The Malik Report
by George Malik on 10/02/13 at 10:00 AM ET
Updated 6x at 3:28 PM: The Red Wings open their 2013-2014 season campaign against the Buffalo Sabres tonight (8 PM EDT, NBCSN/TSN2/97.1 FM), and the morning skate's underway at the Joe:
Patrick Eaves spoke to WDFN's Matt Sheppard this morning...
As did Wings CEO Tom Wilson...
And if you forgot...
As NBCSN is airing the game, Joe Yerdon posted something of a game preview...
The Detroit Red Wings have been wanting to be part of the Eastern Conference for some time and tonight they’ll begin finding out if it was worth the trouble finding out if the grass truly is greener on the other side of the fence. Dealing with the Buffalo Sabres provides a curious first test.
Buffalo enters the game with many fans and prognosticators not giving them much of a chance this season. They’ll also start the year as one of the youngest teams in the league. 2013 first-round pick Rasmus Ristolainen made the team and will get the job of trying to find a way to wrangle Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg in his first game. Good luck, kid.
Detroit’s cast of characters is almost exactly the same group as it was last year. One big difference is the addition of Daniel Alfredsson. While he’s sure to spark some heat when they play Ottawa, Alfie has killed the Sabres in his career scoring 42 of his 426 career goals against them, the most against any one team. Don’t think Sabres fans aren’t fully aware of that.
Related: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $4,000 Fantasy Hockey league tonight (Wednesday). It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $600. Starts at 7:30pm ET. Here’s the link.
Where things get most interesting is the battle in goal. Detroit’s Jimmy Howard showed last season he’s capable of being the kind of goalie the Red Wings need to be successful. His play against Anaheim and Chicago in the playoffs helped reassure fans things are just fine between the pipes.
Buffalo’s Ryan Miller has a bit of a different look at things this season. While he’s still the “man” for the Sabres, his future with the team is going to be a source of speculation all year as he’s in the final year of his contract and will be focus of rumors all season. He can help keep that talk going by playing out of his mind starting tonight against the high-powered Wings.
Ditto for NHL.com...
Buffalo Sabres at Detroit Red Wings -- The new season's first edition of Wednesday Night Rivalry (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN/TSN2) marks the Red Wings' return to the Eastern Conference following the NHL's offseason realignment. It will also mark the Detroit debut of offseason acquisitions Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss. The Sabres, who named Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott as co-captains on Tuesday, are trying to rebuild after back-to-back non-playoff seasons.
With John Kreiser penning a "Tale of the Tape"...
The Red Wings are delighted to be back in the Eastern Conference, where they'll travel less and be reunited with several of their traditional rivals.
"Those things are all exciting. I think change is exciting and you want to embrace it," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "This is a new opportunity for our team. Instead of one Original Six team, we get to play against four others, so that's a positive, positive thing for us and the players really like that. The travel is going to be way better. Fans are going to get to see us easier and as coaches we're going to get to pre-scout at seven at night instead of 10 at night, which is kind of nice. When you put it all together, it's a positive thing."
The teams are coming off vastly different seasons. Detroit extended its streak of consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff appearances to 22 by finishing seventh in the Western Conference, and upset the Anaheim Ducks in the first round before losing to the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks in seven games. Buffalo missed the playoffs for the second straight season, finishing 12th among the 15 teams in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres haven't won a playoff series since advancing to the Eastern Conference Final in 2007.
The game will mark the Red Wing debuts of forward Daniel Alfredsson and center Stephen Weiss, both of whom signed with Detroit during the offseason.
The best-known Sabre to make his debut figures to be defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who turns 19 at the end of the month. Buffalo's first-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft is expected to be in the lineup. He'll be part of a young team that's trying to rebuild.
"You're probably not going to see the potential of our team unfold for a couple of months," Sabres coach Ron Rolston said. "But everyone is excited about it. And everyone has expectations that we've got what we need here now."
And I will let you read about the "rivalry" between Jimmy Howard and Ryan Miller on your own...
I'm leaving the house shortly, but Henrik Zetterberg did speak with Expressen's Gunnar Nordstrom this morning, and even the Google-translated interview is pretty good...
And Ansar Khan penned an article about the Wings' move to the East:
Heard the horror stories about the big, tough, physical, fight-filled Eastern Conference? Fear for the smaller, skilled, anti-violent Detroit Red Wings? Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson, the newest Red Wings, say there is no need to worry. They've spent their entire NHL careers in the East and believe the conference's reputation is overblown.
“We always thought it was the West being the big, strong, tough conference and the East was run and gun,'' Weiss said.
Said Alfredsson: “They’ve been told here a lot of people think the East is more physical and I thought the West was more physical. It’s pretty even then, I guess.''
Bottom line, Weiss said, “There isn’t much of a difference.''
Many of their new teammates agree. They don't think the East is any more intimidating or challenging than the West, a conference in which the Red Wings flourished for more than two decades. The Red Wings begin their new season by hosting Buffalo tonight.
While there was no interconference play last season due to the lockout-shortened 48-game schedule, the Red Wings are 62-30-10 vs. the East since 2005-06. So maybe it's the East that should be concerned.
As the Red Wings prepare for their first season in the Eastern Conference's Atlantic Division, following realignment, they don't believe they need to adjust their style. If anything, the East must contend with another highly skilled team with a history of winning.
“Our game plan is not going to change,'' Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We’re focused on playing the same way we have since I got here.''
And he continues...
With that, I'm making my exit. I'll be back from ferrying the mom around sometime between 1:30 and 2, and Paul will handle duties from here.
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff posted interviews with Steve Ott...
Ken Holland also appeared on WDFN's Matt Sheppard show...
As did Kris Draper...
Back in 1995, Daniel Alfredsson made his NHL debut for the Ottawa Senators on home ice against the Buffalo Sabres. Wednesday, Alfredsson will make his Detroit Red Wings debut against the same team at Joe Louis Arena, and he’s hoping for a better outcome.
“I remember we lost,” Alfredsson recalled of that first time in NHL action, a 3-1 setback. “This is like a new start and it’s at home against Buffalo. It’s fitting.”
He admits there’s still a lot of strangeness about seeing himself with a winged wheel on the front of his sweater after 17 seasons as a Senator.
“When you’re on the ice you don’t really notice it,” Alfredsson said. “It’s when you watch video in the coaches room, or you see highlights of yourself in a different jersey that it feels different.”
He can’t pinpoint a time when he first felt like he was a Red Wing, but Alfredsson certainly is happy to be part of the team.
“I don’t know if I had a moment where it’s like ‘Now I am one,’” he said. “I’m in a process here of getting used to everything – the guys, the room. I played my first exhibition game at home last week. I can’t say I feel any different. You just feel like you’re part of the team. This is a great organization. It’s fun to be here.”
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness...
“When you start counting things and counting points and you’re playing for a place in the standings, you’re playing for real,” Weiss said. “It’s a little bit different feeling coming to the rink, knowing that you’re 1-0 or 0-1, so I’m really looking forward to the first game at home and moving forward.”
Fittingly, the two will take their first shift on the ice together as Wings playing on a line with Johan Franzen.
“It has the makings of a real good line,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Obviously, Mule’s the key, the driving for in my opinion. He can be a dominant player. We’ve got to get him going every time, because if he goes every day, it makes it easier for Alfie and Weiss. That’s an important group for us. Obviously if we have 1A and 1B instead of 1 and 2, it makes it easier for us to run our bench.”
The line, which is Detroit’s second unit behind Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader, played one preseason game together and that lasted all of two periods after Weiss suffered a groin injury. Alfredsson also missed time with a groin and Franzen suffered a hip flexor in training camp.
“I think the sky’s the limit for us,” said Weiss, who’ll center the line. “To be able to play behind Pav and Z and Abby is going to be huge for us. We’ve got to take advantage of that and make sure we’re supporting them as much as possible. We just got to go out and play and not worry about scoring goals, and the rest will take care of itself.”
“Whether it’s Game 1 or Game 70, anytime you come to the rink and you’re playing a National Hockey League game the butterflies are going, you’re excited to play,” said Weiss, who played 661 games with Florida. “Last night was a little bit tougher getting to sleep. It’s going to be a long day today, sitting around waiting for it to get started.”
Weiss’ parents and brother are coming in from Toronto to catch his first game with the Wings.
“For them to be able to drive four hours on the day of the game and come see it is great for them,” Weiss said. “They’re real excited about it. In general, they’ve been fans of Detroit for a while. A lot of my friends and family are big Wings fans, to play here now and for them to be able to come to the games is awesome.”
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...
"It was a little more tough to get to sleep," said Weiss, who'll center a line with Johan Franzen and Alfredsson. "The mind was racing and this will be a long day today waiting to get started. We're putting points on the board now, this is the real deal and we're starting to count everything. It's a different feeling and we're looking forward to get going."
Alfredsson and Weiss were both signed as unrestricted free agents to spur a Red Wings offensive attack that struggled to consistently score last season. The signing of Alfredsson, 40, after 17 seasons in Ottawa was particularly surprising. But he said the transition to the Red Wings has been smooth.
"It's been good, pretty much what I expected," Alfredsson said. "It's a very professional team, pays attention to details. When you're on the ice you don't really notice it (switching teams). It's when you watch video in the coach's room or see highlights, and see you yourself in a different uniform, it feels different. But the guys have been great in the room and we're excited to get started."
The Free Press's Helene St. James...
Alfredsson played in just two exhibition games this year because of injuries but said he's ready to go. "We're excited about this team, and getting off to a good start tonight,” he said.
Alfredsson and Weiss tonight are playing on a line with Johan Franzen, a grouping coach Mike Babcock sees as having terrific potential.
"It has the making of a real good line," Babcock said. "Obviously, Mule is the key, the driving force to that unit. He's a dominant player and can be a dominant player. We've got to get him to go every day. If he goes every day, it makes it way easier for Alfie and Weiss to do what they do.”
Jimmy Howard is starting in goal. The Wings’ lineup shapes up as follows:
Henrik Zetterberg - Pavel Datsyuk - Justin Abdelkader
Johan Franzen - Stephen Weiss - Daniel Alfredsson
Todd Bertuzzi - Joakim Andersson - Daniel Cleary
Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Mikael Samuelsson
Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson
Kyle Quincey - Brendan Smith
Danny DeKeyser - Jakub Kindl
Who posted a video...
MLive's Ansar Khan spoke with the pair as well...
They'll be playing on the same line, along with Johan Franzen. All three had minor injuries at different times in the preseason, limiting the line to just two periods together in the preseason. But they looked good during that brief time in Friday's 5-2 win over Toronto.
“I think the sky's the limit for us,'' Weiss, 30, said. “To be able to play behind Pav and Z (Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg) and Abby (Justin Abdelkader) is going to be huge for us. We got to take advantage of that and make sure we're responsible defensively and supporting them as much as possible. We had two periods to play together but I think we figured it out in those 40 minutes. We just got to go out and play and not worry about scoring goals, and the rest will take care of itself.''
Coach Mike Babcock said it has the makings of a good line.
“Obviously, Mule (Franzen) is the key, the driving force in my opinion,'' Babcock said. “He can be a dominant player. We’ve got to get him going every time, because if he goes every day, it makes it easier for Alfie and Weiss. That’s an important group for us. If we have 1A and 1B (lines) instead of 1 and 2, it makes it easier for us to run our bench.''
Weiss' parents and brother are driving in from Toronto for the game.
“For them to be able to drive four hours on the day of the game and come see it is great for them,'' Weiss said. “A lot of of my friends and family are big Wings fans. To play here now and for them to be able to come to the games is awesome.''
Alfredsson's first NHL game was a 3-1 loss at home to the Sabres.
“This is like a new start and it's at home against Buffalo,'' he said. “It’s fitting.''
As did the Buffalo News's John Vogl:
"I’m a little disappointed the game’s at 8," Weiss said this morning in Joe Louis Arena. "I’ve got a little bit more time to wait than usual. I’m just really excited. Can’t wait to get it going."
The 40-year-old Alfredsson, who's in his 18th season, will play his first game for someone other than the Ottawa Senators.
"It’s just been a process here of getting used to everything, the guys, the room, playing my first exhibition game at home here last week," said the notorious Sabres tormentor, who has 84 points in 89 career games against Buffalo. "I can’t say I’ve felt any different. It feels like you’re part of the team. Obviously, this being a great organization, it’s a lot of fun to be here.
"It’s been pretty much what I expected. They’re very professional, pay attention to details. I think we have very good skill on this team, but the basic message for everybody is if you play within the structure, we have a good foundation, our skill is going to show at the end of the night. That’s kind of the theme."
NHL.com's At the Rink blog suggests that this is the Sabres lineup we'll see this evening...
Thomas Vanek - Cody Hodgson - Drew Stafford
Steve Ott - Tyler Ennis - Ville Leino
Zemgus Girgensons - Mikhail Grigorenko - Brian Flynn
Kevin Porter - Cody McCormick - Patrick Kaleta
Christian Ehrhoff - Mark Pysyk
Henrik Tallinder - Tyler Myers
Mike Weber - Rasmus Ristolainen
Injured: Marcus Foligno (shoulder), Nikita Zadorov (finger), Corey Tropp (jaw), Joel Armia (hand)
Vogl confirmed the Sabres' lineup...
Vogl penned a story about the Sabres rookies' debuts...
Rasmus Ristolainen and Zemgus Girgensons were surprisingly calm Tuesday night. Ristolainen slept for 11 hours, while Girgensons said he had his best night of shut-eye in a long time. The nerves are kicking in today, though.
Ristolainen and Girgensons will make their NHL debuts tonight when the Sabres visit the Detroit Red Wings. The uncommon poise possessed by the teenagers helped them make Buffalo's opening-night roster, but even the most mature player gets nervous for a first game.
"It should be a good one, I hope," Girgensons said this afternoon in Joe Louis Arena. "I just want to help the team, don’t mess up. Everyone’s probably nervous in their first game, not let that go in the head and just keep doing what I’ve been doing.
"The rush is going to be so high that you don’t need to do anything else to get motivated for the game. I’ve just got to go out there and do my thing."
Ristolainen has one goal for his debut.
"I hope we get that first win," he said. "That would be nice."
WGR 550's Paul Hamilton also penned a game-day entry...
Rasmus Ristolainen, Zemgus Girgensons and Mikhail Grigorenko will all dress for the game. For the first two, it’s their first NHL game. Ristolainen and Girgensons seems more mature, but Ron Rolston said, “A teenager is a teenager whether they’re more mature or not. This is a situation where they get to open up in Detroit and play a team that’s really fast and they’re going to challenge them so that’s part of their development to be put in these situations and to have these experiences.”
The way you see the Sabres play with Ron Rolston will be quite a bit different than what you saw with Lindy Ruff. Rolston said, “We wanted to tighten up our game last year and we’re going to continue to do that. Our job is to be more difficult to play against and part of that is the effort we’re putting in, how to get pucks back and retrieve pucks because it’s something we struggled with last year.”
Tonight’s scratches will be John Scott, Johan Larsson and Jamie McBain. Ryan Miller of course gets the call in goal. Against Detroit he’s 2-6-2 with a 3.68 goals against and .891 save percentage. At the other end Jimmy Howard is 3-0-0 vs Buffalo with a 1.15 goals against and .958 save percentage.
Don’t forget Sabre killer Daniel Alfredsson is playing his first game in the NHL out of an Ottawa sweater. In 89 career games vs Buffalo he has 42 goals and 42 assists for 84 points. Dan Cleary switched to #71 so Alfredsson could wear #11.
Michael Caples also penned a Wings preview...
During the first week of the Red Wings’ informal skates at Joe Louis Arena to prepare for training camp, Jimmy Howard acknowledged that his team was in for a rather unusual NHL season.
“We’ve got a lot going on, don’t we?” the Wings’ starting goaltender said. “With the Winter Classic, a lot of guys here vying for Olympic spots, HBO 24/7… It’s going to be pretty hectic around here.”
When asked if all the distractions were going to be a concern within in the locker room, Howard was quick with his response.
“No, not at all,” he said. “Not with this group.”
It’s been more than a year now since Nicklas Lidstrom retired from professional hockey, leaving the captain’s ‘C’ hanging in Henrik Zetterberg’s locker on his way out (figuratively speaking, of course). And the Red Wings’ first go without No. 5 in the line-up didn’t come without adversity; after returning in January from a half-season lockout, Detroit barely reached the playoffs. Yet a season with roster influx and fresh new faces meant lots of on-the-job training and a new sense of confidence moving into the 2013-14 season. The additions of Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss didn’t hurt, either.
“We skate together, for just a few practices, and they looking good,” Pavel Datsyuk said of his two new teammates. “They are unbelievable players. They fit the team; we try to help them. They know what we need to do together, with everybody dreaming.”
Pegged as an early favorite to win the Eastern Conference, the Red Wings have done what they do best – reload. Last season, there were calls for Mike Babcock to be replaced by the Winged Wheel faithful. Now, people are keeping their schedules open clear into spring, in the hopes that there is plenty of playoff hockey to watch.
“I think of course any time you hit August after the summer, you want things to get started,” Niklas Kronwall said. “We’re prepared, we’re ready for this season. Obviously there have been some changes to our line-up, in an exciting way. I think we’ve added some big pieces to our team. That’s just going to make us as a team even stronger. The younger guys that played really well last year, they get a chance to prove that they really belong here, and make a name for themselves. I think we’re in better shape than we were last year heading into camp, and of course, it’s going to be a fun year with moving to the East, the Winter Classic, and some very exciting things ahead of us.”
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness posited a "quote of the day"...
Wings coach Mike Babcock when asked to assess his team.
“You never know how good you are,” Babcock said. “The speculation is we’re a better team than last year and yet last year, we turned out to be a pretty good team. Those things just don’t happen by accident. You’ve got to get your structure back, you’ve got to get your work ethic back. Those things have got to happen and you’ve got to maximize it. We’re a work in progress like everyone else.
“I think after you play a chunk of games, I think 20 games is a good indication of where you’re at,” Babcock continued. “Usually, if you’re behind the eight ball after 20 games, you’re in trouble.”
Asked if he was scared he added, “For sure. If you asked me this time last year, I would have said I was optimistic about the team.”
NHL.com's Kevin Weekes weighed in on the "Rivalry Night" game...
Big picture with Detroit -- I really believe Jimmy Howard has become an elite goaltender in this League. He's continued to get better and better. He was outstanding against the Blackhawks last year in the playoffs, taking them to Game 7.
Speaking of goaltending, the big question in Buffalo this season is what happens with Ryan Miller. Miller, along with star forward Thomas Vanek, can become an unrestricted free agent in July 2014. So those two star players know they have to play as well as they can as Sabres, to help their team, but also to help their case should they be traded by the deadline or pursue free agency next summer.
Here is the challenge with Miller should he enter the market in 2014. The goalie market is so finicky. It's supply and demand, a game of musical chairs. People would love to get their hands on him. But what opportunities will be there in free agency?
For Miller, there might not be a better place to start his big 2013-14 season than against the Red Wings in his home state of Michigan. I know I always wanted to put on a show playing against my hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. Don't forget, Miller was an absolute stud when he won the Hobey Baker at Michigan State just up the road in East Lansing. In addition, his brother Drew plays for the Red Wings.
I think it's a big opportunity for him. I'm sure he'll try to downplay it, but why would he not want to start his season against his hometown team? That can go a long way for the confidence level. If he's able to come out of there with a win, it really would make a big difference.
And WXYZ's Brad Galli filed a story about Alfredsson and Weiss:
With Alfredsson and fellow free agent signee Stephen Weiss set to make their regular season debut in Detroit, the atmosphere around the Red Wings organization is everything they hoped for.
"it's been pretty much what I expected," Alfredsson said. "They're very professional."
Both forwards signed with the Red Wings on July 5, marking arguably the most fruitful free agent summer in Detroit since 2001. Coming to a contender with a chance to win the Stanley Cup was attractive to both, and Weiss said he's been itching for today to come.
"It's a little different feel coming to the rink knowing that you're either 1-0 or 0-1. I'm really looking forward to the first game at home," he said.
Wearing the Red Wings jersey has begun to sink in, but being introduced in front of a sold out Joe Louis Arena crowd will no doubt help it feel more real.
"When you start counting points, and you start playing for places in the standings, you're playing for real," Weiss added.
Alfredsson will be on the team's second line with Weiss and Johan Franzen. Mike Babcock said Franzen is the key to the line's success, and the potential is there for him to be a dominant player. Babcock's challenge to Franzen is no doubt fueled by having more talent around him. That talent is the reason Alfredsson left Ottawa for Detroit.
"You start a new journey with a team, it's always exciting. We feel good about this team," he said.
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About The Malik Report
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.