The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/06/12 at 06:15 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings face off against a team which they simply don’t know all that well in the Philadelphia flyers tonight (7:00 PM, FSD will air the Mark Howe #2 retirement ceremony in full/CSN Philadelphia/97.1 the Ticket) hoping that the fact that Detroit goes into this game severely undermanned (no Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Jimmy Howard, Todd Bertuzzi, Jakub Kindl or Jonathan Ericsson) will not prevent the Wings and the league’s second star of the week in Niklas Kronwall from rebounding from their 3-2 loss to Chicago while accomplishing something as unprecedented as Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond broadcasting a game in Philly for the first time in Daniels’ 1,000-game tenure with the Wings, as the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness notes:
The Wings have lost their past six regular season games in Philadelphia. They haven’t won there since Games 1 and 2 in 1997 Stanley Cup finals. Their last regular season win there was on Jan. 25, 1997 (4-1).
On the Wings’ home ice, the Flyers are 1-17-2, including the 1997 Cup finals, since 1988. Their lone win came last season, 3-2 on Jan. 2.
In terms of the pre-game spectacle, PhiladelphiaFlyers.com’s Bill Meltzer penned a backgrounder on the Red Wings director of pro scouting’s 10-year career with the Flyers, and the Flyers’ website indicates that Mark will join the Bobby and Brett Hull as the second sports family to have a father and a son’s number retired (Gordie by the Wings and Mark by the Flyers), and in addition to honoring Brad McCrimmon’s family as well (I’m guessing that they flew to Philly with the team on Red Bird III, which has inherited Red Bird II’s N682RW tail number), the Flyers’ website’s release indicates thad we should expect a delayed start to the game itself:
The Philadelphia Flyers will retire former Flyers defenseman and NHL Hall of Famer Mark Howe’s No. 2 jersey during a pre-game ceremony prior to the Flyers vs. Detroit Red Wings game at the Wells Fargo Center on March 6 at 7 p.m.
In partnership with Apple Vacations, the entire evening will honor Howe’s accomplishments as a Flyer. A pre-game ceremony will include a career video montage, special guest speakers and the raising of his No. 2 banner to hang in the Wells Fargo Center rafters.
“Mark Howe was the best defenseman to ever play for the Philadelphia Flyers,” said Comcast-Spectacor Chairman Ed Snider. “He is one of the classiest men to ever put on the Flyers uniform, and I’m proud to say no one will ever wear his No. 2 in a Flyers game again.”
“Mark Howe was one of the greatest defensemen of his era,” said Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko. “His skill and grace, as well as his leadership ability, both on and off the ice, put him in a class by himself. It is for that reason that the Flyers are proud to retire his number.”
Howe played 10 seasons for the Flyers, appearing in 594 games from 1982-1992. He is the most prolific scorer among blueliners in Flyers history, holding the franchise record for career goals (138), assists (342) and points (480) by a defenseman. He ranks 14th overall on the Flyers All-Time List in scoring, eighth overall in assists, and fourth overall in shorthanded goals (24).
During the 1985-86 season, Howe scored 24 goals and added 58 assists for 82 points, establishing franchise records for goals and points by a defenseman in a single season that still stand today. He also posted a plus-minus rating of plus-85 that season, which was the best in the NHL that year, is a Flyers franchise record and is the 8th-best single season performance in NHL history.
Howe was a four-time NHL All-Star, appearing in three of those games as a Flyer (1983, 1986 & 1988), and was also named to represent the Flyers and NHL at Rendez-vous ‘87, a two-game series against the Soviet Union which replaced the NHL All-Star Game in 1987, although he missed the event due to injury. He was a three-time finalist for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman (1983, 1986n & 1987) and was also named a first-team NHL postseason all-star in those same three seasons.
Within the Flyers organization, Howe’s accomplishments include helping lead the team to two appearances in the Stanley Cup Final (1985 & 1987). He won four Barry Ashbee trophies as the team’s best defenseman (1983, 1986-88) and the Bobby Clarke Trophy as team MVP in 1983. He was inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame on March 15, 2001.
Mark lives in New Jersey in the off-season, so he’s been attending Flyers games pretty regularly of late (sometimes with his dad in tow), including Sunday’s game, in which Philly shut out the Washington Capitals 1-0, and he spoke to the Flyers’ press on March 1st about his upcoming jersey retirement:
Mark also told Phillyburbs.com’s Wayne Fish that he will obviously be watching his number rise to the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center with a heavy heart because Brad McCrimmon can’t celebrate the achievement with Howe (Fish offers some peer compliments for Howe as well):
In the mid-’80s, the names Howe and McCrimmon were synonymous with textbook backline play. While teams of that era are generally remembered for offense (Tim Kerr, Rick Tocchet), coaching (Mike Keenan) and goaltending (Pelle Lindbergh, Ron Hextall) in getting the Flyers to two Stanley Cup finals, it was the tandem of Howe and Brad McCrimmon that drove the engine. Unfortunately, McCrimmon tragically had his life cut short by the Russian jetliner crash that wiped out an entire hockey team last October. Tuesday night, as Howe’s banner becomes the first to represent a Flyer of that generation in the rafters, no doubt McCrimmon’s memory will be on people’s minds.
“Brad and I just had a real nice chemistry on and off the ice,’’ Howe said. “We were like polar opposites (in personality) but, in saying that, we were very much the same. We worked very hard at our craft every single day. And after a game sometimes we went and talked over a beer. We talked about the game and the mistakes we made and we worked on those every day in practice. We made a commitment to each other to get better.’’
Over a three-year period, Howe was a plus-194, McCrimmon a plus-190. It was a different era then, but their defensive skills would have held up in any time period. In at least one of those years, every other Flyer defenseman was even or minus.
“Our years together were very special,’’ Howe said. “They were very special to him. We remained good friends all these years. I always said what a great hockey player he was (McCrimmon went on to win a Stanley Cup ring with Calgary in 1989). He just didn’t get the notoriety that I did. There were two people in my life that I had tremendous chemistry with — one was my father (and McCrimmon the other). It’s hard to explain. McCrimmon and I, we always talked but we didn’t have to. We could throw blind passes all over the ice because if I was doing a certain job, I knew where he had to be on the ice to do his job.’’
Howe came ever so close to winning a Cup in 1987 and that was in a period where he was a three-time finalist for the Norris Trophy (NHL’s best defenseman). McCrimmon deserves some of the credit for that excellence.
“It makes it a lot easier,’’ Howe said. “The bottom line was, sometimes I would falter and sometimes he would falter and both of us would take the blame. We never pointed fingers — we were as close as partners could ever be.’’
Howe, now 56, still resides in Jackson, N.J., and has a place at the Jersey Shore. Since 1995, he has been the head pro scout for Detroit, the franchise with which his last name is synonymous. He’s won four Stanley Cup rings with the Red Wings as a scout, tying his father’s total as a player.
Gordie Howe, 83, will be back on the ice tonight to honor his son. Since his wife, Colleen, died in 2009, “Mr. Hockey” has rotated living with sons Mark, Marty and Murray at various points during the year.
“Mark made his own mark in the league, pardon the pun,” said Hall of Famer Joe Mullen, who played against Mark Howe. “It’s kind of like Brett Hull. He made his own mark in the league and just went about his career the way he needed to.”
Overdue or not, Howe said his jersey retirement will mean just as much to his father as his Hall of Fame induction in November.
“There were good times, a couple not so good, and that’s all part of the equation,” Howe said. “This is the highest honor you can have in the Philadelphia Flyers organization. This is the town, this is the city where I put the pieces together.”
In terms of what’s going to happen after Howe’s #2 joins Pelle Lindbergh, Bill Barber and Bobby Clarke’s numbers in the rafters, Seravalli reports that the Flyers tend not to be distracted by jersey retirements or other ceremonies recognizing alumni:
Since 1975, the Flyers have held 17 distinct on-ice, pre-game tributes. They’ve lost just in regulation just 4 times.The Flyers have never lost on a night they have retired a sweater. And the Flyers won, 3-0, when Howe was inducted into the Flyers’ Hall of Fame in 2001. (By the way – they won on Nov. 14, 2011 – the night Howe was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto)
“I think any time there is a night like that, where somebody who has worn the jersey for a long time and had a terrific career, has a jersey gone to the rafters, it is a special night for not just that person but the fans,” [Flyers coach Peter] Laviolette answered. “It’s well deserved.”
It took a while to dig through the newspaper archives to find the dates of the Flyers’ Hall of Fame ceremonies. But, if you were looking for a reason to feel good about tonight’s matchup with Detroit – other than Ilya Bryzgalov’s hot play and the Flyers’ disciplined attitude – maybe the results below will mean something to you.
By the way, the Red Wings have not won a regular season game in Philadelphia since Jan. 25, 1997, a little more than 5 months before they ripped the Flyers’ hearts out in a Stanley Cup Final sweep. Detroit, one of the few teams more banged up than the Flyers, will be without goaltender Jimmy Howard (groin), Pavel Datsyuk (knee), Todd Bertuzzi (groin), Nicklas Lidstrom (bone bruise in ankle), Jakub Kindl (upper-body) and Jonathan Ericsson (fractured wrist).
In terms of my coverage both here and during the day of the game, I’m going to readily admit that I am way, way, way “out of my league” here, and that I’m going to be making things up as I go along as I attempt to find information from a press corps I’m completely unfamiliar with—I was absent due to a pretty severe illness during the Wings’ 4-3 win over Philly on February 12th—so I’ll kindly ask for your patience in the press regard, because I’m going into a more unfamiliar situation than the Wings are.
Who are the Flyers, anyway? Despite their almost cartoonish portrayal on HBO’s 24/7—and let’s face it, as Wings fans, you and I knew that Ilya Bryzgalov was as crazy as Dominik Hasek two first-round playoff series with Phoenix ago—the Flyers are a pretty damn good team. They sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, and are also third in the Atlantic Division,sitting 4 points behind the second-place Penguins—but eleven behin the Atlantic-leading Rangers.
Despite losing the services of Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros this past weekend, they come into today’s game on a 2-game winning streak (they defeated the Islanders 6-3 last Thursday and shut out the Caps 1-0 on Sunday), but they also had a rough February, going 5-7-and-1.
According to the Flyers’ website, the Flyers will be playing their second of four games in seven nights this evening, and they promised to bring playoff intensity to the table against Detriot:
“There’s going to be a lot of hits and bangs on your body these next three weeks and to get proper rest is very important,” said Scott Hartnell, who along with Carle has played all 64 games this season. “It seems like no team is out of playoff contention.”
The Flyers remain in a very pivotal slot of the Eastern Conference standings. With 79 points, they are the fifth seed, which as of Monday afternoon, is two points from replacing the fourth seeded Pittsburgh Penguins and the all-important home-ice advantage. It is also a very slippery slope to fall to the seventh seed, which is owned by the Ottawa Senators, just three points back at 76 points.
Fans might not have noticed it on the scoresheet since mid-February, but the two additions on the blueline that the Flyers acquired around the trade deadline have already made a sizable difference, and will continue to do so now that both Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros are out of the lineup indefinitely due to lower body injuries.
The Flyers picked up Nicklas Grossman from Dallas and Pavel Kubina from Tampa Bay leading up to the trade deadline, but the Philadelphia Daily News’s Seravalli reports that former Wing Andreas Lilja and rookie Erik Gustafsson, who attended Northern Michigan University before turning pro, rounded out the Flyers’ top six on Sunday…
“The players that were picked up were veteran defensemen,” said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette. “They were picked up for a reason. They’re here to kill penalties, they’re here to provide valuable minutes and here to play against the Zetterbergs and Alex Ovechkins of the world and I think that they’ve come in here and done a nice job.”
At the forefront of getting the job done has been goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who has found his groove after making a season-high eight consecutive starts following a bout with the flu in early February. In just his last three starts, Bryzgalov has posted a .951 save percentage, allowing just four goals and 81 shots, and a 1.33 goals-against average.
The Flyers will look to make it three straight when they face off against the Red Wings in an emotionally charged game on Tuesday, when they will retire Hall of Fame defenseman Mark Howe’s #2 to the rafters. An honor that hasn’t happened in Flyers history in close to 22 years.
The Flyers’ website posted off-day clips of comments from Wayne Simmonds…
A familiar face and presence in the Red Wings ’ crease in longtime Nashville Predators forward Scott Hartnell…
And Flyers coach Peter Laviolette…
If you’re interested, Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia posted clips of Laviolette talking about Ilya Bryzgalov’s play, some gabba about Eric Wellwood and Laviolette and Hartnell talking about the Wings. (beware: if you use Firefox and are utilizing the kinds of pop-up-blocker, Flash blocker script-blocker extensions that disable commercials on YouTube and most NHL.com videos, you’ll need to fire up IE or Chrome to watch these videos)...
Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia’s controversial columnist, Tim Panaccio (who cites “sources” and confidential conversations on a nearly constant basis), weighed in on the Flyers’ schedule to come, the Flyers’ injury situation...
According to a source, Kimmo Timonen is out with a back injury. It isn’t disc-related, however, so he isn’t expected to be out long.
Timonen’s injury was classified as a lower-body injury on Sunday, when he missed the Capitals game. Missing Sunday’s game meant that Timonen’s Iron Man streak ended at 248 consecutive games played.
Claude Giroux also missed practice on Monday. He had his hand wrapped but said missing practice was not injury related. He took a stick to his hand from Washington’s Jason Chimera on Sunday. He said he was given a maintenance day.
Timonen and Andrej Meszaros were both said to have maintenance days on Saturday but both missed Sunday’s game and are out indefinitely. Braydon Coburn also missed practice on Saturday but played on Sunday.
And both via video and in an article, he talked about Monday’s big story of the day in Bryzgalov displaying a more stable form of late, stating that the Flyers’ leaders talked to Bryzgalov about settling down and playing hockey recently. The Flyers’ resident space cadet (hey, Hasek was nuts, too) has done just that, and he’s starred of late:
Whatever was said in recent weeks, it apparently resonated with the Russian goalie because Danny Briere said on Monday that Bryzgalov has become “a better teammate” and that is as important, or more, than any stats or individual accomplishments. Briere said that guys sat Bryzgalov down and told him he needed to redirect the focus off himself and onto the team.
In his last eight starts, Bryz is 5-2 with a no-decision and has a 2.47 goals against with a .905 save percentage. You can visibly see a change in Bryzgalov on the ice, in terms of confidence and improvement in his game. Yet it was the change off the ice that teammates demanded needed to happen.
“We’ve seen all kinds of Bryz this year,” Briere said. “He’s never the same. He’s all over the place. But the last couple of weeks, he’s actually been a great teammate and hopefully, he stays that way. That’s the way it should be. If he wants the guys to keep playing hard for him, he needs to be a great teammate the way he has been lately, and it’s been fun having him around, too.”
From the get-go, both goalie coach Jeff Reese and general manager Paul Holmgren have said that Bryz’s biggest problem has been adjusting the every-day media scrutiny here and living up to his nine-year, $51 million contract. Which is why we’ve seen a number of outrageous, albeit funny, remarks from him this season, even critical remarks that Bryzgalov probably never intended to say.
It’s OK to be outrageous if you’re winning and your numbers are good. It’s not OK when you’re losing and your save percentage is under .900. Top to bottom lately, everyone says Bryzgalov has turned his game and his personality around.
“He seems like he is in more control,” coach Peter Laviolette said.
The Delaware County Times’ Matt Smith offers a less controversially-inclined take on Bryzgalov’s performance, duly noting that the Flyers’ goaltender has received a wee bit of help from the players in front of him:
Bryzgalov has made improvements over the last several games —- including lowering his once-abysmal GAA to 2.72 —- but other facets of the team’s defense are starting to blossom, too. Bryzgalov was the star in the 1-0 victory Sunday, but it requires a collective effort to stop the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin. While Bryzgalov received most of the glory, the muckers and grinders can see their hard work starting to pay off. The Flyers didn’t allow the Capitals’ best players a chance to score with the man-advantage. The penalty-kill unit received a night off, a rare occurrence in and of itself.
“I think we’ve been pretty disciplined as of late,” Simmonds said. “That was hurting us earlier. We were giving up a lot of power plays. I thought we did a good job against them. They have a lot of great players on that team and that’s where they thrive. ... Those guys do a lot of their damage on the power play.”
Whether keeping the NHL’s 22nd-ranked penalty-kill unit off the ice for one game has a carry-over effect remains to be seen. It wasn’t long ago that the Flyers were getting crushed in that department. At one point the unit surrendered four goals in five chances. But going a whole game without taking a penalty?
“I think it’s more difficult to do ... because of the talent that’s on the ice,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “We kept ourselves in good situations ... and I thought we did a pretty good job keeping discipline in the game and not reaching or hooking or holding. It doesn’t happen a lot, certainly not with us.”
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren opted to bolster the Flyers’ depth at the blue line before the trade deadline, and the moves to bring in veterans Pavel Kubina and Nicholas Grossman are paying dividends. The improved corps overcame the losses of Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Mezsaros, both of whom were practice no-shows due to lower-body injuries. There is no timetable for either to return. Timonen, who is dealing with a back injury, saw his consecutive games-played streak of 248 end Sunday.
“We have a lot of confidence in those guys and (dealing with those injuries) is just the way it is right now,” Laviolette said. “The players that we picked up are veteran defensemen. They aren’t a couple of 20-year-olds that we threw in the lineup and weren’t sure about. (23-year-old Eric) Gustafsson has come up and done a really nice job, and the guys that we picked up all picked up are here for that reason. They’re here to kill penalties and they’re here to provide valuable minutes and they’re here to play against the Henrik Zetterbergs and the Alex Ovechkins of the world.”
And what do the Flyers think about tangling with Joey MacDonald, Doug Janik, Chris Conner, Brendan Smith and the Wiffins?
“We know we can beat them,” Simmonds said. “We have to stick to our system and play a solid 60 minutes. They’re good in transition and play strong in their own zone. We’ve got to be smart.”
The Philadelphia Daily News’s Frank Seravalli believes that staying out of the penalty box, as the Flyers did on Sunday, is crucial given their short-staffed status on the blueline:
Avoiding the penalty kill was one way for Laviolette to spread his minutes evenly throughout his defensive pairs. Erik Gustafsson (15:24) and Andreas Lilja (15:02) were right near their season averages and the lack of penalty-killing time kept the ice times relatively low for horses Braydon Coburn, Matt Carle, Nicklas Grossman and Pavel Kubina.
On their one power-play chance, Laviolette got Brayden Schenn and Matt Read involved to give his blue-liners a breather.
“It doesn’t happen a lot,” Laviolette said. “It’s a nice break to get for one night. We’re going to have to get to that [eventually]. It’s not something that we’re banking on for the rest of the year. We are going to have to kill penalties and those guys are going to have to do it.”
What to watch: When last the teams met, the Red Wings prevailed, 4-3, to tie the NHL record for consecutive home wins (20), a mark they later broke. . .Detroit star Pavel Datsyuk out due to knee surgery. The Flyers will be without defensemen Kimmo Timonen (who had his 248-game streak stopped due to a lower body injury on Sunday night in Washington) and Andrej Meszaros (lower body injury). . .Flyers left wing James van Riemsdyk underwent surgery on his left foot on Tuesday and is expected to miss the rest of the regular season.
And NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman offers the fulcrum upon which this preview will shift from the Flyers’ perspectives to those of the Red Wings’ players and coach:
Season series: This is the second and final meeting between the teams this season. On Feb. 12, Johan Franzen broke a 3-3 tie with a goal 52 seconds into the third period as the Red Wings won 4-3 at Joe Louis Arena.
Big Story: Can Ilya Bryzgalov follow his tremendous start Sunday against the Capitals with another big effort? Or will the Red Wings be extra motivated knowing two points could be the difference between first place and fourth in the Western Conference?
The Wings are tied with the Blues for first in the Central Division with 89 points, and are only one point behind the West-leading Vancouver Canucks, but the Wings’ losses of late have allowed Nashville to sneak to within six points of the Wings with a meeting on the second half of a back-to-back slate with LA at the Joe and then in Nashville against said Predators on Saturday. Each and every one of said teams plays on Tuesday, so the Wings have to get back on a winning track, injuries or no injuries, to keep pace.
Who’s Hot: Red Wings forward Valtteri Filppula has 4 goals and 7 points in his last four games. … Bryzgalov has allowed just four goals in his last three games.
Injury Report: The Red Wings are a beat-up group. Datsyuk (knee), Lidstrom (ankle), Howard (lower body), Bertuzzi (groin), Kindl (upper body) and Jonathan Ericsson (wrist) are all out. … The Flyers will be without defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros due to lower-body injuries. Forward James van Riemsdyk will have surgery Tuesday morning on his broken foot, and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
Stat Pack: The Wings have lost six straight regular-season games in Philadelphia. Their last win in the city was Jan. 25, 1997. Detroit did win the first two games of the 1997 Stanley Cup Final in Philadelphia.
While Mark Howe also spoke to MLive’s Brendan Savage about his time with the Flyers, Wings coach Mike Babcock wants to remind everybody who will listen that the younger Howe has been a member of the Red Wings’ organization for a long time now, too, and as such, the Wings want to win for Howe just as much as the Flyers do:
Howe, who lives in New Jersey, has been a member of the Red Wings’ front office for 17 years. Detroit coach Mike Babcock is happy the Red Wings are Philadelphia’s opponent on Howe’s big night.
“That’ll be a great Red Wing-Philly thing,” Babcock said. “Howie, his best years of his career were with Philly and we’re obviously real fond of him and real proud of him. So that’ll be a special night for them and for us.”
As rather copiously noted on Monday, the Wings did their damnedest to put on a collective brave face after Monday’s practice, in both discussing playing against a big, strong and somewhat nasty Flyers team without the nuclear deterrent (Todd Bertuzzi), the team’s most fearless goaltender (Jimmy Howard), the team’s best puck-movers (Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom) and two big bodies (Jakub Kindl, Jonathan Ericsson) while speaking to Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji...
“They’re a good team,” MacDonald said. “They got big bodies; they cause a lot of havoc for goalies. They crash the net . . . We have to bear down. I thought we came out a little flat (Sunday), didn’t have a whole lot of second chances. You got to shoot the puck on net. When you’re shooting from everywhere you’re going to get second chances.”
The Wings will also enjoy being part of a ceremony in which Mark Howe, the team’s director of professional scouting, will have his No. 2 retired by the Flyers.
“Howe is getting his sweater retired that night, so that’ll be a great Red Wing-Philly thing because Howe, his best year of his career were with Philly and we’re obviously real fond of him and real proud of him, so that’ll be a special night for them and for us,” Babcock said.
And insisting that the team can make due until Friday, when Howard hopes to return from his groin injury—the same is probably true for Bertuzzi, whose groin flared up on Sunday—and next week’s road trip, when the team more realistically expects Datsyuk (knee) and Lidstrom (bone bruise on one of his ankles) to return (no frickin’ clue about Jakub Kindl, sorry; I’d also estimate that Ericsson’s 3-4 weeks out from returning from his broken wrist, we all know that Patrick Eaves is out for the year, and we’re going to pretend that NHL.com’s Brian Hedger didn’t remind us that Danny Cleary didn’t practice on Monday, or that Henrik Zetterberg’s dealing with some sort of lower-body issue, too).
The Wings know MacDonald can carry the mail…
“Joey has played great for us,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Obviously, it’s sad to see Howie go down, but, hopefully, it’s not too bad. But, at the same time, I’m very confident in Joey, who has played great ever since he’s got the nod.”
“I think Nick’s moving around better,” Babcock said. “I don’t know when he’ll be back, but, ideally, soon.”
It’s an unfamiliar situation for the Wings, playing without Lidstrom. Their 2-1 loss Sunday to Chicago was only the 10th home game he has missed in 20 seasons.
“Well, knock on wood, he’s been one of those guys who’s really never been hurt all throughout his career,” Kronwall said. “And we’re not used to playing without him. In saying that, that’s the way it is and we just have to look forward and do whatever we can out there.”
And just as Jimmy Howard told the Free Press’s Anthony Fenech that he would try to roll with the punches...
“Still day-to-day,” Howard said. “Nothing really serious, so just get treatment here and get back as soon as possible.”
“It definitely is (frustrating),” said Howard, who recently missed a month with a broken finger. “But it’s part of being a professional athlete. Injuries happen—you just try to limit them the best as possible.”
Babcock was incredibly insistent that, as the Wings’ burned through post-trade deadline call-ups 2 through 4 in Janik, Conner and Pearce (we will find out whether the trio were included on the Grand Rapids Griffins’ 22-man “clear day roster” this morning; as the Wings are only allowed to call up 4 players after the deadline for non-emergency purposes, it is highly likely that at least Brendan Smith is here to stay, and that Janik and Conner might remain for the balance of the regular season, too), the Wings will embrace the whole change-equals-opportunity scenario:
“It’s all about opportunity isn’t it?” coach Mike Babcock said after practice Monday. “You can go around feeling sorry for yourself, which is an absolute waste of time, or you can find more players.”
“The bottom line is guys that aren’t healthy that are trying to play and can’t move, they’re not doing us any good anyway,” Babcock said. “So let’s have a bunch of guys that are healthy, let’s get after it, and let’s win some games.”
Forwards Todd Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary didn’t skate at practice Monday, but are expected to play tonight.
“The reality is you go through lots of things throughout the year,” Babcock said. “Suck it up and find a way to get better.”
The Wings’ players agreed with their coach while speaking to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness:
“We’ve got some guys out but at the same time it’s a good opportunity for these other guys to show what they can do,” Niklas Kronwall said. “Times like this is when guys get a chance to show what they’re made of.”
“Depth’s always important in a long season,” Justin Abdelkader said. “You go through stretches where you have injuries. We’ve been fortunate we’ve been fairly healthy all season, now we have injuries and it’s an opportunity for a lot of guys. Hopefully our depth can show in times like these.”
Joey MacDonald, who had his six-game win streak snapped Sunday, will start against the Flyers.
“When you’ve got guys like Pav and Nick out of the lineup, guys are going to step up,” MacDonald said. “We’ve got some young guys here, a few call-ups that played well in the minors. It’s an opportunity for them. It’s a good time to show the coaches what we have down there. Guys can come here, step up and play well.”
“The minute that you try to over-do things and over-think things that’s when you get in trouble,” Kronwall said. “It’s a team game and we all have to come together and work through this as a team and as a group. Tomorrow night is a new game and we’re looking forward to it.”
The Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa tossed off a “spirit of the thing” column regarding the Wings’ injuries, suggesting that the news is akin to being served Brussels sprouts (seriously)...
What’d Jimmy tell you guys?” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said, smiling as he began a daily session with the media.
These days, Babcock sounds a wee bit like a parent coaxing the “good-for-ya” vegetables into a toddler.
“Well, it’s all about opportunity, isn’t it?” he said. “You can go around feeling sorry for yourself, which is an absolute waste of time, or you can find more players.”
A case in point is the last team in here, the Blackhawks. All season, they tried to play better defense. They failed. Then center Jonathan Toews and defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador went out with concussions. It took a while, but the Blackhawks played better defensively in consecutive games against the Senators and Red Wings. The injuries put a premium on simplifying their approach and keener attention to details.
If the wounded Red Wings could target one area for similar serendipity, it would be their chronically lukewarm power play. Already seeking improvement two weeks ago, key components Datsyuk and Lidstrom were hurt. Even a fill-in, Kindl, went down.
But, who knows? With Babcock sifting through possible combinations and healthy players preaching the gospel of greater personal responsibility, they might find a missing ingredient. The power play did look a bit better, at times, against Chicago. Against the Flyers tonight, with some key people out in man-advantage situations, the new pieces might provide an elixir.
“I get more minutes, so I just got to show that I can step in and play well,” said defenseman Brendan Smith, who now plays a point on the power play. “Obviously, Kroner is picking up the offensive side for Nick Lidstrom. So I think we just have to keep playing steady. And for myself, it has to be simple.”
But the Wings were a wee bit more practical regarding what it’ll take to beat the Flyers while speaking to MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“They have a really talented group, big guys, play a very physical game,’’ Kronwall said. “Their building is very loud, so they usually get an extra kick from the fans.’‘
The Red Wings defeated the Flyers 4-3 on Feb. 12 at Joe Louis Arena, where Philadelphia is 1-17-2, including the 1997 Cup finals, since 1988. MacDonald was in goal for that game, and he’ll be in net again this time. He has won seven consecutive starts but is coming off a 2-1 loss Sunday to the Chicago Blackhawks, after subbing for Howard in the second period.
“They got big bodies, they cause a lot of havoc for goalies,’’ MacDonald said. “They crash the net, guys like (Scott) Hartnell, like Homer (Tomas Holmstrom), he’s trying to bug the goalie.’‘
“It’ll be physical, but they can really skate, too,’’ Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader said. “We’re going to have to play a tight road game. Got to commit to defense.’‘
The Flyers also are dinged up, missing defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszeros as well as forward James van Riemsdyk.
“They’re depleted on the back end, kind of like we are,’’ Babcock said. “So that’s all even.’‘
“We got some guys out, but at the same time it’s a good opportunity for these other guys to show what they can do,’’ Kronwall said. “Smitty’s done a great job ever since he got called up, using his skating to his advantage, playing physical when he needs to. Times like this is when guys get a chance to show what they’re made of.’‘
Part II: Red Wings notebooks: I covered most of the stories regarding Niklas Kronwall being named the NHL’s second star of the week on Monday, but it was somewhat surprising to hear Kronwall defer credit for his seven-points-in-three-games performance so particularly strongly while speaking to DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose...
“I think you do whatever you can out there to help the team in whatever situation that might be, and the points that I’ve been getting is more a credit to the guys up front who have been doing a great job,” he said. “A lot of them have come from just giving it to someone in our own zone and then they do the rest.”
Kronwall’s goal against the Blackhawks was No. 40 scored by a Wings’ defensemen this season, which leads the league for defensive scoring. His seven-points equals a career-best three game stretch, which he first established in the 2009-10 season when he had three goals and four assists in wins over Columbus, Vancouver and Anaheim during a four day period.
The Swedish-born defenseman has reached career-highs this season for goals (14), power-play goals (6) and game-winning goals (4), in 66 games. He’s also registered a personal-best 146 blocked shots, which leads the team and is third most in the Western Conference.
“It’s obviously nice to be recognized, but at the same time we all feel in here that it’s a team game, and it just happened to be me this time,” Kronwall said. “I’ve been able to give the puck to the right guys at the right time of the game a few times and they have been doing the rest of the job, so I’d like to give them more credit than I deserve really.”
Despite the protestations of his defensive partner and coach to the contrary, as noted by MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“Kronner is a guy who will take on responsibility when guys go down and will look to be more of a leader,’’ Brad Stuart, Kronwall’s defense partner, said. “But I don’t know if that has anything to do with his hot streak. But he’s definitely that type of player who will step up when he’s needed He’s been getting a lot of good chances and putting some of them in. He’s been doing a great job.”
Kronwall and others have had to step up in the absence of injured defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom, Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl.
“He’s played better and better,’’ coach Mike Babcock said. “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.’‘
Via RedWingsFeed, here’s Kronwall speaking to NHL Live:
Part III: Oh boy, power rankings: I don’t mean to sound so virulently opposed to the concept of “power rankings”...They just make me itchy because they’re so damn arbitrary and so damn divisive. Here’s NHL.com’s Dave Lozo’s take on the Wings’ week that was (cue the random comment)...
6. Detroit (43-20-3) 6: The Red Wings clearly are not the same team with Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk out, but what team would be? If the lower-body injury Jimmy Howard suffered Sunday is serious, then there could be problems.
Here’s Scott Burnside’s take...
2. Detroit Last Week: 2: Not only did the Wings drop a close 2-1 decision at home on Sunday, they also lost netminder Jimmy Howard to injury again. Can Joey MacDonald rework his backup magic?
Sportsline’s Adam Gretz was also charitable toward the Wings…
5. Red Wings [last week] 5: One of the most dominant performances of the season came from the Red Wings last week when they crushed the Minnesota Wild despite playing without Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom. In a 60 minute game the Red Wings allowed just four scoring chances. Without their two best players. Total domination.
And TSN’s Scott Cullen gave the Wings credit for treading water despite their injuries…
This Week 4 Last Week 6 Detroit Red Wings: With injuries and some front-line players not producing, it’s been all the more important that the Wings have received contributions from depth players like Darren Helm, Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader, a trio that has combined for 26 points in 16 games since the All-Star break.
As was Sportsnet’s Luke Fox...
4 [last week] 5 Detroit: The Red Wings showed the gap between them and the NHL’s inferior teams last week, beating up on Minnesota and Columbus, before succumbing to the rival Blackhawks 2-1 at home.
But the Hockey News’s Rory Boylen felt that the Wings have taken advantage of an easy schedule...
6. Detroit Red Wings [last week] 3: Wings beat soft touches Columbus and Minnesota, but have lost to Canucks, Avs, Hawks in past three “challenges” at home. Really need Datsyuk and Lidstrom back.
And Fox Sports West’s Joe Rosen notes that things get tricky for the Wings sooner than later (thank goodness the Wings get two days off after tonight’s game, have two more days off after the Friday-Saturday tilts, and have two days off between their back-to-backs in LA and Anaheim next Tuesday and Wednesday and their game against San Jose on the 17th. Those six “off-days” between the next clumps of one, two and two games yield more time to rest and heal):
4. Red Wings [last week 3] [highest/lowest] 2/20: Injuries have affected the Wings, who will look to improve upon their 16-16-1 away record when they hit the road for five of their next six. Their three-game California leg features potential playoff previews against San Jose and Los Angeles.
Part IV: Also of Red Wings-related note: If you missed it, Jimmy Howard and Joey MacDonald will be signing autographs at Hockeytown Authentics on Wednesday, and Kris Draper, Joey Kocur and Darren McCarty will appear at Friday night’s Saginaw Spirit game;
• In the charitable news department, the Toledo Walleye are holding a wine-tasting event on March 23rd as well;
• Shifting gears in a big way, here’s one more, “If you missed it”: ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun revealed that Steve Yzerman will helm Team Canada’s 2014 Olympic team, and Ken Holland will be one of his advisors.
I will reiterate that the entire concept of holding an Olympic games in Sochi, Russia, however, scares the crap out of me. Sochi is being built up like a Russian Dubai because it’s the go-to Black Sea resort town since the Ukraine’s independence robbed Russia of its biggest resorts, and there’s no doubt that Putin’s going to ensure that Stalin’s old summer home will be safe as safe can be, but it’s also located very close to Georgia, Chechnya, South Ossieta, Dagestan, Ingushetia and Abkhazia, all incredibly unstable regions where the ethnic groups don’t get along and have been engaging in some serious-ass guerrilla warfare for as long as they’ve existed.
• In slightly cheerier news regarding the gentleman who turned down being Team Russia’s GM because he could not be guaranteed that the government would not influence his player personnel decisions, per Sportsnet’s Frank Cosentino:
Dan Reja, who played two seasons with the Knights (1993-94, 1994-95) and is a former Washington Capitals seventh-round pick, has invented a new stick handling aid. It’s a regular hockey glove that goes on your bottom hand. Attached to the palm of the glove is a hard plastic sheath. The sheath does not allow you to squeeze the bottom hand, forcing the top hand to do all the work. It promotes flexion, extension and a wider range of motion for the top hand, all while strengthening the wrist. It’s genius; check it out at www.dangleglove.com.
Teddy Purcell claims he uses the aid with a golf ball off-ice. Igor Larionov has checked out the product and samples have been sent to Sharks standouts Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton.
(I was taught to go ahead and let my dominant left hand guide the stick while holding it left-handed, but what do I know?)
• Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Dan Petry also spoke to the Orange County Register’s Mark Whicker about his son, Jeff, becoming an NHL defenseman with the Edmonton Oilers;
• In fantasy hockey news, per NHL.com’s Pete Jensen...
KEVIN FROM GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN anticipates a tight finish for the top spot in his league standings with just a few weeks to go before the fantasy postseason begins. He currently has Tobias Enstrom on his roster, but is looking for an upgrade via free agency. He is considering picking up Kyle Quincey, but is concerned because the Detroit Red Wings play seven of their next 11 games on the road. His league categorizes goals, assists, points and rating.
Enstrom (4 G, 18 A, plus-2, 28 PIM, 10 PPP, 67 SOG) is in his prime at 27 and has contributed admirably at times this season for the Winnipeg Jets, but is currently mired in a lengthy slump with no goals and only 3 assists over his last 17 games since his five-game points streak from Jan. 16-23 came to an end. Helping Enstrom’s cause is that he sees time with Dustin Byfuglien for Winnipeg’s top defensive pairing, but the fact of the matter is your roster needs a spark for the stretch run. This Swedish born blueliner has clearly not instilled much confidence in you as of late, so a change may be needed.
Quincey played with the Red Wings sparingly during the early stages of his career, but is back with the club now as a 26-year-old defenseman with tremendous potential after a three-way trade sent him from Colorado to the Motor City on Feb. 21. Quincey (6 G, 18 A, plus-1, 66 PIM, 9 PPP, 141 SOG) missed one game for Detroit on Feb. 28 against the Columbus Blue Jackets due to a groin injury, but is back in the lineup for his injury-plagued squad at an opportune time. Quincey possesses more size than Enstrom at 6-2 and 207 pounds, and has produced in a number of categories since the trade, with 1 goal, a plus-2 rating, 6 PIM and 10 SOG in four games. With Ian White locked into a long slump and Nicklas Lidstrom and Jonathan Ericsson battling injuries, Quincey is an addition that could ultimately pay dividends for your fantasy squad if he bursts onto the scene.
• White’s picked up his game of late, and while he’s not registering many points without Lidstrom, he’s played fantastic hockey while the Wings have been banged up. The Hockey News’s Ken Campbell offers this assessment of Ken Holland’s savvy pick-up in offering a truncated imitation of Elliotte Friedman’s “30 thoughts”:
Detroit: Reason No. 8,347 why Ken Holland is the best GM in the NHL: He saw something in Ian White that almost nobody else did.
• And finally, based upon your comments in game recaps of late, I think I’m going to keep doing player assessments for now, barring ye olde, “Dude, it’s way too late, I need some sleep” instances. They do add an extra 45 minutes to my wrap-ups, and last night I didn’t hit the hay till 5:30 and was up by 10 to cover injury stuff, so I’d prefer to not repeat that. I’ll have to see how I can better manage my time to crank ‘em out without sacrificing too much nap time. If you want a point of reference, because I didn’t know where to look or when the Flyers’ press would hit, I started this entry at 11 PM, and it’s 4:15 as I’m wrapping this up.
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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.