Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Wild set-up and overnight report: ‘teams in progress’ try to shake 2-game losing streaks

The Detroit Red Wings took a slightly delayed flight to Minnesota to kick off their Fathers' Trip on Saturday, and that trip consists of games against the Minnesota Wild tonight (6 PM EST, with the pre-game stuff airing at 5:30 PM FSD/FS North/97.1 FM) and the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.

Amidst a stretch of six games played over the course of 12 nights, the Wings left Detroit hoping to right their listing ship and return to playing a simpler, smarter brand of puck possession hockey after dropping consecutive losses to St. Louis and Anaheim, and they'll do so with Petr Mrazek starting tonight, Mikael Samuelsson returning to the lineup (at the expense of Gustav Nyquist, who was sent back to Grand Rapids on Saturday).

There's at least a "50-50" chance that the ever-chipper Pavel Datsyuk will return from his shoulder bruise as well, and the Wings have received some good news in the injury department over the past two days:

Jonas Gustavsson (groin) was assigned to Grand Rapids for at least a one-game conditioning stint on Saturday, and as noted by the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness and MLive's Ansar Khan on Friday, the Wings believe that both Brendan Smith, Carlo Colaiacovo and Jan Mursak (all three are battling left shoulder injuries) will return within 7-10 days, with Mursak possibly returning as early as Tuesday, and Johan Franzen (hip flexor) may be on the IR, but Khan reported that Franzen's operating on a similar timeline to Smith and Colaiacovo...

--Johan Franzen had an ultrasound on his hip flexor, said it's strained. He has skated briefly before practice the past two days but won't play Sunday and said he doubts he'll be ready for Tuesday's game in Nashville.

But this scares the f*** out of me:

--Forwards Darren Helm and Todd Bertuzzi, both out with back injuries, did not skate. Helm hasn't been on the ice in exactly three weeks. Bertuzzi is walking with a cane and is struggling. It's hard to imagine that he will be back anytime soon.

Optimistically, given that Helm hasn't really been allowed to work out for the past two weeks, and given that Bertuzzi had to hospitalize himself due to back pain that flared up during and after the Wings' February 7th win against St. Louis, both are probably 2-3 weeks away from returning after and only after they are cleared to work themselves into game shape again, and assuming that there are no setbacks in their respective recovery processees.

The 7-5-and-2 Red Wings aren't quite performing up to fans' expectations (this fan included), but the first month-and-a-half's worth of regular season play has informed the Wings' fan base that the team's coaching and management staff really are hoping that the team can tread water and remain in a playoff spot while its veterans and "kids" alike are left to their own devices in order for the team's braintrust to do exactly what Ken Holland told ESPN's Craig Custance that he planned on doing on January 29th:

During a typical season, Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland gives himself until American Thanksgiving to fully evaluate his team and decide what, if anything, he needs to do to keep his team in the hunt for a Stanley Cup. That typically gives him and his fellow general managers about 25 games in an 82-game season to know exactly what they have. It's ample time to work out a few kinks but leaves plenty of games to make up ground if need be.

This isn't a typical season. So during a shortened, 48-game season, when is Holland's Thanksgiving evaluation?

"Twenty games," he said during a pregame chat Friday. "Once you get to 20 games, you'll have a read of what you've got, where we fit."

That gives Holland until the end of February to wait out injuries and slow starts to see where things stand. It's also 42 percent into this season compared with 30 percent during a regular season. For the Red Wings, and every other team fighting for playoff position this year, waiting until the end of February to address needs may be too late.

"Even if it is, if you're looking to do something, you can only do something if you have a partner," Holland said. "At the end of the day, it takes 20 games to figure out who you are and what you've got … you've got to set expectations realistically. In the meantime, we have to find ways to win games."

In other words, injuries or no injuries, struggles or no struggles, the current roster, which is now heading into its 15th game, will be allowed to sink or swim as the braintrust, which probably includes the freshly-picked brain of one happily retired Nicklas Lidstrom.

So the Red Wings are a team that's sometimes struggling to establish a new post-Lidstrom-and-Tomas Holmstrom-and-Brad Stuart-and-Jiri Hudler-and-addled-with-injuries identity.*

Lidstrom himself suggested as much while attending 97.1 the Ticket's SportsFest on Saturday...

Lidstrom said he’s coaching his son’s hockey team and just enjoying life back in Sweden.

“Just enjoying the time, enjoying family life,” Lidstrom said about how he’s spending time these days, adding he doing a bit of scouting for the Wings.

Lidstrom retired in May, at 42 years old, after 20 years with the Wings. He played 1,564 regular-season games, won four Stanley Cups andn eight Norris trophies, was a 12-time all-star and seven times was named the league’s top defenseman.

So, how does he feel about the team’s prospects right now? “They’re off to a good start … It’s a hard battle,” Lidstrom said.

And the Red Wings' director of pro scouting, Mark Howe, issued a similar statement to the Ticket:

How does he feel about the 2013 team? Howe thinks the situation can’t be fully assessed until all the key players return from injuries.

“If there was ever a year we needed a full training camp, this was it,” Howe said.

But Howe, who is now director of pro scouting for the Red Wings, said he’s hopeful this is a playoff team.

Even Babcock's using the, "We have to find a way to win regardless of who's playing" line that Holland preached back in late January, so Wings fans at least know who their team is at present:

One in progress, one whose roster is flux, one whose players are playing for their futures with the organization, and until the team's roster is either bolstered via trade acquisitions or allowed to "sink or swim" on its own, a middle-of-the-pack team that's more concerned with simply making the playoffs than attempting to make a run at the Central Division title this season.

We kind of knew that was coming based upon the team's lack of substantial lockout moves and the fact that the cap's going down this summer.

All of what I've said is a very long-winded way of a) offering some self-examination and opinions that have been absent from this space of late and b) suggesting that tonight's opponent is in a very different situation.

The 6-4-and-4 Wild successfully spent $196 million of Craig Leipold's money buying Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The Wild's management and coaching staff insisted to everyone that listened that they had the biggest up-and-coming roster of NHL'ers imaginable, and that the team possessed the best prospects in the league, who would all instantaneously blossom into superstars this season.

Well, just as Leipold spent $196 on players whose contracts he almost immediately decided that he did not want to pay in full, sometimes sales pitches don't live up to expectations. The Wild went 4-2-and-1 in January (the Wings went 3-2-and-1), but in February, the Wild have a 2-4-and-1 record, with their wins coming in a shootout and overtime (the Wings are 4-3-and-1), are coming off consecutive losses to Vancouver on Tuesday and a shootout loss to Colorado on Thursday...

And on this "Hockey Weekend Across America," the self-proclaimed State of Hockey faces off against the self-proclaimed Hockeytown with the natives somewhat restless because the self-proclaimed powerhouse Wild team has yet to emerge.

On Thursday, Wild coach Mike Yeo suggested to the Associated Press that his team blew a big opportunity to gain two points on the Avs...

"It was there to be taken, if you do the things to take it. There was a lack of urgency, I would say, in a lot of areas," he said choosing his words carefully. "I don't think we were prepared to play the right way."

[Zach] Parise, [Mikko] Koivu and Mike Rupp scored for Minnesota, which netted three goals for the first time in seven games. The Wild has 10 goals in that span.

"This was a game we needed to win. The plus side is we got a point, but you can't find any contentment in that," Rupp said.

...

Minnesota entered the game as the league's second-lowest scoring team at 1.92 goals per game; Colorado the third-worst at 2.09. So by their standards, the third period was practically a barrage of goals.

Minnesota was trailing 2-1, when Rupp tied it early in the third by taking a pass from Mikael Granlund at the right post and whacking it past Giguere on the second try. Koivu gave Minnesota a 3-2 lead at 11:56, picking up a loose puck in the Colorado slot, switching to his backhand and lifting a shot over the glove of Giguere.

...
In an effort to find some offensive production, Yeo has reunited the top line of Parise, Koivu and Heatley after being apart for a little more than a week. Entering the game, Parise had one goal in the past eight games, Koivu had one assist in his past seven and Heatley was pointless in the past eight. The trio finished with 13 of Minnesota's 29 shots, including nine by Parise.

Over the past couple of days, Leipold spoke to the Pioneer Press's Bruce Brothers about his desire to see the league realign into four better-geographically-centered "conferences," including one which would include the Wild, Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings and one of (if not both of) the Nashville Predators or Columbus Blue Jackets...

While Wild GM Cliff Fletcher was taken to task for the Wild's middling start by Fox Sports North's Brian Hall.

In terms of day-to-day and actual roster news, the Wild had to put Josh Harding on the IR as he's dealing with MS, and recalled top prospects Johan Larsson and Jason Zucker, and the Pioneer Press's Kevin Hagstrom:

The moves were announced after the team practiced Saturday at St. Thomas Academy, a practice that forward Pierre Marc-Bouchard and defenseman Justin Falk missed because of illness. Before Harding's move to the IR was announced, coach Mike Yeo said that some days the backup goalie feels normal and other days he is "off," a result of his battle with the effects of a new medication for his multiple sclerosis.

"I give him an awful lot of credit for being open and honest with us," Yeo said. "He cares enough about this team to make sure he's going to be right physically before he goes back out there."

For tonight's game, we'll see Petr Mrazek play opposite Niklas Backstrom, who's had an up-and-down campaign.

Zucker, 21, leads the Aeros in scoring with 19 goals and 41 points, and Larsson has 27 points in 51 contests. They were promoted ahead of Charlie Coyle, who did not score in five appearances with the Wild this season.

The Wild (6-6-2) are still trying to find the right mix of players. The team is hoping one or both call-ups can provide some offensive spark for Sunday's game against Detroit at the Xcel Energy Center.

Cal Clutterbuck, meanwhile, participated in Saturday's skate-around. The forward said he felt good, no longer experiencing the vision trouble he endured after taking a stick to the face in Thursday's shootout loss to Colorado.

And hey, the Wild suck on the power play, too! Well, not as much as the Wings do, but still:

The Wild are planning no immediate changes on a power-play unit that has scored on 15.7 percent of its opportunities. Jonas Brodin has been making a case for a spot on the first unit. Yeo said Brodin, 19, has been good at bringing the puck up the ice on the man advantage -- an area in which he feels his current unit has slipped.

"The fact that we have all left-handed shots out there right now is probably the only thing keeping us from doing it," Yeo said.

With Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Justin Falk in the lineup, NHL.com's Dan Myers reports that the Wild dressed this lineup against Colorado...

[Forwards]

Dany Heatley - Mikko Koivu - Zach Parise

Mikael Granlund - Kyle Brodziak - Devin Setoguchi

Pierre-Marc Bouchard - Matt Cullen - Cal Clutterbuck

Torrey Mitchell - Zenon Konopka - Mike Rupp

[Defensemen]

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Tom Gilbert - Clayton Stoner

Jared Spurgeon - Justin Falk

[Goaltenders]

Niklas Backstrom

Darcy Kuemper

The Star-Tribune's Michael Russo estimated that the Wild's personnel moves and the illnesses of Bouchard and Falk would yield at least two lineup changes...

With Falk sick and frankly coming off a rough game, Nate Prosser will almost certainly play. I've got to look it up, but I don't think he's been on for a goal against this year.

Prosser was paired with Jonas Brodin in today's practice, while Ryan Suter was reunited with Jared Spurgeon. Coach Mike Yeo said that won't necessarily be the pairs though. He said he did that for lefty-righty looks in practice. I'd think it sticks though. Yeo did say the Wild is considering playing Brodin on the power play like they did in Detroit last month. He said the only reason why they really haven't is because they have so many lefties on the power play.

And Russo estimated that the Wild may very well dress goon..I mean enforc...No I don't, I mean "goon," seriously, goon Zenon Konopka against the Wings:

It was unclear Saturday which forwards coach Mike Yeo would choose to remove in order to play Zucker and Larsson. Pierre-Marc Bouchard is likely to be one of them. He missed Saturday's practice because he was "under the weather." He has scored two goals and had one assist in 13 games and has seen fourth-line duty recently as well as being a healthy scratch.

One other forward -- likely a fourth-line forward -- would still have to come out, providing Cal Clutterbuck can play. He missed much of Thursday's shootout loss to Colorado after being high-sticked next to his right eye. He tried to return, but when he didn't see a check coming in the second period, he realized he was having problems with peripheral vision. But Clutterbuck practiced Saturday and expects to play.

With Bouchard absent Saturday, fourth-line right winger Torrey Mitchell filled in on a line with Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi. Zucker would be a natural to slate into that spot, meaning Mitchell could be the odd man out.

Another possibility would be Zenon Konopka, who didn't play a shift after his penalty led to Milan Hejduk's power-play goal against Colorado. Larsson can play wing or center.

The Wild's "Pondcast" radio show for Saturday included interviews with Jared Spurgeon, Cal Clutterbuck and Wild coach Mike Yeo in Flash format, but as I looked far and wide for background information regarding the "state of the Wild," but only found the above-listed gabba, we're just going to move on to Russo's game preview...

Preview: The Wild, coming off a 4-3 shootout loss to Colorado, has scored one goal in regulation in six of the past seven games. It is the second-lowest-scoring team in the NHL at 2.00 goals per game. The up and down Red Wings are winless in two and coming off a 5-2 home loss to Anaheim. The Wild is 3-1-5 in the past nine at home against Detroit.

Players to watch: Petr Mrazek, a 21-year-old Czech who tore up the AHL this year (17-6-1 with a 2.26 goals-against average for Grand Rapids) is expected to get the start for Detroit in goal. He won his NHL debut 5-1 against St. Louis on Feb. 9 with 26 saves. RW Mikael Samuelsson, who has played two games, will return from a groin injury. LW Henrik Zetterberg is tied for fifth in the NHL with 18 points and has scored 32 points in 34 games against the Wild. Wild captain Mikko Koivu is expected to play his 503rd game, moving him into third on the all-time list. G Niklas Backstrom is 2-0-1 in his past three starts with a 1.54 goals-against average. D Ryan Suter has four assists in the past four games and is second in the NHL in time on ice per game (27:29).

Numbers: The Wild's power play ranks 22nd at 15.7 percent; the Red Wings are 24th at 14.5 percent. ... The Wild ranks 10th defensively (2.5 goals allowed per game); the Red Wings rank 20th (2.93).

Injuries: Red Wings C Pavel Datsyuk (shoulder) is questionable. LW Johan Franzen (hip flexor), LW Todd Bertuzzi (back), D Carlo Colaicovo (shoulder), D Brendan Smith (shoulder) and C Darren Helm (back) are out. Wild G Josh Harding (symptoms related to multiple sclerosis) is out. LW/RW Pierre-Marc Bouchard (sick) and D Justin Falk (sick) are doubtful.

And NHL.com's Brian Hunter provides our pivot point between the perspectives of the Wild's players and coach and those of the Red Wings' players and coach:

Last 10: Detroit 5-3-2; Minnesota 4-4-2

Season series: This is the second of three meetings. In the first, the Detroit Red Wings rode two power-play goals and two Todd Bertuzzi even-strength goals to a 5-2 win at Joe Louis Arena. The Red Wings are 11-3-1 in their past 15 visits to Minnesota.

Big story: Can the Minnesota Wild finally break the monotony and start reaping the benefits of their offseason roster moves? The inconsistent Wild are 2-4-1 in February. The Red Wings seemed to have righted their ship with a three-game win streak last week, but two consecutive losses and injuries to key players raise new questions.

...

Red Wings [team scope]: Losing a seven-time Norris Trophy winner can be hard; Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement -- along with nagging injuries to key players Bertuzzi, Johan Franzen and Carlo Colaiacovo -- have exposed gaps in the defense early and often.

Those looked to be filled in the three-game win streak, when Detroit allowed four goals. But with nine allowed in the past two outings, both losses, the wounds have been reopened. In the most recent, a 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Friday, a late tie was broken with two goals in the third period.

...

Wild [team scope]: In Minnesota’s case, the cause of frustration isn’t the absence of a star player, but the addition of two of them. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter joined the Wild in the offseason, bringing lofty expectations to a team that missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a fourth consecutive season in 2011-12. It hasn't exactly panned out: The Wild haven’t won more than two games in a row and rank 29th in goals-per-game (2.0).

The low point may have come Thursday, a 4-3 loss to the struggling Colorado Avalanche at home. The Wild entered the third period with a one-goal lead but couldn’t protect it and fell in a shootout.

...

Who’s hot: Parise scored against Colorado, his first goal in five games, and had two goals in the loss to Detroit earlier this season.

The AP's game preview offers some statistical tidbits of note, too...

The Wild (6-6-2) were hoping to end a franchise-worst four-season playoff drought and join the NHL's elite after inking forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter to 13-year deals, both worth $98 million.

Minnesota, though, hasn't won more than two games in a row and is 2-4-1 this month. The Wild couldn't protect a one-goal lead in the third period Thursday against visiting Colorado, and ended up suffering a 4-3 shootout loss.

...

The Wild scored three times in Detroit on Jan. 25, including two goals from Parise, but couldn't keep the Red Wings out of the net in a 5-3 defeat.

Detroit is 8-1-2 in its last 11 games against Minnesota and has outscored the Wild 11-3 in back-to-back wins, but has experienced its own defensive struggles lately.

The Red Wings (7-5-2) have given up a combined nine goals in consecutive defeats after allowing four during a season-high three-game winning streak. They let Anaheim score twice early in the third period to break a tie score in Friday's 5-2 loss.

...

Former captain and star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom was in attendance while visiting Detroit from his native Sweden. The Red Wings are probably wishing the seven-time Norris Trophy winner was playing a 21st season as they've surrendered at least four goals in five of 14 games (35.7 percent). They gave up four scores 24.4 percent of the time (20 of 82 games) in 2011-12.

Detroit has been outscored 41-37 in 2012-13 and a rash of injuries haven't helped. Pavel Datsyuk is day-to-day with a sore shoulder while Johan Franzen (hip) and Todd Bertuzzi (back) are among seven players on injured reserve.

...

While hoping to get Datsyuk back, Detroit will try to improve on an 11-3-1 record in its last 15 visits to Minnesota. The Red Wings, though, lost 1-0 in their most recent game there Oct. 29, 2011.  Detroit hasn't dropped three straight since an 0-4-2 skid March 10-21 while the Wild have already experienced a pair of three-game losing streaks.

The Red Wings' struggles in terms of goals surrendered has more to do with horrific team defense and turnovers galore as opposed to anything less than superb goaltending, and coach Mike Babcock, captain Henrik Zetterberg and maybe-maybe-not-playing Pavel Datsyuk all discussed the team's need to minimize mistakes while speaking to MLive's Ansar Khan...

“If you give away the puck, you can't win,'' Babcock said.

He replayed the disastrous 48-second span early in the third period Friday, when Andrew Cogliano and Bobby Ryan scored on odd-man rushes to give the Ducks a 4-2 lead.

“Two freebies,'' Babcock said. “Kuba (Jakub Kindl) is not in the right spot, should be over here helping out. (Niklas) Kronwall's pass to Fil (Valtteri Filppula) is off his stick, Kuba's not back defensively to look after it.

“Whitey's (Ian White) got it along the wall on a line change, just gives it away, two-on-one. That's the game. So, we do everything for 40 minutes to be set up to win and two plays with the puck … We're not the type of team, with what we have, that we're going to recover from turning the puck over. People can say you're bad defensively, well, we weren't bad defensively, there's no defense for turnovers. It's puck plays that give it to us two nights in a row. We can't do it and we got to look after it quick because we need points.''

...

“I think we just got to take care of the puck,'' captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “It's not the structure or how we're playing that's killing us, it's the turnovers and executing on passes and stuff like that. Last game we played real well, did a lot of good things, and all the sudden two shifts in the third, plays that shouldn't happen, and it's in our net. Especially now, when we don't have the lineup we used to have, we have to make sure we're doing all the little things right.''

...

“Some of that happens over the course of a season,'' Zetterberg said. “You won't have the bounces with you every time. In the same way, you kind of deserve your own bounces. If you keep doing mistakes and bad decisions, it will end up in your net. But, if you do the right things, eventually you get reward for it.''

...

“We too much give it gift (goals),'' Datsyuk said. “And power play. We need to score power play. When we score on power play it's much easier game.''

Babcock told Khan that he wasn't thrilled with Valtteri Filppula's play on Thursday--or this season--either:

“Fil wasn't good enough last night, wasn't competitive enough, and he's got to be way better than that,'' Babcock said. “We need him. He's a significant player for us and he's got to play better than this.''

Filppula was skating on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Brunner in practice, but Babcock said he hadn't decided if that's where he will play Sunday at Minnesota (6 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit). Filppula isn't the only player struggling. But, he hasn't played nearly as well as he did last season, when he notched career highs in goals (23) and points (66). He has three points (goal, two assists) in his past eight games and eight points (three goals, five assists) in 14 games.

“I'm just trying to work hard and do things right and hopefully good things will happen,'' Filppula said. “I don't think last game was that good; the game before that I thought it was not bad.

Filppula suffered a sprained MCL in November while playing in Finland. Knee pain caused him to miss some practice time in training camp. He said he hasn't had any issues the past two games.

“I've been starting to feel, body-wise, good, so I'm happy about that,'' he said.

The Wings' lineup's in flux with Datsyuk "50-50" and Mikael Samuelsson returning, and Khan reported that the Wings practiced with these lines (though the Kronwall-Lashoff, Ericsson-White and Quincey-Kindl defensive pairs remained the same):

Valtteri Filppula-Henrik Zetterberg-Damien Brunner

Daniel Cleary-Pavel Datsyuk/Justin Abdelkader-Mikael Samuelsson

Tomas Tatar-Joakim Andersson-Patrick Eaves

Drew Miller-Cory Emmerton-Jordin Tootoo

Jan Mursak and Gustav Nyquist (who was reassigned to Grand Rapids after practice) skated with the top two lines).

Samuelsson told the Free Press's George Sipple that he's hoping to stick in the lineup, literally and figuratively, after having dealt with a sore groin since the middle of training camp:

Mikael Samuelsson, who missed the past 12 games with a groin injury, will be back in the lineup when the Red Wings visit the Minnesota Wild on Sunday.

“When it doesn’t go your way, it’s really frustrating, but you gotta listen to your body — learned that lesson this time,” Samuelsson said. “Hopefully, I learned something from it. But I’m happy to hopefully play.”

Samuelsson first suffered the injury in camp, played the first two games of the season and has been sidelined since.

“I’ve made it very clear I don’t have time for him to tip toe around and get used to playing,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said today. “We’ve got points on the line. We need him playing right now. He said he’s more than ready to go, so good for us.”

Forward Pavel Datsyuk, who missed Friday’s 5-2 Anaheim with a shoulder bruise, practiced today and termed his odds of playing at better than 50-50.

Forward Johan Franzen, out the past two games with a hip flexor, skated for about 20 minutes each of the past two days, but was placed on injured reserve today.

Samuelsson told the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa that he may have been over-eager to make a first impression...

"I was anxious when I got here," Samuelsson said, referring even to months ago, when the NHL owners' lockout delayed his homecoming, before the problematic groin delayed it further.

"Anxious is not the word. Excited," he said. "Yeah, it was really frustrating. But you've got to listen to your body, too. So, learned that lesson, this time, and hopefully I learned something from it."

He said he does not expect it will be necessary to play some games, before he is back up to speed.

"No. I hope not. We'll see. I will play the best I can and go from there."

Johan Franzen clarified his injury situation, stating that his hip flexors are only acting up when he's skating...

"Doing everyday stuff, I feel fine," Franzen said. "It's going full out, and all of that, that's bothering me So, I'm starting to skate a little bit, but not a hundred percent, though. I'll try to ease into it, and make sure I'm in once piece when I come back."

....

"Let's say it's out," he said. "But you never know."

Tests revealed only strains, Franzen said.

"It's muscle strains."

And Petr Mrazek shrugged off suggestions that his second start would yield any nerves while speaking to Khan (via RedWingsFeed):

“I feel the same way I did in my first game,'' Mrazek said. “I'm never nervous, so I will go there and have fun and enjoy every minute.''

Babcock didn't know what to expect before Mrazek's debut.

“It looks like he's got moxie and it looks like he can play, so let's see him play,'' Babcock said. “Now you got to do it again, and you got to do it again. And when you've done it for 15 straight years, they say you're good.''

As for Samuelsson, as Sipple noted above, Babcock's not going to give him a long leash...

“I made it very clear, I don't have time for him to tip-toe around and get used to playing,'' Babcock said. “We got points on the line, we need him playing right now. He said he's more than ready to go, so good for us.''

Samuelsson can provide an offensive boost. He will play the point on the second power-play unit.

“He plays in all situations, he's going to be good for the PP; he's a big body with a good shot,'' Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We've really been missing him, basically from the start.''

Zetterberg also suggested to the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that he expects Datsyuk to play...

Datsyuk missed his first game of the season Friday with a shoulder bruise. The crafty center hasn’t lost his sense of humor. When asked if the injury was from a hit by Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty last Sunday Datsyuk said, “No, it’s from celebrating.

“It’s like 50-50 now, but I think so,” Datsyuk added.

“Pav looked good in practice, there’s a chance he will play, so hopefully we’ll get some bodies back,” Zetterberg said. “In the meantime, the guys that have come in have done a good job. The third and fourth lines were the best lines yesterday. If they keep playing like that we will be good.”

Just as the Wings were 0-for-2 with Nicklas Lidstrom watching from the owners' suite, I have to admit that I always dread the "Fathers and Mentors' Trip." The Wings' players seem to do what Damien Brunner did in games 3 and 4 of his mother and father's visit to Joe Louis Arena over the past week--he got way too cute and surrendered prime scoring chances because he chose to pass instead of shoot--and as the team's national television record indicates, when the spotlight's on this team, it gets a little jittery.

There's also no doubt that games in Minnesota and Nashville aren't exactly spending a weekend in the American Southwest or Florida during mid-February, but Babcock told Pleiness that there was no way that a lockout-shortened season was going to wipe the trip off the schedule:

“This is one of the things we do so why won’t we have it, the dad’s didn’t plan the lockout, they had nothing to do with so and they like coming,” Babcock said. “We like having them. It’s a great thing to do. Lots of the guys don’t necessarily bring their dad, a lot of times they bring a buddy and they get to experience the National Hockey League. I think it’s great.”

Babcock will bring a college roommate of his this year.

Jordin Tootoo is bringing his father.

“Our parents have been there through thick and thin and this is kind of a ‘thank you’ to them for showing us the ropes,” Tootoo said. “And now it’s kind of our turn to show them what we kind of do on a daily basis.”

His parents still live in the Canadian territory of Nunavut.

“(I’m bringing) Barney, big, bad Barney,” Tootoo smiled as he uttered his father’s name. “If you see a little brown boy wobbling around here that’s probably my dad. He’s four-feet tall, stacked, probably about 220 pounds, just a little raging bull. He a plumber, a mechanic, a welder, kind of a jack of all trades. Now he’s retired and just enjoying hunting and fishing.”

Many of the other newest Red Wings – Brian Lashoff, Damien Brunner, Tomas Tatar and Joakim Andersson – will be making the trip solo.

Lashoff didn't know that he was going to be in Detroit, and the same's true for Tatar and Andersson, so there wasn't much time for any of them to prepare for the trip.

Some of the "veterans" thereof spoke to the Free Press's George Sipple about their companion picks:

Jimmy Howard, who has invited his father and grandfather on the trip in the past, said he invited his father-in-law this year.

“He’s really excited,” Howard said. “Just looking forward to showing him a good time.”

Justin Abdelkader is once again bringing his father, Joe.

“He has always come,” Justin said. “He’s excited about going. It’s always fun to bring the fathers along. I don’t think I’ve ever thought about bringing anyone else. It’s still a treat for him to come every time.”

Babcock was showing the fathers of Jordin Tootoo and Brendan Smith around the Joe on Saturday.

“It’s just great to get to know who they are,” Babcock said. “You get to know these guys over time and I think it helps you understand their kids and where they come from. The other thing about it, the guys have a great time. When they’re having a good time, I’m having a good time and we usually play hard. I like when we play hard.”

Sometimes I think that's why Babcock "likes" this trip so very much--again, he may be the most competitive athlete in the locker room, but the man would've finished his graduate work in psychology at McGill University had his playing and coaching career not continued, and something tells me he absolutely adores learning how his players tick, and what kind of environment shaped them into the men that they are.

All of that psycho-babble being said, I'd prefer to leave the last word to the Wings' captain this time, via the Free Press's Sipple:

“It’s not the structure … that’s killing us, it’s the turnovers,” Zetterberg said. “Executing on passes and stuff like that. The last game, we played real well. All of a sudden, two shifts in the third, plays that shouldn’t happen and it’s in our net. Especially now when we don’t have the lineup that we’re used to having, we really have to make sure that we’re doing all the little things right and if you do that it’s easier for us to win games.

“Teams don’t have work as hard for their goals as we have to do to get our goals. Some of that happens over the course of a season. You won’t have the bounces with you every time. In the same way, you deserve your own bounces too. If you keep doing mistakes, keep doing bad decisions, it will end up in your net. If you do the right things, eventually you get rewarded for it.”

That's the theory. The Wings have been "messing about," if you will, for the past two games, and tonight, they need to get back to work.

 

Red Wings, erm, notebook: We have one notebook, and it focuses upon the fact that Cory Emmerton (like Drew Miller) seems to be winning a spot on next year's Wings team (which probably includes Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Joakim Andersson) thanks to a surprising amount of grit and determination.

The Detroit News's Gregg Krupa took note of the fact that Emmerton blocked at least three Sheldon Souray shots in addition to the one shot he was actually given credit for blocking on Thursday, and Emmerton did so while earning some significant PK time. Was he worried about being hurt by those 100-mph bombs? Not really, no:

"We've talked about the fact that to have a successful penalty kill you need to get in the lanes, you need to block some shots," Emmerton said. "So, that's one thing that, if you're going to be on the penalty kill and you want to contribute the best way, you've got to sacrifice your body — you know, when the chance arises. So, I just try to do it. Just get in the lane and hope the puck hits you, and not anywhere where it hurts too bad."

Ideally, the Wings want their players to block shots with their shin pads, skates with Lexan "skate guards" on them and their sticks, but sometimes their bodies get in the way...

"It sort of an art form," he said. "You try not to get yourself in a bad position. You just try to just be in the lane, where they're going to hit you, if they try to shoot it — so you're not getting hit in the back of the leg area or somewhere in a bad spot. But the guy's going to shoot, and you don't know where it's going to go. But the closer you are to the guy, the less it's going to hurt."

As Krupa notes, there's some irony in the fact that the Wings' new associate coach, Tom Renney, both coached Renney and preached shot-blocking via drop-and-dive drills in practice during his tenure with the Edmonton Oilers:

"I think it's incumbent with any penalty kill at really any level — but the pro level, at least, there's no question — that shot blocking is big," said Renney, the former head coach of the Oilers, Rangers and Canucks. "It's not the easiest thing to do when you've got a guy like 44 unloading on top, there. But, a lot of courage, and that's what it takes."

So, do they practice this sort of thing? Do guys purposefully skate in front of each other at practice, while a shooter is winding up at the point with the full intention of blocking a slap shot?Yes, but they change pucks.

"You can," Renney said, with a knowing smile. "You use a sponge puck. You know, you stay away from the heavy galvanized rubber. So the mechanics of shot blocking you can certainly practice, and it doesn't hurt."

Emmerton told Krupa that he's fine, though the one he was credited with blocking stung:

"I mean, I don't know," he said. "But the one that they definitely got down probably hurt the most. I'm not too worried about that. As long as I'm blocking shots and preventing goals, I'm good."

 

 

 

In the prospect department, in the ECHL, Willie Coetzee scored two goals and Jordan Pearce stopped 29 of 33 shots, but the Toledo Walleye dropped a 4-3 OT decision to the Kalamazoo K-Wings on Saturday night. The Walleye's website provides a recap, as does the Toledo Blade's Rachel Lenzi, and the Blade posted a photo gallery from the game as the Walleye wore jerseys commemorating the Toledo Blades;

In Europe, via DRW Prospects on Twitter:

Teemu Pulkkinen registered 3 assists in Jokerit Helsinki's 4-1 victory over KalPa;

Calle Jarnkrok's assist helped his team rally from a 2-0 deficit, and his goal was the game-winner in Brynas IF's 4-3 shootout win over Vaxjo--and yes, they count shootout goals in Sweden (click the link for a game summary in Swedish and some watchable highlights under the, well, "Highlights" tab)

And Mattias Backman didn't register a point in Linkopings HC's 2-1 shootout win over Farjestads BK. Backman had missed two games after being injured during the Oddset Games;

Back over on this side of the pond, in the QMJHL, Xavier Ouellet had a goal and an assist in the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada's 7-5 victory over Rouyn-Noranda;

In the OHL, Alan Quine had an assist in the Belleville Bulls' 7-5 victory over Sudbury;

Ryan Sproul had 4 assists in the Soo Greyhounds' 10-7 win over Kingston. Sproul now has 18 goals, 40 assists and 58 points over the course of 39 games played. It took him 61 games to register 53 points last year!

Jake Paterson stopped 31 of 35 shots in the Saginaw Spirit's 7-4 victory over Windsor;

And Andreas Athanasiou cored a goal in the Barrie Colts' 3-0 victory over Mississauga;

In college hockey, in the NCAA, Ben Marshall registered 2 assists in the University of Minnesota's 3-2 victory over Wisconsin;

In the USHL, Mike McKee got 2, 10 and a game for elbowing in the Lincoln Stars' 6-1 loss to Sioux Falls;

And in the BCHL, James De Haas didn't register a point in the Penticton Vees' 3-2 loss to Merritt.

 

Also of Red Wings-related note: This quip from the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch has me raising an eyebrow:

The NHL and the NHL Players' Association are holding negotiations on what re-alignment will look like next season. Commissioner Gary Bettman has learned his lesson and isn't going to announce anything until he has a deal in place with the players that he can take to the board of governors. Several different scenarios are being looked at -- including two conferences and four divisions, which didn't pass the smell test for the union last year. "We will probably brief the board when we and (the union) have agreement on what we intend to propose for approval," said deputy commissioner Bill Daly in an e-mail. "Hopefully, we have reached a decision by the end of the month."

Again, the trick for the Wings is this: they're not going to be moved to the East because they fill buildings all over the West, and would leave the West with only one Original Six team. But they will probably move to a Midwestern "conference."

I don't think that Wings fans are going to like to hear this, but as I've been saying, Columbus rather desperately wants to move to the East to help stabilize themselves financially, and I believe that the league will accommodate them. The Nashville Predators are a "natural fit" geographically with Carolina and the two Florida teams, but they don't want to give up their rivalries with the Wings, Blues and Blackhawks, so they're the sticky wicket.

I'm not going to mention any of Garrioch's trade rumors, either, but I will say this: I get the feeling that a season completely comprised of intra-conference play will yield fewer trades within conferences and more trades from East to West and vice versa.

With the exception of Igor Larionov perhaps, the 94-95 season tended to work like that, and the, "Well, we're probably going to see player X again before the season's out, and we have a pretty decent chance of seeing him in the playoffs--and I don't want to see my ass get burned here" mentality of GM's regarding in-conference trades should significantly limit such moves.

 

*And will somebody please perform a thorough audit of the trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, the team's workout regimens, methods of treating chronic injuries, and even the supplements the players take already? All of those areas clearly need to be given a thorough, if not exhaustive examination given that so many of the team's young and low-mileage players suffer the same kinds of injuries that are supposedly only the territory of the cavalcade of "aged" players who simply don't exist in large numbers on this team any more. The Wings can spin it any way they want, use biometric data to increase efficiency or do a better job of gauging physical and mental fatigue...

But while the Wings don't travel as much as the Wild or Canucks, they sure do travel often, and they sure do train hard, and they seem to get injured all the damn time.

I think that some of the shoulder injuries have to do with equipment companies being forced to add hard foam caps to shoulder pads, which seems to have directed the impact of those hard shoulder hits back into the shoulders of the players who are taking hits, and groin injuries are going to happen, but the back issues and the wear-and-tear problems that the Wings suffer from seem to be extreme given that their trainers, strength and conditioning staffs, their medical staff and doctors are all top-top-top shelf. There's got to be some sort of set of subtle tweaks they can make to improve their players' health, just as the Canucks leaned upon medical science to improve their players' sleeping efficiency.

This has to be addressed in a rational, reasonable and constructive manner, because no heads need roll: techniques need refining and everything should be examined, reexamined and scrutinized to determine what can be done better and what can be done more efficiently. 

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Comments

Bugsy's avatar

In danger of cherry picking/making things look bad, the Wings closed out the regular season last year 7-10-4. Granted, they had the long home wining streak in the middle, and a west coast trip as part of this, but maybe this said something of what was about to come. The optimist would say that the Wings went 1-8-2 during their Cup season, too, when injuries I believe were an issue, though.
I’m curious to see what Samuelson can bring to the table, too.
I’ll correct myself on one thing from Friday. I checked the stats from about 15 games last season and in the last Cup season 2007-08. The Wings often lost the “takeaways minus giveaways” stat last year too and in the the Cup season, just not as often, and it didn’t correlate as often for wins/losses as I would have thought, but it’s still a concern only coming out ahead in 3 of 14 games over the opponent this year. To compare sports, Tiger Woods is at his best when he gets his birdies and eagles, it’s when he has almost no bogeys (in other words, he doesn’t make many mistakes and can recover from the ones he does).
One stat I’d be curious about is what the Wings’ record is for the Father/Son trips over the years and their regular season National TV record.
Thanks again, George

Posted by Bugsy on 02/17/13 at 06:06 AM ET

w2j2's avatar

38 year-old Todd Bertuzzi has a long history of back problems.
He had to go in the hospital this time, and now he is walking with a cane.
I wish him the best, and hope he can get back on the ice soon.

However, it may be a long time before he plays again, if ever.

. sick

Posted by w2j2 on 02/17/13 at 06:25 AM ET

Bugsy's avatar

One more: via MLive, TSN’s Scott Cullen has Babcock as coach of the year so far. Interesting.

http://www.tsn.ca/blogs/scott_cullen/?id=416101

Posted by Bugsy on 02/17/13 at 07:44 AM ET

42jeff's avatar

On Emmerton’s display of bravery/foolishness/damn right craziness, I’ve been seeing that alot from the kids since they’ve come up.  Almost as if to say, “Hey Babs, see what else I can do that your other guys won’t?”

Posted by 42jeff from The greater Howard City, MI metroplex on 02/17/13 at 09:48 AM ET

Avatar

Tired of the “not old” lie, so I looked it up: http://www.thehockeynetwork.com/forum/nhl-national-hockey-league/general-nhl-discussion/general-nhl-talk/32440-which-2013-nhl-team-is-the-oldest/youngest-tallest/shortest-heaviest/lightest.php

Tie for oldest: Devils, Panthers age 29.7
Wings 29.6

No other team has an average age in the 29s.

Please stop saying they’re not old.  They are.

Posted by jkm2011 on 02/17/13 at 09:55 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Posted by jkm2011 on 02/17/13 at 09:55 AM ET

You should really have your own blog.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 02/17/13 at 11:13 AM ET

SolidTG7's avatar

They’re not old.

Posted by SolidTG7 on 02/17/13 at 12:12 PM ET

SK77's avatar

29.6 years is considered old?

I obviously need to update my name on here.

Posted by SK77 on 02/17/13 at 01:02 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.