The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/15/11 at 06:00 PM ET
Updated 5x at 7:16 PM with major praise for Jimmy: As the Detroit Red Wings prepare to face off against the Nashville Predators tonight (8 PMEST, FSD/FS Tennesee/WXYT), MLive’s Ansar Khan wondered on Twitter whether Jiri Hudler might be the reason that the Wings recalled Tomas Tatar from the Griffins, but Wings coach Mike Babcock told Khan that it appears that Chris Conner (broken hand) is the only Wing who can’t play tonight:
“I think everybody’s on deck. we’ll see at game time but we got Tatar here in case we don’t have everyone on deck,’’ Babcock said.
Jiri Hudler spent extra time stretching before the skate and was talking to Babcock and the trainers as he was leaving the ice. He did practice, however, on his regular line:
Conner is still skating with the team, and he told Khan that his left hand (which is now in a soft cast as it heals over the next two weeks) simply felt funny during the Wings-Penguins game…
Conner said he was injured early in the third period of Tuesday’s 4-1 win at Pittsburgh, when he “felt a jam, but nothing major.’‘
He finished the game, even made a nice pass to set up Danny Cleary’s first goal, but Conner suspected something wasn’t right. His fears were confirmed when X-rays after the game revealed a fracture.
“You get that stuff in hockey all the time, where you get a slash or you run into the boards funny,’’ Conner said. “You kind of finish and see what happens. It’s just a bad break.’‘
The Free Press’s Helene St. James reports that Babcock’s in mid-season form when it comes to talking about injured players:
“I’m not telling you anything, how’s that?” coach Mike Babcock said after the skate. “Everybody is expected to play. I’ve got (Tomas) Tatar, at this point, taking warm-ups. If he’s in the lineup, then something will have changed. But I think everyone is on deck.”
The Wings called up Tatar this morning, in case they need a spare forward. As it stands, Cory Emmerton is in for Conner, who was discovered to have a broken bone in his left hand. He incurred the injury early in the third period of Tuesday’s 4-1 victory at Pittsburgh but finished the game.
“I felt a little something but nothing major,” Conner said this morning. “They took a look at it, and it showed something.”
Conner, who has been placed on seven-day injury reserve, practiced and will continue to do so to maintain his conditioning. As he pointed out himself—so the pun was his—this is a “bad break,” as he was on a nice little roll. He showed good grit as a member of the third line after being called up from the minors at the start of the month.
“It’s too bad for him,” Babcock said. “He’s played real good for us. Tenacious. But that’s how it goes.”
Wings GM Ken Holland spoke to WDFN’s Matt Sheppard early this morning, prior to the Tatar call-up announcement, and he discussed the team’s overall play, Jimmy Howard’s All-Star snub, Jiri Hudler’s resurgent play and his take as to why the NHL finds itself having a concussion problem:
In the other locker room, Predators captain Shea Weber and coach Barry Trotz told the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper that Nashville’s 4-1 loss to the Wings on November 28th was the result of a very specific tactical error:
“The game we had the last game against them – that was probably one of our worst games of the year. We know how good they are and how well they’re playing right now. We have to bring one of our best games,” defenseman Shea Weber said. “We played in our end a lot. It seemed like we would stay in our end for 30-45 seconds if not longer.”
Nashville Coach Barry Trotz agreed with Weber’s assessment.
“We just let them skate,” Trotz said. “To me, that was the most disappointing thing. They just had the puck all night and we didn’t work hard enough to get it back.”
Dating back to last April, Nashville’s last two games against the Red Wings have not gone in a smooth manner. On April 2, the Predators jumped out to a 3-0 lead and watched Detroit climb back and score four straight to beat the Predators 4-3 in overtime.
Interestingly, Nashville is at full health — no players on injured reserve. Last season, the Predators had 348 man-games last to injury or illness. It was their second-highest total of their existence.
“Last year, every game was a different lineup,” Trotz said. “Having some stability where you’re keeping the lines the same is probably good for some of the young guys, and probably some of the older guys too”
Update: If you’re interested, Cooper posted a few quips from Weber and Jordin Tootoo regarding the team’s visit with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan;
• Shea Weber also had a chat with the Preds’ website about this trick shot…
And Pekka Rinne’s comments about facing the Wings had nothing to do with bumping Wings players in an attempt to have goals waved off:
• ESPN the Magazine posted a pretty spiffy feature which asked Dwayne Roloson, Mark Recchi and one Nicklas Lidstrom (and ladies, the photo is eye candy worthy) about keeping up with players that could be their kids and adapting to a changing NHL:
Nicklas Lidstrom, Red Wings defenseman
NHL seasons: 20
2011 Highlight: Won his seventh Norris Trophy
“The NHL is a lot faster now. All the guys are faster. Whether it’s the top line or the fourth line, the NHL has faster skaters. You were once taught to hook or to put a stick in someone’s waist, but with the new rules, you can’t do that anymore. That’s where the skating part comes in even more. You have to be mobile. You have to anticipate plays. You have to be ready to do quick turns or quick stops. You have to skate a lot more than you used to. When you’re waking up, it’s not like when you were 25. It’s the wear and tear of your whole body. Whether it’s the groin or the back or the shoulders—they’re aching in the morning.”
• At the other end of the spectrum, I mentioned that TSN’s Bob McKenzie suggested that the Wings are interested in signing Western Michigan University defenseman Danny Dekeyser, and The Hockey News’s Ryan Kennedy offered his take on why so many teams want to nab a Brad Stuart-style defenseman:
This year’s must-have NCAA free agent is D-man Danny DeKeyser of Western Michigan. Couple teams wanted him last year, now they all do.
DeKeyser plays an effective, efficient game and boasts mobility and a good first pass.
• In addition to speaking to Joey MacDonald in a “getting to know you” video, the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema talked to free agent signing Trevor Parkes about the usefulness of riding the shuttle to Toledo for an ECHL stint with the Walleye:
“Going down there actually helped me a lot,” he said. “It helped me get my confidence back. I had a little more fun playing the game and coming back here now is kind of a rejuvenating start. I think I needed it.”
Parkes, 20, was sent to Toledo after recording just one assist in 14 games. But he had four goals in four games with the Walleye, and received plenty of ice time in all kinds of different situations. He liked having the team rely on him for offense, and he is trying to bring that mentality back to the Griffins.
“Just try to use more of what I have. I think before I kind of shied away from doing things that I should try to do,” Parkes said. “Down there, I kind of freewheeled a little bit. I feel like I can bring that more to this team, still play smart hockey, but bring a little more offense.”
That works for Grand Rapids coach Curt Fraser. He’s been looking for secondary offense to support the Griffins’ top two lines, and Parkes provided a boost against Rockford. Skating on the fourth line with Brent Raedeke and Mitch Callahan, Parkes tied the game at 4-4 when he charged in from the left side of the goal and punched in a loose puck with 8:43 remaining in the third period.
“We were hoping he was going to put up some good numbers, and he got off to a little bit of a rough start,” Fraser said. “He went down to Toledo to get his confidence back. ... What a difference it makes on the ice. You watch these guys play now, gosh, Parkes is hitting everything, working his tail off and he gets rewarded for it.”
One player who can empathize with Parkes’ situation is second-year forward Willie Coetzee, who spent much of last season in Toledo after recording just five assists in 25 games with Grand Rapids.
“I know exactly what he’s going through,” said Coetzee, who scored twice against Rockford. “I think he’s coming back strong. I think if I had the opportunity, he’s doing the same thing I would be doing, just coming out guns blazing.”
• Going even “younger,” in the PR vein, per DetroitRedWings.com’s Anne Hayes:
Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall will visit St. Robert Bellarmine School in Redford on Friday, December 16 as part of the Red Wings School Assembly Program sponsored by the Detroit Red Wings Foundation and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The event will begin at 2:15 p.m. in the school gymnasium.
Kronwall will be joined by the Red Wings School Assembly team to introduce 160 students to the sport of hockey through a youth street and floor hockey initiative in which the Wings provide equipment and hands-on instruction to local elementary schools. The program began in 2010 to introduce kids to the sport of hockey and encourage an active and healthy lifestyle.
During each visit, the school assembly team opens the program with a lesson on exercise and healthy eating tips, followed by a fun face-off between teachers and students during a hockey shootout competition. Each school participating in the program receives two full sets of floor hockey equipment complete with hockey sticks and goalie nets courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings Foundation. A Red Wings folder and a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan keepsake magnet that lists five fun afterschool activities are also distributed to the students.
• And even younger than that, I don’t know what the hell to make of this video from Puck Daddy:
This strikes me as exploitative.
• In news reporting that’s more responsible and involves personal responsibility, DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose talked to Ian White and Mike Commodore as White chose to remove his visor after being cleared by team doctors to remove the jaw protection from his helmet as his broken cheekbone has healed, but Commodore’s trying on a visor in practice:
White had the clear plastic shield removed from his helmet on Monday. He wore it – per doctors’ orders – to protect his fractured right cheekbone, which he sustained Nov. 23 when he stopped a shot by Dallas Stars leading point-producer Jamie Benn. The shield couldn’t have been too much of a hindrance for White, who had a goal with five assists and a plus-9 rating while wearing it. But it was still a liberating feeling to skate without it, he said.
“The bars down the sides limited my peripheral vision a bit, and it was difficult at times to see the puck if I lost it at my feet,” he said. “I’m just glad to be done with it.”
The Wings’ 4-1 win Tuesday in Pittsburgh was the first game that White has played without the shield since returning to action on Thanksgiving Eve against Calgary.
Meanwhile, another veteran defenseman began tinkering with a tinted visor this week. On the same day that White dropped his facial protection, Mike Commodore put a visor on his helmet for the first time in more than four years.
“I’m just trying it in practice. I always wondered what a tinted visor was like, so I figured it was time and I fired it on,” said Commodore, who last wore a visor in the 2007 World Championships in Moscow. “It’s actually pretty good. I’ve worn visors before, I had to wear one my whole first year after I took a slap shot in the eye in my ninth game pro.”
I guess this counts as update #2.5 as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan just posted his morning skate update…
“I want to play and the situation I’m in, I want to keep proving I can play at this level and help the team,” Conner said. “It could be worse. I just have to stay positive.”
One piece of good news for Conner is he’ll be able to continue skating, as he did Thursday. Conner is wearing a protective cast to shield the injury but can still stickhandle.
“It’s too bad for him, he’s played real good,” coach Mike Babcock said.
Tatar, 21, spent some time with the Wings last season. In Grand Rapids, Tatar had seven goals and 14 assists (21 points) in 26 games. He could play this evening against the Nashville Predators, but it’s not likely.
“He’s got skill, another guy who isn’t huge but has a skill set and he has to transfer it to this level,” Babcock said. “We’ll just watch.”
Everyone else is available to play (there is speculation one player has a minor injury) said Babcock, adding Cory Emmerton will take Conner’s place, with Drew Miller replacing Conner on a line with Danny Cleary and Darren Helm.
“Everybody is on deck,” Babcock said. “We’ll see at game time, but we have Tatar here in case we don’t have everyone on deck.”
Update #3: Here’s the Predators’ website’s game-day video:
• Also via RedWingsFeed, the Sporting News’s Jesse Spector penned an article about Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa, who spurned the Wings for a more front-loaded contract from the Chicago Blackhawks two summers ago, and Wings VP Jimmy Devellano had this to say about losing Hossa over a few million dollars:
“He was fantastic,” said Red Wings senior vice president and Hall of Famer Jim Devellano. “We were so sorry to lose him. It was just a cap problem, a hard cap problem, and we just couldn’t pay him what he deserved. … He was a heck of a player and a heck of a person, and we would have loved to keep him. … It was just a case that we simply couldn’t pay him what he was worth, and our loss was Chicago’s gain. If we had Marian Hossa today, we’d run away with the Central Division.”
Instead, one of hockey’s longest-standing rivalries is all the more intense, with Hossa’s old team and his current one battling for supremacy in the Central. It figures to be the same when NHL realignment keeps the Red Wings and Blackhawks together. Detroit’s loss was not only Chicago’s gain, but the NHL’s as well.
“Not many players get the choice or the opportunity to choose their free agency market,” Hossa said. “I had that two times, and the one time I knew it was going to be short-term in Detroit because of the number of players they needed to sign. The second time, I knew I wanted to sign long-term, and be somewhere for the rest of my career. Chicago was a perfect spot. We won the Cup, and we’ve got a great team with great players, so I’m happy where I am.”
Update #4: The Tennessean’s Josho Cooper reports that Predators defenseman Roman Josi still feels terrible about taking a shot that accidentally broke Patrick Eaves’ jaw:
It was an unintentional play. The puck was on edge and Predators defenseman Roman Josi wound up and fired a slap shot toward the net in Joe Louis Arena on Nov. 26 Red Wings forward Patrick Eaves dropped down to block it from close range in front of Josi. As the puck left Josi’s stick, it flew upwards and caught Eaves in the right ear. Eaves collapsed to the ice and didn’t move for a brief moment.
He then started moving his limbs, but had to be carted off the ice in a stretcher. Eaves was eventually diagnosed with a fractured jaw. The play jarred Josi, who was playing in his first career NHL game.
“You never want to see a player go down like that and get taken off by a stretcher,” Josi said today. “You’re scared in the first moment.”
Josi asked a Predators official to get Eaves’ phone number. “I texted him to say I wish him all the best and hope he gets well soon,” Josi said. “He texted me back and said, ‘no problem, that happens, it’s just hockey.’ “
Update #5: Jimmy Howard also received one hell of a testimonial from Sportsline’s Adam Gretz.
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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.