Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Predators set-up and overnight report: this is heavy, man

The Detroit Red Wings will face off against the team that defeated them on Tuesday when they welcome the Nashville Predators to Joe Louis Arena tonight (7 PM EST, FSD Plus/FS Tennessee/NHL Network/AM 1270), beginning a back-to-back slate of games that would have been more tolerably approached had Detroit not come into the weekend on an 0-3-and-2 slide.

Tonight, the Wings will play a pissed-off Predators team that dropped a 1-0 decision to the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night, and has won only one of its last four games (with that win coming against Detroit, of course). The 8-5-and-5 Predators have quite the record against Detroit of late, as you probably already know...

And tomorrow, the Wings face the Canucks, who sit 3rd in the West with a 10-3-and-4 record, and have won two straight. The Canucks will be practicing in Nashville today before heading to Detroit for tomorrow's late afternoon-and-or-early-evening tilt (5 PM, FSD/Sportsnet West/97.1 FM). 

As the Detroit News's Ted Kuflan notes, to some extent, this little two-games-in-two-nights stretch (the Wings will have also played 3 in 4 nights, 4 in 6 nights and 5 in 8 by the time the weekend's over) is the easy part of their upcoming schedule, and that's scary:

Five games, now, the Red Wings have gone without a victory. And check out their next five games — hosting Nashville (tonight) and Vancouver (Sunday), on the road in Los Angeles (Wednesday) and San Jose (Thursday), then hosting Chicago March 3 in a national television game.

The sense of urgency seems to be increasing around Joe Louis Arena by the day. In this shortened 48-game regular season, any sort of losing streak stings. So if the Red Wings can't stop this slide quickly, chances of crawling back into the playoff picture become increasingly difficult.

"Right now, we're pretty much giving away points," goalie Jimmy Howard said. "We can't look ahead in the schedule and get too far ahead of ourselves. Just look to (Saturday), put in a good performance starting against Nashville, go out there and win a game."

Thursday's 3-2 loss to Columbus mirrored many of the previous defeats. The Wings blew an early 2-0 lead. The power play, now ranked 28th (12.8 percent), went blank on two consecutive late-game chances. Team defensive lapses continue.

"The sense of urgency isn't any different than yesterday," coach Mike Babcock said. "We just didn't deliver on the opportunity that was provided to us (Thursday). We have to find a way to score a power-play goal. We have to find a way to make one less mistake, make one more save, and score one more hard goal, and you do those things and we don't talk about the mistakes."

The Wings will begin March with three straight home games (against the undefeated Blackhawks and then the Avalanche and Oilers), but after first traveling to Columbus and then hosting the Blue Jackets in back-to-backs on March 9th and 10th, their schedule's downright vicious.

The Wings will travel to Western Canada to play the Flames, Oilers and Canucks in a three-games-over-four-nights stretch, and after returning home for one game against Minnesota, the Wings will play back-to-back games in Anaheim before playing in Phoenix on Monday the 25th and sitting around until Friday the 28th, when they'll tangle with the Sharks, and they finally return home for a slate of back-to-backs on March 31st and April 1st against Chicago and Colorado, respectively.

All in all, between now and April 1st, the Wings will play 19 times over the course of 38 nights, and will play 10 of those 19 games away from Joe Louis Arena--so after this weekend, that's 10 of 17 games away from the Joe. March's games are 8-and-6 in terms of their road-to-home ratio, but the end-of-February trip tips the scales toward downright nasty.

As for tonight's opponent, Nashville's coming into town in a bad mood. Their 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks highlighted the team's inability to score goals, and Predators coach Barry Trotz told the Nashville City Paper's David Boclair that he was less than impressed with his team's ability to capitalize on their chances, but he was impressed with his team's persistence:

"We’ve been there before where teams have let us hang around,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We were able to get stronger as the game went on. That’s sort of what I think happened to us.”

The only goal came when right wing Dale Weise, part of Vancouver’s fourth line, was left alone on the back side of the net and was in perfect position to stuff home the rebound of a Maxim Lapierre shot. That happened with 10:46 to go in the contest.

Nashville recorded four of its five third-period shots after that to no avail. The real failure, though, was that the Predators did not take advantage of chances well before that. They outshot the Canucks, who played in Dallas the previous night, 13-3 in the first period and carried the vast majority of the play.

Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo kept it scoreless, though, much as Nashville’s Pekka Rinne did in victories over San Jose and Phoenix on Feb. 12 and 14, respectively.

The Predators were outshot a combined 20-9 in the first periods of those contests both of which remained scoreless until the third period just as this one did. They topped the Sharks 1-0 in overtime and beat the Coyotes 3-0.

“We have to find a way to get a couple [goals] in the first period,” center David Legwand said. “That’s a time to win a hockey game. I think if we get a couple in the first period it could be ‘game over.’”

Instead, the outcome remained well in doubt almost to the halfway point of the third. It was the 10th time in its 18 games Nashville was tied after two periods. Not once in the previous nine did it lose in regulation (5-0-4).

“We’ve been in that position where if you let teams hang around, they sort of say, ‘Hey, just stick with it for another 20 [minutes] and empty the tanks and see if we can get a puck here,” Trotz said. “Sure enough, they capitalized on just throwing the puck to the net. It wasn’t much.”

The Tennessean's John Glennon notes that the Predators shored up one area of their game at the expense of another, all but shutting out the Canucks after giving up 9 goals in their previous pair of games...

“(The balance was) not good enough to beat a very good team,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “We didn’t put 60 minutes together. We played a good 20, then for the next 30 I didn’t think we played very well. We got scored on and then we started to kick it into another gear. You need to kick it for 60 minutes and we didn’t get it done.”

Having gone to overtime a league-high nine times in their first 17 games, the Predators looked for much of the second and third periods on Friday as if they were waiting for extra time. But the Canucks had different plans, as Vancouver forward Dale Weise stuffed home a rebound attempt with 10:46 left in the third period.

The Predators had some opportunities in the closing minutes, but despite pulling the goalie during a late power play, they weren’t able to sneak a puck past Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo.

“I hope (we weren’t waiting for overtime),” Predators captain Shea Weber said. “We can’t expect that. Obviously we know Pekka (Rinne) is going to make a lot of saves for us. But we have to do a better job of generating stuff.”

The Predators produced plenty of chances in the opening period, harassing a Vancouver team that had played the night before and outshooting the Canucks 13-3. But the end of the period seemed to pull the plug on Nashville’s energy supply.

“I don’t know what happened in the second, but we have to figure it out,” Preds center David Legwand said. “That can’t happen. They kind of dominated us in the second and took the game over. They played last night, but they found a way to get two points.”

But Glennon reports that the Predators will start Pekka Rinne opposite Jimmy Howard tonight, barring a reappearance of a flu bug that's been going around the Nashville locker room...

“Yeah, I think (he should be available),” Trotz said. “I’ll talk to him on the plane, see how he feels and we’ll go from there.”

The team also swapped out Jonathon Blum for Hal Gill, but we shouldn't expect to see Paul Gaustad tonight...

Trotz said Friday morning that center Paul Gaustad would miss both games this weekend, and would be reevaluated Monday. Gaustad suffered an upper-body injury Monday at Colorado and sat out Tuesday against Detroit.

Though we should expect to see Shea Weber play alongside Roman Josi this evening:

“We were alright at the start of the year,” Weber said of his pairing with Josi. “We knew it would be an adjustment period because we hadn’t played with each other before. I still don’t think anything is cut in stone. We’ve got enough guys back here that everybody can play with each other. But hopefully we can build some chemistry.”

Weber says he knows more about Josi’s game now than he did at the start of the year.

“You learn something new every game you play with guys,” Weber said. “In the past five or six years, however long I played with Ryan (Suter), I knew exactly what he was going to do. He knew what I was going to do. Now it’s Roman and I trying to communicate because we’re getting to know each other out there. He’s obviously a very gifted skater and sees the ice well, so he’s just going to keep getting better and better.”

There isn't necessarily very good news regarding Sunday's opponent, either, unless you're rooting for injuries and don't mind hearing that TSN reports Kevin Bieksa left the Canucks-Predators tilt with a "lower-body injury." Canucks coach Alain Vigneault told the Associated Press that Bieksa may or may not play on Sunday...

Following the game, Vigneault said that Bieksa "tweaked a groin a little bit," and that the team would know more about his condition Saturday."

Otherwise, the Canucks felt that they "pulled a Nashville" on the Predators...

[Robert] Luongo made 23 saves for the shutout and Dale Weise broke a scoreless tie at 9:14 of the third period and the Vancouver Canucks defeated Nashville 1-0 Friday. The Canucks have won consecutive games on their four-game road trip after losing three straight.

...

With the game still scoreless in the third period, Maxim Lapierre had the puck behind the Nashville goal line and carried it up to the right circle. He then spun and sent a shot toward Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne. Rinne kicked the puck away with his right pad, but Weise was there to put away the rebound for his first goal of the season.

...

Luongo was tested early, as he turned aside 13 Nashville shots in the opening period.

"The first period, we were looking to find a little bit of energy and I think we built off that really solid performance from Louie in the first period," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "He permitted us to find our legs, find our execution, find our energy, and we were much better in the second and the third."

The Canucks' defence held the Predators to just five shots each in the second and third periods.

"They came out strong, but we were able to weather the storm," Luongo said. "The last two periods, I thought we played basically the type of hockey we want to play, especially playing against these guys."

And NHL.com's recap suggests that the Canucks may not practice very hard today after receving another stellar performance from Luongo (rut roh for Sunday):

Luongo stopped 13 shots in the opening period, but spent large chunks of the last two periods without a lot to do as the Canucks stifled the Predators at every opportunity to win for the second time in as many nights. Cory Schneider was in goal for Thursday's 4-3 win at Dallas, which ended Vancouver's three-game losing streak.

"Their team played well in front of him," Nashville defenseman Hall Gill said. "We didn't generate enough. We didn't generate a hack-and-whack mentality at the net, and that's where we have to be better."

...

Luongo was a lot busier than Rinne in the first 20 minutes as the Predators outshot Vancouver 13-3. He made an excellent save on a right-point blast through traffic by Shea Weber midway through the period and stopped four shots during a late power play, including a jam try by Patric Hornqvist after a save on Martin Erat's close-in opportunity.

But the Canucks got their legs under them in the second period and began to get the better of the play, though they outshot the Predators just 9-5.

"This was our third game in four nights on the road with a tremendous amount of traveling and late nights." Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "I had to play four lines. We did. We got a lot out of our people in the second and the third. Lui gave us the chance for us to get our legs and get our energy."

...

"We had things going our way. We had the jump, and then for whatever reason, we backed off and let them get into it emotionally, mentally and then physically," Gill said. "We have to learn from that."

Shifting focus back to tonight's opponent, the Tennessean's Josh Cooper sets up tonight's game as follows:

• Hat trick: 1. This is Nashville’s first game at Detroit since Game 3 of their first round playoff series on April 17, 2012. 2. The Red Wings are winless in their last five games, including a 4-3 overtime loss to the Predators on Feb. 19. 3. Following this game, the Predators have four back-to-backs remaining.

• Injuries: Predators F Paul Gaustad (upper body) is out. Red Wings F Johan Franzen (hip), F Mikael Samuelsson (finger), F Todd Bertuzzi (back), D Brendan Smith (upper body), F Darren Helm (back) and D Carlo Colaicovo (shoulder) are out, and D Kyle Quincey (ankle) is questionable.

NHL.com's John Kreiser's game preview will serve as our pivot point between the Predators and Red Wings' perspectives...

Last 10: Nashville 5-3-2; Detroit 3-5-2

...

Predators [team scope]: The Predators dominated the first period against the Canucks, outshooting the visitors 13-3. But they were outplayed in the final 40 minutes, managing just five shots in each of the second and third periods while being outshot 21-10. Pekka Rinne made 23 saves but allowed a goal to Dale Weise midway through the third period.

"We had things going our way. We had the jump, and then for whatever reason, we backed off and let them get into it emotionally, mentally and then physically," defenseman Hal Gill said. "We have to learn from that."

Red Wings [team scope]: The Wings have let a lot of points slip through their hands -- they've wasted three 2-0 leads during their five-game slide. That includes Thursday's 3-2 home loss to last-place Nashville, in which Detroit led 2-0 less than three minutes into the game and allowed the Blue Jackets to score the game-winner in the final 30 seconds.

With a tough road schedule ahead, the Red Wings need points from their weekend home games against Nashville and Vancouver.

...

Who's hot: Rinne is just 2-1-1 in his last four starts, but has allowed just four goals in that span. … Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg leads the team with 22 points in 17 games and has four assists in his last three contests. Rookie Damien Brunner has eight goals, including two in his last three games.

With the Associated Press's game preview adding some stats to the mix...

Detroit (7-7-3) appeared capable of maintaining its regular level of success without [Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom and Brad Stuart] after starting 7-4-1, but a five-game slide has dropped it out of the top eight teams in the West. If the season ended today, the Red Wings would miss the playoffs for the first time since 1989-90. Thursday's 3-2 loss to Columbus marked the third time in the losing streak that Detroit squandered a two-goal lead.

...

The latest loss also included an injury to defenseman Kyle Quincey, who won't play Saturday due to a sprained ankle. That's bad news for a team that has surrendered 19 goals in the last five games.

Jimmy Howard stopped 21 shots Thursday and is 0-2-1 with a 4.08 goals-against average in the losing streak. He started Detroit's 4-3 overtime loss at Nashville on Tuesday, allowing two goals on seven shots before leaving in the first period with blurred vision.

Pavel Datsyuk had a goal and an assist in that meeting, giving him seven points in his last five games against the Predators (8-5-5). While Datsyuk had a five-game goal-scoring streak snapped Thursday, Zetterberg's goal drought reached 10 games.

Nashville also is struggling, falling 1-0 to visiting Vancouver on Friday for its third loss in four games. The Predators, who have been shut out a league high-tying four times, managed only five shots each in the second and third period.

...

The continued lack of offense wasted another strong performance from Pekka Rinne, who has a 1.04 GAA and three shutouts this month. He's also been excellent against the Red Wings lately, going 7-1-0 with a 1.88 GAA in his past eight meetings, including last year's playoffs.

...

Martin Erat has been one of the leading culprits in Nashville's offensive woes, tallying three points - all assists - in his last nine contests.

And DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose kicks off the Wings' takes on this weekend's tasks at hand with an "At a Glance" preview of tonight's opponent:

The Red Wings continue a three-game homestand in four days when they welcome the Nashville Predators to Joe Louis Arena on Saturday evening. Despite out-shooting the Preds on Tuesday, the Red Wings – other than Pavel Datsyuk, who made a pitch for spectaulat goal of the year – couldn’t get more than three pucks behind goalie Pekka Rinne in Nashville.

It wasn’t the Finnish netminder’s finest game of the year, but it was good enough for his seventh win, nonetheless. Though his 1.67 goals-against average (fourth in the NHL) and a .935 save percentage (third-best) is rather impressive.

“Pekka Rinne’s not bad,” Babcock said. “They got one of the best goalies in the world and Weber’s one of the best D in the world and they’ve done a good job drafting. They just all play hard and they’re organized. I think they’ve been doing a good job. I’ve been in Detroit eight years now, every year they’ve been good.”

The Predators squandered a 2-0 first-period lead to the Red Wings on Tuesday. Detroit battled back and managed to get a point when the game went to overtime. But playing catch-up hockey has been a problem all season for the Wings.

“Obviously, I thought we did a lot of good things,” Babcock said. “I thought we battled hard. We had lots of good players, and in the end we didn’t have enough of those. We didn’t get it done. In this league you don’t get many moral victories. I thought our guys competed hard. Our penalty kill was good. We were shorthanded too many times, six times. But all in all, we had some real competitive players and we had a couple of guys who didn’t show.”

Those players will need to show up if the Wings are to get two-points out of the Predators.


PLAYER TO WATCH

D SHEA WEBER – It was an absolutely horrendous start to the 2013 season for Weber, who went 14-plus games before he scored his first goal of the shortened campaign. However, the 6-foot-4 defenseman has been heating up recently with three goals and three assists in his past four contests, including two points and the game-winner when he scored 44-seconds into overtime against the Red Wings at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday. Weber has a big-time point shot, but it was his play Tuesday, where he jumped in the play, skating deep into the offensive zone and firing home a rebound past Jonas Gustavsson for the Predators’ win. … It was Weber’s third career game-winner against Detroit, a personal best vs. any NHL club.

For the Wings, who found out that Kyle Quincey (ankle--possible but not probable for Sunday), Johan Franzen (hip flexor) and Brendan Smith (shoulder) are all unlikely to return until sometime during or after the team's trip to Los Angeles and San Jose next Wednesday and Thurdsay, and now have Carlo Colaiacovo complaining of persistent shoulder pain...

The team's essentially on its own--especially after choosing to waive Jan Mursak--and the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness offers a survey of the infirmary ward, which also includes Mikael Samuelsson (two weeks out with a broken index finger) and Darren Helm and Todd Bertuzzi, who are simply not doing any physical activity and are 3-to-4 weeks away from returning after and only after their back pain lessens to a manageable level:

“It’s day to day right now, but I’m hoping for the best,” Quincey said. “Pretty much just get it good enough, tape it up and get in the skate and go from there. The pain level is pretty high right now. Once that goes down it’s good to go.”

Forward Johan Franzen (hip flexor) is out Saturday and probably Sunday. He hopes to return Wednesday.

“It sucks being out, especially when we’re losing,” Franzen said. “It hasn’t been easy sitting on the side.”

Jakub Kindl will go back in for Kent Huskins on the blue line.

...

Defenseman Brendan Smith is also eying Wednesday as a possible return date.

“I haven’t done any contact or anything,” Smith said. “I have to have full mobility and strength.”

Mikael Samuelsson has begun to get frustrated after his latest setback, a broken left index finger.

“I want to play, that’s the most frustrating part,” Samuelsson said. “It shouldn’t really happen, but sometimes it does. It’s a bad break.”

Otherwise, the Wings told Pleiness that they were well aware of their tough road ahead...

The Wings are 0-3-2 in their last five games. During that stretch they’ve scored just one power play goal and have given up two-goal leads three times.

“First and foremost we can’t look at the schedule and get too far ahead of us,” said goalie Jimmy Howard, who will start Saturday at home against the Nashville Predators.

“The schedule is going to be tougher (second half of season), the traveling is going to be tougher,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We have to make sure we take care of our home ice. We haven’t done that so far.”

But Pleiness noted that Wings coach Mike Babcock is accentuating the positive, literally and figuratively...

“It wasn’t long ago when we were feeling pretty good about ourselves,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Now you come in here (Saturday) and the big thing is don’t let it be energy-driven draining, chose your attitude, be positive, and be mentally tough and make a difference in what we’re doing.”

And the Free Press's Helene St. James found the Wings' players insisting that their fifth of 12 sets of back-to-back games may in fact prove that success isn't that far off:

"We've got to pay attention to details, all of us, all through the lineup," Jimmy Howard said. "Right now, we're pretty much just giving away points. When you're not doing the little things right -- it's not for lack of effort or working hard, it's just little things here and there, when you don't do them correctly, they cost you games. And that's been the case here."

Coach Mike Babcock said he'll start Howard tonight, adding that, "we need a big game out of Howie. We need a big game out of everyone."

Having blown a third straight 2-0 lead Thursday, Babcock said "everyone makes mistakes," but Columbus' goaltender was there to bail out the Blue Jackets, much as Pekka Rinne usually is there for the Predators. "That's the eraser, right there," Babcock said of Rinne.

"It's a game of mistakes. You're going to make mistakes. You're going to have sort-out issues and turnover issues, that's always going to be the case. You've just got to find a way. We've got to find a way to score a power-play goal, we've got to find a way to make one less mistake, and we've got to find a way to make one more save and score one more hard goal."

The fact that the Wings held an optional practice on Friday = good luck guessing the lines.

Cue head-nodding via MLive's Ansar Khan, who points out that the Wings play 15 of their last 24 games away from the Joe:

They can't hold leads. They've blown 2-0 leads in three of their past five games (0-2-1 in those games) and four times prior to that, in games they came back to win. Their special teams continue to be among the worst in the NHL (28th on power play, 25th on penalty kill). They're making too many mistakes that are leading to easy goals for the opposition.

“We're a good hockey team when we're playing the way we want to play,'' captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “Unfortunately, at times we're not playing the way we want, the puck is ending up in our net. That's frustrating. We just got to turn it around.''

Desperation is fine. They must act before it becomes full-fledged panic. Following Friday's practice, which players who log the most ice time were given off, Babcock preferred positive reinforcement over calling out individuals.

...

Said Zetterberg: “You just got to stay positive, stay together and work on the things that are not good.''

The power play tops that list. The Red Wings felt their man-advantage Thursday was as good as it's been, spending a lot of time in the zone and getting 10 shots and several chances. But it still went 0-for-4 and is 1-for-17 during this skid.

“First and foremost, we need a goal from the power play,'' Kronwall said. “That was the difference (Thursday). Guys are trying. We're making some mistakes that are costing us big-time. Again, it's a 60-minute effort that needs to be there.''

Again, I can't tell you whether Babcock will shake up his lines, nor whether Howard is starting both tonight and tomorrow. We'll find out more this morning.

 

 

Red Wings notebooks: Technically, this isn't a notebook, but this is the kind of thing I wish the Wings advertised more aggressively. The Detroit News's Michael Martinez reports that the Wings have indeed bent into pretzels to win back fans...Or at least keep their season ticket-holders super happy (and yes, these perks tend to apply to partial season ticket packages):

The Detroit Red Wings are hoping season ticket holders forget about the shortened season with big discounts on beer, pop and merchandise.

The team last week sent those fans a coupon booklet (one for each paid seat). Each contains six coupons for $3 beer at 20 or 24 ounces (regularly more than $9,; six coupons for $1 pop at 16 ounces and a $25 merchandise coupon valid at Joe Louis Arena and Hockeytown Authentics in Troy.

Season ticket holders also received free passes to Olympia Entertainment shows and invitations to special events.

Non-season-ticket holders are benefiting from the work stoppage, too, with discounted tickets, free admission to practices before the season and numerous giveaways scheduled for the remaining home games.

"Anytime you reward your loyal customers, it's a terrific idea," said Christie Nordhielm, a professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. "Doing it after a 'failure' or disruption is the most important kind of customer service activity any brand can engage in."

John Hahn, Red Wings senior director of communications, said fans from as far as Seattle have benefited from the giveaways. "We created a number of activities during the lockout and will continue throughout the season as a way to say, 'Thank you,' to all of our fans," he said in an email.

For the Jan. 22 home opener, the Red Wings gave away trips to a road game, autographed merchandise and other gifts. Pop and beer were discounted 50 percent on opening night, and Red Wings merchandise was 30 percent off at all of January's home games. Last month, the team offered $9 tickets for all home games for fans who bought them directly from the box office. "The great thing about rewarding loyal fans is that it tends to deepen the relationship," Nordhielm said.

When Jan Mursak was waived, he went from, "Wow, I'm so happy to be back!" to "Get me out of here!" Even DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose took note of the fact that Mursak felt that his time in Detroit had come to an end:

“Well, it wasn’t that surprising,” said Mursak, who practiced with the Wings Friday afternoon. “I just thought that I would get more opportunity to play. I had one game. It just seemed that I wasn’t the right fit on to that team. I wasn’t the kind of player to play on the fourth line.”

Mursak suffered a collar bone injury when he was slammed into the boards by St. Louis captain David Backes in the season-opener on Jan. 19. Mursak made his return to the Red Wing’s lineup on Thursday and skated 8:43 of ice-time with linemates Tomas Tatar and Joakim Andersson. But Mursak believes that he never was a fit here.

“The thing is they wanted me to keep playing simple,” he said. “Don’t risk anything, just put the puck in. I used my speed a lot, so maybe they don’t want me to turn the puck over so much. I know I turned the puck over (Thursday) a couple of times, but I was just trying to make a play. A lot of times even good players turn the puck over 3-4 times and then one time it goes through and they score a goal. I can’t afford doing that on the fourth line with limited ice-time and, yeah, I think I played a solid game yesterday, especially for the opportunity that I got. But, yeah, like I said, there are a lot of good players here that can jump into that role too.”

And that was the difficult part for the oft-injured Mursak, who had to battle for a spot with such young forwards as Andersson, Tatar and Gustav Nyquist.

“He’s a kid who just got back, so it’s hard to come in and … like two years in a row he’s missed the start,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said on Friday. “It’s a tough situation for him, but ideally he’ll earn his ice-time.”

Still, Mursak, who produced two goals and two assists in just 46 career games with the Wings, he said he enjoyed his time in Detroit.

“It was awesome to be in the locker room full of super stars and people, but now I have to move on,” said Mursak, who is in the final year of his contract with the Red Wings. “I’ll continue my career on any other team or I’ll be down (to) Grand Rapids … We’ll see where it goes from here.”

This is worth re-posting, because it's worrisome. MLive's Ansar Khan offered the following update regarding Carlo Colaiacovo

Colaiacovo, out since Jan. 21 with a sprained shoulder, continues to practice with the team but isn't sure when he'll be cleared.

“I thought I'd be in a better position at this point, but for some reason it's not,'' Colaiacovo said. "I keep pushing and working hard through it every day, just waiting for it to tell me it's ready to go. Could be any day right now. But really don't have an idea when. I wish I had an answer, wish I had a clear picture of it but I'm at a point right now where it's allowing me to do more. The strength is continuing to get better every day, and that's what I'm focusing on.''

And, for the record, WXYZ posted a clip of Kyle Quincey talking about his ankle injury:

 

 


 

In the prospect department, in the AHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins dropped a 4-3 decision to the Rockford IceHogs, surrendering 3-1 and 4-2 leads before making things close in the third period. The Griffins' record against Rockford is downright awful, as the Grand Rapids Griffin' website's recap notes:

In their last of eight meetings with Rockford this season, the Grand Rapids Griffins fell to the IceHogs 4-3 on Friday at BMO Harris Bank Center.

Jimmy Hayes led Rockford with two goals in the victory, scoring a total of seven goals and 12 points in eight games against Grand Rapids this season. The loss also marked the first time this season the Griffins have lost three straight on the road.

Tomas Jurco put the Griffins (29-17-2-2) on the scoreboard early in the first period. The right wing dumped the puck into the zone and goaltender Carter Hutton left the crease to retrieve it. Hutton lost the puck behind the net and Jurco reached back from behind the goal and put it in at 2:22 of the opening period.

Rockford (26-25-1-1) tied the score at one as Hayes potted his first of the night. Martin St. Pierre took a long shot and Hayes quickly picked up the rebound that was kicked away by Petr Mrazek at 7:47 of the first period for his 17th goal of the season.

Mathieu Beaudoin gave the IceHogs their first lead of the game with 50 seconds left in the opening period. Beaudoin collected a pass from Brandon Svendsen on the right wing circle, and snapped a shot low to the ice between Mrazek’s legs.

The Griffins scored the tying goal at 2:29 of the second period. Francis Pare received a great feed from Riley Sheahan and slammed it past Hutton to tie the game at two, one second after a Griffins power play expired.

Rockford reclaimed the lead as Hayes scored his second of the game just 24 seconds later. Jeremy Morin fought through traffic and his shot rebounded to Hayes, whose goal gave the IceHogs a 3-2 lead.

A last-second goal put the IceHogs up by two heading into the final frame. Brandon Pirri scored at the 19:59 mark, just as the green light signaling the end of the period came on behind the Griffins’ net. Upon further review, it was ruled a good goal and proved to be the insurance that Rockford needed.

Pare pulled the Griffins within one goal at 12:10 of the final period. Max Nicastro’s shot deflected off of the goal post and Pare cleaned up the rebound to cut the IceHogs’ lead to one.

However, that was the only goal the team would score against Hutton in the third period, and Rockford skated away with the victory. Hutton made 28 saves for the IceHogs, while Mrazek stopped 31 of 35 for Grand Rapids.

The Griffins return to Grand Rapids this weekend, hosting the San Antonio Rampage at 7 p.m. tomorrow in the first of a two-game series at the Van Andel Arena.

The Griffins' website also provides a Flickr photo gallery and a slate of highlights:

The IceHogs' website also provides a recap and a Flickr photo gallery, and the Rockford Register-Star's Reed Schreck notes that the final regular-season meeting between the teams was a slightly tamer affair than their previous meetings:

The Rockford IceHogs continue to give themselves a fighting chance to make the playoffs. Not having a chance to fight tonight may have helped. The conquered foe was, after all, the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Rockford’s timely 4-3 victory was a tame affair. Almost any meeting would be called that after the last time the two teams literally tangled and tussled. That was the night there were 230 penalty minutes, 14 fighting majors and 13 game misconducts — in an 11-6 Griffins’ win.

The two teams had averaged 91.7 penalty minutes in their seven previous clashes. This time in front of a BMO Harris Bank Center crowd of 4,578, there were six minors, zero fights and no bloody noses.

“We didn’t talk about the incident with Grand Rapids at all,” Rockford head coach Ted Dent said of the Jan. 19 game. “The message before the game was that we can’t wait — we have to get points now. We’re at home, we’re playing good hockey, we just have to stay the course.”

In the ECHL, the Toledo Walleye defeated the Wheeling Nailers 5-2. Willie Coetzee registered a goal and an assist and Jordan Pearce stopped 19 of 21 shots in the win. The Walleye's website and the Toledo Blade's Rachel Lenzi provide recaps, and there's also Walleye news of note:

1. The Walleye will begin selling playoff tickets at 11 AM today;

2. The Walleye are holding a merchandise sale at the Huntington Center this weekend;

3. And the Walleye are holding a charitable wine-tasting event on Saturday, March 2nd.

In major junior hockey, in the QMJHL, Xavier Ouellet finished at a -2 as his Blainville-Boisbriand Armada dropped a 3-2 decision to Phillipe Hudon's Victoriaville Tigres. Hudon didn't register a point in the game;

Martin Frk didn't register a point in the Halfiax Mooseheads' 6-1 win over Saint John;

In the OHL, Jake Paterson stopped a remarkable 45 of 48 shots as the Saginaw Spirit defeated Kitchener 6-3;

In London, with, as RedWingsFeed found out, oodles of Wings scouts watching the game, per HockeyProspect.com's Mark Edwards, signed prospect Ryan Sproul had an assist in the Soo Greyhounds' 4-3 OT loss to the London Knights. Kris Draper told the CBC that he was heading to the game to scout the stacked Knights;

Andreas Athanasiou registered 2 goals and an assist in the Barrie Colts' 5-3 loss to Sudbury;

In the WHL, Richard Nedomlel registered an assist in the Swift Current Broncos' 2-1 shootout loss to Medicine Hat;

In college hockey, in the WCHA, Nick Jensen registered an assist in Saint Cloud State's 4-3 loss to Colorado College;

Ben Marshall registered an assist in the University of Minnesota's 5-3 win over Minnesota-Duluth;

In the USHL, Mike McKee scored a goal in the Lincoln Stars' 5-3 loss to the U.S. National Team Development Program;

And in the BCHL, James De Haas didn't register a point in the Penticton Vees' 5-3 loss to Merritt.

 

Also of Red Wings-related note: On Wednesday, news broke that Cheli's Chili's Dearborn location was closing, and this morning, the Dearborn Press & Guide's Joe Slezak reports that it's going to be turned into a cigar and hookah bar by the building's new owner;

Via RedWingsFeed, the AP's Larry Lage re-posted an article discussing Nicklas Lidstrom and Teemu Selanne from last weekend's Wings-Ducks game, and Ken Holland issued a not-so-surprising quip about Lidstrom:

If Lidstrom wanted to keep playing at 42 this season, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland is convinced he would’ve still been talented and smart enough to be among the NHL’s top 10 defenseman.

“The key with all of these guys, whether you’re talking about Lidstrom, Selanne, Brodeur or Jagr is that they’re some of the best players we’ve had in the history of the game,” Holland said. “By the time they get to their 40s, they’re just coming back to the pack a little bit.”

WDFN's Doug Todd (also via RedWingsFeed) mentioned that the Wings may or may not be interested in snagging Florida Panthers center Stephen Weiss, depending on whether you believe an unsourced rumor from SI's Al Muir. I don't buy it for a second;

And finally, TSN's Scott Cullen weighed in on the state of each and every team's goaltending, and I don't need to tell you that the Wings' goaltending ain't great these days, for multiple reasons:

DETROIT: The Red Wings are finding that goal prevention was easier with Nicklas Lidstrom patrolling the blueline. In any case, Jimmy Howard (6-6-2, 3.08 GAA, .896 SV%) has the worst numbers of his career while facing 29.5 shots per 60 minutes. Jonas Gustavsson has only played two games, stopping 2 of 26 shots, but if Howard is ever out long-term, Gustavsson has competition from rookie Petr Mrazek, who had two NHL starts in addition to putting up good numbers (2.26 GAA, .916 SV%) in the AHL.

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Comments

Avatar

Yeah. The problem with the Wings and Weiss is that it says low to mid first round pick. Wings are on pace for a top 5 pick. But it’s possible Holland would give away their best pick in 30 years for a retread who had never come closer to his potential.

Posted by teldar on 02/23/13 at 06:46 AM ET

w2j2's avatar

How about a little Blasphemy???

Defense wins games.  This I believe.

So what if the Wings occasionally played a period of “Left wing Lock” or “Trap” defense.

Not all the time, but change it up like a basketball team might switch from “zone” to “man to man”.

Just to keep opposing teams off balance.

By putting all hands on deck for defense, it would take some pressure off our inexperienced defense corps.

This might have an added benefit of allowing Hank & Pav to rest on the bench.

We have certainly seen offensively challenged teams have success with “Trap” defenses.  New Jersey & Carolina won Stanley cups playing this way.

The Wings are desparate to win some games, and I say give it a try.

Posted by w2j2 on 02/23/13 at 07:52 AM ET

Figaro's avatar

Ok everybody. Let’s take a positive look at tonight’s game. Tonight is the game we turn it around.

 

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 02/23/13 at 12:35 PM ET

Figaro's avatar

Eh?  What did I tell ya?!?!?!?!

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 02/24/13 at 12:47 AM ET

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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.