The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/10/12 at 04:46 PM ET
Updated 4x with game chatter and stats at 7:10 PM: As the Detroit Red Wings prepare to build upon their 4-3 win against Los Angeles when they face off against the Nashville Predators tonight (8 PM EST, FSD/FS Tennessee/97.1 FM/yes, we “spring forward” tonight), it’s pretty easy to become apoplectic trying to follow the Red Wings’ injuries, and this quip from MLive’s Ansar Khan’s Twitter account has me hoping that the newly re-christened Red Bird III will take the Red Wings will take the team back to Detroit for one more night in the players’ own beds before they head out West, or at least that the team’s booked some first-class tickets to Los Angeles for Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Todd Bertuzzi and Jakub Kindl:
@KristiLeigh73 Howard might have, to face shots, but Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Bert, Kindl did not go to Nash. None of injured players back tonight
There is some good news: Red Wings’ Twitter account reports that Joakim Andersson’s been assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins, which, as MLive’s Brendan Savage points out, means that Justin Abdelkader’s healthy enough to give ‘er a go after battling the flu over the past few days.
Savage also reports good news regarding Jimmy Howard:
Jimmy Howard faced shots for second straight day. Reported no setbacks. Hopes to play Tuesday in LA
The Free Press’s Helene St. James is confirming the Andersson-Abdelkader swap:
Per Holland: Abdelkader back in tonight, so Joakim Andersson sent back to minors
Statistically speaking, DetroitHockey.net’s Clark Rasmussen has an answer for those of us who wonder why the hell it seems like the Red Wings only play in Nashville on Saturday nights, in the second half of back-to-back games:
The Red Wings have had 81 regular season games scheduled against the Predators (including ones yet to be played this season). Of those, 21 were played on a Saturday. Of the 21 Saturday games against the Preds, 16 of those were in Nashville. Of those 16, 12 were on the second night of a back-to-back.
That means that of all Red Wings - Predators matchups, 14.8% of them take place on a Saturday in Nashville after the Red Wings played the night before. Of Saturday games between the teams, 76.2% are in Nashville. Of Saturday games in Nashville, the Wings played the previous Friday 75% of the time.
Also of Red Wings-related note this afternoon:
• Via the Red Wings’ Twitter account, the Wings are holding “Social Media Meet-Ups” in Los Angeles on Tuesday and in New York, NY on Wednesday, March 21s, the Wings are holding a contest to give fans tickets to the NHL Awards in Las Vegas this June, and I’m just not going to comment on their last link;
• Via RedWingsFeed, in the past promotional events department, here’s a video from the Wings’ website chronicling Joey MacDonald and Jimmy Howard’s appearance at Hockeytown Authentics on Wednesday:
I’m delighted that Jimmy Howard’s a lefty both because he didn’t have to strain that healing right index finger and because, well, I’m a lefty, too;
• In the alumni department, the Saginaw News’s Kyle Austin spoke to Kris Draper and Joey Kocur after the pair appeared with Darren McCarty at Friday night’s Saginaw Spirit game:
“It’s nice to be able to do stuff like this,” Draper said. “Any time the three of us can hang out, we have some laughs, make a night of it, have some fun with it.”
Kocur, Draper and McCarty later dropped the ceremonial first puck in front of a crowd of 4,557 fans at The Dow Event Center, before the Saginaw Spirit took on the Owen Sound Attack Friday night. Even without skates on, the kinship all three share as former linemates was evident.
“They’d do anything for me,” Kocur said. “We’d go in the corner together, wherever we went we stuck up for each other, and I would do the same for them, it was like brothers.”
While Kocur and McCarty’s duties ended with the autograph session, Draper’s included scouting the game in his new role as Red Wings’ special assistant to the general manager. The biggest thing he tries to impress on junior players, he said, is to be consistent night-in and night-out.
“If a scout or a general manager catches you on a bad night, that could kind of be that one impression,” Draper said. “Just prepare for the game, get ready for the game. It’s a great stepping stone to get you ready for the next level, and really take advantage of opportunities.”
Draper was the last of the three to hang up his skates, when he announced his retirement last offseason. Since then, he said he’s enjoyed spending more time with his family, including coaching his son’s youth hockey team this season.
“As a professional athlete, you know that sooner or later it’s going to come to an end,” Draper said. “Is it tough to walk away? Absolutely. Are things good? Yes they are. Do I miss the game? Yeah I do.”
The Grind Line, of course, is mentioned among Sports Illustrated’s gallery-themed list of the NHL’s “All-Time Classic Lines”;
• If you’re keeping score at home, MLive’s Brendan Savage reports that Wings fans are optimistic that Nicklas Lidstrom will return next season. So are the press corps that cover the Wings, but the decision will ultimately be up to Lidstrom and his family;
• And, put simply, this should not surprise you.
*Hey fellow aviation nerds! Red Bird III inherited Red Bird II’s N682RW tail number, which initially belonged to Red Bird I, but the actual Red Bird II has disappeared since its current occupant landed at Oakland County International Airport on January 10th. Did the Red Wings sell the plane, or have they simply slapped another tail number to a perfectly good MD-81 and assigned it to the Tigers as their dedicated aircraft, or perhaps found a job for said plane somewhere else in the Ilitch empire, which includes their other business interests in Little Caesars Pizza, Blueline Foods Distribution, the MotorCity Casino or Olympia Entertainment?
**Unsolicited admission: I had a “Delicious Pancakes” moment last night while writing the recap that took till 6 AM to write and kept my brain working till 7:30: this professional blogger managed to pull a muscle near his solar plexus by sneezing very hard. Pretty impressive, eh?
Update #1: Finally, some game-day stuff. The Tennessean’s Josh Cooper provides the following...
The situation looks almost too perfect for the Predators. The Detroit Red Wings played last night — beating the Los Angeles Kings. They’re without stars Nicklas Lidstrom, Jimmy Howard and Pavel Datsyuk. Nashville is healthy and coming off a nice win over Colorado on Thursday. This is why tonight’s game oddly plays out like a trap game.
“They do have a tradition of winning, and they are going to work. They have workers in right now. You think it’s going to be easy playing against Darren Helm or Justin Abdelkader?” said Nashville Coach Barry Trotz. “What’s happened is they’re rallying as a group and they’re going to come with an all-in effort. If you don’t come in with an all-in effort you’re not going to beat any team in this league no mater the injury situation.”
Detroit Coach Mike Babcock knows the message Trotz will have for his team to start the game.
“‘Let’s jump all over them, let’s skate them into the ground, let’s get started and wear them out, let’s get into their D,’” Babcock said. “I’m going to be the opposite of that. I’m going to say, ‘the first 10 minutes is real important, let’s just get out and get playing and make sure we’re not checking and watching them, let’s play so they have to check us and play the game.’”
Cooper believes that the Predators will continue to scratch Craig Smith and Colin Wilson, and if you’re interested, and Shea Weber wisely told Cooper that the Radulov situation is, “Like crying wolf” until it happens or doesn’t happen.
• Regarding the Red Wings, Brendan Savage offers a Howard update:
Goaltender Jimmy Howard took another step toward returning to the Detroit Red Wings lineup when he faced shots for the second straight day.
Although he won’t play tonight against the Nashville Predators, Howard participated in the morning skate and reported no problems with his strained groin.
“It felt good,” Howard said. “Two days ago ... I skated on my own. Yesterday, about a half-hour of shots and today I was out there for an hour or so. It’s gotten better each and every day with no setbacks so it’s good. Everything is coming along as planned. No problems. I’m hoping to play Tuesday night in L.A.”
Update #1.5: NHL.com/Fox Sports Tennesse’s John Manasso believes that the Predators will dress the following lineup:
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Andrei Kostitsyn - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Matt Halischuk - Nick Spaling - Jordin Tootoo
Gabriel Bourque - Paul Gaustad - Brandon Yip
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Hal Gill - Roman Josi
Francis Bouillon - Ryan Ellis
Out: Brian McGrattan, Colin Wilson, Craig Smith, Jack Hillen
Update #2: Here’s Brendan Savage’s report on Justin Abdelkader‘s improving health:
“I’m feeling better,” Abdelkader said after this morning’s skate. “Bad deal with the stomach flu.”
When Abdelaker was unable to play, Andersson became the latest player called up to fill out a Detroit lineup that has been decimated by injuries. Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle), Pavel Datsyuk (knee), Todd Bertuzzi (groin) and Jakub Kindl (upper body) all did not make the trip to Nashville.
In the last two weeks, the Red Wings have recalled Brendan Smith, Doug Janik, Chris Conner, Gustav Nyquist and Andersson from Grand Rapids to help fill their holes. That doesn’t exactly create stability in the lineup but it’s something the mainstays can’t worry about.
“We just really try to stick to our systems,” Abdelkader said. “You play with different guys all year, whether it’s guys from Grand Rapids or guys from the team. You try to stick to the system and the system takes care of the players. Everyone just kind of fits into the system we play.
“We were all together in training camp. Everyone knows you play the same way here you do in Grand Rapids. It’s a pretty easy transition. Each night, different guys have been stepping up. That’s been good to see. We’re getting contributions from everyone. As long as we have guys keep chipping in, we’ll keep trying to get these points. They’re important points for us since everyone keeps winning in the West.”
Update #2: Wow, lots of Trotz about the Wings’ last game and tonight’s, per MLive’s Brendan Savage:
“We played a pretty solid game in Detroit; we just needed to play 10 seconds longer,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said before today’s rematch against the Red Wings. “One of the things you learn, from especially Datsyuk and Zetterberg, is don’t think the play is over. They’re not just going to dump it in. They’re going to make a play. You’ve got to expect the play to happen. We got the puck out the zone, you’re thinking they’re just going to overtime. Most teams do. We would have dumped it (back) in probably. But they played it right to the bitter end. We got exposed in a little bit of a gap play and a bit of one-on-one and it ended up in the net. It was a phenomenal play by Datsyuk and Zetterberg.”
And that’s why Trotz wasn’t taking anything for granted entering his team’s final regular-season home game against the Red Wings. Sure, the Red Wings have been hit by a rash of injuries and the players who didn’t make the trip to Nashville include Lidstrom (ankle) and Datsyuk (knee). But Trotz knows better than to think the Red Wings will be a pushover because they’re short-handed.
“The one thing we talked about this morning is they have a tradition of winning,” Trotz said. “They are going to work. Their workers are in (the lineup) right now. What’s happening is they’re rallying as a group to come with an all-out effort. If you don’t come with an all-out effort, you’re not going to beat anyone in this league no matter what the injury situation is. They’re still strong in goal with (Joey) MacDonald, they’re still strong on defense even though they’re missing Lidstrom. Their. top four (defensemen) are still pretty good. They’ve got Zetterberg, who is going really good. They’ve got workers behind that. They play strong defensively and they capitalize on their offensive chances. They don’t have as many dangerous people but they’re still a very effective group. They play a 200-foot game and it’s going to be a lot of work and a lot of grind.”
Detroit coach Mike Babcock expects the Predators to be well rested and come out hard early in the game since the Red Wings had to make a late-night flight to Nashville after a 4-3 victory over Los Angeles Friday, when the Predators were idle. Babcock, on the other hand, wants to make sure his team survives the expected onslaught in the first period.
“The first 10 minute are important,” he said. “Let’s get out there and get playing. Let’s make sure we’re not watching them. Let’s play so they have to check us. Play the game. Right now, their lineup is probably deeper than our lineup. But who cares? There’s only one puck. Let’s play.”
On another note, Babcock wasn’t thrilled about having to fly to Nashville Friday night. He would have preferred to come in sooner and not necessarily for the sake of the players.
“It’s very important the coaching staff gets to hear some country music and enjoy the community a little bit,” he joked.
• Here’s NHL.com’s John Manasso’s Wings morning skate report:
The Red Wings have been depleted by injuries and it has started to catch up with them so even getting back a fourth-line forward like Abdelkader, who has seven goals and 13 assists, is a help. While the Red Wings are starting to get healthy – center Pavel Datsyuk skated on Friday in Detroit – they will miss plenty of players Saturday. Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom will miss his sixth straight game, Datsyuk his ninth straight, forward Todd Bertuzzi his third straight, defenseman Jonathan Ericsson his sixth straight and goalie Jimmy Howard his third straight.
Babcock said the results have dropped off, but the team is doing the best it can.
“I mean our record’s not even close, so reality is we haven’t been good enough,” he said. “But we’ve battled hard. We’ve lost two of our last three games and we’ve given up 18 and 23 and 24 shots. So we’re not an offensive machine, but we’re hanging in there and we’re battling hard to try and help our goaltender out. I think we’ve done a pretty good job in that area.”
Babcock said the critical thing is not to lose ground in the standings. With Datsyuk out, Detroit is 3-4-1 and St. Louis has overtaken the Red Wings for the division lead.
Nashville could move within four points of Detroit for second in the division and fourth in the Western Conference with a regulation win.
• Here’s a similar bit from Savage:
With so many key players out the lineup, clamping down as much as possible on the defensive end has become a focal point for the Red Wings. And they’ve been doing just that, allowing an average of 21 shots on goal in their last four games.
“We’ve battled hard,” said coach Mike Babcock. “We’ve lost two our last three games (but) we’ve given up 18 shots, 23 shots and 24 shots. So we’re not an offensive machine but we’re hanging in there, battling hard and trying to help out goaltender out. We’ve done a pretty good job in that area. One thing that could really help us out would be our power play being more efficient. We haven’t been very good on our power play. To me, we have enough skill and understanding to be better in that area so we have to take a step in that area for sure.”
The Red Wings beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 Friday at Joe Louis Arena despite being outshot 24-15. That marked the first time in four games this month the Red Wings have been outshot. In a 6-0 victory over Minnesota, they outshot the Wild 35-19; they lost 2-1 to Chicago but outshot the Blackhawks 24-18; and although Philadelphia beat them 3-2 the Red Wings held a 39-23 edge in shots.
“It’s been a conscious effort all season to limit the shots,” said forward Justin Abdelkader. “Especially now that we have as many guys out as we do it’s important. But during the season it’s always important to keep the shots down.”
• Here’s NashvillePredators.com’s Doug Brumley’s game-day report...
If the Nashville Predators can play tonight like they did for 59 minutes and 50 seconds in Detroit on February 17, it’s safe to say head coach Barry Trotz will be satisfied. Nashville outperformed the Red Wings for significant stretches of that game but lost 2-1 on Pavel Datsyuk’s goal with 5.8 seconds left in regulation.
“We learned a tough lesson in Detroit,” Trotz said after his team’s practice Friday. “We should have at least come out with a point. We ended up with zero.”
Given that Red Wings and Predators are now ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Western Conference standings, Trotz sees tonight’s game as an opportunity his team must seize to close the current six-point gap between the clubs and secure as high a playoff seed as possible. Detroit, which won 4-3 over the L.A. Kings Friday night at Joe Louis Arena, has been dealing with a lot of injuries. Key names like Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Jimmy Howard have missed time and are expected to be out of the lineup again tonight in Nashville. But no one in the Predators’ locker room is expecting an easier match-up as a result.
“I think that’s one of their keys to their success, being able to step up when they have injuries,” said Nashville left wing Nick Spaling, who scored the lone Nashville goal in the Feb. 17 game. “It’s still going to be a tough game and they’re not a team you can take for granted at all.”
To Spaling’s point, Trotz said he was going to use Saturday’s late-morning meetings to make sure his club approaches the game with the right mindset.
“One thing we’ll talk about this morning is that they do have a tradition of winning and they are going to work,” he said. “They have workers in right now. If you think it’s going to be easy playing against Darren Helm or Justin Abdelkader—it’s hard to play against Datsyuk but he’s a little bit different animal. What’s happening is they are rallying as a group and they’re going to come with an all-in effort.”
• And here’s NashvillePredators.com’s Tom Callahan’s game-day preview:
Update #4: From the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff:
#predators 1 win away from becoming 2nd #NHL team to reach 40 W in at least the last 7 straight seasons.
#redwings (14 seasons) other team with at least 7 straight 40 W seasons. #sharks need 7 more W to extend their streak to 8 seasons
Jordin Tootoo (1-3-4) #predators top scorer vs. #redwings this season.
#predators Pekka RInne (6-5) & Anders Lindmark (6-6) form tallest goaltending duo in #NHL history.
#predators F David Legwand (831) 2 GP away from tying former #redwings D Brian Rafalski for 10th all-time among Michigan-born #NHL players.
#redwings are 11-4-1 in Saturday games this season.
#redwings 8-3-0 in second game of back-to-backs this season
#redwings Filppula 5-6-11 in last six GP.
One more thing: I can’t enter the Detroit Red Wings/Fox Sports Detroit’s contest to have a “Heroes Luncheon” with Larry Murphy and Darren Eliot, but would you take me as one of your seven friends if you won?
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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.