The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/14/12 at 08:21 AM ET
Updated at 11:56 AM: When the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks face off today (12:30 PM EST, NBC Sports/streamed on NBCSports.com and NHL.com/TSN2/WXYT—and watch out for Auto Show parking snags if you’re headed to the game), you’d think that the rhetoric from the Blackhawks press over the past week indicates that the Hawks (and the “one who got away”) will come out blaming the Wings for every injury up to and including Daniel Carcillo’s blown-out knee.
If you believe Comcast Sportsnet Chicago’s Chris Boden, the Hawks have a long list of gripes with the dirty, nasty Wings, which should be answered with nothing less than hacks, whacks and intent-to-injure revenge:
Finally, I’m wondering how the Hawks view the way Detroit’s injured them over the past handful of meetings, perhaps intensifying this rivalry a bit more. Since this will be the third meeting in 16 days, the most recent, and most costly injury they’ve caused, was to Patrick Sharp Sunday. Prior to that, some cheap shots in a preseason game sidelined Smith and Stalberg to start the season. And Patrick Kane told us before his wrist surgery over the summer that it was a slash by Todd Bertuzzi in last season’s next-to-last game that caused the injury.
I’m not sayin’...I’m just sayin’.
We’ll conveniently ignore the Hawks’ tendencies to carve the Wings up equally well, to the tune of Johan Franzen’s knee injuries and the kinds of late-season hacks and whacks which lead Mike Babcock to bench his stars if the Wings have the points to burn during the teams’ regular-season finale (scheduled for April 7th) and get down to the reality of the situation:
The Blackhawks, who are coming off a 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild and have won both games since the dirty, dastardly Wings’ 3-2 overtime victory last weekend, and as such, they sit two points ahead of the Wings in the Western Conference standings—and the Blues are a point ahead of the Wings’ 55 as well.
As Fox Sports Detroit’s Ken Daniels pointed out during the Wings-Coyotes broadcast, the Wings and Hawks’ third meeting over the last 16 days has added “pop” for a very, very simple reason: the team which wins the Central Division will, at the very least, sit in third place in the Western Conference, while the losers will probably inhabit the fourth, fifth or sixth-place spots, which all but ensure the Central “losers” taking each other out in the first round of the playoffs. That’s the real reason that the Wings, Hawks and Blues will happily resort to beating the snot out of each other if fighting dirty means avoiding each other for at least one playoff round, if not gaining home ice advantage for a first-round slug-fest.
The Blackhawks will receive a lineup reinforcement in the form of Marcus Krueger today, and Comcast Sportsnet Chicago’s Tracey Myers noted that the Hawks have done pretty well without supposed Jiri Hudler slash casualty Patrick Sharp in the lineup:
“When a guy goes down you know there are extra roles that come on you. Guys have taken over those roles,” said Dave Bolland, who has three goals and two assists in his last two games. “We’re doing a great job at it. We’ll just keep going, keep rolling.”
So far the call has been heard, and the more unsung goal scorers have responded loudest. Viktor Stalberg has four goals in two games. Bolland’s been scoring. Rookies Jimmy Hayes and Andrew Shaw have contributed, too. The points have been spread around the roster and they’ve all been welcome sights.
“It’s nice when you get contributions across the board,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We talk all year long that we need more consistency in our team game, and whether there’s production or not, I thought we had good rotation in our lines for back-to-back games here.”
Defenseman Steve Montador, who had two assists on Thursday, said “we obviously have some big horses here, and it’s good to know they’ll contribute more often than not; having said that, the rest of us have to chip in from time to time. We’re going to get the opportunities.”
Montador’s right: the Blackhawks’ “horses,” – Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Sharp before he was hurt – are still going to get the bulk of the points. That’s why they’re among the league’s elite. But every superstar benefits from having a good supporting cast. The Blackhawks are benefiting from theirs right now.
Myers also notes that the Hawks’ power play, which has been nearly as bad as the Wings 2-for-27 disaster of late, finally got back on track against Minnesota…
The Blackhawks went 2 for 3 on the power play in their 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night. It was the first time they’d scored more than one power-play goal in a game since Dec. 18, when they went 2 for 7 against the Calgary Flames.
Sure, it was just one game. But since the Blackhawks scored just two power-play goals in their previous eight games combined (out of 26 opportunities), it was a welcome sight.
“Yeah, that hasn’t been the best overall; that was key,” said Steve Montador, who was on the ice for both of then. “They changed up the lineups and it seemed to work tonight.”
If you want to keep rockin’ and rollin’ with Blackhawks background information, the Chicago Daily Herald’s Tim Sassone reports that Marian Hossa’s helping David Bolland‘s scoring ability stir from hibernation, if you want to read about forward Andrew Shaw’s edgy play, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Adam L. Jahns will indulge, you, if you dig statistics-based discussions, ChicagoBlackhawks.com’s Emerald Gao discusses the Hawks’ first-half stats translated into intangibles, and if you want to read about Shaw and Jimmy Hayes’ respective impacts as rookies, ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers takes care of that discussion, but Rogers also posted a game preview which merits noting from a, “This is a Wings blog, dammit!” perspective…
The Hawks have a big set of games against the Western Conference rivals Detroit Red Wings (11:30 a.m., Saturday) and the San Jose Sharks (6 p.m., Sunday) this weekend and they might be catching those teams at a perfect time—but that has nothing to do with the opponents.
The Hawks are moving in the right direction, and the Wings and Sharks could be the victims of poor timing, if the current trend continues.
The Hawks had a great month of December but slowly started moving the other way as the calendar turned. Losers of four in a row overall, they bottomed out against Colorado, losing 4-0 on Jan. 6. Maybe they got lazy, maybe they got complacent or maybe that’s just part of the season.
Then they started the climb back up. A close loss to Detroit, in which they led most of the way, gave them renewed confidence. That carried over to a 5-2 win over Columbus on Tuesday in which the Hawks didn’t pull away until the third period. And on Thursday night, they took control even earlier scoring three times in the second in another 5-2 win over Minnesota.
So if the trend holds, the Hawks should get at least one, if not two, powerful performances out of this weekend and possibly re-establish themselves at the top of the division and conference. If the trend holds, of course. There are no guarantees.
Best guess has Kruger starting at center on the fourth line to ease him back after getting his head banged around last time he played several weeks ago. That would move Jamal Mayers to wing alongside Bryan Bickell. The rest of the lineup probably will remain the same for the time being which means Dave Bolland and Marian Hossa would stay together and get the tough defensive assignments against the dangerous Wings and Sharks. It should make for some great hockey this weekend.
And the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc took note of the Hawks’ back-to-back “tests” against the Wings and Sharks—with the latter team having only 53 points to the Hawks’ 57 and Detroit’s 55, respectively, but sitting in 3rd place in the West thanks to the fact that they’re the Pacific Division champs at present…
The Hawks will get a real test of where their game is and if they are indeed back to the form that earlier had them at the top of the Western Conference when they face the Red Wings and Pacific Division-leading Sharks in back-to-back contests Saturday at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit and Sunday at home.
“Huge games,” coach Joel Quenneville said of the weekend. “Afternoon game in Detroit, you don’t have to say too much. They play well at home (and) we know the importance of it. You look at the standings in our division, it’s tight, it’s meaningful, a lot of implications at the end of the season with where you’re at. San Jose’s red hot right now too; they’re going well. I’m only worried about Detroit first.”
Quenneville and the Central Division-leading Hawks should be concerned as the Red Wings are nearly invincible in Detroit with a 16-2-1 record and are seeking to tie a franchise record with their 14th consecutive home victory.
“It’s a really big weekend,” Hawks center Dave Bolland said. “It’s always a tough game and a great rivalry (with the Wings). These are some big points we have to get.”
And Comcast Sportsnet Chicago’s Jeremy Lynn took note of the brawl ahead, if you will…
The Central Division standings literally can’t get any tighter. Three teams—the Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings— are separated by two points.
“It’s really tight and it’s going to be like that right to playoff time,” defenseman Brent Seabrook acknowledged. “We lose three in a row, then we lose one in overtime and we’re down to fifth place so we’ve got to realize that every team’s going to be clawing here in the last 40 games or so and we’ve got to be the best we can be to finish the year.”
Every night the pressure will be on, with a win possibly propelling the Hawks into first place in the Western Conference or dropping them as fifth.
Including a video in the process:
The Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc got down to the nitty-gritty in his game preview...
Series: Hawks 1-0-1.
Last meeting: Wings won 3-2 in overtime Sunday night at United Center.
Probable goaltenders: Hawks, Corey Crawford, 16-10-3, 2.83 goals-against average; Wings, Jimmy Howard, 25-10-2, 2.04.
Storyline: Hawks will look to extend two-game winning streak against Original Six rival. Hottest Hawks are forwards Viktor Stalberg, who has four goals in last two games, and Dave Bolland with four in last three. Pavel Datsyuk has points in nine of last 10 for Wings. Hawks will be without wingers Patrick Sharp (wrist) and Daniel Carcillo (knee, out for season) while Wings could be short-handed as veteran Todd Bertuzzi is game-time decision with injuries. Patrick Eaves is out with fractured jaw.
And Comcast Sportsnet Chicago’s Jeremy Lynn offers a superb set of “storylines”:
Who’s Hot? Viktor Stalberg has scored four goals in his last two games, including a hat trick on Tuesday vs. Columbus. Bolland has a three-game point streak with four goals and two assists in that span. Hayes has made his presence felt, with three goals in the first seven games of his career. Brent Seabrook has four goals in his last five games against the Red Wings.
Detroit has been nearly unbeatable at home, going 16-2-1 at Joe Louis Arena this season. They are in search of their 14th straight home victory, something they haven’t done since 1965. Pavel Datsyuk is on fire, recording at least one point in 14 of his last 16 games. Filppula has 10 points in his last nine games.
Storylines: This will be the second meeting this week for the long-time rivals, with Detroit taking an overtime win at the United Center on Sunday. Datsyuk scored the game-winner in that one after the Hawks took an early 2-0 lead. In that game, Patrick Sharp took a slash to the wrist and will miss 3-4 weeks due to it. There could be some retaliation from the Blackhawks if they believed the slash was out of line.
Hawks center Marcus Kruger has been activated and is expected to play for the first time in eight games after dealing with a concussion.
The Red Wings have not announced a starting goalie yet, but Jimmy Howard is 0-3-1 with a 3.45 goals-against average against Chicago at Joe Louis Arena. Meanwhile, backup Ty Conklin has gone 2-0-1 with a 1.98 GAA in his past four appearances vs. the Hawks.
[sarcasm] For the record, the Red Wings also kick puppies. [/sarcasm]
NHL.com’s Brian Hedger penned an epic preview which is worth your full attention, but I can’t quote the whole article, and I’d actually prefer to use it to kick off the Wings’ side of the story going into today’s game, so let’s start with Hedger’s double-duty-pulling capsule preview first:
Big story: Detroit is currently in third place of the Central Division behind both the Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues, but the bigger side story in this game will be the Red Wings’ current home winning streak—a span of 13 games which started with a 5-0 win on Nov. 5 against the Anaheim Ducks. That win snapped a six-game losing streak for Detroit, which is partly responsible for why they’re not on top of the Central Division currently.
The other reason for that is an unsavory road record of 11-13-0—which is the stark opposite of the Wings’ stellar 16-2-1 mark at Joe Louis Arena. Chicago brings a 10-8-1 road mark into Motown and will aim to prevent its Original Six rival from bumping its home win streak to 14 games—which would match Detroit’s franchise record set in 1964-65. Saturday’s game will also kick off NBC’s Game of the Week telecasts.
Blackhawks [team scope]: After going winless in four straight, the Hawks have won two in a row—both at the United Center, against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday and Minnesota Wild on Thursday. Chicago prevailed by a score of 5-2 in both games, which were the first two the Hawks played after star forward Patrick Sharp (20 goals, 40 points) got injured in the first period against Detroit last Sunday. The Hawks are also without forward Daniel Carcillo (suspended), who might be out much longer if an apparent lower-body injury requires surgery. The good news is that rookie center Marcus Kruger (concussion) has been activated off injured reserve, while fellow rookies Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes continue to make a splash in their NHL debuts.
“Afternoon game in Detroit, you don’t have to say too much,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “We had two games here, now we go into their building. They play well at home. We know the importance and the meaning of it. You look at the standings in our division. It’s tight.It’s meaningful. (There’s) a lot of implications at the end of the season, where you’re at.”
Red Wings [team scope]: Jimmy Howard started for the first time after getting a couple of games off and picked up his 100th career win on Thursday in a 3-2 victory earned in a shootout highlighted by Henrik Zetterberg’s pretty move to beat Coyotes goalie Mike Smith. It was also Howard’s NHL-best 25th win of the season on the same day that he and Datsyuk were named as the Wings’ All-Star Game representatives. Datsyuk also came up big against Phoenix by threading a perfect pass through traffic to Johan Franzen for the game-tying goal midway through the third period. Datsyuk had missed the previous game, another road loss, against the New York Islanders with a lower-body injury that happened shortly before he beat the Hawks in overtime last Sunday.
“The Central here is very tight at the top between us, St. Louis and Chicago,” Howard said. “Points are at a premium, so every single night we’ve got to find a way to get them. Every single night, it’s tough to win.”
Who’s hot: Chicago’s Viktor Stalberg scored his first career hat trick on Tuesday against Columbus and added a fourth goal in two games against on Friday, while Hawks center Dave Bolland also scored in both games. Datsyuk has tallied points in nine of the past 10 games he’s played for Detroit.
According to the NHL’s media website, Stephen Walkom and Don VanMassenhoven will referee today’s game, with Derek Amell and Steve Miller working the lines.
I should also point out, from a very subjective Red Wings fan’s point of view, that the refs have really slacked off in terms of calling obstruction, interference and penalties in general over the past few weeks. There’s usually a mid-season letdown in that department before a post-All-Star Break crackdown, but right now you’re seeing most teams get called for 2 or 3 penalties as opposed to 4 or more, regardless of how “chippily” they play. That doesn’t necessarily benefit either team today, but it means that we’re probably going to see pushing, shoving, scrums with punches thrown, the predicted number of hacks and whacks, a few hooks, holds and illegal picks and probably a goalie-crashing or two be allowed to occur without penalties incurred (unless we’re talking about Tomas Holmstrom).
And did I mention that our friends Mike “Doc” Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire will cover this game, and that Mike Milbury will be in the building? Yuppers…
Now here’s the Red Wings-centric side of Hedger’s Uber-Preview:
At Joe Louis Arena, the Wings are 16-2-1 and haven’t lost since Nov. 3. That’s a span of 13 straight wins on home ice, one short of tying the franchise record of 14 in a row set in 1964-65. On the road, it’s been a different story entirely – with an ugly 11-13-0 record to show for it. That might be a byproduct of the effort to give younger players bigger roles this season, but whatever the reason the Wings need to find a solution in the second half of the season.
“I think it’s been good at home and too much up and down on the road,” Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Even within games, there’s been parts in the game we played really well and parts where we completely collapsed. (Goalie Jimmy Howard) has been able to find a way to keep us in those games. We haven’t really been outplayed for too many of the games, a lot of times because of Howie.”
Howard, however, is the story of the first half for Detroit. He leads the League with 25 wins, has a strong 2.04 goals-against average and a solid .924 save percentage in 36 appearances. Howard was rewarded with his first All Star Game invitation on Thursday—then went out and earned his 100th career win by beating Phoenix 3-2 in a shootout.
Up front the charge is being led by the always-entertaining Pavel Datsyuk (13 goals and 31 assists), power forward Johan Franzen (17 goals) and emerging Valtteri Filppula – whose 15 goals and 21 assists for 36 points are just three points away from his entire stat line from last season (16-23-39).
The Wings are also enjoying a resurgence by forward Jiri Hudler, whose 12 goals are already three more than he scored all of last season. Defensively, Detroit is getting very good offensive production out of captain Nicklas Lidstrom, Kronwall, Ian White and the rest of the D-corps – but it’s at the other end of the rink where Detroit has really made a concerted effort.
Red Wings GM Ken Holland remains insistent that his team is in fact in transition away from the Kris Draper/Brian Rafalski/Chris Osgood-led team to a more youthful appearance (by Detroit standards)...
“As I look back on the first half, we’re in the hunt with the top teams, we’ve had a lot of our 20-somethings step up – which helps the team grow— and the other thing is we’ve developed better depth,” Holland said. “All in all, after (43) games if you’d told me this is where we’d be coming out of training camp, we’d be pretty happy.”
But as the Wings’ press corps noted on Friday, the most immediate concern for the Wings involves the fact that two players who the Wings would most certainly employ against the scrappy Hawks in Todd Bertuzzi and Mike Commodore, are game-time decisions (Bertuzzi has a groin-back issue) and out (Commodore has a sore foot and/or ankle from blocking a shot against—get this—Chicago last weekend [Revenge! Revenge!]), respectively.
Bertuzzi described his issues to MLive’s Ansar Khan:
The status of Detroit Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi for Saturday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Joe Louis Arena (12:30 p.m., NBC) will be determined at game time. Bertuzzi, who didn’t play Thursday, stayed off the ice today at practice due to back/groin issues.
“I just got to see in the morning how it’s feeling,’’ Bertuzzi said. “I just needed some time to fix a few things. I’ll come here prepared to play and then see how it is in warm-ups.’‘
He said of the injury: “My back gets a little bit tight and sore and then if affects my groin a bit. I’m just trying to be cautious a bit. I don’t need to be out for a lengthy period of time over something like that.’‘
The Red Wings will be seeking their 14th consecutive home victory, which would tie the franchise record set in 1964-65.
Chicago is first in the Central Division with 57 points, followed by St. Louis (56) and Detroit (55). The Red Wings and Blues have one game in hand on the Blackhawks. The Red Wings and Blackhawks have split two games this season in Chicago; the Blackhawks won 3-2 on Dec. 30 and Detroit won 3-2 in overtime last Sunday.
The Wings have every intention of tying that record, as Drew Miller told the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness...
“I didn’t know the history of it,” Drew Miller said. “It’s pretty impressive. Last year we had trouble at home and were a little better on the road. We flip flopped that this year. It’s good for our fans. They’re behind us. The fans bring us energy and little more life to our lineup.”
In the 13-game streak, Detroit has outscored teams 59-19. The Wings are also 11-of-51 on the power play and have killed off 36-of-44 penalties.
And the Wings also told Pleiness that they’re well aware of the fact that the Central Division will be tightly-contested for the rest of the season:
“I think it’s going to continue to be tight and close,” Drew Miller said. “We just have to take care of our division games and hope they get some loses outside of the division. We just have to worry about ourselves. We take care of that and hopefully the separation will be there in the end.”
“There aren’t any nights off, so to say,” Miller said. “You never really have a night off, but way back in the day there were games that weren’t as hard, but in our division every game is a tough game. Teams are getting up for us and we’re getting up for them.”
If the Wings beat Chicago in regulation and St. Louis loses not in regulation, there will be a three-way tie for the first in the division. Detroit and the Blues have played one game less than Chicago.
“I think our division has been as strong as ever,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “Every game matters, every point matters. You don’t want to fall behind because teams are winning all the time. You want to keep up with other teams around you and we want to move up in the standings, too.”
“The whole Western Conference is tough, it’s tight all the way through,” Jimmy Howard said. “On any given night any team can win. It goes to show how much these points mean to teams out there. We got to stay banking them away now so come April we’re ready to go.”
“[Chicago’s] very good and have great players, good speed,” Babcock said. “They make it hard on you. All you have to do is look at the points in our division and it’s very evident that we’re in a competitive division. I mean Nashville’s fourth in our division and they’ve got 50 points and they’ve got a real good team,” Babcock added. “So we’re all right there and it’s very, very competitive and those games are going to be spirited.”
The Wings addressed playing Chicago—very early—while speaking to the Free Press’s Helene St. James...
“We usually have good, spirited games,” Babcock said Friday. “Both teams play well. It’s always a tough test on specialty teams, and then there’s a lot of skill in the game, a lot of speed.”
The Wings won their only other matinees this season—at Los Angeles and at Boston in November. For players entrenched in the routine of a morning skate and evening game, this is quite different.
“For myself, I think it’s important to get a good breakfast in you,” Lidstrom said. “I’ll be up and making my own breakfast. Eat a lot, and not stay in bed too long—try to get up early, but have a good meal before you come down here.”
Jimmy Howard, who’ll be seeking career victory No. 101, will have his 3-month old son, James Russell IV, in attendance, part of the benefit of an early game.
“I like them, just from the aspect that you wake up and you get to come to the rink and play,” Howard said. “There’s no pregame skate, no waiting around. You get up and you play and then you’ve got the rest of the day to relax.’
As well as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...
“It’s important to get a good breakfast,” said Nicklas Lidstrom, noting lunch time would usually arrive during the first or second periods. “Have a good meal before you get down here. You want to eat as much as you can. Between periods you’ll see guys have a power bar to hold you over. It’s a little different time to play at 12:30.”
Normally, players take pre-game naps, but that’s out of the question for an early afternoon game. So, routines are upset.But, all things being equal, an afternoon game, especially on the weekend, are outstanding diversions in the schedule.
“I like them,” goalie Jimmy Howard said. “Just that you wake up and get to the rink, there’s no pre-game skate, no waiting around for anything. You wake up and come down and play. Then you have the rest of the day to relax. I enjoy the 12:30 starts.”
For coach Mike Babcock, the 5 p.m. late afternoon starts are best of all. But these early starts are close behind.
“You can spend the afternoon and go to dinner with the family,” Babcock said. “I like it.”
Babcock happens to run on 4 hours of sleep and is usually heading to the rink while I’m cobbling together recaps at 4:30 or 5 AM, so he does indeed adore these games, as he told the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness...
“I like (afternoon games),” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I like no morning skates, I like five o’clock games the best. But I like afternoon games, too, and I like it at home when you can spend the afternoon, or go for dinner, with your family. I think it’s fantastic. I think every road game that you travel home for should be like baseball. You should have an afternoon game, but I don’t think they’re (the NHL) very interested in what I think.”
Uh, no. Fans would still be at work during those games, and that would yield half-full rinks and terrible ratings. We’ll also ignore the general Red Wings rule that the team tends not to show up before 7:30 PM local time, but Mike Babcock isn’t very interested in what I think.
The Wings did just happen to talk about playing against Chicago, too, as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan noted:
“Always fun to play these types of games, especially against Chicago,” forward Tomas Holmstrom said. “It’s an early game (12:30 p.m.). You just have to be ready when the puck drops. When we play them it’s always tight games, with a lot of speed. I’m sure it’ll be like that this time, too.”
The teams have played twice this season, splitting two games in Chicago by 3-2 scores (Sunday’s was the Wings’ overtime victory). Chicago leads the Central Division with 57 points (26-13-5). St. Louis trails by a point (25-12-6, 56 points) and the Red Wings are two points behind (27-15-1, 55 points). Nashville, incidentally, has 52 points (24-15-4), which gives the Central the Nos. 2, 4, 5, and 6 spots in the Western Conference playoff chase. All would be playoff teams. No team in that Central quagmire can afford alosing streak or risk the prospect of falling out of the playoff picture.
“These (divisional games) are very intense games,” forward Drew Miller said. “There’s never a night off. In the past, there would be some games that maybe wouldn’t be as hard but in our division every game is a tough game and one you have to get up for because teams are getting up for us.”
Said coach Mike Babcock: “It’s evident we’re in a very competitive division. We’re all right there. All the games will be spirited and good.”
And while the Wings want to tie their home-ice winning record, they’re equally puzzled as to why they can’t seem to win away from the Joe. With three of their six remaining pre-All-Star Break games, today’s game excluded, on the road, they need to figure out how to play better and more consistent hockey on the road in a hurry…
“It’s something we’re trying to figure out,” Nicklas Lidstrom said of the difference this season between playing at home and on the road. “For whatever reason, we’ve been using our speed and going after teams wave after wave moreso than on the road. We’ve just played better (at home).”
Said Holmstrom: “Coming into the Joe and knowing it’s a tough place to play, that’s always a good thing to have in the back of your opponents’ minds.”
But the Wings’ bottom line for today’s game has nothing to do with hacks and whacks, as Jimmy Howard told the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff:
The Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings are rivals in the NHL’s Central Division, but for the longest time this season, they were also strangers. That situation has rapidly changed, as the two clubs will meet Saturday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena for the third time this season, and the third time in as many weeks.
With the tightness atop the division – Chicago leads with 57 points, followed by the St. Louis Blues at 56 and Detroit at 55 – every game between the teams feels like a must-win scenario.
“The Central here is very top at the tight between us, St. Louis and Chicago,” Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard said. “Points are at a premium, so every single night, we’ve got to find a way to get them. Every game, it’s a constant rotation. We’ve got to find a way to keep going.”
Part II: I need to add a very important note regarding any sort of recap here: While a matinee game means early multimedia and some quick quotes from the AP, NHL.com and teams’ respective websites, the Chicago newspapers’ recaps will roll in Saturday evening, and the Free Press, Detroit News and sometimes MLive won’t post recaps until early Sunday morning, so I have absolutely no idea how things will go in terms of attempting to cobble together something coherent which represents both sides’ takes on the game.
Technically speaking, it would be really swell if you are comfortable with me not sitting in front of my laptop from 4 PM until 3:30 AM posting every recap on an as-they-come-in basis and then rewriting the whole thing in narrative form, but I would like you to please comment as to what your preferences might be regarding possibly penning a “quick take” updated with video and/or some early recaps as opposed to rolling one in all evening long.
Part III: So we’re still talking about Winter Classic rumors: The Red Wings very thankfully don’t keep many topics regarding their plans verboten to speak about, their plans for building a new rink aside, because the “rumors” and “reports” regarding a Winter Classic have dribbled through like rain through an open car window during a thunderstorm. On Friday, ESPN’s Scott Burnside, Pension Plan Puppets and the Globe and Mail’s David Shoalts all confirmed that the Wings and Leafs will meet at Michigan Stadium next winter, with some sort of consolation prize—like a Great Lakes Invitational and/or a Wings-Leafs alumni game—taking place at Comerica Park as a give-back to the Ilitches for not holding the main event in Downtown Detroit (as the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa, Fox Sports Detroit’s Dave Hogg and the Free Press’s Michael Rosenberg suggested, those events would even out the financial losses of no overflow crowds at the Hockeytown Cafe or Cheli’s Chili and less of a spotlight on the Ilitches’ investment in rebuilding Downtown).
As the Red Wings aren’t commenting on the situation (per the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan), however, and as Mike Babcock’s iffy on letting HBO’s 24/7 crews follow him, and the Wings readily admit that their veterans and superstars aren’t exactly Ilya Bryzgalov-colorful, the Leafs seem to want to fill that void while selling their team and/or their press corps’ self-perception as the Best Team Ever in the Center of the Universe (hey, I didn’t write that stupid article about Dion Phaneuf jealousy), as noted by the Toronto Sun’s Terry Koshan noted…
Brian Burke has not received official word that the Maple Leafs will participate in the 2013 Winter Classic. But the Maple Leafs general manager sounds like he expects the Leafs and Detroit Red Wings to play at Michigan Stadium at the University of Michigan, where upward of 110,000 could be in attendance.
“Certainly there is a lot of smoke, and where there is a lot of smoke, there is usually fire,” Burke said. “We have not received a formal invitation, but if the league asks us to go, we are going to go. It does not matter if is in front of 100,000 or 30,000. That would be a special venue if they do put this together and we are invited.”
And the Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek believes that a Canadian team’s participation in the Winter Classic won’t affect U.S. TV ratings as negatively as some pundits have suggested:
A WING AND A PRAYER: The NHL’s Heritage Classic - aka the outdoor game in Canada - is likely on hold for another year, as reports (correctly) circulated this week that the University of Michigan is favoured to host the next Winter Classic, and would feature the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Thus far, all the Winter Classics have featured two U.S. teams, mostly at the behest of NBC TV, but the Leafs have enough Original Six cachet that they would make an exception for Brian Burke’s lads. Few NHL teams have so many American players in key roles anyway, which makes them even more attractive.
The Wings have their share of Americans in Justin Abdelkader, Drew Miller and Jimmy Howard, but the Wings have more Canadian and European ties than anything else (though many of the Wings’ prospects and rookies, Jan Mursak, Tomas Tatar, Gleason Fournier, Tomas Jurco and several others included, grew up as Wings fans).
The Toronto Star’s also going ga-ga about the prospect of a Wings-Leafs alumni game...
Part IV: Running thin in the notebook department, we shall take the multimedia route instead: The Free Press’s Helene St. James offered an intriguing tidbit from Friday’s practice…
Brian Rafalski was at the Joe giving a tour of his old locker room to a hockey team he helps coach in Florida, where he moved following his retirement last summer. He looked tan and happy, and said he has had “no regrets, none” about leaving the game.
But most of the Wings’ notebooks found their way into the game preview, so here are some multimedia offerings as a substitute:
• As noted on Friday, WXYT’s Jeff Riger spoke to both Red Wings coach Mike Babcock about reaching the 700 games coached/400 wins milestones at the tender age of 48 and Jimmy Howard about his 100th win and that dork who plays football and offers the kind of over-the-top piousness and celebratory self-promotion that doesn’t cut it in the NHL.
For whatever reason, 97.1 The Ticket’s coding only allows one video to actually show up when embedded in a blog entry, so here’s Babcock’s interview with the link to it included…
(here’s the link if the video doesn’t work: http://detroit.cbslocal.com/video?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=6636816)
And the Howard video may or may not show up:
• From Friday, Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating spoke to WBBL’s Bakita and Bentley this morning:
• This one is new: WRIF’s Meltdown spoke to Howard about making the All-Star Game and Meltdown’s Wings-blogger-inspired (Winging it in Motown, On the Wings, etc.) write-in campaign to attempt to get Howard voted in as a starter…
• Here’s Ken Kal’s game preview from the Red Wings’ website:
Part V: In the AHL and ECHL: The Grand Rapids Griffins surrendered a 4-2 first period lead and gave up 4 consecutive goals en route to a 6-4 loss to the Texas Stars on Friday. The Griffins’ website (which also posted a Flickr photo gallery and post-game video interviews) provides the details thereof...
Willie Coetzee sparked the first-period deluge when his innocent-looking wrist shot from the top of the right circle snuck inside the far post 2:23 into the game. At the 5:15 mark, Greg Amadio delivered a devastating hit at the Grand Rapids blue line to Texas’ Colton Sceviour, drawing both an interference major and a game misconduct and setting up a wild five-minute power play for the Stars.
Texas (17-16-1-2) took advantage to tie the game when Ryan Garbutt’s redirection eluded Tom McCollum at 6:29, but the Griffins answered with a shorthanded tally at 8:41, as Joakim Andersson finished a break by potting Gustav Nyquist’s centering pass. The Stars responded with their second power play goal just 13 seconds later off the stick of Scott Glennie.
Undeterred by their guests’ perseverance, the Griffins continued to apply pressure and were rewarded with two more goals in the final minutes of the frame. Chris Conner converted Coetzee’s pass at the right hashmarks during a 4-on-2 break at 17:30, and Grand Rapids had several whacks at the puck from close range before Nyquist slammed it home from just outside the right post at 18:43.
Each Griffins goal scorer also earned an assist for a two-point opening period.
Just 2:59 into the middle stanza, though, the Stars cashed a Griffins turnover into a Matt Fraser shorthanded tally, cutting the visitors’ deficit in half before Texas forged its third deadlock of the night on Francis Wathier’s one-timer from the left circle at 7:05.
The final 12:55 of the period passed without any scoring, a short-lived drought that was snapped in the opening minute of the third. Glennie notched his second of the game just 21 seconds in to put Texas ahead for the first time at 5-4, and a shot by Travis Morin was ruled to have crossed the line into an empty net a split-second before the final horn, accounting for the 6-4 margin.
And the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema also spoke to Griffins coach Curt Fraser about the loss:
“Score four goals, that should be enough to win,” Grand Rapids coach Curt Fraser said. “We’ve got to find a way to be better defensively.”
Conner gave the Griffins a 3-2 lead with 2:30 remaining in the first after taking a nice cross-ice pass from Coetzee, and Nyquist made it 4-2 when he tapped in a rebound with 1:17 left in the period. That lead was wiped out, though, after the Stars’ Matt Fraser and Francis Wathier scored in the first 7:05 of the second to tie it at 4-4.
Scott Glennie then scored the game-winning goal only 21 seconds into the third.
“We just can’t make a mistake like that on the first shift of the third period,” Fraser said. “Defense has got to be a lot better than that.”
Also of note from Zuidema:
Before the game, the parent club Detroit Red Wings placed forward Chris Minard on waivers with the intention of officially sending him to Grand Rapids. Minard has not played this season due to a concussion he suffered in 2009.
Defenseman Travis Ehrhardt took part in the pregame warmup, but didn’t play. He has appeared in only three games this season due to shoulder surgery. He’s expected to return to the lineup Sunday at Charlotte.
• The Griffins have also released the details of their Great Skate next weekend at Grand Rapids’ Rosa Parks Circle. The team’s coaches and players will skate with fans for a full 24 hours (in shifts) to raise money for the Griffins’ Youth Foundation;
Part VI: Also of Red Wings-related note: If you can’t make it to the game today, the Woodhaven News-Herald’s Erica Perdue reports that the Wings are holding a viewing party:
Sneaky’s Sports Bar and Grille will be home to autographed Detroit Red Wings’ memorabilia and crazed fans Saturday afternoon.
Bud Light and the Detroit Red Wings are hosting a viewing party at Sneaky’s, 22301 Allen Road, during the 12:30 p.m. game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
They will be giving out prizes to lucky attendees. Prizes included a signed Jimmy Howard jersey, autographed sticks from Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericcson, signed pucks by Pavel Datsyuk and Justin Abdelkader and tickets to a future game.
• Also of promotional note, from the Red Wings’ website:
The Detroit Red Wings in partnership with 3-Dimensional Services and in association with the United States Air Force will be presenting the first Military Monday of the 2011-12 season on January 16 when the Buffalo Sabres visit Joe Louis Arena for a 7:30 p.m. clash with the reigning Central Division champs. As part of the season-long Military Mondays promotion, the first 10,000 fans in attendance for this game will receive a souvenir dog tag courtesy of the Red Wings and 3-Dimensional Services.
Joe Louis Arena’s Quicken Loans Budd Lynch Veterans Suite, named after the Red Wings’ longtime public address announcer and World War II veteran, is also being sponsored by both 3-Dimensional Services and the United States Air Force at all Monday night home games this season, with dozens of active and retired members of the U.S. Armed Services being afforded the opportunity to enjoy an NHL game from the premium seating location.
Furthermore, both of this month’s Military Monday games will feature a special ticket offer for veterans and active members of the armed forces. Anyone with a valid military I.D. can take advantage of a special discount of between $7 and $8 per ticket depending upon desired seating location. Tickets are limited and are only available prior to game day by calling Chad Wardie at (313) 396-7577.
2011-12 MILITARY MONDAY SCHEDULE:
January 16, 7:30 p.m. vs. Buffalo Sabres
January 23, 7:30 p.m. vs. St. Louis Blues
March 19, 7:30 p.m. vs. Washington Capitals (featuring on-ice USAF swearing-in ceremony)
March 26, 7:30 p.m. vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
• Hey, aren’t we supposed to be talking about trades? Sure, and TSN’s Darren Dreger explains why I’m not too keen on the theory that the Wings want Ales Hemsky:
Hey Darren, big Oilers fan here!
I think Edmonton got a steal last year for Dustin Penner getting Colton Teubert and a first-round and second-round pick from L.A.! If that was the going rate for Penner, what would Ales Hemsky command on the market?
A: Derek, the going rate for Ales Hemsky will depend on how well he plays between now and the deadline. Hemsky is still viewed as strong offensive talent and there are many teams, Detroit included that would love to add him to their attack for the postseason. Oilers GM Steve Tambellini isn’t publicly declaring Hemsky’s availability and says he’s still open to the possibility of re-signing him. There have been contract discussions as Edmonton will have weigh Hemsky’s term and money expectations versus what he might fetch at or near the trade deadline. The Oilers will want a young player in return to fit into their core and depending on the quality of that player, a higher draft pick may be required as well.
• I will suggest, however, that I’m as interested in where the Ducks might trade defenseman Francois Beauchemin as the Chicago Daily Herald’s Barry Rozner, who reports that the Blackhawks are kicking the tires on the Ducks defenseman. He’s no longer the dominant player who had pundits suggesting that the Ducks fleeced the Columbus Blue Jackets by trading Sergei Fedorov for Beauchemin way back in 2005, but Beauchemin’s 31, his remaining cap hit isn’t bad ($1.8 million) and while he’s not huge, he’s a solid #3/4 defenseman, and if the Wings are looking for a relatively inexpensive upgrade, the unrestricted free agent-to-be might be their kind of player;
• In the prospect department, part 1: Varmlands Folkblad’s Johan Eriksson reports that Dick Axelsson returned to Karlstad and was jeered with chants of, “Thick, fat Dick” (seriously) as a member of Modo Ornskoldsvik.
Farjestads’ fans haven’t forgiven him for leaving the team for Modo, and that unflattering picture of a double-chinned Axelsson was the source of their chants, but Axelsson got the last laugh as Modo defeated Farjestads BK 2-1;
• In the prospect department, part 2: the South Bend Tribune’s Jim Meeman penned a two-page article about University of Notre Dame forward and Wings prospect Riley Sheahan’s emergence as a power forward (he’s 6’2” and 212 lbs) who can score on a regular basis, finally blossoming in his junior year:
“He’s a man,” said [Notre Dame coach Jeff] Jackson. “The first couple of years, even though he had a man’s body, he was a boy. He’s finally matured and got confidence now and is playing with a lot more authority. He’s using that body to his advantage.”
Sheahan is more aggressive with the puck this season. He’s had the first two multiple-goal games of his college career. The first was against Notre Dame’s foe this weekend, Western Michigan, on Nov. 15 in a 3-2 Irish win. The second was Saturday in a 4-3 win over then-No. 3 Minnesota before 10,000-plus fans. Sheahan already has reached career highs in goals (7), assists (14) in just 20 games this season.
Sheahan who started for the Irish as a 17-year old freshman and as a sophomore, scored 11 goals and had 28 assists in 77 games those two seasons.
“His freshman year, it was a lot of things,” Jackson said. “Just learning the routine and time commitment and balance of school and hockey. The playing skills have always been there, it’s just a matter of emotional maturity sometimes.”
“Everything is settling down now and I can just focus on my game, and be a hockey player,” Sheahan said. ” That’s all I am trying to do.”
He’s getting better at deciding when to make a move with the puck around a defender and when to simply shoot it.
“I’ve been working on that a lot after practice,” he said. “I feel like I just need to shoot the puck more. The one goal against Minnesota, I just came down the breakaway and shot it rather than trying to deke the goalie. It’s something that I get caught up in trying to make the extra move.”
Irish Illustrated’s Jake Brown has taken notice of Sheahan’s maturity as well:
“There’s been a lot of distractions I think,” Sheahan said. “Like last year the draft and the world junior, getting cut from that team, and having that scoreless sort of period the first half of the season last year. I think those were all kind of things that kind of bothered me and maybe got my confidence kind of down.”
The clarity in Sheahan’s game today shows on the score sheet. Third on the team in scoring heading into this weekend’s home-and-home series with No. 11 Western Michigan, Sheahan’s 21 points are one short of his total from last year. He has already recorded two games with multiple goals. Before this year he had never done so in college. Last week Sheahan led No. 3 Notre Dame to a 4-3 win over then-No. 5 Minnesota with two goals, an assist and two blocked shots.
“The first couple years even though he had a man’s body he was still a bit of a boy,” said head coach Jeff Jackson. “He’s finally matured and got confidence now and is playing with a lot more authority, using that body to his advantage. He’s always had great instincts and his stick skills defensively lead to scoring chances, especially like the short-handed goal. He’s just got good defensive stick skills. But when he’s engaged emotionally he’s dominant. It’s just a matter of him finding that hot button all the time. He’s been more consistent with it this year but when he’s engaged and focused he’s a damn good hockey player.”
Sheahan credits teammates and coaches with pulling him through the lowest moments of his career in terms of confidence. But more than that, having a clear conscience has helped unleash a player that sweat potential as a 17-year old.
“I think everything is settling down now and I can just focus on playing my game and being a hockey player,” Sheahan said. “That’s all I’m trying to do.”
• And finally, there is an outdoor game taking place this weekend: the University of Michigan and Ohio State University will tangle at Progressive Field in Cleveland in the “Frozen Diamond Faceoff” at 5 PM on Sunday, and the game will air on Fox Sports Detroit Plus.
It’s a big day for hockey fans. The NHL broadcast day starts with the NBC game between the Red Wings and Blackhawks (12:30). Then CBC has a tripleheader: New Jersey at Winnipeg (3 p.m.), the New York Rangers at Toronto (7 p.m.) and Los Angeles at Calgary (10 p.m.). You also can catch Michigan State vs. Northe
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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.