The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/24/13 at 11:47 AM ET
Updated 8x at 3:19 PM: The Detroit Red Wings returned to practice after a full day off on Monday, preparing for a three-games-in-four-nights slate of games to conclude their exhibition season (Wednesday vs. Pittsburgh on FSD Plus/NHL Net U.S., Friday vs. Toronto, Saturday at Toronto on the CBC and NHL Net U.S.), and the Wings' beat writers delivered a familiar slate of, "Good news and bad news on the injury front" while watching practice:
Okay, now that I've done a roll call, I promise I won't post every frickin' Tweet.
Regarding the lines...
As practice rolled along, the Canadian Press's Bill Beacon penned an article about 10 "most intriguing players," and he picked a now-familiar name to represent the Wings:
Daniel Alfredsson, Detroit Red Wings: A Senator since 1995, and captain since 1999, it's hard to imagine the 40-year-old in anything but red and black. But a contract couldn't get done and the classy right-winger shocked Ottawa by signing a one-year deal with Detroit. The Red Wings are now in Ottawa's division, making Dec. 1 an interesting date at the Canadian Tire Centre.
Sportsnet's Patrick Hoffman also offered an Atlantic Division preview, suggesting that the Wings will finish second in the division behind Boston:
Detroit Red Wings (2012-13: 24-16-8; eliminated in second round of playoffs)
For the first time in a long time, the Red Wings come into a season where they’re not a divisional powerhouse team to beat. While the Red Wings are still a solid hockey club, they don’t exactly strike fear into their opponents the way they used to. This is a club that is getting older on offence, especially with the addition of Daniel Alfredsson, and one whose defence has taken a step back. However, the Wings do have one of the best goaltenders in the league in Jimmy Howard — a guy who can steal games. The team is now in a tougher division than it used to be, which means that, come April, the Wings may be the odd team out of the playoff picture.
Key acquisitions: Daniel Alfredsson, Stephen Weiss
Key departures: Damien Brunner, Valterri Filppula
Wait, wait, so the Atlantic's harder than playing against Chicago, St. Louis and the plucky Preds and...Blue Jackets? Okay, sure, whatever...
Beacon also offered a slate of 10 storylines to watch heading into the 13-14 season...
Outdoor inflation: There used to be one outdoor game per season. This year there will be six. It may be overexposure, but the Jan. 1 to March 2 period will see Leafs vs. Red Wings, Ducks vs. Kings, Rangers vs. Devils, Rangers vs. Islanders, Pens vs. Blackhawks and Senators vs. Canucks. All in baseball or football venues.
Realignment: Instead of six divisions, there will be four — the Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific. The top three plus two wild cards in each make the playoffs. There are 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 in the West, which has sparked complaints that it will be tougher to qualify in the East.
New rivalries: The Leafs, Sens and Habs will now have Detroit in their division, while the Oilers, Flames and Canucks are in with the U.S. West Coast clubs. Jets are in the Central. No more Detroit-Chicago divisional derbies, but at least all teams will play each other, whereas in recent years some teams didn't meet at all.
Again, Sportsnet's Chris Nichols also suggested that Stephen Weiss will succeed as one of ten "new faces in new places," and the Hockey News's Darryl Dobbs believes that Jakub Kindl is something of a sleeper pick for fantasy hockey poolies...
And the Toledo Blade's Mark Monroe reminded us that "Old Time Hockey" is alive and well in the ECHL:
The Toledo Walleye signed physical forward Emerson Clark and tough defenseman Garrett Clarke on Monday. Clark, a native of Whitby, Ontario, has skated the last four years in the Ontario Hockey League. He played last season with the Windsor Spitfires in the premiere junior league.
In 63 games last season, the 20-year-old posted seven goals, 11 assists, and 131 penalty minutes. The 5-10, 185-pound forward has 496 penalty minutes during the last four years, which includes 72 fighting majors.
“Emerson is a tough, physical, and strong young man,” Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said.
Vitucci compared Clark’s style to former Walleye enforcer Adam Keefe, who still is the franchise leader with 243 penalty minutes.
“[Clark] will bring a ton of energy into our lineup each and every night,” Vitucci said.
Clarke, 20, spent last season with the Allen Americans of the Central Hockey League and posted one goal, three assists, and 223 penalty minutes in 54 games. The native of Windsor, Ontario spent the previous five seasons playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The 6-foot, 198-pound defenseman appeared in 203 career games in the QMJHL, scoring 27 goals with 97 assists and 540 penalty minutes.
I missed this one: Mattias Backman went scoreless in 15:50 of ice time as Linkopings HC dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to Mattias Janmark and AIK Stockholm, with Janmark scoring a goal for AIK...
And Tomas Jurco and Tomas Tatar received tangential mentions in the Sports Forecaster's Slovak Olympic Team preview.
Practice wrapped up around noon. Here come the quotes!
How does the intrepid Pleiness post so many videos? 2 iPhones.
How do I plan on trying to post some videos after I recover and ask for single-game credentials so that I can get my ass to the Joe semi-regularly? By buying a bigger battery for my Samsung phone.
When the coach speaks, it's finally time to post an hour-and-a-half's worth of work:
Wings may split duties on Saturday...Or not...
“It was a good practice, I felt good,” Alfredsson said. “It was a good pace. I’ll see how I feel later today and tomorrow and go from there.”
However, he wasn’t sure if he’ll be able to play Wednesday at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“We’ll take it day-by-day,” Alfredsson said. “I’m happy with how I feel right now, but you never want to jinx yourself and say you feel great so we’ll see how it feels this afternoon. This was the first time I’ve really pushed myself hard in a while.”
And that Alfredsson's coach is getting impatient:
“No one told me he isn’t so I assume he’s going to play,” Babcock said. “He’s got to play eventually here, like anything I’d like to get him going. I’d like to play him tomorrow and then on Friday and get going from there.”
The Wings’ planned second line of Alfredsson, Johan Franzen and Stephen Weiss have yet to play a preseason game together.
“They’ve got to get to work and get playing,” Babcock said. “That’s what training camp is for. You have to start feeling good and be going in at a high level and if you do that you have a better chance of getting started on time.”
Defenseman Jakub Kindl (hip flexor) also participated in a full practice, but his status for Wednesday is cloudy as well.
“We just had that debate, I told him only players over 40 can miss a whole week of training camp so we haven’t decided yet,” Babcock said. “I told all the D to be ready to go tomorrow and we’ll see who’s available.”
Update #2.5: And Pleiness provides this update on Gustavsson:
“It’s tough to say how long it’s going to be,” Gustavsson said. “They took some pictures, but you never really know with groins how long it’s going to take, could be a few days or longer than that. You never know how quick they heal. I’m just going to do whatever I can to get back as soon as possible.”
Gustavsson pulled his groin after playing only 19 minutes of relief of Jimmy Howard in the season opener last year.
“I want to be on the ice, I want to be out there, help the team,” Gustavsson said. “But that’s the way it goes. In your career you’re going to have some steps back, setbacks, you can’t be too low about that. Just got to do whatever you can to get back as soon as possible. That’s just the approach I have. I can’t get too down.”
Gustavsson, 28, appeared in just seven of the 48 games during the lockout-shortened year last season, making just four starts. He didn’t play over the final 27 games of the season, which included the playoffs.
“With groins, especially for a goalie, you got to be 100 percent,” Gustavsson said. “You use them a lot. If I was a defenseman or forward it would be something else because you don’t put as much pressure on it. That’s the tough part, to know exactly how long that’s going to take. That’s why I can’t give you a number or days or weeks I’ll be back. I’m just going to be positive and do everything I can to make it heal as quick as possible.”
Update #3: Here's MLive's Ansar Khan's practice report:
Unless Gustavsson makes a speedy recovery, Mrazek will start the season as Jimmy Howard's back-up and will get in a few games. Mrazek, who led the Grand Rapids Griffins to the Calder Cup championship last season, went 1-1 with the Red Wings in 2013.
“It’s a break, but you earn the right to get the break,'' coach Mike Babcock said. “As a rookie you won the Calder Cup and things are good. He gets a chance so do good with what you get and see what happens.''
Babcock said Howard will start Friday at home against Toronto.
Right wing Daniel Alfredsson returned to practice after missing a few days with a sore groin. He skated with Stephen Weiss and Johan Franzen, a line that hasn't been intact yet for a preseason game.
“It was a good practice today,'' Alfredsson said. “I felt good. It was a good pace. I’ll see how I feel later today and tomorrow and go from there.''
Babcock said he assumes Alfredsson will play Wednesday.
“He’s got to play eventually here, like anything I’d like to get him going,'' Babcock said. “I’d like to play him tomorrow and then on Friday and get going from there.''
And in the alumni department...
Udpate #3: The Sports Network posited a Red Wings preview:
It wasn't easy, but the Detroit Red Wings managed to keep their playoff streak alive in 2013, winning their last four games of the season to earn a spot in the postseason tournament for a 22nd straight time.
After bringing in longtime Ottawa Senators star Daniel Alfredsson and former Florida Panthers centerman Stephen Weiss through free agency, the Red Wings have an excellent chance to make it 23 consecutive playoff appearances in the spring of 2014.
While a playoff-bound Red Wings team obviously would be nothing new, the club will make a big change this season when they swap divisions, and conferences, by moving from the West's Central Division to the East's Atlantic Division. As part of the NHL's radical realignment for the upcoming season, Detroit will join Boston, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Buffalo and Florida to make up the new Atlantic.
The division change separates Detroit from its bitter rivals in Chicago, which remains in the Central, but it also re-joins the Red Wings with Original Six foes in Boston, Montreal and Toronto. There is also the presence of the Senators, who were less than pleased at Alfredsson's departure for the Motor City.
While Alfredsson is past his prime he could be rejuvenated by this move, or at least that's what Detroit hopes happens. However, with head coach Mike Babcock back behind the bench and superstars like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg still in the fold, even a poor season from Alfredsson isn't likely to end Detroit's postseason streak.
WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE - The move from West to East could benefit the Red Wings, who are heading to a division that appears to be easier on paper. The days of Detroit being a legitimate Stanley Cup contender seem to be in the past for now, but there is still a great deal to like about Babcock's squad. A 23rd straight trip to the playoffs is certainly no guarantee, but at this point it'd also be folly to bet against it.
The Detroit Red Wings are listing backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson as day-to-day with a pulled groin, but general manager Ken Holland said he could be out 3-4 weeks.
“Don't really know,'' Holland said. “We'll see how the next few days go.''
It's highly unlikely Gustavsson will be ready for the start of the regular season in one week against Buffalo, which is why the Red Wings are preparing to go with Petr Mrazek as Jimmy Howard's backup.
“It's tough to say how long it's going to be,'' Gustavsson said. “They took some pictures, but you never really know with groins how long it's going to take, could be a few days or longer than that.''
Update #5: The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's practice report focuses on Petr Mrazek's opportunity to impress his future employers...
Mrazek was a key reason Grand Rapids won the Calder Cup championship last season, but that only goes so far heading into this season.
"It was a great year, we won the Calder Cup and I had a chance to play in the NHL, but it's over and you have to look forward," Mrazek said Tuesday. "It's a new season."
Mrazek made two starts with the Red Wings and had a 1-1-0 record.
"You learn a lot," said Mrazek of his brief NHL experience. "How to prepare for a game, where to be on the ice, how players are shooting. Every game I played, it was a great experience. It's a lot different (in the NHL). Guys are smarter and the power plays are better. You have to be smarter, too, and compete hard and think about what happened in the situation before."
Mrazek has earned this opportunity, said coach Mike Babcock.
"You've earned the right to get the break," Babcock said. "As a rookie he won the Calder Cup and things are good and he gets a chance. Do good with what you get."
And Kulfan noted that Babcock wants Alfredsson, Weiss and Franzen to find their "sea legs":
"They have to get some work and get playing," Babcock said. "That's what training camp is for. You have to get to feeling good and going at a high level. If you do that, you have a better chance of getting going on time."
Update #6: Quite true. Hope it was worth holding out for the summer to earn...
Update #8: The Free Press's George Sipple focused on Mrazek's "opportunity" in his practice post:
"It’s a break, but you earn the right to get the break,” said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. “As a rookie he won the Calder Cup. He gets a chance. Do good with what you get and see what happens.”
What does Babcock like about Mrazek?
“He wins,” Babcock said. “That’s it.He’s gotta get stronger. As he gets stronger he’ll have better rebound control. He’ll have better push. Those things are all part of his growing up. More time in pro hockey you settle down. But I think he’s a real competitor and has a bright future.”
Goaltending coach Jim Bedard says Mrazek has a “very very unique personality. He doesn’t come off as cocky, but he does come off as being very confident. He’s got what you can’t teach and that’s a heck of a lot of talent and the right mix of confidence and swagger and he enjoys playing the game. Him and Howie both. They challenge each other in the drills and at the end they give each other high fives.”
Babcock said Mrazek will play Wednesday when the Wings host the Penguins. Howard will play on Friday when the Wings host the Maple Leafs.
“I think it’s a great opportunity and I’m very excited,” Mrazek said of the chance to start out in Detroit. “I know I will probably go down to AHL when Gus will be healthy.”
He also noted that Babcock expects the 2nd line to get in gear:
“No one told me [Alfredsson] isn’t so I assume he’s going to play,” Babcock said. “He’s gotta play eventually here. I’d like to play him tomorrow and then again Friday, I guess, and get going from there.”
It’s important for the second line — Johan Franzen, Alfredsson and Daniel Cleary — to jell quickly.
“Obviously they gotta get to work and get playing,” Babcock said. “That’s what training camp is for. You gotta get feeling good and be going at a high level and if you do that you got a much better chance of starting on time.”
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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.