The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/09/13 at 10:32 AM ET
Updated 9x at 4:10 PM: The Red Wings took to the ice very early today--10:30 AM--and things rolled along pretty well...mostly...
I mentioned the first crop of power rankings in the overnight report, and MLive's Brendan Savage has also compiled a list thereof. The Wings are also ranked 15th in USA Today's power rankings, which state the obvious:
15 Detroit Red Wings [down] 5 [highest/lowest] 8/17 Red Wings precariously holding on to last playoff berth; 21-year run could be in jeopardy.
No comment about Savage re-posting NHL.com's statement that Babcock's the best coach in the NHL.
As an FYI from the Grand Rapids Press's Dean Holzwarth, Calle Jarnkrok's final three games with the Grand Rapids Griffins will take place Wednesday (vs. Chicago), Friday (vs. Milwaukee) and Saturday (vs. Peoria) at Van Andel Arena, and as Holzwarth notes, the Wings won't be able to call up half the Griffins' roster if Detroit makes the playoffs because the Griffins will do the same this season:
The Griffins are on the brink of earning a playoff berth for the first time since the 2008-09 season and can clinch a spot Wednesday, April 10, when they face the Chicago Wolves at Van Andel Arena.
Grand Rapids (40-23-3-4) leads the Midwest Division by eight points over Milwaukee and Rockford, and sits third overall in the Western Conference with six games remaining in the regular season.
A regulation win over the Wolves on Wednesday, coupled with a Rockford loss of any variety against Peoria, would seal a playoff berth for the Griffins. Grand Rapids' magic number for clinching the Midwest Division title is five points, and that could happen no earlier than Friday.
Griffins first-year coach Jeff Blashill said the team hasn't talked about the playoffs, instead focusing on each game as the regular season winds down.
“Right now we're so focused in at the task at hand, and the task at hand is to play a real good team on Wednesday,” he said. “At the beginning of the season, we set forth segment goals with the idea of, if we stay on top of those goals, then we would be a playoff team. Obviously, every team at the beginning of the year strives to get themselves into the playoffs so they have a chance to win the ultimate goal. And we're no different than anyone else. We want to put ourselves in position to compete for that, and that's where our focus is right now. Our focus day to day is to continue to get better as a hockey team.”
Heading back to the big club, via Paul, the Globe and Mail's Bruce Dowbiggin suggests that the Maple Leafs' improved play and the Wings' struggles will provide for "great TV" during HBO's 24/7 next season...
The biggest surprise in the not-very-surprising resurrection of the Winter Classic next Jan. 1 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is how much the story line has changed for Detroit and Toronto since their first date was cancelled. When Red Wings vs. Maple Leafs was initially announced for Jan. 1, 2013, most hockey fans did a Hollywood spit take at the notion of Toronto as a star of the HBO documentary series 24/7 . The Maple Leafs? The listless Leafs were as sexy as CRTC cable carriage regulations.
It was widely agreed (okay, we suggested it) that the Red Wings would be the only attraction for HBO’s cameras in the four-part run-up to the game. Detroit in the postseason every year for two decades. Pavel Datsyuk. Henrik Zetterberg. Mike Babcock. Gordie Howe. The octopus.
Toronto? They haven’t lifted the Stanley Cup since 1967. The Brian Burke circus. Dion Phaneuf and the goofy Red Bull hat in the dressing room. C’mon, how are they going to put this Duck Dynasty on HBO, home of Boardwalk Empire?
If the lockout had one saving grace, it was keeping this mismatch out of America’s homes.
Yet as we now point the telescope at the 2014 Winter Classic, it’s the Leafs (who won 4-3 last night over the Rangers) that are suddenly in the ascendancy. In transition from Nicklas Lidstrom, the Red Wings might miss the 2013 postseason while Toronto seems assured of its first playoff trip since Stephen Harper became PM. The blue team: arrow up. The red team: arrow down.
Think of the possibilities now for 24/7. Joffrey Lupul beaking. Phil Kessel speaking. Randy Carlyle discussing the thermal properties of the brain in concussion awareness. Dave Nonis refusing to trade for Roberto Luongo for the 237th time. All narrated by Liev Schreiber. (Sportsnet has announced it has obtained the rights to 24/7.)
Now that, not Mad Men, is quality TV. Zooby zooby zoo, Maple Leafs.
I don't dislike Toronto. I DESPISE the Leafs. DESPISE. I wanted the "mismatch." I sure as *#$%@& hope that it's a "mismatch" again by this time next season.
Here come the post-practice updates...
And the entry's going live because of this:
"He's not going to play hockey, right, this year, I don't think,'' Babcock said after Tuesday's practice. “We got to get ourselves in the playoffs and be ready to go without him.''
Helm, who has missed all but one game due to a back injury, skated by himself before practice and hasn't given up hope of returning, even though there are only nine games remaining.
“I'm trying to stay positive,'' Helm said. “I think my spirits are a little bit higher than they have been. It feels better but still can't really put any time on what's going on. I've been skating for a while, working out for a while, working really hard. It's just that I still feel pain, feel a lot of discomfort. I don't know if one day I'll wake up and feel great or it's going to be kind of gradual thing.''
Helm has had many tests and seen a couple of specialists. They all say there is no structural damage, just a slight tear in a disc and some inflammation. He appeared on the verge of returning to the lineup before experiencing another setback during practice on March 18. He said he feels a little bit better, but there's nothing new to report on his status.
“Each day we do a little more and go by how we feel,'' Helm said. “I feel like there has been a change since the last couple weeks but don't know what's going on.''
The Free Press's Helene St. James posted a clip of Babcock and Helm discussing his status...Different takes...
And here's her article...
Detroit Red Wings forward Darren Helm won't give up on playing again this season, but his coach isn't counting on it happening. Helm has missed all but one game because of back pain that dates to just before the season began. He has skated, suffered a setback, skated some more, rested a few days; rinse and repeat.
Right now, he's back to skating on his own. But with just nine games remaining, Mike Babcock isn't counting on Helm returning.
"He's not going to play hockey, right, this year, I don't think," Babcock said after today's practice at Joe Louis Arena. "So we've got to get ourselves into the playoffs and be ready to go without him."
Helm didn't want to say that he wouldn't be able to play again this season, but even if he were to miraculously be able to join practices this week, he'd be a minimum of three weeks from playing -- and that'd put him past the April 27 end of the regular season.
And the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness has moved on to note the team's line changes:
“San Jose’s spread their group out,” Babcock said after practice Tuesday. “We need to generate, we don’t want to give up any more chances against and we want to be solid defensively and continue that way, but we’d like to generate more offense.”
Babcock moved Drew Miller up with Johan Franzen and Gustav Nyquist, while having Valtteri Filppula center a line with Damien Brunner and Daniel Cleary.
“By doing this we can generate more offense,” Babcock said. “We feel Fil, Brunns, Clears that’s a pretty good line. Fil’s been a good centerman for us. We like what Mule’s been doing here and we’re just going to spread our lineup out and go a little bit deeper.”
Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader make up the top line.
“With the line I’m on right now, Mule’s big and strong and can play with the puck, Gus is a skilled player that’s going to get the puck and work hard,” Miller said. “I’ve just got to get out there and get the puck from the corner, get in front of the net. We’re just looking for a balanced lineup. We’ll see if it sticks, if not whatever line I’m on I’ll play the same every night.”
The Detroit Red Wings will have Damien Brunner back in the lineup Thursday against San Jose, when they'll juggle the lines a bit. Brunner will return after missing three games with a sore hip flexor.
“Everything is fine,'' Brunner said after practice Tuesday. “I felt good. No pain.''
Brunner is second on the team with 11 goals. He has 22 points in 35 games. Coach Mike Babcock said Brunner will play on a line with Valtteri Filppula and Daniel Cleary. Filppula moves off the wing on the second line to go back to center, where he has played sparingly the past two seasons.
“San Jose’s spread their group out,'' Babcock said. “We need to generate, we don’t want to give up any more chances against and we want to be solid defensively and continue that way, but we’d like to generate more offense.
“By doing this we can generate more offense. We feel Fil, Brunns, Clears that’s a pretty good line. Fil’s been a good centerman for us. We like what Mule (Johan Franzen) has been doing here (centering second line) and we’re just going to spread our lineup out and go a little bit deeper.''
You'll have to read the rest of Khan's article for the actual lines/d-pairs.
Update #4: Here's the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa's report:
Coach Mike Babcock acknowledged this morning after a vigorous practice that Darren Helm, an important component of the Red Wing's front end, centering the third line and killing penalties, is unlikely to play this season.
"Well, he's not going to play hockey, this year, I don't think," said Babcock, who as long ago as early March thought he might see the dynamo of a center back in the lineup. "We've got to get ourselves into the playoffs and be ready to go without him."
Helm hurt his back in the training room near the end of the lockout, and his absence has meant frequent shuffling of the third and fourth lines looking for more offense. It also has meant lots of penalty killing time for the Wings' overworked stars, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
Babcock also showed two new lines, which he said will likely remain together against the Sharks on Thursday at Joe Louis Arena. Valtteri Filppula moved to center, between Daniel Cleary and Damien Brunner, for a new second line. The third line will be Johan Franzen, Gustav Nyquist and Drew Miller.
"We're hoping by doing this we can generate more offense," Babcock said, of the line changes, which will leave Datsyuk between Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader, and Cory Emmerton with Patrick Eaves and Joakim Andersson. "We feel with Fil, Bruns and Clears, that's a pretty good line. Fil's been a good centerman for us. We like what Mule's (Franzen's) doing, here. So, we're just going to spread our lineup out and go a little bit deeper. We need to be at the net, some more. We've got to find a way to score more."
Todd Bertuzzi and Helm worked out, off the ice. Bertuzzi is nursing a bad back and upper leg. Mikael Samuelsson skated hard after practice and continued to take treatment on what reportedly is a strained pectoral muscle. Zetterberg practiced but left early for treatment on what reportedly is a sore groin. He was seen doing some running drills, as he often does after practice.
Update #5: Sportsline's Brian Stubits wrote a VERY LONG article about the Wings' attempts to at least lock up the 8th and final playoff spot in the West, as well as the fortunes of the teams that are chasing Detroit:
The Wings have a pretty even split between home and road; five away from the Joe and four back in Hockeytown. That shouldn't be too much of a factor, though, as the Wings haven't been appreciably better at home than on the road this season.
More importantly they have four games against teams that are in the pack chasing them: two vs. Nashville then one vs. Phoenix and one at Dallas.
By virtue of their starting point in this sprint to the finish line, you're looking at a scenario where the Red Wings probably need 10 more points to feel absolutely safe. A record like 5-4-0 could get it done but they would feel just a wee bit safer if they put a few more points up than the minimum. Most importantly, though, they need to get the points in the games against the chasers, those are four-point swing games.
I'm going with 13 points.
Update #6: DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose confirms Helm's status, too:
“He's not going to play hockey, right, this year, I don't think,” Babcock said. “We got to get ourselves in the playoffs and be ready to go without him.”
Helm, who suffered the injury while lifting weights as part of his conditioning a few days before the start of the team’s training camp in mid-January, isn’t giving up hope – at least not yet.
“I'm trying to stay positive,” Helm said. “I think my spirits are a little bit higher than they have been. It feels better but still can't really put any time on what's going on.”
The ordeal has been frustrating for everyone associated with the team, especially Helm. He’s met with a few different back specialists, including one in New York, and all have agreed that there isn’t any structural damage to the vertebrae, though there is a small tear in a disc, which has caused inflammation.
Helm has been skating on his own at Joe Louis Arena; and hasn’t made the last two road trips with the team, choosing to stay behind so he wouldn’t aggravate the injury.
“I've been skating for a while, working out for a while, working really hard, said Helm, who seemed ready to return to the lineup before he experienced another setback in mid-March. “It's just that I still feel pain, feel a lot of discomfort. I don't know if one day I'll wake up and feel great or it's going to be kind of gradual thing.”
Update #7: Yup:
Todd Bertuzzi said his approach to the Detroit Red Wings' annual dip into matters economic doesn't vary.
He and his teammates, along with coach Mike Babcock, did their annual duty at the Detroit Economic Club today, with players seated at tables surrounded by those who paid to attend the event.
"I just sit there and nod," Bertuzzi said.
With nine games left, the Red Wings are very much in the hunt for one of the final Western Conference playoff berths. However, so are nine other teams currently vying for spots four through eight. But the Wings’ offense has flat-lined over the last five home games causing some concern as they’ve produced just three-points in the standings while being outscored 17-8 in those games.
Brunner, who has missed the last two games with a hip injury, said Tuesday that he will be ready for Thursday’s home game against the San Jose Sharks.
“No pain at all,” Brunner said, Tuesday. “I hope I'll be back in the lineup.”
Meanwhile, Filppula, who has grabbled with a few different injuries this season, hopes the change from wing to center will provide a spark to his game. He has seven goals and 14 points this season, but just one goal in his last 10 games.
“We'll have to wait and see how that goes, if that helps,” Filppula said, of the move to center. “I definitely hope so. I feel like I've been playing a lot and getting chances and the puck hasn't gone in this year. Obviously there's still games left and fighting for a playoff spot, so hopefully it can do more to help the team.”
Drafted as a center by the Wings in 2002, Filppula has played the position sparingly over the last two seasons. It’s a position that he feels comfortable playing, though, especially in the faceoff circle, and it doesn’t require him to change his game plan much.
“Center plays a little more down low in your own end, so I have to be good defensively and I think when you're a wing you have to be good defensively, too, but you do that a little more when you're playing center,” Filppula said. “So that's pretty much the only thing changing, and taking faceoffs. I don't think I have to change too many things.”
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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.