Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Blue Jackets set-up and overnight report: Super Pavel, Wings must stomp on Columbus

Updated 3x with odd news from the KHL at 9:42 AM: Two days after the Red Wings’ 3-2 shootout victory over Phoenix catapulted Detroit to the top of the league and Central Division standings, the Wings are back in fourth place in the Western Conference, second in the Central and yet still in second place in the NHL…Which is a long-winded way of stating that the standings are a frickin’ mess.

The Wings begin the final portion of their pre-All-Star Break grind of 11 games in 19 nights with a 3-in-5 night slate starting with tonight’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 PM EST, FSD Plus/FS Ohio/WXYT; tonight is also a “Mittens for Detroit” charity night), and the Wings will be far less concerned with extending their home-ice winning streak to 16 games than they will about kick-starting their 3-for-41 power play and simply, as they suggested on Friday, keeping pace with their opponents by doing nothing less than kicking the Blue Jackets while they’re down and out.

The former Wing Brett Lebda will make his 2011-2012 season debut playing for a Blue Jackets team which sits a full 21 points behind the 8th-place Colorado Avalanche, but the Blue Jackets aren’t exactly ready to lay themselves in the, “Bring Out Your Dead” cart just yet: despite dropping a 3-0 decision to Nashville on Thursday, and despite not having the services of James Wisniewski, Jeff Carter, Kristian Huselius and R.J. Umberger, they’ve won 3 of their 8 January games and rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 on Tuesday.

The Columbus Dispatch’s Shawn Mitchell noted that the Blue Jackets hope to snap the Wings’ home-ice winning streak while attempting to head into the All-Star break on a high note:

After trips to Detroit (Saturday) and Nashville (Monday), the Blue Jackets will play their final game before the break on Tuesday in Tampa. They will not play again until the following Tuesday, Jan. 31 in San Jose. The break will be eagerly and perhaps understandably anticipated. The Blue Jackets are 13-28-5. They are mired in 30th place. Only rookie Ryan Johansen will participate in the All-Star festivities in Ottawa. Wanna get away? Yes. Yes they do.

But pride and professionalism can prevent embarrassing road losses in the meantime, Blue Jackets interim coach Todd Richards said.

“We still want to finish this thing out by doing good things and continuing to grow and taking steps forward in the right direction,” Richards said. “We’ve got a great test in Detroit, with them playing at home. They’ve got the winning streak going there and it’s obviously a very confident group. It’s not about getting ahead of ourselves and looking past these three teams.”

The Red Wings (31-15-1) lead the Western Conference and have won a franchise-record 15 consecutive games in Joe Louis Arena. They are 18-2-1 at home this season. The Blue Jackets are 5-15-2 on the road.

Um, that seems to be all there is from the Dispatch this morning. Not sure why aside from the fact that the Blue Jackets held an optional practice on Friday.

[edit/update: it took until 9 AM for the Dispatch to post the Blue Jackets and Red Wings’ probable lines, a wee game preview...

Blue Jackets at a glance

• Past 10 games: 4-6-0

• Power play: 14.6 percent (23rd in NHL)

• Penalty kill: 76.8 percent (29th)

• Injury update: D James Wisniewski (ankle), C Jeff Carter (shoulder), R.J Umberger (concussion), LW Kristian Huselius (groin), D Radek Martinek (concussion), C Mark Letestu (hand) out

Red Wings at a glance

• Past 10 games: 8-2-0

• Power play: 18.1 percent (14th in NHL)

• Penalty kill: 81.6 percent (23rd)

• Injury update: RW Patrick Eaves (jaw) out.

As well as a notebook from Shawn Mitchell which includes the following tidbit:

Lebda participated in his first practice yesterday. He will wear jersey No. 23 and cost $700,000 against the Blue Jackets’ salary cap, according to CapGeek.com.

Per Capgeek, Lebda’s salary is pro-rated, mind you, so he’s only earning about $350,000 from Columbus, but the Predators are also paying him $4566,667 this year and next year to go away.

And in terms of the Blue Jackets’ loss of Radek Martinek yielding more of the same, Mitchell spoke to coach Richards about the injury bug derailing Columbus’s season around the time Martinek was concussed by Brad Stuart in late October:

“(The season), it just seemed like one domino after the other was falling,” interim coach Todd Richards said. “At the start of the year, we just couldn’t seem to get any traction. We were spinning our wheels, looking for a spark. It all manifested into something that you had a tough time grasping and understanding what was going on.”

The loss of Martinek came at an early but crucial juncture. James Wisniewski, signed to be the team’s top defenseman, was still serving an eight-game suspension. Jeff Carter, signed to be the top center, was in the midst of a 10-game absence because of a foot injury.
...
The result? Odd-man rushes, unguarded forwards and a bevy of opposition goals.Goals allowed, general manager Scott Howson has said repeatedly, have been the team’s biggest problem. The Blue Jackets have allowed 3.22 per game, which ranks next-to-last in the NHL.

With Martinek gone, longtime Detroit defenseman Brett Lebda was signed from the Blue Jackets’ American Hockey League affiliate in Springfield, Mass. But he might have to wait to make his debut. Richards wanted to get Grant Clitsome back into the lineup after five consecutive healthy scratches, so he might play tonight against Detroit. The Jackets have assigned rookie David Savard to Springfield, and with Wisniewski out until at least late February because of a broken left ankle, Lebda will likely get a fair share of ice time once he settles into the system.

“Grant has been working really hard and has been patient through this,” Richards said. “Maybe that gives Brett a little more time to integrate himself into the group.”

Lebda, a former defensive partner of future Hall of Famer Chris Chelios in Detroit, said he would like to play a role similar to what was expected of Martinek.

“I’m not going to go out there and kill anyone,” Lebda said. “(I’ll be) solid defensively and positionally and get the puck out of our end as fast as possible by making the good pass, and chip in on the offense when I can.”

/end edit]

NHL.com’s Brian Compton’s game preview allows us to shift perspectives from the Blue Jackets’ comments to the Wings’ takes on tonight’s affair:

Season Series: This is the third of six meetings between the Central Division rivals. They split their first two, with Detroit winning 5-2 at Joe Louis Arena on Oct. 21, and the Jackets returning the favor Oct. 25 in Columbus with a 4-1 victory that snapped their season-opening eight-game winless skid.
...
Who’s Hot: Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash has 4 goals in his last nine games, and the odds are on him increasing that total against the Red Wings. Nash has scored 23 goals against the Wings, tied for the most against any opponent. … Bertuzzi had a regulation goal as well as the shootout winner Thursday against Phoenix, and in his last four games, he has 4 goals and 2 assists.

Injury Report: The Jackets will miss defenseman Radek Martinek for the rest of the season due to a concussion. Also out for Columbus are defenseman James Wisniewski (ankle), and forwards Jeff Carter (shoulder), Mark Letestu (wrist), Kristian Huselius (groin) and RJ Umberger (concussion). … The only player missing for the Wings is forward Patrick Eaves, who is recovering from jaw surgery.

Stat Pack: The Red Wings’ home win streak is five shy of the all-time NHL mark of 20 straight home wins, set by the Boston Bruins in the 1929-30 season and matched by the 1974-75 Philadelphia Flyers.

According to the NHL’s media website, Dennis LaRue and Brian Pochmara will referee tonight’s game, with Darren Gibbs and Brian Mach working the lines.

Also of note from the AP’s game preview:

Detroit is 49-17-1 all-time against the Jackets—26-7-0 when the teams meet at Joe Louis.

For the Wings, the biggest issue coming into tonight’s game involves that ugly 3-for-41 power play, which has forced the Wings to grind out five straight victories by much tighter margins than they’d like. After blowing five power plays in their 3-for-2 shootout victory over Phoenix, they spoke to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan about their PP issues

“We haven’t played our best games sometimes,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “But we’ve found ways to win and that says something about this team.”

After an 0-for-5 performance against the Coyotes, the Wings found themselves ranked 14th (18.1 percent) on the power play in the league. That’s after spending time in the top five for most of the season. How bad has the power play been? Over the last 16 games, the Wings have scored three power-play goals in 41 chances.

Considering the offensive personnel, coach Mike Babcock said it’s inexplicable and unacceptable.

“We’re not getting quality chances,” Babcock said. “We’re not tiring anybody out.” Babcock said personnel could be shifted around, or the scheme could be changed.

“We’re not building enough momentum,” Babcock said. “It’s not good enough for the caliber of players we have.”

The Wings tried to tweak things by reuniting Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom on their first power play unit and using Jiri Hudler as a fourth forward on a second unit which included Valtteri Filppula, Todd Bertuzzi, Johan Franzen and Niklas Kronwall manning the lone point position during the 3rd period on Thursday, but the players did very little, and as I suggested on Friday, the Wings, well, I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but here’s what I had to say in the comments section of Friday’s entry:

I think that it’s aesthetics that are killing the Wings. When their power play was rolling earlier on this year, the Wings would power through the neutral zone and skate up to the half boards before their inevitable peel-offs and attempts to work the puck around the perimeter to open up seams or shots for point men which employed both layered screening, superb puck retrieval and lots of aggressive play in close quarters, utilizing side-to-side passes between players either down low or standing near the faceoff dots to open up seams and fire pucks in from in tight.

Right now, the Wings are plodding through the neutral zone, they’re peeling off as soon as they hit the blueline and they’re employing a soccer-style, “You have to pass 3, 4 or 5 times before you shoot” rule while trying to force seam plays while standing around on the perimeter, attempting to fire pucks through collapsing defenders while standing still instead of aggressively skating into the slot or into the faceoff circles to force defenders to give puck carriers and passers room to work with, and the Wings are doing a terrible job of getting pucks through to the net, screening goalies or retrieving rebounds when they do seldomly shoot.

The Wings are attempting to very passively play while attempting to generate offense against teams that gobble loose pucks up and easily stand up against the Wings with 4 men lined up at the blueline, picking off turnovers and sometimes even skating back down the ice on odd-man rushes when the Wings get all bunched up with 5 men across said blueline trying to cheat toward offense.

The Wings’ lack of confidence compounds their passive and artistic tendencies, so on top of watching the Wings try to namby-pamby the puck, we’re also seeing them doofily try to set up those fancy-ass artistic goals where they pass the puck three or four times to try to set up back-door goals, choosing to give up three or four open lane shots toward the net in the process.

They’re not skating, they’re not moving around deeply enough into the zone to open up seams or force their opponents to chase ‘em and put themselves out of position for seam plays, they’re not screening their opposing goaltenders, they’re not retrieving pucks, and mostly they’re over-passing, bunching up at the blueline, peeling off far too early and are surrendering attempts to shoot for the sake of satisfying that little Van Gogh running around out of his basement cage.

That kind of s*** bites you in the ass, and the Wings’ power play is the worst I’ve seen it since the 2009 playoffs, but the answers as to how to “get it fixed” are pretty simple—be aggressive, skate more, go to the net and the faceoff dots more regularly, simplify, simplify and simplify play in terms of over-passing and just shoot the damn puck.

As the Wings didn’t practice on Friday, we’re a little short on “shop talk” regarding the Blue Jackets, but the Wings were very willing to talk up Pavel Datsyuk’s play before heading home on Friday afternoon, and as the Free Press’s Helene St. James notes, Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi have played absolutely dominant hockey since Bertuzzi returned from a severe sinus infection in late November:

Two months later, Datsyuk’s 40 points in the past 29 games have edged him within three points of NHL scoring leader Evgeni Malkin’s 54 points. Franzen has picked up nine of his 18 goals and 15 of 22 assists since Nov. 19. Bertuzzi had one goal and two assists when he headed to sick bay and emerged to produce nine goals among 21 points. The line has helped push Detroit atop the NHL standings heading into tonight’s game against Columbus.

“I think we’re just on the same page as far as how to get the job done offensively,” Bertuzzi said. “I think when you play with guys a certain amount of time, when you practice with them, you start finding out their habits and where they go. Playing with Pav is a treat, but it makes it a lot easier that he can suck in two or three guys and you end up getting a couple of breakaways.”

There never was much doubt Datsyuk would start piling up points; no one with his puck skills could remain quiet. But it has benefited him to have two enormous wingers—Franzen and Bertuzzi are both around 6-feet-3, 220 pounds—with soft hands. Bertuzzi scored in regulation and in the shoot-out Thursday for a 3-2 victory at Phoenix. Franzen had six shots and assisted on both goals. He leads the team with 18 goals and said it helps to have Bertuzzi on the opposite wing.

“He’s a great skater, big body and wins a lot of pucks and can hold on to it,” Franzen said. “He creates a lot of room for both Pavel and me. I think they probably respect him more than me, so it leaves me open. They try to hold onto Pav and him, and that gives me a lot of chances.”

Following Thursday’s game, Babcock said he thought the line “was good. Big Bert, when you see him shoot the puck like that, you wonder why he doesn’t shoot it all the time, but he likes to pass it. But I thought he was really effective, really skated well, and that’s important for us.”

Bertuzzi has tended to defer credit to Datsyuk, and he made a lovely comment regarding the NHL’s most complete player while speaking to MLive’s Ansar Khan:

“He went from everyone was kind of critiquing him to (three) points away from taking over the scoring lead,’’ Todd Bertuzzi, one of Datsyuk’s linemates, said. “So he does everything pretty quiet, without a lot of fanfare, and I think he likes that. At the same time we understand how important he is and appreciate the work he does at both ends.’‘

Datsyuk has 41 points (11 goals, 30 assists) in his past 30 games.

“It feels like he’s always been on this roll since I’ve been here,’’ Johan Franzen, Datsyuk’s other linemate, said. “He gets a lot of points and creates so much offense from nowhere. Always feels like he’s walking away with two or three points every night; effortless, it looks like. Pucks follow him around and he’s making great plays most every night. It’s fun to watch.’‘

Teammate Niklas Kronwall said that entire line is playing great. The Red Wings take a five-game winning streak into Saturday’s game against Columbus at Joe Louis Arena (7 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit).

“They’re coming up with some huge goals,’’ Kronwall said. “They play strong. They (Franzen and Bertuzzi) are big guys and they’re holding onto the puck down low. When they do that, they’re providing a lot of offense and also grinding on their (defense).’‘

Bertuzzi pointed out that Datsyuk offers a remarkably complete two-way game as well while speaking to the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell:

“He does everything pretty quiet without a lot of fanfare and I think he likes that. At the same time, we understand how important he is in this room and we appreciate the work he does at both ends.”

Datsyuk picked up a pair of assists in Detroit’s 3-2 shootout win over Phoenix Thursday to run his hot streak to 40 points in the past 30 games. It’s a far cry from the way he started the season with just two goals and 11 points in his first 17 games. It prompted Datsyuk to call himself out by describing his play as ‘terrible.’ to that point. The next game in Los Angeles (Nov. 17), Datsyuk scored twice against the Kings and hasn’t stopped piling up the points since. He’s been held pointless in only four of the past 30 games. However, getting Datsyuk to talk about his own brilliance is harder than trying to stop him on the ice.

“They help me a lot,” said Datsyuk, deflecting credit onto his linemates Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen. “It’s more help when it’s big guy, you can see more. They take care of me, play well and help me on defence and play great in offensive zone. Just grind, grind. They help me a lot. I’m a small guy between two big guys.”

With the NHL marketing department taking a blow through the loss of an injured Sidney Crosby and the drop off in production from Alexander Ovechkin and Patrick Kane, there has been increasing chatter about the low profile of Datsyuk in the discussions of the game’s great stars. Datsyuk’s early language struggles, which his teammates have admitted he used to exaggerate to keep the post-game crowds away, certainly contributed to keeping him below the national media’s radar. However, he has a wicked sense of humour that he increasingly is taking the wraps off.

“I think so,” said Franzen of whether he felt Datsyuk was underrated or perhaps under appreciated in the hockey world. “Not among the players, but among the general public. He still is underrated.”

Ian White suggested to Waddell that Datsyuk’s consistent efforts may go unnoticed by players who haven’t had the luxury of watching Datsyuk work so very hard in the weight room and during and after practices in order to put in the work necessary to not only maintain but also improve his game:

“He seems to do that kind of thing every game, so that’s why he’s one of the best in the world,” [Ian] White said. “I don’t know if he’s better than I thought, but it’s neat to see how good he really is day in, day out. I’ve always regarded him as the best player in the world and to get to see him do it every game is quite amazing.”

Best player in the world?

“Best forward in the world,” White said. “My D-partner is the best D-man in the world.”

Bertuzzi would argue that Datsyuk also helps the Wings establish their preferred style of play, working the puck into the offensive zone and keeping it there so the Wings spend more time “grinding on” opposing defensemen, as Babcock might say, instead of playing defense in their own zone, as the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness noted:

“When we got the puck and we’re under control with it, the game goes a lot easier,” Bertuzzi said. “When we start running around a little bit, we spend a little bit more time in the neutral zone. As long as we play well defensively, offensively we got enough firepower to get it done.”

Where Datsyuk is the player the makes it all go, Franzen is one scoring the timely goals. He’s got eight game-winning goals this season.

“He’s a game-breaker,” Bertuzzi said. “He’s that guy who steps up all the time.”

“He has huge skill, and very, very impressive shot, size, and at the big moments he’s better,” Babcock said. “In saying that, though, the challenge for Mule is to be better in all the moments, so go from the level of player he is now, which is a very good player, to an elite, elite player who does it every game night in, night out, like Pavel.”

There’s something to be said for the fact that the Wings never seem to be satisfied with their level of play, or that Babcock constantly demands more consistency from each and every one of his players. The Wings are slowly but surely establishing a post-Rafalski/Osgood/Draper identity as players like Bertuzzi, Franzen, Datsyuk, White, Jimmy Howard, Drew Miller and Niklas Kronwall have made their presences felt on the scoresheet and in the leadership department, and tonight’s game represents a superb opportunity for the Wings to start displaying some of their trademark swagger again.

 

Part II: In the AHL and ECHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins will take part in their Great Skate tonight after their game against the Rochester Americans, and they kicked off their weekend on a high note Friday evening, defeating the Lake Erie Monsters 5-0. The Griffins’ website provides the details thereof...

Griffins defenseman Brendan Smith scored the only goal of the opening period during a power play at the 7:28 mark. Garnet Exelby made a fine play to keep the puck in the Monsters’ zone and quickly passed to Smith, who stickhandled through the right circle and put a fake on Lake Erie goaltender Gerald Coleman before sending a shot inside the near post from just below the hashmarks.

Late in the second period, Doug Janik broke his stick while attempting a one-timer at the point, enabling [Mark] Olver to pick up the puck and race up ice with two Griffins in hot pursuit. Despite encountering little resistance and getting a solid shot off on MacDonald, Olver was awarded a penalty shot, but [Joey] MacDonald turned it aside with 2:05 left in the frame to preserve Grand Rapids’ one-goal cushion through 40 minutes.

The Griffins scored twice in the first 2:28 of the third period to take control of the contest. During a rare 3-on-1 shorthanded rush into the Lake Erie zone, Landon Ferraro, Smith and Brent Raedeke amazingly had enough time to complete three passes down low before Raedeke finally snuck a sharp-angle shot between Coleman and the right post at 1:44.

Just 44 seconds later, Gustav Nyquist burst down the right side and made an incredible move to discard his defender above the circle before darting to the slot and ripping a shot into the top right corner.

Jamie Johnson was whistled off for both hooking and tripping at the 5:28 mark, giving the Monsters a four-minute power play and ample opportunity to claw back into the game, but the Griffins’ defense rose to the challenge to keep the visitors off the board. Shortly after, the well-rested Johnson put Grand Rapids ahead 4-0 when he beat Coleman with a wrister from the slot at 13:20 for his team-high 15th goal of the season.

Chris Minard finished off a pretty pass from Fabian Brunnstrom with 27 seconds remaining for the final margin, giving him three goals in as many games since returning from a concussion that had prevented him from playing all season. Coleman finished with 34 saves for the Monsters (18-20-2-1), who saw their three-game point streak snapped.

And the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema spoke to the Griffins’ players about ending a 3-game losing streak...

“It’s a huge relief,” Smith said. “It’s actually quite exciting because when you get into a slump like that, it’s hard to get out of it. I think we’re pretty happy with this performance, but it doesn’t end right here.”

Smith gave the Griffins a 1-0 lead 7:28 into the game when he skated into the right circle and whipped a shot past Lake Erie goaltender Gerald Coleman for a power-play goal.

The Griffins were clinging to that lead when Lake Erie’s Mark Olver was awarded a penalty shot with 2:05 remaining in the second period after he was taken down on a breakaway attempt by Smith and Nyquist. Olver attempted a backhand to the left side of the goal, but MacDonald made the save and the Griffins were able to blow the game open in the third.

“Sometimes it can be a turning point in the game, and I got a save on it,” MacDonald said. “I thought we built on that in the third period, we kind of took over. They didn’t have a whole lot, and we just came out flying.”

As well as Griffins coach Curt Fraser about having a full lineup—Travis Ehrhardt’s returned from a shoulder injury, Chris Minard’s returned from a year-long battle with post-concussion syndrome and Chris Conner, Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson’s returns from Detroit have yielded an extra forward line’s worth of scoring depth:

“Three guys down from Detroit, which you think would make you better and it changed the entire dynamic of our team, turning pucks over, giving pucks away,” Fraser said. “It took us four games to get back to playing like this. But this is our group right here. That’s our team. We continue to do that, we’re going to climb up the standings quickly.”

In the multimedia department, the Griffins’ YouTube channel posted a slate of player interviews, and the Grand Rapids Press posted a 9-image gallery from the game. Joey MacDonald won the game wearing a set of “throwback” pads.

• Things went the opposite way for the Toledo Walleye, however. They dropped a 3-0 decision to the Wheeling Nailers. The Walleye’s website, the Nailers’ website and the Toledo Blade provide recaps.

 

Part III: Red Wings notebooks: Again, we’re light on the notebook stuff this morning, but this press release from Red Wings community relations manager Christy Hammond merits repeating in a big way:

The Detroit Red Wings are teaming up with actress Erin Cummings to collect mittens and gloves for her Mittens for Detroit charity at their home game during the game on January 21 when the Wings host the Columbus Blue Jackets at 7:00 p.m.

Fans are encouraged to bring new mittens and gloves to Saturday’s game. Volunteers from Mittens for Detroit will be on hand at each entrance of Joe Louis Arena to collect mittens and gloves along with monetary donations, which will be used to purchase additional mittens and gloves.

“We are so excited to partner with the Detroit Red Wings,” Cummings said. “The Ilitch’s and the entire Red Wings organization have given so much to the City of Detroit and we feel fortunate to be working with such a generous organization. We truly hope Wings fans will help us and bring a pair of gloves to the game which will be provided to a Detroiter in need this winter.”

Fans who donate a new pair of mittens/gloves or make a monetary donation will receive a raffle ticket for a chance to win an autographed, game-used Johan Franzen stick on Saturday. Fans must be present to win.

Who: Detroit Red Wings, Actress Erin Cummings and Mittens for Detroit

What: Mittens for Detroit Collection

When: Saturday, Jan. 21, vs. Columbus at 7:00 p.m. 

Where: Each of the Four Entrances to Joe Louis Arena

• The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan also posted a reminder in his Saturday notebook:

The “NHL 36” all-access feature on Nicklas Lidstrom will air at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday on NBC Sports Network.

That’s because NBC Sports will air Wednesday’s Wings-Canadiens game;

• I had a brain cramp on Friday and forgot to mention this note from the Free Press’s Helene St. James. Let’s just say that the Wings won’t have to worry about waiving someone prior to the trade deadline as Patrick Eaves probably won’t return until…well, he’s going to be gone for a while:

General manager Ken Holland told the Free Press that Patrick Eaves’ recovery from a broken jaw suffered Nov. 26 “is not going well.” Eaves was expected to miss about two months, but Holland said there is no timetable for his return.

That could mean anything from plain old slow healing in terms of Eaves’ jawbone fusing to very, very bad things like nerve damage, infection at the surgical site or possibly even the need for follow-up surgery to further stabilize his jaw by adding another titanium plate or two to his break. We still don’t know exactly where his jaw broke to begin with, whether he broke his upper jaw/skull or his jawbone, and given that he took a puck right to the ear, it’s possible that he could have suffered the very unfortunate luck of suffering a break to the ball-and-socket joint connecting his jawbone to his skull.

All I know for sure is that maxillofacial surgery is a nasty, brutal thing, and again, when I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, I kept getting second opinions when neurologists pushed me to have surgery which would have broken both my lower jaw and detached my dental plate from my skull to move both forward to alleviate my symptoms because the side effects and recovery were terrifying. Instead, I had my tonsils taken out, my uvula removed, my soft palate trimmed and my throat opening carved out from a quarter-sized area to a bigger six-inch surgical scar. I can’t sing without getting a sore throat (for about five years, my throat scar was almost always sore) and I have to work very hard to say the number “eight” properly, but I’ll take those side effects over the kinds of things that happen when you have major jaw surgery.

Nerve damage that prevents you from feeling parts of your jaw or face (Danny Cleary has some of that). Partial or total loss of taste or trouble chewing food. Speech problems, big ones. Potential sinus problems from the surgery which might require corrective surgery to deal with (and sinus surgery is less invasive, but no less fun, trust “Internal Patrick Roy Nose” on this one). Never mind the whole having one’s jaw wired shut for six to eight weeks part, or the immediate and searing pain that occurs when you’ve got a major surgical site so very close to your brain. Its’ a nasty business.

 

Part IV: Also of Red Wings-related note: I have an answer as to why Riley Sheahan played against Michigan on Friday night: According to USCHO.com, the University of Notre Dame appealed Sheahan’s one-game suspension on Friday morning, and as such, Sheahan was allowed to play (he didn’t fare in the scoring as Notre Dame defeated Michigan 3-1) while the CCHA took the appeal under consideration;

• The Ottawa Sun’s Chris Stevenson suggests that the Red Wings have the third-best goaltending tandem in the league, at least in terms of bang for one’s buck:

3. Detroit Red Wings. Jimmy Howard ($2.5 million) might be the best bargain in the league and, with Ty Conklin ($750,000), have the Wings in fifth place in GAA at 2.28.

• In the alumni department, part 1: According to the Toronto Star’s Bob Mitchell, the Maple Leafs alums who played in an outdoor game against Canadiens alums ahead of an outdoor game between the Toronto Marlies and Hamilton Bulldogs at Ivor Wynne Stadium suggested that they and the Red Wings’ Alumni Association will determine what kind of financial cut they’ll ask the Wings to give them when the teams battle at Comerica Park next December;

• in the alumni department, part 2: This is very surprising. According to Sports Collectors Daily, In the Game signed Gordie Howe to an autograph-signing contract. Upper Deck and Panini are the only trading cards companies which have licenses to show NHL players in their uniforms, so ITG has to skirt around those rules and has a much more limited reach than Upper Deck, which had Gordie Howe’s signature marketed as exclusive to their trading cards for the better part of the last 20 years;

• And finally, via the Port Huron Times-Colonist’s Mario Annicchiarico, when Nickelback comes to Detroit, expect Chris Osgood to be in attendance as he’s friends with Chad Kroger.

For the record, I’d be interested in knowing if any of you want to go to the Darkness concert instead, but I’m weird…’

Update: This puppy was way late, even by my, “I have to broom snow off the cars and move them as I live in a condo complex with a shared, uncovered lot, and the damn plows are going to plow all of two frickin’ inches of snow off the ground, so I’ve been up all damn night and will be very grumpy today” standards (TMI on TMR). The Columbus Dispatch doesn’t update its stories until as late as 5 or 6 AM, so I waited until 7 to try to post a more comprehensive preview, but the Dispatch still has yet to offer anything from the Blue Jackets’ press regarding tonight’s game, so I just figured to hell with it, post the damn thing.

Update in the content section: Via RedWingsFeed, MLive’s Ansar Khan took note of the Wings’ power play issues:

“Our power play hasn’t been good enough for a long time,” coach Mike Babcock said after Thursday’s 3-2 shootout win at Phoenix. “So whether we move the personnel around or change the scheme or whatever, it’s not good enough. It’s not building enough momentum for the caliber of players we have.”

The Red Wings’ power play ranked among the NHL’s top five for much of the season before sliding the past month. It has converted on just 3-of-41 opportunities (7.3 percent) in the past 16 games and was tied or 14th in the league heading into Friday’s games, at 18.1 percent.

“Nothing’s going on, we’re not getting quality chances, we’re not wearing anybody out,” Babcock said. “We get break-ins, we get a chance, they shoot it down the ice, the same thing happens. We don’t get enough done. So we’ll take a look at it and get it fixed.”

The Red Wings have the personnel to ice two strong units. With their skilled forwards (Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula, Jiri Hudler), net-front presence (Tomas Holmstrom, Todd Bertuzzi, Danny Cleary) and point men (Nicklas Lidstrom, Ian White, Niklas Kronwall), they believe there is no excuse for having a mediocre power play.

“We have to find a way to just get pucks to the net,” Kronwall said. “Right now we’re too much on the outside. It feels like we’re getting pucks back but we have to take more shots, because Homer or Bert or whoever’s there (net front) is really doing a good job. They’re telling us the whole time to just get the puck in there.”

Uh huh.

Todd Bertuzzi has a simple answer as to why the Wings are finally winning shootouts (they’re 4-and-0 this season):

“We should win a majority of ours,” Bertuzzi said. “Datsyuk, Hudler, Zetterberg, even some guys that haven’t gone in a while, Filppula, Cleary; we have guys that can score.”

That, and Jimmy Howard’s no longer biting on dekes. Quite honestly, Chris Osgood was a pretty terrible shootout goalie, and Howard wasn’t much better early on.

Update #2: See above for Columbus Dispatch stuff.

Update #3: According to the Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta, Slava Fetisov has resigned from his posts as CSKA Moscow’s GM and the KHL’s Chairman of the Board of directors…During the KHL’s All-Star weekend. Very puzzling to say the least, and from what Sport-Express and Sovsport are reporting, it’s stunning news. CSKA would make the playoffs as the 8th-place team in the KHL’s western conference, and Fetisov played in the KHL’s legends game yesterday, so this move makes no sense.

Also, from the Wings:

RED WINGS SET TO CELEBRATE 50th CONSECUTIVE SELLOUT AT THE JOE

… Detroit Will Look to Extend Franchise-Record Home Winning Streak to 16 Games Versus Columbus on Third Meijer Kids Night of the Season …

Detroit, MI… The Detroit Red Wings are set to skate in front of a capacity crowd (20,066) at Joe Louis Arena for the 50th straight game later tonight when the Columbus Blue Jackets pay a visit to the Motor City for a 7:00 p.m. showdown with the reigning Central Division champs. Detroit has amassed a 31-12-6 record on home ice during the team’s run of consecutive sellouts, a mark which includes an active 15-game winning streak – the best in franchise history. Tonight’s game will feature the one-millionth arena patron to pass through the gates at The Joe since the sellout streak began on December 19, 2010.

A special video presentation thanking the citizens of Hockeytown for their continued support will be shown during this evening’s contest, with face painters and an old-time-hockey organist set to be on hand for the proceedings as part of the season-long Meijer Kids Night promotion. Furthermore, the first 2,500 children aged 12 and under in attendance for tonight’s game will receive a free Jonathan Ericsson growth poster courtesy of Meijer and the Red Wings.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

MsRedWinger's avatar

Good morning, George!  I’m always amazed when I look at the time you post these things.  Do you ever sleep?  Thanks for all the great info, as always.

cool smile

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 01/21/12 at 12:29 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

Thanks for the great primer George.  I hope the Wings put the skate down on these guys.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 01/21/12 at 12:38 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

Zero degrees, hockey on all day…these are the mid-winter days where one can stay inside all day and night, watch hockey, and not feel a bit of guilt about it all.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 01/21/12 at 01:43 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

They’re not skating, they’re not moving around deeply enough into the zone to open up seams or force their opponents to chase ‘em and put themselves out of position for seam plays…

That’s the crux of the issue as far as I’m concerned. Moving the puck around while standing in one spot allows the defenders to block shots that come from those set positions. Moving the man forces the defenders to move with him and, before long, their whole defensive scheme breaks down.

I think the Wings choose the stand-and-pass approach because it’s easier to prevent breakaways. Maybe if they had more confidence in Howie’s ability to stop a breakaway, they wouldn’t be so worried about it.

I’m a small guy between two big guys.

The little liar. smile

There are a lot of guys around the league who’ve tried to knock the “small guy” around – only to find themselves flat on their backs looking up at the lights. Pound for pound, I think Pavel is probably one of the strongest players in the league.

...the challenge for Mule is to be better in all the moments, so go from the level of player he is now, which is a very good player, to an elite, elite player who does it every game night in, night out, like Pavel.

Spot on. If Franzen ever gets to the point where he believes in his own skill (like Pavel and Nick do), he could be unstoppable – and then he’ll deserve the name Mule. Right now, he’s more like a donkey for two-thirds of every game.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 01/21/12 at 03:36 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Exactly, exactly, exactly. When the Wings skate the puck up and down the wing, pass it to defenders who work the “umbrella” formation and swap off positions, and when the Wings start to grind it out down low, we see those “seam plays” open up for the team. When they stand around, it’s like picking cherries for a shot and pass-blocking penalty-killing unit.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 01/21/12 at 04:46 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Ian White suggested to Waddell that Datsyuk’s consistent efforts may go unnoticed by players who haven’t had the luxury of watching Datsyuk work so very hard in the weight room and during and after practices in order to put in the work necessary to not only maintain but also improve his game:

That’s a man who has learned from the very best in Yzerman, Larionov, Lidstrom, and Chelios while at the same time making a name for himself in his own way.

Definitely deserving of the “A” on his shoulder.

Posted by SYF from Zata's Epic Viking Beard on 01/21/12 at 05:11 PM ET

Add a Comment

Please limit embedded image or media size to 575 pixels wide.

Add your own avatar by joining Kukla's Korner, or logging in and uploading one in your member control panel.

Captchas bug you? Join KK or log in and you won't have to bother.

Smileys

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Feed

Most Recent Blog Posts

About The Malik Report

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.