The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/29/14 at 01:28 AM ET
The Red Wings will clean out their lockers at Joe Louis Arena this morning, but Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco and Xavier Ouellet have already practiced with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins, who hope to sweep the Abbotsford Heat out of the playoffs when the scene shifts to Grand Rapids on Wednesday. If the Griffins were hoping to also find Anthony Mantha available for Wednesday's game, however, they're going to be sorely disappointed:
On Monday, Mantha scored what ended up being the game-winning goal as his Val-d'Or Foreurs raced out to a 4-0 lead and held on for a 7-5 victory of the QMJHL's defending champions, the Halifax Mooseheads, and as a result, Mantha (who's registered 18 goals, 7 assists and 25 points in 16 playoff games played) forced a seventh and deciding Conference Final this evening.
In the OHL, the Guelph Storm will battle the North Bay Battalion for the OHL championship starting on Thursday, and Tyler Bertuzzi's surprise return from a neck injury has resulted in a strong playoff performance from the no-longer-instigating forward. The Sudbury Star's Bruce Heidman spoke to Bertuzzi about his return and the fact that North Bay's proximity to Bertuzzi's hometown (Sudbury) will yield a sizable cheering section when Bertuzzi plays in North Bay:
The Guelph Storm forward has been having a terrific post-season after missing much of the regular season due to a neck/head injury with eight goals, 14 points, 20 penalty minutes and an impressive plus-11 in 13 playoff games.
“I'm feeling good and it has been fun, exciting and tough,” the Detroit Red Wings' second-round pick in 2013 said. “Getting back from injury and being able to score and get points and the help guys get to the final, it's awesome and exciting. We have to do everything we can to win, and we have been.”
Bertuzzi said the Storm don't have anything special in store to face the Battalion's traditional 200-foot defensive game.
“I think we just have to play our game,” he said. “They play a trap sort of game, but with our speed and skill I think we can do big things.”
There have been a few surprises for Bertuzzi in the playoffs.
“Beating London in five games and Erie in five games were surprises,” he said. “If you told me at the start of the season we'd be in the conference final and beat London in five to get there, wow. It has been an exciting ride and there have been a few surprises along the way, but we're a good team.”
In the AHL, the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner posited an intriguing Tweet...
As did Winging It in Motown's Slapshotg0al...
And Wallner spoke with a certain "birthday boy" (he's 25) who's unable to play for the Griffins--but will be cheering the team on--in East Grand Rapids' Luke Glendening, who started the season with the ECHL's Toledo Walleye and ended the year having signed a 3-year contract extension with Detroit. Glendening played in one too many games to remain waiver-exempt:
The best moment of the past year?
“There were a lot of them, but there was one, when I even said to my mom, “I finally feel like I can play here,” was when I got to play in the Big House at the Winter Classic. I was sent down just before and I was thinking I was so close, yet so far from playing in that game. Then, to get that opportunity and be in that starting lineup was pretty special.”
Glendening finished the season playing 51 games in Detroit with seven points (1-6-7), a minus-8 on plus-minus rating and 22 penalty minutes. He also scored a goal in Game 4 of the playoffs.
He had 12 points (5-7-12) in 18 games with the Griffins.
Glendening said he’s not about to rest. He is one of those “don’t look back in the mirror” players, who believe success comes with hard work, followed by, well, more hard work.
“I have a lot to do,” he said. “I’m not in any position to think I rest by any stretch. I need to get better, improve my faceoffs, my skill level and that’s what my offseason is all about.”
WZZM 13 also filed a practice report:
The Free Press's Helene St. James pondered the future of the Grand Rapids Griffins' starter, Petr Mrazek, as well...
Jimmy Howard had a subpar first half, was good down the stretch, began the playoffs with a shutout and then struggled like his teammates until felled by flu for Games 4 and 5 against Boston. Jonas Gustavsson played well enough in those two appearances, following up on a fairly solid season overall, but the most reliable aspect about him is his proneness to injury. Gustavsson’s contract is expiring, whereas Howard just finished up the first year of a six-year, $31.75-million contract.
Mrazek, 22, has excelled at every level — OHL, world juniors, AHL and, for that matter, the NHL. He has made nine appearances with the Wings over the past two seasons, including two shutouts. Mrazek has a swagger about him, he’s a great bounce-back goaltender, and he’s great handling the puck, a significant asset for teammates. Mike Babcock loves the guy, raving about Mrazek’s fearlessness. Mrazek arguably could have been the Griffins’ MVP during their run to the Calder Cup last season, when he led them to the championship as a rookie.
Mrazek has two more years of waiver exemption for the minors, but the Wings could well decide, if Mrazek has another strong spring, to give him a shot working beside Howard next season.
And in the FYI department:
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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.