The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/03/11 at 08:53 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings’ 4-3 OT win over the Nashville Predators accomplished three things: first and foremost, the Wings’ win clinched them a playoff spot; second, it essentially eliminates the Predators’ hopes of taking the Central Division from Detroit, as the Predators can only tie the Wings in points if the Wings lose every one of their final 4 games and the Predators win their final 3; and third, and most importantly, as the Wings remain in third place in the Western Conference, the Wings’ ability to rally from a 3-0 deficit, beat Pekka Rinne despite yet another instance in which he initiated contact with Tomas Holmstrom and earned a waved-off goal and power play in the process, and, well…
Despite the fact that the Wings expended quite a bit of energy via yet another multiple-goal-deficit comeback with a Sunday afternoon game against Minnesota (5 PM EDT today, FSD+/FS North/WXYT: the Wings won’t have Niklas Kronwall [shoulder] in the lineup, and may not have Pavel Datsyuk [thigh strain] in the lineup, either), the Wings sent the team that would be their playoff opponent if the season ended today a message that needed to be sent as much, if not more, than Rinne needed to be made human—Todd Bertuzzi doffed the gloves twice with Shane O’Brien, letting the Predators’ biggest instigator this side of Jordin Tootoo know that the Wings won’t take Nashville’s hit-to-hurt guff.
Even O’Brien admitted that his second fight in particular, which came when the Predators were leading the Wings 3-0, was ill-timed, as he told the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper—though, not surprisingly, O’Brien suggested that Bertuzzi should have been tossed for supposedly instigating the first fight:
“The old saying is when you’re up you don’t fight, but we just made it 3-0, everything was going our way,” O’Brien said. “Maybe I shouldn’t have done it. I was fired up. I thought he jumped me (the first time). Any time someone jumps you there’s a little bit of pride involved and you have to give him credit. I asked him and he said yes.”
The fight seemed to spark the Red Wings, who would score twice in the second period and go on to a 4-3 win in overtime. When the two fought in the first period, O’Brien said he was caught off guard by Bertuzzi’s decision to drop his gloves and square off.
“The first one I didn’t even see him coming,” O’Brien said. “He just came right off the bench and grabbed me. Before I knew it he was chucking. I don’t know how they don’t call instigator on that or even give him an extra (two minutes).”
Predators coach Barry Trotz had no problem with the fight…
“It doesn’t matter one way or the other. He’s a big boy.”
And as O’Brien’s…The Wings fan in me would call him a meathead, and the polite blogger in me would call him a meathead, too…He insisted that Justin Abdelkader, who registered two goals, five recorded hits and at least a couple more in perhaps his most effective game as a Red Wing, ever, wouldn’t have dared to try to play the way he did had the Predators’ lineup included Jordin Tootoo (neck injury).
“He probably felt a little bit tougher out there without Toots out there for sure,” O’Brien said. “Toots is one of the toughest guys in the league, pound-for-pound. I’m sure Abdelkader felt a little bit tougher tonight without Toots out there. We need Toots and we need him to be healthy, we need his style come playoff time big time.”
O’Brien also insisted to the Nashville City Paper’s David Boclair that he didn’t get the upper hand:
The last time the Predators and Red Wings played (March 19), Shane O’Brien and Todd Bertuzzi nearly fought. This time they actually did — twice.
“He must have had it on his mind, because [on the first] I made a pass up the ice and he came from my blind side and before I knew it he was chucking and I was ducking,” O’Brien said. “The second time I told him I thought he jumped me a little bit … and I wanted to let him know if you do that I’m going to come right back at you. He answered the bell and that was about it.”
Via the Red Wings’ website, you can decide who came out on top:
The non-meatheads in the Predators’ locker room were upset about the fact that they blew an opportunity to pull to within two points of the Wings in the Central Division, all but lock up a playoff spot and plain old win a game which they led 3-0—and enjoyed eight power plays and over 11 minutes of power play time—against a team that they had previously defeated four straight times. Mike FIsher suggested to the Tennessean’s Cooper that the point earned counted as some sort of consolation...
“We were feeling great halfway through. But we realize they’re obviously a very good team. They’re not going to sit back. They’re going to make a push,” Predators forward Mike Fisher said. “That was definitely a frustrating one to lose that way. The bright side is we got a point, and they’re all important right now.”
After Nashville’s 3-2 win at Colorado last Thursday, Predators Coach Barry Trotz said a quick Avalanche goal after his team went up 3-0 negated any advantage of the lead. The Predators faced a similar situation Saturday. Just 51 seconds after Sergei Kostitsyn put the Predators ahead 3-0 with 17:32 left in the second period, Jakub Kindl and Justin Abdelkader scored goals 1:21 apart to make the score 3-2 with 15:11 remaining in the second. With 16:01 left in the third, Abdelkader scored his second goal to tie the game at 3-3.
It was the second third-period lead the Predators lost this week on home ice. On Tuesday they took a 1-0 lead over Vancouver into the third only to see the Canucks win 3-1.
“It’s probably the hardest (lead) in the league to hold right now — a three-goal lead — because you think you have lots of breathing room,” Trotz said after Saturday’s loss. “They get one and the momentum changes.”
As the Tennessean’s David Climer noted, Trotz suggested in his post-game press conference (see the multimedia section) that the Predators were still dominating the Wings in the third period…
Trotz tried to put lipstick on the pig by pointing out how well the Predators played in the third period. By his count, they had 15 scoring chances to Detroit’s four in those 20 minutes. But the bottom line is that the Predators got nothing past Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard when it mattered most. All told, Detroit held the Predators scoreless for the final 40:21.
And he insisted that the Predators won’t “need any help” getting into the playoffs…
“We’re pretty determined to get into the playoffs,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “We want to do it on our own merit, not because everybody else loses.”
But his players weren’t as happy with their effort in what Climer believes was a playoff preview:
This is the first time in 2½ months that the Predators have lost when they managed three goals in a game. Even with some late-game slippage here and there, they’re usually able to close the deal.
“That’s how it’s been,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “We haven’t learned yet. Hopefully, we’ll figure it out soon. When you have a lead, you have to finish the game.”
“No excuses,” captain Shea Weber said. “This time of year we shouldn’t be letting teams come from behind and win.”
Trotz only admitted dismay with the result in one instance, as the Nashville City Paper’s David Boclair noted:
“We had a three-goal lead for what, two minutes, three minutes?” Trotz said. “It didn’t feel like we had a three-goal lead and then just gave it away. They were right back in the game.… They were throwing pucks to the net. The [first] two goals they got were not dangerous plays. They were chaotic-type plays that ended up in the net. … We had a game that we wanted the two points and we got one — that’s the disheartening thing.”
“You have to realize there’s going to be huge momentum shifts and [Saturday] there were,” Trotz said. “There were in the first, there was huge ones in the second. Then in the third, they get a goal and you think you’re going to be under siege. Well, we had them under siege the whole third period, for the most part. We were doing a lot of good things.”
Trotz dug the referees’ call against Holmstrom, too—and whether he elbowed Rinne after he and Rinne slid across the crease was hard to tell as the overhead view didn’t exactly show whether the 6’5” Rinne’s head was over Holmstrom’s shoulder level when his head knocked back:
For the second straight meeting, Detroit had a goal waved off because forward Tomas Holmstrom was called for goaltender interference. In this case, it would have given the Red Wings a 1-0 lead.
“It was the right call,” Trotz said. “He went right into Pekka [Rinne] … and throws his elbow into Pekka’s head. “
More like Rinne bumps Holmstrom outside the crese, pops Holmstrom in the back of his head with his trapper, the two slide from left to right and as Lidstrom’s shot passes Rinne, Holmstrom’s elbow does come up as he attempts to tip the shot, but where it lands? Only Rinne knows.
The bottom line about the Predators’ point gained, however, isn’t in dispute, as noted by both Boclair…
The Predators also reduced to one the number of teams currently outside the top eight in the Western Conference standings that still can catch them. That team is Dallas, which is eight points back with five games to play.
And the Tennessean’s Cooper:
Losing this way to Detroit was tough, no question. But the Predators now have 95 points. The ninth-place Calgary Flames cannot pass Nashville in points. With Dallas losing today in regulation, they must get at least nine points in their remaining five games — and Nashville not get any — to jump the Predators. I think it’s pretty safe to say Nashville will make the postseason.
What does concern the Predators?
If the trend was troubling before their 4-3 loss to Detroit, Nashville’s recent inability to close teams out has become a full-blown issue. The Predators held a 3-0 lead early in the second period and watched as their arch-rival clawed back into the game and won in overtime. The Predators have now been outscored 9-3 in the third period in their last five games. One year ago, a third period collapse against Chicago led to a lot of talk early in the season about motivation to not let such issues happen again. Granted, this isn’t the playoffs yet, but this problem is somewhat troubling.
Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are a minus-4 and minus-5 respectively in their last three games. Tonight Suter was a minus-2 and Weber was a minus-1. A lot of this had to do with the fact that Nashville’s power play carried their offense — and both were on ice for two of the Predators’ special teams goals. But both are often matched up against their opponents’ top lines even strength.
Right now, it’s all about match-ups with the Predators. Before today, they were probably feeling pretty good about facing Detroit in the first-round. They still finished the season series with a 4-1-1 record against the Wings, but the way Detroit came back tonight — without Pavel Datsyuk in the lineup — you have to wonder how a best-of-seven series against these two will play out.
The Red Wings, who were backstopped to their win by a fantastic performance from Jimmy Howard, who rebounded from a bad goal from Kostitsyn, stopped 31 shots and did hold the Wings in the game at times when the Predators threatened to pull ahead in the 3rd, as illustrated by this lovely clip from the Wings’ website…
Were obviously happy with the result, as Dan Cleary told the AP’s Teresa M. Walker:
“We definitely came out with a lot more urgency and more determination in our game,” Cleary said. “We needed that after the last outing. It was rock bottom. Certainly, it was a good step for us. We responded well.”
Justin Abdelkader had two goals, and Jakub Kindl also scored as Detroit improved to 2-3-2 in its last seven games. Rafalski finished with two assists and Jimmy Howard stopped 31 shots in his first game back after missing two with a strained left shoulder. The Red Wings extended the longest active playoff streak among North America’s four major professional sports. They also got to 100 points for an 11th straight season, extending their own NHL record. But Detroit coach Mike Babcock was most impressed with how his team bounced back in this game after being down 3-0.
“The guys could have easily sagged, but they didn’t. They responded,” he said. “I thought we had a good physical play tonight.”
“Everyone knew how important the game was for both teams and certainly how we were going to respond,” Cleary said.
“We’re fighting for our lives, and they are fighting for their lives,” Abdelkader said. “It was a battle, and I think it was a huge road win for us and a big division win.”
As for that 3-0 deficit, Babcock called a timeout after the Predators went up 3-0 all of 2-and-a-half minutes into the second period, and ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reveals the substance of Babcock’s message to his team:
The Red Wings posted a gigantic win against Nashville on Saturday afternoon. On the heels of an embarrassing 10-3 home loss against St. Louis (part of a stretch that has been a struggle), imagine the feeling on the Detroit bench when the Preds went up 3-0 in the second period. That’s when Wings coach Mike Babcock called a timeout. He huddled the entire bench and relayed a message.
“Just told them to stay with it and challenged a few guys to join the group,’’ Babcock texted to ESPN.com after Saturday’s game.
Great stuff. And perhaps a win that changes the course of Detroit’s season.
Being a picky Wings fan, I’d suggest that if the Wings had started on time instead of both getting into penalty trouble (the Wings took a total of 11 penalties, including three delay-of-game calls for flicking the puck out of play from the defensive zone) and allowing the Predators to take play to them early on, the miraculous comeback wouldn’t have been necessary, and, perhaps “moreover” for me, they wouldn’t have had to expend so much damn energy with a Minnesota Wild team playing for pride coming into the Joe, all with the Wings flying back on Saturday evening for a short turnaround before a game they need to win if they hope to catch the Sharks, who lead the Wings both 101-100 in terms of points and 46-45 in terms of wins.
The Wings weren’t going to let the process by which they earned their result dampen the significance of earning a win hitting the 100-point mark for the 11th straight season, as Mike Babcock told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
“Which to me isn’t going to happen in this league now,” said coach Mike Babcock, citing the parity in the league. “It’s a good game for us and a good win, and I’m really happy for (general manager) Ken Holland. It’s a big honor for him. And we get to the playoffs, which is positive.”
But the way they won this game, and after the colossal failure which was Wednesday’s 10-3 loss at home to St. Louis, this game showed a lot about these Wings (45-23-10, 100 points). The Wings were down 3-0 when Nashville’s Sergei Kostitsyn scored at 2:37 of the third period. The sell-out Bridgestone Arena was roaring. The bad vibes of Wednesday’s loss seemed to be rearing themselves all over again.
“We could have sagged,” said Babcock, who called a pivotal time out after the Nashville goal and seemed to change the games’ momentum.
“It was a great team effort,” Abdelkader said. “It showed a lot of character coming back.”
“Listen, everybody knew how important it was for both teams,” Cleary said. “We had lot of guys play really well, physically, and we responded. We had a lot of guys really step up.”
Babcock only briefly admitted that his team occasionally stumbled along the way, as he told MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“I thought we played great,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We kept shooting the puck over the glass, which probably isn’t a good move, but I thought we did a lot of good things. We played hard. I thought Bertuzzi was great today. He was physical, he was standing up for his teammates a lot. Abdelkader played real well. Howie made some big saves down the stretch, the guys stuck with it and we were able to win.”
The Red Wings were called for delay of game three times after firing the puck over the glass. It led to a pair of power-play goals for Nashville. But Detroit killed two Predators power plays in the final six minutes, both penalties against Ruslan Salei.
“It was a don’t-give-up attitude,” Howard said. “We found ourselves down 3-0, but we started getting on them, putting pucks in, just throwing them at the net. We were able to get traffic and a couple were able to get by Pekka.”
Again, Babcock suggested that the Wings’ 3-0 deficit didn’t reflect the Wings’ work ethic as they racked up penalties and goals against…
“You’re down 3-0 and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘Geez, we played pretty good here,’ “ Babcock said. “The guys could have easily sagged. They didn’t, they responded. I thought we had a lot of good physical play. Bert and Abby led the way, but lots of guys did a good job for us.”
And as Khan notes, the Wings’ comeback came quickly after his timeout. Jakub Kindl’s sneaky shot slithered through Rinne under a minute after Kostitsyn’s 3-0 goal, and Abdelkader scored 1:21 after Kindl did to make the game 3-2.
Abdelkader tried to play down his contributions…
“Anytime you can chip in on the scoreboard it’s great,” Abdelkader said. “Our line had a lot of chances, whether I was with (Mike Modano and Tomas Holmstrom) or Bert and Mule (Johan Franzen). I just wanted to be physical and hang onto pucks and get to the net. It was a great team effort. We showed lot of character fighting back.”
And Bertuzzi simply suggested that the Wings were doing what they had to do given their 10-3 loss to St. Louis, perhaps needing a period or so to shake off their bad habits and get their legs back under themselves:
“Unfortunately, it takes a kick in the arse like that to get ourselves going,” Bertuzzi said.
One stat you won’t hear about? The Wings were absolutely getting their butts handed to them in the faceoff circle, trailing 16-6 after the first period and 24-13 after the second period, but they ended the game losing the faceoff battle by only one draw, 31-30, and Henrik Zetterberg’s strong win back to Rafalski set up Cleary’s gamer.
The Wings were also credited with more hits in Nashville, by the Predators’ scorekeepers, earning a 29-23 “win” in that department, and while Johan Franzen remains mired in a goal-less slump, he did register 4 hits and is at least playing like a power forward again.
The Free Press’s Helene St. James spoke to Cleary and Abdelkader about their pivotal goals...
Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne hurled his stick after Cleary finished an overtime sequence that began with Henrik Zetterberg winning a face-off against Jerred Smithson.
“I kind of went to the net and had a couple D and then they kind of separated a little bit,” Cleary said. “Rafi saw me, shot it, and I deflected it in and over him. Big, big points for us. We needed that after our last outing. We’d hit rock-bottom.”
Abdelkader tipped Brad Stuart’s shot at 4:09 [of the second period] to pull the Wings within a goal. That made it two goals in 55 seconds for the Predators, and two goals in 1:22 for the Wings, to start the second period.
“He played magnificent,” Jimmy Howard said. “He was going to the hard areas, getting on their D and just creating havoc.”
Four minutes into the third period, Bertuzzi drilled the puck in from the boards, putting it right on Abdelkader’s stick.
“I got to the net and Todd made a great pass,” Abdelkader said. “Any time you can chip in on the scoreboard, it’s great. It was a great team effort. The bounces didn’t go our way to start, but I thought it showed a lot of character, fighting back.”
St. James gauged the Wings’ takes on their win‘s significance…
Bertuzzi on winning for the first time in five tries against Nashville: “We haven’t been very successful against this team and we wanted to come out with a game plan and stick to it. It was nice that we battled back.” ...
Jimmy Howard on how the game went: “It was a don’t-give-up attitude. We found ourselves down, 3-0, after a couple power-play goals by them and the one coming off the end boards. But we started getting on them and putting pucks in and a couple were able to get by Pekka.” ...
Mike Babcock on the two quick goals: “Suddenly we got back into the hockey game. When it was 3-2, I’m thinking, let’s stay patient and we’ll get our opportunities. Real good win for us.”
And she noted the team’s reactions to Bertuzzi’s fights:
“I think you’ve really got to compliment Bert,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought Bertuzzi was great today—I mean, through two periods he hardly got to play, but he was physical, he was standing up for his teammates. Fighting isn’t going to happen in the playoffs, but more than the fighting, it was just standing up for yourself and getting involved in the game.”
“It was great,” Jimmy Howard said. “We’re not really known for guys dropping the gloves, but it definitely gave us a boost. You could just tell on the bench, guys were fired up the second time there. It was good to see. It really made us energetic out there.”
“You know it’s weird, sometimes a situation like that can really spark a team,” Danny Cleary said. “We all know how hard Bert plays and—listen, we’re a not a team that fights a lot, that’s an understatement, but we had guys step up tonight and it was huge.”
Bertuzzi himself suggested that he was just doing what was necessary—and I think it’s worth noting that since Bertuzzi realized that the league wasn’t going to suspend him for his hit on Ryan Johnson, it’s as if a weight’s lifted off his shoulders regarding being allowed to play physically….
“It was just one of those games,” Bertuzzi said. “It was kind of a playoff atmosphere and you never know, we could be facing them in the first round. Things just kind of happened, and it’s just nice to get the two points. We’re just trying to win. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a fight or somebody making a big hit, we have to go out there and try to establish our game with them.”
And O’Brien whined…
O’Brien, who bore the brunt of punches both times, said, “He knows what he’s doing. He’s strong. You don’t win every fight you’re in, but when a guy jumps you, there’s a little bit of pride involved. I just thought I’d go back at him, and being up 3-0, we had everything intact here. I still think that the two goals they got to get them going were kind of unlucky.”
To both St. James and MLive’s Khan...
“He’s just a big guy, 6-foot-4 or whatever,” O’Brien said. “He’s been in the league a long time, he knows what he’s doing, he’s strong. You don’t win every fight you’re in, but when a guy jumps you, there’s a little bit of pride involved. I just thought I’d go back at him and I just thought, being up 3-0, we had everything intact here.”
As for his season-long issues with O’Brien, Bertuzzi said, “It was just one of those games. It’s kind of a playoff atmosphere and you never know, we could be facing them in the first round. Things just kind of happened.”
Danny Cleary disagreed while inadvertently admitting that Bertuzzi’s back is probably as sore as his fists:
“That’s been going on for a while, those two guys,” Detroit’s Danny Cleary said. “(Bertuzzi) plays through a lot of injury. To have a couple of fights tonight, with what he’s going through, says a lot about him. Sometimes a situation like that can really spark a team. We all know how hard Bert plays. We’re not a team that fights a lot. That’s an understatement. But certainly we had guys step up tonight.”
In the end, the Wings got their two points, they managed to pull of a miraculous comeback, pull back into the thick of things for the 2nd spot in the West, they defeated a potential first-round opponent, got strong goaltending from Howard, played well minus both Kronwall (shoulder) and Datsyuk, and…
If all goes well, they witnessed a sign of things to come from Justin Abdelkader, who’s endured his ups and downs over the course of a somewhat inconsistent sophomore season:
“He played great. Probably the best game I’ve seen him play,” Cleary said. “Physical and nasty and in everybody’s face. He’s a big kid and likes to lay the body and it’s nice to see him score.”
It was Abdelkader’s second career two-goal game. He also scored twice in a 9-1 win at Columbus on Nov. 11, 2009.
“He played magnificent,” Howard said. “Going to the hard areas, laying the body and getting on their (defense) and just creating havoc. That’s what we need those guys (grinders) to do going into the playoffs.”
That’s the theory. It’ll take contributions from everyone to win in a week and a half.
Highlights: We’ll stick with the Red Wings’ website’s highlight clip, which is narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
Post-game: Fox Sports Tennessee posted Pete Weber and Terry Crisp’s recap;
The Predators’ website posted comments from Mike Fisher…
And coach Barry Trotz:
Fox Sports Detroit posted Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond’s recap, as well as post-game comments from Wings coach Mike Babcock and forward Justin Abdelkader;
And the Red Wings’ website posted comments from Dan Cleary, Abdelkader and Babcock:
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 19-image gallery;
The Tennessean posted a 20-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 42-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 28-image gallery;
Shots 41-34 Detroit overall, breaking down as 15-11 Detroit in the 1st period, 12-10 Detroit in the 2nd period, 12-12 in the 3rd period and 2-1 Detroit in OT.
The Wings went 0-for-3 in 3:42 of PP time; the Predators went 1-for-5 in 10:16 of 5 on 4 time and 1-for-3 in 53 seconds of 5 on 3 time, or 1-for-8 in a remarkable 11:09 of PP time.
Howard stopped 31 of 34; Rinne stopped 37 of 41.
The “Nashville Media” picked Ryan Suter, Dan Cleary and Justin Abdelkader as the 3 stars.
Our goals: Kindl (2), unassisted;
Abdelkader (6) from Stuart (16) and Holmstrom (19);
Abdelkader (7) from Bertuzzi (26) and Rafalski (40);
Cleary (25) from Rafalski (41) and Zetterberg (54).
Faceoffs: 31-30 Nashville (Detroit won 49%);
Blocked shots: 14-9 Detroit;
Missed shots: 8-8 (total shot attempts 58-56 Detroit);
Hits: 29-23 Detroit;
Giveaways: 11-8 Nashville;
Takeaways: 14-11 Nashville.
Faceoffs: Zetterberg went 11-and-8 (58%); Helm went 4-and-9 (31%); Filppula went 8-and-6 (57%); Draper went 4-and-4 (50%); Abdelkader went 3-and-2 (60%); Cleary went 0-and-1; Modano went 0-and-1.
Shots: Kindl and Helm led the team with 5 shots; Abdelkader, Cleary and Ericsson had 4; Franzen had 3; Eaves, Stuart, Hudler, Rafalski, Draper and Modano had 2; Lidstrom, Salei, Zetterberg and Filppula had 1. Only Bertuzzi and Holmstrom didn’t take shots.
Blocked attempts: Ericsson hit Predators players 3 times; Cleary, Draper, Zetterberg, Helm, Franzen and Holmstrom had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Filppula missed the net 3 times; Kindl, eaves, Rafalski, Zetterberg and Modano missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Abdelkader led the team with 5 hits; Cleary and Franzen had 4; Hudler had 3; Eaves, Salei, Draper, Helm and Ericsson had 2; Lidstrom, Zetterberg and Bertuzzi had 1.
Giveaways: Stuart had 2 giveaways; Cleary, Salei, Rafalski, Zetterberg, Ericsson and Franzen had 1.
Takeaways: Kindl, Rafalski and Zetterberg had 2 takeaways; Lidstrom, Salei, Hudler, Bertuzzi and Modano had 1.
Blocked shots: Rafalski blocked 3 Predators shots; Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Helm and Ericsson blocked 2; Stuart, Draper and Zetterberg blocked 1.
Penalty minutes: Bertuzzi took 2 major penalties; Holmstrom took 3 minors; Salei took 2 minors; Kindl, Abdelkader, Stuart and Draper took 1 minor penalty.
Plus-minus: Filppula finished at -1; Lidstrom, Cleary, Eaves, Stuart, Salei, Rafalski, Draper, Zetterberg, Helm, Modano and Holmstrom finished at +1; Abdelkader and Ericsson finished at +2. The team went +14 overall.
Points: Abdelkader had 2 goals; Rafalski had 2 assists; Kindl and Cleary scored goals; Stuart, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi and Holmstrom had assists.
Ice time: Lidstrom led the team with 26:27 played; Stuart played 25:36; Rafalski played 24:22;
Ericsson played 23:31; Zetterberg played 20:28; Franzen played 18:29;
Cleary played 17:38; Abdelkader played 16:57; Filppula played 16:18;
Helm played 15:00; Salei played 14:14; Eaves played 12:42;
Holmstrom played 12:10; Hudler played 11:48; Kindl played 11:05;
Draper played 11:03; Bertuzzi played 9:54; Modano played 9:53.
Part 2: Wings-Wild preview: In a sentence, the Wings still need to earn two points against a Wild team playing for pride this afternoon. The Wings and Wild tangle at the Joe (5 PM EDT on FSD+ [channel finder here]/FS North/WXYT) with Detroit not only only a point back from the Sharks, but only four points ahead of both the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference standings, and the Wings have still lost two of their last three games and six of their past eight games.
The news isn’t as good on the injury front, either, as MLive’s Ansar Khan reports:
Defenseman Niklas Kronwall was a late scratch and is listed as day to day with an upper-body injury. Kronwall has been bothered by a sore shoulder. He took the ice for the pregame warmups but didn’t stay on for long.
General manager Ken Holland said Pavel Datsyuk is expected to return to the lineup for Sunday’s game against Minnesota at Joe Louis Arena. But, after the game, Babcock was told Datsyuk’s status remains questionable. He has missed seven games with a lower-body injury.
As a fan, I miss Datsyuk as much as anybody else does. As someone who has to pretend to be a professional, it’s just not realistic for the Wings’ medical staff to clear somebody to play in what is theoretically a low-stakes game when he can rest until Wednesday’s game against Carolina. You don’t mess with “thigh strains” when someone has a history of dealing with Charley horses, or you end up with calcified tissue in somebody’s thighs by pushing somebody back into action too early.
The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan frames today’s game thusly:
Faceoff: 5 p.m. Sunday, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit
Outlook: The Wings lead the season series 2-0-1.
Did you know: With Sunday’s victory, the Wings have reached 100 points 11 consecutive seasons.
The Wild dropped a 3-1 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning, at home, on Saturday, and while they’re not playoff-bound, that loss broke a two-game winning streak…and that two-game winning streak was preceded by an 0-7-and-1 stretch.
The Pioneer Press’s Bruce Brothers reports that the Wild don’t plan on saying “uncle” yet, despite having surrendered a 1-0 lead to Tampa Bay on Saturday:
“I’m not giving up,” [Wild coach Todd Richards] said, perhaps alluding to a job status that has become tenuous after his team missed the playoffs for the second of two seasons with him as coach. “We aren’t giving up. We’re preparing right now and getting ready to play Detroit. I’m preparing and want to win that game.”
Generally positive even under dire circumstances, Richards wanted to talk about how well his team played. Can’t argue with that: Minnesota outshot the Lightning 30-23 for the game and 11-4 in the third period but was unable to contend with former Wild goaltender Dwayne Roloson, who won for the first time in his past nine meetings with his former team.
That ended with a thud, literally, however. Defenseman Brent Burns dived to keep the puck in the Tampa Bay zone, then made a lunging second effort as he slid along the blue line. Burns got the puck, but it slid to Lightning forward Martin St. Louis as Burns slid right into backchecking teammate Mikko Koivu trying to stay with St. Louis, knocking Koivu off his skates. Suddenly it was a three-on-one play going the other way, and the quick-handed St. Louis sauntered down the ice before sliding a pass to Sean Bergenheim on his left. Bergenheim put it away, giving the Lightning a two-goal lead after 7:58 of the third period.
With veteran defensemen Marek Zidlicky and Nick Schultz sidelined by injuries and rookies Justin Falk and Maxim Noreau taking their place, Richards pointed out that Burns’ play needed to be good but was “erratic.”
“When you’re bringing in some young guys, you have to lean on your guys with experience to make plays and do things. Sometimes you get caught up in trying to do too much, and it ends up as a negative result.”
Brothers, who says that Jose Theodore will start today, presumably against Howard, notes that the Wild are dealing with a boatload of injuries, especially on the blueline:
With [Nick] Schultz, [Guillaume] Latendresse, Marek Zidlicky. Cam Barker, Marco Scandella, Josh Harding and James Sheppard sidelined, the man-games missed by the Wild climbed to 392, 52 more than through all of last season. Harding and Sheppard have been out all season with knee injuries.
The Wild announced Saturday that Zidlicky, who has a groin injury, also would miss today’s game against the Detroit Red Wings.
Center John Madden left Saturday’s game after playing one shift in the second period with a lower-body injury, and Richards said a forward likely would be called up to take Madden’s place for today’s game.
On Saturday, the Wild inserted Justin Falk and Maxim Noreau on the blue line after calling both up from the Houston Aeros o the American Hockey League.
Madden wasn’t the Wild’s only casualty on Saturday, as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo noted:
Center John Madden (lower body injury) didn’t return after the first period and didn’t fly to Detroit. Carson McMillan was recalled to make his NHL debut Sunday.
Right winger Martin Havlat, who was rocked by a Mattias Ohlund hit during the middle of the game, also didn’t make the trip to Detroit because of an undisclosed injury. The Wild called up Colton Gillies after Saturday night’s Aeros game.
Russo reports that the Wild are literally and figuratively a little green on the blueline…
With defensemen Nick Schultz (post-concussion syndrome) and Marek Zidlicky (hamstring) sidelined, the Wild used four rookie defensemen, including callup Justin Falk. Clayton Stoner and Jared Spurgeon played well, and coach Todd Richards was happy with Noreau and Falk.
But veteran Brent Burns was on the ice for three goals.
“It was erratic,” Richards said of Burns’ game. “When you’re bringing in some young guys, you have to lean on your guys with the experience to make plays and do things.”
And he offered this informal take on today’s game…
For the first time, the Wild had to use four rookie defensemen tonight with Cam Barker still out with a back injury, Nick Schultz done for the season with post-concussion syndrome (see below blog) and Marek Zidlicky out with a groin/hamstring injury.
Maxim Noreau, long wanting to prove he can play in the NHL, will get his shot now. He looked good in a 3-1 loss to Tampa. Justin Falk was also recalled, and the other rookies were Jared Spurgeon and Clayton Stoner.
We’ll see how they handle a faster pace in Detroit Sunday against guys like Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Holmstrom, Franzen, Cleary, Bertuzzi, etc.
Then, in the first period, center John Madden sustained a lower-body injury, and now 2007 seventh-round pick Carson McMillan will get to make his NHL debut at the Red Wings. Talk about an NHL initiation.
Then, Martin Havlat didn’t make the trip either to Detroit, so they’ll have to call up ANOTHER forward. Whichever forward gets the honor of joining the Mighty Minny Wild will be playing in [his] fourth game in four days. If the Wild’s not careful, it’ll destroy the [Houston] Aeros, too.
Before filing a full game preview:
Preview: The injury-ravaged Wild attempts to win multiple games against Detroit in the same season for the first time since 2002-03. John Madden scored the overtime winner in a 44-save effort by Jose Theodore in Detroit on Nov. 19. The Wild is 2-7 in its past nine games in Detroit. The Red Wings won in 4-3 overtime at Nashville on Saturday but are 10-12-4 in their past 26 at home.
Players to watch: Wild RW Carson McMillan, a 2007 seventh-round draft pick, will make his NHL debut. D Brent Burns has tallied points in five consecutive games against Detroit. G Jose Theodore will start. He’s 3-1 with a 2.48 goals-against average and .936 save percentage in his past three starts against Detroit. Red Wings LW Henrik Zetterberg is seventh in the NHL with 78 points. Nicklas Lidstrom is second among defensemen with 61 points.
Numbers: The Wild power play is 5-for-64 (7.8 percent) all-time at Joe Louis Arena, while the Red Wings are 15-for-78 (19.2 percent) with the man advantage.
Injuries: Wild RW Martin Havlat (undisclosed), D Marek Zidlicky (hamstring), D Nick Schultz (post-concussion syndrome), C John Madden (lower body), D Cam Barker (back), LW Guillaume Latendresse (lower body) and D Marco Scandella (finger) are out. Red Wings C Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) is expected to return. D Niklas Kronwall (shoulder) and G Chris Osgood (sports hernia) are out.
MinnesotaWild.com’s Greg Andresen offered a few Wings-Wild tidbits in his Five Takeaways from Saturday’s game…
Richards noted that his team played better in this loss than it did in a win over Edmonton, but he remained reserved in his postgame comments.
“You have hopes of the postseason, but we’re not giving up,” said Richards. “We’re preparing for Detroit, which is a great hockey team.”
The meeting with the Red Wings kicks off the four remaining games in the Wild season with three on the road, and one final go-round at Xcel Energy Center next Sunday against the Dallas Stars.
Lost in the Wild’s fall from postseason contention has been the remarkable turnaround by Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Each goal he scores should be a reminder of how many thought the guy’s career might be over due to a concussion.
Since he returned, he hasn’t missed a game and he’s found his scoring touch. He picked up his 11th goal of the season today, and has recorded a point in each of the last three games
And an unnamed Wild staffer added a few more tidbits of note in a post-game notebook:
LW Pierre-Marc Bouchard has recorded points in three straight games (2-1=3).
The Wild outshot its opponent for the 12th time this season (3-6-3).
The Wild has allowed three or more goals in each of its past 13 losses.
NHL.com’s Tal Pinchevsky sets up today’s game as follows:
Last 10—Minnesota 2-7-1; Detroit 5-3-2.
Season series—The Wings and Wild split their first two meetings this season before their last meeting on Feb. 20 in Minnesota. That night, Martin Havlat’s third-period goal tied the game 1-1 just 3:40 after Nicklas Lidstrom opened the scoring. Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi proceeded to score in the shootout as Detroit topped Minnesota 2-1. This game will close the teams’ season series.
Big story—The Wild are no longer statistically eligible to make the playoffs, thanks mostly to their recent season-long eight-game losing streak. A modest two-game win streak momentarily put them back in the postseason hunt, but they will be attempting to play spoiler the rest of the way. The Wings have punched their ticket to the postseason for a 20th straight year and now have their sights set on clinching the Central Division, which they can do with a win over the Wild.
Who’s hot—Bouchard has 3 points in his current three-game point streak for the Wild. … In Detroit, Henrik Zetterberg has 5 points in his current four-game point streak while Brian Rafalski has 5 points in his last four games. Wings captain NIcklas Lidstrom has 6 points in his last six games.
Stat pack—Lidstrom has now made the playoffs in each of his 19 seasons and could reach some potential career milestones this spring. One more playoff point would give him 176 for his career, allowing him to pass Denis Savard and tie Jean Beliveau and former teammate Sergei Fedorov for 13th all-time. Next in line would be Ray Bourque with 180 career playoff points. If the Wings make an extended playoff run and Lidstrom plays in 20 more playoff games, he will pass another former teammate, Chris Chelios, for the most all time.
Per the NHL’s media website, Greg Kimmerly and Dan O’Rourke will referee today’s game, and Derek Amell and Mark Shewchyk will work the lines.
Update: Per Hockey Wilderness, here are the lines the Wild employed against Tampa Bay, with Havlat and Madden obviously out against Detroit:
Andrew Brunette - Mikko Koivu - Antti Miettinen
Pierre-Marc Bouchard - Kyle Brodziak - Martin Havlat
Brad Staubitz - Eric Nystrom - Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Cullen - John Madden - Chuck Kobasew
Maxim Noreau - Greg Zanon
Justin Falk -Brent Burns
Jared Spurgeon - Clayton Stoner
Part 3: The Griffins are done: The Grand Rapids Griffins dropped a 1-0 decision to the Abbotsford Heat on Saturday night, and the loss officially eliminates them from playoff contention.
The Griffins’ website, Heat’s website, the Canadian Press, the Abbotsford News, the Abbotsford Times and the Grand Rapids Press provide recaps, with the Grand Rapids Press noting that the Griffins’ late-season collapse is disheartening to say the least:
The loss was the fifth in a row for a Griffins team which was only two points out of first place less than two weeks ago. Grand Rapids had gone 13-3-1-3 in its last 20 games prior to the five-game losing streak.
Grand Rapids (35-31-2-8) falls into sixth place with 80 points in the North Division with the loss, two points behind the fifth-place Heat and 10 points behind third place Lake Erie with four games left.
The Griffins needed to reach at least 90 points to make the playoffs.
The top three teams in the North and West Divisions automatically make the postseason, with the fifth-place team in the West getting in if the team finishes with more points than the fourth-place team in the North.
Grand Rapids is behind three teams from the West Division in terms of making the playoffs as well as Abbotsford and Toronto from the North.
The Griffins end their season next Sunday in Milwaukee, and after that, it’s safe to assume that the Wings will call up at least half a dozen players from Grand Rapids as “Black Aces.”
Part 4: Wings notebooks: The Detroit Free Press’s Evil Drew Sharp filed a whiny report from the Darren McCarty-Claude Lemieux autograph signing, and the Free Press posted a 15-image gallery from the event. I have no problem with McCarty choosing to make a buck or two after Lemieux’s management invited him to do so, and the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff actually took the time to speak to both men about what they were doing:
Today, while admitting his still doesn’t condone the pesky, agitating style employed by Lemieux, McCarty has no problem sitting next to him.
“Hockey is hockey and we can separate that,” McCarty said.
The feeling was mutual.
“For me to get together with Darren is easy, because I always actually admired the way he played, admired the way he stuck up for his teammates,” Lemieux said. “I admired everything he brought to the game. But if we got on the ice today and competed, it wouldn’t change the way I would play and it wouldn’t change the way he would play.”
McCarty also spoke to Fox 2’s morning show about his decision to sign autographs with Lemieux:
Part 5: Also of Red Wings-related note: Sebastien Piche registered a goal and an assist as the Toledo Walleye lost a 4-3 decision to the Wheeling Nailers, ending their season. The Toledo Blade’s Mark Monroe provides a recap, and, statistically speaking:
1. Defenseman Bryan Rufenach, who was signed to a pro-try-out by the Walleye but is not under contract to the Wings, and probably won’t be signed, registered a goal, an assist and a +8 in six games for Toledo;
2. Left wing Willie Coetzee posted 9 goals and 11 assists for 20 points in 36 games with Toledo;
3. And Piche, a defenseman, registered 12 goals, 21 assists and 33 points over the course of 48 games for Toledo.
• The Malik Report’s official OHL team, the Plymouth Whalers, dropped a 2-0 decision to the Kitchener Rangers on Saturday, and will play in a seventh and deciding game against Kitchener on Monday at 7 PM, in Kitchener;
Per the Boston Globe’s Kevin Dupont:
P.J. Axelsson returned to Sweden last week after a three-game visit to Causeway Street, and hopes to be back this summer with his entire family. “I love it here, I really miss it,’’ said the ever-smiling Axelsson. “I’d really like to come back here to live. My wife, too, she misses it.’’ Axelsson has two years remaining on the four-year pact he signed with Vastra Frolunda upon the end of his Bruins deal in 2009.
For the first time, he’ll play this season on a club with his brother, Dick Axelsson, a 2006 Red Wings draft pick. “It will be fun to be on the same team,’’ said P.J., who, at 36, is 12 years older than his brother. “Because he’s so much younger, we never got to do that.’’ According to P.J., Dick is unlikely to fulfill his wish of making it to the NHL. “No, I think he’s pretty much given that up,’’ he said. “It’s been a while since they drafted him, and let’s face it, Detroit’s a pretty good team.’’
Uh, that’s not what Dick’s suggested. He’s willing to give it a go, but not until he feels that he’s got a chance to make the Wings’ roster. As RedWingsCentral’s Matthew Wuest pointed out last week, the Wings are both willing to be patient with Axelsson and are going to retain his rights
[edit/update: Whoops! As noted by TMR readers, Dick isn’t P.J.‘s brother: Anton Axelsson is];
• If you were hoping that the Wings would snag Miami of Ohio star forward and Grosse Pointe, MI
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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.