The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/08/12 at 08:09 AM ET
After the University of Michigan’s Board of Regents engages in a little power play to determine the parameters of what will become the hardest 110,000-seat “rink’s” tickets to land in sports history (see: season-ticket holders, sponsors and bigwigs receiving the right to buy dozens of tickets before the general public gets the opportunity to land what will probably be $100-plus-on-average bleacher seats), the Detroit Red Wings will attempt to break a two-game losing streak and avenge Saturday night’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
With their lead over the Canucks, Predators and Blues trimmed to one, two and two points, respectively via a 4-3 Canucks shootout win over said Predators, the Red Wings will attempt to keep the good home-ice times rolling against Edmonton as the teams tangle at Joe Louis Arena tonight (7:30 PM EST, FSD/TSN/97.1 FM, with Stoney and Wojo reunited and on-site at the Joe prior to the game).
The Oilers are also attempting to rebound from a 6-3 loss to Toronto on Monday, and they’ll play without the services of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who suffered a sprained shoulder during the Oilers’ loss. Nugent-Hopkins spoke to the Edmonton Journal’s Joanne Ireland about his injury...
Nugent-Hopkins missed 13 games with a separated shoulder, returning to the lineup for Saturday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings. He played 20 minutes, scored in the shootout, and was back on the ice Monday in Toronto. Hit by the Maple Leafs’ Mike Brown in the third period, he again made his way to the medical room. Magnus Paajarvi has been recalled from the Oklahoma City Barons and will join the team in Detroit for tonight’s game against the Red Wings.
“We were both going for the puck and just collided. We hit shoulder on shoulder,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “I could feel it as soon we hit. My shoulder just kind of dropped. I wasn’t too happy yesterday, but I’m just going to try and stay positive through it all.”
Nugent-Hopkins, a Calder Trophy contender with 35 points in 40 games, is going to start losing ground to the Adam Henrique in the rookie scoring race. After missing eight games with a groin injury, Henrique is back in the New Jersey Devils lineup and went into Tuesday’s game just one point in arrears.
“In the end, it’s an injury, whether it’s the same or not the same, we’re all looking for a healthy Nuge,” said associate coach Ralph Krueger. “It’s important that we’re patient with this injury and really, really make sure that when he comes back into the lineup, he’s physically 100 per cent. He’s a player who brings us a dimension we don’t have: his play on the power play off the half wall, his deception and his commitment to defence. He’s so smart without the puck … It’s disappointing.”
Krueger might be coaching the Oilers tonight as the Oilers suffered an injury of a different kind on Monday, thanks to an accidental play by Ladislav Smid:
Head coach Tom Renney, hit in the head with a puck in Monday’s morning skate, was still not on the ice with the team Tuesday.
“He was a part of our team meeting at the hotel, but it’s important for him to get some good rest,” said Krueger. “We just need to take it a day at a time.”
Krueger addressed Renney’s status while talking about moving on from Monday night’s loss with the Edmonton Sun’s Derek Van Diest...
Renney needed more than 10 stitches to sew up the gash towards the back of his head and was unable to work the bench in the Oilers 6-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday. It proved to be a tough day for coaches around the NHL as Buffalo Sabres bench boss, Lindy Ruff, broke three ribs in a collision with defenceman Jordan Leopold in practice later that day.
Renney did travel with the team to Detroit, but did not head down to the Joe Louis Arena where the Oilers practiced in preparation for Wednesday’s encounter against the Red Wings.
“We had a team meeting at the hotel (Tuesday) morning and went over some video to purge the game from last night, showing more things to learn from than anything else and Tom was a part of that meeting,” said Oilers associate coach Ralph Krueger. “It’s important to get him some good rest today and we’re taking it a day at a time.”
Renney was injured after Ladislav Smid had a pass deflect off his stick, which launched the puck airborne, striking the head coach in the back of the head. Renney was in the corner talking to Ales Hemsky at the time.
“He’s not pleased with the situation,” Krueger said. “We just got the player healthy and we need the coaching staff healthy as well. But generally, he’s in good spirits under the circumstances.”
And I will delicately state that, as a Red Wings fan, Ben Eager shifts our focus to tonight’s game specifically while stating that he’s going to keep running Wings players like a charging chicken with his head cut off (and he’s no chicken, though his, “You’re a [expletive replaced with LOLCat]” exchange with Jonathan Ericsson, from the safety of the penalty box, was amusing) this evening:
The last time out against the Red Wings, things got nasty and Ben Eager was right in the thick of it. Heading into the rematch, the Oilers winger is looking forward to getting back in the mix.
“It’s always nice when the games are intense,” said Eager. “The last one had a little bit of a playoff feel to it. We’re both skilled teams and it got physical as well, which was good to see. We were able to pull out the shootout victory and we’re hoping to pull out another win (Wednesday).”
The Oilers are have gone from four to nine points back of the 8th-place Minnesota Wild, but they insisted that they’d play tonight’s game both accentuating the positives from their 6-3 shellacking and perhaps playing as angrily as Eager while speaking to EdmontonOilers.com’s Ryan Dittrick on Tuesday (I can’t quote the whole article, but Dittrick notes that Michigan State University alums Shawn Horcoff, Jeff Petry and Corey Potter all have a little extra incentive to play well tonight, too)...
“I thought we started very well,” said Ladislav Smid, whose 20:03 TOI was highlighted with a team-best +3 rating. “We got the lead early, but we had a couple turnovers that resulted in their goals. I don’t know what happened [in the second period]; too many turnovers, we weren’t really good with the puck. [Toronto] used that against us. It was a tough one. I really thought we could have won the game.”
“We didn’t show the respect that we’ve shown in playing the top clubs in the West,” added Associate Coach Ralph Krueger, who was still manning the bench as Head Coach Tom Renney recovers from being struck with a puck during yesterday’s morning skate at Air Canada Centre. “We had such a good run playing against teams that we really respected, and it looked almost like we thought we had an equal here. We had a lack in commitment to the man coming into the zone. We weren’t heavy enough on the puck. We weren’t strong and decisive enough and on top of that, we had turnovers that we can’t be happy with. There are lots of things to learn from, but the group worked really hard in the skate today. You can see that they want to move forward and have a better game in Detroit, and I’m certain we’ll have it.”
While Krueger noted that his team needed to “purge” the 6-3 loss, the Oilers are getting an opportunity to, once again, go up against a team that they’ve had (very) recent success against.
“We’re going to build on what we did well against Detroit (on Saturday in a 5-4 shootout win),” he said. “We’ll be looking at that in the morning and trying to copy-paste the habits that made us strong in that game. It was one of the better games for us this season. [Detroit has] the best home record in the National Hockey League, so we need to bring our ‘A’ game. The reaction and anger is in the group, and that will make us stronger against Detroit.”
Via Tuesday’s off-day report, here’s Kruger’s Tuesday presser:
The Red Wings might be well-served to focus on more than just shutting down Sam Gagner as the Oilers’ main goal-scoring threat comes in the form of Jordan Eberle, whose teammates spoke to the Edmonton Sun’s Van Diest about Eberle’s status as a go-to guy via 25 goals coming into tonight’s game (including 2 goals against Toronto)...
“He’s just has a really good feel around the net, and he’s got such good timing, that whenever he’s around the net there’s never anyone really around him to try and get the puck off him,” said Oilers winger Taylor Hall. “I think we can all, as hockey players, learn something from that. He’s got really good timing and he knows how to get open, he knows how to snake around and find an opening and the puck always seems to find him.”
It’s one thing to get open, but it’s another altogether to finish around the net. Eberle has an innate ability to bury his chances. He doesn’t panic around the net, and if anything, has shown a calmness with the puck on his stick, which is difficult to teach.
“I think that’s something you’re made with,” Eberle said. “I’ve always been poised with the puck and never been a guy to panic under pressure. Having a knack around the net is something that you gain, you have to go to the tough areas to score and you have to try and squeeze in around defencemen, especially when you’re a small guy, and find a way to put the puck in the net.”
A good example of Eberle’s prowess around the net was the tying goal last Saturday against the Red Wings, where he was able to find the puck in front. Instead of just firing it on goal, Eberle made a subtle move to his right and slid it into the net.
On Monday, he played a give-and-go with [Jeff] Petry. Everybody in the building knew the puck was going to end up in the back of the net. “It was just a hockey play,” Eberle said. “Hallsy turned back and even before he passed the puck across to me, I knew I was going to go down to Petey and once I gave it to him, you just know it’s coming back.
“I think I pride myself on being a good give-and-go player and if you watch some of the best players in the league, that’s one of their best aspects. They pass it and then they jump around a guy to get it back. I’ve always been a guy that plays that way and have always excelled when playing with players like that.”
And the Edmonton Journal’s Ireland noted that Everle and Gagner have received support in the scoring department—from the blueline:
Gagner, who slid in between Eberle and Hall a week ago, responded with 11 points in two games and picked up an assist on Eberle’s game-opening goal against Toronto.
They have been the only forwards contributing of late. With the exception of Eric Belanger’s second goal of the season on Jan. 31 and Shawn Horcoff’s 10th goal against Vancouver on Jan. 24, the Oilers goals have all been scored by Hall, Eberle, Gagner and the defencemen. Cam Barker, Ryan Whitney and Jeff Petry are the blue-liners who have chipped in over the last six games.
Tom Gilbert’s returned to the Oilers’ blueline after dealing with an ankle injury, too, so he and Paajarvi will be the Oilers’ lineup changes as compared to Saturday’s game; Devan Dubnyk was shelled in Toronto but has played in the vast majority of the Oilers’ games, over Nikolai Khabibulin, of late.
Now the Oilers will again be without Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, another of their offensive sparkplugs. He sprained his left shoulder in the third period of Monday’s game. It was just his second game back in the lineup after missing 13 games with a separation in the same shoulder. Nugent-Hopkins returned for Saturday’s showdown with the Detroit Red Wings in Rexall Place and capped his comeback with the deciding goal in a 5-4 shootout victory.
The teams meet again tonight in Detroit where the Red Wings have a commanding 20-2-1 record.
“For sure we want to be the line that’s relied on, everyone does, but we were on for that fifth goal against (in the Toronto game) and that was the killer. That was a tough one to take,” said Hall. “As much as we are producing offensively, the defensive side of the puck has to be just as good if not better for us to win games. If we’re going to play 18, 20 minutes a night, we can’t be on for goals against every night.”
Horcoff (-19), Belanger (-13) and Ales Hemsky (-15) are all struggling at both ends of the ice. Eberle, who wasn’t on the ice for any of the Toronto goals on Monday, leads the team with a plus minus rating of four.
“You have to be sound defensively,” said the team’s leading scorer. “That’s how you get on the ice; that’s how you earn your ice time. If the coach can trust you, put you out in those key situations, the offence will come after that. That’s definitely step one.”
With 18 goals and 40 points in 43 games, the 21-year-old is only two points off last year’s points total. He’s only four goals shy of his first-year total of 22 in 65 games and has already surpassed his 20 assists of a year ago. Hall admits he’s not much of a stats freak, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t set other goals for himself last summer.
“I had a long off season to collect my thoughts,” Hall said. “I came into the season with a new mindset. I wanted to be a premier player on this team. I wanted to be someone to score goals and be relied upon. I think I’ve had a pretty good season doing that, along with some other guys. I’m just trying to keep that going no matter what place we’re in. You always want to have success.”
And Hall’s desire for his team to capitalize on Detroit’s heavy legs as they return from a 5-game road trip and 4-game post-All-Star break road trip—which usually results in slightly mentally and physically fatigued performances during their first game back at the Joe:
The Oilers will need to remind themselves of that fact in facing the Wings for the second time in five days. Edmonton downed Detroit 5-4 in a shootout Saturday at home and are looking to even the season series at 2-2. Hall knows the Oilers, who have lost 12 of their last 13 on the road, will face a stiff challenge from a Wings team riding a 17-game home winning streak.
“They definitely do play well (at home),” said Hall, who visited his billets in Windsor Tuesday afternoon. “You have to weather the first 10 minutes and play your game after that. We want to go after them. We know they travelled from Phoenix (Tuesday) and that’s not an easy schedule for them. We can’t play a different game than we played them in Edmonton. We have to realize it’s a 200 by 85 rink no matter where we’re playing.”
NHL.com’s Brian Hedger, who, jusding by his Twitter account posts, might be in town to cover the game for NHL.com and their At the Rink blog (his timing would be good given the NHL’s need for someone to be on-site for the Winter Classic pressers) provides a game preview which allows us to shift perspectives from those of the Oilers to those of the Red Wings’ players:
Season series: This will be the fourth and final game between these Western Conference teams and Detroit has won two of the first three – winning 3-0 on Nov. 11 at Joe Louis Arena and 3-2 on Dec. 14 at Rexall Place. Jimmy Howard was in goal for both of those wins for the Red Wings, but missed the most recent meeting – a 5-4 Oilers shootout win on Feb. 4 at Rexall Place – with a broken finger that could also keep him out for this game.
Big story: Detroit has won a franchise-record 17 straight game at home and keeps setting a new mark with each new win. The NHL record is 20 straight wins at home, but before the Wings start looking that far ahead they’ll have to figure out a way to beat the Oilers – who just beat them in Edmonton this past weekend in a shootout. Howard (broken finger) will probably miss the game, but Joey MacDonald looked solid in his first start of the season on Monday in Phoenix. Edmonton, meanwhile, has again lost dynamic rookie center Ryan Nugent Hopkins for up to 10 days because of a new shoulder injury that happened in Toronto on Monday, while Oilers coach Tom Renney might also miss a second straight game after getting hit in the head with a puck at Edmonton’s morning skate in Toronto.
Red Wings [team scope]: They still haven’t entirely solved their road struggles, as evidenced by a 3-1 loss on Monday to conclude a five-game road swing, but the trip wasn’t terrible. It also concluded Detroit’s toughest stretch of the remaining schedule. The Red Wings entered Tuesday’s action still on top of the League standings with 72 points and hope to use a two-week homestand to increase that lead even more. Detroit plays 18 of its final 28 games at Joe Louis Arena. The Wings also came back to the Motor City at a good time from a health standpoint – with Howard nursing his broken index finger and forwards Danny Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom battling chronic knee pain. Star center Pavel Datsyuk is also avoiding most faceoffs over the next couple of games because of an apparent wrist ailment. The good news is that since playing 21 of their last 31 games on the road, the Wings are home in their comfort zone.
“You still have to play,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock told the Detroit News. “That’s our whole key. We have to play and play at a high level.”
Who’s hot: Cleary and Darren Helm have assists in four of the last five games for Detroit, while teammate Henrik Zetterberg has tallied four assists in the past two contests; Take your pick of scorching players on the Oilers’ top line, with Gagner still leading the way with 6 goals and 6 assists in the past three games.
Injury report: Patrick Eaves (fractured jaw) is on injured reserve, Cleary (knee) may need a treatment that could sideline and Howard (fractured finger) isn’t likely to play for Detroit. Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder) and Renney (struck by puck/possible concussion) could both be missing for Edmonton.
Stat pack: The Red Wings are averaging 4.3 goals a game during their 17-game home winning streak, but have scored just three markers in six of the past seven games at Joe Louis Arena; The Oilers are 1-8-1 in their last 10 road games and rank last in the League overall with a 6-19-2 record away from Rexall Place – good for just 14 points in 27 road games.
The Red Wings readily admitted to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness that they’re more than a little tired of the road after that 21-of-31 stretch:
“I miss my family, so it’s going to be really nice to spend some time at home,” said Johan Franzen, as Detroit prepares to play the next six games at home beginning Wednesday night against the Edmonton Oilers. “We’re confident at home, that’s for sure. We like playing in front of our fans. Hopefully we can keep that good trend going and have a good run here.”
The Wings play 18 of their final 28 games on home ice.
“The schedule has been pretty tough,” Niklas Kronwall said. “I’m sure most teams would say the same thing for the last month and a half or so. Obviously, we would have liked to come out with two points (Monday), that way the road trip would have been a lot better. At the same time it’s good to come home and get a little refreshed, try to take advantage of our home ice.”
The Wings have struggled on the road all season, but wrapped up this four-game trip 2-1-1 to improve to 15-15-1 on the road.
“Returning home is something we’re looking forward to and yet we still know we have games every other night, so there’s no time to really relax,” Kronwall said. “We just have to take it easy for night and get back on it when we get home.”
After playing the Oilers Wednesday, the Wings host Anaheim (Friday), Philadelphia (Sunday) and Dallas (Tuesday).
“Most of the (home) games we’ve been able to come out with a lot more energy and just outwork the other team most of the nights,” Kronwall said. “The nights we haven’t had a good start we’ve somehow been able to find a way.”
They also spoke to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan—who believes that Joey MacDonald will start tonight—about getting back to their normally dominant selves at the Joe after as they embark upon a 6-game home stand…
“We’re comfortable at home and we’re enjoying playing in front of our fans,” Franzen said. “Hopefully we can keep it going and have a good run here.”
So, everything sets up nicely for an outstanding finish heading into the playoffs.
“The schedule has been pretty tough, I’m sure most teams would say the same thing for (the last two months),” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We would have liked to have come out with two points (Monday). At the same time, it’s good to come home and get a little refreshed and try to take advantage of home ice.”
From Dec. 2 in Buffalo to Monday in Phoenix, Detroit played 21 of 31 games on the road. They were 10-10-1 during that span. The Red Wings won all 10 games at Joe Louis Arena and finished the overall stretch 20-10-1.
“That’s a great stretch for us,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Now we have to get recharged, get some home cooking and get playing. We have to get everyone skating again. We haven’t practiced in a while.”
Babcock wasn’t buying into the fact the Red Wings have an advantage the rest of the season because of the schedule.
“You still have to play,” Babcock said. “We have to get playing at a high level.”
And the Free Press’s Helene St. James argues that the Wings might be able to sort out their goaltending situation because, at home, anyway, the Wings have done a much better job of supporting their netminders:
t hasn’t just been the goaltending that has carried the Wings past the likes of Chicago, Nashville, St. Louis, Dallas and Los Angeles. The other overriding common denominator has been imposing starts, forcing opponents to play to the Wings’ tempo. It has been a strength all season, one that has led the Wings to wonder why they’ve been unable to follow through with the same on the road. But never mind that for a stretch; right now, it’s about keeping it up at home.
Getting the matchups they want helps, although the Wings take a lot of pride in being able to use any line against anyone. What really makes a difference in whether the Wings win or lose is how much attention they pay to details.
“You’ve still got to play,” coach Mike Babcock said. “That’s our whole key. We’ve got to play and play at a high level. We’ve got to get recharged and get some home cooking and get playing and get everybody skating again. We haven’t really practiced in a while.”
Half of Tuesday was spent traveling, considered a better option than red-eyeing it home Monday night. That strategy worked last month when the Wings flew home the day after winning at Phoenix, then dusted off the Blue Jackets. Tonight is the first game at home since Jan. 23, and even for a team that often has a heavy contingent cheering in the stands on the road, coming home to a partisan crowd helps.
“Nice to be home, play in front of our fans,” center Pavel Datsyuk said. “Our fans, they help us really good.”
The Wings have emerged from the past two months with a 10-10-1 road record; not bad, given the exhaustive and jam-packed schedule. As a result, they sit in an enviable position: They have played more road games than anyone else in the NHL, and at least a handful more than Central Division chasers Nashville, St. Louis and Chicago. Only one long trip remains—to California in March. Otherwise, the road games are what one player termed, as far as the travel involved, “a cakewalk”—in-and-out trips to Chicago, Columbus, Philadelphia, Nashville, New York, Columbus again and St. Louis.
With Canucks (1 game in hand, 1 point behind the Wings) and Blues (2 games in hand, 3 points behind Detroit) possessing a bit of an advantage of their own, the Wings have to make hay while the home-ice sun shines in Southeastern Michigan—which is finally starting to feel like winter after a very “brown” December and January—and Wings GM Ken Holland agrees with that assessment:
“I think we’ve done a tremendous job of staying afloat,” general manager Ken Holland said. “We’ve got a great schedule the rest of the stretch. Now, we can’t fall asleep—we’ve got to take advantage of being at home. If we do that, we’ll be in great shape.”
Goalie Jimmy Howard will visit a hand specialist today, general manager Ken Holland said. Howard suffered a small fracture to his right index finger Thursday at Vancouver when he was hit by a puck, but the injury never was considered serious, and Holland didn’t rule out Howard returning by Friday (vs. Ducks) or Sunday (vs. Flyers).
“If the doctor tells him today he can practice, and he can get his equipment worked out, we think he’ll be ready to play very soon,” Holland said.
But things don’t sound so swell, no pun intended, regarding Danny Cleary:
Forward Danny Cleary is expected to consult with doctors soon. He has fluid in his left knee, to the point he can barely walk, although skating hasn’t been as much of an issue.
“He could get it drained in the morning and still play at night,” Holland said. “It’s been an ongoing issue. I don’t think there’s any timetable. The plan basically is to see how he feels tomorrow. It’s up to him when he finally gets to a point where he’s frustrated. At some point in time, we have to find a way for him to have a cortisone shot.”
Cleary estimated he might miss a week, but it’s hard to pin down. Much of it depends on how a player reacts to a cortisone shot. Forward Tomas Holmstrom had one right before the All-Star break and, even after five days, needed to sit out a game for the swelling to subside.
Cleary gave a slightly grimmer assessment of his situation to the Macomb Daily’s Pleiness, who also took note of the fact that Pavel Datsyuk’s nursing a left wrist injury of some kind (I blame Patrick Sharp, the Chicago Blackhawks team, Joel Quenneville and their entire media corps, for no particular reason of course) and that Brad Stuart should return from a flu bug this evening:
“I’m hoping that eventually it will get better,” Cleary said. “It just hasn’t gotten any better.”
Datsyuk took just one faceoff in Monday’s 3-1 loss to Phoenix.
“It’s nothing major, we just decided that for the next few games he won’t take any faceoffs,” Babcock said.
Howard was expected to have his broken finger looked at when the Wings returned home but did not on Tuesday. Babcock would not commit to a starting goalie for tonight against the Oilers. Joey MacDonald started Monday after coming on in relief of Ty Conklin on Saturday in Edmonton.
“After two periods we had given up 14 shots and I thought Mac gave us a chance, yet we didn’t score enough goals for him,” Babcock said after the game.
Also, Wings defenseman Brad Stuart missed Monday’s game with the flu. It was the first game he has missed all season.
Here’s hoping he returns this evening.
Part II: On the Winter Classic: As noted yesterday afternoon, the University of Michigan’s Board of Regents did something that only the BoR would do—and trust me, I went to the U for what I will describe as a “good long time” to earn one degree with close to a master’s degree’s worth of credits and 90% of another, so I know how the Board loves to flex its muscles—state very explicitly that they will hold a meeting today to decide whether to rent Michigan Stadium to the NHL for the 2013 Winter Classic.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie and the Sporting News’s Craig Custance reported that, should the Board (which includes some nice lady named Denise Ilitch) approve the decision (and we don’t know whether they’ll approve having alcohol sold at their facility), the NHL will hold two pressers on Thursday…
Sounding like 2 Winter Classic announcements on Thursday. Morning in Detroit and afternoon in Ann Arbor. Plus GLI and OHL games at Comerica.
But the Free Press’s Helene St. James noted that the NHL has contingency plans in place:
Regarding Winter Classic, Wings have been told to keep open Thursday, plus Monday and Wednesday of next week as backup dates.
Let’s get this stuff out of the way before delving into the details:
1. I don’t know if the Wings will be interested in having 24/7 crews follow them for a few months. Wings coach Mike Babcock sounds quite uncomfortable with the idea of having his coaching strategies critiqued, and the Wings’ PR folks are incredibly protective of their players, so if the NHL and HBO aren’t completely committed to the idea, it wouldn’t surprise me if there simply isn’t a 24/7 lead-up.
2. While the NHL seems to be willing to push the seating capacity to somewhere between 110,000 to 114,000, tickets to the Winter Classic will be incredibly hard to score if you are not a Toronto Maple Leafs or Detroit Red Wings season ticket-holder. Those parties usually receive the privilege of access to half a dozen tickets or more, and once those are divvied up, the NHL gives tickets to its sponsors and celebrity bigwigs and the partial season ticket-holders are also given priority access to tickets, we might be talking about maybe 1/3 of the stadium’s capacity remaining available to scores of average Maple Leaf fans who never get to see games in Toronto and Red Wings fans who would be willing to divvy up $100-plus to sit half a frickin’ mile (or so it seems when you’re five rows from the back of the stadium, and yes, bring binoculars and plan for both rain and snow) from the rink.
3. I’m guessing that this is about money for the NHL as much as it is reinvigorating the Winter Classic’s ratings, setting an attendance record and finally placating Canadians by including a team from Canada in the event. Once the NHL buys the Wings out of a regular home game’s worth of hockey-related revenues, they take control of the event, and while they’ll have to give a cut of the proceeds to the U and probably the NCAA, I’m guessing that tickets will cost at least $100 on average ($100 x 100,000 = $10 million), and when you add in concessions sales, merchandise, parking and the sales of those gigantor luxury boxes, we’re talking about a huge chunk of change.
4. That’s where the pay-back to the Ilitches comes in via hosting events at Comerica Park. They’ll be able to easily pack in 40,000-45,000 for a Red Wings-Maple Leafs Alumni game which will probably also average at $100 a ticket, and the AHL, OHL and NCAA all want to get in on the action of having a second rink to play at. We’ll find out whether the Wings will hold some sort of Cleveland-style “winter fest” throughout the winter at CoPa as well.
Here are the basics from the Detroit Free Press (and the regents meet at 10 AM today):
The final details are coming together for the Winter Classic in Michigan. The University of Michigan Board of Regents has called a special meeting for Wednesday morning to discuss renting Michigan Stadium to the NHL for next year’s edition of the outdoor game.
The Free Press reported Jan. 18 that the Detroit Red Wings will play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1, 2013, in the Big House.
An official announcement, which could come Thursday or early next week, has been delayed because of logistics.
Buffalo, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have hosted the first five Winter Classics, but a game at Michigan Stadium likely would draw the league’s largest crowd ever.
The Wolverines and Michigan State attracted a Guinness world-record hockey crowd of 104,173 fans to the Big Chill at the Big House on Dec. 11, 2010.
MLive’s Ansar Khan confirms while adding details of the events slated for Comerica Park:
MLive.com reported on Jan. 18 that the event was finalized but could not be announced until the Red Wings returned from their four-game post-All Star break road trip.
Wednesday’s special meeting of the University of Michigan’s Board of Regents is expected to be a formality. The Board will approve Michigan Stadium’s rental for the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2013.
Nothing’s a formality when the people who run an institution which has 50,000 students and teachers on campus, a highly profitable sports program, research galore and an incredibly profitable medical center is involved.
People tend not to think of it this way, but the U operates on a budget of a small country, in hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, so when its regents flex their muscles, they don’t approve anything without ensuring that it’s in the best interests of the University, and in this case, the U is very concerned about the fact that selling prospective students from all over the world at going to U of M and fans on spending their money in Ann Arbor will be complicated because the U’s campus will be empty for Winter Break, absent of those 50,000 people and the electricity of a university in session.
This is a harder sell than most people believe, and the NHL will have to offer some sweetners to the Board, too.
The NHL attendance record is 71,217, set at the 2008 Winter Classic at Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium, in a game between the Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Michigan Stadium hosted “The Big Chill at the Big House,’’ a college game between Michigan and Michigan State that drew an announced crowd of 113,411 on Dec. 11, 2010. The Red Wings beat the Chicago Blackhawks 6-4 in the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field before 40,818.
To appease Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch, a second rink will be constructed at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers. Comerica will host an AHL game between the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toronto Marlies, the minor league affiliates of the Red Wings and Maple Leafs.
The baseball park also will host the Great Lakes Invitational, which will include Michigan, Michigan State and two other schools, and a pair of OHL games, involving the Saginaw Spirit, Plymouth Whalers, Windsor Spitfires and another team.
In addition, Comerica will host high school and youth games, and possibly the Red Wings-Maple Leafs alumni game.
The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness believes that every other event might be held at Comerica—though the Wings-Leafs alumni game could easily draw 110,000 as well, and I’d imagine that the NCAA might want its preliminary games played at Comerica and its championship game played in A2…
Comerica Park will host an American Hockey League game between the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toronto Marlies, the minor league affiliates of the Wings and Leafs.
It will also be the site of the Great Lakes Invitational, along with two Ontario Hockey League games and numerous high school and youth games. Michigan and Michigan State will be two of the GLI teams. Three OHL teams – the Plymouth Whalers, Saginaw Spirit and Windsor Spitfires – have already been confirmed. Comerica could also host the alumni game between the Wings and Leafs.
It would make sense if the Sarnia Sting were the fourth team, though the Kitchener Rangers would draw people from the highly-populated Kitchener-Waterloo area.
“Anytime you get a chance to play outdoors, I think it’s a great thing,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said earlier this season. “If we could do it in Michigan, it would be great for our fans and great for our franchise, great for our trademark, so a real good thing.”
“It would be really cool (at the Big House), for sure, get the home crowd, too,” Tomas Holmstrom said earlier this season. “It would be awesome to do it one more time, for sure.
“It was a great experience in Chicago,” Holmstrom added. “To celebrate New Year’s and the family was there in Chicago. It was the perfect day for it, too. It was fun the day before, the families were there. We skated outside. It was really good. And we came up with a win, too. But it was a great experience, something you’ll remember the rest of your life.”
“It would be a lot of fun to be able to play in one,” Jimmy Howard said. “Growing up, you skate on lakes and outdoor rinks, to be able to play an actual game (outdoors) would be a lot of fun.”
But the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa and Ted Kulfan, who duly note that the Maple Leafs-Red Wings rivalry is perhaps the NHL’s best “inactive” one in terms of its history and passion between the teams’ fans (if you go to Windsor, Sarnia or anywhere else in Southwestern Ontario west of and including London, there’s about a 50-50 split in terms of fans who cheer for the team that’s closest to them and people who see Joe Louis Arena across the river every day but feel patriotically and provincially required to cheer for a Canadian team), believe that the alumni game must be held at CoPa for the Ilitches’ sake.
If the regents consent, sources told The Detroit News the old-timers games between the two Original Six franchises, rivals since 1926 from cities only 240 miles apart, would be played at Comerica Park. Featuring great players in the NHL from the middle of the last century through the early 2000s, the game would be a considerable draw.
The Great Lakes Invitational also would be played at Comerica Park. It would be the first time the college tournament is played outdoors. A game between the Plymouth Whalers and the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League also is a possibility for the baseball stadium.
If the regents do not approve, the Winter Classic would be played in Comerica Park along with all the other events, the sources said.
That would make the Ilitches deliriously happy as they’re more than a little bummed that the spotlight won’t be on the City of Detroit or fans staying in Detroit and visiting its restaurants, casinos, sporting events and concerts, but instead, will be gathering for the biggest event 40 minutes and 40 miles West of town:
Mike and Marian Ilitch, owners of the Red Wings, might have preferred to have the game in Comerica Park. But the allure of a 110,000-plus attendance at an NHL game and the increased revenue were both enormously attractive to the league, which controls where the game is played.
As Krupa and Kulfan note, this isn’t a simple event to stage by any means:
While few officials or spokesmen commented publicly, clearly it has taken some time for officials to work out the arrangements. Michigan Stadium is a massive facility that is normally closed between the last regular-season football game and Michigan’s spring game. A few weeks ago, university officials suggested it would take some time to establish what logistics, in terms of staffing and infrastructure, would be necessary to stage a Winter Classic, along with approval of the regents.
The university has no liquor license to serve beer, a staple at all NHL contests. While obtaining a special license for the one-time event might not be difficult, such assurances probably would have to be obtained before announcing any arrangements. As for security, at Michigan games, almost all of it is provided by the campus police.
In the meantime, officials and spokesmen for the NHL, Red Wings, Maple Leafs and the university largely have deferred comment while the league and the university worked to make it happen. Despite the involvement of the university and the franchises, the scheduling and staging of the Winter Classic is entirely the responsibility of the NHL.
Part III Red Wings…notebook: We’ve got exactly one Red Wings notebook article, via the Free Press’s Helene St. James, as I can’t stay up till 8 or 9 to wait for MLive to file Ansar Khan’s off-day articles:
The Wings scored 10 seconds into their third power play in Monday night’s 3-1 loss to the Coyotes, after switching personnel to have the first unit consist of Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen up front and Nicklas Lidstrom and Jiri Hudler on the points. A power play in the third period didn’t yield a conversion, but the Wings threatened to score most of the stretch, so at least it wore down Phoenix’s penalty killers.
“I thought that we made some plays, especially on that power play in the third,” Niklas Kronwall said. “I thought we had a few really good chances, and we got the puck to the net a few times. We almost had it in.”
Part IV: Regarding the Red Wings’ prospects: I’m also going to dedicate a section of this report to prospects for two reasons:
• First and foremost, while he didn’t score during the event, it seems appropriate to note that HIFK Helsinki defeated Teemu Pulkkinen and Jokerit Helsinki 4-3 in a shootout during the SM-Liiga’s annual “Winter Classic” at Helsinki Olympic Stadium this past Saturday. As Europe is locked in a particularly frigid cold snap, the Helsingin Sanomat reports that fans braved incredibly frigid weather:
Despite the bone-chilling conditions, the “Winter Classic” open-air ice hockey match between the local SM-Liiga rivals Jokerit and HIFK did take place in front of 34,264 spectators in the Helsinki Olympic Stadium on Saturday.
The name of the day was HIFK forward Petteri Wirtanen, whose goal in the fourth round of the penalty shootout won the game for his team.
The result after the third period and the goalless overtime was 2-2, with Jokerit gamely coming back from a 2-0 deficit at the halfway point in the proceedings.
Another hero(ine) of the hour was fitness coach and model Eveliina “Eve” Pöllänen, who braved the elements and brought the opening puck onto the ice dressed in summery cropped capri trousers and a sleeveless top.
The temperature was close to -20 degrees Celsius, and in addition to the cold, matters were not helped by snowfall that meant periodic stoppages to clean the ice. The first period alone lasted around 45 minutes in all with interruptions
That’s -4 Fahrenheit, folks, and the event won’t be the last hockey game held outdoors in Helsinki this winter:
The next chance to fill the Olympic Stadium is on Thursday, when the Finnish national ice hockey team plays a European Hockey tour fixture against Russia. More than ten thousand tickets are still available for the event.
Oh, and the weather forecasters suggest it will be fine and only -12°C on the 9th.
• The other “big deal” this morning comes from Red Wings prospect guru Matthew Wuest, who named Brendan Smith and Gustav Nyquist as the top pair of Wings prospects in a Top 25 list.
Wuest believes that Smith and Nyquist might be replaced by another name sooner than later in Brynas IF forward Calle Jarnkrok:
Jarnkrok, 11th in Elite League scoring with 13 goals and 21 assists for 34 points in 45 games, sits No. 3 in Red Wings Central’s mid-season ranking behind Smith and Nyquist.
“He’s gotten more mature,” said Red Wings director of European scouting Hakan Andersson. “He’s taken a bigger responsibility and all of his good things he does are showing even more this year. The smart thinking, the quick hands, the quick release, the work ethic — that’s always been very good and it’s the same this year — his whole game, he has just taken it to another level.”
Jarnkrok has united with Ottawa Senators prospect Jakob Silfverberg to push Brynas to 22 wins in 45 games, already three more than last season’s 55-game total. His strong play has earned him stints with the Swedish national team and could help him land a spot at the IIHF world championship in Stockholm and Helsinki in May.
Compared by Red Wings scouts to Henrik Zetterberg for his combination of skill and work ethic, Jarnkrok is following a similar Elite League progression to his countryman. Zetterberg had 46 points in 47 games at age 20, sixth in the league.
“There’s no doubt he’s taken a step in terms of his game,” Andersson said.
Perhaps more impressive is the fact that Jarnkrok is having such a good season after suffering a shoulder injury that prevented him from training at full capacity last summer. That cost the 2010 second-round draft choice an opportunity to gain strength, which might be the only thing standing in the way of Jarnkrok earning a spot on an NHL scoring line. He is officially listed at 5-foot-11 and 174 pounds and is still too slim.
“There’s no doubt in order to play his game in an NHL rink in the future, he has to have one or two good summers coming where he has to gain more overall strength,” Andersson said. “He just has to be 190 (pounds) instead of 180.”
Jarnkrok and Pulkkinen are two players who Wings assistant GM Jim Nill has stated might actually buck the trend of interning at the AHL level for a few seasons: the Wings may very well allow Jarnkrok and Pulkkinen to graduate to the NHL when they’re ready to play over here!
Continue reading for the rest of the list.
Part V: Also of Red Wings-related note (and some stuff that isn’t Wings-related): If you engaged in the ZOMG Joey MacDonald and Ty Conklin can’t get the job done! Our Wings must trade for Evgeni Nabokov/Curtis Sanford! freakout on Tuesday, Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien notes that the New York Islanders might ask the Wings for much more than a mid-round draft pick if they do inquire about Nabokov. He posted 45 saves in a 1-0 shootout win over Philadelphia on Tuesday, and that’s the tip of the iceberg:
Nabokov’s strong 2011-12 season has been undermined by playing for the struggling Islanders, but his most recent work is making him extremely difficult to ignore. He’s now 6-1-0 in his last seven games while allowing just eight goals. Nabokov has turned aside 212 out of 220 shots in that span, which translates to a .964 save percentage.
Such amazing play might make some wonder if GM Garth Snow should keep him around, but the context screams trade. He’s already 36 years old and will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, so Nabokov simply makes too much sense as a rental.
It just so happens that his price tag seems to climb with each passing game.
If it makes you feel any better, via RedWingsFeed, the NHL Network’s EJ Hradek is a proponent of the panic theory:
• Regarding the trade market in general, USA Today’s Kevin Allen spoke to two general managers who say that we aren’t seeing trades because the sellers are few, rentals are not guarantees of playoff results, and the prices are insaaaaaane, and not in a discount furniture store way:
“It is not a big market in terms of the number of sellers,” Fletcher said. “And second, the prices are very high. And historically, if you look, I’m not sure that 25% of these rental trades work out for the teams that are buying.”
Since the salary cap was introduced, the trading of potential unrestricted free agents has become a staple of trade deadline maneuvering.
There has been considerable attention this season to the fact that the Carolina Hurricanes have Tuomo Ruutu, Jaroslav Spacek and Bryan Allen in that category and the Edmonton Oilers have Ryan Smyth, Ales Hemsky and Andy Sutton as possible rentals.
The salary cap has created parity, and parity has created tighter races, which have turned the trade deadline into a seller’s market.
Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke decided he wants to avoid deadline day shopping if it all possible because he thinks prices are always too high.
“Do a graphic for any year — the math doesn’t work,” Burke said. “Fourteen to 16 teams add players. Prices are inflated, and there is one Stanley Cup parade at the end of the season. The trade deadline is a pit of quicksand.”
Fletcher is still considering making a trade. “But you do wonder, even if you can do it, is it worth it?” he said.
This is why Ken Holland has suggested that he might not make a trade, period, despite the Wings’ $5.3 million in salary cap space (per Capgeek.com).
He doesn’t want to sell the barn to buy a horse, and given the comments made about pundits who’ve noted that the Wings might be getting long in the tooth in terms of core players, well, Holland doesn’t want to lose Jarnkrok, Pulkkinen, Petr Mrazek, Smith, Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, etc. for the sake of plugging a hole unless absolutely necessary. You can bet that those are the names GM’s are asking for, too.
• I suppose I should mention, via the State News’s Dillon Davis, that Michigan State University and the University of Michigan are tangling at the Joe this Saturday because it will be mentioned on tonight’s Wings broadcast as tickets are being doled out to State fans on one side of the rink and Michigan fans on the other;
• Per DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose:
DID YOU KNOW? The #RedWings are two victories from claiming No. 2,700 in franchise history. Only the #Canadiens and #Bruins have more wins.
• In the amusing video department, EdmontonOilers.com’s Jack Michaels compared American and Lafayette Coney Island dogs on Tuesday:
• And I don’t usually end on serious notes, but as I battle anxiety and depression every day, I feel it’s necessary to mention that the QMI News Agency’s Bill Harris reports that former Montreal Canadiens forward Stephane Richer, TSN’s Off the Record’s Michael Landsberg, Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes and baseball legend Darryl Strawberry will discuss their tangles with depression on a TSN2/CTV special called “Hope: Depression, Sports and Me” tonight at 8 PM. Hughes spoke to the Globe and Mail’s James Christie talked about her participation in the “Let’s Talk campaign:
The Let’s Talk initiative is a five-year multimillion-dollar support program for mental health ventures in Canada. On Wednesday, Bell Canada and Bell Aliant will donate five cents to mental health programs for every text message sent or long-distance call made on the Bell system.
“My story is small compared to people I know still struggling with mental illness. But people come up to me to talk now. … In an airport in Montreal, or on the street in Toronto, someone will tell me what they’ve gone through, or what their family member or friend has gone through. And they always say, ‘Thank you for what you’re doing with this campaign.’”
One in five Canadians will experience mental illness in his or her lifetime, according to the Canadian Institute of Health Research. Most are unwilling to discuss it with a friend, relative or co-worker.
The stats are similar in the U.S., where about 20% of Americans deal with a serious mental illness at some point in their lives. If you are ever feeling depressed, it is essential that you talk to someone, be it a family member, friend, co-worker, even a dork like me at georgemalik at kuklaskorner dot com. Mental illnesses aren’t things to feel shame about—they’re just illnesses, like anything else, and if you feel depressed, no one will judge you or think poorly of you for seeking assistance in getting better.
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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.