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Red Wings Wednesday practice(?) post: Mrazek, Helm heading to GR; Gustavsson on the rebound

Updated 5x at 2:57 PM: There's good news on the goaltending front via a demotion this morning...

Sending Mrazek back to Grand Rapids indicates that Jimmy Howard's sore catching hand may have healed to the point that he's able to at least back up Jonas Gustavsson against the unbeaten Avs tomorrow night, if not against Phoenix on Saturday.

Sending Mrazek back to Grand Rapids gives the Griffins their starter ahead of Friday night's Calder Cup Championship banner-raising game against Milwaukee, too.

MLive's Ansar Khan took note of Howard's status:

Howard, who has missed the past two games, apparently will be able to dress as Gustavsson's backup in Thursday's game at Colorado (9 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit) or start the game.

Coach Mike Babcock said after Tuesday's game: “I talked to Howie in between periods, he was icing it, the swelling’s going down in his hand. Does that mean he’s playing in Phoenix (Saturday) or does he play in Colorado? I haven’t talked to the trainer so I don’t know the answer to that.’’

Something tells me that the Wings will be practicing at City Sports Arena today, assuming that they practice at all...

Via RedWingsFeed, the AHL is confirming that the Wings have sent Darren Helm to Grand Rapids for a 2-game conditioning stint...

The Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday assigned center Darren Helm to the Grand Rapids Griffins for conditioning.

Helm, 26, has appeared in 249 regular-season games with Detroit since the 2007-08 season, amassing 83 points (32 goals, 51 assists) and 54 penalty minutes. The 5-foot-11, 192-pound forward has also played in 65 playoff games for the Wings, including 18 games during the team’s 2008 Stanley Cup championship run, producing 16 points (10 goals, six assists) and 18 penalty minutes.

Due to various injuries, Helm has only appeared in one game since Apr. 11, 2012.

Before joining the Red Wings, the Winnipeg, Man., native skated in 122 games with the Griffins from 2007-09, tallying 68 points (29 goals, 39 assists) and 54 penalty minutes. Helm ranks among Griffins’ all-time leaders with five shorthanded goals (T-5th) and seven unassisted goals (T-3rd). Helm’s last game as a Griffin was Apr. 11, 2009 at Peoria.

And the Free Press's Helene St. James discussed Helm's comeback attempt:

Helm has been sent to the Grand Rapids Griffins on a conditioning assignment, expected to consist of two games this coming weekend (the Wings will be on the road, Thursday at Colorado and Saturday at Phoenix).

Helm, 26, has not played since Jan. 25, the only game he appeared in during last season's 48-game schedule. He hurt his back doing squats days before training camp, and while he advanced enough to join practices numerous times, he never healed enough to play.

A sore knee cost him the last 10 games of the regular season in 2011-12, and then he suffered a cut to his right forearm one game into the 2012 playoffs, missing the rest of that short series.

He has been sidelined this fall by a pulled groin.

In short, Helm basically hasn't played in the NHL in 18 months. When the troubles set in, he had a secure foothold on the third-line center spot, where he used his speed to make his wingers better, in addition to being a key part of the penalty kill.

That spot now belongs firmly to Joakim Andersson. While he does not have Helm's speed, Andersson is a tremendously smart player and excellent in his own zone. Helm will need time to readjust after missing so much hockey, and would be a better fit to center the fourth line (replacing Luke Glendening) and take shifts on the penalty kill.

Helm was put on long-term injured reserve when this season began, which requires a minimum missed of 10 games or 23 days. The Wings have played seven games and will play their 10th on Monday, making Helm eligible to return Oct. 23 against Ottawa.

Don't worry too much about this "third line versus fourth line" stuff. Helm's going to be "broken in"--no pun intended--slowly, and ideally speaking, the Andersson line will become the 3A line and the Helm line will become the 3B line.

In terms of Wings-Sabres tailings, Michigan Hockey posted a photo gallery from last night's game, and MLive's Brendan Savage posted a video of Jonas Gustavsson, Mike Babcock and Kyle Quincey discussing what may have been a pair of career-with-the-Wings-saving wins for Gustavsson...

As well as an article about Gustavsson's performances against Boston and Columbus:

"I felt good," Gustavsson said. "It's just a matter of preparing yourself and be ready to go out and have a good first period because that's usually the key in these kind of games. Overall, the guys played really well (in front of me) so that made it pretty easy. It feels good, but I'm going to be happy about this tonight and tomorrow is a new day. It's sounds boring, but that's how I am. You can't get too high or too low. It's early in the season, but it's nice to get off to a good start."


"It was a good test for me for sure, being out of the lineup injured early on here," Gustavsson said. "That was a good test for my body and my groins felt great, so that's what I'm most happy about. If it's a back-to-back game with a couple of days in between that shouldn't matter. You should find a way to get ready. So that was the key for me right now to feel like my body can handle this load this early in the season."


"We got real good goaltending in the first period until we got our legs and then I thought our competitive juices started to go and we started to play a lot better," said coach Mike Babcock. "I liked our second and third.  Gus was outstanding two nights in a row.

"Really good for him, first and foremost, and then really good for us. If he can get his confidence back, the reason we signed him was we thought he could really help us. Tonight and last night, going back to back, will go a long way to doing it. You got to stay healthy and feel good about yourself. In this league you got to earn it and he's done that the last couple nights. Him and Jimmy (Bedard, Detroit's goalie coach), spent a lot of time skating before he even got in a practice. He hasn't been practicing that long but he played real well for us.''


"He made a huge save there in the end," said Bertuzzi, whose goal was his second in three games since joining Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on the top line. "He's stepped up and is playing very well. He's playing like a goalie who's 6-foot-4, coming out and challenging. He's playing very competitive. He's out of the paint and being very aggressive. He's been doing a heck of a job. We've played two pretty good teams here and he's stood on his head."


"That was a great character win, feels really good," said defenseman Kyle Quincey. "Monster playing as good as he has the last two games, great for him, great for us. It's great seeing a guy finally getting a chance and doing well with the opportunity. We're all happy for him.''




In other news, via RedWingsFeed again, Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski looked at Forbes' list of the most expensive ticket prices in the NHL, and while the Red Wings rank 19th, it's worth noting that upper-bowl tickets now cost up to $80, lower-bowl tickets cost over $100 on average, and a seat on the glass can cost you up to or over $200 for a "premium" game. It's the way of the world...

19) Detroit Red Wings - Avg Price: $124.34

Last year was supposed to be the year that the Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs. Ever consistent, the Red Wings came through yet again for Hockeytown. This year, fans are a little more optimistic about their hometown team, resulting in the average price of Red Wings tickets increasing 35.26%, from $91.93 to $124.34.

And finally, again, via RedWingsFeed, one Wing made the Score's Justin Bourne's list of the fastest skaters in the NHL:

#3 Darren Helm: Darren Helm generally looks like he’s doing the same thing everyone else is doing, only suddenly he’s a step ahead of the guy beside him, then two, then the guy is swinging at him with his stick hoping he’s even close enough to take a penalty on.

He’s been hurt so far this season, but when the Red Wings do get him back they’re going to find themselves with a nice mix of burners and thinkers, making them extremely hard to deal with.

He’s an expert at using his wheels to eat up the clock on the penalty kill too. It’s no wonder the Wings love him so much.


Update #0.5:

Update #1: For what it's worth, the Wings don't leave for Denver until 3:43 PM...

If you really want to read the Columbus Dispatch's Michael Arace's take on the Blue Jackets' 2-and-3 start, you may most certainly do so...

And MLive's Brendan Savage asks a pre-Avalanche-game-pertinent question:

The Detroit Red Wings will run into an old friend Thursday, when they visit the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center (9 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit). Behind the Colorado bench will be none other than former Avalanche goaltender Patrick Roy, who is now the club's head coach. And he has gotten the team off to a blazing 6-0-0 start.

Red Wings fans remember Roy well but not especially fondly. Roy was at the center of the Red Wings-Avalanche rivalry when it was considered to be the most heated in all of professional sports. It started in 1996, when Roy was in goal for the Avalanche as they eliminated the Red Wings in a hard-fought six-game Western Conference semifinal playoffs series.

But more about the '96 series later.

The Red Wings also played a part in Roy being traded by Montreal after lighting him up for nine goals in an 11-1 victory – the worst loss in Canadiens' history – on Dec. 2, 1995. Furious that he had been left in the game so long, Roy brushed past coach Mario Tremblay after he was mercifully pulled in the second period and promptly told team president Ronald Corey he had played his last game in Montreal.

Four days later, he was traded to Colorado, where one of his teammates was Claude Lemiuex, a notorious name as far as Red Wings fans are concerned.

It was Lemieux who hit Detriot's Kris Draper from behind in Game 6 of the 1996 Western Conference semis, sending Draper face first into the boards and leaving him with multiple broken bones. The following season, the Red Wings exacted revenge in a brawl that saw Darren McCarty pummel Lemiuex near center ice before Detroit's Mike Vernon bloodied Roy in a fight between the goalies.

So that leads to today's question: Where does Roy rank among the Red Wings' all-time villains?


Update #2: St. James adds more to her Helm story...

General manager Ken Holland told the Free Press today that he'll be in Grand Rapids on Friday to see Helm play against the Milwaukee Admirals — that's how excited Holland is to see Helm play again.

While Helm is at his conditioning stint, which is scheduled to include playing again Saturday, the Wings will be on the road: Thursday in Colorado and Saturday in Phoenix.

Helm has been out with a groin injury, the latest on a long, long list of health problems. Eaves has been healing from a sprained knee. Helm and Eaves were put on long-term injured reserve when the season began, which requires a minimum of 10 games and 24 days missed. They are eligible to return Oct. 26, when the Wings host the New York Rangers.

If only Eaves is ready to play, the Wings don't have to do anything other than send Luke Glendening (Michigan) back to the minors, and they'll be compliant both in roster space and salary cap space.

If Helm also is ready, then, Holland said, "we'll have to make a move. First, I've got to get to Sunday morning, hear where Darren is at after playing back-to-back."

Forwards Mikael Samuelsson and Tomas Tatar have been healthy scratches the last three games, but the team doesn't want to surrender a young player such as Tatar. Then there's Jordin Tootoo — he plays sparing minutes for a guy making $1.9 million per season, and while he adds an element of grit, the Wings' style is to dominate with the puck.

And the Avalanche's website's Scott Ward penned an article in which Patrick Roy addressed his team's 6-and-0 start and the possiblity of setting a team record against the Wings on Thursday:

In his short time back in Colorado, all Roy has done is tie the NHL record for consecutive wins to start a head-coaching career (Mario Tremblay, 1995-96), and re-ignite a Denver hockey frenzy that figures to reach an even bigger blaze Thursday when the Red Wings come calling. When asked about all this Tuesday night at Pepsi Center, however, Roy attacked the question with the sort of swiftness he displayed as a goaltender in his Hall of Fame career. He said he’s not interested in looking back or even focusing on the now. He’s all about the big picture.

“[The potential 7-0 start is] not something that I’m looking at, to be honest with you,” Roy said. “I certainly appreciate more the way our guys played [tonight] then appreciate me breaking a record or something like this. I’m not really excited about that record, to be honest with you. I’m excited about looking at the way the team has been playing, how hard the team has been working. I don’t care about the 7-0. That’s what I said to the guys before the game. We have to take care of things that we control, and what we control is how we’re going to play the game. Most importantly, the commitment that we’re making to focus and also to hard work is probably what puts us where we are right now.”


At some point this “start” of the season won’t be looked at like that anymore. At some point it’s going to be considered the first block in a season-long build. And however the season plays out, Roy is glad to have these 12 points already in the bag, including from Tuesday night’s win, which wasn’t a masterpiece but still resulted in a victory.

“That’s what we’ve been doing since the start of the year, finding a way to win,” Roy said. “There’s night where we’ve played better … tonight was not our best game. You can say whatever you want, but at the end, those points, nobody can take them away from us, and we won’t have to chase them at the end. Let’s take advantage of the situation. Right now we’re playing with a lot of confidence.”



Update #3: The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's already setting up Thursday's Wings-Avs game, wondering a) whether Patrick Roy's status as the Avs' coach will "reignite" the Wings-Avs rivalry and noting that the Wings b) are not practicing today:

"He has a lot of emotion and the guys are playing well in front of him,” said defenseman Kyle Quincey, who was with Colorado until the Red Wings acquired him at the 2012 trade deadline.

People got a good indication of what kind of coach Roy will be on opening night when he pushed the glass partition between the benches toward Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau after the two began chirping each other. But it’s that kind of passion and intensity and Roy’s ability to relate to players — he participates in drills and works closely with the goaltenders — seems to have clicked with a young team that struggled last season.

“They have good things going.” Quincey said.

Roy, 48, coached six seasons in junior hockey in the Quebec before accepting the job with the Avalanche (now run by former teammate Joe Sakic). The experience Roy gained in junior hockey, said coach Mike Babcock, will benefit the new NHL coach going forward.

“I know nothing about him as a coach. I just know he was an elite, elite goaltender, and a very competitive guy,” Babcock said. “Obviouly looking back and learning to coach by coaching junior hockey, major junior is like NHL-lite, you learn,” Babcock said. “He’s got 20 years of pro and he knows the nuances, and when you coach good players you get to be a better coach.”

And the Avalanche, who added No. 1 overall pick forward Nathan MacKinnon, have an abundance of good players after drafting so high the past few years.

“They go very fast,” Babcock said. “Two years ago they outskated us. They had a bunch of injuries last year. This year, they’ve got more guys and keep adding good players. The kid (MacKinnon) looks like he’s going to be a star very quickly. They have a good looking team.”


Update #4: ESPN's Scott Burnside doesn't believe that the Wings deserve much credit for beating Boston on Monday:

The struggles continued Monday when the Bruins could not solve Detroit backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson during the matinee, losing 3-2 in spite of a long 5-on-3 and the fact the Red Wings did not have a single power play. Specifically, winger Jarome Iginla is struggling to find his place with the B's and has just one assist. If he hadn't struggled during the playoffs for Pittsburgh last spring, there wouldn't be much cause for concern, but in spite of prime ice time and a ton of power-play time, he’s not hitting the mark, which has to be worrying for Julien et al. Not that Iginla is alone. Patrice Bergeron (one goal, one assist) and Brad Marchand (one goal) are also off to slow starts.


Update #5: In the Twitter department:

Update #5.5:


Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink



Please Holland find a way to get rid of Sammy and Eaves. Sammy is trash and we have too many Eaves type players already. We need Nyquist on the team and we need to generate more shots on goal and less against. Lines should be:
Mule - Dat - Abby
Zet - Weiss - Alfie
Nyq - Helm - Bert
Cleary - Andy - Tatar

Size, Skill, Speed & Strength on puck

Posted by Anderj8 on 10/16/13 at 12:20 PM ET


That lineup gets Mule & Weiss what they need and hopefully gets Abby going again being with Dat. The potential is there to have 4 lines that can play well defensively and have speed and a net front presence.

Posted by Anderj8 on 10/16/13 at 12:33 PM ET


So, we need to trade/waive a few players once both Helm and Eaves return. What if we packaged a trade that included Brendan Smith? I’m not sold on him, and I haven’t been since day 1. He costed us game 6 against Chicago when we were leading and anyone who argues otherwise is just in denial. Yes, he has potential. But look at our prospect pool right now. Almqvist is about one year away, and he could arguably hack it in the NHL right now. Our future pairing of Sproul-Ouellet are close as well (Babcock’s words, not mine). Smith is a turnover machine and he has a bad attitude. He was quoted the other day talking about why he’s benched and he stated over and over that it wasn’t his fault (like an immature kid).

I really don’t think Smith fits into our future plans that great. Kronner will spend his career here, Big E will be re-signed this off-season for prob 5 or 6 years, Kindl just signed a 4 yr deal, DD is here to stay for his career. That leaves 2 spots for quincey (who will hit free agency because he’ll want waaaay too much), Lashoff (great utility player) and Smith. I would really love to trade him away, along with another player or two, for higher picks in the draft. I saw Sproul and Ouellet play in TC and let me say, they are the real deal. It wasn’t by accident that Sproul won the OHL defenseman of the year award and Ouellet was 1st team QMJHL. They are very good players. I just don’t want to get rid of people for the sake of it when we could actually package a pretty good trade together.

Posted by ZandPasha11 on 10/16/13 at 12:51 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

At this point, I’d like to see Gus start in Denver tomorrow. Hot, confident goaltender, you gotta’ ride ‘em

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie, MI on 10/16/13 at 01:05 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.