Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Predators practice day report in progres: Wings need more shoot, Preds’ Gill improving

Updated 8x with a Mike Modano interview at 6:52 PM: The Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators held dueling practices at their respective rinks (albeit with the Predators using their practice facility and the Wings, who face an incredibly steep uphill climb in attempting to force Game 6 and a delay in the commencement of our annuall Nicklas Lidstrom watch), at the same time, on Thursday, and MLive’s Ansar Khan reports that the Wings only made one change to their practice lineup:

Wings on ice for practice. Brendan Smith has joined team for practice rather than skate with Black Aces.
...
Wings skating with these lines: 51-40-26, 93-13-11, 20-8-44, 14-48-96; 5-18, 55-23, 27-52; 35, 29; extras 41, 39, 2, 4

The Wings’ website confirms…

Sport the ultimate playoff beard and enter to win 2012-13 season tickets thanks to Philips Norelco. http://on.fb.me/HS8rHa
...
Thursday’s practice is underway at Joe Louis Arena. The team travels to Nashville later this afternoon.
...
Brendan Smith ( @bssmith7 ) is more heavily involved in today’s festivities.
...
Even during the playoffs, there is always time for a teaching moment. http://twitvid.com/VGDSK
...
Filppula: I think we’ve been having good success other than scoring on 5-on-5. We’ve been spending time on their end and creating chances.
...
Babcock: “To me, when you aren’t scoring, you’ve got to find a way to go get them.”
...
Babcock: “I think Fil’s doing a good job out there. He’s just got to trust his shot and shoot the puck a little bit more.”
...
Babcock also said that a lot of players are in that same position.

Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji is also attending practice today...

#RedWings Babcock gathers the players for a quick message at practice. http://pic.twitter.com/a5Kh3bEf
...
#Redwings Filppula had an open shot in practice, but passed to Mursak. #gottashootson

As are the Free Press’s Helene St. James...

Now everyone: keep shooting at Rinne pic.twitter.com/5I8Lnhxt

Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika...

I love watching Datsyuk *practice.*
...
Babcock on Lidstrom: “I’d be shocked if he retired, but I’ve been shocked before.”

As the Free Press’s Anthony Fenech...

Mike Babcock: “We gotta score some goals.” #Truth
...
Babcock: “I’d like us to play the same way we did last game.” #Redwings
...
Babcock stresses getting more 2nd and 3rd chances on Pekka Rinne. #Redwings
...
Babcock, on Nick Lidstrom possibly retiring: “I’d be shocked if he retired.” #Redwings

The Detroit News’s John Niyo (some of the beat writers are flying to Nashville today, too, so expect some less familiar names to file off-day reports)...

Babcock asked about Lidstrom’s future just now. “I’d be shocked if he retired. But I’ve been shocked before.”

And 97.1 the Ticket’s Jeff Riger:

Lidstrom said Giguere was one of toughest goalies he’s gone against, in playoffs would not say of Rinne had been that good
...
Lidstrom said he doesn’t allow himself to think that game 5 could be his last game ever
...
Lidstrom said he waits to decide about retirement to take the emotion out of the decision instead of choosing right away
...
Babcock believes they are getting enough chances inside, Preds are not keeping them outside like people say. Play exactly same in GM 5
...
Babcock on Lidstrom retiring ”I would be shocked if he retired but I’ve been shocked before”
...
Babcock ” I’ve been hearing that story for five years now” on this possibly being Nicks last game

In Nashville, the Tennessean’s John Glennon reports that the Predators made more significant tweaks, and may receive a lineup reinforcement (as if they need one) on Friday:

Hal Gill on ice for #Preds as practice nears.
...
Interesting line combo for #Preds at practice is Bourque, Legwand and Radulov.
...
Another combo that’s changed is A Kostitsyn, Spaling and Hornqvist. One more: Yip, Gaustad and Craig Smith. #Preds

And NHL.com’s John Manasso confirms:

Hal Gill on ice at #Preds practice.
...
Bourque still on #Preds 2nd line w/Rad and Legwand. AK46 on 3rd line w/Spaling, Hornqvist.
...
Smith practicing on #Preds 4th line instead of Halischuk.
...
Gill mostly practicing with Klein. #Preds
...
Hal Gill just completed first full practice since suffering lower-body inj. #Preds

If you’re looking for a little supplementary reading material, Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner delivers in offering objectives which the Wings must accomplish to rally against Nashville, including the following:

Power play must become powerful: Detroit’s power play has either been a mystery or a juggernaut this year. So far during the playoffs, it’s been erratic at best. 

The Wings are 4-of-21 with the man advantage, which is sixth best in the playoffs. But they were 1-of-7 in Game 4, which contributed mightily to their defeat. 

If the power play clicks, it will give confidence to Detroit’s scorers and, hopefully, jump start their stagnant offense.

Overall…

Defensive mistakes have cost the Wings dearly, but their main issue is a power outage offensively and, to a lesser degree, Rinne outplaying Howard.

Although they will never admit it, the Wings’ frustration level has to be bursting. They have played well and have dominated for long stretches.

Unless their scoring picks up, though, the NHL’s hottest tune will be Dixie.

And the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell filed something of a late-breaker regarding the Wings’ problems at both ends of the ice:

“We created a lot of stuff, a lot of chances,” said Henrik Zetterberg, the only Wing with more than one goal. “It’s easy to blame that (puck luck), but we just have to keep doing what we’re doing. I think you create your own bounces. They’re good at standing in front of [Rnne] and blocking shots. We’re trying to get pucks in there, and I think we are getting pucks in there. I think we’re getting there on the second chances, but we can’t find really a way to get the puck behind him.”

However, it would be a mistake for the Wings to believe Rinne and the Predators’ solid defensive corp is the sole source of their woes. Other issues lie within their own team. For starters, the Wings gave up the game’s first goal for the third time in the series, all losses.

They also continue to give up costly odd-man rushes at critical times. Those defensive breakdowns haven’t helped goalie Jimmy Howard, but the Wings’ netminder is simply getting outplayed by his counterpart at the other end. Howard has an .879 save percentage and a 2.78 goals against average in the series after surrendering six goals on his last 39 shots. Those numbers are his worst in the playoffs in his three NHL post-seasons.

The Wings also simply need more from some of their top six forwards. Johan Franzen, who has one goal and nearly as many penalty minutes (eight) as shots on goal (11), hasn’t been able to make an impression in the series. Valtteri Filppula’s doing a lot of skating, but not getting a whole lot done. Like Franzen and Zetterberg, he’s a minus-three along with one assist and nine shots. Jiri Hudler got his first goal of the series in Game 4 Tuesday, but he’s also minus-three and has been limited to five shots. Even Pavel Datsyuk (1-2-3) doesn’t quite look himself after his arthroscopic knee surgery six weeks ago.

“You call me leader, I want to play like leader,” said Datsyuk calling himself out in his list of things that need to change. “That’s first thing. We have to play solid D and try to take care of our chances.”

And that’s all I can give you for now as I’ve got to head out the door for an appointment at 2. I will be back and will update this post when I return.

Update: More from Riger...

To clarify Nick said Gigurre was 1of best playoff goalies he faced, would Not Say if Rinne has been the same caliber didn’t say hasn’t been

Wakiji...

#RedWings Lidstrom on #Preds Rinne: He’s very good with his glove. He’ll make some saves or freeze the puck where you don’t get a rebound.
...
#RedWings Filppula: Definitely need to score, getting a lot of ice time and getting chances so we hope to get pucks in.
...
#RedWings Howard: The most important thing is to out will them. Our backs are against the wall. We all know if we lose we start our summer.
...
#RedWings Howard: It’s been quite an honor to play with Nick and I hope he comes back. I haven’t given any thought of a future without him.

And the Wings’ website posted Babcock’s off-day presser:

Update #2: In terms of the team’s offensive flourish or the lack thereof, Babcock told MLive’s Ansar Khan that

there’s a perception problem, and it isn’t his or the team’s:

“I hear (team broadcaster) Mickey Redmond say, ‘They’re keeping them on the outside.’ So the good thing about that is that I watched the game, and watched it on the computer and then ‘NHL On the Fly’ played it again,’’ Babcock said. “So I watched it three times to see if that’s the truth, to see if we’re never getting to the net, we’re never getting on the inside, and all I can do is go off what I see and I don’t think that’s the truth.’‘

Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg said his team must stay the course.

“We (had) bad one game and that game we won, that was Game 2,’’ Zetterberg said. “We’ve got a lot of believe in here. We’re a good team. We just have to keep playing like we did last game and eventually we’re going to score. You can’t let it get to you. We’re going to go in and just play a good game and go out there and get two points.’‘

They are focusing on one game, not the enormity of their task – having to win three in a row. But are drawing from last year’s experience, when they won three consecutive games against San Jose in the second round before losing Game 7.

“We rally around that a little bit,’’ Zetterberg said. “We did it recently. We know we can do it. We know we’ve been playing well.’‘

Said defenseman Niklas Kronwall: “I think the biggest thing is to keep believing in ourselves, sticking with the program and believe in what we do. I think that’s what we did really well last year, we stuck with it and kept throwing pucks at the net and we almost got away with it.”

Cue the repeat-o-meter, via the Free Press’s Helene St. James:

Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has watched Game 4 against the Nashville Predators three times now and doesn’t buy that the Wings haven’t been getting good shots on goalie Pekka Rinne.

Rinne has a .942 save percentage after four games and is the single biggest reason the Wings trail the Predators, 3-1, headed into Friday’s Game 5 at Bridgestone Arena. The Wings sent 41 shots at him Sunday but only scored once.

“When you look at the series, really, they’re averaging 22.8 shots per game, we’re averaging 34.5,” Babcock said. “I even heard Mickey Redmond say, ‘They’re keeping them on the outside.’ The good thing about that is, I watched the game, and then I watched it on my computer, and then ‘NHL on the Fly’ played it again yesterday. So I actually watched it three times to see if that’s the truth, if we’re never getting to the net, and we’re never getting on the inside.

“All I can do is go off what I see, and I don’t think that’s the truth. So we’ve got to find a way to score on him. Our best rebounds and opportunities off second shots—he catches everything, so we’ve got to keep it away from his glove. But I don’t think we can tell our guys to stop shooting. But I think we’ve got to keep getting to the net as hard as we can. I’d like us to play the same way we did last game, with the exception of the two plays, one in our own zone and one off the rush. Just play that way.”

The Wings insist that they can rally, as they told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...

“It’s not fun being down; it would be better to be up (in the series),” forward Valtteri Filppula said Thursday. “But last year we fought back. It wasn’t enough (to win), but hopefully this year it’ll be different.”

What gives Filppula and his teammates hope is their postseason experience.

“We have a lot of players who’ve played a lot of playoff games and hopefully that’ll help,” Filppula said.

Forward Cory Emmerton says the Wings are focused not on one game at a time, but one period.

“It’s very cliche but it’s the standard,” Emmerton said. “You’re not trying to win three games at once.”

Babcock told DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose that his team’s style won’t change while eschewing comparisons between Rinne and a goalie he employed to defeat the Wings in one Jean-Sebastien Giguere, way back in 2003…

“We have to find a way to score,” Babcock said. “Or best rebounds and opportunities off second shots (Rinne) catches everything, so we have to keep it away from his glove. But I don’t think we can tell our guys to stop shooting. We have to keep getting to the net as hard we as can.”

Detroit was in a similar situation last spring when they went up against San Jose netminder Antti Niemi, who held the Wings to two or fewer goals in three games in their first-round matchup.

“Obviously, Niemi is a very good goaltender as well,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “But we have to keep doing what we’ve been doing, just throw pucks at the net and create traffic. I think the biggest thing is to keep believing in ourselves, sticking with the program and believe in what we do. I think that’s what we did really well last year, we stuck with it and kept throwing pucks at the net and we almost got away with it.”

The Wings are among four playoff teams that have scored the fewest goals in 5-on-5, which is in contrast to what they were most prolific at during the regular-season. Obviously now it has many Wings’ players puzzled at not finding the back of the net.

“It’s not time to get too frustrated,” said forward Valtteri Filppula, who has one playoff assist on nine shots. “We just have to keep going and battle through it. Their goalie has been playing great. A lot of credit has to be given to him. He makes it a lot more difficult. Shots have been coming from far away and he’s able to close right away so we don’t even get a rebound. We’re going to have to try and get a little closer and maybe get shots he doesn’t see.”

Babcock knows all too well about hot playoff goaltenders. In his first season as head coach of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, he had Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who got the Ducks to the 2003 Cup finals. Along the way, the Ducks defeated the Wings in the first round, but eventually lost to the New Jersey Devils in a seven-game series. Still, for his efforts, and despite losing in the finals, Giguere became just the fifth player on a losing team to receive the Conn Smythe Trophy as the league’s playoff MVP.

“I think you believe in that, you believe that you keep everything to the outside and everything will go good,” said Babcock, referencing the 2003 playoffs. “But I can’t go off of much, except we got outshot one period in Detroit, in my first year in Anaheim, 20-1 in overtime in Game 1. The goalie stood on his head. But in the rest of the playoffs that wasn’t the case. We played well and so we didn’t give up as much. To me, when you’re not scoring, you have to go out and get them.”

But the Wings’ captain doesn’t necessarily believe that Rinne and Giguere are more similar than one might think, as he told the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness:

“I think (Jean-Sebastien) Giguere comes to mind, he played real well, he’s the guy that really sticks out who’s played well against us in the past,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “I think there’s some second chances that could be had, whether rebounds or pucks laying around. Create traffic, that’s how you got to get goals. If you look at the playoffs, that’s how a lot of goals are scored.”

Nashville’s Pekka Rinne has given up just eight goals in 138 shots in this series.

“It’s hard to say,” Lidstrom said when asked to compare the performances. “He’s playing real well. You got to give him credit. But they’re playing real well on front of him, too. Their defensemen and forwards are collapsing down, just making it hard in the slot to get chances.”

Lidstrom gave his own “party line,” if you will, in discussing what Friday might mean in terms of his playing career while speaking with Pleiness...

For Nicklas Lidstrom, who turns 42 at the end of April, Game 5 could his last with the Wings.

“No, I don’t think like that,” Lidstrom said after practice Thursday at Joe Louis Arena. “I think I’ve learned from other years. I try to push that aside and just go out and try to play a real solid game, a good game and come out with a win.”

Lidstrom is in his 20th season in Detroit.

“I think that’s something I’ll look back at once the season is over,” Lidstrom said when asked if the outcome of this series will weigh on his decision. “Once the summer comes around, you start thinking about the future. That comes into your thought process then.”

The Wings are losing the battle in 5-on-5, being outscored 9-4 in the series.

“We need to score goals,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “If you look at the games we’re creating chances so we just have to keep doing that. And when we get the chance we have to score.”

Lidstrom told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan that his teammates, coach, and yes, fans, are asking him about his future...

“It happens,” the Wings defenseman said Thursday. “I tell them the same thing I tell you guys — I’ll wait until the end of the year.”

That end could be Friday, if the Wings are eliminated from the postseason in Nashville. Lidstrom, who’ll be 42 on April 28, has played in the NHL for 20 seasons. Lidstrom said after the Wings’ season ends, he’ll take some time off, then talk it over with his wife and general manager Ken Holland.

“The last couple of years have been like that,” said Lidstrom of his decision-making process. “Take a couple weeks before you start thinking about the future.”

The bruised ankle that cost Lidstrom approximately a month of the regular season still acts up, but Lidstrom said doctors told him it would, and it’s nothing that would sway a decision one way or another. His overall health is fine.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to not have any major injuries in my career,” Lidstrom said.

And his teammates say they haven’t necessarily lobbied #5 to return…

“We haven’t talked about it a whole lot,” forward Valtteri Filppula said. “You want to win for everybody and the team, but a guy like that you want to do your best and make sure this is a good run. We still have a chance.”

Coach Mike Babcock has lived through the Lidstrom retirement speculation for several springs now, and continues to believe Lidstrom is returning. Said Babcock: “I’ve been hearing that same story for five years now. I’d be shocked if he retired, but I’ve been shocked before.”

The Free Press’s Helene St. James took note of the usual scuttlebutt, too:

Lidstrom very patiently answered that question today the same way he has answered it every other time it has been brought up this season—or last year, for that matter: He’ll wait till after the season is over, talk it over with his wife, then decide.

Such is Lidstrom’s reputation around the NHL that when discussing him before Game 1 of the series, Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne said he hopes Lidstrom comes back. It’s pretty rare that a player roots for another team’s opposing superstar to keep playing, but no one wants to see Lidstrom retire.

Lidstrom’s coach, Mike Babcock, covered both sides of the coin when he was asked about it today.

“I’d be shocked if he retires,” Babcock said. “But I’ve been shocked before.”

And in the multimedia department, the Detroit News posted a 10-image photo gallery from Thursday’s practice. The Wings then packed up their gear and boarded Red Bird III at 3 PM EDT to take an hour-long flight to Nashville.

Update #3: In Nashville, the Tennessean’s John Glennon reports that Hal Gill made it through a full practice…

Hal Gill just completed first full practice since suffering lower-body inj. #Preds
...
Trotz says Gill looked good. Final decision tomorrow. Will be up to Gill, Trotz says. #Preds
...
Not exactly a shocker, but #Preds are officially sold out for Fri. game against #Redwings. There were about 1,000 tix left earlier in wk.
...
Gill on how he needs to feel to play Fri.:“I just have to be able to play at a high level. It’s not like you’re jumping into an exhibition.”

And Glennon found the Predators stuck with their party line regarding Friday’s game, too:

“We don’t have that much experience (in eliminating other teams), but it always seems to be the hardest game,” said Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, whose team defeated Anaheim in the first round last year. “(The Red Wings) have been there and done that. They have the experience and the veteran players who’ve seen those kinds of situations and been through that. We really have to be prepared for that. … The team that wants it more is going to get it.”

Defenseman Hal Gill expects the Red Wings to put up a fierce battle.

“I’m sure they’re going to be a desperate team,” Gill said. “They’ll do whatever they can. There’s no question in their mind that they want to block a shot, take a hit, do whatever it takes. We have to have that same mindset. Like coach says, it’s motivation versus desperation.”

Gill has missed the first four games of this series with a lower-body injury, but on Thursday he went through his first full practice since suffering the injury and looked as if he may be ready to return to the lineup on Friday. Coach Barry Trotz said the final call would be made Friday, and that the decision would be Gill’s.

“I just have to be able to play at a high level,” Gill said. “It’s not like you’re jumping into an exhibition game. … You have to go all out.”

One other possible change for the Predators is rookie forward Craig Smith, who practiced on a line with Brandon Yip and Paul Gaustad. Smith has yet to play in this series, but could bump Matt Halischuk from the lineup based on the practice lines.

Fox Sports Tennessee/NHL.com’s John Manasso confirms Gill’s presence at Nashville’s practice…

Predators defenseman Hal Gill participated in a full practice on Thursday for the first time in two weeks after suffering a lower-body injury, but his status for Game 5 on Friday at Bridgestone Arena remains up in the air.

Gill said he would speak to trainers later in the day to address the situation. Predators coach Barry Trotz said the team would know more on Friday.

With Gill out, the team’s top defense pair of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber played more than 30 minutes apiece in the Preds’ 3-1 win in Game 4 over Detroit. Trotz said he is not worried about Suter and Weber playing too many minutes, as “they’re young,” he said.

Gill was the team’s shot-blocker and leader in shorthanded time on ice during the regular season. Jack Hillen played in the first two games of the series in Gill’s spot and rookie Ryan Ellis played in Games 3 and 4, but neither has played more than 10 minutes in a game. Gill averaged 18:02 with Nashville during the regular season after being acquired in February from Montreal.

. #Preds
...
Not exactly a shocker, but #Preds are officially sold out for Fri. game against #Redwings. There were about 1,000 tix left earlier in wk.
...
Gill on how he needs to feel to play Fri.:“I just have to be able to play at a high level. It’s not like you’re jumping into an exhibition.”

And Glennon found the Predators stuck with their party line regarding Friday’s game, too:

“We don’t have that much experience (in eliminating other teams), but it always seems to be the hardest game,” said Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, whose team defeated Anaheim in the first round last year. “(The Red Wings) have been there and done that. They have the experience and the veteran players who’ve seen those kinds of situations and been through that. We really have to be prepared for that. … The team that wants it more is going to get it.”

Defenseman Hal Gill expects the Red Wings to put up a fierce battle.

“I’m sure they’re going to be a desperate team,” Gill said. “They’ll do whatever they can. There’s no question in their mind that they want to block a shot, take a hit, do whatever it takes. We have to have that same mindset. Like coach says, it’s motivation versus desperation.”

Gill has missed the first four games of this series with a lower-body injury, but on Thursday he went through his first full practice since suffering the injury and looked as if he may be ready to return to the lineup on Friday. Coach Barry Trotz said the final call would be made Friday, and that the decision would be Gill’s.

“I just have to be able to play at a high level,” Gill said. “It’s not like you’re jumping into an exhibition game. … You have to go all out.”

One other possible change for the Predators is rookie forward Craig Smith, who practiced on a line with Brandon Yip and Paul Gaustad. Smith has yet to play in this series, but could bump Matt Halischuk from the lineup based on the practice lines.

Fox Sports Tennessee/NHL.com’s John Manasso confirms Gill’s presence at Nashville’s practice…

Predators defenseman Hal Gill participated in a full practice on Thursday for the first time in two weeks after suffering a lower-body injury, but his status for Game 5 on Friday at Bridgestone Arena remains up in the air.

Gill said he would speak to trainers later in the day to address the situation. Predators coach Barry Trotz said the team would know more on Friday.

With Gill out, the team’s top defense pair of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber played more than 30 minutes apiece in the Preds’ 3-1 win in Game 4 over Detroit. Trotz said he is not worried about Suter and Weber playing too many minutes, as “they’re young,” he said.

Gill was the team’s shot-blocker and leader in shorthanded time on ice during the regular season. Jack Hillen played in the first two games of the series in Gill’s spot and rookie Ryan Ellis played in Games 3 and 4, but neither has played more than 10 minutes in a game. Gill averaged 18:02 with Nashville during the regular season after being acquired in February from Montreal.

And he filed an off-day video report on Fox Sports Tennessee:

The Nashville City Paper’s David Boclair took note of Gill’s progress as well:

“It was very important,” coach Barry Trotz said. “He practiced pretty well. … We’ll see where he is [Friday]. … That’s really his call.”

The 37-year-old has appeared in 105 career playoff games with three different franchises. More than half of those appearances came in the past four years, which included his run to the Stanley Cup title as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. He said he has watched the first four games of this series closely, both in person and on the television.

“TV is the easiest because you see everything,” he said. “… I think you’re learning the whole time. There’s a lot of trends and tendencies out there and you have to be aware of those. You can’t just jump into a series and not know what’s happening.”

Likewise, he stressed he did not want to get back in the lineup if he was not physically ready to do so.

“I just have to be able to play at a high level,” he said. “It’s not like you’re jumping into an exhibition game and can half-ass it out there. You have to go all out.”

Update #4: Oh geez. Is this a surprise?

  NASHVILLE PREDATORS HEAD COACH BARRY TROTZ IS TODAY’S GUEST ON “NHL HOUR WITH COMMISSIONER GARY BETTMAN”

NEW YORK (April 19, 2012) – Barry Trotz, head coach of the Nashville Predators, will be today’s guest on NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman. The show, which encourages fans to call in with questions, airs Thursdays on NHL Network, NHL.com and on Sirius XM Radio at 6 p.m. ET.

Seeking a place in the Western Conference Semifinals, the Predators lead their series, 3-1, against the playoff-tested Detroit Red Wings. After securing two wins on the road led by the outstanding goaltending of Pekka Rinne, Nashville will host Game 5 at Bridgestone Arena on Friday night (8:00 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC, RDSI, FS-D, SPSO.)

NHL Hour with Commissioner Gary Bettman broadcasts live on Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET on NHL Network, NHL.com and NHL Home Ice (channel
92 on XM and channel 207 on Sirius Premier). The show will re-air on Sirius XM Radio, with archived shows available for download via podcast on NHL.com.

The show encourages fans to call in with questions. To submit questions to NHL Hour call 1-877-NHL-ON-XM (1-877-645-6696).

• The Predators website’s Doug Brumley provides some non-Gill-related details from Barry Trotz’s presser after Nashville’s practice on Thursday:

Given the Predators’ three games to one lead in their best-of-seven series against the Detroit Red Wings, much of the media conversation centered on the difficulty of tomorrow night’s task—trying to eliminate a veteran Red Wings team. Trotz said he has been trying to impress upon his players just how challenging it can be to win that fourth game in a series. Especially against Detroit.

“We recognize Detroit has a lot of experience,” Trotz said. “They were down 3-0 last year to San Jose and they took it to Game 7. We just know that tomorrow is the biggest game of the year.”

Lines in practice on Thursday looked like this:

White jerseys: Mike Fisher centering Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat
Gold jerseys: David Legwand centering Gabriel Bourque and Alexander Radulov
Silver jerseys: Nick Spaling centering Andrei Kostitsyn and Patric Hornqvist
Green jerseys: Paul Gaustad centering Brandon Yip and Craig Smith
Light blue jerseys: Colin Wilson centering Matt Halischuk and Jordin Tootoo

Trotz offered some insight into the mixing-and-matching of forwards that he’s been orchestrating lately.

“As I was telling the guys today, I said, ‘What we go out there with four lines, that doesn’t really mean a whole heck of a lot.’ ” Trotz said. “You saw last game, the lines kept changing by the minute. … It’s based on how you’re going and maybe situational. Maybe you need a little bit of a push offensively and might switch lines around. also try to keep [Detroit head coach] Mike [Babcock] off in terms of his straight matchups. It also allows me to keep certain [opposing] players on the ice a little bit more too. As the series goes on, that wears them down a little bit too.”

• Via RedWingsFeed, ESPN posted a YouTube video of Craig Custance speaking to Chris Osgood about the Wings-Preds series and other playoff events, and via me, NHL.com just posted a video of Hal Gill speaking to the press;

• DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose posted a Lidstrom article...

“I don’t think like that,” said Lidstrom when asked if these are his final games. “I think I’ve learned from other years I try to push that aside and try to play a real solid game, great game and come out with a win.”

Nine days away from turning 42-years-old, Lidstrom is also four games shy of catching former defensive partner Chris Chelios for the most all-time playoff games played in NHL history. Lidstrom has collected 54 goals and 129 assists in 262 playoff games. In that time, he’s only missed two playoff games, both during the 2009 Western Conference finals after Chicago’s Patrick Sharp accidentally speared him, causing a groin injury that required surgery and forced Lidstrom to miss the final two games of the series. In February a deep ankle bruise forced him to miss 11 games, which has brought into question the defenseman’s durability, if not his desire to return after this season, which he quickly dismissed.

“It won’t be a factor. My health is good,” Lidstrom said. “That’s something I’ll look back at once the season is over. Once the summer comes, you start thinking about the future. That comes into your thought process again.”

Lidstrom leads all Wings’ skaters with 24:02 of ice-time in the playoffs, despite being the team’s only defensemen not to log anytime on the penalty kill. But that’s purposely done to prevent further injury if he were to block a shot with his right ankle. Mike Babcock has heard the same stories tying the lingering injury to Lidstrom’s future, but the Wings’ coach isn’t interested in worry about that right now.

“The way I look at it is we have to win a game, so that’s our approach,” Babcock said. “I haven’t thought much about Nick. When Nick decides to retire I’m sure it will be his wife and then his kids, then I think the community, I don’t know, then after that I’ll hear it on the news somewhere. Who knows. I’d be shock if he retires, but I’ve been shocked before.”

Lidstrom’s teammates haven’t given much consideration to life without Lidstrom, either.

“It’s crossed my mind,” admitted goalie Jimmy Howard. “You try not to think about it. It’s been quite an honor to play with Nick and I hope he comes back.”

• 97.1 the Ticket’s Scott “the Gator” Anderson also weighs in on the Wigns’ chances of rallying in Game 5 and possibly taking this series to seven games, and Jeff Riger says that he’s the one who asked Babcock about those “quality scoring chances” from the “inside” of Predators defenders:

“I even heard Mickey Redmond say well they (Nashville) are keeping them on the outside.” said Babcock ”I watched the game then I watched it on my computer and again yesterday so I have actually watched it three times to see if that’s the truth? You know, to see if we are never getting to the net and never getting on the inside? All I can do is go on what I see and I don’t think that is the truth.” Babcock later told the media that he would like the Wings to play the exact way they did in game 4 in game 5 on Friday night with the exception of a couple defensive breakdowns.

Babcock also was asked about his net minder Jimmy Howard and all the blame that the 3rd year player has been forced to shoulder this series? “You know I think it’s tough to be the goalie” said the head coach. “We average 26 (shots) against, we were one of the lowest teams in the league with shots against all year long. So now we are at 22.8 and if you are the goalie you are just standing there freezing. The other guy is getting more opportunity, the more shots you get, the more opportunity you get to look good. That’s the facts!”

Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne has been sensational in this series so far but is he unbeatable? That was the question that reporters were asking in the dressing room on Thursday afternoon. Captain Nick Lidstrom was asked to reminiscence as to who the best goalie he ever faced in the playoffs was? “I think (Jean- Sebastien) Giguere comes to mind” said Lidstrom. “He’s the guy that really sticks out, that has been playing well especially in the past.” I then asked Lidstrom is Rinne has reached that “Giguere stratosphere?” “It’s hard to say” said Lidstrom. “He’s playing real well for them but they are playing well in front of him too.”

Of course this time of year is not only about the playoffs, it’s also about speculating if Lidstrom will come back for another season as Detroit’s best defenseman. The captain was asked if he had allowed himself to think that game 5 could be potentially the last game he will ever play in the NHL? “No” Lidstrom said. “I don’t think like that, I think I have learned from other years that I try to push that aside and just go out and play a real solid game and come out with a win.”

Babcock was also asked the same question at the podium and replied a little more stern. “Yeah, I have been hearing that same story for five years now” said the coach. “The way I look at it is that we have to win a game, I haven’t thought much about Nick. When Nick decides to retire I’m sure I’ll be (the 4th person to hear about it), it will probably be his wife then his kids and then the community and I’ll be right after that, I’ll hear it on the news somewhere probably. Who knows? I’d be shocked if he retires but I have been shocked before.”

 

Update #5: In the belated multimedia category, WJR finally posted Mike Babcock’s interview with Mitch Albom:

Download file

• Nifty: CBS Detroit posted wallpaper-sized images of Danny Cleary, a picture of Niklas Kronwall defending against Martin Erat and Ian White;

• In the strange multimedia category, WOMC has an unusual playoff ticket contest going on;

• NashvillePredators.com’s Doug Brumley filed this practice report:

Given the Predators’ three games to one lead in their best-of-seven series against the Detroit Red Wings, much of the media conversation centered on the difficulty of tomorrow night’s task—trying to eliminate a veteran Red Wings team. Trotz said he has been trying to impress upon his players just how challenging it can be to win that fourth game in a series. Especially against Detroit.

“We recognize Detroit has a lot of experience,” Trotz said. “They were down 3-0 last year to San Jose and they took it to Game 7. We just know that tomorrow is the biggest game of the year.”

Lines in practice on Thursday looked like this:
 
White jerseys: Mike Fisher centering Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat
Gold jerseys: David Legwand centering Gabriel Bourque and Alexander Radulov
Silver jerseys: Nick Spaling centering Andrei Kostitsyn and Patric Hornqvist
Green jerseys: Paul Gaustad centering Brandon Yip and Craig Smith
Light blue jerseys: Colin Wilson centering Matt Halischuk and Jordin Tootoo

Trotz offered some insight into the mixing-and-matching of forwards that he’s been orchestrating lately.

“As I was telling the guys today, I said, ‘What we go out there with for lines, that doesn’t really mean a whole heck of a lot.’ ” Trotz said. “You saw last game, the lines kept changing by the minute. … It’s based on how you’re going and maybe situational. Maybe you need a little bit of a push offensively and might switch lines around. also try to keep [Detroit head coach] Mike [Babcock] off in terms of his straight matchups. It also allows me to keep certain [opposing] players on the ice a little bit more too. As the series goes on, that wears them down a little bit too.”

• In Detroit, the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness pondered Valtteri Filppula’s struggles...

“I haven’t really gotten frustrated,” Filppula said after practice Thursday at Joe Louis Arena. “That’s only going to slow you down. You just have to think positively. We hopefully still have a few more games to play. I just have to play through it and hopefully the puck starts going in.”

Filppula has just nine shots over those four games, while averaging just under 20 minutes of ice time a night. Wings coach Mike Babcock feels Filppula played his best game of the series in Game 4.

“You know (Henrik) Zetterberg’s line actually is in a lot of the offense and I think they’ve done a good job,” Babcock said. “We wouldn’t be talking about any of this stuff, but that’s how playoff hockey is. (Jiri) Hudler hits the post and they come down and score instead of 2-1 for us, it’s 2-1 for them, that’s the difference in the game.”

His linemates have combined for three goals and one assist.

“I think Fil is doing a good job, he’s just got to trust his shot and shoot the puck a little bit more, but I think everyone’s like that,” Babcock said.

And ticked a few quips off the cliche meter:

“It’s one period at a time, it’s the standard,” Cory Emmerton said. “You’re not trying to win three games at once. It sounds like everyone would say that but it’s true. You have to win one. That’s all you can say about it. Go in there to Nashville for one game.”

• And Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji asked the Wings about their defensive breakdowns...

You never want to make the highlight reel the way the Wings did in Game 4 when everyone on the ice, including Howard, followed Martin Erat. Erat promptly found a wide-open Kevin Klein, who scored the go-ahead goal. The Predators’ first goal came when Gabriel Bourque was alone in the slot.

“Last game I thought was breakdowns, complete breakdowns,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “It’s nothing that really has to do with the system. The first one goes off a skate and straight to the guy, wide open. The second one was just missed communication. We did a pretty good job in general except for those big breakdowns.”
...
“Those are mistakes that you don’t want to make and can’t make in the playoffs,” Lidstrom said. “Be more aware of it and kind of sort it out a little bit better than we’ve been doing. You can’t have two guys going to one guy. You got to be more conscious where the other players are.”

She snagged a great quote from Babcock about Lidstrom…

“I’ve been hearing that same story for like five years now,” Babcock said. “The way I look at it is we have to win a game, so that’s our approach. I haven’t thought much about Nick. When Nick decides to retire I’m sure it will be his wife and then his kids, then I think the community, I don’t know, then after that I’ll hear it on the news somewhere. I’d be shocked if he retires, but I’ve been shocked before.”

And Henrik Zetterberg told Wakiji that the Wings believe they can rally from a 3-1 deficit this year, just as they did last season against the Sharks:

“We rally around that a little bit,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “We did it recently. We know we can do it. We know we’ve been playing well. We were bad one game and that game we won, that was Game 2. We’ve got a lot of believe in here. We’re a good team. We just have to keep playing like we did last game and eventually we’re going to score.”

Playoff hockey is unpredictable so you can never give up until the final horn blows.

“You’re never down and out,” Howard said. “You have to keep going. Momentum can shift in a blink of an eye. You never give up. You just keep pushing.”

Update #6: The AP’s posted the bare bones of Teresa M. Walker’s off-day story:

The Detroit Red Wings have enough postseason experience to know any comeback starts with one win in a series where the first three games were decided by one goal. The Red Wings are facing their earliest elimination from the playoffs since 2006. Edmonton sent Detroit home after six games; Nashville is trying to do it in five.

The Predators will look to advance when they host the Red Wings on Friday night. A loss could be Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom’s final game should the defenseman decide to call it quits this summer.

Valtteri Filppula said Thursday the Red Wings have to think positively. Goalie Jimmy Howard says they all know their backs are to the wall and he doesn’t think anyone is ready to go home yet.

• In the multimedia department, again, here’s Barry Trotz blathering about the “loudness” of the Bridgestone Arena…

As well as post-practice comments from Pekka Rinne, Patric Hornqvist, Kevin Klein and, uh, Roman Josi?

 


• ESPN’s Custance, who interviewed Osgood...

 

Wondered whether the Wings can break Rinne’s force field...

Rinne has done a fantastic job catching everything and limiting Detroit’s second chances, so the Red Wings will have to do a better job avoiding his glove side if the Red Wings want any hope of creating rebounds. They also have to keep a strong net presence.

“But I don’t think we can tell our guys to stop shooting,” Babcock said. “I’d like us to play the same way we played last game, with the exception of the two [Nashville scoring] plays.”

If the Predators can be more disciplined than they have been in this series so far, the scoring issues might never get cleaned up for the Red Wings, because Nashville has enjoyed a strong advantage during 5-on-5 play. The Predators’ 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio is a playoff-best 3.00 during this series, while the Red Wings are a playoff-worst 0.33. The more the Predators can keep Detroit’s power play off the ice, the better chance they have of avoiding another trip to Detroit. And that’s the ultimate goal in Nashville, where the Predators aren’t taking their 3-1 series lead lightly.

“It’s definitely not comfortable when you have a talented team like Detroit trying to win,” said defenseman Kevin Klein, who has single-handedly outscored Detroit’s defensemen corps, 2-1. “You lose Game 5 and all of a sudden you’re back in Detroit with Game 6, and then anything can happen.”

And if you’re keeping score at home, here’s what Custance had to say during his ESPN chat:

Zach (CA): What are the chances that Parise is wearing a Red Wings sweater next year???

Craig Custance: Pretty good, especially if New Jersey loses to Florida in the first round. Red Wings will go hard after both Parise and Suter if they reach free agency. I’d pencil them as favorites to land at least one of them. They’ve got the cap room and the need. And when the money is the same, players typically pick the place where they have the best chance at winning. Detroit makes a strong case.
...
Mike (Detroit): Has Lidstrom played his last game at the Joe?

Craig Custance: The odds say no. The Red Wings outplayed Nashville for most of game 3 and 4 and will come out flying in Game 5. I like their chances of getting this to a Game 6. Even if they don’t, it’s 50/50 that Lidstrom comes back. I asked Babcock that question today and he said he’d be shocked if Lidstrom retired. Then he hedged a little and said “I’ve been shocked before.”

• If it matters, Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski, via RedWingsFeed, digs Henrik Zetterberg’s beard;

• And the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell notes that while Babcock wants his players to adjust their shots, he still wants ‘em to shoot as much as possible...

“He (Rinne) catches everything, so we have to keep it away from his glove,” Babcock said. “But I don’t think we can tell our guys to stop shooting. We have to keep getting to the net as hard we as can.”

Centre Cory Emmerton said a key to Game 5 success is getting the first goal and getting it early if the Wings can.

“Like any goalie, you have to get to them early,” Emmerton said. “The longer they’re in the game and having success, the more confidence they gain. The key is to score a couple early like we did in the second game.”

While noting that the Wings do indeed believe that “staying the course” will work against Nashville:

“We’ve been cutting down on their shots,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We’ve had the puck a lot. We’ve been creating a lot of chances offensively and spending a lot of time in their zone. I think we’ve been playing well.”

With two days off between games, the Wings have had a chance to break down where their failures have been. Certainly, Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne is largely responsible for keeping the Wings off the scoresheet, but he’s not putting the pucks in at the other end. In that regard, the Wings can largely blame themselves for Nashville’s opportunistic offence.

“We had a couple of breakdowns and they scored,” said defenceman Kyle Quincey, who turned in his better effort of the series in Game 4 Tuesday. “At the same time, they’re not getting over 10 chances a game, which is pretty good. They’re magnified when they score and we don’t score. They look huge. They’re not hemming us in our zone. They’re not wearing us down too bad, but we did have a couple of breakdowns and they capitalized on them.”
...
“I think it’s tough to be the goalie,” Babcock said. “We’re at 22.8 (shots against per game). If you’re the goaltender, you’re standing there freezing and most of those shots came in the third period in Game 2 when we didn’t play. The other thing about it is, two of the games, one (goal) was across deflected to a guy who shot it into the net when we missed D-zone coverage. Second one was on a rush when the goalie had no chance, so you look at your save percentage after the game as a goalie – and they all do – it’s not as good as you’d like it to be.”
..
“I’d like us to play the same way we played last game with the exception of two plays, one in our own zone and one off the rush,” Babcock said. “Now, what’s happening is they’re making lots of the same mistakes, except Pekka Rinne is there to make the save. We just have to stay the course, I believe.”

Update #7: Here’s the AP’s Teresa M. Walker’s report with quotes added:

“We just have to think positively,” Filppula said. “We hopefully still have a few more games to play. We just have to play through it, and hopefully the puck starts going in.”

Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard said the most important thing is to “outwill” the Predators.

“Our backs are against the wall,” Howard said. “We all know the circumstances if we lose we start our summer. I don’t think anybody wants that in this room.”

Solving Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne will be key. The Red Wings have outshot the Predators in all but one game, and they won that game despite a meagre 17 shots. Rinne has made at least 35 saves in Nashville’s three wins, becoming just the eighth goalie in the past 24 postseasons to post three games with 35 saves or more against the Red Wings.

“He catches everything, so we have to keep it away from his glove,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “But I don’t think we can tell our guys to stop shooting. We have to keep getting to the net as hard we as can.”
...
“They’ve been there and done that, and they have the experience and veteran players who have seen those kinds of situations and been through them,” Rinne said. “We have to really be prepared for it and treat it as game number one or any other game. The team that wants is more is going to get it.”

Nashville finished ahead of the Red Wings in the standings for the first time this season and just won its first two post-season games in Detroit in Games 3 and 4. Coach Barry Trotz believes he hasn’t seen Nashville play its best yet. He said Friday night will be the biggest

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

Avatar

Interesting about Smith.  Who would he replace if he played?  Ericsson and Quincey have both played pretty well for the most part, I think.  Do they dress seven defensemen or do they do something more drastic, like sitting Stuart?

Posted by Garth on 04/19/12 at 04:24 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Dressing 7 D-Men is kind of intriguing, but only if it means they take Emmerton out of the lineup and use Datsyuk/Filppula/Zetterberg/Abdelkader as the rotating 4th line center.

Honestly though?  I might actually consider taking White out of the lineup in favor of Smith for what kind of role they both play.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 04/19/12 at 04:38 PM ET

Avatar

Not to beat a dead horse but, wouldn’t a guy like Willie Mitchell fill a huge defencive hole right now ??

Yeah, I know, Kenny Holland doesn’t like to “over-pay” for players but, right now, if he had a choice, I think Mitchell over Ian White looks pretty damn good regardless of cost.

Granted, having White on D all season may be one of the reasons they made the playoffs to begin with but, between him and Stuart, they are over-playing their position.  Chasing after the puck like its their favorite chew toy isn’t the answer.

Settle down, play your position, and make sure your guy is covered. Smith may give them a shot of energy, a little more offence, but he’s not known for his defencive prowess so, most likely he’ll be a 7th Dman and a 4th liner will sit.

Posted by Hockeytown Wax from West Bloomfield, Mi. on 04/19/12 at 05:25 PM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

Replace Emmerton with Connor, fer petes sake! Hell, I’m sure Connor could go 0-5 on the draws but he’d bring a WHOOOOOOLE LOT more to the table than “oh fer five”.

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 04/19/12 at 05:43 PM ET

Avatar

@Garth Quincey is an odd man rush creating MACHINE

Posted by Brians Neck on 04/19/12 at 06:00 PM ET

SolidTG7's avatar

Willie Mitchell hasn’t been healthy at all up till this season, KH probably didn’t want to take the risk of spending more money on a guy who spends 40 games a year watching.

Posted by SolidTG7 on 04/19/12 at 09:01 PM ET

Avatar

We’re going to go in and just play a good game and go out there and get two points

I hope he realizes the regular season ended and it’s the playoffs before Friday.

Posted by bleep bloop on 04/19/12 at 09:36 PM ET

Avatar

We’re going to go in and just play a good game and go out there and get two points

I hope he realizes the regular season ended and it’s the playoffs before Friday.

Posted by bleep bloop on 04/19/12 at 07:36 PM ET

A slip of the tongue after talking to media after too many a regular season game. But it could be symptomatic because the whole team seems to just go through the motions.

Posted by Alex on 04/19/12 at 10:13 PM ET

Add a Comment

Please limit embedded image or media size to 575 pixels wide.

Add your own avatar by joining Kukla's Korner, or logging in and uploading one in your member control panel.

Captchas bug you? Join KK or log in and you won't have to bother.

Smileys

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Feed

Most Recent Blog Posts

About The Malik Report

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.