The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/17/11 at 03:26 PM ET
Update #5 @ 4:30 PM: How awkward. The LA Times’ Helene Elliott reports that this is John Stevens’ last game behind the Kings’ bench: As the Detroit Red Wings prepare to face off against the Los Angeles Kings tonight (7 PM EST, FSD/FS West/WXYT), MLive’s Ansar Khan reports that the Wings have also chosen to conserve their players’ energy given that the team has to play four games (endure four tie zone changes) over the course of the next six nights:
Optional skate for Wings today. Same lineup expected: 93-13-44, 51-40-26, 11-43-20, 48-8-96; 5-18, 55-23, 52-4; 35
The Windsor Star’s Bob Duff listed the limited participants and added tons of quips and quotes from Wings coach Mike Babcock via his Twitter account...
#redwings held optional skate this morning. Only a few takers on the ice - Holmstrom, Howard, Conklin, Ericsson, Commodore, Abdlekader.
#redwings Babcock on #kings: “They’ve got a good team, they’ve got good players, they’ve got dangerous players.”
More Babcock on #kings: “They’ve had 40 shots on goal the last two games. That’s one of the things I’ve observed.”
Babcock on #redwings power play: “We shoot it and get it back when we’re good, and we pass it around the outside when we’re no good.”
Babcock on coach firings: “Everybody in today’s NHL - owners, management – thinks they have a team that can make the playoffs.”
More Babcock on coach firings: ““I hate to break the news, but for some teams, it’s not true.”
And I think I can very safely state that Babcock’s one of the few coaches who doesn’t have to worry about his job security. He’s probably going to coach the Wings for as long as he wants to…
Duff’s formal morning skate report offers equal time to the emergence of one Valtteri Filppula as an offensive force and Babcock’s take on tonight’s game…
As they ready to take on the Los Angeles Kings Saturday at Joe Louis Arena, one of the hottest Detroit Red Wings is forward Valtteri Filppula. The slick Finn has produced 7-4-11 numbers in his last 11 games, and appears to finally be living up to the offensive promise the Wings felt he held for so many years.
“I’ve talked a lot to Fil over the years, and some of those conversations he probably wasn’t very pleased with,” Wings coach Mike Babcock admitted. “But you kept expecting him to grow and become a dominant player, and he’s been a dominant player for us. With Pav (Datsyuk), Z (Henrik Zetterberg), Mule (Johan Franzen) and him, that’s been out top four for sure. It gives us good balance.”
“He’s such an elite skater. He plays centre or the wing and really helps us. He’s always been good defensively, but you’ve got to score. You’ve got to check, but you’ve got to score some goals. Your big people are the people that consistently have to score. The other people are going to chip in, they’re just not going to do it consistently. Fil’s given us another scorer.”
The Kings are last in the NHL in goals scored (2.13 per game) and have scored two or fewer goals in each of their last 10 games. “They’ve got a good team, they’ve got good players, they’ve got dangerous players,” Babcock said. “They’ve had 40 shots on goal the last two games. That’s one of the things I’ve observed.”
Babcock coached Drew Doughty with the 2010 Canadian Olympic team and is a huge fan of the Kings’ defenceman, but isn’t surprised to see him struggling following a contract holdout that cost Doughty training camp. Through 26 games, Doughty shows 2-9-11 numbers and a minus-five rating.
“This league’s too good not to be ready to go when everyone else is ready to go,” Babcock said. “Players are too good, they’re too ready. It’s a short training camp, but they’re there early, skating together 10 times just to be ready for training camp. You can do that on your own, but you’re not as good by yourself. That’s the facts.”
And a certain Christmas elf asked me to make sure that, given that Babcock, Wings PA announcer Budd Lynch and almost everyone else can’t seem to pronounce Val-TERRI FIL-pul-la correctly, we receive a reminder as to how one should actually
The usual rule of thumb for Finnish, Czech and Slovak surnames is that the emphasis is on the first syllable.
MLive’s Ansar Khan snuck in two more Twitter updates before penning his morning report…
Red Wings’ Jan Mursak says he’ll play five games during conditioning stint in Grand Rapids from Dec. 28-Jan. 7.
Kings have gone 5 in a row without PPG and are 2-for-30 (6.7 percent) in last 10 games. Wings 13-for-43 (30.2 percent) in last 11 games.
And Khan duly notes that the Wings really, really, really hope to pounce on the Kings early and often in his morning skate update:
The Detroit Red Wings have re-established their dominance at home, one of their primary goals coming into the season, as they seek their 10th consecutive victory at Joe Louis Arena tonight against the Los Angeles Kings (7 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit). he Red Wings have the best home record in the NHL (12-2-1). The haven’t lost at JLA since Nov. 3 (4-1 vs. Calgary).
“We have confidence at home. We want to make this a tough building to play in,’’ defenseman Brad Stuart said. “Last year that wasn’t the case here. Our preparation for home games wasn’t that good, and this year it is. We’ve had good starts, stuck with our plan and played a full 60 minutes. We’re more focused. Last year I know we had games where we weren’t focused and made mistakes mentally. Our goals against are way down and that has a lot to do with preparation and focus.’‘
Detroit was 21-14-6 at home and 26-11-4 on the road last season.
The Kings (14-13-4) are one of the most disappointing teams in the NHL. They are loaded with talented forwards (Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, Simon Gagne and Mike Richards, who’s out with an injury) but rank last in the NHL in goals per game (2.13). Amazingly, they have not scored more than two goals in 10 consecutive games. They fired coach Terry Murray earlier this week, replacing him on an interim basis with former Flyers coach John Stevens. Darryl Sutter is expected to be named L.A.‘s next coach, possibly next week. The Kings snapped a five-game losing streak Thursday with a 2-1 win in Columbus.
“They won a big game the other night, they’re probably excited, getting ready to get on a roll,’’ Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “They’ve been deemed as one of the real good teams in the West, talent-wise. I think they are. Somehow it’s just a matter of getting themselves on a roll. We’d like that roll to not be in our building, so we need to get back on it ourselves.’‘
Babcock noted the Kings have registered more than 40 shots on goal in their past two games and three of the last four. The Kings remain tough to score against. They are tied with Detroit for fifth in the league (2.23 goals allowed per game). Goaltender Jonathan Quick has been real good (2.09 goals-against average, .930 save percentage).
Khan also filed a mid-morning report in which Babcock praised the Wings’ increased panache in terms of their physical play—as the Red Wings define physical play—of late:
Being physical also is about being strong on the puck, grinding it, cycling it and wearing down opponents by making them chase you all night long.
“The more physical we can be, the better opportunity I believe this team has,” Babcock said. “I think we can skill our way around the rink, but if we work and we’re gritty and we’re determined, we’re a much better team.”
Babcock bemoaned a lack of physicality in losses to St. Louis and Colorado earlier this season. He had no such complaints after Thursday’s 4-3 loss at Nashville. Even though the Red Wings squandered a lead in the last five minutes, they dominated territorially, and Babcock liked the way his players responded to the Predators’ physical ways.
“It’s not how big you are, it’s how big you play,” Babcock said. “Some guys that weigh 180 play 210, and you got guys that are 220 that play 150. So you got to decide who you want to be and how hard on the puck you want to be.”
Forward Justin Abdelkader said they can be skilled and gritty.
“I think we have a group that can not only skate, but can be physical, play with grit,” Abdelkader said. “That’s important, especially as you get through the second half of the year and the playoffs. You see a team like Boston, they won (the Stanley Cup) with grit and determination. They were physical.”
“When people say physical, I mean being hard to play against,” Abdelkader said. “There’s a lot of things that factor into being physical, not just hitting.”
I can’t quote Khan’s entire article, so you’re going to have to read about Barry Trotz’s praise for the Wings and the Wings’ sympathy for a devil of sorts in Chris Pronger on your own.
On the Kings’ side of the equation, the Los Angeles Times’ Helene Elliott offers the following updates via Twitter…
Mike Richards wearing red no-contact jersey at Kings’ morning skate at the Joe.
Mitchell, Richards, Loktionov and Voynov still on ice after others finished Kings’ morning skate.
Hunter will replace Loktionov in Kings’ lineup vs Red Winga
Fox Sports West’s Jim Fox offers the following lineup updates...
Practice lines Detroit 12-11-23//25-28-14//15-48-22 (47)//13-24-19 7-8//27-3//44-2//33-26
26-48-33 out—-22 in the middle of  and 47
And LA Kings Insider’s Rich Hammond, erm…no comment:
The great cities of the world…there’s New York, Paris, London, Rome, Barcelona…a couple hundred thousand more…maybe a few dozen others…and there’s Detroit. Great people, outstanding Greektown dinner last night, but, well…
Hammond’s hotel room looks out on the ugly edifice that is the Ed McNamara financial building, which looks like a Soviet Era communist edifice, so there’s no wonder he’s got some doom and gloom going this morning.
Update the first: The Los Angeles Times’ Helene Elliott took note of some of Babcock’s comments about Kings defenseman Drew Doughty—and the Kings’ struggles as a whole—this morning…
The Red Wings held an optional morning skate at Joe Louis Arena before Saturday’s game against the Kings and only a few players took advantage of the ice time. Afterward, Detroit Coach Mike Babcock, who coached Kings defenseman Drew Doughty on the triumphant Canadian Olympic team at Vancouver, had an interesting take on Doughty’s low production this season. Babcock admires Doughty and once said the young defenseman was “touched by God.” But Babcock said he’s not surprised that Doughty has only two goals and nine points in 26 games this season.
“Well, if I didn’t know he wasn’t at training camp — wasn’t he not at training camp — that would surprise me. But this league’s too good not to be ready to go when everybody else is ready to go,” Babcock said, referring to Doughty having missed most of the preseason while negotiating a new contract. “Whether you’re a player here that got hurt and didn’t play in training camp, and you wonder why 15 games in you got no stats, all you’ve got to do is look around the league. It’s not by accident. Players are too good. They’re too ready. They come in early. It’s a short training camp but they’re there two weeks in advance skating 10 times just to be ready to start training camp and you can do that on your own, but you’re not as good by yourself. That’s the facts.”
Babcock also said he had empathy for former Montreal Canadiens Coach Jacques Martin, who was fired Saturday and replaced by Randy Cunneyworth. Martin was the sixth NHL coach dismissed this season, following Davis Payne (St. Louis), Paul Maurice (Carolina), Bruce Boudreau (Washington), Randy Carlyle (Ducks) and Terry Murray (Kings).
“It’s a hard business. Terry Murray did a great job here,” Babcock said. “There’s a lot of coaches that have done excellent jobs but everybody in today’s NHL — owners and management — thinks they have a team that can make the playoffs and win the Cup and I hate to break the news to them but for lots of teams it’s not true. Until you’ve been there and you know how good you have to be to win the Cup you don’t realize how far you are away. In saying that, there are a ton of teams that think they should be playoff teams and I don’t blame them. It’s so tight. This is what they do. One thing about it is, if you’re a coach, you get to move. You get a new house. You get a different place to live. It won’t be the end of the world for most of these guys. They’ll bounce back.”
• Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien reports that NBC fans believe that the Wings were the biggest “winners of the NHL’s realignment;
• In Finland, Russia Today reports that Dick Axelsson scored a goal in Team Sweden’s 4-2 victory over Team Russia at the Channel One/Karjala Cup. The Swedes are 2-and-0 in the holiday tournament, and Axelsson registered 2 assists in Sweden’s first game;
• And the resolution isn’t great, but this is most definitely a snicker-worthy moment:
Update #2: I don’t believe that ESPN Los Angeles’s Dan Arritt is traveling with the team, but he filed an in-depth game preview nonetheless with “five story lines to watch”:
1. Record pace – The Kings have officially nosedived into uncharted waters. They’ve gone 10 consecutive games without scoring at least three goals in one of them, a drought they’ve never experienced in franchise history. Now they’re scheduled to play a team that’s tied with them for the fifth-lowest goals-against average in the NHL at 2.23 a game. The good thing is, the Red Wings’ defense takes the night off once in a while. They’ve allowed four goals or more in seven games this season, compared to four for the Kings.
2. A positive sign – The Kings are still buried in last place in the NHL in scoring but they received another long overdue goal Thursday night in a 2-1 victory in Columbus. Kings defenseman Davis Drewiske, a healthy scratch in 26 of the previous 30 games, scored early in the third period to tie the score, 1-1. It was the third straight goal by a player on the Kings who had previously not scored this season. Brad Richardson and Trent Hunter scored the previous two. Now they just need their best available goal scorer to get untracked. Anze Kopitar hasn’t scored in the last 10 games.
4. Natives are restless – The Kings have three defensemen who spent a majority of their childhood in Michigan. Matt Greene and Alec Martinez were born and raised in the state, while Jack Johnson moved there as a child and later starred at the University of Michigan. Johnson has struggled in his career against the Red Wings, totaling one goal, no assists and a minus-13 rating in 14 games. Martinez, on the other hand, has thrived against Detroit in his young NHL career, posting a goal and two assists in five games.
5. Streak starters – The Red Wings have won nine of 12 since a 4-1 victory in Los Angeles on Nov. 19. That loss also marked the beginning of a major slide for the Kings, one that cost Terry Murray his job as coach this week. They owned a three-game winning streak heading into that afternoon game, but have since lost eight of 12 and scored more than two goals in a game just once. Games in Detroit have also been known to turn around the Kings’ fortunes. They beat the host Red Wings last March, 2-1, then proceeded to win seven of the next nine to cement their playoff hopes.
update #3: Here’s Rich Hammond’s morning skate report…
The Kings will make a lineup change tonight, with Trent Hunter replacing Andrei Loktionov. That will mean a third line of center Trevor Lewis with Brad Richardson and Hunter. Mike Richards had a lengthy skate this morning in a red no-contact jersey. Still waiting for an update on his status. Rob Scuderi is here, but his wife might give birth any day, so he’s on baby watch. More updates from the skate to come…
[Update: After his skate, Richards said he is still feeling some symptoms but will continue to skate in the coming days. There’s no timetable for his return to game action.]
And WXYT’s Ken Kal gets Scrooge-y in his game-day preview:
Update #4: LA Kings Insider’s Rich Hammond confirms that Willie Mitchell and Mike Richards won’t play tonight, and he anticipates that the Kings will hire Darryl Sutter as their coach on Monday, and Helene Elliott added a few morning skate tidbits from the Kings’ side of things...
Stevens made one change to the lineup from Thursday’s game at Detroit, inserting winger Trent Hunter in place of center Andrei Loktionov. Defenseman Slava Voynov will sit for the second straight game.
“We like Lokti. We think he’s going to be a good player in the league,” Stevens said. “I think in order to do that he’s got to be an extremely competitive player that wins puck battles and wants to hang onto the puck and makes plays. As any young player he’s going to get better defensively. I don’t think he’s been at that level that we expect from him, and I think it’s good for young players to step back and watch a game and learn from it.”
“That message has been communicated to him clearly. And again, we think the world of him but when you have healthy players on the sidelines that are very hungry to play, it doesn’t matter if it’s Lokti or somebody else, if the level drops off I think it’s important to make the change.”
The Windsor Star’s Bob Duff also fired off a few Twitter updates regarding the fact that Loktionov (whose agent happens to be Igor Larionov) is bummed out about having to watch the Wings from the press box…
Former #spitfires F Andrei Loktionov of #kings on facing #redwngs: “It’s my favourite team growing up.”
@SteveBurtch Yes, he’s a healthy scratch, but still excited to see #redwings in person for first time as an #NHL player.
And he adds one more quip from Babcock:
Babcock on #redwings 9 straight home wins: “We’ve been good at home. We’ve been playing quicker at home, we’re on our toes more.”
Update #5: The Los Angeles Times’ Helene Elliott,/a> and LA Kings Insider’s Rich Hammond (who actually works for the team) both report that tonight is John Stevens’ last game as the Kings’ interim coach. Darryl Sutter will be hired on Monday or Tuesday, and Hammond added a few more quotes from Stevens regarding tonight’s personnel.
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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.