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The Malik Report

Red Wings-Maple Leafs live blog redux: die-hards and revenge

The Red Wings hopped on Red Bird III and flew to Toronto for tonight’s marquee match-up against the Leafs (at 7 PM EDT on the CBC, CBC Sports online in Canada and the NHL Network in the U.S.); hopefully someone will toss up a link to a stream to those who need it) going with what we’ll politely call the “B Team” against a due to a combination of injuries—Pavel Datsyuk (back), Mike Commodore (knee) and Danny Cleary (upper-body something) and Jan Mursak (ankle, out till January-ish) are sidelined—and the fact that the Wings inexplicably cap off their pre-season slate with a three-games-in-three-nights grind.

I know that as the Tigers and Yankees play tonight and tomorrow, the turn-out for the live blog will be minimal, but that’s OK: this is the pre-season after all…

But between the fact that, according to TSN, Clarke MacArthur was suspended for dinging Justin Abdeklader in the head (and just like you, I’m confused as all hell get out as to how the Wings can swap the suspended Brendan Smith for Brent Raedeke, who was called up this afternoon despite the fact that Smith has to come up sometime to sit out 5 NHL games), the fact that the Leafs are going to ice what the Leafs’ website suggests is a mystery line-up that’s near regular-season quality, the fact that the Wings admitted to their press corps that they were pissed off at themselves for a characteristically slow start, mediocre goaltending and poor special teams play, the fact that it’s more or less the last chance for Fabian Brunnstrom, Ryan Johnson and Cory Emmerton to impress and the ever-persistent glare of the Toronto media, who are already stirring up bad blood between Ian White and Ron Wilson and basically will lord a Leafs sweep of the Wings, even in the pre-season, over the rest of the league as proof positive that the Leafs are Cup-bound—trust me, they’ve done it before…

And we end up with an extremely dense paragraph from a rusty blogger and a very intriguing match-up for those of you who are willing to either flip channels or dare not watch the Tigers game tonight. For the record, per the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness, here’s tonight’s Wings lineup...

FORWARDS

Fabian Brunnstrom-Cory Emmerton-Jiri Hudler
Justin Abdelkader-Darren Helm-Drew Miller
Chris Conner-Ryan Johnson-Patrick Eaves
Tomas Tatar-Joakim Andersson-Landon Ferraro

DEFENSEMEN

Niklas Kronwall-Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson-Jakub Kindl
Garnet Exelby-Brian Lashoff

GOALIES

Ty Conklin
Joey MacDonald

And as I’ve been a strong proponent of “red is better than blue” since the, “Blue is for boys and pink is for girls” line during my kidhood, never mind witnessing the Leafs beat the Red Wings in the 1993 playoffs all of seven rows behind the Wings’ bench (I truly despise the Leafs), I’ll mention that while Leafs coach and general weirdo Ron Wilson grew up around the Wings’ locker room thanks to his uncle Johnny (who spoke to the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons about his career), little Ronnie grew up hating Gordie Howe and rooting for the Leafs. I can’t be Ian White, who preferred to say little to the Toronto Sun’s Mike Zeisberger about playing for Wilson instead of something rude because this match-up is a bitter one, at least in my slowly self-straightening head, so indulge me here, okay? wink

In any case, the Toronto Sun’s Bob Mitchell suggests that an NHL-ready Leafs lineup will play its “final exam” game in front of a raucous crowd and international media spotlight while the b-team tries to salvage some pride and players like Conner, Tatar (cue the “underwhelming pre-season” alarm), Exelby, Lashoff and the fantastic Andersson-Ferraro tandem attempt to establish a call-up pecking order, all while assistant coaches Bill Peters and Jeff Blashill continue to work on eliminating those naggingly persistent defensive coverage and special teams problems which have plagued the Wings for the past two years.

As I suggested last night, there are also larger-picture issues at play, and they don’t involve the fact that White’s finally wearing a matching pair of Easton gloves or Jimmy Howard’s decision to ditch those flat-faced Vaughn Vision pads for his classic “Iceberg” look:

1. At first glance, anyway, it looks like playing alongside Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm will give Todd Bertuzzi the every-game level of interest necessary to harness his physical panache, Valtteri Filppula certainly seems to have been freed from his self-imposed defensive shackles by switching to a winger for Henrik Zetterberg and another player with something to prove in terms of consistent offensive production in Johan Franzen, and regardless of whether Danny Cleary or Tomas Holmstrom plays alongside Pavel Datsyuk, they’re both going to put up points if they stay healthy, so at this point, either Jiri Hudler salvages his game from out of the Detroit River or Patrick Eaves takes his place instead and finally reclaims his status as a two-way performer…

But the Wings have always been at their best both offensively, defensively and on special teams when they can roll four lines, and with Tomas Holmstrom’s place in the lineup secure, Drew Miller, Cory Emmerton and Fabian Brunnstrom are clearly fighting for two spots, and especially as the forechecking dynamo and future Eaves-Helm hybrid (Helm’s held back during the pre-season and may have hurt his case for ice time in going at 80%, by the way) Jan Mursak is out until January, the Wings will need to figure out whether their forechecking game requires reinforcement via trade in the form of either a Dallas Drake-type player or the big body I’m still convinced they need to keep up with the Western Conference’s bigger, meaner teams, or whether a little more offensive balance via Babcock’s tweaks and high levels of grit and grind from the fourth-liners can do the job.

2. While Jimmy Howard very clearly needs to continue working on rebound control and consistency with his mentor in Chris Osgood and a netminding partner who looks rock solid thus far in Ty Conklin, sooner or later, the Wings’ goaltending is going to be just fine, so it’s very clear that once again, porous defensive play and the power play’s disturbingly habitual tendency to disappear when the Wings need it to score the most are the issues that will separate the team from the combination of strong defensive performances and superb special-teams play on the PK and PP especially that can lift the team into contention for the Western Conference crown as well as the Central Division title, and as of yet, Babcock’s new assistants have yet to display any sort of ability to break the Wings’ cycle—pun intended—of allowing teams to set up their own cycling game down low and thread passes to the slot, back door or blueline for easy goals—while losing the first faceoff and chasing one-and-done scoring chances back down into their own end during power play attempts.

It also bears mentioning that while Joey MacDonald fights for his right to play out next year’s one-way contract on the Wings’ roster, the team also has to figure out whether it’s going to tab Thomas McCollum or Jordan Pearce as their goaltender of the future while Petr Mrazek knocks on the door from the OHL, but that’s an ancillary issue as we’re talking about the fact that the team’s NHL netminders need a hand….

3. In that same prospect-centric vein, while Gustav Nyquist’s distinguished himself as a first-order sniper-in-the-making who might torture opponents on the Wings’ cycle, perhaps alongside the equally fearless Tomas Tatar down the line, Joakim Andersson’s been better defensively than Jonathan Ericsson (so is uber-grinder Brent Raedeke) and Landon Ferraro’s offered glimpses of both blinding speed and tenacity, while Chris Conner’s proven himself as the kind of call-up who can make a difference on the scoresheet, we can at least say that if Ryan Johnson’s willing to go down to Grand Rapids to reclaim his game, Brendan Smith’s clearly shown that in terms of both positioning and decision-making, he’s not quite ready for prime time, the physical Garnet Exelby and plain old steady Doug Janik are clearly limited to #6/7 roles at the NHL level and there’s a mass of prospects that has had barely any chance to distinguish itself via opportunities to play regularly in Travis Ehrhardt, Brian Lashoff, Willie Coetzee, Logan Pyett (perhaps the surprise of the bunch), McCollum and Pearce and players like Andrej Nestrasil, Trevor Parkes and Mitchell Callahan never got the chance to do so…

4. We still don’t have an answer as to whether the team plans on grooming a replacement for Tomas Holmstrom….

5. And, and most importantly, while Ian White’s going to fit in nicely as Nicklas Lidstrom’s partner and the Kronwall-Stuart reunion gives Kronwall license to roam and Stuart a request to stop pressing offensively and just play his game instead, the third pairing is a puzzle at best, with Ericsson continuing to commit defensive errors as a stronger Jakub Kindl finally shows flashes of his former status as a first-round pick and potential PP quarterback in the making, and Mike Commodore has at least proven that he can keep up and play a rock-steady game while keeping the flies off…

It’s one thing to worry about whether the Wings need a fourth-line forechecking grinder, whether the team can reverse its habitually poor defensive play and ineptitude on the power play and whether Howard can finally eliminate those bad-rebound and “squeaker” goals; the biggest question for the Wings going forward involves whether White, Kronwall and a third pairing of Ericsson and either Kindl or Commodore can collectively step up and fill Brian Rafalski’s skates in terms of both offensive production and puck-moving savvy. At least based upon pre-season observations, it looks like the Wings may have to go out and pay, if not overpay, for a top-four defenseman who can move the puck to truly regain its form as a team built upon a tungsten carbide-strong foundation of puck-moving defenseman, and that’s got to be Ken Holland’s biggest concern heading into the regular season. Everywhere else, we can see very concrete signs that things will eventually work out, but Rafalski’s decision to retire was one we knew the team couldn’t address via free agency, and the team’s current blueliners’ collective ability to fill his void may be even more pivotal to the team’s playoff future than the systemic issues which Peters and Blashill must address.

So with a rust-shaking shudder I’m turning the live blog over to you. Enjoy the game, fellow die-hards!

Edit/update: I don’t want to harangue you with personal details, but I’m doing my best to get back to abnormal here. I dunno whether I can reach my goal of being back on the job by the time the regular season starts, but I’m gonna do my best to catch up on a full month’s worth of stories to read and regain some physical endurance after a long fight because a) I miss you and am still floored by your support; b) I miss doing my job; and c) If I am to purchase the hot rod laptop I need to do my job properly for the next three years, I’ve gotta go back to work as this one’s gonna be “donated” to the aunt. Mostly, I miss doing my job and talking with all of you, but if I am to head to Toledo and Grand Rapids a few times, learn how to interview prospects via Skype and plain old pay the bills, going back to earning a living helps, too.

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Comments

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George Malik's avatar

GREAT snag by Conklin as Kindl and Ericsson get caught flat-footed by Kessel.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 10:16 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

conk with the quick glove hand

nice

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 10/01/11 at 10:17 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

... but 3-2

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 10/01/11 at 10:18 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

DAMMIT DOWN LOW COVERAGE mad

Lashoff lost the puck under Zigomanis, exelby got lost and as Andersson left the slot, Armstrong sends it to Crabb, Conklin starts to swim after stopping the first shot and it’s an easy rebound goal for Toronto.

3-2.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 10:18 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

who was on D?

(or should I guess ... )

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 10/01/11 at 10:22 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Screw you, Glenn Healy. Just don’t wear the skate guards and break a foot. Dumbass…

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 10:24 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

For the Leaf goal, the 3-2 one? Lashoff and Exelby.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 10:24 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

WTF Hudler? Three on two at center ice and you walk it back to the point? Nice job, results in a weak dump-in and a clusterf*** at center for the next 30 seconds and an eventual icing call in your favor a minute later…GO FORWARD DAMMIT!

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 10:26 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

BINGO BANGO!

4-2 as it’s held in by Kronwall with Ericsson in deep, the slapper bounces off Reimer and eaves slides it to Tatar for an empty-netter.

3 for 3 on the PP, about 9:30 left 2nd period now.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 10:29 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

And technically speaking, there’s a reason Griffins fans call him “Tater tot.”

It should be TA-tr, like “tater” or “tartar,” not tah-TAR.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 10:30 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

tatar tot goal

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 10/01/11 at 10:31 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Jonathan Ericsson’s starting to remind me of Robert Lang. he doesn’t keep his stick on the ice enough, and when it is down on the ice, pucks go through it. That big body gets out of position too often, and when his stick should bail him out, it looks like the guy’s playing with a credit card on the end of a fishing line instead of a 63 or 64-inch composite stick with a two-by-six blade.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 10:32 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

How you know Garnet Exelby’s played elsewhere, despite the fact that the Wings draw one via Brunnstrom battling in front…

Instead of passing the puck when he gets it in his own end, Exelby carries it to center and slaps it in. There are forwards who can do that…

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 10:34 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

a credit card on the end of a fishing line?

bwahahaha

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 10/01/11 at 10:35 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Yes,Glenn Healy, Landon Ferraro is smart. Very smart. He’s got to rein in his temper.

GOOD chance by Helm, Eaves to NK to Tatar to Ericsson, WHOOFS on it…Uh huh, the usual.

Brunnstrom’s main issue: he tries to play the puck with his body. He doesn’t get body position or use his stick, he literally hurls himself at where the puck IS instead of where it’s going to be, and in doing so, he takes himself and his stick out of position, and either falls down or runs himself into the boards while the puck goes the other way.

PP does not work…

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 10:37 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Emmerton was very visible in the prior pre-season games that I’ve watched. I’m guessing he’s tired or sore tonight, because he’s been very quiet.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 10:39 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

The Wings have out-shot the Leafs 11-4 this period. 3:04 left in the 2nd.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 10:42 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

It seems like every time Ericsson and Ryan Johnson are on the ice, the Wings get caught running around…It only SEEMS like that, right?

Good backcheck by Stuart on Kessel. Nice job by Brunnstrom to lose his footing before Komisarek freight trains him into next month.

HAHAH Lashoff hacked Kessel in the ball!

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 10:44 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

End of the 2nd, 4-2 Wings, and I see that the, “We can’t clear the puck out of the damn defensive zone when we really need to” plague continues…

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 10:46 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Stats after 2:

Shots 11-7 Detroit in the 2nd, 21-18 overall;

The Wings have gone 3-for-4 in 4:54 of PP time, but are 1-for-2 in 2:06 of PK time.

Both Helm and Eaves have a goal and two assists; Kronwall has two assists.

Faceoffs 22-20 Toronto;

Blocked shots 12-11 Detroit;

Missed shots 7-5 Toronto (total attempts 37-37);

Hits 20-19 Detroit;

Giveaways 7-6 Toronto;

Takeaways 6-3 Toronto.

And yes, this is why I don’t do live blog commentary…I blather all over the place.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 10:54 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

George,
Face palm, a little help here, accidentily checked “Notify me….. can you help me get it changed?

Thanks.

Make another comment and leave the “notify me of follow-up comments” check-box blank.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 10:55 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Did it work?

Start of the 3rd, and it’ll be interesting to see whether the Leafs engage in the inevitable, “If they’re fighting in the stands, we may as well do so on the ice” spiel.

That and the Wings need to hold onto a lead for the first time this pre-season…They’ve either trailed and rallied or have coughed up multigoal leads.

Ryan Johnson tripped, runs into Reimer, and that’s the most of RJ we’ve seen all night long.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 11:05 PM ET

Avatar

George,

What has been your opinion on Lashoff over the course of pre-season, and tonight as well?

At this point, have Ehrhardt and Lashoff been playing as expected, or better?

Also, what do you think of Ferraro hanging in there in the lineup?

Posted by TheBen on 10/01/11 at 11:05 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

And Komsiarek gets skate-blade-dinged on the play.

Time to break out the glue…

Leafs are coming out hard.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 11:06 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Dear Jirzhi Gudler: I understand that you’ve done all that fancy UFC-style training, and that you’re saving it for the regular season, but Fabian Brunnstrom’s outplaying you. Buck up.

Nice screen by EVERYbody on the turnover.

George,

What has been your opinion on Lashoff over the course of pre-season, and tonight as well?

At this point, have Ehrhardt and Lashoff been playing as expected, or better?

Also, what do you think of Ferraro hanging in there in the lineup?

I thought that Ehrhardt was a little leaky on Friday but he’s been what he’s advertised to be—a very steady and unspectacular stay-at-home defenseman with a physical bent. Lashoff’s been out of position and occasionally overpowered at times, but he’s been pretty steady and it’s evident that the Stuart-Lashoff and Lilja-Ehrhardt comparisons are valid.

For the moment, both need more seasoning and Lashoff most certainly needs a healthy year in the AHL, but he is only 21 and the fact that he plays sucha mature game already is remarkable. Ditto for Ehrhardt, who knows that his job’s to be the mashed potatoes in the steak and sizzle equation.

WOW Kessel and Lupul STOPPED by Conklin…erm, make that Lupul…

I’m very surprised that Callahan, Nestrasil and even Jurco didn’t play in exhibition games in Ferraro’s stead, but to some extent it’s a message that the team is confident in him and that he can leave his junior career’s frustrations behind him and simply start fresh, knowing that the Wings believe his offense and speed are what he needs to worry about, and that he can stop being frustrated about living up to his dad’s legacy in teh WHL…In Detroit, he’s Landon and giving him some games to strut his stuff will hopefully help press the re-set button for an extended period of time.

And FU to Hughson and Healy for suggesting that Abdelkader DOVE when he was HIT IN THE HEAD by MacArthur. Go blow a goat, and one with big hairy sticky balls at that. mad

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 11:14 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Well I’ll try to keep the comments to a consolidated minimum as the game’s starting to wind down a bit in any case…And there’s nothing I can do as an admin to change your email preferences—I looked!

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 11:16 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

The Leafs are ramping it up intensity-wise as we hit the halfway mark of the third and they continue to target Brunnstrom every damn time he’s got the puck—and they’re getting rewarded for it.

GOOD SNOW JOb by Ferraro and he draws the ire of Komisraek, and in come exelby and Tatar—Tatar’s got one glove off against Mike Brown…

Tatar’s not letting Mike Brown get away with it, either.

Good scrum, and despite Healy’s assertions to the contrary, the Wings had Andersson, Lashoff and Exelby on the ice, off-setting Tatar and Ferraro’s sub-six-foot status…


The shots are just 3-2 Detroit this period, which is indicative of the, “Let’s put it on cruise control and get it over with” mentality that’s evident in the preseason…

Only Rosehill and Exelby go for roughing.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 11:20 PM ET

squirrely's avatar

mike brown is a punk, trying to fight tartar, wow that’s tough.  Always going after the little guys.

Posted by squirrely from Dirty Jersey on 10/01/11 at 11:22 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Wait, we got a PP? Cool.

Four for Rosehill, two for Exelby, both roughing penalties.

Hudler’s showing signs of life, nice one-timer.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 11:22 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Brunnstrom’s got tons of upside, but he makes a Hudler AND an Ericsson’s worth of boneheaded plays. I dunno whether the Wings will keep him up here or ask him to go down to GR for a spell and just stick with Emmerton as the 13th/14th forward and let Smith serve his suspension. It wouldn’t be a bad thing…

Good stop Conklin. Leafs coming on with 7:27 left.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 11:24 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

This is an even-up of the first order. Stuart gives Liles a hack, down he goes, Leafs to the PP. Rather lame.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 11:27 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Well in addition to being grateful for the fact that Mike Brown is in the East, the fact that Zigomanis isn’t a Coyote helps…And having Liles out of Colorado ain’t bad, either.

I don’t mean to harp on Ericsson or Hudler unnecessarily—I really do want them both to rebound and succeed and I feel that way about every player (I don’t understand the concept of rooting against someone who plays for your favorite team)—but they are exhibiting tendencies that have become, shall we say, endemic to their respective repertoires.

Helm dangerous on the PK to end it, 5:13 left nice shot 10th shot wow!

This should be the last TV timeout.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 11:30 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

PP coming

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 10/01/11 at 11:34 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Sneaky back-door pass by Brown to Armstrong and Conklin’s just smartly in his net.

For the record, Ericsson, Stuart and Kronwall have the “A’s” on tonight.

Leafs with a very hard late charge but Johnson falls down and Brown will go via reputation, under 4 left, Hudler to and from Ericsson, he goobers and we go to the PP.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 11:35 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

An equally sketchy penalty. Brunnstrom goes as Armstrong’s legs go out from under him. 4 on 4.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 11:35 PM ET

SandysWingingit's avatar

Not one of Brunnstrom’s better nights, for sure!

Posted by SandysWingingit on 10/01/11 at 11:36 PM ET

squirrely's avatar

bonerstrom!

Posted by squirrely from Dirty Jersey on 10/01/11 at 11:37 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Maybe Helm felt like he could play at 2/3rds of his speed till October 1st, just like Ferraro promised to keep his beard till October 1st…because Helm’s had the afterburners going all night long.

Playing out the string with Eaves and helm cycling, Leafs to the PP w/ 1:33 left, Reimer out…

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 11:38 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Nice positioning on the PK, Brunnstrom’s back out and now it’s six on five with 40 left…In comes Armstrong, hampered by Stuart, Ericsson battling Zigomanis, Kessel backs off and slides it deep Frattin battling Miller, cycle game continues, Kessel slides it Helm takes blocked away and Brunnstrom slides it wide but that will do it.

Wings get some revenge, win 4-2 with a youngster-laden lineup, and now the Leafs press can cancel the Cup parade for one night raspberry Helm was dominant and the Wings can take this game’s blueprint and extrapolate it for the more star-studded lineup tomorrow.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 11:40 PM ET

SandysWingingit's avatar

Didn’t know you did gametime blogs. It was fun following along here…

Posted by SandysWingingit on 10/01/11 at 11:41 PM ET

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About The Malik Report

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.