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Red Wings-Pengins game-day updates: Salei to step forward?

Latest update at 6:50 PM: As the Detroit Red Wings prepare to face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight (7:30 PM, Versus/TSN 2/WXYT), Wings coach Mike Babcock revealed that the team may use a slightly unfamiliar name up front in one Ruslan Salei, as reported by the Free Press’s Helene St. James:

The Red Wings are so low on personnel that they’re calling on defenseman Ruslan Salei to play tonight against Pittsburgh, as they may be down to 10 forwards. Forwards Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), Johan Franzen (groin) and Jiri Hudler (shoulder, neck, fever) are out. Todd Bertuzzi didn’t skate this morning because of a sore back but will take the pregame warm-ups and see how he feels. Mike Babcock was certain Bertuzzi will play.

Today’s morning skate was Salei’s first practice in a week, as he’s been home in California for the birth of his second daughter. Salei didn’t know he was playing right after the skate, but Babcock expressed no doubt.

“Salei will be our seventh D and our 12th forward if we choose to use him there,” Babcock said.

St. James also reports that Chris Osgood hopes to return to the lineup by Wednesday, assuming he experiences no further setbacks…

“Hopefully I can do that,” Osgood said. “I felt really good – I felt like I got back to where I was before I had that previous setback.”

And she says that Jiri Hudler suffered a slight ding to his left shoulder and neck courtesy of

St. Louis Blues

Washington Capitals forward D.J. King last week:

“I feel better,” Hudler said. “I had the fever. I had that four days; it’s down now. But all those things, and then I got hit really hard the first shift of the Washington game, and it kind of hurt my neck and shoulder, and with the fever, it got really stiff.”

As far as the Penguins are concerned, their official Twitter account reports that Brent Johnson will tend the Penguins’ net opposite Jimmy Howard, and that Aaron Asham will return to the lineup this evening. Defenseman Brooks Orpik’s apparently not quite ready to play. PittsburghPenguins.com’s Michelle Crechiolo also posted a slate of pictures of the Wings’ morning skate in her game-day update post.

Update 12:48 PM: The Red Wings’ website posted a clip of Mike Babcock’s game-day presser:

DetroitRedWings.com’s Jake Duhaime also spoke to Drew Miller about his status as in and out of the lineup due to the Wings’ relative health up front:

You can’t blame Miller for being frustrated as a healthy scratch on those rare occasions that Mike Babcock is fortunate enough to have a full contingent of forwards. It is a mindset that comes with being a professional, even if hockey players are habitually reassured in knowing that they’ll suit up on a game-to-game basis.

“It’s difficult because as a competitor, nobody likes sitting on the sidelines,” Miller said. “When you’re a member of the Red Wings, with some of the talent we have on this team, you don’t like it, but you understand.”

Miller has made the most of his opportunities, especially after being scratched. Three of the last four times that’s happened, he’s netted a goal in the very next game. On Thursday, he threw in a rare scuffle against Derek MacKenzie in Detroit’s 3-2 win over Columbus.

“Hopefully that will keep me in the lineup just a little bit longer,” Miller said. “Don’t underestimate me.”

Update 12:54 PM: According to the QMJHL’s website, Wings prospect and PEI Rocket forward Andrej Nestrasil was named one of the Q’s three stars of the week:

The third star is awarded to Prague native, right winger, Andrej Nestrasil from the PEI Rocket. He got 6 points and 6 assists in 3 games.

Update 1:05 PM: The Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema spoke to Penguins coach Dan Bylsma about his sort-of-homecoming as he’s a Grand Haven, MI native, and the Muskegon Chronicle’s Megan Hart posted a story about the Red Wings’ team chaplain.

Update 1:09 PM: And in case you didn’t already now, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Seth Rorabaugh:

The Penguins will start Brent Johnson in net tonight in Detroit. Johnson, a Michigan native and the grandson of Red Wings great Sid Abel, has a 10-5-3 record with a 2.10 goals against average, .921 save percentage and one shutout. All-time against the Red Wings, Johnson has a 1-4-0 record with a 3.81 and .855 save percentage.

Update: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan confirms the Wings’ lineup issues...

Battling a high fever for four days and trying to overcome a stiff neck and shoulder after absorbing a crunching hit in Wednesday’s Washington game, Hudler was just thankful for most of it to be over.

“I feel better,” Hudler said Monday morning. “It wasn’t pretty the last four days. But I battled through it in my apartment.”

Hudler figures he lost about seven pounds because of the fever. But it’s the neck and shoulder stiffness, after getting hit by Washington’s D.J. King during Hudler’s first shift, that needs to be taken care of now.

Hudler said he’s getting treatments for the stiffness and figures his return to the lineup is day-to-day. He won’t play Monday night against Pittsburgh, his third consecutive missed game.

“It’s up to the doctors and (trainer) Piet (Van Zandt),” said Hudler of his return. “I hate to be off the ice but if this is what it takes (to return), I have to do it.”

As does the Macomb Daily’s

Chuck Pleiness...

Salei has missed the last three games and has not skated since March 12 in St. Louis after spending more than a week with his wife as they welcomed in their third child.

“It’s up to the coaches obviously, whatever decision they make,” Salei said when asked if he would be ready to play Wednesday against the Vancouver Canucks. “I just got back into it. I haven’t been up to the standards conditioning wise and I haven’t been skating for a week.”

Babcock said, “We’ll go with seven (defenseman), so Salei will be our seventh D or our 12th forward whether we choose to play him there. He told you wasn’t, well he probably didn’t know. He is. We don’t have the ability to call anyone up because of cap space. I don’t think he’ll be worn out. He’ll be alright.”

Pleiness also notes that the Wings may have to play without Osgood on Wednesday due to a very significant familial issue:

“I felt like I’m back where I was before I had the previous setback,” Osgood said. “If I feel real good tomorrow hopefully I can be back Wednesday.”

However Osgood’s wife is due to deliver a baby on Wednesday.

The Red Wings’ website also posted a clip of Ken Kal speaking to several Red Wings and Penguins about the teams’ rivalry, as well as one Pierre McGuire…

Update 3:07 PM: The Windsor Star’s Bob Duff spoke to the Wings about tonight’s match-up...

Sometimes, when Detroit Red Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall looks across the ice at the Pittsburgh Penguins, he feels as if he’s looking into a mirror. “The last few years here, you feel almost like you’re playing yourself.,” Kronwall said of playing the Penguins, which the Wings will do at Joe Louis Arena Monday. “They do a really good job of locking up the middle. They’re a hard-working team, have really good structure and they’ve got some good leadership there, too.”

Kronwall is also impressed at how Pittsburgh has stayed solidly in a playoff position, currently fourth overall in the Eastern Conference, while missing their top two players, centres Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Evgeni Malkin (torn MCL/ACL) to injury.

“With both those guys out, and still to be able to do that well, I’m very impressed with the season they’ve had,” Kronwall said. “I think a lot of guys thought when Crosby got hurt, and then Malkin got hurt as well, it would be tough for them. It just goes to show that the structure of the game you play is something that you can rely on.”

Wings coach Mike Babcock spoke well of the work done by Penguins GM Ray Shero during the off-season. “I thought they did a good job this summer restructuring their back end,” Babcock said.

Minus ailing forwards Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Jiri Hudler, the Wings will dress 11 forwards and seven defencemen for Monday’s game. “(Ruslan) Salei will be our seventh D and our fourth forward if we choose to use him that way,” Babcock said . . . Brent Johnson, grandson of former Red Wings captain, coach and GM Sid Abel, will start in goal for the Penguins . . . Detroit left-winger Drew Miller has four goals on his last 12 shots . . . Detroit centre Henrik Zetterberg has 5-16-21 totals in his last 15 games against Eastern Conference opposition.

NHL.com’s Brian Hedger spoke to the Wings about their injuries, too…

“We don’t have the ability to call anybody up … cap space,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said, following Detroit’s morning skate. “I don’t think (Salei) will be worn out. He’ll be alright.”
...
“It’s always good to have ice time,” Babcock said. “I haven’t heard one player in all my years complain (about) too much ice time. We’ve got enough players.”

They’ve also got enough star power still able to suit up—starting with top-line center Henrik Zetterberg, who stole the show last week by leading Detroit to victory with two goals in a highly-hyped matchup against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. Zetterberg said the latest Red Wings injuries—which take 57 goals and 140 points combined out of the Detroit lineup—don’t necessarily mean he must change his approach on the ice. On the other hand, with more ice time usually come more scoring opportunities.

“Hopefully I can help the team to put a few away,” said Zetterberg, whose goals against the Caps broke a nine-game drought. “They aren’t big injuries, so you’d rather have those get squared away before the playoffs start instead of grinding it out now.”

And he spoke to Ruslan Salei about the team’s decision to give him a week off to spend time with his wife, who gave birth to the couple’s third child on Wednesday:

“It was real nice of them to let me stay with my family,” he said of the Red Wings. “I appreciate that. That was really a class act. You don’t see that often, for an organization to step up and do such a thing, but that’s what being a Red Wing is all about. I’m not the first one who did it and I won’t be the last one that will, so I really appreciate that.”

Last update prior to the game: The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness reports that Ruslan Salei didn’t think that he’d return to the lineup until Wednesday:

“It’s up to the coaches obviously, whatever decision they make,” Salei said when asked if he would be ready to play Wednesday against the Vancouver Canucks. “I just got back into it. I haven’t been up to the standards conditioning wise and I haven’t been skating for a week.”

Babcock said, “We’ll go with seven (defenseman), so Salei will be our seventh D or our 12th forward whether we choose to play him there. He told you wasn’t, well he probably didn’t know. He is. We don’t have the ability to call anyone up because of cap space. I don’t think he’ll be worn out. He’ll be alright.”

Goalie Chris Osgood hopes to backup Jimmy Howard Wednesday against the Canucks.

“I felt like I’m back where I was before I had the previous setback,” Osgood said. “If I feel real good tomorrow hopefully I can be back Wednesday.”

However Osgood’s wife is due to deliver a baby on Wednesday.

In light of Matt Cooke’s suspension, the Wings’ players also spoke to DetroitRedWings.com’s Dave Burke about possibly removing the instigator rule:

“Seems like the same guys who do the bad hits every time,” Holmstrom said. “They should really go hard on them for the cheap shots. You know, you just have to show some respect to the players you play against, you can’t do those headshots. If you hit the guy from behind, sometimes it happens so fast, but when it’s calculated stuff. Especially when a guy is five-seconds away from the play and he comes in with high speed and elbows you in the head. There’s no need for that.”
...
The Wings all agree that dirty hits should be eliminated, but the instigator rule is a tough call to make because of the snap judgment that a referee has to make in a matter of seconds.

“It’s a judgment call. Of course a hit like Cooke’s shouldn’t be in the game,” Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. “He should be getting some games for that, but for the instigator, I don’t know, it’s different from time-to-time. It can be called a bit too often, but if it’s called after a good, hard hit then it probably should be called; Just hard to judge.”
....
“Mario (Lemieux) has always been well spoken and said his piece at times,” [Mike] Modano said. “Hitting is a part of our game, but with safety, you’re hitting another level now.”

Does it seem like the same players are breaking the rules?

“Tends to seem that way, besides the (Dany) Heatley thing, which was a little out of character, it seems to be a pattern between the same four, five or six guys that throughout the league who have done the same thing. Sometimes I don’t know how you get your point across to those guys. Financially might do it, miss games. That way you’re hurting yourself and the team. Maybe at some point then it kind of hits home a little bit.”


Also: The Vancouver Province’s Jim Jamieson reports that Daniel Sedin may miss Wednesday’s game as he’s on “baby watch”;

• Helene St. James posited a late-breaking morning skate update...

Tomas Holmstrom walked around the Detroit Red Wings’ locker room this morning with an ice bag strapped to his right forearm, the result of a little Swede-on-Swede incident. Holmstrom got dinged by a Niklas Kronwall slap shot as the morning skate wrapped up. The injury isn’t serious and certainly won’t keep Holmstrom from playing tonight, when the Wings host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Joe Louis Arena.

But Holmstrom wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to have a go at Kronwall.

“Go ask Nik what happened,” Holmstrom said, grinning. “Tell him, ‘Tomas looks like he’s in a lot of pain. Why?’”

It might have something to do with a rivalry that spans several years, not to mention the Atlantic Ocean. During the weekend, Holmstrom’s old club, Lulea, beat Kronwall’s Djurgarden in Game 7 of a Swedish Elite League playoff series.

“He thinks it’s because of that,” Kronwall said, laughing.

In other humorous Wings news, here’s how forward Jiri Hudler (who is out tonight) plans to regain the seven pounds he has lost since he came down with a fever and the flu Wednesday: “A couple of protein shakes. And Doritos.”

The Penguins’ website also posted game-day interviews with Chris Kunitz, Aaron Asham, Marc-Andre Fleury, Kris Letang and Penguins coach Dan Bylsma.

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Comments

SYF's avatar

“It’s difficult because as a competitor, nobody likes sitting on the sidelines,” Miller said. “When you’re a member of the Red Wings, with some of the talent we have on this team, you don’t like it, but you understand.”

If anything, Miller’s UFA after this season.  As much as I want him to remain with the Wings, I’m fully prepared for the fact that we might not have him in the lineup in training camp this September.  Wherever he goes, I hope he gets the minutes he deserves.

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 03/21/11 at 05:55 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.