The Malik Report
Red Wings-Flyers game-day updates: No changes for either team; news about the Griffins’ Swedish line
by George Malik on 03/06/12 at 03:01 PM ET
Updated 8x at 6:32 PM: As the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers prepare to face off tonight (7 PM on the dot, not 7:30; FSD/CSN Philly/97.1 the Ticket), Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia’s Tim Panaccio and NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman expect no lineup changes for both teams this evening after the Wingsi and Flyers engaged in “optional” skates this morning:
Optional skate for Flyers today - no Briere, Jagr, Giroux, Hartnell, Timonen, Meszaros or Carle
Bryzgalov first goalie off for Flyers
Appears to be an optional skate for Wings. Franzen and Holmstrom among 10 guys on the ice
Babcock said he’s not sure if Wings will watch Mark Howe ceremony from bench. Said he’ll let players make the choice
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi also reports that there will be no roster surprises for either team, but it’s also worth noting that he believes that the Mark Howe jersey retirement ceremony will take place promptly at 7 PM (and the Courier-Post’s Randy Miller reports that the game is slated to start at 7:26 PM):
“@JENerically: @BroadStBull is there a set time for Mark Howe jersey retirement to start Tues?” I believe 7, but I wld be seated by 6:45.
As expected, Bryz will make his ninth straight start tonight. #Flyers
The No. 2 Mark Howe jersey that will hang from the WFC rafters tonight is shown in the bowels of the arena.#Flyers http://t.co/NugjiDIK
#Red Wings are expected to be without 6 players tonight vs. #Flyers: Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Howard, Bertuzzi, Kindl and Ericsson.
#Flyers will be missing [Andrej Meszaros], [Kimmo] Timonen an [James Van Riemsdyk].
In fact, the biggest Flyers story of the morning comes from Panaccio, who reports that Nicklas Grossman has changed the spelling of his name to “Grossmann” because that’s what it says on his passport (Niklas “Kronvall” chose not to do the same thing).
Here’s Carchidi’s morning skate report:
The Detroit Red Wings, who resemble a M*A*S*H unit, will be severely depleted when they face the Flyers on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Mark Howe’s No. 2 Flyers jersey will be retired in a pregame ceremony The Red Wings will be without leading scorer Pavel Datsyuk (59 points), captain Nicklas Lidstrom (plus-25), goalie Jimmy Howard (2.05 GAA), winger Todd Bertuzzi (12 goals), and defensemen Jakub Kindl (plus-6) and Jonathan Ericsson (plus-17). All are injured.
Howard’s replacement, Joey MacDonald, has been superb. In 10 games, he is 7-2-1 with a 1.69 GAA and .933 save percentage.
The Flyers, who have played most of the season without captain Chris Pronger, will be missing three injured players: defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros, and winger James van Riemsdyk.
Revived goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, whose save percentage has finally inched over the .900 mark, will make his ninth straight start for the Flyers. Bryzgalov is 24-13-6 with a 2.72 GAA and .901 save percentage. In his last nine starts, he has a 2.16 GAA.
A pre-game ceremony will include a career video montage of Howe, and there will be some guest speakers.
“Mark was the best Flyers defenseman ever,” said club executive Bob Clarke. “Every game he played was to help the Flyers win. There was no “I” in Mark’s game.”
The Free Press’s Helene St. James provides our first Red Wings-related Twitter updates
Nothing scintillating from #RedWings am skate here in Philly. Babcock said injured guys “are still injured.”
Regarding Lidstrom, who will miss 4th game tonight, Babcock said, “I know he felt a lot better yesterday.”
Lines are expected to be: 51-40-26; 41-8-11; 20-43-93; 96-48-39. MacDonald in goal.
Flyers will retire Mark Howe’s no. 2 before the game, so game not expected to start before 7:26 p.m. #RedWings
(con’t) Babcock: “and hopefully I won’t have to answer that question everyday for a while.”
Here’s her morning skate report:
The Wings and Flyers square off at 7 p.m. (FSD) at Wells Fargo Center. The Wings haven’t won here since January of ‘97, losing six straight, but they are 1-0 against the Flyers this season after winning at home, 4-3, last month.
Lots of guys are out for Detroit: Captain Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle), leading scorer Pavel Datsyuk (knee), no. 1 goaltender Jimmy Howard (lower body), forward Todd Bertuzzi (groin) and defenseman Jakub Kindl (upper body). Asked if there were any updates on any of them this morning, Detroit coach Mike Babcock smiled and said, “well, they’re still injured. They’re not here.
“Obviously, we’re just like anybody else. We’re trying to get our players back as fast as we possibly can. We feel it’s important to finish as high in the standings as we can, and so getting those guys back is critical. At the same time, being healthy is real important, and it’s hard to play when you’re not healthy.”
Asked specifically about Lidstrom, who will miss a fourth straight game tonight, Babcock said, “I know he felt a lot better yesterday.”
Before the game, a guy with ties to both teams will be honored, as the Flyers will retire former defenseman Mark Howe’s no. 2. Howe, son of Wings legend Gordie Howe, played for the Flyers for 10 seasons. After finishing his career in Detroit, he is now a scout for the Wings.
Babcock didn’t expect the roughly 20-minute ceremony to impact the Wings. “It’s 20 minutes difference, but, it’s like anything - why would you let that get in the way of your success. Just great prepared. It’s a great honor for Howie. Well deserved. He was a great Flyer.”
1. RAREST OF OCCASIONS
The Flyers will retire Mark Howe’s #2 jersey tonight… It is the first time the club has retired a jersey number since Oct. 11, 1990 (#7 - Bill Barber) and just the FIFTH time in team history: (#4 - Barry Ashbee, Apr. 3, 1975) (#1 - Bernie Parent, Oct. 11, 1979) (#16 - Bob Clarke, Nov. 15, 1984).
2. EMOTIONAL VICTORIES
Only three of the four occasions in which the Flyers retired a jersey number has there been a game played afterwards (Barber, Clarke, Parent)… The Flyers won all three games handily, outscoring their opponent by an 18-7 margin. (Parent: 5-2 W vs. NY Islanders, Clarke: 6-1 W vs. Hartford, Barber: 7-4 W vs. Devils)
3. CLOSE CALLS
Both teams have played in close games recently… The Flyers have had three of their last four games decided by one goal, while the six of the last eight Red Wings games have also been decided by one goal… In their only meeting of the year, the Red Wings took a 4-3 victory from the Flyers at Detroit.
4. Player to watch DETROIT: Valtteri Filppula
Filppula has been on a scoring tear lately… He has recorded four goals and seven points in his last four games… He currently ranks second on the team in goals (21) and third overall in points (53).
5. Player to watch FLYERS: Ilya Bryzgalov
Coming off his third shutout of the season in which he made 34 saves, Ilya Bryzgalov has posted a 1.33 GAA and .951 save percentage in his last three starts, stopping 77 of 81 shots.
• If you wish to feel warm fuzzies about Scott Hartnell, CSN Philadelphia’s Sarah Baicker will provide them, but you might be more interested in Mark Howe’s reasons behind his decision to eventually leave Philadelphia to conclude his career as a Red Wing, via Jay Greenberg…
“My Mom (Colleen) always taught me to make lists,” said Howe. “The list of reasons to go was heavily weighted. Play on a team that had a chance for me to win again, wear the uniform of my Dad, a promise of a job in the organization for two years after I finished playing in about two years. I didn’t feel part of the Flyers’ mix anymore. Everybody was gone. I asked [GM] Russ Farwell, ‘Why do you still want me?’ He said they wanted me to play hopefully 40 games and set an example for the young players. Not the right answer when [Detroit coach] Bryan Murray had said he wanted me on the second power play and penalty-killing units. So on the ‘stay’ list was just two things. My son Travis was 14, ready to start high school, and he came home every day saying ‘Dad please don’t leave.’ That was killing me. But the most pressing part was my heart was in Philly and a part of it always will be.”
The Red Wings sweetened their offer. Thus for his final three seasons Howe went where a Howe should have been all along. (Although in Snider’s eyes that wasn’t true, even if Mike Illitch’s promise of a two-year job with Detroit has turned into a Director of Pro Scouting position 17 years later.) Howe lives near Trenton, scouts in Philly often. It’s still home.
“No way would I consider my career complete without the years in Philadelphia,” said Howe.
This has been an incredible seven months – joining his father in the Hockey Hall of Fame, the birth of his first grandchild Ella Colleen and the marriage of his son Travis, blessings balancing the withering loss of his old Flyers defense partner and post-career tight friend Brad McCrimmon in a September plane crash that killed the entire Russian team he was coaching. Reason to mourn and yet another reason to celebrate life. Mark’s mother Colleen, the whirlwind who shepherded his hockey development and Hockey’s First Family to Houston of the WHA, passed away three years ago from a hideous, protracted, brain-robbing thing called Pick’s Disease. But Gordie, of course, will be beaming on the premises Tuesday night and the Red Wings – how great is this – get a chance to share their love, too, for a star with the ultimate hockey birthright who nevertheless dedicated his career to sharing himself.
Howe’s youngest brother Murray, the radiologist, says Mark is the most unselfish person he knows. So it hasn’t just been on the ice that Howe has made everyone around him better.
“This year I made sure I went to the Devils game to see [Scott] Niedermeyer’s number retired,” Howe said. “I always look up to those whom I respect for being the players they were and the people they are. When the Rangers did Adam Graves and Mark Messier, I put it on my scouting schedule. I played against those guys and I like to see them rewarded for what they did. But I don’t look at myself that way. I know I had some more success than some other guys, but I was one of the players on those teams that Ed Snider tells me should be honored. But being on the ice, seeing that banner go up, I know it will be awesome.”
CSN Philly’s Panaccio also posted an article about the Flyers’ short-staffed blueline…
Timonen (back issues) and Meszaros (suspected groin) remain out indefinitely, though a source said their injuries are not serious enough to threaten the remainder of the season or postseason. The Flyers got a strong performance from Andreas Lilja, who had sat six previous games, but came off the bench to provide almost 16 minutes along with rookie call-up Erik Gustafsson, who gave the Flyers another 15:24.
“He did a good job jumping in,” Laviolette said of Lilja. “You talk about managing minutes, the guys we put in there were veteran players and he was one of them with the two guys we traded for. I thought we did a decent job defensively. We rolled the defensemen over pretty good and got a lot out of them.”
The next question is how this team divvies up the minutes in losing two of its top four D-men.
“Injuries happen,” Braydon Coburn said. “The good thing is we have a lot of defensive depth like Lills and Gus just waiting in the wings to show what they have. Myself, Matty [Carle] and Kube [Pavel Kubina] and Gross [Nicklas Grossman], anytime you get a chance to play minutes and contribute, everyone wants a chance to play. Especially, defense. The more you can play the more you can get into a rhythm and get involved in a game. That’s a good thing.”
As well as the Flyers’ takes on their task at hand:
“We want to make sure that we make it a tough place when they come to that primary scoring area [crease],” Coburn said. “The [Caps] had some chance and it great because Bryz [Ilya Bryzgalov] held the fort for us. When you have a 1-0 game, you need your goalie to make some big saves and when we needed him to, he made some big saves.”
Detroit (89 points) has 10 more points than the Flyers, yet only occupies the second seed in the equally competitive Central Division, which much like the Atlantic, has four teams right now qualifying for the playoffs. The Red Wings are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, yet have been very pedestrian on the road with a 16-16-1 record. Then again, the Flyers have been equally challenged at home where they are just 15-10-5. The last time these two teams met – mid-February in Motown – the Red Wings eked out a 4-3 win.
“I liked the way we played in Detroit,” Laviolette said. “I thought we played good enough to win that hockey game. We played them a couple times this year … they’ve got some real capable forwards. The one thing they bring, is that veteran team. They’ve got guys who have played a long time and they’re experienced. We need to try and kill them with youth and enthusiasm.”
If you need to read another game preview, CSN Philly provides an extra one for your perusal.
-C Darren Helm, relied on primarily for speed, energy and checking, is picking up the pace offensively. He a made a couple of good moves in the offensive zone to set up Niklas Kronwall for a goal. Helm has six points (three goals, three assists) in his past seven games.
—D Niklas Kronwall has seven points in his past three games (one goal, six assists), the most productive stretch of his career. He has been more active offensively, jumping up into the play and shooting the puck more.
—G Joey MacDonald faced only 13 shots over the final two periods in relief of the injured Jimmy Howard, but he suffered the loss when Patrick Kane snapped a 1-1 tie at 18:41 of the second period. It snapped MacDonald’s seven-game winning streak. He is 7-2-1 since being recalled from Grand Rapids (AHL) to replace an ineffective Ty Conklin.
—G Jimmy Howard (lower-body injury) is day-to-day.
—D Jakub Kindl (upper-body injury) is day-to-day.
—D Nicklas Lidstrom (swollen ankle) is expected to return in early March.
—D Jonathan Ericsson suffered a fractured wrist on Feb. 25 and is out until late March.
—C Pavel Datsyuk had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Feb. 21 and will be out until mid-March.
—RW Patrick Eaves (fractured jaw on Nov. 26) is out indefinitely with post-concussion symptoms.
• In light of the announcement that Steve Yzerman will serve as Team Canada’s GM for the 2014 Olympics, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun and Craig Custance believe that Yzerman will tap Mike Babcock on the shoulder to coach Team Canada…
LeBrun: Babcock would be my choice, just like Yzerman, because why fix something that isn’t broken? He’s one of the best coaches in the league and showed incredible resolve in Vancouver when the team struggled early on, making the tough decision to bench Martin Brodeur. That’s the guy I want back behind the Olympic bench.
And the gents pondered whether Jimmy Howard will be in the mix as one of Team USA’s potential netminders:
[Custance] Since the last Olympics, Tim Thomas has emerged as the best American goalie but he’ll be 39 in 2014. Ryan Miller has been great lately for Buffalo but inconsistent since leading Team USA to the silver medal in Vancouver. Jonathan Quick certainly is in the mix and my sleeper choice is Cory Schneider, who should be starting somewhere in the NHL by 2014. Is it too much to ask for a Schneider vs. Roberto Luongo gold-medal game?
LeBrun: I can’t believe you’re based in Detroit and you didn’t mention Jimmy Howard as a potential Olympic goalie for Team USA? C’mon, man! If we had to choose the teams today, I’d go Miller-Quick-Howard for Team USA and I’d be bold enough to say the Americans would have an edge over Canada in goal. Of course, Miller was tournament MVP in Vancouver and it still wasn’t good enough to win gold. What will Canada do in net? I’m not sure Luongo returns. To me it comes down to Marc-Andre Fleury, Carey Price and Cam Ward as the three netminders in Sochi. Because the tournament is still two years away, it will be interesting to see Price’s continued development as a high-end starter in this league and whether he’ll be the main man in Sochi, or if Fleury can hold him off. Up front, Yzerman will have a bunch of new faces to look at, including the likes of Steven Stamkos, Claude Giroux, John Tavares and Jamie Benn—none of whom were in Vancouver two years ago. Tough choices ahead for Yzerman.
Custance: Sorry, Jimmy. You’re right, Pierre, Howard should have been in there.
• In the “miscellaneous chatter” department, ESPN’s LeBrun answered a somewhat Wings-related “rant” question which involves the whole Regulation or Overtime Win tiebreaker…
Dead Hex: My beef here is with the tiebreaking procedures. I just don’t understand why it makes sense to take away shootout wins before looking at overtime losses. The argument is that shootout wins mean less than a regulation win does, but couldn’t you make the argument that an overtime loss means less than a shootout win? Admittedly, I’m not a fan of teams getting points for an overtime loss, after all, a loss is a loss, but if they insist on sticking with it, I think that OTL should be the first tiebreaker, and not wins adjusted without shootout wins.
LeBrun: The NHL’s 30 GMs enacted the ROW tiebreaker rule (it’s in its second year) as a way to minimize the impact of the shootout. It’s the same reason Wings GM Ken Holland would like to see an extra five minutes of overtime added, but three-on-three, in order to end games playing hockey as opposed to the shootout. He represents the vast majority of GMs on that account. They can’t stand the shootout. They know the fans like it, so they’ll live with it, but they don’t want it to decide who makes the playoffs or not. Hence, shootout wins have been eliminated from the tiebreaker formula. I’ve got a better idea: Why don’t we just scrap the shootout?
• And Custance made an intriguing comments about a certain Red Wings goaltender in his Insider blog:
It’ll be interesting to see if Marty Turco clears waivers after signing with the Boston Bruins in a deal worth $600,000, according to Pierre LeBrun. If he clears waivers, he can join the Bruins on Wednesday, but you can’t help but wonder if an Eastern Conference rival will consider claiming Turco simply to block him from joining the Bruins.
One of the reasons the Detroit Red Wings didn’t call up Ty Conklin after Jimmy Howard injured his groin was because he would have been placed on re-entry waivers and the team would have risked losing him. With the way he’s playing in the AHL, Conklin would have been a better option for the Bruins than Turco. And he’d be cheaper, since the Red Wings would have had to split the tab.
Yeah, but how could the Bruins convince the Wings to waive Conklin—who’s more or less the impetus behind the Grand Rapids Griffins’ utterly remarkable playoff push of late—with the trade deadline long past? Would a wink-wink-nudge-nudge slate of “future considerations” be involved? I just don’t see the Wings letting Conklin go given both his status as playoff insurance and the remarkable impact he’s had upon the Griffins.
• Speaking of the Griffins, Griffinshockey.com’s Kyle Kujawa penned a column which discusses the successes of the Griffins’ all-Swedish line of Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson and Fabian Brunnstrom for TheAHL.com—and Brunnstrom addresses the fact that the Wings haven’t called him up in some time, too
During the Grand Rapids Griffins’ recent five-game winning streak, head coach Curt Fraser sent out the same starting forward combination each night: Fabian Brunnstrom and Gustav Nyquist on the wings, centered by Joakim Andersson.
It’s a unit that Fraser has used on and off this season, and one that has certainly been productive. And it isn’t hard to figure out why, as all three players were born and raised in Sweden.
“They’re good players,” said Andersson, who hails from Munkedal, of his linemates. “Of course it’s fun because they’re Swedes as well, but mostly it’s because they’re really good players.”
His wingers agreed. “I love playing with them,” said Halmstad’s Nyquist. “They’re both great players, and they’ve both played up in Detroit and showed that they can play on that level as well.”
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Brunnstrom, the Jonstorp native. “We’ve got good chemistry. We talk about all the little details and how we’re going to get better.”
The Swedish line combined for 18 points on the team’s 20 goals during the season-best winning streak. It’s yet another reminder of the impact in West Michigan made by the parent Detroit Red Wings, as the NHL team most synonymous with Swedish hockey players.
Update #1: It should come as no surprise that CSN Philly’s Jim Jackson suggests that Mark Howe was and is the best Flyers defenseman ever;
• Here’s the Courier-Post’s Rany Miller’s game-day post…
The Flyers’ morning skate was optioning and opting not to participate were Jaromir Jagr, Claude Giroux and Briere, as well as out-indefinitely defenseman Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros.
Timonen, who reportedly is nursing a sore lower back, curiously no longer has a locker in the Flyers’ dressing room at Wells Fargo Center, which appears to be an indication that his injury is serious.
It’s unknown if Giroux will play Tuesday. He missed Monday’s practice and wasn’t around Tuesday due to what’s believed to be a hand injury suffered in the Flyers’ 1-0 win in Washington last Sunday.
The Flyers appear to be catching the Detroit Red Wings at the right time Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center. Nicklas Lidstrom, the Red Wings’ seven-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman, is nursing an ankle injury and didn’t make the trip. All-Star Pavel Datsyuk, arguably the top two-way forward in the NHL and the Wings’ top scorer with 59 points, was left home, too, due to a knee injury. All-Star goalie Jimmy Howard suffered a groin injury and isn’t on the trip, either. Meantime, the Wings also will be without forward Todd Bertuzzi, and defensemen Jonathan Ericsson (wrist), Jakub Kindl (upper body).
“I think any time you take big pieces out of a team, there’s a difference,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “They still probably play with the same idea and the same style that they’ve played with for years, but I think when you start removing pieces it’s always a little bit more challenging.
The last time the Flyers saw the Wings, Detroit won 4-3 at Joe Louis Arena on Feb. 12 to set an NHL record for most consecutive home victories. The Wings won their next three games, all at home, but since 2-3-1 with three losses on home ice, one in a shootout. By the way, the Wings didn’t have any drop off when Howard recently missed time with a handle injury as new backup Joey MadDonald is 7-2-1 in 10 games with a league-best 1.69 goals-against average and league-best .933 save percentage.
• Here’s the Delaware County Times’ Rob Parent’s rather smarmy game-day update…
For fans who like the idea of watching a win more than they like the idea of a fully competitive game, the Flyers present a home date against the partial Detroit Red Wings tonight at Wells Fargo Center. Not only have the Red Wings been a different team when dubbed the visitors this season—that’s a 16-16-1 road record vs. a 27-4-2 home record for Detroit – but the Wings likely will be missing a few of their best players.
Apparently out for the game are captain and top defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle), top scorer Pavel Datsyuk (knee), and power forward Todd Bertuzzi and goalie Jimmy Howard (both with groin woes).
“Anytime you take big pieces out of a team there’s a difference,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said today. “They still probably play with the same identity and the same style they’ve played with for years, but I think if you start removing pieces it gets more challenging.” That said, Laviolette approaches this team with appropriate caution: “They’re a good hockey team. They’ve been good for a lot of years. Good players.”
There are even a few good Wings healthy enough to play. A few. Also out tonight are Wings defenders Jon Ericsson and Jakub Kindl. The Flyers might even score a couple of goals tonight.
• And here’s MLive’s Ansar Khan’s morning skate report, which notes that the Wings hope that Chris Conner’s speed with re-energize their forecheck:
“We expect him to come here and play hard,’’ coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s played real well in Grand Rapids for us. He played 65 games last year in the league (with Pittsburgh) and well into the playoffs. He’s an NHL player.”
Conner made a good impression during a six-game stint with the Red Wings in early December, before he broke his wrist.
“All the guys in this room are great, so it’s real easy making adjustments,’’ Conner said. He said of playing the Flyers: “They’re definitely a good team, they’re aggressive and a physical team, so I think we know what to expect.’‘
Here are the Flyers’ anticipated lines and defense pairs:
Scott Hartnell-Claude Giroux-Jaromir Jagr
Matt Read-Daniel Briere-Wayne Simmonds
Maxime Talbot-Brayden Schenn-Jacub Voracek
Eric Wellwood-Sean Couturier-Zac Rinaldo
Nicklas Grossman-Braydon Coburn
Matt Carle-Pavel Kubina
Andreas Lilja-Erik Gustafsson
Ilya Bryzgalov (starting)
General manager Ken Holland said he had no updates on some of their injured players—Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle), Jakub Kindl (upper body), Jimmy Howard (groin) and Bertuzzi (groin).
Babcock said he didn’t know if Lidstrom, who hasn’t skated since he got injured on Feb. 25, will be ready for Friday’s game against Los Angeles, but said, “I know he felt a lot better than yesterday.’‘
update #2: With all due respect to Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia’s Neil Hartman, Bryzgalov blah blah blah Bryzgalov blah blah blah;
Hockey Canada on Monday announced the entire management group from the 2010 Olympics would return to lead Team Canada for the 2014 Games.
Steve Yzerman will return as executive director, with Doug Armstrong, Ken Holland and Kevin Lowe back on board as assistants.
That group’s ability to construct a gold medal-winning team was part of the reason they were asked to reprise their roles for 2014; does that mean the coach of the 2010 team will be back for 2014?
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who guided Canada to the gold medal in Vancouver, said Tuesday there’s a long time before he has to think about that. The NHL has not committed to sending its players to the 2014 Games, which will be held in Sochi, Russia.
“There’s a couple years before those decisions are made,” Babcock said following the Wings’ morning skate. “Not only that, the players … the League has to figure out if they’re going and get an agreement. Everything will happen in due time. Hopefully I won’t have to answer that question for a while.”
• NHL.com’s Brian Metzer also filed a fantasy hockey report suggesting that poolies pick up a certain Red Wings defenseman who wears #55:
The Detroit Red Wings have been one of the best teams in not only the Western Conference, but the entire National Hockey League throughout the 2011-12 season. They reeled off a record-setting 23 consecutive home wins at Joe Louis Arena and look primed to make another sustained postseason run. The most impressive thing about this Wings team is that they have been able to do it all while losing 141 man-games to injury. They have seen a number of key contributors go down for stretches, including Jimmy Howard, Pavel Datsyuk and most recently Nicklas Lidstrom, but someone has always stepped up to keep the gears of the Red Wings’ attack turning.
Niklas Kronwall, who was listed in this space as a fantasy sleeper this season, is the latest example of that resiliency, as he has taken his game to another level over the past three games that Lidstrom has been out of the lineup.
“He’s played better and better,” Wings coach Mike Babcock told Ansar Khan of MLive.com when asked about Kronwall’s play. “You talk about these injuries, but someone else steps up and rises to the occasion, and I think that’s important. It allows a player to gain confidence, be a better player when the other players come back. It improves your team.”
Kronwall has posted 7 points (2G, 5A), 7 shots on goal and registered a plus-3 in helping the Wings to a 2-1-0 record while the team’s captain has been nursing a deep bone bruise to his ankle. The performance was good enough to earn him second star of the week honors from the League and has significantly pumped up his fantasy value.
The Stockholm native was already a player that should have been in fantasy lineups on a weekly/daily basis, but some folks were a little disappointed that he didn’t take a huge step forward offensively, especially in light of the fact that he was going to get some great opportunities with Brian Rafalski hanging up the skates following last season.
Some of those opportunities changed a bit with the emergence of Ian White, but Kronwall has still been a very effective fantasy defenseman this season and his latest surge has him teetering on the edge of “must-play status.” He is producing .46 points per game and has tied Lidstrom with 31 points to lead all Wings defensemen. He also ranks sixth in scoring on a team that boasts some pretty impressive offensive talent. The 6-foot, 190-pound Kronwall’s 14-goals have him in a three-way tie for second behind only Erik Karlsson. He has recorded 4 game-winning goals, has recorded 11 power-play points and is launching 1.73 shots per game.
Kronwall is especially valuable in leagues that give credit in categories such as hits and blocked shots, where he truly proves to be a five-tool weapon, having recorded 107 hits and 146 blocked shots.
Though many a league has seen their trade deadlines pass over the last few days, Yahoo! Standard leagues see theirs fall on Thursday. If you are need of a defenseman, you just may be able to grab Kronwall from an owner who hasn’t yet opened his eyes to the value of this talented Swede.
Update #2.5: Andreas Lilja spoke to the Flyers’ website about Mark Howe helping the Wings’ players scout playoff opponents, the Flyers’ game plan against the Wings and getting back into Philly’s lineup:
Update #3: NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman asked both Flyers coach Peter Laviolette and Wings coach Mike Babcock,/a> why their respective teams held “optional” morning skates:
“It’s a busy month,” [Laviolette] said. “If you look at the amount of games we’re playing, we’re really trying to manage what we’re doing here. The most important thing is the game tonight. If the guys feel like they need a break this morning, take the break.”
Among those who stayed off the ice were forwards Jaromir Jagr, Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Danny Briere. Also missing were defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros, both of whom are out indefinitely with lower-body injuries.
The injury-ravaged Red Wings only had 10 players on the ice, among them Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom. Out tonight are forwards Pavel Datsyuk (knee) and Todd Bertuzzi (groin), defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle), Jonathan Ericsson (wrist) and Jakub Kindl (upper body), and goalie Jimmy Howard (lower body).
However, Laviolette said he doesn’t expect much to change in the Wings’ team game.
“I think anytime you take big pieces out of teams there’s a difference,” he said. “They still probably play with the same style that they’ve played with for years.”
Babcock said he won’t change anything about how he expects his team to play, regardless of who’s in or out of the lineup.
“We try to do the same things,” he said. “You’re cognizant that you can’t race to 10, you don’t have the firepower. Different guys get different opportunities.”
• Kimelman also spoke to both teams about Mark Howe’s jersey retirement:
“It’s a great honor for Howeie, well deserved,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He was a great Flyer, had an unbelievable career. He’s worked for us for 19 years, started three years as a player. He’s been involved in two really great organizations to finish his career. I think he’s proud of that fact, we’re proud of him. We’re honored and thrilled to be sharing it with him tonight.”
Matt Carle, in his fourth season with the Flyers, was too young to see the best part of Howe’s career—he was born in 1984—but said he’s been doing his homework on Howe recently.
“I was reading about him in the last week when they were gearing up for this night,” Carle said, “some of the statistics he threw up were mind-blowing. He was plus-85 one year (1985-86). It’s a huge honor for him. It’ll be fun for us to be here for it.”
One of the newest Flyers, Nicklas Grossmann, also is looking forward to watching the Howe ceremony.
“Growing up you see all these players when you’re a kid that you idolized and now you play with some of them and you see some guys retire and their jerseys (retired), so it’s pretty cool to be around,” he said. “He was a spectacular player that played for a long time. You’re here, you see on the walls, the good old players that used to play. It’s pretty cool to be part of an organization like that. It’s going to be a pretty special thing.”
• The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan took note of the Howe retirement ceremony/Babcock’s comments….
,blockquote>Howe, son of legendary Red Wing Gordie Howe, played 10 seasons for the Flyers, appearing in 594 games from 1982-92. Howe holds Flyers records for defensemen with 138 career goals, 342 assists and 480 points.
Howe finished his career playing three seasons with the Wings, retiring in 1995, and is currently director of pro scouting for the Wings.
“It’s a great honor for Howie,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Well deserved. He was a great Flyer, had an unbelievable career. He’s worked for us for 19 years, been involved with two really great organizations to finish his career. I think he’s proud of that fact and we’re proud of him, and we’re honored and thrilled to be sharing that part with him tonight.”
And here’s Kulfan’s game-day report:
There are quite a few new faces in the Red Wings locker room these days. Forward Chris Conner and defenseman Doug Janik will be in the lineup Tuesday night, replacing Todd Bertuzzi (groin) and Jakub Kindl (upper body), while goalie Jordan Pearce will back up Joey MacDonald (Jimmy Howard is out with a groin strain). Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle), Pavel Datsyuk (knee) and Jonathan Ericsson (wrist) have missed multiple games.
“We’re just like everybody else, we’re trying to get our players back as fast as we possibly can,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We feel it’s important to finish as high in the standings as we can, so getting those guys back is critical.”
But the Wings aren’t going to rush players back in an effort to win games.
“Being healthy is real important,” Babcock said. “It’s hard to play when you’re not healthy. We try to do the same things (regardless of who is in the lineup). You’re cognizant you can’t race to 10 (goals), you don’t have the firepower, and different people get different opportunities.”
The Wings could slowly be getting some players back. Datsyuk has been skating on his own and should return during next week’s California three-game road trip. Lidstrom could return this weekend.
“I know he felt a lot better (Monday),” Babcock said of Lidstrom.
Update #4: Here’s a 5-minute game preview from the Flyers’ website (it’s chatter plus lots of footage of both teams skating this morning):
• And here’s yet another game-day update from CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio:
The Flyers catch a break tonight against the Red Wings. No Nick Lidstrom on the blue line. No Jimmy Howard in net. No Pavel Datsyuk in the slot. And no Todd Bertuzzi on the boards. Very rarely do the Wings field a team on the ice with four veteran stars out of the lineup with injuries. But they will Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center against the Flyers.
True, the Flyers are missing Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros, but the odds favor the Flyers in this situation, based on numbers alone.
“Any time you take big pieces out of a team, there’s a difference,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “They play with the same identity and same style that they’ve played with for years. You start removing pieces, it always get a little more challenging.”
Flyers defenseman Andreas Lilja played in Detroit the previous five seasons.
“It’s obviously good for us,” Lilja said. “I don’t think it’s odd. You don’t want to see anyone hurt. They have a pretty good minor team so they probably fill up real quick. I expect them to be the same as always, a puck-controlling team, and we just have to keep it to the outside and take away their options. They like to hold onto the puck. If we have the puck longer it benefits us.”
Update #5: As a reminder, the Saginaw News’s Kyle Austin notes that Kris Draper, joey Kocur and Darren McCarty will attend Friday night’ Saginaw Spirit game;
• And “Radial Logic’s Matthew Lewis and Aaron Mondry ponder the political and economic reasons why Joe Louis Arena was a compromise building from the start.
Update #6: From the Wings:
STUART TO VISIT VANDENBERG WORLD CULTURES ACADEMY IN SOUTHFIELD ON MARCH 8th
… Defenseman Will Read Brady Brady and the Great Exchange to Kindergartners …
Detroit, MI… Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart will visit Vandenberg World Cultures Academy in Southfield at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 8, to read to a class of kindergartners, ages five through six, as part of National Reading Month.
Stuart will read Brady Brady and the Great Exchange by Mary Shaw and Chuck Temple to a class of 30 kindergarten students. After a brief Q&A session with the students, Stuart will present a set of Brady Brady children’s hockey books and The ABC’s of Detroit Red Wings Hockey books for the school’s library to use.
The Red Wings kicked off National Reading Month on March 1, hosting 55 fifth graders from Hiller Elementary School at Joe Louis Arena for Ken Kal’s Reading Party, and have two player appearances as celebrity readers at area elementary schools planned for March.
• 97.1 the Ticket is also offering a big Wings prize:
Want to see the Red Wings battle the Blues for the regular season Central Division crown? 97.1 The Ticket and Bud Light have teamed up with the Red Wings to give you a trip of a life time to see your Detroit Red Wings in St. Louis to take on the Blues. All you need to do is look for the Bud Light “Fly Away with the Wings” displays at participating retailers and register to win a trip for two to see the Wings in St. Louis on April 4th. No purchase necessary and winner and guest must be 21 years of age or older. So make sure you register to win this trip of a lifetime with You, Bud Light, 97.1 The Ticket and the Red Wings in the Gateway City…Here We Go!
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• Puck Daddy covered the attack on Dearborn councilman Robert Abraham;
• Via the Flyers:
#Flyers equipment managers Derek Settlemyre and Harry Bricker with the special warmup jerseys featuring a Howe patch. pic.twitter.com/7VDzSsSZ
All #Flyers will wear No. 2’s in warm-ups tonight in honor of Mark Howe! http://t.co/ceUPZ5Lg
• And Brendan Smith had a chat with the Free Press’s Anthony Fenech about doffing gloves with Andrew Shaw:
“It was long,” he said. “It was really tough. When it goes over 20 seconds, it’s really long.”
Smith’s first fight came two nights after his first NHL goal, and the 22-year-old defenseman is trying to turn the Wings’ injuries on the blue line into more ice time.
“Hopefully, I just keep playing the simple hockey that I’m playing and, hopefully, I can keep getting more time and getting put in bigger positions,” he said. “I just have to play well and consistent.”
Smith was logging 25-plus minutes of ice time per game in Grand Rapids and has been playing more and more since being called up for his second tour of duty with the Wings last week.
“That, to me, is the way it should be,” coach Mike Babcock said about Smith stepping into a stressful situation. “Not you come to the team as a first-round pick, you’re 18 years old, start on the first line and end up on the fourth line by the end of the year. To me, that’s counterproductive. Get the guy developed, get him ready to play and play him.”
And Smith, who has a goal and three assists in six games this year, knows it’s simple:
“Biggest thing is for me is just to play well when I get those opportunities,” he said. “Playing simple is what I keep hearing from coach, and these are the things I got to do to get more minutes.”
• Update #7: SI’s Adrian Dater posted a late-breaking slate of power rankings:
3 Detroit Red Wings Last Week: 2: Injuries are starting to take a toll. On Monday, the Wings practiced without Pavel Datsyuk (knee), Nick Lidstrom (ankle), Daniel Cleary, Todd Bertuzzi (groin), Jimmy Howard (lower body), Jonathan Ericsson (wrist) and Patrick Eaves (concussion). Detroit still has plenty of points in the bank to ensure a playoff spot, and all of the aforementioned except maybe Eaves should return before the end of the regular season. On Sunday, Lidstrom missed just his 10th home game in 20 seasons. Last week: 2-1-0
• The Red Wings’ website just posted a game-day breakdown…
• And the Grand Rapids Griffins posted their weekly press release:
This Week’s Games
Wed., March 7 - GRIFFINS at Texas Stars - 8:30 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., March 10 - GRIFFINS at Houston Aeros - 8:35 p.m. - ESPN 96.1 FM / AHLLive.com
Sun., March 11 - GRIFFINS at Houston Aeros - 6:05 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Playoff Push: Grand Rapids played its fourth of six three-in-threes last weekend, earning four of a possible six points – the highest total it has reached in any stretch of three games in three nights this season. The club began the week with a three-game winning streak but fell into a 2-0 hole in Friday’s contest versus Rochester less than two minutes into the second period. The Griffins rallied with three straight goals to take the lead and secured the 4-3 victory when Francis Pare tallied his 10th of the season at the 16:25 mark of the third period. The following night, the Griffins got out to a 3-1 lead over the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Barons courtesy of a pair of goals by Gustav Nyquist, but the visitors fought back with goals at 14:33 and 18:59 of the final frame to force overtime. The Griffins endured the extra session and earned a 4-3 win, with Chris Minard scoring the clinching marker in the fourth round of the shootout and Ty Conklin denying all four Barons shooters to give the team a season-high five-game winning streak. Sunday’s visit to Hamilton saw the streak end, as the Bulldogs scored the game’s only goal midway through the third period to take a 1-0 victory from their division rivals.
Winning Ways: The Griffins’ five-game winning streak from Feb. 22-March 3 was the team’s longest since a nine-game winning streak from Oct. 23-Nov. 13, 2009. The team also won four in a row at home during that stretch for the first time since a five-game home winning streak from Feb. 20-March 16, 2011. Grand Rapids will only play at home four more times in the month of March, with its next home game coming March 16 versus the Toronto Marlies.
Flying South: The Griffins will play each of their next four and six of their next eight games in the state of Texas, the first three of which will come this week. Grand Rapids will visit the Texas Stars on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. EST before playing back-to-back games against the Houston Aeros on Saturday at 8:35 p.m. EST and Sunday at 6:05 p.m. EDT. The team will finish the five-game road trip with a second visit to Texas on March 13. After two home games on March 16 and 17, they’ll return to the southwest corner of the AHL for two games against San Antonio (March 20 and 22) and Oklahoma City (March 24 and 25).
Heavy Workload: Goaltender Ty Conklin has played every minute for the team since being assigned by Detroit on Feb. 21. With his 4-3 shootout victory over Oklahoma City on Saturday, Conklin became just the second goalie in franchise history to win his first five decisions, joining Mathieu Chouinard, who started 5-0 in 2000-01. In his bid to become the first goalie to win his first six, Conklin was nearly flawless. He surrendered just one goal in the team’s 1-0 loss to Hamilton on Sunday, which was the result of an Eric Lampe shot from a sharp angle that glanced off the skate of Garnet Exelby. The veteran NHL netminder shows a 5-1 record, a 1.81 goals against average and a 0.936 save percentage in six games played.
Clear Day Roster: The Griffins on Tuesday released their 2011-12 Clear Day roster. Only the 22 players listed on a team’s Clear Day roster are eligible to compete in the remainder of the AHL regular season games and in the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs, unless emergency conditions arise as a result of recall, injury or suspension. The Griffins’ Clear Day roster consists of goaltenders Ty Conklin and Jordan Pearce; defensemen Travis Ehrhardt, Garnet Exelby, Gleason Fournier, Doug Janik, Brian Lashoff, Logan Pyett and Brendan Smith; and forwards Joakim Andersson, Louis-Marc Aubry, Fabian Brunnstrom, Mitch Callahan, Chris Conner, Landon Ferraro, Jamie Johnson, Chris Minard, Gustav Nyquist, Francis Pare, Trevor Parkes, Brent Raedeke and Tomas Tatar. In addition, goaltender Tom McCollum, defenseman Bryan Rufenach and forward Willie Coetzee are currently in residence.
Number One?: Gustav Nyquist leads the Griffins with 54 points (19-35—54) in 52 games and is one point shy of tying Glen Metropolit for the most points ever by a Griffins rookie. Metropolit recorded 55 points (20-35—55) in 79 games during the 1997-98 season. The Halmstad, Sweden, native has already tied Metropolit’s single-season rookie assists record, and he sits five goals away from the single-season goals record. He is currently tied with Eric Himelfarb (2004-05) for seventh place, trailing Metropolit, Chris Bala (21 goals in 2001-02), Josh Langfeld (21 goals in 2001-02), Kevyn Adams (22 goals in 1996-97), Justin Abdelkader (24 goals in 2008-09) and teammate Francis Pare (24 goals in 2008-09).
Update #8: The Detroit Red Wings’ first home, the Windsor Ice Arena, is going to be demolished soon, and the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff hopes that there will be one final chance for the public to skate on its ice surface before it’s torn up for good on March 18th;
• The Detroit Examiner’s Warren Shaw provides a recap of Hockey in the Hood;
• Ken Holland receive a pat on the back for signing Ian White from Hockye’s Future’s Andrew Sykes:
Currently tied atop the Central division standings, both the Detroit Red Wings and the St. Louis Blue laid some of the groundwork to their success in the off-season through free agency.
With General Manager Ken Holland’s penchant for making excellent free agent signings in terms of production and value, it should be no surprise that Ian White is performing the way he is for the Red Wings this year.
After tasting his first playoff action last year and playing well with the San Jose Sharks, the 27-year-old was one of the best available defensemen when the July 1st unrestricted free agency period opened.
Unappreciated during his years in Toronto and Calgary, White’s solid play with the Sharks opened the eyes of many of the league’s GM’s, including Holland, who liked what he offered at a relatively low price.
Signed to a two year, $5.75 million contract, White has been everything the Red Wings could have hoped for and more. Fitting in almost immediately with his new team, the seven-year veteran has already established a new career-high with 30 points in 62 games.
Already with his fifth different NHL organization, White’s transition to a new team may or may not (note the sarcasm) have been helped along by the fact that he has often been paired alongside future Hall of Fame defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. Playing with someone of Lidstrom’s calibre both 5-on-5 and on the power-play made for an almost seamless adjustment and has resulted in White’s +30 rating, which is good enough for second in the league.
• And the CBC’s Tim Wharnsby tosses off the usual list of NCAA players who are highly-coveted free agents, including the usual name:
Danny Dekeyser, Defence
Age: 22. Height: 6-2. Weight: 170.
Hometown: Algonac, Mich.
The skinny: Detroit Red Wings often have been mentioned as the favourite to sign this Michigander ... He grew up a Red Wings fan and played minor hockey with the son of Detroit assistant GM Jim Nill ... Played for the 2008-09 Trail Smoke Eaters of the BCHL.
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