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Red Wings-Oilers game-day updates: good Howard news is worth jumping the gun

Updated 8x with some pregame reading at 9:25 PM: Thus far there are scant updates regarding the Edmonton Oilers team the Detroit Red Wings will have their hands full tangling with tonight (10 PM EST, FSD/CBC/NHL Network US [CBC feed]/WXYT), but dammit, there’s more than enough reason to jump the gun on the game-day update thread, via the Free Press’s Helene St. James...

Jimmy Howard on ice with teammates this morning, good sign broken finger not too bad

DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose...

#RedWings Jimmy Howard is practicing at Rexall Place. Just showed me notched out part of stick to accommodate broken index finger. #NHL

And the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:

Howard is on the ice and is able to face shots despite broken finger
Cleary and bertuzzi on the ice too

Boy howdy, do the Wings need Bert to stay healthy…

Roose notes that Ty Conklin’s numbers against the Oilers aren’t fabulous, except for the number that really counts…

Ty Conklin get his fourth start since new year tonight for #RedWings. He is 4-2-0 with a 3.02 GAA and .900 save% lifetime vs. @NHL_Oilers.

And we should have some updates from the Oilers’ press pretty soon given the number of Twitter updates from the Oilers’ account:

Devan Dubnyk to make his 5th straight start tonight as the #Oilers host the #RedWings at 8pm on Hockey Night In Canada
“I think we all know how good of a player Nuge is… It’s not going to take him long to get his bearings.” - Hall on RNH’s return tonight
“It’s been a great opportunity to play against some of the best teams in the league and beat them.” - Devan Dubnyk, in net again tonight
“I can’t really let my emotions get too high, because that’ll take away from my game. But I’m definitely excited.” - RNH on returning
“Anything can happen. You never know. We just have to keep playing our best hockey night after night.” - Gagner on the home stretch
“They’re just a smart team, so we can’t beat ourselves and give them anything to capitalize on.” - Coach Renney on the #RedWings

And finally, for the next fifteen minutes, anyway, Paul reminded me that I ought to have posted a trade rumor from the Ottawa Sun’s Chris Stevenson in the game preview/overnight report:

Detroit Red Wings scout Kirk Maltby has been following the Buffalo Sabres around. Could the Wings have an interest in Sabres forward Paul Gaustad? If it’s not Gaustad, Canadiens winger Travis Moen could fit the bill for added grit for the Wings.

Update #0.5: Here’s a bit more from MLive’s Ansar Khan:

Everyone’s skating for Wings in EDM (except 35): 93-13-44, 51-40-26, 20-43-11, 48-8-96 (39); 5-18, 55-23, 52-22/4; 29-31
Actually Howard is skating. They have all three goalies on the ice.
Ok, now Howard is sitting on bench while MacDonald mans the other net in drills.

Howard’s probably not going to face any shots till Monday’s game-day skate at the earliest, but the fact that he’s trying out his stick modifications is fantastic news.

Update #0.75: Talk about cheering for the story, via RedWingsFeed: Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon sounds like an Oilers fan this afternoon:

Sam Gagner‘s incredible eight-point game against Chicago is something that we haven’t seen since Mario Lemieux scored eight points in 1989. While one game makes for an incredible feat, how you follow it up could mean a lot for Gagner.

One thing Gagner won’t want to do tonight against Detroit is to follow in Lemieux’s footsteps.

The game after Super Mario scored eight points in ’89, he followed that up with a stinkbomb of a game going pointless against Washington with a -3 rating in an 8-0 rout by the Capitals. Gagner going against Detroit provides the potential for a similar beat down, but he’ll have some things working in his favor.

Detroit’s top goalie, Jimmy Howard, is out of action with a broken pinkie finger which means former Oiler and current Wings backup Ty Conklin gets the call in goal. Conklin has had a poor season backing up Howard and the Wings have been just an average team on the road this season.

If Gagner wants to cement home the reasons why he shouldn’t be traded, notching a couple points against Detroit and continuing to produce will help.

Update #0.95: via the Oilers’ website, here’s coach Tom Renney’s game-day presser…

As well as a game preview from Jack Michaels:


Update #1: MLive’s Ansar Khan has good news regarding the Wings’ lineup:

Babcock said Mursak and Kindl out tonight.

Mike Commodore sent out a Twitter post stating that he had dinner with his mom last night, so methinks that there’s nothing wrong with giving somebody born in Fort Saskatchewan (and Edmonton suburb) a game against a fast team.

Update #2: I was guessing that Howard might be out for closer to a week than tow games, and it sounds like I might be right, per Roose:

#RedWings Jimmy Howard said he’ll be out longer than 2 games with broken right index finger. Doctors in VAN told him 4-6 weeks to heal. #NHL

I don’t think we’re talking about a full two weeks because you can play through this kind of injury, but we are talking about pain tolerance here, and the Wings’ medical staff will be cautious, so week, maybe two?

Indeedy do, says MLive’s Ansar Khan:

Wings’ Jimmy Howard said he’ll miss more than 2 games. Was told 4-6 weeks to heal broken finger but expects to return sooner, maybe 2 weeks.

And yes, it’s all about pain tolerance (the Tweets are coming in as I’m writing this, which is convenient, but it’s yielding some stream-of-consciousness stuff), as Howard told the Free Press’s Helene St. James:

Howard says no way out 6 weeks. Says it’s matter of pain tolerance. On ice today with glove cut open, notch in stick, didn’t take shots

Here’s a bit from Ted Kulfan as well:

Howard admits broken finger will keep himout between 2 games and 4-6 weeks…probably abvout 2 weeks

• Also, via RedWingsFeed, here’s the Red Wings’ website’s game preview:

• And if you’d like some further reading, the New York Times’ Jeff Z. Klein took the opportunity to speak to several researchers regarding the science behind battling Alzheimer’s and dementia given Gordie Howe’s memory issues, and the Wyandotte News-Herald’s Jim Kasuba reports that just because the Wings are out of town doesn’t mean that the team’s halting its school assemblies to promote exercise, healthy eating and street hockey…

Of if you’re looking for humor, the National Post’s Sean McIndoe offers this suggestion as to why Joe Louis Arena presents an unfair home ice advantage for the Wings:

Detroit Red Wings Players visiting Joe Louis Arena often report feeling confused and disoriented by the experience of playing in an arena that doesn’t have some faceless corporation’s name slapped all over it.

Update #2.5: Here’s Jack Michaels and Bob Stauffer’s game preview from the Oilers’ website (plus morning skate footage from both teams’ skates)...

And here’s EdmontonOilers.com’s Mark Ciampa’s morning skate report, which notes that the Wings have gone 9-and-1 over their last ten games:

“The big thing against these guys, they’re just a smart team. They play two-and-a-half hours every single time they come to the rink,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “We can’t beat ourselves but we can’t stand around in awe, either. We want to play the game in their end and not give them anything.”

Renney added that if the Oilers play the game their way, it might simply come down to who has the best power play tonight.

“It might be a game of specialty teams. It might be that one power play that might make the difference—if we’re doing our job. We can’t give them too much.”

The good news with that scenario is that the Oilers have the best power play in the NHL on home ice at 24.0% and third-best overall at 21.4% but the Red Wings are the second-least penalized team in the League, averaging only 8.6 minutes per game.

“We have things that other teams have difficulty with and we want to make sure we bring those to the forefront,” Renney continued. “It’s a great challenge to play these teams. I like it because it forces us to be as good as we possibly can in every aspect of our game.”

Here’s the Oilers’ likely lineup:

After Gagner’s eight-point performance on Thursday playing with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, that line will be reunited tonight against the Red Wings. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will play with Shawn Horcoff on the left side and Ales Hemsky on the right.

The third line has Ryan Smyth on the left, Eric Belanger in the middle and Ryan Jones on the right while the fourth unit is comprised of Lennart Petrell, Anton Lander and Ben Eager.

The defence pairings are expected to be the same as last game (Smid/Petry, Whitney/Potter, Barker/Sutton). Theo Peckham is still recovering after taking a puck to the face on Tuesday against Colorado and will sit this one out.

Devan Dubnyk makes his career-high fifth consecutive start between the pipes.

Update #3: here’s MLive’s Ansar Khan’s game-day report, focusing on Howard’s injury situation:

“I don’t really know what the time line is, to be honest,’’ Howard said. “Hopefully, it’s only a couple of weeks. I was just throwing a number out there. I haven’t been told two weeks, but when they said four-to-six weeks (to heal), I was like there’s no chance I’m going to be out for six. Two weeks sounded right.’‘

The reason Howard thinks he’ll be back before four weeks is that he’s played with broken fingers before. But this time it’s his index finger, as opposed to his ring and pinky fingers, which he has broken before. He skated today at Rexall Place, before and after the team’s drills, but he did not face any shots. A notch was cut out in his stick, enabling him to grip it with his two middle fingers.

“This (broken index finger) makes it more difficult to control the stick,’’ Howard said. “So I don’t know how it’s going to feel, the vibrations from the shots could be a problem.’‘

Howard said he doesn’t need surgery and there is no danger of making the injury worse if he returns too soon.

He summed it up by saying, “Let’s cover all bases. It’s more than two games, but it’ll be less than six weeks. I have no idea. It’s basically all pain tolerance.’‘

Update #3.5: Here’s Bill Roose’s Howard report from DetroitRedWings.com:

Friday morning as Jimmy Howard spent in his hotel room in downtown Edmonton, he was awakened by a pulsating in his right index finger.

“It woke me up around 7 a.m. and felt like it (finger) was going pop off,” Howard said.

Howard suffered the fracture early in the third period of Thursday’s 4-3 shoot-out win at Vancouver. He said it occurred when the Canucks’ Max Lapierre fired a low shot that got underneath Howard’s blocker.

“Lapierre spun and shot it, missed my blocker and caught me right on the finger,” he said. “It is broken and we’ll see here. Won’t play the rest of the road trip and we’ll go home and see our doctors there and get their opinion.”

Immediately following the win, Howard had an X-ray taken at Rogers Arena, which showed a “clean break,” he said. “I’ve played with broken fingers before, so I’ll have to fool around with my sticks and cut some notches out of them.”

Backup goalie Ty Conklin will get the start against the Oilers at Rexall Place tonight. Meanwhile, Joey MacDonald has been recalled from Grand Rapids and will be Conklin’s backup tonight. Conklin has played in 10 games this season – all on the road – while posting a 3-5-0 record with a 3.02 goal-against average. This will be Conklin’s first start at Rexall in nearly three years, since leading the Wings to a 3-2 win on March 24, 2009.

“This is a good opportunity, he gets a chance and he’s ready to go, so let’s get at it,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ve got to play real well like we always try to do and if we get do that we’ll give Conks a chance to be good.”

• Via RedWingsFeed again, the Wings’ website asked players to weigh in regarding their Superbowl picks (in the words of Ralph Wiggum, “Go banana!” because the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Detroit Lions aren’t involved)...

• And TSN’s Ryan Rishaug posted a 2:52 game-day update which includes comments from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Oilers coach Tom Renney, Sam Gagner and Devan Dubnyk.

Update #4: INTERESTING: TSN’s Darren Dreger says that the Red Wings are interested in Dallas Stars defenseman Niklas Grossman, and TSN’s Craig Button (a little less well-connected than Dreger( thinks that the Wings will look at Lubomir Visnovsky.

Update #5: here’s Khan’s actual game-day report:

What can Sam Gagner do for an encore? The Detroit Red Wings will find out tonight when they visit the Edmonton Oilers in the third stop of their four-game post-All Star break road trip (10 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit). Gagner is coming off a historic night. He notched four goals and four assists in Thursday’s 8-4 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks at Rexall Place.
Gagner, 22, received congratulatory text messages from Gretzky and Coffey [on Friday].

“It was a pretty cool day for me,’’ Gagner said after the morning skate today at Rexall Place. “Jordan (Eberle) and Taylor (Hall) had a great night as well (his linemates each had four points), a few more bounces and they probably could have had eight as well.’‘

The Oilers will welcome back rookie forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, out since Jan. 2 with a shoulder injury.

“They got real good forwards, real talented group,’’ Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “If you want to play a loosey goosy game they can beat you to 10. I think you got a way better chance if you play it tight to the vest and you check well and play like we’re supposed to.’‘

Said Gagner about the Red Wings: “That’s what’s made them so good for so many years, they keep the puck. That’s kind of what we want to establish here. When you play against a team like this it’s an exciting challenge. We need to focus on our puck management and make sure we’re keeping it and putting it in the right spots.’‘

The Free Press’s Helene St. James’ is a little less confident in Jimmy Howard’s ability to return sooner than later from a broken finger:

“I’m hopeful it won’t take the 4-to-6 weeks that they’re calling for,” Howard said. “Hopefully, it’s only a couple of weeks. I’m being optimistic. I don’t really know what the time line is, to be honest. Hopefully, I can be back even sooner.”

While Howard, the team’s All-Star goaltender, heals, Ty Conklin will take over in net, backed up by minor leaguer Joey MacDonald. On Friday, the team announced Howard would be out two games and would be re-evaluated Tuesday after returning to Detroit. That was a very short-term diagnosis, it turns out. Howard admitted it was a bit muddled how long he might miss, because so much of it depends on his pain tolerance, and on whether he can work out how to wear his glove and hold his stick, even with his finger bandaged.

“I have no idea how long I’ll be out. I was just throwing two weeks out there because it sounded good. I haven’t been told two weeks, but when they told me 4-to-6, I was like, there’s no chance I’m going to sit out for six weeks. Two weeks sounded good.”

Howard watched as his teammates went through the morning skate at Rexall Place, and then focused on giving his legs a workout afterward. He had cut his glove open to accommodate his finger, and cut a notch in his stick. It’s not uncommon for players to play through pain, and Howard has been through this before.

“I’ve played with broken fingers before, but it was more the ring finger,” he said. “I didn’t even take any shots today, so I don’t know how it’s going to feel. The vibrations from the shots could be a problem.”

Howard said he didn’t think there was any danger of aggravating the injury by playing inside of a month, just more a danger that he’d delay healing by playing. Howard was in a good mood, joking that the hardest thing for him right now is “tying my shoes. Luckily, I’ve got a pair of slip-ons back at the hotel.”

• And here’s a slate of Wings interviews from the Oilers’ website, including Danny Cleary, Henrik Zetterberg and Wings coach Mike Babcock:


: Here’s Ted Kulfan’s Howard report:

The prognosis on how long goaltender Jimmy Howard will be out has changed, to missing more playing time rather than less. Howard, who has a broken right index finger, acknowledges the first report of only missing the last two games on this current Red Wings road trip was “optimistic.” So, now, Howard is thinking it’s going to be weeks, somewhere between two games and four to six weeks — probably two weeks. But even Howard isn’t sure if that’s accurate.

“Let’s cover all the bases,” Howard said after Saturday’s morning skate. Howard said Vancouver doctors, after Thursday’s game, told him the finger would take four to six weeks to heal.

“No chance,” said Howard of that time-frame, saying he’s played with broken fingers before.

If the healing continues, and he can grip a stick comfortably, Howard is thinking approximately two weeks. Howard admitted it’s all pretty much in the air, depending on how long before he can comfortably face opposing teams’ shots.

“I don’t know to be honest,” said Howard of an accurate time-frame. He will be re-evaluated by team doctors Tuesday when the Red Wings return home from this road trip. Howard didn’t face any shots at Saturday’s morning skate but did skate and have his equipment on.

“There aren’t any dangers (of re-injuring it),” Howard said. “We’ve cut a piece out (of the stick) and a notch there so I can hold on to it. I didn’t take shots today because I didn’t know if the vibrations would be a problem.”

Update #5.75: Here’s a slate of pre-game interviews from Oilers players via the Oilers’ website:

Update #6: Even more Howard talk from Bill Roose:

Despite having a broken right index finger, goalie Jimmy Howard was on the ice with his Red Wings’ teammates at Rexall Place Saturday morning. Howard, who suffered the fracture early in the third period of Thursday’s win at Vancouver, said that he will likely miss more than two games – the original prediction – but less than two weeks.

“I really haven’t been told, but the doctors in Vancouver told me four to six (weeks) before it’s healed,” Howard said. “When they told me four to six, I thought, ‘There’s no chance that I’m, you, know, going to be out four to six. Just two weeks sounded good.”

If Howard is out for two weeks that means he could likely miss seven games with any eye on return for the home game against the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 19. More will be known of Howard’s return once he sees team doctors Tuesday when the Wings return to Detroit following their current four-game road trip out west, which concludes Monday in Phoenix.

Wings equipment manager Paul Boyer fabricated a three-inch notch from the top of the stick’s paddle in hopes to make it easier to grip for Howard, who said he’s played before with broken digits.

“As you can see with my stick (there’s) a piece notched out so I’m able to hold on with (middle and ring) fingers,” Howard said. “I didn’t even take any shots today, so I don’t know how it will feel with the vibrations of the shots.”

Howard said he wants to return as soon as he’s comfortable and pain-free.

“I think the only danger is that it’s not going to heal, I think that’s the only danger,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any danger of injuring myself any further. I’m guessing that it’s two weeks. It’s really optimistic that it’s just two games. “Hopefully I can be back as soon as possible.”

Ten days. That’s my educated guess.

Update #6.5: Roose has a YouTube channel which includes some clips of the Wings’ broomball game, as well as this from today’s morning skate:

Update #7: Here’s Sportsnet’s Gene Principe’s game-day update:

Also: Here’s GriffinsCentral’s Jason Kasiorek’s January Griffins report.

Update #7.5: A few more things, from the Free Press’s Helene St. James:

Just to calm those worried re: Howard being out. Basically, it’s a matter of working out padding, making sure no vibrations felt from shots
By the time gets back Tuesday, and Howard sees a specialist, it’ll have been almost a week already.
Good thing is, it’s not finger on his glove hand.
Howard was laughing and joking this morning. Said hardest part for him right now? “Tying my shoes.”
Meanwhile Superbowl pool is between Filppula & Kronwall (Pats) and Datsyuk & Holmstrom (Giants). “We know our football” - Filppula

The fact that so many goalies use wood sticks doesn’t help. I’ve always preferred “composite” sticks—not the full carbon fiber ones, but instead, the sticks with are made by injecting polyurethane plastic into a mold to form the stick’s paddle and blade (which is built upon a skeleton of aspen or birch and an aspen or birch shaft) and then wrapped in Fiberglass, graphite and sometimes (if they’re really good) Kevlar along the blade. Those sticks do a much better job of absorbing vibrations than full wood or full composite sticks do.

Update #8: Because these are so close to game time, we’ll cover Ansar Khan’s Broomball story and Pleiness’s Wings Superbowl picks during the overnight report, but pregame reading is pregame reading.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


WingedRider's avatar

Great news!!  I am growing less stressed with the idea of Howie getting some rest, which is good for him!  Need a fresh Howie and some fresh mature guys for playoffs!

I thought Cleary (Baker’s Cyst and all) had a great game (best of the year) against Nucks, might get him top 6 mins.  Now if we could get Z figured out???

Think I prefer Moen over Gaustad, but no problems with either!

Posted by WingedRider from Saskatoon, SK on 02/04/12 at 05:20 PM ET


Think I prefer Moen over Gaustad, but no problems with either!

I personally would lean toward Gaustad over Moen, between the two, but like you I wouldn’t have problems with either, assuming that Moen is healthy at the deadline (I don’t buy into the whole “who cares if he’s healthy now, he’ll be fine for the playoffs” thing, I would like to have a healthy player going down the stretch so that he’s adjusting to a new team during the regular season rather than the playoffs).

Posted by Garth on 02/04/12 at 05:26 PM ET


Though having said that, if Moen is healthy then maybe he should have a bit of an edge for his penalty killing.

Posted by Garth on 02/04/12 at 05:27 PM ET

HockeyFanOhio's avatar

Couple sources on Twitter (Kahn and St. James) reporting Howard will be out more than 2 games.

Posted by HockeyFanOhio from Central Ohio on 02/04/12 at 05:57 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Scroll up. I’ve updated the post 5 times and the Khan/St. James reports are included.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 02/04/12 at 06:58 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

My feeling about Howard is that he plays better the more he plays, so not sure if this little “rest” is a good thing.  Just want him to heal well and get back as soon as he can.  Meanwhile, the backup goalies and the rest of the team have to step up and keep it going.

LGRW !!!!!

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 02/04/12 at 07:37 PM ET

WingedRider's avatar

Until he sees doctors I am going to give up trying to figure out 2 games to 4-6 weeks, Lunacy I tell you, LOL.  When he is back in the net he will be back, geez I should be a Doctor.  I would bet he is back before the Playoffs wink

Posted by WingedRider from Saskatoon, SK on 02/04/12 at 07:48 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

After he gets back to Detroit and sees doctors, it’s honestly going to be “day to day.”

As St. James just Tweeted, because Howard can’t damage his finger by playing with a broken fingertip, it’s really about his pain tolerance and his ability to control his stick while pucks are smacking into them and producing vibrations which travel up the paddle. As soon as he can tolerate the pain and he feels that he can control his stick, he’ll be okay.

As I said in the update, too, the problem with many goalies is that in the NHL, they still use sticks that are completely made of wood because they like the feel, and semi-composite sticks that have polyurethane foam injected into molds around a skeleton of a birch or aspen shaft and spine down the paddle and blade, and are then wrapped in Fiberglass, graphite and Kevlar are much, much, much better at absorbing blows (and they’re almost as light as the full carbon composite sticks which cost $200 and are more prone to breakage).

Warrior bought the Montreal stick company, and the Finnish-based manufacturer makes fantastic foam-core sticks, so I’m hoping that Warrior’s headquarters in Warren sends Jimmy some foam cores to try out.

Long story long, it’s all speculation from here on out, so I’m guessing 7-10 days as a goalie and I’m gonna stick with it because we really won’t know. Howard’s finger will decide for him.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 02/04/12 at 08:01 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

George, I don’t see the game on NHL Network. It’s on Gamecenter.

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 02/04/12 at 08:09 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

They should give Conklin the start fairly regularly between now and the deadline to see if he can be clutch under pressure anymore. I’d hate to go into the playoffs again with Joey Mac as the backup. He came through, but ...

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 02/04/12 at 09:32 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.