The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/10/13 at 11:33 AM ET
Updated 5x at 6:56 PM: The Detroit Red Wings took to the ice at Joe Louis Arena skating with their tweaked lines as they prepare for a three-games-in-four-nights slate beginning with a game against the very grumpy (very, very grumpy) San Jose Sharks tomorrow night, and MLive's Ansar Khan reports that the team threw a bit of a curve ball...
But it didn't last:
This isn't necessarily Red Wings-related, but the CBC's Elliotte Friedman's 30 Thoughts column's always a must-read, and he mentions the Frozen Four...
30. The NCAA Frozen Four starts Thursday. There will be a lot of interest in the prospects that Calgary acquired for Jarome Iginla. If you're scoping out free agents, though, keep an eye on G Eric Hartzell (Quinnipiac), F Antoine Laganiere (Yale) and F Drew LeBlanc (St. Cloud State). Hartzell and LeBlanc are nominated for the Hobey Baker Award as player of the year.
So don't forget to take a peek when Nick Jensen and Saint Cloud State University battle Quinnipiac tomorrow at 8 PM EDT on ESPN2.
In other prospect news, the Grand Rapids Griffins will play three games over the course of four nights starting this evening against Chicago (they host Milwaukee on Friday and Peoria on Saturday), and it's highly likely that they'll dress at least some of the cavalcade of prospects they've added to their lineup.
Andrej Nestrasil, Trevor Parkes, Willie Coetzee and Jordan Pearce face an uphill climb as the Toledo Walleye attempt to battle back from a 2-0 deficit to the Cincinnati Cyclones this evening:
And now, back to your regularly-scheduled programming, starting with an important charitable note:
The Wings just revised their press release about said event:
The Detroit Red Wings will host a canned food drive to assist in the fight against hunger with Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan. The canned food drive will take place during the team’s home game on Thursday, April 11, when the Wings take on the San Jose Sharks at 7:30 p.m. (FOX Sports Detroit and 97.1 The Ticket).
All donations will benefit Gleaners Community Food Bank, which collects and distributes 45 million pounds of food annually to more than 550 local food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters. With one in five metro Detroiters at risk of hunger, every pound of food collected and every dollar raised will provide relief to people struggling through tough times.
Volunteers from Gleaners will be at each entrance of Joe Louis Arena when the doors open on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. to collect donations. Fans who donate nonperishablefood items or make monetary donations will be entered to win an autographed Jimmy Howard puck and 8x10 photo.
WHO: Detroit Red Wings and Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan
WHAT: Nonperishable Food Drive
WHEN: Thursday April 11, vs. San Jose at 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Each of the Four Entrances to Joe Louis Arena
Things got very quiet for about ten minutes (so I worked on the Ken Holland interview post), and then...
He is indeed "in":
In the multimedia department, from Michelle of Oct0pi on the Ice:
I can't embed the interview, so good luck with it.
“You always want to play well at home,” said Valtteri Filppula, who has been taken off the wing and will play his first game this season as the third-line center. “Definitely would be a good start to get a home win and then go on the road and hopefully get some confidence and get some wins on the road.”
The Red Wings can benefit by taking a page out of the Blue Jackets’ playbook from Tuesday night when they caused havoc for the Sharks by getting an abundance of traffic in front of net and chasing goalie Antti Niemi early in the third period. Niemi always plays great against Detroit with a career 9-2-2 record with a 1.81 goal-against average and three shutouts. Defenseman Niklas Kronwall agreed, the Wings need to get bodies in front of the Sharks’ net if they hope to get pucks past Niemi.
“Getting a lot of traffic, a lot of pucks in there, I think that’s the biggest key because we have to make it harder on him that way,” Kronwall said. “Try to make him not see so many pucks. But at the same time they’ve been playing really well defensively, making it hard on the other team, making it really tight, so we have to do a good job of getting through the middle and get more bodies in front.”
But getting through the middle won’t be easy against the Sharks’ formidable defensive unit, which including Kronwall’s former D-partner Brad Stuart.
“Stuey is one of those guys that you always want on your side,” Kronwall said. “He’s one of the hardest working guys that you will ever meet. He plays really hard and we kind of know what to expect from him. We know that he’s going to be all over the place and getting those hard minutes that he does. He’s a big, physical key for their team, no doubt.”
A key for the Red Wings might be in the rest that they’ve been able to enjoy with three days off between games this week.
“It’s been a tough month,” Kronwall said. “It’s been a lot of travel, so hopefully we can kind of reset everything and come back more energized, and be ready to go, because we’re coming down to the wire here and it’s going to be so tight all the way through.
Update #2: The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness spoke to Babcock about his decision to add Brendan Smith to the lineup...
“I just wanted the puck looked after better,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s a better player than that. He’s had a few days to watch and think about it. I think Smitty is an ultra-competitive guy, who has a huge upside, but he’s just got to take care of the puck better. In other words after he has it who has it.”
“I thought I had been playing well,” Smith said. “I think there are things that I need to work on, but next to that if I keep working hard I’ll get back in the lineup. You just keep working hard to get yourself back in the lineup,” Smith continued. “You come in everyday and just do what you can do best to your ability to try and get back into the lineup.”
Smith said he thinks this was the first time throughout his playing career that he’s been a healthy scratch.
And as the Wings have a crappy home record of late (1-3-and-1) and haven't won at home consistently...
“We’ve survived by winning on the road and not at home,” Babcock said. “We have to be better at home. We were good early at home and not on the road and now it’s vice versa so if I had the answer we’d fix it, but in saying that maybe we’re try and be too cute at home and more simplified on the road. We need to play a simple game and our guys understand that too. I thought we did that (Sunday).”
The Wings currently hold down the eighth playoff seed in the Western Conference, two points ahead of Dallas and Columbus.
“It seems like the teams that are below us are hounding us and the teams that are above us are trying to win every game that they can,” defenseman Jonathan Ercisson said. “It feels like if you win one game the other guys are winning too. It’s like there is no room for error here. We have to be really good here over the last part of the season. We’ve been way too inconsistent at home,” Ericsson added. “I don’t know what the reason is. We need to find a way here in order to make the playoffs.”
And the Sharks are practicing at the Joe right now:
Update #3: MLive's Ansar Khan spoke to Babcock about his defensive tweak...
“I just wanted the puck looked after better,'' coach Mike Babcock said Wednesday. “[Smith]'s a better player than that. He’s had a few days to watch and think about it. I think Smitty is an ultra-competitive guy, who has a huge upside, but he’s just got to take care of the puck better. In other words, after he has it who has it?''
And you may take these notes for what you will:
Darren Helm (back) skated before practice and for the first few minutes with the team. Babcock said on Tuesday that he doesn't anticipate Helm playing this season, but Helm said he'll continue trying to come back.
Todd Bertuzzi (pinched nerve) hasn't practiced the past two days. General manager Ken Holland said he has gone for another opinion on his back. Mikael Samuelsson (sore pectoral muscle) skated briefly after practice.
Khan also reports that Jimmy Howard will start Thursday.
Update #4: Here's the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's practice report:
Brendan Smith can't ever remember being a healthy scratch before sitting out the last two Red Wings games. Not in the minors, college, any league.
"It kind of caught me off-guard," Smith said.
The Red Wings defenseman will return to lineup Thursday against San Jose, said coach Mike Babcock, and it appears the lesson — primarily playing safer with the puck — has been learned.
"There are always things I have to work on," said Smith, who'll replace Ian White. "What I've been doing in practice is working hard and making a good first pass, not trying to get too complicated. Making the game simple and maybe playing the Nicklas Lidstrom way, see the first pass and make it."
Babcock is confident Smith has learned his lessons well.
"I just wanted the puck looked after better," Babcock said. "I want him to be better. He's a better player than that, and I expect him to be better. He's had a few days to watch and think about it. He's an ultra-competitive guy who has huge upside. He has to take care of the puck better."
Update #4.5: More from the Sharks...Sort of:
As did the Mercury News's David Pollak:
Players knew today’s practice was coming before they left on the trip. Originally, the team was going to fly out after Sunday’s game against Dallas, then practice in Columbus on Monday and take today off. Instead, the coaching staff opted to wait until Monday to fly and shift the practice to Wednesday. Still, players weren’t sure until they went out on the ice what exactly was in store. Were they thinking it might be a bag skate?
“Because of last night’s performance? No, you don’t know what you’re expecting, but there’s 18 days left and we have nine games,” said Marc-Edouard Vlasic. “Obviously if you look at the last game, we didn’t play as well as we wanted to. But if you look at the last 10 games, we’ve been doing a lot of good things.”
The Sharks know that they went into a downward spiral immediately after their first seven-game win streak of the season ended. And, of course, they don’t want history to repeat. Logan Couture liked the fact Detroit is next on the schedule.
“I hope that playing in this building helps and playing against this team helps,” Couture said. “We’ve got a history with these guys. Been here in the playoffs a couple years and we seem to play good games against these guys.
“I think we just got away from out game last night,” he added. “We didn’t get after their d, we didn’t play fast like we had been doing or forecheck. We didn’t play the way that we were playing at all. They are correctable though.”
****Look for Niemi to continue to get the start in every game between now and the end of the season.
If the Sharks were, say, the Chicago Blackhawks, that might not be the case, McLellan said. But – and he emphasized that Thomas Greiss was certainly capable of backstopping San Jose to a win – the Sharks aren’t in a solid enough playoff position to sit Niemi at this point.
As for this afternoon's Wings news, as Paul noted, Jonathan Ericsson told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that he hopes fans don't boo Brad Stuart...
“I don’t think he’s going to get booed or anything like that,” Ericsson said after practice Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena. “He did such a tremendous job for us. He was such a key player. We know he liked it here, but for the sake of him and his family he really couldn’t stay and I understand that.”
The Wings traded Stuart back to a team on the West Coast so he could join his family, who he was living apart from his entire time in Detroit.
“I hope the fans know that he really liked it here, but he really didn’t have a choice because he didn’t want to be away from his family and kids,” Ericsson said. “I really hope they don’t boo him.”
Pleiness noted that Darren Helm's still hoping to play sometime this season...
“I thought [Babcock] might have put it that he can’t really count on me being ready to play or he’s got to be prepared for me not to play,” Helm said. “I want to play. I think he’d still like me to get healthy and be in the lineup but right now it’s been three months and it hasn’t changed so he can’t expect me to make a remarkable recovery, so just be prepared not to.”
Forwards Mikael Samuelsson (sore pectoral muscle) skated briefly after practice, while Todd Bertuzzi (pinched nerve) hasn’t practiced in two days.
Wings general manager Ken Holland said Bertuzzi has gone for another opinion on his back.
And Brendan Smith spoke to about his benching to both Pleiness...
“I think things have to get better, just making my game a little more simple and I guess playing the Nicklas Lidstrom way – see the first pass, make it – so just working hard and try to keep positive and get myself in the lineup again,” Smith said.
Smith said he thinks this was the first time he was a healthy scratch in his playing days.
After overcoming a rash of injuries, the Wings’ blue line is suddenly crowded with nine healthy defensemen.
“It’s really competitive and we have great D, so there wasn’t much of an explanation, but, so you’ve just got to back away from the game and kind of see what you have to do to get better and then do that in the practice and then once you get the chance keep yourself in the lineup,” Smith said. “So if they throw me into the lineup against San Jose I’m just going to play my best and play hard and try to do what I can do to so I can stay in the lineup.”
And DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose:
“I love the pressure, to be truthfully honest. I love when it gets down to crunch time and playoff hockey,” said Smith, who will be reinserted into the lineup when the Red Wings host the San Jose Sharks on Thursday at Joe Louis Arena.
Smith was a healthy scratch for the last two games. It’s the first time at any level that he’s sat-out this long in his career without being injured, he said. Smith was pulled from the lineup last Friday when rookie free agent defenseman Danny DeKeyser made his NHL debut at Colorado. Smith was a healthy scratch again for the Wings’ 1-0 loss to St. Louis on Sunday.
Coach Mike Babcock said he wants Smith to be more defensively responsible.
“I just wanted the puck looked after better,” Babcock said. “He’s a better player than that. He’s had a few days to watch and think about it. I think Smitty is an ultra-competitive guy, who has a huge upside, but he’s just got to take care of the puck better."
“I think I’ve been playing pretty well, so it gets a little frustrating when you’re not in the lineup. I think that’s for anybody,” he said. “We’re all competitive players, competitive people, so we want to be in the lineup. There are things that everybody’s got to work on, but for myself as a young player, there’s a lot more. … But definitely, (it) caught me off guard."
Pleiness also noted that the Wings' home record has been plain old poor of late:
Home ice was an advantage last season for the Wings, but this year that hasn’t been the case. Detroit is just 10-7-3 at Joe Louis Arena, 1-3-1 in the last five.
“We’ve survived by winning on the road and not at home,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We have to be better at home. We were good early at home and not on the road and now it’s vice versa so if I had the answer we’d fix it, but in saying that maybe we try to be too cute at home and more simplified on the road. We need to play a simple game and our guys understand that.”
The Wings won an NHL record 23 consecutive games on home ice last season.
“We’ve been way too inconsistent at home,” defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. “I don’t know what the reason is. We need to find a way here in order to make the playoffs.”
Detroit is currently holding onto the eighth playoff seed in the Western Conference, two points ahead of Dallas and Columbus.
“It seems like the teams that are below us are hounding us and the teams that are above us are trying to win every game that they can,” Ericsson said. “It feels like if you win one game the other guys are winning too. It’s like there is no room for error here. We have to be really good here over the last part of the season.”
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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.