Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Coyotes set-up and overnight report: these aren’t the Yotes we’re looking for

The Detroit Red Wings face off against the Phoenix Coyotes tonight (9 PM EST, 7 PM Arizona time, FSD/FS Arizona Plus/WXYT) in a theoretically advantageous position. With four games left over their seven pre-All-Star break days remaining, the Wings enjoyed a day away from the rink on Wednesday, probably spending their time golfing, swimming or sleeping prior to watching their opponent drop a 6-2 decision to the Anaheim Ducks—the Yotes’ fourth loss over their past five games and their sixth in eight January games—before flying back to Arizona to meet a rested Wings team.

As the Wings spent Wednesday away from the all-but-confirmed confirmation of a Red Wings-hosted Winter Classic, which even Jimmy Devellano can talk about as long as he doesn’t stare directly at Michigan Stadium, spent the day away from news of literally attractive charitable partnerships, the first real update as to how Gordie Howe’s getting along that we’ve heard in a year and even Pavel Datsyuk’s own translated comments to a media outlet an alphabet away from Glendale, the Wings will have to run a veritable media gauntlet today, and that can be…dangerous for a team that is easily distracted.

With a Western Conference whose leader board is constantly changing (this morning, the Hawks are the kings of the Central Division and Western Conference standings hills) and a Coyotes team which is still only two points out of eighth place thanks to at least earning a point in three of their six losses, their shootout loss to the Wings on January 12th included, the Wings can’t simply let the sunny weather and waiting microphones capture the entirety of their attention.

The Wings could very well face the tenacious Coyotes in April, and while you and I may be already circling Monday’s game against the Blues as the next must-watch affair given Saturday night’s match-up with the Blue Jackets, Moreover, just as their opponents don’t seem to lose anymore, the Wings can’t afford to overlook their opponents or let up for an instant. Their win over a depleted Dallas Stars team showed that the Wings’ road game has yet to find its offensive swagger, and the Associated Press’s Ducks-Yotes recap suggests that Phoenix shook the mistakes out of their game all at once:

The Anaheim Ducks’ scoring slump is over. Now they are netting goals in bunches. Francois Beauchemin tied a career high with two goals, Jonas Hiller stopped 25 shots, and the Ducks beat the Phoenix Coyotes 6-2 on Wednesday night.

The Ducks are 6-0-1 in their past seven games, matching the club’s longest point streak since November 2010. Anaheim has scored 31 times during its current run, averaging 4.42 per game.
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Anaheim All-Star Corey Perry had a short-handed goal, and Niklas Hagman, Jason Blake and Matt Beleskey also scored for the Ducks (16-22-7), who won their fourth straight at home. Lubomir Visnovsky, Andrew Cogliano and Nick Bonino all had two assists.

Kyle Chipchura and Daymond Langkow scored for the Coyotes (21-19-7), who are 0-3-3 in their last six on the road. Mike Smith allowed all six goals on 21 shots—including four on just 10 total shots in the final two periods.

“It just seemed like every chance they got, they capitalized,” Langkow said. “We made some mistakes, and you know what happens. We just need to be better all around.”

The Coyotes’ road skid matches their longest since March 6-28, 2009.

Phoenix actually scored the game’s first goal and rallied to tie the affair at two halfway through the second period, but the Ducks broke things open with two second-period goals and piled on two more in the third. NHL.com’s Curtis Zupke reports that the Coyotes more or less got everything wrong…

[T]he Coyotes’ special teams left a lot to be desired as they went 0-for-4 on the power play and gave up a shorthanded breakaway goal to Corey Perry with 3:37 remaining in the game.

“That is something we’ve been working on,” Langkow said. “Our power play and our penalty kill – it can win you games. It’s not like we’re not trying. We’ve just got to bear down a little bit more and work a little bit harder on the special teams.”

Phoenix coach Dave Tippett has talked about wading through a difficult part of its schedule – Wednesday marked eight road games in a 10-game span – and tried to take positives out of a loss.

“I thought there were some good things in the game for us,” Tippett said. “You probably don’t believe that in a 6-2 score. We were doing some things fairly well, I thought. They got some timely goals to break the game open – it was the difference in the game.”

Phoenix will open a six-game homestand Friday against Detroit.

“The last couple games have been real strong at home,” Tippett said. “We’ve got to come home in a back-to-back situation, suck it up and play well.”

Yeah, I forgot to mention that part. The Yotes’ losses have all come on the road. They smacked the Islanders 5-1 on January 8th, and when the Wings were toying with Buffalo on Monday, Phoenix received a 38-save performance from Smith and defeated Colorado 6-1, so they’ve got the split-persona road-versus-home game thing going on just as the Wings do.

Zupke also captured a few quotes for PhoenixCoyotes.com’s Dave Vest, who noted the following in his recap:

“We worked hard,” Langkow said. “I thought we had a good start to the game. We fell behind after the first but I don’t know, it just seemed like every chance they got they capitalized. We made some mistakes and you know that happens. We just need to be better all the way around.”
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“I thought there were some good things in the game for us,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “You probably don’t believe that in a 6-2 score (but) we were doing some things fairly well I thought. They got some timely goals to break the game open.”
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Key Moment: Leading 3-2, Ducks left wing Jason Blake deflated the Coyotes by scoring a goal from the top of the crease with 1:06 left in the second period. The goal was Blake’s fourth in the past three games, and it capped a nifty passing exchange between he and his linemates.
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• The Coyotes dropped to 18-3-4 in games in which they’ve scored the first goal.

• Forward Radim Vrbata failed to notch at least one point for the first time in six games.
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•  The Coyotes played minus centers Martin Hanzal (upper-body injury) and defenseman David Schlemko (lower-body injury). Both players are on the injured reserve list. They also played without defenseman Adrian Aucoin (lower-body injury) who suffered a lower-body injury on Jan. 13 at Columbus.
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Raffi Torres: “We came out with a lot of jump. We just let off a little bit… At the end of the day, we have to put this one behind us quick.”

The Coyotes’ website’s video preview notes that Phoenix is opening a slate of two home games over the course of the next 19 days. That sounds like a long time, but for a team seeking revenge on an opponent who vanquished it in successive playoff seasons, 19 days offer more than enough time to send some, “If we meet you in April, it will be different this time around” messages—especially as the Coyotes are only going to play six times over those 19 days (the Wings will play 8 games, tonight’s included for both teams), leaving the Wings games as the start and conclusion of their home-stand.

In plainer English, that’s message-sending made easy. Win your first game at home against Detroit and end the last game of your home-stand on a high note and you’ve informed your opponent that you’re learned your lessons. The Wings more or less have to do the same thing with their two remaining games against San Jose, so I don’t need to tell you that Phoenix is going to put a little more importance upon their meetings with Detroit than the Wings might feel urgency to handily defeat the Coyotes.

The Coyotes certainly seem to frame tonight’s game as the start of their opportunity to make a season-saving stand, as Shane Doan told the Arizona Repbulic’s Paola Boivin:

“We’ve got to take care of business now,” Doan said. “We’ve managed to stay around .500 but we know we could be much better than that. We’ve got to make sure we make some hay and go after it.”

The Coyotes’ next six games and eight of nine are at home. Although their road record is slightly better than their home mark, the numbers are a bit misleading. Only once since Nov. 26 did the team have back-to-back home games. It’s hard to find your footing at home when you’re almost always heading to the airport right after the game.

This is a team easy to embrace because of all the adversity tossed its way. It has been hamstrung much of the season with ownership issues that have left the team’s payroll under the salary cap and have prevented management from fully addressing depth issues. When injuries come into play, as they have for the Coyotes, depth is everything. And not to go all conspiracy theorist but it sure feels as if the NHL, which temporarily owns the team, did the Coyotes no favors with this schedule.

These challenges force the team to play with a very small margin of error. The Coyotes remain in the hunt for the postseason but need to take advantage of this home-friendly stretch. With a little more than a third of their schedule remaining, the Coyotes sit 11th out of 15 Western Conference teams battling for eight playoff spots. The race for the final three is tight, with Minnesota, Colorado, Dallas, Calgary and the Coyotes all within three points of each other entering Wednesday’s games. Overcoming depth issues are key. Injuries, including those to Martin Hanzal and Boyd Gordon, hurt. Key, too, is improving on an abysmal power-play unit that converts only 13.2 percent of the time, a number only the Canadiens can “top.”

The Coyotes have delivered encouraging signs, too. Several of their best—Doan, Radim Vrbata, Ray Whitney—are playing well recently, a sign that the team is performing the way it was designed to be. Nine days after posting his first hat trick in a 5-1 victory over the Islanders, Doan scored two more in a 6-1 victory over Colorado. Vrbata has six goals and nine points in his past eight games.

“This last little stretch here could be the best I’ve seen Vrby play,” coach Dave Tippett said. “He’s elevated his game now that’s he’s taken it to another level. He’s confident with the puck, he wants the puck. He has the puck so much, he gives himself so many opportunities to score. He’s engaged in all parts of the game.”

And he’s a Wing-killer.

NHL.com’s Pete Jensen summarizes tonight’s affair as follows…

Season Series: Thursday’s clash marks the third of four regular-season meetings between Detroit and Phoenix. These Western Conference foes have met in each of the last two postseasons, with the Red Wings winning both series. Detroit has taken both head-to-head meetings this season on home ice, and squares off with Phoenix for the second time in seven days after a 3-2 shootout triumph against the Coyotes on Jan. 12 at Joe Louis Arena.

Big Story: The Red Wings return to Jobing.com Arena for the first time since completing a four-game sweep of the Coyotes in the opening round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Detroit storms into the desert riding a four-game win streak after earning a 3-2 road shootout victory against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday. Phoenix, meanwhile, ran into the surging Anaheim Ducks and suffered a 6-2 road defeat on Wednesday night.
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Who’s Hot: Valtteri Filppula has been a point-per-game force for the Red Wings as of late, compiling five goals and seven assists over his last 12 games. …

Injury Report: Kurt Sauer (post-concussion syndrome), Martin Hanzal (upper body), and David Schlemko (lower body) are on IR for Phoenix. … Patrick Eaves (jaw) is expected to miss Thursday’s game for Detroit.

Stat Pack: The Red Wings have five players among the League leaders in plus-minus, with Ian White at plus-25 (T-4th), Johan Franzen at plus-24 (T-6th), Nicklas Lidstrom at plus-22 (T-9th), Todd Bertuzzi at plus-21 (T-11th) and Pavel Datsyuk at plus-20 (T-13th).

Puck Drop: Phoenix sports the second-worst power play conversion percentage (12.9 percent) in the League, and struggled again in that regard by going 0-for-4 on the man advantage in Wednesday’s loss to Anaheim.

The Wings haven’t done too swell, either. They’ve gone 3-for-40 over the last 13 games, and on Wednesday, the Free Press’s Helene St. James noted that the Wings’ rate of scoring on the road has not placed the Wings in a position to succeed on a regular-enough basis for coach Mike Babcock:

Coach Mike Babcock had a good line following the Dallas victory, while talking about why they’re so much more porous on the road.

“We’re averaging 1.7 (goals) against at home, and we’re averaging 2.8 on the road,” he said. “You can’t win without checking. It’s impossible. It doesn’t work like that. You can’t outscore your mistakes. You’ve got to be diligent without the puck if you’re to have success.”

The Wings disappeared for stretches of the first period Tuesday, and while that’s common for teams playing a second straight night, it also has been a common sight in road games, be the Wings fresh or not. They’ll next get to test their resolve to be more aggressive Thursday, when they play at Phoenix. The Wings are able, at times, to pull out victories when they play comeback hockey (though all they ever trailed by Tuesday was one goal), but they make it much easier on themselves when they command the game early, like at home.

That’s pretty much it for the Wings game previews due to the lack of practicing on Wednesday, though the Associated Press’s game preview adds a little meat to a scrawny winged wheel’s bones…

Detroit seeks a second consecutive road win for the first time in six weeks when it faces slumping Phoenix on Thursday night. The Red Wings (30-15-1) are one point behind Western Conference-leading Chicago, but haven’t won consecutive road contests since winning four straight Nov. 19-Dec. 2. They’re in position to do so again, though, after a 3-2 shootout win Tuesday at Dallas. Jiri Hudler scored in regulation and added the winner in the tiebreaker, while Ty Conklin made 25 saves through overtime.

The Wings’ 12-13-0 road mark has been offset by a franchise-record 15 consecutive home wins and an 18-2-1 record at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit has allowed 69 goals on the road - nearly double the 36 it has yielded at home.

“We talked a lot about that today,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We’re averaging 1.7 (goals-against) at home and 2.7 against on the road. You can’t win without checking. It’s impossible. You can’t outscore your mistakes. You’ve got to be diligent without the puck if you’re going to have success.”

Detroit, which has won four in a row overall, is likely to be playing in front of All-Star goaltender Jimmy Howard, who got the night off Tuesday. Howard leads the NHL with 27 wins and has a 1.98 goals-against average, though he’s 1-2-0 with a 3.72 GAA in his last three road starts.
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Getting points hasn’t been a problem for the Wings in their recent trips to Phoenix. Including postseason, Detroit is 14-2-2 in the desert since the start of 2005-06.

Howard is 6-0-1 with a 2.24 GAA in his last seven road starts against the Coyotes, with the last two victories coming in last season’s playoffs. He’s also won six straight starts overall versus Phoenix, including a 3-2 shootout home victory last Thursday.
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[T]he Coyotes have outscored their opponents 11-2 while winning their last two home games. Boyd Gordon and Shane Doan each scored twice in a 6-1 victory over Colorado on Monday.

And the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan kind of rubs some salt in what is still an open wound:

Did you know? This could be the first of the last two visits to Phoenix the Wings make. Because of ownership problems, there’s talk of the Coyotes moving again.

Ixnay on the ownershipay alkytay.  NHL commissioner Gary Bettman refused to speculate on the situation when he was “passing through” Anaheim, though he told the Orange County Register’s Eric Stephens (check out the 5:15 mark of the video) that the NHL is “further along” in its Winter Classic discussions with any potential hosts than it was a year ago at this time.

As of the time I’m writing this, the NHL has yet to list its referees or linesmen’s assignments for tonight’s game.

 

Part II: I’ve got something to say about this: Amongst all the Winter Classic talk, the Vancouver Sun’s Cam Cole kind of went off on the concept as a manufactured event for spectacle and money’s sake.

Well, duh, at least since the advent of artificially-refrigerated rinks. Tomas Holmstrom might be the only member of both the Wings and Leafs who can say he grew up skating outside, and that’s because he very literally grew up near the Arctic Circle.

This is about money and ratings, and if it wasn’t about those things, the NHL wouldn’t be spicing up the format half-a-decade into it by adding a Canadian team with two teams’ worth of press members following it on a daily basis, nor, as the Detroit Free Press notes, is the NHL choosing to spiking their attendance by trying to set a world record (some of Wednesday’s reports suggested that the NHL will try to push Michigan Stadium’s capacity to 115,000 for the event, and I don’t think I need to tell you that if you’re in the “upper bowl” at the event, you’re going to need binoculars to watch what your $100-plus seat paid you to observe from almost a quarter mile away from the action).

Hell, there’s a reason that the Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk and Rick Westhead accurately suggest that the bone the NHL’s throwing Mike Ilitch by staging a Wings-Leafs alumni game and other events at Comerica Park is at least worth the NHl Alumni fighting over the proceeds for, with more than a few alums having turned down attending the event for that very reason. According to Feschuk and Westhead, the Flyers were so Flyer-y in terms of their ham-handing of proceeds that they may have paid for the Alums’ airfare, hotel rooms and maybe their lunch money, but went so far as to charge them $50 apiece for sticks.

You and I know that the NHL’s going to make a mint selling all those seats to Michigan Stadium, and that the Ilitches will get more than a small consolation out of selling 45,000 seats for fans to simply watch the Grind Line reunite and Larry Murphy and Mickey Redmond leave the announcer’s booth at the same time.

Only Chris Chelios, who’s still drawing a paycheck from the Wings as a player mentor, seemed a little lost as to the fact that even the alumni game’s milked for all it’s wort. Here’s what he had to say to Feschuk and Westhead:

On Wednesday the Detroit Red Wings announced they’ll play host to the next Winter Classic; it is widely assumed that the Toronto Maple Leafs will be their opponent. If previous outdoor games have been lucrative, it’s expected that Red Wings-Maple Leafs — with the feature match taking place at the University of Michigan’s famed football stadium and its 100,000-plus capacity — will break all attendance and revenue records. Certainly an alumni game featuring Detroit and Toronto legends will be a draw; according to sources in Detroit, organizers are considering holding the alumni game and other events on a separate sheet of ice at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, this as a concession to Red Wings proprietor Mike Ilitch, who also owns the Tigers.

Certainly, until last year, the alumni game wasn’t seen as such a stand-alone attraction. A year ago in Pittsburgh, though the Hall of Fame likes of Mario Lemieux and Paul Coffey were among the alumni-game roster, the league was criticized for missing a golden opportunity to sell thousands upon thousands of tickets. Apparently concerned about the logistical challenge posed by a week that also saw the Pittsburgh Steelers partake in an NFL game at the Winter Classic venue, the league capped ticket sales for the alumni event at about 10,000. This year, the mistake wasn’t repeated. Flyers season ticket holders who wished to attend the Winter Classic were also required to purchase tickets to the alumni game and an AHL outdoor game.

There are ex-players who believe the status quo is perfectly acceptable. Former Red Wings defenceman Chris Chelios, who played in the NHL from 1983 to 2010, said he has no problem with retired players not being paid to participate in alumni games.

“There’s a lineup of guys around the block who want to play in this game,” Chelios said. “There’s so much interest that there’s talk about a ‘B’ team coming, just to scrimmage there even if there’s no one watching them play. I’d play for free for sure.”

Player advocates would argue that Chelios’s just-happy-to-play mentality echoes NHLers of a few generations ago whose competitive urge and general contentment allowed owners to horde revenues while players worked summer jobs. Chelios shrugged off concerns that players were being charged for sticks to use in the Philadelphia alumni game.

“That’s the way the economy is now,” said Chelios, who now works for the Red Wings. “It used to be you could take a few sticks home after practice every game to autograph and give away. It’s not like that any more.”

None of this, from the very creation, has anything to do with attempting to evoke authentic memories of learning how to play the game on a frozen pond, nor is it about the purity of sport, the relative hotness of what has sadly become a dormant rivalry in the Wings-Leafs battles of old or even giving fans bang for what will surely be an expensive buck’s worth of cold and possibly rainy (given Michigan weather) day’s worth of planting your ass on a metal bench halfway to South Quad.

There’s a reason that when I lived near Michigan Stadium—for six years—I attended all of one game. I learned the hard way that actually hauling ass from East Hoover to the stadium with fifty thousand of my closest friends to meet the other 50,000, and then stand up for four hours in what was either blinding sun and heat or freezing cold, wind, and rain (sometimes all of the above, especially in November), all to watch a game you can barely watch on anything other than the replay screens which weren’t installed when I was around…

Let me put it this way: just as college football games are generally made-for-TV events unless you really, really like crowds, lines, paying $10 for a $1 bottle of pop and DVR’ing the event you’re attending so that you can see what really happened simply because you’re willing to spend hundreds of dollars and long hours spent in traffic, in line and on your feet in heavy weather and heavier perspiration (not to mention Leaf fans’ Ohio State-worthy obnoxiousness) to simply say that you’ve “been there.”

This is about money, and if we’re pretending that it’s going to be anything less than uncomfortable, both literally and financially, to actually attend this artificial construct, we’re kidding ourselves.

So what? It’s still going to be fun. Just make sure the damn alums, PA and Wings get their cut after you’re done paying off the NCAA, the State of Michigan for the liquor licenses and offering what we’ve learned are the necessary palm-greasings are necessary to do business with Wayne County and the soon-to-be-bankrupt city of Detroit.

So it is. You’ve got eleven months to plan this, NHL, Wings, U of M, Ann Arbor, Detroit, all of you. Make sure that people have places to park, transportation to and from the facilities, make sure that they are safe and can get warm and/or dry if necessary, make sure they’ve got something to eat, something to drink and somewhere to pee, make sure that you don’t make tickets so exclusively available to season ticket-holders and corporate partners that even Michigan Stadium and Comerica Park will seem like small facilities, and make sure you don’t gouge them so pathetically that the people who pay $100 to stand up in the last row feel that they at least got a decent time out of the equation, because we know prices will only go up from there.

All of this is like arguing about a push-up bra. Size doesn’t really matter, but it’s the illusion that seems to entice the paying customers.

 

Part III: Red Wings notebooks: If you haven’t read Nick Place’s narration of a road trip gone horribly wrong from a fan’s perspective, via the Detroit News, read it now;

• The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan more or less reiterated MLive’s Ansar Khan’s trade deadline column, noting that the Wings’ pro and amateur scouts are meeting in Las Vegas this weekend, and that they, Ken Holland and Jim Nill are not incredibly likely to make a major move.

Kulfan did, however, offer a notebook feature about Detroit’s favorite goalie not named Jimmy Howard, and the fact that performances like Conklin’s 25-save effort in Dallas and his shootout victory over Chicago are allowing a seldom-used goalie to stake claim to his own job:

“We found a way to gut out two points and it was good for Conks,” said Babcock of the victory, “because he hasn’t done a ton of winning this year.”

Conklin simply hasn’t played much up until now. But that could be changing a bit with Howard likely to get a few breathers heading into the playoffs, and Conklin in spiring confidence.

“They won’t be put me in unless I play well,” Conklin said.

Conklin, 35, has been a back-up for most of his 9-year NHL career and is comfortable in that role. Few players on the Wings are more popular and liked than Conklin, who is as supportive a teammate as there is.

“You know your role on the team and try to contribute in other areas,” Conklin said. “My role on the team is going to be the back up goalie. Howie is going to play the majority of the games, as he should, he’s probably been our best player this year. But it’s nice to be able to contribute, and you feel like you contribute a more quality game when you play a little bit more.”

Conklin gave up goals to Dallas forwards Brendan Morrow and Loui Eriksson in the first period but both were fluky deflections that he could do little about.

“I felt good throughout the game,” Conklin said. “There were a couple of deflection goals, but not goals I’m going to lose sleep over.”

• It must be Fan Favorite day, because the Free Press’s Helene St. James profiled the resurgent

Jiri Hudler (no Ericsson today?):

Hudler’s instincts with the puck are the main reason the Wings kept faith in him even after last season, when he struggled to regain his NHL game after a year in Russia’s KHL. Hudler had just 10 goals and 37 points during the regular season and was a nonfactor in the second-round series against the Sharks. Hudler has 13 goals and 29 points this season.

“We just felt that he’d get it back if he got to work,” Babcock said. “Huds is a good kid and likes the game and plays the game hard, and he’s got a good talent level. Good for us.”

Good for the slow-starting Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula, too:

“Huds start playing with Fil and Z, he consistent, he get points,” Datsyuk said. “And he score and sometimes he look like fake Z.”

That comment was in reference to the reach-around backhand Hudler used in Tuesday’s shoot-out, a move favored by Zetterberg and popularized by former NHL star Peter Forsberg. It further solidified that the Wings again can count on Hudler to produce in big moments.

“He’s playing really well with confidence,” Zetterberg said. “I think the one thing he’s really improved on is the defensive end of his play. 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.”

Zetterberg said Hudler is “kind of like Pavel—you can’t really tell him what to do. He figures it out by himself.”

With his NHL footing re-established, Hudler can even look back on last season and laugh. When it was brought up Tuesday, Hudler smiled and replied, “What are you talking about? What are you talking about? Every game I’m trying to play the same. I’m putting some pressure on myself. I want to play good, I want to help this team and be a part of this team.”

And no, Hudler’s not “Fake Z,” despite the fact that he wears a pair of Warrior gloves modeled off Zetterberg’s (which are hybrids of the Kris Draper/Marian Hossa narrow Franchise, the Eastons that Dan Cleary wears and the “wrist wraps” that came on the old Zero Shock gloves Zetterberg wore when he broke into the league. I know).

This is Fake Z, and here’s the second season finale of Fake Henrik Zetterberg:

Besides, Zetterberg made sure to tell Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom that his move isn’t a Peter Forsberg copy—Kent “The Magic Man” Nilsson invented it.

 

Part IV: Also of Red Wings-related note: Speaking of alumni, per the Muskegon Chronicle’s Ron Rop:

Darren McCarty, Joe Kocur, John Ogrodnick and Kevin Miller have committed to playing in the Red Wings Alumni Game against the Muskegon Hockey Heroes on Feb. 11 at L.C. Walker Arena.

“On behalf of our entire community, I say thank you to the Detroit Red Wings Alumni Association and the players committed to playing in his game,” Lumberjack president Tim Taylor said. “It’ll be awesome to see a hybrid “Grind Line” of McCarty, Kocur and Kris Draper on our ice.”

Muskegon players recently added include Jock Callander, Robin Bouchard, Scott Feasby, Drew Callander, Phil Russell and Jason Lawmaster.

The game is 7:15 p.m. on Feb. 11 at L.C. Walker Arena. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 3-12.

• In other community-related hockey news, Michigan Hockey’s Michael Caples notes that his website now has a dedicated page highlighting the events surrounding Hockey Day in Michigan on February 18th;

• I have to mention this press release that the Griffins sent me regarding the Griffins’ activities, too:

GRIFFINS COMMUNITY EVENTS - JAN. 19-22, 2012:
 
THURSDAY, JAN. 19: 1-2 p.m. - Six Griffins players and wives—Doug & Kristen Janik, Jamie & Lisa Johnson, Tom McCollum and Sebastien Piche—will pack sack suppers at Kids’ Food Basket (2055 Oak Industrial Drive).

SATURDAY, JAN. 21 - SUNDAY, JAN. 22: Noon-10 p.m. Saturday - The Griffins will host the 2012 Great Skate Winterfest at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids, to benefit the Griffins Youth Foundation. This celebration of winter in our city features a day full of winter-inspired events, sports demonstrations and family activities, including snowboarding and dog sled rides.

10 p.m. Saturday-10 p.m. Sunday - The event concludes with the 10th annual “Great Skate,” a 24-hour skating marathon during which every Griffins player and coach will skate for at least one hour around the clock, joined by hundreds of fans. For more information and a complete schedule of Griffins skating times, visit http://www.griffinshockey.com/greatskate.

• Because it’s charity, here’s a reprint from Red Wings community relations manager Christy Hammond:

Wings partner with actress for charity

Collecting new mittens and gloves for local non-profits at JLA

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

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

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

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

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

What: Mittens for Detroit Collection

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

Where: Each of the Four Entrances to Joe Louis Arena

• In the power rankings category, the Flint Journal’s Brendan Savage is pursuing a collation of power rankings with much more gusto than I ever will, in no small part because they keep rolling in throughout the week. The CBC’s Tim Wharnsby tossed off a list of rankings on Wednesday evening…

2. DETROIT RED WINGS (30-15-1) It has been hard to ignore the Red Wings success at home with a franchise record 15 in a row at Joe Louis Arena. (Last Week: 7)

And the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan “elite Eight” and “Bottom Five” snuck his into a blog entry:

4) Detroit - The Red Wings have the slight edge over St. Louis and Chicago because of goalie Jimmy Howard, who has been outstanding.

• And finally, I’m going to ask a curious question: does anyone know a Reebok or Easton equipment rep that could help the birthday fairy (me) land a pair of 15,” Red Wings-red 4 or 5-roll hockey gloves for my fabulous 34th on Superbowl Sunday?

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SYF's avatar

“There’s a lineup of guys around the block who want to play in this game,” Chelios said. “There’s so much interest that there’s talk about a ‘B’ team coming, just to scrimmage there even if there’s no one watching them play. I’d play for free for sure.”

Good man.  Good, good man.

George, I don’t say it often but thanks for these Wings news roundups.  Outstanding.

Posted by SYF from Alana Blanchard's Bikinis and Surfboards on 01/19/12 at 03:56 PM ET

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* Happy Birthday in advance.  Try John Wangler in Berkley; Top Cat Sales.  He sells Reebok equipment, has a sample sale every fall.

Posted by shellsville from Bloomfield Hills on 01/19/12 at 04:26 PM ET

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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.