The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/19/11 at 04:21 PM ET
Updated 3x at 3:32 PM: According to MLive’s Ansar Khan, the Wings may end up playing shorthanded against the Nashville Predators tonight (8 PM EDT, FSD/FS Tennessee/WXYT) as Pavel Datsyuk (“lower-body”) won’t play, and Johan Franzen’s a bit iffy as well:
Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk will miss tonight’s game against the Nashville Predators (8 p.m., FSD) and continues to be listed as day-to-day with the lower-body injury he suffered in Thursday’s game.
Coach Mike Babcock said forward Johan Franzen will be a game-time decision after getting ‘bumped’’ the last game. If Franzen can’t play, the Red Wings will have one player less than a full complement and will go with 11 forwards and six defensemen.
Forward Jiri Hudler remains out with the flu and defenseman Ruslan Salei won’t rejoin the team until Monday’s game against Pittsburgh, after spending time with his wife, who delivered their third child on Wednesday.
After posting the probable lineups for both teams, Khan also spoke to Babcock about the fact that the Wings have struggled mightily against the Predators…
“They’re engaged, their life’s on the line; if we’re not engaged it’s going to be a hard game to win,’’ Babcock said. “The last two times we played Nashville we weren’t even engaged in the game.’‘
And goaltender Pekka Rinne:
“He’s played well against us,’’ Babcock said. “For us to have success we got to have second chances. So that means we got to be on the inside and go get him.’‘
Update: As mentioned in my game preview post, the NHL hadn’t posted tonight’s referee assignments this morning, but, per the NHL’s media website, Stephen Walkom and Francois St. Laurent will referee tonight’s game, with Darren Gibbs and Pierre Racicot working the lines;
• Khan also noted prior to the morning skate that Babcock had been very pleased with Franzen’s play of late…
Johan Franzen is mired in his worst scoring slump since his rookie year of 2005-06, with one goal and eight assists in 20 games. But Babcock liked the way he competed against Columbus.
“I really thought that was the Mule’s best, physical, working, grinding, on-the-puck game in a long time,” Babcock said. “That’s a real good sign for us. If we get him playing like that, the puck just comes to him.”
He discussed the Predators’ home dominance over the Wings…
Nashville has won three consecutive games against Detroit and leads the season series 3-1. The Predators are 4-0-2 in their past six home games vs. the Red Wings. Detroit is 8-1-2 on the road since its 3-0 loss at Nashville on Feb. 5 and has the league’s best record away from home (24-9-4).
And he also weighed in on the story of the day, Drew Miller’s play:
Miller scored 33 seconds into the 2-0 win, driving to the net and knocking in the rebound of a shot by Darren Helm. Miller had sat out the previous two games and five of the past nine, despite playing his best hockey of the season. He has scored four goals in his past five games and plays a key role on the steadily improving penalty-killing units.
“It’s tough sitting out two games in a row, it’s just the way the rotation’s going,” Miller said. “Every game I play, I’m going to try to prove myself any way I can. ... Hopefully, I’ll be able to play in the next game, be in (all) the games now until the playoffs.”
NHL.com’s Corey Masisak posted a capsule preview of tonight’s game as well:
DETROIT (43-20-8, 94 points) at NASHVILLE (36-25-10, 82 points)
Where they stand: The Red Wings are second in the West while the Predators are in ninth place.
What’s at stake: Detroit can move six points clear of San Jose in the race for the No. 2 seed with a win and a Sharks regulation loss. Nashville will finish the night in the top eight with a win, moving past Calgary. An overtime or shootout loss puts the Predators in front of the Flames but not the Ducks if Anaheim wins.
How it’s going: The Red Wings have followed a four-game losing streak with four consecutive victories. The Predators have three of four, including a 4-3 victory Thursday against Boston.
Upcoming: Detroit has a five-game homestand, beginning with big games against Pittsburgh and Vancouver on Monday and Wednesday. Nashville travels to Buffalo on Sunday then comes home for four games.
Update #2: The Free Press’s Greg Sullivan updates Brian Rafalski’s status:
“There wasn’t much swelling,” Rafalski said following the morning skate. “It felt okay yesterday and it feels better today.”
Datsyuk had been listed as questionable for tonight’s game due to a lower-body injury and Jiri Hudler was expected to miss due to a fever and flu he has been fighting.
“It’s just a part of the game,” Rafalski said. “Other guys will get a chance to play. They’ve done that in the past and stepped up. And they’ll get a chance to do it tonight.”
Coach Mike Babcock said he wasn’t sure whether Datsyuk would be able to play Monday. Like Rafalski, Datsyuk was hurt in the third period against Columbus. He was hit along the boards by Rick Nash.
“I don’t know. He’s not on the trip,” Babcock said of Datsyuk. “That’s more time for somebody else.”
The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan confirms that Datsyuk is out...
Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) will not play tonight against the Predators.
The Wings are listing Datsyuk as a day-to-day after getting hurt Thursday in Columbus.
Datsyuk was checked into the boards by forward Rick Nash in that game, midway in the third period, and didn’t return.
And the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper provides today’s Predators roster update:
Probable has turned into definite for Joel Ward. The forward said his ailing lower body is good enough to play tonight against the Detroit Red Wings. Ward has missed the last two games with the issue.
“The last couple of days I’ve felt pretty good. Each day feels better and better, so I felt pretty good this morning. I have to get the legs moving again and get back to normal,” Ward said. “I think the first couple of shifts you have to get in there and you have to keep it simple for the start and try to get my legs under me.”
Nashville Coach Barry Trotz also said that forward Matthew Lombardi (concussion) was done for the remainder of the regular season. Trotz said Lombardi had not been cleared to start rigorous activity yet.
“I think we’re all hopeful … if we play til June,” Trotz said. “Right now I don’t expect him back.”
In terms of other injury news, it looks like the Predators will catch a big break tonight. Detroit forward Pavel Datsyuk won’t play tonight — and didn’t even make the trip — according to Wings Coach Mike Babcock. Datsyuk suffered a lower body injury in Thursday’s game against Columbus.
Babcock also said that forward Johan Franzen is a game-time decision with what he described as a “middle body” situation.
Update #3: The Predators’ website posted a game-day update…
Also of Wings-related note:
• From Thursday, here’s Versus’ Aaron Ward talking about the Wings’ successes….
• In Grand Rapids, the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema reports that the Griffins have signed their third emergency back-up in four days to sit on the bench behind Jordan Pearce tonight;
• And the South Bend Tribune’s Jim Meehan spoke to University of Notre Dame forward Riley Sheahan about his team’s collapse against Miami of Ohio at the CCHA playoff tournament at Joe Louis Arena on Friday:
[S]ophomore Riley Sheahan thinks the young Irish, who count 11 freshmen and four sophomores playing major roles, may not have been as focused on the game at hand as they needed to be.
“We just got ahead of ourselves,” said Sheahan, who had an assist on junior Billy Maday’s power play goal to end the shutout in the second period. “And maybe we were thinking what it’s going to be like to play in the finals or make it to the next step instead of focusing on the process.”
The Irish are learning, he said. They may need to learn quickly. Even before Western Michigan (which finished fourth in the CCHA regular season and came into the semifinals ranked 12th nationally) took the ice and topped Michigan 5-2. Sheahan, [teammate Mike]Johnson and [coach Jeff] Jackson all were treating Saturday’s third place game as a must win.
“It’s kind of do or die,” Sheahan said. “A win (Saturday) would be huge for us.”
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