The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/08/14 at 02:33 AM ET
I would complain more about the Red Wings' schedule if the Blue Jackets weren't engaging in such similar circumstances.
After Monday's practice, the Red Wings flew to Buffalo to take on the Sabres tonight (7 PM EDT, not 7:30, on FSD, MSG-B and 97.1 FM); the Wings then head to Pittsburgh for an NBCSN "Rivalry Night" game against Pittsburgh on Wednesday (8 PM EDT start); the team will fly back to Detroit to host the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday, likely after taking Thursday off, and they will then head to St. Louis to battle the Blues on Sunday (this time on NBC, at 12:30 PM EDT, or 11:30 AM local time).
3 games in 4 nights and 4 in 6 makes my Red Wings Injury Spider Sense twitchy, and tonight's game has me a little jittery as well, especially given the way the Wings' play went downhill in their 3-2 win over Buffalo last Friday and continued downhill until the third period of that damn loss to Montreal on Saturday.
Columbus has a similar schedule--as noted in yesterday's overnight report, the Blue Jackets, who are one point behind Detroit's 88, with 3 more total wins (40 vs. 37) and 3 more regulation-or-OT wins (35 vs. 32), host Phoenix tonight (Phoenix and Dallas are duking it out for the West's final Wild Card spot, so we're not talking about a "gimme" game there), and then head to Dallas on Wednesday, Tampa Bay on Friday and Florida on Saturday (so that's 4 games in 5 nights; what the hell put a bug up the NHL's schedule-making computer's butt for the last week?), and in theory, both teams are "safe" from the New Jersey devils after the Devils lost a 1-0 decision to Calgary, yielding the following Eastern Conference playoff picture:
I worry about subscribing to the theories that the Wings' "magic number" for making the playoffs is down to X number of games--as the Wings said on Monday, you don't want to back into the playoffs, you want to win as many games as you can, and as I've also stated, SportsClubStats.com's creator has stated that his algorithm isn't a perfect predictor, either (though their algorithm estimates that the Wings now have a 95.7% chance of making the playoffs, with a 57% chance of earning the 1st Wild Card spot and a 38% chance of earning the 2nd Wild Card Spot)--so I read these Tweets and cringed:
You will note that the Wings' beat writers articles included in this preview-y type entry suggest that the "Magic Number" is in fact 5 points because they were written prior to this evening's action, but: It is safe to suggest that the Wings will make the playoffs for the 23rd consecutive season barring a combination of an epic face-plant and everybody else winning out.
The Sabres, who lost 5-2 to Philadelphia on Sunday, spent Monday racking up their injury tally--they lost defenseman Chad Ruhwedel to a nasty Zach Rinaldo hit that concussed Ruhwedel, Christian Ehrhoff needed FORTY stitches to reassemble his right ear after it was hit by a slap shot (Ehrhoff may still play tonight!), and goaltender Nathan Lieuwen suffered a concussion (Matt Hackett will start tonight, and Babcock didn't name a starter).
Sabres coach Ted Nolan sounded like Mike Babcock has until, well, last week, while speaking with the Buffalo News's Amy Moritz:
"We talked about that, is it bad luck? I’m not too sure. I don’t believe in luck but that just one of those things," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said after practice Monday afternoon. "That’s two concussions in one game last night. The injury before, Ehrhoff takes a puck to the ear. I mean how many chances does a puck have to hit the ear? It’s just one of those things. But we’ve got four games to go. Hopefully we can get through this unscathed and get a couple guys back."
Not all of the Sabres' injury news was bad (for them), however, as Buffalo Hockey Beat's Bill Hope noted:
– After suffering a scary-looking right knee injury Thursday – it was just a bone bruise – winger Marcus Foligno will play tonight.
“It feels really good,” he said. “It’s kind of almost back to normal. It feels good enough to play.”
Foligno fell awkwardly and his knee jammed up after getting tangled with St. Louis’ Roman Polak.
“Right when it happened I knew something was wrong,” Foligno said.
But the knee felt good again Friday and he quickly resumed working out.
– Winger Torrey Mitchell (undisclosed) pronounced himself ready Monday after a six-game absence. Nolan said Mitchell will be a game-time decision, however. Mitchell was injured in his Buffalo debut March 6 and again March 25. The 29-year-old has played only five games since arriving from Minnesota.
“Disappointing,” he said. “You want to come in and make an impression right away. I wasn’t able to do that because I got hurt.”
– Winger Chris Stewart, thought to be lost for the season after hurting his right ankle in his Buffalo debut March 6, is questionable for tonight. Nolan said Stewart was seeing the doctor Monday following practice.
BuffaloSabres.com's Chris Rydnak filled in the other moving pieces...
Zenon Konopka was on the ice with the team for practice. He said he sustained a lower-body injury in the team’s game on March 23 in Vancouver and that the five-and-a-half-hour flight to Montreal the next day didn’t help his situation. As a native of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., he’d like to be back in the lineup before the season ends.
“Obviously playing in Buffalo’s a dream come true, so you don’t want to finish the year not playing. So it’s pretty important for me,” he said.
Nolan said that Drew Stafford skated on his own on Tuesday, but he probably wouldn’t be ready until at least Thursday when the Sabres play the Rangers in New York.
Defenseman Tyler Myers has been out of the lineup since the March 16 game against Montreal when he collided with the goalpost after being tripped in front of the net.
“He hasn’t skated in a while, his injury’s pretty significant, so we’ll go week-by-week with him,” Nolan said.
But with only one week and four games left, time may not be on Myers’ side to get back in.
Buffalo practiced with only four defensemen during practice. John Scott filled in on the blue line along with Jake McCabe, Rasmus Ristolainen and Jamie McBain.
Mike Weber did not skate on Monday, but he is expected to play against the Red Wings.
If you want to watch the Sabres' website summarize the injuries in a 1 minute and 46-second video, watch and/or hear Nolan (whose 8-minute presser makes Mike Babcock seem like a speed-speaker), Mitchell, Konopka or Foligno speak with the media, you may most certainly do so on your own, but the Buffalo News's Moritz framed the Sabres' rotating cast of personnel as it should be framed going into the Sabres' final four games of the 2013-2014 season--with the Sabres trying to grind it out and earn a few positives as their campaign winds to a close:
“You’ve got to be mentally tough. I think you’ve just got to keep grinding through it,” [Marcus] Foligno said. “It’s tough on everyone. … It’s been pretty crazy around here. Hectic for everyone. The training room around here has been pretty much full every day so the trainers have their hands full. As a player who’s healthy now you just want to keep going, look forward and you know you’ve got to make a good impression. It’s the last of the season. You want to do whatever you can for next year.”
Therein lies the opportunity.
If there is any bright spot to being dead last in the NHL with an injury list nearly as long as your roster, it’s that players have a chance to step up and take on leadership roles. In particular, Nolan is looking for leadership qualities from Tyler Ennis, Cody Hodgson and Zemgus Girgensons.
“There’s a silver lining to everything. … There’s no big brother coming in to help them out. You’re on your own,” Nolan said. “Tough situations reveal tough characters. We’ll see who steps up. That’s what it’s going to reveal. Who is going to step up and take that leadership going forward? Is it going to be an Ennis? Is it going to be Hodgson? Is it going to be Girgensons? Those types of players are going to start revealing themselves. It’s going to be a good indicator of who will lead this team down the road.”
And then Nolan took a weird turn, the kind of turn that reminds you that not every team thinks the way the Red Wings do.
The Wings don't want their top prospects to play "bit player" roles at the NHL level, so they'd rather not promote someone from the winning machine that is the Grand Rapids Griffins to play for a few minutes on the 4th line, 3rd defensive pair, or as a back-up and just sit on the bench for the vast majority of their tenure with the team, but the Wings also believe that there's no experience like NHL experience.
Nolan told Moritz that, in a perfect world, the Sabres wouldn't be messing with their AHL affiliate's attempt to land a playoff spot because he'd rather have players experiencing winning with the Rochester Americans than losing at the NHL level:
The Sabres already have both the Amerks’ goalies - Matt Hackett and Nathan Lieuwen although Lieuwen is now out with a concussion. Other key Amerks on the Sabres roster include leading goal scorer Luke Adam, forward Johan Larsson and defenseman Chad Ruhwedel. And add Ruhwedel to the injury list after he suffered a concussion Sunday night in Philadelphia.
“Would we love our players to be down there getting experience and winning? Certainly,” Nolan said. “But unfortunately with the injuries we just called up Luke Adam on them. Luke’s a very big player for them down there. We’ve got Larsson here. Chad’s here. Both their goaltenders are here.
“In a perfect world we’d like them down there to continue to grow. I believe you develop in winning situations and those kids can get good experience by winning. But right now it is what it is. We’re starting to get a little healthier and we might be able to help out Rochester a little bit.”
In the end, Babcock would talk about stealing jobs and earning one's "chunk of cheese" or "piece of the pie," regardless of the circumstances. I guess bringing prospects up to play on a team that's just "playing out the string" makes you think differently...
But therein lies the danger in buying into Nolan's remarks. The Sabres' veterans and prospects alike are still playing for jobs on next year's team, and nothing "steals jobs" like contributing to playing a spoiler's role against a team like Detroit.
NHL.com's Jon Lane previews tonight's game as follows...
Season series: This is the fourth and final game between the Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres. Buffalo has lost its past six games to Detroit, the longest drought against the Red Wings in franchise history.
Big story: The Red Wings begin their final push to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 23rd consecutive season with four games in six days -- three on the road -- beginning Tuesday in Buffalo. Detroit has won four of its past five and holds a one-point lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets for the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Losers of three straight, seven of eight and 2-13-1 in their past 16 games, the Sabres have four games left, two at home and two on the road.
Those numbers get me jittery, but I AM a nervous person. I take medication for my "nervousness."
Red Wings [team scope]: Detroit coach Mike Babcock held a longer-than-usual practice Monday since the team was off Sunday and with a potential playoff schedule in its future. Babcock made some line adjustments with Pavel Datsyuk centering Johan Franzen and Justin Abdelkader, and Riley Sheahan in between Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar.
"We think we have to be a real detail-orientated team in order to have success, so it's just reminders," Babcock said. "It's turning light bulbs on again, making sure guys are on top of their game."
Sabres [team scope]: Buffalo has a whopping 13 players either out or nursing injuries, including its top-two goaltenders, and has dressed a franchise-record 44 different players according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"Is it bad luck? I'm not too sure. I don't believe in luck, but that's just one of those things," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said after practice Monday. "But we've got four games to go. Hopefully we can get through this unscathed and get a couple guys back."
Who's hot: Red Wings center Darren Helm has five points (four goals, one assists) in his past five games. Nyquist has points in 11 of his past 12 (12-3-15). Franzen has four assists in his past five. … Sabres forward Tyler Ennis has four points (two goals, two assists) in his past five games; center Cody Hodgson is 3-2-5 in his past five.
Injury report: Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (finger surgery), and forwards Stephen Weiss (sports hernia surgery) and Henrik Zetterberg (back surgery), are on injured reserve. Forward Daniel Cleary (sprained knee) is out indefinitely. … Sabres forward Zenon Konopka (back spasms) practiced Monday. Forward Chris Stewart (high ankle sprain) is questionable. Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff (lacerated right ear) and forward Torrey Mitchell (undisclosed) are game-time decisions. Forward Drew Stafford (undisclosed), defensemen Tyler Myers (upper body), Henrik Tallinder (lower body), Alexander Sulzer (upper body) and Chad Ruhwedel (concussion), and goalies Jhonas Enroth (lower body), Michal Neuvirth (lower body) and Nathan Lieuwen (concussion) are out.
The most important Tweet of the day, for me, anyway, came from MLive's Ansar Khan, regarding Jonathan Ericsson's status:
No Ericsson for the first round means having to play both Lashoff and Kindl at the same time. If "almost nothing" scares you, the previous sentence should do the job.
Anyway, the AP's preview adds stats to the mix:
Babcock's squad should have an easier time against the Sabres, whom the Red Wings are 22-2-1 with one tie against dating back to March 27, 1996 [than they did against Montreal]. They've taken seven straight meetings, including three this season after a 3-2 home victory on Friday. All of Detroit's goals came in the first period, with Daniel Alfredsson recording a goal and an assist for the second straight game versus Buffalo.
That marked the second of three straight losses for the last-place Sabres (21-48-9) during a 2-13-1 stretch. While Marcus Foligno is expected to play and Chris Stewart and Torrey Mitchell also have a chance to return Tuesday, the injury bug hasn't yet let up.
Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel and goaltender Nathan Lieuwen are done for the season due to concussions suffered in Sunday's 5-2 loss at Philadelphia. Ruhwedel sustained a concussion on match penalty-drawing hit from Zac Rinaldo, while Lieuwen's injury will require Buffalo to dress its eighth goalie of the season. Matt Hackett -- who is 1-3-1 with a 3.23 goals-against average in five starts since being recalled from AHL affiliate Rochester on March 17 -- will start Tuesday.
Christian Ehrhoff will also be a game-time decision after taking a puck to the right ear Sunday. His 33 points are tied for the third most on the team.
The Sabres were outshot 37-19 by Philadelphia, the 18th time they've given up a margin of at least 15 shots this season. Cody Hodgson and Mike Weber scored for Buffalo in the third.
Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard has won all five career starts against the Sabres with one shutout and a 1.20 goals-against average.
Buffalo has scored a power-play goal in four straight games, but it has also surrendered seven on 24 chances over the last seven games. The Red Wings have allowed two power-play goals on 19 opportunities over their last six contests.
As the Free Press's Helene St. James noted, the Red Wings were informed that their "Magic Number" was earning 5 points over their last 4 games, but the team would have none of it:
“The job is not done,” Justin Abdelkader said Monday. “We don’t want to be waiting till the last game and hoping teams are losing. That’s not a fun position to be in. We have to take care of it ourselves as best we can.”
Abdelkader spent practice skating with Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen, with Gustav Nyquist replacing Tomas Jurco next to Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar. Jurco was in the bottom-six mix, as was David Legwand, among others. Babcock could well put Jurco with Darren Helm and Daniel Alfredsson, creating what could be a very effective third line with speed and skill.
However combinations shake out, Babcock is preaching hard work and attentiveness. He pushed practice a little longer than usual Monday, partly because Sunday was a day off and partly because the playoffs are a week away.
“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.”
Daniel Alfredsson suggested that the Wings need to earn all the points they can possibly "steal," suggesting that the team's playoff mentality has helped the old and new faces mesh together...
Since they can’t swan in like Boston and Pittsburgh, the Wings are looking at the upside, which is that by the time the playoffs begin, they’ll have been mentally playing pressure hockey for weeks.
“I think we’ve built a really good foundation, we’re really trusting each other as a group, so that’s good,” Alfredsson said. “We just have to make sure we keep it going this week.”
As he also told Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji:
"We have to win our games and can't expect other teams to lose," Daniel Alfredsson said. "We got to expect that everybody is going to win their games to close the season, so we have to win our games, too, to get in. "It's obviously better to be in a position where you control your own destiny, and that's what we want to do."
Thankfully, at least the coach isn't overlooking the Sabres:
"They're going to want to win," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "They're playing in front of their home crowd. We're playing a big game for us. We just need to be detail-orientated. We thought we had tons of chances that last time we played and didn't score, so the game in the end was close."
The Wings are confident but not overconfident as the approach the final week of the regular season.
"It's nice to know that you control your own destiny, but we'll take it one game at a time here," Gustav Nyquist said. "And we know that it's going to take a few more points to get into the playoffs because the teams that are chasing us are going to keep on winning games down the stretch."
Wakiji also noted that the Wings were very happy to have received Pavel Datsyuk back in the lineup...
"Just a huge presence in the locker room and on the ice," Alfredsson said.
The Wings know that it's not easy to jump right in after missing so much time.
"I thought he looked good," Justin Abdelkader said. "He'd probably tell you he's pretty tired. Maybe he didn't feel the best on back-to-back after taking all that time off, but I thought he looked good. His presence on the ice alone makes defenders key on him. Having him in the lineup -- on the power play, five-on-five -- is crucial for us."
And Babcock told the Wings' press, the Detroit News's Ted Kuflan included, that he doesn't plan on easing Datsyuk back into the swing of things--at least in theory, because Kulfan duly noted that Babcock's line-mashing may have been deliberate:
[G}etting a definite handle on what Babcock is thinking in the bottom six was difficult.
The juggling could be one indication both Datsyuk and Alfredsson came out of playing back-to-back games last weekend healthy.
Alfredsson had only missed one game due to back spasms, so the concern wasn’t as great. But Datsyuk had only played four NHL games since Jan. 1 -- before playing against Buffalo and Montreal last weekend, scoring a goal and averaging 17:43 of ice time.
Babcock doesn’t plan on monitoring Datsyuk’s minutes.
“I’m just going to play him as much as he’s ready to play,” Babcock said. “Just like we do with every player. The (score) sheet is something the players look at the end (of the night). I don’t worry about it too much. If he’s playing good, he’s going to play more.”
Alfredsson came out of the weekend feeling “fine.”
“No issues, and I’m happy with the way I felt (Sunday) after the games,” Alfredsson said.
Interesting Red Wings statistic: Legwand leads the Red Wings with 50 points. That would be the fewest points by a Red Wings player to lead his team – in a non-lockout season – since 1948-49, when both Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay had 54 points in a 60-game schedule.
The other narrative coming out of Monday's practice involved the progress the team's youngsters have made, and DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose blended that narrative with the "Magic Number" one...
“We’ve got a game tomorrow is all I know and we have to find a way to win a game,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ve done a lot of good things this season. We’ve had a lot of fun doing it. The kids have really grown. If you want to focus on the injuries you can do that, but we’ve chosen not to do that. We feel we’ve gotten better as a team. The reality is that’s going to be measured is what happens over these last four games.”
Any combination of five points gained by the Red Wings or five points squandered by the New Jersey Devils will lift Detroit to its 23rd straight playoff appearance. Detroit and New Jersey each have four games remaining before Sunday’s last day of the regular season, but it appears that the Devils have a less strenuous path with three home games remaining, beginning tonight against Calgary.
Still, the Red Wings were feeling pretty confident following Monday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena that they will be getting ready for a first-round playoff series next week.
“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.”
But first things first, it’s important that the Red Wings take care of business at First Niagara Center on Tuesday against a Sabres team that played Detroit tight in three games this season, including last Friday at Joe Louis Arena.
“I don’t look at it like that,” Babcock said. “We’re playing an NHL team tomorrow, they’re probably getting three guys back, they’re going to want to win. They’re playing in front of their home crowd. We just need to be detail orientated. We thought we had tons of chances that last time we played and we didn’t score so the game in the end was close. It’ll probably be a tighter checking game than last time. We just have to find a way to get one more than they do.”
And I'd prefer to let WXYZ's Brad Galli wrap things up both in text form...
Just a few weeks ago, the Red Wings had the deck stacked against them. A stretch of games against top contenders, and no sign of the injured ward emptying looked to be the nail in the coffin.
One tremendous comeback effort after another, with seemingly endless incredible performances by the team's young players - and all of a sudden Detroit was smelling the playoffs again.
"We've had different guys stepping up throughout the year," Justin Abdelkader said. "Especially Gustav Nyquist. The year he's had, it's been special for us."
After last year's push to get into the playoffs, the race to get in has given the locker room a familiar feel.
"We have to ramp it up for a while, I think. We've been in this battle for a long time and it's going to be tight all the way in. I like the way we've been playing," Nyquist said.
Babcock sees the light at the end of the tunnel. There's no doubt about that. Trying to get him to admit that is another thing.
Walking out of the team's locker room on Monday, the Red Wings head coach said his guys have been through a lot this year. It's led to a loose feel in the room, and as Babcock said, led them to play better at the right time.
And via video:
In a sort of "Other Feature Story" vein, the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa penned quite the "Spirit of the Thing" article about the significance of the high likelihood of the Wings making the playoffs for 23 straight seasons:
“This will be in the minds of a lot of people who aren’t Red Wings fans, who aren’t just immersed in them all of the time, one of the great accomplishments,” said Mike “Doc” Emrick, play-by-play broadcaster for NBC. “With a record number of guys out with injury for the franchise — that many guys out with injury — they look like they’re going to make it.”
The streak is the fifth-longest in NHL history and would remain so, at 23 seasons. The Bruins (29 seasons 1968-96), Blackhawks (28 seasons, 1970-97), Blues (25 seasons, 1980-2004) and Canadiens (24, 1971-94) all have done it for a longer stretch.
But even a pivotal figure in the Canadiens streak, the coach of their 1986 Stanley Cup championship team, finds the Red Wings accomplishment striking. And, Canadians are not easily enthralled.
“You’ve got to be impressed,” said Jean Perron, who remains active as an NHL analyst and a coach of Israeli teams. “In our day and age, it’s outstanding. There’s been so many different rules added in the past decade that it changed the game. You interchange players left and right. In my days, that was much more stable.
“They draft players very well, they prepare players very well, they are very stable at the top. And that’s a great example of how to build a great franchise.”
As Krupa notes, the Wings aren't exactly playing amateur historians...
“I don’t think you think about it,” said Mike Babcock, who arguably is having his best year as coach of the Red Wings. “You know, you don’t worry about the last year or the year before, even when people are talking about 23.
“I don’t think that means a whole bunch to our group, as much as this is our opportunity, this is our chance. These kids have worked hard. The veterans have worked hard to keep them stable. We have an opportunity. We don’t know when the next one’s coming.”
For the record, brusque (it rhymes with "husk") is probably the best word to describe Nyquist's coach. Why? Merriam-Webster has the answers...
: talking or behaving in a very direct, brief, and unfriendly way
Full Definition of BRUSQUE
1 : markedly short and abrupt
2: blunt in manner or speech often to the point of ungracious harshness
— brusque·ly adverb
— brusque·ness noun
Red Wings notes and also of Red Wings-related note: Select Hockey's Cody Hallett made the case for the Wings re-signing Jonas Gustavsson, and his case is a strong one. I thought it was intriguing that RedWingsCentral doesn't believe that Gustavsson will return;
While we're talking about prospects, per DRW Prospects on Twitter:
Mattias Janmark and AIK Stockholm lost their Kvalserien set of games and will head to the Allsvenskan, one step below the SHL, and while AIK Stockholm's going to halve its budget,
it's hard to imagine them letting Janmark go.
Janmark spoke with Expressen's Oscar Brostrom and Fredrik Jonsson about his team's relegation, and he pointed out that AIK's doubly upset because its biggest rival, Djurgardens IF (the "other" big Stockholm team), is the team that's joining the SHL in AIK's stead:
Djurgarden is advancing, while AIK has to step down. The qualification round couldn't have ended worse for the team, which lost its final game in Angelholm [against Andreas Lilja's Rogle BK], and at the same time got to see their local rivals earn an SHL spot.
Afterwards, the mood was low among AIK's players.
"The fact that our city's competitors are going up doesn't make anything better, but we had a goal to keep ourselves in [the league] and so we're disappointed in ourselves," says Daniel Rudslatt.
Mattias Janmark said that Djurgarden's success was like salt in the wound.
"It's not cool. The worst thing is to go out, but then it feels like it's even worse that Djurgarden's being promoted. But I have to give them credit. They've been pretty damn good and they're very worthy to be promoted in my view. But it will be a new year for AIK and so I hope we'll be back and will be stronger."
If we're talking about uncomfortable things, let's have fun with some power rankings!
As previously noted, here's ESPNs Pierre LeBrun's take on the state of the Wings...
11. Detroit [record] 37-27-14 Last Week: 14 This is the wild-card team nobody should want to face in the first round. It just so happens the Red Wings are in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night in what could be a first-round preview.
CBS Sports' Brian Stubits offers the following...
13 Red Wings [up 1, last week 14]: The four-game winning streak is gone but the Red Wings have done what they needed to make this finish a little less stressful. The game at Pittsburgh is a likely playoff preview.
And TSN's Scott Cullen, who's demoted the Wings when they've won, demoted the Wings when they've lost, demoted the Wings all the damn time, offers this:
This Week 18 Last Week 21 Detroit Red Wings 37-27-14
Won four straight before Saturday's loss at Montreal, and that's enough to leave them looking likely for a playoff berth, though it's no guarantee with games at Pittsburgh and St. Louis still on the schedule.
Key Injuries: LW Henrik Zetterberg (back), D Jonathan Ericsson (finger).
(I like Cullen as a fantasy hockey analyst, but I don't think that he likes the Red Wings very much)
I'm going to point you to the Tampa Bay Times' Damian Cristodero's conversation with Steve Yzerman and say this about his 4-year contract extension and status as the Lightning's GM for the next 5 years:
He's already got a job and he's trying to win a championship with the team he's built. Ken Holland's going nowhere soon and Yzerman is happy in Tampa Bay, so I don't see him returning to Detroit any time soon.
Right now Yzerman is a very young 48--ten years younger than Holland--and there's just no point in questioning Yzerman's loyalties or lamenting the way things are. Yzerman's gonna go do his thing and we'll see what happens in five years.
In the More Multimedia department, part 1: WOOD TV8 posted a seven-minute interview with Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill, and yes, Larry Figurski and Blashill discuss the Callahan "selfie," so please be warned that there is some graphic content, starting at the 6-minute mark:
In the More Multimedia department, part 2: the Griffins posted a mailbag feature in which Nick Jensen, Tom McCollum and Landon Ferraro answer questions and dish out trash talk:
In the "This Just In" department, I try to write these entries "as they happen" instead of doing a lot of pre-writing, so this popped up while I was in the middle of bashing Cullen, and I prefer to not go back and re-write to tidy things up and instead let you know that what I'm doing both takes time (several hours) and that "stuff happens" while I write this.
To me, that's a reminder to both you and me that writing about sports tends to have a short shelf life, and that things happen so quickly that assuming you're "in the know" is a dangerous proposition:
Janmark leaving for Detroit presently: "I have to consider my options."
Mattias Janmark was one of the best scorers for AIK this past season.
Now he is leaving the team, and Sportbladet can reveal that he's going to Detroit--right now.
"I have to consider my options," he says.
Despite the misery in AIK during the a season which ultimately ended in the team being relegated from the SHL, Mattias Janmark, 21, got his big break.
With 18 goals and 12 assists during the SHL's regular season, he won the team's scoring lead.
But the game against Rogle BK in the Kvalserien was the last for the talented player.
Now Janmark is leaving AIK: Sportbladet can reveal that he's already on the way to join the NHL team Detroit now--and he will finish the season for their farm team, the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Quick note: the Griffins' regular season doesn't end until a week from Saturday, a.k.a. April 19th, and they probably won't begin playing playoff hockey until somewhere between April 23rd and April 25th, so there's no reason for the Wings to rush Janmark to Grand Rapids: he will probably take in a game or two, meet with the players, coaches and front office, and then head to GR for their season-ending home-and-home series with Lake Erie on the 18th and 19th.
"I don't know what's going to happen. I have to sit down and think, talk with my family and think through things carefully," says Janmark himself.
"Nothing is decided"
It's uncertain whether he will play in North America next season; several teams in the SHL are attempting to acquire him, and the 21-year-old could, among other places, find himself with a spot on Lulea IF soon.
"Nothing's certain, it's probably the best teams that have shown interest. I can't say more than that," he says.
Janmark is one of 29 of the 30 players on AIK who has no contract with the team for next season.
But AIK hopes to keep captain Patric Blomdahl.
"We'll start now and we'll probably have an entirely new team. But we want to build the team around those players who have heart," says team CEO Thomas Johansson.
Captain Blomdahl himself: "AIK is the team I'll talk to first. I can think of staying and playing in the Allsvenskan," he says.
So there you go. Shelf life...Thirty-five mintues.
And finally, I'm going to be out of the office from about 12:45 until 5-ish today, and will be out of the office from 9:30 until 12 or so on Wednesday.
I have to take the mom to two doctor's appointments and see one myself (my appointment today and the mom's appointment tomorrow are all but impossible to reschedule), and while I'd rather not miss so much "morning skate" time, the mom's health comes before the blog, and the mom's had some issues of late.
Paul will be taking care of some of the morning skate news today and most of it tomorrow given that the Wings will probably skate around 11:30-ish local time. I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but family comes first.
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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.