The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/23/12 at 09:08 PM ET
Updated 3x at 8:20 PM: The difficult part of being a one-man blogging band is that you find yourself explaining absences—or at least I do—far too regularly, so I’ll simply say that I had to ferry a parent in significant back pain to her orthopedist, and it took two hours longer than anticipated. As such, as an addendum to the Red Wings-Canucks pre-game thread, here’s a mad dash’s worth of last-minute updates:
• If you missed it, NHL.com’s Brian Hedger talked to Pavel Datsyuk about his “break” from hockey after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to clean up one of his knees:
“Yeah, for sure, no time to relax,” Datsyuk said, when asked if he’d begin working out off the ice since having the surgical procedure. “No free tickets to Florida. I need to work out.”
Datsyuk was having a great season before it was interrupted by a twinge in his knee that didn’t feel right after Detroit’s last home game—a 3-2 victory against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday that pushed the Red Wings’ NHL-record home winning streak to 23 games. He’s amassed 59 points in 59 games (16 goals and 43 assists) and was again near the top of the League in takeaways. Something happened in the San Jose game, however, that caused Datsyuk to mention how his knee felt to Red Wings athletic trainer Piet Van Zant. An MRI was performed, which showed a loose fragment of cartilage that needed to be cleaned up.
“I felt something in my leg, needed to check it,” Datsyuk told reporters on Thursday. “I felt it after San Jose game. Maybe it was bothering me a little bit [before], but not like what happened in San Jose game.”
When does the jovial superstar hope to get back into some skates and go for a spin?
“Tomorrow,” Datsyuk deadpanned.
Really … that soon?
“No,” Datsyuk said. “Maybe not. We’ll see.”
• Hedger also spoke to Kyle Quincey about “coming home,” if you will:
“Last time I was here I didn’t have any confidence,” said Quincey, whom Detroit took in the fourth round of 2003 NHL Draft [No. 132]. “I was just a young guy trying to squeak under the radar, but getting the opportunity and getting the confidence and knowing I can be a good player in the NHL, play good minutes, it’s huge. I’m just so excited to come back to this team.”
Almost as excited as he was to leave. Getting claimed by the Kings off waivers wasn’t all that painful for Quincey to accept, mainly because he knew the opportunity ahead of him was a good one.
“At the time it was actually awesome because it gave me the opportunity to play,” said Quincey, who played just 13 regular season games with the Red Wings spread over three seasons. “If I went through waivers and went to Grand Rapids [again], that would have been real frustrating. But if you ask a lot of guys that aren’t playing, they’d
probably asked to get waived. That’s the great system we have, the CBA. It’s a rule that helped my career. Who knows, I could still be in Grand Rapids. I’m very fortunate [the Kings] took a chance on me. I just went from there. I told [Holland] that back then, ‘Thanks for the opportunity and I appreciate it.’”
He not only knows all but three Red Wings players from his previous stint here, but he’s also happy to be back in coach Mike Babcock’s system—where he’ll start out paired with Jonathan Ericsson on the third defense unit, get some time on the second power-play group and maybe log some penalty-kill time.
“I played with [Ericsson] in Grand Rapids,” Quincey said. “Hopefully it’s a pretty seamless transition. This system by far, with [Babcock], is by far the best I’ve ever played in. Absolute nightmare playing against these guys, so I’m glad I’m on the other side of the puck. I’m happy to be back in this system. I think it’s good for everybody. Players with skill … they have so much of it here. By far the best system I’ve ever played in.”
Will the skills that got him established in Los Angeles and Colorado fit back in with that system?
“For sure,” Quincey said. “A lot of other teams try to get you to rim the puck along the glass and I know these guys don’t like that. I’m all for that. I don’t like giving the puck up either. I’m excited to play in this system.”
• And Hedger spoke to the Canucks about their bold pre-game statements:
“It’s fun,” Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo said after a morning workout at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday. “It’s a great challenge for our team. We’re excited about it and I think guys want to put out a great effort tonight to try and break the streak.”
He’s also not concerned that comments made by him or his teammates provided bulletin board material for the Wings.
“I didn’t say we were going to beat them,” Luongo said. “I said it was a challenge for us to come here and try to beat them. I mean, I think guys are excited about that. I never said we were going to come in here and win. I just said we were excited about the opportunity and that it’s a great challenge for our team to try and do something special.”
The Red Wings feel likewise about their record mark, which they’d like to extend as long as possible. They’ll still be without star center Pavel Datsyuk (knee), however, so the challenge to keep the streak alive gets even greater against the highly-skilled Canucks—whose 20-10-2 road record is the best in the League.
“I like playing Vancouver,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said of the matchup. “It’ll be a good test for us.”
It will also be the first time defenseman Kyle Quincey pulls on the Red Wings sweater again, after being traded back to the team that originally drafted him in 2003 from both the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning as part of a three-team deal on Tuesday. His first game with the Wings this season also happens to be one in which Detroit’s trying to keep its impressive streak alive.
“I was thinking about that,” said Quincey, who will start out with Jonathan Ericsson on Detroit’s third pairing along with getting some time on the power-play and penalty-kill units. “A lot of people were asking me about [playing] Colorado on Saturday night, but trust me I’m really focused on tonight. I don’t want to be the guy who messes that up. But these guys aren’t talking about that, they’re just trying to get the win. And I know [Vancouver] is pretty close behind us. It’ll be a big game, exciting game to watch.”
If you’re interested, Hedger spoke to Todd Bertuzzi about remaining with the Wings, too.
While DetroitRedWings.com posted clips of EJ Hradek talking about the Wings’ streak…
Wings coach Mike Babcock’s re-game comments…
And Ken Kal’s game-day preview:
• In terms of the Wings’ press, FSD’s Art Regner added a bit more to the topics of the day in Datsyuk’s recovery, Quincey’s return, Bertuzzi’s decision to stay and Patrick Eaves’ uncertain future:
Injured forward Patrick Eaves skated Thursday but said he’s still suffering from headaches every day.
Eaves has missed 38 games after suffering a fractured jaw against Nashville on Nov. 26. Even though the jaw is completely healed, it appears he also suffered a concussion when he got hit by a puck in the face while trying to block a shot.
“It’s day-to-day,” Eaves said. “Symptoms come and go. It’s a slow process. The way things are going, I’d love to come back, but we’ll see what happens.”
He’s been skating on his own for about a week, but Eaves is nowhere near ready to join his teammates for a full practice.
“I’m optimistic about the season,” he said. “I’d love to play this year, but I’ve got to get this looked after.”
• The Windsor Star’s Bob Duff is also reporting the following about Bertuzzi’s contract extension...
Todd Bertuzzi deal with #redwings said to be worth $1.975 first year and $2.175 second year for a cap hit of $2.075.
• The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness also took note of Luongo’s comments...
Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo got his wish … the Wings’ home winning streak is still going as the Canucks visit Joe Louis Arena tonight.
Earlier, Luongo wanted the streak to be alive when his squad came to town.
“Just because it’s fun,” Luongo said. “It’s a great challenge for our team. We’re excited about it and I think guys want to put out a great effort tonight to try and break the streak.
“I didn’t say we were going to beat them, added Luongo when asked if he thought what he said would be used as bulletin board material. “I said it was a challenge for us to come here and try to beat them. I mean, I think guys are excited about that. I never said we were going to come in here and win. I just said we were excited about the opportunity and that it’s a great challenge for our team to try and do something special.”
• MLive’s Ansar Khan added an addendum to his Bertuzzi story...
Bertuzzi said it’s just a coincidence that the team announced the deal the day of the Todd Bertuzzi Bobblehead giveaway in the game against Vancouver.
“It’s nice to get a bobblehead, being appreciated and all that, and I want to thank the fans for voting,’’ Bertuzzi said.
• Also from MLive, the Saginaw News’s Hugh Bernreuter notes that Kris Draper, Marcel Dionne, Ken Daniels and Dino Ciccarelli will appear at Great Lakes Loons minor league baseball games;
• Also via RedWingsFeed, here’s Mickey Redmond speaking to NHL Live:
• And finally, here’s a bit more about Datsyuk from DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose…
“Maybe it was bothering me a little bit (before), but not like what happened in San Jose game,” said Datsyuk, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery at the Detroit Medical Center on Tuesday. “I felt something in my leg, needed to check it.”
Despite a slow start, Datsyuk is having a Hart Trophy-like season, collecting 14 goals and 48 points in his last 42 games. One of, if not the best, two-way forwards in the NHL, Datsyuk is second in the league with 81 takeaways.
The surgery was necessary as doctors cleaned up some loose cartilage in his right knee. It’s expected that Datsyuk will miss at least two weeks, bit no more than three weeks.
“The doctor said after being in there it was something that needed to be done,” general manager Ken Holland said. “Our concern was Pav complained (Monday) and I don’t know if he complained much before. With two months to go before the playoffs start – fortunately we’ve had a good run – we’ve got some points banked away. The timing couldn’t have been better.”
• As well as another conversation with Quincey:
“Just excited, I was pretty pumped coming back,” Quincey said, following Thursday’s morning skate. “The morning skate was just fun to be out there with all the boys again. For sure, going from here to L.A., not knowing anybody, expectations, I really didn’t have much, didn’t know what to expect. Going to Colorado, not knowing too many guys, just coming back here, having played with every single guy except three (Ian White, Mike Commodore, Drew Miller) is pretty unusual.”
Quincey is expected to play with Jonathan Ericsson on the Wings’ third defensive pairing, and on the second power play unit. Quincey scored five goals with 18 assists in 54 games, while averaging more than 22-minutes of ice time for the Avs this season. He also chipped in with nine points, including three goals, on the power play. The Wings have the eighth ranked power play unit in the league, scoring 40 goals on 210 opportunities.
“Getting a chance on the power play to play with these great players is a huge opportunity for me,” he said. “I’m really excited for tonight.”
Knowing how difficult it is to play against the Wings, Quincey said he’s thankful to be back with the organization that made him a fourth-round draft pick in 2003.
“This system by far, with Babs, is by far the best I’ve ever played in,” Quincey said. “It’s an absolute nightmare playing against these guys, so I’m glad I’m on the other side of the puck. I’m happy to be back in this system. I think it’s good for everybody. Players with skill, they have so much of it here. By far the best system I’ve ever played in.”
And the Wings are equally as happy to add a much-improved Quincey back into the fold.
“I think it was just the opportunity, and with opportunity comes confidence,” Quincey said of his improvement. “Last time I was here I didn’t have any confidence. I was just a young guy trying to squeak under the radar, but getting the opportunity and getting the confidence and knowing I can be a good player in the NHL, play good minutes, it’s huge. I’m just so excited to come back to this team.”
Update: Hell, while I’m at it, here’s more Quincey from Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika, talking about leaving the Avalanche…
“Everyone is ready to get shipped out any day,” Quincey said. “There’s a lot of guys, their bags are packed beside the door, and they wouldn’t be unhappy to go – trust me. I know I had a big smile on my face, and all the guys were jealous. I think there’s a bunch of guys that were pissed off they weren’t in a package deal.”
And why is that? Quincey said a lot of guys feel they “aren’t getting their opportunity” in Colorado. But mostly he talked about players wanting a chance to win and the insecurity players can have at this time of year. Coming off a 4-1 victory over the Kings on Wednesday night, the Avs are only two points out of a playoff spot. But the Avs are 11th in the West, and if you’re traded, you could end up … anywhere. You could move up in the standings, like Quincey did, or you could go down.
Players often say they ignore trade rumors, and some do. But it’s hard to ignore the newspapers, Internet and television when your name is popping up all the time. On one hand, Quincey said he didn’t expect to be traded and was happy in Colorado. On the other, he said he was bringing his biggest suitcase on the Avs’ upcoming trip to Columbus and Detroit, knowing the deadline was coming and he might have to ship off to parts unknown.
“There’s guys that have been talked about for two, three weeks – and I was, too, right?” Quincey said. “That’s all I’m saying. With guys getting talked about all the time, your mindset kind of changes. It’s tough there because they’re in a dogfight. When you get talked about every day, it kind of wears on you. You start thinking, ‘Where am I going?’ “
A big contributing factor in Colorado: Only seven players are signed beyond this season – forwards Paul Stastny, Gabriel Landeskog and Chuck Kobasew, defensemen Jan Hejda and Ryan O’Byrne and goaltenders Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Semyon Varlamov. The rest are pending restricted or unrestricted free agents. Even forward Ryan O’Reilly, the Avs’ leading scorer, hasn’t received an extension. He is in the last year of his entry-level deal, making $900,000.
“I truly believe, if you have confidence in a player, then give it to them, show it to them,” Quincey said. “When there’s so much uncertainty if those guys are going to be there next year, it would be nice for guys to get extensions. But that’s their policy, and that’s what they do.”
Quincey paused, then added: “Confidence, it comes and goes, and when it goes, it’s pretty tough to get it back.”
And adding this quip about the Wings:
Detroit Red Wings: They had won 23 straight at home heading into Thursday night’s game against Vancouver. They sit atop the standings. And they just fortified their defense with Quincey. “Right now Detroit’s the best team in the league,” one NHL scout said. “There’s no doubt in my mind – or anybody’s mind – they’re the best team. They’re going to be the team to beat.”
• John Buccigross also wants you to know that Pavel Datsyuk is an MVP candidate...
• The Vancouver Province’s Gordon McIntyre confirms that Byron Bitz won’t be in Vancouver’s lineup tonight;
• The Detroit Free Press took note of Bruce Garrioch’s Knuble trade rumor...
• And here’s what NHL.com’s Dave Lozo has this to say about the Wings’ deadline outlook:
Detroit Red Wings (41-18-2, 84 points, 1st in West)
Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but the Red Wings are the oldest team in the NHL. This may sound familiar, too, but Nicklas Lidstrom could be in his final season, increasing the urgency for GM Ken Holland to bring home another title before the window shuts completely.
Holland already bolstered his blue line by adding Kyle Quincey for a first-round pick, a clear sign he’s ready to go for it, and he spent cautiously over the summer with an eye toward making a big move at the trade deadline. The Red Wings can add virtually whatever they want via trade with nearly $21 million in cap space. If Holland feels this is Lidstrom’s swan song, he could find himself Monday making deals like one of those traders on the floor of the stock exchange.
Update #2: this is interesting, per the Vancouver Sun’s Iain MacIntyre:
There’s a lot going on around the Red Wings today. Todd Bertuzzi just signed a two-year extension and his anatomically-proportioned bobblehead is available tonight to fans at Joe Louis Arena. Veteran defenceman Kyle Quincey makes his Detroit debut after moving from the Colorado Avalanche in a three-way trade. The Wings have won more consecutive games at home than any team in National Hockey League history. Oh, and by the way, the Vancouver Canucks visit tonight for a first-place overall showdown that could be the game of the year (4:30 p.m., Sportsnet Pacific, Team 1040).
“I think every night is two points,” party-pooping Detroit coach Mike Babcock said after this morning’s skate at Joe Louis. “I like to play Vancouver. I like the way they play. It’s going to be a fun game. We’ve got to hold up our end of the bargain. It’s going to be a good test for us.”
Funny, usually it’s the Red Wings’ opponent who talks about a big test or the cliché “measuring stick.” But the Canucks roll into Joe Louis two points behind the Wings, with a game in-hand and a 10-1-3 record the last five weeks. The one outright loss came Tuesday in Nashville, where the Predators beat the Canucks 3-1.
The Red Wings, who lost 2-1 to the Blackhawks Tuesday in Chicago, have 23 straight victories at Joe Louis Arena since Nov. 3. The matchup speaks for itself. It requires no hype, which may explain why most of the media this morning was focused on contracts and trades. Three of Detroit’s home wins came in a shootout and another game was won in overtime. But asterisk or not, the 23-game streak is astounding.
“I don’t know how it has been done in this day and age,” Vancouver defenceman Kevin Bieksa said. “Obviously, they’ve got something going at home and it’s going to take our best effort to beat them. Twenty-three wins in a row is a very impressive streak and it’s going to be fun to challenge that. We usually have pretty good games against them anyway. On top of battling for the top in the league, it’s a little extra motivation this time of year. There’s nothing bigger than this.”
The Canucks, of whom only a handful skated this morning, bring a lot of confidence into this game. They lost 2-0 at Joe Louis Arena in October, but split the two games in Detroit in each of the previous three seasons. The games almost always are close, usually decided by a goal. The Canucks respect the Wings, but certainly aren’t intimidated by them or their arena.
“All power to them,” Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard said. “If they want to come in here and try to beat us, they’re going to have to bring their best. The way we’ve been playing at home, we’re a tough team to beat. It’s been crazy; we can hear the fans even down here in the room. It’s great to see how fired up the fans have been.”
“I don’t find it intimidating,” Bieksa said of the Joe. “But I grew up playing college hockey there. The games are very skilled and high-paced and they’re physical sometimes, but if it’s intimidating it’s because Detroit is a very good hockey team and you have to play your best to beat them.”
Update #3: The Score’s Justin Bourne took note of Quincey’s comment about Avs players wanting to get the hell out of dodge;
• the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan took note of Ty Conklin’s win for the Griffins on Wednesday night;
• Here’s an interesting stat from the Vancouver Sun’s Elliott Pap...
Marek Tvrdon, with 59 points, trails the Blazers’ Tim Bozon by two points for the WHL rookie scoring lead.
• And I dig this, from NHL.com:
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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.