The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/06/11 at 05:44 PM ET
As Paul ever-so-kindly noted while I was out, Valtteri Filppula will miss tonight’s game between the Red Wings and St. Louis Blues (7:30 PM, FSD/WXYT in Michigan, Versus/TSN2 elsewhere), but this isn’t exactly a surprise given the severity of the cut he suffered to the front of his left leg on Sunday. Filppula told MLive’s Ansar Khan that he needs a day or two for lingering soreness to subside...
It was sore. I wouldn’t really skate,’’ Filppula said. “The skate (adjustment) was as good as it can be, but I really couldn’t really push it. It was pretty painful. I could cruise around a little bit but when I had to skate a little fast I couldn’t really do it.’‘
He is day-to-day, hoping to play Thursday at home against Phoenix. Danny Cleary will replace Filppula on the line with Henrik Zetterberg and Jiri Hudler. Cory Emmerton will return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past four games.
Coach Mike Babcock said he wasn’t sure how he was going to adjust his third and fourth lines. He might put Emmerton on the wing or have him center the fourth line and put Justin Abdelkader back on the wing on Darren Helm’s line.
Filppula told DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose that he has no desire to spend an extended period of time out of the lineup…
“I’m hoping that it will get better soon,” said Filppula, who has 21 points, including eight goals. “I can’t say when it will be good enough, but I will give it a try every day. It was pretty painful. I could cruise around a little bit, but when I skated a little faster I couldn’t really do it.”
Rookie center Cory Emmerton will replace Filppula in the Wings’ lineup tonight. It’ll be Emmerton’s first game since the Boston game the day after Thanksgiving. This season, Emmerton has a goal and an assist with a plus-4 rating in 18 games.
Danny Cleary’s promotion obviously means that the #11 has a huge opportunity to re-establish himself as a top-six forward, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James suggests...
It’s a great chance for Cleary to regain his status as a top-six forward after a slow start to the season. He should be among the Wings’ leading scorers but only has five goals and three assists after 25 games, and was demoted to the third line last month. Coach Mike Babcock wants Cleary to focus on the little things more than on scoring goals.
“He scored a goal last game, so good for him,” Babcock said. “But I think if I’m Dan Cleary, I worry about forechecking, penalty killing, getting to the net. I don’t spend any time thinking about goal scoring. You’d be amazed at how everything works out from there.”
Cleary heard much the same message from Babcock.
“Yeah, we talked,” Cleary said. “Listen, you want to play well. I think I can play a lot better. Anytime you get to play with Z, it’s a great opportunity, so you have to make sure you take advantage of it. I’ve just got to make sure I get back to having a clear mind and focusing on a good forecheck and trying to get to the net.”
Cleary, hilariously, was sporting Don King hair, the result, he said, “of not being allowed to use product on my hair.” He objected vociferously when a TV reporter made overtures to interview, saying, “No, I’m not going on camera like this.”
Shifting focus slowly but surely to the Blues’ side of the story, NHL.com’s Louie Korac offers the following projected lineups for both teams…
Alexander Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
David Perron - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart
Matt D’Agostini - Vladimir Sobotka - Jamie Langenbrunner
Chris Porter - Jason Arnott - Scott Nichol
Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak
Brian Elliott, who beat the Red Wings 2-1 here Nov. 15, starts tonight in goal for the Blues. Jaroslav Halak will be the backup tonight and start Thursday against Anaheim.
Defenseman Ian Cole and forwards Evgeny Grachev and Ryan Reaves will be healthy scratches. Grachev (eye) was activated from injured reserve Tuesday.
Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Danny Cleary - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Chris Conner - Darren Helm - Justin Abdelkader
Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Tomas Holmstrom
Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson
Jakub Kindl - Brad Stuart
Jimmy Howard returns in goal after serving as the backup Sunday—his first game off in 18 games. Ty Conklin, who stopped 32 shots in Sunday’s loss, will be the backup.
In terms of the Blues’ tweaks and machinations going into tonight’s match-up, here’s what Blues coach Ken Hitchcock had to say to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford...
HITCH’S TAKE ON NEW LINES: With the return of David Perron, adding depth to the Blues’ forward combinations, Hitchcock is now allowed to make some moves that he’s wanted to make for a while.
1) Sobotka back to center: “I want to see Sobi play center. He’s good a player ... the light that I knew him from the Worlds and various events is as a two-way player, not a defending player. So I want to see him play in a two-way role. He’s going to get some power-play time. I’d like to see him play in that role because I think he’s an under-used player offensively and I think we can take advantage of that. I think in order to score in the league, you’ve got to have three lines that are a threat and this gives us a third line that’s a real threat now.”
2) Keeping Arnott’s fresh all season: “He’s going to get ice, but I think by putting two speedy guys (Chris Porter and Matt D’Agostini) with (Arnott), he’s able to play in the middle of the ice more and control things. He doesn’t have to play 200 feet every shift. I think he can play 150-foot game and be a good player. For us, on paper anyways, it looks like a pretty effective group.”
Because of Arnott’s move to center, however, Scott Nichol will move to the right wing. When asked how much wing Nichol has played in his career, Hitchcock said: “I’m not sure. I haven’t asked him that and I’m not asking him. He’s over there, good luck and way to work.”
COLAIACOVO RETURNS: Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo is back in the lineup tonight after missing eight games with a hamstring injury. Colaiacovo will be paired with Alex Pietrangelo 5 on 5 and he will help Pietrangelo man the point on the power play.
“That was a great pair until (Colaiacovo) went down,” Hitchcock said. “Him and Petro really work well together. The thing that Carlo adds to us, he sees thing from an offensive standpoint on the power play really well. He’s able to think one step ahead, which is really going to help us on the power play over time.”
Hitchcock also offered an eclectic morning presser to the Blues’ website:
The Wings and Blues also touched upon the topic of the NHL realigning into four “conferences,” including the kick-re-starting of the Wings-Blues rivalry, as noted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Rutherford...
Blues forward Jason Arnott: “I just caught a brief bit of it ... but you get to see all the stars around the league and they come to your building and you go to their building. That’s the way we used to do it when I first started and everybody seemed to enjoy it. (The lightened travel) is huge, huge. You find a big difference in the East and the West travel wise ... especially in the playoffs, it will help a lot and make for a better game.”
Blues forward T.J. Oshie: “I think it’s good. It’s nice to be playing every team twice. It’s nice to get those tests when you play teams like Pittsburgh and Washington. I think that’s been a big stepping stone for our team this year to play well against them.”
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock: “I hope we go to Winnipeg in October and November is my first thought ... You look at the eight teams and pick four, it’s a hard thing to do. There’s a lot of good teams in our conference. You’re going to have your A game for a lot of nights if you expect to make the playoffs now. It’s the toughest conference I’ve ever been associated with ... since I’ve been in the league.”
Detroit coach Mike Babcock when asked about keeping the Blues-Red Wings’ rivalry: “My comment is this, I would have been ecstatic if they would have told me we were going to the East. But I’m happy with this too. It works out good for everybody. St. Louis and us, we haven’t really had a rivalry. But I think there’s going to be one coming just because how good their hockey club is now.”
As well as NHL.com’s Louie Korac...
“The initial reaction is I like the format,” defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. “It’s going to be a lot less travel for the team. That part I like.”
Wings coach Mike Babcock said the body works wonders when there’s less travel involved.
“When you live in the East and you play in the West, that’s the hardest thing,” Babcock said. “One more hour is a huge deal. Lots of teams think they go through the same thing, I disagree. Body clock-wise, it’s huge for you. I think it’s a great thing for the Detroit Red Wings, but maybe even better just that our fans get to see the Original Six teams every year and any new kid that’s drafted in the League that you haven’t seen, you get to see now just because you play everybody.”
As far as rivalries, the teams from the current Central Division keep what rivalries they feel they have, plus develop new ones with the Stars, Wild and Jets.
“The Detroit-St. Louis rivalry and the Chicago-St. Louis rivalry are real eye openers for me,” said Hitchcock, who’s coached in Columbus, Dallas and Philadelphia. “Both of these rivalries feel very similar to the Rangers-Philadelphia, Philadelphia-Pittsburgh rivalries. It’s a very familiar feeling when you’re on the bench and you’re looking in the stands and the intensity of the games and the noise in the building. It’s very similar for me.”
Added Babcock: “I would have been ecstatic if they told me we were going in the East, but I’m happy with this, too. It works out good for everybody. St. Louis and us, we haven’t really had a rivalry, but I think there’s going to be one coming just because of how good their hockey club is now.”
And the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
“It’s going to be great for us,” Danny Cleary said. “For a lot of teams, they’ll be surprised how (difficult) the travel is. Especially teams in the East, used to being home at midnight, it’ll be a little bit of a wake up call.”
The first two rounds of the playoffs will be between teams in the same conference.
“That makes it easier,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “When you got to the West Coast two or three times (in a series), it takes a toll on the body.”
The Wings will play every team in the league at least once, home and away, each season.
Said coach Mike Babcock: “It’s night and day better. I just got way younger. I also like for Red Wings fans, you get to see the Original Six teams and every kid that gets drafted (high) in the league. You get to see everybody.”
Somewhat strangely, as DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose notes, it turns out that Ken Hitchcock and Mike Babcock are not only friends and former “teammates” (as Hitchcock was one of Babcock’s assistants during the 2010 Olympics), but also believe that they coach their respective teams in similar manners (as Roose also notes, Hitchcock was briefly approached for one of the Wings’ assistant coaching positions, but he held out for a head coaching position):
“I think we are in 95 percent agreement with how the game is played,” Hitchcock said about Babcock. “There’s one change defensively that we did than what they did, and then offensively it’s pretty close to the similar philosophy.”
Since taking over for former coach Davis Payne, who was fired Nov. 6, Hitchcock has guided the St. Louis to a turnaround which has seen them vault from No. 14 in the Western Conference to a tie for No. 5. The noticeable difference for the Blues has been with their defense. Under Payne the Blues were out-scored 32-35 in 13 games. In 13 games under Hitchcock, St. Louis has turned the tables, outscoring opponents 31-23. And ‘Hitch’ credits a lot of what he coaches to the things he learned from Babcock.
“I think where I learned the most was with the way they teach power play and penalty killing,” said Hitchcock, who was a guest at Wings’ training camp a few years ago. “I think that that really was helpful for me with going through the Olympic experience. I think you’re always wondering why their power play is always so successful for so many years, and then going through the Olympic experience between what we did defensively and what Detroit did defensively and offensively was kind of the game plan for the Olympics. And then watching Mike put the power play in play there and have success was an eye-opener, to kind of see the way he did things and their kind of philosophy was very revealing. So I think that part – it hasn’t shown yet – but it’s been very helpful for me.”
Something else that has impressed Hitchcock about the Red Wings’ way is their overall sense of family. It’s something that he hopes he can bring to St. Louis’ organization.
“The other thing that helped about being with Detroit was, we all talk about team, we all talk about all-inclusive, but they are an all-inclusive community,” he said. “When you go for dinner it’s 100 (percent). The dinners are huge, everybody’s involved. And when they talk about doing team-building activities during training camp it’s just a massive group of people from the people who volunteer in Traverse City to everybody, and everybody is expected to be there, which for me is really impressive.”
Also of Red Wings-related note before I take a little nap—and, for the record, the mom’s appointment with a certain governmental agency which people of a certain sixty-plus age deal with went well, and I now have another two weeks of antidepressants via my local public mental health service provider, yay!—
• Via RedWingsFeed, part 2: According to WOOD TV’s Larry Figurski, Chris Chelios and Chris Osgood were in Grand Rapids to help out the Griffins’ players today, and WOOD TV’s website will air the interviews Figurski conducted with both the Wings’ “special assistant to the GM”/defensemen’s mentor and the team’s new goaltending consultant this evening;
This Week’s GamesFri., Dec. 9 - GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals - 8 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Sat., Dec. 10 - GRIFFINS at Rockford IceHogs - 8:05 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Sun., Dec. 11 - GRIFFINS at Chicago Wolves - 4 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Offensive Surge: After averaging just two goals per game through the first eight games of the season, the Griffins’ offense continues to roll at a red-hot pace, averaging 4.2 goals per game over their last 10 contests and 4.67 over their last six, having scored at least four goals in six straight games. The Griffins sit eighth in the AHL with a 3.18 goals-per-game average on the season, a product of their 33.64 shots-per-game average, which ranks fourth in the league.
Overtime Thrillers: Grand Rapids improved its post-regulation record to 3-1 last week, winning a pair of games in overtime. Last Tuesday, Landon Ferraro’s third goal in four games gave the Griffins a 4-3 victory against the Toronto Marlies. Ferraro knocked home a rebound off of a Garnet Exelby blast at 4:11 of the extra session to end the Marlies’ six-game winning streak. Joakim Andersson scored the overtime winner versus Chicago on Saturday, taking a feed from Brent Raedeke and breaking in alone to beat Wolves goaltender Matt Climie over the shoulder to give the Griffins their third consecutive victory. The Griffins’ two overtime wins last week matched their combined haul from the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons.
North Division Supremacy: The Griffins continue to be successful within their own division, posting a 7-2 record against North Division rivals while outscoring them 35-19. They beat the division-leading Toronto Marlies twice last week, first in a 4-3 overtime decision in Toronto last Tuesday before winning 6-3 at home on Friday to improve to 3-0 against them this season. They have three division battles remaining this month, all against the second-place Lake Erie Monsters, whom they trail in the North Division standings by just three points.
Place in History: Francis Pare continued to climb up the franchise’s all-time leaderboards last week. With his two assists on Friday versus Toronto, Pare tied and passed Matt Ellis for eighth place all time in assists, now sitting at 85. He is just two shy of tying Jeff Nelson for seventh and three shy of tying Glen Metropolit for sixth. Pare’s goal on Nov. 23 versus Hamilton saw him pass Jiri Hudler for seventh all-time in goals, sitting just two behind Ellis for sixth. He is also one point behind Ellis for seventh in franchise history in points, where he sits with 152
And if you haven’t got on board the literal bus that WRIF’s “Meltdown” is employing to encourage Detroiters to vote for Jimmy Howard via a slate of in-person appearances, this week’s “leader board,” which lists Nicklas Lidstrom as in fifth place among defensemen and Howard in eleventh place among goaltenders, might tip the scales in your direction, You can vote for Howard here and check out Meltdown’s bus tour dates and destinations here—and the tour bus is pretty frickin’ cool to boot.
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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.