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Red Wings-Kings mad dash: Nicklas Lidstrom can’t stand sitting; Richards better than Datsyuk?

Several Red Wings-related stories and early notebooks have popped up since I took a lovely little pre-game nap (actually, I had an anxiety attack in the middle, so it was terrible), and instead of sitting on the stories for the overnight report, I’d like to get ‘em out there for you to read by adding them as a supplement to today’s game-day post.

As I write this we’re a little more than an hour out from tonight’s faceoff between the Wings and Kings (10:30 PM EDT, FSD/FS California/97.1 FM) and 24 hours from a back-to-back against Anaheim (10:30 PM on Wednesday, same TV/radio), and as we begin our “mad dash,” it’s worth noting and then some that when Nicklas Lidstrom spoke to the Wings’ media corps today, he admitted that he absolutely despises sitting out, and the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa took note of the comments made by a man who, perhaps thankfully for Red Wings fans, simply cannot stand the fact that he’ll have missed at least ten games thanks to a bone bruise in his left ankle that will sideline him until Monday’s home game against Washington, at the

“After a while, you get sick and tired of sitting around and watching the guys playing,” he said. “You want to be part of it, you want to be on the ice and be part of the team, again.”

Lidstrom said he balances the need to return to the ice with caution.

“The trainer said if you push it too much you might aggravate it, so you’ve got to be careful with it. But, at the same time, you want to get back on the ice and start skating with it again. Some pain, you’ve got to feel. But you know if it’s too much, you’ve got to stop.”

Lidstrom said the ankle “felt about the same” during his skate Tuesday as it did during his first skate since the injury, on Monday: “You know, I still have pain in the ankle. So it’s not good stopping or turning or making any quick starts and stops.”

A defenseman universally praised for thinking the game ahead of anyone else out on the ice says he has not said much to teammates about their play recently, even as the Red Wings try to improve on a 16-18-1 road record. At the start of play Tuesday, of the 16 teams qualifying for the playoffs, only the Wings, Blackhawks and Capitals had road records below .500.

“I think the guys have been playing well,” he said. “We’ve just got to tighten up a bit more, defensively, and special teams are going to have to play better. But we all know that. So, it’s about a month before the playoffs. We still have some things to work on.”

Jimmy Howard, who will return tonight (Todd Bertuzzi might return from his groin injury tomorrow, but Saturday against San Jose is a safer bet, and Pavel Datsyuk will probably return from knee surgery on Saturday), took things a step further in describing the urgency the Wings must display to close their 6-point gap on the Central Division-leading St. Louis Blues:

“I don’t think people really realize but playoffs have pretty much started here the last five or six games with the teams we’ve played and everyone jockeying for position in the standings,” Howard said. “So the games have been very tight and goals have been hard to come by.”

In terms of urgency of a very different kind, DetroitRedwings.com’s Bill Roose spoke to interim Wings defenseman Doug Janik about heading out to the West Coast for nearly a week while his Mrs. a full nine months pregnant back in Grand Rapids. Roose reveals that Janik’s roommate, who’s eight years younger than the 31-year-old Janik, can tell that his defensive partner in both Detroit and Grand Rapids is preoccupied:

“It’s definitely tough on him. He wants to be there and obviously anybody would want to be with their wife at this time,” [Brendan] Smith said. “But he’s such a nice guy that he’s asked me, ‘Do you mind if I keep my phone on in case my wife calls?’ He’s a great guy and very genuine and considerate, so that’s great for me.”

While Janik is excited to be a part of the Wings’ roster as they battle through a bevy of recent injuries, he hopes that he can be home when his wife, Kristin, delivers the couple’s first baby. The couple has a due-date of March 26.

“It’s always fun to be in the NHL and it’s nice when you get to leave Detroit in the middle of March and come to California,” Janik said. “But you’re always nervous when you’re that far away from home. I’m always checking the phone to make sure she hasn’t gone into labor or anything like that.”

For the moment, Janik and Smith are playing about 15-17 minutes a night while serving as the Wings’ third defensive pairing, with Janik serving as the stay-at-home companion to the offensively-inclined Smith, and he serves as more than just Smith’s boo-boo bailer-outer:

“He’s probably been the most influential player because I’ve been with him through Grand Rapids and here,” Smith said. “Just everything that he’s given me as tips, as a young guy I can find myself getting a little bit frustrated with some of the ways that I play. I mean, hockey is a game of mistakes and everybody makes them, but as a young guy you get frustrated with yourself, but he’s been there to calm me down and make me laugh. I credit a lot to him because he’s always been there for me.”

Janik may or may not clear waivers next year depending on how many games he plays with the Wings this season, but at present, he’s auditioning for a job on the Red Wings’ blueline:

“Anytime you get called up you want to put your best foot forward, but right now with so many of us called up and in such a tight race in the Western Conference it’s obviously a lot of pressure,” he said. “You can look around to the guys who have been around here awhile and playing and dealing with it and how calm and composed they are and that only helps us. So all we have to do is get in there and try to do what we can to help win.”

But the preparation is definitely different, even for an eight-year pro, when he’s call-up.

“There’s a lot more detail between the meetings, the videos, the structure, everything is more disciplined. It’s nice to come into that, but it sounds simple, but it comes down to playing simple and not chance too much and do what you’re best at. This is where you want to play, so guys put a lot of pressure on themselves to be the best that they can. It all depends on your game, so a guy like myself is going to try to be more simple, move pucks out and be good in my own end, as opposed to a guy like Gustav Nyquist who can make plays and he’ll create a little offense for himself and he has. You really can’t change your role, we just have to do what we’re best at.”

Speaking of defensemen and their working conditions, Red Wings defensemen Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart talked to MLive’s Ansar Khan about the fact that the NHL’s GM’s at least want to try out “hybrid icing,” where in two-man races for the puck, whichever player reaches the faceoff dot earns possession of the puck for his team and a stoppage in play…

“I think that would be a good change and I think most of the D-men would say the same thing,’’ Kronwall said. “That way it’s not that they’re going to blow (the whistle) every time it’s down the ice, it all depends on how positioned you are compared to the forward. I don’t know how many incidents there’s been where guys have been bumped on an (impending icing) call, but it would definitely get rid of all that.’‘

Stuart said this idea is better than having a full no-touch icing rule, where the whistle is blown after the puck crosses the red line, even if its is clear the attacking player will beat the defenseman to it.

“I think there’s a way to do it where you can still create an opportunity for the forward to get the puck, if he’s going to get it, but at the same time protect those situations where two guys are racing for it at full speed toward the end boards,’’ Stuart said. “That’s dangerous. We’ve seen some injuries as a result, and they’re usually pretty serious. If we can kind of eliminate those types of situations it’s totally worth it.’‘

Stuart is glad to see the league taking measures to enhance player safety.

“That’s going to help for sure, just eliminating those 50-50 races,’’ Stuart said. “Guys are too fast, too big now to be racing for the puck going towards the end boards like that. At the same time you still want to create a chance, if the forward is going to clearly get it. That’s a situation where you’d like to see the play continue instead of just blowing it down automatically. It’s a good compromise being made there.’‘

In the other locker room, the Kings’ players spoke to the Los Angeles Times’ Helene Elliott about hybrid icing and other issues…

“Guys get hurt on it. It got me a shoulder surgery two years ago,” said Greene, who was injured when he tripped while in pursuit of the puck on an icing call. “It’s something that you don’t want to see. You don’t want to see guys get hurt. If they can come up with a fair way to do something, it’s worth looking into.”

Teammate Willie Mitchell said icing “is an exciting play when two guys are back skating hard for a puck,” but said he wouldn’t mind going to the automatic icing rule that is used internationally.

“You don’t want to take the speed out of the game, either,” he said. “When two guys are skating back hard for the puck, no one’s sitting there in their seat. Everyone’s on the edge of their seat, seeing who’s going to get it first. I’m neither here nor there on it. I think there’s other issues in our game that we need to look at much more closely than that.”

He also said the NHL is doing “a great job” in its efforts to punish shots to the head and minimize concussions. “The fact that we’re flat-lining on the number of concussions I think is a real good thing, considering the level of diagnosis is going up,” said Mitchell, who missed much of the 2009-10 season because of a concussion. “On the discipline front, players are evolving and changing their game. I’d like to see shoulder pads get smaller. I think the league’s working on that.”

And tonight’s most controversial comment comes from Kings coach Darryl Sutter, who told LAKingsInsider.com’s Rich Hammond that Los Angeles employs the best defensive forward in the NHL:

A previous item discussed the need for the Kings to play better in the middle of the ice against the Detroit Red Wings. That discussion probably starts with Mike Richards, who had a rough all-around game against the Red Wings last week, one that culminated in a defensive-zone mental mistake that led directly to a Detroit goal. It’s been a strange season for Richards, who had 11 goals in his first 24 games this season but now has scored only one goal since Dec. 23. Darryl Sutter was asked today whether he was concerned about Richards’ lack of production.

SUTTER: “Well, we need the line to produce. If you look at it, and prorate it, both of those lines [first two lines] are clicking on a 70-, 75-goal pace. If you had those two lines doing that for a whole 82 games, instead of breaking it down individually, that’s pretty good. To me, he is the best two-way centerman in the NHL. If it’s someone telling you that you’re not scoring enough, or doing this or that, that’s not what your game is about. Your game is about being on the right side of the puck and making plays. I’m not worried about it. I’m really not worried about it at all, from his standpoint. Everybody talked about his mistake in Detroit. Well, if that’s the only mistake he makes, every five or six games, I can take that.’’

I apologize for posting a repeat, but this story from the Free Press’s Helene St. James lightens the mood considerably:

Here’s what Johan Franzen thinks he might have to play with when the Detroit Red Wings take on the L.A. Kings tonight: a spatula.

Franzen said this morning he was out of sticks, and when equipment manager Paul Boyer had a barbecue spatula handy (who doesn’t?), Franzen joked, “I may have to use that tonight.

“I have to see what I can scrabble together. I didn’t have any at home, so I’m out of sticks.”

Boyer assured the Free Press this afternoon that Franzen will have real sticks tonight.

Franzen was in a good mood this morning. While talking to him about young Gustav Nyquist, his likely winger for tonight, Franzen said Nyquist is better at one thing than Valtteri Filppula: “He’s got a better shot than Fil.”

Easton’s stick factory is located in Tijuana, Mexico, so it’s not a particularly long haul to send Franzen a new batch of emergency sticks straight from the factory (and trust me, folks, given where most composite sticks are made these days, Easton and Warrior’s factories in TJ are the most “North American-made” this side of TPS/Sher-Wood in Ontario), but I’m guessing that they’ve wanted him to switch out from the SE-16 graphic line for a while. Easton tends to make most players any kind of older model of stick they want, but their current stick lines include the Stealth RS, Mako, EQ 50 and a “legacy” line in the Synergy ST, so expect the paint job and decals on Franzen’s sticks to look a little different tonight.

And while you can read about the Red Wings’ big Social Media Meet-ups tonight and tomorrow at “Coney Dog,” a restaurant co-owned by Tim Allen and Kris Draper, among others, on the team’s Twitter and Facebook pages, the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa reports that some Michigan flavor made it to the rink as well:

some buzz at staples center about kid rock and chelios both being here, tonight. the motor city gliterati?

Give Krupa’s Twitter account a follow if you would—he’s out west for the whole road trip, and he’s always insightful, if not sometimes wordier than I am wink

Update: Sorry about the booble regarding the title! I need to take my anxiety medication to calm down a bit and as I was rushing this full of jitters, when I posted the Franzen story, I thought about Capitals defenseman Mike Green. He supposedly left Easton, Franzen’s endorser, because they stopped using carbon nanotubes as part of the resins impregnating the blade in their old Stealth CNT (the stick I use), deciding that the use of that expensive material was less effective in terms of stiffening the blade and lowering the stick’s “kick point” than the somewhat circular/ovoid design of the lower portion of the S17/S19/Stealth RS sticks, and Green couldn’t get used to that. So he did what Alex Ovechkin did when Ovechkin started feeling iffy about his CCM sticks—he jumped to sign an endorsement deal with Bauer.

Update #2: Oh of course, one more right before game time. DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose spoke to Kyle Quincey about his time with the Kings…

“We lived in Hermosa Beach where it was the slowest pace of all-time and I can count on one hand when I actually went into Hollywood or L.A. and that was only to watch concerts,” said Quincey, who shared a condominium with Wayne Simmonds and Oscar Möller and Drew Doughty.

The Kings only travel into downtown for home games, otherwise they practice and hold morning skates in El Segundo, which is 16 miles southwest of Staples Center. Quincey will face his former teammates Tuesday night when the Kings host the Wings, who trail the Western Conference-leading St. Louis Blues by six-points.

“I embraced and loved the beach lifestyle and I my greatest friends outside of the team are from there,” Quincey said. “I just loved being able to walk around in beach shorts and a T-shirt on. So the whole L.A. stereotype of Hollywood was actually the total opposite of that because beach living was great.”

A former fourth-round draft pick of the Red Wings in 2003, Quincey was placed on waivers before the start of the 208-09 season. The move wasn’t ideal for the Wings, but they had little choice with a litany of young and old defensemen. The hope was that the 6-foot-2 defenseman would go unclaimed, but he was snagged by the Kings.

“It was such a different time, but I loved it,” said Quincey, who played 72 games for the Kings that season. “Coming in off of waivers and not knowing what to expect at all, they gave me a chance and I’m so grateful and fortunate for that opportunity, and I owe a lot to them and they made my time there amazing. The guys there are top-notch and I still keep in touch with most of them and still consider them my closest friends. I just had so much fun there, it was great.”

And Niklas Kronwall had this to say about the Wings’ reacquisition of Quincey:

“He was a great player when he was here, he played really well for us when he got the chance to play for us in the playoffs,” Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “And then, I think, they had to let somebody go because we had too many guys on the roster. But he’s taken what he had back then and just added a few more pieces. He’s a very, very solid defenseman.”
“He was good when he came up and I think he’s just gotten more confident and making more plays, getting more involved,” Kronwall said. “And at the same time he’s playing very solid defensively and using his big body to his advantage. He’s got a good shot as well and always good at getting the puck to the net on the power play. It’s going to work-out good for us.”

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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.