The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/18/11 at 07:20 AM ET
On St. Patrick’s Day, the Detroit Red Wings came down from the emotional high that was defeating the Washington Capitals by a 3-2 tally on Wednesday by skating into Columbus and getting out-shot by a wide margin and out-played to some extent thanks to a classic case of back-to-back games’ “heavy legs,” but Joey MacDonald was sensational, stopping 37 shots to deliver Mike Babcock his 300th win and a 2-0 victory for Detroit.
The win was costly, however, as the Wings lost both Pavel Datsyuk and Brian Rafalski to injuries, with Datsyuk suggesting that he suffered a “lower-body injury” (left knee/left ankle/Charley horse?) in a third-period collision with Rick Nash, and Rafalski avoiding a severe knee sprain via a knee brace after Antoine Vermette lost his footing and dumped Rafalski into the end boards, leaving Rafalski on the ice in pain, clutching his right knee. In theory, we’ll know more about the players’ injuries on Friday, barring Babcock’s discretion…
As someone who tries to cover Wings-related news and is supposed to sound like a voice of reason, I can only say that the Wings have 10 games remaining, and while six of those will be at home, the schedule’s kind of condensed, and well, you and me have to admit that this is still a contact sport. The Wings are like any other team, and guys are still going to get banged up from time to time, so in theory, there’s no point in wasting energy and time panicking about what are supposedly relatively minor injuries, even if it’s more than a little frustrating for fans like us to admit that we’d love to see this damn injury bug go away for a couple games so that the Wings can at least have all hands on deck for a couple of playoff dress rehearsals.
As a fellow fan, however, I’m not going to lie: I swore profusely when both players suffered their injuries, and wasn’t able to breathe, never mind enjoy the Wings’ win, until Babcock suggested to Fox Sports Detroit’s Trevor Thompson that the injuries were relatively minor. This injury bug crap is just as tiresome and frustrating for me to watch, too.
In any case, MLive’s Ansar Khan provides an amended update as to both players’ respective statuses…
Datsyuk said he’s not sure if he’ll need an MRI or X-rays.
“I just take a hit – lower-body injury,’’ Datsyuk said. “I’m hoping (to play Saturday in Nashville), but now it’s after the game. In a couple of days we’ll see. Tomorrow we’ll make a decision. See how it feels in the morning.’‘
Asked how concerned he is, Datsyuk said. “I don’t know, it’s hard to say now.’‘
Rafalski said the brace he wears on his knee saved it or “it would have been a lot worse.’‘
“See if the swelling goes down tomorrow,’’ Rafalski said. “Can’t let it get stiffened up. At first the pain was (bad) and then it started going away after a few seconds.’‘
“Lower body injury,” said Datsyuk, who appeared to be walking gingerly. “I’ll see how I feel tomorrow morning. It’s hard to say (whether he’s concerned it’s a long-term injury). I don’t know (about any further tests). Not yet. We’ll see how I feel today and tomorrow. I’ve had too much time off this season,” said Datsyuk, noting the month he lost earlier this season due to a broken right hand.
“He fell into my knee, fell straight into it,” Rafalski said. “We’ll see how the swelling is (Friday) and try to contain it. I have to keep it moving and can’t let it stiffen. At first the pain just hit, but it started to go away after a few seconds. By then, I was able to skate off and I could walk. But I don’t think I could have skated to finish the game. I was waiting to see how it felt but I went to test it and it seemed OK.”
Perhaps the scariest part of the players’ comments came from Rafalski when he admitted that as he essentially doesn’t have an ACL in his right knee due to an injury suffered when he was a teenager, he might be scraping bone-on-bone, a la Steve Yzerman (whose PCL, which serves as the spacer between the upper and lower leg bones, also disintegrated), and that he’s got only one real moving ligament to sprain:
“As long as the MCL is okay, I just have to strengthen it,” Rafalski said.
The game itself involved lots of wear and tear on the Wings. The Blue Jackets started forechecking the Wings heavily after Drew Miller scored all of 33 seconds into the game, running the Wings’ defensemen whenever possible, and while statisticians tend to award hits to the home team on a rather liberal basis, the Blue Jackets’ 34-to-13 hit advantage seems rather reasonable, if not under-reported somewhat.
They knocked the Wings around at times, and they most certainly forced Joey MacDonald to play nothing less than spectacular hockey, out-shooting the Wings 14 to 8 in the first period and 13 to 8 in the 3rd period. They also posted a Wings-like number of total attempted shots with 65(!), and, as the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline suggests, the Blue Jackets may or may not have been robbed of a 2-1 goal thanks to a rare video review break that went the Wings’ way:
The Blue Jackets thought they had a goal with 4:29 remaining that would have cut the lead to 2-1 late in the game. It appeared as if the glove of MacDonald – with the puck under it – was pushed beyond the goal line by Derick Brassard’s stick, but the play was ruled dead before Brassard’s stick ever made contact with MacDonald’s leather. Here’s the explanation from NHL VP of hockey operations Mike Murphy, as emailed to The Dispatch tonight: “The referee informed us that after the first save was made he blew his whistle, so our review was of the original shot only, which clearly was not it. After that save, the puck being pushed into the net when it was under the glove was considered dead by the referee.”
Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel (see below for the video) suggested that the ruling, as the Blue Jackets interpreted it, was that Brassard could not push the puck over the line by shoving MacDonald’s glove over the line with his stick over MacDonald’s glove, but if his stick blade had gotten underneath MacDonald’s tee and jabbed the puck into the net from the underside of MacDonald’s glove, it would have been a legal goal.
Either way, the Blue Jackets were both booed off the ice after the second and third periods, and despite their at-times-furious attack, they looked like a team whose frustrations were getting the best of them. By the time Valtteri Filppula scored his second goal in two games on a second period power play, the Blue Jackets almost seemed resigned to working their tails off to lose for the umpteenth time this season, and MacDonald’s play simply gave them fits:
The Red Wings rode two first-period goals to a 2-0 victory before 14,444 fans, many wearing the Winged Wheel on their chests. MacDonald made 37 saves in registering his second career shutout in 83 NHL games. He made some nice stops, but the Jackets also shot pucks into and missed on wide-open looks. In the dying seconds of the first period, Jake Voracek lost his balance and whiffed on a glorious opportunity. So it went for the Jackets, who are 1-5-4 in their last 10 games.
“We had more than our share of opportunities to at least get one goal,” Jackets coach Scott Arniel said after his club’s was shut out for the third time this season. “We had opportunities and just weren’t crisp. We didn’t execute the way we should have tonight.”
Captain Rick Nash’s goalless drought reached 11 games, matching the longest of his career. Easy to see that the club’s skid and the captain’s skid overlap.
“We didn’t finish,” Nash said. “We had lots of opportunities, but again we didn’t bear down. It’s been tough, the goalies have been playing well, but we have been having chances and letting up a bit. We had a couple open nets tonight. Its tough, those are game changers.”
“I didn’t like our start obviously – terrible start against a team that played last night,” Arniel said.
Nash led his team with six shots on MacDonald, but “Joey Mac” shut the door masterfully, often while scrambling to get back up, and he displayed fantastic reflexes via at least half a dozen toe saves, including this one on an Ethan Moreau one-timer:
Arniel also pointed out that the Blue Jackets seemed to pass up as many opportunities to shoot as they did fire pucks at or near MacDonald, as Portzline noted in his main recap:
“We’re gripping our sticks tight and we’re forcing it,” he said. “We’re not making the right decisions when to shoot and when not to shoot. When you’re on and things are going right, it seems like you always make the right decisions. But the last four or five games, we’ve had more pucks hit the opposition’s stick and go the other way instead of into the net. That’s happened numerous times.”
To the tune of 15 shot blocks by the Wings and 13 shots sent wide…
The Red Wings led 2-0 after the first period, turned away five Blue Jackets power plays - including a 5-on-3 for 43 seconds in the third - and seemed content to run out the clock while the Jackets pressed.
“We got 40 shots on goal, right?” Jackets winger Jake Voracek said. “That’s usually enough to score a couple of goals, or three. But it didn’t happen for us.”
“We had good chances,” Brassard said. “We all are fighting it a little bit right now. There’s frustration right now for everyone on the team.”
Nobody is more frustrated than Nash, who matched a career high - set two times previously - by going 11 straight games without scoring a goal. Nash had six shots on goal, hit a post in the first period and had a chance blocked on a 5-on-3. Late in the first period with the Jackets down 2-0, he bobbled a puck briefly in the neutral zone that would otherwise have been a clear breakaway. He also took goaltender interference and high-sticking penalties, had a handful of loud body checks and a couple of shoving matches after whistles.
The Wings went 6-for-6 on the PK while scoring on one of their two power plays, and, as Steve Mason suggested to the Blue Jackets’ website as soon as Darren Helm picked off an outlet pass, punched it into the Blue Jackets’ zone and ripped a shot on Mason, who pumped his rebound onto Drew Miller’s stick, the Blue Jackets’ fate seemed all but sealed:
“You never want to give up a goal in the first minute. It set you back right off the bat. They drove the lane and were able to get the rebound and put it in. It was one of those games that is a big game for us and we threw a lot of pucks at Joey (MacDonald) and he played great and he is one of the reasons they won.”
The Wings’ effort really was downright ugly at times, as Babcock readily admitted…
“Obviously we were shorthanded too many times and that was disappointing. I thought (Joey) MacDonald was real good. We scored on the first shift and that line was good all night. Then we relaxed and got a little sloppy, we got a nice power play goal. We weren’t near as good as we were last night but we found a way to win on the road in back to back nights so it’s a good win for us.”
And in between the Wings capitalizing and Miller getting into a fight with Derick McKenzie to show a little moxie after sitting out Wednesday night’s game, as he told the Associated Press...
Despite outshooting Detroit 14-8 in the first period, sloppy play put the Blue Jackets in an early 2-0 hole. The Red Wings scored on the second shot of the game 33 seconds in. Darren Helm scooped up a loose puck in the neutral zone and snapped a hard shot from the right wing on Steve Mason. Mason made the stop, but kicked the puck back into play to Miller, who one-timed the rebound into an open net for his eighth goal.
“Every game I play in I’m going to assert myself any way I can,” said Miller, who has been scratched recently. He also got into a rare fight in the first.
Midway through the period, Filppula scored his 15th goal, a power-play tally. With Nash serving a high-sticking penalty, Johan Franzen curled from behind the right side of the net and slotted a cross-crease pass to Filppula, who wristed a shot from the top of the left circle past a leaning Mason.
Then MacDonald took over, which was fine by the goaltender who had been assigned to Grand Rapids on Tuesday…
“I felt really good,” said MacDonald, who joined the team on Wednesday while Chris Osgood continues to rehab from sports hernia surgery. “The first period they threw a lot of pucks at me. I made a couple of good saves to get me into the game.”
Babcock gave MacDonald due praise on a repeated basis, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James noted:
“Joey was excellent,” Mike Babcock said. “He battles hard and he’s a good man and he’s done a real good job for us. We signed him to give us depth and the guys really like him. He’s played well in the minors and when he’s come in with us.”
MacDonald, who’d been sent down to the minors Monday only to be brought back up Wednesday to sub for Chris Osgood for a bit longer, had a stellar first period. He denied Blue Jackets star Rick Nash seconds after the game began and followed up late in the first period with another save after Nash picked off Jakub Kindl and drove in on a breakaway. Nash finished with six shots.
“He’s a great player, he’s a big guy and can shoot the puck,” MacDonald said. “He had a few good chances. It kind of boosts your confidence when you can make a few good saves on a guy like that.”
Miller basically played because Jiri Hudler came down with an illness and missed the game as it was supposed to be Patrick Eaves’ turn to play (Eaves played well) and Miller and Draper’s turns to sit out, but he provided a literal and figurative impact, suggesting that his fight wasn’t necessarily a big deal…
“I’m not usually a fighter, but I think one time a year, you’ve got to get in a fight,” Miller said. “I wasn’t really expecting or looking for it. I’ll take that. He bumped into me and next thing you know, we’re going. It was pretty quick.”
And Babcock almost playfully addressed the scrap while speaking to MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“I said to him after the fight, ‘Where have you been, Millsie?’ ” Babcock said. “He’s been excellent. But that’s what we expect. I thought Patrick Eaves (back after missing 10 games with a groin injury) was excellent, too. So what do I do the next game? We’ll work it out over time, and it’s important to have all hands on deck.”
Babcock also tossed out a bit of an eyebrow-raiser regarding the Wings’ penalties…
“Obviously, we were shorthanded too many times and that was disappointing,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought MacDonald was real good. We scored on the first shift and (Darren Helm’s) line (with Miller and Justin Abdelkader) was good all night. Then we got a little sloppy. We got a nice power-play goal. We weren’t nearly as good as we were last night (in a 3-2 win over Washington), but we found a way to win on the road on back-to back-nights. It was a good win for us.”
But MacDonald definitely carried the Wings on his back at times, and, as Khan notes, he earned his first shutout since he shut out the Wings as a New York Islander, and he was practically gushily happy about his efort:
“I felt great out there, probably the best I’ve felt all year,” MacDonald said. “I was moving good, I thought we battled pretty hard. They let me see most of the shots.”
The Red Wings killed four power plays in the third period. The final one lasted only six seconds but before that, they killed a five-on-three for 43 seconds. They have not allowed a power-play goal in four games (18 for 18).
“PK came up huge, especially in the third when we were down two men,” MacDonald said. “They had a couple of chances, but we kept them outside and blocked a lot of shots. When we weren’t blocking shots we were getting the pucks 200 feet.”
MacDonald was in a zone right from the start, stopping 14 shots in the first period. He made a point-blank pad save on Ethan Moreau minutes into the game. Later, he stopped Rick Nash on a two-on-one and, seconds later, denied Nash again while sprawled out on the ice.
MacDonald reiterated his points of emphasis to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...
“It’s great, it’s huge to get the win and is huge and get the shutout is even better,” MacDonald said. “It’s one of those things, once you get thrown in there you don’t think about it. I felt great out there, the best I’ve felt all year.”
And, thanks to clutch scoring, good penalty-killing and a fantastic goaltending performance, the Wings were able to overcome their emotional let-down and lapses in concentration to come away with two points in a game that resembled a hangover at times, as Babcock and MacDonald told St. James:
Coach Mike Babcock: “We weren’t as good as we were last night, but we found a way to win on the road, back-to-back nights, good win for us. Joey was excellent, but he’s been excellent the whole time he’s been up here.” …
Goalie Joey MacDonald: “I thought we battled pretty well tonight. First period, we held back a little bit, but I thought after that, we played really well.”
The Wings did hop on a half-hour flight home after the game, but they’re headed into their house of horrors on Saturday, when they play in Nashville, before hosting the Penguins on Monday, kicking off a five-game home stand.
Now all we have to do is cross our fingers and toes about Datsyuk and Rafalski.
Highlights: NHL.com’s 5-minute highlight clip is narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
Post-game: The Blue Jackets’ website posted a clip of coach Scott Arniel’s post-game presser…
As well as comments by Steve Mason…
And Rick Nash:
Fox Sports Detroit posted comments from Joey MacDonald, Brad Stuart and coach Mike Babcock, as well as Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond’s recap.
Ditto for the Detroit News’s 12-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 22-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports offers, um…4 images;
Stats: Shots 37-27 Columbus overall, breaking down as 14-8 Columbus in the 1st period, 11-10 Detroit in the 2nd period and 13-8 Columbus in the 3rd period.
The Wings went 1-for-4 in 7:40 of PP time; the Blue Jackets went 0-for-6 in 9:23 of PP time, including 43 seconds of 5-on-3 time.
MacDonald stopped 37 shots; Mason stopped 25.
The 3 stars, per a “media panel,” were Miller, Mason and MacDonald.
Our goals: Miller (8) from Helm (20);
Filppula (15) from Franzen (24) and Modano (11), power play.
Faceoffs 28-25 Columbus (47% won by Detroit);
Blocked shots 15-8 Detroit;
Missed shots 13-12 Columbus (total shot attempts 65-47 Columbus);
Hits 34-13 Columbus;
Giveaways 5-3 Columbus;
Takeaways 7-4 Columbus.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 9-and-9 (50%); Helm went 8-and-4 (67%); Filppula went 2-and-7 (22%); Abdelkader won his only faceoff.
Shots: Kindl, Eaves, Miller, Helm and Kronwall had 3 shots; Abdelkader, Rafalski, Zetterberg, Modano and Franzen had 2; Cleary and Filppula had 1.
Blocked attempts: Lidstrom and Zetterberg had 2 shot attempts blocked; Rafalski, Helm, Bertuzzi and Franzen had single shot attempts blocked by Blue Jackets players.
Missed shots: Zetterberg, Modano and Franzen missed the net 2 times; Abdelkader, Eaves, Miller, Rafalski, Filppula and Franzen missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Kindl, Lidstrom, Cleary and Franzen had 2 hits; Datsyuk, Eaves, Bertuzzi, Filppula and Kronwall had 1.
Giveaways: Lidstrom, Helm and MacDonald had 1 giveaway apiece.
Takeaways: Cleary, Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Bertuzzi had takeaways.
Blocked shots: Kindl blocked 4 shots; Stuart, Helm, Kronwall and Franzen blocked 2; Eaves, Filppula and Ericsson blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Cleary took 3 minors; Lidstrom, Ericsson and Franzen took single minors, and Bertuzzi served a minor penalty for the team; Miller took a major penalty for fighting.
Plus-minus: Lidstrom, Eaves, Miller, Stuart and Helm finished at +1.
Points: Miller and Filppula had goals; Helm, Modano and Franzen had assists.
Ice time: Stuart led the team with 23:59 played; Kronwall played 23:36; Lidstrom played 21:56;
Ericsson played 18:41; Zetterberg played 18:36; Bertuzzi played 16:39;
Franzen played 16:34; Filppula played 15:48; Cleary played 15:31;
Datsyuk played 15:12; Rafalski played 14:49; Helm played 14:28;
Kindl played 13:25; Abdelkader played 12:52; Eaves played 12:23;
Holmstrom played 12:13; Modano played 10:52; Miller played 10:29.
Wings notes: I’m not sure what games Babcock was watching in early February, but he suggested to MLive’s Khan that the Wings didn’t struggle as much as some might have suggested on defense in February:
“I don’t think our defensive game, contrary to popular belief, has ever been that bad,’’ Babcock said. “I think our engagement has been poor. We started real well this year and we had injuries and looked like we were bored. That’s part of the process you sometimes go through in February. I’m not trying to justify it, that’s the facts. This last while we’re engaged, we look like we know how to play.’‘
—Forward Jiri Hudler did not make the trip to Columbus due to the flu, general manager Ken Holland said. Hudler missed a couple of shifts after being hit by Washington’s D.J. King on Wednesday, but he finished the game.
• The Free Press’s St. James reports that Ken Holland stated that Hudler had a high fever, and she spoke to Darren Helm in a lighter moment, inquiring about the secret to his increased offensive production:
He has developed, as he calls it, “my five o’clock shadow,” and not because he’s getting an early start on the time-honored playoff beard tradition. It’s all tied into his on-ice performance.
Helm earned his 20th assist of the season 33 seconds into Thursday’s 2-0 victory against the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena when he picked up Grant Clitsome’s turnover and turned it a scoring opportunity that Drew Miller finished.
“I think he’s really elevating his game as the season goes on,” Miller said. “He’s a dangerous player. He’s dangerous on the penalty kill offensively, and then five-on-five, he creates a lot of opportunities. He’s become a really good player for us.”
As for the supposed beard…
“I had one going awhile ago and I was playing well, got rid of it and didn’t really like it as much as having a little bit of something going on,” Helm said. “It’s the only way I’m playing well, is having a little stubble.”
Henrik Zetterberg, the Wings’ resident guru of facial hair, isn’t particularly impressed with Helm’s scruff, but he does appreciate Helm’s ability to contribute both at even strength and while the Wings are shorthanded:
“It’s a privilege to have that,” Zetterberg said. “They are really good on the PK and play really good defense, and sometimes they score goals and get the momentum to our side.”
• This is a repeat, but as the Wings’ schedule is particularly heavy over the next three weeks, it bears mentioning, per the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan, that Chris Osgood insisted that he should return sometime next week after experiencing a “setback” in his recovery from sports hernia surgery:
“Break(ing) through scar tissue, that’s all it is,” said Osgood, who recalls a similar situation about a month after the surgery. “It just happens and you work through it. When I take a day off, or two, it feels a lot better. I feel fine. It’s the same as before, breaking through scar tissue. When you break through (the tissue) it feels like it’s hurting again.”
Ogsood expects to go back on the ice with goaltending coach Jim Bedard today and return to the lineup after the weekend. Still, Osgood was disappointed to miss his scheduled start against the Blue Jackets.
“You work hard and do everything you’re supposed to do, which is what we’ve done,” said Osgood, who’d like to play at least two games before the playoffs begin. “It’s hard to predict how it’s going to feel. It’s disappointing not to play. But at the same time I want to make sure I’m 100 percent when I go in, especially this time of year. I don’t want to go in and not be ready.”
• And, in case you missed it, DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose reported that Ruslan Salei’s wife finally delivered the couple’s third child on Wednesday night.
Also of Wings-related note: As noted in a separate entry, Wings prospect Gustav Nyquist was named as one of the ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Award on Thursday due to his spectacular second-half play for the University of Maine Black Bears;
• Sticking with NCAA Division 1 hockey for emphasis’ sake, the CCHA’s semifinals take place at Joe Louis Arena today, with Wings prospect Riley Sheahan and the University of Notre Dame tangling with Miami of Ohio at 4 PM EDT, and the University of Michigan facing Western Michigan at 8 PM. Both games will air on Fox Sports Detroit Plus, and the winners of the respective semifinals will vie for the CCHA championship on Saturday at 7:30 PM, again on FSD+;
DetroitRedWings.com’s Michael Caples both caught up with Sheahan and spoke to Red Wings assistant GM Jim Nill about the fact that his son, Trevor (a St. Louis Blues prospect), won the CCHA’s humanitarian award for his work with MSU’s “Teams for Toys” campaign and the Spartan Buddies program at Sparrow Hospital.
I’m assuming that as both Dean and Jake Chelios will be playing for MSU, the Wings’ scouts will be well-represented at the Joe, and the Detroit News’s Chris McCosky notes that one superb Swede will attend in University of Michigan captain Carl Hagelin;
• Also in the local hockey vein, per the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff, Team USA’s women’s hockey team will face off against Team Canada in Ann Arbor this April as a tune-up for the Women’s World Championships:
Tickets are now on sale for April 7-8 international women’s hockey exhibition games between Canada and the United States slated for the Ann Arbor, Mich. Ice Cube. The two games, featuring Ruthven’s Meghan Agosta in the lineup for Canada and Michigander Angela Ruggiero, whose brother Bill is a former St. Clair College goalie, playing for Team USA, will serve as the final tune up for both squads prior to leaving for the April 16-25 world championship in Zurich and Winterthur, Switzerland. Tickets, all prices in U.S. funds, are $10 for adults and $5 for students, and can be purchased by calling USA Hockey’s NTDP at 1-734-327-9251. Both games start at 7 p.m. and arena doors open at 6 p.m. Selected Team USA players will sign autographs in the arena lobby following each game. The U.S. Squad is holding its pre-tournament training camp in Ann Arbor. Also on the American roster are Amanda Kessel, sister of Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel and Kelley Steadman, Agosta’s teammate at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa.
“We’ll be looking forward to playing Canada,” four-time Olympian Ruggiero said. “It’s a great rivalry. Whenever you’re practicing, whenever you’re at the gym working out, Canada is always in the back of your mind. It’s also going to be great to get a chance to play in front of my friends and family.”
The Canadian and U.S. women last faced off in the state of Michigan Jan. 6, 2002, when the Americans earned a 7-3 victory in a game prior to the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Held at Joe Louis Arena, the game drew 10,158 fans, which set the women’s Team USA attendance record. It is also the second most attended women’s hockey game in the U.S. The University of Wisconsin’s women’s ice hockey team drew 10,668 fans to its “Fill the Bowl” game against the University of Minnesota Jan. 29, 2011. While Canada has won the last three Olympic gold medals in women’s hockey, the U.S. Has earned the world title in three of the last four tournaments.
• Let’s shift back to the Wings’ prospects: while Jordan Pearce carries the mail for the Grand Rapids Griffins, fellow goaltending prospect Thomas McCollum’s become the Toledo Walleye’s starter as the team tries to make a late playoff push in the ECHL, as the Toledo Blade’s Mark Monroe notes:
Toledo enters the final three weeks of the regular season in last place in the North Division. With nine games left, 18 points are still available for the Walleye to make up ground. Toledo has a 29-29-5 record and has 63 total points. The team has five homes games remaining. The Walleye play three straight weekend games beginning Friday night at the Huntington Center.
The top eight teams qualify for the playoffs. The Walleye are four points out of that eighth spot which is currently held by Cincinnati. Toledo has three games left against the Cyclones.
Barring any injuries to the team’s parent clubs, the fate of the team rests largely in the hands of goalie Thomas McCollum. The No. 1 draft choice of the Detroit Red Wings in 2008 has been with Toledo since Feb. 23. McCollum has started eight straight games. He has an 8-7-1 record with one shutout. McCollum’s goals against average is 2.98 and his save percentage is .909.
“We will see how it goes,” Vitucci said. “If he needs a night off to recharge, we can look at Joe Palmer. He is a capable goaltender. As of this point, Thomas is our No. 1 goalie and we will ride him. But we also know we need two strong goaltenders.”
• Also in the prospect department, sometimes the Wings doctors’ cautious approach in bringing players back from injuries makes perfect sense. With his Everett Silvertips battling for a playoff spot in the WHL with only 3 games remaining, the Everett Herald’s Nick Patterson reports that Landon Ferraro remains sidelined after pulling his groin while attempting to return early from sports hernia surgery;
• In Calgary, the Calgary Herald’s George Johnson reports that Gordie Howe and a host of NHL alums will hold a luncheon today and hockey game tomorrow to benefit the Gordie & Colleen Howe Fund for Alzheimer’s;
• More locally, as the Livingston Daily reports, the Red Wings Alumni Association will play in a charity game on Saturday against “The Well Church”:
Hockey benefit - The Well Church in Genoa Township hosts its second annual fundraising hockey game with players from The Well Allstars vs. players from the Detroit Red Wings Alumni Association at 4 p.m. at the Kensington Valley Ice House, east of U.S. 23 and north of Grand River Avenue at 10540 Citation Drive in Brighton Township. Proceeds benefit Livingston County Shop With a Cop and Promise Village Home for Children. Highlights include raffles, a chuck-a-puck contest, a silent auction and autograph signings. Tickets are $10. VIP tickets are available for $25 and include dinner after the game with members of the alumni and a live auction. Some live and silent auction items include autographed items from Chris Osgood, Joey MacDonald, Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom and Jimmy Howard; Detroit Pistons courtside tickets; a hot-air balloon ride; and a charter fishing trip. Tickets are available at www.thewellmi.com. Call Scott DesAutel at (248) 515-3864 for more information.
• And finally, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a problem with the concept that Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle’s being mentioned as a Norris Trophy finalist alongside his idol, Nicklas Lidstrom, despite the fact that he tells the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson that such a notion sounds surreal. He’s played superbly for Phoenix and he’s not just an offensive phenom—he’s an incredibly solid all-round defenseman. He’s just not going to win the Norris as Lidstrom’s dominating the game at 40. Maybe in a year or three (hopefully later than sooner).
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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.