The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/22/14 at 05:08 PM ET
Updated 3x at 7:01 PM: As Paul noted, the biggest news to come out of Saturday's Red Wings practice involved Stephen Weiss choosing to decline a conditioning stint in Grand Rapids ahead of more practice time.
While Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika and Sportsnet's Jordan Heath-Rawlings penned superb articles about a certain Red Wings coach's battle for Olympic gold against the Wings' Swedes tomorrow morning (7 AM EST, NBC/CBC), Khan and DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose reported that the Wings' non-Olympians, including the recalled Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan and Gleason Fournier, quietly practiced at the University of Ligett School in Grosse Pointe Woods...
CONFIRMED: #RedWings captain Henrik Zettetberg had a discectomy. For those of us who have had that successfully done we know his relief.
#RedWings forward Tomas Tatar said everything about the #Sochi2014 experience was great except, "We (Slovakia) just didn't play very well."
Great to see #RedWings young line of Tatar, Sheahan and Jurco together again at practice. It'd be nicer if they're still a trio next week.
Quincey said his L4-L5 Discectomy in 2009, same surgery RedWings Zetterberg had, was "best decision I ever made. Pain was gone immediately."
Khan also Tweeted from practice...
Stephen Weiss said he won't play in Grand Rapids tomorrow, feeling he needs more practice time. Still hopes to be ready for Wed. at Montreal
But Weiss said he might need to play a game or two for Grand Rapids next weekend before returning to NHL.
As did the Free Press's George Sipple...
Stephen Weiss will NOT go to Grand Rapids. Said he wants to get more contact in practice. Could go to GR next week.
Weiss was supposed to play for Griffins on Sun.
Stephen Weiss: “No fun playing when you’re not at your best. Certainly, I haven’t been able to show my best yet."
Weiss said he's got to come back and play his game, but says the Wings are going to need everyone to step up in Zetterberg's absence.
Weiss: . "I definitely put some of that onus on me coming back, for sure.”
Sipple also took note of the fact that Danny DeKeyser's heading back to his alma mater, Western Michigan University, to help raise funds for Duchene's Muscular Dystrophy research this evening:
Khan filed a practice article as well, dicussing Weiss's status...
“I practiced twice last week with the (Plymouth) Whalers and three times (this week) with the (Red Wings), so I’m starting to feel really good but it hasn’t been that much practice time,” Weiss said. “First day with some contact today, just start ramping that up tomorrow and Monday and see what happens next week.”
Weiss didn’t rule out being cleared for the first game following the Olympic break, Wednesday at Montreal.
“That’s what we’re shooting for,” Weiss said. “Obviously, that’s not going to be my decision. I might still have to play a game or two (in Grand Rapids) next week. By then I’ll be more ready to play a game.”
Assistant coach Bill Peters' take on Weiss's status--with Peters telling Khan that the training staff isn't sure whether Weiss will be ready to play when the Wings return to action with back-to-back games in Montreal this upcoming Wednesday and Ottawa this upcoming Thursday...
“Another good skate (Sunday) and then he’ll skate with the team (Tuesday) and we’ll know a lot more,” Peters said. “Slow and steady wins the race in his situation coming off the surgery he had, but he’s getting real close.”
And Khan spoke with Tomas Tatar regarding Slovakia's loss to the Czech Republic at the Olympics:
“I just feel bad for people back home, they were depending on us a little more,” Tatar said.
Slovakia lost all four of its games, including a 5-3 defeat against the Czech Republic Tuesday in the qualifying game for the quarterfinals. Slovakia scored only five goals in four games.
“We kind of let down our people back home so I feel bad,” Tatar said. “We were expected to be at least in the quarterfinals but we just couldn’t time it well. We came there and we didn’t really score a goal, we have lots of trouble. I felt bad we didn’t make it to the quarterfinals and obviously people home were a little upset about it.”
It's worth noting that the Wings practiced right through Team USA's humiliating 5-0 loss to Finland in the Bronze medal game, and while there is no news regarding whether any of the Red Wings' Swedes will take part in Monday's Stockholm reception for Swedish Olympians, the Free Press's Helene St. James took note of the Red Wings players-vs-Babcock aspect of tomorrow's showdown...
The large contingent of Wings populating Team Sweden made sure teammates knew how well Canada would be prepared Sunday because of Babcock, who coached Canada to the gold four years ago in Vancouver.
"He really spends a lot of time working to be a good coach," Ericsson said. "He's always really early at the rink and he's always analyzing everything and he brings his other coaches with him to have their opinion about everything. He's a coach in search of perfection, I think. Very dedicated, I can say that."
Babcock enters the game scrutinized by Canadian media because Canada hasn't looked as dominant as expected through the five games it took to reach Sunday. Sweden enters the game knowing Canada was favored, and not caring. Babcock has pushed Canada to win since last summer — but Sweden coach Par Marts has been just as singular in his approach with his players. Marts is Babcock without the intensity: demanding, but calm.
"He lets the players be a lot more involved in everything, pretty much," Kronwall said. "It's a different kind of leadership."
St. James shared her Olympic memories...
I was walking to Bolshoy Ice Dome one day this past week when up ahead someone on a bike raised his arm and waved.
I didn’t catch who it was, and didn’t think anything of it — until I stood in the mixed zone with after Team Sweden’s hockey practice. The mixed zone is where media members interview athletes at the Olympics — there is no locker room access. I was talking to Daniel Alfredsson when Jonathan Ericsson came up, smiled, and asked why I didn’t wave back. Now it’s a running joke in the mixed zone.
On Sunday, we’ll all be waving good-bye to these Winter Games. It has been an absolute blast being here, not the least because all the venues at the Coastal Cluster (where all the non-snow events happen) are walkable. It helps the weather has made it feel like a spring break.
Every hockey player I’ve talked to has raved about the experience. It has been clear one of their favorite parts has been the bikes provided in the Athletes Village, which players have used to ride to and from the arenas.
And she continues...
While the Hockey News's Ken Campbell suggests that there is no shame in watching tomorrow with an #AlfieForever sentiment, even among Canadians:
Everyone in Canada should know that it’s all right to be happy for Daniel Alfredsson. If he manages to win the second Olympic gold medal of his career, cheer the accomplishment, even if you can’t cheer the result. Your passport will not be revoked and your beer fridge will not be confiscated. Trust us on that one.
Such is the kind of respect a player of Alfredsson’s ilk commands. Vilify him, if you will, for his decision to bolt the Ottawa Senators to chase his Stanley Cup dreams with the Detroit Red Wings. But then you’ll also have to have a hate-on for Brendan Shanahan for engineering his departure from Hartford, Mark Messier for abandoning Edmonton and even Wayne Gretzky for bailing on the Los Angeles Kings to go to St. Louis.
And as it turns out, it looks like Alfredsson made a miscalculation anyway. The Red Wings certainly don’t look like a serious threat for the Stanley Cup this year, particularly if reports that their captain, Henrik Zetterberg, is out for the year with his back problems.
*throws eggs at Campbell*
On the eve of what will almost certainly his last game wearing the Tre Kronor, Alfredsson has the chance to reach what will be the pinnacle of his career one more time. He has never won a Stanley Cup, reaching the final in 2007 with the Senators. He has played in seven World Championship tournaments and has only two silver and two bronze medals. He has the 1996 Calder Trophy and his spot reserved in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
That legacy would be enhanced by a second gold medal, not that Alfredsson was focusing on that the day before the gold medal game against Canada.
“It’s going to be tremendous to step on the ice (Sunday),” Alfredsson said. “It would be unbelievable (to win), but I’m not allowing myself to think that far ahead. We’re happy to be in the final, but we’re going to face our toughest test yet. It’s going to be a big challenge, but it’s one that we’re happily looking forward to.”
That's it for now. Paul and I are going to be turning in early as tomorrow's game is going to be an adventure, but I'll wake up a bit early to write a prospect write-up and will at least try to offer Tweets from the Wings' practice. The past two weeks back-on-the-job have been grueling schedule-wise so I'm gonna take things slowly and quietly tomorrow and Monday before preparing for the Wings' resumption of full-roster practicing on Tuesday and the pre-trade deadline push.
Update: The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's practice report just hit the wires. The Wings weighed in on Zetterberg's absence...
"It's going to be hard," Tomas Tatar said. "We knew it was going to be hard even with Z here, and now it's going to be harder.
"(But) we have some potential in this locker room. It'll be a challenge for the young guys here, including me, but you want that (challenge), for something good to happen. It'll be fun."
Zetterberg's playing ability – and his leadership -- will be missed.
"His leadership in the locker room, in my opinion, will be an important loss," said assistant coach Bill Peters. "It's a substantial loss, let's not kid ourselves. It's your captain, your leading scorer, a point-a-game player.
"But now we'll get our heads wrapped around it and move on and find a way to play where we can successful as a group."
And this is quite obvious:
Jurco, forward Riley Sheahan and defenseman Gleason Fournier were recalled Saturday from Grand Rapids.
Fournier filled out a roster for practice and will be returned to Grand Rapids.
What happens with Sheahan and Jurco will depend on the health of Weiss and Johan Franzen (concussion) and Jakub Kindl (sprained left knee).
Update #2: Here's a bit more from Tatar and Jurco via Mr. Roose:
“We kind of let down our people back home so I feel bad,” Tatar said. “We were expected to be at least in the quarterfinals but we just couldn’t time it well. We came there and we didn’t really score a goal, we have lots of trouble. It was just kind of bad timing. It’s kind of hard to time all these things at one time in tournament, Olympics are such a short thing. I felt bad we didn’t make it to the quarterfinals and obviously people home were a little upset about it.”
Despite their country’s early exit, the two forwards had an extraordinary experience at their first Olympics, which didn’t include any of the horror stories that circulated the Internet before their arrival.
“Hockey was great, obviously,” Jurco said. “It’s best level you can play with best players in the world. It was great and I was really impressed, you know all that stuff that was on Twitter and around the Internet about how bad it was in Russia. It wasn’t like that. It was beautiful, village was beautiful. It wasn’t brown water or anything, everything was like it should be and it was really nice. The weather was good.”
Tatar didn’t venture to watch any other Olympic competitions, but thoroughly enjoyed the Olympic Village and being able to mingle with some of the best athletes in the world.
“Probably like the village where we hang out with all the athletes,” Tatar said of his favorite Olympic memory. “It was kind of nice to see and be around the other people too and play in such a big tournament like the Olympics. Just to be with everybody there was kind of fun.”
Here's Quincey's conversation with Roose about Zetterberg's surgery, too:
Henrik Zetterberg isn’t the only Wings player to have a discectomy during his professional career. Forward Todd Bertuzzi and defenseman Kyle Quincey also underwent the surgery, and Quincey assumes his procedure was similar to the one performed on the Wings’ captain to repair his herniated disk.
“It was the best thing that I’ve ever done so I felt amazing right afterwards and hopefully he feels the same way that I did and his pain is gone,” said Quincey, who had a discectomy in 2009. “It’s a quicker rehab than people think. It’s not an ACL. The most important thing is that his pain is gone and I’ve been through all of that and I just wish him all the best. … I played with it for two years and then I went to LA and got it fixed.”
Update #3: The Detroit News's Gregg Krupa also penned a column about the forthcoming Sweden-Canada Gold game, including the following:
Some of the Red Wings talked about life with Babcock and going up against their coach, who is known, in part, for his intensity.
"We chat briefly," said Jonathan Ericsson, who is playing for Sweden with his brother Jimmie.
The national teams mix quite a bit in and around both the Olympic Village and the Bolshoy. In fact, they say it is one of the more enjoyable parts of the Games.
"He's like, `Hey, Big E!' " Ericsson said of Babcock. "I'm like, `Yeah, hey, how're you doing?' And he's like, `Well, you've been playing great. I'm going to be all over you when we come home!' "
Kronwall said Babcock is all about hard work and preparing his teams.
"He's incredibly prepared,” Kronwall said. “He spends endless hours on the rink every day, going through videos, doing everything to win."
Daniel Alfredsson, appearing in his fifth Olympics, said socializing is one thing, game time is another.
"I've been part of world championships and Olympics before and you might say hi today at dinner, but tomorrow it's all business. They're red and white and we're blue and yellow."
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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.