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Red Wings-Sabres game-day updates: Howard starts for Wings; Sabres get reinforcements

Updated at 12:55 PM: The Detroit Red Wings hope to shake off Saturday's loss to Montreal when they battle the Sabres this evening (7 PM, FSD/MSG-B/97.1 FM), kicking off a slate of back-to-backs (Detroit plays in Pittsburgh tomorrow), 3 games in 4 nights and 4 in 6 to close out their regular season.

The Wings defeated Buffalo 3-2 last Friday, barely hanging on prior to laying two periods' worth of eggs against the Habs, but the Wings insist that they won't take Buffalo lightly again.

Again, last night's Devils loss theoretically drops the Wings' "Magic Number" of points needed to clinch a playoff spot down to 3, though the Wings and Blue Jackets (who host the Coyotes this evening) are still neck-and-neck in terms of locking down the first Wild Card spot, which would allow the teams to avoid a 1st-round match-up with the Boston Bruins (and again, Columbus has 40 total wins to the Wings' 37 and 35 Regulation-or-OT wins to the Wings' 32):

The Sabres skated first this morning, but DetroitRedWings.com's BIll Roose was there, and he confirmed that Jimmy Howard would start opposite Matt Hackett:

#RedWings goalie Jimmy Howard is expected to start tonight in Buffalo. He has a 5-0-0 all-time record with 1.28 GAA and 950 SV% vs. #Sabres.

To save you from a cavalcade of "other team's morning skate" Tweets, I'd prefer to refer to the Buffalo News's Mike Harrington's morning skate update instead:

---Defenseman Mark Pysyk has been called up from Rochester and will dress tonight. Christian Ehrhoff is on the ice but his status is uncertain after getting his ear sliced for 40 stitches Sunday. John Scott is on defense this morning.

The Sabres made that official if you're interested in those Pysyk or the Sabres' new back-up goaltender:

---Goaltender Andrey Makarov has been recalled and will back up Matt Hackett tonight before returning to play for the Amerks Friday. We'll have to find out what the Sabres' plans are for the weekend.

---Luke Adam has been returned to Rochester because Marcus Foligno, Chris Stewart and Torrey Mitchell are all expected to return tonight. It will be Stewart's home debut. His two previous games for Buffalo were on the road, at Dallas and Tampa Bay.  Drew Stafford is also skating today, but as an extra.

The lines are currently:


The Sabres' Twitter account takes things from there...

Konopka, Leino and Stafford also here but didn't skate in first line rushes. #Sabres


#Sabres defense at AM skate: McCabe-Pysyk




Leino, Konopka, Stafford doing some extra work w/ #Sabres Assistant Coach Joe Sacco. Looks like they'll be scratches tonight.


Hackett first off the ice. Your starter in goal tonight. #Sabres


"I'm excited." -Chris Stewart, ready to return tonight. #Sabres


Ehrhoff and Weber will both be able to play tonight, Nolan says. #Sabres

In terms of the Wings' playoff odds, as noted in the overnight report, Yahoo Sports' Greg Wyshynski states that SportsClubStats pegs the Wings' chances of earning the first Wild Card spot at 57% and the second Wild Card spot at 38%, and he duly notes that the Blue Jackets will have quite the advantage heading into a slate of 4 games in 5 nights because they're "re-playing" tomorrow's game against Dallas:

Detroit hosts Buffalo tonight, while the Blue Jackets begin their incredible, season-defining back-to-back games vs. the Coyotes and at Dallas – the “Rich Peverley game,” in which the Jackets already have a 1-0 lead.

NHL.com's Daily Primer pointed out that the Coyotes and Stars are battling for the West's second Wild Card spot, so the Coyotes won't be pushovers:

[T]he Blue Jackets take on the Phoenix Coyotes at Nationwide Arena. Columbus has a three-point lead on New Jersey and the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card in the East. Phoenix trails the Dallas Stars by one point for the second wild card in the Western Conference; the Stars are hosting the Nashville Predators at American Airlines Center.

In more Wings-specific news, MLive's Ansar Khan penned a 6 AM-posted article about the team's desire to earn as many points as possible instead of focusing on that dang "Magic Number" (a.k.a. yesterday's practice narrative):

“We’re close but we’re not there yet,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “There are important games coming up. We don’t want to be waiting until the last game, hoping teams are losing; that’s not a fun position to be in. We can take care of our own business; that would be the best way to do it.”

The Red Wings got some help Monday night when the Calgary Flames defeated New Jersey 1-0. It reduced Detroit’s magic number for clinching a playoff spot to three points (any combination of three points earned by the Red Wings or lost by the Devils).

“I think we’re in a good spot right now,” forward Drew Miller said. “We have to win some games. Our mindset is to continue playing well and make the playoffs. That’s our goal and we want to continue playing well when we get in the playoffs.”


“We have to win our games and we can’t expect other teams to lose,” Detroit’s Daniel Alfredsson said. “We got to expect that everybody is going to win their games to close the season. It’s obviously better to be in a position where you control your own destiny and that’s what we want to do.”

The Red Wings are 4-1-0 in their past five and 8-4-1 in their past 13.

“I think the way we’ve been playing for the last -- it seems like this whole year -- it’s been big games every night with a lot of pressure every night,” Alfredsson said. “I think as a group we’ve embraced it and done the most of it. Coming into the playoffs we just have to continue what we’re doing. I think we’ve built a real good foundation where we trust in each other as a group. We just have to make sure that we keep it going this week and we’ll be looking pretty good.”

(Alfredsson's former team has 80 points and won't make the playoffs, so take that for what you will)

Cue the roll call: the Free Press's Helene St. James noted the following...

Buffalo coach Ted Nolan says #RedWings cookie-cutter model for how to be successful team.

As did the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...

Ted Nolan the Sabres coach says the Red Wings are a team his organization can model....especially in terms of player development

And NHL.com's Joe Yerdon reports that the Leino Lounge is open...

Leino, Konopka, and Stafford out tonight. Latter is injured.

As did Buffalo Hockey Beat's Bill Hoppe...

Ville Leino is a healthy scratch tonight. So are Zenon Konopka and John Scott. #Sabres

And WGR 550's Paul Hamilton:

Nolan said Konopka and Leino are healthy scratches. Makarov will back up in NY then go play in Roch on Fri. Ehrhoff and Weber will play

No John Scott or Zenon Konopka = good for the Wings players' health.

Meanwhile, the Wings' morning skate got underway...

And Roose noted that Ville Leino going to Philly, flourishing for a season and then cashing in with Buffalo was not the worst thing in the world, at least from a longer-term perspective:

#Sabres Nolan said former #RedWings LW Ville Leino will be a healthy scratch vs. his ex-teammates tonight. He is scoreless in 56 games

In business news of a different kind, if you missed yesterday's announcement, MLive's David Muller reports that the Wings' parent company has decided upon its general contractors to build the follow-on rink, and they hope to receive approval for their proposals at a Downtown Development Authority meeting tomorrow:

Olympia Development of Michigan has picked Barton Malow-Hunt-White as the general contractor for a $450 million, 18,000-seat arena the company plans to build for the Detroit Red Wings in the Lower Cass Corridor.

Olympia, the development arm of Ilitch Holdings, which also owns the Detroit Tigers and the Fox Theatre, submitted its pick to Detroit’s Downtown Development Authority for review. The DDA is scheduled to vote on the recommendation Wednesday at 3 p.m.

The staff of Barton Malow-Hunt-White, a combination of two Metro Detroit-based companies and an Indianapolis firm, has had its hand in projects such as Ford Field, Comerica Park and the expansion of Michigan Football Stadium in Ann Arbor. Hunt Construction Group, the firm based in Indianapolis, oversaw construction of the Marlins Park baseball field in Miami, the Amway Center in Orlando and the Barclays Center Brooklyn.

According to Olympia, construction of the 650,000-square-foot arena in Detroit will create about 5,500 jobs. It’s part of a larger, $650 million project that encompasses a 45-block area between Midtown and downtown, where the company said it is developing an entertainment district with mixed-use developments.

Cue the sketchy numbers...

The entire project will create about 8,300 jobs and have about a $1.8 billion economic impact, according to Olympia. As the proposed development made its way through City Council, several council members said they would sign off on it so long as Detroiters would reap employment from it.

Olympia said more than half of the construction jobs for the new arena will be filled by Detroit residents, with more than $100 million paid to Detroit workers. City Council has approved property transfers and other measures allowing the project to move forward, despite concern for the use of public money.

And an optimistic time frame:

It’s not immediately clear when construction will begin, but Olympia says the arena will be ready for the 2016 NHL hockey season. When the Detroit Red Wings vacate the Joe Louis Arena, their current home ice, the city will demolish the arena with the intention of redeveloping the riverfront land. On that front, the state has agreed to lend the city $6 million up front to help with demolition costs. The city would have to repay the money through tax increment financing with a new development at the riverfront site near the Cobo Center.

Heading back to the morning skate, per Roose:

It's an optional morning skate for the #RedWings with 10 forwards, four defensemen and two goalies.

Wings coach Mike Babcock had his lines in a blender yesterday, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted earlier this morning, so it's hard to say whether the following Kulfan-posted lines will stick...

Babcock had Datsyuk centering Johan Franzen and Justin Abdelkader, while Riley Sheahan centered Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar.

David Legwand centered a third line with Helm and Alfredsson on the wings, while Luke Glendening centered the fourth line with Tomas Jurco and Drew Miller – although Legwand, Jurco, and Joakim Andersson (a healthy scratch last game) rotated among both lines.

And on Monday, Babcock told St. James to not pay too much heed to the shake-ups:

"We think we have to be a real detail-orientated team in order to have success, so it’s just reminders,” he said. “It’s turning light bulbs on again, making sure guys are on top of their game.

“Each year you like to get off to a real good start so you don’t have these games at this time of year, but you’re thrilled to have them when you don’t.”

Back to Buffalo!

The Red Wings' Game Day Blog posted a historical note...

On This Day in Red Wings' History...On April 8, 1943

The Red Wings celebrate their second Stanley Cup championship after goalie John Mowers posts a 2-0 win in Game 4 over Boston.

As well as Ken Kal's Keys to the Game:

Start Fast - The team has had two days off and needs to be focused and ready to go right from the opening faceoff.

Play a full 60 minutes - Last time these teams met, Detroit let Buffalo back into the game late. The Wings need to play a complete game and keep the pedal to the metal.

Strong defensive effort - Detroit has to play smart in their own zone and play well in front of Jimmy Howard.

The Detroit News's Kulfan confirmed that the Wings aren't going to make any changes this evening--at least in terms of overall personnel--save their starting goaltender:

Same lineup Howard starting

NHL.com's Yerdon confirmed...

Wings going with the same lineup as last game. Howard starts.

As did MLive's Khan...

Babcock said he's using same lineup as last game with exception of Howard starting in goal. So Bertuzzi and Andersson scratched.

And the Free Press's St. James:

Mike Babcock said Jimmy Howard starting at Buffalo only change to #RedWings lineup

Oh hey, by the way:

TPL Hockey also has an injury update of sorts:

With tonight's 5, the Wings hit 400 man-games lost to injury. Groins account for 125 (31.3%). Shoulder (68), Knee (64), Back (46) follow.


Weiss has missed the most to injury (53), followed by Helm (40), Datsyuk (37), Zetterberg (34), Ericsson (31), and Franzen (27).


Samuelsson has missed 53 of the team's games: 25 as a healthy scratch, 21 to injury, and 7 on assignment in Grand Rapids.

For what it's worth, via RedWingsFeed, TSN hyped up both the Blue Jackets and Red Wings' games tonight, and it noted the following:

Tuesday's game marks an excellent chance for Detroit to get back on track, as the Red Wings have won seven straight and 10 of their last 11 games against Buffalo. The Sabres also have lost three in a row and six of their past seven home tests against Detroit.

Update #0.5: Here's some Sabres roster confirmation from the Buffalo News's Harrington:

--Chris Stewart, Marcus Foligno and Torrey Mitchell all return. Ville Leino and Zenon Konopka will be healthy scratches while Drew Stafford is working his way back and could play Thursday in New York. Luke Adam has been returned to Rochester.

---Christian Ehrhoff said he will play tonight after getting his ear sliced Sunday. Mike Weber took another maintenance day from the morning skate but should also play tonight. Mark Pysyk has been recalled from Rochester. John Scott played defense this morning but should be a scratch.

---Andrey Makarov has been recalled from Rochester to back up Matt Hackett tonight and Thursday, and then will return to Rochester to play in the Amerks' key game Friday night. After that, Nolan said GM Tim Murray will have to "work his magic" to get another goalie for Saturday in Boston and Sunday's finale here against the New York Islanders.

Update #1: Red Wings GM Ken Holland gave a 12:30 interview to Detroit Sports 105.1, and the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa took notes...

Holland says of datsyuk, "hoping over the course of this week, he gets better and better." #RedWings


Holland says "I don't know that everyone is going to get 100% approval rating in this business. Sometime they don't like the way you walk."


Holland says current plan is to have zetterberg skate, although perhaps not with the team, thurs or Fri. Ericsson out til 2d rd. #RedWings


Holland was heard on #dsports1501. Just to be clear. #RedWings

As did Detroit Sports 105.1's Danny Kapp:

Ericsson unlikely for 1st round, hope Z starts skating later this week. -Ken Holland on @DSports1051 w/ @RyanErmanniFox2 & @RicoBeard

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


SYF's avatar

Thanks, G.

Play a full 60 minutes - Last time these teams met, Detroit let Buffalo back into the game late. The Wings need to play a complete game and keep the pedal to the metal.

Strong defensive effort - Detroit has to play smart in their own zone and play well in front of Jimmy Howard.

Ken Kal preaching it.

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 04/08/14 at 11:30 AM ET

MOWingsfan19's avatar

Just win.

Posted by MOWingsfan19 from I really like our team on 04/08/14 at 11:49 AM ET


Hypothetical question on playoff format:

Say the Wings play PIT and NYR plays PHI. Wings and PHI advance to second round…even though PHI would be higher seed, if Wings finish with more points would Wings get home ice? Or is automatically the higher seed that gets it?

Posted by A II R on 04/08/14 at 01:00 PM ET

MoreShoot's avatar

You might think Pav would give up his Abbey fetish for just one game and play with the hottest hand on the team, wouldn’t you?

Posted by MoreShoot on 04/08/14 at 01:05 PM ET


The way it’s going Zetterberg might recover from his back surgery quicker than Ericsson from a broken finger.

Posted by VPalmer on 04/08/14 at 01:29 PM ET


You might think Pav would give up his Abbey fetish for just one game and play with the hottest hand on the team, wouldn’t you?

I am not so sure that playing Nyquist (or Tatar) with Dats is such a good idea. I absolutely agree with Babcock when he said that young players tend to shy away from their game when they play with veterans and especially with star players. Any time Nyquist or Tatar played with Dats in the past, they always tried just to give him the puck instead of taking control of the shift as they have been doing playing without Dats.

Posted by VPalmer on 04/08/14 at 01:34 PM ET


theoretically drops the Wings’ “Magic Number” of points needed to clinch a playoff spot down to 3

3 points in either or both directions to clinch is a fact, not a theory.

Posted by jkm2011 on 04/08/14 at 01:40 PM ET

MoreShoot's avatar

Any time Nyquist or Tatar played with Dats in the past, they always tried just to give him the puck instead of taking control of the shift as they have been doing playing without Dats.

Posted by VPalmer on 04/08/14 at 02:34 PM ET

But that’s all Abbey does, too.

Posted by MoreShoot on 04/08/14 at 02:26 PM ET


But that’s all Abbey does, too

But that’s OK though. Abby is a complimetary player on any line, the less he has the puck, the better.

Posted by VPalmer on 04/08/14 at 02:35 PM ET


I do not like Franzen/Abby/Dats line not because of Abby, but because Franzen and Dats have no chemistry together. Franzen has a good shot, but he is effective when he is bringing the puck up the ice himself. He is not Brett Hull type of shooter who needs a passer to give him the puck. Alfy and Dats have much better chemistry and I would play them with Abby if Babs insists on having a no skill guy with Dats.

Posted by VPalmer on 04/08/14 at 02:38 PM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

Alfy and Dats have much better chemistry and I would play them with Abby if Babs insists on having a no skill guy with Dats.

Unsure you want 2 guys @ 80% returning from injury to be on the same line, otherwise I would agree with anything that demoted Franzen’s lazy @$$ to the 3rd line. Need to motivate him to do something close to his capability.

Posted by MurrayChadwick from Holland Hate Hyperbole Town (HHHT) on 04/08/14 at 04:52 PM ET


Unsure you want 2 guys @ 80% returning from injury to be on the same line

I hear you, but it’s not like Franzen will do more than Alfy to make it easier for Dats to come back.  In general I think the more responsibility you give to Franzen, the better he plays. That’s why I like him at center the most.

Posted by VPalmer on 04/08/14 at 05:55 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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