The Malik Report
by George Malik on 10/02/13 at 05:36 PM ET
The Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres face off in about 90 minutes (8 PM EDT, NBCSN/TSN2/97.1 FM, and in addition to today's game-day post, an afternoon/evening slate of stories cropped up while I was taking my pre-game nap.
The Red Wings posted Ken Kal's game-day preview...
Keep Emotions In Check - The adrenaline will be flowing tonight as always on opening night in front of the home crowd. Stay calm and focused.
Trust Your Teammates - When emotions are high, sometime players try to do more than they need to do. Stay within your game.
Create Scoring Opportunities - Ryan Miller is a solid goaltender, one of the best in the business. The Red Wings need to get shots through and bear down on their chances when they get scoring opportunities.
Which also posted a slate of "Morning Skate" updates:
After tweaking his groin in the penultimate preseason game, Stephen Weiss will be in the lineup tonight centering the second line, a group with high expectations.
"I think the sky's the limit for us. To be able to play behind Pav and Z and Abby 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."- Stephen Weiss
"Obviously, Mule is the key, the driving force 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."- Mike Babcock
Daniel Alfredsson will also make his debut tonight as a member of the Red Wings.
"I'm excited to get started tonight...I feel good. I'm ready to go, no question."- Daniel Alfredsson
Despite being placed on waivers this week, Cory Emmerton will center the fourth line tonight alongside Miller and Samuelsson.
"I just want to play hockey. That's the only mindset that I have. Now I have an opportunity to prove that I can be, should be on this team."- Cory Emmerton
And DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose spoke with Alfredsson and Weiss about their Wings debuts:
“I don't know if I had a moment where it's like, ‘Now I am one.’ I'm in a process here of getting used to everything, the guys, the room,” said Alfredsson who is getting over a groin injury that limited him to two preseason games. “Played my first exhibition game at home last week, can't say I feel any different. Feel like you're part of the team. This is a great organization, it's fun to be here.”
The assimilation process for Alfredsson has been helped by having fellow Swedes Henrik Zetterberg, Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Kronwall, Joakim Andersson, Mikael Samuelsson and Johan Franzen in the locker room.
“When you're on the ice you don't really notice it,” he said. “It's when you watch video in the coaches room or you see highlight of yourself in a different jersey, it feels different, but overall the guys have been great in the room and I'm excited to get started tonight.”
The Red Wings open the season against new Atlantic Division rival Buffalo, the same franchise that Alfredsson opened up against 18 years ago this week at the Ottawa Civic Centre. He collected his first NHL point on Oct. 7, 1995, assisting on Michel Picard’s goal on Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek in the Senators’ 3-1 loss.
“This is like a new start and it's at home against Buffalo. It's fitting,” Alfredsson said.
Nerves will definitely be a part of tonight’s pre-game for Weiss, who said his parents are making the drive in from suburban Toronto to be at the game.
“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,” Weiss said. “Last night was tough getting to sleep. It's going to be a long day today, sitting around waiting for it to get started.”
Weiss and Alfredsson believe that they can provide significant offensive pop as the Franzen-Weiss-Alfredsson line hopes to take some of the scoring pressure off of Datsyuk and Zetterberg:
“I think the sky's the limit for us,” Weiss said. “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.”
MLive's Brendan Savage spoke with Drew Miller about tonight's game marking the first of four meetings between himself and his brother Ryan's Sabres:
"There's nothing like opening night at home versus your brother," said Drew Miller, who is beginning his seventh NHL season and fifth in Detroit. "We have family and friends who want to coordinate tickets and pass list and all of that kind of stuff. It will definitely be different having it on the first night, but I don't think it changes anything. It's always a little bit hectic when I play against him. The goal this time is to get a couple more shots and get a goal past him, and as always get a win for the team.You have to make it about your team and not about your brother."
Ryan Miller is beginning his 11th NHL season – all with the Sabres – and this is the seventh time his team has played against a team featuring Drew, who has also played for Anaheim and Tampa Bay. But it will mark the fifth time they've both played, as Ryan Miller was on the bench for two of those aforementioned meetings.
Drew has the upper hand in the NHL rivalry with his brother. His teams are 5-1 against the Sabres and 3-1 with Ryan on the ice.Drew has yet to score a goal on Ryan but he did draw an assist in the Red Wings' 5-0 victory Jan. 16, 2012. Drew's assist on a goal by Darren Helm chased Ryan Miller from the Buffalo net after he allowed five goals on 14 shots.
After tonight's game, the Red Wings and Sabres are scheduled to meet Nov. 24 in Buffalo, April 4 in Detroit and April 8 in Buffalo.
"Moving to the East is going to be a lot different, being in our own time zone a lot more, and less travel, which I think is going to be great for us," Drew Miller said. "We're used to being on the road a lot more and I think that affects you, whether you know it or not. Playing in the East and playing my brother a lot more is going to be great. I don't see him much anymore because he lives out west in California during the summers, so the more I can see him during the season the better. It will not only be exciting for me and for him, but for our family and our friends who are around here."
Shifting our focus and broadening our perspective a bit, Michigan Hockey and Fox Sports Detroit's Darren Eliot pondered the Wings' move to the East in terms of whether the team and its personnel can compete with a supposedly bigger, tougher and nastier conference...
Last year, remember, there was no East/West crossover until the Blackhawks beat the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final, due to the lockout. Joakim Andersson looked at me when I asked him about the move to the Eastern Conference and politely responded, “I guess it will be good. I don’t really know because I’ve never played a team from the East. I’m looking forward to it though.” Nice kid. He gave a better answer than the question yours truly asked. Of course he had no idea about the East, since he was a rookie last season.
Anyway, moving on, Brendan Smith and Kyle Quincey were equally distant when relating to the East. Smith said he knew very little about those teams and offered, “they probably know very little about us. I’m looking forward to changing that.” To which Quincey smiled and chimed in, “there was no time and no reason to follow what was going on out East last year. Besides, it isn’t a total move East, since we play all Western Conference teams home and away and play teams in our division only four times.”
All fair points made by the players about the newness of realignment. Moving to the coach’s perspective, Mike Babcock said any following of the Eastern Conference teams last season was “purely for entertainment”. Fair enough. What about this year though, Coach, with all the conjecture concerning how the Wings will have to adjust to their new Eastern environs? “You can look at video, but until you get out there and play, it is all speculation. I mean, we are going to do what we do and maybe it is the other way around. Those teams will have to adjust to how we play.”
Ah, yes. How they play. New centerman Stephen Weiss spent the last decade in the Eastern Conference with the Florida Panthers. He said he was “totally lost” the first week of camp getting used to the Wings’ systems. “I’ve spent my entire career playing a certain way in the defensive zone. Some of the automatic reads are different here. I really struggled to get comfortable.” By the final home pre-season game, however, Weiss looked completely acclimated to playing between Johan Franzen and fellow newcomer from the East, Daniel Alfredsson. The line was creative offensively and diligent defensively.
Alfredsson, in fact, scored on the power play, stepping into a one-time slapper. He is a right-handed shot and he plays the point with Niklas Kronwall on the top PP unit. Not only is he right handed – important in that it opens up one-timer opportunities on both sides of the ice – Alfredsson is sure-handed on the point. He manned that position for years during his time as the Senators’ captain in Ottawa, so he has experience. Plus, he played defense growing up, not moving to forward until he was a teenager.
All of that made him attractive to the Wings as they looked to improve on the power play this season. So, in this season of realignment, there is a lot that’s new. What isn’t new is that the Wings adeptly addressed their needs, which should lead to another winning campaign. No matter who or where they are playing.
Both narrowing our focus back to the Wings players' takes while discussing a wide-reaching topic, the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan spoke with Jonathan Ericsson and Daniel Cleary about the NHLPA's vote to approve hybrid icing...
"This (rule) is a good thing, I’m sure," Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. "There's a few times where you get tripped or something like that right by the goal line. You're coming with a lot of speed, and you can get injured."
The NHL implemented the hybrid icing rule during the exhibition season with generally positive feedback. The NHL players association took part in a survey late last week and gave its thumbs-up over the weekend. With the new rule, linesmen will blow the whistle if a defensive player is clearly winning the race for the puck at the defensive-zone faceoff dot.
"I'm glad it's in, it's a real good thing, a good change," coach Mike Babcock said. "The way I look at it, as long as no one is getting hurt, it's a good thing."
Daniel Cleary, the Red Wings' player representative, said he voted against the rule because it puts too much pressure on making a call on the linesman. But Cleary admitted his was a "wishy-washy" no.
"There's going to be some gray areas for linesmen," Cleary said. "But it's good for the defensemen. I'm all for no one getting hurt."
And Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner offered an intriguing take on Detroit's "toughness":
“We’re going to be fine,” Babcock said. “That assessment on video is fine, but the reality is when you start playing them head-to-head is when your start learning about them. We have all the thumbnails, the descriptions of all the players of what they do and all that stuff, but again the reality is until we see them head-to-head, that’s what we think, that’s not what we know.”
Babcock didn’t know if Detroit or the teams in the east would have an advantage over the other. The Wings would have to prepare for essentially 14 new opponents, while the eastern teams would have to become familiar with only two - the Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Babcock is correct. Until Detroit starts playing day in and day out in the east, it’s anybody’s guess of how they’ll fare. A few years ago when the Wings and the Bruins played back-to-back games, Mike Milbury proclaimed the Wings the toughest team in hockey.
After the Wings had blown out the Bruins on their home ice by a 6-1 score on a Friday night, Detroit hosted Boston on Sunday afternoon and won the second contest, 3-2. During the intermission between the second and third periods, Milbury, an analyst for NBC, was incredulous. He was seething. Milbury began a rant about Detroit, calling the Wings pacifists and concluding that the Red Wings were hockey’s toughest team.
In between his start and end points, Milbury told his audience that the Bruins had been hammering Detroit for two games, trying to get the Wings to engage in some fisticuffs, only to have the Wings drop their arms to their sides and skate away.
“Detroit’s not going to fight you,” he bellowed in front of the camera. “They just turn around and skate away.”
After he briefly calmed down, Milbury said that you have to be mentally tough to skate away from an altercation. That toughness isn’t about fighting. It’s about doing whatever it takes to win, including turning the other cheek. That’s why Detroit is hockey’s toughest team – anybody can fight, it takes toughness to refuse to be baited.
The Red Wings are the Red Wings. They will continue to play their puck possession, high-paced two-way game whether they’re in the Eastern Conference, Western Conference or some intergalactic conference on Mars.
In the Twitter department...
I really wish that Detroit Sports 105.1 podcasted their broadcasts...
And while I was about to click "submit entry," this bit from the Detroit News popped up:
Ted Kulfan, Gregg Krupa, John Niyo and Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News predict how far the Wings will go this season.
Ted Kulfan: The move to the Eastern Conference won’t affect the Wings’ record much. They’ll win a lot of regular-season games, but will lose in the second round of the playoffs.
Gregg Krupa: With an improved offensive performance, the Red Wings will have a significantly better regular season and take one more step in the playoffs. The Wings best the Bruins to win the new Atlantic Division, but fall in the Eastern Conference finals.
John Niyo: The East will take some getting used to, and so will the new faces up front. I'd feel better picking the Wings to go all the way if they'd found a top-four defenseman this summer. Instead, I've got them second in their division and losing to the Penguins in the conference finals.
Bob Wojnowski: The Red Wings can ride Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Kronwall and Howard only so long before they need one of their youngsters to become an everyday star. The playoff streak continues, but the Red Wings lose in the second round to the Senators.
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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.