have made the change then and I didn't. That's on me. We fought back, but we were a little bit short."
Duchene also had two assists in helping the Avalanche to a rare win over the Predators, who had outscored Colorado 34-14 while sweeping the season series each of the past two years. His last assist, to McGinn, proved the difference.
"It was a game of some crazy bounces tonight," Colorado coach Joe Sacco said. "I think the bigger play though was the one when he set up McGinn when he was able to out-battle one of their defenders and come up with that loose puck and make that play to McGinn. That was a huge goal. It was one of those games tonight where there were a lot of funny things going on."
The Predators pulled to 6-4 heading into the third period when Jonathon Blum's shot bounced off Jan Hejda's skate and scooted past Semyon Varlamov, who was coming off a 50-save game in a loss at Edmonton on Saturday night and saved 33 shots in this game.
When the Predators pulled their goalie and Shea Weber scored with 1:18 left to make it a one-goal game, Duchene's disputed goal loomed ever larger.
And the Predators, who were fully healthy, lost a key contributor after 58 seconds' worth of play:
Nashville C Paul Gaustad (upper body injury) went out in the second period.
102.5 the Game's Willy Daunic reports that Gaustad is "doubtful" for tonight's game, and the Tennessean's Josh Cooper suggests that Nashville simply got knocked onto its heels by the Duchene goal, and that bit Nashville in the collective butt:
It took the Predators almost a period to recover from the officiating mishap. In that time, the Avalanche padded their cushion and held on for a 6-5 victory at Pepsi Center on Monday. The NHL told the Predators the play should have been whistled dead.
Nashville never played the puck back into its zone. Avalanche forward P.A. Parenteau flung it up ice, where forward Craig Smith and defenseman Scott Hannan batted it down in the neutral zone. It went right to Duchene, already inside the Nashville zone.
Mason was chased in the second period after allowing six goals on 18 shots. Pekka Rinne made 10 saves in relief. Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov had 33 stops.
Duchene’s goal set the stage for a wild period. Forward Mike Fisher’s deflection score made it 3-2, but Colorado’s Chuck Kobasew answered 50 seconds later. Forward Colin Wilson made it 4-3, but Colorado’s Paul Stastny and Jamie McGinn tallied 16 and 29 seconds later.
The Predators (7-4-5), who entered Monday as the league’s top defensive team, rebounded to outshoot the Avalanche 17-5 in the third. Defenseman Shea Weber’s goal with 1:18 left made it 6-5, but the second-period setback lingered.
“Certain things are going to happen and you can’t control them,” Trotz said. “We just had to play through it, and we didn’t, and it threw us off for a bit.”
As for Gaustad? Erm, uh...Cooper got a non-answer on Gaustad's status for tonight:
Forward Paul Gaustad left the game in the first period with what the Predators called an upper-body injury. He is “probably doubtful” for today’s game, Trotz said.
It’s unclear if it’s related to the upper-body injury that kept Gaustad out for three games earlier in the season. but wouldn’t comment further.
That is the Predators' only injury going into tonight's game (do I need to do the whole Franzen-Bertuzzi-Helm-Smith-Colaiacovo-and that doesn't count the previous injuries to-Ericsson-Gustavsson-Samuelsson-White-Datsyuk-Mursak spiel? Or mention that Eaves was cleared just before the season began? Sure, why not).
Cooper's preview is brief and to the point...
Hat trick: 1. This is the first meeting this season. The Predators knocked the Red Wings out of the playoffs last season in the first round in five games. 2. The Red Wings have dropped off defensively this season, allowing 2.93 goals per game (20th in the NHL going into Monday). 3. The Predators are expected to start Pekka Rinne in goal after Chris Mason started Monday at Colorado.
But the Predators' website posted a massive game preview, and here's the George Pretending to Not Be Wordy version:
TONIGHT’S STORYLINES vs. DETROIT
Tonight marks the first of four 2012-13 regular-season meetings between the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings, and the first time the teams have seen each other since Nashville’s five-game Western Conference Quarterfinals victory last spring. After falling in six games each of the first two times the Predators faced the Wings – in 2004 and 2008 – Nashville beat “big brother” in 2012 behind three consecutive wins from games No. 3-5. The Predators opened the series with a 3-2 win on home ice in Game One, before dropping Game Two by the same score. In Detroit, the Preds claimed 3-2 and 3-1 decisions before wrapping up the series with a 2-1 win on Bridgestone Arena ice on April 20. The Preds won the series despite being outshot 160-116, including a 60-36 gap in the third period. Among returning players, David Legwand (2g-2a) and Gabriel Bourque (3g-1a) led the team in scoring with four points apiece. Bourque set franchise records for points and plus-minus rating (+5) by a rookie in a playoff series, and by scoring two goals, including the game winner, in his NHL playoff debut – Game One of the WCQ vs. Detroit – he became just the third player in the last 14 playoff years to attain the feat.
Shifting gears to the regular season, the teams split six games – all settled in regulation – during the 2011-12 campaign, with Nashville claiming the last two – a 3-2 decision on March 10 and a 4-1 victory on March 30 in a game that saw Barry Trotz become the fifth coach to win 500 games with a single franchise and David Poile the first GM in NHL history to record 500 wins with two separate teams. Nashville also won on Dec. 15, 2011 as Shea Weber scored the game-tying and game-winning goals in the final 4:30 of regulation as the Predators rallied from two goals down to win 4-3 at Bridgestone Arena, one of seven two- or three-goal comebacks the Preds had in 2011-12. On home ice, the Predators have garnered points in nine of their last 10 games against the Wings dating back to the start of the 2008-09 season, posting a 6-1-3 record.
Three of Nashville’s seven defensemen made their NHL debuts against Detroit – Shea Weber on Jan. 6, 2006, Roman Josi on Nov. 26, 2011 and Ryan Ellis on Dec. 26, 2011… David Legwand recorded a team-high five points (1g-4a) in six games against the Red Wings in 2011-12, while Weber led the team with three goals in five games. In 63 career games against his hometown team, Legwand has 40 points (15g-25a)… For his career, Pekka Rinne is 11-5-3 with a 2.29 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage. He also has three shutouts against Detroit, one of just three teams he has more than two whitewashes against (Phoenix, 4 and Minnesota, 3)… Jonathon Blum has seven career goals, with two of them coming in four games against the Wings... Sergei Kostitsyn has recorded nine points (4g-5a) in 13 regular-season games against Detroit, and scored the game-winning goal in Game Three of the 2012 WCQ at Joe Louis Arena....
RINNE MAKING A PUSH FOR EARLY HART CONSIDERATION
Pekka Rinne – who replaced Chris Mason late in the second period on Monday, turning away all 10 shots he faced – continues to be stellar in net for the Preds. In his last eight starts, Rinne has posted a 6-1-1 record with a 0.97 goals-against average and a .962 save percentage. The eight-game stretch that dates back to Jan. 31 includes three shutouts in his last five starts – a 32-save effort in a 3-0 win on Feb. 7 vs. Los Angeles, a 25-save whitewash in a 1-0 overtime win last Tuesday vs. San Jose, and a 19-save performance in a 3-0 win on Feb. 14 against Phoenix. Rinne’s three shutouts this season lead the League, and his total of 28 since the start of the 2008-09 season is also tops among netminders. Overall, Rinne ranks first in goals-against average (1.58) and second in save percentage (.938) among starting goaltenders, in addition to being tied for 11th in the NHL in wins (6) and second in minutes played (835:48).
The Predators close out their third of nine sets of back-to-backs in 2012-13 tonight, after they were defeated by the Avalanche yesterday in Denver. Six times the Preds will play one game at home and one on the road (or vice versa), twice they’ll hit Bridgestone Arena ice on back-to-back days, and on one occasion will play two road games in two nights. A season ago, Nashville was 8-3-0 on the front-end of back-to-backs, and 5-6-0 on the back end.
The Predators website's preview also prompts us to head over to Smashville 24/7's Ryan Porth, who spoke to Predators play-by-play commentator Pete Weber about "top moments in the Predators-Red Wings rivalry," and this sticks in my craw:
2012 playoffs: “The classic changing of the guard is that photo of the handshake line of Lidstrom and Weber. I didn’t dream at that point that Nick would retire. That was the passing of the torch. I can’t think of a better way than summing it up as it was a long time coming.
“I remember just waiting for that time to run down. It’s kind of like the Miracle On Ice guys, though I didn’t have the same feeling of trepidation they did from the Soviet team. I was thinking, ‘Let’s get this over with now; let’s not take any chances of taking this to a sixth game up there because that very well could lead to a seventh game back here. Get it over with.’”
When asked whether the countdown of the clock in Game 5 was more nerve-wracking than Game 6 against Anaheim in 2011, Weber said, “More so because it was Detroit. The intensity of any Nashville-Detroit game is much like it was for me in Buffalo with Sabres and Bruins. That has much of the same emotion.”
Now I'm supposed to pretend to be objective and professional, but to suggest that Weber is the new Lidstrom, and that this was a Miracle on Ice? If I may be impolite, *#$%@& that shit.
NHL.com's Dave Lozo treaded particularly delicately in setting up tonight's game without mentioning the offsides goal...
Last 10: Detroit 5-4-1; Nashville 6-2-2.
Season series: This is the first of four meetings. The Predators eliminated the Red Wings from the Western Conference Quarterfinals last season in five games.
Big story: The Wings and Preds are in the wake of the practically unbeatable Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division. Both clubs are currently focused on remaining in the playoff picture despite various inconsistencies.
Thanks for that news flash, Dr. Science...
Red Wings [team scope]: Mike Babcock’s club was middling through nine games, hanging around .500 with up-and-down play that was the partial result of injuries. But the Red Wings ripped off three straight wins and looked to be back to their usual selves.
But three straight losses – including Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Minnesota that saw the Wings squander a 2-0 lead – has Babcock discussing the gravity of his team’s situation.
Cue the "taking on water" line. Moving on...
Who's hot: Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk has goals in four straight games. … It appears Shea Weber has found his offensive groove. After registering zero points in his first 13 games, he has two goals and two assists in his last three.
Good news for Defenseman Jeebus.
Injury report: Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi (back) is out indefinitely. Johan Franzen (back) missed Sunday’s game. … The Predators have no new injuries to report.
Except for Paul Gaustad. And the Wings playing without Smith and Colaiacovo and Helm in addition to Franzen and Bertuzzi.
The AP's preview adds some statistical tidbits to the mix...
Detroit (7-6-2), though, has gone 0-2-1 over its last three after falling 3-2 at Minnesota on Sunday. Pavel Datsyuk scored after missing Friday's loss to Anaheim with a sore shoulder, and Mikael Samuelsson returned after sitting out 12 games with a groin injury.
The Red Wings begin a difficult stretch of four games in six days, starting with their visit to Nashville.
Somehow, Jordin Tootoo's going to pull his butt to Hockeytown Authentics to sign autographs on Friday, but the Wings play Nashville tonight, Columbus on Thursday, the Predators again on Saturday, and the Canucks on Sunday (irony alert: Vancouver plays in Nashville on Friday), and then the Wings receive all of a two-day break while heading out to play back-to-backs in San Jose and Los Angeles on the 27th and 28th.
The Predators have won six of the last seven meetings, including last season's five-game first-round playoff triumph over Detroit.
Nashville (7-3-5) had gone 6-1-2 over its previous nine before falling 6-5 at Colorado on Monday afternoon. It had a solid offensive performance, though, after entering the contest as the league's lowest-scoring team.
After starting the season 0-2-3 with a 2.67 goals-against average, Rinne is 6-1-1 with a 0.97 GAA and three shutouts over his last eight starts. He's 6-1-0 with a 1.72 GAA in his last seven outings versus Detroit, including the 2011-12 playoffs.
Tuesday will mark the return to Nashville for Red Wings forward Jordin Tootoo, who had 127 points in eight seasons for the Predators before signing a three-year contract with Detroit this past offseason.
Tootoo addressed his return to Nashville after Monday's practice, and the Free Press's Helene St. James took note of Tootoo's take on returning to Nashville--with his dad in tow as tonight's the final game of the "Fathers and Mentors' Trip":
"I'm just taking it in stride," he said. "I don't know what to expect. It should be an experience in itself. Coming into Nashville, driving in on the bus, everything was a first for me. I think there's going to be a lot of mixed emotions out there. I'm excited."
It helps to have his father, Barney, by his side, the convenient coincidence of the visit falling during the Wings' traditional fathers trip.
"My dad has been watching me play games here for the last nine years, so he's excited to be back," Tootoo said. "But at the same time, he told me a couple of days ago, I just want you to go out there and do your thing and everything else will take care of itself."
Tootoo developed into a pesky and eventually productive player in Nashville, culminating with 30 points in 77 games last season. He also matured, especially after entering the NHL's substance-abuse program in 2010. Tootoo cited the experience afterward among the most memorable of his Predators career.
"Playing my first NHL game was an unbelievable experience," he said, "and I think just growing as a person ... and really having the organization be behind me and helping me throughout some tough times ... and some great times."
Tootoo was a fan favorite in Nashville, where fans gave him his own call in the form of train whistles. "I go out there and play as hard as I can night in and night out, and I think that's what the fans like to see," he said. "It's part of my DNA."
Would he fight if asked tonight? Why yes, yes he would:
"They know what kind of player I am," Tootoo said. "I'm not going to change a thing. I'm playing for my livelihood and for the guys in the dressing room. They know that I bring it every night."
Tootoo did tell the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan that he's finally starting to feel like he belongs with the Wings, ironically enough...
"Right now, for me, I'm just taking it all in stride," Tootoo said. "I don't know what to expect. I have never been on this side before. It should be an interesting evening. Coming into Nashville and driving on the bus, everything was a first for me."
Whistles? Or "Tootoo Is a Sissy?" What's his reception going to be?
"The fans have been great to me on and off the ice," Tootoo said. "The support I got away from the rink was unbelievable. I don't know (what to expect) to be honest. It's going to be a lot of mixed emotions out there. It should be interesting, I'm excited."
Kulfan transitions us to the second topic of interest going into tonight's game in the Wings' absolutely horrible power play, which is 0-for-the-road. In theory, the Wings spent Monday's practice swapping out personnel in an attempt to turn things around:
The Wings haven't scored a road power play goal all season — 0-for-26 in six games. [Wings coach Mike] Babcock said he'll put Mikael Samuelsson on the point on the first unit, which Monday consisted of Samuelsson, Kronwall, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Tatar.
Ian White, Jakub Kindl, Valtteri Filppula, Daniel Cleary and Damien Brunner were on the second unit.
Take note of the whole, "Well, Samuelsson's played the point, but we might need to stop putting forwards on the power play point all the damn time" change.
Interestingly, the 5-foot-9 Tatar was the net front presence on the first unit and enjoying it.
"I'm not used to playing there but I'm feeling pretty good around the net," said Tatar. "I just have to get used to because this might be my role for my future. It's kind of nice to practice there."
Why, Samuelsson, oh why, Samuelsson? I can hear you asking it right now. So MLive's Ansar Khan got an answer from the coach regarding the man who shoots the puck pretty damn hard when he actually feels like shooting it:
“I just need someone to shoot the puck, and we need to get the puck back and we need sustained pressure in the offensive zone, not continuous breakouts,'' Babcock said. “I know Nashville's going to be organized. Pekka Rinne is a goalie that never gives up any goals, so you might have enough chances to get five (goals), but you're going to get two, max, so we better be prepared for that type of game, and we need a win.''
He doesn't have the most accurate shot, but he's not shy about directing the puck at the net. That is what this team needs. The Red Wings have spent 46 minutes and 53 seconds on the power play on the road and have registered only 31 shots on goal.
“He's got a great shot and he likes to use it,'' teammate Niklas Kronwall said. “I think he's going to be good for us and gives us another option as well. Sammy is one of those guys who wants the puck and wants to shoot it. It's something you really need on the power play.''
Said Samuelsson: “I obviously think that I can help. I've been playing there for quite some time now.''
Babcock kind of growled at the press regarding using Tatar as a net-front man givne that he's about 5'9" and would be battling Shea Weber, Kevin Klein, and a goalie that can see over Tatar's head in Pekka Rinne. Nevertheless, Tatar believes that he can get the job done:
“I'm small and fast, so I can get really fast somewhere,'' Tatar said. “Obviously, I'm not as good at tipping the puck as (Tomas Holmstrom), he was the best in the NHL. I still got to work on that, but I think I can get the puck back pretty good. We want to get the puck to guys like Z and Pav, so I'm going to try this as soon as I can and pass the puck to them.''
That part is essential. Holmstrom was better at retrieving pucks to generate secondary and tertiary scoring opportunities than he was tipping pucks and sticking his butt in goalies' faces. Seriously.
Kronwall said it's about getting back to basics.
“We have to find a way to get pucks to the net more than we have,'' he said.
Overall, as the Free Press's Helene St. James points out, the Wings want to a) get a lead and b) actually hold on to that lead, which are two things they haven't been able to accomplish against St. Louis or Minnesota:
The Wings spent much of Monday's practice working on their power play, hoping it'll pay off tonight against the Predators at Bridgestone Arena. The Wings won't have top-six forward Johan Franzen available because of a sore hip flexor, but grinder Jan Mursak has been cleared after being sidelined since opening night with a collarbone injury.
Coach Mike Babcock wasn't sure whether he'd make a lineup change. The Wings are frustrated because they have just one point their past three games, most recently letting a lead slip Sunday in Minnesota.
"You have to start on time, you've got to play the whole 60 minutes, and the best team wins," Babcock said. "And we haven't been the best team, because we found a way to not get it done three games in a row now."
They've also not converted on a power play after six road games, which is why Babcock is mulling giving Tatar a look as the net-front guy on a unit with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Tatar isn't big, but he's fearless, fast and eager to please.
Babcock is concerned that if Tatar had trouble battling big defenseman Jonathan Ericsson -- who at least is a teammate, in practice -- what will happen when it's big Predators defenseman Shea Weber?
At the same time, Babcock has been impressed with Tatar, and the Wings haven't been getting much from their power-play units, ranking 25th in the NHL at 13.6%.
Babcock also is making another change on the first unit, where Mikael Samuelsson, who shoots right and hard, is taking over for Damien Brunner on the right point, with Brunner dropping to play on the wall on the second unit with Valtteri Filppula in the middle and Daniel Cleary in front of the net.
I know that I went, "Um, why take Brunner off the point?" for a moment, so I'm guessing that you're puzzled by it, too, but I can also tell you that the last couple games' worth of Brunner leaving Niklas Kronwall alone while trying to skitter to the middle of the slot--where his shot was essentially negated by two or three penalty-killers crowding him, yielding passes by Brunner to Zetterberg and whoever else was lurking on the half boards, even when he had the opportunity to shoot.
The 1-3-1 formation on the power play yielded tons of secondary opportunities being retrieved by opposing players and then cleared past Kronwall, as well as little in the way of shots from Brunner, so placing Brunner along the half boards or lurking in one of the faceoff circles to rip one-timers on the net makes much more sense.
Overall, as Babcock told St. James, the Wings feel that they have a ways to go in the composure department, and they suggested as much to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...
"Lately, it seems like a thing goes wrong and we just keep adding mistakes," Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "That has been costing us games here of late … We've been finding ways to lose lately. We have to do a better job."
"Momentum is going to change in a game and things are going to go wrong," Kronwall said. "When that happens, we have to find a better way to deal with it. Stay composed and deal with it."
Said captain Henrik Zetterberg: "We have to restart, flush that out, and keep playing the way we want to."
The Red Wings haven't played poorly during their winless streak (0-2-1). They simply have had one awful stretch within games that has changed the outcome. Eliminating those ugly spots is what coach Mike Babcock was adamant about after Monday's practice at Bridgestone Arena.
"It's not like we don't start," Babcock said. "It's not like we don't play in spots. All teams that don't win always talk about a section of the game. A game is 60 minutes long and you have to start on time and play the whole 60 minutes and the best team wins. We haven't been the best team because we've found a way to not get it done the last three games."
"The situation we're in, we just want to play better, play 60 minutes, that's what it comes down to," Kronwall said. "If we play our game for 60 minutes, we have a great team and we're looking good. If we don't play 60 minutes, we keep making simple mistakes that are costing us games. It's tough. We know on the road you're not going to score a lot of goals. So if you're giving up too many freebies, it's tough in the long run."
Kulfan also adds some small comfort to the mix given that the Predators come into tonight's game annoyed, feeling that the refs owe them a couple (I would imagine that we will see some strange borderline penalties be called on the Wings as a sort of payback) and surely wanting to prove that they've still got the Wings' number:
This is the third game in four nights for the Predators, who lost to the Avalanche, 6-5, on Monday afternoon.
Any which way you shake it, tonight's game is going to be a bear and a half, and given that the Wings have dropped 3 straight and don't have their size and strength up front in a rink where bad things tend to happen, this one worries me.
Kind-of-sort-of-Red Wings notebooks: Interestingly, although this qualifies as "enemy press," Tootoo also spoke to the Tennessean's Josh Cooper about returning to Nashville. He also spoke to Tootoo's former coach and teammates about #22's return to what Tootoo says the bus driver to the team hotel had to remind him was his "second home":
The strong, hard-hitting forward won over a fan base mostly new to hockey with his thunderous body checks, admission about battling alcoholism, and charity work. He left the Predators for a three-year, $5.7 million contract with the Red Wings, but for many fans it will be more than odd to see him sporting the red and white jersey with the famed winged wheel. It’s not as if he’s playing for the Islanders.
“I had no clue that the Red Wings were interested in me,” Tootoo said. “It was a last-minute decision. … But I thought this would give me my best opportunity to come to a team with a great experience in winning and had a lot of guys who had won a Stanley Cup.”
Tootoo, 30, comes back to Nashville a wiser, more mature player. A lot of it can be traced to Dec. 27, 2010, the day he entered the NHL/NHL Players’ Association substance abuse program.
“He had to come face to face with the devil a little bit. He could have joined forces or walked away. I’m glad he walked away,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “It took a lot of coaxing and the organization and people around him, but he saw he had to change that part of his life.”
The Predators expect to hear "Tootoo train" whistles...
“You’re going to notice,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said jokingly.
The Predators also expect to get a dose of Tootoo’s rough, firebrand style in the form of a big hit or two. The whistles will sound the alarm for his former teammates to keep their heads up.
“You know he’s a hard-hitting player and he keeps everybody honest,” forward Nick Spaling said. “He’s a fair player, plays within the rules. You have to know what to expect when he’s out there.”
Good news from the gallery?
Carlo Colaiacovo's practicing, and while Ken Holland may have chatted with the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson about injuries, Jan Mursak should be good to go tonight, Colaiacovo and Brendan Smith should return by the team's West Coast swing at the latest, and Johan Franzen (we didn't think he would be as vitally important to the Zetterberg line's success as he was, did you and I?) has more of a nagging injury in terms of his hip flexors than anything else.
Darren Helm and Todd Bertuzzi? Not so much. They're three weeks from playing once they get cleared to work out and skate, and that's probably not gonna happen for a while.
Also from the Wings: If you find yourself in enemy territory this evening...
Technically, Wings director Mark Howe is both an active member of the organization, as the director of pro scouting, and an alumnus, and Howe was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame on Monday night. Here's what he had to say, via the Detroit News's David Goricki...
Howe, a Detroit native, is a member of U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and Hockey Hall of Fame. He was a three-time NHL All-Star, won a U.S. junior championship (1971), earned a silver medal in the '72 Olympics, was a two-time WHA All-Star who played with his father. He is now director of scouting for the Red Wings.
"Over the last 18 months, the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame inducted me into their Hall of Fame, the Flyers put me in their Hall of Fame and retired my number, I got in the Hockey Hall of Fame and now this great honor. What makes this special is this is where I was born and raised, where my roots were, where the groundwork was laid for my future."
Mark Howe, Detroit native and former Red Wings defenseman, on why the impact his mother, Colleen, was greater than that of his father, Wings great Gordie Howe: “People have a hard time believing it, but the reason I’m here today has far more to do with my mother than my father. My father was my role model. My father off the ice was my role model….My mother gave me and my brothers and sisters the guidance and wherewithal to be able to succeed in life. Without her structure and tenacity – and it’s not only me, for what she did for youth hockey in the state of Michigan, I’m one of the recipients of that and I know there are bunch of others as well.”
Colleen Howe did as much to build a foundation for elite youth hockey programs in Michigan as Mike Ilitch and Peter Karmanos have combined, but she doesn't get credit for it. That's a fact, Jack.
In the prospect department, Monday was "Family Day" in Canada, which is celebrated by some people but not by others. In any case, that yielded a tremendous number of Major Junior Hockey games and some matinees for teams whose owners don't celebrate President's Day (my vote is for the establishment of a, "My Family Is F***ing Crazy" day), and...
Andreas Athanasiou didn't register a point in the Belleville Bulls' 3-0 victory over Barrie;
Jake Paterson stopped 31 of 33 shots in the Saginaw Sprit's 4-2 victory over Windsor;
And in the WHL, Richard Nedomlel didn't register a point in the Swift Current Broncos' 5-2 loss to Kootenay.
Also of Red Wings-related note: Paul snagged the news that Minnesota Wild forward Devin Setoguchi will have a chat with Brendan Shanahan today, and may get fined but not suspended for his cross-check to Kyle Quincey's face on Sunday, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Michael Russo is confirming the news:
Devin Setoguchi faces a 9 a.m.[Central Standard Time, 10 AM EST] hearing with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan on Tuesday after the Wild winger cross-checked Detroit Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey in the face Sunday night.
Setoguchi will not be suspended, sources say. The hearing is to determine how much he'll be fined, if at all. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, any fine in excess of $5,000 requires a hearing. Since half of one day's pay for Setoguchi exceeds $5,000, this qualifies.
Setoguchi accepted a pass in front of the Red Wings' bench and was met by Quincey. Setoguchi reacted by getting his stick up in Quincey's face and drew the penalties.
Setoguchi has no previous history of discipline issues with the league, although Sunday marked his second double-minor for high-sticking in eight days.
The Calgary Herald's Scott Cruickshank spoke to former Wings goalie Joey MacDonald about latching on with the Calgary Flames, who are currently alternating between MacDonald and fellow AHL veteran Danny Taylor in Mikka Kiprusoff's absence, and MacDonald, who's bounced around from the Wings to the Bruins, Islanders, Maple Leafs, back to the Wings and now the Flames, says that he's very happy in Calgary:
“In hockey, you’ve never seen it all,” says MacDonald, freshly turned 33 years of age. “Strange things can happen. You just got to be ready for it at all times.”
With NHL alliances now scattered among six outfits, it’s with Detroit that MacDonald is most closely associated. He made 37 appearances for the Wings — and a whopping 210 for their farm team in Grand Rapids, Mich.
“In Detroit, I was the No. 3 guy for years and years,” MacDonald says. “Guys like (Dominik) Hasek and (Chris) Osgood come in, and I’m like, ‘Am I ever going to get a shot?’ But you keep working hard.”
“I knew I was the third guy in Detroit,” explains MacDonald. “So I knew something was probably going to come up. But then Jonas (Gustavsson) got hurt . . . so I thought maybe there was still some hope there. To come here and get a fresh start, new organization, new everything — to play right away, that’s huge for me to not being sitting around waiting and waiting.”
With two appearances already, MacDonald has pushed his NHL total to 103. The Flames’ pro scouts won’t be surprised. They’ve been raving about MacDonald for months, even before he’d been exposed on waivers.
“It’s great to be wanted and (to know) they did have interest,” says MacDonald. “Once they had the opportunity, it’s good they took advantage. It doesn’t matter where you’re playing. There’s always someone out there watching. That’s why you have to work hard every single day. My career’s been up and down, the whole thing. But you know what? You work hard, good things happen.”
MacDonald also says his surgically repaired back, which sidelined him for the better part of six months after previously-supposedly-fixed discs flared up, is holding up just fine:
“It’s been a long 11 months, battling up and down,” says MacDonald. “Days that felt good, days that didn’t. At this point, it feels good. It feels a lot better now than it did for probably half of last season.”
And finally, Expressen's Johan Skold spoke to former Frolunda (Gothenburg) Indians center and now Red Wings prospect Joakim Andersson about his experiences in the NHL during his second extended call-up. What follows is roughly translated from Swedish:
Andersson on the NHL: It's been f***ing fun
Joakim Andersson is enjoying life in the NHL, and the guy from Munkedal wants more.
"It's been f***ing fun to play these games--and I hope there will be a few more," he says to GT.
The Detroit Red Wings have had some injury problems lately. So Munkedal native Joakim Andersson, 24, got a chance [with the team]. And he's taken [advantage of] it.
"I went from Grand Rapids (Grand Rapids is Detroit's farm team) to Oklahoma City. But I woke up in Oklahoma City in the morning, and the team called and said that I had to go back to Detroit. So there were some quick flights. But it was worth it," he says, and continues:
"It's gone well in Grand Rapids during the lockout, and I've performed well over the past two seasons. I was ready to get this chance."
"Feels very good"
The Nashville Predators will entertain Detroit between Tuesday and Wednesday Swedish time. The powerful center had just completed a practice in Nashville when GT got a hole of him, and he was looking for lunch in the city.
"It's been great for me. I played [in the NHL] for five games last year, too. But now I feel more comfortable, and have a little more confidence. I've played against these guys before, and I know what it's about. It's been pretty good playing games, so it's been fun," says the former Frolunda player.
Detroit won the first two games he played in. Since then they've lost three straight--which is more of a concern during the shortened season.
"But I still think that we've played well. There have been some individual mistakes that've led us to let in some easy goals."
Joakim Andersson has gotten great confidence in hismelf from coach Mike Babcock. Together with radar partner Tomas Tatar, he's received a lot of playing time. During the last two games, the pair have also played on the power play.
"I've played on the same line as Tatar throughout the lockout, and some of the time last year in Grand Rapids. So we've known each other well over the past year," says Joakim.
Last season, he said that he played in five games for Detroit. but in the game against Anaheim on February 15th, he reached a new milestone in scoring his first NHL goal.
"It was a great feeling to get that first goal. And nice not having to wait for it," he says with a laugh.
Detroit had trouble getting scoring from its third and fourth lines during the beginning of the season. But right around the time of Joakim Andersson's promotion, the lines started to score goals.
"It's important for the team. It's not just Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg that have to score goals--although, of course, they do most of it," he says, laughing
As a new call-up from the farm team, life as a hockey player in the NHL can be unpredictable. When a few players come back from injuries, he'll be returned [to Grand Rapids] again. But Joakim Andersson tries not to worry.
"I have no idea, they've never said anything about it. I'll take it day by day, and play in the games I can. But it's been f***ing fun during these games, and I hope I can play in some more. This is where you want to play."
And there's a sidebar story as well:
Joakim Andersson on Detroit's Swedes: "They're such damn good leaders, players like Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall. They're leading players who pull the whole team forward. It helps that there are a lot of Swedes on the team. Some speak Swedish with me. They're also all very cool guys."
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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.