The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/12/13 at 02:23 PM ET
Updated 2x at 4:56 PM: The Red Wings chose to hold one final practice at Joe Louis Arena before embarking on their Western Canadian road swing through Calgary (on Wednesday), Edmonton (on Friday) and Vancouver (on Saturday), and perhaps from a Wings fan's perspective, it's "good news, bad news."
The bad news is that the Wings chose to send Tomas Tatar back to Grand Rapids, swapping him out for Gustav Nyquist. The good news is that the team did so to make room for Valtteri Filppula's return at some point during the road trip, as MLive's Brendan Savage reports...
"I think Filppula is back in so suddenly there's no power-play time for Tatar," coach Mike Babcock said. "You got to give Tats a ton of credit. He came up for one game ... and he earned himself 17 games. We'll give Gus an opportunity and see what he can earn himself. I thought (Tatar) played really good. I thought he did good things. The only thing is suddenly if you're not on the power play, where's he getting his touches? Because Filppula is going to do that. We don't perceive him ahead of Fil. Any way you look at it, that's less ice time for him and less opportunity. So we made that flip. (Nyquist) is getting an opportunity. We have an extra forward now. We need to take an extra forward on the trip. We'll see what happens."
Filppula told Savage that he's almost ready to return, though Savage notes that Filppula has yet to receive medical clearance to play after injuring his left shoulder over two weeks ago...
"Today, it felt the best it has," said Filppula, who has four goals and 10 points in 19 games this season. "Great shooting. Obviously, you don't get a lot of battles in practice so I don't know if the game is the time to test it out. But other than that it felt pretty good."
Nyquist, who led the AHL in scoring heading into Tuesday, is being thrown into the fire, so to speak...
He skated in practice Tuesday on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen and is excited about the possibility of playing with them on the three-game road trip.
"If that's the case for the game then it's going to be a great opportunity for me," Nyquist said. "It's really exciting to be playing with guys like that. I'm just going to try and make the best out of it." I'm back and it's obviously exciting and I'm happy to be up here again."
Nyquist said he didn't get frustrated staying in Grand Rapids while Griffins teammates like Joakim Andersson, Tatar, Brendan Smith and Brian Lashoff were recalled by the Red Wings when the lockout ended.
"You can't think about it too much," he said. "You have to focus on working hard down there and showing them that you want to be up there. But at the same time, the guys that have gotten the chance so far – I mean, Andy, Tats and Smitty and Lash on the D-side – have done a great job. They've really shown that they can play up here too. I'm really excited to be up here again and getting a new chance."
And there's good long-term injury news from Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji, who reports that Darren Helm skated with the team, will skate with the team on their road trip, and is probably 10 days to two weeks from returning from his back issues:
"I’m skating with the team now," Helm said. ""Skated last week. I felt pretty good. There are still a few things I want to overcome, strengthening it, I really don’t want to feel any pain after skates, the next morning. It feels good, but there are still a few things I need to do."
Tuesday's practice was the first time Helm had skated with his teammates in more than five weeks. Helm said he and the team do have a goal in mind for his return.
"A couple weeks ago we kind of said (March) 20 against Minny, not positive how close we were going to be to that," Helm said. "I want to make sure there are no issues with that, with my mind. I want to make sure when I’m out there that’s the furthest thing from my thoughts. I want to be as healthy as I can before I get back out there and not a thought in my mind about it."
After absolutely bombing their games this past weekend against Columbus, the Wings know that they're heading into Western Canada with an enormous amount of pressure to both turn their road record around and resolve their 0-for-the-road power play. Jimmy Howard told Wakiji that the Wings need to simplify their play with the man advantage...
"It’s just paying attention to detail out there like we do at home," Howard said. "Not trying to be too fancy or getting frustrated when something doesn’t go right on the road. Just stick to the game plan and trust in our systems."
Babcock brought up the fact that the Wings have the ninth best power play at home and the worst on the road.
"We need it for two reasons. One, obviously we need the goals but two, when your offensive people are scoring on the power play, it puffs them up and they're that much better all around," Babcock said. "Guys who score want to score. We have to put our work as a coaching staff and as a group of players into being effective on the power play."
And Howard told Wakiji that he believes the Wings can indeed get their power play going if they get back to basics:
"Definitely with our skill, the five guys that we can put out there it’s kind of mindboggling how we haven’t (scored any goals)," [Howard] said. "But we really can't think about it. We just have to go out there and pound pucks on net and hopefully one goes in off the shin pads."
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan also spoke to Helm about his health...
"There's still a few things I want to overcome as far as strengthening it and not feeling any pain after skating or the next day," Helm said. "It definitely did take a big step last week. I started skating Monday, just a few little whirls around the rink, nothing too hard, and I pushed it a little harder (later in the week). Today was the first time I was with the team and it was definitely nice to be out there and see the end (to the injury) coming."
And Nyquist about his promotion:
Nyquist, 23, is leading the American League in scoring with 60 points (23 goals, 37 assists). Nyquist saw a six-game point streak come to an end Friday, but he has 15 points (six goals, nine assists) over the last nine games.
"It's just a matter of having to do the same things I was doing down there," said Nyquist, who was skating on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen during Tuesday's practice. "It's a great a great opportunity for me, exciting to play with those players, and I have to make the best of it."
It's worth noting that Kulfan surmised that the Wings would not be making much of a splash on April 3rd during his overnight notebook...
News: The trade deadline is April 3. Will the Red Wings, and the rest of the league, make it memorable and exciting?
Views: The NHL trade deadline used to be like Christmas for fans, but it simply isn't anymore. Parity, the salary cap and long-term contracts have stifled any excitement. Free agency in July is much more active and interesting.
Plus, too many teams are still in contention. So, why would any team concede with about 12 games remaining?And for the few teams thinking about trading assets — Florida, Edmonton and Buffalo — there aren't a ton of players teams really want.
The Red Wings would love to add a top-six forward or a top-four defenseman, but so would every other team.
News: The Red Wings finished the first half of this shortened season in a playoff spot. Can they stay there?
Views: Getting forward Valtteri Filppula (shoulder) back this week will help. And it sounds as if forward Darren Helm (back) could return by the end of the month. And forward Gustav Nyquist, who leads the American Hockey League in scoring (60 points), is ready.
But so much of it goes back to that schedule. There's a sense the Red Wings simply didn't get enough points in the first half that was so home heavy. And, they haven't been great on the road (3-5-2).
And that Wings GM Ken Holland told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that he expected the Wings to struggle to score goals given their personnel (see: It's sink or swim this year, folks):
"We knew our lineup was going to be a little goal-challenged,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said during a phone interview Monday. “We are trying to just grind out wins as we can in low-scoring games.
In their last seven games, the Wings have scored a total of 10 goals. That stretch came on the heels of an eight-goal outburst against the Vancouver Canucks.
“I just think everyone is play playoff type hockey,” Holland said. “Other teams are trying to win, too. It’s tight every night. We’re trying to grind out wins, trying to be good defensively.”
Heading into play Monday, the Wings were tied for ninth in the Western Conference, 18th overall, in goals scored with 66.
“Some people who were scoring early haven’t been scoring,” Holland said. “You look at the Western Conference, goals hard to come by. We have the potential to score a few more goals than we are,” Holland continued. “We’re getting chances. We’re facing good goalies every night and desperate teams.”
The team’s three leading scorers – Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Damien Brunner – have gone awhile without finding the back of the net. Datsyuk has not scored a goal in 10 straight games, while Zetterberg and Brunner last scored in Feb. 24. Brunner still leads the team with 10 goals.
“We’ve got to get those gritty goals and keep putting the puck at the net,” Holland said. “I like our mindset, we’re playing playoff hockey. We’ve got to score some goals on the power play, can’t go 0-for every night. We’ve got to win 2-1, 3-2.”
Pleiness at least received good news from Holland on the Todd Bertuzzi front, stating that Bertuzzi's at least engaging in light workouts, but it sounds like Carlo Colaiacovo's still "banged-up," though whether his shoulder is the issue anymore is something of a mystery:
“We were optimistic a few weeks ago, but then [Bertuzzi]s back wasn’t feeling so good,” Holland said. “On Friday there was optimism again. We’re going to give it another week to 10 days and then decide where he’s at.”
In terms of personnel either rowing along to their general manager's tune or mounting a little, "We need help!" insurrection thanks to the team's 3-5-and-2 road record and two remaining home games out of 9 played over the course of the rest of this month, expect the former sentiment to prevail, as the Detroit Free Press's Carlos Monarrez noted:
"It's going to be tough," goaltender Jimmy Howard said. "But there's no excuses because we're going out on the road. We've got to find a way to get dirty wins."
"Just going to the net and hopefully getting some puck luck," Howard said. "I don't think we really have gotten it as of late. So hopefully we can make out on this road trip. I don't think it's lack of effort or lack of trying by the guys. They're working hard, and hopefully when we go out on this trip we get a couple bounces."
Coach Mike Babcock hopes to have Valtteri Filppula back this week and then Darren Helm, which could boost offensive production. The Wings have scored more than two goals only once in their past seven games.
"In the end, we haven't been good enough," Babcock said. "We thought we had her going pretty good. But even when we win, we win 2-1. And we got two again (Sunday against Columbus). So it looks like we can't give up two. We can only give up one. That's a hard way to play. So hopefully we can get things fixed up so that we move the puck better and generate more offense."
And the logic for bringing up Nyquist and keeping Joakim Andersson on the team goes a little something like what MLive's Ansar Khan suggested earlier today:
Nyquist was leading the AHL in scoring with 60 points in 57 games (23 goals, 37 assists). He appeared in two games with Detroit earlier this season (no points). He played in 18 games for the Red Wings in 2011-12, picking up a goal and six assists.
Nyquist will join the club for its three-game road trip to Western Canada, which begins Wednesday in Calgary. To make room for Nyquist on the 23-man roster, the Red Wings sent down Tatar, after he had tallied four goals and three assists in 18 games with Detroit.
They opted to keep forward Joakim Andersson around for now because of his size, grit and penalty-killing ability. Andersson (three goals, three assists, plus-5 rating in 16 games) has been centering the third line.
The Red Wings, coming off back-to-back losses to the Columbus Blue Jackets over the weekend (3-0 on the road and 3-2 in a shootout at home), have scored only 10 goals in their past seven games.
Update: The Free Press's Anthony Fenech provides a practice update with news about Nyquist...
To Mike Babcock, it’s simple.
“Guys who score want to score.”
And halfway through the season, the Red Wings who score haven’t been scoring enough on the power play – especially on the road, where the team is 0-for-36. So today, a day before the team opens a western Canada road trip of three games in four days, the Wings called up a guy who scores – 23-year-old Gustav Nyquist – and another could return to the lineup as soon as Wednesday’s game against Calgary.
“I’m real excited to be up here again and given a chance,” Nyquist said. “I just have to do the same things I do down there up here and try to bring some energy.”
“I’m hopeful that at least it’s really soon,” he said. “If it’s not next game, it’s soon.”
Babcock said it was his understanding that Filppula’s status is ‘good to go.’
Darren Helm skated with the team for the first time on Tuesday and said he’s coming close to returning. Babcock said he heard Helm was about two weeks away.
“I definitely took a big step last week,” Helm, who started skating by himself last Monday, said. “It’s definitely nice to be able to get out there and be coming close.”
I hadn't seen this, but Holland reiterated his, "Our team is hard of scoring" line to MLive's Ansar Khan before offering some injury news on Monday night:
“Helm appears to have turned the corner,'' Holland said. “He's skating every day, no setbacks. The issue now is fitness. Don't expect him to play in Western Canada, maybe between the Minnesota and Anaheim games (March 20-24).''
Right wing Mikael Samuelsson (broken left index finger) is not making the trip.
“Hoping to have him back during the California trip (March 22-28) or, worst-case scenario, shortly after,'' Holland said.
Holland said the club hasn't relinquished hope that forward Todd Bertuzzi can return this season. Severe back pain has kept him off the ice since Feb. 1. He is riding the stationary bike.
“A week-to-10 days ago the back wasn't feeling so good. On Friday, there was optimism again,'' Holland said. “Let's give it another week-to-10 days (before exploring other options).''
Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (sprained left shoulder) had a setback. His return isn't on the horizon.
“He's frustrated,'' Holland said. “He saw a doctor in Toronto that he's known for a long time. He's not 100 percent. They've taken more (X-rays). They don't know if it's an old injury or a new injury. All we can do is give him more time.''
Update #2: Here's DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose's practice report:
The Wings practiced at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday before they headed to Calgary later in the day. Babcock shuffled the forward lines a bit with Nyquist working with Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen. Meanwhile, Filppula was back on Henrik Zetterberg’s line, opposite Damien Brunner. It appears that Justin Abdelkader, who had been in Datsyuk’s line lately, will return to the third line with wingers Daniel Cleary and Joakim Andersson.
However the lines are rolled out, this week starts a very important stretch for the Wings who play seven of the next eight games on the road, and all at least two time zones away.
The Wings enter Tuesday’s NHL slate of games as the No. 5 seed with 29 points in the West. However, the standings are so tight that ever points matters as eight-points separates the fourth seed from last place.
“It's not even the trip, it's tomorrow. We got a game tomorrow,” said Babcock when asked about the importance of this week. “We've got one out of a possible four points here lately, we need to get back on the winning side of things. We've continued to be pretty good defensively. We thought we only gave up very few chances in (Sunday's) game. But we still didn't score. So hopefully with Fil back and spreading it out, we'll have more opportunity to score. We're putting Mule back with Pavel, hopefully there's a twosome there. Fil with Z, hopefully there's a twosome there.”
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