The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/28/13 at 06:08 PM ET
Lost admist the cavalcade of injury updates during and immediately after the Red Wings' practice on Monday (see: Darren Helm (back) needs rest and may return next Tuesday, Jonas Gustavsson (groin) practiced and may play in one of the Wings' back-to-back games this weekend, Mikael Samuelsson (groin) did not skate, Ian White (thigh laceration) is probably a week out, Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) is probably two weeks away, and while Valtteri Filppula (sprained MCL) skipped practice he'll probably play tomorrow) were the Red Wings' ponderings regarding their attempts to improve their hideous power play.
In terms of the Wings' attempts to dig their 2-for-26 power play out of the gutter, the line goes something like this exchange from Slap Shot:
Fan: "You guys gotta stop losin'. Get the power play together."
Reg Dunlop: "Yeah, we're working on it."
In the Red Wings' case, that involves making some surprising personnel tweaks--including promoting Jakub Kindl to the second power play unit--and something of a difference of opinion between Johan Franzen and Wings coach Mike Babcock.
Johan Franzen said the power-play problem is “probably a confidence thing.''
“It feels like (opponents) know what we're going to do. They probably scout us pretty well,'' Franzen said. “We got to threaten them from more positions. Right now we know either Kronner or (point man Damien) Brunner is going to shoot the puck, pretty much. I think we got to see Pav and Hank shoot the puck a little more and get (defenders) thinking a little bit.''
And today, Babcock issued a direct rebuttal to Khan while suggesting that the Wings' "new" net-front man needs to channel his predecessor in demanding a better effort from his teammates:
“I disagree,'' Babcock said after practice Monday. “We need shots. I don’t care who’s getting them. If you look at our shot totals, Z is leading us with 23, Brunner has 22 and Mule has 15. Pavel doesn’t have enough (10), he’s right about that. Z’s got lots of shots, he shoots the puck every time he gets the chance, and that’s what I like to see. I’d like Kronner to have a lot more on the power play and I’d like to have more shots from inside the dots and not from the outside.''
The Red Wings are 2-for-26 on the power play (7.7 percent), which ranks 28th in the NHL. As the net-front man on the first power-play unit, Franzen needs his teammates to direct more pucks to the net, so he can tip shots and knock in rebounds.
“When you’re the Mule and you’re net-front you want someone to shoot the puck, otherwise you’re standing there and wondering what you’re doing,'' Babcock said. “You’re standing around and you have dust on you, you don’t do anything. (Tomas Holmstrom) used to come to the bench and yell at me to tell them to shoot, shoot. Mule’s not doing that, but he’s thinking the same thing. If they shoot, he’s got a chance to generate offense. If they don’t shoot, he goes and gets the puck back and stands there and watches them pass it around. You have to shoot to score.''
They spent a lot of time Monday practicing the power play, not surprisingly.
“Our power play has to be a weapon for us,'' Babcock said. “We talked about it right at training camp. It’s not been as good as we’d like it to be so we’ve got to get that going.''
He will use Jakub Kindl, a healthy scratch Sunday, at the point on the second power-play unit Tuesday against the Dallas Stars (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net Detroit).
“We’d like to not just have one unit, we’d like to have two there,'' Babcock said.
It's uncertain whether Brian Lashoff or Kent Huskins will take a seat so that Kindl can play, but, as DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose notes, Valtteri Filppula's absence from practice yielded a slightly unconventional promotion for Lashoff:
Rookie defenseman Brian Lashoff had a quizzical look on his face Monday morning when an assistant equipment manager handed him a red practice jersey.
“J.R. came up with the jersey and said, ‘You’re playing forward today,’” Lashoff said, following Monday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena.
Red practice jerseys are reserved for the team’s top six forwards. Defensemen and goalies wear black jerseys, while the bottom six forwards don white. The 22-year-old Lashoff was called up following a rash of injuries along the blue line last week, and made his NHL debut in Columbus last Monday. It was there that the Albany, N.Y., native scored his first NHL goal on his first shot.
However, while scoring his first goal in and of itself was pretty sweet, skating on the same line with Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi, albeit just in practice, well …
“That was pretty cool,” Lashoff said. “Being on the line with Bert and Pav, that was pretty fun. It was a cool experience just to say that you’ve done it once in practice or whatever, but it was fun.”
Valtteri Filppula’s sore knee kept him out of Monday’s practice, which meant there was an opening on the second forward line as the team went through drills. And since the Red Wings had seven defensemen at practice, the coaches had Lashoff fill in at forward.
For the record, the Wings' non-contact jersey is gray in color...
And Lashoff, who may very well end up back in Grand Rapids despite having displayed aplomb as the team's interim #2 defenseman alongside Niklas Kronwall--mostly because Lashoff doesn't have to clear waivers--told Roose that he's starting to feel like he belongs with a team to which he'll surely remain with on a full-time basis, sooner than later:
“I think maybe the first couple of games when I’ve been in certain situations as far as penalty-killing situations and being out there against some pretty good players,” he said. “You’re definitely sitting out there and saying, ‘OK, let’s get ready, because this is it.’ Yeah, I’ve definitely had a few of those.”
As for today's other practice stories, Roose updated the state of the Wings' infirmary, he spoke to Danny Cleary and Henrik Zetterberg about the importance of getting the power play in order as soon as humanly possible given a) the condensed nature of the 48-game season and b) the fact that the 48-games-in-99-nights marathon means that the Wings won't have much time to specifically dedicate practices to refining their poower play and penalty-killing units...
Roose also noted that the Wings have yet to score a first period goal...
“You always want to get that first goal and grab hold of the momentum,” forward Drew Miller said. “I think we’re getting opportunities. I think if we work a little bit harder, maybe a little smarter, we’re going to get those chances and they’ll go in for us.”
Coach Mike Babcock didn’t think the Red Wings started off that great against Chicago on Sunday, even though Detroit launched more than 36 percent of its 30 total shots on goal in the opening period.
“I think we put our toe in the water to see what temperature it was,” he said. “Let’s just get out there and jump on it. That’s what we have to try and do here tomorrow at home. I don’t think we’ve been particularly good or particularly bad. I don’t think there are a whole lot of patterns to look for yet. It’s five games in, but in saying all that you’d like to start great every night and you’d like to have the lead, but the other team is trying too so sometimes it doesn’t happen.”
And he duly noted that the Wings' "bottom six" forwards have out-performed their top-six counterparts...In some aspects of the game, anyway:
Even without Darren Helm (sore back), one of the league’s top third-line centers, the Red Wings’ bottom-six forwards played another intense up-tempo style Sunday at the United Center.
“I think every game the third- and fourth-lines have been getting better at creating that energy and getting in on the forecheck and hitting,” said Miller, who skated on the fourth-line Sunday with center Cory Emmerton and winger Jordin Tootoo. “First couple of games we didn't establish that, play that the way we know we're able to. Games since then we've been a lot better, getting in there taking the body, getting on the cycle. Last night was probably one of our better games at doing that. I think we're making progress.”
Against the Blackhawks, the bottom six forwards were credited with nine of the Red Wings’ 19 hits, including five by center Justin Abdelkader.
The Wings will attempt to get the jump on the Dallas Stars in more ways than one. For the second time in a row, the Columbus Blue Jackets will warm up an opponent--the Blackhawks played against the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Saturday, while the Wings waited for the Hawks in Chicago, and tonight, the Wings will watch the Stars play in Columbus from their living rooms, and will hope to take advantage of the Stars' tired legs tomorrow.
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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.