Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Kings set-up: a quietly crucial game (plus GM’s meetings talk)

Updated 4x at 11:57 AM: The Detroit Red Wings remain without the services of Pavel Datsyuk, Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl and Nicklas Lidstrom, and probably Todd Bertuzzi, as they face off against the Los Angeles Kings tonight (10:30 PM EDT, FSD/Fox Sports West/97.1 FM—and if you’re in LA, the Wings are holding a meet-up at Los Angeles’s Coney Dog restaurant), and they’re heading into a stretch of back-to-backs against Los Angeles and Anaheim (the Ducks dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to Colorado on Monday) and a barometer game against the playoff-desperate Sharks on Saturday…

Really, really, really needing to avoid allowing the Kings to exact their revenge for a 4-3 loss last Friday at the Joe if the Wings harbor any hopes of catching the St. Louis Blues in the Central Division. While the 11th-place Kings hope to close their two-point gap on the Sharks for the 8th and final playoff spot, the Wings sit 6 points behind St. Louis in the Central Division standings, and, thanks to a Predators win on Monday, the Wings now sit only 2 points ahead of the team that took them out on Saturday.

So why do I think that this game is quietly crucial to the Red Wings? I’ll let the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper, offering “post-game ponderings” about the Predators’ 5-4 shootout win over Phoenix (and the Predators will probably have Alexander Radulov in their lineup sooner than later—minus having to clear waivers or be ruled out of the playoffs due to having played professional games with a non-NHL team after the NHL season began, says ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun), explain why:

This victory was key to start this trip. It was Nashville’s game in hand on the Detroit Red Wings. The Predators now rest two points behind their Central Division rival. Unless St. Louis completely nosedives in March, the Predators will likely play the Red Wings. With Detroit having the second-best home record in the Western Conference (Nashville is third), the Predators need any slight advantage they can. If they pass the Red Wings in the standings — not only would it be symbolic in a way, it would enable them to have a slight leg up on the Red Wings in the first round, provided Detroit will be Nashville’s opponent.

If the Wings lose and the Blues win their game against Chicago tonight, they’d take an 8-point lead on the Wings, and while the Wings only trail the Blues by 1 win (45 to 44), the Blues hold the regulation or overtime wins playoff tiebreaker as both Detroit and Nashville have 37 “ROWs,” and the Blues have 41.

With 13 games remaining for Detroit and Nashville and 12 games remaining for St. Louis, the Wings must, must, must do their best to “win out” the remainder of their schedule, and get some help from the Blues’ opponents, if they are to attempt to win the Central Division outright, on a points-versus-points basis, as they’re probably not going to catch up to the Blues in the ROW category.

In terms of scouting the enemy, the Kings want to rebound in a big way after dropping only two of their past 5 games via a 3-1 loss in Columbus last Thursday and Friday’s 4-3 loss to the Wings.

The Kings ended up going 2-and-2 on their 4-game road trip by outlasing the Chicago Blackhawks in a shootout on Sunday, prevailing by a 3-1 decision, and the Associated Press’s recap thereof reads as follows:

Jonathan Quick and Mike Richards made sure the Los Angeles Kings earned a full two points. Quick was perfect in goal when he needed to be, and Richards scored the lone goal in a six-round shutout to give the Kings a 3-2 victory over the Blackhawks on Sunday night.

Richards beat Ray Emery with a quick wrist shot after Emery stopped the Kings’ first five shooters. Quick stopped all six Chicago shooters after making 35 saves—including Viktor Stalberg’s third-period penalty shot—through overtime.

“I got fortunate there (in the shootout). I had a couple of guys mishandle the puck,” said Quick, who shut out the Blackhawks in their last two meetings. “We got two points, that’s all it means. It doesn’t matter how we do it as long as we get it.”

Slava Voynov and Jeff Carter scored in regulation for Los Angeles, which ended a two-game losing streak. The Kings and Quick rebounded from a 4-3 loss in Detroit on Friday night when they gave up two goals in the final 4:02.

“He (Quick) brings out confidence in the whole team, the whole game, the way he plays,” Carter said. “Especially, when you get down to a shootout, 1-on-1, he’s going to be ready so it’s pretty nice.”

Quick gave up four goals on 15 shots against the Red Wings, and in his previous three starts had allowed 10 goals on 72 shots.

And as the Kings didn’t practice on Monday and their full press corps tends not to travel with the team, I’ll work from LAKingsInsider’s Rich Hammond’s information about tonight’s opponent. The Kings will probably dress the same lineup Hammond noted they employed against Chicago...

Dustin Brown-Anze Kopitar-Justin Williams
Dwight King-Mike Richards-Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner-Jarret Stoll-Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford-Colin Fraser-Brad Richardson

Rob Scuderi-Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell-Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez-Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier

Amongst Hammond’s post-game notes, these points stand out:

– The Kings, with 76 points, moved into ninth place in the Western Conference, tied in points with eighth-place Calgary and 10th-place Colorado.

– The Blackhawks outshot the Kings 39-27, including 16-7 in the third period.

– The Kings went 0-for-2 on the power play and 2-for-2 on the penalty kill. The Kings have not allowed a power-play goal in nine consecutive games and have killed 28 consecutive penalties. In the three-game season series against Chicago, the Kings went 14-for-14 on the penalty kill.
– Slava Voynov scored a goal, his fifth goal and 15th point of the season. Voynov has one goal and three assists in his last six games.

– Jeff Carter scored a goal, his 19th goal and 30th point of the season. Carter has four goals and one assist in eight games with the Kings. Carter’s goal was the 200th of his career.

– Justin Williams had one assist, his 31st assist and 47th point of the season. Williams has four goals and three assists in his last seven games.

– Dwight King had one assist, his fifth assist and eighth point of the season. King has two goals and three assists in his last six games.

– Dustin Brown had one assist, his 24th assist and 43rd point of the season. Brown has recorded at least one point in each of his last eight games, with five goals and seven assists. Brown had three goals and two assists in four games against Chicago this season.

Hammond did post one entry on Monday, noting that Anze Kopitar believes that the Kings face a blank slate against Detroit tonight…

Just four days after their Meltdown in Motown, the Kings will get a chance for revenge tomorrow night when they host the Detroit Red Wings. The first game back after a road trip is traditionally tough for the home team, but the Kings have put themselves in a position where they can’t afford to fall into the normal trappings of the season. The wounds are still fresh from Friday, when the Red Wings scored two late goals to beat the Kings in regulation. The Red Wings are expected to regain the services of goalie Jimmy Howard, but the status of some of their other injured players remains undetermined. Anze Kopitar said the Kings won’t dwell too much on the previous loss to Detroit…

KOPITAR: “You throw the DVD away and you forget about it. There’s just no time for thinking about it, pretty much. You’ve got to look ahead and play the games that are coming up.’’

Kopitar also talked about rebounding from the loss to Detroit with last night’s victory over Chicago and being able to salvage a “decent’’ 2-2 road trip…

KOPITAR: “It was a decent road trip. Maybe the effort in Columbus was not where we wanted it to be, or the game itself, but we played good in Detroit and we took the positives out (of it). Darryl came in and said that if we play like that, most likely we’re going to win games. We just put it together. Now, it’s that time of the year. In the position we’re in right now, you can’t look back at what happened. You can only look ahead. I know it sounds like that every time, but you have to put it behind you. Whether it was a 7-1 loss or a 3-2 loss, it doesn’t really matter. You’ve got to put it behind you and look ahead and play the games that are coming up.’’

And the Los Angeles Times’ Lisa Dillman previews tonight’s game as follows:

Records: Kings 32-25-12, Red Wings 44-22-3.

Record vs. Red Wings: 0-3.

Update: The road-weary Kings gathered at El Segundo for off-ice workouts after completing a stretch of games that had them play 14 of 18 away from Staples Center. When they started this lengthy stretch, they were seventh in the Western Conference and comfortably in the playoff picture. But after a 7-9-2 run, which finished on a high note with a shootout victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, they are technically ninth in the standings, tied with the eighth-place Calgary Flames in points (76 in 69 games) but behind in the tiebreaker. The Kings and Red Wings meet for the second time in five days, and L.A. will get a chance for revenge, after the injury-riddled Red Wings scored twice late in Friday’s game to win, 4-3, in regulation. The Kings may face Red Wings’ No. 1 goalie Jimmy Howard, who sat out the last three games because of a groin injury but has received clearance to play. Two other key Red Wings players, defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, out because of a bone bruise, and center Pavel Datsyuk (knee) are getting closer to returning.

NHL.com’s Brian Compton’s preview serves as our pivot point between the Kings’ and Wings’ respective perspectives:

Season Series: Fourth and final meeting of the season. The Red Wings will be going for the sweep, having outscored the Kings 16-6 in the first three matchups. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk scored 3 goals apiece, while Niklas Kronwall amassed 2 goals and 5 points.

Big Story: As Los Angeles continues to scratch and claw its way toward the top eight in the Western Conference, Detroit has concerns of its own. The injury-riddled Red Wings have the Central Division rival Predators right on their heels in the battle for the No. 4 seed and home ice in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The good news is they’re set to get No. 1 goalie Jimmy Howard back for this game, while Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom could make their returns at some point on this road trip.

Red Wings [team scope]: Howard, who missed time earlier this season with a broken finger, has missed the last three games with a sore groin. Backup Joey MacDonald, who won seven in a row filling in for Howard the first time around, has looked a little more average during this stint, allowing nine goals on 67 shots (.866 save percentage). Detroit never led and was edged 3-2 in Nashville on Saturday, getting goals from Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader. The Red Wings will look to improve on a mediocre 16-18-1 road record with games this week at Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose.
Kings [team scope]: They don’t call it the wild, wild West for nothing—Los Angeles has been in and out of the top eight over the past several weeks, and though the Kings begin Tuesday’s action sitting on the wrong side of the cutoff, a couple wins could easily change that and a prolonged streak might even give them a shot at the Pacific Division title. Jonathan Quick was up to his usual tricks on Sunday night in Chicago, stopping 35 shots through regulation and overtime, then keeping the Blackhawks off the board through six rounds of a shootout before Mike Richards was finally able to secure the Kings’ 3-2 victory.

Who’s Hot: Zetterberg has 5 goals and 7 assists in his last seven games for the Red Wings, while Valtteri Filppula has 5 goals and 6 assists over the same span. … Dustin Brown has 5 goals and 7 assists during an eight-game points streak for the Kings. Carter has 4 goals and 1 assist in his last five games. Justin Williams has 3 goals and 1 assist in his last four games.

Injury Report: With Howard once again good to go, Detroit turns its attention toward Lidstrom (ankle) and Datsyuk (knee), who appear to be close to returning. Forward Todd Bertuzzi (groin) and defenseman Jakub Kindl (upper body) could also be back soon. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (wrist) isn’t expected back until the end of the month. … Los Angeles forward Simon Gagne (concussion) is on injured reserve.

Howard spoke to DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose about his team’s situation...

The Wings are 1-3-0 since Howard was lifted after the first period in the loss to the Blackhawks. But with 13 games left and trailing the St. Louis Blues by six-points for first-place in the Central Division, the Wings are feeling a sense of urgency in the waning weeks of the regular-season.

“I don’t think people realize, but the playoffs have pretty much started here with the last five or six teams that we’ve played and everyone jockeying for position in the standings whether they’re trying to get points to get into the playoffs,” Howard said. “If you’ve been paying close attention, the games have been very tight and goals are hard to come by.”

Howard led the NHL in wins before suffering a broken right index finger on Feb. 2, but he’s only played in 13 periods since then with a 1-2-1 record. Yet he still ranks third with 33 victories and has plenty of time to eclipse his career-high (37), which he’s recorded in each of the past two campaigns. While the litany of injures hasn’t been ideal for Detroit, coach Mike Babcock has been pleased with certain aspects of his team’s play, especially the power play, as his team prepares to face three teams that are fighting for their playoff lives.

“We’ve played hard enough, but we’ve made a couple of mistakes and we can’t make the mistakes,” Babcock said “We’re not scoring enough to make mistakes. We have to be better at penalty-kill than we were in our last game. I thought our power play was the best it’s been in the last two months, which was great to see. Our fore-check wasn’t very good last game, we had holes in it. Now we’re playing a real desperate L.A. Kings team, then a real desperate Anaheim team, and then a real desperate San Jose team, a fantastic trip for us to find out where we’re at.”

Howard added, “We need to get bodies back out there. We’ve been pretty depleted for a while now, but the guys have done a tremendous job to keep us within striking distance.”

Those bodies won’t include Todd Bertuzzi (groin) who Babcock ruled out of tonight’s game, nor Pavel Datsyuk (knee), who skated for a lengthy period of time on Monday…

He looked like the Datsyuk of old skating without limitations for nearly two hours, which including an hour’s worth of individual drills after practice under the supervision of video coach Keith McKittrick.

And while it’s entirely possible that Pavel Datsyuk could return on Wednesday, the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness confirms that Nicklas Lidstrom (bone bruise) won’t return until Saturday’s game against San Jose at the very earliest, and Jakub Kindl is “right out”: As noted on Monday evening, Howard’s returning thanks to preventative medicine—he told the Wings’ beat writers that the team’s decision to shut him down in Philly helped his groin heal quickly—and the Wings spoke optimistically about their difficult stretch of three games in three cities (given traffic and back-to-backs on bad ice and worse ice in LA and Anaheim, respectively, going from the Staples Center to the Honda Center counts as “two cities”) over the course of five nights with the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa:
“I just think we’ve got to find a way,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ve played hard enough. We’ve made a couple of mistakes. We aren’t scoring enough to make mistakes. We’ve got to be better at the penalty kill than we were last game.” ... “It’s good, we need to get bodies back out there,” Howard said. “We’ve been pretty depleted for a while.” Todd Bertuzzi may return Wednesday against the Ducks, Babcock said, but rookie forward Gustav Nyquist likely will start tonight. Nyquist has points in two straight games. Nicklas Lidstrom skated briefly, as planned, Monday. He said he still feels occasional pain walking and skating remains difficult. Playing Saturday against the Sharks is his earliest possible return.Pavel Datsyuk spent a good deal of time on the ice Monday and appeared fast. But Datsyuk’s return is not yet scheduled. “He was being Pavel out there,” Babcock said. “Pavel will tell me when he’s ready. He’s invited, anytime.” ... “The guys have done a tremendous job to keep us within striking distance,” Howard said. “It’s still important for us to try to win the Central.” Babcock said he thought the power play improved markedly the last game, but the next step is using the opportunities it creates to score. Henrik Zetterberg was among those with scoring chances with a man advantage against Nashville, but goaltender Pekka Rinne had a big night, including a glove save on Zetterberg from the slot. “We didn’t score, but I’ll take Z home free with a goalie anytime,” Babcock said. “Now, we’re playing a real desperate L.A. Kings team, then a real desperate Anaheim team, then a real desperate San Jose team — fantastic trip for us to find out where we’re at.”
The Wings spoke to the Free Press’s Helene St. James about the same topic, and I’m going to include her notes about Todd Bertuzzi and Nicklas Lidstrom’s respective statuses…
“We’ve played hard enough,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ve made a couple of mistakes, and we can’t make the mistakes. We’re not scoring enough to make mistakes.We’re playing a real desperate L.A. team, then a real desperate Anaheim team, then a real desperate San Jose team. Fantastic trip for us to find out where we’re at.” The Wings have secure footing in the playoff picture with 91 points, but they trail Central Division leader St. Louis by six points. “I think it’s still important for us to try to win the Central,” Howard said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us. We’re just going to have to find a way to get points. Playoffs have started. I don’t think people have realized, but playoffs pretty much have started here the last five or six games—with the teams we’ve played and everyone jockeying for positioning in the standings.” The Wings expect to get back Bertuzzi, who has battled a sore groin, on Wednesday, and might get more relief before the trip is over. Datsyuk, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Feb. 21, went through his hardest session yet. “I feel better,” he said, “but it’s a small step. Now it’s, ‘We see tomorrow.’ Maybe Wednesday. Maybe Saturday. We see how this feels.” Lidstrom, who has missed six games with a deep bone bruise in his right ankle, said, “It was better today. I could do some laps, but I’m still not where I want it to be to be able to play games and be able to practice with the guys. It’s day by day right now. It gets better every day. ... I didn’t think it was going to take this long. It’s been a little bit frustrating.” Lidstrom has never missed more than six straight games in his 20-year NHL career.
And MLive’s Anar Khan offered perhaps a more direct take on the specifics of the Wings’ uphill climb, especially given that the Wings play five of their six remaining road games this month:
“It’s still important for us to win the Central,’’ Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “(The Blues) got how many points on us? So we’ve got our work cut out for us. We’re just going to have to find a way to get points.” ... Whoever plays, the Red Wings need to grind out some points after going 3-5-1 in their past nine games. They are 16-18-1 on the road, but felt they deserved a better fate in their previous two away games, losing 3-2 to both Philadelphia and Nashville despite outshooting them 76-43, cumulatively. “I think we’ve been working hard. Just a few bounces here or there,’’ forward Drew Miller said. “It’s a big road trip for us. We got to get back on track. … With playoffs coming up, we have to be able to win on the road.’’ The power play is struggling, going 0-for-20 in the past five games, its longest stretch of futility this season. ... Babcock said his team needs to forecheck better than it did in Nashville Saturday and called this “a fantastic trip’’ because of the opposition’s desperation. “It’s good for us to play those teams because you got to match their urgency and determination,’’ defenseman Nicklas Kronwall said. “We’re playing some tough teams that are playing for their lives.’‘
I missed these on Monday night due to an internet outage,* so here are quips of Todd Bertuzzi…
And Nicklas Lidstrom speaking to the press on Monday:
For the record, per a Twitter update from Ansar Khan, here’s the Wings’ probable lineup…
Filppula-Zetterberg-Hudler Cleary-Helm-Franzen Miller-Abdelkader-Nyquist Holmstrom-Emmerton-Mursak Kronwall-Stuart Quincey-White Janik-Smith Howard (starting) MacDonald
And if it’s okay with you, I’m going to include DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose’s story about Lidstrom’s status in the game preview because the closer is perhaps essential in setting up his availability for the remainder of the regular season:
“I didn’t think it was going to take this long,” Lidstrom said of his sore right ankle. “I thought I was going to be back earlier. It’s been lingering, it hasn’t been getting any better, so it’s getting a little bit frustrating.” The seven-time Norris Trophy winner was injured when he was struck by a puck on the outside of the ankle on Feb. 25. The play was innocent enough, when Colorado’s Jan Hedja rimmed a center ice shot around the back of the Wings’ net. But the puck took an odd bounce, clipping the Wings’ star defenseman high on the right boot. On Monday, Lidstrom tried to skate in full gear for the first time in nearly 2 ½ weeks, but the soreness crept in pretty quickly forcing him off the ice before the Wings’ practice got underway at the Toyota Sports Center. “I tried it a few days ago. It was better today, I could do a few laps but still not where I want it to be to be able to play a game or practice with the guys,” he said. “It’s day-by-day right now. Just have to wait and see, hopefully it gets better every day.” Wings coach Mike Babcock has already counted Lidstrom out for the next two games – Tuesday at Los Angeles and Wednesday at Anaheim – meaning the 41-year-old will have missed nine games – counting the Montreal game when he had the flu – which, unfortunately, is a single-season personal low for him. The longest stretch that Lidstrom has missed in any one season is six games after he fell awkwardly on his knee following a body check – oddly enough against the Avalanche – in February 2008. Until this season, six was also the most games he ever missed in a season. Tuesday’s game will be the 42nd game, including Stanley Cup playoffs, which Lidstrom has missed in his 20-season career. And one of those was to serve an NHL suspension for not fulfilling an obligation at the 2009 All-Star Game. The ankle continues to be problem and sometimes walking has been a source of discomfort. But the biggest obstacle seems to be with the pressure caused by the boot once the laces are tied, Lidstrom said. However, he is optimistic of a possible return during this trip with an eye on San Jose Saturday in the final game of the Wings’ three-game swing through California. “You want to get a skate or two good skates in before you’re able to play again,” Lidstrom said. “I’m hoping to play quite a few games before the playoffs. It’ll help to get back into game-shape again and in the long run you hope the rest will help, everyone that’s out right now, to help us get a long run in the playoffs.”
If that’s to happen, the Wings might be wise to avoid a slug-fest with Nashville, and to do so, the Wings will have to win without Lidstrom, perhaps until next Monday’s game against Washington or next Wednesday’s game against New York if he continues to struggle in terms of recovering from his injury. *I’m really really sorry about no overnight report. At 9 PM, the internet and TV service blinked out in South Lyon, and because thunderstorms rolled through and then rain didn’t really let up until 1 AM, the net was down until about 6. I had gotten about two-and-a-half hours of sleep (no internet + no TV make George jittery) when I saw all five lights on my modem working, so I slept for two more hours and popped up at about 7:50 to crank this out. I’m gonna take a nap before the morning skate, but I’ll squeeze in an overnight report before heading back to the hay. Update: Amongst Ken Holland’s comments at the GM’s meetings: • Regarding Brendan Shanahan’s work as the NHL’s disciplinarian, per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun:
“I just sat and had lunch with Shanny,” Detroit GM Ken Holland said. “I think he’s doing a tremendous job. He hit hard earlier in the year with suspensions. Again, I think players have adjusted.”
• Regarding the red line, per Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika:
Some GMs came to the meeting in favor of the idea, thinking the game had become too fast and too simple, with teams firing the puck through the neutral zone and simply tipping it into the offensive end. Their thinking is that reinstituting the red line would slow down the game or add skill through the neutral zone. But there wasn’t much support among the small group that discussed it, according to the Detroit Red Wings’ Ken Holland. The worry is that teams will start trapping in the neutral zone the way they used to or just find another way to adjust. “I think pretty well everybody in our group agrees that they like it the way it us,” Holland said. “We can change the rules, but we’re going to have another set of circumstances five years from now and four years from now. That’s the problem.”
• Regarding concussions, part 1, per Cotsonika:
“It’s supposed to be a hard game,” Holland said. “That’s why players play it. That’s why they love to play the game. I know when I talk to our players, they love the physicality. They love the hardness of the game within the rules, and again, I think that over the last two or three years we’ve done a lot of things… Now, can we find a way to get a few more concussions out of the game?”
• Regarding concussions, part 2, per the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle:
“You’re never going to get to zero,” Holland said of the league’s concussion count. “It’s going to be impossible to get to zero.”
• Regarding keeping one’s head up, per the CBC’s Tim Wharnsby:
Two years ago, with the Mike Richards blindside hit on David Booth and Matt Cooke’s devastating blow delivered on Marc Savard, the player making the hit was the focus. Holland remarked that there has been a shift back towards the middle, that the player being hit sometimes deserves responsibility. “There is a responsibility to play with your head up and on a swivel,” Holland said. He also didn’t want critics to forget that hockey is popular because it is a physical game. “If you want to have physical play, you’re going to have injuries,” Holland said. “I started scouting in 1985. A 6-foot-1 player was considered a big player. The small players are now 5-11, 6-feet. There are players 6-foot-5, 6-6, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4. They’re 20 pounds heavier. The better conditioned. They’re harder. They’re bigger. They’re faster. They’re stronger.It’s just the way the world goes and you’re going to have some injuries, unless you want to play flag football. It’s supposed to be a hard game. That’s why the players play the game. They love the hard game.”
Update #2: I have to snicker at these quips from the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman given my rant on Sunday:
25. While any potential rule changes (hybrid icing, no hand passes) can’t happen until next season, it will be interesting to see how the game is officiated after the GM meetings. They have concerns about the lack of obstruction calls, embellishment (especially against the boards) and goaltender interference. At the last meeting, their concern about Lucic/Miller led to a big change. Will that happen again? 26. There are several theories about why obstruction is being called less. The conspiracy-minded think its to slow down the game and protect against concussions. Others point to the fact there’s so much attention on dangerous hits that there’s less emphasis on it. A third theory is that players have adjusted. Said one GM with a laugh: “They’ve adjusted all right. They’re smart enough to find other ways of getting away with it.”
• Ohboy, another set of power rankings, from Sportsline’s Adam Gretz:
9 Red Wings [last week] 5: It shouldn’t be a surprise that with Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom and Jimmy Howard all out of the lineup that the Red Wings haven’t played their best hockey of the season lately.
• If you missed it, the Free Press’s Mark Bruendell spoke to former Red Wings defenseman Marcel Pronovost about his inclusion in the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame’s 2012 induction class:
Pronovost, who played for the Wings in 1949-65, also was on hand at the dinner—81 years old and living in Windsor. A key member of four Stanley Cup champion teams, Pronovost was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978 and served as a Wings assistant coach for two seasons. “Well, it’s a great honor to be named to the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame,” said Pronovost, who played in 1,206 NHL games with 88 goals and 257 assists. “I still go to Wings games and scout for New Jersey. Oh, yeah, I still pull on the skates.” What does Pronovost think about modern-day players? “I think we had more respect for each other,” he said. “I like the game now, but I wouldn’t want to play it.”
• I missed this, per the Free Press:
The Central Collegiate Hockey Association announced times for Friday’s conference tournament semifinals at Joe Louis Arena. Miami (23-13-2) will play Western Michigan (19-13-6) at 4:35 p.m., and Bowling Green (14-23-5) will take on Michigan (23-11-4) at 8:05 p.m. The semifinal winners will play in the championship game at 7:35 p.m. Saturday. The losers play for third place at 3:35. Fox Sports Plus will televise both semifinals. The final will be on Fox Sports Detroit. For tickets, visit Olympiaentertainment.com. To charge by phone, call 800-745-3000. For additional information, call 313-471-6611.
• And if you’ve ever wanted a wallpaper of Brad Stuart chasing the in a foot race against Matt Halischuk, CBS Detroit provides just that. Update #3: ESPN’s Scott Burnside and Craig Custance had a chat about tonight’s game in their “daily debate”:
Scott Burnside: Speaking of the Kings, I might have to stay up late for this one but I’m curious to see how Tuesday night’s Detroit at Los Angeles game turns out. The last time these teams met, in Detroit last Friday, the Wings scored twice late to stun the Kings 4-3. But the Wings are beat up and with Nashville’s shootout win over Phoenix Monday night are just two points back of the Blues. St. Louis has really opened up space on their Central Division brethren, so it looks like we’re going to see the Preds and the Wings go at each other in the first round—so getting home ice advantage is going to be key. The Wings have lost three of four and there is significant concern about their play on the road. We know how dominant they are at home but away from Joe Louis Arena they are just 16-18-1. The Kings, meanwhile, are clumped together with Calgary and San Jose just outside the playoff grid. Counting Tuesday night’s game, they play five of their next six at home and then play five of seven on the road to close out the season, so they need to start getting the job done. What’s your gut tell you on this one? I think the Wings sneak by, maybe in overtime. Craig Custance: I’ll pick against you one final time and go with the Kings. I had a good conversation on Monday afternoon with Red Wings senior vice president Jimmy Devellano, and Detroit is very aware of its dramatic road/home splits. That’s why it’s absolutely necessary the Red Wings earn a top-four seed to set things up in the first round. Of all the teams fighting for position at the top of the Western Conference, Detroit needs the home-ice advantage the most. Makes for a great game between a pair of teams that need the points. Well, Scotty time to go chase down general managers. It’s been fun.
Update #4: The Windsor Star’s Bob Duff posted the following gabba about a Slovenian rematch and tonight’s game…
Slovenia’s two National Hockey League players will go head-to-head tonight for the second time in league history, and the second time in five days. Forwards Jan Mursak of the Detroit Red Wings and Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings opposed each other for the first time Friday, when the Wings downed the Kings 4-3 at Joe Louis Arena, and will meet again this evening at the Staples Center. “Slovenia is really small, so every hockey player knows the other guy,” Mursak said of Kopitar, the Kings’ leading scorer with 20-38-58 totals in 69 games. “He’s a very good player, and everyone back home knows him. We’ve been friends probably for a long time, since until under-18 juniors. He’s pretty business with hockey during the season, so we don’t talk too much.” The Kings enter the day 11th overall in the Western Conference with 76 points, but just two points out of a playoff spot, and Detroit coach Mike Babcock thinks that makes Los Angeles a very dangerous opponent. “They’re a talented crew,” Babcock said. “Obviously, they’ve had a year with some ups and downs. Darryl’s (Sutter) gone in there (as coach). They will well-coached before (under Terry Murray), they’re well-coached now. I think they’ve made some significant moves to try and improve your team. “They’re right there in the battle. They’re going to be a desperate, desperate team. Their whole division has gone from a division that looked like at the start of the year might go one way, to all battling to get in the playoffs. Everything’s tight. This is going to be a tight game for us. We haven’t been as good here of late. We need a win, and they need a win, so it should be fun. Babcock likes what Sutter has accomplished since taking over the Kings’ reins. “Every coach comes in over time, and they change things,” Babcock said. “Terry Murray’s a good coach, really structured, and really organized. Darryl’s a different kind of coach, but he’s a veteran coach who’s been in our league for a long time. He does a real good job. He demands a lot out of his teams, and he gets a lot. This is going to be hard game for us.”
• And, via RedWingsFeed, I offered the details thereof a few days ago, but MLive’s Brendan Savage notes that Henrik Zetterberg was named the 20th-best player in the NHL per Hockey News survey of 150 NHL’ers, and that Nicklas Lidstrom was named the 7th-best player Savage hasn’t seen the whole list, so he doesn’t know that Pavel Datsyuk finishes at #2 on the list, as, again, previously noted and transcribed from the print edition of THN. One more thing: From Duff‘s Twitter account:
#Flyers F Jakub Vorecek expected to return to lineup tonight vs. #devils for first time since absorbing hit from #redwings Kronwall.

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Lucce's avatar

Thanks - excellent!

Posted by Lucce from Kingdom of Zweden on 03/13/12 at 11:43 AM ET

duhduhduh's avatar

quietly crucial?  I don’t think we need to be quiet about it.

Posted by duhduhduh on 03/13/12 at 12:28 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

While Z and Fil have done a great job up front, and Kronner on the back end, I’m disappointed that Franzen hasn’t risen to the occasion.  The Wings needed him to step up.  I also question what good Danny Cleary is really doing in the lineup right now.  He’s treading water.

I have no hope for the Wings to win the central, and I expect them to drop to the five seed.  They’re just too banged up to compete, and don’t be surprised if they go 0-3 or 1-2 on this trip. 

I might be a defeatist for saying this, but I really have to wonder that if Pav and Lidstrom will be playoff ready (or Howard for that matter).  Furthermore, even hoping for the best on the injury front going into the playoffs… If the Wings do get past the Preds in the first round, will they have taken too big of a chuck out of Detroit for them to succeed in the next round?

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 03/13/12 at 12:49 PM ET


Bezukov :

I am on the same page…and you are not being defeatist, just realist. Like you said..we have many injuries, Franzen is driving me nuts, and our PP is killing me. We also have problems starting the games on time (unless you want to call this lack of “energy” to start the game). I have a feeling we are going to hear Z say “no problem, we will turn up the switch for the playoffs” speech.

I honestly think we will go 0/3…and even if you look at the bright side of it..which is letting our M.A.S.H unit get some rest, Z and Fil might be burned out for the playoffs..especially Z with his back problems.

I hope I am wrong..I really do…but I won’t keep my hopes up

Posted by Nathalie from MTL on 03/13/12 at 01:50 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Howard’s starting tonight, Datsyuk skated for 90 minutes yesterday and won’t be rushed back, Lidstrom is otherwise healthy save his bone bruise, which he’s just going to have to play through once he can deal with it, the Wings’ medical staff is being extra cautious with Bertuzzi and there are no Red Wings players at 100% at this time of year, but the team’s trainers aren’t going to let them go out and play if they will hurt themselves.

There is no reason to panic about witnessing the current “Wiffins” team going into the playoffs against anyone because the Wings’ injured players will return when they and the medical staff deem them ready to go, and at this point, it sounds like sometime between Saturday and the middle of next week, the team will be at nearly full strength.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 03/13/12 at 02:02 PM ET

duhduhduh's avatar

the team will be at nearly full strength.

yes, but my fear is that the ‘nearly’ part is Lidstrom.  That’s the only quasi-defeatist trend I have right now.  I think when Bert is back and we can restore third line and put Abbey back to 4th line center, we’ll be in decent playoff shape.  I’m very tempted, though, to keep Nyquist after Bert’s return to spell Cleary (is that feasible for the roster?).  The kid looks good, and he’s getting more confident.

Posted by duhduhduh on 03/13/12 at 02:09 PM ET

MarkK's avatar

Yodd Bertuzzi

Todd’s Amish cousin knows how to skate?

In case some of you haven’t seen this, the chance of a 1st or 2nd seed come playoff time is around 15%, and the chances of a 4 or 5 finish (67, 18%) becoming more and more likely. Likelihood of facing Nashville in the first round regardless of outcome is around 81%


Posted by MarkK from Maryland on 03/13/12 at 03:53 PM ET

duhduhduh's avatar


So, by the numbers, we stand to lose both games tonight and tomorrow?

Posted by duhduhduh on 03/13/12 at 04:10 PM ET


So, by the numbers, we stand to lose both games tonight and tomorrow?

That seems likely to me.

Posted by godblender on 03/13/12 at 05:15 PM ET

MarkK's avatar

So, by the numbers, we stand to lose both games tonight and tomorrow?

It’s a little tough to read, but it doesn’t suggest an outcome, only how the outcome changes the calculated probabilities. The numbers under “Detroit” are what happens with a Detroit win, while the numbers under the LA or anahem areas are what happens to those numbers with a win by those teams.

Posted by MarkK from Maryland on 03/13/12 at 05:46 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.