The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/26/11 at 04:27 PM ET
Updated 6x at 7:52 AM: Darren Helm took a puck in the mouth in warm-ups and he may or may not play for Detroit; Shea Weber is out for Nashville: As the Red Wings prepare to face off against the Nashville Predators tonight (8 PM EST, FSD/FS Tennessee/WXYT), I’m going to jump the gun somewhat on the “game-day updates” because there’s just no point in sitting on the Wings-related articles which have popped up this morning for the sake of waiting for the Wings’ morning skate to conclude.
Here’s what the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper gleaned from the Predators’ morning skate, via Twitter:
Shea Weber exits morning skate early. That doesn’t happen often, if ever.
[Predators coach Barry] Trotz said Klein is out today. Klein says he’s day to day #flu #preds
No update on Weber yet #preds #nhl
Also of Red Wings-related note this afternoon: MLive’s Ansar Khan concludes this morning’s crop of, “Rut roh, these four games against Central Division foes are really, really, really important articles, and Khan is very accurate when he says that this week’s games against Nashville (tonight), St. Louis (tomorrow at the Joe), Chicago (at the United Center on Friday) and St. Louis again (on Saturday at the Joe) will help illustrate, “What the Red Wings are made of”:
“Those are big points for us,” Red Wings forward Drew Miller said. “We got to play strong and continue to improve on our system. We can’t get away from it. When we do, we see the odd-man rushes we had (in Thursday’s 3-2 loss at Calgary), so we got to clean that up.”
The Red Wings are coming off a pair of losses during their three-game trip to Western Canada. They are 8-10-0 on the road—0-4 in the division. Six of their next eight games are away from Joe Louis Arena.
“We have a pretty hectic schedule right after Christmas,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said.
“Can’t look too far ahead, but we got a lot of road games coming up,” Miller said. “We got to be more effective in the first period, can’t rely on a catch-up game in the third.”
The Red Wings went 0 for 8 on the power play during the trip. They have not gone more than three games without a power-play goal.
“Our power play wasn’t good enough,” coach Mike Babcock said. “But (Darren) Helm’s line (with Danny Cleary and Miller) carried us on this road trip. Let’s be honest. The rest of us didn’t play good enough.”
Khan notes that the Wings hope to gain a measure of revenge for their 4-3 loss to Nashville in what has become something of a house of horrors in Bridgestone Arena, where the Wings have only won 4 out of their past 10 games, but there is at least some good news in the injury department:
Jan Mursak, out since Sept. 25 with a fractured ankle, is scheduled to begin a two-week conditioning stint with the Grand Rapids Griffins, possibly immediately after the NHL roster freeze is lifted on Tuesday. Mursak was expected to play five games for the Griffins before returning to Detroit. Chris Conner, out since Dec. 13 with a broken hand, might return this week. Patrick Eaves, who suffered a broken jaw when hit by a shot against Nashville on Nov. 26, was scheduled to return in late January.
When Mursak does return, the Wings will have a pickle on their hands as Conner’s going to be their 13th forward and Mursak will make it 14, requiring a, “Okay, who’s going to sit? Emmerton? Holmstrom? Miller? question whose answer might only be “Emmerton” at this point).
• The Red Wings’ Twitter account wants to remind you that you can purchase tickets for all remaining Wings games minus Ticketmaster’s various “service” fees between today and December 31st;
• As the World Junior Championships get underway with a Canada-Finland (see: Wings prospect Teemu Pulkkinen) game which will be televised on TSN and the NHL Network and a Latvia-Sweden (see: Mattias Backman) game which will only air on TSN at 3:30 PM and 5:30 PM EST, respectively, several pundits are still weighing in with WJC previews, including Hockey’s Future’s Tony Piscotta’s preview of Team Finland…
Teemu Pulkkinen, Joel Armia, Joonas Donskoi, and Mikka Salomaki all played for Finland at last year’s tournament, when the team finished a disappointing sixth.
Pulkkinen, a likely linemate of [Mikael] Granlund’s, has been a highly-regarded goal scorer since his early days of youth hockey. A fourth-round pick of the Red Wings in 2010, Pulkkinen plays for HIFK’s Helsinki-rival Jokerit and has scored nine goals with 13 assists in 32 SM-Liiga games. Pulkkinen has an outstanding shot and quick release and was the leading scorer for Finland in last year’s U20 tournament with three goals and six assists in six games.
And Sportsnet “fan fuel” blogger Trevor Smart notes that Petr Mrazek’s likely to emerge as the Czech Republic’s go-to goaltender, and that the Wings’ fourth and fifth WJC participants, Tomas Jurco and Marek Tvrdon, will stir the offensive drink for the Slovak team:
Up front, Detroit Red Wings’ prospects Tomas Jurco and Marek Tvrdon will lead a rather unimpressive forward group. Keep an eye on Marko Dano, who is already being pegged as a high first round pick in 2013.
Tomas Jurco, Slovakia: Speaking of YouTube, the Saint John Sea Dogs forward and Detroit Red Wings prospect has an offensive move or 10 in his repertoire. Too bad his team leaves something to be desired.
• At the other end of the spectrum, DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose recalled the Wings’ long history of having to play on Christmas during the Original Six days, and if you’re interested in some further reading, the Montreal Gazette’s Dave Stubbs spoke to “Gentleman Jean” Beliveau about what it was like for the Canadiens to play on Christmas, often against the Wings;
• Hahahaa, no, per Canadiens blogger Dan Kramer‘s suggestions as to who the next GM of the Montreal Canadiens should be:
Jim Nill: Currently assistant general manager to Ken Holland in Detroit, having served with the Red Wings since 1994. He was in charge of amateur scouting for part of his tenure, during a time in which the Wings were notable for many late round steals. The downsides are that, first, he doesn’t speak French, and second, he has been rumoured for nearly every GM opening since 2006, yet has opted to stay in the Motor City.
The Wings have no intention of letting Nill leave, they have a non-competition clause in his contract (which means that if a team tries to court Nill, they have to call Mike Ilitch first), and Nill still seems relatively happy to remain in Metro Detroit as his kids finish their collegiate educations within the State of Michigan;
• Hahaha, no, part, “I’m not even going to cite the source”: the Wings trading Gustav Nyquist to help bolster their forward lines? Not a snowball’s chance in hell…
• And Hahaha, erm…Okay, that’s kind of accurate, via ,a href=“http://twitter.com/#!/redwingsfeed”>RedWingsFeed again and Down Goes Avery’s list of Christmas gifts every NHL team should give their fans:
Detroit Red Wings fans
Gift: A check for free tickets to all Detroit road games, since the Wings can only seem to win at a home environment this season.
Problem: The checks were sent by Todd Bertuzzi, and not all checks sent by Todd Bertuzzi are legal…
Ouch. I will at least say that Bertuzzi’s a marked man who’s tagged for so many, “Well, you got away with obstruction galore before the lockout, so we’re gonna make you pay those non-calls back” calls than any player I know, and here’s hoping that the Wings start righting that 8-and-10 record tonight.
I’ll be posting more updates as they come in, but I simply felt that it wasn’t appropriate to sit on these articles till 3 PM when I know that many of you are back at work and wouldn’t mind a good read here or there.
Update #0.5: According to MsRedWinger, NHL.com will legally webcast every game in which Team USA plays in to U.S. audiences. Spiffy!
Update #1: Hmm, via Josh Cooper:
Nothing official from the #preds, but Ryan Ellis is on Nashville’s roster on the NHL media site.
That means that Shea Weber could miss tonight’s game.
• FYI from NHL.com’s Louie Korac: the St. Louis Blues will be without T.J. Oshie (wrist) for tomorrow night’s game against the Wings;
• And Pierre LeBrun kicks off this week’s slate of power rankings with this little ditty:
7 Detroit [record] 21-12-1 [demoted] 3 [spots] Last Week: 4: Wings hit a bit of a blip on the road last week, losing in Calgary and Vancouver as their road play continues to be less than adequate (they are 8-10-0 away from Joe Louis)—but they are almost unbeatable at home. Their plus-33 goal differential is tops in the Western Conference.
Update #2: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan reports that the Wings didn’t exactly dazzle during their morning skate:
“We skated like we had three days off,” said coach Mike Babcock, who expected the ragged work.
For that matter, the Nashville Predators, who had Saturday and Sunday off during the holiday break, didn’t look much crisper.. But with the competitive juices flowing, everyone expects an energized start for Monday night’s game between the Central Division rivals.
“They need the points and we need the points,” Babcock said.
Detroit (43 points) and Nashville (40 points) trail Chicago (48 points) and St. Louis (44) in the Central standings. The Wings host St. Louis on Tuesday, then go back-to-back in Chicago on Friday and at home against St. Louis in Saturday’s traditional New Year’s Eve game at Joe Louis Arena.
“There were a couple of games before Christmas we felt we weren’t good in,” Babcock said of a 1-2 western Canada road trip. “It catches up to you fast and pretty soon you’re not in the playoff picture. For us, we to get back to playing hard and skating well and working is imperative.”
There was no doubt the Wings were looking forward to getting back to playing after the long weekend off.
“In the long run, the three days resting is so good,” Jonathan Ericsson said. “The small things that have been aching, those go away. It was real nice. I wish we had it (the weekend off) a few more times every season.”
Kulfan says that Mike Commodore will play alongside Jonathan Ericsson tonight, too.
Update #2.5: Here’s the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper’s Preds morning skate report:
First, and most importantly, Shea Weber left the morning skate early. This rarely happens. In fact, I’ve never seen it happen. Weber was hit hard at the end of Nashville’s Friday game against Dallas, but he did speak to the media following the game.
After practice, we asked Coach Barry Trotz about Weber’s situation, and he said he hadn’t spoken yet with his trainers. Nashville’s roster page on the NHL media site already has Ryan Ellis on the Predators roster. But Nashville’s hasn’t officially announced a call-up. In the past, when asked about potential defenseman call-ups, Trotz has indicated that a more veteran presence such as Victory Bartley or Tyler Sloan would be the first to get the call. Just imagine the secnario, the Predators have given up 15 goals in their last three games — and would have three rookie blueliners to face the Red Wings? Yikes.
On top of this, we talked to Kevin Klein today. Klein was hit by the flu about a week ago before Nashville’s trip to Washington. He missed the Predators’ games Thursday and Friday against Columbus and Dallas. He skated today, but said it’s a “day-by-day” situation. Klein was asked if he had lost weight from the flu, and said he hadn’t.
“Little sluggish out there today, even during the skate,” Klein said. “Obviously I’m not myself because I haven’t been doing much. On the bike some, but it’s not the same as skating.”
Anyway, so now that we’ve got that out of the way, the Predators have the rival Red Wings tonight. The lat time these two teams hooked up, Weber scored twice in the final five minutes to give Nashville a 4-3 come-from-behind victory. Because the NHL doesn’t operate on Christmas, the Red Wings had to wake up early and fly to Nashville from Detroit today. They also have a game tomorrow. Trotz believes the Wings have the advantage today because they can just focus on hockey.
“As soon as you get in the car this morning you sort of leave everything,” Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard said. “Though it was great having time with our families, you sort of leave it all behind the rest of the day.”
Update #3 Per MLive’s Ansar Khan, via Twitter:
Wings’ Jan Mursak (broken ankle) will see Dr. Tues. Team expects him to be cleared, then he’ll go to Grand Rapids for conditioning stint.
Wings’ Chris Conner will see hand specialist Wednesday to determine if he can play or he needs more time. Broke left hand 12-13 in Pitt.
Wings’ Patrick Eaves (broken jaw 11-26) nowhere close to returning. Team doesn’t even know yet when he can start skating.
Update #3.5: I took part in a pre-game Wings-Predators discussion with Colin from Fang Finger, a Predators blog, around 3 PM. You’ll be able to download the show here pretty soon, and yes, I know I complimented the Predators quite a bit, but you don’t have to like a good team to respect them.
Update #4: According to Fox Sports Detroit’s Trevor Thompson, via RedWingsFeed, Shea Weber won’t play for the Predators tonight, but the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper is not confirming. The Predators are only saying that Ryan Ellis will make his NHL debut tonight.
• And I can never figure out why these are posted so very late in the day, but DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose adds some evening reading via an article in which he discusses Chris Conner’s participation in the Great Lakes Invitational, playing for Michigan Tech despite his status as a very local (he was born in Westland and grew up near Ryan Kesler in Livonia) player:
t wasn’t long after arriving on the Michigan Tech campus in the state’s Upper Peninsula that Conner answered his skeptics and played much taller than the measuring stick indicated. In four seasons in Houghton – situated on the banks of Lake Superior –Conner was among the Huskies’ top offensive performers from 2002-06, scoring 69 goals with 60 assists in 151 games.
“It’s a small town, but personally I wish hockey would have gone better as far as the win-loss column,” said Conner, who is a semester short of graduating with a mechanical engineering degree. “The people that I met there are people that I’ll never forget, the friendships that I’ll have for life. It’s something that you can’t ever regret or take back and that’s the important stuff.”
Some of Conner’s fondest memories of playing collegiate hockey were the four Great Lakes Invitational tournaments that he played in at Joe Louis Arena. And though MTU didn’t win a single GLI game during that stretch, Conner was clearly the Huskies’ most dominant forward, collecting four goals and four assists in eight games at JLA. This year’s GLI features Conner’s Huskies (9-9-1), who open the tournament against Michigan State (10-6-2) this Thursday at 4 p.m. EST. The second game features Michigan (9-8-3) taking on Boston College (12-6-0) at 7:30 p.m. The championship game is set for Friday at 7:30 p.m.
His first GLI game was against a Michigan team that was stacked with future NHL talent, like Jeff Tambellini, Jed Ortmeyer, David Moss, Al Montoya, and Andrew Ebbett. Yet while UM clobbered the Huskies 5-2 in the 2002 tourney opener, Conner scored twice and added an assist with a plus-3 rating. He also showed his feisty side, receiving a second-period roughing penalty for a skirmish with Montoya, the Wolverines’ goalie.
“I remember the goals,” Conner said. “The first one was at the end of the first period that tied it up. The puck just came loose in front and I went five-hole. The second one was late in the game when it was already out of reach, but that ended up being a five-hole goal as well. I certainly remember those.”
Current Wings teammate, and former MSU standout, Drew Miller, played two times against Conner and the Huskies – both times in the GLI – and saw first-hand just how talented Conner was.
“He was their best player, but he played in a different league than us,” Miller said, “so I would always check the stats to see that he was doing well for them and always leading their team I remember him always using a tall stick in college, and I think it was taller than him, so he would be able to push the puck ahead with that good, long stick and score a lot of breakaway goals. I remember him doing that. He used to use his speed and skill with the puck, which is almost identical to what he brings to the team now – speed and skill and hockey smarts.”
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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.