The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/28/13 at 01:57 PM ET
Updated 4x at 4:24 PM: The Detroit Red Wings hope to sweep their Western U.S. road trip when they face off against the San Jose Sharks (10:30 PM EDT, FSD/CSN Bay Area/97.1 FM) tonight, but they face a particularly difficult task as the Sharks have handed the Ducks back-to-back losses, are desperate to improve their place in the Western Conference standings and plan on making good on game #2 of a 7-game home stand.
Judging by the fact that this was the only Tweet coming from the Sharks' beat reporters during what would have been their morning skate, I'm guessing that the Sharks, who will be playing their 2nd game in 2 nights and their 3rd in 4, didn't hold a morning skate:
As for the Wings, their morning skate was a speedy affair as well, and there's going to be a 17-for-22 lineup change tonight:
No practice on Friday, which isn't a bad idea given that the Wings have back-to-backs against Chicago in a Sunday matinee and Colorado on Monday night:
After the Wings' beat writers got through their morning skate updates, the Mercury News's David Pollak offered the following:
NHL.com's Eric Gilmore reported that the Sharks' lineup looked like this against Anaheim last night...
Martin Havlat - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels
Ryane Clowe - Joe Pavelski - TJ Galiardi
Andrew Desjardins - Scott Gomez - James Sheppard
Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle
Jason Demers - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Brad Stuart - Justin Braun
Injured: Thomas Greiss (neck), Tim Kennedy (upper body)
Scratched: Michal Handzus, Adam Burish
And you're probably familiar with the Wings' lineup by now, though it might change a bit given that it's probably time to promote Damien Brunner.
On Monday, the Wings' lineup looked like this:
Nyquist-Emmerton-Eaves (swap in Tootoo)
Howard in goal
Also of Red Wings-related note: MLive's Ansar Khan and Brendan Savage wonder whether the Wings should offer Danny DeKeyser a spot on the roster to land his services...
ANSAR KHAN: It's easier for teams like Columbus and Edmonton to guarantee roster spots and playing time to unproven prospects, but that's not how the Red Wings operate.
Will they have to make an exception for DeKeyser? Sort of, perhaps. Maybe they told him he's on the team for now, and will get a chance to play a few games, but after that it's up to him to maintain his job. And if he's not able to at least be in the top six, he needs to be playing regularly in Grand Rapids.
Hard to imagine Mike Babcock telling an undrafted kid right out of college that you're going to be a top-four defenseman playing in all situations right from the start, without having earned the chance.
BRENDAN SAVAGE: I hate the idea of giving an unproven player a spot in the big leagues without making him earn it. That puts all the power in the player's hands and might make teammates resentful. But in DeKeyser's case, it might be what the Red Wings have to do if they want to sign him.
Here's what I'd do: Tell DeKeyser he's guaranteed a spot on the NHL roster for the rest of the regular season. What happens beyond that is up to him. If he shows he's worthy of playing time, he'll get it. If not, he won't but he'll remain in Detroit.
And when next year rolls around, DeKeyser is in the same boat as all the other rookies. He'll get what he deserves, whether that's a regular spot in Detroit or a trip to Grand Rapids. If DeKeyser is as good as advertised, why would he argue with something like that?
Pavel Datsyuk is awesome...
The Griffins have posted another superb "Between the Benches" video...
For anything like this to happen, the Flames would have to eat $2-3 million of Bouwmeester's salary...
And it may be most realistically time to launch a #PulkkinenWatch as Jokerit Helsinki dropped a 3-1 decision to Lukko Rauma, ending the team's playoff run via a 6-game series between the league's #1 team (Jokerit) and a team that had to win a "wild card" playoff play-in (Lukko). Teemu Pulkkinen registered an assist, but, as Jokerit's Twitter account put it:
Teemu Pulkkinen may play one more season for Jokerit if he's deemed to be not quite ready for the physical rigors of North American hockey, just like Calle Jarnkrok's going to be returned to Brynas IF if the Wings deem him not quite ready for prime time, either, but Pulkkinen may benefit more from a stint in the AHL as the stocky sniper's had a pair of rough seasons with Jokerit.
Update #0.5: From ESPN's Scott Burnside's chat session:
Jay (Detroit): If the wings land Dekeyser and/or another D man in a trade, do you see Ian White getting moved for a pick, or does he not have value to other teams needing depth on the blue line?
Scott Burnside: Jay; I'm not sure what kind of value White would have on the market. Plus, even if you do add one thing teams always need is as much defensive depth as possible. If I'm Ken Holland and unless I think I can get a decent draft pick (3rd rounder, something like that?) I hang on to as many of D-men as possible.
Bruce (Detroit): Scott - is Jay Bouwmeester available? I'd love for my Wings to make a play for him.
Scott Burnside: Bruce; Bouwmeester has likely been the Flames' best defenseman this season (talk about damning with faint praise) and has one more year at $6.680 million against the cap. Do the Flames want him to be part of the solution? Doesn't seem likely and there would be a good market for him given how much he plays and how well he skates. And for sure Detroit is interested. But guessing Feaster will want a high draft pick or at least one almost ready NHL prospect. Will Ken Holland spend that much? Bouwmeester also has a no-trade clause to that will complicate matters as well (see; Iginla).
Ben (San Jose): If Phx gets relocated to Quebec City, doesn't that mess up the divisions in the realignment? It looks like we'd have 17 east teams and 13 west and would QC be stuck playing the West like Winnipeg is in the SE right now? I think it'd make more sense to locate to Seattle and remain in the same division Phx was slated to be in.
Scott Burnside: Ben; You are right on (and they would never go 17-13 it's a stretch already to have 16 in the east and 14 in the west next season). No arena plans that are guaranteed in Seattle which is a huge problem. A big mess, in short, if the league can't find an owner in Arizona.
And from the Wings:
Update #2: From the Wings' game-day blog, here's a historical note...
On This Day in Red Wings History...On March 28, 1950
Gordie Howe suffered a skull fracture during the semifinals against Toronto. Some thought his career was in jeopardy, but the next season Mr. Hockey came back to score 86 points, winning the NHL scoring title by 20 points.
And here are Ken Kal's Keys to the Game:
Go After the Sharks Early - San Jose played Anaheim last night and Detroit is well rested. The Wings have to attack and force the play into the Sharks' zone out of the gate.
Win the 1-on-1 Battles - The Sharks will probably want to play physical. It's important to win these battles and come away with the puck; the Wings have to match San Jose's physical play.
Keep Rolling on the Power Play - It really is a bonus to score on the PP. Detroit has at least 1 PP goal in their last 8 games. Getting shots through and retrieving rebounds are key and the Wings have done that during this stretch.
The Detroit Red Wings hope to turn a very good road trip into a magnificent one tonight when they face the San Jose Sharks at the HP Pavilion (10:30, Fox Sports Detroit).
The Red Wings (17-11-5) have won five in a row on the road, including three games on this current trip, which began with a pair of wins in Anaheim.
The Sharks (15-11-6) also are coming off back-to-back wins over the reeling Ducks.
Jimmy Howard is back in goal for the Red Wings. He'll go against Antti Niemi, who is starting on consecutive nights.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said the only other lineup change will be at forward, where Jordin Tootoo replaces Patrick Eaves.
Update #3: Meanwhile, in the real world:
Update #4: The Mercury News's David Pollak filed his game-day story...
Lost in the post-game rush to talk about the Sharks newly rediscovered offense and Dan Boyle’s pugilistic motive was the fact Antti Niemi was perfect in net, stopping 22 shots for his second shutout of the season and 21st of his career. We in the media made up for that this morning. Niemi, who isn’t one of those goalies who keeps to himself on game days, cited the team in front of him when it came to explaining the zero on the Anaheim scoresheet.
“Like in the second period, they had the puck in our zone for longer periods,” Niemi said, “but I think we did a great job blocking shots and being in front, tying them up at the net.”
Niemi’s stats are more than respectable, if not as attention-grabbing as they were a few weeks ago. His .922 save percentage ties him for sixth best in the NHL with Chicago’s Corey Crawford and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers; his 2.22 goals against average is the tenth lowest on the league.
Here’s what each coach had to say about tonight’s opposition:
Todd McLellan on the Red Wings, who are on a five-game road winning streak: “Different team, same weapons, same mindset. . . . It’s the same battle with them all the time. They don’t change the way they play and you have to be prepared to beat them.”
Mike Babcock on the Sharks, who have two consecutive regulation wins for the first time since Jan. 27: “I just thought they played quick last night. On TV it’s one thing, when you see them in person, I thought they were quicker and didn’t give Anaheim much room. Anaheim got off to a slow start and suddenly the Sharks were flying. You dig yourselves a hole, you can’t climb out of it. The first 10 minutes tonight, we’ve got to start on time and play real well.”
Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart wasn’t under the spotlight Jarome Iginla is as he leaves Calgary for the Pittsburgh Penguins. But Stuart can relate to joining a team with Stanley Cup aspirations because he did just that in 2008 when he was acquired by Detroit and the team did go on to win the cup that spring.
“You’re just another piece. You’re not coming in to be the guy they’re going to look to every night,” Stuart said of his own experience. “I don’t think that’s the case for him either. He’s just going to be a nice piece they can put in that’s going to add to the superstars they already have. You don’t have that added pressure coming into a situation where they need you to be the guy. That makes it a little easier.”
Comast Sportsnet Bay Area's Kevin Kurz offered a "glance" at the Wings-Sharks affair...
Where they stand
Sharks: 15-11-6, 36 points, 3rd Pacific Division, 8th Western Conference
Red Wings: 17-11-5, 39 points, 2nd Central Division, 5th Western Conference
Keep an eye on…
Sharks: Tommy Wingels. The second-year Sharks forward had perhaps his best game in the NHL against Anaheim on Wednesday, playing on the second line with Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture. He has four points in his last four games (2g, 2a), and his 77 hits lead the team.
Red Wings: Pavel Datsyuk. The Red Wings’ star has 13 points in his last 11 games, including a goal and an assist against the Coyotes on Monday. He’s tied for seventh in the league in scoring with 35 points, and in 38 career games against the Sharks, has eight goals and 23 assists (31 points).
Sharks: Thomas Greiss (neck) and Tim Kennedy (lower body) are on injured reserve.
Red Wings: Darren Helm (back), Todd Bertuzzi (back), Mikael Samuelsson (broken finger) and Kyle Quincey (fractured cheekbone) are on injured reserve. Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) is questionable.
In Detroit’s first visit to the Shark Tank, Patrick Eaves and Logan Couture scored in regulation before the Red Wings claimed a win in the shootout, 2-1. San Jose makes its only visit to The Joe on April 11.
The Sharks are 25-46-4-5 all-time vs. Detroit, and 6-2-1 in the last nine.
“We’ve looked a little more fresh the last few games than we have in awhile. The forwards are doing a good job of getting in position and the d-men are doing a good job of putting the puck up to them in open space. We’re getting rewarded.” – Dan Boyle, after the 4-0 win over Anaheim on Wednesday
MLive's Ansar Khan has rounded out his game-day story with quotes, noting that the Wings want to go 4-for-4 on their road trip..
“It's definitely been a good road trip so far, and tonight we have a chance to make it a great road trip,'' goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “I think the confidence is growing and we're keeping our game simple. We haven't lost focus. We continue to work and battle.''
Detroit has scored at least one power-play goal in eight consecutive games.
“We have an opportunity to have a heck of a road trip,'' Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We spend five out of six weeks out west, so if you can have a good trip, it makes it a lot easier for you. It's a big two points for us tonight.''
The Sharks who know the Red Wings well believed it was just a matter of time before they gelled.
“You expect a group like that, even if there is an adjustment period or they go through a tough stretch, that they're going to turn it around,'' Sharks defenseman and former Red Wing Brad Stuart said. "I know a lot of those guys well enough to know they're going to work their way out it. Sometimes it takes a little time to find your identity with new pieces. Seems like they turned it around and they're playing well.''
Said Sharks coach Todd McLellan: “Different team, same weapons, same mindset, play the game the same way, led by (Niklas) Kronweall, (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg, so that's a pretty good core. And Jimmy Howard gives them a chance to win every night. They've been able to win close games. It's the same battle with them all the time.''
And the Free Press's Helene St. James reports that the Wings are starting to get a little road-weary...
Jokes are going around about possibly having to pay state taxes in California before leaving -- that's how long it feels like this trip has lasted for the Detroit Red Wings.
They'll finally fly home Friday morning. But first, there's tonight, and a date with the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion (10:30 p.m., FSD). The Wings come into the game on a 3-0 high after dusting off the Anaheim Ducks twice and then Phoenix.
"It's definitely been a good road trip so far," goalie Jimmy Howard said, "and tonight, we have a chance of making it a great road trip. The focus is going to have to be there for a full 60, especially after how well the Sharks played last night."
She took note of Brad Stuart's take on the state of his team as well:
The Sharks, after teetering for a while, have won two straight and sit at 36 points. The Wings have 39.
"We went through a stretch where we weren't scoring, and things weren't going well," Stuart said. "You doubt yourselves and all that stuff. We've kind of turned the corner a little bit, I think. We've been playing better, we've playing a faster game, and it just feels like we're all on the same page a little bit, and that's a good sign for us."
Update #4: NHL.com's Eric Gilmore filed a game-day report...
Less than 24 hours after shutting out the Anaheim Ducks, San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi will make his 11th straight start Thursday night when the Sharks face the Detroit Red Wings at HP Pavilion. Niemi loves a heavy workload, and he said he has no problem playing back-to-back games.
"Especially when the first game goes pretty good, it's pretty easy to go in the second game," Niemi said Thursday morning after the Sharks' optional skate and brief team meeting. "Just keep on doing what I did last night."
Niemi stopped all 22 shots he faced Wednesday night in the Sharks' 4-0 victory, recording his second shutout of the season and 21st of his career. He improved his record to 14-8-5 and lowered his goals-against average to 2.22 and improved his save percentage to .922.
"Nemo's our guy," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "He had a day off in Anaheim, played, day off coming home. Back-to-back, but he (slept) in his own bed. He should be fine."
Niemi is 8-2-2 for his career against Detroit with a 1.96 GAA. In a 2-1 shootout loss to Detroit on Feb. 28 at HP, he made 33 saves. Niemi has started every game since backup Thomas Greiss suffered a neck injury March 6 at Calgary that landed him on injured reserve. As far as Niemi is concerned, the more work the better.
"He's a hockey player," McLellan said. "There's not a guy in there that doesn't want to play three more minutes than they played last night. Everybody wants to dress, and that's a really good thing. And Nemo's no different. He wants the net every night."
Niemi and the Sharks will face a Detroit team that has won five straight road games, including the first three on their current four-game road trip. The Red Wings beat Anaheim twice then defeated the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday night.
"It's definitely been a good road trip so far," said Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard, who'll start against the Sharks after getting a break Monday night when backup Jonas Gustavsson played all 60 minutes against Phoenix. "Tonight we have a chance to make it a great road trip."
And Helene St. James posted a video of Wings coach Mike Babcock's game-day comments and some quips from Henrik Zetterberg:
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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.