The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/03/11 at 08:30 AM ET
Updated 3x at 11:21 AM: The Detroit Red Wings didn’t exactly play flawless hockey in defeating an injury-depleted Buffalo Sabres team 4-1 on Friday night, but as the Wings kicked off a December in which they’ll play 14 more times over the next 29 days, and given that they didn’t get into Denver until after 3 AM, emerging literally (see: Justin Abdelkader is OK despite getting his bell rung by Brayden McNabb) and figuratively unscathed thanks to a strong start and 40 minutes of “Red Wings on cruise control” hockey…Is about as much as Wings fans could possibly hope for as their team ground out
its seventh straight win.
The Sabres, however, took few positives from a game in which the Wings staked out a 3-1 lead over the course of the game’s first fourteen minutes; the fact that they lost both Nathan Gerbe (skate cut) and Patrick Kaleta (groin) to injuries added, well, injury to insult, but Robyn Regehr offered no excuses for his team’s performance to BuffaloSabres.com’s Kevin Snow:
“We have to be a lot sharper right off the bat. We can still work much harder, be harder on the pucks [like Detroit],” he explained. “That’s one of the things they’re pretty much the best in the league at is once they do get the puck, they make very good, disciplined decisions. They’re also very hard to knock off the puck. They really battle hard and they get pucks and people to the net. They do really good job of that.”
[Jason] Pominville said it was a good lesson for the young Sabres.
“They got some momentum on the ones they didn’t score, but it just shows you how hard you have to compete and how hard you have to be on pucks to be able to win because they’re a team right now that’s been going really well and they were hard on the puck.”
Nathan Gerbe took a skate to the face late in the game and didn’t return. Lindy Ruff was unsure of his condition and didn’t know if he’ll be available for Saturday’s game in Nashville. Patrick Kaleta reinjured his groin, and left the game after playing three shifts in the second period.
It’s a quick turnaround for the Sabres who boarded the team charter immediately after the game for a flight to Nashville. They’ll face the rested Predators on Saturday at 8 p.m.
We’ve heard the whole “rested Predators waiting for a Saturday night match-up” before, haven’t we?
Anyway, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff didn’t exactly mince words while discussing his team’s loss with the Niagara Gazette’s Bill Hoppe...
“First, we got to get our players back. We really do,” said Ruff, whose Sabres began the game down six regulars and then lost wingers Nathan Gerbe and Patrick Kaleta. “It’s tough to play that team when you have a full roster. They’re not an easy team to play against. … They come out, they’re ready to play. They’re an old team, mature.”
And Thomas Vanek agreed with his coach’s assessment:
“Before you know it was 3-0,” Sabres winger Thomas Vanek said. “Down 3-0 against Detroit, you’re pretty much done.”
Jakub Kindl opened the scoring at 8:50, his wrist shot from the point getting through traffic and past goalie Jhonas Enroth. Johan Franzen converted from the slot at 13:38, making it 2-0 on the power play. Valtteri Filppula then scored on the Wings’ next shot at 14:41, capitalizing after Sabres center Jochen Hecht lost the puck. The Wings, who showcased some precision passing, outshot the Sabres 18-8 in the first period.
“Detroit’s one of the best teams you’re going to see,” Vanek said. “Every forward’s on the puck, they skate well. At times, I thought we matched it pretty good.”
The Sabres received their share of chances to make a game of it via three straight power plays in the second period, with Jochen Hecht converting on a 2-on-1 just after the third power play expired, but Jimmy Howard was very strong in the Wings’ crease, stopping 19 of the 20 second and third-period shots he faced:
Vanek said about the second period: “They gave us three power plays in a row there to get us back in the game. We had a few chances on it. But at the end of the day those got to go in.”
Only one went in – an even-strength score, Hecht’s third in five games. The snakebitten Sabres missed several prime chances.
“I don’t want to stand here talking about missed opportunities,” Ruff said. “We got to start cashing in.”
Perhaps, most bluntly, the Sabres plain old got “Winged,” as Zack Kassian suggested to the Buffalo News’s Mike Harrington:
Detroit scored three times in the first 15 minutes and left the Sabres begging for mercy when they moped into the dressing room for the first intermission. It looked like the Red Wings were holding a passing clinic after peppering Enroth with 18 shots in the first period.
“It’s no secret they’ve been a Grade A franchise for some time,” rookie winger Zack Kassian said. “I’m sure every team looks at what they’re doing to see what they can do.”
Injuries haven’t helped the Sabres’ cause, but their biggest problem lately has been scoring. Buffalo has scored three goals or fewer nine times in 10 games and has just two goals to show for itself in consecutive losses to the Islanders and Red Wings.
“It’s tough,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “You’re asking a lot of kids to play against a well-oiled machine. They don’t run around hitting people, but they hang onto the puck probably better than anybody.”
The Wings were credited with all of six hits on Friday night, but they steamrolled the Sabres, and, without sounding arrogant, the Wings at least oozed confidence after their win, as the Associated Press’s recap suggests:
Detroit scored three times in the first period, when the Red Wings peppered goalie Jhonas Enroth with 18 shots, and went on to win for the 11th time in 13 games. The only losses came on a West Coast swing that helped them change their ways.
“We made a decision when we went out west not to be a mentally soft team,” Howard said. “We want to be mentally tough. This game is full of mistakes, so it’s how you respond after making them. We’ve gotten a lot mentally tougher since then.”
The Red Wings were particularly strong in the second period when they killed three straight penalties and maintained a 3-0 lead.
“They had some opportunities to get back into the game in the second and get a goal,” Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “But Jimmy really stepped up for us.”
Did somebody say, “Smell the glove?” Howard’s using the same catch glove he’s worn since Vaughn signed him back in 2009, but he’s switched to a double “tee,” or two pieces of leather and plastic splitting the netting in his glove instead of one, and pucks don’t pop out of his trapper nearly as much as they used to. These kinds of saves have become rather routine for Howard, too:
Jakub Kindl, Johan Franzen, and Valtteri Filppula scored the first-period goals for Detroit (16-7-1), which last won seven in a row in March 2010. Pavel Datsyuk pushed the lead to 4-1 by scoring into an empty net with 1:17 left.
“We feel we have a good team when we play with tempo and we play right,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We have a lot of good players with a lot of experience, and have a good calmness about us. We don’t get too high or too low, we just keep on playing. We think we have a chance to be a good team, but only time will tell.”
As DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose notes, the Wings got off to a hot start thanks to yet another goal from their defense in Jakub Kindl’s knuckleball...
The Wings continue to lead the league in defensemen scoring with 21 goals, and Kindl, who was the last of the six regulars to finally add to the scoring list this season, is glad he finally got that monkey off his back. The Vancouver Canucks are second in the league with 16 goals.
“Of course it’s always nice to get the first one,” Kindl said, “but I need to shoot the puck even more whenever I have the chance, like today I just got it and I closed my eyes and it went through.”
Nicklas Lidstrom and Niklas Kronwall led the Wings’ defense with six goals each, followed by Ian White (four), Brad Stuart (three) and Jonathan Ericsson (one).
While the Wings have had very strong starts to games this season, they averaged less than a goal a game in first-period action heading into Friday – their lowest scoring total in any of the three periods this season. Friday was the first three-goal first period of the season for Detroit.
“That surprised me because usually starting out 3-0 doesn’t happen very often for us,” Kindl said.
Coach Mike Babcock was happy with the team’s energy in the first period, but would have liked to have seen the Wings continue that tempo throughout the final two periods.
“We did a lot of good things, especially early, and got ourselves a big lead,” Babcock said. “We took penalties in the second and even though we had some big kill we lost the momentum and I thought we were quite as good in the third period. You’re up 3-0, but I would like to see us continue to play the same way.”
Babcock continued while speaking to the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa...
In the third, he made perhaps his biggest save of the game, a scintillating stop on the Sabres’ sniper Thomas Vanek in the third period. But Jochen Hecht spoiled the shutout at 13:47, when the Wings’ defense moved up in the offensive zone and four Red Wings were all caught along the sideboards.
“I thought, the third period, we weren’t quite as good,” Coach Mike Babcock said. “You’re up three-nothing, and so those things happen. But I’d have liked us to continue to play the same way and continue to go after them. I didn’t like to see us give up the goal,” Babcock said. “I didn’t think it needed to have a pinch in that situation. But a big win for our team, and very important against a skilled Buffalo team.”
Who pointed out that the newest Wing had a fine debut:
Pavel Datsyuk added his eighth goal, a 95-foot shot into the empty net at 18:43 of the third period. The Wings were 1-for-5 on the power play. Chris Conner, a new addition to the lineup, authored a strong performance offensively and on the penalty kill. Conner, a native of Westland, is one of the smallest players in the league at five feet, eight inches. He often seemed the fastest player on the ice.
“I was obviously a little bit nervous at first,” Conner said. “I’m not the biggest guy out there. So, I got to use my speed and get pucks behind their `D’ and make trouble for their defense.”
Conner registered four shots, a blocked shot attempt, a takeaway and a blocked shot in 13:39 of play, and he didn’t look out of place at all, slithering through checks and cycling the puck down low on the Abdelkader line. Quite frankly, in the second and third periods, the Cleary-Abdelkader-Conner line and the revelation that is the Miller-Helm-Holmstrom line were by far the Wings’ best, and after the Sabres’ 3-1 goal, the bottom two lines settled things down and pushed the puck into the Sabres’ zone, setting up a, “Let’s play defense by grinding down the opposition in their end” third period which was punctuated by Pavel Datsyuk’s empty-netter—an empty-netter that was the result of a perked-up performance by Datsyuk, Todd Bertuzzi and Franzen…
“They had some opportunities to get back into the game in the second and get a goal,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “But Jimmy really stepped up for us.”
Howard, making his 17th straight start, was a steady presence in net. In the second period he robbed Jason Pominville, who was left alone in the slot. He then stopped Nathan Gerbe on a breakaway in the third. Jochen Hecht scored with 6:13 remaining to break up the shutout.
“The confidence in the room right now is great,” Howard said. “And in hockey, confidence is everything.”
Overall, the Wings felt that they executed their game plan in out-puck-possessing the Sabres and plain old jumping on them as a result, as they told MLive’s Ansar Khan...
“We were talking about it before the game, we have to shoot the puck,” Kindl said. “That was a good pass by Tommy, I just tried to get it through and finally it went in.”
Franzen made it 2-0 on the power play at 13:38. He fired in a shot from the slot after controlling a nice slap-pass from Nicklas Lidstrom.
“We pressured hard on their (defensemen), had a lot of room in the middle,” Franzen said. “Got it off my skate and finally got it on my stick. Homer did a good job in front of the net as usual. The goalie couldn’t see it.”
Filppula capped the rally at 14:41. Henrik Zetterberg stole the puck from Hecht at the Buffalo blue line and centered a backhand pass to an onrushing Filppula. He sidestepped Marc-Andre Gragnani in the slot and fired a shot past Enroth. Filppula has five goals and two assists in his past five games.
“We started the way we wanted to,” Kindl said. “They’re a quick team so we had to be even quicker, make smart decisions with the puck, try to wear their D down and it worked.”
And Babcock hopes that this game might serve as the kind of template necessary to keep the Wings at or near the top of the incredibly crowded Western Conference heap as the team hopes to right its incredibly spotty road record:
The last time the Red Wings won seven in a row was from March 20-April 1, 2010. Howard played all seven games back then, too. Detroit has won four in a row on the road to improve to 6-5-0 away from home. The Red Wings play 10 of 15 games on the road in December. This was the first game in a stretch that sees them play 14 of 19 away from home.
“I think if we play like did last year on the road — we had one of the best records—then it’s nothing,” Babcock said. “If you get it in your head that you can’t play on the road, then it becomes a problem for you. To me, we should have a real good road team. We’re not worried about matchups very much. We’ve got good center ice position and they’re all pretty good defensively. Let’s play the games.”
Johan Franzen earns a rare trumping of Babcock for the last word via Aftonbladet’s Per Bjurman, who spoke to Franzen when the Mule was en route from the rink to Red Bird III. Franzen summarized his goal thusly…
And he described his team’s mood as follows:
“Yeah, it feels a little looser now, and we’re playing with a hell of a lot of self-confidence. It also feels really good to start out the road trip with a win.”
Part II: Statistics: Shots 36-28 Detroit overall: the Wings out-shot Buffalo 18-8 in the 1st period but tied the Sabres 9-9 in the 2nd period and were out-shot 11-9 in the 3rd period.
Howard stopped 28 of 29; Enroth stopped 32 of 35 and the Wings scored into an empty net.
The Wings went 1-for-5 in 8:26 of PP time; the Sabres went 0-for-4 in 7:57 of PP time.
The 3 stars were Filppula, Howard and Franzen.
The Wings’ goals: Kindl (1) from Holmstrom (7) and Abdelkader (4);
Franzen (11) from Lidstrom (12) and Datsyuk (15), power play;
Filppula (8) from Zetterberg (9);
Datsyuk (8), empty net, unassisted.
Faceoffs 35-24 Buffalo (41% won by Detroit);
Blocked shots 21-14 Detroit;
Missed shots 12-9 Detroit (total attempts 62-58 Detroit);
Hits 16-6 Buffalo;
Giveaways 10-4 Buffalo;
Takeaways 8-6 Detroit.
The Wings finished at a collective +10; Brad Stuart led the team at +2 and Kindl, Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Miller, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi and Holmstrom were +1. Everyone else was even.
Datsyuk ended the game with a goal and an assist for 2 points; Kindl, Filppula and Franzen scored goals; Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Zetterberg and Holmstrom had assists.
Kindl, Abdelkader, Filppula and Kronwall took minor penalties.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went an uncharacteristic 10-and-16 (38%); Zetterberg went 7-and-9 (44%); Helm went 4-and-6 (40%); Abdelkader, Cleary and Franzen went 1-and-1 over the course of six total faceoffs (50%); Filppula lost his only faceoff.
Shots: Franzen led the team with 5 shots; Conner had 4; Datsyuk, White, Miller, Filppula, Kronwall and Holmstrom had 3 apiece; Ericsson had 2; Kindl, Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Cleary, Stuart, Hudler and Zetterberg had 1.
Blocked attempts: Zetterberg had 3 shot attempts blocked by Sabres players; White and Filppula hit Sabres shin pads 2 times apiece; Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Miller, Conner, Bertuzzi, Kronwall and Franzen had single attempts blocked.
Missed attempts: Zetterberg missed the net 3 times; Cleary, White, Hudler, Helm, Bertuzzi, Filppula, Ericsson, Kronwall and Franzen missed the net once.
Hits: Stuart had 2 hits; Kindl, Cleary, Miller and Ericsson had 1.
Giveaways: Kindl, White, Hudler and Howard had giveaways;
Takeaways: Kindl, Cleary, Datsyuk, White, Zetterberg, Conner, Helm and Filppula registered single takeaways.
Blocked shots: Stuart blocked 4 shots; Datsyuk and Lidstrom blocked 3; Cleary and Kronwall blocked 2; Kindl, Abdelkader, White, Miller, Conner, Helm and Ericsson blocked 1.
Ice time: Lidstrom led the team with 23:29 played; Kronwall played 20:28; White played 20:17;
Zetterberg played 19:40; Ericsson played 19:03; Stuart played 19:02;
Filppula played 18:15; Datsyuk played 18:00; Franzen played 16:08;
Bertuzzi played 15:42; Helm played 15:17; Cleary played 15:05;
Kindl played 14:23; Hudler played 13:57; Conner played 13:39;
Miller played 11:31; Holmstrom played 11:02; Abdeklader played 7:05.
So Chris Conner had 4 shots, 1 shot attempt blocked, a takeaway and a blocked shot in 13:39 played over the course of 20 shifts.
Part III: Multimedia:
Highlights: MSG Network posted a 1:13 highlight clip:
And the Red Wings’ website posted a four-and-a-half minute highlight clip narrated by Ken Daniels and Larry Murphy:
MSG Network’s Rob Ray spoke to Pominville as well;
And Fox Sports Detroit posted both Ken Daniels and Larry Murphy’s takes on the game…
As well as a 2-minute clip of comments from Valtteri Filppula, Johan Franzen and coach Mike Babcock:
Photos: Fox Sports Detroit posted a 10-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 22-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 33-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 54-image gallery;
Part IV: Oh, dear: Per the Free Press’s Helene St. James, this is awful news, and it’s going to affect the next two or three games’ worth of play-by-play action on Fox Sports Detroit:
Ken Daniels’ father, Marvin, died Friday at age 96. The Wings play-by-play announcer worked Friday’s game for Fox Sports Detroit before heading to Toronto to handle arrangements. Dave Strader will do play-by-play for Sunday’s game at Colorado, and Matt Shepard will call Tuesday’s game at St. Louis.
Part V: Red Wings notebooks: Let’s kick off the notebooks with good news, per the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa...
Sandy and Fabian Brunnstrom welcomed their first child, son Alexander Noah (seven pounds, three ounces), overnight Thursday.
Who offered a pretty cool tidbit about former Wing Ville Leino’s take on his first NHL employer…
Leino said he dined with fellow Finn Valtteri Filppula , who is having a breakout season, and Niklas Kronwall after the Red Wings arrived Thursday.
“And I still see them summertimes, and there’s a lot of good personnel on the team, and even some of the former players who used to play there and who are retired now are good people,” Leino said.
As well as a ramble about the Wings’ road game (which was mostly covered in the recap part of this entry), and this from a certain player who was left off the All-Star ballot:
Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard says he is not concerned about lagging in the All-Star balloting as a write-in, despite ranking near the top of the NHL in most categories.
“I could care less; really,” he said. “Just play well, and whatever happens happens.”
• With Patrick Eaves sidelined for a while with a broken jaw (has anyone heard how the surgery went and what fractures were fixed yet? What the surgeons found could make the difference between a six-to-eight week recovery and the kind of mess that takes three months to heal, especially if his right jaw’s joint was what broke), Fabian Brunnstrom probably headed to Grand Rapids for a much-needed stint of regular appearances and playing time, Jan Mursak a few weeks away from returning from his broken ankle and Cory Emmerton starting to tire a wee bit after a very strong start, the Wings called Chris Conner up from Grand Rapids, and the Free Press’s Helene St. James profiled Conner in her notebook...
“I want to bring some energy and speed,” said Conner, who was recalled from the AHL Griffins to play in the 4-1 win at Buffalo Friday night. “They want me to come in and do anything I can to help the team win and be successful.”
Coach Mike Babcock wants the 5-foot-8, 180-pound forward to provide quality minutes on the penalty-kill unit and use his persistence to cause some commotion in the offensive zone.
“It’s a good opportunity for him,” Babcock said Friday. “He played good in the exhibition, and we decided that he can help our tenacity, work ethic and speed. He’s not a big man at all, but he plays big. He’s hard on pucks, and I think he’s going to be a help to us.”
Conner, a Westland native and Michigan Tech alumnus, didn’t figure in the scoring Friday but played 13:39 and had four shots on goal. He was sixth in the AHL in scoring with 23 points in 20 games.
“I’ve been playing with some good linemates, and the coach there has been really good to me,” Conner, 27, said about his success in Grand Rapids. “It’s been good so far, and I want to keep it going.”
As did DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose:
At 5-foot-8, Conner is the Wings’ shortest player, but it’s his exceptional speed that should be an asset, skating on the Wings’ third line with center Darren Helm and opposite Danny Cleary. But coach Mike Babcock also sees Conner using that speed on the Wings’ penalty-kill.
“I thought he played real well in the exhibition season,” Babcock said. “We wanted to look at (Fabian) Brunnstrom and (Cory) Emmerton, we since have decided that he can help our penalty-kill and can help our tenacity and help our work ethic and speed. He’s not a big man at all, but he plays big, he’s hard on pucks. I think he’ll be a help for us and with Cleary and Helm on a line with him, I think that’s a real good opportunity for him to play well.”
Helm also likes the idea of having Conner’s speed on the right wing against the Sabres’ sky-scrapper sized defensemen.
“With me and Cleary and Conner, I think it’ll be a line that’ll be good on the forecheck, be dangerous in their zone,” said Helm, who has a goal and an assist in the last two games. “He’s quick and he’s really good with the puck. We’re looking for him to be noticeable out there, creative with the puck, skating, doing things for our line.”
And expect Conner to be particularly aggressive on the forecheck.
“That’s my game,” he said. “I want to get in there and be strong in the puck, especially since I’m a smaller guy in the league. I want to keep proving every night that I can get in there and control the puck and win those puck battles and get some offense going.”
• Conner did just fine, and so did Drew Miller, who the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness notes has finally become a regular in the Wings’ lineup after finding himself scratched on a regular basis during the 2010-2011 season:
“It’s not an easy thing to be a part of and I worked hard over the summer to put myself in a position where I wouldn’t work my way out of that,” Drew said. “That’s something I believe that I can continue to grow as a player and be someone they can count on to be a regular night guy.”
He has been a healthy scratch just twice this season.
“I try to be consistent and bring something to the team that I feel I can contribute and help the team every night,” Drew said. “They rely on (the fourth line) for energy, be responsible and be one of the guys they can rely on to kill penalties. That’s the role we play. If we can keep our big guys like Z and Pav rested and not have to worry about the penalty kill as much, we’re doing our jobs,” Drew added. “It gives them more opportunity to play 5-on-5 and on the power play. It takes a little bit of the burden off them to kill off the penalties for them.”
Drew didn’t spend any time searching for another team to play for this offseason, signing a two-year deal worth $837,500 a season just as the free agency period began.
“I could have left and gone to another team and maybe had more of a chance to play and not have to worry about a rotation, but I wanted to stay in Detroit,” Drew said. “I think it’s a good fit for me with the system and the guys in the locker room. We always have a chance to win the Cup and that’s what it’s all about,” Drew continued. “You want to push yourself to get better every day and if I’m in a competition to play that’s just going to make me a better player.”
As Miller’s older brother Ryan was slated to start tomorrow in Nashville, the Miller brothers will have to hope that they can square off when the Sabres visit the Joe in mid-January, and the elder Miller sang his brother’s praises while speaking to DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose:
“I’ve been happy for him, and I think the Red Wings are a good fit, and they respect the kind of player that he is,” Ryan Miller said. “They’ve always had guys who were willing to do the job and play smart and Drew is always the guy willing to do the job, as evidence[d by] the puck that he took in the face last week. He’s in and out of the lineup but he comes back and wants to prove that he belongs and now that he really does fit in well with that team – I don’t think the Red Wings will be surprised – but I think maybe some other people who watch hockey will be surprised when he starts getting some points here and starts settling into his role.”
Being separated from family is something that the Millers have grown used to, especially with three cousins who once played in the NHL.
“We grew-up around Kevin, Kelly and Kip who would see each other at Christmas, and sometimes not at all until the summertime, but you get used to it,” said Ryan, who had Drew over to his house for dinner Thursday night. “Growing up Drew and I were really close and we try to stay as close as we can even being far apart during the hockey season, but it’s a little tough. It’s good to have him in town, because it’s funny, I’ve had my townhouse here for five years and he’s never seen it until yesterday. Just little things like that where it’s hard to believe that that much time goes by without your brother seeing how you live every day.”
Ryan Miller even hinted at the likelihood of one day playing on the same team with his younger brother.
“You know it would be something nice down toward the end of our careers to do something together at some point,” Ryan said. “It’s been fun to watch him progress and I’ve enjoyed my time in the league, but it would be something special down the line to do something together.”
I’m not touching that comment with a ten-foot pole, or my Polish college roommate who was 6’4” and weighed about 370 pounds.
Part VI: Also of Red Wings-related note: I suppose Paul posted the biggest story of the night, because as we’re all talking about the possibility of the Wings moving East ahead of Monday’s Board of Governors’ meetings, and the Mercury News’s David Pollak noted that the San Jose Sharks don’t plan on voting “yes” to any petition from the Wings to leave the Western Conference:
General manager Doug Wilson said Friday the Sharks are hoping to see two things in whatever realignment plan the NHL ends up with when the board of governors tackles the contentious topic at its meetings next week in Pebble Beach.
A home-and-home series every season between Western and Eastern conference teams, something that would mean an additional six road games in cities with a three-hour time difference.
The continued presence of the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference.
The Sharks’ desire to keep Detroit in the conference is no surprise because the teams have developed a strong rivalry with five postseason clashes. But supporting added trips across the continent may not seem to be in San Jose’s best competitive or financial interests.
Despite the news from Sportsnet’s John Shannon that the BoG will at least talk about the Wings swapping places with the Jets, I’ve got to think that Pollak’s theory will win out by the time we actually hear something concrete on the subject—and as Shannon noted, with the Phoenix Coyotes’ ownership in flux, that might not happen until the All-Star break:
Nashville and Columbus also have been trying to make a case that they belong in the East while Dallas has been looking for a way out of the current Pacific Division while remaining in the West.
Again, I’m not voicing a popular opinion here, but I’m more or less convinced that the Wings can’t get 20 of the NHL’s 30 governors to approve a move East. I think it’s much more likely that the BoG would approve moving the Blue Jackets East to theoretically improve their financial position, or that they may ask the Predators to give up their rivalry with the Wings for the sake of building geographic rivalries with the Southeast Division’s teams while filling the void left by the Thrashers’ departure.
• I’m going to let you read Ansar Khan’s conversation with a struggling Sabres forward named Ville Leino on your own;
• I don’t know what to do with Bill Roose’s conversation with Justin Abdelkader about today’s Big Ten championship football game between Wisconsin and Michigan State, so I’ll stick it here;
• If you’re interested, the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff headed to Buffalo to profile former Windsor Spitfires forward Zack Kassian, and he spoke to Mike Babcock and Paul Woods about the Washington Capitals’ decision to hire Dale Hunter as their new coach, but he also tossed off a few Twitter updates from the Wings’ locker room:
#redwings Lidstrom: “We’re playing with confidence and patience. I don’t think we were opening ourselves up defensively.”
#redwings Lidstrom on Conner: “I thought he played real well for us. Brought some energy and skated real well, created some chances.”
#redwings Kindl: “They’re a quick team so we had to be even quicker, make smart decisions with the puck, try to wear their D down.’‘
#redwings Abdelkader on leaving bench in 3rd after being hit: “I stayed (in the room), but everything’s fine.’‘
#redwings Babcock: “Our guys came ready to play, we were real hard on the puck, skate, did lots of good things, especially early.”
I’m still convinced that the Quiet Room should have a comfy chair, soft pillows and copies of Highlights magazine, but that’s just me…
• And I guess I’ll go there, via the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness:
The annual Winter Classic could be coming to Detroit next season of the season after according to a source within the organization.
“It’s a short list and we’re on it,” the person said. “We’ll have the game in the not too distant future.”
Possible venues to host would be Comerica Park or Michigan Stadium, which hosted the “Big Chill at the Big House” in 2010 that had an announced crowd of nearly 114,000.
The New York Rangers are also on the short list to host a Winter Classic. The Rangers play in this year’s event against the Flyers at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
We all knew this was going to happen sooner or later. Hell, as of 2009, I remember the conversation went something like, “Well, after playing in Chicago, I guess the Winter Classic will have to be held in Boston, New York and Philly before it comes back here, and you know the Penguins will get one, so we’ll see it in 2013 or probably 2014,” and here we are. I still think it’s gonna be played in New York—somehow—with the Canadiens (if the NHL wants a marquee match-up), Devils or Islanders (if the NHL wants to milk New York and East Coast ratings, which it tends to do) as the Rangers’ opponent before it comes to the Big House (the NHL tends to want numbers, and you can bet that now that Vladimir Putin’s basically running CSKA Moscow, he’s going to try to break the NHL’s outdoor record with an outdoor game in Moscow as part of Russia’s lead-up to the 2014 Olympics).
And yes, that’s a paragraph with too many parenthetical expressions.
• Finally, this is plain old cool: Fox Sports Detroit made its Wingspan episode spotlighting Mickey Redmond available online, in four parts.
Part VII: Griffins and Walleye: The Grand Rapids Griffins defeated the Toronto Marlies 6-3 on Friday night, rallying from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits via a 3-point (1 goal and 2 assists) performance from Louis-Marc Aubry.
You can read the Griffins’ website’s recap here, and the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema’s recap here. The Griffins’ website also posted a Flickr photo gallery and a slate of post-game interviews on their YouTube channel...
• In Toledo, the Wings’ ECHL affiliate, the Toledo Walleye, dropped a 4-2 decision to the Greenville Road Warriors, and Gleason Fournier, Andrej Nestrasil, Bryan Rufenach, Nick Oslund and Trevor Parkes were all held off the scoresheet. You can read the Walleye’s website’s recap here and the Toledo Blade’s Mark Monroe’s recap here...
And I’ll end this entry with a question and a comment: First, as the post limit no longer applies to the Malik Report now that we’ve got more blogs, do you want me to continue to include the Griffins and Walleye stuff within Wings posts, or would you prefer dedicated Griffins posts?
And second, let me know what you’d like to see in my first quarter “assessments” of the Red Wings’ players. I won’t do A-B-C-D grades—I’m gonna stick with the elementary school Outstanding, Satisfactory and Needs Improvement—but I’d like to know what you want me to focus on. As you guys know, I try to talk more about intangibles than stats.
Update: Man, am I gonna miss regular sleep. That was the only good part of taking a blogging break. The rest sucked.
• Anyway, there’s good news in that the Czech Ice Hockey Federation has finally relented on its crazy requests and, according to the Ottawa Citizen’s Don Campbell, invited Ottawa 67’s goalie and Red Wings prospect Petr Mrazek to the World Junior Championships in Edmonton and Calgary;
• And the Wisconsin State Journal’s Andy Baggot did find out about the extent of Patrick Eaves’ jaw surgery by asking his father, University of Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves, what happened. It sounds like Eaves had only one titanium plate bolted onto his jaw, which is good news. If the ball-and-socket joint between his jaw and skull had been fractured, that would have been…messy…
A right winger for the Detroit Red Wings, Patrick Eaves suffered a broken jaw when he was hit in the side of his head by a slap shot during a 4-1 win over Nashville. He had surgery Monday night in which his jaw was wired shut and a plate was inserted to stabilize the fracture.
Mike Eaves said he’s watched video of the scary incident — a power-play slap shot from the point by Roman Josi fluttered and hit his son flush on the right side of his head — several times and concluded it was just bad luck.
“The puck went on end,” he said. “I couldn’t figure out how a puck went up that high so quickly. We’ve talked about (the fact) you can’t block a shot when you’re way back, but it just rolled up on him.”
Update #2: Here’s Ansar Khan’s article about Chris Conner, which makes quite the assertion:
“I thought he played real well in exhibition,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “We wanted to look at (Fabian) Brunnstrom and (Cory) Emmerton. We since have decided that (Conner) can help our penalty kill and help our tenacity and help our work ethic and our speed. He’s not a big man at all, but he plays big. He’s hard on pucks. I think he’s going to be a help to us, and with (Danny) Cleary and (Darren) Helm on a line with him, I think that’s a real good opportunity for him to play well.”
Brunnstrom hasn’t secured a roster spot and rookie Cory Emmerton hasn’t played well enough to maintain his spot in the lineup. Jan Mursak (broken ankle) won’t return for at least two more weeks and Patrick Eaves is out another five-to-seven weeks with a broken jaw.
“I want to come in and use my speed and create some energy and do whatever I can to help them win,” Conner, 27, said. “I want to do the best I can and prove that I can play here”
I think that Emmerton’s been nothing less than excellent at times, but he did fade over the past five or so games, and as Brunnstrom needs the kind of ice time he can only receive in Grand Rapids right now, it’s time to give Emmerton a seat and see what the Wings have in Conner.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wings call up Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar for look-sees if the guys get banged up due to the nasty schedule grind over the next two months because it’s simply logical to assess one’s options.
Update #3: File this under, “Things you might not already know about a Wings prospect’s play thus far,” per the ECHL:
Toledo’s Bryan Rufenach is second among defensemen with seven goals.
• Also in the prospect department, per the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema, Louis-Marc Aubry has something of a mentor in fellow Wings prospect Francis Pare, who spoke to Zuidema about Aubry’s first three-point game as a professional hockey player on frigday night:
“He’s a young guy, he just turned 20 years old (Nov. 11),” Pare said with a smile. “A little French guy having a three-point night doesn’t happen very often, it’s the first time it happens to him, so obviously I want to be there for him.”
Aubry got his first assist when Jamie Johnson banged in the rebound off his shot to tie the game at 2-2 2:04 into the second period. After Toronto took a 3-2 lead, Aubry tied it again when he scored a power-play goal off the rebound of Garnet Exelby’s shot for his third tally of the season. Aubry then was awarded an assist on Doug Janik’s game-winning goal with 4:59 remaining in the second. They were Aubry’s first points since he scored in back-to-back games Nov. 9 and 11.
“It was a pretty good night,” he said. “Second period there I felt like it was all going in.”
Aubry, the 81st overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft by the parent club Detroit Red Wings, also benefited from a line change. After Chris Conner was recalled by the Red Wings on Wednesday, he was moved to the top line alongside Johnson and Gustav Nyquist. Aubry, who spent most of this season on the third and fourth lines, looked comfortable skating alongside the Griffins’ leading scorers.
“No kidding,” Grand Rapids coach Curt Fraser said. “He made three or four other great moves coming off the wall on the power play. It was good for us. We needed it.”
Aubry, who was a healthy scratch in three of the Griffins’ previous four games, said he’s starting to feel more comfortable with the size and speed of the players in the American Hockey League.
“I picked up the pace, like the speed and in the corners, it’s not the same thing at all in junior,” he said. “You’ve got to be ready in the corners. I work hard in practice to protect the puck. It’s important to keep the puck in the offensive zone.”
• And if you find yourself in Halifax, Nova Scotia in February, the Halifax Chronicle-Herald reports that Wings executive Chris Chelios will be attending a charity dinner, probably in between watching QMJHL games to assess the Wings’ prospects playing in the the “Q”:
The Canadian Progress Club – Halifax announced Friday that three-time Stanley Cup champion Chris Chelios will be part of the 40th annual sports celebrity dinner in Halifax on Feb. 9.
The event will be held at the Cunard Centre.
Chelios and former NFL and CFL quarterback Warren Moon are the featured guests announced thus far.
Proceeds from the dinner support the Progress Centre for Early Intervention and the Kings Meadow Home.
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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.