The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/14/12 at 03:30 PM ET
Updated 4x at 4:23 PM: After the Detroit Red Wings’ 3-2 victory on Friday night, the Wings returned to Detroit, but will have to cross their fingers that Al Sobotka can work some miracles on Joe Louis Arena’s ice as Nickelback will be occupying the Joe, and tomorrow the forecast calls for nearly 80-degree temperatures and thunderstorms, yielding a less than “sunny” outlook for the Joe’s almost always excellent ice surface—though I have little doubt in Sobotka’s ability to far surpass the soup the Wings were playing on in Nashville—as the Wings and Predators renew acquaintances via a bizarre noon start (WDIV will begin their pre-game show at 11:30 AM tomorrow).
With the Joe unavailable, the Red Wings practiced at City Sports Arena, and the Predators remained in Nashville, with the Wings’ and Predators’ beat writers and the national press corps spending this morning and early afternoon skipping practice to fly to Detroit (amidst some “heavy weather” dotting their flight paths) and set up shop in the Motor City for the next four days.
So the off-day news is coming in at a snail’s pace, and we’ll start with the Twitter quips from the Tennessean’s John Glennon, who reports the following from Music City:
No Hal Gill skating at #Preds practice this morning.
Five forwards not practicing: Both Kostitsyns, Rads, Fisher and Erat. I wld assume maintenance day. #Preds
[Predators coach Barry] Trotz says he’s contemplating 1 or 2 lineup changes, doesn’t offer specifics. #Preds
Trotz says the fact that Gill didn’t skate today after light skate yesterday is not a sign of setback. #Preds
More Trotz on Gill: Says w some injs, you’re better off not skating. Says Gill still getting closer every day. #Preds
That’s the theory, as Gill told Fox Sports Tennessee and NHL.com’s John Manasso:
Hal Gill “hope so” on whether he’ll play. #Preds
On the Red Wings’ side of the equation, the Associated Press’s Larry Lage will have an excellent article about the Red Wings’ hopes of exploiting their home-ice advantage later today, but for now, the AP filed a bare-bones version of his article, with quotes to come in the late afternoon or evening:
The Detroit Red Wings have tied their first-round series with the Nashville Predators.
Now, Detroit hopes playing at Joe Louis Arena is as much of an advantage as it has been lately.
The Red Wings won an NHL-high 31 home games during the regular season, including a league-record 23 straight.
Detroit will host Nashville on Saturday for Game 3 and Tuesday night for Game 4.
The Red Wings beat Nashville 3-2 Friday night after losing 3-2 in the series opener.
Detroit’s Todd Bertuzzi settled a score by fighting Nashville’s Shea Weber early in Game 2 and then the Red Wings went on to even the series. Weber was fined $2,500 for smashing Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the glass at the end of Game 1 on Wednesday night.
MLive’s Ansar Khan offers the biggest news to come out of what was probably a very brief practice for the sake of implementing a few adjustments prior to Sunday’s game…
Ian White only Wing missing from practice today.
Wings’ Ian White took shot off foot in second period but Babcock said he is fine and will play in Game 3.
The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness confirms—and I need to let you know that the gulf in terms of the beat writers’ on-ice quips and the reports to come has to do with the fact that it’s customary for both the players and reporters to return to the Joe (with the players wearing their gear but not their skates while either driving their cars or taking a charter bus) before the media’s allowed in the locker room…
Wings starting to arrive at City Arena in Detroit for practice.
Ian White the only player missing from practice thus far. All forwards and both goalies on the ice.
Ian White couldn’t get foot in boot today after taking puck in the skate last night. Babs said he should be fine to play Gm 3.
And the Wings’ Twitter account earns the usual thumbs-up designation by sneaking some quotes and context into the mix:
The #Wings are currently holding a brief closed practice at City Sports Arena. JLA is unavailable due to a Nickelback concert.
Lidstrom: ‘It’s important for us to get off to a good start tomorrow.’
Mickey Redmond said it, and I don’t want to step on the Mickster’s toes territorially speaking, but he was spot-on: the biggest key in terms of winning games in this series might be scoring the game’s first goal, because the Predators back into that Trotzian trap and clear bodies out of Pekka Rinne’s way with ruthless efficiency when they take the lead, but when Detroit manages to break through before Nashville does, they manage to stick a can opener into the proceedings and peel Nashville’s offensive and defensive efficiencies wide open…
Lidstrom also suggested that the Bertuzzi-Weber fight seemed to address what happened in Game 1.
Stuart: ‘I thought we played a little better defensively in Game 1 ... I thought we were better at creating chances in Game 2.’
Emmerton: Getting the first win feels good. Obviously scoring feels really good. I am hoping to build off of it tomorrow.
Ian White did not take part in today’s practice. He should play tomorrow according to Mike Babcock. Took a shot off the foot yesterday.
White told the Free Press’s George Sipple that he should be good to go on Sunday:
Red Wings defenseman Ian White didn’t practice today due to a sore foot, but said he’ll be fine for Game 3 against the Predators on Sunday at noon. The game will be televised on NBC and CBC.
White was hit blocking a shot during a second-period power play in Game 2, which the Wings won on Friday to even the series 1-1. White scored a goal in Friday’s 3-2 victory.
“A little tender,” White said of his foot. “Take a day off to try and rest.”
White said he didn’t need X-rays.
“I’ve been hit in the foot with the puck many times,” White said. “I was pretty sure it wasn’t broken. One of those things. Take a puck in the foot it’s going to hurt.”
Otherwise, I’ll return to this post for some updating in terms of content as the afternoon progresses, but for the moment, RedWingsFeed provides us with a link to a story about Gordie Howe’s visit to Calgary, where the Calgary Herald’s Allan Cameron reports that Howe is in town to promote the Scotiabank Pro-Am to raise funds for Alzheimer’s research, and is continuing to travel pretty regularly at his own request to his sons;
• And in the comic relief department, from the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix’s “Open-Ice Hitter”:
Mike Babcock’s Wings answered the bell in game 2, evening their series with the Predators by winning in Nashville, 3-2, in a game that saw them outplayed, properly treated and penalized by the referees, yet emerging with a win. That is what the Wings can do. They have some great players, they have a great coach, and Nik Lidstrom is always steady.
- It was interesting to see Big Bert drop the mitts with an obliging Shea Weber, though it wasn’t a vicious scrap by any stretch. Just lettin’ ya know, that is what Bertuzzi was saying to Weber. If you are going to lean on our soft guys, I will back them. And that is how the “ Code “ is supposed to work …. Too bad the cheap shot artist and Shanahan’s buddy Nik Kronwall, or worms like Franzen and Holmstrom wouldn’t back up their play. They could possibly silence a few critics. Instead they go hide behind a linesman …. Whatever. Shea Weber is worthy of a root beer any time. Kronwall, Franzen and Holmstrom can sweep the floor and wash my car before I would even consider having a root beer with them …
1. For what reasons did Franzen, whose head was targeted all game long, Kronwall, who didn’t do much physically other than play a rock-solid game and attempt a few Kronwallings, or Holmstrom, who remains a human pincushion, have to “back up their play?” And who the hell’s criticising them other than the usual cavalcade of “spineless” critics like Mr. OIH? Oh, to have such an inflated sense of self-worth and ivory tower’s worth of nose-looker-downery upon which to bash players…Must be fun given the number of pundits, both professional and otherwise, who engage in it, but I’d prefer to keep any glares down the span of my big honker aimed at feet planted firmly on the ground. Meh.k
Update #0.5: Here’s the Tennessean’s John Glennon’s off-day report:
Maybe the most interesting tidbit of the day came from Preds coach Barry Trotz, who said he was contemplating a lineup change or two for Sunday’s Game Three against Detroit.
Trotz said he was only in the contemplation stage at this point, so there’s no guarantee that things will change. Nor did he offer any specifics about what might be altered. But you’d have to think Jordin Tootoo would at least be a consideration, given the fact he was productive against Detroit during the regular season (team-high five points), he has playoff experience and he might provide an energy spark after sitting out a few games.
Defenseman Hal Gill had an off-ice workout this morning, but did not skate. Gill had skated lightly on Friday, but Trotz said the fact he didn’t skate today shouldn’t be considered a setback. Trotz said Gill is getting closer to playing every day, and that some injuries are better served by not skating.
Five Predators forwards – Andrei Kostitsyn, Sergei Kostitsyn, Mike Fisher, Martin Erat and Alexander Radulov – did not skate this morning, but Trotz reported no new injuries.
The Predators will be looking for their first playoff win in Joe Louis Arena when Game Three gets underway tomorrow at 11 a.m. The game will be televised locally on WSMV-4.
If you can’t stand Olczyk, McGuire, Milbury and Emrick and have Canadian TV access, the CBC will also air the game, but you should be warned that Ron MacLean, P.J. Stock and Kelly Hrudey have been wildly fangirl/fanboy-ish regarding the Predators, too. I do know that WDIV’s going to do its best to both air a pre-game show and a post-game show which will include one Mickey Redmond.
• And in programming department of a different kind, from the Wings:
Tickets to Game 6 of the Wings-Preds series go on sale this Monday at 10AM. Visit http://detroitredwings.com for more information.
Update #0.75: Nashville Predators defensive dynamo David Legwand tends to play against his hometown team with a nasty edge, but if you want to read warm fuzzies about the Grosse Pointe native’s Detroit connections, NahsvillePredators.com’s Mark McGee provides a profile of the Wing-killer.
Update #1: Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner provides a Johnny-come-lately take on Friday’s game…
[T]he Wings are flirting with disaster if they continue to take penalties. If it wasn’t for the hockey gods, puck luck and Howard, the Predators could have converted on two or three of their power play chances.
Howard’s play was relentless. He challenged shooters, had good rebound control and his anticipation was spot on. With Howard between the pipes, goaltending is not an issue.
Also, Detroit’s third and fourth lines played with an aggressive grind-out style that should be acknowledged. Without Darren Helm for the rest of the playoffs, it was encouraging to see the bottom six contribute.
If there’s an aspect to Detroit’s game that needs tightening up, it’s the play in their end. They still seem to cough up the puck way too much and at times appear to be lackadaisical. Defensive zone turnovers will be their undoing if the Predators eliminate the Red Wings.
With that said, the Wings gained a split in Nashville, which is what they needed to do. In fact, they outplayed the Predators in both games.
The national perception is that the Wings are a fading franchise. Their roster is broken-down and battered. Detroit’s glory days are becoming a distant memory, which has the Red Wings smirking.
As Shea Weber and his teammates learned on Friday, there’s still plenty of fight left in those old codgers wearing the winged-wheel.
• And RedWingsFeed points out that the platinum standard for in-depth prospect news, RedWingsCentral, is on Twitter, and Matthew Wuest filed an article about Tomas Jurco’s strong playoff run with the Saint John Sea Dogs a few days ago.
Update #2: MLive’s Ansar Khan captured some intriguing comments from Wings coach Mike Babcock:
Coming off a 3-2 win Friday in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series against Nashville, Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has a laundry list of improvements he is looking for from his team in Game 3 Sunday at Joe Louis Arena (noon, NBC).
“I actually felt that we were better in Game 1 (3-2 loss) than we were in Game 2, at least defensively,’’ Babcock said. “We were harder on the net last night, but we can still be way better than we were, so I expect us to take a real significant step here tomorrow.
The Red Wings need to generate more shots on goal, after recording only 17 on Friday. They also need to take fewer penalties, after giving Nashville’s top-ranked power play six opportunities in each of the first two games (they have killed all 12 chances).
“There’s not much to pick between these teams,’’ Babcock said. “When you look around the league, I don’t think there’s much to pick between anybody in any of the series, so it’s a challenge.”
The Red Wings got in a quick 20-minute skate at Centre I.C.E. (JLA was being set up for the Nickelback concert). Defenseman Ian White was the only player who didn’t skate. He blocked a shot in the second period and couldn’t put on his skate, but he’ll play Sunday.
“He’ll be fine,’’ Babcock said.
Update #3: NHL.com’s John Manasso filed a Predators off-day report...
Power play struggles: Nashville has not scored a power play goal in its first 12 chances through Games 1 and 2, but Trotz is not getting discouraged. That is because the Preds are generating plenty of chances, but they’re just not finishing them off. Trotz said there would be a tendency to “reinvent the wheel” if the unit were not generating chances.
In the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Predators lost their opening-round series with eventual champion Chicago in six games in part because they did not score a power-play goal through the first five games.
“The difference in that power play was in that we got no chances,” Trotz said. “That’s the biggest thing. We just weren’t getting any chances or very, very little. That’s not the case here. … I remember that well, by the way.”
0-for-Detroit: The Preds have never won a postseason game in Detroit, failing in all six chances in their two previous meetings with the Red Wings. If they want to win this series, they will need to do so.
“Obviously, it’s a tough place to play,” Ryan Suter said. “We have to if we want to win the series, we’re going to have to win a game there. Going into it, you’re looking at it as, ‘Oh, geez, we’ve never won there. We gotta win.’ But it’s just more of a fact that if we play the way we’re capable of playing we have a good chance to win.”
And here are three clips of comments from Saturday’s practice, via the Wings’ website. Here are Brad Stuart…
And Wings coach Mike Babcock speaking to the media:
Update #3.5: Here’s the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa’s off-day report:
Players said that while they were happy to be at home for the next two games with their crowd support, they did not expect it to make a major difference in the tight play in a close series that is knotted at 5-5 in the goals scored by both teams. Babcock agreed.
“I just think we’ve played very well home, but in saying all of that let’s not put too much into it,” he said. “They beat us here the last time they played us.”
Cory Emmerton, who put the Red Wings ahead 2-0 with an unassisted goal and sniper’s shot past Pekka Rinne in the first period, said that what was a huge goal for the team and the first of his career in the playoffs became a big social event — at least by smartphone — late in the night and early this morning.
“There were lots of messages,” said Emmerton, 23, who scored one goal in 16 AHL playoff games for the Grand Rapids Griffins from 2007-09 and seven in 11 playoff games for the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League in 2006 and 2007. “And Twitter world blew up too, so I mean, it’s an exciting time of the year, so anytime you can contribute, it’s exciting for yourself as well as your family.”
Al Sobotka, the Red Wings ace building operations manager, may face a challenge Sunday. With the concert late Saturday in the arena and a noon start for the game, temperatures are expected to rise toward 80 degrees. The Red Wings have had generators and the advanced cooling system set up outside of Joe Louis Arena on Yzerman Drive since the heat wave of early March.
Update #4: Yowza! The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness posted a boatload of information, starting with an article about the Wings’ PK prowess as the team’s held Nashville off the scoreboard over the course of 12 Predators power plays…
“So far, so good on the PK,” Jonathan Ericsson said after practice Saturday at Joe Louis Arena. “We have a long ways to go. We just have to keep working hard.”
“It’s been key for us, especially this time of the year when they’re calling a lot of penalties and calling things tight,” Brad Stuart said. “Special teams are very important. (Jimmy) Howard has made some big saves for us and we’ve been able to clean up the first. It’s been a big part of the series for us.”
The Wings’ success on the penalty kill carried over from the regular season. They went the final games of the seven regular without allowing a power play goal.
They have not given up a power play goal the last 37 chances.
“I have no idea how many in a row it’s been,” Ericsson said. “Last two games there have been a bit too many penalties we’ve taken. We don’t really want that. I think we were the two least penalized teams and we’ve had a lot of penalties. I don’t know why it is like that.”
“We’ve just done a great job taking away passing lanes and blocking shots and just working hard out there,” Howard said. “I really think sacrificing the body and blocking shots have been key. Guys are putting their body out there and it’s not easy to step in front of Shea Weber’s shot but guys are doing it.”
Nashville has gotten off 14 shots on goal in those 12 man advantage chances.
Continuing with a discussion of the fact that the Predators have gone 0-and-6 at the Joe in playoff action...
“I don’t know if it’s a milestone or it would just be another thing that we have to do, we’re going to do that eventually,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “The odds are in our favor. We’ve played them twice in two series so far.”
The Wings, who have won the two previous meetings in the playoffs between the teams in six games, are 6-0 all-time in the postseason against the Predators.
“We don’t have any problem going on the road,” said Trotz, whose squad has moved past the first round just once. “We’ve been pretty good on the road. You look at the Western Conference, no one’s winning at home it seems so we’ll take that and run with it.”
Detroit finished with an NHL best 31 wins on home ice this year.
“I mean obviously that’s a tough place to play,” Ryan Suter said. “We have to if we want to win the series. We’re going to have to win a game there. Going into it you’re not looking at it as ‘Oh jeez we’ve never won there. We gotta win.’ But it’s just more the fact that if we play the way we’re capable of playing we have a good chance to win.”
And Pleiness spoke to Ian White and Cory Emmerton about their offensive flourishes on Friday...
White also scored his first goal since March 2.
“I used to score goals, hopefully this is a sign to come,” White said. “If I see an opening I like to make the most of it, so it takes a lot of the pressure off the guys when guys like Cory (Emmerton) are pitching in and myself. That’s what we’re going to need to go deep in the playoffs.”
Emmerton also scored in Game 2, his first career playoff goal. He was also on the ice for another Wings goal, making him a plus-2 on the night.
“You saw their third or fourth lines scoring in Game 1, so it was important for us to do so,” Emmerton said. “We did the little things well and we got rewarded. Anytime anyone scores I’m happy to be on the ice for it.
“There were lots of messages from family and friends after the game,” Emmerton added. “The twitter world blew up too. It’s an exciting time of the year.”
He mentions the Wings’ desire to fire many more shots on Pekka Rinne in Game 3...
“Sometimes you see that in the playoffs where both teams are playing well without the puck, trying not to give up too much, try to push them on the outside,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “Sometimes that’s the playoff style. You don’t want to open yourself up defensively to create chances offensively.”
Wings coach Mike Babcock said the team got into a protective mode in the third period and stopped skating.
“I don’t think there’s been a whole lot of room either way,” Babcock said. “We only had 17 shots on goal so we stopped playing the third period, didn’t skate I didn’t think, got in a protective mode, which isn’t the way you want to do it, but in saying that there’s just not a lot of room for either team and that’s what we expect.”
In Game 1 the Wings had 37 shots on Predators goalie Pekka Rinne.
“I thought they did a good job, they’re a good team defensively and play with good structure,” Danny Cleary said. “They’ve always got five guys back on the inside to protect the middle very well. It was a tight game, it’s been a tight series. We’ve got to try to shoot when we can and stay at the net.”
And he offers a “Quote of the day” as well:
“I thought the (Justin) Abdelkader line was our best line in the third period, so when you go through that, and I actually took Abbie’s wingers away from him and gave them to (Pavel Datsyuk) in the last shift, so that’s what I thought of (Drew) Miller and Cleary,” Babcock said. “I thought they were absolutely outstanding. I thought (Gustav Nyquist) had a good game in playing with Abbie as well and then our fourth line – and Millsie played all over – but our fourth line, Emmerton was on for two goals for, which is very important for us. The night before their third line got three and our fourth line got two last night, so that’s important.”
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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.