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Red Wings Wednesday practice post in progress: Where’s Jimmy? Taking a ‘rest’

Updated 7x with some trade talk at 3:21 PM: I received clearance from the boss to sleep in after the Red Wings' 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames to recharge my batteries, so this isn't exactly the news I'd hoped to wake up to:

It sounds like Howard's okay, which is good given that the Wings are going to face an angry Blues team that dropped a 6-1 decision to Nashville last night after the team takes an hour-long flight to St. Louis on Red Bird III, which is scheduled to take off from Metro Airport at 3:16 PM today...

More in a minit. I want to get this stuff on the web.

Update: Paul already posted this, but I've got to shake my head here and suggest that if the Wings are in such desperate need of speed, they need to call up Gustav Nyquist to inject some speed in the lineup instead of lamenting Darren Helm's absence.

The Windsor Star's Bob Duff believes that Helm's back injury is at the heart of the Wings' problems...

Ask Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock how he can fix what ails his bottom two forward units and he’ll utter a one-word answer.

“Helm,” is Babcock’s response.

Even Helm is at a loss to explain his absence.

“We did a bunch of tests (Tuesday and) they came back negative,” Helm said. “We still don’t know what the main cause is. I’m going to see a back specialist again with all the results we’ve accumulated. Maybe he’ll have something new for me to do.”

At this point, Helm simply doesn’t know what measures he can take to make his back better, and is seeking answers.

“Some days feel better than others,” he said. “I do the same thing pretty much every day. Nobody is real sure what’s going on. I’m just hoping one day soon I can turn the corner.”

He’s been extremely limited in the type of physical activity that he can become involved with during his absence.

“Walking is fine,” Helm said. “Walking around most of the day is pretty good. It’s when I start sitting down or standing in one spot too long, it starts to get uncomfortable. The drive down here (to Joe Louis Arena) is usually when I gauge myself, how much pain I’m in.”

I'm not buying it. Yes, Helm is an absolutely integral player, but the Wings need Jordin Tootoo to stop fighting and start forechecking, they need Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller to step up, and playing Patrick Eaves consistently would help the team's speed as well. If things are truly beyond repair with the current roster, now is not the time to make a trade: it's time to see what Nyquist, Riley Sheahan or the slower but bigger Joakim Andersson can do.

Update #1.5: Via RedWingsFeed, 97.1 the Ticket has posted the times of its panel discussion schedule for Sport Fest on February 16th. Tomas Holmstrom will hold a panel discussion, and Nicklas Lidstrom will attend the event, which will be held at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.

Update #2: I would argue that this is a rebuilding year for the Wings given that the team chose to make lateral free agency moves and then simply allow its roster minus Tomas Holmstrom, Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart to thrive or struggle for a couple of months before making necessary moves during the regular season--with the "lateral move" exception being Damien Brunner's addition--but there's panic in Hockeytown today, and the Oakland Press's Pat Caputo is happy to bang the, "Freak out, Wings fans, freak out!" drum by suggesting that the Wings stand at the precipice of a "slippery slope":

Even in a 48-game season, it's early. If it ended now, the Red Wings wouldn't be in the playoffs, but they are close to getting in - just a point from being the eighth seed in the Western Conference, just four points from being the fourth seed.

Parity rules in the NHL in an era when an eighth-seed, the Los Angeles Kings, captured the Stanley Cup last season.

But there is no sugar coating the Red Wings' losses the last two games at home to Columbus and Calgary. Down the road, getting zero points in those games could cost the Red Wings mightily. The Flames and the Bluejackets are the bottom two teams in the Western Conference. It's the only road victory for both.

The way the Red Wings' schedule is set up, it is going to be very difficult to make up ground later in the season. Winning home games now is vital. The Red Wings play at St. Louis Thursday, and then have four straight home games. In fact, eight of their next 10 games following the trip to St. Louis are at home. The downside is, in March, the Red Wings face road trips from hell. First a swing to Western Canada, then a long West Coast trip. From March 13-28, the Red Wings play eight games, seven in Western Canada or on the West Coast, with one game at home against perhaps the Western Conference's most talented team, Minnesota.

The ground the Red Wings are not gaining now against the likes of struggling teams like Calgary and Columbus at home now could be very costly later. If they don't start taking advantage of their schedule now, it could prevent the Red Wings from gaining a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in more than two decades.

The Red Wings have had their share of injuries, and there is an extremely weird dynamic to this lockout-shortened season, but, honestly, there is no excuse for the Red Wings performance the last two games. The third goal scored by Calgary last night was particularly disturbing. The Red Wings fell behind 2-0, but had scored and appeared ready to pounce in the third period, but let up a soft goal by Calgary defenseman Dennis Wideman with less than a minute remaining in the second period.

It was one of those moments when you could literally sense the air coming out of the Red Wings' sails. Too many moments like it, and their playoff aspirations will be over before you can blink and ask, "What happened?"

I don't believe in blind faith, not in deities, political figures, role models or sports teams. I believe that true and abiding faith accepts and embraces doubts, fears and questions as to whether the struggle that is life is worth it, and in terms of sports fandom, if you don't have doubts in the Wings, I don't know what team you've been watching.

I have doubts about this team, too. I'm scared about where they might be heading. But I do believe that this team will make the playoffs this season--a rebuilding season--in scramble-at-the-finish fashion, and I do still have some faith that Ken Holland and company will evaluate the state of the franchise in March and start to make moves to finally address some of the issues plaguing the team--but only after giving the team February to see whether its current roster and call-ups like Tomas Tatar, Petr Mrazek, Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson and possibly Riley "Tinky Winky" Sheahan can get the job done on their own.

This is going to be a very difficult month to be a Wings fan, and we're allowed to doubt. You're allowed to jump off the bandwagon while trying to impale yourself if you wish, but I'm planning on remaining chained to the parade float, even though I'll be twitching and grumpy if things continue to suck and the team continues to struggle.

Update #3: Everybody take a deep breath:

Update #3.5: SI's Stu Hackel suggests that the Wings' struggles are "surprising" and yields a team that's "worse" off:

FOR WORSE: RED WINGS

No one should be terribly surprised that Detroit is no longer among the West's elite. The Red Wings have been injury prone, they lack secondary scoring, their play with a man in the box is poor (their 13 goals-allowed is worst in the league), and they really do miss big Number 5 on their blueline. However, the new captain who replaced Nick Lidstrom has been something of a surprise. Henrik Zetterberg has averaged nearly a point and a half per game, which he hasn't been anywhere near since 2007-08. Yes, it's still very early, but Z is taking that C to heart.

Update #3.75: Hmmm. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm....

Update #3.8: Double Hmm:

Update #4: The Free Press's Helene St. James has filed her practice report:

Goaltender Jimmy Howard didn't skate today, but that's just because he needs a breather. Outside of one period, he has been the go-to guy in net all season. In fact, he has played so much, coach Mike Babcock isn't yet decided on whether Howard will start Thursday, when the Wings play at St. Louis.

"He's been in getting too much (work)," Babcock said. "He's played great for us, but we've given up too much the last two nights. So, get him freshened up."

Backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson (groin) skated and said he's feeling better but isn't sure when he'll be back. Forward Mikael Samuelsson (groin), who sits next to Gustavsson in the locker room, said his update "was the same as Jonas. Exactly the same."

Backup goaltender No. 2 Joey MacDonald (back) is so close to being cleared from a back injury that he could do a back flip. At least figuratively. He expects to be cleared maybe as soon as Friday. If so, he could play against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday or the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.

"I'm just going to go day-by-day and make my decision on who's starting tomorrow and then the same thing after that," Babcock said.

If Babcock opts not to play Howard against the Blues, the only healthy option currently in the stable is Grand Rapids Griffins call-up Petr Mrazek.

Update #5: Here's MLive's Ansar Khan's practice report:

Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, who has played every game this season, got a breather from practice on Wednesday, and coach Mike Babcock said he hasn't decided who will start in net Thursday in St. Louis (8 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit). His only choices are Howard or rookie Petr Mrazek. Joey MacDonald (back) has been practicing for several days but hasn't been cleared to play. Jonas Gustavsson (groin) has skated on his own the past couple of days but would need a couple of full practices with the team before being able to play.

It would seem unlikely that Babcock would have Mrazek make his NHL debut in St. Louis, where the Red Wings lost 6-0 in their season opener on Jan. 19, but he said he's considering it.

“I always do that (decide on goalie) on the flight over,'' Babcock said. "I haven't got to it. So we'll decide what we're doing, and the same for the weekend. I'll talk to Howie, see how he's doing and then go from there.''

He added, “Obviously, (Howard) has been getting too much (work). He's played great for us, but we're giving up too much the last couple (games), so get him freshened up.''

Babcock also reiterated that he hasn't decided on his goaltending plans for the weekend home games, Saturday vs. Edmonton and Sunday vs. Los Angeles.

"We're just going to go day-to-day and make my decision tomorrow on who's starting tomorrow and the same thing every day after that,'' he said.

MacDonald, who hasn't played since March 14, 2012, said he hopes to be cleared by Friday. Asked if he would be hesitant to use MacDonald this weekend, Babcock said, “No, if he's cleared, I wouldn't be (hesitant) at all. Howie can't play every night.''

Update #5.5: Here's the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's practice report:

Reeling with two consecutive losses to the two worst teams in the Western Conference, the Red Wings now have to play one of the best.The Red Wings visit St. Louis on Thursday, facing a Blues team that'll likely be angry after a 6-1 loss Tuesday, at home, to Nashville.

"Obviously it's a talented team that's a come off the rails a little bit but we'll probably have a tiger by the tail," coach Mike Babcock said. "But we should be the same way.It's two teams that need a win badly."

The Wings have split two games with the Blues this season — an ugly 6-0 loss on opening night Jan. 19, and a 5-4 victory at home Feb. 1.

"So far, St. Louis is definitely the best team we've seen," forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "They have four good lines, they work hard, and they play a good system."

...

Forwards Mikael Samuelsson (groin) and Jan Mursak (shoulder), goalie Jonas Gustavsson (groin) and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) all worked out after the regulars finished practicing.

None is expected to return by this weekend.

Update #6: Fox Sports Detroit didn't post the Wings' comments from last night's loss until sometime after I went to bed at 4:30 AM. The overnight report contains a significant amount of multimedia regarding the Wings' loss, but I think that Niklas Kronwall's comments to FSD are worth a watch and listen:


And the Grand Rapids Griffins are at it again, via RedWingsFeed:

Heading back to the text department, via good old-fashioned Google, the Free Press's St. James also spoke to the Wings about their penalty-prone team status...

The Detroit Red Wings rank 20th in the NHL in penalties, something they're eager to clean up -- especially as they head into St. Louis to take on the potent Blues on Thursday. The Blues have a power play that operates at 33.3%, a wildly successful rate built partly on the four goals they scored on Detroit in the season opener.

The Wings are coming off a 4-1 loss Tuesday to Calgary, unable to recover after the Flames used a two-man advantage to take a 2-0 lead.

"They're calling it tight, and we've got to adjust to the newer rules and all the stick penalties that they're calling," Wings forward Justin Abdelkader said.

The NHL is cracking down on interference in many forms and, nearly 10 games into the season, coach Mike Babcock doesn't want to hear any excuses from his players.

"You don't go, oh, that's an awful penalty," Babcock said. "When you put your free hand on somebody, you go in the box. Knock somebody's feet out from under them, you go to the box. Look after it. These are things we can control. The big thing for me is, when it's details and it's work ethic and things like that, things you can control, those things should never, ever happen."

Babcock said he'll use the same lineup as in Tuesday's game, except Todd Bertuzzi will start with Pavel Datsyuk and Valtteri Filppula, and Tomas Tatar, who was called up from Grand Rapids for the Calgary game, will be with Daniel Cleary and Justin Abdelkader at St. Louis.

Update #7: Take this for what you will, from the Hockey News's Lyle "Spector" Richardson:

RED WINGS FANS CONCERNED WITH HOLE ON DEFENSE

Some concerned Detroit Red Wings fans recently asked MLive.com's Ansar Khan if the club might pursue Phoenix's Keith Yandle, Calgary's Jay Bouwmeester or the New York Islanders' Lubomir Visnovsky.

Khan believes the Wings will try to add a top-four defenseman and a top-six forward before the April 3 trade deadline. He acknowledged Yandle, Bouwmeester and Visnovsky could interest them, but believes the asking price for Yandle is steep, while Bouwmeester would have to waive his no-trade clause.

Visnovsky will be eligible for UFA status this summer and has dragged his feet on joining the Islanders. Khan believes the Isles will shop him if they're out of the playoff picture by the trade deadline.

He also listed Edmonton's Ryan Whitney, Buffalo's Robyn Regehr and Winnipeg's Ron Hainsey as other pending UFAs who could be of interest to the Wings.

Red Wings GM Ken Holland attempted last summer to bolster his blueline with a failed bid for Ryan Suter. With injuries mounting and his club struggling, expect Holland to continue his search for a skilled defenseman.

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Comments

Avatar

Parade float?  Seriously?  That’s the very definition of blind faith, something you professed two graphs above the parade float statement that you don’t believe in. 

None of the prospects are the answer this year, not even Nyquist; there’s going to be very few trades and only those with no star-power.  And the Wings are at least 3 all-stars away from contention, probably 4, with prospects that few teams desire and of which KH won’t give up anyway.  Long season.

Posted by jkm2011 on 02/06/13 at 02:33 PM ET

perfection's avatar

wow. Babs hates Kindl. Lash has been great, no doubt, but I thought Kindl played excellent in his last few games. He definitely added a threat to the second PP. I thought he played noticeably better than Quincey. Again, while Kindl may indeed end up a bust, I wish they would just let him play several games in a row already so we can find out once and for all. Apparently, even if he plays well and begins to build some confidence, he’s then a healthy scratch once again for a guy who as of two days ago was on his way back to the minors. This is no knock on Lash as he’s earned a spot with some really solid defensive play, but if this is truly Kindl’s make or break year, you have to at least give him a chance… until he screws it up, which as far as I’ve seen, he hasn’t done at all yet.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 02/06/13 at 02:36 PM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 02/06/13 at 02:36 PM ET

Your liking Kindl is the equivalent of my disliking Emmerton LOL

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 02/06/13 at 03:06 PM ET

gowings's avatar

“wow. Babs hates Kindl”

Or maybe..just maybe Holland is planing a potential trade and can’t afford any injury from Kindl? A girl can dream right? Not as if anyone wants Q….more chances with Kindl..

Posted by gowings from MTL on 02/06/13 at 03:08 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

but the Wings need Jordin Tootoo to stop fighting and start forechecking


Have you been watching the games George?  Tootoo has been good on the forecheck, easily our best on the forecheck and his fights motivated a Wings bench that has a hard time motivating themselves for some reason.

Emmerton has been contributing on other sides of the puck as well.  He’s been zipping around out there, looks completely different from the timid tentative player he was last year.

Miller has been noticeably absent.  Abby isn’t moving his feet, especially after seeing him at the Worlds, you know he’s got more compete in him than he’s been showing.  Cleary, at his salary, should be in a better position than he is.

My take watching everygame this season is Toots and Emmerton are consistently hard to play against.  Everyone else has a geaer we’ve actually seen and it’s not there right now and it needs to be fixed.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 02/06/13 at 03:28 PM ET

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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.