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Red Wings-Predators Game 4 game-day updates: On beating Rinne, Hal Gill and ping pong-gate

Updated 10x with…music news…at 6:54 PM: The Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators will face off tonight for an all-important Game 4 (7:30 PM EDT, FSD/FS Tennessee/CNBC/CBC/97.1 FM), MLive’s Ansar Khan reports that the Wings’ players received a little break in terms of managing their energy levels, despite the fact that ESPN’s Criag Custance reports that ping-pong gate was in fact an exaggeration(!), and that the Wings’ security crew were the people who shooed Predators players away from Detroit’s ping pong table—at Todd Bertuzzi’s insistence—(oh well, it’s the “spirit of the thing” that matters, despite the Wings’ playoff blog’s assertion that the story was…embellished [FTR, I don’t believe them]):

Wings have optional morning skate today. About a dozen players on the ice.

RedWings social media coordinator Jake Duhaime reports that the Wings’ coach is more concerned about his players taking care of business when the puck drops tonight instead of trying to hammer points home by beating wwhat are now dead horses:

Babcock starts his presser by saying ... “This is the third time (I’ve spoken to the press) since last game.” Let’s play hockey!

The Wings website’s Twitter account reports that the players are quite literally goal-oriented today:

Inside the Numbers with @MiLottery: This week’s number is 70. Sunday marked the 70th straight sell-out at Joe Louis Arena.
The streak dates back to 12/19/10. Yesterday, Ian White said that Detroit, hands down, had “the best fans in the league.”
Miller: ‘I think our team believes in each other and what we have in this locker room. I don’t think anything changes.’
Miller: ‘We’ve got to find a way to get inside of their D and make it hard for him.’ (On Rinne)
Ericsson: ‘I think there is a little more pressure for sure, but I think everyone here likes that.’
Lidstrom: ‘Our focus right now is to just win tonight. Just win this one game and go down to Nashville tied.’
Miller said that one of the keys to Game 4 was trying to beat the defense and put pressure on Rinne.
Homer: ‘We’ve been in this situation before. We just have to come out way better than we did in G3. We have to come out and play our game.’
Henrik Zetterberg talks to the media following the Red Wings morning skate on Tuesday. http://say.ly/ddh36hw

The Griffins’ website just happened to post a video of the Wings’ “Black Aces” talking about what they hope is a long stay in Detroit, too:

Also in the multimedia department, WDFN’s Matt Sheppard posted interviews with Jimmy Howard and Valtteri Filppula…

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As well as Niklas Kronwall:

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If you missed it, Fox Sports Detroit’s Ken Daniels appeared on WBBL’s Huge Show on Wednesday evening:

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On “the other side,” NHL.com’s Brian Hedger reports that the Wings may very well face an obstacle just as big as Pekka Rinne in one Hal Gill:

Hal Gill is on the ice early for #Preds skate today, wearing the skate guards. #RedWings #NHL
Gill is moving around pretty good out there. Wouldn’t be surprised if he plays tonight. #NHL #Preds #RedWings

Also of Red Wings-related note: Many thanks to Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski for picking up my take on ping pong-gate. My thanks continue to go out to the Production Line’s Michael Petrella for finding the story;

• Somebody hit the, “Weber isn’t a bad guy!” story counter…The National Post’s Michael Traikos insists that Shea Weber should not be on the receiving end of a character assassination for his #Webering of Henrik Zetterberg, and he found several Red Wings players who were willing to agree with him:

“You rarely see him do things like that,” Red Wings forward Valtteri Filppula said. “Most of the time he plays clean.”

“I think it was a dirty thing that he did to Hank,” Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “Besides that, I don’t know if he is a dirty player. Not from my recollection. He’s just a tough guy to play against. He plays hard.”

• CBS Detroit just happened to post a wallpaper-sized image of my favorite Nicklas Lidstrom pose and a more Twitter-sized picture of the kind of scene people like you and me hope to witness tonight in Wings players celebrating a goal;

• According to the Grand Rapids Press’s Peter J. Wallner, Red Wings assistant GM Jim Nill will retain the services of Grand Rapids Griffins coach Curt Fraser despite the fact that the Griffins haven’t made the playoffs during his tenure in GR:

“Yes,” Nill said when asked if the organization wanted the fourth-year coach back. “I think we’re going to sit down and talk about it. I don’t foresee any changes unless - you never know how some of the other teams want to get going. But we’ll talk in the next couple weeks here.”

Fraser, who was hired in 2008 and signed a two-year extension in 2010 but has missed the playoffs three consecutive seasons, also hopes to stay.

“Absolutely, and I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “But I understand. I want to make the playoffs. The players want to make the playoffs. I want to win a championship. But, you know what? To do that you got to have all the things in place.”

The Red Wings organization has the final say on personnel moves, including the coaching staff. Nill, who was in Grand Rapids on Tuesday for exit interviews with remaining players on the Griffins, said there is “steady communication” between the Griffins and Red Wings.
jimnill.jpgJim Nill He said Fraser did a good job considering the multiple callups by the Red Wings this season. The Griffins had 10 players assigned to Detroit. In all, the Griffins listed 86 transactions for the season.

“It’s never easy for a coach, when you’re in a battle for the playoffs, to lose five, six, seven of your best players – two of your goalies – to go up top,” Nill said. “So that’s hard. But I thought he did a great job of preparing the team and did a good job with the young players ... I thought they all developed nicely as the season went on and that’s an important part of coaching in this organization.”

Wallner reports that Fraser’s main concern is the fact that the Griffins haven’t been able to keep the puck out of their own net, which seems to suggest to me that we’re going to see one but not both of Thomas McCollum and Jordan Pearce return to split time with Petr Mrazek next season;

• In charitable news, the Livingston Daily Press & Argus‘s Katie Noble reports that the Red Wings Alumni Association will take part in one of its last charitable games of this season on Saturday, when they’ll play against The Well Church in Brighton, MI;

• And MLive’s Brendan Savage wants to remind us that Wings coach Mike Babcock’s less than impressed with the whole, “Your last 8 playoff losses have been determined by one goal” line of questioning he endured on Monday.

Update #1: From the Free Press’s Helene St. James:

Per Babcock, he isn’t sure about lines, but look for Cleary to start with Datsyuk & Franzen, Bertuzzi with Abdelkader and Miller
Trotz says Hal Gill (lower body) is improving, but is not in tonight for Game 4.

The Tennessean’s Joshua Cooper confirms...

Trotz said Hal Gill is not in tonight

As does MLive’s Ansar Khan:

Trotz said defenseman Hal Gill is not playing tonight.
Trotz said he will make a lineup change but won’t announce until game time.

Via RedWingsFeed, the ever-grumpy Mike Valenti offers a predictably inflammatory game preview:

As far as tonight deciding the future of the Wings it’s very simple. Lose and this series is likely over. That would be three straight early playoff exits and full 4-years since hoisting the Cup. In other words, it’s over. Could the Wings re-tool this summer, add Parise and Suter and make a Cup run? Sure, it’s possible. But for me, I think more needs to be done. What exactly that is? Not sure. I’d simply take the following approach. Listen to every offer, no sacred cows, think outside the box. In the end maybe no team offers anything compelling for any of your big guns, but I would, for the first time I’d listen. Long contracts or not, give it a try Kenny. If they lose this series I want a shakeup.

On the other hand, win tonight; go on to win this series and who knows what can happen. The Canucks are all but dead, Blues far from proven and the Kings? You could easily see this team make a surprise run. Win the Cup? Doubtful. But make it far enough to justify holding tight and signing Suter and Parise? Yes.

Is this a bit overdramatic? Yeah. Sorry, it’s how I am. I just think a lot rides on tight and this series. Should be a fun watch.

Update #2: In addition to clarifying ping pong-gate, the Free Press’s Helene St. James filed a game-day report :

As for tonight’s game, it looks like Bertuzzi will start on the third line, with Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller, and Danny Cleary will be with Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen. Babcock didn’t commit to anything, and the morning skate was optional, but based on what players said, that’s the indication. The other lines would be Henrik Zetterberg with Valtteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler and Cory Emmerton centering Tomas Holmstrom and Gustav Nyquist.

Of course, the focus tonight is on starting hard, peppering Pekka Rinne with pucks, and forcing the Predators to play from behind.

“We’ve done some good things,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “The result hasn’t been what we wanted in a couple of games, but we feel we’ve done some good things. We have to continue to play well without the puck and play well defensively, and take advantage of our opportunities when we have them. We’ve got to keep working and keep grinding.”

Also from St. James:

Daily bon mot from Danny Cleary on whether players care who they play with: “The only guy is maybe Mule. He only likes to play with Pavel”
Zetterberg on Franzen: He’s been angry the last few games, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes out and scores two, three goals tonight.

Via RedWingsFeed, here’s coach Mike Babcock’s game-day presser:

And the Tennessean’s Joshua Cooper confirms that Hal Gill won’t play tonight…

Hal Gill skated this morning for a full pre-game morning practice. Predators Coach Barry Trotz said Gill would not play tonight for Game 4, but he was improving. It was Gill’s first full morning practice skate since he suffered his “lower body” injury possibly against Dallas on April 5 when he blocked a Sheldon Souray shot.

“He’s improving every day, made some real good improvement, he’s not in tonight, but really good improvement, I thought he looked very good actually,” Trotz said.

Gill declined comment through a team spokesman.

Update #3: The Windsor Star’s Bob Duff has a theory about the Predators’ likely lineup change:

#predators Trotz will make LU change for G4, but wouldn’t reveal it. Expect it to be D Jack Hillen in for former #spitfires D Ryan Ellis.

The Predators’ website provides a morning skate update from Jay Levin:

Routine game day morning skate today at Joe Louis Arena. Not too much to glean about lines; Preds coaches and players were coy about any potential lineup and line changes. Based on conversation it sounds like Jordin Tootoo is likely out of the lineup tonight, probably with Matt Halischuk back in, but that appears to be a game time decision. As for line combinations, Coach Trotz said he might use the pairings from practice yesterday or might start with the same lines as Games 1 and 2 with option to switch later in the game if necessary, but he did mention that the potential reconfigured lines gives the team a little more balance through all four forward combinations.

Defensively, Hal Gill skated with the team again. Coach Trotz termed it a very good, very positive showing by Gill, but said he will not be in the lineup tonight. Coach would not tip his hand to whether Ryan Ellis or Jack Hillen would be in the lineup as the sixth defenseman.

The theme of the media sessions was desperation level and emotion. The expectation is Detroit will play a very desperate game tonight and try to set the tone early with a quick start. Nashville’s players and coaches recognize the importance of weathering the opening salvo by the Wings and staying within the team system. Players talked about learning from the experiences the last two years—- in ‘10 vs Chicago when Nashville held a two games to one lead and again last year vs. Anaheim when the Preds again held the 2-1 series lead—- as to how high Nashville needs to bring its game tonight.

Here’s MLive’s Ansar Khan’s game-day post, noting that Danny Cleary will probably start the game playing alongside Franzen and Datsyuk:

“We didn’t skate this morning, so, on my lineup card that’s how I have them,’’ Babcock said. “But since that time we’ve talked about how we liked Abby (Justin Abdelkader) and Cleary and Bert (Todd Bertuzzi) together, too, so we’ll see.’‘

Asked it matters to play who they’re playing with, Cleary said, “Maybe the only guy is Mule (Franzen), when he wants to play with Pavel.

“Listen, we have a good bunch of guys and at this time of year it doesn’t matter. It’s whatever it takes and who cares what line you’re on or what guy you’re playing with. This time of year it’s all about winning and team.”

That said, who wouldn’t want to play with Datsyuk?

“I think any guy in the league would like to have his name next to Pavel,’’ Cleary said. “Let’s be honest, he’s an incredible talent and he’s a hard-working guy and he gives you every chance out there to be successful. If you get a chance – I’ve played with him a number of times, so it’s nothing new – just have to make sure you work hard.”

Cleary said of his ailing left knee, “Mentally, it’s nice to know that you can move freely, like so many different movements that I wasn’t able to do, so certainly feels a lot better.’‘

Update #4: The Detroit Free Press and 97.1 FM’s Jamie Samuelssen says that Jimmy Howard is not the Wings’ “problem” player:

The Wings are trailing 2-1 in this series because the team has become top heavy once again. Datsyuk and Zetterberg are holding up their end as they always do. But the likes of Valtteri Filppula, Jiri Hudler and Danny Cleary have disappeared. Coach Mike Babcock has publicly complained about the Wings slow starts. It’s a fair point. But isn’t that a reflection of the second and third lines? It’s early in the game when those guys are getting most of their minutes. And it’s those guys who are coming up empty. Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom have accounted for five of the Red Wings seven goals so far. Only one other forward has scored a goal and that was Cory Emmerton in Game 2. Granted that’s a small sample size. But guess what? That sample size will stay pretty small for the 2012 playoffs unless something changes starting tonight.

Howard has not been perfect. His Game 3 effort was lacking. But he was rock solid in the first two games. Of the three goals he allowed in the Game 1 loss, none were his fault. Two were flukes and the third was the result of a horrid clear by Stuart right behind the Red Wing goal.

Goaltending has always gotten way too much credit and way too much blame here in Detroit. It’s no different with Howard. He’s not a superstar and will not lead the Wings to glory on his own. But he’s not the problem either. I expect him to play one of his best games tonight against the Preds. He just needs some of his teammates to raise their game as well.

Update #5: NHL.com’s Brian Hedger provides an update on Hal Gill’s health…

Gill went through Nashville’s morning skate wearing skate guards, which was the first time he’d done gone through a game-day skate since incurring a lower-body injury in the second-to-last game of the regular season.

Gill hasn’t played in the series and also missed the season finale in Colorado. The good news for the Preds—who lead the series 2-1—is that Gill appears to be making good progress, according to Nashville coach Barry Trotz.

“He’s improving every day, made some real good improvement,” Trotz said of Gill. “He’s not in [Tuesday], but really good improvement. I thought he looked very good, actually.”

Gill declined comment through a team spokesman. Whenever he does return, the Preds’ penalty killing should get a big boost—literally. The 6-foot-7, 241-pound Gill—who was acquired from Montreal in a deal a week before the trade deadline—takes up a lot of space in front of the net where opposing forwards like to camp.

“That’s a specialty for him,” Trotz said of Gill’s penalty-killing ability. “He’s a big man. It’s like parking a small car in front of the net sometimes when he’s out there.”

It also will provide a chance for the Predators’ top defense duo of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter to catch a breather. With Gill sidelined, they’ve been spending a lot of time killing penalties.

“They do a real good job and I think [Kevin Klein] gets underrated on that,” Trotz said. “[Suter and Weber] are always the big names, but [Klein and Roman Josi] do a good job, too. They’ve done a really good job to this point, but I’d be excited to get Hal back, because that’s really where he excels—especially this time of year.”

And he took note of Valtteri Filppula’s offensive struggles:

Through Detroit’s first three Stanley Cup Playoffs games, however, Filppula has no goals and one assist. He’s also taken just six shots on goal, including just two of the Red Wings’ 43 in Game 3 on Sunday.

“You create chances to score, but at the end of the day, chances ... they don’t count,” Filppula said. “We have to find a way to score and hopefully we can do a better job.”

The Red Wings have struggled scoring goals in the same timeframe that’s seen Filppula’s production fall off. They also find themselves down 2-1 in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Nashville Predators and could use an offensive outburst in Game 4 on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

“I feel like we’ve been getting some chances, for sure,” Filppula said. “[Sunday’s] game, we had a lot of good chances and couldn’t score. It’s tough, obviously. You hope to get more chances but their goalie is playing really well, too. The more chances, hopefully the better luck you have that some go in.”

In the regular season, Filppula led Detroit in goals scored against Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne this season, with four in six games.

“It’s a little different,” Filppula said of the postseason. “Playoff hockey is always different. There’s less room and you don’t get as many good chances as you do during the regular season. It’s tighter. The biggest thing is getting second shots and second chances and getting goals that way.”
“I think we saw that [this season] when he was scoring some goals, he was shooting the puck a little more, driving the net, and [that’s] something [he] can do an even better job at,” Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “It would help [if Filppula heats up]. You’re always looking at one player to be that difference and I think Fil can be that difference for us.”

The Detroit Free Press’s Helene St. james also filed a second game-day report:

Could we be in for a statement game by Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen tonight? His coach and a teammate sure seem to think so. The Wings are looking to even their first-round series with Nashville in Game 4, which starts at 7:30 at Joe Louis Arena (CBC, NBCSN, FSD).

“He plays better angry,” forward Henrik Zetterberg said of Franzen this morning. “He’s been angry the last few games, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes out and scores two, three goals tonight.”

Franzen has one goal so far in the series. The second time he put the puck in the net—in Game 3 on Sunday—time had just expired on the second period. Franzen gained attention in that same period for spearing David Legwand after Legwand, while seated on Nashville’s bench, reached out and grabbed Franzen’s sweater in an attempt to hold him back. On Monday, Franzen said he’d do the same thing if it happens again, then said he might, in fact, drag the offender onto the ice and sit on him. Hearing that made Zetterberg smile.

“That will probably hurt more,” Zetterberg said.

Franzen likes the idea of the Wings playing 4-on-4 hockey, as he sees it as advantage for the Wings because of their creative geniuses, Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.

Coach Mike Babcock would prefer to have Franzen available for shifts and said Franzen is better off not letting anyone get to him. “I watched a lot of hockey last night, some guys, you can get under their skin, and when you play against a team a lot, and they think they can get under your skin, why wouldn’t you get under a guy’s skin? Now, if I was Mule, I wouldn’t let anyone get under my skin, I’d just play.”

Update #5.5: Why yes, the London Free Press’s Morris DallaCosta, the Wings are indeed in must-win territory;

• NBC Sports has posted a game preview video which includes analysis from Mike Keenan;

• The Tennessean’s Josh Cooper took note of the desperation factor for both teams this morning:

“It should be a little desperation for sure. We have to win this game to get back in the series,” forward Tomas Holmstrom said. “You can talk as much as you want in the past, but you have to do it now, you have to do it today.”

The Predators are bracing for a fast start from Detroit. In a desperate situation, teams normally come out swinging, especially at home.

“I think it will be a good game right from the beginning. They finished off the game hard, we had the lead, we were maybe a little hesitant,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “We have to learn from that you can’t sit back against teams like that.”

For the Predators, the key is to simply not focus on the next game, but this game.

“That’s what we are focused on now. We played a solid Game 3 in their building, which is always a tough place to play. It’s time to do it again, and that’s our main focus, to be in a good position going home,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said.

Update #6: ESPN’s Craig Cutstance spoke to the Wings about starting on time...

There was a lot of talk over the last couple days in the Detroit dressing room about starting on time in Game 4. For whatever reason, the Red Wings have consistently been a slow-starting team this season and it’s costing them in the playoffs.

“We’ve been talking about it the whole year,” defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. “It’s something we really talked about and something we want to do better. It’s something easier said than done. Everyone wants to start good.”

Ericsson said the Red Wings play better with a little pressure and the pressure is certainly heightened Tuesday night with Detroit desperate to prevent a 3-1 series deficit. The Red Wings have the confidence to play well from behind, in games and in the series, but Ericsson would prefer they not put themselves in that position.

“We usually play good at the end of games. A lot of games we’ve been down by one or two goals and we come back,” he said. “Why would we put ourself in a position like that?”

• And amongst some Twitter posts from NHL.com’s Brian Hedger:

Babcock today on penalties so far: “You can blame someone else. That’s a waste of time. We got to look at ourselves and do a better job.”
Babcock on Rinne better vs more shots:“If you’re implying we should try to shoot the puck less, I don’t think we’re going with that option.”
Babcock:Mule’s called the Mule for a reason. I’ve had many talks with him over the years. Some work real well and some don’t work that good.
Babcock: “If I was Mule, I wouldn’t let anyone get under my skin. I’d just play.”
Zetterberg: “[Franzen] plays better angry and he’s been angry the last few games. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t score 2, 3 goals tonight.”
Asked Zetterberg about Franzen saying he will spear #Preds bench again if jersey held again. “Yep. He probably will.” #RedWings #NHL
Zetterberg on Franzen saying he might drag #Preds onto ice, sit on them: “Well, that will probably hurt more.” #RedWings #NHL
#RedWings Emmerton: “It doesn’t need to be power play. It doesn’t need to be pretty at all. It just needs to go in the net.” #Preds #NHL

Hedger also filed probable lineups for both teams and a ping pong-gate article, as well as a story about Gustav Nyquist:

He’ll likely start on Detroit’s third line, but there’s no guarantee he’ll stay there. The highly-skilled Nyquist has been moved up the lineup several times in his brief NHL career, including a couple different stints playing with Detroit star center Pavel Datsyuk. It happened most recently in Game 3 on Sunday in Detroit, when the Red Wings’ offense was sluggish through the first half of the game. After Nyquist joined Datsyuk and fellow Swede Johan Franzen, the line started hanging onto the puck longer and creating more scoring chances—especially in the third period, when the Wings outshot the Predators 19-4. The argument could be made for Nyquist to stay on that line, but it won’t be Nyquist leading the rally.

After spending most of his first professional season putting up impressive numbers for the Grand Rapids Griffins in the American Hockey League (22 goals, 26 assists in 56 games), Nyquist is thrilled to be anywhere in Detroit’s playoff lineup.

“Whenever I get out there I try to do my best, and whomever I’m with I’m just happy to be out there to help the team out as much as possible,” Nyquist said. “It’s always fun when you get out there with players like [Datsyuk and Franzen]. They are obviously two of the best players in this League, so it’s fun. At the same time, playing with [Justin Abdelkader and Danny Cleary] on the third line … I thought we played well and it’s fun to play with those guys, too.”

Cleary appears to be on Datsyuk’s line to start Game 4, with Todd Bertuzzi sliding down to play right wing on the third line with Abdelkader at center and Nyquist on the left side. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is looking for the right combination on the third line to help offset the loss of injured center Darren Helm (arm surgery), who will miss the rest of the playoffs.

Nyquist—who hasn’t scored a point in his previous two playoff games—has set up a number of opportunities and said his game does change a little bit when he’s not with Datsyuk.

“The big thing for me if I play with [Datsyuk and Franzen] is maybe I try to go to the net as much as possible to try and create space for them, because they’re very good at cycling the puck down low and making plays from there,” Nyquist said. “When I play [on the third line], maybe I get to have the puck a little bit more in the corners and try to be creative from there.”

• Via RedWingsFeed, the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan spoke to the Wings about tonight’s must-win status:

“We’ve been in this situation before,” said forward Tomas Holmstrom, a member of four Stanley Cup teams with the Wings. “We just have to come out way better than we did last game. It was a real bad start (in Game 3). It’s going to be tough, they have a good team. But if we play our game, we’ll be OK.”

There aren’t expected to be any lineup changes for the Wings, but some forward lines could be shifted around, including Danny Cleary possibly being moved up. Nashville could be heartened by the fact the road team has a 14-8 record thus far in the first round of these playoffs.

“The games are so tight, every game is tight and exciting,” forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “The difference between winning and losing is so small, that’s why there are so many road victories.”

• And the Predators’ website posted a game-day update from Tom Callahan and Stu Grimson:

Update #7: I fully agree with the Wings’ playoff blog regarding the “Three Keys” to tonight’s game:

1) Maintain Calm: You don’t expect this team to panic, not with the veteran experience and the Stanley Cup rings in the room. Still, playing within oneself can’t be emphasized enough this time of year.

“You always draw on your past experiences and what you’ve learned from them,” said Jimmy Howard. “It’s about living in the moment. Just playing the game and not looking too far ahead or behind.”

2) Stay out of the box: The Red Wings have taken 19 minor penalties over the first three games. Sure, only one of those have come back to haunt them, but it isn’t a good habit to have.

“We’ve gotten into some penalty problems too early on in games and that hurts you,” Nick Lidstrom said. “It changes your pairing and your defensive lines quite a bit.”

3) Play better off the drop: There is no official stat for press conference quotes, but the guess here is that Mike Babcock has mentioned starting ‘off the drop’ or ‘on time’ more than anything else over the course of the 2011-12 season.

“I thought someone told me that it was like 80 percent of the time during the regular season when you score first, you win, so I don’t think that’s any different now,” Babcock said. “It’s a priority for everyone. You want to get started on time.”

The team that has scored the first goal has won the first three games of this series.


On Saturday, Kroger is teaming up with Red Wings legend Ted Lindsay to present Hockey Fest from 11AM-4PM at the Kroger Store on 10059 Highland Road in Hartland Township. Admission is free. In addition to Lindsay, fans can meet and mingle with other Red Wings Alumni, enjoy the ‘Legends of Hockey’ exhibit and enjoy interactive games, including the hardest shot.

• The Red Wings’ website also posted a game-day preview in which Ken Kal talks to video coach Keith McKittrick about his job…

  • And, via RedWingsFeed, here’s the NHL Networks Dave Strader’s preview, which includes quotes from Barry Trotz, Tomas Holmstrom and Nicklas Lidstrom, as well as tons of practice footage:


Update #8: The Predators’ website posted clips of Ryan Suter…


Mike Fisher…


Nick Spaling…


And Barry Trotz speaking to the media:


Update #9: If you’re interested, the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa spoke to WBBL’s Huge Show today…


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• As Paul posted, the National Post’s Michael Traikos wrote a superb article about Pavel Datsyuk’s puck-stealing abilities;

• The Tennessean’s Josh Cooper is paranoid about Mike Babcock supposedly slagging the Predators’ forwards:

esterday we discussed how the Predators moved David Legwand to a line with Matt Halischuk and Brandon Yip and put Nick Spaling at center with Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn. Also Paul Gaustad was put on a line with Gabriel Bourque and Patric Hornqvist. Will it stick? The Predators didn’t show their lines at morning skate. Coach Barry Trotz was mum on what he will do.

“I think we can use a little bit more of a four-line mentality. It’s something I may start with or I may go to,” Trotz said. “I think we may go a little bit deeper with the roster in some areas. That’s really the thought process.”

How will the Red Wings adjust? It sounded like Mike Babcock took another veiled shot at Spaling and possibly Legwand with his response.

“To me the two wingers there, wouldn’t really matter to me who the center was with them,” Babcock said possibly referring to Radulov and Kostitsyn. “That will kind of reflect what we do.”

• And according to DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose, you can thank Danny Cleary for the team’s warm-up music selection:

“We like to have good warm-up music, for sure. Some guys don’t even hear the music. I’m not one of those guys,” Cleary said. “I like how music fires you up and gets you going, and not only in warm-ups, but before the game and in timeouts and breaks. In Detroit we like the certain music that we play and at certain points in the game. I just love it.”

Ayron Sequeira and T Campbell, the DJ for the last 18 seasons at The Joe, are in charge of the in-arena entertainment during Wings’ home games. And getting Cleary’s input is just one aspect of their preparations.

“Dan is very specific and I actually appreciate that because it’s easy when somebody tells you what they like and what they want to hear,” said Sequeira, in her fourth season as executive producer of event entertainment for the NHL club.

A music aficionado with an eclectic taste, Cleary likes everything from alternative rock to hip-hop and techno, whether it’s Linkin Park, Foo Fighters, Riahanna, Jay Z, Avicii, Duncan and Outasight.

“He’s all over the place,” Sequeira said.

The entertainment tandem also has specific music picked out for each player after he scores. So who are the easiest and most difficult players to find music for?

“I know that Nicklas Lidstrom likes AC/DC and the Rolling Stones,” Sequeira said. “Pavel Datsyuk wanted some Pitbull then he wanted some other song. He’s changed his goal song the most out of any player and the one that he wants now is Kalinka, which is a Russian folk song. But the world is so small right now with music that it’s not terribly difficult to find songs, but there are times when T and I will be look at each other and be like, ‘What the heck is this one?’ ”

Update #10: One more update: Via RedWingsFeed, here’s Ken Kal speaking to NHL Live:

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


gowings's avatar

is this a bit overdramatic? Yeah. Sorry, it’s how I am. I just think a lot rides on tight and this series. Should be a fun watch.

No, no,no..this won’t be fun to watch.Preds win 4-1 and I don’t watch the game Friday. Then, hell breaks apart and we fire half the players (and most of you also wants the coach’s head). I can’t take this anymore. The only thing that can appease my pain a little bit..is to see the Pens, Nucks, and yes..sharks die in round one

Of course, I hope I am wrong, but I have been watching this team for a very long time…and it just doesn’t look good :(

Posted by gowings from MTL on 04/17/12 at 02:44 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

Zetterberg on Franzen: He’s been angry the last few games, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes out and scores two, three goals tonight.


Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 04/17/12 at 04:09 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Like Babcock said:  Let’s play hockey.

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 04/17/12 at 04:42 PM ET


When even the players are admitting that they haven’t figured out why they start so slowly so often, whose fault is that?

Posted by Bugsy on 04/17/12 at 10:18 PM ET

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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.