The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/19/12 at 04:47 PM ET
Updated 10x at 7:36 PM: As the Detroit Red Wings prepare to face off against the Phoenix Coyotes tonight (9 PM EST, FSD/FS Arizona Plus/WXYT), I’m going to skip the usual, “Wait until one team’s morning skate is over to post game-day stories” protocol because ESPN has chosen tonight’s game as its “Game of the Week,” and in the process (ESPN’s pundits may break the game down afterward) thereof, Craig Custance penned a lovely article about Jimmy Howard’s maturation into an All-Star-caliber goaltender. Custance’s article merits both must-read and, “Hell, you might want to bookmark it or print it and read it again later” status as he reveals the reasons that the Wings drafted Howard, his former coaches’ views on someone who was anything other than a “natural” athlete and the two reasons why Howard has finally calmed down and stopped skittering around the crease like a “spider monkey”
With the Lions’ season over, the Pistons an afterthought and the Tigers still months away from playing, Hockeytown is starting to act like it. Distracted sports fans in the city looking to Joe Louis Arena for entertainment are now discovering that their team is every bit as dangerous as previous versions. Only the Red Wings are doing it in a dramatically different fashion. They’re winning because of goaltending and a team defense that has consistently been among the top in the league.
Howard leads the NHL in wins, is sixth among starting goalies with a 2.04 goals-against average and ranks 10th overall with a .924 save percentage. According to Elias, his current streak of 15 straight home wins is tied for the second-longest streak since the 1943-44 season. And, he already has five shutouts, equaling a career high.
“He doesn’t have off-nights. He just hasn’t had off-nights,” said Red Wings backup goalie Ty Conklin. “There’s times when we win games 5-1 and he’s legitimately the first star of the game because of the way he plays early in games. He’s been fantastic.”
Here’s another excellent snippet…
Howard is growing into one of the league’s elite goalies and the fans in Detroit are starting to realize it. During the final 90 seconds of Monday’s shutout win over the Sabres, they filled the rafters of Joe Louis Arena with chants of his name. It was almost as if 20,000 people realized at the same moment that their goalie has matured into one of the game’s best. It just took awhile.
Last season wasn’t a banner season for Jimmy Howard. Lost in the outrage that he wasn’t on the All-Star ballot last season is the fact that he probably shouldn’t have been. His .908 save percentage was good for No. 33 among NHL leaders last season. His 2.79 goals-against average was even worse—No. 36 overall.
“I didn’t think I deserved to be there at the beginning of the season,” he said of the All-Star ballot controversy. “Stats-wise, mine weren’t very good last year. I had a lot of wins but a lot of nights, the guys bailed me out.”
And again, the rest of the article is worth your time.
• Sticking with the Bass Ackwards format for now, via RedWingsFeed, the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran has picked out presumptive Alumni Game rosters for both the Maple Leafs and Red Wings as configured for the 2013 Winter Classic, and I’m admittedly scratching my head regarding some of his selections:
Red Wings alumni
Brett Hull-Steve Yzerman-Brendan Shanahan (to deal with Kocur-Domi)
Sergei Fedorov-Igor Larionov-Dino Ciccarelli (Hafta Wait Hall of Fame line)
Garry Unger-Adam-Oates-Bernie Federko (The “We Make Bad Trades, Too” line)
Brad Smith-Gordie Howe-Kris Draper (Heart and Soul line)
Larry Murphy-Mathieu Schneider (To rub your nose in it, Leaf fans)
Brad Park-Mark Howe (Grace under pressure)
Brian Rafalski-Chris Chelios (Could still be playing)
Goal: Dominik Hasek, Chris Osgood. (Also waiting for the Hall)
Coach: Scotty Bowman
Thought #1: Grind Line. The real ones, both of ‘em.
Thought #2: Mickey Frickin’ Redmond.
• Also in the, “Made for TV” category, via Steve Leopre of Puck the Media (and again, seriously I check RedWingsFeed first when I wake up to get caught up on Wings news. I trust my blog’s story-gobbling reach to them, and you should, too):
The Original Six rivalry between Chicago and Detroit came up big in the numbers for the NBC Sports Group twice in six days, successfully launching their fourth night of hockey.
The Red Wings and Blackhawks first of two overtime games in six days drew 587,000 viewers on NBCSN Sunday, January 8th. This makes it the second most-watched game of the season on the network. This gives NBCSN two games topping 500,000 viewers in four days (PIT/WSH, 1/11/12: 527,000). The game between Detroit and Chicago on NBC six days later also drew solid ratings. NBC’s second Sunday night broadcast drew a near season low (NYR/MTL, 1/15/11: 202,000) but that can be attributed to football.
Top 5 VERSUS/NBCSN Games This Season
1. Boston/Philadelphia, 10/6/11 – 874,000 viewers
2. Detroit/Chicago, 1/8/11 – 587,000 viewers
3. Philadelphia/Buffalo, 12/7/11 – 585,000 viewers
4. Philadelphia/Buffalo, 11/2/11 – 558,000 viewers
5. Chicago/Minnesota, 12/14/11 – 540,000 viewers
• Speaking of TV-friendly, from the Wings...
RED WINGS TO HOLD PAIR OF VIEWING PARTIES IN COMING WEEKS
Fans 21+ Invited to Join Volunteer Energy Red Patrol at Metro Detroit Pubs
The Detroit Red Wings will stage a pair of Official Viewing Parties in southeastern Michigan in the coming weeks, affording citizens of Hockeytown the opportunity to enjoy the excitement of Red Wings hockey in a fun and festive atmosphere. The Volunteer Energy Red Patrol will be on hand for both upcoming Viewing Parties, conducting NHL trivia contests and handing out exciting prizes such as autographed merchandise and tickets to upcoming Red Wings home games.
Special food and drink offers will be made available to Official Viewing Party attendees, including discounted draughts and bottles. A member of the Red Wings Alumni Association will also be on hand for both events to sign autographs and mingle with fans. The dates, times and locations for the two Red Wings Viewing Parties set to be staged in the coming weeks can be found below:
DATE: TIME: LOCATION:
Wednesday, Jan. 25 vs. Montréal 7:00pm - 10:00pm Good Time Charley’s 1140 South University Ave. Ann Arbor, MI
Tuesday, Feb. 28 vs. Columbus 6:30pm - 10:00pm Bubba O’Malley’s 1076 South Belsay Rd. Burton, MI
In case you haven’t figured it out by reading the sidebar and offering my comments regarding the Big House, I’m reluctant to admit that I’m a University of Michigan grad, mostly because I’m a blue-collar born-and-raised kid from Garden City who doesn’t believe that the pedigree of one’s college degree, or the lack thereof, has anything to do with a person’s relative worth (i.e. I’m proud of being able to say I graduated from the U because I received a fantastic education there, but does it make me better or worse than you, as some Wolverines might suggest? Hell no, not for a second!), and as such, I’m afraid to state that this alumnus wants to keep good on his promise to avoid Good Time Charley’s as I’ve spent too much time with over-imbibing friends after they wrecked themselves via excessive alcohol consumption;
• Shifting gears in a big way, the Free Press’s Helene St. James mentioned Jiri Hudler’s resurgent play this morning, and MLive’s Ansar Khan follows suit (I would suggest that if Hudler’s career with the Wings is on the line this season, he’s doing a great job of letting his teammates, coaches and the team’s management that he wants to stick around), noting that Hudler’s put his very underwhelming 2010-2011 season and his hard lessons learned in returning from the KHL to a harder, faster game behind him:
“This is a new year,” Hudler said. “I feel pretty good, but I’m not going to get over-excited.You don’t want to mess with the karma.”
Hudler has 17 points (11 goals, six assists) in his past 21 games. He has seized an opportunity to play on a top-two line with Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula.
“He got a chance to play more and he’s playing with confidence,” Zetterberg said after a 3-2 victory against the Stars. “He’s always been good offensively, but he’s really good in his own end now. Coach can really trust him and have him out there in tough situations. He has to have his freedom and try stuff. Once in a while it won’t work, but you just got to keep doing the same thing. He’s kind of like Pavel (Datsyuk), you can’t really tell him what to do, he can figure it out by himself.”
Hudler has 13 goals, which ties him with Datsyuk for third on the team, behind Johan Franzen (18) and Filppula (15), and 29 points. He already has surpassed last season’s goal total (10) and is well on his way to topping his 2010-11 points output (37).
“I think he’s playing a lot better with the puck, he’s skating better,” Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “He’s a good little player, a good passer. He’s a smart player. They put him with Hank and Fil, two very skilled players, and they work real well together.”
And Khan offered an intriguing tidbit about the Wings’ shootout winning percentage (as well as notes about the Wings’ crappy goal-scoring numbers away from the Joe):
The Red Wings are 3-0 in shootouts. Colorado was the only other unbeaten team in the shootout (7-0) heading its game Wednesday against Florida. Despite their many skilled players, the Red Wings had been below average in shootouts coming into this season (27-33).
“You never practice penalty shots,” Zetterberg said. “Last year, we struggled a little bit sometimes, but it’s important points. We need all the points we can get.”
• And finally, for the moment, anyway, it appears that the Coyotes are not holding a morning skate after heading back home after their loss to Anaheim, but the Wings are indeed skating this morning, and Khan reports that there are no surprises…
Everyone’s at Wings morning skate: 93-13-44, 51-40-26, 20-43-11, 48-8-96, 39; 5-18, 55-23, 4-52, 22; 35-29.
As does the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
Everybody on the ice it looks like for Red Wings this morning
Howard will start for the Wings. At this point, it appears that Cory Emmerton and Jakub Kindl will draw back into the lineup, and I believe that the Coyotes will start Jason Labarbera opposite Howard. On Tuesday, however, Coyotes coach Dave Tippett told PhoenixCoyotes.com’s Dave Vest that he would ride Mike Smith as his starter for the vast majority of the remainder of the season.
Update #1: Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports Detroit’s Darren Eliot participated in FSD’s telecast of the “Frozen Diamond Faceoff” Bebetween Michigan and Ohio State University at Cleveland’s Progressive Field on Sunday, and he offers a nuanced response to critics of the Winter Classic’s breast-enhancement-like status as an appealing construct of an artificial nature:
Look, I get the economics of all of this. Retro sells. It’s no different than fashion recycling—look no further than skinny ties and narrow lapels that are currently all the rage: hardly new, but cool as always. Just like playing hockey outdoors. Why? Because that part of the playing experience isn’t nearly as prevalent as it once was. Believe me, when I was a kid, the “neat” thing to do was to play a game indoors where the big kids played Jr. A at Windsor Arena. Now, even mini-mites get the opportunity to skate between periods at NHL rinks as part of intermission entertainment!
So, indoors becomes commonplace, outdoors unique. Is it trendy? Sure. But it is much more than a gimmick because the exhilaration of what it’s like to chase the puck around the ice in an open air environment lasts forever. And as the NHL’s Winter Classic on New Year’s Day moves to Michigan next year, the supporting scene has endless possibilities.
The 2013 Winter Classic will take place in Ann Arbor between the Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs, with the surrounding events—including college hockey’s Great Lakes Invitational tournament—hosted downtown at Detroit’s Comerica Park. Sure, some folks won’t get it, with critics deriding the whole outdoor premise calling it boring and uncomfortable, with poor sight lines.
Talk about short-sighted. The reason the complementary events continue to grow around the games themselves is that by staging such events there is a chance to bring communities together through shared experience and interaction. Hopefully, Mr. Ilitch and the Tigers will open up Comerica at Thanksgiving like the Indians do with their park in Cleveland so everyone can be a part of what used to be common: heading outdoors to have some winter fun. Teams from all over—on both sides of the border—would have a chance to experience competing outdoors and families could enjoy a variety of activities.
And here’s an idea: Maybe a media game could be part of the proceedings so naysayers can participate and replace their hot air cynicism with the fresh air sensation of playing hockey outdoors.
Like the first notion to take the game outside in Lansing [in 2001], it’s definitely worth a try… on many, many levels.
Update #1.5: No, the Hockey News’s Adam Proteau, the NHL will never stage the Winter Classic and All-Star Game at the same time. The NHL’s All-Star sponsor fest is too important for the league to combine with another event.
Update #2: From MlLive’s Ansar Khan:
Babcock said Emmerton and Kindl are back in tonight in Phx for Mursak and Commodore.
And the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
Emmerton and Kindl back in lineup for Red Wings donate
Update #3: Amongst our muddle of game-day links: Sportsnet notes that Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson is going ga-ga about a Winter Classic in Ann Arbor:
With 50,000 Toronto Maple Leafs fans dressed in blue and 50,000 Detroit Red Wings fans dressed in red, cheering on their respective teams in a Super Bowl-like environment—that’s how Leafs head coach Ron Wilson says he would like to spend his New Year’s Day in 2013.
On the heels of the news that the Leafs and Red Wings will reportedly take part in the 2013 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium, Wilson said he is looking forward to the possibility of being a part of a game like that.
“It’s hard to beat being in the Stanley Cup finals; it’s hard to beat winning a World Cup or being in a number of those type events—the Olympics, competing for the gold medal,” Wilson told Brady & Lang on Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Thursday. “This will be different … a Super Bowl-type atmosphere.”
The fact that the Leafs are rumoured to play Detroit would make the game that much more special for Wilson, as his family has a historical connection with the franchise. Wilson’s late father, Larry Wilson, and his late uncle, Johnny Wilson, both played for the Red Wings in the 1950s.
“The fact that I could share that with my family would be quite thrilling,” Wilson said.
• TSN’s Dave Hdge is asking readers to rank NHL owners from 1-30;
• In the “for further reading” department, the CBC’s Gord Stellick mentions Danny Cleary in a column discussing non-traditional paths to the NHL;
• Stating the obvious, per NHL.com’s Brian Hunter...
Nashville center Mike Fisher could only laugh when the Central Division standings were brought to his attention Wednesday. The Predators have 56 points, which is better than 20 teams in the National Hockey League but good enough only for fourth place in their own division.
That’s because the Blackhawks have 62 points, Red Wings have 61 and the Blues have 60. It is remarkable that only two points separate these three teams that are currently first, fourth and fifth in the Western Conference standings, but really first, second and third in total points in the Western Conference.
Why does this matter?
If the season were to end right now, the Blues, even with their 60 points, tied for fourth most in the NHL, would have to go on the road to open the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s astonishing, yes, but definitely reality, and it’s making the race in the Central Division so important.
So, who has the advantage today? On paper, it looks like Detroit.
Chicago leads now, but it still has 21 road games to play versus only 14 at home. The Blackhawks are just 10-8-2 on the road. St. Louis also has 21 road games along with 16 home games left. The Blues are 8-9-3 away from Scottrade Center.
Meanwhile, Detroit, which has won 15 straight home games, still has 21 more to go at the Joe against just 16 on the road.
• In the “Good News, AHL Version” department, the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema spoke to Chris Minard and Travis Ehrhardt about returning from a concussion and shoulder surgery, respectively. The Grand Rapids Griffins will need both players to contribute in a big way if they are to make a playoff push;
And shifting focus back to tonight’s game, PhoenixCoyotes.com’s Dave Vest reports that Martin Hanzal may play tonight, and in an audio clip, Coyotes coach Dave Tippett suggests as much in his morning skate remarks;
• And here’s MLive’s Ansar Khan’s morning skate report:
Strong defensive play has sparked the Detroit Red Wings’ current winning streak, which they will try to extend to five games tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena (9 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit). The Red Wings have allowed only six goals in their past four games, after yielding 15 goals in their previous four.
“Three of them (out of the last four) don’t count because they were at home, in my opinion,’’ coach Mike Babcock said after today’s morning skate. “What I mean by that is … we were No. 1 in goals-against on the road last year and this year we’re not very good. You got to play good without the puck if you’re going to be successful. Then you have the puck all the time and you have lots of offense. We’ve been able to do that at home and committed to doing that. We haven’t been on the road.’‘
The Wings have a chance to even their road record (12-13-0). They also have an opportunity, at least temporarily, to move into first place in the NHL’s overall standings.
Cory Emmerton and Jakub Kindl are back in the lineup tonight, replacing Jan Mursak and Mike Commodore.
Update #2.5: Here’s more about Hanzal. PhoenixCoyotes.com’s Dave Vest and Anthony Perez report that Hanzal’s been on the sidelines since December 23rd with an “upper-body injury,” but he’s optimistic about tangling with the Wings this evening:
“Hockey is my life and I want to play everyday,” said Hanzal, who averaged 18:42 of ice time prior to the injury. “And when you’re not allowed to play or when you cannot play it’s always hard. When you’re just watching your teammates battling hard for a playoff spot it’s frustrating.”
The next game Hanzal plays will be his first as a father. Hanzal’s wife Lenka gave birth to Martin Hanzal Jr. on Tuesday afternoon in Scottsdale. It has been a whirlwind 24 hours for Hanzal, who flew back from Anaheim on Tuesday to be with Lenka for the birth of their son.
“It’s amazing,” Hanzal said about becoming a father. “It’s my fist baby. It just feels awesome.”
Head Coach Dave Tippett and the rest of the Coyotes are hoping Hanzal also feels awesome when he steps back into the lineup for the first time. Hanzal has been missed by the Coyotes, who won just three games without him (3-5-4).
“A lot of parts of the game are big parts of the game for him, so we’ll be happy to have him when he comes back, but we have to make sure that he’s ready to go,” Tippett said.
Playing against the Red Wings in his first game back – should he suit up tonight – would be challenging, he said.
“It will be tough but I actually like playing against the Red Wings because of the rivalry the last couple of years in the playoffs and all that,” Hanzal said. “I’m pumped up. It will be a hard game but I will do my best.”
Update #4: The Free Press’s Helene St. James reports that the Wings hope to finish their road trip on a high note after getting a full day’s worth of rest in on Wednesday:
“It’s great just to be in the sun after being in Detroit all winter,” [Johan] Franzen said. “That helps to recharge the batteries, that’s for sure.”
Todd Bertuzzi said he “just hung out with the guys by the pool, and just relaxed, got ourselves ready for tonight. With the schedule we’ve had, it was much needed. It was nice to take a mental break.”
Wednesday concluded, “with a team dinner,” said Danny Cleary.
Coach Mike Babcock said he’s scratching defenseman Mike Commodore and forward Jan Mursak, and putting defenseman Jakub Kindl and forward Cory Emmerton back in. The pairs have rotated in the lineup the past few games, as the Wings have benefitted from a healthy lineup.
The Wings are looking to extend a four-game winning streak and improve on a 12-13 road record. The Coyotes sit in 11th place in the Western Conference, but only three points out of the playoffs. The Wings are 2-0 this season against the Coyotes, winning both games in Detroit.
Update #5: Huh? Per the Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg:
Mike Knuble has two Stanley Cup rings, which is maybe not the sort of thing you wear to Safeway, but I’m sure you might be tempted to break it out for special occasions. Whole Foods trips, for example.
But not Knuble. The veteran winger told Toronto’s 590 The Fan this week that he hides his rings in a drawer. Sock drawer, most likely.
“I mean, I was called up [by the Red Wings] in ‘97, played at the end of the year in the regular season, didn’t play in the playoffs,” Knuble said. “Next year I made the team, they won again, they beat Washington four straight. Didn’t play much in the playoffs, played a little bit. I ended up with rings from that, and they’re in a drawer. They’re buried. And I don’t wear those things. I pull them out for hockey camps to show kids, because they’ve never seen a Stanley Cup ring in their hand, you know? But never would I wear it out until I win it, until I play a role in winning it myself.”
• In the promotional department, from the Wings:
WOLVERINES AND SPARTANS SET TO SQUARE OFF AT THE JOE ON FEB. 11
… MSU Looking for Revenge After Dropping GLI Final 3-2 in Overtime; Rival Fans Encouraged to Purchase Seats on Opposite Ends of Arena …
Detroit… In a rematch of the 2011 Great Lakes Invitational Final, the University of Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State University Spartans will be squaring off in regular season CCHA action at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday, February 11 (puck drop – 7:30 p.m.). The Wolverines defeated the Spartans in overtime by a score of 3-2 at JLA back on December 30 to repeat as MacInnes Cup champions in thrilling fashion.
“Our annual game versus Michigan State at Joe Louis Arena is always an exciting event,” says Wolverines head coach Red Berenson. “It’s a terrific experience for our kids anytime they have a chance to play at an NHL venue, especially one with the rich history of The Joe.”
The second of Olympia Entertainment’s three ‘College Hockey in the D’ events to be staged this season, the annual UM-MSU showdown has taken place at JLA annually since 1990. In order to add to the festive atmosphere at The Joe for this year’s rivalry game, fans of the Spartans are being encouraged to purchase seats on the east side of the arena while Wolverines fans are invited to sit on the west side. Student tickets are priced as low as $12 apiece, while groups of 20 or more are able to obtain seats for as low as $7 each.
“Our rivalry with Michigan is the best in college hockey and we always enjoy the opportunity to play this game on an NHL stage at Joe Louis Arena and in the city of Detroit ,” says Spartans head coach Tom Anastos. “It is an experience that both our players and fans really enjoy and one that is important to our program as well as college hockey in the region. Our program has played a lot of memorable games at The Joe, and we’re excited to add another chapter to our rivalry with Michigan in February.”
An official jersey of each team, autographed by Berenson and Anastos, will be given away to a pair of lucky CCHA fans in attendance for the February 11 UM-MSU game. Tickets to all upcoming College Hockey in the D events are currently available for purchase at the JLA Box Office (313-396-7575), all Ticketmaster (800-745-3000) outlets, and online at OlympiaEntertainment.com/CollegeHockeyInTheD.
Shifting focus back to tonight’s game, again, via RedWingsFeed, Will Posthumus talks about the Wings-Coyotes game on RedWingsTV…
• And the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan spoke to Nicklas Lidstrom about saying farewell to the NHL 36 crew:
“It was kind of intense having a camera crew following you everywhere,” said Lidstrom. “They didn’t go into the showers, thank God.”
Lidstrom said fans will get an opportunity to see how players prepare for games and the grind of an NHL schedule. The special debuts on Jan. 25 at 6:30 p.m.
“Fans will get a chance to see what we do every day, how we prepare for a game,” Lidstrom said. “Not just me but everybody — the meetings before games, and everything we do before we come to the rink,” Lidstrom said.
Lidstrom’s wife wasn’t included in the filming.
“She was not interested in being on camera,” Lidstrom said.
Lidstrom said he was filmed stretching and working out in the weight room by himself. Usually there are 5-10 players working out together, shooting the breeze.
But this time “the guys were shying away from camera, staying away from it,” Lidstrom said.
Update #6: Wow, per USCHO.com:
The CCHA announced Thursday that Alaska forward Adam Henderson and Notre Dame forward Riley Sheahan have each been suspended one game under the league’s supplemental discipline process.
Henderson has been suspended as the result of an incident that occurred against Ferris State on Jan. 14, while Sheahan was suspended for an incident that occurred against Western Michigan on Jan. 13.
Both suspensions were over illegal hits to the head of opposing players.
Henderson and Sheahan are ineligible to play in their team’s games Friday night (Jan. 20), but are eligible to skate in Saturday night’s games.
Update #7: This is a bizarre trade, per the Griffins. Grand Rapids has sent a fan favorite and a heart-and-soul player away for a, well, middling player:
GRIFFINS ACQUIRE THOMAS FOR AMADIO
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins on Thursday traded defenseman Greg Amadio to the Springfield Falcons for forward Mike Thomas.
Thomas, 21, is a first-year pro who has tallied four points (1-3—4) and 16 penalty minutes in 25 games with Springfield this season. He’s also appeared in two games with the ECHL’s Chicago Express, logging four penalty minutes. The New Maryland, New Brunswick, native served as captain of the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs as they captured the prestigious Memorial Cup in 2010-11. He registered 83 points (37-46—83) and 470 penalty minutes in 288 games over his five-year career with the Sea Dogs.
Amadio, 30, skated in 29 games with the Griffins this season, totaling three assists and 108 penalty minutes. He’s logged 202 games in two stints with Grand Rapids from 2004-06 and 2010-12, tallying two goals, 12 assists and 574 penalty minutes. The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, native has won two Calder Cups (Hershey) and one CHL President’s Cup in his nine-year professional career.
Griffins coach Curt Fraser explained the trade to the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema:
Amadio, 30, became popular with Van Andel Arena fans for his willingness to drop the gloves and stand up for his teammates. He had served as an alternate captain for the past two years after Grand Rapids signed him as a free agent on July 3, 2010.
But Grand Rapids coach Curt Fraser said it was going to become increasingly tough for Amadio to see a lot of time as the organization continues to develop young prospects like Brendan Smith, Brian Lashoff, Sebastien Piche and Travis Ehrhardt, who returned to the lineup last weekend from a shoulder injury. Amadio was a healthy scratch in the Griffins’ past two games.
“I think we’ll miss Greg Amadio, he did an excellent job for us. His leadership with our team was very important and his physical presence on the ice was a necessity,” Fraser said. “There wasn’t going to be a spot where Greg would be playing any regular time. We thought it would be better for Greg to move to Springfield, where hopefully he’ll get a better opportunity to play in a lot more games.”
The recent return of Chris Minard from a concussion also gave the Griffins six players with veteran status. American Hockey League teams are allowed to carry five players with 260 games of professional experience. The trade now leaves the Griffins with five: Minard, Chris Conner, Jamie Johnson, Garnet Exelby and Doug Janik.
In 29 games this season, Amadio has three assists, 108 penalty minutes, including a team-high 11 fights, and a minus-7 rating.
Thomas, 21, has one goal, three assists and a minus-6 rating in 25 games this season with Springfield. He also served as captain of Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League from 2009-11, when he had 37 goals, 46 assists and 470 penalty minutes in 288 career games.
Update #8: From the Coyotes’ website, here are some quips and quotes from Shane Doan,Radim Vrbata and Keith Yandle:
1. Are the 3rd-best team in the NHL;
2. Have the second-best goalie in the NHL;
3. Have the third-best defenseman in the NHL.
• MLive’s Ansar Khan spoke to Nicklas Lidstrom about NHL 36...
“I think the fans will get a chance to see what we do every day, how we prepare for games,’’ Lidstrom said. “Not just me, but all the guys in the locker room, the meetings we have before games, everything that goes (into) preparing for the game.’‘
He is curious about what scenes will make the cut.
“I’m not sure how they’re going to (edit) it,’’ he said. “I know they got a lot of footage, and it’s only a half-hour show. But they got a chance to see what it’s like getting up with the kids, taking kids to school, preparing for the game. Me and Homer (Tomas Holmstrom) went out to lunch the day of the Buffalo game. They see how we travel, getting in late (to Dallas), getting up early the next morning.’‘
Lidstrom said the crew was at his home for only five minutes, during which time his wife made herself scarce.
“My wife didn’t want to be on camera, she stayed away from it,’’ Lidstrom said. “You know they’re there. You try to be your normal self, go through your normal routines.’‘
• And Khan, St. James and Roose offer a few player quips via Twitter.
Here are Khan’s updates:
Babcock on Cleary: “I look for him to be a way better penalty killer, and to be physical. And the more physical he is the better off we are.
Babcock on Cleary: “He’s got to keep working and plugging and doing good, honest things.’‘
Wings’ Franzen, on Datsyuk not getting enough credit, league-wide: “He still is underrated.’’ SI players poll had him 6th-most underrated.
Here’s St. James’ bounty...
Bertuzzi was asked this morning if Hudler “loses some style points” for not executing Zetterberg-style shootout goal as well as Z.
Bertuzzi response: “No, not with Huds. He dresses too nice and looks too good.”
And here’s Roose’s quip:
Ask if Datsyuk is underrated, #RedWings Bertuzzi said, “he does everything pretty quiet, w/o a lot of fanfare and I think he likes that.”
Update #9: According to NHL.com, the Coyotes will ice the following lineup:
Ray Whitney - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Lauri Korpikoski - Boyd Gordon - Radim Vrbata
Taylor Pyatt - Marc-Antoine Pouliot - Mikkel Boedker
Raffi Torres - Kyle Chipchura - Gilbert Brule
Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Rostislav Klesla
Michal Rozsival - Chris Summers
The Coyotes are 9-8-3 at home this season, but have won their last two home games by a combined score of 11-2.
Martin Hanzal, who has missed the last 12 games with a lower body injury, participated in an optional morning skate on Thursday (the Coyotes played Wednesday night in Anaheim) and is a game-time decision for tonight. His return would result in the juggling of at least three and possibly four lines.
Update #10: One more thing, from Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s “Three Periods”:
The Red Wings deserve full marks for their 15-game home winning streak. It is the longest in their storied history, it is the longest the NHL has seen since 1976, and it isn’t overly reliant on overtime and shootouts. The first dozen games of the streak were all won in regulation. Only one was won in OT. Only one was won in a shootout.
But it doesn’t exactly feel like a streak. It began with the Wings winning the final four games of a seven-game homestand in early November, and the latest three victories came during a recent three-game homestand. But the eight victories in between were sprinkled in between road trips, and the Wings have been up and down on the road. They are 9-11-0 away from Joe Louis Arena.
And that is a little counterintuitive. The Wings were better on the road (26-11-4) than they were at home (21-14-6) last season. The Joe provides some advantages – particularly good ice for a skilled team, because it is virtually a hockey-only building. But aren’t skilled teams supposed to struggle at home, because they want to put on a show for their fans, while playing a simpler game on the road?
“That’s a good question,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock. “That’s what we said about our team last year, and we were great on the road, and this year, we’re good at home, and we don’t know why we’re not good on the road. So I’d like to tell you I have all the answers. We don’t.
“The bottom line, if you play well without the puck – and I don’t care if that’s at home or on the road – you’re going to win a lot of games, and we’ve been way better without the puck in our own building than we have been on the road, and to me, that’s why we’re winning.”
The dynamic adds even more urgency for the Wings in an already insane race. The Wings slipped late last season and ceded the No. 3 seed in the West to the San Jose Sharks by one point. They ended up losing to the Sharks in the second round in seven games, and Game 7 was, of course, on the road.
No division in the NHL is more competitive than the Central right now. Heading into Thursday night’s action, the Chicago Blackhawks were tied for the league lead with 62 points. The Wings were right behind them with 61 points. The St. Louis Blues were right behind them with 60 points. And the Nashville Predators weren’t far behind with 56 points. In other words, the margin is razor thin between a top seed and a fourth, a fifth or even a sixth seed.
He also adds this quip while ranking the Wings the 4th-best team in the league…
4. Detroit Red Wings: Everyone is linking the Oilers’ Ales Hemsky to the Wings in trade chatter. But the Wings have a lot of Hemsky types. What they could really use is a Ryan Smyth type if Smyth is willing to leave Edmonton as a rental. The Wings love veterans, and Smyth could give them more net presence for the playoffs.
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