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The Malik Report

Red Wings-Sabres game-day updates: Datsyuk in, Alfredsson ‘game-time decision,’ Howard in net

Updated 10x at 2:51 PM: The tightly-packed Wild Card standings have really turned tonight's game against Buffalo (7:30 PM on FSD Plus/MSG B and 1270 AM) into a must-win situation. As Paul noted, Daniel Alfredsson skated with the Wings at the morning skate, per the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness...

Alfredsson on the ice for the Wings pre-game skate. Possible sign he plays tonight against Buffalo. He hasn't skated since Sunday.

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Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Alfredsson appear to be out tonight against Buffalo. Both aren't taking part in line drills. #RedWings

Pavel Datsyuk will center a line a line with Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader. #RedWings

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Four line will consist of Glendening centering Abdelkader and Miller. The Kid Line remain intact. Legwand, Nyquist and Franzen other line.

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Alfredsson is taking part on the second power play drills.

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Looks like Alfredsson just holding the spot on the blue line for Kindl on second PP unit. Kindl busy working on PK.

MLive's Ansar Khan (this is my "Roll Call!")...

Wings on ice for morning skate. Alfredsson (back) skating for first time since Sunday's game.

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Datsyuk skating with Helm and Abdelkader again.

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Alfredsson and Bertuzzi not taking part in line rushes, indicating likely scratched tonight.

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Other lines: Nyquist-Legwand-Franzen, Tatar-Sheahan-Jurco, Miller-Glendening-Alfredsson.

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Tonight will be Datsyuk's first game at Joe Louis Arena since Dec. 23. He has since played six road games and the Winter Classic.

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Alfredsson is practicing on second power play unit with DeKeyser at points. Tatar-Sheahan-Jurco up front.

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Different look on first power-play unit. Kronwall on D, Datsyuk and Franzen at half-walls, Legwand at net front and Nyquist roaming.

The Free Press's Helene St. James...

Daniel Alfredsson on for Red Wings morning skate. Hasn't skated since Sunday because of sore back.

And DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose:

On this day in 1971, Gordie Howe, then 43 years old, appeared in his final game with the #RedWings, a 6-0 season-finale loss to the NYR.

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Daniel Alfredsson, who hasn't skated since Sunday, is on the ice for the #RedWings morning skate. However, not involved in line drills.

Meanwhile, Buffalo Hockey Beat's Bill Hoppe reports that the Sabres plucked a player from the Rochester Amerks to replace the injured Marcus Foligno...

The #Sabres have recalled Luke Adam from #Rochester.

Which the Sabres confirm...

NEWS: The #Sabres have recalled @LukeJAdam from @AmerksHockey.

Cue the press release!

The Buffalo Sabres today announced the team has recalled forward Luke Adam from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League (AHL) on an emergency basis.

Adam (6/18/90, 6'2", 206 lbs) joins the Sabres for the third time this season, most recently for a one-game stint after being recalled on March 7. He is the Amerks’ top goal scorer in 2013-14, with 27 goals and 47 points through 53 games played this season.

In four seasons with the Sabres organization, Adam has appeared in 85 NHL games and recorded 26 points (15+11). The St. John’s, Newfoundland native was drafted by Buffalo in the second round (44th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and signed a one-year contract with the Sabres in July 2013.

And we actually know some news about Saturday's Wings-Habs game (Montreal plays in Ottawa tonight), via the Montreal Gazette's Pat Hickey:

The Canadiens will be without Douglas Murray for three games. The National Hockey League slapped the defenceman with a suspension Thursday for his elbow to the head of Tampa Bay’s Mike Kostka during Tuesday night’s 3-1 loss to the Lightning.

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The suspension means Jarred Tinordi will return to the lineup for the finale of the Canadiens’ four-game road trip Friday night in Ottawa (7 p.m., CBC, RDS, TSN Radio 690). The Canadiens were anticipating the suspension and Tinordi was paired with Mike Weaver when the team held a midday practice in Oldsmar, Fla., before boarding a charter flight to Ottawa. Later in the day, the Canadiens recalled defenceman Nathan Beaulieu from the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs. In 54 games with the Bulldogs, Beaulieu has six goals and 19 assists. He has two assists in 16 games with the Canadiens this season.

There will be one other lineup change Friday night in Ottawa. With back-to-back games — the Canadiens face Detroit Saturday night at the Bell Centre — Peter Budaj will start in goal against the Senators, with Carey Price getting the call against the Red Wings.

Via RedWingsFeed, Yahoo Sports' Greg "Puck Daddy" Wyshynski reports that SportsClubStats pegs the Wings' chances of making the playoffs at 89%, with the Wings' chances of earning the 1st Wild Card spot at 56%--which is inaccurate already as they've got the Wings' chances at 91.6%...

Justin Bourne listed his "toughest (potential) wild card teams to draw in the first round"...

#1 Detroit: You knew this was coming.

Any time you have a team that looks sure to make playoffs that’s played the majority of their season without their best players, you respect them. When you see they might get said best players back just in time for playoffs, you fear them.

It happens every year in hockey – a good team struggles through a tough season, only to have things come together at the end. They draw a low seed, and whammo – you’re playing The Detroit Red Wings, and not the detroid red wangs they’ve been for most of the season.

The emergence of the kids Nyquist, Tatar and Jurco have been nice compliments to the other pieces they’ve always had. They’re well coached. They took down Boston the other night, and while I wouldn’t pick them to do it four times in seven games, you know the Bruins would MUCH rather see Columbus, Toronto or Washington/New Jersey.

NHL.com's Kevin Weekes weighed in on Gustav Nyquist's Hart Trophy chances in an NBCSN video, posted on Pro Hockey Talk by Joe Yerdon (did you follow all of that?)...

And via, well, me, Mickey Redmond spoke with Detroit Sports 105.1 FM's Drew Lane yesterday afternoon...

CBS Detroit's Eric Thomas spoke to the "casual" Wings fan...

Whoo! You can uncover your eyes. The hockey playoff plans that became part of your thawing out process over the years can continue without interruption. The Red Wings, with a string of recent wins, have put themselves in excellent position to make the playoffs a 23rd straight time. It was a coin flip for much of the season. At times the injuries looked like they could consume them. For now, crisis appears to be averted.*

Casual Detroit sports fans have an odd relationship with the Wings. Many in Detroit don’t even bother watching hockey until the playoffs. It’s understandable. When you have a streak as long as the Wings, it’s easy to take it for granted. Casual Wings fans shake awake when there are events. Is there a home winning streak? Nick Lidstrom is retiring? Turn on the TV. It’s all gravy until the post-season.

All the news out of the Joe was bad this year. No Datsyuk, no Zetterberg—we were mildly mad at him for something, weren’t we? Something about the Olympics?—no Alfredsson, Franzen being Franzen, there are some fans have simply stayed away, this year rather than watch the Wings struggle. They don’t even know who Tomas Tartar or Gustav Nyquist are yet.

Hey, it’s understandable for Wings fans. You’ve been spoiled. The team has been one of the premiere franchises in the NHL for so long, why would you watch a sub-par product? This town can only have one Lions. While it’s easy to understand your stance, this laissez-faire attitude sends hard core Wings fans into a rage.  They watch every game of the regular season, and here you are, just waiting for the playoffs and criticizing Jimmy Howard if it doesn’t work out.

Here’s the good news: the Wings are poised to be a force in the coming years. It’s been difficult at times this year, with an aging team and a triage unit full of injuries. Somehow, against long odds, the Red Wings have managed to keep the team in contention. It doesn’t hurt that they have again wound up with some of the best young talent in the NHL. If you haven’t been watching yet, get ready to be impressed. Gustav Nyquist appears to be the real deal. He’s taken the entire team on his back, scoring 28 goals so far, and he hadn’t even played the whole season. The sheer amount of goals he’s scored recently has had some asking if he’s just getting lucky. Nyquist is a burgeoning superstar.

And in the promotional department, from WDIV's Ken Haddad:

The Detroit Red Wings have announced that 2014 playoff tickets are now on sale to the general public.

The Red Wings currently sit in the first Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference standings with 86 points (36-26-14) and six games remaining on the regular season schedule.

Red Wings fans are able to purchase tickets for each of the team’s first two potential opening-round home contests against a to-be-determined opponent.
The Red Wings are seeking a playoff berth for the 23rd straight year (1991-present), which is the longest active playoff streak in all of North American major professional sports.

Red Wings playoff tickets can be purchased at the Joe Louis Arena Box Office (313-471-7575), all Ticketmaster outlets (800-745-3000) and online at DetroitRedWings.com.

Here come the post-practice comments, per MLive's Ansar Khan:

Babcock said Alfredsson (back) will be a game-time decision tonight.

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Babcock wouldn't say who is out if Alfredsson plays. Based on the skate it looked like Bertuzzi and Andersson.

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Babcock said Gustavsson will start tomorrow in Montreal. Howard starts tonight. Doesn't know if Datsyuk will play back to back tomorrow.

The Free Press's Helene St. James, DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose and the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan confirm, as doe the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness, who noted the following:

Datsyuk just walked by and said he's in tonight against Buffalo. #RedWings

This question from Sportsnet's John Shannon is certainly a "leading" one...

Pavel Datsyuk returns to the Red Wing line-up tonight.  How much does that change the personality of the team? #depth

Update #0.5: Pleiness posted a video of Ken Holland addressing his team's injury situation...

Update #0.75: The Red Wings' Game-Day Blog offers a historical note...

On This Day in Red Wings' History...On April 4, 1971

The legendary career of Gordie Howe comes to an end in Hockeytown as Mr. Hockey plays his final game as a Red Wing.

And Ken Kal's Keys to the Game:

Don't take Buffalo lightly - The Sabres are out of the playoff picture and are playing with nothing to lose. You have to respect them and play them as if they were in the hunt. Detroit can't have an emotional letdown after such a big win against Boston.

Start fast - Everyone needs to get going from the drop of the puck. No exceptions.

Win special teams battle - Stay out of the box, play well in the offensive zone and force them to take penalties, and be strong on the PK.

WDIV's Dave Bartkowiak Jr. (via RedWingsFeed) also handicapped the Wings' playoff situation:

Their 86 points are enough to have them in the 1st Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, 1 point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets (85) and two points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs (84) -- both teams won Thursday night.

The Leafs are two games ahead of Detroit and Columbus, who both have six games left to play this season while the Leafs have just four. An eight-game losing streak put Toronto in a spot where they need other teams to lose.

Contrarily, the Wings have put themselves in a much better position with three straight wins (6-3-1 in their past 10), all of which happened to be against divisional foes -- Toronto, Tampa and Boston.

It's huge because while the Wings have been doing their thing, the Washington Capitals (81 points), New Jersey Devils (80 points), Carolina Hurricanes (80 points) and Ottawa Senators (78) all remain mathematically eligible to make a playoff appearance. The Canes have 5 games left while the others all have six.

The Red Wings can start knocking some of these teams out of the playoffs hunt with a couple wins of their own and a loss or two from the others. But the focus for Detroit is "win and you're in." A team can't ask for much more in this situation while there is so much at stake in the next few games.

Because unlike Toronto, Detroit is in control of its own destiny. Oh what a difference a few weeks make.

Please see:

 

Update #1: MLive's Khan has penned a bare-bones game-day update:

Alfredsson (back) skated today, the first time he has been on the ice since Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay. General manager Ken Holland said he thinks Alfredsson will play.

If Alfredsson plays, it appears Todd Bertuzzi and Joakim Andersson will be healthy scratches.

Coach Mike Babcock confirmed Pavel Datsyuk will start the game on a line with Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader. It will be Datsyuk’s first game since Feb. 27, just his fifth appearance since the Jan. 1 Winter Classic, due to knee inflammation.

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Babcock said Gustavsson will start in goal Saturday at Montreal (7 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit). He doesn't know if Datsyuk will play back-to-back games this weekend.

Ditto for the Macomb Daily's Pleiness:

Wings coach Mike Babcock said Alfredsson will be reassessed when he returns later this afternoon.

Wings general manager Ken Holland said he thinks Alfredsson will play.

Babcock said he didn’t know who would be the healthy scratches if Alfredsson can go, but from how the morning skate looked it would be Todd Bertuzzi and Joakim Andersson.

Pavel Datsyuk confirmed he will play tonight against the Sabres, his first game back after missing the last 16 resting inflammation in his left knee.

He’ll center a line with Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader.

The Buffalo News's Mike Harrington penned an in-absentia game-day update, too:

In the wake of injuries to Drew Stafford and Marcus Foligno, Ted Nolan hinted last night the Sabres would likely need a forward for tonight's game in Detroit and the call has been put out to Rochester for Luke Adam to join the club on an emergency recall.

(An aside: I'm in Toronto to cover tonight's Blue Jays-Yankees game. Amy Moritz is en route to Detroit for the Sabres game. The team's flight was delayed out of St. Louis last night due to the stormy weather and didn't get in until about 3 a.m. ET so there was no morning skate today.  Nolan will update reporters during his pregame briefing in the 5 p.m. hour).

All of that weather is coming into Metro Detroit--we're expecting thunderstorms, and, according to WDIV's Brandon Roux, 30-to-50-MPH wind gusts between 8 and 10 PM--so don't expect the ice to be pretty, and be safe if you're going to the game...

This is Adam's third recall of the season, with the most recent one being a one-game emergency stint Adam (6/18/90, 6'2", 206 lbs) joins the Sabres for the third time this season, most recently for a one-game stint March 7 in Florida. He is the Amerks’ top goal scorer with 27, and has 47 points in 53 AHL games. Adam has one goal in 10 games for Buffalo this year.

Foligno is expected to miss the final six games  of the season with the knee injury he suffered early in last night's game. Nolan said Stafford was "banged up" during Tuesday's shootout win over New Jersey so we'll see if Sunday's game in Philadelphia is realistic for his return.

Henrik Tallinder took the morning skate in St. Louis but left the ice after a few minutes with some sort of leg/groin problem. Chris Stewart was a surprise participant yesterday and you wonder how close he may be getting from his ankle problem.

Update #2: Here's the Free Press's St. James' game-day update:

The fourth line had Luke Glendening with Drew Miller and Joakim Andersson, but one of those two might be scratched if Daniel Alfredsson ends up playing. Alfredsson skated Friday morning, but a sore back had kept him off the ice the four previous days.

Babcock doesn't want to disrupt the Sheahan line, or move Nyquist, regardless of who is coming back, because of the tendency for a young player to alter his game if playing with a superstar.

"It's hard to play with good players, veteran players, because you think you've got to give them the puck," Babcock said after the morning skate. "That's why I keep those kids together, they don't worry about giving each other the puck, they just do the right thing. As soon as I play one of them with a senior-type player, then they want to look after that guy. Nyquist is playing great where he's playing. I don't want him deferring and giving the puck to Pav, I want him shooting it in the net.

"It's not about Pavel Datsyuk tonight, it's about the Red Wings. He's got to fit in."

Datsyuk hasn't played since Feb. 27, and has played only four times for Detroit since New Year's Day because of an inflamed left knee.

Detroit sits in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, one point up on Columbus and two ahead of Toronto. The Maple Leafs, though, have played two more games than either Detroit or Columbus. The Blue Jackets also play tonight, against Chicago.

Jimmy Howard is starting tonight; Mike Babcock said Jonas Gustavsson will start Saturday at Montreal.

The Wings have regained several players over the past few weeks, but a few remain injured: Henrik Zetterberg (back, out rest of season), Jonathan Ericsson (finger, out rest of season), Stephen Weiss (sports hernia, out indefinitely), Daniel Cleary (knee, out indefinitely) and Mikael Samuelsson (shoulder, out indefinitely).

This is also good news, per DetroitRedWings.com's Roose:

#RedWings GM Ken Holland said he believes that captain Henrik Zetterberg (back surgery) will be back on skates sometime next week.

Pleiness also penned a "Quote of the Day"...

Wings coach Mike Babcock on Pavel Datsyuk returning to the lineup after missing the last 16 games with inflammation in his left knee.

“It’s not about Pavel Datsyuk tonight it’s about the Red Wings, he’s got to fit in,” Babcock said.

Update #3: Per MLive's Ansar Khan...

Wings general manager Ken Holland said he expects Henrik Zetterberg to start skating next week. Earliest he might return is mid-first round.

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Holland said Stephen Weiss not expected to play this season after experiencing multiple setbacks in comeback from hernia surgery.

And the Windsor Star's Bob Duff:

Mike Babcock will tie Jack Adams (413) as winningest coach in #redwings history with his next victory.

Update #4: Dueling posts here. Zetterberg will skate soon, Weiss is done for the year and Ericsson won't be back until the middle of a theoretical first round...

Here's MLive's Ansar Khan on Weiss, who's "done for the year"...

“I know he’s frustrated; he’s not on the horizon to come back,” [Red Wings GM Ken] Holland said. “I don’t know where he’s really at (with his condition). I was just in there talking to Steve, talking to our trainers; everybody is a little bit frustrated because we obviously thought he would be back by now, actually a long time ago. So they’re going through a check list. We might send him back next week to see the doc who performed surgery (William Meyers in Philadelphia), but in the meantime, he continues his rehab.”

Weiss also saw a doctor in St. Louis for a second opinion.

“The doctor who performed the surgery and the doctor in St. Louis both think (another operation) is not an issue,” Holland said. “At this stage of the game I’m not expecting him back this year. I think that’s the way we have to go forth, I mean, he’s not even practicing.”

Zetterberg...

"I don’t have an exact date but I think next week sometime he’s going to start to put skates on,” Holland said. “Now I don’t know to what extent he’s going to push. I think he’s still waiting for the doctor to give him (the OK). But I know on the horizon he’s going to put skates on.”

He added, “We’re not getting Zetterberg back for anytime in the regular season and if we can play our way into the playoffs don’t expect him to play at the start of the first-round playoff series. … That’s the time frame where the doctor had said around eight weeks that he would start giving him some clearance to do some things. Now it depends on how he heals. Eight weeks is probably around the middle of the first round.”

And Ericsson:

“The doctor told him the first couple of weeks, because of infection, they didn’t want him training or working out,” Holland said. “I know he’s been working hard off ice. He’s ramped it up. He’ll get the green light to skate soon.”

The Windsor Star's Bob Duff also penned a story about Datsyuk's return:

The question brought a smile to Pavel Datsyuk’s face as he headed toward the exit to the Detroit Red Wings’ dressing room Friday morning.

“You playing tonight?” a reporter asked.

“Oh, yes,” Datsyuk said, the grin widening.

After missing 16 games following post-Olympic knee surgery, Datsyuk returns to the lineup to face the Buffalo Sabres Friday and it will be the first time he’s played on Joe Louis Arena ice since Dec. 23.

“It’s been long time no play,” Datsyuk said. “I forget I’m hockey player. It’s exciting to come back.”

Datsyuk will start at centre between Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader.

“They play with confidence, they play well, and they have speed and they have power,” Datsyuk said of his linemates. “I try to use this one (pointing to Abdelkader’s locker). He always tries to help me.”

Update #5: For whatever reason, the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan chose to focus on Joakim Andersson in his game-day article:

Andersson's role has changed considerably from the end of last season. If you remember, it was Andersson centering a line of Gustav Nyquist and Damien Brunner heading into the playoffs that provided an offensive spark for the Red Wings, scoring timely goals.

Friday, Andersson was on a checking line centered by Luke Glendening, with Drew Miller on the opposite wing.

"He's not getting the same opportunity, we have him playing on the wall," coach Mike Babcock said.

Andersson had a minus-11 rating heading into Friday's game, a sign his defensive game hasn't been what he's wanted.

"I haven't been as good in our own end," Andersson said. "It can be a confidence thing, too, (similar to offense). If you make a couple of mistakes in your own end and you get a little cautious, maybe you're not as aggressive and you give the forwards some gaps instead of being right on them. It's the small things that make you a better player and if you do those things, it makes you a better defensive player. I've been better the last couple months, but for sure I need to keep working to get back to the level I know I can be at."

Update #6: For what it's worth, NHL.com's Corey Masisak delivered a "zinger" in his "Super 16"...

13. Detroit Red Wings (36-26-14) LW: 15

Gustav Nyquist has scored twice since you started reading this.

MUST READ: Coach Mike Babcock is about to become the all-time leader in wins in franchise history, writes Brian Hedger.

And NHL.com's already posted 3 mock drafts.

Update #7: From ESPN's Scott Burside's "Ramblings":

David Legwand went to high school in Grosse Pointe, Mich., and played junior hockey in nearby Plymouth before the Nashville Predators selected him with the second overall pick in the 1998 draft. Until a month ago, he'd played all of his 956 regular-season games in a Predators jersey. But if he was going to find himself in a new jersey at the trade deadline, it was more than a little fitting that it would be the winged wheel of the Detroit Red Wings. Throw in a heated battle for a playoff berth and the fact Legwand was simply able to move into the home he and his family have had in the Detroit area for years and, well, you couldn't ask for a more seamless transition.

"It's been exciting," Legwand told ESPN.com. "No one wants to play the last 10 or 15 games for nothing."

With the Predators headed for a second straight season out of the playoffs, Legwand admitted that agreeing to a trade from the only team he's known was difficult, but he is enjoying the emotion of the Red Wings' battle to return to the playoffs for a 23rd straight season. Although he's 33 and headed to unrestricted free agency this summer, Legwand is suddenly among the grizzled veterans of a Wings squad that has relied on untested but talented youth to help carry the team in the face of injuries to established players Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen. Indeed, Legwand points out, were it not for those injuries, the Wings probably wouldn't have needed his services. Whether or not he ends up staying with his hometown team, Legwand has certainly helped his market value with three goals and seven assists in his first 15 games.

NHL.com's At the Rink Blog estimates that the Sabres will utilize the following lineup this evening...

SABRES

Cody Hodgson - Zemgus Girgensons - Brian Flynn

Ville Leino - Tyler Ennis - Nicolas Deslauriers

Luke Adam - Johan Larsson - Matt D'Agostini

Cory Conacher - Matt Ellis - John Scott

Christian Ehrhoff - Rasmus Ristolainen

Mike Weber - Chad Ruhwedel

Jake McCabe - Jamie McBain

Matt Hackett

Nathan Lieuwen

Injured: Drew Stafford (undisclosed), Henrik Tallinder (lower body), Kevin Porter (lower body), Chris Stewart (ankle), Alexander Sulzer (upper body), Michal Neuvirth (lower body), Jhonas Enroth (lower body), Torrey Mitchell (undisclosed), Tyler Myers (midsection), Zenon Konopka (back), Marcus Foligno (lower body)

DetroitRedWings.com's Andrea Nelson penned a morning skate article...

Before Friday’s morning skate, Alfredsson hadn’t skated since Detroit’s 3-2 victory over Tampa Bay Sunday. The forward’s back injury is the same issue that kept him out for six games dating from Jan. 11 – Jan. 20. If he plays against Buffalo, Alfredsson will return to the lineup alongside center Pavel Datsyuk, who has missed the past 16 games with a knee injury.

“He’s a world class player, I expect him to play good,” Babcock said of Datsyuk, who will skate on a line with Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader. “We’ll see how he plays and we’ll play him accordingly. We have him on the power play. We have him on a line. We’ll play the game and watch and see what happens.”

The addition of the two veterans is likely to give a young and confident Detroit team an extra boost with just six games remaining in the regular season.

“We're feeling good about ourselves,” said center Joakim Andersson. “We're in a good spot in the standings. We've got to make sure to win some more games to keep the position we have. Once we know we've got into the playoffs then we will really feel good about ourselves.”

Despite their growing confidence, Andersson knows the Wings can’t afford to overlook any other teams at this point in the season. That is especially true against the Sabres, who enter The Joe a dangerous opponent despite their 21-46-9 record.


“Those teams are hard to play,” Andersson said. “They know they've been out of a playoff spot for a long time, so they have some young guys who are trying out. They work hard and they are hard to play against. It's the same as Edmonton as those teams.”

Via RedWingsFeed, CBS Detroit's Ashley Dunkak took note of Babcock's comments about Datsyuk's return and its implications for the other lines, starting with the Franzen-Legwand-Nyquist one...

“My thought process is Nyquist is playing great where he’s playing, and so I don’t want him deferring and giving the puck to Pav,” Babcock said. “I want him shooting it in the net.”

Nyquist scored the game-winning breakaway goal Wednesday against the Boston Bruins, and it was the 10th straight game in which Nyquist earned a point. Nyquist now has 46 points (including 28 goals) in 51 games. One of the hottest players in the NHL, Nyquist has received Star of the Week honors from the NHL and was also named one of the league’s stars for the entire month of March.

Babcock also plans on keeping together what has come to be called the “kid line” of Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco.

“It’s hard to play with good players, veteran players, because you think you’ve got to give them the puck,” Babcock said. “That’s why I keep those kids together. They don’t worry about giving each other the puck. They just do the right thing. As soon as I play one of them with a senior-type player, then they want to look after that guy.

“It’s not about Pavel Datsyuk tonight,” Babcock added. “It’s about the Red Wings. He’s got to fit in.”

Tatar is 23 years old, Sheahan is 22, and Jurco is 21, but their play has impressed the coach, and he does not want to disrupt their chemistry by changing up the lines even though Datsyuk has returned.

“If they didn’t play well, we’d try to do something else with it, but they’ve played well,” Babcock said. “They’re important players on our team, they’ve given us offense and been good defensively. At the same time, we’ve got to get them to take care of the puck. Sometimes they get a little careless with the puck, but other than that, they’ve been excellent.”

And the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan penned an injury update article, noting that Holland kept expectations low regarding Henrik Zetterberg's possible return:

"I don't want to overplay this," Holland said. "We're hopeful that when we return from our games in Buffalo and Pittsburgh, Hank might be ready, in some form, to begin skating. I don't know if it'll be all out, or in what form. But we think he could be ready."

Zetterberg isn't expected to return for the playoffs, if the Red Wings qualify, until the latter half of the first round at the earliest.

The news isn't as optimistic with forward Stephen Weiss. Since having sports hernia surgery done in mid-January, Weiss has struggled with getting healthy, suffering several setbacks. With only 10 days left in the regular season, and again suffering a setback, Weiss will not be returning this season.

"It's been frustrating for Stephen and everyone involved," said Holland, adding Weiss will see doctors in the next week or two.

Update #8: Here's the Wings' game-day preview video:

Update #9: FYI, from DetroitRedWings.com's Roose:

The @BuffaloSabres are the only Eastern Conference team that #RedWings Gus Nyquist hasn't collected at least one point against. Predictions?

...

One thing Nyquist won't do is match Yzerman's 31 goals in 30 games (1988-89). No #RedWings player has had a better 30-game stretch since.

The Red Wings website's game notes have Don VanMassenhoven and Marc Joanette reffing tonight's game, with Greg Devorski and Steve Miller working the lines.

Update #10: DetroitRedWings.com's Roose penned an article about the Wings' injuries:

On the good news front, Holland also provided updates on forward Henrik Zetterberg (back surgery) and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (finger surgery).

The Wings don’t expect either player to be available before late April, which equates to the last half of a first-round playoff series, but both will likely beginning skating again by the end of next week.

“We’re not getting Zetterberg back for anytime in the regular season and if we can play our way into the playoffs don’t expect him to play at the start of the first-round playoff series,” Holland said. “Obviously, we’ve got Ericsson out too. I think he’s probably out until the middle or late first round, maybe even miss the first round, but in the meantime we have to figure out a way to win a game.”

With six games remaining, the Red Wings, who have 86 points, host the Buffalo Sabres tonight at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit gets Pavel Datsyuk (knee) back in the lineup for the first time at The Joe since Dec. 23.

“Adversity is good for an organization to grow,” Holland said. “I think realistically you expect to have 2-3 players out. But when we had stretches when we had 9-10 players out it was a real challenge, especially when you factor in the quality of the people you we missing. Everybody had 2-3 injuries. I don’t mind 2-3 injuries.”

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So the Wings have anywhere from 89% to 91.7% chance to make the playoffs, yet tonight has “really turned into a must-win situation”?  I don’t get it. 

90 points will probably be enough and they have 86 now.  91 would make me feel very comfortable.  92 with a couple ROW guarantees a spot. 

There are 6 games left, 3 against bottom-dwellers and 2 against teams that will likely be resting star players and/or not playing as hard as they can.  Knowing all that, I can’t see how anyone comes to the conclusion that this is a must-win.  Would be nice, though.

Posted by jkm2011 on 04/04/14 at 11:51 AM ET

SYF's avatar

In the first posting by normally reliable Pleiness;

Pavel Datsyuk will center a line a line with Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader. #RedWings
...
Four line will consist of Glendening centering Abdelkader and Miller. The Kid Line remain intact. Legwand, Nyquist and Franzen other line.

Eh?

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 04/04/14 at 11:53 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

According to Paul, 93 points would guarantee that the Wings can stave off the Leafs if they “win out” and that would help the team avoid getting caught by the Capitals, too.

*Being safer,* 94 points—which means 8 more over the next 6 games—would really help, and given the Wings’ performances against Montreal and Pittsburgh, the team should pack away as many points against Buffalo as possible. These are as close to must-must-win games as they get.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/04/14 at 12:05 PM ET

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Eh?

I’ma guess that the fourth line will have Andersson, not Abdelkader.

yet tonight has “really turned into a must-win situation”?  I don’t get it.

Well see, when your chances of making the playoffs aren’t “100%” and there are a couple teams breathing down your neck, it’s pretty much must-win till the end of the year because you don’t want to have to rely on other teams losing in order to get in.

Seriously, do you have such a pathological need to bitch about George’s writing that you’re being willfully stupid just so you can complain?

Posted by Garth on 04/04/14 at 12:06 PM ET

SYF's avatar

I’ma guess that the fourth line will have Andersson, not Abdelkader.

Posted by Garth on 04/04/14 at 12:06 PM E

Probably a typo on Pleiness’ part.  Agree.

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 04/04/14 at 12:11 PM ET

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I view every game as a must win situation at this stage of the season..until you are safely in and seeded as high as possible. The 7th spot is theirs for the taking but they have to win enough games to hold onto it….unless other teams lose. And, you can’t count on that.

Is it possible to catch Montreal or Tampa? Possible, yes, but highly improbable. But, then again, we were not even close to Toronto 3 weeks ago.

Posted by NewfieWing on 04/04/14 at 12:49 PM ET

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In order for the Wings to need 94 points to get in, ALL of the following things must happen:

1) Washington wins all 6 of its remaining games before the shootout,
2) Detroit does not get a single non-shootout win the rest of way, and
3) Columbus finishes ahead of Detroit in the standings.

In short: it’s possible in theory only. For practical purposes, you can consider it impossible.

Washington maxes out at 93 points if they win out, and they’re 6 ROWs behind Detroit. Toronto and New Jersey max out at 92 if they win out. Everyone else is below even that.

So yes, the Wings need 94 to be “safe,” if you think a 99.999+ percent chance of success is too risky.

93 will do it, guaranteed, in anything resembling a rational universe. 92 is going to do it 19 times out of 20. And 91 is going to do it probably 9 out of 10.

Yes, there’s still plenty of opportunity to screw this up and miss altogether, and it’d be lovely to be able to finish 7th and get into the MetroLOLitan division for the playoffs, but I wouldn’t say this is a must-win by any stretch.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 04/04/14 at 01:33 PM ET

WingedRider's avatar

One game at a time for me and Please Wings do not take Buffalo lightly!!

Posted by WingedRider from Saskatoon, SK on 04/04/14 at 01:39 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I am one of those people who thinks a 99.9% chance of success shouldn’t be tested. I won’t deny that for a second.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/04/14 at 01:50 PM ET

TreKronor's avatar

I am one of those people who thinks a 99.9% chance of success shouldn’t be tested. I won’t deny that for a second.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/04/14 at 01:50 PM ET

I second that.  I’m afraid to even start talking about which of the Wild Card spots the Wings could get. 

Of course it’s improbable that the Wings fall out and another team takes their spot, but then again it was only just a few weeks ago that the Wings had a 37% (+/-) chance of making the playoffs.

Posted by TreKronor on 04/04/14 at 03:53 PM ET

bigfrog's avatar

According to Paul, 93 points would guarantee that the Wings can stave off the Leafs if they “win out” and that would help the team avoid getting caught by the Capitals, too.

*Being safer,* 94 points—which means 8 more over the next 6 games—would really help, and given the Wings’ performances against Montreal and Pittsburgh, the team should pack away as many points against Buffalo as possible. These are as close to must-must-win games as they get.

I figure win their 2 remaining home games, and the road game in Buffalo that should put them into the playoffs. The other 3 road games will be tough ones.

Posted by bigfrog on 04/04/14 at 05:50 PM ET

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I agree with Babcock on this 100% percent and was noticing it myself any time Tatar or Nyquist were playing with Dats earlier the season (yes, there were couple of shifts).

“It’s hard to play with good players, veteran players, because you think you’ve got to give them the puck,” Babcock said after the morning skate. “That’s why I keep those kids together, they don’t worry about giving each other the puck, they just do the right thing. As soon as I play one of them with a senior-type player, then they want to look after that guy. Nyquist is playing great where he’s playing. I don’t want him deferring and giving the puck to Pav, I want him shooting it in the net.

Posted by VPalmer on 04/04/14 at 06:24 PM 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.

 

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