The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/04/12 at 07:30 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings will face off against the Chicago Blackhawks this afternoon (4 PM EST, FSD with Justin Abdelkader mic’ed up/WGN/NHL Network U.S.[that’s right, Center Ice and/or GameCenter users, you’re screwed]/97.1 the Ticket) not particularly worried about the implications of this game save building upon their 2-game winning streak and Friday night’s win over Minnesota while surviving the possible absence of Todd Bertuzzi (groin; Chris Conner was called up on Saturday night) and hoping to avenge the 2-1 loss that cost Ty Conklin his job waaaaayyy back on February 21st…
All while continuing to jostle for Western Conference supremacy with the Blues, who won on Saturday and are tied with the Wings for the Central Division lead, and the Canucks, who sit a point ahead of the Wings (90 to 89) and play the Stars on Sunday.
Mostly, the Wings don’t want to start losing on a regular basis and become the Hawks, who sit in sixth place in the West despite winning their “biggest game of the season” via a 2-1 victory over Ottawa on Friday and a 5-4win over the hapless Leafs last Wednesday.
The unspoken part of the equation?
This is the first of two final meetings between the two teams, and given a) the tightness of the Central Division and b) the insanity that is the Western Conference Playoff Jumble (TM), the teams’ final tilt on April 7th could allow the Hawks to screw the Wings out of the Central Division or Western Conference title, it could ensure a Wings-Hawks first-round series, or, if the Hawks continue to stumble—which isn’t very likely—the Wings could very well kick the Hawks out of the playoffs a little over a month from now.
These hypothetical situations are all fine and dandy, but the realities going into today’s game are simple: both teams are banged-up and are doing the best they can to cope with their injuries. The Wings may play without Bertuzzi (groin) for precautionary reasons, they’re without Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle) until at least Tuesday and, based on Saturday’s updates, Pavel Datsyuk’s not going to be back until the Wings’ mid-month road trip out West.
The Blackhawks won’t have Jonathan Toews (concussion?) or Niklas Hjalmarsson (concussion), and they’re hoping that Ray Emery will build upon consecutive wins while helping to stabilize the Hawks’ murky goaltending situation as he opposes Jimmy Howard.
As the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc suggests, the Hawks are in a dogfight with the Sharks and Predators to attempt to earn the 5th spot in the West…And, if you look back at the standings, the Hawks are also trying to out-hustle the Coyotes, Stars, Kings, Avalanche and Flames as the aforementioned eight teams battle for the five playoff spots not occupied by Vancouver, St. Louis or Detroit. The Hawks have a rough schedule ahead and find themselves a world removed from their conference-leading status on January 20th, as Kuc suggests:
“That’s for sure,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “That wasn’t our goal when we began the season, but that’s the battle we’re in. We were in a good spot earlier, and now we’re in a tough spot It’s up to us to try to move ahead and get back to the place we were at earlier. Over that nine-game (losing) stretch we gave up a ton of ground. Now it’s up to us to at least recapture some of that.”
Since the halcyon days of mid-January, they have gone 6-11-1, including the nine consecutive losses that set their free fall in motion. After Friday night’s 2-1 victory over the Senators, the Hawks stand in sixth place in the Western Conference.
“It’s frustrating,” veteran winger Patrick Sharp said. “We were in a good position for a long time and things got away from us. You can’t look back and say, ‘What if?’ You have to realize the situation you’re in. We know what’s going on with the standings, so it’s a matter of going out and playing hard and getting the points we want.”
That is easier said than done. The Hawks have a rough road ahead of them as they look to hang on to a postseason spot at the least, let alone improve their current standing. Of their 16 remaining games, 11 are against teams currently holding playoff positions. They still have two contests remaining on this three-game trip — against the conference rival Red Wings and Blues — before heading home to face the Rangers, who are running away with the Eastern Conference.
“We would love to be in first right now with 95 points but … we put ourselves in this position and we can’t hide from that,” winger Viktor Stalberg said. “We have to find a way out of it.”
Further down the line, the Hawks face two matchups with the Blues and single games against the Stars, Capitals, Canucks, Predators, Devils and another with the Wings. In order to avoid another night of watching and waiting while someone else determines their fate, the Hawks will have to play with intensity each time they take the ice.
“It wasn’t fun (last season) because you had to wait for somebody else to do it for you, and you just hope for the best,” winger Marian Hossa said. “It’s much easier when you do it on your own. This year we started really well and we were in first for a long time. We’re in a situation where we don’t want to be. But there are still lots of games left and we can improve.”
Minus Toews, ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers says that the Andrew Brunette-Patrick Kane-Marian Hossa line has stepped up in a big way…
It started in Anaheim last weekend when [Kane] scored the first power-play goal for the Hawks in 39 attempts while adding two other shots on net. Then came his game against Toronto on Wednesday, where more than one account described him as “flying” around the ice. The result was a goal and an assist with six shots on net and a plus-2 rating. Though he failed to get a point in it, his best game may have been Friday night in a 2-1 win over Ottawa. Again, Kane was flying and his line with Andrew Brunette and Marian Hossa was dominant. Kane had five shots on net and numerous magician-like passes which his teammates failed to bury. You can joke about those misses after a win, right?
“We were having fun with it during it too,” Kane laughed after practice in Detroit on Saturday. “We were on the bench there in the third shaking our heads, laughing that nothing went in for us. There will be games like that, but if you play like that every night you’re definitely going to get some results.”
They didn’t win the game in Anaheim but the two victories over Toronto and Ottawa had largely to do with No. 88.
“Give him credit,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville beamed. “He’s had two outstanding games. Puck possession. Speed off the attack. He’s back to center with a real opportunity to take charge here a little bit without Johnny around. Hopefully he continues to play that way.”
“Take charge” isn’t exactly how Kane has been described over the years. He’s a great talent but usually takes second fiddle to Toews or others in the leadership department.
“The effectiveness of what he did for our team game and for his game was amazing,” Quenneville said. “He’s showing leadership, in that game at home against Toronto. Last [Friday] night he took it to another level. Hopefully that can be the standard from here on out.”
And as Comcast Sportsnet hicago’s Tracey Myers notes, the Hawks’ “kids” in Jimmy Hayes, Andrew Shaw, Brandon Bollig and Dylan Olsen have aided in Chicago’s renaissance…
“They’re awesome. They’re great for the team and real high-energy guys who bring a lot of enthusiasm,” said Kane, who’s usually joking around with Jimmy Hayes at the adjacent locker back home. “It’s fun to have a couple young guys around who appreciate being here and do whatever it takes to play the game. You can see that with a lot of them.”
And you can see the impact that energy, that fire has had on the Blackhawks recently. For all the pressure facing the young guys they’ve handled it well, from Andrew Shaw’s strong return to Hayes’ and Brandon Bollig’s presence on that bruising, physical fourth line.
“You look at each case, they’ve been helping our team,” Quenneville said. “There’s a lot to play for and there should be incentive across the board; they all should take advantage of great situation. Whether you’re getting 8 minutes or 30 minutes, let’s take advantage of it.”
Dave Bolland, who’s had Shaw on his checking line, said, “right now it’s a learning experience but they take a bit (of work) off some of the vets. They’ve been working hard, doing what they do best and I think they’re doing a great job.”
The young guys have done well in their latest trial by fire. Games are dwindling and the Blackhawks are in a precarious playoff position, but the rookies aren’t fazed. They’ve all played by the same mantra: keep it simple, stick to what you know and just bring the energy. And the veterans have appreciated the jolt.
“They’ve been great. I know getting called up it can always be a little nerve-wracking, especially for the first time,” said Duncan Keith, who’s noticed how fellow defenseman Dylan Olsen has improved in his short time here.
While the Hawks’ blueline’s been bolstered by what I’d describe as a Kyle Quincey-like addition in Johnny Oduya, a slick Swedish defenseman who the Chicago Sun-Times’ Adam L. Jahns suggests does much more than simply serve as a temporary replacement for Hjalmarsson:
The Hawks had plenty of motivation for adding another defenseman: They sorely missed Brian Campbell’s puck-moving skills, others weren’t able to do what Quenneville wanted consistently, they were too reliant on 20-year-old Nick Leddy, and injuries decimated their depth.
But Oduya, 30, doesn’t feel additional pressure despite being general manager Stan Bowman’s only acquisition at the trade deadline, costing second- and third-round picks in 2013.
‘‘Everybody kind of knows what I’ve come in to do,’’ Oduya said. ‘‘I’m not here to change anything. I’m just here to try to add [some] depth. That’s pretty much how I see it.’’
But the compliments have poured in. Judging by what his new teammates are saying, Oduya might be the missing piece for a team that was leaning too much on Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Leddy to get their puck-possession style moving, among other things.
‘‘This Oduya could make plays that forwards could dream of coming up the ice with speed,’’ Kane said in Ottawa. ‘‘He just seems to be real smooth and fits in perfect with our team.’’
He fits in, and, as Comcasdt Sportsnet Chicago’s Myers notes, he’s gobbling up prime minutes while returning to the kind of offensive form he displayed in New Jersey:
Taking up minutes was a big part of that; Oduya played nearly 20 against Toronto and over 22 against the Ottawa Senators on Friday night. Oduya’s had to adjust quickly from his time with the Jets.
“We were more of a checking group (in Winnipeg), not much skill up front, obviously. And this is a more skilled team where, for me, I can try to get into plays more,” Oduya said. “It’s important to move the puck up quick to the forwards. They have a lot of speed to get open.”
Hence Kane’s adulation with Oduya’s style, which seems to fit in more with the Blackhawks: speed, movement and show off that skill.
“He’s got a lot of poise, patience to his game,” said coach Joel Quenneville, who put Oduya with Nick Leddy and reunited Keith and Brent Seabrook during the Toronto game. “He’s got some reliability, predictability and steadiness. In two games we really like the addition. You looked at our needs (at the deadline), we talked about this and that; defenseman was something we could use and he’s fit in perfectly.”
Between you and me, I think that’s more than enough background information, so let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of today’s match-up. If you want to watch more Blackhawks video from their practice at City Sports Arena on Saturday via Comcast Sportsnet Chicago, you may get down with your bad self, but we’re going to stick with a video in which CSN Chicago’s Steve Konroyd previews the game…
Here’s Comcast Sportsnet Chicago’s Jeremy Lynn’s preview (fun fact: the Hawks, Wings and Canucks are the only teams in the NHL to score 200+ goals, but CSN Chicago’s Mike Marten says the Hawks have also given up the second-most goals in the West, too)...
Last game: The Hawks are coming off one of their best all-around games of the season in a 2-1 win over the Senators in Ottawa Friday night. Bryan Bickell put home a rebound to tie the game in the second period and just a few minutes later, Marian Hossa came up with a beautiful wraparound on the power play to give the Blackhawks the lead. Ray Emery was fantastic in net—especially during a third period onslaught—stopping 25 of 26 shots.
The same can be said about Detroit, who shut out the Minnesota Wild 6-0 Friday night. Valtteri Filppula scored two goals and assisted on another and Henrik Zetterberg scored a goal and assisted on two. Defenseman Ian White added a goal and an assist while goalie Jimmy Howard stopped all 19 shots he faced.
Who’s Hot? Hossa has three goals and an assist in his last three games and going back farther, has seven goals and three assists in his last 10 games. Patrick Kane has two goals and an assist in his last three games. Marcus Kruger has a goal and an assist in his last two games and Patrick Sharp assisted on both goals in Friday’s win in Ottawa.
Zetterberg has two goals and six assists in his last three games while Filppula has four goals and three assists in his last three games.
The Wings have allowed Hossa to twist, turn, deke, dangle and wind up far too regularly during their last few games against Chicago…
Storylines: Both teams are banged up for this matchup as the Blackhawks will play without center Jonathan Toews—out since Feb. 19—and defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador. Meanwhile, Detroit will be without center Pavel Datsyuk, who is still recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, as well as defensemen Jonathan Ericsson (broken left wrist) and Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle). Todd Bertuzzi will be a game-time decision with a sore groin.
Chicago will be in search of their third-straight win and seventh in their last 10 games, but it won’t be easy in Detroit, where the Red Wings have gone 24-1-1 in their last 26 games at Joe Louis Arena. Granted, the Blackhawks have found success in that building, going 5-0-1 in their last six visits.
The teams have split their previous four meetings this season with the Blackhawks winning 3-2 at the United Center on Dec. 30 and 2-1 on Feb. 21. The Red Wings have claimed two overtime decisions by 3-2 finals on Jan. 8 at the UC and again on Jan. 14 at the Joe.
Here’s the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc’s preview...
Hawks, Emery: 13-8-2, 2.65
Wings, Howard: 33-13-2, 2.05
Averages per game (NHL rank)
HAWKS (35-24-7) CATEGORY WINGS (43-19-3)
2.97 (6) Goals for 3.09 (3)
2.89 (22) Goals against2.29 (4)
16.1 (21) Power-play pct. 17.1 (15)
77.8 (28) Penalty-kill pct. 82.3 (15)
Storyline: The Hawks shoot for their third consecutive win. Both teams will be short-handed as Jonathan Toews, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador (all suspected concussions) will sit out for the Hawks, while the Wings will be without Pavel Datsyuk (knee), Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle) and Jonathan Ericsson (wrist). Todd Bertuzzi (groin) will be a game-time decision for Detroit.
We’ll allow NHL.com’s Brian Hedger’s preview to shift our perspectives from those of the Blackhawks to the Red Wings:
Season Series: It couldn’t get much closer that it’s been through the first four games of the six-game season set. Each team has won twice, with the Red Wings winning in overtime on Jan. 8 in Chicago and Jan. 14 in Detroit and the Blackhawks prevailing at home on Dec. 30 and again on Feb. 21 at the United Center. All four of the games have been decided by a 3-2 final score.
Big story: Neither team will have several key players because of injuries, including the captains of both teams. Jonathan Toews continues to heal from what’s believed to be a concussion, while Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom has missed the past two games with a deep bone bruise in his ankle that happened a week ago blocking a slap shot. Pavel Datsyuk will also miss the game while he recovers from arthroscopic knee surgery that happened the morning of the last time the old Original Six rivals met in Chicago. Toews didn’t play in that game, either, but that didn’t stop it from being a one-goal thriller. This game is more valuable in the standings to the Hawks, who are still sitting fourth in the Central Division and sixth in the Western Conference, not too far ahead of the two teams behind them in the top eight.
Red Wings [team scope]: After hitting a bump in the road and losing three straight games a week ago, Detroit has managed to get back on the winning track with back-to-back wins against the Columbus Blue Jackets on the road Tuesday and the Minnesota Wild at home on Friday. That game against the Wild was impressive to watch, as the Wings scored early and often in a 6-0 thrashing of Minnesota. The line of Valtteri Filppula, Henrik Zetterberg and Jiri Hudler was dominant, while Detroit’s other three forward lines were nearly as good in their respective roles. The Wings were also going with a young defense corps that featured former No.1 draft picks Jakub Kindl and rookie Brendan Smith as one of the pairings. Those two in particular have looked good in the last two games without Lidstrom, but Chicago’s skill level will be a good measuring stick.
“It’ll be a good test for them,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “You want to play the real good teams. I imagine we’re going to be a test for their D and they’ll be a test for ours.”
Who’s hot: Kane has goals in two of the last three games and was the best overall player on the ice against Ottawa despite not recording a single point; Zetterberg (2 goals, 6 assists) and Filppula (4 goals, 3 assists) both have three straight multi-point games for the Red Wings.
Stat pack: Chicago is 21-1-0 this season when Andrew Brunette records a point; Detroit leads the NHL in goals scored at home with 117 and second in goals against (56).
Puck drop: “They’re all 3-2 aren’t they? Probably be 3-2 tomorrow. Just make sure we got 3.” —Detroit coach Mike Babcock, referring to the final score of the first four games in the season series between Chicago and Detroit
The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness also took note of Babcock and Niklas Kronwall’s comments about today’s game…
“Probably be 3-2 tomorrow, we’ve just got to make sure we got 3,” Babcock smiled. “They’re all good games and we’ve had a number of good games with their club going back four years. They’re always fun and spirited and I expect the same tomorrow.”
“It’s always fun games to play against Chicago,” Kronwall said. “It’s turned into quite a rivalry the last few years. If you look at all our games, they’re tight games, they’ve got a heck of a team.”
While also speaking to Babcock and Kronwall about the offensive flourishes performed by the reunited Valtteri Filppula-Henrik Zetterberg-Jiri Hudler line of late:
“I think all three of them, they want the puck in all situations, all aspects of the game, whether it’s in your own zone or up ice, they’re always putting themselves in positions where they can get the puck and get open for each other,” Niklas Kronwall said. “They’re skating really well and they’re shooting the puck and getting it back.”
Filppula had two goals and an assist Friday and Zetterberg had two assists in the 6-0 win over Minnesota.
“Huds is at the net, Fil and Z make the plays, they’ve all got real good hockey instincts and Z’s skating really well,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Fil always skates well, they just seem to have chemistry, so good for them.”
“To be good you’ve got to have your best players being good and those guys are in that group of players, we need them to be good each and every day,” Babcock said. “Obviously, Fil’s taken a huge step and Hudler’s gotten back to the kind of player he was a few years ago.”
“(Hudler’s) smart, he puts himself in the right areas,” Kronwall said. “He’s not the biggest guy but he puts himself in a spot where the D-man, it’s tough to get him away from there. He’s got good balance and that leads to good net presence.”
MLive’s Ansar Khan suggests that the line will probably continue to lead the Wings’ attack today, but he notes that each player’s had his ups and downs…
Zetterberg is heating up after an uncharacteristically unproductive first half. He has 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) in his past 13 games.Filppula has strung together three consecutive multiple-point games (four goals, three assists total) and already has reached career highs in goals (21), assists (32) and points (53). Hudler, who had a good game without garnering any points in Friday’s 6-0 victory over Minnesota, has 20 goals. That’s twice as many as he scored last season and three short of his career high in 2008-09.
It was vital for Zetterberg to get on a roll. He had only nine goals and 35 points in his first 52 games.
“He didn’t have the start he wanted, but he’s getting better and better and the points are coming,’’ Babcock said.
“I think [Filppula] got an opportunity to play more, in more situations, more minutes,’’ Zetterberg said. “You always knew he had it in him. When he got the chance, it’s nice to see he’s taking care of it. He’s always been a good passer, always refused to shoot it. This year he’s been shooting more.’‘
Actually, Filppula is shooting at about the same rate (1.67 shots per game, compared to 1.62 in 2010-11). But he has more confidence in his shot.
“You can see it in practice,’’ goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “He’s bearing down and firing the puck. It’s no shock to any of us, the way he’s been working.’‘
And Khan notes that Kronwall’s picked up his scoring pace of late, too:
Kronwall is one of the players who is benefiting from this line’s success. He has recorded consecutive three-point games (one goal, five assists).
“Sometimes the bounces go your way,’’ Kronwall said. “Give (the puck) to Hank or Fil and let them do the rest. Can’t take too much credit for that.’‘
As noted during Saturday’s
practice post and on Saturday night, the Wings will probably play without the services of Bertuzzi, which means that Chris Conner will earn a playoff audition simply because the Wings don’t want to take any chances—as Ken Holland himself suggested—with Bertuzzi’s chronic back/groin issues given the fact that we’re about six weeks out from the playoffs.
In terms of the Wings’ other injuries, we won’t really know about Nicklas Lidstrom’s bone bruise until he tries to squeeze his sore left foot into a modified skate boot on Monday and tries to deal with the pain he told Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner he was dealing with when he attempted to put pressure on his toes and push off, and in addition to finding out that Pavel Datsyuk won’t return for another 7-10 days on Saturday—and I don’t believe anybody mentioned whether Jonathan Ericsson started skating again to keep up his conditioning while dealing with a broken wrist that will keep him out until April—we found out that Danny Cleary (chronic knee issues) had to take a “maintenance day,” but Babcock told Regner that his team’s done pretty decently minus their most important players not named Jimmy Howard in Lidstrom and Datsyuk:
“I think we’re playing better, I think our energy is better,” Red Wing coach Mike Babcock said after Saturday’s practice. “Health wise we’re not as good as we probably could be, but everybody goes through it. So, let’s suck it up and win some games.”
Bertuzzi didn’t practice Saturday and is a game-time decision, although Babcock told reporters that Bertuzzi has notified him that he will play Sunday afternoon against Chicago, but Babcock quickly added, “I don’t think he makes that decision.”
Forward Dan Cleary was given Saturday off in what Babcock called a “maintenance day.” Cleary will definitely be in the Wings’ lineup on Sunday. It was a low-key practice as the Wings had to travel to City Rink because Joe Louis Arena was setting up for a concert featuring the Black Keys and the Arctic Monkeys.
Babcock has always been a realist when it comes to injuries. Like most coaches he’s more concerned with the players in the lineup as opposed to the players that cannot contribute. When asked about Lidstrom, Babcock joked, “Nick didn’t even pretend (that he’s ready to skate), he said he was looking pretty good in his suit (Friday night) and was wondering if we wanted him to stand on the bench because he was looking so good.”
As far as where Datsyuk is in the recovery process Babcock replied, “He doesn’t have a tan, so he hasn’t been to Florida, he must be doing therapy.”
Datsyuk did address reporters on Saturday and was his usual playful self.
“We’re trying to figure out why I’m a little bit higher (taller), it must be because he fixed me,” said Datsyuk about his most recent trip to the doctor. “They say I’m too short to play up front to get the rebound.”
Datsyuk told MLIve’s Ansar Khan that he’s feeling better overall…
Pavel Datsyuk (arthroscopic knee surgery on Feb. 21) continues to work out off-ice. He said he’s not sure when he’ll start skating but said he’s thinking about going on the ice Sunday morning.
“Much better every day, my movement, I can (ride the) bike, I do everything almost,’’ Datsyuk said. “But I need time. I wish I had some magic pills.’‘
The soonest he will return is during the three-game trip to California that begins March 13 in Los Angeles.
“That’s what we’re looking at, but for sure I take sun cream for California trip,’’ Datsyuk said. “Definitely I want to go to California. I go to Hollywood.’‘
Before that happens, however, a Wings team that will probably be without four key players—two of its “top-six forwards” in Datsyuk and Bertuzzi and and its #1 and #6 defensemen in Lidstrom and Ericsson—will have to take out a Blackhawks team that, as CSN Chicago’s Lynn noted, is undefeated at the Joe over their past six visits, and then the Wings have to move on to play the circus act that is the Flyers on Tuesday (FSD will air Mark Howe’s #2 retirement ceremony) before getting a much-needed two-day break before hosting the Kings on Friday and then heading to Nashville to tangle with the Predators on Saturday.
For today, the Wings have to find a way to match the Hawks’ desperation while essentially playing a game against a potential playoff opponent that will want to “send a message” (need I mention the, “They have yet to take revenge for their claim that Jiri Hudler broke Patrick Sharp’s wrist, but I’m pretty sure that’s coming sooner or later” crap while I’m at it?) and continue to hand the Wings’ asses to ‘em on home ice. The injuries more or less wash out for both teams, so there are no excuses for Detroit or Chicago here, and as Babcock suggests…
This should be “fun.”
Also: if you’re going to the game, the Wings’ wives and girlfriends are holding a puck draw to benefit the McCrimmon family.
Part II: Red Wings notebooks: If you missed it, the New York Times’ Jeff Z. Klein penned an intriguing profile of Todd Bertuzzi as the Wings view him;
• And many of you clarified the reason that Wings director of European scouting Hakan Andersson believes that the Red Wings had to acquire Kyle Quincey to replace Brad Stuart—apparently California law indicates that if Mrs. Stuart were to relocate to Detroit, she’d lose custody of her 17-year-old daughter from her previous marriage—I guess we could say that the Wings are facing an uphill-at-best battle to convince Stuart to stick it out for one more season before moving the family to Detroit.
The Wings’ beat writers revealed another side of Stuart on Saturday evening: before Datsyuk tests out how well the ice at the Joe held up after the Black Keys played there on Saturday night, the Wings and Hawks both practiced at City Sports Arena so the concert could be set up, and while Stuart might be a quiet man in the locker room, he hoped to attend said concert…
Because, as it turns out, he’s the Red Wings’ resident deejay, as he told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...
“When I got here my first year it was kind of up in the air,” Stuart said. “Cheli (Chris Chelios) would do it sometimes. There would be an iPod and pretty bad songs would come on. If I turn it over to anybody else, we’d be listening to stuff we’d probably don’t want to be listening to. I’m trying to keep control.”
Stuart puts a lot of thought into his pregame selection.
“It’s part of my pregame preparation,” Stuart said.
Stuart is a rock guy through and through. He likes the classics, listens to the new stuff. There’s no doubt some of Stuart’s taste in music clashes with teammates.
“Probably, but nobody says anything,” Stuart said. “There’s a lot of stuff I could play but don’t. I try to keep it vanilla. I have to consider other people, too.”
Not wanting to tire anybody out on a certain song, or band, Stuart makes a point to be creative.
“I try to rotate it every game and try not to play the same songs,” Stuart said. “Some of the songs I like don’t translate into good pregames so I have to gauge that, too.”
And Stuart revealed some of his favorite artists to the Free Press’s George Sipple...
“Shinedown has some good songs for the room,” Stuart said. “You can always throw the classics in there, like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, throw some Guns N’ Roses in there. Metallica. Foo Fighters are good for pregame. You have to play some upbeat music. You don’t want to put them to sleep or make them cry.”
Stuart said he sticks to rock music. Does his musical taste clash with other guys?
“Probably, but nobody says anything,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff I could play, but don’t. I try to keep it vanilla. I have to consider other people, too. I try to rotate it every game and try not to play the same songs. Some of the songs I like don’t translate into good pregames, so I have to gauge that, too.”
As for superstitions, Stuart said the Wings play the same final song before taking the ice when they’re on a winning streak.
“There’s a final song before we shut it off, and I’ll keep the same song if we’re winning,” he said. “If we lose, I’ll change it.”
And I guess he was going to have to answer this question from MLive’s Ansar Khan sooner or later:
Asked if he plays any ABBA to appease captain Nicklas Lidstrom, Stuart said, “No ABBA. I throw in some Hives for him (a Swedish garage band). That’s the best I can do.
“Nick’s always happy when I play Hives or Foo Fighters. Foo Fighters have a lot of good songs that are good for pregame.’‘
Stuart said “Walk’’ from The Foo Fighters and “Gold on the Ceiling’’ from The Black Keys have been the two most popular songs played prior to games. The final song, before the team hits the ice, stays the same as long as they’re winning but changes after a loss, home or away, he said.
Part III: In the AHL and ECHL: You can snicker if you want, but it was Star Wars night at Van Andel Arena on Saturday night, and the Grand Rapids Griffins didn’t disappoint in terms of on-ice fireworks.
The Griffins built up a 3-1 lead over the Oklahoma City Barons, allowed the Barons to tie the game 3-3, and then prevailed in a shootout, prevailing via a 4-3 decision thanks in no small part to Ty Conklin, who stopped 30 shots in regulation and OT, as well as four shootout shooters, earning his 5th straight AHL win in the process.
Wings GM Ken Holland was in attendance to watch the game, but he allowed Gustav Nyquist to remain with the team after scoring two goals, and Fabian Brunnstrom tried to remind Holland that he’s not exactly chopped liver by registering a goal and an assist. Here’s the Griffins’ website’s recap:
A controversial no-call resulted in an Oklahoma City goal just 3:30 into the opening period. Conklin played the puck behind his net before being spun around and hit by Antti Tyrvainen as he tried to get back to his crease, creating an opening for Triston Grant to slip a shot into the unguarded net.
There’s no centralized review for controversial calls in the AHL, nor video review—the refs decide and that’s that. There’s been a big call to change that up after this season.
Goaltending ruled the rest of the frame, highlighted by Conklin robbing Josh Green with a toe save three minutes later and David LeNeveu – the AHL’s second-ranked netminder – stoning Chris Conner from point-blank range in the final minute.
Nyquist dented the Barons’ defense for both of his goals early in the second period, burying a shot into the top corner from high slot during a power play at 1:51 and pounding another home during a goal-mouth scrum at 6:33 to put the Griffins ahead 2-1.
Conklin denied Green with another great pad save with 90 seconds left in the frame, a stop that would gain greater importance when Fabian Brunnstrom made it a 3-1 game with just 42 seconds remaining. After Doug Janik cleared the puck from the Griffins’ slot, Brunnstrom chased it down along the right boards inside the Barons’ zone, skated in on LeNeveu and pulled the netminder out of position before patiently depositing the puck across the line.
Oklahoma City (35-16-2-4) used a power play to pull back within one goal with 5:27 left in the third, as Tyler Pitlick drove the net to redirect Taylor Chorney’s centering pass behind Conklin. Still down 3-2 with their goalie pulled late in the waning minutes, the Barons forced overtime on another deflection, by Magnus Paajarvi, with 1:01 showing on the clock.
Following a scoreless overtime, the first five shooters failed to score before Brunnstrom beat LeNeveu with a backhand in round three. Paajarvi lost the puck on his next attempt, and reigning AHL player of the month Chris Minard ripped a slap shot into the net to ignite a celebration by 8,649 fans.
• In the ECHL, the Toledo Walleye also won their second game in a row, defeating the Chicago Express 4-3 in a shootout. Bryan Rufenach scored a goal, Nick Oslund registered an assist on Rufenach’s goal and Andrej Nestrasil registered his second shootout marker in two nights. The Walleye’s website and the Toledo Blade provide recaps.
Part IV: Also of Red Wings-related note: In terms of the usual suspects in the Sunday column department, the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson offered one note which merits mentioning given that the Wings face the Predators on Saturday the 10th and on the 30th of this month as well, and play in St. Louis in their third-to-last game of the season:
The Blues can live without being the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference if the Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings out-point them, but they’re hungry to be no worse than No. 4 because that will guarantee them home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs, probably against Nashville. The Blues are a juggernaut at home (26-4-4) and a .500 team (14-14-3) on the road. The Predators are almost as good in Music City (21-7-5, fourth-best in the league).
• The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch penned his “trades that didn’t happen” column, and none involved the Wings, but he paid Nicklas Lidstrom quite the compliment while mentioning the top 5 Norris Trophy candidates:
1. Nicklas Lidstrom: People will tell you this guy just gets better with age. It’s true.
He’s 41, still plays a lot of minutes and while he’s sidelined with an injury, Lidstrom isn’t showing any real signs of slowing down. Coach Mike Babcock still relies on Lidstrom a lot. He has pretty much owned this trophy.
With seven Norris titles, he’s got a good chance to win his eighth. The competition is stiff, but the Wings have had success because Lidstrom can take charge when he’s needed the most.
Lidstrom’s best attribute: He keeps it simple and he’s consistent. That’s a pretty high compliment. The Wings want him back for another year.
• The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons offered two Babcockian mentions regarding Brian Burke’s re-hiring, if you will, of Randy Carlyle:
When Burke took over in Anaheim, he wanted Carlyle as his head coach. In order to do so, he let the contract of the existing coach expire without re-signing him. That coach: Mike Babcock ... Can Carlyle adjust his coaching style to deal with a different kind of Leafs lineup? Absolutely. Babcock was a dump and chase coach in Anaheim who runs a puck possession game in Detroit. The best coaches coach the team’s they are given. One of Wilson’s problems in four years in Toronto was: He coached a style the Leafs weren’t capable of winning with .
• While checking the Hawks’ website for stories about today’s game, I found that ChicagoBlackhawks.com’s Bob Verdi revealed that Stu Grimson is currently the color commentator for the Nashville Predators’ broadcasts. I didn’t know that;
• The Free Press’s Steve Schrader issued a intriguing “Stevie” award to one Tampa bay Lightning GM…
The “C’mon, Stevie” award: To defenseman Mike Commodore, who was traded by the Red Wings to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a conditional seventh-round pick. And a Winter Classic alumni game player to be named later?
• Former Red Wings forward and current Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins winger Jason Williams told the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader’s Tom Venesky that he tried to learn how to properly tip shots and screen goaltenders during the time he spent with the best in the business, and that he’s learned how to adjust his shots while playing as a PP point man…
“I tell the guys in front to put their stick out to whatever side they want the shot. I’m not just trying to hit the net, I’m also shooting for a stick,” Williams said. “They obstruct the goaltender’s vision and use their stick as a guide for where they want the puck.”
During his time in the NHL, Williams played with one of the game’s best net-front players in Detroit’s Tomas Holmstrom. He had an unorthodox approach in that he held his stick in front rather to the side. That way, Williams said, Holmstrom could quickly adjust to whichever side the shot was headed.
“He always said that he didn’t care where you shoot the puck, at his head or wherever, just shoot it so he can get his stick on it,” Williams said. “He scored more than half his goals from a foot outside the crease, and it was always screen the goaltender first then get a stick on it.”
• And as a programming note: today’s recaps will roll in throughout the evening—the Hawks’ press may not finish their updates until Midnight, and Wings’ press’s reports won’t be finished coming in until early on Monday morning—so I’m going to wait until the “overnight” period to pen a full-fledged recap as I’d be chasing stories all afternoon, evening and night otherwise. I hope that’s okay with you. I’ll do a quick take and may add those player valuations you seemed to enjoy to the mix there instead.
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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.